Friday, July 21, 2017

Year in Review: Our Favourite School Books

JJ(7)'s Year 1 Books
Today I pulled out all our books from the school year just ended and stacked them on the table. What a good feeling it was to realize what we had read through! Most of these are part of Ambleside Online's wonderful curriculum for Years 1 and 3, with a few books added in for Canadian content and special interest, and a few books taken out to compensate for what we'd added in. Everything we read was narrated, whether by the individual student, or by both of them (or all three! My extroverted 4-year-old loves to take his turn narrating the readings we do together as a family.).

Some of them are books we will continue to read in the next school year (Probably. Plans are not set in stone yet!):
The Blue Fairy Book
Canadian Wonder Tales
Great Canadian Lives
Mathematicians are People, Too
The Story of Canada (Marsh)
The Story of Canada (Brown, Harman, Jeanneret)
Trial and Triumph

Some of them were books that we didn't complete. The term ended, and we moved on:
Children of the New Forest (SA(9) may yet finish this on his own.)
Hamlet by Bruce Coville
The Jungle Book
Just So Stories (One chapter to go...JJ will finish it on his own.)
Leonardo da Vinci by Emily Hahn (I suspect I got the wrong book in this was very heavy for Year 3. We read through half, and moved on.)
Sebastian Bach by Opal Wheeler

But the majority of the books on the stacks were the ones we finished, whether together as a family, or separately. Because we did several Year 3 books together, I ended up taking out a number of the Year 1 books in order not to overload JJ.

SA(9)'s Year 3 Books
A Drop of Water 
Cartier Sails the St. Lawrence
Madeleine Takes Command
Pilgrim's Progress (We finished Book 2 this year)
Secrets of the Woods
Tales from Shakespeare (We did the chapters scheduled for Year 3 together.)

Bard of Avon
Our Island Story (He completed the chapters scheduled in AO's curriculum through Year 3.)
The Adventures of Marco Polo by Russell Freedman
The Heroes
The Princess and the Goblin

Fifty Famous Stories Retold
James Herriot's Treasury for Children
The Aesop for Children

The Favourites

For fun, I asked all of them to choose their favourite school books. They each started with one, then thought of more they considered favourites. In the end I let them choose as many as they wanted. I also asked them to choose their least favourite book. JJ had no doubt about his pick, but SA assured me earnestly that really, he liked all his books, and his least favourite was still a good book.

The Princess and the Goblin 
Madeleine Takes Command
A Drop of Water
The Heroes
Sebastian Bach
Mathematicians are People, Too

Least Favourite: Leonardo da Vinci by Emily Hahn

James Herriot's Treasury for Children
Madeleine Takes Command
Fifty Famous Stories Retold
A Drop of Water

Least Favourite: The Story of Canada by Brown, Harman, and Jeanneret

MM(4) also insisted on choosing his favourite:
The Blue Fairy Book

And why not? I'll include my own favourites of the year. You'll notice some overlap with the boys's just such a pleasure to share books when they are loving them too. I was learning as much as they were.

Madeleine Takes Command
Cartier Sails the St. Lawrence
Secrets of the Woods
The Blue Fairy Book
The Heroes

School Education Chapter 9: A Great Educationalist (A Review)

This blog post is part of an on-going daily series this month as I read (very quickly) through School Education by Charlotte Mason. Join me! Pick up your book and read a chapter, or find it free online at Ambleside Online.


This chapter is a review of the book Outlines of Pedagogics by W. Rein, which is an introduction to Herbart, a popular and prolific German educational thinker who lived several decades before Charlotte Mason. She reviews his ideas by comparing them with her own philosophy and practice in the PNEU. Having seen her critique of Herbart's ideas in other chapters, I was surprised at how positive this review was! She really does seem to agree with him on more points than she disagrees.

