CM #33: Charlotte Mason Over the Summer- Julie Ross
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Description: In this podcast, Julie reads some Parent’s Review Articles and offers some advice about what to do during the summer holidays.
Bio- Julie H Ross believes that every child needs a feast of living ideas to grow intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually. As a former school teacher, Curriculum Coordinator, and Assistant Director of a Homeschool Academy, Julie Ross has worked with hundreds of students and parents over the past 20 years. She has also been homeschooling her own five children for over a decade. Julie Ross developed the Charlotte Mason curriculum, A Gentle Feast, to provide parents with the tools and resources needed to provide a rich and abundant educational feast full of books, beauty, and Biblical truth. Julie lives in South Carolina. When she’s not busy homeschooling, reading children’s books, hiking, or writing curriculum, you can find her taking a nap.
I add a second—that whatever other considerations we strive to give effect to, we must never forget that holidays must be holidays to be of their greatest use. No amount of general or particular interest which may be awakened, no stores of knowledge which may be gained in them, can or will compensate our children for the loss of what the holiday stands for in the mind of the child, i.e., a perfectly happy-go-lucky or go-as-you-please time, when everything in the shape of organization, even organized games or walks, not to speak of lessons or drill, shall be done with as completely as possible, and the child shall be allowed to be alone with children and with Nature a good part of every day. - Mrs. Ralph, Useful Holidays, Parent’s Review Volume 14, pages 894-901
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Hello, welcome to the Charlotte Mason Show. I'm your host, Julie Ross, and today I'm going to be doing a solo show and I wanted to talk about having a Charlotte Mason education in the summer. This episode is set to air at the end of May. I know. Some people school year-round or they don't take a traditional summer break, and with this COVID situation, I know everyone's schedules are kind of being changed these days.
But for those of you who are doing a traditional kind of eight-week summer break, I often get asked, what should I be doing with my children during this time? Should we still be doing lessons or should it just be kind of a free for all? What would Charlotte Mason have to say on the subject?
So I'm going to read you some from two Parent's Review articles. The Parent's Review was a magazine that Charlotte Mason edited, and both these articles comes from the time that she would have been editing them. So I think they are relevant to what she would have to say herself. She doesn't say a lot in her volumes on this subject, so that's why I wanted to pull in the Parent Review articles.
So I'm gonna read some of them and kind of add in a little bit of my commentary as well.
The first article is called Holiday Tests, and it's by J. S. Mills. And this was published in 1893. Which being interpreted is, the laws neither of gods nor or men forbid a certain amount of work to be done during the holidays. But the question is, what sort of work and how much of it? Is the schoolmaster to insist that a certain amount of moods and genders and dates and sums is to be cultivated during the long summer vacation? So that his boys may at least maintain the degree of progress reached at the end of term.
Or must he recommend some study of a higher and more entertaining king to be the subject of a purely voluntary examination at the beginning of autumn term. Or finally, is he to rely entirely upon the parent for any instruction or discipline during the interterminal period? I think we may at once put aside the first of these alternatives. I am distinctly against all compulsory holiday lessons. I can hear and fancy a chorus of shrill and enthusiastic "here-here's" as I write that sentence. But I am not merely biding for popularity. I have a reason for what I say.
And enforced holiday task will always, unless the boy is very amenable to duty and discipline, be postponed to the end of the holidays. Postponed, however not forgotten. The memory of it in its nonperformance always being present as a sort of reproach and a qualification of the pure pleasure of holiday time. It will be done badly and in a hurry at the eleventh hour. And in such a state that will seriously modify the pleasure, a boy ought to feel in returning to school. Or intensely, the horror of returning if such unfortunately exists.
I state these facts as being in nature. I know a model boy who carefully apportion to each day his appropriate share of the vacation's work and lo, at the end, the same task would stand completed. But such a boy I have not yet met. And I am justified in believing he is type as yet not undeveloped. Compulsory holiday tasks, then, draw from ordinary school study I hold to be mischievous and useless.
