S6 E25 | Reason Can Be SO Unreasonable! | Virtual Book Club: A Philosophy of Education, Chapter 9 (Julie Ross with Shay Kemp)
Join Julie and Shay as they continue discussing Charlotte Mason’s A Philosophy of 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.
Julie Ross | Instagram
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Julie Ross Welcome to The Charlotte Mason Show, a podcast dedicated to discussing Ms. Mason's philosophy, principles, and methods. I'm your host, Julie Ross, and it is my 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. I'm glad you're here.
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Julie Ross Hello, everyone. Welcome to The Charlotte Mason Show. I'm your host, Julie Ross, and I'm here again with the amazing Shay Kemp.
Shay Kemp Hello.
Julie Ross Yes! We're here to discuss chapter nine. And both of us have had quite the week, so I feel like my reason isn't that great. Today we're going to be discussing reason. So yes.
Shay Kemp I know.
Julie Ross It will be interesting.
Shay Kemp This is a powerful chapter, though. Not very long, but very, very powerful. So many great things in here.
Julie Ross Oh, my gosh. I know. I'm so excited. So, Shay, do you want to read principles 18 and 19 that she starts with here?
Shay Kemp Of course. So it says, "We should teach children also not to lean too confidently unto their own understanding, because the function of reason is to give logical demonstration of A) mathematical truth and B) of initial ideas accepted by the will. In the former case, reason is perhaps an infallible God, but in the latter it is not always a safe one. For whether the initial idea be right or wrong, reason will confirm it by irrefragable proofs." So I had to look that word up, just in case.
Julie Ross Yeah, that's a fun word to say. Great job with that, by the way.
Shay Kemp I looked it up. "Therefore, children should be taught, as they become mature enough, to understand such teaching that the chief responsibility which rests upon them as persons is the acceptance or rejection of ideas presented to them. To help them in this choice, we should afford them principles of conduct and a wide range of fitting knowledge."
Julie Ross You did such a good job with that.
Shay Kemp Lots of great information in that. Just reading the principle is so full of things to think about, much less the things that she wrote about it in this chapter.
Julie Ross Yeah, so we have— there's two principles there. First one is principle 18, that we're not to teach our children to rely too much on reason, that we showed them that reason is great for mathematics and that's really simple to understand. Like two plus two is four. Like there's a definite answer in mathematics. You can reason. Especially when you get up into higher level math, those reasoning skills and solving proofs and geometry are so important, right? And there's a logical step-by-step way to do that. The second thing that we need our reasoning for is kind of to accept or reject these ideas that our will is giving to us or kind of sometimes prop up the reasons that the will is trying to do something. And then principle 19 is that we are trying to teach our children that they have a moral responsibility to accept or reject ideas, and that the way that we teach them to kind of wrestle with these ideas is by giving them this wide range of knowledge. So that's the summary there of those two things. And this really does relate to the chapter— we just did chapter eight on the will. So if you haven't listened to that podcast or you have heard chapter eight, you could just stop this right now and come back later because the will is kind of like the gatekeeper here of what ideas we accept or reject into our hearts, and to our minds. And then our reason is what propels us to keep those ideas or reject them. So you have to kind of marry the two together, if that makes sense. How would you describe that?
Shay Kemp I just think it's so important to understand the will before you get to reason, because without understanding the will—like she says in this chapter—we can formulate a reason for any of our actions, whether good or bad. So the idea of having a will that is rightly directed helps us understand this concept of reason and how it can be rightly or wrongly directed.
Julie Ross Right. Reason is like the yes man, so it will prove whatever the will has decided. So we need to train the will to make good decisions and then the reason will follow. Is that what you're saying? Yeah. And so she says in here, "Reasoning is a great servant, but a terrible master."
Shay Kemp I know. I copied that down. I love that.