Like Mason, Herbart rejects the idea of 'faculties' (a way of dividing persons up so you can educate each part: perception, conception, judgment, affections, etc.). He also recognises the power of ideas. He believes in the primary importance of the family in education. Herbart believes in faith and piety, and that all education springs from and rests on our relation to Almighty God. 

Mason agrees with Herbart's belief as to the ultimate purpose of education. It is not (as Rousseau) to "educate a man of nature in the midst of civilised men." It is also not (as Locke) to prepare the student to become a useful member of society. The purpose is not independence or even that a student becomes greater than one's teacher. Herbart's primary purpose is ethical, not intellectual: he, like Charlotte Mason, is aiming for the formation of character. 

However, Charlotte Mason believes that she has a stronger basis in science than Herbart did fifty years before her. Psychology remains shaky ground, but when it is combined with physiology, particularly the science about the brain as the seat of habit, she believes she has a strong scientific foundation. Because of this, she adds to Herbart's confidence in the power of ideas a belief in the power of habit in education.

Mason mentions her disagreement with Herbart only briefly at the end of the review: that his philosophy tends to eliminate personality. Still, the main tone of the review is positive. "It is therefore the more gratifying to observe that certain fundamental ideas, long the property of the world, which we have embraced in our scheme of thought, appealed with equal force to so great and original a thinker as Herbart." (p. 100)


"We do not merely give a religious education, because that would seem to imply the possibility of some other education, a secular education, for example. But we hold that all education is divine, that every good gift of knowledge and insight comes from above, that the Lord the Holy Spirit is the supreme educator of mankind, and that the culmination of all education (which may, at the same time, be reached by a little child) is that personal knowledge of and intimacy with God in which our being finds its fullest perfection." (p. 95)

Rein on Herbart's thought, quoted with approval by Charlotte Mason: "The education of the children will always remain the holiest and highest of all family duties. The welfare, civilisation, and culture of a people depend essentially upon the degree of success that attends the education in the homes. The family principle is the point at which both the religious and educational life of a people centres, and about which it revolves. It is a force in comparison with which every sovereign's command appears powerless." (p. 96)

"We hold with him [Herbart] entirely as to the importance of great formative ideas in the education of children, but we add to our ideas, habits, and we labour to form habits upon a physical basis. Character is the result not merely of the great ideas which are given to us, but of the habits which we labour to form upon those ideas. We recognise both principles, and the result is a wide range of possibilities in education, practical methods, and a definite aim. We labour to produce a human being at his best physically, mentally, morally, and spiritually, with the enthusiasms of religion, of the good life, of nature, knowledge, art, and manual work; and we do not labour in the dark." (p. 99)

That's it for this week. I'll be back Monday with Chapter 10: "Some Unconsidered Aspects of Physical Training."

Thursday, July 20, 2017

School Education Chapter 8: Certain Relations Proper to a Child

This blog post is part of an on-going daily series this month as I read (very quickly) through School Education by Charlotte Mason. Join me! Pick up your book and read a chapter, or find it free online at Ambleside Online.


What are the "Relations proper to a child"?

Relationships with the universe - Scientific knowledge gained first-hand, the ability to move freely and gracefully in many different ways, the ability to make with their hands using its materials, understanding of and kindness to animals.

Relationships with people - 
Relationships of love, obedience, duty, friendship, and kindness with many kinds of people of all places and times. These relationships can be personal, through daily life, languages, and travel. They can also be mind to mind through living books of history and literature, art and archaeology. And we must not neglect a child's relationship with himself: some knowledge of philosophy and psychology will help him to understand himself and other people.

