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    Are You Sabotaging Your Charlotte Mason Homeschool?

    February 16, 2017 by Brandy Vencel

    Let’s cut right to the chase: sometimes, we Charlotte Mason mamas confuse the ends with the means. We mix up our priorities. We start to act as if one thing is the point, when it’s actually just a tool to get us somewhere far more thrilling. It’s like confusing the journey — or, even worse, the map — with the destination.

    Are you confusing means with ends? Straightening out why you are doing what you're doing is the quickest way to stop the sabotage!

    Listen to this post as a podcast:

    Let me give a few examples.

    Teaching foreign language a certain way is not an end; it’s just a means. A good example is the Gouin method of language acquisition. Charlotte Mason said that language fluency was what we were trying to accomplish, and the purpose for this was laid out clearly in Volume 2:

    It is the duty of the nation to maintain relations of brotherly kindness with other nations; therefore it is the duty of every family, as an integral part of the nation, to be able to hold brotherly speech with the families of other nations as opportunities arise; therefore to acquire the speech of neighbouring nations is not only to secure an inlet of knowledge and a means of culture, but is a duty of that higher morality (the morality of the family) which aims at universal brotherhood; therefore every family would do well to cultivate two languages besides the mother tongue, even in the nursery.

    Right before this, she says it more concisely: families should learn languages so that they can show courtesy abroad.

    Charlotte Mason selected the Gouin method because it was effective — in fact, she believed it to be the most effective she’d encountered. But I think we can safely assume that if we stumbled across a different method which was equal or greater in effectiveness, we could use that one instead, as long as it didn’t contain anything in it which would harm the child’s character.

    Charlotte Mason didn’t have children studying languages so that they could experience the Gouin method. Rather, the Gouin method helped children become fluent in languages so that they could practice courtesy to others.

    Teaching physical education a certain way is not an end; it’s just a means. You all know I am fond of Swedish Drill. That is why I asked Dawn to start writing here — because I wanted everyone to hear her lovely thoughts on Swedish Drill and physical education. But if we read Charlotte Mason, we find that in Volume 3, she tells us that the goal of physical culture — of physical training — is a serviceable body:

    The object of athletics and gymnastics should be kept steadily to the front; enjoyment is good by the way, but is not the end; the end is the preparation of a body, available from crown to toe, for whatever behest ‘the gods’ may lay upon us.

    She calls this “the making of heroes” and she explains that the ancient Greeks had a far better view of the body than we do today — that they understood that the end goal of physical training is to be of service to something or someone far greater than yourself.

    Swedish Drill is great, and Dawn has completely sold me on its value. But the general category of physical exercise, along with the goal of training for heroism, is the goal we must keep at the forefront of our minds. For our family, this means that karate has stolen the stage for the moment. In the summers, I put them in swimming lessons because heroes can swim.

    Charlotte Mason didn’t schedule physical exercises into the school day so that the students could do Swedish Drill. Rather, Swedish Drill was taught because it is a healthy and efficient way of strengthening and training the body in the context of a school, with the ultimate goal being that the body is more serviceable than if it hadn’t done any exercise.

    Sticking to the time-tables is not an end; it’s just a means. The schedule is far from the point when it comes to what we’re doing. Did you know that Charlotte Mason never even tells us the details of her schedules in her volumes? We have to go look them up elsewhere.

    They are instructive, though. Charlotte Mason gives us many principles for managing a school day, and seeing her time-tables is helpful. It is good to see an example of how those principles might be put into action. Which principles? Well, things like short lessons, alternation of subjects, having set and limited school hours, and the like. Christy would even say it might give us some peace because it’ll show us where we’re trying to do entirely too much!

    But it’s easy to start viewing the scheduling system we’re using — any system — as The Boss rather than a tool. I mean, Charlotte Mason did not have schools so that children could be subjected to her time-tables, but sometimes it starts to feel like that in our homes.

    You know what? I don’t think Charlotte Mason ever did science for two hours straight, even in the high school years. But my son takes a physical science lab with friends, and it’s two hours long almost every single Monday afternoon. He loves it, his attention does not flag, and he’s more in love with science than ever. I call that a win all around, but if I felt like a slave to the time-tables, I might have been tempted to beat myself up for “compromising” in such a way.

    Charlotte Mason’s schools started at nine. They often ran six days per week. They had afternoon activities every day. All of this worked great for her. Your mileage may vary.

