S6 E16 | We Have Minds for a Reason | Virtual Book Club: A Philosophy of Education, Chapter 7 (Julie Ross with Shay Kemp)
If the thought of embracing a Charlotte Mason style of education in your homeschool feels overwhelming to you, this episode is for you! One of the tenants of Charlotte Mason’s philosophy is that the student should bear the weight of his own education. It is not the teacher’s duty to handcraft a child’s education or to spoon feed ideas. This is good news! Join Julie and Shay as they dive into this concept and explore what it looks like practically to take a back seat and let your child take ownership of his own education.
Shay is a homeschooling mom of five 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.
A Philosophy of Education by Charlotte Mason
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Julie Ross [00:00:04] Welcome to The Charlotte Mason Show, a podcast dedicated to discussing Ms. 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.
Julie Ross [00:00:25] Hello, everyone. Welcome to The Charlotte Mason Show. I'm your host, Julie Ross, and I am here again with the amazing Shay Kemp for our book club, chapter seven.
Shay Kemp [00:00:40] Yay! I wish we were at a coffee shop sitting together doing this. It would be super fun.
Julie Ross [00:00:43] I know. Right? So I have to tell you, Shay, in Texas, at the homeschool convention, I had several people come up who listen to our podcast who wanted to know if you were there because they wanted to meet you.
Shay Kemp [00:00:54] Aw. I wish I could have been there.
Julie Ross [00:00:58] So they're like, "I want to fangirl over Shay, too."
Shay Kemp [00:01:01] They just wanted me to speak in my flat accent because I would fit in there.
Julie Ross [00:01:06] Yeah, you probably would. Yeah. But no it was encouraging to hear that people are listening and that people really appreciate hearing. Even if they're not reading for themselves, they like diving into what Charlotte Mason has to actually say in her volumes and that people are reading this with the book club and things. And that was really encouraging. So thank you all who are following along with that. Shay and I really appreciate that. So chapter seven is called How We Make Use of Mind, which you actually have to make use of your mind quite a bit because the chapter's very hard. Right, Shay?
Shay Kemp [00:01:39] There was a lot of Googling of names and phrases and pronunciations when I was studying this chapter because I had never heard of Herbart before. And the funny thing is I read this chapter before and I was must have just— I mean, I read this volume several times. I'm 100% sure I skimmed this chapter. 100% sure I skimmed them because there's no notes here. There's only a few little asterisks and underline from where I read it before. So this time I really dug in and tried to really extract as much as I can, but it is really— there's a lot of great deep information here, though, if you can plod through it.
Julie Ross [00:02:18] Yes. This chapter, I really had to make use of the annotated version that the Charlotte Mason Plenary puts out. So I was really grateful for— I cheated. I'm very grateful for her little notes of who people were and what this thing was, because there's a lot of people and a lot of names that Charlotte Mason references that her readers would have known about. So she's talking about all people that are currently living in the early 1900s who are coming out with education philosophy. And this is post-World War One. So she's writing this kind of reflecting back: would education have made a difference? Look at the education of these countries that were involved in the war. How are they different? How does education kind of shape a nation? And so her contemporaries would have understood what she was saying in this chapter— the people that she was lecturing and writing to. Us, on the other hand, you know, 100 years removed are like, "What in the world is she saying?" So hopefully we'll be able to kind of give you a little bit of information and hopefully break down a little bit of kind of what she was saying in this. But yes, it's one of those chapters you don't want to read right before bed. You want to have lots of coffee and time to kind of think through, research, and understand a little better. But she opens the chapter with principles nine and ten. So she says, "We hold that the child's mind is no mere sac to hold ideas; but it is rather, if the figure may be allowed, a spiritual organism, with an appetite for knowledge. This is its proper diet, with which it is prepared to deal; and which is able to digest and assimilate as the body does foodstuffs." So that's principle number nine— the mind is a living spiritual organism. It feeds upon knowledge. And then principle ten, she's comparing her view of the mind to this Herbart guy, which we'll get in to. He believed that the mind was like a blank slate. It's a receptacle, it's like an open thing, and that the stress and the burden of education is on the teacher to mold. And she is saying, "Children taught on this principle are in danger of receiving much teaching but little knowledge. The teacher's axiom being what a child learns matters less than how he learns it." So it's more focused on the methodology than the actual knowledge and content that children learn. So let's dive in right now to this Herbart person because she says right away, "I cannot—" in big letters, "resist presenting the Herbart's psychology in the dry light of Scottish humor." I love her humor, sense of humor. This guy is completely off the wall. I don't agree with him at all, but I'm going to have a sense of humor about it.
Shay Kemp [00:04:57] Yes, let me tell you about it. And I have so many LOLs written in this chapter because some of the stuff that she says is just funny and it's very dry wit that I think—
Julie Ross [00:05:10] Always reminds me of like the dowager on Downton Abbey.
