CM 9: Amy Fischer-Charlotte Mason in the Early Years
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Description: What did Charlotte Mason have to say regarding education for our early learners? What should our children be doing before beginning formal lessons at the age of 6? What if we live in an area that is required to begin school before our children are 6 years old? In today’s episode, Julie H Ross is joined by blogger and author Amy Fischer to address these topics and more to help you apply Charlotte Mason’s principles with your early learners.
Picture of Amy Fischer:
Amy’s Bio: Hi, I’m Amy. My goal for my kids is that they grow to be curious, thoughtful, self-motivated problem solvers, who can teach themselves anything they want to know. I’m a wife, a mom of three boys, and an American ex-pat living in the north-west of the UK. I have an MA in Education (which was an incredible amount of fun – I’m serious!) and worked for a few years in higher education before settling into stay-at-home motherhood. On the blog www.aroundthethicket.com, I share what I have figured out along the way so far, and the connections I make between the Charlotte Mason way and real life, with all its dirt, tantrums, and challenges. I am also the author of Before Curriculum: How to Start Practicing the Charlotte Mason Philosophy in Your Home.
Home Education by Charlotte Mason
Philosophy of Education by Charlotte Mason
School Education by Charlotte Mason
Ourselves by Charlotte Mason
Quote: “...my object is to show that the chief function of the child––his business in the world during the first six or seven years of his life––is to find out all he can, about whatever comes under his notice, by means of his five senses; that he has an insatiable appetite for knowledge got in this way; and that, therefore, the endeavour of his parents should be to put him in the way of making acquaintance freely with Nature and natural objects; that, in fact, the intellectual education of the young child should lie in the free exercise of perceptive power… vol. 1 Home Education, page 96
Psalm 104: 24-25 How many are your works, LORD! In wisdom you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures. There is the sea, vast and spacious, teeming with creatures beyond number— living things both large and small.
Psalm 19:1 The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
CM EP 9 Amy Fischer Interview
Julie – Welcome to the Charlotte Mason show, a podcast dedicated to discussing Ms. Mason’s philosophy, principles, and methods. It is out hope that each episode will leave you inspired and offer practical wisdom on how to provide this rich, living education in your modern homeschool.
So, pull up a chair, we’re glad you’re here.
Today’s episode of the Charlotte Mason is brought to you by Medi-Share. Find out more about this affordable, Christian alternative to traditional health insurance at medishare.com.
Hi, hello everyone. This is Julie Ross with the Charlotte Mason podcast and I’m here with Amy Fischer, from Around the Thicket. Hello, Amy.
Amy – Hi Julie!
Julie – Thanks for joining us today. I’m excited to get to talk to you. I think. Well A, because you have a really fun accent and B, because it’s really unique to find someone who really kinda focuses on Charlotte Mason in the early years because there’s so much to her philosophy once you get into formal lessons. And so many people talking about that. And I just really think that’s cool that you’ve kind of done a lot with focusing on this because so many mom’s have questions of what to do. You know, before their kids start formal lessons, can we use her philosophy and what not. So, I’m excited to get to talk to you today. So, but before we get started, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your family?
Amy – Absolutely. So, I originally grew up in Indiana. So, if my accent’s interesting, it’s because I’ve been away for awhile now.
Julie – I love it, I love it. I was trying… I was telling my kids, I’m like, I’m interviewing someone today who lives in England. And I was doing my British accent and my daughter was like, please Mom, tell me you are not gonna talk like that on the podcast.
Amy – No, it’s funny. I’ve met… I meet a lot of Americans who… their accent does take over and I think mine’s starting to go that way a little bit. So. But yeah, I originally came to England to study, to do a master’s degree in education, which was a complete coincidence because I had no idea that I’d be going down the route of homeschooling. But while I was I here, I met my husband who is British. And now we’re here permanently. So, we have three boys, and they are six, four, and two. So, we are very much heavy in the early years and we are just getting into formal lessons. So, we are… we actually start on Monday.
Julie – Yeah. Wow. Oh, my goodness. So, did he just have a birthday?
Amy – Yeah, he had his birthday in December. And so, we waited to start after the holidays when Daddy’s goes back to work is when we’re gonna start.
Julie -Well that’s just a great time, you know, when everything’s starting back and you could just start fresh after the holidays too, so. That worked out really well.
Amy – Yeah, yeah.
