S6 E10 | Education is an Atmosphere, a Discipline, and a Life | Virtual Book Club: A Philosophy of Education, Chapter 6 (Julie Ross with Shay Kemp)
The fun of our Volume 6 Book Club continues as Julie and Shay Kemp discuss Chapter 6, which is a summary of one of Miss Mason's most quoted mottos: "Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life." Each of these three powerful instruments can be used as motivators in our homeschools to provide a nourishing education to our children, so join us as we talk about how to consider each one and evaluate how we are implementing them to our best advantage!
Shay is a homeschooling mom of 5 who loves enjoying the learning journey with her children and encouraging others in their paths of faith, parenting and homeschooling. She believes the best conversations happen when you are comfortable on the front porch and loves to share her own journey from there!
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 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 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.
Julie Ross | Instagram
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Julie Ross [00:00:04] Welcome to The Charlotte Mason Show, a podcast dedicated to discussing Miss Mason's philosophy, principles, and methods. It is our 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 Show is brought to you by Medi-Share. Find out more about this affordable Christian alternative to traditional health insurance at MediShare.com.
Julie Ross [00:00:46] Hello, everyone. Welcome to The Charlotte Mason Show. I'm your host, Julie Ross. And today I'm here with the lovely Shay Kemp again. Hey, girl.
Shay Kemp [00:00:54] Hello. Hey, everybody.
Julie Ross [00:00:58] You staying cool?
Shay Kemp [00:00:59] I'm trying. This is June in South Carolina, and every year we complain about it, and every year we know it's coming.
Julie Ross [00:01:07] Yeah, I mean, it's only like going to be 103 degrees tomorrow. I don't know what we have to complain about.
Shay Kemp [00:01:12] This is an indoor day, a reading day. We definitely will get school done this whole week. These are the days that we get school done in the summer because you can't do anything else besides go swimming.
Julie Ross [00:01:20] Yes, that is true. So speaking of doing school in the summer, we have a special announcement. Drumroll.
Shay Kemp [00:01:28] Excited.
Julie Ross [00:01:31] We have finally finished our new updated summer morning time packet and it is awesome. It is 100 pages. It has six weeks of lesson plans that are simple enough to do in the summer. So it's not like you're going to be spending your whole day doing school. I mean, I'm thinking 30 minutes. Shay, what do you think?
Shay Kemp [00:01:47] Yes, I think it's laid out so perfectly because you can just open it up, pick and choose. Like if it's a busier day, you could do one thing. You could spread it out over a week. Or if you just want to decide, hey, we want to have a full day, we're going to do everything today, you could do that. It's very flexible. I love it.
Julie Ross [00:02:05] Yeah. And I love that the way we structured it, it has different kind of concepts that relate to summer. For example, like the first week is all around butterflies, so the artwork and composer study and the cooking—which is fun—and handicrafts and things like that all around that kind of theme, which is fun to do in the summer. Again, that's not something I would recommend doing type things like that all the time, but in the summer it's easy to kind of wrap your brain around. And then the nature talk has to do with that as well. So it all ties together. Makes it super easy for people. So yeah, check that out. If you go to AGentleFeast.com and then go to the shop, it's in Additional Resources. So that is fun. And today we are jumping into our book study again from volume six. And last time— if you haven't listened to it on the Sacredness of Personality, I highly recommend listening to that chapter first because Charlotte Mason starts off chapter seven by saying, okay, in the previous chapter, I kind of told you what not to do. And that was, you know, we talked about mostly external motivation: the use of fear, the use of even love and praise as a form of manipulation, the use of marks and prizes and things like that to motivate students to learn and talked about like the negative effects that that has. Okay then what are we left with? Especially if you're coming from a public school background where that's all we used.
Shay Kemp [00:03:33] Yeah, she says, "And we cut out..." and then she gives us the list of what she cut out, and then she says, "Okay, there's three left. You have three things left." Like, okay. Thank you, Charlotte.
Julie Ross [00:03:43] Yes, but these three things are very deep and are complex, so we actually have three different episodes. So if you're familiar with Charlotte Mason, I'm sure you've heard the quote before: "Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, and a life." And those are the three things that we're going to talk about. We actually have individual episodes about each of those. Today, we're kind of going to broadly go through them. But I highly recommend digging through those individual episodes as well. And I have my little sticker here that is on my water bottle to remind me of that.