A Relationship with God - A relationship of love and service based not only on sentiment, but on an understanding that this is what we owe to God. An "intimate, ever-open, ever-cordial, ever-corresponding relation with Almighty God, which is the very fulfillment of life; which, whoso hath, hath eternal life;..." (p. 90)


"There are...dynamic relations to be established. He must stand and walk and run and jump with ease and grace. He must skate and swim and ride and drive, dance and row and sail a boat. He should be able to make free with his mother earth and to do whatever the principle of gravitation will allow. This is an elemental relationship for the lack of which nothing compensates." (p. 79-80)

"He should be able to make with his hands and should take delight in making." (p. 80)

Intimacy with animals: "a relation of intelligent comprehension as well as of kindness." (p. 80)

"Perhaps the main part of a child's education should be concerned with the great human relationships, relationships of love and service, of authority and obedience, of reverence and pity and neighbourly kindness; relationships to kin and friend and neighbour, to 'cause' and country and kind, to the past and the present. History, literature, archaeology, art, languages, whether ancient or modern, travel and tales of travel; all of these are in one way or other the record or the expression of persons; and we who are persons are interested in all persons,..." (p. 80-81)

"It rests with us to give the awakening idea and then to form the habit of thought and of life." (p. 81)

"...there seems good reason to believe that the limit to human intelligence arises largely from the limit to human interests, that is, from the failure to establish personal relations on a wide scale with the persons who make up humanity, --relations of love, duty, responsibility, and, above all, of interest, living interest, with the near and the far-off, in time and in place." (p. 82)

"I think we should have a great educational revolution once we...realised ourselves as persons whose great business is to get in touch with other persons of all sorts and conditions, of all countries and climes, of all times, past and present.... We should tend to become responsive and wise, humble and reverent, recognising the duties and the joys of the full human life."

"...when our ideal for ourselves and for our children becomes limited to prosperity and comfort, we get these, very likely, for ourselves and for them, but we get no more." (p. 83)

"If you ask, 'But how are we to get a scheme of ethical teaching for our children?' I really do not know, if we choose to forego the Ten Commandments and the old-fashioned teaching of exposition and example founded upon them. There are a thousand supplementary ways of giving such teaching; but these are apt to be casual and little binding if they do not rest upon the solid foundation of duty imposed upon us by God, and due to each other, whether we will or no. This moral relation of person to person underlies all other relations." (p. 85)

"...our power to conduct our relations with other people depends upon our power of conducting our relations with ourselves. Every man carries in his own person the key to human nature, and, in proportion as we are able to use this key, we shall be tolerant, gentle, helpful, wise and reverent." (p. 86)

"But duty and sentiment are two things. Sentiment is optional; and young people grow up to think that they may believe in God, may fear God, may love God in a measure--but that they must do these things, that there is no choice at all about the love and service of God, that it is their duty, that which they owe, to love Him 'with all their heart, with all their mind, with all their soul, with all their strength,' these things are seldom taught and understood as they should be. Even where our sentiment is warm, our religious notions are lax; and children, the children of good, religious parents, grow up without that intimate, ever-open, ever-cordial, ever-corresponding relation with Almighty God, which is the very fulfilment of life; which, whoso hath, hath eternal life; which, whoso hath not, is, like Coleridge's 'lovely Lady Geraldine,' ice-cold and dead at heart, however much he may labour for the free course of all other relations." (p. 90)

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

School Education Chapter 7: An Adequate Theory of Education

This blog post is part of an on-going daily series this month as I read (very quickly) through School Education by Charlotte Mason. Join me! Pick up your book and read a chapter, or find it free online at Ambleside Online.


Why are ideas such an important thing in education? It is because a human being is a whole person, "a spiritual being invested with a body." He is capable of relationships with many things (with God, with people of every age and place, with things...Charlotte Mason will elaborate more on this later in the book), and once these relationships are established, there is almost no limit to how much he can grow. If he makes few relationships, his ability to grow is limited, though there is no reason he cannot form new relationships at any time. These relationships are formed through idea and habit. "Every relation must be initiated by its own 'captain' idea, sustained upon fitting ideas; and wrought into the material substance of the person by its proper habits." (p. 71) This is the work of education.

