Friday, July 28, 2017

School Education Chapter 13: Aspects of Religious Training

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.

I just love how Charlotte Mason begins this chapter: "I should like to preface my remarks on Religious Education by saying that there is not the slightest pretence that they are exhaustive. ...I very earnestly hope that the reader will find I have left out things I ought to have said, or said things I ought not to have said." (p. 137)

Or in other words, "mix it with brains."


For children, the knowledge of God and his continual presence with them is the first step to submitting to his Authority over their lives and serving Him with reverence. 

Habits of thought are very important in the religious life, "for every act and attitude is begotten of a thought, however unaware we be of thinking." (p. 140)

The thought of God
Reverent attitudes
Regularity in devotions
Reading the Bible
Sunday keeping

One could object that teaching these things as habits leads to dry formalism in religion, and children should be left free to express their worship in a more natural way. However, Charlotte Mason says "it is just as true to say that the form gives birth to the feeling as that the feeling should give birth to the form." (I have certainly found this to be true in my own life. I am carried through the periods that are spiritually dry by the regular habits I have formed in Bible reading, praise, etc. Usually, it is persistence in these things that brings back the joy and love.) At the same time, children also need to realize that their own works in these areas do not give them extra favour with God. 

As always, habits must be inspired by ideas. These are the essential ones:

The fatherhood of God - a relationship of love and trust
The kingship of Christ - drawing forth loyalty and admiration
Christ as our Saviour - he saves from sin, and children know what sin is!
The Indwelling of the Holy Spirit - not only to lead them into the knowledge of God, but also into all truth, whether "secular" or "sacred."


"A child cannot have a lasting sense of duty until he is brought into contact with a supreme Authority, who is the source of law, and the pleasing of whom converts duty into joy." (p. 137)

"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." (p. 141)

"We are, before all things, sincere, and are afraid to insist upon 'mere forms,' feeling it best to leave the child to the natural expression of his own emotions. Here perhaps we are wrong, as it is just as true to say that the form gives birth to the feeling as that the feeling should give birth to the form. Children should be taught to take time, to be reverent at grace before meals, at family prayers, at their own prayers, in church, when they are old enough to attend." (p. 141)

"If children must be taken to long services, they should be allowed the resource of a Sunday picture-book, and told that the hymns and the 'Our Father,' for example, are the parts of the service for them." (p. 141-142)

"But it is a great thing for all of us to get the habit of 'saying our prayers' at a given time and in a given place, which comes to be to us as a holy place." (p. 142)

"But while pressing the importance of habits of prayer and devotional reading, it should be remembered that children are little formalists by nature, and that they should not be encouraged in long readings or long prayers with a notion of any merit in such exercises." (p. 143)

"...the habit of soft and reverent singing, of offering our very best in praise, should be carefully formed." (p. 143)

"Children should be trained in the habits of attention and real devotion during short services or parts of services." (p. 143)

'The habit of Sunday observances, not rigid, not dull, and yet peculiar to the day, is especially important. Sunday stories, Sunday hymns, Sunday walks, Sunday talks, Sunday painting, Sunday knitting even, Sunday card-games, should all be special to the day,--quiet, glad, serene.  ...There is hardly a more precious inheritance to be handed on that that of the traditional English Sunday, stripped of its austerities, we hope, but keeping its character of quiet gladness and communion with Nature as well as with God." (p. 144)

"Many a naughty, passionate, or sulky and generally hardened little offender is so, simply because he does not know, with any personal knowledge, that there is a Saviour of the world, who has for him instant forgiveness and waiting love. But here again, the thoughts of a child should be turned outwards to Jesus, our Saviour, and not inward to his own thoughts and feelings towards our blessed Saviour." (p. 146)

"But it would be well if we could hinder in our children's minds the rise of a wall of separation between things sacred and things so-called secular, by making them feel that all 'sound learning,' as well as all 'religious instruction,' falls within the office of God, the Holy Spirit, the supreme educator of mankind." (p. 146)


Well. Today I am rebuked for my doubts of yesterday. I should have read both chapters together ...moral training can't be considered apart from religious education.

I missed a day this week (I spent it at the beach!), but I will not be doubling up. I'll just keep going. See you Monday with "A Master-Thought."

Thursday, July 27, 2017

School Education Chapter 12: Aspects of Moral Training

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 does the LORD require of you? He is the authority to whom we owe our obedience. Parents' authority is derived from God's, and they must be diligent to apply the pattern, the principles, and the limitations of authority they find in the Bible.