Julie – Well that’s so cool. Yeah, I didn’t realize that you went over there to study education, that is really neat. I think, I’m interested to chat with you some more about that sometime. But, so, yeah, so, how did you find out about Charlotte Mason? Is that just like everybody over there knows about that? Cause I kind of assumed that. But I don’t think that’s the case, is it?
Amy – People locally will often have heard of Charlotte Mason because we… I do live quite close to Ambleside. So, people know of the Charlotte Mason College. It’s not called that anymore. But I know people who actually went there.
Julie – What? That’s crazy!
Amy – This is way after… you know… everything happened. But you know, people do know the name locally. I think as you get a bit further away it’s not quite as well known. So, I think she was on my radar in a certain sense, but it really wasn’t until I was pregnant with my oldest child and I was kind of schooling through Pinterest. And I just landed on … I thought homeschooling. And the idea just kind of captured my imagination. I think I was maybe just disillusioned with my own education and I think for having studied, I just realized how glacially slow things change in that field. And I was really struck by the idea of actually things could be different for my children. And so, not too long after that I thought, well if we’re thinking about this, when do I actually have to make a decision. Like, when are you meant to start? And the internet told me that it depends on your philosophy. So, I googled that as well. And then I just found somebody who went through a few different options and she mentioned Charlotte Mason. And she had sort of a formal academic, outdoor play, nature study, and she was coming from a solid Christian view, and I was just, it was just like oh yeah, that’s me. So, I just... she just… I was just absolutely hooked. And I started creating more and more and my husband and I talked about it more and more and it just… we never really made a decision to homeschool. It just became obvious that there wasn’t any other way forward for us. It just became the default.
Julie – Yeah, well that sounds like it was a perfect fit though. She’s someone who was already using Charlotte Mason philosophy in her family, or she was just kind of explaining homeschooling overall?
Amy – I think I was originally on a blog post that was just going over some general homeschooling philosophies. And then, not too long after that, I think I found Brandy ??? blog. So, I started going through that a little bit more in depth and learning a bit more and when my oldest was three, I decided I was gonna start reading her volumes. So, I just finished reading my last one. Yeah. So, I just, I finished the six-volume set.
Julie – You get a certificate. They should really do that. Like,
Amy – They should do that!
Julie – You get a medal or something like, it is a very big chunk of your life. That’s so neat, so yeah, it just sounds like it was really organic and a good fit for your family which is so neat. Cause I think, you know, there’s more people like me who tried the school at home route first, and when that was a train wreck. When… oh my word, there’s gotta be something else. And then, had to make that shift to Charlotte Mason so it’s so neat that that… your kids have kinda grown up already you know, drinking the Kool aide of, this is what we do in our family. So that just… I really just need to talk more about like, how that all works because, yeah, that was not the case for us. We had a kind of totally shift gears when the school at home wasn’t what I thought in the idyllic world that it would be. So how did you get started then implementing some of her principles in your home?
Amy – Well, when I really think about it, it really started with reading her volumes and starting to identify what was lacking in my own education. And then starting to take my own self education more seriously. So, it wasn’t so much that I went in with like, oh yes, Charlotte Mason says A, B, C, and D, where the early years. And I need to do… tick these boxes and then I have a Charlotte Mason education. It was much more like, oh, actually I should be interested in nature. And I should be interested in beautiful music. And I should maybe try reading poetry. And these living books. And a lot of our early years homeschool has really been… it’s really flowed out of that. So, it’s … I just feel really strongly about that because Charlotte Mason’s giving us principles, even if she’s not specifically talking about adults or young children. I think we can still look for that general truth that just applies because a person is person whether they’re a baby or 80 years old, or somewhere else. You know, I think, just thinking about some of the things that have changed is, you know, my interest in nature is much more keen. So, all I’ve read… I read some living books about the outdoors. Some of them are in the adult, some of them I read with my children, but I can see that as I get more interested, my children get more interested. So, I know my six-year-old loves lichens. I never expected that, but it was just because once I finally realized what they are, I started seeing them everywhere. And he sees them.
Julie – The power of observation, yeah.
Amy – I know, and so there’s little things like that where I work just get a little bit different music into our mix going on in the background and I see my kids getting more interested in the instruments that are playing, or the feeling that a piece of music is relating. And wanting to dance and just be moved by that music. So, I think that really big implementation of Ms. Mason’s principles, again, it’s not this sort of, it’s not directed at my children as much as it’s me plowing forward with the beautiful ideas that she’s put out there, and really making myself a guinea pig before making my children do that. So.