    I love the time-tables and have used them (in my own way — you can read about how I create blank templates and then use them to plan a whole year if you like) to implement AmblesideOnline effectively. I really couldn’t have taught four separate years at a time without learning a way of thinking about all of this that worked for me.

    But notice this: worked for me.

    It’s okay if what I do — or what Charlotte Mason did — doesn’t work for you. Charlotte Mason didn’t have a one-room school house, and I assume that you probably do, which means you’re going to have to adjust to fit your family.

    Teaching reading a certain way is not an end; it’s just a means. I’ve been asked why the phonics curriculum I developed doesn’t follow the way Charlotte Mason laid out teaching reading. You want to know why? Because I knew how to teach a child to read before I ever encountered Charlotte Mason. I used to joke about old dog and new tricks, but the reality is that the way I teach reading is simple, effective, easy, requires very little time, and the children I’ve worked with over the years enjoyed the process. It’s not for everyone, but it is for me (and some of you — you know who you are!). The bottom line is that it works.

    But for years I felt a little insecure about this, as if there was some hidden virtue in how Charlotte Mason taught reading that couldn’t possibly be in my method. And then Anne White shared this quote with me. It’s from a Parents’ Review article written by Elsie Kitching in 1926:

    [Charlotte Mason] used to tell her students here, “Teachers must in this, as in all other matters, mix their work with brains,” for children differ, and a method which helps one child may seem a stumbling block to another. A good teacher usually has a method she prefers, and Miss Mason was quite willing to leave it to the teacher as long as the child learnt to read!

    As long as the child learned to read. That’s the goal folks.

    Charlotte Mason’s method seems to work — my friend Amy wrote a curriculum called Discover Reading that imitates it, and people like it. But you know what? My curriculum also works. Which is sort of the point. It wasn’t ever the box of ivory letters or the cutting up of pages of words — those were means.

    Literacy. That was the point.

    Which brings us to my point. Let’s not confuse the means with the ends. When we do this, we are completely sabotaging ourselves and our homeschools.

    Charlotte Mason believed in the ability of teachers and parents to wisely apply her principles as they saw fit (see the preface to Volume 2, for example). She warned us against systematizing education. And yet it’s so tempting — our world promotes the factory model and we are tempted to believe that we can put the children on the conveyor belt on one end and then Do All The Things Precisely along the way and then out will pop the Properly Educated Child at the end. It’s easier to focus on Doing The Things Precisely (and Mechanically) rather than thoughtfully implementing principles.

    Conform our ways to Charlotte Mason’s principles and each family will look a little different as they blossom and grow. But decide on an absolute standard of doing all the details, and that’s a different kind of conformity altogether, and some families will feel stifled while others will feel like failures and yet others will feel smug. And none of it is pretty, and none of it requires the use of our brains.

    Remember Charlotte Mason’s exhortation? Mix our work with brains.

    With a few solid principles in our pockets, and brains in our heads, we can stop the sabotage. We’re going to do just fine.

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  • Reply AO with the Less Academic Child, Revisited | Afterthoughts August 22, 2019 at 3:32 pm

    […] for my other students, nothing has worked well for her. I prayed about this for her — you see, we do not learn languages in order to go through the motions of learning a language. And since that’s the case, I have to figure out a language that she can actually learn — a […]

  • Reply What Did Charlotte Mason Mean by "Short Lessons?" | Afterthoughts August 8, 2019 at 12:07 pm

    […] of course, it pays to mix all of this with brains. I had to adjust this for my oldest guy at one point. When he was 12, he — my child who had […]

  • Reply BecTasmanian August 26, 2017 at 11:31 pm

    Glad you recorded this one, Brandy 🙂

  • Reply Molly E. August 25, 2017 at 8:01 am

    Thank you! ❤️

  • Reply Kat July 10, 2017 at 2:02 pm

    This is such a great reminder! Sometimes I find myself kicking myself for not checking off all the “boxes” on a particular subject curriculum, and it’s so silly and unrealistic! Thanks for the great reminder and encouragement of what the big picture is all about. Kat, The Healthy Home

  • Reply Erin February 19, 2017 at 12:16 pm

    ” Let’s not confuse the means with the ends. …. our world promotes the factory model and we are tempted to believe that we can put the children on the conveyor belt on one end and then Do All The Things Precisely along the way and then out will pop the Properly Educated Child at the end. ”

