“If mothers could do for themselves…”


Today was one of those days. I knew it before breakfast was over. As I stood at the sink washing dishes, and praying that the Lord would give me what I needed to teach all of these kids, a phrase ran through my head: “if mothers could do for themselves what they do for their children when they are overdone…”

I knew Charlotte had gotten into my head again.

“If mothers could do for themselves what they do for their children when they are overdone, we should have happier households. Let the mother go out to play! If she would have the courage to let everything go when life becomes too tense…[everything would be better!]


-Charlotte Mason, School Education

You can imagine that life here right now doesn’t have the ability to “let everything go”. So I did a little variation of that plan. The kids were very pleased. Mom was nice again.

While trying to find the quote above, I stumbled across this. Painfully, it may be (alright, it IS) part of why this has been such a rough week.

“…let not the nervous, anxious, worried mother think that this easy, happy relation with her children is for her. She may be the best mother in the world, but the thing that her children will get from her in these vexed moods is a touch of her nervousness-most catching of complaints.

She will find them fractious, rebellious, unmanageable, and will be slow to realize it is her fault; not the fault of her act, but of her state.”


-Charlotte Mason, School Education (Volume 3) p.33

Well. Here’s to a better next week.

Why I love The Cloud of Witness

Some of you will already be familiar with the reprint of The Cloud of Witness that was published by Nancy Kelly last summer. (If you don’t own a copy, it is now available on Amazon, as well as Riverbend Press.)

This is an eclectic little book of daily readings of scripture and poetry (from the great minds) that Charlotte Mason chose as her graduation gift for her students leaving her teacher training college. It was precious to them, because they would all be reading the same words together daily, even though they were separated by time and space.

I love this book, not only because I read it throughout the year with a neat group of like-minded educators, but also because of the daily encouragement and thinking that it involves.

Since I don’t follow the liturgical year, I have gotten very lost in The Cloud. There is a helpful schedule here, to keep people like me on track.

So, take yesterday’s reading for example. Three different selections struck me.

  “Man is dear to Man! the poorest Poor

Long for some moments in a weary life,

Themselves, the fathers and the dealers-out

Of some small blessings;-have been kind to such

As needed kindness.”



This reminded me of several people who have been dealers-out of small blessings to me. I’m grateful for them.

The next one is longer. More thinking.

“Be calm in arguing; for fierceness makes

Error a fault, and truth discourtesy.

Why should I feel another man’s mistakes

More than his fickleness or poverty?

In love I should; but anger is not love,

Nor wisdom neither; -therefore gently move!


Be useful where thou livest, that they may 

Both want and wish thy pleasing presence still:

Kindness, good parts, great places, are the way

To compass this. Find out men’s Wants and Will,

And meet them there! – All worldly joys go less

To the one joy of doing kindnesses.”


-George Herbert, emphasis added

Okay. There’s a lot here. I read it maybe three or four times yesterday morning. The truth of these words is a little painful and stays with me throughout the day. It reminds me of Charlotte’s reminder in Ourselves (Volume 4):

“Poetry, too, supplies us with tools for the modelling of our lives, and the use of these we must get at for ourselves.

The line that strikes us as we read, that recurs, that we murmur over at odd moments-this is the line that influences our living…


…as we ‘inwardly digest,’ reverence comes to us unawares, gentleness, continuance, and of a part to play that should not be loud and discordant, but of a piece with the whole.

This is one of the ‘lessons never learned in schools’ which comes to each of us only as we discover it for ourselves.”


-Charlotte Mason, Ourselves

Charlotte goes on to say that we each may have a favorite poet (or several), and that is a happy thing as we learn and digest:

“What we digest we assimilate, take into ourselves, so that it is part and parcel of us, and no longer separable.”


-Charlotte Mason

And lastly, this one struck me because I have been struggling a bit with our home’s atmosphere. A cheerful mother is not to be underestimated. I sort of let life get to me lately. Michael ever so gently brought it to my attention. (The man is brave.) And there has been a marked upswing of joy around here as I have worked hard to remember to smile and have fun with people. And doesn’t it just figure that these days and the effort made has been “twice blest”? (“It blesseth him that gives and him that takes!” – Shakespeare)

“Find thy reward in the thing

Which thou hast been blest to do,

Let the joy of others cause joy to spring

Up in thy bosom too!-

And if the love of a grateful heart

As a rich reward be given,

Lift thou the love of a grateful heart

To the God of Love in Heaven!”


