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    Educational Philosophy, Mother's Education

    Metaphysics 101

    November 19, 2015 by Brandy Vencel

    [dropcap]T[/dropcap]he philosophy chapter of The Liberal Arts Tradition by Kevin Clark and Ravi Jain ends with the topic of metaphysics. Please, don’t you all go running off in fear! It’s not as complicated as it sounds. I highly recommend the chapter, even if you have to read it a few times before you start understanding it. After all, reading hard books isn’t just for kids. It’s for moms, too!

    We don’t immediately think of Charlotte Mason when we think of metaphysics, and for good reason. She makes sparing use of the term, after all. She never defines it in her books, and she doesn’t list it as a subject in her curriculum programmes.

    Or does she?

    Well, let’s start at the beginning, with the definition of metaphysics presented by Clark and Jain in this section:

    Metaphysics is the study of being; what can be said of all of reality. For the medievals, metaphysics asked what could be held as true of the world, humanity, and even God.

    Shortly after this, they offer us five categories involved in the study of metaphysics: being, goodness, truth, beauty, and unity. {Bless them for using my beloved Oxford comma.}

    Metaphysics 101

    So now we can ask ourselves whether Miss Mason’s curriculum included the teaching of metaphysics — did the curriculum ask and attempt to answer what could be held as true about the world, humanity, and/or God, and if so, how, and to what extent?

    This is only a blog post, so we’ll have to be brief, but let’s take a taste of what Miss Mason was offering {or not offering} her students in regard to metaphysics.

    I’m going to go out on a limb and say that her number one resource when it comes to metaphysics was her own volume {which she wrote because she couldn’t find what she needed}, Ourselves. What is Ourselves, but a seeking for understanding of truths about man? In its introduction, she tells us:

    The whole question of self-management and self-perception implies a dual self. There is a self who reverences and a self who is reverenced, a self who knows and a self who is known, a self who controls and a self who is controlled. This, of a dual self, is perhaps our most intimate and our least-acknowledged consciousness. We are a little afraid of metaphysics…

    Ourselves is divided into two parts. The first half was begun around age 12, and the second half around age 16. Charlotte Mason had a deep desire for her students to graduate with an understanding of human nature. Reading this book with my son {slowly, just little three-page chapters every once in a while} has been one of the highlights of homeschooling for me thus far. The reading is rich, and the discussions often richer. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

    I think we can also assume metaphysical ideas were covered in at least rudimentary forms in the classroom due to how Miss Mason trained her teachers. Throughout her writings, we see that Coleridge’s concept of the “captain idea” had fully captured Miss Mason’s imagination. Whether it was math or science or literature, she believed that the “captain ideas” — these ideas that clothed facts and were more than broad generalizations but rather very truths enfleshed — could and should be drawn out by the teachers.

    Clark and Jain tell us:

    [M]etaphysics is the guardian of the secret questions of culture.

    Because Miss Mason understood that there were ideas that transcended any one particular instance, her methodology allows for a development in this area that is organic and attends all of the readings. Personally, I wouldn’t expect too much direct teaching on this subject from someone who held that children were to keep to a more poetic form of knowing until age 15, and I was pleasantly surprised to see how much more there was to all of this than meets the eye. It seems to me that the important part will be played by the teacher — in our willingness to draw out observations of these big ideas over time rather than stopping at a narration of “just the facts.”

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    1 Comment

  • Reply Sherrylynne November 20, 2015 at 4:44 am

    Thank you very much for this entire series. It is refreshing to have blog posts with the depth and thoughtfulness you have offered on the topic of education. I have procured the book and look forward to pondering it myself.

    And on your question of podcasts vs. blog posts, one more category would have fit my practice of preferring to read something so I could take notes. I will listen to a podcast here and there but well after the day is done and everyone is in bed. Popping in earbuds during the day is a signal that I am not available when I need to be. So reading over listening is preferred.

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