Sunday, February 26, 2017

Glow of Intellectual Life

Glow of Intellectual Life
(an alternative to burn-out)

A little phrase in Miss Charlotte Mason’s writing popped out at me. I thought, here’s a reason to rejoice. I highlighted it in yellow. Later I underlined it in green. The 60 years Miss Mason was in close contact with countless children gave her a keen understanding of how they learn. Combine the right atmosphere, books of literary quality and regular opportunities to digest them, and a child’s face will be radiant with the glow of intellectual life. *1 It is wonderfully true. I’ve seen it work. Have you?

Granddaughter wearing Grandma's kitted purple pinafore

Years ago, I read the lecture that the mystery novelist Dorothy Sayers, delivered during vacation-school in Oxford in 1947. Educators in America today refer to this lecture as being a kind of classical approach. In this lecture, Dorothy Sayers starts out apologizing for not ever having taught children. Her opinion is based on a reasonable historic premise that dates back to the Middle Ages and seems lofty, somewhat stiff, and impressive. Yet, when you get right down to it, her opinion is really supposition – what she assumes (without experiment) to be the best possible way to educate children.

After being persuaded to follow the advice contained in Dorothy Sayer’s ten-page essay mothers are experiencing burn-out. The children are, too. Mothers who end up writing me claim so, that is. Therefore, when a mother also shares with me that she has decided to turn another leaf, back to the approach and the lady who first inspired her, Charlotte Mason, I always cheer her on. Welcome back.

News reached my ear again over summer (and recently). Giving the young mother anonymity I am sharing the gist of it. I hope to guide any who are in a similar situation or – quandary.

Dear Mrs. Andreola,
I dropped out of a classical co-op. Because of the thousands of dollars it cost me I stayed in for the year. In hindsight, I could have dropped out sooner. But my son liked the games. My daughter liked seeing her friends. I felt less lonely. Now I’ve lost my friends. Some aren’t returning. They’ve decided home teaching is too stressful and they’re putting their children in the government school. Yikes.

I should have known better. I read your book, A Charlotte Mason Companion before I got involved and even started reading Charlotte Mason’s books. I’d like to make new friends. I haven’t found any yet, though, who follow what you describe. In my heart-of-hearts I want to see Miss Mason’s ideas through.

I guess I gave in to fear. I thought I needed to heap more memory work upon my children’s heads. I was afraid, along with the other moms, that my children wouldn’t do well in college unless they had the superior advantage that only memorization can give – supposedly. All school year we put in the effort. We kept up the memorization, covering and re-covering lists, facts, names and dates. We spent less time with living books, very little time outdoors observing nature, appreciating art and good music. I wish I had never signed up. For all this exhausting effort all I feel is burn-out.

Thanks for listening. If you could give me some advice I would appreciate it. Feeling alone, Anonymous.

My dear,
Anything we do differently than large groups of people can feel lonely. I remember my loneliness. Here’s some good news. You have more of an opportunity today of meeting parents who have chosen the Charlotte Mason approach to education, than I and many of my readers had, 30 years ago. Friends have spread her ideas far and wide.

A Quilt of Flying Geese - My latest Mother Culture Project

Walk by Faith, Not Fear
When a mother worries that her children aren’t covering enough—or fast enough - anxiety hangs in the air. Anxiety wears a mother down. It disturbs the atmosphere of learning. It is natural to want children to learn. But love and faith must be stronger than our fears. Without faith it is impossible to create a peaceful, pleasant intellectual atmosphere.

Fear is a strong motivator. It definitely gets things moving. Like the sting of the whip that quickens the horse, fear motivates the teacher. It is also used to motivate children. It is used in schools today, though more subtly than the Victorians used it, when it was common for a child to receive a caning of his fingers as swift punishment for a blot of ink on the page of his copybook.