Shay Kemp [00:05:12] Yes, 100%. Yeah. So he lived from 1776 to 1841. And I think what's interesting is he was homeschooled by a tutor to age 12, which is interesting. He was a German psychologist and influenced educational theory. And he had what he called the five formal steps of the recitation. So basically he comes up with this idea of there is something about psychology to education, not just it's something we do, which was a new concept for this time.
Julie Ross [00:05:50] True. Yes.
Shay Kemp [00:05:51] This was a concept other than just we read books, we do the things. You know, it was thinking about what is behind the education. And so for us especially have been through teacher college, you have to go through educational psychology and all these methodologies and stuff. I do not remember learning about Herbart back then, but I'm sure he was in some dry textbook. We can understand that, of course, there should be some philosophy behind education. But I do think for homeschoolers in many times, this is a new concept that there is a psychology behind education and there is a philosophy behind education. If you're not new to Charlotte Mason, then you understand it is a philosophy. But if you are new to Charlotte Mason, you may have just considered curriculum or methodology. And that's not what we're talking about here. We're talking about the psychology and philosophy behind the methodology and how that affects the methodology. And she's comparing those two things.
Julie Ross [00:06:58] Yes. So it's interesting. A name most of us are probably more familiar with is John Dewey, who was the American educational theorist. And if you've ever studied educational theory at all, you probably heard his name. And it's usually not in a positive way, but he wrote about Herbart in his writings, and he said that educational theory often has this opposition between these two concepts that education develops from within or it's formed from without. So he says there's these two contrasts here. The first one holds that education is grown from within, that children are born with—like Charlotte Mason says—children are born persons. They have this seed-like potential. And it's the role of the teacher to provide a rich environment, the right materials, and then these seeds will grow. The second theory is that education is largely a matter of controlling the input from without, that a child is a blank slate. I think she uses like the Latin tabula rasa. Right? And the teacher is writing these messages. They're forming like a lump of clay. This is the teacher's job. And you'll have— obviously you can see Charlotte Mason and Herbart in this article, but like John Dewey, Piaget, Maslow, all these— B.F. Skinner, all these other educational psychologists that are going to come out after this book was written will also kind of fall in one of those camps.
Shay Kemp [00:08:24] Right. And one of the things that I really think that she points out is the difference in the role of the teacher. And Herbart magnified the office of the teacher is the way she puts it.
Julie Ross [00:08:37] I mean, the teacher's doing everything. I mean, I feel bad for the teachers in his approach because that's exhausting.
Shay Kemp [00:08:42] Right. And how he's done this whole thing, he says, "Every child is a new creation as he comes forth from the hands of the teacher."
Julie Ross [00:08:52] Ooh, that's scary. Isn't that scary?
Shay Kemp [00:08:53] It is so scary. And I remember being afraid of even that concept when I taught school. You know, that was scary. Those weren't my children. Like I'm responsible for— it's all on me, you know? I'm a good teacher or a bad teacher, depending on what these kids get from my class.
Julie Ross [00:09:11] Well, I think homeschool parents feel that, too, right?
Shay Kemp [00:09:13] Yes, I was just going to say—
Julie Ross [00:09:14] They feel this pressure of how my child turned out is going to be on me. And it's like, mm. You can't have that pressure on you.
Shay Kemp [00:09:26] Right. And it is a switch of a mindset to keep telling yourself that and recognizing that when you do see yourself as somebody who's been entrusted with a child that's born a person—all these other principals we've discussed before then—then rather, your job is to provide, not to control outcome.
Julie Ross [00:09:48] Correct.
Shay Kemp [00:09:48] And that's a big difference in perception about—
Julie Ross [00:09:57] And I think, too, given the fact that this is in Germany—right?—can make sense to some of the later things that are going to come up in schools after World War One in Germany and just terms of changing the textbooks to be anti-Jewish and the kind of zealous patriotism and nationalism. Children's minds are very malleable. Right? And, like Charlotte Mason talks about, that's a huge responsibility on us to provide this feast, but not be saying, "You must think this way," and giving them all the opinions on everything, but letting them come to the ideas and chewing their food for themselves and respecting their personhood is very different than, "I see that children are these blank slates, so I'm going to kind of—in a way—use that for a certain purpose." And that is very scary.
Shay Kemp [00:10:44] Right. And that you have an outcome already in your mind, which is one of the biggest things I think is a hurdle people have to jump over when they consider educating with the Charlotte Mason philosophy because we get asked the question, "Where the worksheets? Where are the discussion questions? Where are the—" And she talks about that. In the back part of the chapter, she goes on these different— she talks about Germany, France, Switzerland, Scandinavian group of countries, and what the outcome of the mindset— which ones are saying, "Okay, here's the feast. Here's the presentation of ideas to feed you with," and who says, "This is the outcome. How do I get you there?" And the contrast between those two things.