Julie – Well, I love that because I think that goes to a saying about education is an atmosphere. Right? When this is just something that is our family, and this is our family’s culture. Then it doesn’t seem so forced. And your kids just kind of breathe all that in all the time. Right? And like we said, your excitement wears off on them and I think it doesn’t matter if your kids are young or if you’re coming to the Charlotte Mason philosophy when your kids are older. I think what you did is fabulous, right? Work on it for yourself for a little bit and, do I like, you know, reading about nature books? Do I like listening to this kind of music? Do I like looking at beautiful art? And I think even if you’re like, right now, like, eh… no, I don’t think I’d like that, right? Like, once you start doing it, then like you said with the lichen, like then you start… you just… you start seeing things differently and you change. And I noticed that, I mean, I notice things… I’ll stop off the side of the road in a heartbeat now and pull over and look at some tree or some animal that we found. You know, where I would have never done that ten years ago. And then my kids are excited and they’re making us stop, you know, because, the excitement breeds excitement. And it’s not these forced, we are going to learn about oak trees today, you know? And then that’s inspiring, that’s like, you know, the captivating idea that she talks about when you’re captivated about it, your enthusiasm, you know, rubs off on everyone else. And I just love that. And you know, again, like if your kids are young or your kids are old, it doesn’t matter. Like, you need to start with yourself in getting inspired for yourself and that’s a really beautiful thing, I really like that.
Amy – Yeah, I think it’s when you read Ms. Mason, I think one of the things you come away with is just that her vision is for these children to grow up into adults who can educate themselves throughout their whole lives. So, I think when we really catch that vision, we realize that that means us. So, it really inspires me to keep going and to, you know, if it’s a worthy goal for my children, then it’s really, it’s a worthy goal for me too. So. Everybody gets to do it.
Julie- Alright, so, for those of you people who are new to Ms. Mason might not know this but, it’s generally… most people when they hear of her, they know that she talks about, you know, delaying formal lessons till about the age six. And you talk about your son, you know, his birthday. And in her volumes, she talks about you know, there’s this big birthday celebration and we’re gonna start reading you know? But why do you think she waited until that age to start formal lessons?
Amy – Well, I think in looking for her answer to this question, she says in School Education, it’s in an appendix, she’s writing about the school that was attached to her teacher training college where her teachers actually practiced, how to be teachers. And she says, so that school, children may not enter under the age of six because we think the first six years of life are wanted for physical growth and the self-education which children carry on with little ordered aid. So, there are sort of two ideas in that quote. So, first of all, our kids actually just need time to physically grow and develop and that’s definitely something we see in modern research, is that you know, children who don’t have gross motor skills or core strength, they don’t develop the fine motor skills to do handwriting and they struggle to sit still for a length of time. And so, I mean there is just plain practical reasons to not make your children sit still for formal lessons until they’ve had time to grow and stretch and play and really develop that strength that they need to be able to do that. But the other one is, she talks about the self-education that children carry on with little ordered aid. And that’s a really interesting idea too. So, she says in Home Education that the chief function of a child, for the first six or seven years, is to find out all he can about whatever comes under his notice by means of his five senses. That he has an insatiable appetite for knowledge gotten this way and that therefore the endeavor of his parents should be to put him in the way of making acquaintance freely with nature and natural objects. In fact, the intellectual education of the young child shall lie in the free exercise of perceptive power. So, I think when we understand what Charlotte Mason means by, children are born persons, we understand that she means that from birth, they are learning. It just happens naturally. And so what she’s really saying her is that for the first six years of a child’s life, that inner natural learning is enough. It’s sufficient. And they’re bringing in all of this knowledge through their senses. And they simply don’t need us to guide us through that process. You know she talks about just putting our children in the way of things worthy of observation. And it really, like, we just don’t need to prescriptive about that. But on the flipside, there comes an age where our kids actually do need a little bit more. You know, they have this foundation in the tangible physical world and they’re ready to be stretched a little bit through living books and those extra ideas and so it’s there’s just a natural almost sort of a mental growth spurt that they … where they’re just ready for a little bit more input. And that to me, start bringing in narration and living books and things like that. So, there’s wisdom that comes into it as a parent, you know, and I don’t think we have to say like, oh, you know you haven’t had your sixth birthday. It’s next week. We can’t start. You know, but I think those are the things we need to be looking for in our children when we’re thinking about when we do get started.
