Popcorn & Peanuts

"Education is an Atmosphere, a Discipline, a Life."

20 Principles Study

by Lynn B. Hocraffer, BS

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This page is my own notes as I study the original Charlotte Mason Home Education Series. There is nothing official about these notes, and I welcome comments and suggestions.

There are 20 Principles .

Here is a quick shortcut to notes on each as I finish them :

Persons, , Authority and Obedience, Personality of the Child, Three Limitations, Education is an Atmosphere, Education is a Discipline, Education is a Life, A spiritual organism, Such a doctrine, , , , , , , , , ,

Useful Links, , A Charlotte Mason Education, Notes, , For the Children's Sake, Notes, , , ,

Here is the ordering information for the books I refer to if you need them:

"The Charlotte Mason Study Guide" by Penny Gardner.

Here is a link for ordering the Series from Amazon.com: The Original Home Schooling Series by Charlotte Mason.

Here is a link for ordering A Charlotte Mason Education by Catherine Levison. Subject by subject, how to implement the CM method.

Another often-quoted resource is the book "The Story of Charlotte Mason", by Essex Cholmondeley. This book has JUST been reprinted. It is available in England and other countries from Child Light Publishers, and in the United States from CMSI. I have placed a few quotes that I refer to HERE.



Charlotte Mason's 20 Principles

Readings suggested: CM's own Synopsis of her Principles, found in the Preface of each volume of the Series. Volumes 1 through 5 have 18, Volume 6 has 20(!). If two numbers are indicted, the first will be the numbering from the first 5 Volumes, and the second will be the numbering from Volume 6. In short, the originl numbers 9 & 10 are condensed, new numbers 13, 14, and 14 are inserted, and the reminder renumbered to total 20.

Vol 2, p 127;
Vol 3, p 170;
Vol 4, p 32.

The Introduction to each of the first 5 volumes includes 18 Principles, which Charlotte Mason considered to be the heart of her developing philosophy. These 18 (below) are titled "A Short Synopsis". If you are endeavoring to apply these 18 Principles in your home, you may be said to be giving your children a Charlotte Mason Education. The exact books, curriculum, and arrangement of your schedule is up to you. There is no set curriculum or program. There are sample schedules from the old PNEU Parent's Review magazine, yet they are clearly labeled as samples. The schedule and booklists changed regularly, deliberately, to stimulate both child and teacher. Therefor, the Principles are what we need to examine.

The first 4 begin with a discussion of the Child as being a Person, born complete. We might not consider this such a revelation, but in Charlotte's day it was unheard-of. Yet every mother knows her child is an individual- some are calm, some alert, and so on. Charlotte Mason decided this individuality was to be cherished, and decided we have only three permissible tools for education: Education is an Atmosphere, a Discipline, and a Life. Most of the rest of her books discuss the application of these three great concepts, and we will examine specifics in these Topics. The final three concepts embodied in the Principles are: Education is the Science of Relations, The Way of the Will, and The Way of Reason.

Since I was asked, here are the 18 Principles (which expand to 20 by Volume 6):

I will type the 18 out here for anyone who needs them, because they
are basic, but I can't type every quote and passage from the books. I hope
you are able to beg, buy, or borrow a copy of the Series for yourself as
soon as possible. There is so much to learn!

