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    Educational Philosophy, Mother's Education

    Philosophy is for Lovers

    October 14, 2015 by Brandy Vencel

    I was  a tiny bit nervous about continuing this series through the latter portions of The Liberal Arts Tradition. There is a sense in which, while we are traveling up the tree, we are also traveling through an age range. And so, while piety, for example, is always necessary, it’s best to lay that foundation as early as possible. Likewise, the Trivium and Quadrivium come, at least formally, in the older years. I guess I was thinking that philosophy was for adults.

    Philosophy is for Lovers

    Part of me wishes I had read this section before I spoke at the conference last month. It dovetailed so nicely with my What’s Love Got to Do with It? talk that I could have quoted it liberally (and likely saved myself some time spent researching). And I was taken aback — how in the world did I miss that most important clue, lying in plain sight in the word philosophy itself?

    This is my heart, you know — the idea that in order to truly know we must come to care. It’s been the driving thought for me this year. Naturally, then, this quote jumped right off the page at me:

    [B]y joining philia (love) with sophia (wisdom) the ancients held together what we moderns often separate, namely, the seemingly subjective quality of love with the often objectified idea of truth.

    It turns out philosophy is the ultimate marriage of knowing and caring, and I totally missed that before!

    [T]he ancients understood that it is not enough merely to possess wisdom — as if one could in fact possess knowledge purely objectively or dispassionately — one must actually love it and pursue it from the soul.

    And, of course, Charlotte Mason is right there in agreement, for she considered the level of care to be the ultimate test of an education’s success:

    The question is not, — how much does the youth know? when he has finished his education — but how much does he care? and about how many orders of things does he care?

    The Divisions of Philosophy

    I had worried about whether Charlotte Mason would have anything to say to us in regard to this chapter, but my fears were completely unfounded. It turns out, she was totally tracking.

    The Liberal Arts Tradition explains that philosophy is divided thus:

    The area of philosophy devoted to comprehending the eternal and spiritual truths was called divine philosophy (its synonym was metaphysics). The branch of philosophy that pursued man as God’s image, both in his being and his relationships, was termed moral philosophy. Finally, the kind of philosophy devoted to exploring causes in the realm of nature, the world of God’s creation, was natural philosophy.

    Turns out, these are Charlotte Mason’s three sorts of knowledge proper to a child:

    First and chiefest is the knowledge of God, to be got at most directly through the Bible; then comes the knowledge of man, to be got through history, literature, art, civics, ethics, biography, the drama, and languages; and lastly, so much knowledge of the universe as shall explain to some extent the phenomena we are familiar with and give a naming acquaintance at any rate with birds and flowers, stars and stones; nor can this knowledge of the universe be carried far in any direction without the ordering of mathematics.

    Her categories are more broadly defined, as you can see — and yet the parallel is striking. In both passages, we see the knowledge of Godthe knowledge of man, and the knowledge of the universe. In Charlotte Mason’s passage, we see the categories as they apply to children, whereas with The Liberal Arts Tradition, I think we are seeing the more mature version — the version fit for the grown, or at least nearly so.

    Either way, I was really excited to, once again, witness the philosophy of The Liberal Arts Tradition come together so nicely with Charlotte Mason. It is so refreshing to me to see a new education book reviving the ideal of love as a necessary companion of knowlege. I have read so many newish pedagogy and educational philosophy books, and while they may emphasize the importance of children “enjoying” themselves, they always miss the central importance of caring — of loving — when it comes to learning. I love that The Liberal Arts Tradition is paving the way for a revival of this old ideal!

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  • Reply The Liberal Arts Tradition: Classically Charlotte Mason | Afterthoughts August 24, 2019 at 3:42 pm

    […] Philosophy is for Lovers […]

  • Reply Erika October 18, 2015 at 11:26 pm

    I have just started looking at classical homeschool methodology this year and have been excited to see that it is far more than method, but is truly a philosophy. I feel like it says what I have felt in a way that I could never have articulated on my own. Through my exploration, I have also been looking into CM and have begun reading her writings. I have been greatly helped by you ladies at Schole Sisters and can’t thank you all enough for the work you do, bringing your real life home schools and your insights into both life and your guiding philosophies to the world of the web.

