Educational Philosophy, Mother's Education

Becoming a Charlotte Mason Teacher in a Utilitarian World

September 8, 2014 by Brandy Vencel

The next couple posts in this series, as we finish things up, are going to be very practical. I plan to spend one post discussing all the possibilities, in light of what we’ve learned about the self-education engaged in by Miss Mason and her PNEU teachers. In the other post, I’ll share what I actually do, and how that changes with the seasons.


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But right now, before I talk about the practical, I want to discuss the impractical — or, at least, the not-immediately-practical.

I think it’s really, really important to get at the heart of this. It’s easy to look at all of this and just see the immediate — the fact that all of these are things we can do to know more.

And it’s good to know more. I don’t know about you, but I like knowing more.

I said “in a utilitarian world,” and I do think that is the case. The world wants to see immediate benefit. So if we say “do X and you will know more” it seems to fit in with that scheme of things.

But the ultimate goal is so much more than that.

The truth is, “do X, and you just might be different on the other side of it.”

You might be transformed.

This is about the heart. We don’t do all of this so that we can simply know more stuff. Google knows it all, and we can look it up. Knowing more for the sake of knowing more probably just breeds pride.

Do you remember the original quote that (accidentally) started this series?

Likewise, I say, we have not come to this table in order to know (or to merely know). We have come in order to be transformed. We’ve come to learn how to live.

I had this tennis instructor in college. She was old, as far as tennis instructors go (in her 70s, probably), but she was spunky and she would say she tried to learn one new thing each day because when you stop learning, you start dying.

That’s the key: learning is living, and living is being transformed. The only other alternative is decay.

Dr. George Grant once remarked that education is repentance. This is still one of my favorite thoughts about education — not just in regard to our children, but in regard to the self-education we’ve been discussing here. Dr. Grant wrote:

It is a humble admission that we’ve not read all that we need to read, we don’t know all that we need to know, and we’ve not yet become all that we are called to become. Education is that unique form of discipleship that brings us to the place of admitting our inadequacies. It is that remarkable rebuke of autonomy and independence so powerful and so evident that we actually shut up and pay heed for a change.

If you go down this road, you will not be the same person you were before. I cannot tell you how different I am from that 20-something young woman who first read Charlotte Mason so many years ago. I had no idea that everything would be different. But I learned one thing: I was wrong. I was wrong about what I knew (or thought I knew). I was wrong about what I thought in regard to education. I was wrong about the best way to spend my time.

I was wrong on so much.

And thus I began the long road of repentance known as education.

The majority of my “learning” before that was about being right, rather than realizing where I was wrong.

And I’m still wrong oh so often. It doesn’t change. You just realize you’re wrong about stuff that didn’t catch your attention earlier on.

I’m part of a little group that meets to discuss a book we’re reading, and just this past time I left the meeting with a mental list of the different things I needed to change because my practices in regard to my youngest child were not what they ought to be.

Education centers on that word ought. A real education does, anyhow. It’s about the should. It’s about coming to terms with both reality as well as the ideal.

So I have a blessing for you as you commit yourself — or recommit yourself — to this journey we call self-education:

May you be wrong.

A thousand times and more.

And may you repent.

And at the end of the journey, may you have wisdom.

Because, after all, this is life … and we’re just learning how to live it.

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2 Comments

  • Reply How to Move Forward | Afterthoughts June 20, 2019 at 8:33 pm

    […] George Grant once said that education is repentance. He wrote: […]

  • Reply Heather February 23, 2019 at 11:12 am

    This is excellent. Thank you!

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