Julie Ross We want to train our children that you have the power to make reason suit you for good, and not let it just go. Because we're naturally going to go with our lusts, with our appetite, with the things that are selfish and the things that help us. And because God has given us such great reasoning—like you're saying—we can use it to kind of justify just about any wrong action we want to take.
Shay Kemp That's right. And that's one of the things that can make—I think—what she's saying here an interesting prospect for parents because we are allowing our children—like she says—letting children work out the arguments in favor of this or that conclusion. We're not just saying to our children, "You should do this with your reason."
Julie Ross Yeah. Here's what you should think. Here's what your opinion should be.
Shay Kemp Right.
Julie Ross And it's scary because we want to control that. We think by controlling the reasoning, we will get the right action. And she's saying it's the reverse of that. It's the right action, and then your reason will work its way through that.
Shay Kemp Right. And that's why I love— throughout this chapter, she has multiple examples. And she starts, of course, with Macbeth, the great general, and uses that as an example. And then she goes through men and women of history and uses those as examples, and the fact that they are real people who struggled and wrestled, like you said, with real situations, real ideas, sometimes reasoning in ways that came to conclusions that worked out for positive and sometimes reasoning and coming to conclusions that worked out for negative. But because they are realistic examples, it gives our children the opportunity to, like she says, "It is worthwhile to ask a child, 'how did you think of it?'" And because we're allowing them to read these books and see these things in history of people who have ask that same question of themselves, "How did I come to this conclusion?" And maybe not spelled out that way, but by reading about their lives and seeing what they choose in different examples. Then it brings it home to the child that we can say, "How did you come to that conclusion?"
Julie Ross Yeah, yeah, it's great. She kind of gives us four ways that I saw that she said we can kind of train the reason in here. The first, like you're saying, is with everyday objects and things. "Oh, I wonder how that got invented," or "I wonder why somebody thought we needed one of those," or "Oh, tell me about this Lego tower that you made. What made you think, oh, you should put that there?" And especially young children, just getting them curious and thinking beyond just the normal observation of like, oh, that's a cool truck. Like getting them to kind of start reasoning and thinking through it. And that's a great way for little children to kind of start to express those ideas to you so that later on, when they're reading Macbeth, they're used to dissecting and kind of talking about those things. And like you're saying, then the next tool that she gives us is finding fallacies through the liberal arts. She's like math in grammar covered. Okay? They're going to look reasoning in these subjects. Why are you laughing, Shay? I know why you're laughing, I think.
Shay Kemp One of the reasons I'm laughing is because I feel like people stress over those things so much. They stress over math and grammar so much, and we get so many questions about those two particular things. But when you read this chapter, she's like basically math and grammar are handled. We know that those are going to follow rules and they're going to follow laws. We know that. You just have to learn them. And I love that. I was trying to find the quote.
Julie Ross Yeah me too. If you are struggling with math or grammar, I want you to read this chapter. She will make you feel better. She's like, these things are going to take care of themselves and we probably don't actually need to put as much time and effort into them as we are. Because really at the end, this concept of the liberal arts and the ideas and the things that they're growing as a person from, these are more important. Not that we're going to neglect those subjects, but they can't take the supreme importance in our education, which they often tend to. Yeah, we'll have to find that one. I'm using a different copy today.
Shay Kemp Here's one quote. It's at the end. It says—
Julie Ross Oh, I found it.
Shay Kemp Did you? Go ahead and read it.
Julie Ross "Perhaps we should postpone parsing, for instance, until a child is accustomed to weigh sentences for their sense. To let them daily with figures of speech before we attempt minute analysis and should reduce our grammatical nomenclature to a minimum." I mean, there's so many terms. I was doing grammar today with my child, and she's like, "Oh, mom, I need a reflexive pronoun." I'm like, "What?" I'm like, "We don't ever use these things in real life. I forget what they're called."
Shay Kemp Why do you need a reflexive pronoun?
Julie Ross Yeah, for the assignment. I'm like, "We don't use these things," right?
