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    Educational Philosophy, Mother's Education

    Read Along with Me? Vittorino da Feltre and Other Humanist Educators

    September 27, 2016 by Brandy Vencel

    Many of you know that I’ve been working with a team of people to design a modern version of Charlotte Mason’s Mothers’ Education Course for AmblesideOnline. I like to call myself the irresponsible person in charge because this project has taken much longer than if, say, an INTJ or ESTJ was in charge.


    But, it’s a good project for me, irresponsible or not. I have such a passion for moms to continue their own education — to continue learning and growing and not get burnt out by mothering. This has been one of the purposes of this blog — both to encourage growth in others while simultaneously giving myself habits of growth through reading and writing —  as well as Scholé Sisters in all of its iterations.

    Want to dive deep into the educational philosophy of Vittorina da Feltre and the Italian educators of the late 1300s and 1400s? Join me!

    There are so many books assigned in the three-year version of Miss Mason’s course (there was also a two-year version). Some of them are easier to replace than others — or not replace, as the case may be. It’s pretty simple to replace an old, out-of-print astronomy book with something similar that is up-to-date and available for purchase. Books such as Plato’s Four Socratic Dialogues and Republic, on the other hand, don’t need replacement (though admittedly we might choose a newer translation; what I linked were the translations Miss Mason’s course used) — because nothing can replace Plato, plus C.S. Lewis said it best when he told us it was easier to read Plato than a book about Plato.

    But I digress.

    Heading up this project has cost me more time and money than I anticipated. You see, I keep buying the books and then reading them. It’s a questionable decision since almost all of the books can be found free online. But I keep thinking that these must be really good books if she used them, and so I buy them. Not all of them, of course, but the ones in the Mental and Moral Science and Education category get me almost every time.

    Which brings us to this title: Vittorino de Feltre and Other Humanist Educators: Essays and Versions: An Introduction to the History of Classical Education (free online version is here). I told myself I wasn’t going to buy this book, but I flipped through the pages online and decided it was worth hunting down and adding to my library.

    The first thing that piqued my interest was the discussion I found within on the importance of habit. While we know that was important to Aristotle — and was, of course, important to Charlotte Mason as well — we don’t see much about habit in more modern books written about classical education. Naturally, I want to know more!

    My copy hasn’t arrived yet as I had to order it from the UK. It wasn’t expensive, though — less than $7 including the shipping. However, comma, this is an extremely rare book. Copies are few and far between, and rarely in good condition (which is why I jumped at this one).

    I’ve decided I’m going to blog through the book once it arrives (whenever that is). I feel like there is a definite gap in my grasp of the history of classical education, and interestingly enough this book covers the time period I’m talking about — the Italian educators of the late 1300s and 1400s.

    One reason for my interest is because of my love for Charlotte Mason’s Great Recognition, which was inspired by a fresco in the Spanish Chapel in Santa Maria Novella in Florence, Italy. The fresco is The Triumph of St. Thomas Aquinas and it is divine. This fresco was painted in the mid 1300s, which means educational philosophers such as da Feltre were born into the culture that produced this astounding piece of work. I want to know what that was like — I want to understand the philosophical sea they were swimming in.

    So would you like to join me? Like I said, it’s hard to find a copy. As I type, there is only a single copy on Amazon! You might try saving a want on AbeBooks to see if that helps. And, of course, there is the free copy online.

    It’d be disingenuous to say that I am going to run this like a book club. I’m not. I’ll blog through it, but I can’t put it on a schedule because I don’t want to be rushing to meet deadlines. With that said, I thought that some of you would like to read along so that we can discuss intelligently in the comments.

    Join me?

    Update: Lauren says this reprint will work!

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  • Reply Celeste October 6, 2016 at 5:32 pm

    Okay, so I took a peek at the online text…and now a hard copy is on the way. 😉 Good stuff! I’m looking forward to following along.

  • Reply Lorraine October 4, 2016 at 10:01 pm

    Brandy, count me in…. not necessarily all in…. I was visiting with my husband this evening, and he’s supporting my taking a semi-leave of absence from full-active duty at home to work on a music composition….. so I’ll be uber focused on that for a bit….. but I’ll try to keep up as well as I can here too….

  • Reply Debbi October 2, 2016 at 3:16 pm

    I’m with Claire. No idea how I’m going to add yet another book to my reading list but I never regret a book that you have recommended. Sadly, my priority is not even Westward Ho, as it should be. I’ve been reading the many, many links in “Starting Here”. I had no idea how badly I needed the encouragement found there. So I may have to settle with lurking around reading your thoughts and the comments on this latest book. As far as buying more books – wish you could see the funny look on my husband’s face on occasion when he asks about a new book arrival from Amazon and I say “Oh that? Brandy recommended it.” As if I know you in person. ???