Shay Kemp [00:04:19] Yes.
Julie Ross [00:04:20] This is what we have to work with. So let's jump in. The first thing that she talks about is atmosphere, and this is something that I actually talk about quite a bit is the fact that we are kind of the thermostats for setting the atmosphere in our home. And I actually have a whole episode that I recently did about getting out of your mental rut, where I kind of talk about this a lot— that us as moms— our moods, our emotions affect the whole house. And she gives an example in here of a mom who is anxious and worried and how that affects the child.
Shay Kemp [00:05:02] And I also love that she makes the difference between atmosphere and surroundings. And I think that sometimes people can get those two things maybe mixed up, like they think the surroundings need to be a certain thing. I mean, I think surroundings can be part of atmosphere because obviously beauty does affect us. But atmosphere does not mean you have to have a dedicated, beautifully perfect school room. I mean, we homeschool in our dining room. This room I'm sitting in right now— this is the school room. We have a small home. And she even says that "sweet reasonableness and harmony with his surroundings". And later on, she says, "it can present children that have an air of wariness, condescension, and self-complacency". So we do not have to have perfect surroundings to have an atmosphere that is conducive to education.
Julie Ross [00:06:00] And I think that's so important for people to hear because you see these beautiful pictures on like Instagram and Pinterest and you're like, "Oh my gosh, we have to set up the school room, and we have to make it look beautiful or they're not going to learn." And she says, "We all know the natural conditions under which a child should live, how he shares household ways with his mother, romps with his father, is teased by his brothers, and petted by his sisters,"—I mean, it's like she's looking in my house—"is taught by his tumbles, learns self-denial by the baby's needs, the delightful ness of furniture by playing at the battle in siege with sofa and table, learns veneration for the old by the visits of his great grandmother, how to live with equals by the chums he gathers around him, learns intimacy with the animals from his dog and cat, delights in the fields of buttercups and greater delight in blackberry hedges. And what tempered fusions of class is so effective as a child's intimacy with his betters?" They talk about the cook, the blacksmith, people we don't see today, but basically—
Shay Kemp [00:07:00] Unfortunately. I wish I did.
Julie Ross [00:07:01] The best atmosphere is your house with all of its craziness, jumping and having battles on the sofa and the table and people teasing each other.
Shay Kemp [00:07:10] Exactly. And I think that's encouraging for us as moms because I have had—through the years—moms come over and say, "Okay, what does a Charlotte Mason day look like?" And they just want to come see. I'm like, "You're going to be sorely disappointed. I mean, you're welcome. Come on to the chaos. But if you think that we're all sitting around and we're listening to music where everybody's perfectly still and we're having long, deep discussions about art and the poetry and stuff— I mean, we introduce those things, but it looks exactly like what she's talking about here. The dog and the furniture and, you know, the phone rings. Of course, she didn't say that. But, you know, it's just a normal day. And I think it's important for us to be honest about that. The Instagram posts and the Facebook pages are just a little snapshot.
Julie Ross [00:08:02] Right. Yes.
Shay Kemp [00:08:03] You don't see the sink full of dirty dishes and the five loads of laundry that have not been folded, which are still part of the atmosphere of everyday life.
Julie Ross [00:08:15] Right. So I think there's several components to the atmosphere. It's not—like you're saying—it's not your surroundings. So what—if it's not our surroundings—then what is it?
Shay Kemp [00:08:27] Well, I think she talks about the relationship between the parents is a huge part of the atmosphere. And she says, "Due relations must be maintained. The parents are in authority, the children in obedience. And again, the strong may not lay their burdens on the weak," and I love this section here: "nor must we expect from children that effort of decision, the most fatiguing in our lives, of which the young should generally be relieved." Of course, we know about decision fatigue, so part of the atmosphere is the relationship that you have with your children and how you relate to them. Something we're all always working on, I think.
Julie Ross [00:09:05] Oh yeah, for sure. Right? Yeah. And she does talk in here— like I was saying— I'm trying to find the quote now about the nervousness, about there being too much oxygen in the air.
Shay Kemp [00:09:16] Yes. Page 98.