Shay Kemp Yeah, I do think that's why I was laughing because, she says, "Perhaps we should postpone parsing, for instance, until a child is accustomed to weigh sentences for their sense," and we can't weigh those sentences for the actual stance that's in them until we have learned to understand the reason, understand the role of our own reasons.
Julie Ross She says, "Yet few children take pleasure in grammar." So if your kids don't like it, you don't like it, hey, Charlotte's saying you're in the majority here.
Shay Kemp That's right.
Julie Ross Especially in English grammar. Maybe Latin grammar is more exciting. I'm not sure what she's referring to here. And then she says, "Arithmetic—again, mathematics—appear only to a small percentage of a class or school, and for the rest, however intelligent, its problems are baffling to the end though they may take delight in reasoning out problems of life in literature and history." Can I get an amen?
Shay Kemp Yes. Amen. Hallelujah.
Julie Ross That was me in school. That's me now teaching my kids. I'm like, this is baffling to the end people. What is happening in these problems? I don't understand.
Shay Kemp Why do we need to know this?
Julie Ross Literature, history. I'll do that all day long.
Shay Kemp Yes, that's right. I just think it's funny that she makes that point. And people ask that all the time, "Is this enough grammar?" Yes.
Julie Ross Mm hmm. Mm hmm. Yeah. So we got this covered, and then she is saying the other way that we could teach reasoning is through our humanities, the liberal arts. She refers back to the medieval education and very high focus on these liberal arts. And she's saying through that, we can teach them to kind of look through fallacies. So you had mentioned Macbeth, and she points that out here. We see him go from a really good king to a murderer. And the whole time, throughout all of his speeches, he's totally rationalizing his behavior. Right? But his reasoning, the methods he uses are sound logic is kind of like her point that she's going at here. And then she goes through Marxist manifesto, which again is just showing how brilliant this woman is. Right? And she goes through all of like ten arguments that he has in his manifesto and just annihilates them.
Shay Kemp She does. I was so impressed with this when I read it.
Julie Ross She could have been a poly-sci major or something, right?
Shay Kemp I've read this chapter before, but I have to be perfectly honest, I think I probably skipped that section just because I was like, "Oh, no, never mind. Not interested in that." So this time I really read it much more deeply. And the way that she breaks it down is so powerful. And of course we're not going to take the time to go through all that politics. But I love the fact that she says, point by point, for good or for evil, she takes the time to use her own reasoning and use it as an example.
Julie Ross Yes. Right.
Shay Kemp And that speaks to how widely read and intelligent she was. This is not somebody that just came up with some ideas and did not apply them in her own life to the things that are going on around her. She did apply them to the things that were going on in her own self-education, and I love that. This stuff works for a grown-up.
Julie Ross Oh, yeah. I don't know about you, but the whole time I'm thinking, "I think there are a lot more grown-ups need to read this chapter just for their own personal lives." Because the stuff we see on Facebook, it's like maybe some reasoning would be helpful to support what it is that you're saying, even if I don't agree with you. But can you logically do that? And I think our society now is so emotionally charged that they use emotions to make a point rather than reason to make a point.
Shay Kemp Right. And that's why this section is beautiful, because she does point out the fallacies in each of the points. She goes through, and rather than saying, "I don't agree with that," which is what I feel like we get—like you said—a lot of now.
Julie Ross Or, "Can you believe anybody thinks that?"
Shay Kemp Right.
Julie Ross Or, "Those people are wrong." It's like, "Well, why?"