I am not at all afraid of regression during the holidays. A boy's mind is absorbent and impressionable that a holiday of eight weeks is sufficient for him to forget only very superficially the lessons of a term. And I feel sure that as a rule, if a boy were set at the beginning of a term to repeat the exercise in Latin or French grammar that he had last done, his additional eight weeks age and experience and general growth of faculty, would enable him to do, at least as well, as on the former occasion. It is nearly a treason to say that in a course of teaching one reaches rules and difficulties, which certain boys at a certain age cannot physically master. In which demand not so much perseverance in teaching as a simple lapse of time in general development of faculty.
I would therefore during the longer vacations free a boy entirely from mechanical drudgery of rule and fact, and leave him to develop his sense, his observation, his general life experience.
So I think this part of the article brings up a really good point. It's often said, oh we need to keep doing school lessons during the summer break. Our children might regress. They might forget some information. They might fall behind. I heard that a lot as a public school teacher as well. But I think he makes a really good point that often those assignments are done poorly. The children rush through them, and really, in eight weeks, a child's mind is so strong that they're not going to lose a ton of information. Maybe superficial school lessons that really, they didn't digest and make their own to begin with. But not the most important lessons that they've been learning. They're not gonna suddenly forget all of those in eight weeks.
Also in eight weeks' time, they have the time to mature and grow, and sometimes, when a child isn't grasping something, it's not for lack of trying. It's not for lack of the parent, it's just that the child's brain needs more time to develop to grasp that concept. And that summer break might be just the time that your child's brain needs to then go back to that.
He also brings up another point here, so let's go back to the article.
With regard to the second alternative, of appointing certain books, or portions of books, as an optional study with a view to a prize of an examination at the beginning of the autumn term, I can see no objection. Accept that a over conscientious or overambitious boy may be diverted from genial and therefore, for the above holiday purpose, more fruitful occupations. By a determination to cram a certain set of subjects. Such prescribed reading should be a real change from ordinary schoolwork. It should be very moderate in quality. And it's quite optional character, especially enforced.
My conclusion is, however, that we have and ought to rely chiefly on parents themselves for any education schoolboys may receive during vacation. It is a lamentable fact that so many parents are still unwilling or unable to help efficiently in this way. Summer vacation with its country or seaside trips affords admirable opportunities for practical outdoor study of some branch or branches of natural science.
The word study is misleading. My experience has yet never produced a boy who would not be as much interested in hunting for fossils in a quarry as in any occupation you could possibly devise. Or he could possibly choose for himself. We had a series of natural history excursions at Leamington this term. And I've been surprised at the unwearied and almost passionate interest of the boys in specimen hunting. How desirable it is then, that parents should themselves be sufficiently interested and instructed in the sights and sounds of nature to awaken and foster in the hearts of their children this resourceful and delightful interest. Not a rounded pebble or the beach, not a grain of sand, but may be used as said evidence or illustration of a whole geographical age.
So, here he's saying that, as parents, it is up to us to inspire some school lessons, if you will, in our children. And primarily here, he's talking about what we call nature study today. That as parents, we should be interested in the natural sciences. We should be learning about nature and then that will inspire our children during the summer as well. So, if you're taking like, here, he mentions the trip to the seaside. Learning about different shells or birds or plants that might be where you're going to go on vacation. It talks about a trip to the country, so learning about the trees and the animals that are going to be where you might not normally be if you're gonna go on a vacation somewhere different. It provides a great opportunity for nature study.
So as parents, you know, looking at field guides, looking online for information, reading the handbook of nature study ahead of time to inspire that interest in your children when you're on vacation. I thought that was a great idea as well.
He also says, some absorbing interest which shall keep our minds and sense healthily occupied and leads us to ever-growing knowledge of God's universe, are to the healthfulness of a holiday. For the simple reason that we shall have less leisure to brood over its effect upon our little private distresses and ailments. It is of first-rate importance than to teach children as soon as possible to use their eyes, to acquire some hobby, which shall lead them to the country and seashore and keep them interested there in the innocent pursuit of knowledge and truth.
In conclusion then, while freedom and spontaneous enjoyment should be distinctive of our holiday season. There are ways in which any sacrifice of the spirit of either a parent or tutor may give a direction to a boy's impulses, which shall lead him to the unfailing sources of delight and improvement. There are many subjects which demand no special faculty, in which minds of the most divergent complexion may study with almost equal profit and success. And need I say that the earlier such interests are acquired, the more permanent and unfailing will the refreshment be in later years.