From the Preface to Volume 4 (which happened to be the top one on my

1) Children are born *persons*.
2) They are not born either good or bad, but with possibilities for good
and evil.
3) The principles of authority on the one hand and obedience on the other,
are natural, necessary and fundamental; but -
4) These principles are limited by the respect due to the personality of
children, which must not be encroached upon, whether by fear or love,
suggestion or influence, or undue play upon any one natural desire.
5) Therefor we are limited to three educational instruments - the
atmosphere of environment, the discipline of habit, and the presentation of
living ideas.
6) By the saying, EDUCATION IS AN ATMOSPHERE, it is not meant that a child
should be isolated in what may be called "a child environment," especially
adapted and prepared ; but that we should take into account the educational
value of his natural home atmosphere, both as regards persons and things,
and should let him live naturally among his natural conditions. It
stultifies a child to bring down his world to the 'child's' level.
7) By EDUCATION IS A DISCIPLINE, is meant the discipline of habits formed
definitely and thoughtfully, whether habits of mind or body. Physiologists
tell us of the adaptation of brain structure to habitual lines of thought -
i.e., to our habits.
8) In saying that EDUCATION IS A LIFE, the  need of intellectual and moral
as well as physical sustenance is implied. The mind feeds on ideas, and
therefor children should have a generous curriculum.
9) But the mind is not a receptacle into which ideas must be dropped, each
idea adding to an 'apperception mass' of it's like, the theory upon which
the Herbartian doctrine of interest rests.
(see pages 58-61 in Volume 3, School Education)
10) On the contrary, a child's mind is no mere sac to hold ideas ; but is
rather, if the figure may be allowed, a spiritual organism, with an
appetite for all knowledge. This is it's proper diet, with which it is
prepared to deal, and which it can digest and assimilate as the body does
11) This difference is not a verbal quibble. The Herbartian doctrine lays
the stress of education - the preparation of knowledge in enticing morsels,
presented in due order - upon the teacher. Children taught upon this
principle are in danger of receiving much teaching with little knowledge ;
and the teacher's axiom is, "What a child learns matters less than how he
learns it."
12) But, believing that the normal child has powers of mind that fit him to
deal with all knowledge proper to him, we must give him a full and generous
curriculum ; taking care, only, that the knowledge offered to him is vital
-  that is, that facts are not presented without their informing ideas. out
of this conception comes the principle that - 
13) EDUCATION IS THE SCIENCE OF RELATIONS ; that is, that a child has
natural relations with a vast number of things and thoughts : so we must
train him upon physical exercises, nature, handicrafts, science and art,
and upon *many living*  books ; for we know that our business is, not to
teach him all about anything, but to help him make as valid as many as my
be of - 'Those first-born affinities That fit our new existence to existing
14) There are also two secrets of moral and intellectual self-management
which should be offered to children ; these we may call the Way of the Will
and the Way of the Reason.
15) *The Way of the Will*. - Children should be taught -
(a) To distinguish between 'I want" and 'I will'.
(b) that the way to will effectively is to turn our thoughts from that
which we desire but do not will.
c) That the best way to turn our thoughts is to think of or do some quite
different thing, entertaining or interesting.
(d) That, after a little rest in this way, the will returns to it's work
with new vigour. (This adjunct of the will is familiar to us as
*diversion*, whose office it is to ease us for a time from will effort,
that we may 'will' again with added power. The use of suggestion, even
self-suggestion - as an aid to the will, is to be depreciated, as tending
to stultify and stereotype character. It would seem spontaneity is a
condition of development, and that human nature needs the discipline of
failure as well as success.)
16) *The Way of the Reason* - We should teach children, too, not to 'lean'
(too confidently) 'unto their own understanding,' because the function of
reason is, to give logical demonstration 
(a) of mathematical truth ; and
(b) of an initial idea, accepted by the will.
In the former case reason is, perhaps, an infallible guide, but in the
second it is not always a safe one ; for whether that initial idea be right
or wrong, reason will confirm it by irrefragable proofs.
17) Therefor children should be taught, as they become mature enough to
understand such teaching, that the chief responsibility which rests upon
them as persons is the acceptance or rejection of initial ideas. To help
them in this choice we should give them principles of conduct and a wide
range of the knowledge fitted for them.
        These three principles (15, 16, & 17) should save children from some of
the loose thinking and heedless action which cause most of us to live at a
lower level than we need.
18) We should allow no separation to grow up between the intellectual and
'spiritual' life of children ; but should teach them that the divine Spirit
has constant access to their spirits, and is their continual helper in all
the interests, duties, and joys of life.


Principle #1


1) Children are born *persons*.


Topic #2

Good and Bad


Topic #3

Authority and Obedience

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


Topic #4

Personality of the Children

Quite some time ago ;) we began to take a look at the principles of education compiled by Charlotte Mason and listed in each of the six volumes of TOHSS.

We left off our study with Principle 3 of those Charlotte Mason included in the synopsis of her philosophy of education.

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

Let's pick up with number 4:

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

She refers to principle 1 here-"Children are born persons." Here's a passage referring to the personhood of the child from Volume 3 p 186:

We do not talk about developing [the child's] faculties, training his moral nature, guiding his religious feelings, educating him with a view to his social standing or his future calling. The joys of 'child-study' are not for us. We take the child for granted, or rather, we take him as we find him--a person with an enormous number of healthy affinities, embryo attachments; and we think it is our chief business to give him a chance to make the largest possible number of these attachments valid.

(me again) Sometimes Charlotte Mason can be downright confusing, huh? On the one hand she talks endlessly about the parents' role in developing a child's character and the parents' responsibility to the nation in bringing up their children (an idea we 'colonists' have little sympathy with), and here she is saying what seems to be the opposite!

I think, actually, she's making a subtle distinction, a distinction she feels is vital. The child comes to us with 'faculties'--we as parents and educators provide opportunity for those 'faculties' to be utilized. In using the 'faculties,' they are strengthened. The child must do the work himself.

We get a little nervous when she says we oughtn't try to 'train [the child's] moral nature.' We must understand that she means we _can't_ change a child's moral nature. A child is born with a natural affinity toward his creator (remember that Jesus said one must become as a little child in order to see the Kingdom of Heaven), and it is our job to nourish that affinity. We read Holy Scripture with the child, and share with him the idea of God as Father, King, Shepherd, etc. We model piety and fear of God with our lives. But we can't _make_ the child love God; we can't awaken his spirit. God has given the child a spirit, and Holy Spirit does the quickening.