-George MacDonald

mother care

Some of you are already familiar with the wonderful essay on “Mother Culture” written many years ago by an anonymous contributor to Charlotte Mason’s PNEU (Parent’s union) newsletter. (If you haven’t read it, you might want to go read it here.) It is fascinating to me that some things haven’t changed much in a hundred years. Mothers still get worn down and need a little mental refreshing.

“Is there not some need for “mother culture”? But how is the state of things to be altered? So many mothers say, “I simply have no time for myself!” “I never read a book!” Or else, “I don’t think it is right to think of myself!” They not only starve their minds, but they do it deliberately, and with a sense of self-sacrifice which seems to supply ample justification…”

-Anonymous Contributor to the PNEU

We mothers are still notoriously poor at taking a few reading breaks before we crash completely. This Mother Culture essay reminds us that when we stop reading and thinking, we stop growing. She mentions that often it’s the fathers who keep growing, and changing, and retain the respect of their children as they grow. But mothers? Sometimes we are our own worst enemy.

“What we need is a habit of taking our minds out of what one is tempted to call “the domestic rag-bag” of perplexities, and giving it a good airing in something which keeps it “growing”. “

“Domestic rag-bag of perplexities” is one of my new favorite lines.(!)

I love that we have a wonderful reason to stop and feed our minds for a bit each day – it benefits our family!

Naturally, there’s a temptation to think that if some reading is good, then hours of reading off by ourselves must be GREAT. I’m here to say that this sort of thinking has some negative ramifications. Lost toddlers might be one of them.

The author says that certainly, we must be able to spare a half an hour out of each 24 hour time period to keep ourselves thinking.

I have experienced this desire for a mental break many times over the past few months, and since there isn’t a lot of time for rest during the day, these “breaks” often come in the form of things to think about as I work.

Currently there are three parts of the day that give me new and deep things to ponder.

The first is quiet time early in the morning before the family wakes up. This has always been an important time in my day, but lately it has risen to the level of a “need”, and not a “want”. I find it absolutely crucial to spend time with the Lord to get my mind and heart in the right place for serving my family throughout the day.

Next, is the time spent reading aloud to my children for school each day. The books are full of life and depth, and give me a lot to think on for the rest of the day. Some days I might read portions of up to 10 books out loud to various children, and listen to many more narrations of other books. All these years later, it still amazes me that often the books that different children are reading fit together so perfectly, sometimes even mentioning the same person!

I miss this time with my kids during the summer, but I was thrilled to realize that they miss it too! I found that each of them have a preferred book to continue during the summer. Imagine my surprise to hear my “non-reader” say “well, let’s just keep reading Mere Christianity during the summer, Mom”. (!)

The last time of day I’m almost guaranteed to get a few minutes of reading is during nap time. I take a few minutes of the little people’s one hour nap time to read. By then, my brain and body are so tired that I’m not able to plow through tough reading. The combination of sitting down for a few minutes and reading rejuvenates me for the afternoon and evening ahead.

At our house, evenings aren’t generally my reading time, since I’m never sure who is going to want to hang out…and then there’s Michael, who I usually haven’t had time to connect with during the day. After all, I like to give a chunk of my day to the Man who buys me all of these books!

I love the idea of “Mother Culture”, because the purpose behind our own refreshment is the benefit to our entire family. Mom becomes a much more interesting person to talk to because of what she is reading and learning. It’s not such a self-serving hobby, as some things can be. I love how this expresses our desire to live for others.

“The wisest woman I ever knew–the best wife, the best mother, the best mistress, the best friend–told me once, when I asked her how, with her weak health and many calls upon her time, she managed to read so much, “I always keep three books going–a stiff book, a moderately easy book, and a novel, and I always take up the one I feel fit for!” That is the secret; always have something “going” to grow by. If we mothers were all “growing” there would be less going astray among our boys, less separation in mind from our girls.”