But what is an idea? Nobody fully knows...we are only able to make 'guesses.' Charlotte Mason uses Plato's definition as a working hypothesis: "an idea is an entity, a live thing of the mind." (p. 69) An idea is "begotten" when mind meets mind: perhaps you read a book and a notion in it germinates and sprouts and grows in your own mind. After that, there is no telling where the idea may end up or how long it may live, whether it is expressed in a picture, or a song, or simply repeated to someone else. Different people are attracted to different ideas, just because of who they are by nature. 

What should education do for a person? An education does not need to "cultivate the senses" or produce intelligence. He is already fully a person, and these things are inborn and develop naturally. Instead, education should facilitate the formation of all the relationships "proper to him." How can we describe these relationships, and how are they formed? Charlotte Mason calls them "ties of intimacy, joy, association, and knowledge" with the world and everything in it. These ties develop first, like every relationship, with recognition, then with appreciation, then knowledge gained from personal experience. After this, "the superstructure of exact easily raised, because a natural desire is implanted." (p. 78)


"Apparently no one has power to beget an idea by himself; it appears to be the progeny of two minds. So-and-so 'put it in my head,' we say, and that is the history of all ideas--the most simple and the most profound. But, once begotten, the idea seems to survive indefinitely. It is painted in a picture, written in a book, carved into a chair, or only spoken to someone who speaks it again, who speaks it again, who speaks it again, so that it goes on being spoken, for how long? Who knows!" (p. 69-70)

" an idea comes of the contact of two minds, the idea of another is no more than a notion to us until it has undergone a process of generation within us; and for that reason different ideas appeal to different minds...because certain persons have in themselves, by inheritance, may we assume, that which is proper to attract certain ideas. To illustrate invisible things by visible, let us suppose that the relation is something like that between the pollen and the ovule it is to fertilise. The ways of carrying the pollen are various,...but there is nothing haphazard in the result. The right pollen goes to the right ovule and the plant bears seed after its kind; even so, the person brings forth ideas after his kind." (p. 70)

"Every habit we have formed has had its initial idea, and every idea we receive is able to initiate a habit of thought and action. Every human being has the power of communicating notions to other human beings; and, after he is dead, this power survives him in the work he has done and the words he has said." (p. 71)

"That the divine Spirit has like intimate power of corresponding with the human spirit, needs not to be urged, once we recognise ourselves as spiritual beings at all." (p. 71)

"Nature left to herself hands over every child to its parents and other educators in this condition of acute perceptive powers, keen intelligence, and moral teachableness and sweetness." (p. 74.) [note from me: If, like me, you don't quite buy this romantic view of human nature, don't miss the point! Education does not produce these "perceptive powers, keen intelligence, or moral teachableness and sweetness." -np]

"Plainly we have not to develop the person; he is there already, with, possibly, every power that will serve him in his passage through life." (p. 75)

"We shall have some fit new word [for education] meaning, perhaps, 'applied wisdom,' for wisdom is the science of relations, and the thing we have to do for a young human being is to put him in touch, so far as we can, with all the relations proper to him." (p. 75)

"We are no longer divided between the claims of the classical and the modern side. We no longer ask ourselves whether it is better to learn a few subjects 'thoroughly,' so we say, or to get a 'smattering' of many. These questions are beside the mark." (p. 75)

"We may believe that a person--I have a 'baby person' in view--is put into this most delightful world for the express purpose of forming ties of intimacy, joy, association, and knowledge with the living and moving things that are therein, with what St. Francis would have called his brother the mountain and his brother the ant and his brothers in the starry heavens. Fulness of living, joy in life, depend, far more than we know, upon the establishment of these relations." (p. 75)

"His little bit of knowledge is real science, because he gets it at first-hand;..." (p. 77)

"With this sort of appreciative knowledge of things to begin with, the superstructure of exact knowledge, living science, no mere affair of text-books and examinations, is easily raised, because a natural desire is implanted." (p. 78)


Tuesday, July 18, 2017

School Education Chapter 6: Some Educational Theories Examined

This blog post is part of an on-going daily series this month as I read (very quickly) through School Education by Charlotte Mason. Join me! Pick up your book and read a chapter, or find it free online at Ambleside Online.


