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    Educational Philosophy, Mother's Education

    Start Here: Charlotte Mason in One Hour!

    November 11, 2015 by Brandy Vencel

    [dropcap]M[/dropcap]ost of you are familiar with my study guide, Start Here: A Journey Through Charlotte Mason’s 20 Principles, which was published almost exactly a year ago. The guide is a tried, tested, edited, and refined version of a study I originally wrote for my own local Charlotte Mason study group. I don’t know why it never dawned on me to give a conference talk to go along with it, but it didn’t. It wasn’t until Kathy Wickward asked me to give a talk on the 20 Principles for the Northwest Charlotte Mason Educators Conference that it ever crossed my mind, but it turned out to be a really good idea {Kathy is brilliant, after all}.



    I will tell you a secret. Studying all of the 20 Principles together as a whole was different from studying them separately and all spread out. I’m not saying the study guide’s process is a bad thing — no! Not at all! But I am saying that looking at the principles as a whole philosophy is another experience that I think all of us ought to have. I have such clarity now — I see how all the principles work together as a comprehensive whole, and how they serve to balance one another, and how so many of our mistakes originate from focusing on some of the principles while neglecting others.

    My conclusion, naturally, is that Charlotte Mason was even more brilliant that I initially realized.

    Not that you’re surprised by this.

    I gave a 20 principles talk at the conference in September, yes. But a bad thing happened: I forgot to press record. This was horrible! Unlike the other talks, which are already up in the shop, this is the one that I had personal plans for. Our local group’s leadership team had decided that before we began with our next book, we were going to regroup by sending the recording out to all of our members and having them listen beforehand, and then we’d use our next meeting to have a discussion. We went back and forth over what to do. Should I record the talk by myself in my office at home? Or give it live at our next meeting?

    We decided I’d do it live.

    And so I did.

    And that live recording is what I’ve spent a bunch of time editing this week. Apparently, I use the words umlike, and so an awful lot. I’ve a long ways to go as a speaker, but no worries. I took most of them out before putting it up in the shop. Some things that are tolerable in person just aren’t in a recording, you know?

    The up side of my imperfections is that I now have some fierce audio editing skillz.


    So. Go grab your copy of the talk. I initially called it Start Here: A Survey of Charlotte Mason’s 20 Principles, but later I renamed it Charlotte Mason in One Hour — because that’s what it is! Along with the talk, you’ll get a copy of my awesome handout {if I do say so myself}. When you see how it’s structured, you’ll be as excited as I was. I tried to give a visual representation of how everything fits together, and I’m super happy with how it turned out. {Hayley helped me with the formatting. This is the real reason it’s so nice.}

    If you are currently in one of the many groups across the country using the Start Here study guide, I think this talk might provide some great discussion at the end, when your group finishes up the guide and wants to step back and see the whole forest after spending so many months studying the trees up close. Make sense? But until then, of course it is also great for personal enrichment.

    And so, without carrying on any longer: enjoy!


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  • Reply Northwest Charlotte Mason Educators Conference - Charlotte Mason West November 12, 2015 at 3:29 pm

    […] Vencel – “What’s Love Got to Do with It?“, “Start Here: A Survey of Charlotte Mason’s 20 Principles” and “Aquinas’ Big Picture: Charlotte Mason’s Great […]

  • Reply Amber November 12, 2015 at 8:20 am

    That handout really is fantastic, Brandy. You and Hayley did such a great job with it. And the talk was wonderful too. 🙂

    It must be exciting to see your 20 Principles guide being used for study groups all around the country. One of these days I hope to get to participate in one myself! I really want someone to set it up for me, but I don’t think that’s going to happen. 🙂

    • Reply Brandy Vencel November 12, 2015 at 8:36 am

      Yes! It is so, so, SO exciting. That is one of the reasons I want to get a giant cork board — I want to put up a map, and on it I want to put a big map, and put pins for all the groups I know about, and a little paper if I know their start dates. That way, I can pray for them! 🙂

      I never, never dreamed that my little project would grow into this thing, but I am oh so thankful that so many people are studying CM together. ♥

      • Reply Amber November 12, 2015 at 3:33 pm

        That’s a great idea, Brandy! When I get a group started I’ll be sure to let you know. 🙂

        • Reply Celeste November 15, 2015 at 9:01 pm

          We are finishing up our Start Here study in the South Bay the first week of December, Brandy! It has been a rich year studying the principles together with your help. 😉 Now we’re trying to figure out what to read together next…I think it’s between When Children Love to Learn and Consider This.

  • Reply Anna November 11, 2015 at 9:57 am

    This is awesome, Brandy! I love your thoughts on modern individualism versus being human when you were talking about Principle 1 – and so many other things, too. I’m wondering if it would be appropriate to recommend it to the ladies in my CM study group. We’re going through your Start Here guide, on Principles 5a/6. But a couple of new ladies will be joining us who are very new to CM, and I’m thinking this would be a great intro and might help them get up to speed on the principles we’ve already discussed. And I’m a big-picture kind of person myself, and like to see the forest before the trees. 😉

    • Reply Brandy Vencel November 11, 2015 at 11:24 am

      This is funny to me, Anna, because I had a conversation with a friend about this exact issue. *I* would want to get the big picture first, too. It’s like seeing the picture on the puzzle box before you get all the pieces out. After thinking about it, my thought is that it truly works either way or any time — though in a group context I really do think it works best at either the beginning or the end rather than in the middle {if you’re intending to discuss it} — and that people who work from trees to forest should do it after the study, whereas people who work from trees to forest should do it at the beginning. 🙂

      • Reply Anna November 11, 2015 at 2:11 pm

        Yes, I was thinking more for the newcomers to listen to so they could get the big picture of CM’s philosophy, but we wouldn’t really discuss it until after we’ve gone through Start Here. 🙂

        • Reply Brandy Vencel November 11, 2015 at 2:18 pm

          Totally makes sense! That was one of the reasons we did it — to start off our new book study with everyone having a common foundation to work from. 🙂

  • Reply Mystie November 11, 2015 at 8:53 am

    That handout is absolutely amazing! I keep it in a a special home. Actually, why haven’t I scanned it into Evernote yet?! That’s what I need to do. 🙂

    • Reply Brandy Vencel November 11, 2015 at 9:01 am

      I’m trying to get a giant cork board for my office, and then I’m going to pin it up so I can just stare at it sometimes. 😉

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