    Oh well said!! Yes I think this thinking has become rather insidious in our culture

  • Reply Monique Laura February 18, 2017 at 6:33 pm

    This was a breath of fresh air. I was just thinking about this today. I couldn’t figure out this sort of feeling of guilt that I would struggle with. It’s mostly the nagging thoughts like “What if my son can’t grasp the reading program and I am faced with considering one that is not CM. Then, what am i going to do?” I was feeling like I was betraying Ms. Mason by not following the format that she laid out and I felt like I wasn’t measuring up if I have to consider another reading program that’s not recommended. My son hasn’t even started year 1 and I have had so much angst over the thoughts in my head. This has given me some confidence to move forward and use my judgement as my son’s teacher. The quote that you posted that was given to you by Anne White is just what I needed to be rid of those discouraging thoughts.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel February 18, 2017 at 6:58 pm

      Oh, I am so glad, Monique! This was providential, I think, just like that quote was for me once upon a time. ♥

  • Reply Helen February 18, 2017 at 12:41 pm

    Thanks so much for posting this! I was at the CM West :: Conference in the Redwoods (which was wonderful and such a blessing – thanks for that, too) and this is what our little house group sat up until 2am hashing out. It was a wonderful conversation, and the Elsie Kitching quote you shared is a telling addition.

    Also thanks for sharing your thoughts with all of us, and hosting a place where this kind of conversation can happen.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel February 18, 2017 at 1:04 pm

      Are you the Helen who runs a nature group? Because if so I can totally see your face in my mind! ♥ Wasn’t that an amazing conference? One of the things I love about Amber and Celeste is their firm grip on the principles — all the details are always put in that context. ♥

      • Reply Helen February 23, 2017 at 10:01 am

        I am! <3 It was an amazing conference. I got so much out of the talks, and came home with good adjustments to make in my homeschool practice. And the community experience was wonderful. Good, deep conversations about how and why we do what we do. I came home so refreshed.

  • Reply dawn February 18, 2017 at 9:48 am

    This is such a great post – such a relief to hear these things! <3

  • Reply Andrea February 17, 2017 at 7:38 am

    Great post! I call myself an eclectic homeschooler so as not to disrespect those who follow CM/Ambleside to the letter, however, now you’ve got me thinking…

    I use CM’s *framework*, but I’ve modified it a lot to fit our family. The biggest is that I’m a partial to STEM subjects so I’ve woven them into the curriculum. My 7 & 9 yr-olds get the following subjects at least 2-5x a week: math, science, music, english, history, geography, french, art, programming, spanish, chinese. All the subjects are taught with CM’s method in mind so narration, dictation, and handwriting are incorporated all over and none of the subjects are done more than 30 minutes at a time.

    We usually start with reading or gardening around 8am then dive into the other subjects and stop around noon. We study 3 – 5 times a week depending on what’s going on. For instance, summers are sweltering here in Louisiana (95 degrees + 95% humidity) so we work more often and mostly indoors. But right now in “winter” there’s beautiful, sunny, 70 degree weather so I’ve been taking them out for more nature walks than scheduled. Also, we’re in the middle of carnival/mardi gras so they get 2 weeks off to work on costumes and go to parades! (yes, there is a very family-friendly PG-rated side to the celebration if you’re a native).

    To make your point, my focus is on the ends – the morality, judeo-christian values, and character-building in CM’s method. The means are usually my own.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel February 17, 2017 at 8:35 am

      You are so smart to be using those summers months for schooling! I often think I should plan our school year more around weather than I do (we’re very low humidity but temps up to 115). You are making me consider this again. 🙂 It does seem silly that some of the best weeks of spring are half spent indoors studying…

  • Reply DHM February 17, 2017 at 2:30 am

    Brilliant. The foreign language one is my favourite example. Just because.

  • Reply Rondalyn Ohrenberg February 16, 2017 at 7:40 pm

    Thank you so much for this reminder.
    We live three years out of four overseas. This year we are in the US, and I am purchasing books and materials for first through third grade. Ambleside Online gives me the basics, but math and phonics and handwriting and, and. . . . . . Recognizing that my child is a person that is changing and growing and that our resources will be so much more limited overseas adds a stressful dimension to preparing. Trying to plan to do home school “the CM way” three years in advance is pretty overwhelming!
    We are doing Y0.5 currently, partly so I can “test drive” the math program before investing in three years of it. At first, my daughter was keen to “do school.” But now she is balking. I need to remember those principles and let her learn at her own pace, enjoy playing outside and building with blocks and reading just for fun.
    This post encourages me to focus on internalizing those principles NOW so that I will be able to flex effectively LATER. And flexing is okay.
    (Really looking forward to “Boot Camp” !)