Julie- Yes, and I think just knowing why she said that. Like it’s not, like you said, it’s an arbitrary rule, like, you know, kids do develop. There is this kind of span there, you know. I actually use to teach kindergarten and you know, of course, the parents are freaking out the most about when is my child gonna learn how to read, you know? And I said, it’s really a continuum, like a kid learning to walk. Some kids walk at 9 months, some kids walk at 18 months, I can’t tell you which month your kid’s gonna walk, you know? And so, you have the kids who, once they’re exposed to those… like, they’re ready, like, that developmental process has happened. And then there’s others who’ll just keep trucking along and then one day, it’ll start clicking, you know? And … but I really like that she talks, and now research had shown, just the importance of, being outside, playing, getting those gross motor skills like you were saying, not being sedentary all the time. And I think, unfortunately, a lot of young children today don’t have those opportunities. They are having to sit still a lot longer, or they’re sitting watching television, or on their electronics. And so, they’re not getting that gross motor development which their brains need to be able to make that jump to formal lessons.
Amy – Oh yeah, cause I mean that physical play and that growth, is doing work in their brains too… It isn’t even just physical strength. It’s actually mental connections that are… that needs to happen through that play and that physical exercise.
Julie – Yeah, and you know, we’re like, oh, they’re just playing. But they’re learning how to communicate and solve problems and all those skills like when you talk about like, narration, right? People are like, well how do I get em started narrating? I’m like, they’ve been narrating their whole lives. Like, when they’re playing with their friends, they’re saying, you know, your Barbie said this and my… you know, like, they talk. And you want them to have those experiences so that when they do do those formal lessons that kind of makes that natural connection there. So, if a mom has a child who’s not ready for formal lessons, you know, they’re in that kind of toddler, preschool range, how can she go about using some of Ms. Mason’s principles in that young age range?
Amy – I think the best place I have found to start with this is by looking at her sixth, seventh and eighth principles. They’re summed up in the motto education is an atmosphere, a discipline, and a life. So, Charlotte Mason calls these the instruments of education, they’re kind of, they’re tools, so, if you really want to put the Charlotte Mason philosophy into action, this is it. So, you know, whether, you know, whether cause they’re little or in the middle of formal lessons or whatever, if we want to educate out children the Charlotte Mason way, we’ve got to figure out how we use these tools because otherwise, we’re just, we’re not gonna have the resources we need in order to do it. So.
Julie – That’s exactly right, yeah, you know just getting a curriculum or something that says Charlotte Mason’s name on it, like, if you don’t have these three tools and you don’t understand them, they’re not getting a Charlotte Mason, I don’t think.
Amy – Oh yeah, absolutely, so just to look quickly at some of the ways that these things get left out, so you have education is an atmosphere. So that’s everything that you know, surround a child’s life. So, Charlotte Mason talks about practicing masterly inactivity. And that really is apparent in their wisdom, realizing that we should probably not get involved in everything our child does.
Julie – We couldn’t be helicopters? What?
Amy – Yeah, so, I mean that could be as practical as not helping our babies walk. So that’s something we did in our home. We didn’t help our children walk. We let them learn that on their own, and that’s not something everybody does, and that’s not the point. But it can also look like watching carefully but letting, seeing how our kids can do at solving their own arguments. They’re probably gonna need a lot of oversight but you can definitely go in with the mentality of, I’m going to get involved as little as possible and keep everybody safe. So, and there’s just this mindset that says actually if we protect our children from bad things, if we solve all their problems for them, they’re actually going to grow up to be quite weak. And they’re not going to have built up that strength in those little things that’s going to help them be successful in the long run. So, we also have the educational tool, discipline. The discipline of habit, so you know, that can look like getting a good solid rhythm or a routine in the early years. Just building good habits, you know. There’s a lot of ways we can be growing in our own discipline as parents. I feel like I’m learning that every single day.
Julie – Amen
Amy – Yeah, and then you’ve got the educational tool of life and Charlotte Mason was talking about the life of the mind. So, we already talked about how our children come in touch with all these living ideas out in nature and the natural world. You know, we can also look for beautiful living books to read with our little ones. Charlotte Mason talks a little bit about not reading too many books to young children, but I think we know now that we may not… we may need to start an archive of advice.
Julie – Well yeah, the books that were available for young children in her day were really not that great. Compared to the… some of the beautiful Caldecott and picture books that are out there. And the stories are so rich, also the artwork. Yeah.