What does all this have to do with priniciple 4? Often, we as parents and teachers try to "speed things along" by using our influence on children. "If you love mommy, you will..." Someone recently explained to me that in CMs day this "influence" phenomena was nearly out of control--that women especially were expected to be able to control the behavior of those under their influence--a sickly sweet cloying sort of influence. While parents and educators today may not go to that extreme, we all know of children who bolt from under their parents' influence to pursue a lifestyle radically different from that which the parents had been enforcing. Without over-generalising, we can suspect that those parents were depending on "fear or love, suggestion or influence" to an unhealthy extreme.

CM also disapproves utilizing "undue play upon any one natural desire" Here's a bit she wrote on that topic from Volume 3, p225

"...so children come into the world with a few inherent desires, some with more, some less, to incite them to their proper activities. These are, roughly speaking, the desire for power, for praise, for wealth, for distinction, for society, and for _knowledge_. It seems to me that education, which appeals to the desire for wealth (marks, prizes, scholarships, or the like), or to the desire of excelling (as in the taking of places, etc), or to any other of the natural desires, except that for knowledge, destroys the balance of character; and, what is even more fatal, destroys by inanition that desire for and delight in knowledge which is meant for our joy and enrichment through the whole of life. "

So she's encouraging the right use of our authority and parents and teachers. We are not to use any old means thinking we'll achieve the same end. Charlotte Mason firmly believes that the means (the way we teach) have a direct effect on the end (the student as 'final product'). We cannot promote good schoolwork by means of prizes or whatever and expect the same kind of learning to take place as if we had depended on the natural desire for and delight in knowledge for its own sake.

So we see in these two principles Charlotte Mason's ideas on authority. She feels that recognition of natural authority is absolutely necessary in the home and in the school. On the other hand, the one in authority must be mindful of the One who has given that authority and be mindful to make wise use of that authority.

I realize that this is pretty philosophical stuff--not like "how to teach math the CM way," but I think it's helpful to understand the basis for the education principles that we enjoy utilizing.

What do you think?

cathy in pa


Principle #5

Three Limitations

Principle number 5 is a conclusion, an aphorism summing up and applying the logical thought of the first 4. It is also an introduction to numbers 6, 7, and 8, which we will examine individually in future weeks.

Charlotte Mason said:
"5) Therefor we are limited to three educational instruments - the atmosphere of environment, the discipline of habit, and the presentation of living ideas. "

Ouch. We speak so much about CM being so free, so adaptable, so easy to individualize - and here we are firmly presented with limits. In the first four Principles we are given outlines of authority and obedience, of rights, of personality. In Principle 4 we are given several ways we may NOT teach. Now in #5 we are given three ways we can - but only three!

For reference, here are #6, #7, and #8 - the points that CM is working toward.
6) By the saying, EDUCATION IS AN ATMOSPHERE, it is not meant that a child should be isolated in what may be called "a child environment," especially adapted and prepared ; but that we should take into account the educational value of his natural home atmosphere, both as regards persons and things, and should let him live naturally among his natural conditions. It stultifies a child to bring down his world to the 'child's' level.
7) By EDUCATION IS A DISCIPLINE, is meant the discipline of habits formed definitely and thoughtfully, whether habits of mind or body. Physiologists tell us of the adaptation of brain structure to habitual lines of thought - i.e., to our habits.
8) In saying that EDUCATION IS A LIFE, the need of intellectual and moral as well as physical sustenance is implied. The mind feeds on ideas, and therefor children should have a generous curriculum.

So, these are the points *I* will work toward, though I will leave discussing them for later. For now, let me simply keep them in mind while I examine #5. If we say we are living a Charlotte Mason lifestyle, if we are employing Charlotte Mason methods in our children's education (in any setting - home, private, public, Sunday School and so on) then these Principles MUST form our framework.

We may use the "atmosphere of environment". Whew! I may play music, I may post art that I like, I may take my child on field trips and Nature Walks! I take this phrase to mean that the environment includes the emotional overtones ; IF I play classical music constantly, but hate it myself, my child is going to feel this without my saying a word! My child will NOT grow up to love Mozart. However, if I love Gilbert and Sullivan and play them and sing the silly songs, my child will probably also learn to love them. If I happen to love something that I know is bad for me, that I am trying to conquer, I cannot hide this from my child. I may tell them that I play this music that I am not used to *because* I am trying to improve my choices. This is not unnatural play upon anyone's sympathy, but instead is enlisting my child to help me in truth. We may learn to love Mozart together!

We may use the "discipline of habit". Has anyone else noticed how very much CM depended upon Habit? If there is anything that can be considered "CM Preschool", it is the deliberate development of Habits! So much that many consider CM : Masterly Inactivity, Delight-Directed-Studies and more, depends upon first developing proper habits. Many people consider the CM method to be a kind of "Unschooling". I disagree with this - the freedom comes within bounds, it is Liberty, not License. Habits properly taught give us the beginning of these liberties.

And third, we may use the "Presentation of Living Ideas". Hooray - I know where to find those! I can give my child books - encounters with the best minds in the world, though living or dead! My child may collect a different "Idea" from the same book I read, but we both meet real ideas! We can go meet real people! I can get a chemistry kit and we can do some experiments together, and talk about them. We can get a book of Edison's Experiments and see how many we can repeat. We can go on Nature Walks and come home to read about the bird we saw.