Julie Ross [00:09:17] Yeah, and it's a metaphor. She's not talking about real oxygen. She says, "When this is the case, there's too much oxygen in the air. So when the mom is anxious, worried, when they're putting too much pressure on their child to perform in a certain way,"—that's what she's saying is this oxygen. And she says, "They are breathing a too stimulating atmosphere and then they're restrained to which they are subjected, must needs be followed by reaction. Then teachers think that the lessons are too hard and the children should be relieved of this and that study. The doctors probably advise that so-and-so should run wild for here. Poor little soul. At the very moment when he is most in need of knowledge for his sustenance, he is left to prey upon himself. No wonder the nervous systems become worse and the boy and girl suffers under the stigma of nervous strain. The fault has been in the atmosphere and not in the work. The teacher perhaps is overanxious that her children should do well and her nervous expectation is catching."
Shay Kemp [00:10:20] That is deep right there.
Julie Ross [00:10:23] I know. I have been guilty.
Shay Kemp [00:10:25] Yes. You and I have the privilege of talking to lots of moms who homeschool and want to do it well. And I think that is really important. And I love moms that are invested in Charlotte Mason philosophy because it is a philosophy and not just a curriculum that we're throwing at children to fix. But along those lines, there can be—exactly like she says here—this anxiousness and nervous excitation. Am I doing this right? Am I doing this well? And I get it because I really feel like before I found Charlotte Mason, I had a lot more of that.
Julie Ross [00:11:03] Me too. Yes.
Shay Kemp [00:11:04] And now that I can really— I have studied the philosophy, learned the philosophy, still learning. It really does less than that. And that's one message I really want to make sure we get across to moms like, this is worth your time. It's worth your effort to study the philosophy, to read these volumes, listen to these podcasts and understand it, because it takes down that level of anxiety when you trust the methods and the why. It really does. And when I get like that—I do—my kids, they pick up on it. Like, "Mom's nervous about us finishing this book. What? Like she thinks I'm not going to do well on this?" I don't have to say it with my words, but they definitely pick up on the vibe that I'm giving them.
Julie Ross [00:11:49] Oh, yeah. For sure. Yeah. And then they react, right? Because they can't handle that kind of pressure, even if it's subtle and it's in the air, she's saying. It doesn't have to be the words. And then then they push back because they're now anxious and worried themselves. And so they want to get out of things because they're afraid of failing. And then what does that lead to? Oh, well, this must be too hard because they're pushing back on me. Rather than they really need this knowledge. Their minds need more sustenance. They need more of this mind food. But then we move on. Oh we should pick something easier because then we won't have a conflict. Where really—like she's saying—the conflict and the problem is within us as the parent.
Shay Kemp [00:12:36] Yes. And that's not easy to admit because you just want— you just need to do your work. But that's why— and look, it's summer. This is the perfect time to step back and evaluate these things when you're not maybe in a regular school schedule is to step back and say, okay, how am I affecting the atmosphere in my home? And this is one of my favorite quotes in this chapter because it gives me lots of hope. She says, "We foresee happy days for children when all teachers know that no other exciting motive, whatever is necessary to produce good work in each individual of however big a class, than that love of knowledge which is natural to every child. The serenity and sweetness of schools conducted on this principle is surprising to the outsider who has not reflected upon the contentment of a baby with his bottle." I really love that quote because I think that gives us hope that when we back up and we say love of knowledge, this is the pushing motivation here. And how am I really grasping that in my own mind, in my own way I approach each day's work? And that really helps us to consider the atmosphere in our homes. It's sort of nebulous— atmosphere. We can't really touch it. But at the same time, there are some practical things you can do. And I really do encourage everybody to listen to that podcast episode that you talk about—the thoughts—because it has some great practical ideas of how we can practically influence something that seems nebulous.
Julie Ross [00:14:12] Right. So yeah, definitely touch on those if you want to go into this more, and I do think it is so important, and I agree with you that summer is a really good time to kind of step back and kind of evaluate yourself from kind of above and see what's actually going on. Because in the daily grind, it can be really easy just to focus on the details and focus on your children's behavior. So summer is a good time to kind of go through that.
Julie Ross [00:14:37] Today's episode is brought to you by A Gentle Feast. A Gentle Feast is a complete curriculum for grades 1-12 that is family-centered, inspired by Ms. Mason's programs and philosophy, and rooted in books, beauty, and biblical truth. You can find out how smooth and easy days are closer than you think at AGentleFeast.com.