Amy – Absolutely. So, we can look for really high-quality books with beautiful illustrations that just give our children the opportunity to imagine and engage with some of these really living ideas. It’s just like, the power of stories. So that is a really quick overview, and I just, I do feel really passionate about this so I am… by the time this airs, I will have self-published a very short book. It’s actually called Before Curriculum and it’s all about using atmosphere, discipline and life in the home. And it’s really meant to start to take some of Charlotte Mason’s principles away from the context of formal lessons and just look at how broadly they apply. So, yeah, that’ll be available to buy on my website and on Amazon.
Julie – Okay, yeah, that’s exciting. I will put that link in the show notes for everybody cause that’s really neat and I love that you took this approach of those three tools and not like a checklist. Like, hey here’s how you do Charlotte Mason in early years. You do A, B, C, D, you know. And I think we really… there’s a part… well maybe just me… like, there’s a part of me that really likes those kinds of things. And I like checking off the boxes, I know I’m doing exactly, okay, well this is what I’m exactly supposed to do, so this is what we’re doing. But then her philosophy’s so much bigger than that. And we don’t need to box ourselves or our children into that. And like you said, those three tools are something you’re gonna have when you’re 96, right?
Amy – Yes!
Julie – So, you’re gonna have these your whole lifespan. So, starting very young and developing those and then when you get to the formal lessons, those are already in place and already there and you’re just building on top of those, I think, is just a… amazing approach. So, I really like that.
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Now, here in the United States, depending on where you live, you may have to start formal lessons when they’re five, if you’re in a state where you have to do kindergarten. And you know, so I think, I get questions a lot like, well, I know she said we were supposed to wait til they were like six, but my kid’s five and we have to start school so what can I do that actually uses some of her philosophy, but also can still meet some of these requirements of hey, we’re homeschooling here. So yeah… I don’t know what... you know, your situation has been like with your kids but what would you do to kind of help a mom in that situation.
Amy – Yeah, I can completely appreciate that there is pressure there. Even if you are in a place that mandates compulsory schooling for a five-year-old. I can appreciate that there… you start to feel a little bit of pressure, you know…
Julie – When the grandparents come to visit!
Amy – Yeah! Exactly! So, yeah, so just for reference, compulsory school age is… in the UK, is five. And that’s for full time education, however, it’s very free and easy. And I’m basically allowed, as a parent, to determine an appropriate education for my child. And so, I get to say, I think full time education for a five-year-old looks like playing and learning to cooperate with the siblings. And so
Julie – Those are two very important skills!
Amy – Yeah. So while I don’t have to complete any reporting requirements or anything like that, but I do think that there are, there’s lots of scope here to think creatively and to still really honor the Charlotte Mason philosophy and bring that into what you’re doing with your five year old. I just… I would hate for anybody to feel like they are condemning their child if they have to start at five. There is grace and I think the other thing too is that this circumstance is part of your atmosphere as a mom. So, you know, you can look at that as sort of a challenge to learn and grow and get creative and go about it that way. So, don’t be discouraged. So, just some really practical ideas that I’ve had is just as a first step to map as many of your requirements to time in nature as you possibly can. So, obviously that includes science, but we also know that Charlotte Mason said that for young children, every day you should stop their play and do a French lesson for ten minutes. So, there’s foreign language. And I think you can probably also use that same approach if you need to cover some other subjects. So, one of them that you could do outdoors at that age would be math. I really think that at that age, you do not need a pencil and paper to teach math. Or it’s even be able to assess that your child is learning mathematical concepts. So, actually, that could be really fun, to go out into the woods and count and find symmetry, and you know, do all those really good things. And you could find a curriculum and just do those activities in a different setting. You know, it could be as simple as that. I also think that if there’s other subjects you need to cover, you can look for living books. You can read them together. I would avoid, if you can, requiring narration because Charlotte Mason does think that you should wait on that. And I’m not sure any states would be requiring narration.
Julie – No, no, they’d be like, what’s that?
Amy – So, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t occasionally test the waters. You can, you know, you can sometimes ask, say, hey, why don’t you tell Daddy about that story we read today? And it’s slow pressure and you can just gauge what they’re taking in and making sure that you’re pitching the book at the right level to see what they’re taking in. And then, I know that literacy and reading is a huge one. And Charlotte Mason mentions tons of prereading activities for under six.
Julie – Yeah, it’s not like she never said anything, like I think that’s one of those misconceptions people have and I’m like, oh no, there’s a lot she talks about.