Charlotte Mason continues to evaluate different educational psychologies current in her day using the criteria she set out in the previous chapter. In this chapter, she examines educational theories of Pestalozzi and Froebel, as well as Herbart. Finding both wanting, she turns to the philosophy she herself has been working out in the PNEU and elaborates on how it meets each requirement. 
Adequate - it is broad enough to encompass any advance in science or philosophy.
Necessary - she cannot judge whether there is not or ever will be an equally good philosophy of education, but she is satisfied that any such philosophy will, like hers, take into account the child as a whole person and also the results of scientific research.
In Touch with the Spirit of the Age
The Sacredness of the Person - She saw children as whole persons, body and soul together. 
The Evolution of the Individual - She believed in the "science of relations," and that teachers should foster those relationships by presenting ideas, by forming habits, and by getting out of the way.
The Solidarity of the Race - She put students "in living touch" with thinkers of different historical periods using literature, poetry, and other subjects. 


"It is just possible that bringing unbiassed minds and a few guiding principles to the task, we have, not joined the parts of the puzzle, but perceived dimly how an outline here and an outline there indicate, not so many separate psychologies, but shadowings forth of a coherent, living, educational principle destined to assume more and more clearness and fulness until it is revealed to us at last as the educational gospel, the discovery of which may be the destined reward and triumph of our age. Let me try to set forth, though with diffidence, what we have done, knowing that no man and no society can say of educational truth, 'This is mine and that is thine,' for all is common, and none of us can know how much he gives and how much he takes." (p. 62)

"For years we have worked definitely and consistently upon a psychology which appears to me fairly adequate, necessary, and in touch with the thought of our age. Children brought up on this theory of education, wherever we come across them, have certain qualities in common. They are curiously vitalised; not bored, not all alive in the playing-field and dull and inert in the schoolroom...There is unity in their lives;...there is continuity in their education. ...there is no transition stage, but simple, natural, living progress." (p. 63)

"What do we understand by a person? We believe the thinking, invisible soul and acting, visible body to be one in so intimate a union that--'Nor soul helps flesh more now than flesh helps soul.'" (p. 63)

"For the rest, we believe that the person wills and thinks and feels; is always present, though not always aware of himself; is without parts or faculties; whatever he does, he does, all of him, whether he take a walk or write a book. It is so much the habit to think of the person as a dual being, flesh and spirit, when he is, in truth, one, that it is necessary to clear our minds on this subject. The person is one and not several, and he is no more compact of ideas on the one hand than he is of nervous and muscular tissues on the other." (p. 64)

"...quick and living thought is as necessary for the full and happy development of the body as it is for that of the soul." (p. 65)

"...we believe that our educational doctrine is adequate, because, while following the progress of biological psychology with avidity, and making use of every gain that presents itself, and while following with equal care the advance of philosophic thought, we recognise that each of these sees the chameleon in a different light, and that the person includes both and is more than both;..." (p. 65)

"We cannot say that our doctrine is necessary, but we do say that some educational theory which shall include the whole nature of man and the results of scientific research, in the same or a greater degree, is necessary." (p. 65)

"The person of the child is sacred to us; we do not swamp his individuality in his intelligence, in his conscience, or even in his soul; perhaps one should add to-day, or even in his physical development." (p. 65)

" considers what relations are proper to a human being, and in what ways these several relations can best be established; that a human being comes into the world with capacity for many relations; and...we, for our part, have two chief concerns--first, to put him in the way of forming these relations by presenting the right idea at the right time, and by forming the right habit upon the right idea, and, secondly, by not getting in the way and so preventing the establishment of the very relations we seek to form." (p. 66)

"We study in many ways the art of standing aside." (p. 66)