So here he's kind of talking about some of the occupations we might call, like, handicrafts along with the nature study. But these shouldn't infringe on the general freedom and spontaneous enjoyment that students should have during these summer months. So as you can see, it's not completely abandoning any school lesson type topics, but it's not compulsory. There's not marks or prizes that they get for during certain tasks. They're not expected to have an exam on this at the end of the summer. It's just learning these things, learning about God's universe for the sake and beauty that these subjects provide naturally in themselves.
The next article is called Useful Holidays, and it's by Mrs. Ralph, and it was published in 1903. And here she's responding to an article that was in the Times talking about wanting to shorten the school summer holiday. Which is interesting since we still have those conversations, it seems like, every year. In modern times as well.
No view of the subject could be more short-sighted and selfish than that taken of the education of the children by the type of parent who in the silly season, writes the Times, deploring the length of school holidays. The whole trend and tendency of modern life, demanding long school holidays, not merely as the grudging parent of the Times corresponds as Colin thinks. In the interest of the teachers, but quite as much in the interest of the children. Think of the hurry and the rush of life, which unhappily have invaded the schoolroom, as forcibly as the warehouse, and are often felt even in the nursery. The haste had one more accomplishment to another ology, and to hurry to prepare for examinations.
Think of the disintegration of the family life through the removal of the father's work to a distance from the children's home. Or if the children themselves, to a distance school for several months of the year. On whatever aspect of the holiday question you may choose to dwell, any thoughtful, unselfish parent, and true educationalist, any real child lover must feel that of all grounds, physical, moral, spiritual, the first thing we must say about holidays is that they are indispensable.
The parents and children, brothers and sisters, may have leisure to meet to get to know one another, to get into the habitude of common occupations and interest. That they may have the chance of common memories of home, or of beautiful scenes, or family adventures away from home. In short, for the promotion of true family feeling, and the growth of family history, we must have holidays. Which of us have not felt in later years the power of that. Don't you remember? Of a mutual reminisce in the warming heart, reviving of our youth, and drawing closer the bonds between us and our loved ones. It is pitiful to think of the thousands of families for whom the chances of storing up common memories are reduced to a few short weeks every year. For their sakes, for everybody's sakes, and of all highest grounds, we must have holidays.
I thought that opening was very interesting in light of the COVID quarantine that most of us are in. We have had this opportunity to make these family memories, to be with our loved ones more than we ever have before. So we are seeing the benefits of that, I think, as a culture, but she's saying that summer holidays are absolutely essential for children and for their families, and I love going into that kind of summer season with that mindset, what are the special memories and connections we can make as a family during this time?
Having thus stated what to many will seem a truism, I add a second. That whatever other considerations we strive to give effect to, we must never forget that holidays must be holidays to be of their greatest use. No amount of general or particular interest, which may be awakened, no stores of knowledge, which may be gained to them, can or will compensate our children for the loss of what holiday stands for in the mid of a child. Ie, a perfectly happy go lucky or go as you please time, when everything in the shape of organization, even organized games or walks, not to speak of lessons or drills, shall be done with as completely as possible then the child shall be allowed to be alone with children. And with nature, a good part of every day. Of course, for the comfort of all, old and young, family discipline must be maintained and the elemental virtues of obedience, punctuality, order, courtesy, and unselfishness, must still be insisted upon.
This requirement, especially in the early part of every vacation, will prove a severe and bracing exercise in self-control. For the reaction from school order will be seen in a disposition to run amuck through all family rules in the recoil from the pressure of work, especially from anxiety and strain of examinations is seen in a tendency to a fretful self-indulgence or wild excitement, which in either case, loses sight of every other person's needs, feelings, or interests. The parent's fitness for their office will be seen in sympathy, tact, and firmness with which they meet the varying exacting moods of their children in the beginning of a holiday. They wish to do everything and go everywhere all at once, alternating with the desire to do nothing at all, not even to get up in time for breakfast. Wow. I think she's seeing into my house. While a delight at being home again, with a ruthless disregard for the convenience of all the home people. These symptoms must all be utilized by the wise parent without a single word of preaching by giving way as far as possible in non-essential. And by insisting essentials, quietly, steadily, and tactfully.