A Retreat… ‘For the Children’s Sake’

Last week I spent time with some special people at the Living Education Retreat in Iowa. Nancy Kelly and the ladies who work so hard to put this retreat together are pretty incredible. This time I got to bring Alyssa with me, which made it even better. We don’t have much time for hanging out, so this was a really wonderful chance for us to get away and just be together…having blizzards at Dairy Queen, picking Queen Anne’s Lace, and getting caught in world’s most giant hail storm on our way to the retreat. We were bummed that we didn’t video tape it, because generally Michael doesn’t really believe us when we tell him how big or terrible something is. Something about “when two women get together and start exaggerating…”.


20160713_150728She asked me to stop so she could pick Queen Anne’s Lace

Thank goodness Michael is wonderful, and took care of things at home. I’m so grateful. Some year maybe he’ll get to come with me!

LER 2016 group photoPhoto Credit: Heidi Jahnke

This was a very different retreat from last year, but just like last year, I have come away encouraged by the people I met. I love to be with others who are passionate about this unusual living education we’re all growing into.

Karla Taber was our MC, and a very thoughtful and caring MC she is. I think I’ve enjoyed every conversation I’ve had with Karla, and generally walk away feeling encouraged. (Thank you Karla!)

The first night, Nancy described Charlotte’s Three-fold Cord: the Creed, the Badge, and the Certificate that Charlotte used in her teacher training. It was fascinating to hear how Charlotte found the phrase “For the Children’s Sake”. So many new things are always popping up in this way of learning! I love it. I think the Certificate is beautiful:

cm college certificatePhoto Credit: Heidi Jahnke

Also in that first session (you can have a listen to it here), Nancy and Nicole Handfield unveiled a new book they’ve been working on, called Charlotte Mason and The Great Recognition, edited by Nicole Handfield. It’s a lovely book, of the quality we’ve come to expect from Nancy and Riverbend Press. It will be available to all of us very soon, I’m told. Thank you for all the hard work, Nancy and Nicole!

nicole and nancy 2016 LERPhoto Credit: Heidi Jahnke

There has been much confusion over what exactly happened with Charlotte and The Great Recognition. I’m grateful that someone has taken the time and effort to explain it to us. It matters, because it describes what Charlotte Mason thought of the role of the Holy Spirit in our education. This little book is also important because we are again reminded of where Charlotte found her inspiration for her philosophy of education. I loved to hear Nicole talk. What a sweet and gentle lady!

Later that evening I made sure to check out Jan Wright’s books from Books of Yesterday. Jan and her daughter are pretty wonderful to find all of these lovely books. I love my new copy of Our Island Story…color pictures!

20160713_104000Our littlest children are thrilled with The Boy With a Drum, I now know it by heart…

I also let Alyssa choose a few books. Her choices? An Old Fashioned Girl (Our favorite Alcott book), and A Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady. The girl has good taste!

One of my favorite things about this year’s retreat was the fact that I got to spend more time with the LER teens. They are such a fun bunch of people!

LER teens taking picsPhoto Credit: Marcia Mattern

I’m using this blurry picture because of how hilarious this evening was. Listening to these kids made me laugh. Thank goodness they didn’t drown while taking selfies…(death by selfie).

Here are a few more of the teens. The guy in the middle really does smile. I believe he was probably thinking about narrations…or he may have had a rock in his shoe. On the other hand, maybe he’d just remembered something he forgot to do before he left home. But I often saw him smiling, so don’t worry, this was likely a fluke.

LER Teens 5 kidsPhoto Credit: Marcia Mattern

I had a real fun time hanging out with several of the teens at the “Sugar Shack” a few miles away. Conversations included: the relevance of water towers, ice cream brands, seaweed covered rocks that reminded us of children’s books (McClosky), and terrifying shark encounters. When I got back and Marcia asked if I’d taken pictures…

Well. No. Not exactly. I’m not the best at remembering that sort of thing.

Nancy’s morning meditations inspired me to look for the book A White Bird Flying. I loved the section she read.

Listening to Jack Kelly’s talk on the many aspects of nature study was fascinating. We also got to pick his brain on educating high schoolers in preparation for college. I think we all appreciate the fact that he’s been through a Nancy Kelly/Charlotte Mason education, and has come out on the other side as a reasonable adult, able to be a successful member of society!

In Jack’s talk about appreciating and supporting nature in our own little part of the world (our yard, street, and town), he said this:

“To love something more, you need to know it more.”

-Jack Kelly

He suggested that it would be wonderful if we all thought like this: “I’m going to get to know EVERYTHING about the place I live.”