    • Reply Brandy Vencel October 5, 2016 at 6:16 am

      Ha! This makes me laugh double as I have entire shelves full because Cindy Rollins recommended things! 🙂 ♥

  • Reply Samara October 1, 2016 at 7:16 pm

    Can you tell more about this potential mother’s education course? Sounds exciting!

    • Reply Brandy Vencel October 3, 2016 at 7:13 am

      I think it should be pretty wonderful once it comes out! 🙂 We are just taking Miss Mason’s original course, figuring it out pretty thoroughly, and then we’ll be putting our own version of it up on the AO site. 🙂

  • Reply Lexy October 1, 2016 at 7:10 pm

    Hey there! I’m going to get the free version and join along as life allows. 😉 How much should we read and by when? I may need to just be patient and wait for these details to come at a future time. 🙂

    In Christ,

    • Reply Brandy Vencel October 3, 2016 at 7:12 am

      I haven’t decided quite yet. I was trying to wait until the book arrived to make a final call. Online books make it hard for me to judge how much is really reasonable at a time…

  • Reply Binky October 1, 2016 at 10:49 am

    Someone mentioned a Norms & Nobility read in the comments. Who is doing this?

    • Reply Brandy Vencel October 3, 2016 at 7:10 am

      Karen Glass is leading it over on the AO Forum:

      • Reply Lorraine October 4, 2016 at 9:59 pm

        how far in? would it be, say, less productive to try to slip on that belatedly?

        • Reply Brandy Vencel October 5, 2016 at 6:17 am

          Oh! I should have given the timeline! You’re right! It begins in December. 🙂

          • Lorraine October 5, 2016 at 7:54 pm


  • Reply Erika October 1, 2016 at 10:45 am

    Just added this to my kindle. This is perfect, because at 11 weeks pregnant with three others to keep fed and warm, I have no real brain power for reading. Following along with you and the discussion in the comments, I can pretend-read without feeling like I have to make sense of what I read. Then I can hop over here and get the, “aha, so that’s what I just read!” feeling of accomplishment…. 😉

  • Reply Catie September 29, 2016 at 2:42 pm

    This sounds great! I’m going to download the free version! 🙂

  • Reply Claire September 29, 2016 at 2:54 am

    Brandy! I’m already failing to keep up with Westward Ho, and barely keeping up with Kim and Churchill, on the forum, *and* requesting Norms and Nobility for my birthday/Christmas to read along with Karen – and now I’m just going to have to download this to my Nook as well! How could you!

    • Reply Dawn Duran September 29, 2016 at 3:02 am

      It’s so good not to feel alone in this sentiment, Claire. What would we do without Brandy to bankrupt us of our money and time – I mean, encourage us to expand our minds?

      I love you, Brandy. I just love to tease you. You truly are an inspiration and I love the way your mind works, hence my wholeheartedly embracing all of your magnificent recommendations. I have yet to be disappointed in them.

      • Reply Brandy Vencel September 29, 2016 at 7:16 am

        It’s the best sort of bankruptcy, really. I mean all other kinds leave us with nothing, but this kind leaves us with something on the inside. 😉

        • Reply Dawn September 29, 2016 at 11:17 am


    • Reply Brandy Vencel September 29, 2016 at 7:15 am

      Maybe I should change the tag line up at the top? Something like “beware: this blog ruins budgets and sometimes lives” ?? 😉

      • Reply Dawn September 29, 2016 at 11:17 am


      • Reply Claire September 29, 2016 at 2:39 pm


  • Reply Missy September 28, 2016 at 6:47 pm

    This is too interesting to pass up. I hope to join you as I can. Look forward to learning more.

  • Reply Mama Rachael September 27, 2016 at 1:53 pm

    I’ll enjoy reading what you write about the book. and I’ll try to read along. But I’ve got a 1 month old who loves to nurse constantly, so I’m behind on sleep and it makes it hard to read well. All copies are gone from amazon, but I did grab a pdf, and I’ll look around a bit more. Of course, I’ve got a stack of ‘to read’ books already, but I love the idea of reading along with someone 😀

    • Reply Brandy Vencel September 28, 2016 at 9:05 am

      I’m impressed that you can read anything at all with a 1-month-old! I think I was usually still in a trance at that point in the game. 😉

  • Reply Sharyn September 27, 2016 at 12:48 pm

    I would love to read through this. I will have to put a few reads on the back burner in order to do so. May I add that I have been homeschooling for over 20 years and can I tell you that nothing, nothing, makes educating your children easier than curiosity and reading many, many good books about many, many things. When a newbie asks for my advice I tell them to continue educating yourself as well. Somehow, they do not believe me.? This is a worthy endeavor!
    Thank you,

    • Reply Brandy Vencel September 28, 2016 at 9:04 am

      Yes! It’s the best burnout prevention, isn’t it? ♥

  • Reply Sarah B. September 27, 2016 at 11:24 am

    Yes, please! I particularly appreciate the lack of hard deadlines. 😉

    • Reply Brandy Vencel September 27, 2016 at 12:04 pm

      Yay! Once my book actually arrives, I’ll do a little intro post so that it’s at least clear that I’ve started reading and you should, too. 🙂

  • Reply Jeannette September 27, 2016 at 11:16 am

    I am intrigued and want to join in. We will just have to see if I can persist!

