Episode 70: Charlotte Mason "Purists"


How closely should we adhere to all of Charlotte Mason's principles and practices? This podcast explores the ramifications of taking part of Mason's method, practicing some of her ideas or mixing in other curricula, and addresses whether it is positive or negative to be labeled 'A Charlotte Mason Purist.'

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"The reader will say with truth--'I knew all this before and have always acted more or less on these principles'; and I can only point to the unusual results we obtain through adhering not 'more or less' but strictly to the principles and practices I have indicated. I suppose the difficulties are of the sort that Lister had to contend with; every surgeon knew that his instruments and appurtenances should be kept clean, but the saving of millions of lives has resulted from the adoption of the great surgeon's antiseptic treatment; that is from the substitution of exact principles scrupulously applied for the rather casual 'more or less' methods of earlier days." (Vol. 6, p. 19)

"We do not invite Heads of schools to take up work lightly, which implies a sound knowledge of certain principles and as faithful a practice. The easy tolerance which holds smilingly that everything is as good as everything else, that one educational doctrine is as good as another, that, in fact, a mixture of all such doctrines gives pretty safe results,––this sort of complacent attitude produces lukewarm effort and disappointing progress. I feel strongly that to attempt to work this method without a firm adherence to the few principles laid down would be not only idle but disastrous. 'Oh, we could do anything with books like those,' said a master; he tried the books and failed conspicuously because he ignored the principles." (Vol. 6, p. 270)

"We have a method of education, it is true, but method is no more than a way to an end, and is free, yielding, adaptive as Nature herself. Method has a few comprehensive laws according to which details shape themselves, as one naturally shapes one's behaviour to the acknowledged law that fire burns. System, on the contrary, has an infinity of rules and instructions as to what you are to do and how you are to do it. Method in education follows Nature humbly; stands aside and gives her fair play." (Vol. 2, p. 168)



Art Middlekauff's helpful article on this very topic

25 comments:

  1. I am so grateful for your efforts here, Liz, Emily & Nicole. I have learned so much and my homeschool is so much closer to cm methods & principles thanks to your information. We are now all together in our history time period as a family and enjoying the modern & ancient steams. I love Nicole's science guides and use them for both kids, biology & other science. We are using more appropriate books and the kids are thriving. My son used to hate history when he was being assigned way too much history reading. With the timeline& judicious book selections, he says he actually kind of likes history now. We are actually doing science experiments now! Our schedule is making efficient use of mornings and leaving afternoons for down time. We have more to learn, but have advanced leaps and bounds with our implementation of a cm education thanks for your podcasts. Even copywork is better... I could go on... :)

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  2. This was lovely! I agree 100% with all that was said. I guess that makes me a Charlotte Mason Geek too! Thank you for your work with these podcast. I wouldn't be a CM Geek without them. When they first came out I didn't listen because I thought I knew it all. I was encouraged by a fellow local homeschool mom to give them a try and I quickly found out how much I didn't know or had misunderstood. This podcast was very timely as I was feeling down about all the negative talk about being a CM Purists that was going around.

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  3. Brilliant podcast! Thank you ladies for pointing us to read CM for ourselves,encouraging us to do the best we can, and keep striving for the bar.
    Love Liz for saying too many voices isn't good, Emily you even encouraged us turn off the podcast if that's the case! Well done! :)

    Nicole the "CM geek" :) who said I do not do it perfectly but we keep trying! Great encouragement you ladies keep shining!

    Nicole

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  4. Trying to stay true to her method, how do you adapt the feast when there are irregular times (pregnancy sickness, times of major family stress, moving, etc)? Is it better to have a goal of X amount of subjects a day? Do math and copywork still get their daily slot or do they fall into a rotation with the other subjects? Should school take a break until the whole feast can be daily adhered to? I understand the answer might look different for everyone and their circumstances, but I would love some guiding principles! I am signed up for the scheduling webinar if you would prefer to answer there. Thanks for your help!

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    1. Katie, I have written a blog post about this. You might like to check it out. http://sabbathmoodhomeschool.com/2014/10/when-life-is-in-chaos/

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  5. Is there a CM book that is recommended as a overview of her principles and learning more of them? I don't have ant of her books, I have a few by other authors but I want to read more CM herself, I just don't know what would make most use of my time, ( or lack thereof) to read and better understand so I can have a solid understanding of her 'why's'. Loved this podcast, thank you. ❤

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    1. Becky, Charlotte's Vol. 6, A Philosophy of Education is a great place to start!

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    2. Brandy Vencel of Afterthoughts blog has an eBook called Start Here- it goes over Charlotte Mason's principles, and rounds up the chapters in CM's volumes that address each principle.

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    3. Yes, our CM Study Group read and studied CM's Vol. 6 using Start Here. It was great and is the one book that changed my homeschool.