So I thought this was really good point that, you know, in the summer, especially the first couple weeks, it can seem like all chaos is starting to pursue because everybody wants to do this or do that or go to this thing, or go see this friend, that we really do have to work on habits, that Charlotte Mason say are so foundational. So we have, in this article, she mentions obedience, punctuality, order, courtesy, unselfishness. Whew! That's a big one. So, as you approach, you know, the holidays, you know it's okay. You're gonna have lots of feelings during those first couple weeks here. Lots of wild excitement, she says, but try to maintain some kind of routine and try to maintain firmness in the areas of things that are really important. I thought that was a very good point that she made here in that article.
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Alright, so let's continue. I venture to insist that, especially for the first few days of vacation, nothing is more important than rest and freedom and fresh air. And it is often difficult to induce each different child to take the kind of rest which is really best for it. The sturdy urchin who uses his brain no more than he can help, instinctively chooses his own rest. If he is really bookish at heart, only his mental lags behind his physical development. He will immerse himself in a book of thrilling adventure. Or, if he is observant, he will have a hundred reasons for exploring expeditions, or will socially look up all his friends and chums within his walking radius. It is the highly-strung boys or girls who consciousness has developed almost too early, or whose love of work and capacity for it have outgrown their physical strength, who need our most individual care and sympathy. Their brains have been working at high pressure and they will not stop working at an hour's notice, no matter how new or delightful the holiday scene may be. Indeed, the new excitement gives a flip to the brain's action, and the body, naturally delicate and rapidly growing, responds oh too readily to the desire for movement.
In such cases, it will, I think, be best to draw the children out about the things which have lately been absorbing them, even if it is talking shop, it will be best to let them talk freely about school, examinations, and everything related to them. This excitement will gradually talk itself out, and while impressions are vivid, and the brain and tongue are restless, we shall get information about things and people which you maybe seek in vain at a later stage.
If this talking can be done while the child's body is resting, it will be all so much to the good. Somewhat later, when the inevitable lassitude sets in, when, in fact, the child's nature is so far on the road to recovering its balance, that the brain has become ??? and the body has time to feel how tired it is, then a good quiet, unexciting story preferably read aloud, or good narrative poetry read aloud, or anything which appeals to the impersonal, generous emotions may be introduced. But if holidays are to be useful, they must be restful. And the rest must come first of all.
And I think this is a really good point. We kind of poo poo on rest like, my child's not doing anything, right? And she talks about several different kinds of kids here. You know, some kids are really bookish, and you will find them, given the opportunity to immerse themselves in books all day, I have one of those kids. But then their physical developments can go. So I'm always saying, okay let's go do some exercise. Let's go get outside. You have the very sociable child, right? Who's trying to find all their friends that they can go see now that they're on vacation.
And so, and then you have the child who has had a very emotional time during school. Maybe they had a lot of stressful subjects, or just had a hard time at school here. And their body just needs time to rest as well. And then she talks about reading a, you know, an unexciting story to them. Reading poetry to them. Letting their bodies just rest and letting their brains have time to heal, I think is so important. We can view this vacation opportunity, this break that we have, not as something that is just for fun, or that there slacking off, or that they're gonna forget everything that they've been learning all school year. But see that our brains really do need this rest. And it's in that rest time that all ideas that...living ideas, they've been learning all school year, I've noticed, have that time to take root and those connections can form even deeper. And that that rest really is very important for a child's development.
Alright, let's keep going.
Having said so much however it becomes necessary to add that I believe most children and young people will enjoy their holidays most keenly and will find them most restful, if one hour or so every day is given to some fixed employment of a kind as far as possible outside the ordinary school curriculum. The only exception to that ought to be at the child's own strong wish if he be of an age to choose. Some school courses nowadays are also embracing, and the teaching is so suggestive, that many older children have ideas of their own, which they wanna carry out. A boy, whom I knew, with all ??? and plenty of money, told his father at the beginning of a vacation, that he wanted above all things to study the Assyrian Bas relief from the basement of the British Museum. They had been made interesting to him at school. On the other hand, in many cases, the school life is narrow and absorbing while it lasts. And the wise parent, who cannot choose otherwise for a child, will be thankful for the holidays as opportunities to turn young thought into other channels.
