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Continuing a summary of Charlotte Mason’s 20 principles, we arrive at number 3:

If you need to go back and read about the first 2 principles, click here.

3. The principles of authority on the one hand, and of obedience on the other, are natural, necessary and fundamental

Notable: When Charlotte discusses this principle in Volume 6, it’s striking that she mentions The War.

Her first book on education was written in 1905. Volume 6 was 1922 – after she had seen the devastation of the first World War. It’s hard to overstate how surprisingly terrible this war was to people alive at the time. People suspected that Europe had reached a time of such peace, and humanity was on a trajectory that war was impossible. So 20 million deaths was unthinkable, but that’s exactly what happened.

The war informed Charlotte’s later ideas. 

And onto number 3:

She makes a point that authority is necessary to society. When we are under a proper authority, and obeying that authority, we are the most free. A Tim Keller sermon illustration that stuck with me is of a fish that wants to be free to walk on the land, but he is only actually free when he follows the rule to stay in the water. That’s what these ideas remind me of.

Charlotte says:

“Without this (authority), society would cease to cohere. Practically there is no such thing as anarchy; what is so-called is a mere transference of authority, even if in the last resort the anarchist find authority in himself alone. There is an idea abroad that authority makes for tyranny, and that obedience, voluntary or involuntary, is of the nature of slavishness; but authority is, on the contrary, the condition without which liberty does not exist and, except it be abused, is entirely congenial to those on whom it is exercised: we are so made that we like to be ordered even if the ordering be only that of circumstances. Servants take pride in the orders they receive; that our badge of honour is an ‘Order’ is a significant use of words. It is still true that ‘Order is heaven’s first law’ and order is the outcome of authority.

That principle in us which brings us into subjection to authority is docility, teachableness, and that also is universal. If a man in the pride of his heart decline other authority, he will submit himself slavishly to his ‘star’ or his ‘destiny.’ It would seem that the exercise of docility is as natural and necessary as that of reason or imagination; and the two principles of authority and docility act in every life precisely as do those two elemental principles which enable the earth to maintain its orbit, the one drawing it towards the sun, the other as constantly driving it into space; between the two, the earth maintains a more or less middle course and the days go on.”

I’ve heard some folks mistakenly say that the Charlotte Mason method is “child-led.” It’s certainly not that, and this principle should illustrate the point. The child is under the authority of the teacher. The child should understand that the teacher is under the authority of God and that they are both under the authority of God.

Principle 4:

4. These principles are limited by the respect due to the personality of children, which must not be encroached upon whether by the direct use of fear or love, suggestion or influence, or by undue play upon any one natural desire.

The delicate balance of teaching from authority and having children willfully obey and learn the first time, is something I have not mastered. But, going back to the first principle, “Children are born persons:” when you treat children with respect, they are far more likely to respect you back. Put knowledge in his hands, don’t force it down his throat and see what happens.

There’s no need to use fear or manipulation. 

This also reminds me very much of the book How to Talk so Kids Will Listen, and Listen so Kids Will Talk. I read it when my oldest was young and it influenced my parenting so much that I’m sure it’s one reason I’m draw to the CM method. I used to get it for every new mom. If you haven’t read it, stop and read it now.

So – authority and obedience should be natural but children are not puppies – Children are persons and should be treated with respect.

 

Here’s a principle that may ruffle some feathers, but stick with me here:

2. Children are not born bad but with possibilities for good and for evil.

At first glance, it might seem like Charlotte is talking about original sin, or, rather, a lack of original sin, but it’s actually more like a call not to be prejudiced against children for socio-economic status. Remember the part in Oliver Twist when Mr. Grimwig insists that Oliver will swindle Mr. Brownlow simply because Oliver was thin and poor? This is the exact culture that Charlotte Mason was raised in. When she went to teaching school, these prejudiced ideas were likely the norm.

Charlotte saw for herself that children from many backgrounds could be positively influenced by a proper education.