Shay Kemp Yes. And she so clearly goes through without making a statement about the people that follow that. She's not doing that. What she's doing is she's saying, here are the reasons that this point is not going to function properly. And, you know, it's the same thing that makes me think—that you talked about—she begins with the idea of everyday items. She says, "There is no object in use, great or small, upon which some man's reason has not worked exhaustively. A sofa, chest of drawers, a ship," she goes on example. So what happens is—a lot of times—we stop that there, and we don't realize that carries through. If somebody built a chair and it had three legs on it, you and I would look at it and we would say, "If I sit in that chair, it will fall, and the reason is because there's only three legs. It will not hold me the way those three legs are built." And I think she so skillfully in this chapter takes that idea and expands it on to ideas and concepts that are as deep and as thick as this manifesto. Why does this point only stand on three legs? She brings it down. So it's just the same idea but expanded.
Julie Ross Yeah, I love that. And she says, in her days, "The air is full of fallacies." And she says, "It makes us willing to accept conclusions duly supported by public opinion or by those whose opinions we value." And I was like, "Oh, man, Charlotte. If you could just see Instagram today." The world that we live in is so... based on public opinion. They're the opinions of people we value. And I think that can be one of the dangers of a traditional education system or even in homeschooling where we're telling our children what to think or the teacher is telling them what to think. And they're not having the opportunity to think through these kind of reasoning and fallacies. And so then they're so swayed by everybody else because they've never learned the skill, which is so vital. And it's scary. And she's saying that in the early 1900s.
Shay Kemp It's so the same today. And one thing that I was thinking about for myself is it's so easy for us to choose resources and materials that only back up our own perspective, our own point of view, our own way of seeing things.
Julie Ross Yeah.
Shay Kemp So when we are considering this, she says, "After abundant practice and reasoning in tracing out the reasons of others, whether in fact or fiction, children may readily be brought to the conclusions that reasonable and right are not synonymous terms, that reason is their servant, not their ruler, one of those servants which helped Mansell in the governance of his kingdom. So if I'm only providing things that back up my own personal opinion, I'm only allowing stories, I'm only allowing— and I'm not saying we put things out there in front of our children that are not appropriate. I'm saying that we show them people that struggle with these ideas, wrestle with these ideas, maybe slip and fall before they find their footing.
Julie Ross Yeah. No, I think this is so key because we get these questions all the time, right? Like, "What is your view on this historical event?" Or "What is your view on this historical person?" Or "Does your curriculum— we're going to get rid of all the books that have any reference to blah, blah, blah, blah." And I'm like, "Mm, no." I want things to be appropriate for our time. I want appropriate term for people that we now use, but I also want them to see, okay, this is what people thought back then. What was their reasoning for saying those things that they said back then? What is their reasoning? What's our reasoning for thinking different now? To be able to look at a person and go, "Uh, well, they did these things that were good and these things that weren't so great." So again— and we've talked about this before, but it is so, so important because I actually am teaching history at my co-op this year, and we just did Columbus this week. You want to talk about like a— everybody has an opinion one way or another about that dude. Right? And I said to my kids, "People aren't all good or all bad, and I am not going to tell you what to think. We're going to read different sources. We're going to take a look at what people have said, his own journals. You come to your own conclusion, and tell me why. You need be able to support why you think what you think about it. As long as you—" And then I read this chapter for today's podcast, and I'm like, "Oh my gosh, this is the one she's talking about." And even if I don't necessarily agree with them— that's the hard part, right? To go, "Okay, I could see I could see why you might think that," or "Oh, that's an interesting way to come to that conclusion," or whatever. Let them have that space. Like eventually their opinion might change too. They might— just like our opinions have grown as we learn more things and more things happen in the world, and that's kind of always kind of changing. But we have to allow our kids the freedom to not— "You must fit into this one box and your opinion must agree with my opinion on everything."
Shay Kemp And that's why parents get afraid when you talk about— you know, there's a well, what if they come to a different conclusion? Or what if I don't agree with what they said? Or what if I can't explain? But we don't have to be able to explain. They need to find their own reasons. And that's why narration is so much more powerful than comprehension questions. And I think these— we're talking about principles, yes. But ultimately it comes down to the what are we doing around the dining room table for school every day? And that's the why behind some of the methods. We allow them to narrate, because we want them to tell us what they took away instead of what did this person do? Or what was this— these simple, lower level thinking skill questions.