Julie Ross [00:15:01] Okay. Let's move on to the next one. Education is a discipline. And she's talking here about the discipline of habits. She says, "The intellectual habits of the good life form themselves in the falling out of the due curriculum in the right way. As we have already urged, there is but one right way. That is, children must do the work for themselves. They must read the given pages and tell what they have read." So she's saying, the basis of my approach here is they're reading good living books and they're doing narrations. They're talking about them. If they are doing these things, these good life habits will grow out of that because they have learned how to learn for themselves and do the work of self education. That takes a lot of the pressure off of me.
Shay Kemp [00:15:43] It's so powerful. I mean, it's so powerful. And also where we get that— and I'm sure you hear this, too— "Oh, so you're one of those Charlotte Mason people. All you do is just read books." It's so much deeper than that. But also, that's the core simplicity. Like we are reading great books. And you can't forget that little phrase that she says in the next sentence, "They must read the given pages and tell what they have read. They must perform, that is, what we may call the act of knowing." And then she talks about how things go into the dustbin of our memories. And so as we focus on that act of knowing, we get their rewards. And she goes through the next few pages and talks about those rewards, and they are so powerful. The intellectual habits and how that goes into it. I made a list, actually.
Julie Ross [00:16:35] Yeah, me too. Yeah. Read yours.
Shay Kemp [00:16:37] Did you? Okay. We just love lists. I love lists. "Habits that follow are byproducts of the act of knowing," she says, "are fitting and ready expression, obedience, goodwill, and impersonal outlook," which I sort of looked up and it was—.
Julie Ross [00:16:54] Yeah, me too.
Shay Kemp [00:16:55] Did you look that up too? Oh, I love your brain. It really means ways to look at other people's perspectives so I'm not just so focused on my own personal perspective. So it's impersonal. Like, can I figure out why you might think about something differently than I would think about something?
Julie Ross [00:17:14] I mean, that's just huge right there.
Shay Kemp [00:17:16] It is. Especially today.
Julie Ross [00:17:19] I know. Right?
Shay Kemp [00:17:19] That we could find some common ground on things with people we may not consider— we may not think the way they do so. And let's back up. Let's remember. So if that's our endgame—children that have impersonal outlooks—how do we get there? And she's saying through the discipline of the act of knowing, reading these books, and chewing them up, considering, and speaking out what we see. So that one really was important to me. And then she says, "Right thinking, right judging, neatness, and order." And so I was considering those right thinking, right judging, and I was looking up trying to make some comparisons of what she says there. And I think what she's talking about is— because she goes later into the divine, and so she's thinking about how do I— not just making a decision off the cuff, but right thinking and right judging. What do I feel with this inside me is the right choice? Instead of just these— off the cuff, everybody else is doing it. And man, I have teenagers. So I'm like I would really like kids that have some right thinking and right judging. Not to mention the neatness and order. Hello?
Julie Ross [00:18:33] And these are habits of the good life. They're not easy. Right? And she talks about how building habits is hard. It's like building a muscle. And we can look at the athlete and be like, "Oh, my goodness. It's so amazing. They can do XYZ." But we forget about the hours that they spent in the gym and the discipline it took to get them to that point. We want things to be easy, you know?
Shay Kemp [00:18:56] And she even says, a few pages over, "Every habit is the result of conflict." And it's so true. We sow ideas, she talks about. So there has to be some inner conflict within me before I change a habits, and my children are no different. And of course, "Habit is like a fire," she says, "A bad master, but an indispensable servant." Wow.
Julie Ross [00:19:21] Yes, she says we're forming habits all the time, so we're naturally forming bad habits unless we are intentional about trying to form good habits. So I thought that was really important to think through, too. What are we unintentionally— what unintentional habits are we reproducing, you know? And she talked about decision fatigue in here as well. By having good habits, it eliminates having to make decisions all the time. This is just what we do. We wake up in the morning, we do this, and we do this, and we do this. This is how I do my handwriting; this is how we do morning time. It eliminates all that decision and all the conflict that could come all day long. So it really does lead to easier days when you have these habits in place.