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  6. Love your heart ladies, I have a couple of questions as I am confused...(or just in need of some definitions).
    I am hearing: the need to stick to the principles and practices, else "disaster".The 20 principles are easy to find. Is there somewhere with a summary or definition of the practices....I am needing a definite line so I can know where not to cross, but have freedom within...
    For example: a large and varied feast....Within that can I chose to change an element of the feast....For example biblical Greek instead of Latin? Can I choose to use less magic fairytales and mythology, or bring them.in later when I am confident my children have a firm foundation in the bible? Or will that be "disastrous" (to quote cm).
    If we have children that are not morning people but come alive in the evenings....Is it against her practise to do afternoon activities in the morning and the morning lessons in the afternoon/evenings starting after lunch if I am still using the short and varied lessons with a schedule but at a different chunk of the day? A summary or list of the practices that we should not change, would help me enormously to know where I am free to choose.....Another example...What about subjects like computer programming or media studies...That weren't around in Victorian england...If we add those subjects but use cm methods....Is the act of adding that subject to the feast violating her practices? Do you see what I am asking? I have so much fear and perfectionist tendancies in myself, I literally am scared of ending in disaster if I make a wrong decision...Please help me know the boundaries....Where do I have the freedom to choose? And where do I not? (if I do not want disaster).
    Jo in uk

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    1. Because you mention your children's foundation in the Bible, I'm going to take your lead. Do you expect that foundation to include a long list of dos and don'ts or do you trust that as they know their Lord better, they will have an understanding of what it means to love their neighbor as themselves and be able to respond accordingly in 1000 different situations? We don't have to fear because we have broad principles that help us know where the boundaries are. Mason's work on education is similar. Her broad principles help us to better understand how to teach these children who are whole persons made in God's image. That allows for flexibility, and it means that "school" won't look exactly the same in your home as it does mine. The key for you, and all of us, is to read what Mason says about education a little bit every day until we start to make decisions based on an understanding of the broad ideas she presents. If you are doing that, you don't need to fear getting it wrong, but rather enjoy to peace that comes from getting it more and more right as the years go by. Start reading Volume 1, Jo, and don't stop.
      ~Nicole

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  7. You ladies always help me. And I want to be a geek as well. It makes sense to try to adhere to the methods laid out by Miss Mason for the education to be as delightful and beneficial as it can, much like how following the Word to its high standard helps us know God more and makes us true diciples.

    I like the new piano recording, too.

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    1. Thank you, Sandy. It reminds me of when someone asks you for a recipe and you give it and they claim it didn't turn out, but then you discover they didn't put in this or that, didn't bake it in the same pan, etc.

      -Liz

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  8. Thank you so much for tackling this tricky subject with so much grace! I think my questions are similar to Jo's. On the one hand I appreciate that CM's philosophy was designed to work as a whole, on the other hand it was developed for a different time and place. Also it was developed (I think) primarily for an age graded school system, not a homeschool setting with many ages together. I so appreciate the work that you all have done at helping us understand the "whys" of different parts of her curriculum. I think that helps me make better judgements about what adaptions are likely to still keep the frame intact and which ones will bring the system down. Sort of like trying to remodel a house without moving any "load bearing wall"

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    1. Dear Ladybute,

      Thank you for your encouraging words. Stay tuned because in the next the next few episodes we address the common "myth" that CM was for schools and not homeschools first. Still, it is a different time. Though, in our opinion, that makes following Mason's principles even easier--resources, contacts, training, and materials are much more accessible now timeless. The books may change, but the children as persons are still made the same by their Creator, therefore the method really is timeless.

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    2. Can't wait to hear about the school vs. homeschool discussion!

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  9. And I completely see your wisdom in discouraging "adding" in curricula based on different philosophies -- I have tried that and found that it tends to quickly take over

    My biggest question in this area is how to handle college bound high schoolers. I have had both of my high school students write a research paper their junior and senior years. I felt like that process did sort of take over a lot of their fall term. And a lot of the skills they needed for it -- like skimming multiple sources, taking notes, etc. were quite different from the in depth, slow reading of one source usually done in CM. Somewhere I read a post that said that CM recommnded a writing curriculum in high school? Do you know if that is accurate? Would love any insight you have into this area

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    1. Ladybute,

      If you have a good resource that outlines the process of research paper writing, I am sure it is something useful that, if Mason were teaching research paper writing, she might make use of. Mechanics are important. I would say, however, that learning where to look and then reading deeply on a specific topic from a few sources is probably much more authentic, and more interesting for the teacher reading the paper. Being a skimmy reader is how so many have confused Mason with so many other things.
      -Liz

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    2. Thank you so so much for taking time to replay personally to all our comments. It is so helpful to benefit from all your study! Do you think that notetaking and/or outlining fits at all into CM's methods in the upper grades? I know she emphasizes one reading, but if students are trying to synthesize from multiple sources it would help. Or should I view teaching the research paper as an "extra" like SAT practice that college bound students need to do outside of their regular CM schedule.

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  10. Excellent episode, thank you! The more I have become a CM geek, and the more I have followed researched and followed CM's practices and methodology, the more peaceful, content, creative, and engaged my children and I have become. The fruits of this learning and implementing have been amazing and transformative for my whole family culture.

    Thank you for all your help in this learning - your work has made this process so much easier!

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    1. Amber,

      You express well how we geeks all feel--not constraint, but freedom; not tears and fretful days, but joy and peace. Thank you.

      -Liz

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  11. I LOVE this podcast, and my goal is to be a purist. I'm not totally sure I will ever make it completely 😁. I have question though - since this style of education is such a lifestyle I struggle with the separation of subjects. We generally move smoothly from one subject to the next, but I wonder if I should bring up or make a point "ok now we are going to read this for science and then this one is history". So many times subjects easily overlap, but being a beginner at all this Charolette Mason curriculum I wonder if Charolette Mason sat the children down and told them "now Bible and now history". Thank you for all you do to encourage me.

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    1. RC, We are all trying to be authentic and learning, learning all the time. One suggestion for your subject switching to define the time is to post your timetable for all to see. It was a rule in Mason's schoolroom that the timetable be posted listing the amount of time and the subjects.

      Liz

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