Julie Ross Right.
Shay Kemp We are asking them to reach up into these parts of your brain where connections are made and start to struggle with that themselves. And, you know, it takes time.
Julie Ross Yes.
Shay Kemp And the outcome does not always look like what the outcome is going to look like. They might tell you something completely different than what you thought was important. But that's part of the beauty of it.
Julie Ross Right. Yes. And I think she made a good point. She says, "We must be able to answer the arguments in the air, not so much by counter reasons, but by exposing the fallacies in such arguments and proving on our own part the opposite position."
Shay Kemp Yes, that's a great point.
Julie Ross Yeah. And I think today people get very much caught up in defending their own position.
Shay Kemp Yes.
Julie Ross Rather than being able to listen, be curious, and then expose the fallacies in someone else's logic or reasoning. And again, that's much higher level thinking skills. And like you're saying, you can't get that from basic recall kind of questions. That will never come. You have to be able to narrate, put things into your own words, make those connections, that higher level thinking will come from that, and it will also come from reading books with living ideas. So reading a textbook, you're not going to come up with like, "Oh, I would think that that is a good thing and that is wrong." Even today, we were reading stories from the history of Rome, which is why she includes subjects like Plutarch in her lessons. And the dad, the two sons try to rebel, and he beheads them. And you're like, "This is really gruesome and violent. I probably should not expose my children to these terrible things." Now again, my kids are— you know, the youngest is in sixth grade now. So it's not like I'm reading this my kindergartner. You know, still it's like maybe we should not read that stuff. It might be violent or whatever. I don't know. But they're like, "That's horrible. He didn't stand up for his own sons." And then my other child is like, "Well they were trying to overthrow him. Like what should the punishment have been? He couldn't maintain order," blah, blah, blah. So they're thinking. That's the key. It was like, yes. There's something here to wrestle with. Right? It speaks to a part of us as humans that go, "Ooh, I don't know how I feel about that."
Shay Kemp And when we get the questions about, "How do I know if a book is a living book or not?" and there's 5 million zillion debates about that. We're not going to go down that road. But I will tell you, one thing that sort of helps me if I'm looking for something is, is there something to wrestle with in the story?
Julie Ross That's good.
Shay Kemp And of course, she talks about ideas over and over again. And of course, we've talked about that on this podcast multiple times. But we want living ideas to feed their minds. It's the food of their minds. But practically what that can look like is if you read a story and the characters are all one-sided—
Julie Ross And they all never make wrong choices.
Shay Kemp Right. There's nothing— like you never have a question. Even the books I read for myself that are fictional that are just like for fun, the ones I enjoy are the ones where maybe a character does something completely unexpected—which is how life is—and I'm like, "Wow, why did they do that?" Or, "What would have been a better choice?" And if those are the kinds of things that you're asking yourself as you're reading the book and not just like, "Well, I knew that was going to happen," probably not as much of a living book. We want something there that they can wrestle with, be engaged by, that surprises us because this is what real life looks like. And ultimately we want children that carry these reasoning skills outside of that. And she talks about that because she says, "Reason, like the other powers of the mind, requires material to work upon."
Julie Ross Yes.
Shay Kemp "Whether involved in history and literature or afloat with the news of a strike or uprising—" because she's referring to current events— "it is madness to let children face a debatable world with only, say, a mathematical preparation. If our business were to train their power of reasoning, such a training would no doubt be of service. But the power is already there and only wants material to work upon." So whatever you're providing for them, needs to be something that their power of reasoning can work upon, and a flat textbook that already tells you what to think and already tells you the facts and figures, it already tells you exactly, "Well, this is what happened. This is why it happened. And this is the maps you can do." There is nothing for your power of reasoning to work upon in that text. And that's why we don't provide those sorts of things.