Shay Kemp [00:20:04] And that's why routine is so important— not the— well, I mean, I do have friends who love this, so if this is your jam, then this is no— you know, but 7 AM, 8 AM, 9 AM, 10 AM. I don't operate that way. My brain doesn't because then inevitably somebody throws up and you're like, "Oh, well, we just lost 8 AM. What are we going to do now?" But a routine really does take the pressure off of decision fatigue. I mean, this is just what we do. And sometimes it may be different, but this is how the day runs. And she talks about how—I love this—"Every cottage mother knows that she must train her child in habits of decency, and a whole code of habits of propriety get themself formed just because a breach in any such habit causes a shock to others, which a few children have the courage to face." So I want to be a cottage mother, don't you love that?
Julie Ross [00:21:03] Especially after I just stayed in a cottage last week in Ambleside. I want to pretty much move there.
Shay Kemp [00:21:08] I bet you do. But I mean, she's talking about there, you know, like what we're saying— it's got to bump up against something before you make a new— oh, okay, well, this didn't work, so we got to figure out a better habit, or I'm noticing— and again, summer is the perfect time to back up and look at those things and evaluate. Did our routine work last year? Are there habits I see that I need to train in myself? Which is always the hardest part. Easy to look at your kid and say, "You guys need to get a good routine."
Julie Ross [00:21:43] Well, she says in here— she talks about— I just love that she was on top of what the current research and the science of her day was. She was very interested in kind of what we now call neuroscience, but she says, "Physiologists tells us that thoughts which have become habitual makes somehow a mark upon the brain substance. But we are bold in calling it a mark, for there's no discernible effect to be quoted." But now we can actually see, oh, it does actually leave a real mark. We can actually see the mark in your brain and how your brains change from your habits. And I was just in London, and there was a study that London taxi drivers— their spatial reasoning part of their brain is significantly larger than the average population. The physical part of their brain actually changed because they have the habit of driving through these crazy alleys— which I have no idea how they know where they're going there; it's so weird. And driving on the other side of the street. For them, that's normal. But our brains do actually physically change based on these habits. You know, the more habits we have in place, the more those neural pathways are stronger, the easier it is to go along those ways. And she talks about laying down the rails like a train make for smooth and easier days. And that's what we're doing by building these good habits as well. Do you have anything else you wanted to say about the discipline part?
Shay Kemp [00:23:11] I think the only the only other thing is the part that she talks about sowing the ideas, which is so important. She says, "It's impossible to sow a great idea lightly and casually." And she just talks about— this is the quote that I love right here. It says, "Sow an act, we are told, reap a habit. Sow a habit, reap a character." Which we've all heard that. "But we must go a step further back. We must sow the idea or notion which makes the act worthwhile." And then she talks about how did we sow that? And this is back how it all ties together. We read a great book that has these ideas in it and these people that had these great habits. Or they didn't and what happened to them? This is how the habit training ties into all the methods and the philosophy. So, you know, I think we did talk about that, I know, a good bit in the other podcast that we did, but I do want to make the point that it's not necessarily, "Okay, today we're going to work on the habit of this." You know, it all times— or this, that, or another. And there's times for that. I do. I think there's times for that if you really struggle in your family. Okay, we need to stop and maybe focus on this thing, but the majority of it is that we're including this in the curriculum, in the books that we read, in the tales, in the poetry, in the beautiful pictures we're looking at and the people we're studying.
Julie Ross [00:24:37] Yeah, I think that's a really good point. At the end of that section on education and discipline, she says, "This danger—"and she's talking about kind of these poor habits—"is perhaps averted by giving children, as their daily diet, the wise thoughts of great minds and of many great ones, so that they may gradually and unconsciously get the courage of their opinions. If we fail in this duty so soon as the young people get their liberty, they will run after the first fad that presents itself—" I'm like, girl, you living in 2022? I mean, right? "—try it for while and then take up another to be discarded in its turn and remain uncertain and ill-guided for the rest of their days." I think it's really key here. When you're talking about these ideas, it's not like, "Okay, my child's been lying. So we are going to read books on honesty, and our poetry is going to be about honesty, we're going to sing a song about honesty," and it's like I'm going to shove the idea of honesty down their throats. That is not what she's saying at all. She's saying we're reading and coming into contact with great minds, great poets, artists, etc. Gradually and unconsciously, this will shape their opinions. So, you know, it might be you read these different stories and you think, "Oh, this story about Alexander the Great is a great example of honesty and we really need to work on that, so let me make sure I point that out after we're—"
Shay Kemp [00:26:02] Yeah. Have a little moral lecture about it and the kids are like, "Oh." Over their head.
