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The question is not, “how much does the youth know?” when he has finished his education, but how much does he care? ~ Charlotte Mason

Welcome!

Hello! And welcome to An Edifying Education! Little by little, I’ll be adding resources inspired by the wisdom of God and the educational philosophies of Charlotte Mason. My heart is to help your family thrive. 

For now, here you’ll find my current offerings: 

And below, a brief summary of Charlotte Mason’s philosophy and method. 
 
I’d love to connect so please don’t hesitate to reach out!

At An Edifying Education, we utilize Charlotte Mason's principles and methods.

What are the principles of the Charlotte Mason method?
For simplicity, Charlotte Mason created a “short synopsis” of her educational philosophy – consisting of 20 principles. I consider her 1st and 20th principles as foundational, like the bread of a sandwich, and all the rest, are valuable filler. Her first principle – children are born persons. Her 20th – the Holy Spirit has constant access to their spirits, and is their continual Helper. Therefore, in educating them, we don’t tell them what to think and how to conform and make them into a cog, we feed them ideas and let God pour into the vessels He has made them to be.

CM Method Components

The child's mind is not a blank slate, or a bucket to be filled. It is a living thing and needs knowledge to grow (like food for the body).

If you are new to Charlotte Mason and her education philosophies and methods, below I’ve included some highlights:

About Habit & Character Training

Miss Mason covered many habits in her books. She referred to ‘I am, I ought, I can, I will’ ––as “the steps of that ladder of St. Augustine, whereby we rise on stepping stones of our dead selves to higher things.” Often scriptures are added to each phrase of the motto. Here are simple truths from scriptures that your children can memorize to go with the motto.

 

‘I am’—made in the image of God and very good (Genesis 1:27, 31).
 ‘I ought’—to do what is right (Romans 2:15 NLT).
‘I can’—do all things through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:17 NKJV).
‘I will’—do what is right (Deuteronomy 6:18 NLT).

About Living Books

In cultivating these relationships, Charlotte Mason believed, “we may undertake to prepare for the world a man, vital and vigorous, full of living interests, available and serviceable.”

 

Living books are quality books. Not workbooks, worksheets, or books with chapters of dry historic facts. Nothing taken from its context. The life in a book comes from the ability to imagine.

 

Here are two short pieces of writing to help you distinguish the difference.

 

First Excerpt:

Isabella I was hereditary Queen of Castile in her own right and her marriage in 1469 to her cousin, Ferdinand II of Aragon united their kingdoms and transformed Spain into a major European power, paving the way for unification under their grandson, Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. During their joint reign, Ferdinand and Isabella expanded their territories, financing Christopher Columbus in his 1492 voyage, which resulted in discovery of the Americas. ~from the Royal Collection Trust webpage on Queen Isabella I.

 

(source: https://www.rct.uk/collection/403445/queen-isabella-i-of-spain-queen-of-castille-1451-1504)

 

2nd Excerpt:

It was to these walls Columbus was called back by the heroic queen, and within them the treaty was concluded which led to the discovery of the Western World. Behind yon promontory to the west is the bridge of Pinos, renowned for many a bloody fight between Moors and Christians. At this bridge the messenger overtook Columbus when, despairing of success with the Spanish sovereigns, he was departing to carry his project of discovery to the court of France. Above the bridge a range of mountains bounds the Vega to the west: the ancient barrier between Granada and the Christian territories. Among their heights you may still discern warrior towns, their gray walls and battlements seeming of a piece with the rocks on which they are built. Here and there a solitary atalaya, or watchtower, perched on a mountain peak, looks down as it were from the sky into the valley on either side. How often have these atalayas given notice, by fire at night or smoke by day, of an approaching foe. ~from Tales of the Alhambra by Washington Irving

 

(source: https://www.gutenberg.org/cache/epub/49947/pg49947-images.html)

 

The first piece had good information, but was more just the facts. With living literature, you get a sense of being there. We have a picture of the event and the setting, we experience it, we tie it to our previous memories – maybe of mountains or bridges – and thus we remember it more.

