Saturday, January 10, 2015

Charlotte Mason Book Club - Start Here....

I'm kicking off the new year with a Charlotte Mason Book Club!  You may remember, last year I started a Charlotte Mason Study Group using SCM's Learning and Living DVD series.  This year, our group will be using Brandy Vencel's (from Afterthoughts) new e-book Start Here, a journey through Charlotte Mason's 20 principles

Vencel's e-book walks you through Charlotte's 20 principles of education using Charlotte's six volume series and For the Children's Sake by Susan Schaeffer Macauley.   For each principle, there is assigned required reading from the two sources listed above.  There is also a comprehensive list of optional/supplemental reading for those wishing to further their knowledge.  The optional reading is from various volumes of Charlotte's writing, Parents' Review articles, and blog posts.  In addition to assigned and optional reading, there are also discussion questions, study tips, and quotes to ponder.  Vencel has combined/condensed Charlotte's 20 principles into enough material for 15 readings/meetings.

It's clear Vencel put great effort into pulling all these wonderful resources together in one easy to access place.  A bonus to downloading her e-book is that she has all the links activated so the reader can easily click and read without having to search or type URLs.  I actually downloaded and printed the book for portability.  I then used my ProClick Binder to keep it all together.   I love hard copies! 

Last night was our first Charlotte Mason Book Club meeting.   We discussed principle one,

"Children are born persons."   

A few meaningful quotes that I pulled out of the assigned reading, Chapter 2, Vol. 6, A Philosophy of Education, are... 

1. "If we have not proved that a child is born a person with a mind as complete and as beautiful as his beautiful little body, we can at least show that he always has all the mind he requires for his occasions; that is, that his mind is the instrument of his education and that his education does not produce his mind."

I've reread this passage many times and just love it!  So often, The Farmer and I have looked at our kids and commented how they are simply these beautiful little people.  I am absolutely convinced that God has created them with perfect minds for whatever His intentions and that though we can guide them, ultimately, their minds must make the final decision. I recently read another book, Einstein Never Used Flashcards, which in my mind supports this notion.  No amount of enrichment classes/activities are going make the mind, because each of us has already been remarkably and wonderfully made by God in His image. 

2. "Reason is present in the infant as truly as imagination.  As soon as he can speak he lets us know that he has pondered the 'cause why' of things and perplexes us with a thousand questions.  His 'why?' is ceaseless.  Nor are his reasonings always disinterested.  How soon the little urchin learns to manage his nurse or mother, to calculate her moods and play upon her feelings!  It is in him to be a little tyrant; "he has a will of his own," says his nurse, but she is mistaken in supposing that his stormy manifestations of greed, wilfulness, temper, are signs of will.  It is when the little boy is able to stop all these and restrain himself with quivering lip that his will comes into play; for he has a conscience too.  Before he begins to toddle he knows the difference between right and wrong; even a baby in arms will blush at the 'naughty baby!' of his nurse; and that strong will of his acts in proportion as he learns the difficult art of obedience; for no one can make a child obey unless he wills to do so, and we all know how small a rebel may make confusion in house or schoolroom."

I had an a-ha moment while reading this passage.  It's all about free will!  God gives us free will, but it's not until we learn to harness or submit that we are truly in control.  I have commented many times on my "strong willed child", but now stand corrected.  I see my work is not to control his tantrums or "strong will", but to guide or lead him in his own self control, which is truly the way of the will. 

3. "We may not take things casually as we have done.  Our business is to give children the great ideas of life, of religion, history, science; but it is the ideas we must give, clothed upon with facts as they occur, and must leave the child to deal with these as he chooses."

I find this method of teaching to be freeing.  I don't have to explain and be the fountain head of all knowledge.  I can simply give the facts and let the child decide for himself/herself.  This idea was an area of contention for one mom.who brought up a point about God calling us to teach discernment.   

Oh, there's much more I could type, but must stop there for now.  I will admit, each member agreed Charlotte's writing is heavy sledding, but we all want to keep going.  One mom expressed relief in finding one method to study and follow rather than chasing multiple methods.  Our group plans to meet monthly. 

I found this article a while back and thought it was an excellent essay from a veteran mom on this principle that children are born persons.

UPDATED November 2015 - The Children Are Born Persons podcast at A Delectable Education is helpful in understanding this first principal.  It's a little less than 20 minutes long and worth the time :)

UPDATED January 2017 - Matt Bianco wrote a great post at CiRCE regarding this principle.  It's called Finding Their Voice.  I encourage you to read it while studying principle one.

Disclaimer: I was gifted a copy of Start Here by Brandy Vencel for the purpose of writing a review.  However, all opinions are my own.  And, I reserve the right to occasionally change my mind :)


  1. Lovely! I have a Charlotte Mason group as well that meets at my home here on PEI. We started before this book came out, so we've been going through CM's Volume 6 on our own. I'm thinking I might need to buy this just for me as I lead the group.

  2. Hi Melissa, I found your blog via Brandy at Afterthoughts. Great post. Philosophy of Ed was the first CM book I read & I love that first quote. It's so foundational & totally opposite to much of what is practiced in education - homeschooling or otherwise.

  3. Nelleke, What does PEI stand for? I think you will find the book very helpful. There are many supplemental resources included.

    Thanks Carol! ....yes, this is foundational. It seems so simple, yet brilliant and powerful. I'm learning to appreciate and admire Charlotte's wisdom on a whole new level.

    Many blessings,

  4. I need to get this book too as I am co-leading a CM group too! Thanks for this post.

  5. You're welcome Alicia! You can obtain the book by clicking the small "Where Do I Start" button on the right side of this blog. I am really enjoying our group. It's such a gift to find other like minded homeschooling families in your area. May your group be everything you desire...and may it bless others. :)