    • Reply Brandy Vencel September 27, 2016 at 12:04 pm

      I am *thrilled* to have you, Jeannette! ♥

  • Reply Nelleke September 27, 2016 at 9:32 am

    Check…there seem to be a few copies, and if you want one of those softcover facsimile copies (better than reading it on a screen, I’d say) those are around too.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel September 27, 2016 at 9:42 am

      Thank you, Nelleke! I always forget about bookfinder. 🙁

  • Reply Lauren September 27, 2016 at 9:32 am


    I laughed so much at this. I am also buying the books and reading them because well my reasoning is exactly the same as yours. And I have a hard time reading books online.

    I bought Vittorino a while ago after Karen (I think? maybe Anne?) posted a quote from CM on the forums about it being the best book ever (my paraphrase). Anyway, I am about half way through and it is an amazing book. I am finding it so very inspiring and would love to read it with you and discuss. You hear echoes of CM on almost every page.

    Incidentally, this book is still in print. I bought a used copy (mine was like $5) of this paperback one:

    Do you know if it is the same? This reprint is lovely and I am sure it is nice as your hardcover but people can actually purchase this one.

    • Reply Lauren September 27, 2016 at 9:33 am

      Whoops! I meant that your hardcover is probably nicer. I love original hardcovers. 🙂

    • Reply Brandy Vencel September 27, 2016 at 9:37 am

      I almost mentioned you in the post. {As in, “Lauren is buying them, too. It’s a collective problem.”} 🙂 I am always afraid to recommend the reprints without being able to vouch for them {plus, strangely enough this didn’t come up in my Amazon search!}, so since you are happy with yours I will update the post. Thank you so much!

    • Reply Dawn Duran September 27, 2016 at 4:17 pm

      Sigh. Y tu, Lauren? I just took the plunge.

      Sometimes I wonder why I ever bother trying to set up my own reading plan. It’s just going to change the next time Brandy recommends something.

      • Reply Jen Snow September 28, 2016 at 7:42 am

        Very intrigued…but oh my goodness, have you seen the pile of books-to-read I have?! I just resolved not to buy anymore (or put anymore on reserve at the library!) until I finished a good number of these. 😛 May have to content myself with reading along with your comments.

  • Reply Nancy Buterbaugh September 27, 2016 at 7:32 am

    Yes! I am interested. I will probably use the online version

  • Reply Kelly September 27, 2016 at 6:00 am

    This looks fascinating! I wish I had time for it now. I’m especially interested in what he has to say about instruction in mathematics because it was during his time (or a century before) that widespread systematic instruction in what the Ancients would have called Logistics or Calculation began (as opposed to the earlier informal learning) to support the growing merchant class.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel September 27, 2016 at 9:09 am

      Ooh! I will try and watch for that. You need to write more on math, by the way. 🙂

  • Reply Stacy Dobecka September 27, 2016 at 5:43 am

    I skimmed over the article on the fresco above and am going to share it with my family this week. It is amazing. My question is…who wrote it? Also, this is not on the blog, but on the AmblesideOnline site….where? I’m thinking there are many posts like this that I’m not reading, because I don’t know where they are.

    Also….what mb type are you?

    • Reply Brandy Vencel September 27, 2016 at 9:06 am

      If you mean the article on the AO site with all of the pictures and details from Tim’s trip, I’m pretty sure that Leslie Laurio put that page together. And YES. There are a whole bunch of hidden jewels on the AO site that are difficult to find. One place to look might be the library page.

      I’m an INTP. 🙂

      And: are you going to read with me? 🙂

      • Reply Stacy Dobecka September 27, 2016 at 2:06 pm

        I think reading along with you will be a good idea; will search for book this week. By the way, I set behind you several times during the Heart of Texas conference, and wanted to say hi and that I read your blog faithfully. But….the INFP in me kept me quite. Love the info here.

        • Reply Brandy Vencel September 27, 2016 at 2:11 pm

          Ha! You should have tapped me on the shoulder. We could have stared awkwardly at each other, and *that* would have been something. 😉

          Did you see my little strawberry-blonde daughter I had with me? She’s an INFP, too. 🙂

          • Phyllis October 8, 2016 at 5:54 am

            I another (probably) INFP who will be trying to read along, since there’s a free PDF available. 🙂

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