01 October 2014

Busted: 31 Days of CM Myths

That's right. This is what we've been waiting for! Every single day in October, there will be a new post right here that busts some sort of myth associated with Charlotte Mason and her educational philosophy and practices.

If you are unfamiliar with Charlotte Mason, you can see the information page at Ambleside Online.

This post is going to serve as an index, or linked table of contents. Each day, I'll come back here {and I'll try to make it earlier in the day, rather than later} and add the link for that day's post. {The best option, of course, is for you to subscribe to the blog by email, and get each post delivered to you.}

So. Did I mention how excited I am about this series? I have been working so hard getting all of it together, and this team of contributors is just awesome and the topics are great and...seriously? What's not to love?

Here's what you have to look forward to:
  • Introduction ← you are here
  • Myth 1: Reading and narration are the sum total of a CM education.
  • Myth 2: Charlotte Mason never had children of her own, so her advice is unrealistic.
  • Myth 3: CM and memory work don't mix.
  • Myth 4: Real CM/PNEU families all had servants and governesses, so a modern mom can't do what they did.
  • Myth 5: Charlotte Mason would have children spending six hours outside on a hot July day in Alabama.
  • Myth 6: CM homeschools ought to recreate the PUS timetables.
  • Myth 7: Twaddle and light reading are the same thing.
  • Myth 8: A CM education is long on humanities and short on math and science.
  • Myth 9: You have to have tea time in a CM education.
  • Myth 10: Charlotte Mason's many subjects directly conflict with the classical principle of multum non multa.
  • Myth 11: The point of composer study and picture study is to know about composers and artists as individual persons.
  • Myth 12: CM doesn't work for those with learning disabilities.
  • Myth 13: CM doesn't work for boys.
  • Myth 14: CM is a method and not a curriculum.
  • Myth 15: CM only uses old, dusty books.
  • Myth 16: A Charlotte Mason education is gentle.
  • Myth 17: Charlotte Mason uses a sight reading approach to reading instruction.
  • Myth 18: CM isn't Christian enough.
  • Myth 19: CM math can only be done with living books.
  • Myth 20: CM doesn't work for high school.
  • Myth 21: Charlotte Mason's schools were for a rich elite.
  • Myth 22: Masterly Inactivity is something children do.
  • Myth 23: CM is only for perfect kids. Or bookish kids.
  • Myth 24: Charlotte Mason was a godless evolutionist.
  • Myth 25: CM won't work for a large family.
  • Myth 26: CM is child-led.
  • Myth 27: CM means you never use a textbook...ever.
  • Myth 28: CM isn't hands on like other curricula.
  • Myth 29: CM history completely ignores events in favor of focusing on individual people.
  • Myth 30: Charlotte Mason's philosophy can be well understood through secondary sources.

I cannot tell you how excited about this!

And starting today: get a free Charlotte Mason study guide when you subscribe to Afterthoughts via email!

This free study guide is based on a similar guide that I wrote for my local group this summer. Our leadership team asked the group what topics they'd like to learn about over the summer, and the answer was nature study and science, habit formation, and mathematics. The study guide I wrote included links to Miss Mason's original volumes, articles from the Parents' Review magazine she edited, and a few blog posts that really rounded the discussion out.

The reason I'm sharing this is simple: if we all made it a point to really study the philosophy and read original sources, there would be far fewer myths floating around out there. In the study guide, while there are a few blog posts, the focus is on original sources. Let's read what Miss Mason thought before we read what others think about what she thought.

And I say this as a sworn Afterthinker.


So, subscribe already, and get your freebie!

If you already subscribe via email, your copy went out late last night. {Or maybe it was early this morning.} Either way don't think for a moment I was leaving you out. If you don't see it, look through all the files in your inbox, just in case.

I'll see you right back here tomorrow, where we'll see what Anne White has to say about a CM education being more than simply reading and narrating.