I was inspired.

This year I had the honor/terror of talking at one of the breakout sessions. This was my view as I prayed and prepared:


So beautiful.

Charlotte’s words on simplicity were an inspiration to me as I prepared, and I plan to do a little blogging about them as a follow up to my talk, since naturally, I forgot to mention a few things that seem important.

During the retreat I became aware of the fact that Kent Kelly has been watching the British Baking Show, and now bakes scones, among other things! They were delicious, thank you Kent! Nancy has graciously shared his Blueberry Scone recipe with us, so we can all try our hand at scones. Although, I hear from Kent that there is a great deal to be said about the method of grating frozen butter, and should not be tried without a machine that he told me about, and which I have now forgotten the name of. My brain does that to me…more often than I’d like.

So this happened during the folk song/camp fire. The couples were asked to sing “Keys to Canterbury” with each other, and Art and Barbara Middlekauf stole the show. Hilarious.

Art and Barbara singingPhoto Credit: Heidi Jahnke

art and barb singingPhoto Credit: Heidi Jahnke

We wrapped up with Jason Fiedler’s transparent message about how he struggled as a husband and father to jump into this wild adventure of a Mason home education. It was a wonderful talk, very challenging to fathers and mothers alike. I’d like to say more about it here, but instead I’ll be blogging about it in the next week.(Hopefully!) It’s the kind of thing that deserves it’s own post.

(Edited to say that Jason posted his talk here, and has started a new blog!!! Very cool.)

It was a joy to share this time with these precious people. Nancy and her team work very hard to create such a beautiful retreat! I’m so grateful!

Mary and NancyPhoto Credit: Nancy Kelly

As always, it’s a pleasure to spend time with this lovely lady.  Thank you for this retreat, Nancy!

A Narration of Reconsidering Charlotte Mason and the Classical Tradition

This week I was able to read an enlightening post by a fellow Charlotte Mason educator that I very much appreciated. You may have heard of Art Middlekauff’s detailed response on the CMI blog to Karen Glass’s book, Consider This.

You may have even read Art’s post. If that is the case, I’ll bet this little narration won’t be of much interest to you!

As I read Art’s post, I was convinced of its importance in the Mason community, and at the same time was concerned that many who might wish to understand the issues might not take the time to read the whole thing…because it was pretty long.

I had to read Art’s post in several sittings, as I kept being interrupted by my 37 children. (Just kidding, there are only seven.)

As I read, I realized I’d like to offer a sort of summary of Art’s major points to anyone who might not take the time to read his whole post, but wanted to know the content. (Sort of the “Idiot’s Guide” to Art’s post.) Please be warned, I am not the scholarly sort, so my simple mind will need to present this in simple ways!

One of my main reasons for wanting to offer this summary was because I realized that a defense of the truth was involved. The truth of what Charlotte was saying. The truth of her premise that the highest goal in education was not virtue, as Karen Glass said, but actually the knowledge of God. I also recognized truth in Mason’s overarching philosophy – that the Holy Spirit is the giver of all knowledge, and how that differs from the foundations of classical education.

Now, as we know, Truth is worth doing a little digging to find. Art has done quite a bit of research to find this truth. I appreciate that this was a respectful, rational, and truthful post. We can have a different conversation over truth where things are kept in the rational realm, vs reacting emotionally. One of the quite rational things about this post is the amount of time that passed from the time Glass’s book was published, till the time this blog post came out. To me this speaks of thoughtful, careful consideration of the issues, as well as patience to see how the Charlotte Mason community would receive the book.

I realize that I am not likely to convince readers of the truth of certain issues, I am only hoping to make Art’s post accessible to those who might be in a bit of a rush!

“The consequence of truth is great; therefore the judgement of it must not be negligent”.


Art began his post by reminding us all of what Charlotte based her philosophy upon:

“The teachings of Christ, the discoveries of science, and the behaviors of children.”

This was very simple.

It is helpful that Art has since reminded us that while she may have used many references to the classics to illustrate or explain her philosophy, those were not what she used to base her philosophy upon.