Julie Ross [00:11:36] Yeah. Okay. And she's kind of saying— okay, I'll just read this quote here. But she says, "Herbart's psychology is extraordinarily gratifying and attractive to teachers who are—like other people—eager to magnify their office." So in a way, it feeds the teacher's ego is basically what she's saying. Because all of it's on me, and if they turn out great, it's all because me and I can take all the credit and I have to be the fountainhead of knowledge, so I need to know everything, and I'm going to booster myself up with all my educational magic that's happening. Right?
Shay Kemp [00:12:11] And she even uses the word entertainment on the next page. She said—this is where I wrote LOL—"The whole thing must be highly amusing to the teacher as ingenuous amplifications self-produced always are. That the children, too, were entertained one does not doubt. And she was, in fact, acting a part, and the children were entertained as at a show, cinema, or other." And then she goes on to say, yeah, we're entertaining them. It looks great. The actor is like "Yay! You get applause. Good for you. Get a sticker. The teacher is amazing." But we can be sure—this is where she's particularly talking about that—she references a Robinson Crusoe basic unit study.
Julie Ross [00:12:57] Yeah. I mean, can you read some of those lessons that were included? I was dying laughing.
Shay Kemp [00:13:02] I was too.
Julie Ross [00:13:02] I would poke my eye out if I was a child in this class. Like, I would be so bored.
Shay Kemp [00:13:08] And it is really funny the way she says it. It is extremely clear that she is thinking this with the sarcastic tone when you read it. She says, "We have nine lessons of literature and language, ten object lessons, a series of drawing lessons, a series on manual training. We're going to build a seashore, then we're going to read an infinite number of lessons. Then we're going to do some more writing lessons. We're going to frame sentences on the board. We're going to—" you know, she just goes on and on. Then, of course, we go to arithmetic. Everything that they could pull out of Robinson Crusoe—this teacher possibly could have done—they pulled out.
Julie Ross [00:13:49] Arithmetic. The nature study lessons on the sea and caves and the composition. That was hilarious because she was like, "Here's one example of a composition: Robinson spent his first night in a tree. In the morning, he was hungry, but he saw nothing around him but grass and trees without fruit. On the seashore, he found some shellfish which he ate. Compare this with the voluminous output of children of six or seven working in her programs upon any subject they know, which indeed the pages they will dictate after a single reading of a chapter of Robinson Crusoe is not this child's edition."
Shay Kemp [00:14:26] And I think that's a very clear comparison of what happens when you give someone a living book, no matter the subject, whether it's the fictional Robinson Crusoe or a living book that is nonfiction about nature or whatever. And the comparison between you saying, "Tell me what you know. Show me what ideas this fed you from this particular meal," and saying, "Okay, write a composition." It's so clear there, and I've seen this in my own children. So the way we boil this down— and this was what I really tried to do this chapter. I'm like, "What does this have to do with me? With my school this year?" So my take away from that is: be aware that you're not trying to extrapolate information just to pass on to your children, but you are allowing them to do what she says here. Come up with these— give them this, and then let them come up with this— what do they say? Dictate after a single reading. And don't dumb it down to a child's edition. She makes that so clear. Let it be the pure literature and let them say what they need to say. And it doesn't always start with a voluminous output. So if you have a child of six or seven, we're not getting a voluminous output. It's all okay.
Julie Ross [00:15:47] Yeah, that's a good point to make.
Shay Kemp [00:15:49] I love that.
Julie Ross [00:15:52] Yeah. And I think, too— and she does with like a lesson on an apple and all the things. So according to Herbart, the teachers had these five steps they had to do. So they had to prepare the material and kind of draw it back to what they had already learned, which I do that all the time too. Like if we're reading Heidi, I'm like, "Okay, what happened the last time we read Heidi?" Because I'm— it might be a couple of days. That's not what I'm saying here is what's happening. Like the teachers come. Okay let's review. Here's the five points of what happened in last chapter in Heidi. Okay. But the teacher is having that responsibility to present that. Then the teacher's presenting the new material. And it was supposed to be actual experience, concrete objects. You know, again, this is show here. And this association was the third step. And that's where the teacher's going to help them take this new idea that the teacher determined is going to be the new idea from the lesson and attach it to another idea. And that's where—like you were saying with the Robinson Crusoe—this unit study concept of "How can we connect it to math? And how can we connect it to science? Let's do a drawing lesson on it. Let's listen to music about." And I'm doing all the work of connecting all these things to help your brain make connections. And so Herbart was on point in one respect that our brains retain information. We know things deeper when we make connections amongst different subjects. He failed in the fact that he was having the teacher make those connections rather than the child. They're not as meaningful. They don't make a bigger difference if they're not the person themselves making those connections in their brain. If somebody arbitrarily does that for them, then the brain isn't making those synaptic connections. They're just kind of going in one ear and not the other.
Shay Kemp [00:17:40] Yes, they're not long term. And she even addresses that. She says, "One thing we may be sure: an utter distaste, a loathing on the part of the children ever after, not only for Robinson Crusoe, but for every one of the subjects lugged in to illustrate his adventures." And the same thing with an apple. She's like, "The apple is worn out." She said, "No kid ever wants to eat another apple when we've worn out the apple." No kid is ever going to read Robinson Crusoe again— like oh, my gosh. We've been talking about— and listen, I'm guilty of this.