Other 31 Days Series

If you're looking for a few more series to follow this October, here are the ones I have on my list:

Organize your homeschool lists

28 September 2014

Stupendous Selections on Sunday

  • Mystie's brain dump instructions are helping me so much. And I mean SO much.
  • This is a sad but true commentary on our state and culture.
    • A California charter school has decided to pull Corrie ten Boom’s Holocaust memoir, The Hiding Place, from its library because the content was deemed too religious. Where to begin? It’s impossible to separate remembrance of the Holocaust from matters of faith; only a modern educator would try.
    • ibrary staff were told to “remove Christian books, books by Christian authors, and books from Christian publishers.”
    • By gutting eduction of objective values and the mission to encourage proper sentiments around them, we’ve spent the last few generations robbing our culture of the very qualities it needs to survive.
  • Everything in its time...
    • I’ve also learned there are people who model vulnerability poorly.
    • healthy desire is being sought out in a disastrous way
    • Take the time to get to know people before you spill your guts.
    • Know not every person is meant to listen to and speak into your wounds.
    • If you don’t take time to grow your heart for other people, how can you expect them to grow theirs for you?
  • You must be joking.
    • The U.S. Forest Service has set into motion plans to fine picture-takers at least a grand for snapping images in any of the wilderness areas under their care, nearly 36 million acres of wilderness in all.
    • permits that can cost nearly $1500. If they refuse, they risk being fined $1000 for the infraction
    • this policy raises troubling questions about inappropriate government limits on activity clearly protected by the First Amendment
  • YIKES.
    • Emanuel even includes the graph shown below that is meant to tell anyone over 75 that their “last contribution” to society likely occurred more than a decade ago.
    • Given that part of Obamacare is rationing of care in old age on wonders if Obamacare was designed around the idea that the optimal age of death is 75.
  • Oh. my. goodness. This is brilliant! I hadn't seen the connection between CM's word book and The Book Thief, but she's totally right.
  • Ah, the need for masterly inactivity.
    • When I began teaching twenty-five years ago, almost all students would answer the imaginative question but year in, year out, their numbers dwindled, until almost all now take the dry and dutiful one.
    • To teach them is a joy, but they will risk nothing, not even for one facetious question on a minor exam.
    • The prospect of not being successful terrifies them, disorients them. The cost of falling short, even temporarily, becomes not merely practical, but existential. The result is a violent aversion to risk.
    • For us, unsupervised play constituted the entirety of our childhood.
    • For children who know only supervised play, there is no conflict that is not resolved by an adult.
    • the process of producing the well-socialized, well-tempered contemporary child has inadvertently blunted some of those qualities that can only be acquired, as it were, when no one is looking

26 September 2014

Seven Quick Takes: So We Took a Summer Vacation

— 1 —

When I said we were planning a beach trip, I wasn't kidding. The other times we went to the beach this summer, it was just for the day. Hotels get pricey in the summers around here {like everywhere, I'm guessing}, and since neither of us were raised camping...we don't camp. Throw tomatoes if you like, but it's the truth.

Anyhow, last weekend was the first weekend of the lower, non-season hotel rates for our favorite hotel {the one that sleeps all of us at once, instead of requiring us to buy a second room}. Google tells me that the first day of autumn was September 23rd, which was the day we headed home. So technically, this was our summer vacation.

— 2 —

And our trip was awesome. We always take short vacations, since my husband spends most of his vacation days working his second job, meaning we're used to planning packed days. We left early Sunday morning, and headed to Morro Bay. This is one of our regular haunts. We always start off by meandering around the shops on the main street and viewing Morro Rock from a distance over the harbor.

And of course we had to play games in the arcade.

But I didn't take photos of that.


— 3 —

This time around, Siah took E-Age-Twelve kayaking for an hour while I took the younger children to a nearby natural history museum. The docent was full of information on where to go to see humpback whales migrating, and where the sea otter currently raising a pup could be found. I basically learned that if you want to know about wildlife sighting, go ask the docent. It's totally worth the three bucks to get in!