Art goes on to say that there was a boom in the classical homeschool movement, but because of all the curriculum and variations available, it has become much more complicated to pinpoint just what a classical education is, exactly. Because so many are defining a classical education, and because those definitions do not all exactly agree with each other, many ideas come into play, and we can hodge podge it all together, creating a ‘Charlotte Mason Classical’ approach without really knowing what we’re saying! (My words, not Art’s. He said that much more intelligently.)

Art says that of course “it’s natural that some would ask how Charlotte Mason’s philosophy compares to the classical model”.

He then points to the fact that Glass’s book “advances the striking thesis that not only is a Charlotte Mason education similar to the classical model, but in fact it is a ‘particular implementation’ of a ‘classical education’ “. Art says that “Glass makes the claim that Charlotte Mason’s method should be classified as just one of the many diverse approaches that fall under the general label of classical”. 

Then it gets interesting. In an unemotional and respectful tone, Art explains:

“Unfortunately, Glass’s book misrepresents the source, purpose, and ideal of Charlotte Mason’s method. In doing so Glass creates a hybrid model of education that is faithful neither to the classical model, nor to Charlotte Mason’s ideas”.

He says that the purpose of his paper is to show that

“Charlotte Mason’s method is not merely a ‘particular implementation’ of a ‘classical education.’ Rather, Mason introduced a distinctly new philosophy of education that is a dramatic departure from the classical tradition”.

I agree with some who think these are bold statements. Truth is often bold. I believe that Art is attempting to get to the truth here.

He goes on to have seven points in which he shows that Charlotte Mason was intentional about explaining how she arrived at her philosophy, and that it was not built on the classical model.

Art’s first point covers “The Source of Charlotte Mason’s Educational Theory”, explaining that “[Glass’s] narrative contradicts Mason’s own testimony of how she developed her theory”.

Art reminds us that Charlotte cites her “primary source of her educational theory” being the “Code of Education in the Gospels”. (This can be found in Home Education, page 12.)

He says that “at the close of her career, Mason provided her own extended narrative of how she discovered and developed her theory of education”. (This is found in Volume 6, An Essay Towards a Philosophy of Education, pages 9-17.)

(Art is very thorough, so I am attempting to skim his findings, you will probably want to check it out for yourself!) From his research, Art is able to firmly state:

“From the beginning to the end, not a single classical source is mentioned in Mason’s own narrative of the development of her educational theory.” (Emphasis added)

Just as a reminder, if right now you are thinking to yourself, “I KNOW Charlotte referenced people of the past all over her volumes”, you are correct. And Art is attempting to make the distinction that she used examples of the past to illustrate and explain how to use her philosophy, but NOT when she was DEVELOPING her philosophy.

Art goes on to show where Karen has misrepresented Charlotte, and he says “the reader (of Consider This) is led to assume that Mason discovered her principles of education from the classical tradition”.

Now. To make things more clear for us, Art used charts. I will not attempt to explain those tables, you’d need to go look for yourself. (!)

Next we are shown Karen’s attempt to prove that Charlotte discovered her philosophy from the “classical world”, but Art shows us that Charlotte’s “discoveries were made from her own firsthand interaction with children”.

“Mason repeatedly emphasized the newness of her theory. She would not do this if she were trying to resurrect ideas from the classical past.”

-Art Middlekauff

Art ends this point with something I personally found very interesting.

Charlotte stated that “our whole superstructure rests upon…a Christian basis…” But “Glass relegates a discussion of Mason’s faith to an Appendix”. Glass also mentioned that Mason brought a “Christian perspective (emphasis added – by Art) to her philosophy of education”, implying that “Mason began with classical sources and then made some modifications or adjustments based on Christian ideas. This dramatically contradicts Mason’s own testimony that she had discovered a ‘Code of Education in the Gospels'”.

Art’s point number two goes on to describe “the uniqueness of Charlotte Mason’s educational theory”.

For the sake of brevity, I will only quote Art one time from this section!

“Given that Mason explicitly stated that her foundation was the Gospel of Christ and her own experience as a teacher, it should not be surprising to find that her discoveries were frequently at odds with the classical tradition.”

Okay, now point three gets a little tricky…it is called “A Hybrid Model that is not Classical”. Art says:

“Glass describes a model of education that includes elements from Charlotte Mason’s theory and from the classical tradition. The result is a hybrid that is not compatible with either. Glass herself provides many examples of how Mason contradicts the classical tradition. These examples serve to undermine and ultimately falsify her own thesis…”


Hmm. You see…

Based on his quotes in this section, Art provides us with the sense that:

“Glass does not seem to consider the possibility that a Mason education might be different from or better than a classical education.”