About Narration

I’ll be adding more information about this topic soon. 

About Copywork & Dictation

Copywork and dictation, rather than spelling and grammar, are used throughout the child’s home education, and is chosen from the readings currently in progress. Spelling done in the context of copy work, rather than lists, is surprisingly sufficient. Dictation is accomplished from a piece of literature that has already been used as copy work, and has been reviewed several times by the child thoughtfully, paying attention to new words and punctuation. The piece is read to the student slowly, with emphasis on periods and commas.

About Mathematics

From Miss Mason (footnote Source: vol 1, pg 254), “Of all his early studies, perhaps none is more important to the child as a means of education than that of arithmetic. The practical value of arithmetic to persons in every class of life goes without remark. …The chief value of arithmetic, like that of the higher mathematics, lies in the training it affords the reasoning powers, and in the habits of insight, readiness, accuracy, intellectual truthfulness it engenders. There is no one subject in which good teaching effects more, as there is none in which slovenly teaching has more mischievous results. … a child who does not know what rule to apply to a simple problem within his grasp, has been ill taught from the first.” “How is this insight, this exercise of the reasoning powers, to be secured?” she asks? “Engage the child upon little problems within his comprehension from the first.” And much of it at first should be done orally, or with handy items like toothpicks or beans, not written. Demonstrate what is possible, with items, coins, measuring devices, etc. One thing is noteworthy in her writings. Miss Mason said if the answer is wrong, to say so.

 

“Pronounce a sum wrong, or right––it cannot be something between the two. That which is wrong must remain wrong: the child must not be let run away with the notion that wrong can be mended into right. The future is before him: he may get the next sum right, and the wise teacher will make it her business to see that he does, and that he starts with new hope. But the wrong sum must just be let alone.” “There is no subject,” she said, “in which the teacher has a more delightful consciousness of drawing out from day to day new power in the child. …Give him short sums, in words rather than in figures, and excite him in the enthusiasm which produces concentrated attention and rapid work. Let his arithmetic lesson be to the child a daily exercise in clear thinking and rapid, careful execution, and his mental growth will be as obvious as the sprouting of seedlings in the spring.”

About Handicrafts

“We know that the human hand is a wonderful and exquisite instrument to be used in a hundred movements exacting delicacy, direction and force; every such movement is a cause of joy as it leads to the pleasure of execution and the triumph of success.” We make “efforts to train the young in the deft handling of tools and the practice of handicrafts.” (Footnote Source: The Basis of National Strength)

Why Hymns?

A hymn, from the Greek verb hymneō, is a song of praise to God, “identifying for all to hear His attributes and thanking Him for His amazing intervention in our world and in our lives.” Hymns “call our attention upward,” above the earth.

“I will declare Thy name unto My brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise (hymneō) unto Thee,” says the writer of Hebrews in Hebrews 2:12, quoting from the Psalms. This scripture was fulfilled by the Lord Jesus at His final Passover, after Judas had left the table. “And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the Mount of Olives” (Matthew 26:30).

Apostle Paul tells us to speak to ourselves “in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:19). One commentator believes that “psalms” refer to the singing of the original psalms written in the Old Testament, and “hymns” also refer to songs written as, “a rhythmic utterance of praise distinctively Christian, citing Acts 4:24-30 as an example.

Acts 4:24b Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is: 25 Who by the mouth of thy servant David hast said, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things? 26 The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ. 27 For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, 28 For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done. 29 And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word, 30 By stretching forth thine hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done by the name of thy holy child Jesus.

We see then, that hymns are intended to be sung both individually, and as a group, knitting the hearts of His people together. Hymns, like folksongs, may find their way to a hum or a whistle or a repeated phrase during your day. That hymns are historically filled with rich biblical truths makes them an excellent focus of study.