Julie Ross [00:18:16] Oh, me too. I mean, that's what we learned how to do in teacher college. I learned how to write unit studies. I mean, I'm not going to brag, but my dang unit study I wrote for second grade on oceans was awesome.
Shay Kemp [00:18:28] Come on, girl.
Julie Ross [00:18:29] I got an A+ on that.
Shay Kemp [00:18:30] Yes, thank you. You should see mine from kindergarten. I still have my lesson plans. It was like, "Okay, A, apple. We're going to wear this apple out." You know, and I thought, "Oh, this is going to be so fun. The kids are going to love it." But here's where—
Julie Ross [00:18:45] And they might love it because it's fun.
Shay Kemp [00:18:49] They're entertained.
Julie Ross [00:18:51] They're entertained. They're not learning. They're entertained. There's a difference.
Shay Kemp [00:18:55] Yes. They're amused. But the failure is that they're not fed. It's like we've fed— we've laid them a table full of desserts. Any kid would love that. Come on in and eat every single sweet meat, you know. But we're feeding them a poor diet because we are not giving them anything with meat. And she calls it sweet meats.
Julie Ross [00:19:18] Yeah, I love that quote. She says, "The children like feeble and tedious or a lesson. Feeble and tedious storybooks does not at all prove they are wholesome." So just because they think that book is so fun and they love it and they can't get enough of it, it doesn't mean it's wholesome food. "They like lollipops, but they can't live upon them. Yet there is a serious attempt in certain schools to supply the intellectual, moral, and religious needs of children by appropriate sweet meats.
Shay Kemp [00:19:44] Yes. And that's exactly what I think I didn't understand that I was taught to do.
Julie Ross [00:19:50] I don't either. Because I was a great teacher if they liked it and they were entertained, right?
Shay Kemp [00:19:56] Yes.
Julie Ross [00:19:57] That was the goal.
Shay Kemp [00:19:59] But what the result is— she talks about a little late is— it says, "It's a scheme that throws the whole burden of education on the teacher. It exalts the personality of the teacher as the chief agent in education, which affords ingenious, interesting, and more or less creative work to a vast number of highly intelligent and devoted people whose passionate hope is to leave the world a little better than they found it." Yes, that is exactly right. That's what I wanted to do. I loved my job and I love—when I made the mistakes in homeschooling—I loved it. But it's very appealing, she says, to like the educational committee. Of course, look how great this teacher is. Look at this great show thing we have. But it later gives rise to dismay and anxiety among thoughtful people. It looks great in practice, but the result—and I know you and I have talked about this many times—is burnout.
Julie Ross [00:21:00] Yeah. Not just teachers. I mean, I think the average teacher lasts three years now. And that was for me. I mean, I burnt out within three years of teaching public school. But also, homeschool parents, too, burn out.
Shay Kemp [00:21:12] Yes.
Julie Ross [00:21:13] Because they're doing it all themselves and they feel that they have to do it all themselves. They don't realize you're actually not going to get what you want—the results that you're after here—because all this pressure you're putting on yourself. There is an easier and different way. And then there are two more steps of the Herbart thing. There were five steps. So it was preparation: the teacher doing all this work of connecting all these ideas. The presentation, the show. And then the association: helping the students make all these arbitrary connections. The fourth step was generalization, and mainly this is for older students: that we want to take them beyond the concrete. How can we apply this to a variety of different subjects here? And then the last one was application, and it— okay, here's the idea from this lesson. How can you apply this to your life? And I just, you know, I cringe. I think of reading a story and being like, "Okay, so Heidi was really upset about whatever. How can we apply this to your life? Oh, this kind of reminds me of the time that you forgot to do bah, bah, bah, bah bah, and maybe you could be like Heidi next time. Let me tell you."
Shay Kemp [00:22:24] Right. You're moralizing because you're pulling out ideas yourself.
Julie Ross [00:22:28] Correct.
Shay Kemp [00:22:28] And so many of the— I mean, even the devotionals that we read— and that's why we rarely use devotionals with our children, because they're showing the scripture and they're telling me what I need to get from that scripture. And I'm not saying we don't do Bible study, of course. Absolutely not. But when my children read that—I'm just particularly talking about scripture—I need to trust the divine teacher to show them what they get from that particular thing. I don't need to moralize and preach and give them some sort of point because—
Julie Ross [00:23:04] Like that with everything. You have to trust the divine teacher in grammar and math, too, she's saying. You know, that whatever it is that they're going to take away from this is theirs. It's their idea to chew on and grow and make those connections.
Shay Kemp [00:23:18] Yeah. And I wish that I had understood that earlier, even in my homeschooling years, because you go to a homeschooling store or you go online and you pull up and there's all the bright, shiny curriculum.
Julie Ross [00:23:31] The vendor hall at the convention and it's like, "Whoa! Sensory overload!"