BUT – VERY IMPORTANT HERE: She did not mean attaching a “moral” to every story or lesson. In fact, she says in Volume 6:

“As for moral lessons, they are worse than useless; children want a great deal of fine and various moral feeding, from which they draw the ‘lessons’ they require. It is a wonderful thing that every child, even the rudest, is endowed with Love and is able for all its manifestations, kindness, benevolence, generosity, gratitude, pity, sympathy, loyalty, humility, gladness; we older persons are amazed at the lavish display of any one of these to which the most ignorant child may treat us. But these aptitudes are so much coin of the realm with which a child is provided that he may be able to pay his way through life; and, alas, we are aware of certain vulgar commonplace tendencies in ourselves which make us walk delicately and trust, not to our own teaching, but to the best that we have in art and literature and above all to that storehouse of example and precept, the Bible, to enable us to touch these delicate spirits to fine issues.” 

Tying a story up with a nice moral “bow” completely takes away the magic of the story and doesn’t let the story do it’s work on the child. Imagine finishing Charlotte’s Web, children tearing up, and as you close the book saying, “Now remember kids, it’s important to be a kind friend.” Or, “If you wake up early, you might get to raise a pig.” Or “There can be redemption in grief.” Those are all things that one could pull from the text, but spelling it out for the child is *you* doing the work and taking the opportunity away from the child to draw their own conclusion.

Interestingly, even Aesop’s Fables, I have heard, did not originally include the “morals” at the end of each tale. So, when we read the stories, I always leave off the “moral,” and instead, we talk through what happened in the story. Often, the child will work out a perfectly fine conclusion on her own. And if she doesn’t, let the story marinate. The story will always be tucked away in the back of her mind to recall as needed. 

Let the child do the work. Trust that the Holy Spirit will do the work.

 

Charlotte Mason was an educator in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. After some time teaching, she became ill and this gave her plenty of time to think and write about education. In 1905, she wrote “Home Education” which included 18 principles of education and in 1922, she wrote “Towards a Philosophy of Education” which revised those principles and added 2 more. (There were 4 more books in the middle of these titles, which I’m sure I’ll discuss later.)

For the next several weeks, I will review those 20 principles and explain how they work out in real life. I’ve used these principles in our homeschool and also in my church/tutoring classes.

  1. Children are born persons.

This is simple, but some educational systems and adults completely overlook this fact. I will give some examples:

Often, I have been talking with a child and an adult will walk up and interrupt as if what the child is saying is not important.

I have seen adults hear the words children say, but not really listen and not care to understand.

I have seen adults discount children’s hopes/fears/interests.

If you believe a child is a real person, you will:

Talk to the child like a person. 

Treat even young children like they are important by what you say and do.

Trust the child to do the work of his or her education.

In Charlotte’s own words:

“This is, briefly, how it works:––

A child is a Person with the spiritual requirements and capabilities of a person.

Knowledge ‘nourishes’ the mind as food nourishes the body.

A child requires knowledge as much as he requires food.”

 

We don’t do children any favors by watering down learning material for them. They need good nourishment and all we have to do is put them in touch with age-appropriate readings/ideas for them to take in as they will. Ambleside Online does an excellent job sorting great books into age/grade-appropriate groups if you need some ideas. In general, children are capable of understanding much more than you think.

Examples: In my church classes, I have taught two different ways. At times, I have read the Bible passage myself, then used puppets, stick figures, or drawings to explain what happened to a group of children. This is fine. The children are often able to repeat back what I said and repeat back the inferences I made in my lesson. There’s a time/place for this type of teaching.

The other way I teach, more often, is: I read the passage ahead of time, but for the actual lesson, I do a few minutes of scaffolding (i.e. What is leprosy? How were taxes collected in Rome? What would it be like to be disabled in the first century?) Then I read the actual Bible to the children without my commentary. Every few verses, I ask, “What’s happening here?” The children jump in and are usually excited to tell back what they heard. 