Shall I give my child ersatz ideas, cardboard instead of bread? Shall I give them pre-digested pabulum, tell them to fill in the blank with only this word that someone else has decided is the correct answer? Shall we only add chemical 'a' to solid 'b', and never see what happens if we use 'c' instead? (This can get messy!)

Education can ONLY be a Life, if it contains life. Life cannot be created in a test tube! Your child may play with Edison Experiments forever, but she will never create a living thing. Life comes two ways - we get it from the Breath of God, which none of us can reproduce. We CAN get it from each other - directly from mind to mind, in Ideas! These Ideas may be written down - shared around the world in a few seconds by the blessing of email and the Internet; and written down in more permanent form in Books! Edison's Ideas wait within those covers. Rousseau's "Emile" lives. Corrie Ten Boom and Anne Frank live again.


Tell us ways that you embody these three acceptable tools of education in your home, in your children's education, in your communities.

How do you determine if a book contains living ideas, whether it is ersatz cardboard or real meat?

Has your child ever met a real, living person who lived through a concentration camp? One who was in an Iron Lung from Polio? Sat down with a War Veteran and listened to the stories of whichever war the soldier saw? Talked to a hundred- year old person about the changes they have seen? Has your family ever taken a short-term 'mission' trip to build a school or an orphanage? Do you participate in historical re-enactment? And, most of all, have they 'met' the real people in the pages of their Bibles?

How do you create the atmosphere of your home? (Or DO you?)

Are you having any troubles with these ideas? For example, is your home a virtual war zone and you need help? Have you made so many mistakes you don't know how to begin again?

Are your children addicted to workbooks and cry when you open a book? Have you changed methods and changed books so many times your dear family groans when you say you want to try something new? We've been here too - ask us, and we will offer what tips we've gathered.

Lynn H


Topic #6

Education is an Atmosphere

"6) By the saying, EDUCATION IS AN ATMOSPHERE, it is not meant that a child should be isolated in what may be called "a child environment," especially adapted and prepared ; but that we should take into account the educational value of his natural home atmosphere, both as regards persons and things, and should let him live naturally among his natural conditions. It stultifies a child to bring down his world to the 'child's' level. "

You might go back to #5, and remember that Atmosphere is one of the three allowable methods of teaching. Here she again says what we may NOT do - we should not isolate the child in an artificial environment. I do not think, in this case, that she is saying we should not do things like provide real-but-child-size tools, such as brooms and carpet sweepers, or even that we should not provide toy kitchens and plastic ovens that bake real cookies under a light bulb.

There is a program of education that does provide the real but small tools, ideally in a miniature setting where everything is to lead the child along in a developmental program. Instead of educating the child IN their normal home, the child is to be educated BY the carefully-managed surroundings. The program I am describing is of course Montessori, which CM was aware of. Montessori was developed for war orphans who had been deprived of a normal childhood. It worked wonderfully - so it was decided to try the program with normal children.

I believe this idea also applies to many kindergarten programs, and to homes where the children were kept in nurseries. The children do not experience 'normal' life in these environments, no matter how carefully designed they are. Charlotte said the child needed to live naturally in a normal home. Normal homes include toys for children, sometimes playrooms, libraries, mama's sewing room (or corner), Dad's workshop and so on. There may be a formal living room, or an all-purpose family room. The child should live there just as the parents do.

Atmosphere also includes the emotional factors - no matter where the child is, are they accepted, loved, valued for themselves? Is there hope, sure expectations, security? Are there real-life situations encouraging consideration of others? Are the 'vibes' good or bad?

Let us look quickly at a few resources found in the normal environment. There are people! Children don't live alone, there are other people in a home and those other persons have educational value. These might include
Grandparents, who have stories of childhood long ago and far away.
Grandpa may be an old soldier, who can tell the child of wars and battles that changed the world. Add a globe or a map, and you have living history right in your living room!
Perhaps you have a relative who was in an iron lung?
A relative who has been a missionary, even a short-term trip?
Where have relatives traveled?
Grandma might send postcards from 21 countries in 24 days, and come home with a suitcase full of costumed dolls of many lands, or music boxes, and a pocketful of coins.
An uncle in the military might send home rock samples from far lands.

Having mentioned their souvenirs, let us go on to the 'things' in a normal home. There is educational value in things. Stamp collections, coin collections, dolls, even Grandma's music boxes can expand a child's concept of the world. Books fill the shelves with enticing visits to other lands and times. Children should learn to sew, to use real tools, to cook. There has been some discussion of 'learning centers'. I would describe these areas of a normal home as natural learning centers.

More learning centers might be provided, of course. We filled a small dry sink (a cupboard) with art supplies, and kept it in a corner with two art easels (large and small). I put our chalk board on the wall there, and a set of coat hooks supported not only coats but our metal detector and one of our telescopes. Another corner in another room became my music corner - shelves for our books, a music stand, a comfortable chair and a good light. Our house is not large, but keeping materials together makes learning occur easily. Adjust for your lives - when my children outgrew the sturdy small art easel, I passed it on to my brother. Each child also has a small desk in their room, for quiet work.

suggested Reading

"Educating the Whole Hearted Child", chapter 4, by Clay and Sally Clarkson.
"For the Children's Sake", chapter 4, by Susan Schaeffer Macauley - notes from our group's recent study may be read here.