Shay Kemp [00:23:36] I mean, it's like, "Oh, maybe I need this, maybe I need that, maybe I need this," you know? And so much of it is teacher driven. It's teacher driven. It's preparation driven. We do prepare for lessons. I'm not saying we don't. Charlotte Mason teaches that, but it's so teacher driven that you're burned out. And I remember very clear when my children were young, I would prepare this amazing lesson. I'm like, "Oh, this is going to be so great. I ran off these sheets. I have this activity, this thing. I bought this."
Julie Ross [00:24:07] It cut it all out myself.
Shay Kemp [00:24:09] Yes, laminated girl. I mean, I'm telling you, we got a notebook, the markers, everything ready to go. I'm so excited about this. And my kids are like, "Well, why do we have to build that?"
Julie Ross [00:24:19] Yeah.
Shay Kemp [00:24:20] Because it didn't feel natural. You know, it's not a natural connection.
Julie Ross [00:24:27] I'm glad I wasn't the only one who did that.
Julie Ross [00:24:32] Today's episode is brought to you by A Gentle Feast. A Gentle Feast is a complete curriculum for grades one through twelve 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 [00:24:58] So it was a really interesting time—like I was saying—that Charlotte Mason is writing this. So right before she wrote volume six, there was an educational act that was passed in England: the 1918 Education Act that transformed education in England. So before then, mandatory school age was only up till age 12. So this act made it up to age 14. So in our minds, that still seems really young, right? But by then, they would go to work or they would go to like a university— so boys, let me rephrase that. This was— they're adding on this kind of extra time for adolescence. So she's going to start kind of brainstorming what should that look like? What education should look like for 12 to 14 year olds. And at the same time, a book came out called Across the Bridges, and she quotes that here. She talks about Mr. Patterson. So that book is about the underprivileged youth in London and how this education can't just be for the upper class, that the lower and middle classes now have access to education up to age 14 for free. You know, this is a whole radical idea here. So what should that look like? What should be afforded to all people? Which was something that Charlotte Mason—which I love about her—was super passionate about, too, that all children deserve this. And so in here, she talks about continuation classes. I think she even uses university at one point.
Shay Kemp [00:26:27] She does.
Julie Ross [00:26:27] You might read that—and I did at first glance, too—thinking they were talking about college. And that's not what she's talking about. She's talking about high school, really. Not even. I mean, 12 to 14. That's like, what, junior high? Upper eighth or ninth grade? Yeah.
Shay Kemp [00:26:45] Yup. And Patterson talks about— some of the quotes that he speaks in here that she shares are really powerful. One that says, "The teacher, ready to use the powers that his training and experience have given him, works too hard. While the boy's share in the struggle is too light."
Julie Ross [00:27:03] I love that.
Shay Kemp [00:27:04] I do too. And you know, it is possible to make education too easy for children and to rob learning of the mental discipline which often wearies, but in the end, produces concentration and the capacity to work alone. So if we ask anybody that's listening, "Do you want your child to have mental discipline and have concentration and the capacity to work alone?" Every single mom is like, "Uh, yes. Absolutely. This is the end game. This is what we want." But what we often do is we are making it so easy. It's like you never are strengthening the muscles that you expect your children to strengthen.
Julie Ross [00:27:51] Because they don't have to chew the food. It's like the mama bird vomiting the food, doing all the work, and then vomiting it into the baby bird's mouth. If a child is just an empty receptacle—they're just a blank slate—it creates a passive learning. Like, "I'm going to sit back here. Tell me what's on the test. I'll pay attention, maybe. I don't really care about any of this stuff. Just feed me what you think is important and what you think the worldview should be that I should think about this. And tell me what to think and I regurgitate it back to you on test and then I forget about it." It creates this whole passive learning system, where Charlotte Mason is like, "No, the children need to come to the meat themselves, and they need to chew on it and digest it themselves." That creates that mental discipline. She says children are rarely left alone with a book. And they can't think for themselves because they're so dependent on someone telling them what to think.
Shay Kemp [00:28:42] Right. And we wonder why there's burnout. We wonder why. It's because like you're dragging a whole child's education behind you. Plus the child. Right?
Julie Ross [00:28:54] Kind of like five children strapped on my back here.
Shay Kemp [00:28:57] Yes, and I'm carrying all you guys. And that's one reason I'm really so grateful that I came to this philosophy after only a few years in of homeschooling, because I think I would have been— she says, "It's dispiriting to master and boy alike." And I'm like, yes, I can see that that you get dispirited by the fact that you're just constantly, constantly, constantly trying to come up with what the next thing is to make them, as passive, remain interested. And it really is an impossibility. It's just not going to happen, which I think we see in our educational system across most of the world today.
