The Great Recognition – A Magnificent Scheme of Unity

There are times in a person’s life where they are simply struck by the force of beauty in a way that is transformational.  In 1894, Charlotte Mason had one of these moments as she traveled to Florence with John Ruskin’s book in hand and found herself in front of a painting then already 530 years old depicting the ideas around which she had based her educational philosophy.  This piece of art would go on to hang prominently in her school for teachers, and as Essex Cholmondeley wrote:

Charlotte built this ‘great recognition’ deep into the foundations of the students’ life and training there. It formed the special teaching of Whitsunday afternoon. A reproduction of the frescoes had its place in a central position for all to live with. The students called it the ‘creed picture,’

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In 2013, I was introduced to this painting at the CMI National Conference where Dr. Deani Van Pelt spoke on it.  I think they allotted 2 hours for her talk, but no one in the room wanted to move as time ran out and we all could have chatted for many hours more.  I spoke to my dear friends and told them that other moms needed to hear this story!  At our 3-day summer intensive, I presented what I had learned and what I had found out since that day. Further study of the painting as well as further reading of Mason’s many references to it filled me with delight.  Since that day, I have visited the painting twice and presented on it myself at the CMI National Conference last year. In my four years of studying this painting, I have still not nearly exhausted its many insights, but I will share with you the one I treasure most: Unity.

Here we have the scheme of a magnificent unity. – Charlotte Mason

The things of God have long been understood as those that are Unum, Bonum, Verum, Pulchrum. Unity, Goodness, Truth, and Beauty. While we may often hear of Truth, Beauty, and Goodness spoken of in homeschooling circles, the transcendental of Unity is lesser known, yet encompasses so much of what God is (a Unity of one God in three Persons) and what he commands of us:

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called;one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.  -St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians 4:1-6

This is so much the case, that our word Devil comes from the Greek Diabolos, one meaning of which is “to scatter, disperse, separate”.  God unifies, sin divides.  God gathers, sin scatters.  Now, as a fallen people prone to sin, we step into this error all the time: we divide and subdivide ourselves over all sorts of things.  Though we see the warnings throughout Scripture and we are warned by St. Paul:

 Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment…  Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.  Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?  -St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians 1:10, 13

This painting, as Charlotte noticed, shows a great scheme of unity.  The artist shows it as a unification of faith and reason, the sacred and the natural, Divine revelation and natural law.  Charlotte sees this as well and discusses this throughout the volumes – the fact that there is no division between the sacred and the secular,  between science and religion, piety and intellect.  The unity comes in when we realize that “every fruitful idea, every original conception, whether in Euclid, or grammar, or music, was a direct inspiration from the Holy Spirit”1.  Our God has a plan so large and His thoughts are so unlike ours that He can work though any soul, even those “whom we might be lightly inclined to consider as outside the pale of the divine inspiration.”2

That’s a lot to chew on.  I know it is for me.  “It is truly difficult to grasp the amazing boldness of this scheme of the education of the world which Florence accepted in simple faith.”3

Would you like to spend some time learning about who is depicted in this painting, the painter, the Florentines, and Charlotte’s writings on it?  I’d love to have you join me for a webinar on March 21 at 8pm.  It will be the presentation I gave last year, reworked to make some time for discussion and questions at the end.

Grab a glass of wine and enjoy some mother culture.

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Click here to purchase a replay!

  1. CM Vol. 2, p. 271
  2. CM Vol. 2, p. 271
  3. CM Vol. 2, p. 271
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Mother Culture: What we are Reading

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This month, Amy has been fighting the flu and Camille has spent September moving to another state and then unpacking and packing up again for a wedding 11 hours away.  It has been a month where reading has been much more sparse than usual, however there has been some.

Camille:

First and foremost, I picked up this adorable little poetry book by T. S. Eliot, Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats.  It is charming and funny, quite British and quirky, and sums up the antics and attitudes of cats rather perfectly.  The kids were laughing at the first poem especially hard.

 

Image of MORNINGS Content Bundle

I’ve also been enjoying the monthly bundles of information and encouragement over at Wild + Free.  This month’s collection of goodness is entitles Mornings and has got me thinking about how to structure our time in our new place.

 

While this one I’ve been listening to rather than sitting down to read it, I’m still counting it here.  It is getting me through some of our unpacking and I’ve never read it before.  I’m not sure how I’ve managed to make it to my mid-thirties and being rather bookish without reading Pride and Prejudice, but I’m now remedying that.

I also got this in the mail and could have read it in a sitting.  I slowed myself down on purpose because her points are worth mulling over slowly, so now I am 75% finished and really enjoying this book immensely.