Hymn Example:

Rise Up, O Men of God
Author: William Pierson Merrill (1911)

Rise up, O saints of God!
Have done with lesser things;
Give heart and soul and mind and strength
To serve the King of kings.

Rise up, O saints of God!
The kingdom tarries long;
Bring in the day of Christlike love
And end the night of wrong.

Lift high the cross of Christ!
Tread where his feet have trod;
Led onward by the Son of Man,
Rise up, O saints of God!

Link to one version of this hymn: Rise Up, O Men of God

Why Folk Songs?

A folk song – a song of the people from the German “volk” – is typically a song that has been passed down orally in a nation or culture. They tell a story of the people and the times and have either a lively tune or a melancholy one with a sad ending. Folk songs are catchy. You may find yourself humming them at times, maybe even engaging with others.

Folk Song Example:

The Battle Cry of Freedom
Author: George F. Root (1862)

Yes, we’ll rally round the flag, boys
Rally once again,
Shouting the Battle Cry of Freedom!
We will rally from the hillside
We’ll gather from the plains,
Shouting the Battle Cry of Freedom!

The Union forever!
Hurrah boys hurrah!
Down with the traitor, up with the star,
While we rally round the flag, boys
Rally once again
Shouting the Battle Cry of Freedom!

We are springing to the call
For three hundred thousand more,
Shouting the Battle Cry of Freedom!
And we’ll fill the vacant ranks
Of our brothers gone before,
Shouting the Battle Cry of Freedom!

The Union forever!
Hurrah boys hurrah!
Down with the traitor, up with the star,
While we rally round the flag, boys
Rally once again
Shouting the Battle Cry of Freedom!

We will welcome to our numbers
The loyal, true and brave,
Shouting the Battle Cry of Freedom!
And although they may be poor
Not a man shall be a slave,
Shouting the Battle Cry of Freedom!

The Union forever!
Hurrah boys hurrah!
Down with the traitor, up with the star,
While we rally round the flag, boys
Rally once again
Shouting the Battle Cry of Freedom!

Link to one version of this folk song: Battle Cry of Freedom

Why Shakespeare?

“And Shakespeare?” said Miss Mason. “He, … who might well be the daily bread of the intellectual life; Shakespeare is not to be studied in a year; he is to be read continuously throughout life, from ten years old and onwards. But a child of ten cannot understand Shakespeare. No; but can a man of fifty? Is not our great poet rather an ample feast of which every one takes according to his needs, and leaves what he has no stomach for?

 

“A little girl of nine said to me the other day that she had only read one play of Shakespeare’s through, and that was A Midsummer Night’s Dream. She did not understand the play, of course, but she must have found enough to amuse and interest her.” When “read again and again, year after year,” Shakespeare’s plays “would yield more at each reading, and would leave behind in the end rich deposits of wisdom.”

Why Plutarch?

Twelve to fourteen year old students, Miss Mason said, “should get their Greek and Roman history from biographies. Perhaps nothing else besides the Bible is as educational as Plutarch’s Lives.” (footnote: (source: Charlotte Mason, School Education Volume 3, pg 235) Plutarch lived around the 1st century A.D. in Greece. He wrote Parallel Lives, a series of biographies of “heroes,” Greeks and Romans that he combined in pairs, because of the men’s similar characteristics, of which 23 have survived. There are three main translations of his Greek writings into English: John Dryden, Aubrey Stewart with George Long, and Thomas North.

Plutarch parallels Julius Caesar (100 BC to 44 BC) with Alexander the Great (356 BC to 323 BC).

 

From the words of Plutarch in the life of Alexander: “In writing the Lives of Alexander the Great and of Cæsar the conqueror of Pompeius, which are contained in this book, I have before me such an abundance of materials, that I shall make no other preface than to beg the reader, if he finds any of their famous exploits recorded imperfectly, and with large excisions, not to regard this as a fault. I am writing biography, not history; and often a man’s most brilliant actions prove nothing as to his true character, while some trifling incident, some casual remark or jest, will throw more light upon what manner of man he was than the bloodiest battle, the greatest array of armies, or the most important siege. Therefore, just as portrait painters pay most attention to those peculiarities of the face and eyes, in which the likeness consists, and care but little for the rest of the figure, so it is my duty to dwell especially upon those actions which reveal the workings of my heroes’ minds, and from these to construct the portraits of their respective lives, leaving their battles and their great deeds to be recorded by others.”

