Educational Philosophy, Mother's Education

Myth: Charlotte Mason’s philosophy can be well understood through secondary sources.

October 31, 2014

[dropcap]C[/dropcap]an you believe this is the last day of October? This series has turned out to be an amazing gift to the Charlotte Mason community, and I am so incredibly grateful to the fantastic team of guest posters. I cannot tell you how much fun it was to read each post as it arrived in my inbox, and to stay up at night formatting them, all the while knowing how much you all were going to love them.

Today’s myth brings us full circle to where we started. On the first day, I wrote this:

[I]f we all made it a point to really study the philosophy and read original sources, there would be far fewer myths floating around out there.

I firmly believe this.

When I came up with the idea for this series, I asked a few friends to list the CM myths that they regularly encountered, and we only made it up to about 20. I knew that if I was really going to pull off a 31 Days series, I needed to have a complete list before we began.

Want to know how I discovered the other myths?

By reading some popular CM blog posts that I found on Pinterest.

I know, I know. I probably shouldn’t say this. In my defense, I went there hoping to discover myths and misconceptions that these posts were refuting, thinking I could cover them, too. Instead, I found posts that were propagating myths about all sorts of Charlotte Mason topics.

I’m a big picture person {an INTP, if you’re into MBTI}, and so when I stepped back and looked at my final list, I realized that almost every single myth had one of two origins: reading secondary sources without knowledge of Charlotte Mason’s original writings, or taking a passage of an original writing out of the context of the whole of Charlotte Mason’s work.

 

Does this mean secondary sources are bad?

Good heavens, no! But it does mean that they are incomplete. My very, very favorite secondary source is Susan Schaeffer Macauley’s For the Children’s Sake, but even she does not make it thoroughly through all of Charlotte Mason’s 20 Principles.

Secondary sources are often good introductions. Or they can be an encouragement in hard times. They inspire us with contemporary application. They have many uses, and I, personally, am very much in favor of them. And I suppose I am a secondary source, seeing as I just published an entire series about Charlotte Mason!

But I think we need to understand the limitations.

Let’s use a Biblical analogy. If all I ever did was read secondary sources about the Bible, without reading the Bible itself, I wouldn’t be able to separate Biblical fact from an author’s opinion. We can only distinguish truth from opinion or elaboration when we are very familiar with the original.

And that is a passion I have: that we know the original. I think it’s important for any subject that is dear to our hearts — for the Bible as Christians, and for educational philosophy as teachers and tutors for our children.

I love to write and think about Charlotte Mason’s philosophy. But I don’t want you to just take my word for it. Read her for yourself.

 

Which brings me to my formerly Top Secret project.

Off and on during the summer, I mentioned I was “working on things.” One of the “things” is a study guide called Start Here: A Journey Through Charlotte Mason’s 20 Principles. Right before we started the series, I realized that it would perfectly dovetail with where I wanted this series to lead us: to the original.

So when I say 31 Days has worn. me. out. {and it has}, it’s not just the series itself, but it’s the entire process of getting this study guide ready for the last day.

There are other ways to read the original Charlotte Mason, of course. You could grab one of her volumes and read it from cover to cover. That is how I started, and it was certainly beneficial.

It took me years to realize that the 20 Principles were Charlotte Mason’s way of distilling her entire, beautiful philosophy into its 20 most important aspects. These aren’t small things — they are some of the greatest thoughts we can think about the education of children.

Using Susan Schaeffer Macauley’s wonderful book, For the Children’s Sake, along with Miss Mason’s volumes, articles that appeared in Miss Mason’s magazine The Parents’ Review, the best blog posts on these subjects, and discussion questions meant to help you dig deeply, you’ll find that Start Here is a comprehensive guide to the big ideas governing Charlotte Mason’s philosophy. While there are a handful of blog posts in each lesson, the emphasis is upon the primary sources. Because it includes required reading assignments, as well as optional, and also sample discussion questions, the guide will work for groups as well as individuals wanting to study more on their own.

 

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