I ‘ve spent a lot of time over the past six or eight weeks thinking about Charlotte Mason’s Mother’s Education Course, and also her teacher training. Around the time I started thinking about it, it was also being discussed on the AO Forum. A group of moms were asking for something like that for themselves.
In many ways, we already have this sort of thing, we just don’t see it for what it is. What am I talking about? I’m talking about AO itself! I owe so much of my education to AO, and I don’t mean the upper years. I mean that I am a better person — a more educated person — even because of AO Year 1.
In another sense, AO alone isn’t enough to train teachers. And really, if we’re honest, that is what we are when we declare ourselves headmistresses of our homeschools.
Nancy Kelly was kind enough to post a photo from the Mother’s Education Course. In the photo we see that the course covers things like divinity (theology?), psychology/health, psychology/moral development/educational philosophy, and nature lore and basic science.
When mothers were teaching Miss Mason’s curriculum in their own homes, they took this course. Did you know that?
That alone is fascinating and shows that she expected — and received — a lot from mothers.
But before you start to feel like this is a lot of pressure on you or something, take a deep breath. This isn’t about putting more on your To Do list.
I once heard a complaint about CM education. The person liked the idea, but didn’t like that there was so much study that seemed to be required. Why could we not just buy some books and read them? What was the big deal?
Well, in a sense, we can buy some books and read them with our students, but one of the things that sets Charlotte Mason apart is that she seems to think that the best teachers — her teachers — teach from overflow.
What do I mean?
It is probably best that Miss Mason explain this herself. My sweet friend Naomi was kind enough to type up a letter from Miss Mason written to L’Umile Pianta (the magazine for the alumni of her teacher’s college) in 1896. In it, Miss Mason gives two pieces of advice: read, and study:
Read, not only in the Book, which one cannot read without many life-giving thoughts, but almost any good book, poetry, biography, history, essays, good novels, — all will supply our need. You will find that if we read thoughtfully and steadily and only that which is worth reading, daily nourishment of stimulating thought will come to us; and, however foreign the subject may be, what we read, if it is worth reading, will help us to do our work better and will give us fresh thoughts to impart to the children.
I fear I am exceeding the space allowed to me so will offer just one other little word of counsel — study. I know that all good teachers have some study each day in preparing for the next day’s work, but, besides this, study some two or three subjects, definitely on your own account. Do not think this a selfish thing to do, because the advantage does not end with yourself. Every hour of definite study enriches your mind and increases your power, so that, the more you study in your spare time, the more there is in you to bestow upon your pupils.
Miss Mason’s teachers were students. By this I don’t mean that they were learning alongside the students in their classes, though I’m sure they were. What I mean is that Miss Mason was not much concerned with classroom management and technique. She was concerned that her teachers have the heart of the scholar, that they themselves came to embody the philosophy.
When I say they were students, I mean this in the sense of identity, or as a description of the sort of persons they were.
This means that the CM teacher — the CM homeschool teacher, too — was characterized by a love and increasing possession of knowledge, by wonder and delight, and therefore by humility.
I have some ideas on how we can go about doing this that I’ve been pondering. I’ll be posting more as these ideas develop. After we’re done with the progym series (which will recommence next week), I’m going to start a new series on how to become a CM teacher.
Or something like that.
Until then, if studying two or three subjects sounds overwhelming, how about … one? Grab a book you already own, that you keep meaning to read, and read it. That is just one idea I have.
Like I said, my ideas are still developing.
In the meantime: you are not selfish if you spend some time in study. It is out of the overflow that we teach.
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