Mother Culture: Ten Minutes

“Mother must have time to herself. And we must not say ‘I cannot.’ Can any of us say till we have tried, not for one week, but for one whole year, day after day, that we ‘cannot’ get one half-hour out of the twenty-four for ‘Mother Culture?’–one half-hour in which we can read, think, or ‘remember.'” Parents’ Review, Vol. 2, No. 2

I’m going to make this quick today in order to give you a bit more time to think about spending ten minutes today reading, creating, or in prayer.  Right now, if you are a bullet journal or Happy Planner or whatever other type of planning system type of gal, write down a plan for when you can spend those ten minutes alone and what you will do.  That plan may not work out, but knowing it is there in the plan means that if you find ten minutes in the carpool line or the parking lot after grocery shopping or wherever else, you’ll have it front of mind to use those minutes for some Mother Culture time.

Once the time is allotted into your planning system, prepare the things you need.  Get your book uploaded into your Kindle or throw your book into your purse.  Get your knitting stuff together now, and make sure your pattern is printed.  Locate a rosary or a journal or your gardening gloves now, so when that ten minutes comes around, you’re ready to spend it well.

Lastly, do it.  When you’re tempted to check your email instead or facebook or Instagram… don’t.  Put your phone down instead.  If the planned time comes and the baby is crying, that’s ok.  Perhaps your ten minutes will come later than expected and you’ll be more tired than expected and all you’ll want to do is lay down on the couch and zone out.  Fight the urge and just take ten minutes to dedicate to prayer or your gratitude journal if reading a book is too much.  Or, just read that book anyway and maybe you’ll feel more revived afterward.

When you’ve taken your ten minutes, assess if that time worked well or if perhaps it could be at a different time of day.  Either way, plan to do it again tomorrow.  Look at your day and pencil it in.  Then, schedule it in for each day.  Make this your new habit for one month and then see how it is working for you.  Perhaps then you’ll be ready to add in another ten minutes? Or ten for prayer and ten for reading and ten for creativity?  Let’s not get ahead of ourselves… start with ten today!

Mother Culture: A Change of Pace

“‘Oh, mother, may we go blackberrying this afternoon, instead of lessons?’ The masterly and the abject ‘yes’ are quite different notes. The first makes the holiday doubly a delight; the second produces a restless desire to gain some other easy victory.” -Charlotte Mason, Vol. 3, p. 29

We’ve all been there – the kids are starting the day full of energy and you just don’t feel up to the challenge. Perhaps there is some pressing issue that is a stressor, or you are feeling woefully behind, or you just moved to a new town and have so many boxes surrounding you and no wifi or coffee maker… Maybe that last one is just me. When Mother Culture time alone isn’t an option, but white knuckling it through the day seems like a recipe for frustration, it’s good to know yourself well enough to know when to take a break. Sometimes a change of pace is just what you need and sometimes it is what your kids need. Don’t despairingly give in to your feelings as if the day is a failure – quite the opposite! Make the day enriching to your soul and enjoy it. Come back refreshed and ready to take on the challenges ahead. The key is to know what refreshes you that you can do with children in tow and what exhausts you, and to choose appropriately. 

Often, this is as simple as bringing our school work to the park. When you find just that right park for your family, it gives you to ability to let the little ones burn energy, gives the big kids some time to hang from monkey bars while they narrate, and a picnic bench for the laptop users who can get their math done with a warm breeze in their hair. It can be lovely. Often, we don’t get every single thing done. We don’t want to bring everything for the science experiment or all the art supplies for that painting assignment. Fine. That’s part of the change of pace and it is ok every once in a while. 

Other times, you may find that your go-to place is something else. A garden of some sort or a museum that your whole family loves. Today, for us, it was homeschool day at Carillon Historical Park. Our family loves history and a day filled with making corn brooms, seeing old trains, and hearing the story of Orville and Wilbur Wright was just what we needed to feel more at home in our new locale. It also fed my own sense of awe at how daily life has changed since Ohio was the wild west of our young nation. The kids loves seeing the blacksmith create iron hooks for the barn, and truthfully, so did I.  I came home a better mom than I was when we left the house.

When the weather is crummy, have an indoor location that suits your family.  During long, hot summers some theatres offer older family movies for cheap or free during the morning hours. In the doldrums of January and February, a science museum or local  history spot might be a great place to explore.  The key is still what refreshes YOU and is also enjoyable for most of your family (because no one is refreshed by listening to complaints).  In seasons with infants and toddlers, that will look different than seasons with school-aged and teenage kids, so assess what season you’re in and have some ideas lined up for when you need them. 


Lastly, it isn’t really Mother Culture if you feel like you’re just escaping your house to then feel frustrated and irritated elsewhere. Don’t just assume changing location will do the trick on frustrating days. Perhaps staying home and changing the pace is more effective for you – announce a baking day or a family bike ride or whatever it is that would reinvigorate your spirit and then truly aim to enjoy yourself and your family.  The kids will remember the days mom laughed and played! It will shape their ideas about what it means to be a mom and it will shape their relationship with you. Go out (or stay home!) and have a bit of fun!