Then, the most amazing thing happens: as they tell back what they heard, the children make their own connections and add their own commentary. The most striking example was with a 7-year-old girl telling about Genesis 3, The Fall. When she told back, “They ate the apple and started to die,” she added, “It’s like the apple was poison for their bodies. The sin is poison.” A 7-year-old girl. And it was one of her first times narrating in this way.

Whoever does the work learns. When we let children be the persons they are, and we let the children do the work, they will learn and reason more effectively than when we step in and do the work for them.

Children are, indeed, born persons. 

Summer Goals

Summer Reading | Book It

  • Lots of Splash Pads
  • Lots of Swimming Pools
  • Keep some structure
  • Catch up on a few school-ish items
  • Book-it Free Pizza

 

The lovely thing about the summer, for public school kids, is they are home! So you can do more to incorporate the family culture you desire because you have your kids with you more.

 

Some recommendations: 

Pick one composer and listen to their music for a little bit every time you’re in the car, in the evenings when you’re making dinner, or when everyone is getting ready for bed. Every once in a while, mention the name of the composer and what song is playing. Don’t overdo it! Just make this composer that you like part of your culture. 

Pick three great classic movies that you want your kids to watch. Plan one movie night per month to introduce them to your favorite films.

Pick a classic book to read in the mornings or evenings. 

Let your kids pick a country on the map. Learn about what the people there eat, how they dress, what music they like – let the kids prepare a meal from that country. 

Summer Plans


We do not do official school year-round. Some families do, and that’s fine. But we need an extended break and we do that in the summer time. 

However, we need structure and a schedule or else we feel crazy. So our summer days include a “morning time” that is a bit less intense than our normal “morning time.” It’s time for Summer Homeschool Plans….

In the summer, we will:

  1. Read Proverbs
  2. Read scheduled Bible passages from Ambleside Online.
  3. Read Animal Farm and Watership Down.
  4. Finish Robin Hood.
  5. Finish Lord of the Rings.

I pick these books because they are coming up quick on my kids’ curriculum and if we read them in the summer, it frees up time during the school year.

We will also work on little skills that need work…(I’m looking at you, copywork.)

Every homeschool family I know does summer a little differently. We need lots of time for my full work schedule and the kids need a break from some things (like math and Latin). 

“You have to do what works for your family.”

Summer Reading

Book It

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Science, Nature Study, and Charlotte Mason

Maybe the most common question I get after “What curriculum do you use?” is “What about science?” There’s a bit of a misconception out there about Charlotte Mason and her approach to science. People think she was light on science, maybe because she was so heavy on literature. 

The thing to keep in mind is: the Charlotte Mason method says that education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life. Just because we aren’t pulling our hair out trying to make random science experiments work or buying expensive science curriculum does not mean we are not learning biology, chemistry, physics and more.

There are several ways we incorporate science in our lives:

Nature Study

Charlotte recommended hours and hours of outdoor time in the afternoons after lessons are completed.

This is so special and also impossible for our family (and I suspect yours, too.) We do school in the mornings and our afternoons are full of dance lessons, church, and work commitments. 

But one morning a week, we meetup with a small group and visit a local park. We are fortunate to have a one nearby park that is entirely nature-focused. There’s a creek to play in, paths to hike, a few fishing ponds. It’s really great.

12-week Focus

If we just took nature in as we found it, we would find a great deal: trees, birds, bugs…But there are so many things out there so:

12 weeks at a time, we pick a nature topic from Anna Cromstock’s Book of Nature Study. Usually we follow along with the plan at Amblesideonline.org.

During that 12 weeks, we seek out opportunities to learn about our topic. For example, last term, we learned about Rocks and Minerals so we reached out to a local Gem and Mineral Club and discovered they offer a free kid’s class on Geology. Next term, we will learn about fish, so we will visit an aquarium and go fishing. 

Memberships

One educational investment we make is memberships to our local museums and zoos – but a membership to all of them at the same time is not financially feasible – so if there happens to be a location that is specific to our 12-week focus, we will pick up a membership for that location.