  • Reply Kimberly Neve February 16, 2017 at 6:48 pm

    Oh, Brandy! You have just hit a home run!!

    • Reply Kimberly Neve February 16, 2017 at 6:51 pm

      Possibly a Grand Slam!

      • Reply Dawn Duran February 17, 2017 at 2:46 am

        DEFINITELY a Grand Slam, #2:)!

  • Reply Megan February 16, 2017 at 6:33 pm

    Brilliant! You explained it so well!


  • Reply Melissa Greene February 16, 2017 at 5:46 pm

    Great post Brandy! I love the analogies you used and the way you tied them to subjects. It made the post very practical. What a great reminder that there’s more than one way to skin a cat 🙂

  • Reply Debra in Texas February 16, 2017 at 3:37 pm

    Gosh, thank you for this! There’s a lot of smug (unintentional, I’m sure) out there in the world of the internets, and I’ve felt burdened by it lately. Your post is a balm to me and an encouragement. 🙂

  • Reply Carol February 16, 2017 at 3:01 pm

    This is so good, Brandy. I think there can be an unhealthy comparison or competition about how much we follow CM’s actual practices. I’ve never used CM’s reading instruction but, like you, my kids achieved literacy anyhow. Amy Carmichael’s use of CM’s principles adapted to an Indian setting has always inspired me to think about how the principles can be worked out in other situations and in our modern day practice.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel February 16, 2017 at 3:05 pm

      You know, I have heard so many people talk about Carmichael and CM, but I have actually never read about it myself. Do you happen to have a book you’d recommend on that? I’d like to add it to my summer reading.

      • Reply Carol February 16, 2017 at 11:05 pm

        It was through Susan Schaeffer Macaulay’s writing that I read of the connection – For the Family’s Sake & When Children Love to Learn. Nancy wrote a post about this & mentioned a book by Iain Murray. There are some good comments from readers also:

      • Reply Emily Upchurch July 10, 2018 at 9:08 am

        I realize this is an old post, but thought I’d mention–I read a lot of Amy Carmichael’s original writings years ago. She talks about her appreciation for Charlotte Mason very specifically in her book Kohila, which deals a lot with the day-to-day process of raising and educating the Dohnavuhr children. Biographers occasionally reference AC’s ideas about education, but most of them appear to be unaware of who Charlotte Mason was so don’t mention where she got them from!

        • Reply Brandy Vencel July 10, 2018 at 10:23 am

          Ooh! Thank you. That book is going on my list. 🙂

  • Reply Nancy Buterbaugh February 16, 2017 at 1:34 pm

    Extremely helpful and well said. I feel like as much as I admire Charlotte Mason and her philosophies, the fact is they were designed for schools in Victorian England, not homeschools in 21st Century America and it stands to reason that there might be some judicious adaptation of her methods. There is so much we can feel beaten down by in not living up to things… it is good to be reminded to keep our eyes on the goal.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel February 16, 2017 at 2:52 pm

      I do think it does honor to her to try and take her principles and find additional ways to express them. It makes her philosophy a thing of *now* and not just a thing of yesterday. 🙂

    • Reply Debi Z February 17, 2017 at 5:11 am

      Her principles and methods were for the homeschool. Classrooms came later. Even her timetables (which are mentioned, but not laid out, in her volumes) were specifically for homeschooling. A lot of people think that CM was primarily a classroom teacher but she was first and foremost about helping parents and governesses to teach children at home.