Amy – There is tons, and so you really can, you can go into that and you can go through that and you know that not only are you honoring Charlotte Mason’s philosophy, but you’re living it out, so there really is a lot there especially in home education that just can give you the breaths. But I think, if this were my situation, I would be looking at principles like short lessons, high quality books, a wide curriculum and lots and lots of time outside. And think about how you can bring that into what you need to do with your kids. And I think at that point I would just trust that, this situation’s gonna work out fine.
Julie – Yeah, no, I love that, like, there’s so much richness there. And you can cover, like you said, like the ten-minute French lessons, right? It was… she talks a lot about these kinds of pre-lessons being like games. Like they don’t even realize what they’re doing because you’re singing these songs in French, or you’re playing with your alphabet letters in the bathtub. And you’re like, they don’t even realize but they’re actually getting all these concepts, right? But they’re getting them through play and it’s not these formal lessons. But it doesn’t mean they’re not lessons happening.
Amy – Absolutely. And I think you would be hard pressed to find many people who are up to speed on current research who would say that your five-year-old should not be learning through play. You might have to be a little bit more on top of things like, you know, keeping track of what you’re doing. Honestly, most five-year old’s are probably going to be doing those things naturally anyway.
Julie – Yeah. And, you were talking about the narration thing, one of the things that came to mind… you know, she gives this example where you’re out in nature with your kids and you’re saying, okay, well go look beyond that tree and the come back and tell me what you saw over there. Right? Well, that’s narration. But they’re doing it, like you said, outside. And so, it’s not this formal thing where you read them a book and now, they’re telling you that they’re getting that power of observation, they’re learning how to narrate. But it’s in a way that’s very natural for young children to be able to do. And then one of the things that I always tell people, young children, five-year olds especially, is read and sing nursery rhymes, because that will get the feeling of awareness that she talks about. So, when you’re starting those formal lessons of seeing the letters in print, you’ve already been playing those games orally, you know? She talks about you know, saying the sounds and putting the words together and clapping the sounds like, all those kind of things that… those preliteracy skills that they now teach people how to do, like she actually talks about them, in Home Education, that you’re doing those things orally and then when they’re six and they have their vision you know, and their brains have developed more, like you were talking about, now they start putting those connections from the sound with the actual printed letter. But that doesn’t mean that they’ve never come in contact with any of this stuff before and they’re not getting those preliteracy skills. They are. But it’s all done orally, at first, which is, of course, I actually have a Pinterest board called Charlotte Mason Was Right. So, every time I find like some research article or something like that, I put it in there, because it’s like ope, yep, there’s another one! Just supporting her fact, you know. And now they’re… you’re telling teachers just to really focus on that oral literacy before the printed one. I’m like, um, well, there, Charlotte Mason wins again. And one of the things you mentioned was home education and that’s something, you know, for any mom with young children that’s interested. Like, it was a series of lectures that she gave on how to educate young children. But a lot of it has to do with these pre early years, kids in the nursery, you know, it really is a great place to start. I know it can seem a little daunting, cause, you know, those big volumes can seem a little much. But there’s so much practical, and she just really gives a lot of duration in home education. But is that what you would recommend that someone would start, or do you have other resources that you would recommend for someone who’s interested in learning her methods, but, just has little children right now.
Amy – Well, I’m gonna be slightly… oh what’s the word for it… I’m gonna go slightly off the beaten track and I did read Home Educationfirst. It took me three attempts to actually …
Julie – Yes, it’s daunting.
Amy – But having read them all now, The Philosophy of Education is just a masterpiece. And like you said, Home Educationis a series of lectures, whereas Philosophy of Education is just a thought out, logical book. You know, it’s a proper book. So, I really think that that is… if you just, if you want the scope, and to just understand just in a more logical, cohesive way, what Charlotte Mason was about, Philosophy of Education is a brilliant place to start. Now, that said, the second half of the book is called The Curriculum. That’s meant for school age children. And it’s a lot of, in form one, we read this, in form two, we… you do not need that when you have young children. So, I would say at that point, go and read Home Education.
Julie – Okay. Yeah.
Amy – But I think that I… I think that if you start with the first half of Philosophy of Education, you’ll be able to spot in the things from Home Education in a more logical way. I think you’ll be able to make more sense of it, because you’ll have the outline and the overview. But ultimately, I would say just jump in wherever you can manage. I think it’s so good to hear her own words. They’re really living books. You don’t have to read a lot to get something really meaty to chew on, so even if you don’t have a lot of time, the five or ten minutes you do get will be really rewarding. So.
