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    Educational Philosophy, Home Education, Mother's Education

    Mom the Teacher: The Inside Matters Most

    June 8, 2012 by Brandy Vencel

    I ‘ve been reading through Susan Schaeffer Macaulay’s For the Children’s Sake lately. Our local CM mother’s group (we call it the CM Primer) is reading portions of both Macaulay, as well as Miss Mason’s own sixth volume, as we work our way through the 20 principles. This has been great fun so far.

    I really like Macaulay. I haven’t read much outside material (other than blogs, of course) on Charlotte Mason. I began with, and have always preferred, the original works and the Parents’ Review articles. My perception is that a lot of books on Mason’s philosophy make out this type of education as either overly gentle (meaning not rigorous and almost student-led) or overly Victorian (lots of pinks, flowers, and making of embroidery samplers).

    Not that I’m against samplers.

    Who we are -- whether we are really interested in the thing at hand -- does more to determine our success as teachers than all the best books and tools.

    Macaulay, however, seems true to Miss Mason. It’s not too pink or too easy or too anything. It just is in the way that Miss Mason’s own work always has been. And so I appreciate that.

    One of the things that stuck out to me as I was reading through the second chapter earlier this week was the emphasis on the mother.

    [T]he child puts all his little books and papers away, and turns his full attention to the adult. She will now be the medium through which he can “read” real books (not second-rate books).

    Perhaps she reads a short portion from Pilgrim’s Progress. She must, of course, be a person who wants to understand and enjoy this herself. (p. 37)

    And also:

    There is only one problem that I can see. The adult, whether teacher or parent, has to be able to enjoy and understand what he or she is reading with the children. (p. 39)

    It is really easy to think that all I need to do is organize a great curriculum (or just use the fantastic free one offered by AmblesideOnline).  I can buy all the supplies and books, format a perfect schedule, and execute it in good time, being done-by-lunch-of-course.

    Macaulay reminds me of the Apostle Paul here. All of these things are a clanging gong without the love.

    And the love comes from the inside, and the love is something we can’t organize into existence. We can’t fake it, and we can’t manufacture it.

    We can’t buy it.

    For me, at least, the love often disappears when I get caught up in the hustle in bustle of life. For all the temptations to indulge and enjoy in this world, I find I really can’t savor anything if I don’t slow down first. This includes school hours. How can I think deeply or enjoy a book when my soul is racing at 100 miles per hour and thinking more about my list of things to do than the reality right in front of me?

    I keep thinking about this in relation to next year. I don’t really like kindergarten, and I often try to refuse to do it, but child after child of mine seems to want it. I asked Q-Age-Five the other day what she would want if I could give her anything. I was expecting a trip to get ice cream, just the two of us. Or maybe a movie.

    She said, “Longer school.”


    Against my will, then, I will have three students next year. Yes, I will keep kindergarten short and sweet and there will be plenty of hours for running and playing. Of course. But the reality is that just thinking about adding a student makes me quaver.

    I am such a wimp.

    When I had only one student, I delighted in every single lesson. As life becomes more and more of a whirlwind, it is harder and harder to maintain a demeanor of delight.

    And there is a big chance that the delight is one of the things that matters most.

    As I said , for me the love is directly tied to slowing down and savoring. I don’t do well on adrenaline. I guess Josef Pieper was right, after all.

    The key to my success next year, then, will likely lie in beginning from a place of rest.

    But I repeat myself.

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  • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts June 10, 2012 at 5:10 am

    re: keeping up the passion

    I think we have to shoot for a long obedience in the same direction here {which might be one of the only wise ideas Nietzsche had}. What I mean by that is I don’t think fits of passion are our aim. Those are easy enough to come by, I think. But ongoing interest has a number of facets, I think. For instance, the *habit* of taking an interest. I think that most of us {and I include myself here} have a habit of disregard by the time we have children. I now force myself to stop what I’m doing if, for instance, they see an owl visiting our property. This is a good habit for me.

    I also think that two things have helped me when I *didn’t* naturally have an affection for something that I needed to teach: exposure to someone who *did* have that love and getting enough rest. As far as the former goes, I think we all know that people with a passion for something tend to be contagious. So my approach has been to find someone who is willing to contaminate me! 🙂 The latter–the rest part–may be peculiar to me and my own constitution, but I just know that when I am tired out, I do not have the energy to develop new interests and taking an interest becomes difficult.

    This means that when we have newborns we have to wing it as best as we can, of course. At least, that is what I did.

    • Reply ...they call me mommy... June 11, 2012 at 7:49 pm

      Excellent points, Brandy!!! 🙂 And *gulp* about making a habit of interest…you mean, I have to listen to Miss Mason myself?! 😉

  • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts June 10, 2012 at 5:03 am

    I will have to look at R&S then. Thanks for the suggestion!

  • Reply Ordo-Amoris June 9, 2012 at 1:34 pm

    I used the Rod and Staff preschool workbooks to fulfill that need to DO school in the little ones. They didn’t see that they were in school already. But while looking through all those old bins I noticed I had happy memories of those workbooks.

  • Reply ...they call me mommy... June 9, 2012 at 1:59 am

    Great post. Ouch. I have an *almost* 5 year old wanting some more “school”…gulp. I can totally relate! I go in spurts definitely with the delight myself…how does one keep up the passion?!!!

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