Discussion Starters (some of these are repeated from earlier studies on the above books)

Describe for us the Atmosphere of your home in general. When I walk in the door, what will I feel, and why?
What have you done to provide for the emotional or Spiritual atmosphere of your home?

Tell us about some of the special resources you have - your relatives and neighbors, special possessions.

If you have set up learning centers, describe what you have done, and why.
How have you set up your home for learning to take place at all times?
Do you have a learning room or a whole learning home? Describe it.
What about Discovery Corners...what learning activities are available to encourage your little ones to learn at all times?
What about your home library...how are you organizing it...how are you building it...tips?
How have you created a learning environment in your home?
How do you document learning such as this for reporting...if you are required to report it to a cover or the state?
What about your daily life?? How does this affect the atmosphere of your home? How does this affect your goals? How does this affect your priorities?

Lynn H


Topic #7

Education is a Discipline

From Volume 4, I copy : "7) By EDUCATION IS A DISCIPLINE, is meant the discipline of habits formed definitely and thoughtfully, whether habits of mind or body. Physiologists tell us of the adaptation of brain structure to habitual lines of thought - i.e., to our habits. "

While some of the Principles vary slightly in wording between the Volumes, reflecting Charlotte's developing thought, this one remains the same. She is not referring to Discipline in the way we more commonly do, as a process of child training. Instead, it's clear she refers to a Habit of learning. This is NOT one of the 20 Habits taught to small children.

Well, let me give you a reading list on Habit :

Series Volume I, Parts III and IV; Vol. 2, VIII, IX; and Vol. 5, Part I
A Charlotte Mason Education p 73 - 83, including a detailed list of Series references
Educating the Whole Hearted Child page 45, "Mental Muscle #1"; Learning Styles pp. 141-155
Charlotte Mason Companion chapters 6,7,8,9,10,11,36,44,45
Wisdom's Way of Learning chapters 7,8,9,10
For the Children's Sake pp.12-58, 148-158.
Charlotte Mason Study Guide pp. 18-37 ; 136-138

AND an on-line link :
How to Replace Dawdling with Good Habits essay by Catherine Levison

AND another reading list on the Will :

John Bunyan's biography
Pilgrim's Progress
The Holy War
Grace Abounding
-- all available online from the Bunyan Index site
Charlotte Mason Study Guide
pages 82-85 The Way of the Will
pages 31-37 Habits and Character

A Charlotte Mason Education pages 73-83

A Charlotte Mason Companion
Chapter 9 (p 69-77) Chapter 10 (p 79-87)

The Original Home Education Series
Volume 1, part IV "Some Habits of Mind - Some Moral Habits"
Volume 1, part VI "The Will - The Conscience - the Divine Life in the Child"
Volume 3, Chapter XII "Some Unconsidered Aspects of Moral Training"
Volume 4, Introduction (Mansoul readings for the teens)
Volume 4, Part II "The House of Mind" (readings for teens)
Volume 6, Book 1, Chapter VIII "The Way of the Will"
the Bible, KJV, Isaiah 14:13 ; Psalm 32

Many of these s refer to child-training, but please apply the thoughts to the larger concept of a Habit of Learning. Habit is the tool that Charlotte Mason says will free both the child and the parent. Here is the phrase that caught her mind from a sermon,
"Habit is ten Natures."
This sermon quote, and the train of thought that it evoked, are in Series Volume I, the chapter which begins on page 96.

One problem of Education as a Discipline, is that it MUST be, or become, a self-discipline! To set the schedule of lessons for your small children is one job for the parents, yet as the children enter the teen years they need to take more responsibility for their own learning. They need to give input, and they need to be able to adapt their own schedule around jobs and activities. This is not difficult for the child who loves to learn AND who has developed the Will to learn AND who has the Habit of Self-Discipline.

Let me try an example. Let us say that YOU have decided to learn Latin. You are inspired by the recent discussion led by Betsy, or the constant discussion on learning languages. You purchase Ullman and Henry's "Latin For Americans" as a suitable text for an adult. You purchase Macaulay, and Caesar's History and Virgil in both Latin and an English translation, and a Douay Bible, and videos of Ben Hur and Cleopatra. You fill a whole shopping bag with materials to learn Latin. You are prepared!

But, do you use them, or does the shopping bag sit under your table of potted plants collecting dust? When you set your daily schedule, along with your personal Bible time and the children's Bible time and the children's lessons, do you schedule your OWN study time several times a week?

