When Charlotte Mason evaluated the student teachers at her training college, a big thing she looked for was whether or not they were using the principles she had taught them. Did they work from a place of understanding? If not, it didn’t matter if what they had done with their classes was “right” or “wrong” — it was devoid of wisdom. Miss Mason was looking for teachers who walked in wisdom with their students.
Charlotte Mason originally boiled her own philosophy down to 18 basic principles. Later, she reorganized a bit, and her final book was published with 20 Principles at the front. It is these 20 Principles we are going to study in 2022.
I’m taking some time off from Charlotte Mason Boot Camp to lead this study. We’ve had requests for this sort of thing for years, but it never felt like a good time to do it … until now. I’m super excited about this — revisiting the 20 Principles over and over again has been one of the great joys of my life. There is just so much to them. And when we know them, they become reliable stars to steer by as we’re navigating homeschooling over the long haul.
Let me explain how all of this is going to work by answering a bunch of basic questions.
* What is the Charlotte Mason Think Tank?
The Charlotte Mason Think Tank is what I named the Mighty Network I’ve been working in ever since I took projects like Charlotte Mason Boot Camp off of Facebook. It’s a replacement for my old Facebook groups. For studies like this, it’s where I deliver assignments, where we all have discussions, and where you can ask questions. A new feature they just added is that it’s also where we can do live video (rather than going off-site to Crowdcast like we were doing before).
So the current study we’re doing is the 20 Principles Study, but there will be others in the (distant) future.
* When does the 20 Principles Study begin?
Um … right now! This coming week is all the orientation stuff (which really is mandatory if you want to feel like you know what is going on). Then we start with introductory material including a LIVE study kickoff on Wednesday, January 12th. I’ll give you a whirlwind introduction to all 20 principles and (try to) leave time for a few questions at the end. Hard stop at one hour.
* How long will this study last?
I’m estimating it will take between 15-18 months. I don’t think it needs to take 20 months to do 20 principles, and I believe in giving something an appropriate amount of time rather than sticking to a prescribed formula. There will also be break weeks factored in along the way — things like Holy Week, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, yes, but also an occasional catch-up week. I do not intend for this to be an open-ended study. There is a beginning and there will be an end.
* What is the pacing like?
I think the best way to answer this question is to give you a glimpse of the schedule for January.
Charlotte Mason Boot Camp (if you have done that or Deep Dive before) has a lot in a short period of time. This 20 Principle Study is not like that. The pacing we do in short classes is impossible to maintain over a long period of time. There is a time and place for both types of pacing; what is appropriate for the 20 Principles Study is a livable pace, one that can be incorporated as a habit into our lives.
A few thoughts on this schedule:
- We are doing fewer Live Q&A sessions. In the past, we’ve done super long ones. Again, that is something that is appropriate for a short study, but for a long one, you are going to feel behind if I’m posting 9 hours of live video (in addition to the bulk of the study) every month. I’m going to limit the Live sessions to about 2 hours per month so that you have time to actually participate.
- There will not always be listening assignments. I believe in reading. But beyond this, sort of like how I believe in organic scheduling (building a livable pace that makes sense for daily life), I also believe in organic assigning (assigning an appropriate amount and using a format — written, audio, or video — that is appropriate for the content). So this month, there is more video (because it makes sense for welcome and orientation material) and audio (because I’m sharing things that Charlotte Mason wrote that aren’t widely available online and so you can’t really read it) than there may be in future months, when we’ll do more reading.
- Please mentally add “and narrate” to every assignment. Charlotte Mason’s greatest contribution, in my opinion, was to take what we naturally do (tell people about the things we are thinking about) and formalize it as part of the learning method. I talk about this more at length in one of the welcome videos, but for now just let me say that reading isn’t how you come to know. It’s the opportunity to begin to know. Same with listening or watching or whatever. It is in telling — to yourself or another — that we come to know. Narration is part of the path to wisdom.
- I am only posting one Official Discussion Question per week. I want us to have time to really discuss deeply. But I also invite you as members of the study to raise your own questions in posts and then we’ll talk about those, too.
- The monthly checklists will help you stay organized. All the assignments for the whole month are listed on a single page that you can tack up somewhere or tape into a journal. Keep a digital copy, though, because it’s also linked to places where you can read the assignments free online if you don’t own Charlotte Mason’s volumes.
* Do I need to buy anything additional to participate in this study?
No. You may want to. Owning a set of Charlotte Mason’s volumes would come in handy, for example. A binder or journal for you to keep your checklists and notes all together — maybe add some written narrations and thoughts — may also be nice. But you really can do the study all online if you wish.
* Is this the same as Start Here?
No. I mean, of course there will be overlap. They are both drawing on much of the same source material. But Start Here, for example, required reading from Susan Schaeffer Macauley’s book For the Children’s Sake. We are not doing that for this study. The Start Here study is only similar in the sense that it is a study of Charlotte Mason’s 20 Principles, but we’re going about it differently in the Live group.
If you have any questions I didn’t cover above, feel free to ask in the comments of this post.
Studying the 20 Principles is for everyone.
It’s great for beginners. There is nothing that strengthens your homeschool like having a solid philosophy. There are so many options for how to do things, so many choices you have to make. A philosophy helps you narrow it down. It helps you make certain types of choices in advance. But a really good philosophy (and I do think Miss Mason gave us a really good one!) aligns you with actual truth — with the natural law — with the way the world works in reality. When we live in accordance with reality, it goes well with us. It doesn’t mean life will be perfect, but it does mean there will be peace because the apprehension of truth brings about a peculiar sort of internal stability.
Studying the 20 Principles is also good for old timers (like me, ha). We are a forgetful people; it’s easy to wander off from the truths we were so certain of when we were just-turned-30 and still knew everything. It’s easy to grow weary in doing good day after day after day. It’s easy to get untethered from our philosophy when life throws us challenging curve balls. Studying philosophy reorients us to truth. It re-energizes us for the good work we need to do each day. It nourishes us and gives strength to our weakening convictions.
If you are human, you were meant to study philosophy. If you are a homeschooler, you need a philosophy.
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