But, under no circumstances ought the school to cast its shadow on the vacation in the form of holiday tasks, unless these are later engaged as aids to general study. Nothing which suggests examination at the end, or which signifies the grasp of school upon the young life ought to be remitted to come between the child and its feeling of release. Its feeling of return to home and the life of duties of home, to stimulate that feeling, which in itself is of the highest spiritual value in the upbringing of children, I suggest that some very light housekeeping tasks be apportioned to each one. Something that will require doing every day for others, and thereby help the child to believe that not only does he miss the home when he's absent, but the home is him, and that when he is away, his niche is unfulfilled.
As to what follows, there are two cautions to be given. First, it must be understood, as mean throughout the work indicated must be done little by little. It must never be pushed beyond the point at which it ceases to be recreation. Secondly, the holiday campaign must be carefully thought over beforehand, read about in the books procured by the parent, the plans out then to be stored away in the minds and produced day by day a bit at a time, as the reason for that day's work. Anything like a Swiss Family Robinson revelation of family plans for a vacation at it's beginning will be simply fatal in the case of modern children just home from school. If the mother says, I'm going to do so and so today, who will join me, ready volunteers will be found for each expedition.
Of other occupations at household duties, I rank in first importance that all children must be taken into the open air. For that reason, amongst others, I detest the making of collections. It is better, in my humble judgment, to go out every day for a month and see that anemones in a walk pool learning to dodge the tide, and learning to patience, perseverance, love of beauty, in its own undisturbed home, the power to be still, the power to sympathize, even with the lowliest forms of life, that in our lodging at night, to hand over a glazed tank, in which we have incarcerated a few unhappy jelly fish or anemones, which we try to keep alive ??? Acting on my plan, we may know fewer technicalities about anemones, perhaps we shall be wiser though, about them and so many other things besides.
In the same way, and hour spent in trying to find seaweed in its own home, content to leave it there and to go back to find it again, will teach us more of seaweed, than a month of evenings spent impressing, drawing, labeling, the specimens we might bring home. Our holidays cannot be better spent than in teaching our children sympathy for life and all its forms. From the highest to the lowest, and I gravely doubt that their collections foster that sentiment. But I repeat, we may legitimately take all the knowledge of the habitat and loads of life, which he has without on our part, any interference with the liberty of a bird or a beast or fish. I should like to see young people as knowing about creatures as the man who, on being offered a handsome reward for a specimen, sent out in a dry and thirsty region, put a vial of water in his pocket. At a point far away from town, he sat down, made a little basin with the dust, and poured the water into it, and waited. Before very long, the beautiful insect, almost the last of its race in its country, hovered over the water and alighted for one sip. The butterfly net was on it in a instant and it never flew again.
I and all whom I could influence would have stopped short at watching the unsuspecting creature drink, a friend who has made study of her children's holidays, keeps ??? So as to be easily seen and added to, of the various flowers, birds, insects, seen by the young people and identified.
So I like this point here, so again, this kind of relates to the first article, talking about that summer afford a perfect opportunity for children to explore and have nature study. She talks in here that it's more important for children to observe the animals and the plants in their natural habitats than bringing home specimens or collections that they would observe at home. So then, you know, they can go out and observe these things out in nature, but then, she talks here of having a list on the wall of flower, birds, insects, that they have seen. And that the children can add to those.
She also talks in here about household duties and chores, you know, giving them some responsibility to help care for each other every day is super important as well. So that gives you... you know, two things to kind of think through about the summer... what are some chores, or tasks that you would want to add into your daily routine that they might not be doing right now. Summer affords a great opportunity to teach your child a new skill that they might need in order to perform a certain household chore, and it also provides that opportunity to get outside in nature as well.