Mother Culture: Spiritual Life

“Education is part and parcel of religion and every enthusiastic teacher knows that he is obeying the precept, ‘feed my lambs’––feed with all those things which are good and wholesome for the spirit of a man; and, before all and including all, with the knowledge of God.” – Charlotte Mason, Vol. 6, pg. 246

We’ve already started talking about how we must take care of not only the physical parts of ourselves that we can see, but also those parts of ourselves that, while invisible, are of greater importance than our physical selves – our minds and our souls.  We talked about the importance of wide reading to feed our minds on their proper diet of knowledge.  Now let’s talk about feeding our souls on the knowledge of God.

I’m going to write this article based on the assumption that most of the people reading this come from some variety of a Christian faith, as I do. Charlotte herself was a devout Christian and the crux of her method was that all knowledge comes from the Holy Spirit.

“But we hold that all education is divine, that every good gift of knowledge and insight comes from above, that the Lord the Holy Spirit is the supreme educator of mankind, and that the culmination of all education is that personal knowledge of and intimacy with God in which our being finds its fullest perfection.” – Charlotte Mason, Vol. 3, p. 95

So how do we apply this as mothers and teachers, grandmothers and aunts, sisters and cousins?  We realize that the Holy Spirit is consistently reaching out to us and trying to give us this gift of knowledge, but we must respond to Him in kind.  Through prayer and reading of the bible, we show our openness to receiving those gifts the Holy Spirit wants to generously bestow.

When you take this time to pray, to contemplate God’s Word, and to find time to quiet your thoughts and listen, you are setting an example to every soul in your household.  When I took the vows of marriage, I agreed to the idea that my vocation as wife was predominantly to help my husband get to heaven. His vow meant he accepted the job of helping me to get to heaven (he has the much harder job!) and together, each child we bring into the world is one we will raise with the goal of heaven for that soul.  Taking time to pray for each person in your home is fulfilling that role of wife and mother and letting your husband and children see you or simply knowing that mom has time in the day set aside for prayer creates an atmosphere where prayer is valued.  Herein lies a beautiful paradox – that time “for yourself” benefits every soul around you!

Further, to not only read, but to study and understand the Bible key to your spiritual life.  As Saint Jerome said, “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.”  He should know, he translated the entire bible into Latin from the original Greek and Hebrew.  No matter what your denomination or non-denomination, there is certainly resources out there for you both online and in your local church. If you don’t have a group, start one.  If you don’t feel you need a group, perhaps a good study bible would be right up your alley or a copy of your catechism.  Find a way to connect to the Lord through a deep study of His Word and a whole new world will open up for you and all those around you.

I would also suggest that as a family, you look at what it means to keep Holy the Sabbath day.  We mothers too often can make excuse after excuse as to why we remain busy all week long and cannot find time to read, take a walk, or enjoy quiet time.  On Sundays, we are actually commanded to do so.  It’s one of the ten.  Consult with your spouse as to what you discern to be appropriate ways to spend your Sunday and stick to it.  Come into your Monday ready for the week ahead and refreshed, rather than harried and exhausted.

SPACES TO THINK NO. 5

“If mothers could learn to do for themselves what they do for their children when these are overdone, we should have happier households. Let the mother go out to play! If she would only have courage to let everything go when life becomes too tense, and just take a day, or half a day, out in the fields, or with a favourite book, or in a picture gallery looking long and well at just two or three pictures, or in bed, without the children, life would go on far more happily for both children and parents.” – Charlotte Mason, Vol. 3, pg. 34

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Playing in Rome. Not a every-day kind of “Mother-Culture”!

Camille wrote on this quote in her post on Mother Culture and Creativity. If you missed it, go back and read it now!

Play is so important in all of our lives that I thought it was worth posting this quote again for our “Spaces to Think” series.

Here are some things to ponder:

What is the difference between real play and escapism?

Have you been seeking to escape your work and life or finding life-giving ways to enrich it through play and leisure?

Why is play not self-indulgent?

What do you do if you have a few extra minutes in your schedule? Is this life-giving to you?

How can you have more courage to set aside time for your “Mother-Culture”? It is often heroic, isn’t it– The lining up of babysitters or planning quiet activities for your children, so you can have the chance to “play”?

What activities does Mason mention for the mother to do when things have become too tense? How are they different from the normal recommendations for women to go shopping or to the spa? Or might even these be a good option?

Look back at your past week. Did you get enough rest? Enough Mother-Culture? Then, look ahead, and plan a pocket or two of time! We can’t hop on plane to Rome, but what can we do?

 

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

 

We’d love to hear your thoughts or questions about the quote below!

