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    The Liberal Arts Tradition: Classically Charlotte Mason

    June 22, 2015 by Brandy Vencel

    When I first started saying that this blog is for the classical, Charlotte Mason mama, I got a bit of pushback from a couple corners of the blogosphere. And, honestly, it is hard to convince people that Charlotte Mason’s philosophy is part of the classical tradition when they assume that the essence of classicism is viewing the Trivium — three of the seven liberal arts — as developmental stages. (This is why Karen Glass’ book on the subject was so necessary.)

    Sometimes, it can be hard to see the connections between two works because there is a bit of a language barrier. That's where this series comes in.

    Mystie shared a bit with me about Kevin Clark and Ravi Jain’s book The Liberal Arts Tradition, and I was intrigued. I had this hunch that it was expressing a philosophy very similar to Charlotte Mason’s — and that it might do for the classical community what Karen Glass’ book has done — and is still doing — for the Charlotte Mason community. Now that I have my own copy (courtesy of Classical Academic Press, thankyouverymuch!), I am thoroughly enjoying the connections between the two. They are everywhere, while the differences (so far) are few and far between.

    Sometimes, it can be hard to see the connections between two works like these because there is a bit of a language barrier. If two people describe something similar, but use very different words for it, they can appear to disagree — or be talking about different things — on the surface.

    That’s where this new series comes in. As I’m (slowly) reading through The Liberal Arts Tradition, I’m going to try and build a language bridge. It isn’t that I want to make all the connections for you — that would be stealing your fun! Instead, I want to focus on some of the similarities, especially in areas where it might be hard to see the connection due to the language barrier.

    I think it will be a bit of an adventure, and my hope is that it will add one more tie between classical and Charlotte Mason educators — which is important to me since when someone asks me if I am a classical or Charlotte Mason educator, my answer is, “yes.” 😉

    If you want to read along, then go ahead and order yourself a copy of The Liberal Arts Tradition. I plan to publish my first post next Monday. I’d enjoy hearing your connections, too!

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  • Reply SS #03: The Wonder-Based Classical Co-op | Scholé Sisters February 26, 2016 at 1:09 am

    […] Brandy’s blog series on The Liberal Arts Tradition […]

  • Reply Stephanie C. January 29, 2016 at 2:14 pm

    Phew! What a marathon reading session I just had here, and how refreshing and exciting it was! Thank you for taking the time to summarize and synthesize so many great works. Several of the books you quoted are now in my Amazon shopping cart.

    Now that I’m inspired, I still find myself wondering how I can implement these ideals with my three-year-old son. We have a very short (15 minutes or so) school time, where we sing, pray, talk about the calendar/weather, trace a sand-paper letter, count whatever random set of objects happens to be around us, and read a book (then go back through and point out different things together). Sometimes I’ll have a related fine- or gross-motor or sensory activity, but we just do this whenever during the day. He’s really enjoying it thus far, and it makes me feel “accomplished.” 🙂

    So yey academics.

    But here is where I’m concerned. I don’t want him to be the kid who could do algebra and read Shakespeare in kindergarten (or whatever) but whose heart I have not won. Who perhaps maintains a natural curiosity until Mom shows an interest in it and then, for contrariness’s sake, turns away. How can I prepare him minimally in academics but maximally in having an open heart to wisdom AND to Mama (or Papa)?

    I think I’m just freaking out because he’s three and it seems like he is suddenly enjoying doing the exact opposite of what we want him to. All. day. long. I don’t want to dismiss it as, “Oh, it’s just the threenager coming out,” if I am actually doing something that is causing his heart to close to us.

    Sorry this is somewhat off-topic. I’m just reading all your amazing posts and going, “But what if my kid is the one who doesn’t want to take nature hikes or find wonder in things just because I’m the one who is asking him to do it??? Much less study Latin and Euclid!”

    And I’ll wrap up with that. Otherwise I could ramble for quite a while longer. 😉

  • Reply Sharron September 23, 2015 at 12:33 pm

    Thanks for the nudge. We’ve bought the books but haven’t really taken the plunge yet.

  • Reply Beauty in the Word: Catholicism and Charlotte Mason (A Series) | FIRST HERALDS September 16, 2015 at 4:51 pm

    […] of Education is my new favorite book on education theory.  Inspired by Brandy Vencel and her chapter-by-chapter discussion of The Liberal Arts Tradition (a book I have not read, but I intend to do so after following Brandy), I will do the same for […]

  • Reply Abbey July 10, 2015 at 10:50 am

    I just saw this in the Schole Sisters newsletter, so I’m late to the party…but I’m excited to try to catch up! Thanks for doing this, Brandy. I’ve been wanting to read this book for a while.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel July 10, 2015 at 1:40 pm

      Not very late. 🙂 Maybe the party doesn’t start until you arrive? 😉 Do you have a copy? The next post will cover the gymnastic chapter — that comes after piety. 🙂

  • Reply Jennifer June 27, 2015 at 6:46 pm

    So glad you are doing this Brandy!!! Yay!

