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    Educational Philosophy

    Would an educational philosophy by any other name smell as sweet?

    November 28, 2016 by Brandy Vencel

    Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?
    — I Corinthians 1:12-13

    What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
    By any other name would smell as sweet…
    — Romeo and Juliet, Act II Scene II

    Would CM be opposed to the CM movement? I jotted this in the margin of my copy of The Story of Charlotte Mason by Essex Chomondeley in the spring of 2014. It’s a question I’ve circled round to a number of times since then. I see so many good things in the Charlotte Mason community. Please don’t mistake this for complaining.


    You knew that was coming, right?


    Can following Charlotte Mason become a form of idolatry?

    Mystie once said that she used to call herself a classical unschooler, even though the term was wildly inaccurate, because it evoked the right imagery. She was classical, she said, because she believed that content mattered — that the curriculum mattered. But she was an unschooler because she was casual, because she didn’t want people thinking she was a humorless Gradgrind, drilling away at kindergarten memory work.

    I, on the other hand, have been calling myself classically Charlotte Mason for a long time. I didn’t realize how long until I was digging through the archives a couple weeks ago looking for something. Um. I guess I’ve almost always called myself that, or some version of it. So ten years? And I think I was trying to do the same as Mystie — pick a name that felt right. For me, adding the classical meant I wasn’t limiting myself to Charlotte Mason. I could read other books. I didn’t just want to live out Charlotte Mason’s philosophy in my home; I wanted to actually be like her. So I added the classical. The reading of everything. The taking of wisdom wherever you find it. The absolute joy in moving forward by reading from both the present as well as the past.

    But my daily life? Well, it looks like Charlotte Mason’s schools, for the most part. Except the part where the children narrate upside on the couch and the governess folds laundry. I’m pretty sure that’s an addition.

    The Story


    Let me tell you a story. I’m putting a cast of characters in here so that you can reference it if you have trouble following all the people.

    Once upon a time, in 1894, Charlotte Mason had a legal battle that would cause her to hire an attorney, define her organization going forward, and result in multiple resignations from people in her organization. To say it was a Big Deal would be an understatement.

    I think it’s instructive to know what happened, so I’ll explain it as concisely as I can.

    In 1893, Charlotte Mason traveled to Florence, Italy and saw the fresco which inspired her somewhat famous Great Recognition. I mention this only because it tells us in which direction she was moving and where her mind must have been. When a person moves, sometimes others don’t move with her. Or, in this case, they also move, but in an entirely different direction. The natural result of this is a break.

    And that’s exactly what happened.

    The Lady Isabel Margesson, who had been deeply involved in helping lead and steer the PNEU, had taken some liberties. Perhaps she felt she had more power and authority than she really had? In her book Hidden Heritage and Educational Influence, Margaret Coombs explained that while Miss Mason was away in Florence seeking to restore her health, Lady Isabel had been helping to edit Parents’ Review while she was gone in addition to her usual duties as honorary secretary of one of the PNEU branches. Perhaps this emboldened her?

    We don’t really know.

    What we do know is that at some point, Lady Isabel had actually attempted to change Rule 3 which contained the Objects of the PNEU itself. You might be wondering how this could be important. Well, imagine that while your senior pastor and Elder Board are away on a three-month trip, one of the deacons up and changes part of the statement of faith. Might this be a problem?

    It’s like that.

    At some point, while Miss Mason was attempting to recover her health, Lady Isabel attempted to change part of the PNEU’s mission, and she formally published her changes in a leaflet that was circulated. In a letter that Miss Mason later wrote to Dr. Schofield, there is a postscript that seems to imply that Lady Isabel did this on her own, without consulting the executive committee of the PNEU.

    Obviously, this was a big no-no. But the question arises as to what she was attempting to change.

    Charlotte Mason’s complaint to Dr. Schofield was clear:

    [T]he Froebel people have got hold of Lady Isabel and are endeavouring to use her…

    On July 9, 1894, Charlotte Mason wrote a letter that included instructions from her legal counsel. In it, she included a side by side comparison of the original Objects of Rule 3 with Lady Isabel’s changes:


    Okay, so that’s quite a bit different. What part upset Miss Mason? All of it? Some of it?

    Well, I’m sure that technically all of it did, but there was a certain part Miss Mason focused on. Her letter later says:

    [T]he “Objects” were designed to cover all earnest Educational effort, while care was taken to avoid limitations which would hinder the advance of science; especially that most serious of all hindrances, the docketing of the Union with any given name or names.