Alright, I've spoken in the earlier paragraph of reading aloud and I wish to recur to it. There's no more useful taste which can be fostered in children than for sitting quietly at work. Sewing, knitting, netting, painting, drawing, or whatnot, and being read aloud to. Or, what is often useful in the case of a growing child, lying in the grass or the carpet and doing nothing and enjoying reading aloud. There's no accomplishment so useful which is so much neglected as reading aloud. The exercise of the lungs, which passes for it in elementary schools, is too terrible for characterization. And in secondary schools, while the misuse of the vocal organs is not so great, neither time nor care is enough given to the teaching the art of reading aloud.
In the case of children who are frequently read to at home, the knowledge which they gain of particular books, while in itself valuable, is the least part of the result. I think the habit of gathering as a family round a common center, of using hands while the brain is left free, or the habit on the other hand of stillness and rest in body, while the mind is working lightly and easily. The delightful associations in memories that will be later years called upon by sight or sound of the books read at home, these are worth much effort to confer on our children. It goes without saying that we must not read rubbish aloud, but that then every case you must choose of its kind, whether for older or younger children, a classic or a good translation of one.
So she's talking here about two things. One is the parent's reading aloud to the children and the importance of having a habit here, of gathering around that. So making it a certain time that you do it every day. I know it can be hard in the summer, but I find if we don't have a certain time set aside for reading aloud then, everything and anything kind of interfere with our plan. So having that routine in the summer is so important.
But she also talks about the importance of children reading aloud. She talks here about lung development and their vocal organs and it is...studies have shown, and I'll try to find one to attach in the show notes here, though, about the importance of kids reading aloud. Not just reading in their heads, though it could be very tempting the summer or two, you know, set a timer, everybody go off in the house and just read by yourselves for so many minutes. But it is important for children to develop the habit of reading aloud so this could be children reading aloud to their siblings, they could be reading aloud to a parent, they could be recording it and sending it to Grandma. Or, in these days, doing it on Zoom or something like that. They can read aloud to a stuffed animal or a dog. But, getting the practice of them reading aloud and not just reading in their head.
And then, she concludes the article with this idea. This paper would be wholly incomplete if I did not mention one subject with many ramifications, all of which I will comprise for the moment, under the much-misused term, church work. No holiday can be usefully filled, which does not include a definite effort on our part to lead our children's thoughts out to the wants of others less fortunate than themselves. Many schools now undertake to contribute regularly to some orphanage or mission at home or abroad. But none of us would be willing that all our children's associations with the idea of helping others should just be for the school alone. If we desire to give our children, not nearly interest, but relations, surely in which the establishment of relations is of such vital necessity to our children's highest, because of their spiritual good.
So I thought that was a great idea as well, taking time in the summer to help those in need, whether your child is, you know, making a handicraft, like a blanket or a mask or something to give to children in need. Or they're going to serve food or clothing for a needy or some shut-ins that you might have. Especially with this corona situation. There's so many elderly that can't get out, but they can make them cards, or draw them pictures during this time. And so, just thinking through that as well, for the summer, about what is a way that you can encourage your children to help those less fortunate than themselves.
So, I hope these articles just have given you some perspective. I think it can be really tempting to feel like we need to fill all their vacation hours with camps and activities and we need to be the source of all entertainment for them, that we need to see this holiday rather, as a time for them to grow, for a time for rest, for a time to make family connections. A time to read aloud. A time to, especially get out in nature. Explore nature study if that's something you've never done before. I highly encourage you to give it go this summer. And see what your family thinks.
I do have some resources, so if you go to the show notes for this episode, homeschooling.mom. I will link to a list of some of my favorite summer picture and chapter books that you can look at, and I will also... I also have a summer morning time packet, if you are interested in kind of keeping that routine in the summer. Focusing on beautiful art and music and poetry and just kind of bringing some of those subjects into your summer as well. I do find that kind of keeping our morning time with our Bible lessons and these, what I call, beauty subject, but really those just help us kind of keep the flow and the routine. What's so good is there's so much time during our days for my children to rest and explore and have the freedom develop their own interest as well during these summer holidays.
So, I hope that's given you some perspective and I hope you all have a wonderful summer. Thanks for listening.
Thank you for joining us today on the Charlotte Mason Show. I'm your host, Julie Ross, and I would love to meet you in person. All of the Great Homeschool Conventions have been rescheduled to 2021. Go to greathomeschoolconventions.com to find a convention near you.
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