For example, mammals and reptiles were both on our nature study list for last year, so we made sure to get a membership to our zoo. This year, since one focus is fish, we will get a membership to our state park so we can fish/camp easily.

When it’s time to learn about flowers, head to the arboretum or invest in some new flowers for your own garden. Let the kids pick them out and help plant them.

Science experiments

In my experience, when we’re doing a mom’s-idea science experiment, mom is the one doing all the work, the kids are not very interested, and half the time, the experiment doesn’t work anyway. However, the times my kids got an idea and wanted to try something out, the whole situation turned around. They were the ones searching for experiment ideas. They were the ones gathering supplies. They were the ones excited about seeing the results. And if it failed, they were the ones trying to figure out what went wrong and trying again.

Whoever does the work, learns. This is not child-led education. There are plenty of ways to get a kid wondering about a science topic to the extent that they ask a question that requires an experiment. And those are the science moments they will remember.

 

In Summary

It may sometimes look like science learning is not happening, but that’s just because there are no worksheets and vinegar volcanos (although, we did make a vinegar volcano once…). When nature and all the science that comes with it is a normal part of your life, the learning comes naturally.

 

speaking Spanish with Miss Mason and Francois

 

 

This term, for Spanish, we are covering a variety of topics. For a general overview of how we use Charlotte Mason’s book, see my post here.

Last term, we got through 21 pages of our book. We spend about two weeks per page.

Next, we will be learning the Lord’s Prayer in Spanish. There are a variety of youtube videos available with the Lord’s Prayer in song. 

The next lesson covers vocabulary you may need to set the table. So we will set the table and use our words. It also covers articles – so we’ll watch a little Senor Jordan for that.

Next up, we will review verbs in the first person singular by moving furniture around. “Pongo la silla…” We will probably use this time to rearrange our furniture.

The next 2 lessons in the book introduce some reflexive verbs and a little 2nd person singular. So we will tell each other what we are doing and find a good Senor Jordan video on reflexive verbs. We seriously love Senor Jordan.

The last lesson I hope to get to this year is about writing a letter – so we will write a letter. My daughter has been working on a letter to her congressperson, so if she hasn’t sent that yet, that’s what we will do for these weeks.

 

 

Spanish Resources

Senor Jordan on Youtube

Spanish Interrogatives Video

Padre Nuestro Video

Duolingo

Duo Lingo is a perfectly fine way to learn Spanish for adults. It may help a parent who doesn’t have a background in Spanish. I do not 100% recommend it for children as there’s a “flirty” module that’s not totally kid-friendly.

Dictionary

Online resources are convenient, but there’s no substitute for a physical dictionary. Looking up a word with your eyes and hands on a page really helps cement it in your mind.

 

Frog and Toad

We read Sapo y Sepo! It’s a fun break from video and verb conjugations. The link above is an affiliate link for Amazon.

 

 

Ambleside

Here’s a link to Ambleside Online’s article about learning foreign languages.

More Info

 

 

 

Best Mother’s Day Gifts

Check out these excellent gifts for your excellent mother – all from handmade creators on Etsy.

Order soon to make sure you give plenty of time for creation and shipping.

This post contains affiliate links where I may receive commission at no extra cost to you.

Mug for Mom

Photo Credit: NotVeryLadyLike

Does your mom love elves, wizards, and hobbits? Does she cheer for Legloas or Aragorn? Either way, check out this etsy shop with fun mugs, totes, and tumblers. The shop is well reviewed and you’ll find something super for your mom.

Very cool Journal

Photo Credit: DanielsArtPlanet

We gifted my daughter with a journal like this for her last birthday – handmade, gorgeous. She hasn’t started using it yet because she’s saving it for something *really* special. Get a journal like this for your special mom to record her special memories.