    In confidentiality, Miss Mason wrote to Dr. Schofield in regard to Lady Isabel, and also Miss Forsyth:

    [T]hey both cling to Froebel as a mystic who has said the last word on Education. In fact, I think they rank him with Wagner and Ibsen amongst the “Eternities and immensities.”

    Margaret Coombs quotes another letter from Miss Mason:

    Lady Isabel Margesson and some other members left us in June 1894 because we could not receive their amendment pledging us to the ‘New’ Education as set forth by Pestalozzi, Herbert Spencer, and Froebel and other educational philosophers … [T]he PNEU was designed as a tacit protest against the fundamental principles of the philosophers mentioned …

    It seems Lady Isabel was trying to marry Charlotte Mason’s philosophy to the educational philosophers of the day, and Miss Mason would have none of it!

    By August of 1894, Lady Isabel had written her resignation letter. In it, she declared she was resigning because:

    [It] would be an almost impossible position to hold and would surely be undesirable to continue to spread the principles of the “New Education” as those of the Union when I had been obliged to withdraw from the Centre on account of those principles.

    At the Annual Meeting in 1894, a paper called PNEU Principles was read aloud. It was written by Charlotte Mason and later published in Parents’ Review in order that it might be read by all of the PNEU members. Here, she makes her relationship to the so-called New Education clear:

    We lay no claim to original ideas or methods. We cannot choose but profit by the work of the great educators. Such men as Locke and Rousseau, Pestalozzi and Froebel, have left us an inheritance of educational thought which we must needs enter upon.

    Our work as a Society is chiefly selective, but not entirely so. We are progressive. We take what former thinkers have left us, and go on from there.

    In addition to Lady Isabel, a number of other people resigned that summer. I assume it was all of those who called themselves by the name of Froebel and the others.

    And so Charlotte Mason’s work went on.

    The End

    The Lessons We Learn

    The issue is clear: Lady Isabel tried to align the PNEU’s mission with that of the Froebel Society, which sought to popularize the teachings of Froebel and others mentioned above. These men are sometimes called the “fathers of modern education.” Of course, modern education wouldn’t be complete without Dewey’s application of secular Darwinism to the classroom, but that is another post for another day. Needless to say, I can imagine Charlotte Mason’s concern!

    I find her critique interesting, though — that when we put a person’s name on what we’re doing, we limit ourselves to that one thinker. Remember her criticism of Lady Isabel and Miss Forsyth? That they considered Froebel a “mystic who has said the last word on Education?”

    Charlotte Mason realized there was no last word on Education. She will go down in history among the greats, of course, and rightfully so. But I doubt she was so prideful as to think she had the last word on it any more than Froebel did.

    So what does this mean?

    Well, on the one hand, you can give your children a wonderful, beautiful education if all you ever read is Charlotte Mason. And I think the work of groups like AmblesideOnline, who, in their Facebook group, seek to answer all questions with a view to what Charlotte Mason would have done or what she wrote definitely have their value. After all, if Charlotte Mason’s philosophy is everything, then it’s nothing.

    But I see an insulation in the Charlotte Mason community, and it concerns me sometimes. Do you remember who Charlotte Mason was? This amazing thinker and voracious reader who wasn’t afraid to think for herself — and wasn’t afraid to let others do so, either? And do you remember the Great Recognition? That here we see the breadth of the thoughts of God — that all of the seven liberal arts come from Him and therefore we needn’t be afraid of them being “secular?”

    Perhaps the danger is in allowing Miss Mason to be raised up as an idol in our midst.

    We are of Christ.

    Not of Paul, not of Apollos, not of Cephas. And, while we love Charlotte Mason, not of her, either. Lack of education isn’t the chief problem in the world, Charlotte Mason is not our messiah, her philosophy is not our Gospel, and the Charlotte Mason community (as glorious as it is) is no replacement for the Church.

    I believe Charlotte Mason’s 20 principles to be true. Yes. That’s why I wrote a study guide for them. I adhere to them, and judge many things by them. I love them. But I don’t think we need to limit ourselves to Charlotte Mason, nor is 20 the sum total of truth.