Plus, he lent us binoculars so that we could see this:

— 4 —

We still had time to kill after the museum, so we went down to the shore. This was pretty exciting. First, we saw a long-billed curlew in real life for the first time in the history of Ever.

Also, we found a collection of rocks under which crabs apparently like to hide. When we lifted them up, they went scrambling to hide again, sort of like {dare I say it?} a cockroach.

— 5 —

But the best part is always the view from the top of the hike.

I should have braided her hair before the hike. It only took five million hours to brush out all the tangles.

— 6 —

On Monday, we went to Avila, my favorite place in the whole world. I go there regularly, and what I love is the weather. It's always breezy, without blowing sand in your face. The marine layer tends to burn off in Avila first, so it's warm even when other nearby beaches are cold. The boardwalk is beautiful and clean. What's not to like?

Avila is usually very tame, though. You'll see a few types of herons, and of course gulls and pelicans. But never, ever have I seen this:

Um. Yes. Can you tell how close to shore they are? They were crazy close! We ran out there, sure that if we didn't make it to the shore quickly, they'd leave.

But no.

They were there the whole time we were there. It was around six or eight of them total. There must have been a school of fish close to shore because they were obviously eating something. They did front flips and back flips and one even stood on his tail briefly.

After over an hour of watching them, they came super close, and that was when Siah and E-Age-Twelve decided they couldn't stand it any longer. They just had to swim out to them.

And so they did.

They got within thirty of forty feet of them. I, of course, was terrified the entire time they were out there. I kept thinking about how dolphins are shark food. But it went fine, and now they have a story to tell.


We had other adventures, of course. There was good food.

And more hiking.

The hard part, of course, was coming home.

And that is all for this Friday. I hope you all are having a wonderful weekend!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

23 September 2014

How She Learns: My Personal Continuing Education Journey

I've already told you that I think the possibilities are endless. There are a million creative ways that we can continue learning while we do this wife/mom/homeschool/insert-other-job-name-here gig. So today, I'm going to tell you what I actually do. Keep in mind that it looked almost totally different when I had four little children, three of whom were under the age of four. I was lucky at that time to get in that 30-minute-per-day minimum.

But now, my youngest child is the age my oldest child was back in those days. There are no high chairs at my dining table. Everyone can take a shower and go to the bathroom and get themselves into the car {on time!} without assistance. It's just a different stage. When you're in the midst of it, it feels like it lasts forever. And for people who are blessed with more children than me, it does last a lot longer than it did for me. But eventually, that stage comes to a end, and things are just...different. There is more time -- time beyond the minimum.

This is what I do with my time. I'm going to use some of the categories in my previous post to guide my explanation. I inadvertently used some things that I do as examples in that post, so I'm not going to repeat myself here. This is whatever I failed to mention before, meaning that the two posts together give a full picture of how I approach this part of life.

Variety of Reading

During the school year, I choose very few books for myself because my number one priority is to pre-read for my students. Because I've been pre-reading all along, this mostly consists of reading for Ambleside Online Year Seven. Years ago, I approached pre-reading as a chore that got in the way of the things I wanted to read. A couple years in, I realized that I was reaping huge benefits from the AO curriculum -- that I was actually becoming a better educated person! -- and that entirely changed my attitude. I submitted to the curriculum as something that wasn't just good for my children; it was good for me. So I got a commonplace journal, a book of centuries, and a nature journal, and I started pursuing the curriculum as my own form of learning.

This means that right now, I'm reading eighteen books on a variety of subjects. Thankfully, AO reads these books in very small bites, so it's not as overwhelming as it sounds. Because we are finally in the upper school years, most of these books are actually written for adults, and they. are. a. feast. I usually cannot wait until my study and prep time.