The Child is a Person
A child is not one of Pavlov’s dogs or merely a subject for Skinner’s behavior modification. He is not a memory-machine, either. He is created in the image of God. He has a soul. Education is a spiritual matter. [It is] by knowledge one grows [and] becomes more of a person.*1

Hand-quilting around the leaves

Faith in Something Big -Curiosity
To educate by faith it is helpful to understanding that God has endowed our little persons with curiosity. They are born with an appetite for knowledge. It is calming when we stop to consider how large a part curiosity plays in a child’s learning.

It is not the only feature, but it is capable of doing the lion’s share of the teaching. For instance, throughout the day a 2-year-old can be heard to ask, “Wus tha?” as he points to one object after another, for the pleasure of hearing his mother name the bird at the feeder, the rain on the windowpane, the car in the driveway. His mother is, in a sense, cooperating with curiosity. She is cooperating with the work of the Holy Spirit in the child’s life.

Miss Mason refers to the Holy Spirit as the Divine Educator.

Curiosity is so precious, so valuable, a player, in acquiring knowledge, that it needs to be preserved. You might even say, “pampered.”

Sadly, this precious feature of childhood is seen as something insignificant. Therefore, it is squashed - as if it were nothing but a pesky bug. How? When an inordinate amount of time is given to memorization. Then, we reap what we sow. “We get a narrow, accurate, somewhat sterile type of mind,” says Miss Mason.*2

Curiosity cannot thrive when the emphasis is on rote memorization. It withers away. Therefore, with curiosity so withered children are inevitably made to be motivated by:

• Grades

• Prizes and Contests

• Competition

• Fun and Games

• Praise and Approval

• Punishments

• A Profusion of Quizzes and Tests

“A school may be working hard, not for love of knowledge, but for love of [grades], our old enemy . . .”*3 The above incentives all motivate the student to work, but his work becomes mechanical. For instance, he will study for an A on a test even if it demands midnight cramming for what he soon forgets.

“Then, young faces are not serene or joyous but eager, restless, apt to look anxious or worried. The children do not sleep well, and are cross: are sullen or in tears if anything goes wrong, and are generally difficult to manage.”*4

“We foresee happy days for children when teachers know no other exciting motive . . . is necessary to produce good work in each individual of however big a class than that of the love of knowledge which is natural to every child.”*5

Tiny snow drops beside the basement doors.

Expanding Horizons with Ideas
Memorization is a tool for learning, yes. But it must never supplant or supersede a life of ideas – especially in the early years of a child’s education. If the child is a person, he must do the work of a person - not a parrot. We owe it to our young people to expand their horizons, to give them new ideas to think about, to lay out for them wide open fields of study.

“Astonishing fair things will grow in that garden of mind in which we are invited to sow the seeds of all knowledge.”*6

Children trained by the Charlotte Mason Method linger with knowledge, for sake of knowing, for the sake of growing - in wisdom and favor with God and man.

You can place your trust in the following list also. These things will not be new to you. I am reminding you of those things you say you originally held "in your heart-of-hearts."

Trust in Your Calling
The Majesty of Motherhood is a concept that is meant to leave you with a strong impression. You are the queen of your household. The day your little one was placed in your arms was your coronation day. You were crowned with authority from God and are accountable to God. Your duty is to rule with a firm, loving hand while understanding the nature of children. Your children, in return, are to honor and obey, cheerfully.

Trust in Your Children
When hunger is satisfied by wholesome intellectual food children will delight in lessons. Then, you will see signs of a reawakened curiosity, and a quiet contentment. Reach for those library books that are nestled in the basket by the sofa. Read about the kinds of things your child has a desire to know. Open your field guide to identify the living things that surround you.

Trust in Living Books
We are not educated by memorization. Miss Mason says that we are educated by our intimacies. It is important to note that knowledge-made-personal and information-memorized are two different things. The typical schoolbook (especially the memorization of it) with its dry factual treatment of a subject, was one of the first things Charlotte Mason found to be a stumbling block to curiosity. A living book enlivens the child’s mind with ideas.