Julie Ross [00:26:08] But then if you let go and you just give them this wide feast and a steady diet of these great minds, you'll be surprised when your child goes, "Oh, wow. Don't you think it's neat that such and such— man, he really should have been honest instead." And it's not from you because if it comes from you, it's not going to have any effect. Trust me. I have tried to shove morality down my children's throats. If it's from them, they will take it and make it their own, and that will change them, is what she's saying.
Shay Kemp [00:26:40] And she talks about the divine service in the chapter before. "It becomes more as the habit of reading beautifully written books quickens their sense of style and their unconscious appreciation of the surpassingly beautiful diction of our liturgy." So, I mean, we do— there is such a element of trust in what we're doing with our children. We're not shoving this morality stories down they're throat. There's time for those stories. It's not that we don't read stories that have these great examples in them, but we need to let it do its part as a sown seed, and not keep digging it up, like, "Okay, is that seed growing? Darn it." Cover it back up. You know what I mean? Like, "Did they get that? Did that seed grow? Shoot!" You know.
Julie Ross [00:27:29] Yeah. Yes, it's a hard lesson there of faith and trust. Okay. So let's move on to education is a life. She says, "Implied, because life is no more self-existing than it is self-supporting. It requires sustenance, regular ordered and fitting." So she's saying education is a life, life being ideas, things that are alive. So education is not stale, dead. It is something that is its own—like we're saying—seed here. Something that needs to be nourished. She talks about, "The mind is only capable of one kind of food. It lives and grows and nourishes upon ideas only. Mere information is to it as meal of sawdust to the body." So she's saying we have to have these ideas. This is what makes education living.
Shay Kemp [00:28:12] Yes. I often think of that quote when I'm looking through books to choose especially. I love to go to old bookstores or thrift stores or places like that and just find— I love to find old books. And so a lot of times, as I'm flipping through them, the question I'm asking myself is, "Is this sawdust?" as I kind of flip through and read. And you can tell the feeling of the book. Is this going to be sawdust to them as they read? Is it just information? Or is this something that is full of ideas that they could feed off of and live and grow from? Is it something that they would want to read because it's interesting and presented in an interesting way? And so I think that's really important when you're choosing something to read to your children and you're thinking about. That's a good sort of a test to think about as you read it. Does it feel like sawdust in your mouth as you read it? And that's going to affect the type of narrations that you get, too. If a book is full of ideas, your narrations— my kids' narrations are always better. If it's sawdust, then it's like, "Mmm, no. Need to move on."
Julie Ross [00:29:23] Yeah. And she goes on to kind of contradict that with kind of the traditional educational view that our child is like this empty bucket or receptacle, and we're trying to fill it with all this stuff, mostly information that they can then regurgitate on a test. And when I was in Ambleside, I did a podcast with my daughter that's in college and we talked about this— kind of, unfortunately, that's how a lot of the college classes are. It's just fill you with information, take a test on it, move on to the next topic. You know? And it's like just trying to get through here. Whereas she really sees the difference between that and what she did in high school and values the ideas that she still feels like changed her as a person.
Shay Kemp [00:30:05] And I have gotten that from my own children. And I have graduated kids and kids I'm still homeschooling. And so one of the things, I think, that helped me take a deep breath was to recognize that when you do consider the atmosphere, consider the discipline and the habits, consider that you're giving them ideas, that it's a life, they are able to handle what you're talking about. Your daughter— you don't have a choice when you go to college. Because you're not going to go to a professor and say, "Hi, I would rather read a living book about this topic. Could you recommend one?" But they can manage that because they have learned how to manage the rich living ideas in other books. So it is possible. And I love how she just picks up this concept of ideas and turns it around, talks about how— she gives all these different quotes from different people.
Julie Ross [00:31:01] Smart people.
Shay Kemp [00:31:01] Yes, right? She says, "They're presented to chosen minds by a higher power than nature herself." And I think that's so important. She talks about ideas are practical, like geometry is full of ideas. Right? But also we have ideas in poetry. So it's not just one or the other. It's not just an idea is some thing we can't touch that is a touchy feely thing. It's also practical physics, right? Those are ideas as well. And so we're giving them in a wide feast. We're giving them all of these types of ideas.