    I love how Charlotte Mason ends her paper. It’s essentially how she closed the controversy, and I think it’s instructive for all of us:

    All sound educational thought is of its nature universal and not the property of any society, not even P.N.E.U. Of this we are very sure, that if we succeed in bringing educational ideas into more just relations with each other, or in any way advance educational truth, none will more eagerly avail themselves of any ray of new light we have to offer than the enthusiastic highly-trained Kindergarten teacher, who is full of the inspiration of Froebel, the poet-prophet of education — name which we also delight to honour, though we do not call ourselves after his or any other because we are altogether catholic in spirit and choose to be eclectics in education, free to take of the best whenever we find it, as a bee ranges from flower to flower, but having our own definite ideas on the lines of which we advance.

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  • Brandy Vencel November 29, 2016 at 5:12 pm


    Today has been fun, but I do have a family to feed. 🙂

    I have had a number of people come to me privately and say that they, too, have seen this in the community but are afraid to speak up. With that said, the community is big, and it’s nationwide and beyond. If you don’t think this affects your local community, there are two options: you’re right, or you don’t see it yet. *I* couldn’t possibly know which is true. 🙂

    I do want to leave you with a final caution, and then I’m closing the comments because I don’t have time to referee them any longer. Please don’t consider this a judgment on the conversation — I *love* a good conversation. I just didn’t expect this post to get so much traffic, and I can’t keep up and do a good job with my other duties.

    So here’s my caution, for what it is worth.

    Claiming that someone — anyone — developed an entire philosophy upon hearing directly from the Holy Spirit without input from anyone else in all of mankind is a bit disconcerting. As a Reformed Christian, I cannot help but fear that the ultimate trajectory of that kind of logic is not just elevating her as a mystic, but an undermining of the doctrine of Sola Scriptura. I am sure not everyone here in the comments is Reformed, but as I said in my post, my concerns are that, first and foremost, we be of Christ, and second, that putting a name (to clarify: I think CM meant an individual person’s name) on it doesn’t become a system that prevents progress into the future. Charlotte Mason thought a name could hold us back. It’s worth considering, I think.

  • Julia November 29, 2016 at 3:50 pm

    And yet, even Paul kindof flipped out (see: Galatians) when people started distorting–adding to and subtracting from– the Gospel in various ways…. 😉

    • Dawn Duran November 29, 2016 at 4:56 pm

      Yes – because it was the Gospel. The word of God. The question is whether or not we’re guilty of elevating Charlotte Mason to the same plane at times?

  • Lisa November 29, 2016 at 11:40 am

    Hi Brandy,
    I, like Brittneysaid in her comment, agree with you that we shouldn’t make a philosophy or a curriculum our idol. I so far haven’t met anyone in the CM community that has done that, thank goodness. I believe though many people are trying to adhere to Mason’s philosophy true and pure and have picked up where she has left off. Left off in the sense that her Principles remain solid but we adjust the curriculum to where we live, newer living books, and of course to scientific discoveries.
    Mason indeed put her name on her philosophy and claimed it to be hers just as Maria Montessori did with her philosophy (Art Middlekauff wrote about this). I don’t consider anyone who chooses to map out Mason’s time frame for forms, books read, daily schedule an idolater would you? I guess I’m sensitive to the fact you used the word “idolatry”. Can you expound on it some more? It sounds to me you are calling a person who strives to be a purist of Mason an idolater (I’m sure I must be mistaken.) Art Middlekauf wrote Of a quote someone said about Mason’s educational philosophy I believe it was a quote by Smith talking about you can’t put Mason in an old box it would be like trying to put new wine in old bottles. I am sure someone else can explain it much more elegantly than I, lol. But the purpose was that Mason’s ideas are hers and they were not classical, Montessori or based on anything but from the Holy Spirit. I believe you are saying it’s okay to mix some classical in with Mason, they are different but can still work together. I also believe that since Mason is no longer around we can not add to or take away from her ideas only dig deeper into her purpose.
    I’m sorry if I am scattered in my writing, I have kids running around talking To me at the same time and I keep losing my thought Process.

    • Brandy Vencel November 29, 2016 at 12:06 pm

      I’ve always considered myself something of a purist, so that isn’t what I mean. I have only read one short article on Art’s blog, so I don’t actually know what you’re referencing, but Charlotte Mason does talk about wine in old bottles, yes. But that, of course, isn’t what I was talking about. It’s about Charlotte Mason’s thoughts on putting a name on the PNEU’s philosophy, which was the central issue of the 1894 falling out between the PNEU and Lady Isabel. In her resignation, Lady Isabel called the teachings of the New Education the capital-G Gospel! Admittedly, this influenced where I went with my thought process.