Using books of literary quality enables students more brilliantly tell in their own words what an author is sharing. This is the impression-expression of an intellectual life. Rather than note-taking for tests, hearing lectures whereby a teacher’s explanation does the thinking for the child, Miss Mason let the children connect directly with the mind of an author. She says, “Let the lessons be of the right sort and children will learn with delight. . . . The children must do the work for themselves. They must read the given pages [once through] and tell what they have read, they must perform . . . what we may call the act of knowing.*7

Trust in Narration – the Art of Knowing
Give memorization a lower seat of important. It is far better to require the child to use his whole mind rather than be wearing down the grove of a narrow part of it. Narration is no “parrot-exercise,”*8 says Miss Mason. To narrate, to tell the passage in one’s own words, takes the place of memorizing names and dates, multiple-choice quizzes, and questionnaires.

As he forms his narration, a child ponders. He forms a train of thought; he digests, sorts, summarizes, he sequences events, etc., as he reflects upon the reading – without a teacher’s meddling. This “act of knowing,” is a kind of self-education. It is deliciously satisfying. The teacher may highlight the names and dates from something read (once through only). Then, require the student to tell the history (story) passage in his own words - using the names and dates indicated. The student will be using his own mind - with a cohesiveness that makes the names and dates meaningful and memorable. To ponder is better than to parrot.

Trust in a Wide Array of Subjects
The long hours some are dedicating to memorization (claiming it to be the Charlotte Mason approach) is startling to me. Miss Mason insisted upon a wide curriculum. This wide ground can only be covered by keeping lessons short. With short lessons optimum attention is achieved, especially with what she calls the disciplinary subjects, such as math, spelling and grammar. You’ll have time to transition, to alternate lessons with Bible, poetry, history, fiction, art, folksong, outdoor nature study, recess, chores and life skills like cooking, to keep minds bright (and allow for freedom of movement). It isn’t the number of subjects but their duration that tires the mind (and makes a sedentary body). We did a quick math drill every morning and a review of the same facts before supper. A better memory of facts was the result. Memorizing Scripture (which is the living Word) or poetry (which opens the eyes of imagination) verse by verse takes minutes a day. Scripture and poetry also warm the sympathies. They are not dull, dry facts alone.

Trust in the Discipline of Habit
Habit draws us forward to do the “next thing.” Children will readily do what is customary. “I can see how practical good habits are,” one mother shares. “When math is completed, the children always look forward to a mid-morning snack, then to hearing an episode of history. After this refreshment, spelling is tackled automatically, with drawing anticipated next.” During the first months of homeschool this mother made every effort to keep to a regular schedule of short lessons. Now, with less effort, habit carries her children smoothly and pleasantly through their morning schoolwork, more smoothly than at the start of the year. Prizes or punishments are not necessary for a result of work well done.

In Conclusion
With the 3 tools of teaching; Atmosphere, Discipline, Life of Ideas, we usher in the blessings of the intellectual life. A calm and contented intellectual glow can be seen on the faces of teacher and children alike. Over-much memorization results in intellectual feebleness – Miss Mason pointed out. Such undue emphasis is unknown in homes where her philosophy is tried.

I close with Miss Mason’s beautiful words:
“The bracing atmosphere of truth and sincerity should be perceived in every school; and here again the common pursuit of knowledge by teacher and class comes to our aid and creates a current of fresh air perceivable even to the chance visitor, who sees the glow of intellectual life and moral health on the faces of teachers and children alike.”*9

Children brought up by Miss Mason’s method do enter college and do well. I’ve seen this first-hand and brought this up in an earlier post.

Thank you for writing,
Karen Andreola

End Notes from Charlotte Mason’s Philosophy of Education

*1 pg 325

*2 pg 277

*3 pg 97

*4 & 5 pg 98

*6 pg 277

*7 pg 99

*8 pg 273

*9 pg 97

Sundry photographs taken at Landis Valley on Dean’s phone this February.
You can write me at

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

How do you like school?

How Do You Like School?
My sleeping herb garden out the back kitchen French doors.

Winter has settled into a routine. I’ve been ministering to my family. Dean’s mother went to be with Jesus. Some of the extended family gathered here for hugs, to remember Mom and to watch old family-movies taken by Dean’s grandfather in the 1950s. Sweet memories.