      • Reply Brandy Vencel February 17, 2017 at 7:07 am

        Oh I fully agree. Principles, to be such, must be universal. But this doesn’t negate the idea of adjusting wisely … of mixing it all with brains. 🙂

        • Reply Debi Z February 17, 2017 at 12:35 pm

          Absolutely. I just wanted to address the idea that CM was a “Victorian classroom” educator rather than a homeschooling educator. Here is the section I was looking for in regards to their being a timetable at home, not just in schools. “In the first place, there is a time-table, written out fairly, so that the child knows what he has to do and how long each lesson is to last. This idea of definite work to be finished in a given time is valuable to the child, not only as training him in habits of order, but in diligence; he learns that one time is not ‘as good as another’; that there is no right time left for what is not done in its own time; and this knowledge alone does a great deal to secure the child’s attention to his work. ” (Vol 1, p. 142) ” Volume 1 is Home Education, so obviously, this was for homes 🙂 Of course we need to make it work for us, and CM would want us to, but there were a lot of principles woven right into many of the methods as well. With reading, for example, she begins the concept of taking a picture of a word for spelling. This is a skill that will be used later in dictation. So, while it is totally great to use another curriculum or method to teach reading, there are some skills that may not be learned in the early years that might make later subjects more difficult. That doesn’t mean not to do it, and it certainly doesn’t mean to use her methods slavishly, it’s just something to be considered. Her methods really do build on each other 🙂

  • Reply Dawn February 16, 2017 at 12:54 pm

    My favorite article I have read so far. LOVE this!! There is grace mixed in and helps us put the emphasis on the principles.

  • Reply Lisa A February 16, 2017 at 11:52 am

    Excellent post, Brandy! There is room for more than one expression of method when we are keeping in mind the principles. This is the point where teaching from rest enters the picture: by putting principles inn their rightful place above method we can stop trying to be legalistic and focus instead on the relationships (both between parents and children and between subjects and scholars) which enable us to press toward the desired outcome.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel February 16, 2017 at 2:50 pm

      I love that you connected this to teaching from rest, Lisa. I really hadn’t thought of that, but you are so right — it eliminates a lot of stress to put things in perspective this way and aim at the goal *using* the practices (which is actually how CM defined a method — an end to aim at, and step-by-step progress in that direction) rather than aiming at the practices and getting none of what we’d hoped…

  • Reply Elizabeth February 16, 2017 at 11:27 am

    PLEASE turn this post into a podcast episode! Loved it!

    • Reply Brandy Vencel February 16, 2017 at 2:45 pm

      Ooh! Good idea! I think I’ll put it on the list for AfterCast Season 2. I’m building the list now, so that is perfect. 🙂

      • Reply Elizabeth February 16, 2017 at 4:14 pm

        YAY!! Thank you! ?

    • Reply Herbwifemama February 16, 2017 at 5:26 pm

      Actually, a book. You laid out the *purpose* behind her recommendations so clearly, I’d love a printable list of the various subjects and the goal behind them according to CM. Or something like that. I mean, I really really love this post. 🙂

  • Reply Celeste February 16, 2017 at 11:13 am

    I really loved this, Brandy. You said it here but I would reiterate that it’s not JUST whether something works but ALSO whether it reflects her principles — and the methods are secondary (though not unimportant since we might consider them what she considered an effective expression of principle, as you mentioned).

    I see both sides going on: like you said, some moms are so caught up in the methods that they lose sight of the principles. But also some are so caught up on what works that they lose sight of the principles (AND the methods). These are the moms that bristle when it kindly comes up that maybe the approach they’re describing isn’t quite CM. 😉 This post is balancing both of those extremes nicely into a happy, sane, logical middle. I am always pleased to see you say what I’m thinking so much more succinctly than I ever could! 🙂

    • Reply Lisa V in BC February 16, 2017 at 11:20 am

      Celeste, thanks for making this observation! So very true!

    • Reply Brandy Vencel February 16, 2017 at 2:21 pm

      I love what you said here, Celeste! ♥ In fact, it reminds me of what Aristotle (and Charlotte Mason, actually) said about virtue existing between two extremes. It’s such a hard balance to keep, and yet that balance is exactly what we have to aim for.

      Because, yes: “it works” isn’t actually a principle. 😉

    • Reply Dawn Duran February 16, 2017 at 3:39 pm

      Hear, hear on all counts!!

  • Reply Lisa V in BC February 16, 2017 at 10:51 am

    Love, Love, Love This!!

    As always Brandi, you are a breath of fresh air and this is so freeing for those of us who have gotten stuck in “Havetodoittherightwayitis” in the past and stumbled big time when that “right way” just didn’t work for us.

    Keeping the goal in mind and using the means that will get us there is priceless!

    • Reply Brandy Vencel February 16, 2017 at 2:21 pm

      Haha! “Havetodoittherightwayitis” — I love it!