      I asked the question years ago whether CM would approve of us taking her name — it was a natural question arising from a close reading of Chomondeley’s take on the situation, and I still ask the question. I think it’s worth thinking about.

      This post is not about Charlotte Mason and classical. But since I consider Charlotte Mason a part of the Great Conversation, I don’t consider it mixing when I, for example, read Charlotte Mason say that the Holy Spirit is our Helper in education, and then I read St. Augustine encourage his student in On Free Will thus:

      Depending on God and praying for help, let us persevere in our inquiry.

      Or in De Magistro he says of his student (who is also his son):

      Even when I speak what is true and he sees what is true, it is not I who teach him. He is taught not by my words but by the things themselves God has made manifest to him.

      And conclude that these are, in fact, understandings of the same truth. 🙂 And oh what a glorious truth! 🙂

      • Lisa November 29, 2016 at 12:52 pm

        She does end up putting her name on it in 1904. It had caused to much vagueness I believe so she put her name on it. Have you seen that letter?
        Like I said my thoughts were scattered and I was everywhere lol sorry about that.

        • Brandy Vencel November 29, 2016 at 1:05 pm

          Which letter? I would love to see it. I mean, I know her books had her name on them, but the rest of it seemed to keep the more general name of PNEU. I guess it surprises me that she felt so strongly about not attaching a name and then changed her mind.

          • Lisa November 29, 2016 at 3:46 pm

            Art shared it on his FB page. You can get it from him if you would like to see it. I do not have a copy. But a part reads
            “As people grow in earnest about education, they will either neglect us an amateurs, or require to know what our platform is So it seems to me well to draw even an inadequate statement of what we teach and also it seems necessary that this teaching must be protected by the name of the originator, or everyone who speaks for P.N.E.U has a right to say,” I think”and call it, “P.N.E.U Teaching” and this must result in the “absolute vagueness ” we deprecate.”

    • Dawn Duran November 29, 2016 at 1:35 pm

      I, too, would consider myself a Charlotte Mason purist, yet I do not believe I elevate her to a position of idolatry. I do see reason for concern in the Charlotte Mason community today, though, as Brandy expresses so well in this post.

      When you say, “But the purpose was that Mason’s ideas are hers and they were not classical, Montessori or based on anything but from the Holy Spirit,” how does this differ from what Charlotte Mason herself expressed concern about when she said that “[T]hey both cling to Froebel as a mystic who has said the last word on Education. In fact, I think they rank him with Wagner and Ibsen amongst the ‘Eternities and immensities’”?

      • Lisa November 29, 2016 at 3:38 pm

        Dawn I’m not understanding your question. The Holy Spirit is The Holy Spirit and Froebel is Froebel. Mason considered her ideas “new” and biblical.

        • Dawn Duran November 29, 2016 at 4:02 pm

          Of course. I did not in any way mean to equate Froebel with the Holy Spirit. Perhaps it would be better to ask whether you think that Charlotte Mason would think that she had said the last word on Education – or even the first word?

          • Lisa November 29, 2016 at 4:15 pm

            No not with her belief that science and minds were continually growing and changing. Her philosophy is what the conversation is about. She put her name on her philosophy because she believed in it and didn’t want anyone guessing at what it should be.

          • Dawn Duran November 29, 2016 at 4:17 pm

            But it is a philosophy about education, no?

  • Brittney McGann November 29, 2016 at 10:44 am

    Hi Brandy,
    I agree with you that we all need to be careful not to make Mason our idol, but no more than every other thing in life we feel passionately about. I also agree that we, in the Mason community, are free to and ought to read widely and think for ourselves, and I believe that most of us who are actively involved in serving the community do. We are all free to take truth where we find it, but we are also free to reject untruth and it is our duty to discern the difference. I don’t see what you see in Classical, the more I read, the less I like it, but we are still friends, right? 🙂

    With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

    Ephesians 4:2-3

    I think the real danger in the Charlotte Mason community at large is the “casual opinion.” Those who are swept up in the current of popular thought, or even CM factions, without doing any reading and thinking for themselves.