Point four is “A Hybrid Model that is Not Faithful to Charlotte Mason”

And this gets long. Important, but long.

I will tell you that Art carefully explains where Karen and Charlotte miss each other in a thorough discussion of their differences surrounding Charlotte’s principles 1, 2, 3, 9, 12, 15, 18, and 20.

If you aren’t familiar with these principles, they are found at the beginning of each of Charlotte’s six volumes.

The specific principles that Art chose to discuss seemed to be where much confusion reigned. Glass and Mason seemed to have opposing views, so Art went into great detail to clear some of that up for us.

The discussion of principles 1-3 was of particular interest to me, as there tends to be a lot of confusion surrounding them. I will briefly remind you of what they are in case you’d like to go read it for yourself!

#1 Children are born persons, #2, [Children] are not born either good or bad (as there is much confusion over this, I would encourage you to read Art’s words on this.) #3, The principle of authority and obedience – Karen brought up the importance of teaching children humility, but Charlotte says many times that children already greatly possess that quality much more than us adults do!

I cannot begin to explain this section to you in a nutshell, as this 4th point was 10 printer pages long! I will share with you something that struck me at the end of this section right before table #3, which in my opinion, was the most helpful chart.

When discussing Charlotte’s 20th principle, “The Divine Spirit has constant access to their spirit”, Art says:

“Of course the idea that the Holy Spirit is the personal educator of each individual child presupposes the New Testament revelation about the person and work of the Holy Spirit. These revealed truths were unknown to the classical world. Hence it is not surprising that Glass neglected to mention this important aspect of Mason’s theory of education in her book.”

Point five might be my favorite. It is a discussion of “The Purpose of Education”. There is an important distinction between the highest purpose of a classical education, and a Charlotte Mason education.

Art says that “Glass repeatedly states that the purpose of education is virtue-right behavior…she also asserts that…’all areas of education were brought into service for this single goal – to teach children to think and act rightly’…Glass is clear that the aim of education is ‘most importantly – bringing that knowledge to bear on actual conduct'”.

And then we have this:

“Glass attempts to show that Mason also believed that the purpose of education is right action. Quoting Mason, she writes that ‘[the formation of character is] the ultimate object of education’. The problem with this quotation is that the full context of Mason’s statement is: ‘Suppose the parent see that the formation of character is the ultimate object of education’ (emphasis added). In other words, the sentence is hypothetical, and not a definitive statement of Mason’s official statement on the goal of education.” (You can find this in Volume 2, Parents and Children, page 83.)

(I’m spending more time on this point for you, because I think this really matters. If the end goal in education is different, certainly our methods will reflect that!)

Art shows us that actually, Charlotte found her “inspiration in the Gospel”:

“For Mason, the goal of education is not the achievement of virtue but rather the knowledge of and intimacy with God.”

Art carefully reminds us that “Mason is very clear that action is subordinate to knowing Christ in a personal way.” (And yes, he has quotes to back himself up…sadly I don’t have the space for all of them here!) Art’s conclusion to those quotes was “Virtue is good, but is secondary to the knowledge of God. Even habit formation is, in its highest form, about knowing God, not changing outward behavior.” (You can find this in School Education – Volume 3 p.141.)

“To keep a child in this habit of the thought of God – so that to lose it, for even a little while, is like coming home after an absence and finding his mother out – is a very delicate part of a parent’s work.”

-Charlotte Mason

And one of my favorite lines in this whole post? Art concludes this point with this:

“While the goal of a classical education may be virtue, the goal of a Charlotte Mason education is the knowledge of God.”

Alrighty…on to point six, called “Synthetic Thinking”.

This is a discussion of what Glass calls “Synthetic thinking”, and Art shows that Karen has picked up an idea that does not seem to reflect Charlotte’s intentions. “Glass defines [synthetic thinking] as follows: ‘Seeing the universe as a wholeness, and understanding that all things are connected to all other things, and ultimately to God, and to yourself, might be called synthetic thinking’. But Mason never challenges her students to ‘understand that all things are connected to all other things’. Therefore it is not surprising that Mason does not use the phrase synthetic thinking.”