Julie Ross [00:29:40] Oh, yes, for sure. So, yes, she kind of gives her idea of what she thinks this education for these older children look like. She actually has a whole chapter— I think it's in volume two. We'll double check. We'll link to it in the show notes— called continuation course or continuing education schools— where she really breaks down further what she felt like should be happening at these ages in these schools. But she's basically— to boil it down to and what Mr. Patterson, who kind of spearheaded this movement, was saying was that they need like a university education, basically a wide feast, an education in the humanities here. This these junior high years should not be specialized, only going to learn whatever skill you need to go be a banker or mechanic or whatever. Like they need this wide feast still at this age and probably more so than ever. She says—talking about this university education—we're not just preparing them to be a soldier or a banker or these things. "Their implicit contention is a well educated man with cultivated imagination, trained judgment, wide interest, and he is prepared to master the intricacies of any profession while he knows at the same time how to make use of himself, of the powers with which nature and education have endowed him for his own happiness, the delightful enjoyment of his leisure, for the increased happiness of his neighbor and the well-being of the community. And that man is able not only to earn his living, but to live."
Shay Kemp [00:31:22] So powerful.
Julie Ross [00:31:23] I know. I got goosebumps.
Shay Kemp [00:31:25] I know. It really does. And I just look at that, and I mean, I think that is my heart for my own personal children.
Julie Ross [00:31:31] Yes.
Shay Kemp [00:31:31] Because my children are doing some things now—my grown children—I never could have prepared them for and taught them in my school to learn. Aeronautics and working on airplanes and flying airplanes and all that stuff— I don't even understand it. I just get on an airplane with a wing and a prayer. I'm like, "Oh gosh, I hope—" you know? But I think about this. But if you are preparing their minds to think— like she says, "a well-educated man with a cultivated imagination," you know, they're not going to be with us forever. They need to be able to go into a profession where they can learn that profession, learn that skill, learn that— not just that, but like she's talking about, this flows all the way over to family life. It affects our whole society, our whole community when we allow people to be active learners and not passive learners.
Julie Ross [00:32:30] Yes. Yes. And I've quoted that before because people often ask, "Will this actually work? Will my child be able to get a job and go to college?" And we get this question a million times. And it's like, "Yes. But also think through: what is your end goal?" My end goal is my child to have a life and be like all these things she just listed, not just to make a living and make it through the day and pay the bills and then move on. Like I want them to be these magnanimous citizens that she talks about. And so I quote this study a lot in my talks. If you listen to some, you've probably heard this before, but for those of you who haven't, I want to mention it because I think it's so interesting that when Google came out several years ago where they surveyed their top employees and what skills they had that made them successful employees at Google, out of the eight skills they tested for, STEM skills came last. And the top seven skills are what we call soft skills: the ability to empathize with people, the ability to think outside the box, the ability to express ideas, and all these things that are like, oh, this is a Charlotte Mason education. And like she's saying here, this is preparing them for any profession here. You need these skills. Google is saying that. These are the people we want to hire. We want to hire people with humanities degrees now because we realize these skills are way more important than— we can teach you the technology, right?
Shay Kemp [00:33:52] Yes, exactly. You can read a manual and learn from it if you have understood how to extrapolate ideas for yourself out of a really well-written book.
Julie Ross [00:34:05] Correct. Yes.
Shay Kemp [00:34:06] And so that's why it's so important that we provide the feast, and she—not particularly here—but she makes this point other places is we don't ever know what our children are going to end up doing. That's why we provide a feast. Okay, maybe I don't love foreign languages and maybe they're really frustrating for me or difficult for me, but I'm not going to leave that out because I'm not interested. I'm going to put that out there on the table as part of the feast, because I don't know what my child will take away from that or whatever the things are, maybe the folksongs or the whole wide range of things. Because we don't know what they're going to need.
Julie Ross [00:34:48] Yeah, and it's so important. And like we had said at the beginning, she looks at what other countries have done for this age group, and said, "Okay, well, what have they done and how has that turned out?" And again, it's after World War One, so she's really comparing here. So she talks about how in Denmark and other Scandinavian countries, she says, "They have a generous policy of educating young people, not according to the requirements of their trade—" so, again, it's not this specialized knowledge, "Oh, you like this, so now this is all you get to learn." "But according to their natural capacity to know and their natural desire for knowledge—" you know, history, poetry, science, art, this is natural to everybody. We have this curiosity within us. We have this desire to know about these things. "And the success of the experiment now a century old is an object lesson for the rest of the world." So they've been teaching kids this way for a hundred years now. Let's look at them and what they were doing and the results of the people that are coming. And then, she says, "Germany has pursued a different ideal. Her effort, too, has been great." So they're very serious about education and the way that they're going about this philosophy. "They are unified by the idea of utility. And if we will only remember the lesson, the war has shown us how futile is an education which affords no moral or intellectual uplift, no mode of higher than the learner's peculiar advantage and that of the state. Germany has become morally bankrupt for a season only, let us hope." I mean, if she only knew what was going to be coming here. "Not solely because of the war, but as a result of an education which ignored the things of the spirit, or gave these a nominal place in a poor rendering in a utilitarian syllabus." So it's this utilitarian syllabus, again, is focused on the utility. What work are they going to do? What can they do? We're going to spend our time focused on this. We're not going to give them this wide feast. And she's saying what happens is they're morally bankrupt because, again, they're only getting this knowledge that's very practical but doesn't apply to their soul. It doesn't change a person. When you have living ideas, it changes you as a human being. I interviewed my daughter a couple episodes ago and she's in college now and we were in Ambleside, England, and we're getting all touchy feely and I'm like, "Let's talk about Charlotte Mason and school and stuff," you know? But it's super sweet. But one of things she said was her favorite book was The Girl of Limberlost by Porter. And that book's used for nature study, and it's told the narrative story. It's this beautiful story and it brings in a lot of nature, but is told in a narrative story fashion, but that kind of struck me as odd that being her favorite, and I said, "Well, why that book?" And she said, "Well, that book changed me the most as a person."