    • Reply Brandy Vencel February 16, 2017 at 2:38 pm

      I do think that is the major risk — we can get to where we can follow steps mechanically, but if we lose the principles along the way, then we don’t know how to adjust when it isn’t working. Very good point here, Lisa!

  • Reply Melissa February 16, 2017 at 10:35 am

    This was just exactly what I needed to hear today. I knew it, but was doubting myself this week for all the reasons you describe. “Mix it with brains” has always been my favorite Charlotte Mason quote.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel February 16, 2017 at 2:37 pm

      It’s your favorite quote?? How did I not hear it until Anne shared it with me? I had never heard it before then. I love it, too. ♥

      • Reply Dawn Duran February 16, 2017 at 3:41 pm

        Me neither!! I LOVE it!!!!

    • Reply Melissa February 17, 2017 at 8:35 am

      I don’t remember where I first heard the quote, but when I am in a CM quandary, I have a mental image of Charlotte telling me to “mix it with brains” as if I were a student teacher of hers who was vexing her patience!

      • Reply Brandy Vencel February 17, 2017 at 8:40 am

        It makes me laugh now, this mental image. I imagine myself following the “rules” just so and then finding that something hasn’t worked for my student — use your brain! she says. Method not system, she says. Love it. ♥

      • Reply Melissa February 17, 2017 at 8:50 am

        Here it is – from “In Memorium”:
        Perhaps this principle was specially evident during Criticism lessons on Thursday mornings when Miss Mason would criticise a student for doing what was, apparently, precisely the thing another student has been criticised for not doing the previous Thursday, thus reducing us to despair. For what were we to do? and when we asked for the precise recipe we were told to “mix it with brains.” Every lesson needs a special giving and the method is based upon broad principles which leave the teacher all the exercise of her own ingenuity.

  • Reply Christy Hissong February 16, 2017 at 9:51 am

    Oh, Brandy! Thank you for shouting this from the rooftops! We indeed sabotage ourselves and inflict great damage on the community’s understanding of the beauty that is Charlotte Mason’s philosophy when we take our eyes off the principles and focus incessantly on the practice. I’m geekily interested in how CM implemented her principles in the day-to-day, but her example encourages me to discover ways to implement those principles in my own home — not slavishly conform to every jot and tittle of her practices. For me, it’s all about control. As we allow the Holy Spirit to lead us in spreading the feast of learning and trust Him to prepare our children’s hearts to receive all He has for them, we can step out of the way with peaceful hearts knowing our children (and their mamas) are safe in the Father’s strong arms. Thanks so much for addressing this important issue!

    • Reply Catie February 16, 2017 at 12:36 pm

      “I’m geekily interested in how CM implemented her principles in the day-to-day, but her example encourages me to discover ways to implement those principles in my own home — not slavishly conform to every jot and tittle of her practices.”

      YES! 😀

      • Reply Brandy Vencel February 16, 2017 at 2:50 pm

        Yep. It really is fun to geek out on all of her details sometimes. 🙂

    • Reply Brandy Vencel February 16, 2017 at 2:40 pm

      So … this is what it takes to get Christy to come play in the comments. Well, then, I shall have to quote you more often. 😉

      Seriously, though, I love what you say here. You really were the breath of fresh air *I* needed back when you wrote that first post on scheduling. ♥

      • Reply Christy Hissong February 16, 2017 at 7:57 pm

        I’m always here, sweet friend, even though I don’t often chime in 😉 But this post hit a sore spot here — one I’ve struggled with myself over the years as I learn and grow in my understanding and appreciation for CM’s work. I’d hate it if people thought that original post was my first and last word on the subject — ack! Please see part II, people: –
        And the learning never stops, does it? Thanks for encouraging us in the trenches, Brandy, and for always being so gracious and real.