This post is a gentle warning.
Gentle, because I omit the list of terrible snares that young people are falling into today. But it is a warning, just-the-same.

Three days a week, I do physical therapy exercises, here at home, in my efforts to manage the chronic pain of peripheral neuropathy. Best of all, P.T. has enabled me to bend my back far enough sit on the floor and play with my littlest grandchild. And I'm able to keep our baseboards free of dust.

Morning sun gives the best light for dusting yards and yards of baseboards. 

While I exercise, I listen to Christian radio. Between songs is a two-minutes broadcast for parents and youth leaders. Like-it-or-not, I’ve been made aware of the multiplicity of problems that exist in teen culture today. I said to the Man-of-the-House, “How can I bear listening to yet another broadcast about youth culture? It's horrible. It's overwhelmingly sad.”

What makes it upsetting is that we know teens who are experiencing these dark attitudes and behaviors. Their parents have asked us to pray. I’ve done so with a heavy-heart this winter. I've also acted outside my comfort zone. Earlier this month, I typed a letter in the “Contact Us” window of CPYU Center for Parent/Youth Understanding, the ministry that provides the two-minute radio piece and a newsletter. I've never done anything like this before.

Here’s the gist of it.

Dear Sir
I've been hearing Walt Mueller's excellent short, informative pieces about youth culture, on the Christian radio, for nearly 2 years.

I'm old enough to have witnessed results of teens who attend public high school. Even teens who sit in youth-group every Sunday falter morally. The social engineering of the leftist-agenda/curriculum, as well as the peer-hierarchy-environment, along with hours spent with sensational entertainment/media, seem to be insurmountable influences. 

The little quilt is called "Cherry Baskets" and will one day be for a granddaughter.
Statistics claim 80% of children of Christian parents do not return to the church. Is it that they do not come to know our loving Savior in a personal way? Do they not see the need for Christ’s atonement for their sins while young? Or are they pulled in too many directions? Anyway, it's heart-breaking for parents. We know because some have shared their deep sorrow with us.

In the 1970s my husband was a youth group leader. He saw how little involved parents were with their teens. They didn’t seem to know them. Thus, they heavily depended on others for bringing up their children, and for leading them to Christ.

Forewarned, I decided to home teach ours. What have I observed over 30 years? I’ve noticed within my circle of friends, that the biggest problems of youth culture are happily absent in children home taught through high school.

1) High-school-age homeschool students have acquired the habit of self- education. They are not bored. 

2) They are well-read and express themselves with clarity, orally and in writing.

3) In humility their ears are open to the counsel of the Word of God.

4) Joy and reverence are attitudes that accompany their walk with God.

5) They maintain a close relationship with their parents and siblings.

6) They are comfortable relating to people of all ages.

7) They smile and have a sense of humor.

8) They understand the true meaning of "courtesy" found in the Golden Rule of Jesus. They practice purity in preparation for marriage.

9) They are patriotic and know their history.

10) They entertain wide and varied interests - (commercial and volunteer) - interests that have little to do with teen-fads – especially fads that are self-destructive, dark and dangerous. And they are not afraid of a little hard work. 

Home educating families do not live in isolation. Networking, support groups, conferences, co-ops, orchestra, field trips, etc., are accessible in many communities. Home-taught-teens have opportunities, too, to look outside themselves with acts of service, such as baby-sitting, singing or playing an instrument at a nursing home, etc. A short hop on-line will show what modern research reveals about homeschooling. One article (unintentionally) debunks the misleading stereotype of the homeschooler: "18 Reasons Why Doctors and Lawyers Homeschool Their Children" by Kathleen Berchelmann, M.D.

I enjoyed all the hand-quilting I stitched into it of a comfortable size. 
Won't you make homeschooling one of your helpful suggestions for Christian parents sometime? It has such immense advantages that I don't understand why it is ignored. Why keep homeschooling a secret? It is a wonderful alternative to the pressures and perversions of public school. Perhaps you have already addressed it somewhere at CPYU but I’ve missed it. We've seen that sending teens off to be immersed in the highly captivating youth culture of public school (of which you speak) is a situation greatly counter-productive to whatever little time a student and parent have left-over to discuss the Biblical worldview, etc.*1

What did our Lord Jesus say about the children (who are on loan to us)? "Hinder them not." Therefore, should we immerse them in a youth culture that is grounded in a godless-mindset that would be a stumbling block for them, while thinking: It won't happen to my child?