Shay Kemp [00:37:38] And you never would have known that.
Julie Ross [00:37:41] Oh, I had no idea.
Shay Kemp [00:37:41] And you had these lessons. Okay, we're going to read Girl of Limberlost. And then at the end of the chapter, here's some questions. And then you and I are going to discuss how could this possibly change you as a person? Which, you know, it sounds great. I mean, when you say it, it's this, "Oh, yeah, okay, I need to do that." But the outcome that we want is not going to come from that sort of education. I'm not saying that there's not good outcomes that come from it. I was educated that way, and there were some things I got from my education, right? But I did not learn to think and to pick up on ideas in that sort of education.
Julie Ross [00:38:25] Right.
Shay Kemp [00:38:26] And so I think that's such a powerful example.
Julie Ross [00:38:29] Yes. Right. All right. So are there any other closing thoughts? Oh, a couple more pages here. She goes back to the Robinson Crusoe idea. She talks about these other different countries. Was anything that stuck out for you for these last couple of pages?
Shay Kemp [00:38:43] I love when she goes back and she talks about— she said, "The case for continuation schools, as strong as it may be—"
Julie Ross [00:38:52] Continuation schools. I knew was something like that. I was so close.
Shay Kemp [00:38:55] Yes. She says, "But there is a more excellent way." And, you know, I underlined that because, yes, I really feel very strongly. And I follow Charlotte Mason's philosophy because I do feel like it is a more excellent way. And there are easier ways sometimes it feels like to do things rather than going through and making sure that the books are living books, are providing the wide feast, setting up schedules and stuff like that. I understand sometimes it's easier. It would be easier just to hand them a textbook and say, "Here's your history. Just read it."
Julie Ross [00:39:35] Here's some video of someone teaching this to you. Just watch it.
Shay Kemp [00:39:37] Yeah. Just watch it. Just answer it, okay? Just do it. But it's really important to me that I do it in a more excellent way because I am considering the outcome, which she really addresses in this chapter in a powerful way. Looking at the other countries, looking at the use of the psychology. And so I think that's important to consider that it's worth the effort that you put in. And it is actually less effort.
Julie Ross [00:40:10] That's the key. People are like, "This is so complicated." I'm like, "No, this is easy."
Shay Kemp [00:40:16] The work is done. Like right now I'm getting ready— we're going into cycle three for the second time. And I mean, I'm a planning nerd, so I will admit that. Bought a new planner, some new pens, some stickers. Only for my own— it's just my own entertainment. That's all it is. It has nothing to do with anything. It's just my own entertainment. But you know, this is the part I'm like, "Okay. Well, this book. Yes, she needs this book. Yes." I mainly follow straight through A Gentle Feast, unless we've already read a book or we're doing something a little different in co-op. So now is when the work is done. And then making sure my routine is set up. But then when the actual school days begin, it truly is smooth and easy other than the attitudes of your own children, which—
Julie Ross [00:41:04] Or your own attitude, right?
Shay Kemp [00:41:05] True. Yes, very true. You know, other than that stuff, but we're just solely talking about the effort of the teacher. You know, my effort is truly less. And it's truly a joy to read these books and watch the connections that they make, which makes you have longevity in homeschooling. I really think that's the reason I have been able to continue to do this our 19th year. And we have been able to do it for that long because it is not a strain.
Julie Ross [00:41:40] Hmm. Yeah. So she just kind of concludes here— she concludes with a letter by John Stuart Mill. One of the things I love in it that— I read it last night and it actually gave me goose bumps. So now I'm reading from this annotated version, so I can't figure out where I underlined it. It says, "After all, life is very short. We, all of us, have only one life to live. And during that life, let us get into ourselves as much love, as much admiration, as much elevating pleasure as we can. If we view education merely as discipline and critical bitterness, then we lose all the sweets of life. And we shall make ourselves unnecessarily miserable. There is quite enough sorrow and hardship in this world as it is without introducing it prematurely to young people." So it's not that we live this Pollyanna thing and we don't ever teach our kids about hard things. That's not what she's saying here. But there is so much beauty, truth and goodness in this world. And this is what. And because life is short, right? We need to be savoring these things every day with our children. And this is what is going to change them as a human being, and change us as a human. Including me. It's changed me.