Everyone is born with a conscience, but that conscience must be educated to discern good and evil. Charlotte Mason believed that children are born neither moral nor immoral, but with infinite possibilites for good and evil. These possibilities are greatly affected, for good or ill, by a child's nurture and education.

What methods can we use in moral teaching?
1. Direct and comprehensive teaching from the Bible and the Catechism. Charlotte Mason also commends a habit of daily reminding ourselves of "the whole duty of man." 
2. Poetry, to inspire with high poetic ideals of love, virtue, and duty. 
3. Object lessons, as in the medieval Church. They portrayed, in art and architecture, "visible signs of spiritual things signified."
4. Biographies, both from the Bible and of great people of history, to inspire children towards high ideals.
5. Patriotic poems, to inspire children with love of country.
6. Personal choice of mottoes. Children can choose inspiring ideas for themselves to copy from their reading.
7. Moral habits. Parents can facilitate these by keeping inspiring ideas before the children and providing every-day opportunities to practice doing what is right.


"'Ought' is part of the verb 'to owe,' and that which we owe is a personal debt to a Lawgiver and Ruler,..." (p. 126)

"[Parents] see [in the Gospels] that authority works by principles and not by rules, and that as they themselves are the deputy authorities set over every household, it becomes them to consider the divine method of government." (p. 127)

"Even the divine authority does not compel. It indicates the way and protects the wayfarer, and strengthens and directs self-compelling power. It permits a man to make free choice of obedience rather than compels him to obey. In the moral training of children arbitrary action almost always produces revolt." (p. 128)

"It is in their early years at home that children should be taught to realise that duty can exist only as that which we owe to God; that the law of God is exceeding broad and encompasses us as the air we breathe, only more so, for it reaches to our secret thoughts; and this is not a hardship but a delight." (p. 128)

"No doubt every child is born with a conscience, that is, with a sense that he ought to choose the right and refuse the wrong; but he is not born with the power to discern good and evil. An educated conscience is a far rarer possession than we imagine;.." (p. 129)

"...that most delicate and beautiful of human possessions, an educated conscience, comes only by teaching with authority and adorning by example." (p. 129)

"We need go no further than the Ten Commandments and our Lord's exposition of the moral law to find corrective teaching for the spasmodic, impulsive moral efforts which tend to make up our notion of what the children call 'being good,'..." (p. 130)

"It is time we set ourselves seriously to this work of moral education which is to be done, most of all, by presenting the children with high ideals. 'Lives of great men all remind us we can make our lives sublime,' and the study of the lives of great men and of the great moments in the lives of smaller men is most wonderfully inspiring to children, especially when they perceive the strenuousness of the childhood out of which a noble manhood has evolved itself." (p. 133)

"The Bible is, of course, a storehouse of most inspiring biographies; but it would be well if we could manage our teaching so as to bring out in each character the master-thought of all his thinking." (p. 133)

"It would not be a bad idea for children to make their own year-book, with a motto for every day in the year culled from their own reading. What an incentive to a good day it would be to read in the morning as a motto of our very own choice and selection, and not the voice of an outside mentor: 'Keep ye the law; be swift in all obedience'!" (p. 135)

"The moral impulse having been given by means of some such inspiring idea as we have considered, the parent's or teacher's next business is to keep the idea well to the front, with tact and delicacy, and without insistence, and to afford apparently casual opportunities for moral effort on the lines of the first impulse." (p. 135)

"One caution I should like to offer. A child's whole notion of religion is 'being good.' It is well that he should know that being good is not his whole duty to God, although it is so much of it; that the relationship of love and personal service, which he owes as a child to his Father, as a subject to his King, is even more than the 'being good' which gives our Almighty Father such pleasure in His children." (p. 136)


This was such a practical chapter! I loved her suggestions.

Once again I ran into doubts about Charlotte Mason's second principle, even though I've read convincing things about its soundness and even written positively about it myself. I really don't know what to say about it all, except that Charlotte Mason was not infallible, and it's okay to disagree, or not be sure, or to hold it all in suspension pending further clarification as you continue to read. (That last one is me...) But how can you follow a philosophy and method if you're not sure of some of the foundational work? In this case, you think about what you really do believe about children and follow it to its conclusion in education. You examine if and how that differs from what Charlotte Mason taught. In this case, I believe that her principle led her to a higher confidence in the power of education (and especially of habit) than I share, but it does not lead to a difference in method.