Let me encourage you to develop this Habit. A personal example : Some years ago I decided I wanted to learn to play an instrument, and I decided on the Recorder. I was inspired by a preacher/friend's sermon on "No Regrets". Now, my childhood was not without music. I had two years of weekly group violin lessons on a concert-quality heirloom violin, a year of Cornet lessons on a silver cornet, about 4 years of piano lessons from a Master Teacher whose son is now a concert cellist whose name many of you would recognize - I see him on TV. We had musical toys of all descriptions, including guitars, recorders and ocarina. The family consensus was that Lynn should have had voice lessons instead, that I am hopeless with any instrument. (OK, I was the only one in the family who could sound the conch trumpet Dad brought home from New Zealand. THAT impressed them.)

Still, with my small daughter taking piano, I decided to learn the Recorder. As a homeschooler, I was receiving the flood of catalogs, and in one I found a package deal : TWO Yamaha Recorders, a record, and a fat self-instruction manual using traditional folksongs and ballads. I bought it. More than that , I sat down every evening when my chores were done, while the family was watching TV in the other room, and I practiced. By my father's birthday, I could play a recognizable "Happy Birthday". (That startled them!) By Christmas I could play almost all the carols when our church went caroling. By the next Summer, when I saw my friend again, I was learning hymns from the church hymnal. I told him - no regrets!

More than the satisfaction this gave me, more than the fun of surprising my family, was the totally unexpected effect this had on my children! Our homeschooling went forward by leaps and bounds - the children saw mama studying for pleasure, and this smoothed the way of learning for them. We had the Habit of Self-Discipline as an ACTIVE part of our home, and the effect was incredible.

By this time it should be clear that Education as a Discipline has a GREAT deal to do with the Will. I can desire to learn that Latin, but until I exert my Will upon myself those books will remain in the bag. I can be weak-willed, intending to get around to it and sometimes actually doing so; OR I can exert my Will in small steps, set myself a daily allotment of 15 minutes that I allow nothing to interfere, and surprise myself with how well I get on!

Karen Andreola's chapter 10 in the "Charlotte Mason Companion" is one of my favorites on the nuts and bolts of developing your Will. She talks about Will and Character, which I find to be an interesting combination. As you develop your Will in the proper Habits, you develop your Character. Thus, if you Discipline yourself, you strengthen your Will, AND you develop your Character!

Questions for discussion:

Do you think of Education, of life-long learning, as a Habit? What are you studying yourself at this time? Music, a language, sewing or designing a garden can all enrich your lives, but I refer here to things you yourself are in the process of learning, not practicing what you already know.

Setting your family's daily schedule is sometimes one of the most complicated parts of a CM life. Tell us how you USE the daily schedule to train your children to become self disciplined.

Tell us about your older children, the high school and above learners. Do they manage their own schedules? Can they plan a day, a week, a college semester? Do they maintain the Discipline of a life long learning pattern AFTER they graduate?

I have given you TWO sermon quotes above, and how they affected Charlotte Mason and myself. Tell us of a sermon quote or Bible passage that affected you, and of the results in Education and Discipline.

Answering my own questions briefly:

Obviously, yes. I taught myself music, I steadily study books, I really am beginning that structured study of Latin (that's MY shopping bag under the plant table...) I am finding it very hard to schedule that 15 minutes a day. Somehow my life has become full of complications and I am constantly having to drop everything and run off for several hours. Even my housework is suffering.

Using the schedule, and older children? Right now I am blessed with a teenage boy. Teens hate to get up, they need a lot of sleep, and he is no different. He also hates me to call him even once, let alone over and over and over.... I won't let him sleep in, I insist on him getting up on time. I have told him that if he doesn't want me to knock on his door, he has to set his alarm clock and get himself UP. A few times he has had to suffer natural consequences - he's over slept, he's been late! I could force him to get up, but that would develop a weak will dependent on others. I prefer that he suffer small troubles now, and develop the strong Will of self-discipline. Today is the day we have set to discuss his studies and schedule for next year, and I will be very interested to see what he has planned. Yes, I have some notes of my own, but he says he has it all planned out. I am glad to hear that he has done so. I see it as developing Discipline.

Lynn H


Topic #8

Education is a Life

Principle #8, from the Preface to Volume 6 :
"In saying that 'education is a life' the need of intellectual and moral as well as physical sustenance is implied. The mind feeds on ideas, and therefor children should have a generous curriculum."

Perhaps I am the last to notice this, but as I went through reading all I could find on this thought I made one of those discoveries that leaves you feeling like a dunce. I discovered that the Principles are the outline for Volume 6, Book 1. It's not a one-to-one correspondence with the chapters, but the topics are followed in order. Why have I never noticed this before? I suppose it's like reading the Bible regularly - you read the same passage a dozen times, and one day you see something completely new! My mind is currently focused upon Principles, so NOW I see them!

Here is your reading list - read any for which you have the book :
Penny Gardner's "Study Guide" pages 45 - 52
"A Charlotte Mason Education" pg 15- 20, and booklists
"Charlotte Mason Companion" chapters 12, 13, 24, 36, 45, 46
"Educating the Whole Hearted Child" chapters 4, 5 (part 3), and 7 "
"Let the Authors Speak" by Carolyn Hatcher
Series Vol. 1, Part V, Chapter I; Vol. 2, Chapter IV; Vol. 6 Introduction, Chapter I, parts of Chapter IV (pgs 104-111), Chapter VII.