My reading, then, falls into these broad categories {this is how I think of it, anyhow}:
  • History/Geography
  • Philosophy/Logic
  • Literature/Poetry
  • Government/Economics
  • Citizenship
  • Science/Nature Lore

I'm really not able to read much in addition to the curriculum. So, right now I'm reading a book for the AO MEC project, and I'm trying to {slowly} finish up a couple things I was reading this summer, and that's it.

There are two big categories that I think are missing for me in this list, but I tend to cover those in other forms.

One thing I'd like to note is that the reading I choose myself is seasonal. I'm often squirreling away books for a break week, the Christmas holidays, or summer break. I have to be really picky, though, because most of my reading is not my own.

The Importance of Scheduling

If I didn't have a scheduled time to read, it wouldn't get done, at least not consistently. As much as I love to read, it would be drowned out by other things that also needed to be done. I have set aside Sunday afternoons for reading, but this year I'm also doing some reading on Friday or Saturday afternoons as it fits in. Year Seven is quite a lot, and I want my Sunday reading to feel leisurely, not rushed.


I mentioned a number of magazines in my previous post, and I highly suggest the ones I mentioned. I think good blogs can also be a sort of magazine, and we can get a lot out of reading them. I really try to use blogs for education, and they have always served me well. With some blogs, I will subscribe for a season. For example, when I was preparing to refinish some furniture I owned, I subscribed to a number of blogs that focused on furniture repair and painting and I learned a ton. After the project, I unsubscribed to those blogs.

There are other blogs that I've subscribed to for many years.

I've got my feed reader divided into categories: educational philosophy, theology and culture, nature lore and science, blogging and web design, news, food and health. On weekdays, this is often where I do my reading. I can't necessarily get thirty minutes in a row, but I can snag ten minutes here and there, and that's easily done in a feed reader.


I already mentioned that I think podcasts are a good modern equivalent, and I named a couple of my favorite podcasts. One thing I thought I'd mention here is how I find time for podcasts. The first thing I did was make a rule that I can't just listen to a podcast, unless I'm sick. Otherwise, I need to be doing something else. So I listen while I'm on my treadmill. I listen if I'm doing chores and my children aren't around. The other day, everyone happened to be outside while I was making dinner, and so I listened to something while I cooked.

My ability to listen to podcasts ebbs and flows. When I walk outside, with my children {which happens more in fine weather than in the summer, of course}, I don't bring along a gadget. I'm often unsubscribing and moving things around because, like I said, I think using a twaddle filter for all these things is a good idea. Our time is limited, so we must make the most of it.

I'd love to hear what your favorite podcasts are, by the way!

Local Group Meetings

I'm a part of two local groups, technically speaking. The first is a small group. This is the leadership team for the larger group I'm a part of. Both groups are such a joy to me. We read and study together, discuss our lives -- especially school and children, but we aren't limited to that -- and I always leave refreshed. I really can't recommend a local group enough.

The Children as a Category

This really didn't fit into my Mother Culture post from before, but I feel like I cannot leave off without mentioning it. This idea appears in the original article upon which I based my Mother Culture post:
Then she can listen to her children, and perhaps do a little thinking--not about frocks and foods, but about characters, and how to deal with them; or she can take a book, and "grow" that way.

The emphasis of the article is upon reading, and so that's where I put the emphasis in my post, but I did want to mention this. It is a worth-while expenditure of time to sit and thoughtfully, honestly observe my children. Usually, before I do this, I pray that God will give me eyes to see, because it is so easy to invent excuses for why our children are the way they are.

A few times a year, I sit and observe, and then I tell my husband what I'm thinking. From there, we try and devise a plan of action for how to help our children overcome their faults and weaknesses. Sometimes, when something is really going wrong with a child, we can read and read and nothing comes, but when we spend time in mindful observance, we are able to untangle the mystery.

Our children can sometimes be an area of study.

In Conclusion

And this concludes our series! This is sort of amazing, actually. When I wrote the original Learning how to Live post, I didn't have it in mind to write a series. And when I started writing the series, I had no idea that I was in for such a delightful journey. Thank you all for walking along with me.