Julie Ross [00:31:39] Yeah, I love this part, and I'm sure I've said this quote many times, but I'm going to read again because it's one of my favorites: "Education is a life, and that life is sustained on ideas. Ideas are of spiritual origin, and God has made us so that we get them chiefly as we convey them to one another, whether by word of mouth, written page, scripture word, musical symphony. We must sustain a child's inner life with ideas as we sustain his body with food. Probably he will reject 9/10 of the ideas we offer. He makes use of only a small portion of his bodily food, rejecting the rest. He is an eclectic. He may choose this or that. Our business is to supply him with due abundance and variety, and his to take what he needs. Urgency on our part annoys him. He resists forcible feeding and loathes predigested food." And so this is so important to remember why we are giving such a wide and various feast. And my daughter actually brought that up in our conversation that her favorite book was Girl of Limberlost which is a nature study book, which wouldn't be typically included in a high school traditional curriculum, especially someone who's going to go on a pre-med track. She probably would have had all science classes and math classes in high school, but how much that changed that book changed her as a person. And so we still provide this variety. We don't go, "Okay, you want to only learn this? We're going to only focus on STEM skills and ignore all the rest," because we're shaping a person, and a person is shaped by ideas, and we don't know what's going to stick. We don't know what 1/10 they're going to choose out of 9/10 that they reject. We don't have any control over that. Our job is to continue to provide that variety and abundance and trust the process that they will take what they need.
Shay Kemp [00:33:33] And it's encouraging to consider that, okay, you're telling us he will reject 9/10 of the ideas we offer. And so if you say that to a mom and then we're not surprised when the child says, "Okay, no, that really— I'm not—" we're like, "Okay, I kind of expected that." So the 1/10, it's okay, because we recognize that that 1/10 is rich. If I give you a salad and you only 1/10, I probably wouldn't be terribly concerned. You know what I mean? Because you've got a salad. If I give you a pizza, and you eat 1/10, and it's not as good food, then that's going to be a lot different because it's not good riches. And so that's another reason to be encouraged that you're offering them something that actually is food and not sawdust. So it's okay if they reject part of it.
Julie Ross [00:34:30] Yes. And I think it's important to remember that you can see— when I think of sawdust, I think of like a scarecrow. Right? They look full. And so you might think, "Oh, I'm giving my children all these things and they can sing these songs about all the presidents and order and they can list all these dates and things." But that means absolutely nothing to your child. There's no ideas that they're connecting any of that information to. So they might appear full. When grandma comes to visit, they have stuff to say. My kids, it's like "What did you learn this week?" "Uhhh." You know. Oh, did you forget about that we did...?"
Shay Kemp [00:35:07] Oh, yeah. Every time. "Oh, that was cool. Yeah, I remember that." Oh.
Julie Ross [00:35:15] Trusting that those seeds— you know, they're not going to fill you up right away.
Shay Kemp [00:35:21] Right.
Julie Ross [00:35:22] They have to take time to grow. Yeah.
Shay Kemp [00:35:23] And that's, again, trusting the process. And it's hard to take that leap, but that's why you and I love to do this podcast. We love to talk about these things. We love to talk to the moms who are really trying to implement this and to encourage them that the outcome when you follow a philosophy is so much different than throwing a bunch of things at the wall to see what sticks. I tried this; it didn't work. I tried this; it didn't work. I tried this; it didn't work.
Julie Ross [00:35:52] Yes. So again, education is a life. It is important to fill your children with things that are alive is basically, I would say, the point of her thought there. Did you have any other thoughts on education is a life?
Shay Kemp [00:36:06] Oh, I love this part. I really love the section of the chapter. So much in here. So many historical references that you could study for so long. So I think the only thing is that I love that, she says, "One of our presumptuous sins in this connection is that we venture to offer opinions to children (and to older persons) instead of ideas. We believe that an opinion expresses thought and therefore embodies an idea." So that's one thing I think is really an important distinction to make, is that an opinion is not the same thing as an idea. An idea is much more open and an opinion is much more narrow. And she kind of addresses that. As they get older, it's easier to do that more and more, I think. I'm starting a new co-op next year, and I just sent this chapter with some notes to our ladies as they consider their lessons for next year. And we're going to discuss this in our next meeting and I really want you to read it because when you're standing up in front of your children for your classes and co-op, you really want to make sure that you are presenting them with ideas and not just opinions.