I sent the selection of Chapter 6, Volume 6 that covers Principle #8 this morning, since it was not a long selection. I cannot explain the thought better than CM does. I can and will discuss the comparisons, and ask a few questions.

We talk about 'balanced meals', children exercise upon 'balance beams', we 'balance' our budgets and checkbooks and laundry loads. Have you applied this thought of 'Balance' to your children's' education? Charlotte Mason divides education into three areas here - intellectual, moral, and physical. If we do not equally emphasize each area, we are out of balance, we wobble, we crash to a stop! Our washing machine dances across the floor going whap-whap-whap-bang as the bottles of softener tumble! Now we must analyze the load, find the overload and underload, and redistribute the mass evenly. If we do not balance the load - none of it gets done at all.

I do not think most of us have trouble within each area. We know our children need math and literature and Sciences and Arts and languages. We may emphasize one more for a season, preparing for a History Fair or a play, but over the long haul we plan to include it all. Even modern colleges insist upon students taking a certain number of basic classes outside their 'core'. When my sister was in college, I encouraged her to take one class per semester that had nothing to do with her major area (math). For many years I kept a letter she wrote to me about this. She was taking an introductory course, and swearing this was her first and only course in Philosophy, as she was finding it very difficult! She had been told to read the "Silent Planet" series for her term paper, and wanted to know if "Perelandra" contained any reference to Plato? Well, "Perelandra" is completely an application of Plato, which I told her. She read the books, she wrote the paper, she took more Philosophy classes, she became the President of the campus Philosophy Club, she was hostess to various speakers who came to the college including Senator Edward Kennedy and Francis Schaeffer. She graduated with a double Major. She earned two Master's Degrees, one in Mathematics and one in Logic (Philosophy). For her graduation gift I had that letter nicely framed - the one where she told me she would never take another Philosophy class!

We Americans are well-known for our love of sports. Many find themselves caught up in a frantic round of practices and competitions. A probably-incomplete list of the activities my own children participated in would include swimming, floor gymnastics, Shotokan Karate, ice skating, and the Recreation Center's annual cycle of sports : Flag football, basketball, soccer, T Ball/Softball/baseball by age. Sometimes seasons would overlap, so we would be overlapping practices. I remember one insane February when I was the taxi as my two children were each involved in three different sports, each of which met on at least two nights. I needed that bumper sticker - the one that says "If I am a homemaker, why am I always in the car?". Where was hubby? Coaching! Presently I am taking physical therapy twice a week, for troubles with my back. I notice that I move from machine to machine, working on different muscle groups. I do situps against a weighted bar, then do a leg machine, then cross-pull arm weights, then back to a twisting thing and around with a different set of machines to start over with the same muscle groups. Finally I do balancing sags and toe touches and some bench exercises with a huge ball. The final one has me balanced on my shoulders with my ankles supported on a ball - forced to balance with my back muscles. The emphasis in all of this is balance - use too much force with the wrong muscle group, and down I tumble.

Third, there is Moral life, usually covered in church. Charlotte Mason thought it was important that the parents be a child's primary instructors in Religion. Bible and Moral Object lessons are the first on the daily sample schedules, every day of the week. How many families do you know where the only religious instruction is that someone drives the children to Sunday School and drops them off (or loads them on the first bus past the door)? Sometimes the parents come back for church service, more often they don't, and the family Bible is covered with dust? A dear Pastor I had once said that his father drove him to church every Sunday, and chose the church based on its location across the State line in a 'wet' State so that he could (and did) spend Sunday morning in a bar. This Pastor was married and a prosperous businessman with children of his own before he entered a church again, when he and his wife decided their children ought to attend Sunday School. The church happened to be a good one, he got saved and was called to preach.

At various times we have been overloaded in any of the three areas, and have had to take steps to redistribute the load. When we found ourselves overloaded with church, we had to learn to say no, to not participate in all the activities our church offers. When we found ourselves doing homework at midnight, there had to be some modification in lessons. And when we spent all of our time in the car going to sports activities, we had to set limits.

A few Questions

How do you find the point of balance in your home? I admit freely that my load is out of balance and may tumble at any moment. Are you also finding one area to be too well covered, or not enough?

If one area is out of balance, do the others rapidly also fail?

Tell us how you plan your Bible and Moral studies? What materials have you found that work well at home, with mixed age groups, with teens? How do you manage your personal Bible study time?

How do you ensure balance in physical training? Do your children participate in groups activities such as team sports in season? Does your family take long bicycle trips together? Do you plan your daily walks to cover a variety of terrain?

And how do you maintain balance in intellectual pursuits? if your child is musically gifted, playing multiple instruments, do you emphasize music practice or do you widen the number of subjects he is to study each day? When he is rehearsing for the orchestra production do you insist he finish his math and German lessons? (OK, that's a loaded question, but I know such a child.)