    “There is ever some new fallacy in the air which allures its thousands, and no one is safe who is not cognizant of danger, and who does not know how to safeguard himself. Perhaps no rules for the right conduct of life are more important than the following: (a) that we may not play with chance opinions; (b) that our own Reason affords an insufficient test of the value of an opinion (because Reason, as we have seen, argues in behalf of Inclination); (c) that we must labor to get knowledge as the foundations of opinions; (d) that we must also labor to arrive at principles whereby to try our opinions.” Vol. 4, book 2, pg. 58-59

    And I do think names are important. They embody reputation, good and bad. I think of the times when God changed the names of men as he changed their lives, Abram to Abraham, Saul to Paul, Simon to Peter. I think of the babies God named before birth Jesus among them, because their lives would have a very special significance.

    • Brandy Vencel November 29, 2016 at 11:20 am

      Hi Brittany! I was just thinking about you and how I still need to reply to your email. 🙂

      A few thoughts here… The first is that I agree that casual opinion is also an issue in the community. Where I come from, we call that “CM-Light.” 🙂 That wasn’t what I was addressing in this post, but it is a real issue, for sure.

      My second thought is that I didn’t mean that name weren’t important. I just find it interesting that CM saw a danger in attaching names. I had never really thought about it before, but it put words to something I’ve been seeing, mainly on Facebook. As I think about it more, that’s probably why she didn’t put her own name on the PNEU — because she knew that, as right as she was, it would stunt its growth. So the question is, does calling ourselves by CM’s name now do that? Are we at all being like the “Froebel people” as CM so eloquently put it? And, if so, what to do about it? For me, the first step is ordering ourselves according to the Gospel.

      Lastly, but most important, of *course* we are still friends! I certainly don’t think we all have to adhere to the same position. 🙂 It did made me wonder what classical books you have been reading, to not see it. I mean, we don’t all take away the same things from the same books. Miss Mason has definitely taught us that. 🙂 But I’m just curious. I have “CM” all over the margins of books by Augustine and Aquinas and Milton… 🙂

      • Brittney McGann November 29, 2016 at 12:12 pm

        Well first off, I’m glad we are still friends, despite differing views! ?

        I don’t think it stunts the community to use Mason’s name or to be exclusive in using her methods. I think it can only be helpful. Most people start “CM light,” but move closer to true CM as they go along. I think a lot of that comes from being unclear on what exactly CM is or thinking that it can only come from a certain CM curriculum, versus the principles, or that they need only check off on all the CM subjects. I think that classical education is a prime example of how a lack of clarity in a name can be confusing. “Classical” means something different, depending on who is talking about it and some people, in a two hour talk can’t even clarify what he means. I hope that never happens to Charlotte Mason.

        I have 2 chapters left to go on Poetic Knowledge. I like the book, but the idea of poetic knowing seems like a human experience to me, not exclusive to a philosophy. I finished The Republic and I plan to continue reading Plato, though I dislike the Republic immensely and will now be skeptical of all Plato quotes. I read Consider This and I will be reading Norms & Nobility along with AO, but, having only read the Preface so far, I find David Hicks to be rather arrogant. I haven’t yet read Milton or Aquinas. I’m in book 2 of Confessions (too many books, not enough time!) and I do think it very interesting, but knowing that he combined Platonism with Christianity also makes me skeptical. I’m going to keep going with the classic books, but I don’t think that makes me a classical educator. 🙂

        • Brandy Vencel November 29, 2016 at 1:04 pm

          That vagueness will never happen to Charlotte Mason because there is a name, that is true. While we can’t define “classical” so easily — because it’s on ongoing discussion and not a forgone conclusion — we can define individual thinkers. We can say what Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Aquinas, Milton, etc. thought and didn’t think. But there isn’t a set classical philosophy.

          I think all the contemporary neoclassicism has mixed us up a bit as well! But that’s a different discussion.

          I don’t like The Republic, either. It reminds me a little of how I felt about Utopia — can these guys not imagine an ideal society that doesn’t steal children from their parents?? Charlotte Mason did assign The Republic in her Mothers’ Education Course, but that was in the third year. She had them read The Four Socratic Dialogues in the second year, and I like that one much better, though I think it’s an interesting choice.

