Tag Archives: Charlotte Mason

Daily by God’s grace we go.

By God’s grace, we are settling in for the evening. It is really by His grace we do every day, but today, I feel it powefully… and humbly.

This morning we set out for nature study at a local state park. Three moms, 10 children and great expectations. There was a glitch, though. A strange man tried to join us, and after being aggressive in attitude, he tried, unsuccessfully, to assault another mother. Overall group response was poor (you can’t ignore bad guys in the woods, things get really bad), but suffice it to say that some strong words, backed by the Holy Spirit, and the man retreated long enough for us to get in our cars and flee.

Ranger reports completed, we stopped long enough to realize what had happened. It became apparent that man was lying in wait to harm someone, and he targeted us. Ten minutes into the woods and we’d have been unable to flee. Lives would have been changed forever. We are blessed to put our little ones in bed safe tonight.

And I am left wondering…what is it I fear day in and day out, when God Himself has delivered us?

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”

James 4:13-15

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The divergence begins here.

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I don’t want the standard of our education to be how closely it resembles Charlotte Mason’s, but instead how closely it resembles the Christian life described in scripture.

Why am I saying this? Among my CM circle, as I suspect in many CM circles (exemplified by the 3 bizillion CM blogs), there seems to be a strong drive to be ever more Mason-ish, even competitively so.

Point #1: Volume 6, chapter 10 section I. Miss Mason describes in this section her method for instructing children in the Bible. This method is distinctively different from her method for other subjects; in other subjects she aims to connect the child directly to the mind of the author by not inserting, disrupting or adding to a work. This contrasts with her method for teaching the Bible where she inserts commentaries and word pictures before reading scripture to children. The author I am most interested in connecting my children to is God Himself.

Beyond CM’s recommendation, commentaries must be utilized with care as all human works contain errors which can not add to God’s perfect work. The commentaries Miss Mason advises, from which her examples were given, are full of errors! The example errors are particularly disturbing because they invalidate the completeness and sufficiency, of scripture. The questions regarding Genesis 3 on pg 163, which are to be read to a student, are presented as though they are unaswerable, when in fact, the answers are clearly within scripture itself (Heb 11:4 is one obvious answer). If a student is presented with these questions from the vantage that they are unanswerable, then the inerrant nature of scripture appears negated.

Another type of error included in examples is the addition of information not included in scripture. The Philistines, on pg 162, were described as stupid, among other erroneous assumptions. While this is not only inaccurate, it also devalues the significance of what the Israelites were truly up against.

A historical query turns up that Miss Mason’s Anglican background firmly held to the need for commentaries in order for laypersons to understand scripture, and she dutifully held to this in her curriculum, despite its apparent deviation from her other ideas. This flatly disappoints me, though it is excusable from her perspective and respect for authority; it is not excusable to dismiss this error when we apply the CM education to our own students.

Here, we (finally) arrive at my purpose. Miss Mason was human. Her methods can not be accepted without critical thinking. It is unwise to accept and apply anyone’s philosophy without testing it against scripture. When we become so willing to apply something that we refuse to consider the failings, our motives come into question. I come back to the goals my husband and I established for our homeschool and I can clearly see why I need to reject Miss Mason’s method for Bible instruction.

In case you wonder what I do instead, I read scripture directly, and have my students narrate each portion we read. I also complete a study of the geographical area with mapwork, often on a different day because my children are so young. This is principally her method for teaching other subjects. Soooo…what I do instead is not really very dramatic. The drama seems to come from my CM group over my rejection of one of CM’s methods.

What about you? Do you think a CM education is all or nothing, or must it be critically applied?

better things to do on a Saturday.

We carved soap today.

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It was fun. Really, really messy, but really, really fun. This is what the babe decided to do with the shavings.

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We used ivory soap, plastic spoons and toothpicks as tools. It was surprisingly easy to carve, we all loved it and provided a great opportunity to talk about 3 dimensional space.

Maybe you noticed the row of creatures above all appear very bear-like. We started out the morning with a brisk hike through the snow at a local state park. We had selected a trail new to us, and about half-way through our hike, we found something which is, to us, undeniably a bear track. Maybe if you squint really hard you can tell its a bear track (or imagine that it is a bear track).

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The day my husband proposed we found a fox hole- not the kind used by soldiers- the kind a real life fox lives in, complete with tracks. He’d planned a very romantic picnic on a hill, and a hike beforehand to set the mood and we’d happened upon the foxhole. It made my day- I thought- until even grander things appeared 🙂 It is still exciting to find signs of rare wildlife, at least to me, and today reminded me of that glorious day we found a fox’s domicile.

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This is a decidedly better way to spend our Saturday.

In case you’re wondering about why we’d carve soap in the first place, “handicrafts” are a valuable part of education. Read more about Charlotte Mason’s thoughts on the subject here.

…an Adventure was going to happen…

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As soon as he saw the Big Boots, Pooh knew that an Adventure was going to happen and he brushed the honey off his nose with the back of his paw, and spruced himself up as well as he could, so as to look Ready for Anything. -A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh, page 111

Our homeschool uses some Charlotte Mason (CM) principles.

While I am far from a CM expert, I summarize Miss Mason’s streamlined educational process as 1) connecting children as directly as possible to ideas themselves, 2) utilizing great attention to move ideas into long term memory and 3) connections between ideas are created by the student, not teacher or textbook, developing the strength of the mind. The methodology designed by Miss Mason is generally very child friendly, and generally Biblically sound.

I say “generally”, because there are a few points of divergence between Miss Mason’s curriculum methods and my own ideology. A very presumptuous and bold ascertation, I am sure anyone who has any knowledge of the modern CM movement is thinking. More on my points of divergence at a later time, and rest assured, I will try to defend my position 😉

Now, on to our Adventure. (Since that I just brushed the honey off of my nose…you might want to put on your Big Boots).

When delving into any great adventure, it seems useful to lay out the goals of the said adventure upon the very beginning. Well, I figured the same was true for our homeschool. As such, I decided to corner Hubby during a long car ride home from another state in order to hash out the objectives of our homeschool- which really turned out to be our goals for parenting our children. This was not a light undertaking- good thing the children slept through it, (too much cake, doughnuts and swimming at Grandma’s).

Here’s what we came up with:

1) to instill a thorough, working knowledge of the Word of God into our children’s minds Deut 6:7-9 We would be much happier if God’s Word made it into their hearts, but that’s the work of the Holy Spirit. I will content myself with my job of, “You shall teach them diligently to your children” and pray without ceasing for each of them. As we see this goal, it requires apologetics. It needs a thorough knowledge of history to understand the context of Scripture and to see God’s working throughout all time. It takes intricate language skills to read Scripture properly and to present it to the world. It demands in-depth mathematics and science to apply God’s Word in the real world (and if you don’t believe that examine the ministry Answers in Genesis!).

2) to develop a great sense of modesty Phil 2:3-5. This concerns humility in how one sees and presents oneself; propriety, really, but not in clothing specifically, but in speech, conduct and thought. See a sampling of my thoughts on modesty here  This goal encompasses the basis for work ethic, relationships, moral standards, chivalry, financial integrity, stewardship and so much more!

Upon looking at these goals, we realize they are just our means to providing the necessary instruction and discipline for our children to live out the words of Jesus  “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind…You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matt 22:37+39).

In the future, as if that isn’t vague at all, I will explain why a CM education supplies the path towards our goals in most, but not all, cases.