Like Charlotte Mason, I believe in my duty as a parent in the moral education of my children. I believe in teaching children to discern between right and wrong, to teach them what God requires of them, and inspire them with the highest ideals. However, I believe that my children will fail. (Perhaps this is where I part ways with her.) When they do, daily,  (as I do, too!) my job is to point them to the gospel, to the grace of God in sending Jesus to die for their sin. And when they put their faith in him, their highest motivation "to be good" will be gratitude and love, not dutifulness.

And with that, I'm with Charlotte Mason again. "A child's whole notion of religion is 'being good.' It is well that he should know that being good is not his whole duty to God, although it is so much of it; that the relationship of love and personal service, which he owes as a child to his Father, as a subject to his King, is even more than the 'being good' which gives our Almighty Father such pleasure in His children."

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

School Education Chapter 11: Aspects of Intellectual Training

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.


While people are usually quite willing to acknowledge that they are under the rule of law in physical matters (the laws of nature) or in moral matters, they often don't acknowledge any authority in intellectual matters. But our intellect is not separate from our bodies and souls. We are whole persons, and what we think works itself out physically and morally.

1. There are ultimate realities that are unprovable by reason. God is, Self is, the World is. When we accept these as presuppositions, we place ourselves under God's authority, we see ourselves as persons, and we have a home.

2. Reason is limited. Its function is to logically prove the ideas that we entertain, whether those ideas are right or wrong.

3. History is under God's control, including the progress of ideas. We never have any grounds for pride, as though the thought of our time is the pinnacle of human thought. All truth comes from God and is given by the Holy Spirit as he pleases.

Intellectual habits are formed by training, they are not natural gifts. They are not a byproduct of teaching certain subjects (Mathematics do not make people more exact, Humanities do not make them more humane.). Parents and teachers must intentionally set out to form habits of attention, concentration, thoroughness, intellectual volition, accuracy, reflection, and meditation. These habits begin with the stimulus of living ideas, found in living books.


"Our thinking is not a separate thing from our conduct and our prayers, or even from our bodily well-being. Man is not several entities. He is one spirit (visibly expressed in bodily form), with many powers. He can work and love and pray and live righteously, but all these are the outcome of the manner of thoughts he thinks." (p. 114)

"But when we learn to realise that--God is, Self is, the World is, with all that these existences imply, quite untouched by any thinking of ours, unprovable, and self-proven,--why, we are at once put into a more humble attitude of mind. We recognise that above us, about us, within us, are 'more things...than are dreamt of in our philosophy.' We realise ourselves as persons, we have a local habitation, and we live and move and have our being in and under a supreme authority." (p. 115)

"How necessary then that a child should be instructed to understand the limitations of his own reason, so that he will not confound logical demonstration with eternal truth, and will know that the important thing to him is the ideas he permits himself to entertain, and not by any means the conclusions he draws from these ideas, because these latter are self-evolved." (p. 116)

"What a revolution should we have in our methods of education if we could once conceive that dry-as-dust subjects like grammar and arithmetic should come to children, living with the life of the Holy Spirit, who, we are told, 'shall teach you all things.'" (p. 118)

"Believe me, nothing is so practical as a great idea, because nothing produces such an abundant outcome of practical effort. We must not turn the cold shoulder to philosophy. Education is no more than applied philosophy--our effort to train children according to the wisdom that is in us; and not according to the last novelty in educational ideas." (p. 118)

"We know, too, that [intellectual habits] are acquired through training and are not bestowed as a gift. Genius itself, we have been told, is an infinite capacity for taking pains; we would rather say, is the habit of taking infinite pains, for every child is born with the capacity." (p. 119)

"There is no reprieve for parents. It rests with them, even more than with the schoolmaster and his curriculum, to form those mental habits which shall give intellectual distinction to their children throughout their lives." (p. 119)

"It has long been known that progress in the Christian life depends much upon meditation; intellectual progress, too, depends, not on mere reading or the laborious getting up of a subject which we call study, but on that active surrender of all the powers of the mind to the occupation of the subject in hand, which is intended by the word meditation." (p. 121)

"Ideas of nature, of life, love, duty, heroism,--these children find and choose for themselves from the authors they read, who do more for their education than any deliberate teaching; just for this reason, that these vital ideas are self-selected and self-appropriated." (p. 124)

I have a really hard time understanding Charlotte Mason when she says that reason's only function is to logically prove the ideas that we choose to entertain. In one sense, I've seen this in other people and myself: someone wants to believe something, and they persuade themselves logically that it is so. On the other hand, if someone really believes something, no logical argument will dissuade them of it...there is always something to counter-argue. And yet... isn't God's truth ultimately more reasonable than any falsehood? But maybe the point is that we are all fallen and can't be depended upon to see it that way? (Sorry if this isn't making sense...just thinking out loud here.)