Why Poetry?

Miss Mason: “Poetry takes first rank as a means of intellectual culture. Goethe tells us that we ought to see a good picture, hear good music, and read some good poetry every day.”

 

She taught that a variety of poetry – the best poetry – should be read aloud by the older child, “to accustom him to the delicate rendering of shades of meaning, and especially to make him aware that words are beautiful in themselves, that they are a source of pleasure, and are worthy of our honour; and that a beautiful word deserves to be beautifully said, with a certain roundness of tone and precision of utterance.” Poetry, like all good literature, instructs our conscience. Poets offer seeds to be planted. “It is the part of parents,” she said, to water and nourish those seeds, “to bring the minds of their children under the influence of the highest, purest poetic thought.”

 

And although we may have a challenging poem put in front of us, Miss Mason quoted Christopher North, a Scottish essayist, as saying, “fine poetry need not be understood to be enjoyed.’”

 

Poetry Example

 

Climbing to Rest
by Lucy Larcom, 1885

 

STILL must I climb, if I would rest:
The bird soars upward to his nest;
The young leaf on the treetop high
Cradles itself within the sky.
The streams, that seem to hasten down,
Return in clouds, the hills to crown;
The plant arises from her root,
To rock aloft her flower and fruit.
I cannot in the valley stay:
The great horizons stretch away!
The very cliffs that wall me round
Are ladders unto higher ground.
To work — to rest — for each a time;
I toil, but I must also climb
What soul was ever quite at ease
Shut in by earthly boundaries?
I am not glad till I have known
Life that can lift me from my own:
A loftier level must be won,
A mightier strength to lean upon.
And heaven draws near as I ascend;
The breeze invites, the stars befriend:
All things are beckoning toward the Best:
I climb to thee, my God, for rest!

Why Picture Study?

Miss Mason said that, “…the minds of children and of their elders alike accommodate themselves to what is put in their way; and if children appreciate the vulgar and sentimental in art, it is because that is the manner of art to which they become habituated. A little boy of about nine was (with many others) given reproductions of some half dozen of the pictures of Jean Francois Millet to study during a school term. At the end, the children were asked to describe the one of these pictures which they liked best. Of course they did it, and did it well. This is what a little boy I mentioned makes of it:––”I liked the Sower best. The sower is sowing seeds; the picture is all dark except high up on the right-hand side where there is a man ploughing the field. While he is ploughing the field the sower sows. The sower has got a bag in his left hand and is sowing with this right hand. He has wooden clogs on. He is sowing at about six o’clock in the morning. You can see his head better than his legs and body, because it is against the light.”

“…They should take one artist after another, term by term, and study quietly some half-dozen reproductions of his work in the course of the term. … We cannot measure the influence that one or another artist has upon the child’s sense of beauty, upon his power of seeing, as in a picture, the common sights of life; he is enriched more than we know in having really looked at even a single picture. It is a mistake to think that colour is quite necessary to children in their art studies. They find colour in many places, and are content, for the time, with form and feeling in their pictures.

Picture Study Process (paraphrased)

“Step I.––Ask the students if they remember the prior week’s picture.
“Step II.––Show them the new picture and ask them to find out all they can about it themselves, and to think what idea the artist had in his mind, and what idea or ideas he meant his picture to convey to us.
“Step III.––After three or four minutes, take the picture away and see what they have noticed. Then ask them such and such things suggest to them; the strength of this, the dignity and stateliness of that; the look of this. Ask if they have noticed anything in the picture which shows the time of day or time of year.
“Step IV.––Let them read the title, and tell any facts they may know about the times, the artist, the scene.
“Step V.––Have them draw the chief lines of the picture, in five minutes, with a pencil and paper.”

