Educational Philosophy, Home Education, Mother's Education

EP 23: Learning How to Live (transcript)

December 13, 2018 by Brandy Vencel

Most AfterCast episodes are read blog posts, but in this case, I used a conglomeration of bits of different posts, so today I’ve provided a transcript of the episode. Enjoy!

  

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Back in 2014, I was reading The Story of Charlotte Mason by Essex Cholmondeley. It’s an extremely expensive biography right now. It was published in 1960. The author, Essex Cholmondeley, was herself trained as a teacher by Charlotte Mason at Ambleside. It is a wonderful biography, but with that said I don’t think I would recommend you spending the $200 or $300 that it’s often going for. I certainly didn’t spend that. It might be worthwhile, though, to keep your eyes open if you ever have a chance to snag a copy that is on the cheaper side, say $50, I think it’s worth about $50.

Alright, in the biography, Cholmondeley, the author, told a story early on about being interviewed by Charlotte Mason. Miss Mason asked her why she had come to the college. “I have to come to learn to teach,” Cholmondeley replied. And, then Miss Mason said the phrase that changed my life, as it changed Essex Cholmondeley’s life:

My dear, you have come here to learn to live.

Something about this phrase captivated me. Learning how to live — it sounds like a great adventure, doesn’t it? But, some people don’t see education as an adventure at all.

I once heard a complaint about Charlotte Mason education. The person liked the idea of it but didn’t like that there was so much study that seemed to be required. Can’t we just buy some books and read them? What’s the big deal?

Well, in a sense, yes, we can just buy some books and read them with our students, but one of the things that sets Charlotte Mason apart is that she seemed to think that the best teachers, her teachers, teach from overflow.

What do I mean? It’s probably best to let Charlotte Mason herself explain this. So, my sweet friend, Naomi, she was kind enough to type up a letter from Charlotte Mason written to L’Umile Pianta — that’s the magazine for the alumni of her teacher’s college. So, Charlotte Mason wrote a letter to it in 1896 and in it she gave two pieces of advice to her alumni: read and study.

I’m going to read a big quote:

Read, not only in the Book, which one cannot read without many life-giving thoughts, but almost any good book, poetry, biography, history, essays, good novels, — all will supply our need. You will find that if we read thoughtfully and steadily and only that which is worth reading, daily nourishment of stimulating thought will come to us; and, however foreign the subject may be, what we read, if it is worth reading, will help us to do our work better and will give us fresh thoughts to impart to the children.

I fear I am exceeding the space allowed to me so will offer just one other little word of counsel — study. I know that all good teachers have some study each day in preparing for the next day’s work, but, besides this, study some two or three subjects, definitely on your own account. Do not think this a selfish thing to do, because the advantage does not end with yourself. Every hour of definite study enriches your mind and increases your power, so that, the more you study in your spare time, the more there is in you to bestow upon your pupils.

Charlotte Mason’s teachers were students. By this I don’t mean that they were learning alongside the students in their classes, though I’m sure they were. What I mean is that Miss Mason was not much concerned with classroom management and technique; she was concerned that her teachers have the heart of a scholar — that they themselves came to embody the philosophy.

When I say they were students I mean this in the sense of identity or as a description of the sort of  persons they were. This means that the Charlotte Mason teacher (the Charlotte Mason homeschool teacher, too) was characterized by a love and increasing possession of knowledge and wonder and delight and therefore by humility.

After gaining these thoughts in seed form I started noticing all the different ways that adult learning was offered and modeled in Essex Cholmondeley’s book and I decided to compile all of the various descriptions into a blog series that I called Learning How to Live: Becoming a Charlotte Mason Teacher in a Utilitarian World.

I looked at how Charlotte Mason continued her own education, how her teachers continued theirs, and how parents within Charlotte Mason’s organization also continued theirs. Everyone around Charlotte Mason was learning and growing and I think the sheer multitude of examples as well as the amazing variety can offer us inspiration for when we’ve gotten dry in our own lives.

Now, this is the first time I’ve devoted a whole season of AfterCast to a single blog series, but these posts go so well together that I didn’t want to split them up. I think they are much more enjoyable in a flow. So, for this season, we’re just going to take a romp through all the amazing ways for adults to learn and get some ideas for ourselves.

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