My dream was to knit a pinefore for Eloise. I saw this realized this January.
 Perhaps, some spiritually mature teens do survive. But my husband says, for every one that seems to come out okay, a hundred do not. I am so saddened to see how teen culture has found its way into the church, that I had to write CPYU. I've been listening to you. And the myriad of gruesome problems that parents are suppose to be aware of and/or talk about with their teens. Thanks, this time, for listening to me.     Karen Andreola

I like this in-the-round seam-free pattern. I went bananas over the cute ruffle. 
 [Addendum: I received a reply with the perspective of CPYU shortly after my letter was read.]

 Too Polite
“How are things,” I asked a mother several years ago. We stood in the church hallway. She looked nervous.
 “Oh, you haven’t heard? Barbara and Greg (not their real names) decided they wanted to attend public high school to be with their friends.”
 “No, I haven’t heard,” is all I said, trying to keep my smile-muscles from weakening. My private thoughts were, your children decide what’s best for them? And, this is placing a very high priority on friends.

I finished hand-quilting my Northern Star quilt in William Morris fabric. 
I had this same sort-of-conversation with another mother who told me her children decided they wanted to attend the big public high school. In both instances, I stood staring, dumbly until the subject was changed. After all, I thought, my opinion isn’t being called for. I was too polite. I bit my lip. And now I wish I hadn’t. I could at least have posed two questions. One about peer-pressure/counsel. The other about the atheist/socialist-curriculum/counsel. I wish I could report the years proved my forebodings incorrect about these children. What can be sadder for the parent who discovers his child is walking in the counsel of the ungodly? *1

The Man-of-the-House read what I've written here (before I posted it). He told me that if even the mighty among us (highly-educated pastors and leaders in ministry) fall. Why do we think our fragile, impressionable young people would be immune to temptation in an anti-Christian environment?

This bird I "fussy-cut" is my favorite of the stars. 

How do you like school?
 A modern survey reveals how students feel in public high school. The top 3 responses were:

and bored.*2

Charlotte Mason says that if children do like school, it is usually for the wrong reasons. They don’t like school because they find it interesting. Or because it satisfies their craving for knowledge.

 If children like school it is because:

 . . . they delight in the stimulus of school life, in the social stir of companionship. They are . . . eager for reward and praise. They enjoy the thousand lawful interests of school life, including the attractive personality of such-and-such a teacher. But it seems doubtful whether the love of knowledge (in itself and for itself) is usually a powerful motive with the young scholar. The matter is important. Because, of all the joyous motives of school life, the love of knowledge is the only [lasting] one; the only one which determines the [measure] . . . upon which the person will hereafter live.*3

 Miss Mason also recognizes that:

 “. . . by far, the most valuable part of education is carried on in the family . . .”*4

I pinned it to the wall in the upstairs hall landing. Stairs at left. Window, right.

I think this has been true, and will be true, in every century.

Two of our grandchildren (homeschool-kids) walking back from their mailbox. 

 “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the ungodly . . .*5

Comments are Welcome,
Karen Andreola

 End Notes
*1 Mathew 7:13,14 is one of many reasons parents home-teach through high school.
*2 USA Today “Our High School Kids: Tired, Stressed and Bored.” Pub. Oct., 2015.
 *3 Charlotte Mason, School Education, pages 245-246,
 *4 Ibid, pg 94
 *5 Psalm One is another reason.

Monday, December 26, 2016

A Peek at Charlotte Mason's Early Life

A Peek at Charlotte Mason's Early Life

January 1st is Miss Charlotte Mason’s birthday (1842-1923). 