Julie Ross [00:37:21] Yeah. So to wrap up there, the section on on life, she says, "All roads lead to Rome, and all I have said is meant to enforce the fact that much and varied humane reading as well as human thought expressed in the forms of art is not a luxury, a tit-bit—" I love that. I've never heard that phrase before, but I like it. Tit-bit. A little add-on. "To be given to children now and then. But it's their very bread of life, which they must have in abundant portions and at regular periods. This and more is implied in the phrase. 'The mind feeds on ideas, and therefore children should have a generous curriculum.'" I think we can often get into that where we're like, "Oh, we have so much going on. We're just going to do math and reading." And we think, "All this other stuff— it takes too much time. It's just extra. It's fluff. They don't really need it."
Shay Kemp [00:38:11] Cut it out. Yes.
Julie Ross [00:38:13] Yeah. And it's like, no, this is the bread of life. These are the living ideas that are going to sustain them and make them motivated to want to learn more for that love of knowledge. And when they're just kind of getting sawdust, they're not super motivated, and then you're going to get more frustrated. You're going to actually get what you don't want, which is making it even harder. So I'm not saying if you don't provide all the subjects that Charlotte Mason said to do all the time, you're failing. No. Don't hear that. Okay? What I'm saying, though, is don't forgo the ideas. Like the morning time packets that we have— they take 5, 15 minutes, you know? I mean, you have 5 or 15 minutes in your day. I know you do. Even if you're listening to the composer study on the way to the doctor's appointment or you're sitting during lunch and doing poetry, it's worth it. It might seem like it's not and that this is just tit-bits, but it is the bread that your children need. And don't forgo that.
Shay Kemp [00:39:13] And that's part of the important habits—right?—in laying down the rails is saying, "You don't have to see the value in this right now. And you may—" I mean, honesty and reality tells us your kid may roll their eyes when you turn on the piece of classical music. And that's okay, because you are instilling that habit that this beauty and these riches are important enough to include in the day. They're important. There is a point to it; there's value to it. And so it's worth including that. And sometimes it's just a matter of stopping. And this is another reason I love taking some time off in the summer and really considering what did get dropped off this year. What kind of fell to the wayside? And let's add that back, because it's important. How can I add it back? What does it need to look like? How do I shift and move and turn things around? And if you're listening to this podcast, I feel like I just want to be a word of encouragement: you're taking the time to enrich yourself in these ideas. You're taking the time to fill your own mind with ideas. You're taking the time to encourage your own habits of learning. You're taking your time to increase the atmosphere in your home just by taking, what, 30 minutes maybe to listen to a podcast that might remind you of something you already knew, or teach you something different. You know, that's really important that you're taking the time to do that for yourself, and your kids will notice that.
Julie Ross [00:40:48] Yeah, for sure. And I think of—I just was at where Charlotte Mason's grave was in Ambleside—how she never stopped learning even though she was already brilliant and had written all these volumes. I mean, she was constantly feeding her mind with the newest information, constantly reading. Her habits were phenomenal, which is how she was able to accomplish so much. I mean, her days were very routine-based, and because she was so disciplined in waking up at this time, and doing her reading at this time, and going for her outdoor walks at this time, she was able to accomplish so many things. And so, yes, I think that's so great. You know, that as moms, you feeding your own mind is so key, and summer is a great time to do that. And so I just yeah, I encourage you and applaud you for taking the time to listen to this. And we appreciate you listening to us. So thank you, everyone. And until next time, bye Shay!
Shay Kemp [00:41:44] Bye!
Julie Ross [00:41:44] Thanks for listening to today's episode. If you would like to know more about the Charlotte Mason style of education, check out AGentleFeast.com and click on the "Learn More" button for a free four-day introduction course. I would love to meet you in 2022. I will be at all five of the Great Homeschool Conventions. To find out more about attending one of those go to GreatHomeschoolConventions.com. If you'd like the show notes for today's episode, you can find those at Homeschooling.mom and click on The Charlotte Mason Show. Until next time, I hope your days are full of books, beauty, and biblical truth. Thanks for listening.