Mother Culture: What We are Reading

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Amy is reading…

Natural History:


My husband bought this one for me! He heard about it on NPR on his morning drive to work. Heard that it was about Nature and Words and knew I’d like it. It’s fascinating. Part dictionary, part biography, part social commentary, part nature writing. It opens: “This is a book about the power of language–strong style, single words–to shape our sense of place.” Of course, I’d be hooked! The author notes the words that have been removed from the Oxford Junior Dictionary: acorn, adder, ash, beech, bluebell, buttercup, catkin, conker, cowslip, dandelion, fern, hazel, heatherto be replaced by broadband, celebrity, chatroom, cut-and-paste, voice-mail. Macfarlane has interesting things to say about what this says about our society and what it will say for its future. The Glossary he creates is lovely to read.

Parenting:


How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk was a birthday gift from my brother and Sister-n-law. I’ve tried a few of the simple practices mentioned and it does seem to help.

 Charlotte Mason:

Volume 1 Part 2. For the Charlotte Mason Reading Group I lead. I hope to write a follow-up post of complementary books and links to this wonderful section.

Volume 2. Chapter 1 and 2. For a second Charlotte Mason Reading Group that both Camille and I will participate in virtually! I’ve never done this Volume in a discussion Group so can’t wait!

Mason’s Ourselves. With my daughter Grace! She is starting this book for the first time.

A Touch of the Infinite: Studies in music Appreciation with Charlotte Mason by Megan Elizabeth Hoyt. I appreciate the careful research the author did for this work, of Mason’s volumes, but also the Mason archives and the books Mason references in her volumes and her programmes. I learned a lot and the book covers a lot! Composer Study, Hymns and Folksongs, Solfege and so much more. It has a great list of resources in the Appendix.

Literature:

Sigrid Undset’s Kristin Lavransdatter is one of my all-time favorites, so I decided to read another one of her trilogies. I’ve finished Volume 1 and now moving onto the second:


It has everything I love about Kristin: history, romance, the medieval church, beautifully crafted characters…

Fun Fiction:

If you are looking for an enjoyable, easy read that is refreshing and thought-provoking, this is it! If you’ve wondered what the “Benedict Option” could look like, this is the book for you. It has homeschooling, Latin, Chesterton, discussions on feminism, hospitality, Little Women, marriage, and beauty. I found myself reading quotes aloud to my husband again and again!

Family Read-Alouds During Lunch:

I alternate between Animal Farm and Winter in the Willows (a sequel of Wind in the Willows written by another author)

With the Little Girls at Bed-time:

Betsy-Tacy. They love this sweet little book and often now play “Betsy-Tacy” throughout their day!

In the Car:

The Curious World of Calpurnia Tate. We are listening to this Audible book from the Newberry-Award winner, Jacqueline Kelly. I like this second novel even more than the first! I really think these books could fit in the “Nature Lore” category of a Mason curriculum. We all love it.

 

Camille is reading…

 

 

 

 

I got an unexpected email that it was finally my turn for The Cleaner of Chartes at the library.  Given that my library only lets you keep books for two weeks and there are no extensions if there is a waiting list, I’ve made this one a priority.  It is delightful so far (I’m about halfway through) – an interesting story that jumps from the early life to the current life of Agnes, a woman who was abandoned as a baby and was then raised in a convent.  She is unable to read or write due to some cognitive disability, but has other gifts that allow her to live her life independently far from anywhere that she ever called home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I had just finished Mere Motherhood. I did not expect it to be quite the page turner that it was and I was done in only two days.  It is probably the first time since my fourteen-month-old was born that I can claim I read a book in that short a time. It is a story of a homeschooling mother and one that any of us can easily relate to.  The initial enthusiasm, the doubts, the new babies, the trials, the excitement over milestones, and the worries over gaps.  Beautifully written and a lovely story.

 

For my book group at church, we are reading A Mother’s Rule of Life.  It’s a book I’ve read before, but needs to be reread every few years.  It helps me to frame my day in the way a religious order might – focusing on my core priorities first and making sure my schedule reflects what is most important to my vocation.

 

 

 

 

 

I am also trudging through Gilead.  I hate to even state it that way, but it is true.  The book is not long at all, and I really like it when I am reading it, but it is somewhat slow moving and I find myself picking up other books rather than this one when it is time to read.  I’ve read enough glowing recommendations to know I should persevere…

 

 

 

Lastly, I read this great little ebook, The Confident Homeschooler, to get me ready for the school year.  I found some really good and practical nuggets that have been serving me well so far.  Most of my educational reading is really more philosophical than practical, so this felt refreshing and enjoyable before our new year started.

Our Read Aloud:

Each night after the little ones are tucked in, the oldest two kids and I read one chapter per night before bed.  We’ve just started The Yearling.  This is one I missed in my youth and I’m excited to be reading it with them.