Between holiday cooking and company around our table, I nipped up to the chilly attic. This is where I managed to finish polishing a piece of writing for you, in time for the new year.     
The 1983 film "Jane Eyre" is one I like. 
At the mention of a penniless orphan-turned-governess in England’s 19th century, many think of Jane Eyre, the fictional heroine of Charlotte Bronte’s novel, a novel read and loved by successive generations.
Painting by Jules Trayer

I also think of a real-life penniless orphan-turned-teacher, a real-life heroine of mine. She was born near the time of the publication of Jane Eyre. Her life’s work greatly influenced and guided the new way thousands of parents and teachers educated their children in England. About 100 years later her distinctive philosophy of education found its way to America. Its happy revival has been guiding thousands of parents with this new way again. You might be one of these parents.

Miss Charlotte Mason says of herself that she was “rather lonely as a child.” In the book, The Story of Charlotte Mason by Essex Cholmondeley, there is no mention of neighborhood play with the “urchins” in the streets where the little girl Charlotte grew up. She had no brothers or sisters. Her mother and father hadn’t any either. Nor is there mention of grandparents. Without brothers, sisters and grandparents, without any cousins, aunts and uncles, to round out the family and make a merry party on holidays, her parents did an unusual thing for those days – they spent time with Charlotte. During an era when children were told to sit still, sit quiet, or go play, her parents were her companions.
Painting by George Calusen, a  resemblance to C.M.?

They read to her. Toys were not plentiful. In fact, she says, “I do not recollect any toys.” Mr. and Mrs. Mason had their sober priorities straight. Benjamin Franklin’s motto, “Wear the old coat, buy the new book” enters my mind. Because, of the few household things that could be counted were a handful of precious books.

Miss Mason remembered being a girl of 11 sitting near the fireside, watching and listening to her mother read aloud. She sat clasping her knees and listening as she had never listened since.*1

If, like me, you’ve read Elizabeth Gaskell’s novel, North and South or have seen the British film, you’ve been introduced to the noise, grim, stench, and concrete of England’s northern industrial cities. Such were the cities of Charlotte Mason’s girlhood. In Liverpool where she grew up, the streets were narrow. The row-houses were cramped and narrow, too, fronted by pavement. The city was congested with the people who worked in the factories.

North & South
Charlotte’s father was a merchant and business-owner in Liverpool. He was proud of his contribution to free enterprise. But the city environment was hard on Mrs. Mason’s delicate health. (City-life was also a hardship of Margaret Hale’s mother in North and South.) Therefore, with her daughter Charlotte, Mrs. Mason spent much time living near the Isle of Man. Here Charlotte remembers wading in the waves of the seashore.
Painting by Walter Bonner Gash

A terrible thing happened in the years of 1848 and 49. A business crash left many of the Liverpool merchants with large financial losses. (A similar financial collapse, common of the times, is described in North and South.) By Charlotte’s 8th birthday the Masons, now very poor, were living in small furnished lodgings.*2

Margaret Hale, heroine of North & South

At this time Charlotte was home educated. Her father took some subjects, her mother others. They were glad to keep busy this way. Across the street from their narrow row-house was a curiously big house. It was set back behind a stone wall and shaded by large trees. I can imagine young Charlotte doing lessons in their front parlor in the light of its one window that overlooked the street. (I’ve been inside London’s Victorian row-houses). 

One day, perhaps through that parlor window, Charlotte and her mother caught a glimpse of a “tall lady with a dark shawl thrown scarfwise across her shoulders, a bonnet whose black strings floated, and a whole train of tiny children holding on to her skirts and following her.”*3 This lady was emerging from the big house’s shady footpath. Mrs. Mason found out through a friend that this lady was the mistress of a girl’s school nearby. It wasn’t long before Charlotte’s first thoughts of her vocation entered her mind. She got to know this mistress and took part in classes by aiding her in the girl’s school.

Dean found this photograph of a 19th century girl's school. 

The girls had professional fathers. Charlotte couldn’t help notice that they wore wrist watches and some even wore rings!