Young at Heart

Photo Credit: Wonder Tales Studio

Does your mom love children and reading to children? If your mom loves children’s literature and pretty things, she may enjoy a locket or pendant inspired by “Where the Wild Things Are.” Check out the options at my Etsy shop: Wonder Tales Studio.

Keep Mom Warm

Photo Credit: SpratlinDesignCo

Look at this adorable shirt! Cool moms still like hoodies and this shop has so many designs, you’re sure to find one that fits your mom just right.

 

Save My Seat

Photo Credit: MySistersDream

This pillow is one of the cutest things I’ve seen on Etsy – Adorable. Add your dear mother’s name, and you have a completely unique gift. There are other pillow options available, so check it out today.

Burn…

Photo Credit: WillowWoodCandleCo

If your mom loves candles and old bookstores, this may be the most perfect gift. All the candles as of now are book-related smells, so visit their shop and find something your mom will love.

 

Composer Study

Composer Study in our school is, like most things, low stress. We pick a composer, usually from the list at Ambleside Online, make a Spotify playlist, and listen to the music on our way to the park. In the evenings, we might listen to/watch a symphony on YouTube. If there is a decent biography on the composer, we will read it during morning time. We do not stress about classical music. We just enjoy it.

If for some reason we pick a composer that we don’t particularly enjoy, no big deal. We only listen for about 12 weeks.

J.S. Bach

Here’s an affiliate link for the book we read about Bach. It’s meant to come with a CD to listen to some of the music mentioned in the book. We didn’t get the CD, but most of the music is available on Spotify, so we listened along there. It was a nice overview of Bach’s life.

Radio Program about Bach here.

Frank Liszt

We haven’t read this book on Frank Liszt yet, but it’s free! I’m excited to read it with the kids in the next few weeks. Some of his music was used in cartoons, so we will also enjoy some Bugs Bunny this term to appreciate Liszt’s music.

This radio program about composers did a program about Liszt that you can find here.

 

This post contains affiliate links.

Read the Play

This term, we are reading Romeo and Juliet. It’s a re-read for us – but that’s good. We love re-reading Shakespeare plays. Every time we notice new themes and have more to talk about – new ways to dig in.

Folger Shakespeare Library Mass Market editions are quickly becoming my favorite editions. They have lots of notes and always start with insightful commentary.

Don’t get a kindle version. You need a print copy. In fact, each student needs a print copy.

Bookshop.org

Watch a Movie

Romeo and Juliet is the best for movie watching. There are so many great options. The Baz Luhrmann version is our favorite, but if you want something not so loud, try this version. But pre-screen if you have young children.

It’s also easy to find colleges who recorded their Shakespeare plays and put them online. Those are free and easy to find.

Build Community

Romeo and Juliet is a popular play and it’s likely that other people in your homeschool community may be reading it, or willing to read it, and then come over for some Shakespeare fun. 

We once hosted a Romeo and Juliet fun day. We read portions of the play, had a soccer game (Capulets vs. Montagues), and ate Italian food. Everything is better with food. 

So reach out to your homeschool friends and see how you can interact with this play together.

 

Another great resource for parents teaching Romeo and Juliet is The Play’s the Thing. In 2021, they read the play act by act and discussed it. We read it that semester and listened along. My high school student, in particular, got into the discussions about Romeo and Juliet’s love – is it transcendent? Or just immature teenagers choosing desire over duty? Listen along and discuss with your students.

Poetry

This term we are reading Robert Frost for my older student and Christina Rossetti for my younger student.

We will read a new poem each day and I’ll encourage them to memorize one poem each by offering tangible incentives (I’m looking at you, FiveBelow…).

The content below contains affiliate links.

Robert Frost

We will be reading from this Robert Frost book, just as soon as I find it! In the meantime, Robert Frost poems are available for free here. Plus a quick YouTube search will show you lots and lots of people reading Frost poetry.

Christina Rossetti

Christina Rossetti has been a favorite here for a while. We have a physical copy of one of her books that we will be reading from daily. Like Robert Frost, you can find many YouTube videos of her poems being read aloud.