Shay Kemp [00:42:56] Me too.
Julie Ross [00:42:56] And I just I thought that was really— I got a little teary reading that last night. There is so much beauty and so much goodness in this world, but our time with our kids is short.
Shay Kemp [00:43:13] And, I know that sometimes when I talk to homeschool moms and do consultations and stuff, you just want an answer. Tell me what to do.
Julie Ross [00:43:24] Yes.
Shay Kemp [00:43:25] Just tell me what to do. Like, tell me what to do at 8 a.m. Tell me what to do. And you know, somebody can tell you what to do. That's fine. You need help with routines. But you're going to burn out and you're not going to enjoy—like she's talking about here—these sweets of life if you don't consider your view of education more than merely discipline and critical bitterness. If you will take the time— like, I'm really proud that I dug through this chapter and looked up the names and tried to understand how to chew on this for myself and get these ideas myself because it's going to make my homeschool better because I can approach it from a point of view as philosophy, and then I'll understand the why that I'm making these choices and why am I asking you to do this thing today? And the more I get that— and we've said is over and over again; I really think this is one of the passions of my heart—is the more confident I am going to be at my dining room table on Monday morning with my children, which is where the world is changed.
Julie Ross [00:44:34] Yes. Yeah. It's interesting at the conventions just talking to people. I had a lot of people who had young children who came up and they're like, "Oh, we're just here kind of thinking. We think we're going to homeschool." And I'm like, "Oh my gosh, what an amazing opportunity you guys have." because you could do all the research of what math curriculum is the best. And does this book have good reviews? And whatever. If you don't have an educational philosophy, you're going to be tossed about by the wind. So I was telling these people, "This is now the time to think about what you truly believe about education. Research Charlotte Mason. Research the classical philosophy. Research John Dewey. Research everybody. Like what do you actually believe? Because that is going to guide you. And now you have the time to do it because—" unlike us who kind of just fell in the deep end and kind of learn how to swim and figure it out as we went.
Shay Kemp [00:45:21] And made so many mistakes as we went. You know, like, "Oh man, I should have never done that."
Julie Ross [00:45:26] I'm like, "You guys have a great opportunity." And then, you know, people come up and they'll ask me a question or they're like, "Oh, hey, I'm doing like X, Y, Z for a narration. Is that okay?" And I'll be like, "Yeah, that sounds like a great idea." Or, "Oh, yeah, like, you know, keep on doing whatever." And they're like, "Oh, okay. Well, I just needed to know what I was doing was okay or that was doing it right." And I'm like, "You knew." You are the best person to be teaching your children, right? You know, like if you don't want to— you feel like they need the extra time to narrate, was one of the questions. And you want to go back, and the child really was just having a rough day. They weren't paying attention, but they usually really pay attention. You go back and reread it. Charlotte Mason did not to ever reread. No, no. Come on. This isn't a box. This isn't a prison here. Charlotte Mason said your children are yours. You know them better than anybody else.
Shay Kemp [00:46:21] And there is no lightening.
Julie Ross [00:46:23] If the divine teacher is telling you to read it again, read it again! Right? It was never meant to be this oppressive system. I think so many people get into that mindset. And like you're saying, "I just want someone to tell me yes or no." Rather than— it takes— I get it. I've been there myself. Charlotte Mason said this, too. She'd be like, "I'm not going to give you a list of the top 100 books that you should read." Like with her teachers she was training. "I'm not going to tell you how to redo that lesson." Like you have to at some point go, "Okay, this is the philosophy we're going with. I'm researching it. I'm growing as a person, but I'm also in cooperation with the divine teacher. I'm going to take the leap. I'm going to trust that I'm going to be guided throughout our day of what it is we are supposed to and supposed to not do." And it feels more comfortable. It feels safer just to follow this formula. But that isn't what she's talking about here. She's talking against that actually in this chapter.
Shay Kemp [00:47:17] Yes. Yes. And I mean, I feel like we've said that over and over again. This is not a system. This is not a system. This is not just a curriculum. Even when we're just talking about A Gentle Feast. And I'm like, "It's not just a curriculum. This is a way to follow a philosophy. Yes. It's a beautifully laid out plan for you. But we want it to be your servant. We don't want it to master you."
Julie Ross [00:47:41] Right. Well, thank you so much for taking the time to do a dive into this meaty chapter, and we will see you all next month for chapter eight which is definitely easier.
Shay Kemp [00:47:56] Yes, it is. I read it already and it is definitely easier.
Julie Ross [00:47:59] Like, "Whew, okay. They're not going to all be like this from now on." So. All right. Thanks, Shay. Bye.
Shay Kemp [00:48:05] Thanks. Bye.
Julie Ross [00:48:11] Thanks for listening to today's episode. If you'd like to know more about the Charlotte Mason style of education, check out AGentleFeast.com and click on the "Learn More" button or 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 truths. Thanks for listening.