It was in this classroom that Charlotte was first struck with the misery of the schoolbook. The class was reading a textbook of English history. As Charlotte was reading Sir Walter Scott’s Waverley at home, the contrast of the two histories must have been blaring. Students ought to have well-written books, she thought. What a pity that England was a land of literary genius but so little good writing ever reached the classroom. The necessity for well-written books, books not combed and condensed by a textbook committee - and factual to the extent of leaving out the color of literary detail - stayed to the forefront of Miss Mason’s mind and heart all her life. She called these well-written books, “living books” because they are alive with the ideas. Their literary language sumptuously pads the facts. This writing contributes to (not squelches) a student’s sense of wonder and delight.

The strain of poverty on the families of the Liverpool merchants took its toll on the well-being of Charlotte’s beautiful mother. In 1858 she died. Mr. Mason couldn’t bear it. Soon after, he died, possibly of a broken heart. At age 16 Charlotte was alone in the world. Without relatives and penniless, a friend of the family took her in. It was a frightening and depressing time. 

One thought stayed on Charlotte’s mind. Teaching was the thing to do.*4
Painting by James Charles

At age 18 (I will now refer to her as Miss Mason) she began her life work by becoming a student of the only teacher’s training college in England. In this London college, 1860 was a year of making friends. One friend remembered Miss Mason’s “earnest striving of the soul for light”.   

It might have been her lack of finances, but for her second year of study the college found a teaching post in Sussex for Miss Mason. Thus, she worked and continued her education by distance-learning. At age 19 Charlotte Mason was looked up to as headmistress by the little children of this village school. The school had no connection with the government. It was run by the Anglican church. Miss Mason kept in touch with her friends through letters during her working experience. She wrote to one friend how parents must be the happiest of people “to have God’s children lent to them . . . I love my children dearly.” In another letter she writes of her resolutions, “I mean to be so firm, so kind, so loving, so altogether admirable”.*5

The Colonial Training College of London awarded her a Certificate in 1863. Miss Mason kept a log book of her experiences at the Davison School (1861-73). At times the children were “disorderly”. Her aspirations for the building of a new school for girls was realized. It was much work but she was pleased at the girls’ interests in their lessons.

Miss Mason is said to have had a bad heart, although she carried on without a precise diagnosis. At the insistence that she must rest after an illness she spent time in London staying with a friend she made during her year at the teacher’s training college, observing this married friend’s curious children. Then she stayed with another married college friend in Ambleside. She became fond of taking long walks in the country. It was here, at her friend’s house (used both as a home and day school) that Miss Mason “first became familiar with the countryside she so deeply loved for the rest of her life”. One of the few photographs we have of Miss Mason was taken during this stay in Ambleside. It is black and white so I’ll mention that her friend said “her hair was of the darkest shade of brown. . . Her eyes were blue-grey, her height five feet four inches.” *6 My son Nigel did the meticulous job of tinting the old photograph at my request. (copyright on colorization)

During the years of being a classroom teacher Miss Mason explored books of philosophy and education. Why so much digging? She says, “I thought with the enthusiasm of a young teacher that education should regenerate the world”.*7 I can understand how she, being a Christian, could hold this high ideal. Consequently, with a close observation of children and her reading, she was struck with the realization that just as the body craves food so does the mind have its appetite to know. She asked herself. Is it necessary that we teach so many things to children? It was the children, with their “insatiable curiosity”*8 that showed her that this world is happily “so full of a number of things”*9 that it seems barely enough to satisfy a growing child who hasn’t become lethargic by boredom.  

And yet she noted that what is presented to a child will only feed his mind sufficiently to become knowledge when the child’s mind has “acted upon” it. Rather than "cram" he must ruminate, digest it, and make it his own.*10 Later, it was her insistence on the method of narration that would set the wheels of child’s mind in motion.
With Miss Mason’s study, experience, and spirit of dedication, came her next appointment. She was lecturer at a new teacher’s training college. Then, she became vice-principal of Bishop Otter College. She gave her all to this new position. But it proved too much for her health. It drained her of her last drop of energy. What a disappointment it must have been to suffer a “serious breakdown”*11 and be forced to give up.  