Monday, July 24, 2017

School Education Chapter 10: Aspects of Physical Training

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.


Physical training is important, but its benefits may be undermined if you do not understand the "why" behind all your effort. 

Young people often train so that they may get the most out of life, but there is a greater reason for physical training: so that you are ready and able to do whatever God calls you to do in life.

Charlotte Mason bases this on 1 Corinthians 6:19-20: "What? know y,e not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's."

How can we teach this to our children? Direct teaching is important, as are books. However, Charlotte Mason especially emphasizes the power of habit in this area. She expands on the habits of self-restraint, self-control, and self-discipline in behaviour, deportment, address, and tones of voice. She adds to these some less-considered habits of alertness and quick perception. 

Habit is not mindless. "A habit becomes morally binding in proportion to the inspiring power of the idea that underlies it." Mason mentions the ideas of Greek heroism and medieval knighthood to inspire children to fortitude, service, courage, and prudence. For chastity, no idea is higher than that "Your bodies are the temples of the Holy Ghost." As we train our children in physical habits, we must inspire them first with ideas.


"The object of the fine physical culture that English youths and maidens receive is, too often, the poor and narrow one that they may get the most, especially the most of physical enjoyment, out of life; and so young people train their bodies to hardships, and pamper them with ease and self-indulgence, by turns, the one and the other being for their own pleasure; the pampering being the more delightful after the period of training, the training itself rather a pleasant change from the softness of pampering." (p. 102)

"The object of athletics and gymnastics should be kept steadily to the front; enjoyment is good by the way, but is not the end; the end is the preparation of a body, available from crown to toe, for whatever behest 'the gods' may lay upon us. It is a curious thing that we, in the full light of Revelation, have a less idea of vocation and of preparation for that vocation than had nations of the Old World with their 'few, faint and feeble' rays of illumination as to the meaning and purpose of life." (p. 102)

"But if children are brought up from the first with this magnet--'Ye are not your own'; the divine Author of your being has given you life, and a body finely adapted for His service; He gives you the work of preserving this body in health, nourishing it in strength, and training it in fitness for whatever special work He may give you to do in His world,--why, young people themselves would readily embrace a more Spartan regimen; they would desire to be available, and physical transgressions and excesses, however innocent they seem, would be self-condemned by the person who felt that he was trifling with a trust." (p. 103)

"It is well that a child should be taught to keep under his body and bring it into subjection, first, to the authority of his parents and, later, to the authority of his own will; and always, because no less that this is due, to the divine Authority in whome he has his being. But to bring ourselves under authority at all times would require a constantly repeated effort of thought and will which would make life too laborious. Authority must be sustained by habit." (p. 104-105)

"But the habit of holding oneself well in hand, the being imprevious to small annoyances, cheerful under small inconveniences, ready for action with what is called 'presence of mind' in all the little casualties of the hour--this is a habit which should be trained in the nursery." (p. 106)

"'If you are vexed, don't show it,' is usually quite safe teaching, because every kind of fretfulness, impatience, resentfulness, and nervous irritability generally, grows with expression and passes away under self-control. It is worth while to remember that the physical signs promote the mental state just as much as the mental state causes the physical signs." (p. 107)

"The fact that habits have a tendency to become local, that in one house a child will be neat, prompt, diligent; in another untidy, dawdling, and idle, points to the necessity for self-discipline on the part of even a young child." (p. 107)

"This subject of training in becoming habits is so well understood amongst us that I need only add that such habits are not fully formed so long as supervision is necessary." (p. 108)

"Parents would do well to see to it that they turn out their children fit for service, not only by observing the necessary hygienic conditions, but by bringing their bodies under rule, training them in habits and inspiring them with the ideas of knightly service." (p. 112)

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!)