The discussion then turns to analyzing information, and Art agrees that “Mason does state that the mind ‘absorbs facts only as those facts are connected with the living ideas upon which they hang’, (You can find this in Volume 6, p. 20.) but of course this is vastly different from discovering a path to connect ‘all things’ to ‘all other things’.  (emphasis added)

Art says that “According to Mason, since children are born persons, they can self-educate and derive spiritual nourishment when they consume knowledge directly. Training children to analyze before consuming interrupts this process and erodes curiosity. The irony is that intentionally pushing children towards synthetic thinking has just the same side effect as pushing them towards analytical thinking – it pushes children to think about what they are consuming, instead of just consuming. When consuming a great piece of literature, children should not do a synthetic study of how the ideas connect to other categories of knowledge. Rather, they should just consume the ideas, and their natural ability to learn will “digest” those ideas.”

Although he was much more thorough, in my condensed version, this statement sums things up pretty well:

“Through Glass’s extensive and detailed treatment of synthetic thinking, she has developed a new model for education which may have precedent in the classical tradition, but it has little to do with Charlotte Mason’s ideas.”

There is much discussion of Glass’s model of Synthetic Thinking, and what she brings up as Mason’s Synthetic Stage. But Art concludes with this thought:

“A comparison of Glass’s model of synthetic thinking to Mason’s model of a synthetic stage indicates that Glass has developed a model of education that is different from Mason’s. Whatever merits this model may have, it is foreign to Charlotte Mason’s theory of education.”

And finally, point seven is Art’s conclusion.

He shares with us that his post shows that “Glass is performing eisegesis (interpreting texts in such a way that it introduces one’s own presuppositions). The evidence shows that Glass is advocating ‘classical ideas’ using Charlotte Mason’s vocabulary.” (I’m probably the only one who had never heard of eisegesis…thank goodness he defined it for me!)

Lastly, Art reminds us that Charlotte has inspired us with this new method of education “by preaching the educational code found in the Gospels, and by observing the beautiful mystery of the human being. Mason did not achieve this by repackaging ideas from the Greek and Roman past.”

Thank you Art, for your time and effort to help us gain some understanding of the differences between a Classical and a Charlotte Mason education!

“we were truly of no account, that no flesh should glory in His presence”

I read this quote a few months ago, and put it in my commonplace book (of course). Then I put it on the fridge, and it has come to have deep and special meaning to me over these months of uncertainty with our little foster children. I wanted to share it here.

“And we saw our calling, how [we] were truly of no account, that no flesh should glory in His presence.


Nothing anyone thought of us could reach lower down than that, no one could ever count us less than we were. But he that is down need fear no fall. He that is down cannot get between God and his glory.


And we knew there was nothing he could not do through us if only we were nothing.” (emphasis added)


-Amy Carmichael

how we fell for Shakespeare

Several years ago I heard about the value of reading Shakespeare with my children. To me, it seemed a little crazy! I mean, Shakespeare? I didn’t have the best impression of those dry and boring plays.

Later as I began to delve into all that was included in a Charlotte Mason education, and the apparent benefits behind reading Shakespeare, I decided we’d give it a try.   Read More

“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep”

I think it’s sort of amazing how things fall into place in our school sometimes.

Late this fall I still hadn’t chosen the Christmas hymn we would study in December. I’m usually more prepared, but I hadn’t had time to study and research as I have had in the past. Normally I would plan ahead, we would listen to the hymn, use it for some of our December copy work and learn the story behind the hymn.

I thought some of you would enjoy hearing the story of our Christmas hymn this year. Read More

for the love of nature


Recently, one of my children said “You know Mom, really everything that is science is nature. Our bodies are nature, really, and the sea, and the other things we study for science, we could really just call them all nature study.” Read More

time to stand and stare

Last year I came across a poem that I love. It meant a lot to me, because although I love to stand and stare, I often don’t have (or make) the time!

A few weeks ago I was at my favorite Goodwill and found a beautiful book in the poetry section. For any Tasha Tudor fans out there, you’ll appreciate this one. Guess what I opened the book right up to? Yep, it was that poem I love. Most of my friends also know that I love cows, so it just happens that when you combine stopping to stare, and there are cows involved…well, it couldn’t be more perfect. Read More