"...we do not endeavour to give children outlines of ancient history, but to put them in living touch with a thinker who lived in those ancient days. We are not content that they should learn the history of their own country alone; some living idea of contemporaneous European history, anyway, we try to get in; that the history we teach may be the more living, we work in, pari passu, some of the literature of the period and some of the best historical novels and poems that treat of the period; and so on with other subjects." (p. 67)


Reading the last two chapters, I think that as good students of Charlotte Mason, we should not only be reaching into the past and studying her ideas.  We should also be paying attention to the educational theories of our own day, evaluating their soundness, extracting what is good, learning what we can from them. I don't really know where to start with this! For now, it's just something I'm open to.


The Education of the Whole Person
A True Education is a Relational Education from Snowfall Academy
(Let me know if you or anyone else you know has blogged through Vol. 3 and I'll include the link!)

Monday, July 17, 2017

School Education Chapter 5: Psychology in Relation to Current Thought

This blog post is part of an on-going daily series this month as I read (very quickly) through School Education by Charlotte Mason. Join me! Pick up your book and read a chapter, or find it free online at Ambleside Online.


In Charlotte Mason's day, as a century before (and as now!), people placed a high value on education. However, in contrast to the enthusiasm of the late 18th century, people in the late 19th century were feeling dissatisfied with the direction education had been taking. They were beginning to recognize that "results cannot be in advance of our principles." (p. 45) As a result, many people were developing psychologies of education. The problem was, many of them contradicted each other. Charlotte Mason saw the need for a way to discern between all the different psychologies, and she lays out what she sees as the requirements of a sound system of psychology in this chapter.

1. It must be adequate, "covering the whole nature of man and his relations with all that is other than himself."
2. It must be necessary, "no other equally adequate psychology should present itself."
3. It must touch at all points the living thought of the age; it must "be in step with the two or three great ideas by which the world is just now being educated." 
These ideas are:
A. The Sacredness of the person.
B. The Evolution of the individual: "making the very most of (the) person, intellectually, morally, physically." Education must be assimilated, becoming part of a person.
C. The Solidarity of the race: a sense of oneness with people of every time and place.

After setting out these criteria, Charlotte Mason evaluates two systems of psychology: Locke's "states of consciousness" and modern physiological psychology. She does this very humbly: "we do not presume to do this as critics, rather as inheritors of other men's labour, who take stock of our possessions in order that we may use them to the most advantage." (p. 49) Still, she makes it clear that neither of these psychologies takes into account the full humanity and potential of the person, especially the modern physiological view, which reduces man to the physical.

"We have reason to keep watch at the place of the letting out of waters, that is, the psychology upon which our educational thought and action rest." (p. 55) 


"One thing we begin to see clearly, that the stream can rise no higher than its source, that sound theory must underlie successful work. We begin to suspect that we took up schemes and methods of education a little hastily, without considering what philosophy or, let us say, psychology, underlies those schemes and methods; now, we see that our results cannot be in advance of our principles." (p. 45)

" all science, psychology is progressive. What worked even fifty years ago will not work to-day, and what fulfils our needs to-day will not serve fifty years hence; there is no last word to be said upon education; it evolves with the evolution of the race." (p. 46)

"Next we demand of education that it should make for the evolution of the individual; should not only put the person in the first place, but should have for its sole aim the making the very most of that person, intellectually, morally, physically. We do not desire any dead accretions of mere knowledge, or externals of mere accomplishment. We desire an education that shall be assimilated; shall become part and parcel of the person;..." (p. 47-48)

"The American poet, Walt Whitman,...tells us how he conquers with every triumphant general, bleeds with every wounded soldier, shares the spring morning and the open road and the pride of the horses with every jolly waggoner--in fact, lives in all other lives that touch him anywhere, even in imagination. This is something more than the brotherhood of man; that belongs to the present; but our sense of the oneness of humanity reaches into the remotest past, making us regard with tender reverence every relic of the antiquity of our own people or of any other; and, with a sort of jubilant hope, every prognostic of science or philanthropy which appears to us to be the promise of the centuries to come." (p. 48)