  • Reply Catie February 16, 2017 at 4:47 am

    Oh.My.Goodness. This is so good. And freeing!!! I tend to be the kind of person that wants someone to tell me exactly how to do something (I’ll still do some tweaking to fit my needs) but I can easily become a slave to a certain Way and that can lead to lots of stress!!
    Wonderful post!! 🙂

    • Reply Brandy Vencel February 16, 2017 at 12:44 pm

      I think that sometimes that feeling that we need someone to tell us how is actually an expression of our need for incarnations of the principles — they can sound very nebulous and “out there” and we’re not always sure how to apply them when we have all these little faces looking up at us expectantly. In other words — it’s not necessarily a *bad* thing! In seeing incarnations of the principles, we are actually learning how to apply them. My concern is exactly what you mention, though — the slavery aspect. I think we all have to fight it here and there in our homeschools. It’s just human nature. 🙂

      • Reply Kristi February 16, 2017 at 2:11 pm

        I second Catie’s comment; I want to know exactly how to do things, and then I can change them up if needed. 🙂 Brandy, this leads me to a question I have as a (continual) newbie to CM. I hope to start homeschooling my oldest for kinder in the fall (who will barely be 6 then). I wanted to have read at least one of the CM volumes by then (I’ve heard to start with Vol 6), but I get overwhelmed at the thought since I don’t find the writing easy to process, which makes me stop and go read something else. 😉 Is there a logical way to go through and break down the information in her volumes that is a bit less intimidating?

        I also am not sure of the best place to start from a practical perspective. I certainly wouldn’t contradict your points above about confusing means with the end, but I feel like I don’t know enough about what the CM means even are in order to have issues with confusing them with the end. Haha.

        Are any of these issues possibly something your CM boot camp will tackle? 😉

        Thank you for another excellent post. The way you make connections in your writing is so helpful to read!

        • Reply Brandy Vencel February 16, 2017 at 2:57 pm

          Well, my Start Here study does that — and yes, Boot Camp is intended to do that, too, just in a different way. Another option, though, is just to buy Mind to Mind by Karen Glass. It’s an abridged version of the sixth volume, which sort of makes one gasp inside! — but ultimately I think she was trying to separate it a bit from the Victorian context so that we could see the philosophy for what it is.

          Ultimately, I think that for you, yes, this post doesn’t completely apply! What you want to accomplish is a good enough grip on Miss Mason’s principles that you can hold on to them as you go along. This means that when you learn about a practice (such as learning to read or spell), you have enough knowledge of the underlying principle that, if something goes wrong with the practice in its “purest form” (for lack of a better phrase), you know how to adapt wisely. Wise adaptation is only possible with knowing the principles — otherwise the tendency is either to push forward with practices that aren’t working OR to slip into whatever is natural for the teacher, regardless of whether it’s a good idea or not…

          • Kristi February 16, 2017 at 3:19 pm

            Thank you! Having read Consider This, I was wondering about Mind to Mind and if you would recommend that. I haven’t done your Start Here study so it’s good to know that it would be useful for this. I think I get what you’re saying … even though I’ve read the principles over a few times, that’s not the same as internalizing them to the level where they kick in automatically (so to speak) when faced with the various decisions of homeschooling, i.e., the “why” guiding the “what” and the “how.” I hope I’ve said that correctly. I have afternoon post-chocolate brain. 😉 Thanks again!

    • Reply Brandy Vencel February 16, 2017 at 2:43 pm

      Yes. 🙂 To me, stress is usually a sign that I need to come up for air and assess whether I’m aligning my practice with philosophy.

  • Reply Nelleke February 16, 2017 at 4:35 am

    Thank you so much for writing this! I’ve been observing the same thing lately…people are getting all caught up in the details of exactly how CM did everything and trying to copy it exactly. I even had a blog post partially written in my head about it! Now I don’t have to write it. 🙂 If a person is faithfully following Charlotte Mason’s principles and methods, I believe there can be freedom in application, particularly since our homes are not schools. I am particularly concerned that people are getting caught up in the details of the schedule, etc, before they grasp CM’s philosophy of education. For me, I know I have to step back from the daily details once in a while and ask myself some big picture questions: am I seeing my children as born persons? Do our days reflect that education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life?

    • Reply Brandy Vencel February 16, 2017 at 2:42 pm

      Very good point about getting caught up in schedules — or anything else — *before* understanding the principles. I am so glad the AO Advisory drilled that into my head so many years ago — that a CM curriculum cannot give a CM education if it’s separated from the philosophy. They made a student out of me after I heard it the one millionth time. 😉

  • Reply Elizabeth February 16, 2017 at 3:44 am

    Thank you for this!!! I have recently been feeling bound in an unhealthy if not slavish way to certain CM methods by feeling guilty when I’ve successfully used something else to teach say – spelling – for example. This helped me embrace what I already knew. Thank you for your clear explanation and for freeing me from the “mom guilt” or words from other CM moms who remind me that anything other than her methods is not best.

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