    One thing has me a little confused. In my explorations, I see references to classical and CM as two different methods/philosophies. From the little I have learned so far, though, it seems to me that CM would fit right within the classical tradition. If this is so, then why are they so often described as separate entities? And if this is not the case, what is the distinction between them?

    • Reply Brandy Vencel October 19, 2015 at 9:14 am

      Erika! Welcome to Afterthoughts. 🙂

      I think that the division is caused more by the way history unfolded than anything else. When CM was brought to the US and applied {through people like Susan Macauley, Catherine Levinson, and Karen Andreola}, it was brought as its own separate thing rather than a possible application of an ancient thing. CM’s ideas were so fresh and new that I don’t think, initially, there was much interest in *where* they came from {even though she herself says that the vast majority of her writings contain “nothing new”}. At least, that is the impression I get from what I know of the history. I have met some CMers who are very resistant to allowing their beloved Charlotte to be called a classical educator, and so the resistance comes from both sides of the aisle, I think!

      And then, on the other hand, neoclassical education in the US {meaning applying the Trivium to developmental stages} also arose in isolation. Some magazine reprinted Dorothy Sayers fundraising speech called The Lost Tools of Learning, and then said “no one will ever do this” and Doug Wilson took that as a challenge and now we have a network of neoclassical schools here in the US.

      CM has much less in common with neoclassicism than the classicism we read about in books like The Liberal Arts Tradition, and I think therein lies the difficulty. Only 10 years ago, most people still took neoclassicism to be representative of what has always been done and thought, and saw the difference between that and CM {which is a real thing}, and decided they were two separate things. It is only in recovering the more ancient works — things that, like Charlotte Mason, predate Dorothy Sayers, that we see how CM fits in with the larger picture of classical education throughout history.

      I think of classical education throughout history as a big thing, and CM is one philosopher within that tradition. What makes her pertinent to our day, I think, is that she was working within a more modern context, and also taught thousands of real students, and so her examples are easier for us to grasp and follow than some philosophers who were all theorists and never taught real children — or who were only working at the university level and were never making applications for children in the first place, or who were in such an ancient time that it is hard for us to make applications.

      Anyhow, to make something too long longer {ha}, I think that there was a division, but now authors like Clark and Jain are inadvertently remarrying the two {meaning CM and classicism}.

      • Reply Erika October 19, 2015 at 4:14 pm

        Thank you so much for the explanation! That makes total sense. So it is really only newbies to both of these traditions, like myself, who are being led straight to CM and Clark & Jain that can possibly be confused by the distinction!

        I was homeschooled myself, so my mom was one of the early homeschoolers trying to figure things out with a decided lack of resources. I am grateful to a) have this foundation to start from as I already have experience with what works for me and what doesn’t, and b) to have such amazing resources available these days and guidance to go along with it. I am so excited to be able to do this with my children from the beginning and to get the education I dream of right alongside them. Although I imagine I am probably finding the education I can offer them to be more exciting than the education they unwittingly give to me. ; ) All those lessons in humility…

  • Reply Dawn October 15, 2015 at 3:06 am

    I was excited to recognize the same parallels in those very paragraphs quoted from The Liberal Arts Tradition and CM’s 6th Volume, Brandy.

    The marriage between caring and knowing is a wonderful way to express this thought, too.

  • Reply Karen @ The Simply Blog October 14, 2015 at 8:46 am

    I haven’t made it this far into the book. I found the first quote you gave from The Liberal Arts Tradition enlightening. Very interesting…a new way of looking at philosophy. And then your summary statement: “It turns out philosophy is the ultimate marriage of knowing and caring…” You are right….that certainly does dovetail nicely with CM’s point that it’s important how much the student cares.

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