 

Picture Study Example: The Sower by Jean Francois Millet, 1865 (Located at the Walters Art Museum)

Who was Charlotte Mason?

It is difficult to imagine that a woman who was an only child, the daughter of two only children, educated by her parents, orphaned at 16, a self-proclaimed “dull, silent, uninteresting, not very observant child,” who never married or had children of her own, would be the woman who revolutionized education in the United Kingdom in the early 20th century. But that is exactly the background of Miss Charlotte Mason.

Miss Mason’s early years were spent mostly by the sea on the Isle of Man, not too far from Liverpool, where her father was a merchant. By the time she was eight, she had a fondness for stories, including Robinson Crusoe and Aesop’s Fables. One day, she noticed “a tall lady with a dark shawl thrown scarf wise across her shoulders, a bonnet whose black strings floated, and a whole train of tiny children holding on to her skirts and following her.” It was determined that she was the mistress of a nearby girl’s school, and Miss Mason notes, “somehow, I knew that teaching was the thing to do, and above all the teaching of poor children like those I had been watching.”

During her distinguished career, she was teacher, author, visionary, founder of an education union and a teacher’s college, and her methods were used in schools across England and America to provide, “a liberal education for all.” Charlotte Mason was born in 1842 and passed away in 1923 at the age of 81.

Charlotte Mason said that “education is the science of relations.”​

Her method is based on children relating to five things: God, humanity, nature and the world around them, the earth, and materials.

With God. Miss Owen, who trained under Miss Mason wrote, “A child’s idea of God should be: (1) That He is his Father, always near and ready to help. (2) That Christ is our king and we must always be loyal and loving to Him. And (3), that He is our Saviour and the Saviour of the world. Children must recognise the fact that they owe duty to God. They should read and learn to love the Bible.”

Great human relationships. Miss Mason was concerned with relationships of love and service, of authority and obedience, of reverence and pity and neighbourly kindness; cause’ and country, of the past and the present. The study of history, literature, archeology, art, ancient or modern languages, travel and tales of travel. “We who are persons,” she stated, “are interested in all persons, for we are all one flesh, we are all of one spirit, and whatever any of us does or suffers is interesting to the rest. If we will approach [the student] with living thought, living books – ” she saw in them the possibility of becoming apostles, saviours, ambassadors of nations, and “archeologists who will make the past alive for us and make us aware in our souls of men who lived thousands of years ago.”

With nature and the world around them. The universe. Miss Mason said – such as geology, minerology, geography, botany, biology, chemistry, astronomy––the whole circle of the sciences available for study, so that he “may feel for objects on the earth and in the heavens the sort of proprietary interest which the son of an old house has in its heirlooms.” Spending time with God’s creatures – be it the family pet, or the inhabitants of the nearby pond are also included here. Mathematics is also placed here, and note Miss Mason’s thoughts: “Mathematics are a necessary part of every man’s education; they must be taught by those who know; but they may not engross the time and attention of the scholar” in such a way as to shut out any of the other subjects, where knowledge “is his natural right.”

With the earth. This is what Miss Mason calls “dynamic relations,” including climbing, swimming, dancing, sailing, all sorts of bodily exercises, the lack of which, she said, nothing compensates.

With materials. Every child, Miss Mason said, makes sand castles, mud-pies, paper boats, and he or she should go on to work in clay, wood, brass, iron, leather, dress-stuffs, food-stuffs, furnishing-stuffs. He should be able to make with his hands and should take delight in making what she called handicrafts.

In cultivating these relationships, Charlotte Mason believed, “we may undertake to prepare for the world a man, vital and vigorous, full of living interests, available and serviceable.”

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I will be sharing simple insights into Miss Mason’s philosophies and methodspractical applications, and encouragement for parents and youth. My heart is to build up youth in these evil days.
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