          I think you will love Milton when you get to him! Actually, you would probably really like Areopagitica, which has nothing to do with education, but it’s about free speech and it’s fantastic. Sorry. I’m getting a little hyper about the books right now…

          I’m glad you’ll be joining in the N&N group! I’m trying to join as well. 🙂

  • BONNIE Buckingham November 29, 2016 at 5:52 am

    Hi Brandy,
    Just read this post and I have a question. Do you use the word classical to mean “well read” or ” a bibliophile” or how did you use it here: . For me, adding the classical meant I wasn’t limiting myself to Charlotte Mason. I could read other books. I didn’t just want to live out Charlotte Mason’s philosophy in my home; I wanted to actually be like her. So I added the classical. The reading of everything.

    • Brandy Vencel November 29, 2016 at 8:40 am

      Hi Bonnie! Good to “see” you! 🙂

      I suppose it means many things. It’s hard to narrow it down when I’ve written about it so much over the years. I suppose one simple way to say it is to say that the more I read, the more I realize Charlotte Mason is part of the Great Conversation of philosophers throughout history, so it’s a recognition of that Great Conversation, that she is my greatest inspiration (philosophically speaking), and that I want to be part of the conversation in my own small way. I think that’s part of it, at least. 🙂

      But my focus in this post, of course, is on the primacy of the Gospel. 🙂

      • BONNIE Buckingham November 29, 2016 at 4:12 pm

        How do you suppose the definition of classical means the more you read the more you realize CM is a part of the Great Conversation of philosophers? Classical means:

        1. of or relating to ancient Greek or Latin literature, art, or culture.
        “classical mythology”
        synonyms: ancient Greek, Hellenic, Attic; More
        (typically of a form of art) regarded as representing an exemplary standard; traditional and long-established in form or style.
        “a classical ballet”
        synonyms: traditional, long-established; More

        • BONNIE Buckingham November 29, 2016 at 4:15 pm

          and here is the etymology of Classical:

          classical (adj.) Look up classical at
          1590s, “of the highest rank” (originally in literature), from classic + -al (1). Classical music (1836) was defined originally against romantic music.
          [I]n general, as now used, the term classical includes the composers active in instrumental music from somewhere about 1700 to say 1830. Hence the list includes among the great names those of Bach, his sons, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Clementi, Dussek, Pleyel, Cramer, etc. The next step beyond the term classical is “modern romantic,” the composers of which school may be taken to include all the writers for pianoforte from about 1829 (when Mendelssohn published the first “Songs without Words”) down to the present. The term romantic in this sense means strongly marked, extraordinary, intending to tell stories and the like. [“Music, Its Ideals and Methods,” W.S.B. Mathews, 1897]
          But already by 1880s it was acknowledged the term had a double sense: Music that had withstood the test of time, as well as music of a style contrasted to “romantic.” Later (early 20c.) it was contrasted to jazz (in this sense more often with reference to the orchestras than to the music itself). Still later in contrast to popular music generally (mid-20c.). Classical history is the history of ancient Greece and Rome; ancient history is the history of mankind from the earliest reliable records to the fall of Rome (476 C.E.).

      • Brandy Vencel November 29, 2016 at 4:51 pm

        Bonnie, I’m aware of the etymology of the word “classical,” but you asked me what *I* meant when I identify myself as classically Charlotte Mason. It means that I see her as part of the Great Conversation is one way of explaining it briefly.

        To be honest, I have written about this for over 10 years. I have over 2000 blog posts, most of which reference this. I really cannot dilute all of those years of thinking and reading down into a single sentence.

        • BONNIE Buckingham November 29, 2016 at 5:00 pm

          I have never heard this definition: We often call classical education the classical tradition, or the Great Conversation. It’s an interesting thing, how indefinite these words really are.

          I can stand corrected but still confused. I wonder if any CMer would do a truly classical curriculum for a year to test out this definition and abandon the methods and principles. Would there be any differences?

          • Brandy Vencel November 29, 2016 at 5:02 pm

            But of course, which curriculum would you mean? 😉 It has taken many forms over the years. I do a CM curriculum, and I consider it classical. The only thing I think I do differently is that we read the Church Fathers in high school, which I doubt she’d slight us for. 🙂

          • BONNIE Buckingham November 29, 2016 at 5:06 pm

            Do Circe for a year. No Charlotte Mason narration or other methods. Use their materials only.

          • Brandy Vencel November 29, 2016 at 5:07 pm

            CiRCE only has a writing curriculum.