Julie – Yeah, that’s great advice, just to break it up. I think people think like, oh my word, I need to do all of this right now, and it’s like, you know if you just read a little bit every day… I have like a little teatime after lunch to myself for 15 minutes but you know, I pick up something to read. And it’s amazing what you can get through. A couple minutes every day.
Amy – Yeah, I took about six months for each volume. And so that really does, it spreads it out quite a bit, so…
Julie – No, I think that’s…I think that’s fast! I’m in a Charlotte Mason book club and we are… we did start with the Philosophy of Education. And then we went back to Home Education and are making our way through now. And we’re on volume three now, so that’s been four years and we do one… I mean, I’ve read them all before, but with the book club, we do one a year and it is a really great pace for everybody, but…
Amy – Oh that’s so good! Yeah, I think I … well, let’s just say two, but if you’re curious about what Charlotte Mason means by a “child”…children are born persons, ourselves is the answer to that. And it’s almost…
Julie – That book convicted me.
Amy – I know. I’m gonna … I’m planning to read that one this year. I’m gonna treat it as a devotional book because it’s just so challenging. And…
Julie – A great mother culture for sure.
Amy – Yeah, it’s… it’s really good. Yeah, it’s really good.
Julie – Yeah, it’ll definitely… it definitely motivated me to work on some of my habits for sure. So, what’s one piece of advice that you wish someone would have given you when you first got started with this whole concept?
Amy – Well, speaking of habits… It’s interesting, because I think because I’ve been reading ?? for so long in some ways it feels like I’ve heard all of the advice. But I think what I’m realizing now is that I just, I’ve had no idea the depth of my habits. You know, how much of my life is on autopilot. You know it doesn’t just cover things like putting my clothes away every day or cleaning my kitchen. But it’s even things like the way I respond to my children when they aren’t behaving. I do that out of habit. And there’s all sort of things that are just, you know, heart issues that are just perpetuated and compounded by habit. So, again, I think a lot of people get… are really daunted or overwhelmed by habit training. But I think, again, if we start thinking about applying that to ourselves before we get too worried about our children, I think that actually will… we’ll not only be in a much better position to use habit training in our home, but we’re also just going to be better people and better prepared to do the work that is ahead of us. So. I think…
Julie – That’s really great advice. That’s really good. That makes sense. Wow. Yeah. I wish someone would’ve give me that advice too. Cause, unlearning habits is a lot harder than learning good habits to begin with. For sure, yeah. It’s interesting I was… this past week, reading In Memorium, which was just republished, but it takes the lectures and letters that were written after Charlotte Mason died and so many of them talk about how disciplined she was. You know, even though she was an invalid for most of her later years, the things that she was able to accomplish with all this philosophy and the PNEU, and all those things, is incredible. But the reason she was able to do it, and even grade… I mean, just… lost my mind, can you imagine like, Ms. Mason like, grading your kid’s exams. And writing on them like… I’m like, what? I can barely get my own you know, five kids… well four, now, done, and … but, just because she was so disciplined every day. And had these habits in these, you know, she talks about routines earlier, you know she was able to do so much because she… hold on, I think I bookmarked this page… At 12:15 she stopped working, then would follow ten minutes of some favorite classic author. And she would be ready at 1 PM for dinner with students. After dinner came occasional interviews and reading aloud of some biography. At 2:15, whatever the weather, unless it was heavily raining or there was high wind, Ms. Mason drove out in her little Victoria until four PM. Her life was a constant evidence of the joy of the science of relations. And I was just… and then, you know, it talks about, and she had tea, and then at 7, she… I mean it’s like, wow! So yeah, working on those with our… following in her path and just having that routine and, you know, I think some people are like well, that could be really boring. But at the same time, you can accomplish so much when you have those things set in place. So I think that’s super great advice. Alright, so what is it like to live near Ambleside? I mean, does it just exude, like, poetry and like, brilliance? That’s just what I envision in my head. My head, anyway. Like people just walk around, they quote Wordsworth and stuff.
Amy – I have yet to go to Ambleside and hear people randomly call out those words… But it is gorgeous. It is… I feel really fortunate to live so close to the Lake District and it is just, it’s so obvious how the natural world must’ve benefitted… not just Charlotte Mason, but her students. You know, and it is just such a beautiful place and my family’s been camping just across the lake a few times from Ambleside. So, on those trips I usually sit on the little beach of Windemere and just look across and think. I totally get it.
Julie – Do you feel like you’re in Swallows and Amazons? I have to ask that question too.