Enough - let us hear from you!

Lynn H


Topics #9 (a spiritual organism) and #10 (such a doctrine)

It works out well that I approach these two together, because they are opposite sides of a single concept. Charlotte Mason dealt with them in a single chapter of Volume 6 - see chapter VII beginning on page 112. The two are :

9. We hold that the child's mind is no mere sac to hold ideas; but is rather, if the figure may be allowed, a spiritual organism, with an appetite for all knowledge. This is its proper diet, with which it is prepared to deal; and which it can digest and assimilate as the body does foodstuffs.

10. Such a doctrine as e.g. the Herbartian, that the mind is a receptacle, lays the stress of education (the preparation of knowledge in enticing morsels duly ordered) upon the teacher. Children taught on this principle are in danger of receiving much teaching with little knowledge; and the teacher's axiom is ,' what a child learns matters less than how he learns it."

In her common way of setting up thoughts in order to find the faults within them, CM begins with a detailed consideration of Herbartian theory. Volume 6 is not the only place she deals with him - you will find more in Volume 3. Herbart was a major German Education Philosopher - I had to read much of him in my own college training. Herbart is VERY popular in modern circles - the idea that the "How" is more important than the "What" extends not only through the children's education but also through the teachers! It is considered that a teacher can teach anything by simply knowing the method. Imagine that - a math teacher no longer needs to know math, but only how to pass out the worksheets and guide the children through them....

It amazes me that the same people who seriously believe this stuff, can turn around and with a straight face say that parents are not qualified to teach their own children.

Does the Herbartian school have ANY validity? Is it possible to pour facts into a mind, to form that mind out of the information?

Or, let us look at the flip side - the spiritual organism whose proper food is ideas. IF this mind is a spirit, and ideas are things of the spirit yet related to solid facts, then can we possibly teach facts without reaching, without utilizing the spirit?

I would much prefer that my mind 'grow fat' upon ideas! Sergeant Friday's "Just the facts", is not for me. I deal in facts with Science, yet the facts are only the anchor for the idea.

I recently tried to read a novel that was given to me. The author may write excellent English, probably better than my own, yet I was bored, exhausted reading it. I gave up, tossed it aside and took up the books I had in my bag : "The Deerslayer", "The Iliad", and "In Search of Schrodinger's Cat". These books are not easy reading! Yet, I found them relaxing! The early adventures of Natty Bumpo eased my tired mind and took me out of my sickbed (don't get excited, it's just a miserable cold). To me, the highest point of the book was when Hetty answered the Indian with "Let God be true and every man a liar!".

The Iliad touched me with the pathos of tragedy, with the details of the lives ruined. The science essays in Schrodinger's Cat stretch my mind. I don't agree with many things in these books, but they are FULL of ideas. When I read these my mind churns for hours with interesting conjecture. I read in several books at once, keeping one in my bag and others where I may be. I don't seem to have any trouble, any confusion as I go from one to another.

Tell me, is it important to know the names and origins of the ships and men at Troy? If not, why did Homer spend pages and stanzas of his epic listing them with descriptions? Remember - this was an ORAL work. To recite this poem was the work of days, of an incredible memory. I remember many of the details even now, yet I was not reading with the sort of concentration expected of a CM student. The details remain in my mind because they were the anchor points of the poem. I am reading a prose version, yet the idea excites.

Schrodinger's Cat is a collection of popularized articles (meaning magazine-style rather than research reports or textbooks) about quantum physics. Even as magazine level, this is heavy stuff. Does it really matter, it asks, whether the cat in the box is alive or not? Can there exist a state where the cat is actually in limbo until someone looks? Does the tree falling in the forest make noise? These are real questions, and quantum physics is the Science where the answers matter. Now tell me, are these facts we are dealing with - or Ideas?

Herbart would hand me a list of the men and ships; a mathematical treatment of the equations of quarks; Bible catechism to memorize to answer the questions of unbelievers. Somehow, I doubt the facts, just the facts, would stick in my mind any better than they did in Hetty's ; yet the truth of the Idea certainly reaches the minds!

Topics for discussion

Tell us some ideas that have reached your children's minds (or your own).

Tell us some facts that have done the same. It is possible to find ideas in facts - where have you found them?

What are you reading now, or have just finished reading, that has reached your mind with a new idea?

IF this mind is a spirit, and ideas are things of the spirit yet related to solid facts, then can we possibly teach facts without reaching, without utilizing the spirit?

Lynn H

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CMason Notes Lynn's CMason Notes pages.

Click to Go To Our Home Education Resources Table
A huge set of links and information, sorted by area and sometimes by grade level.

Click to Go To Lynn's Unofficial Charlotte Mason Booklist Page Hundreds of my favorite titles, by grade/age and sometimes by subject.

Is Charlotte Mason Unschooling? An essay by Lynn Hocraffer.

Click to Go To Lynn's High School Page Lynn's personal notes on using CM for High School.

Click to Go To "Meet the Lady" Lynn's personal notes studying the Original Charlotte Mason Home Education Series.

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