Friday, May 9, 2014

Thoughts from School Education (Charlotte Mason Series, Volume 3): Preface

Moving along from our discussion of Desiring the Kingdom, I have decided to return to our friend Charlotte Mason for awhile.  I've read her Volumes 1 and 6 twice each now, and feel fairly well grounded in her 20 Principles after our study of them last year, but I have never read School Education (Volume 3) in its entirety.  Reading Charlotte Mason's own words can be kind of intimidating, but I have also found it very rewarding.  It is well worth the effort to dig in and go to the source no matter how much you may have read about Charlotte Mason's ideas.  If you've never done so, I encourage you to give it a try.   I'm not going to set this up as an official book club type study, but I'd love it if anyone wants to read along with me and share thoughts and links in the comments. J
A few resources I recommend and will be consulting myself as I work through the book:
You can read Charlotte's writings online at Ambleside Online in the original or in a modern English paraphrase.
I am actually reading from the Kindle version that I downloaded here.   The paraphrase is available for Kindle from Amazon, as are printed copies of her works.
There is a current discussion of Volume Three going on in the AO Forum right now.  I'm not actively participating in it since they are already up through chapter 10 and I am just getting started, but will be following along with the thoughts shared there as I read through at my own pace.  (I think you have to have an account at the Forum in order to see any of the posts.)
Cindy at Ordo Amoris also blogged through School Education several years ago.  I always appreciate her insights.
So the Preface.  Where are we headed in this Volume?
Volume Three contains Charlotte's thoughts and suggestions towards a curriculum for children under 12.   It is a curriculum that is "the outcome of a scheme of educational thought" – it is solidly based on carefully considered principles and ideas, not just a hodge-podge of resources that have been cobbled together.   That is one thing that I appreciate about CM – her ideas and principles are based on her years of study, life, and experience.  I really appreciate that about the ladies that put together AO for us too – they have carefully considered Charlotte's principles and made their suggestions based on that.  Before I had settled on priorities, principles, and goals for our homeschool, I was driven back and forth by every new curriculum product that crossed my path.  Regardless of whether or not you consider yourself a Charlotte Mason homeschooler, I do encourage you to consider your principles, priorities, and goals FIRST before you begin researching and purchasing your curriculum materials – and then make your choices based on those principles.  This has helped me narrow down my choices considerably as well as resist the temptation to jump on the bandwagon with every new thing that comes up.
In this Volume, Charlotte tells us that she is not going to consider ALL the possible aspects of physical, mental, moral, and religious training, but only those things that are most often overlooked.  This isn't intended to be a comprehensive educational manifesto, but rather to stimulate our thinking on issues that perhaps we haven't considered before.
The foundational principles to her curriculum suggestions are those of authority and docility and the personhood of children.  These are considered in more depth in the first several chapters.
In the later chapters of the book, she turns her attention specifically to the proper use of books: "I have tried to show how necessary it is to sustain the intellectual life upon ideas, and, as its corollary, that a school book should be a medium for ideas and not merely a receptacle for facts…Our great failure seems to me to be caused by the fact that we do not form the habit of reading books that are worthwhile in children while they are at school and under 12 years of age."  I'm really looking forward to this part of the discussion since one of my very favorite things about CM is the way that she used books.  A living book is far more than facts presented in story form but rather is one in which "facts are presented as the outcome of ideas."  
Look forward to chatting with you all more about these ideas in the weeks to come.


  1. I'll be following along. I read volume 3 last year, but just picked it up again yesterday and have already been sucked back in. I may or may not read through the whole thing again right now, but I'll be interested in hearing your thoughts on it. :)

  2. Hmmm...I might read along, too. I've finished reading through volume 1, and we're studying volume 6 (very slowly) with our local study group. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on it. I agree completely about priorities, principles, and goals. They really help keep me steady.

  3. Glad to have you. I'm hoping to read and post on about 1 chapter a week with the goal to have a post up on Friday, but I may need to flex with that in busy weeks or if we go on vacation or something. I'm hoping that will be doable, though. :) We'll see.