    • Reply Brandy Vencel June 27, 2015 at 7:53 pm

      Just promise me you’ll discuss with me. 🙂

  • Reply Amber Vanderpol June 24, 2015 at 12:23 pm

    I’m looking forward to this series, Brandy. I’ve eyed this book before but I haven’t read it. The $6.95 Kindle version is looking very tempting at the moment… 🙂

    • Reply Brandy Vencel June 24, 2015 at 8:33 pm

      I try not to tempt others, but that IS a good price. 😉

  • Reply Carol June 23, 2015 at 10:09 pm

    I dare not buy another book until I finish some I’ve had waiting for me to turn my attention to but I’ll be following the posts on this one with interest.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel June 24, 2015 at 8:29 pm

      I hear you on the book buying. Someday, you all will hear that I died in an earthquake that tipped my book pile over on me and the rest, as they say, was history. 😉

  • Reply Jen Snow June 22, 2015 at 6:08 pm

    I read this last year right after I finished reading Charlotte Mason’s Volume 3 and was astounded by all the connections I made. Karen’s book came out right after that and further concluded everything that I had been thinking as I read those other two. I won’t be reading along right now (too many other things on my pile at the moment), but I look forward to following along with your thoughts on it given my experiences reading it last year.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel June 22, 2015 at 6:35 pm

      So what ARE you reading right now? That is what I want to know. 🙂

      • Reply Jen Snow June 23, 2015 at 6:12 am

        Dare I admit that I am binging on Elizabeth Goudge? It IS summer after all. 😀 I’m also trying to finish Beowulf and How to Read a Book, and re-reading When Children Love to Learn. So, really not a whole lot, but my brain is kinda tired at the moment. International moves will do that to you….

        • Reply Brandy Vencel June 23, 2015 at 7:08 am

          You know, I actually have meant to do a Goudge summer sometime…I think it’s a great thing to do! 🙂

        • Reply Kelly June 23, 2015 at 8:56 am

          Elizabeth Goudge is an excellent writer — nothing to be ashamed of. My favorite light reading is children’s literature by authors like Goudge, Rumer Godden, Diana Wynne Jones, George MacDonald, Andrew Lang . . . wholesome and nourishing, but easily digested.

          • Brandy Vencel June 24, 2015 at 8:28 pm

            I have only read one Goudge, but I totally agree that she can be read unapologetically. 🙂

  • Reply Kelly June 22, 2015 at 1:49 pm

    I may join you — I read it really quickly last year and didn’t have anyone to talk about it with. If I can make the time to reread it more slowly I’ll join in. Loved this book.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel June 22, 2015 at 3:25 pm

      Yay. I love to have you around, Kelly. You know that. 🙂

      • Reply Kelly June 23, 2015 at 8:49 am

        It’s nice to be told, though. 😀

        • Reply Brandy Vencel June 24, 2015 at 8:27 pm


  • Reply Julia June 22, 2015 at 6:51 am

    I read this book last year and couldn’t even finish it because I didn’t like it. After hearing everyone else in the blog world rave about it I am beginning to think there is something wrong with me. 🙂 I have been thinking about tackling it again and I would love to read it alongside you. Maybe going slowly with commentary will change my thoughts on it.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel June 22, 2015 at 7:10 am

      Yay! Yes, come along with us, Julia. 🙂

      And I think it is okay if, at the end, you still don’t like it. Some of the ideas will be really worth discussing, I think, regardless. We can’t all like everything. 🙂

    • Reply Karen @ The Simply Blog June 22, 2015 at 1:36 pm

      I recently bought this book because I’ve been wanting to read more about the liberal arts, the trivium, and quadrivium. After reading some of it, my husband and I both found that there were some things we didn’t fully agree with. But I am really glad you are going to do this series Brandy because I’d like to hear others’ thoughts on this book. I have read at least half the book, maybe a bit more (it’s hard to tell because I’m reading the e-book, not a print copy). I’m on the Astronomy portion of the Quadrivium section.

      Looking forward to this series Brandy and to hearing what others thoughts are. 🙂

      • Reply Brandy Vencel June 22, 2015 at 3:24 pm

        I’m happy to know there will be some people around here that don’t agree with everything, because I think that makes for a much better discussion. I look forward to it. And, honestly, I haven’t read it all yet, so there very well may be parts I don’t agree with, either!

  • Reply Dawn June 22, 2015 at 6:20 am

    Alright, alright. I’m in! I never can resist your enthusiasm, Brandy, and since I’ve had this book on my “to read” shelf for several months at this point I’m pulling it off and adding it to my “currently reading” stack.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel June 22, 2015 at 7:02 am

      Yay! It moved stacks! It’s called “getting sucked in,” Dawn. 🙂

  • Reply Heather M June 22, 2015 at 5:51 am

    What chapters do you think you will cover next week? Sounds like a fun series. 🙂

    • Reply Brandy Vencel June 22, 2015 at 5:55 am

      Actually, what I want to focus on next week is mainly the picture of the tree that illustrates the whole philosophy, so I won’t even get to the piety chapter…when I said slowly, I wasn’t kidding. 😉

      • Reply dawn June 22, 2015 at 6:10 am

        I love that tree!

        • Reply Brandy Vencel June 22, 2015 at 7:01 am

          Me, too!

  • Reply dawn June 22, 2015 at 3:12 am

    I agree. This book was instrumental in my leaving the neoclassical ed world for CM, a classical education. Looking forward to your reading of it … Especially some of what I thought were the more difficult chapters.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel June 22, 2015 at 5:53 am

      Well, I was going to try and skip the hard parts, Dawn. 😉

      • Reply dawn June 22, 2015 at 6:11 am

        My guess is that you won’t find them as challenging as I did.

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