"Let us consider now some three or four of the psychologies which have the most widespread influence to-day. But we do not presume to do this as critics, rather as inheritors of other men's labour, who take stock of our possessions in order that we may use them to the most advantage. For the best thought of any age is common thought; the men who write it down do but give expression to what is working in the minds of the rest. But we must bear in mind that truth behaves like a country gate allowed to 'swing to' after a push. Now it swings a long way to this side and now a long way to that, and at last after shorter and shorter oscillations the latch settles. The reformer, the investigator, works towards one aspect of truth, which is the whole truth to him, and which he advances out of line with the rest. The next reformer works at a tangent, apparently in opposition, but he is bringing up another front of truth. Then there is work for us, the people of average mind. We consider all sides, balance what has been done, and find truth, perhaps in the mean, perhaps as a side issue which did not make itself plain to original thinkers of either school. But we do not scorn the bridge that has borne us." (p. 49)

(speaking of the "Modern Physiological-Psychology) "Where there are no persons, there is no possibility of that divine afflatus which we call enthusiasm; for that recognition of another on a higher plane which we mean when we say 'I believe in so and so,' for that recognition of the divine Being which we call Faith. We become devitalised; life is flat and grey; we throw desperate, if dull, energy into the task of the hour because we shall so, any way, get rid of that hour; we are glad to be amused, but still more glad of the stimulus of feverish work; but the work, like ourselves, is devitalised without the living idea, without consecrating aim." (p. 54)


I have written before about my concerns with her using "the spirit of the age" as something to evaluate psychologies by. I'm not sure I follow everything in this chapter. However, I do think this is a beautiful chapter to show Charlotte Mason's humility in her attitude towards other philosophies of education. She evaluates them respectfully, acknowledging any area where there is good, and firmly rejecting all that do not measure up to what she believes are the attributes of a sound psychology.

It is also interesting to see her enthusiasm for the progress of humanity. I presume this was pre-war. I seem to remember a sadder attitude in Volume 6, which was written later in her life.


Evaluating Psychologies
From Snowfall Academy: Acknowledging the Whole Person

Friday, July 14, 2017

School Education Chapter 4: Rights of Children as Persons

This blog post is part of an on-going daily series this month as I read (very quickly) through School Education by Charlotte Mason. Join me! Pick up your book and read a chapter, or find it free online at Ambleside Online.

Quick Summary

There are a few areas in our children's lives where we can practice "Masterly Inactivity":

Play - Give them freedom of choice, and time and space to use their imaginations.

Work - Allow them to stand or fall by their own efforts. Let them suffer the consequences of not doing their work rather than constantly prod them with reminders or incentives.

Friends - Trust them to choose good friends, and to realize for themselves in time if they have made a mistake in this area.

Spending Money -Teach them good principles of money management, saving and spending, and then leave them free to make good decisions (or suffer the consequences of bad decisions.).

Opinions - Carefully form your own opinions, and hold them strongly, but do not try to control the opinions of your children. Instead, teach them the principles, and leave them free to apply them and form their own opinions at the right time.


"There is a little danger in these days of much educational effort that children's play should be crowded out, or, what is from our present point of view the same thing, should be prescribed for and arranged until there is no more freedom of choice about play than that about work." (p. 36)

"Boys and girls must have time to invent episodes, carry on adventures, live heroic lives, lay sieges and carry forts, even if the fortress be an old armchair; and in these affairs the elders must neither meddle nor make." (p. 37)

"We all know...the pleasure children take in doing anything which they may do their own way; anything, in fact, which allows room for skill of hand, play of fancy, or development of thought. With our present theories of education it seems that we cannot give much scope for personal initiative. There is so much task-work to be done, so many things that must be, not learned, but learned about, that it is only now and then a child gets the chance to produce himself in his work. But let us use such opportunities as come in our way." (p. 37-38)