  • Jill November 29, 2016 at 5:23 am

    Thank you for sharing this, Brandy! We also consider ourselves “classical Charlotte Mason” homeschoolers because I don’t know what else to call it 🙂 Naming things is helpful and necessary I think, but I have also noticed the tendency to make an idol out of a particular homeschool approach. Maybe if we were to say “we homeschool *using* classical and Charlotte Mason principles” as opposed to “we *are* classical/CM.” Putting the philosophies into practice rather than being defined by them…?

    • Brandy Vencel November 29, 2016 at 8:36 am

      Definitely *any* homeschool approach can become an idol. Actually, any*thing* can become and idol! That’s probably why John Calvin called the human heart an idol factory. This is probably why Augustine, Lewis, and even Charlotte Mason and others talked about education having an ordering effect. We are so easily disordered…

  • Lisa A November 28, 2016 at 7:29 pm

    Well said. I love Charlotte Mason. But I have always been hesitant to call myself a CM homeschooler because there are many other people who have influenced me as well and I have felt that vibe of rigidity amongst those who label themselves as CMers. I don’t care two figs about the label as long as I am free to teach the children in front of me as best I can! I don’t like being put into a box and I won’t do that to my children either. I will be forever grateful to Charlotte Mason for sharing her insights and ideas with the world, but I owe gratitude to many others as well and I believe it’s right to acknowledge that.

    • Brandy Vencel November 29, 2016 at 8:32 am

      I have seen you hesitate, so thank you for sharing a little more about why. I love knowing this! ♥

  • Kathy Wickward November 28, 2016 at 3:37 pm

    Breathtakingly well said, Brandy!

  • Lisa November 28, 2016 at 3:23 pm

    Very interesting.

  • Meghan November 28, 2016 at 2:05 pm

    Fascinating! Thanks so much, Brandy!

  • Lexy November 28, 2016 at 11:58 am

    Thank you for writing this! I think it addresses the idol in the heart of homeschool moms everywhere, and it certainly addressed it in mine. Like you said, we are not of CM, we are of Christ, and wherever He has chosen to reveal wisdom and knowledge, truth, goodness, and beauty, we should be free to partake and not bound to some extra-biblical law or burden to restrain ourselves to CM.

    I’m looking forward to chatting in CA in Feb! 🙂

    In Christ,

    • Brandy Vencel November 28, 2016 at 1:30 pm

      Oh, Lexy! Do I really get to meet you? Los Gatos, or Ft. Worth? Either way, I’m thrilled. 🙂

  • Randi November 28, 2016 at 11:50 am

    In Jesus’ name, Amen!

  • Lizzie November 28, 2016 at 11:42 am

    Oh Brandy, you have articulated this so well! I adore Charlotte Mason, and turn to her wise words so often.l, and the more I read by her and about her, the more impressed I am that I mustn’t limit my knowledge.

  • Blossom November 28, 2016 at 11:28 am

    Wonderful post, Brandy.

  • Dawn Duran November 28, 2016 at 10:59 am

    Bravo, my friend. This one’s another keeper.

  • Anna November 28, 2016 at 10:56 am

    Yes, excellent Brandy! And BTW, thank you so much for Start Here – our little study group will finish it up in a couple of weeks, God willing! 🙂 We plan to finish reading CM’s Volume 6 in 2017.

    • KarenG November 28, 2016 at 12:20 pm


      Bravo. This is a much-needed message at the moment, I think. Just to underscore your statement, where you said you didn’t think Charlotte Mason thought there was a “last word” on education. You are right–not only did she *not think so*–she said so: “What worked even fifty years ago will not work to-day, and what fulfils our needs to-day will not serve fifty years hence; there is no last word to be said upon education; it evolves with the evolution of the race.” (School Education, p. 46) Continually reading, learning, and growing is being more faithful to Charlotte Mason’s principles than trying to re-create her exact schedule and adhere to her every practice.

      • Dawn Duran November 28, 2016 at 12:46 pm


        • Jen Snow November 28, 2016 at 3:52 pm


      • Brandy Vencel November 28, 2016 at 1:32 pm

        Wow! I did *not* remember that quote from School Education! Thank you for sharing i. ♥

    • Brandy Vencel November 28, 2016 at 1:33 pm

      Anna, I am so glad that Start Here has been a blessing for your group. There is nothing that warms my heart quite as much as a CM mothers’ group. 🙂