Spaces to Think No. 10

The destiny of the child is ruled by his parents, because they have the virgin soil all to themselves. The first sowing must be at their hands, or at the hands of such as they choose to depute.

What do parents sow? Ideas. (Volume 2 p. 29)


Education is a life; that life is sustained on ideas; ideas are of spiritual origin; and,

‘God has made us so’

that we get them chiefly as we convey them to one another. The duty of parents is to sustain a child’s inner life with ideas as they sustain his body with food. (Volume 2 p. 39)

In the early years of the child’s life it makes, perhaps, little apparent difference whether his parents start with the notion that to educate is to fill a receptacle, inscribe a tablet, mould plastic matter, or nourish a life; but in the end we shall find that only those ideas which have fed his life are taken into the being of the child; all the rest is thrown away, or worse, is like sawdust in the system, an impediment and an injury to the vital processes. (Volume 2 p. 38)

  • What ideas were sown in your child’s life this week?
  • Did you see their education as a matter of filling a receptacle and inscribing a tablet (checking off a box) or nourishing their life?
  • In what ways did their education nourish their life and form their vital processes?
  • Are you still hanging onto old ways of doing school, even though you know it will, at best, be sawdust or, at worst, be an impediment to true learning?
  • Are we patient enough to sow the idea and wait for the seed to sprout as it is meant to do or, in our impatience, do we seek the easy or quicker way for immediate results, even if it may prove detrimental to their attitude about learning and themselves?
  • Do we value immediate results even though we know that these won’t result in true learning and the formation of character?
  • Mason tells us that our duty is to sustain our child’s inner life with ideas. Do you know how to do this? In Artist Study? History Class? What about Science? Math? Copywork?
  • Any struggles with this that we can help you with?



This post is part of our Friday series: “Spaces to Think” You can read the others here.

5 thoughts on “Spaces to Think No. 10

  1. Author November 5, 2016 / 8:47 pm

    Love seeing the baby cameo in this post! 🙂
    I’m curious if you have some examples from your own experience of “hanging onto old ways of doing school” and how you 1) identified that it was a problematic method and 2) let it go (did you stop and change something suddenly, did you phase it out, etc.)?


  2. amyjoysnell November 6, 2016 / 11:36 am

    Ooh! These are good questions! I should write a whole blog post or two, especially after watching so many families fall into this trap.
    The dangerous things for me with mixing methods is 1. if it destroys a child’s sense of wonder 2. if it stops their ability for self-education–the children begin to rely on being spoon-fed, in lecture or teaching format but also in the types of assignments and tests.

    I think the easiest way to tell is to see if the curriculum, class or book is truly a living one and to make sure the teacher truly respects the child as a person!

    It is hard to let go! I think I’ve seen many people waver when a few things happen:
    1. They stop reading Mason and digging into her ideas, so they lose the vision and patience to see it through.
    2. They don’t have like-minded friends for support and consultation to help push-back the old ways. Our CM Book Groups have been such a help for this.
    3. They spend too much time perusing catalogs, blogs, and curriculum websites that look so shiny and seem to offer so much.
    4. Become desperate for community, even if the community or class, would undermine their goals.
    5. Focus too much on their children’s weaknesses and shortcomings rather than on those deep-down signs of growth.
    6. Care too much about what grandma, their neighbor, or their homeschooling friend thinks and care too much for the children’s “veneer” of education.

    So to not fall into these traps, I’d think about which of these (or others) is my temptation and try to remedy it 🙂

    Does that get to what you’re asking?!

    Other thoughts?


    • Author November 18, 2016 / 12:04 am

      Thank you for your thoughtful response, Amy. I actually resonated with quite a few of the items on your list of “reasons people waver” on letting go of non-CM methods. Numbers 3, 4 and 5 particularly.

      I love the Charlotte Mason method. I love what I have read thus far of her writings (Home Education and bits of Parents and Children and School Education). Unlike other philosophies of education that I have read about, which invariably seem good in some ways but not in others, Mason’s seems to encompass all, and with greater breadth and depth. I just struggle with fears and doubts about being able to bring the fulness of the method to fruition by myself. at home. with littles.

      I find it hard not to wish that there was a CM school that I could send my children to, where they would have the benefit of multiple teachers as well as a community of other students for friendship, example and support. (Maybe I would feel slightly differently if I had more –and older–children…my two are both pre-Form I).

      I’m curious if you and Camille have an opinion on whether the “ideal” or “best” CM education can be had through homeschooling or through an institutional school (theoretically even, since it’s not as if there are loads of CM schools about…). Or is that a silly question? Does it just depend on the parent/teacher and on the child?


  3. Camille M. November 6, 2016 / 3:32 pm

    I identified our previous method (one based on the Dorothy Sayers essay/ ages and stages idea) was not a good one for our family when three things became clear:
    1. I was directed by our program to avoid answering the kids’ questions in favor of just memorizing. It was more important for them to memorize than it was to understand the material. I could never follow-through when my five-year-old would want to know more about something and asked – I always answered his questions and felt I was being unfaithful to the method.
    2. My children would kick off the year excited and then a few weeks in they would be miserable. Crying in the classes, not wanting to practice their memorization, beginning to hate school time altogether. It was not at all what I pictured when we decided to homeschool. All the other things we were doing that were outside of the program felt joyful and natural – hikes, nature centers, museums, reading, etc.
    3. It didn’t feel sustainable. I finally lost my confidence in my ability to homeschool at all when my third child was born. Adding a newborn to the mix of trying to get two other students to do their schoolwork (which often felt like pulling teeth) made me fear the day I had three students. I saw other families had children doing more independent work and who seemed more joyful in their work, but I did not see a path to get there within the program we were using.

    As for getting out of it – it was a woman in that program who introduced me to Charlotte’s volumes and she became instrumental in my learning more so I wasn’t very eager to leave immediately. I started to do research, I backed off the work that made us miserable and took a bit of time (my kids were still pretty young) to plan out a CM plan for our family. I then switched mid-semester while sticking with the co-op out of a sense of obligation to finish what we started (it was already springtime). By fall, we started the year with a CM method and haven’t gone back, though each year we certainly attempt to go deeper into her method and to understand it more fully. It is a lot to take in all at once, but its worth it to just keep doing your best.


  4. Inna November 6, 2016 / 10:08 pm

    The expression “sowing the ideas” puzzled me for a long time. I always wondered how you get these ideas and put them in your child’s mind. Little did I know that you, as a teacher, don’t have to do all this work. The child will choose the idea, he will put it in his mind, he will process it. You just need patiently wait to find out which idea it is. Before I was introduced to CM method I thought it was my responsibility to highlight which ideas to take. Now, all I do is choose a living book and watch what speaks to the child. It can be a Khans palace, with beautiful gardens around and a special guard built from Lego or a conversation with dad about how smart Petruchio was in dealing with Katerina. That’s how I know that this week’s chapter from our geography book “Marco Polo” and our Shakespeare reading did not go by him, but touched his heart and made him think about it even when the lesson was over.


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