Amy – Well, a little bit. We actually, from the same location they had a sailing class for experience. And so, we took our boys out to go…
Julie – Oh my gosh, my kids would die!
Amy – Yeah, we took… it was very lowkey, which is good because my oldest is a little bit nervous. But yeah, we just sailed back and forth across the lake. The short way across the lake a few times. And it was really fun, but yeah, it is really lovely and obviously it’s Beatrix Potter country as well. And Wordsworth. And it’s just really nice places to go outdoors. It does rain a lot.
Julie – Well, Ms. Mason went out there everyday from 2:15 to 4 o’clock!
Amy – Yeah! Yeah, yeah, yeah. She did. Accept in heavy rain, which …
Julie – That may be often, who knows!
Amy – I think that… I think that’s the thing about living around here. It’s like you’ll have bad weather for a little bit in the morning, or a little bit in the afternoon, but it’s not very often that you have a whole day that’s completely rubbish, so. You just have to be prepared.
Julie – Yes, yes. There’s no such thing… what is it… there’s no such thing as bad just bad weather, just bad clothing or something?
Amy – Yes. That is true. And if you’ve ever had your raincoat soaked through, you’d know exactly what they mean.
Julie – Yes. Okay. Well, I will make sure that I bring my rain jacket. I’m super excited to come to Ambleside in April, and it’s like, life-long bucket list dream here so, I will probably be freaking out constantly, just
Amy – It really will be…
Julie – But yes, I am just so excited just to breathe in all of the amazingness of that place, and just, all the things that Charlotte Mason got to look at and experience all the time. So, to wrap up here, do you have a favorite Charlotte Mason quote?
Amy – I think this is the hardest question.
Julie – Okay, well yes, I would agree with you. I would have a very hard time picking one.
Amy – Yeah, so I decided I would pick something from Ourselves, because I think it might be one of my favorite volumes. So, I chose one where she’s talking about our leisure time in order to read. So, she says, Man is not for himself. And to get out of ourselves into the wide current of human life, of all sorts of conditions, is our wisdom and should be our care. And I just really love that because… well it’s obviously that Charlotte Mason thought that humility isn’t thinking poorly of herself. It’s just not thinking about ourselves at all. And so, she saw reading as really keyway that we just get out of… stop focusing on ourselves so much. And then also, it just expands our world. So, I think, you know, when we’re at home with our kids it can feel monotonous, and it can feel like you’re really lacking diversity of experience. But what Charlotte Mason says is that in reading, it expands our life experience. And that gives us wisdom and insight and even though it’s second-hand, it’s a valuable way to grow ourselves so that we can continue leading our families. So that’s something that I’ve really taken to heart from her work.
Julie – Yeah, that’s great, and that’s great advice for someone, I really do believe, with young children. It does keep you home a lot, especially when you have little ones napping, but it does give you that time, because when they all get to be middle school, let me just tell ya, I just live in the car all the time. So, I really miss those times now, where people were napping and I could just, you know, grab a book for a couple minutes. Because now we’re just constantly running all over the place so, I think that is great advice for that age. And again, it goes back to how we kind of started here, that when you’re growing in yourself, that inspires your whole family and that changes the atmosphere of your home. And then that overflow is what you’re giving to your children and you’re able to pour into them, you know, not from a dry cistern in yourself, but you are filling yourself up, putting your own oxygen mask on as they say. I just think that is such a great quote to kind of tie in all the things that we have been talking about today. So, Amy, if someone wants to find out more about you, you have a ton of resources on your website. Can you just tell us about that for a second?
Amy – Yeah, so the main hub is my blog, which is aroundthethicket.com. You’ll find blog posts about Charlotte Mason and the early years. You’ll find a blog post series that’s about half done where I’m going through and looking at each of Charlotte Mason’s 20 principles and considering how they apply to moms. So again, drawing out that idea of a principle is a principle, regardless of your age. And again, I’ll have my book available soon to talk about that. So yeah, that’s a little of what I have going on.
Julie – Well thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me today. I really appreciate it, Amy, I knew this is gonna be super helpful to so many moms. And I look forward to seeing you at Ambleside.
Amy – Yeah, I’m looking forward to that too. Thank you so much Julie.
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 2020. I will be at all seven Great Homeschool Conventions, speaking as part of their Charlotte Mason track. Go to greathomeschoolconventions.com to find one near you. If you want more information on what was shared in today’s podcast, go to homeschooling.mom for the show notes. Also, don’t forget to subscribe to this podcast in iTunes or Google Play so you never miss an episode. Until next time.
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