Following a typical remedy of the times, she visited Switzerland for a rest-cure. When she returned to England she had a bright idea. Because she had for years loved to explore the English countryside - by train and by footpath - and "had laid the crumbs of these journeys in a notebook," unknowingly collecting material for a book, she did just that. She wrote, The Forty Shires. Published in 1880 it was widely read. For the time being this was a relief to Miss Mason’s financial cares.

Lake District of England - Oh, to be sitting on this bench and walking through the shady footpaths.

In the light of its success she was asked to write a series of geography schoolbooks. “They took me 12 years and hundreds of books on travel, in fact all the travel there was then, went into the making of them.”*12 The British Museum Reading Room in London was her usual place of study. Years later these volumes would be re-issued as the Ambleside Geography Books and used in the curriculum of the day-school at Ambleside and in Miss Mason’s home correspondence course.

Charlotte Mason combined her high thinking with lowly living. She exercised her generous soul. I believe this was the fruit of her deeply held Christian beliefs. While living in London she got involved in parish life of the Anglican church. As “district visitor” she saw the poor living conditions of the working-class. She sincerely sought to be a greater help. But how? If only she could offer parents (without seeming holier-than-thou) a “few principles which are the very gospel of education . . . that would enlighten and encourage them in bringing up their children.”*13 It was the new building fund of her church that gave her an idea. She couldn’t give money. Instead, she offered to give a series of lectures for the parish that winter as her contribution. (I assume a donation or a very small fee was collected.) Would people come? They did. In fact, she was happy to see much interest. Months later, gathering all her lecture notes in a book, she approached a publisher. In 1886 these were published as Home Education.

Soon after, the author of the insightful Home Education, was approached with a cushy job-offer, that of governess to an aristocratic family. I would think the role might be easy on Miss Mason's health. But unlike the character Jane Eyre, governess was a role Miss Mason resisted. It was not her calling. Perhaps also, familiar with the Bronte sisters’ plight, she was well-aware of the hazards and loneliness of the job.

Wider horizons are part of Charlotte Mason’s story. But I break here for the sake of brevity.

Paperback we published. The old hardcovers I found years back.
Home Education in Stock
In our house is a box of Home Education and Philosophy of Education. These loose copies, once normally part of the series we kept in-print for more than 20 years, we're selling separately for this post $22 each. Includes postage.  

Following publication of A Charlotte Mason Companion in 1998, paper-letters came my way giving testimony of Miss Mason’s principles changing lives. Only one letter, received by email, asserted Charlotte Mason couldn’t possibly have been a Christian. The writer made other demeaning, but unsubstantiated, inferences. Dean wrote a researched and gentlemanly reply. Letter is lost. This is one reason I appreciate the blog post by Art Middlekaulff where he states why a Charlotte-Mason-Education is the best way to evangelize children. His post "For Whose Sake?" is refreshingly clarifying.  
Wives & Daughters, Cranford, North & South. A winter supply.
Books and Films
If you like period-piece drama I recommend the British films based on Elizabeth Gaskell’s novels. I was gifted the DVD 3-film set. Found on Amazon here. Presently, I’m reading my 3rd Gaskell novel, this time on kindle. Wives and Daughters. Molly is fast becoming a new book friend. She follows me, room to room, around the house while I dust.    

Comments are welcome. Also, in the right side-margin you'll find both my email and physical address for letters. 

Happy New Year blog friends,
Karen Andreola  

End Notes
*1 Essex Cholmondeley, The Story of Charlotte Mason, Charlotte Mason Foundation, 1960. Pg 3
*2 & 3, Ibid, pg 4
*4 Ibid, pg 5
*5 Ibid, pg 7
*6 Ibid, pg 9
*7 Ibid, pg10
*8 & 10 Ibid, pg 11
*9 The world is so full of a number of things, I'm sure we should all be as happy as kings. Robert Louis Stevenson’s Child’s Garden of Verses
*11 The Story of Charlotte Mason, pg 12
*12 Ibid, pg 14
*13 Ibid, pg 15