"'They felt their feet,' as the nurses say of children when they begin to walk; and our non-success in education is a good deal due to the fact that we carry children through their school work and do not let them feel their feet." (p. 38)

"...we do not let children alone enough in their work. We prod them continually and do not let them stand or fall by their own efforts." (p. 39)

"What we must guard against in the training of children is the danger of their getting into the habit of being prodded to every duty and every effort... Marks, prizes, exhibitions, are all prods; and a system of prodding is apt to obscure the meaning of must and ought for the boy or girl who gets into the habit of mental and moral lolling up against his prods." (p. 39)

"It would be better for boys and girls to suffer the consequences of not doing their work now and then, than to do it because they are so urged and prodded on all hands that they have no volition in the matter." (p. 39)

"Where many of us err is in leaning to much to our own understanding and our own efforts, and not trusting sufficiently to the dutiful impulse which will carry children through the work they are expected to do." (p. 40)

"With regard to the choice of friends and companions, again, we should train children so that we should be able to honour them with a generous confidence; and if we give them such confidence we shall find that they justify it." (p. 40)

"The parents who do not trust their young people in this matter [spending pocket-money], after having trained them, are hardly qualifying them to take their place in a world in which the wise, just, and generous spending of money is a great test of character." (p. 42)

"It is our duty to form opinions carefully, and to hold them tenaciously in so far as the original grounds of our conclusions remain unshaken. But what we have no right to do, is to pass these opinions on to our children. We all know that nothing is easier than to make vehement partisans of young people, in any cause heartily adopted by their elders. But a reaction comes, and the swinging of the pendulum is apt to carry them to a point of thought painfully remote from our own." (p. 42)

"Perhaps this pious mother would have been saved some anguish if she had given her children the living principles of the Christian faith, which are not matters of opinion, and allowed them to accept her particular practice in their youth without requiring them to take their stand on Evangelical opinions as offering practically the one way of salvation." (p. 42)

"Children are far more likely to embrace the views of their parents, when they are ripe to form opinions, if these have not been forced upon them in early youth when their lack of knowledge and experience makes it impossible for them to form opinions at first hand." (p. 43)

"We all admire spontaneity, but this grace, even in children, is not an indigenous wild-flower. In so far as it is a grace, it is the result of training, --of pleasant talks upon the general principles of conduct, and wise 'letting alone' as to the practice of these principles." (p. 43)


The portion of this chapter on work was very convicting to me, and I need to think about how I will apply it. It is true, as a good Charlotte Mason disciple, I do not "prod" with incentives. However, I think I still do too much work together with my oldest son, and this is preventing him from developing his own initiative and "standing or falling by his own efforts." I need to consider how I can help him grow in taking ownership of his own work. It is past time to start making that transition. I am blessed in that he is naturally quite dutiful, and has a strong sense of "ought." I think he will do well when I practice some more "Masterly Inactivity."

I wasn't so sure what to think about the part of this chapter on children forming their own opinions. Read in a certain way, it could seem that she's saying we should not catechize our children in the distinctives of our own faith, but just teach them the broad principles of Christianity (ie. the things all Christians agree on). I'm not sure if that's what she's saying or not. In any case, I do agree that we should not try to control what our children think, and we should expect that our children will take what we teach them and what they learn elsewhere and form their own opinions. I also agree that we need to be careful to let them understand that good, godly Christians hold differing viewpoints on such issues as baptism (while agreeing on its necessity), end times (while agreeing that Christ will return), and many others without endangering their salvation, so long as they have put their whole trust in Christ for salvation. However, I see no problem with teaching my children what I believe, even in the minor points. What do you think Charlotte Mason is saying here?


Practical Masterly Inactivity
Masterly Inactivity: On Knowing When to Let Go from Snowfall Academy

I will be taking a break over the weekend, and will be back Monday with Chapter 5.