Julie Ross Today's episode is brought to you by A Gentle Feast. A Gentle Feast is a complete curriculum for grades 1 through 12 that is family-centered, inspired by Ms. Mason's programs and philosophy, and is rooted in books, beauty, and biblical truth. You can find out how smooth and easy days are closer than you think at AGentleFeast.com.
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Julie Ross Like she's saying, not that a mathematical equation is bad.
Shay Kemp Yes, we have to have it.
Julie Ross You have to have— yes. But that can't be the primary focus. And a lot of that is the big push, the STEM. We're gonna spend all this time doing these things, and we're going to ignore what is actually going to shape the person and help them think through things. Even in mathematics, you need that. And again, this is why she includes current events in her program too. So you can get this through Shakespeare, get this in Plutarch. You get this in literature like Macbeth, you get this in history. Like she's talking about the historical figures. You get this in government and econ, like she talks about the Marxism. And you definitely get that in current events. And so— I'll include this in the show notes. I just started this year— got a subscription to Worldwatch News. And so it's like 10 minutes, and it's like a Christian news program. So everything— and I found most all the stories are very neutral, which I really appreciate because again, I don't want to tell my kids what to think about an issue, so I want them to hear. And that's so hard to find in the news, right? A neutral, here's what happened, the end of the story. Right? And it's been great because then afterward, we're like, "Okay, well, what did you think about that event? Why do you think Russia is closing the pipeline?" That was today's news story? "Why do you think Russia is closing the pipeline to Germany? What would the effect be if they don't have enough energy to put the heat on in Europe in the winter? Will they change their mind about—? You know, we had these great discussions about what's happening in current events. And I also really love, too— as a history teacher, I'm always like, you know, history repeats itself. So it's like, "Has something like this ever happened before?" And trying to get them to go, "Oh, well, that reminds me of this event that happened.".
Shay Kemp Connections.
Julie Ross We're talking about the Spanish Inquisition in my history class. And I was like, "Does this reminds you of anything? Like neighbor turning each other in and people getting arrested without trial or without any real evidence of wrongdoing?" I was trying to get like Secret Service, World War II. And one kid raised his hand, and he's like, "Yeah, it's like Dolores Umbridge in Harry Potter." I was like, "That's exactly right, actually."
Shay Kemp That's true.
Julie Ross But again, that's a higher level connection there. And that's meaningful because now he's going to remember this. But again, seeing those patterns part of that reasoning. And in young children— because you might be like, "Okay, well, I only have form one kids. We're obviously not going to read Macbeth or debate Marxist philosophy. So like, what am I gonna do with my little kid?" I feel like that's why she brings in fairy tales. And I know people have strong— like some people are like, "Oh, no, we can't. Those things are violent." And again, like you're saying, you know your kids and you know what they can handle and can't handle and what you want to include. But I mean, that does teach little children to be able to think, "Well, why did Jack take the bean?" Maybe "Why did this thing happen?" Or "What was his reasoning?" And building their imagination at the same time. She doesn't want to build like reasoning robots here. And I think that's really good too because people are like, "Oh, we need to focus on reason, so I'm going to get a bunch of logic books, and we're going to all these logic exercises, and I'm going to teach them speech and debate." And not that any of those things are bad. Those are great skills, right? Rhetoric, so important. But if that becomes— that's the way you're teaching reasoning, and you're not teaching reasoning through these living ideas, then that's not okay. It can't be separated out. They need to be together. And she's saying, we don't want to get rid of imagination and wonder. She said, "Children should be brought up, too, to perceive that a miracle is not less a miracle because it occurs so constantly and readily that we call it a law, that sap rises in a tree, that a boy is born with his uncle's eyes, that an answer that we can perceive comes to our serious prayers. These are not the less miraculous because they happen frequently." So we don't want reason to take away the imagination and the wonder. And the way that we do that is by keeping these ideas in our children's minds.
Shay Kemp Yes, it's so important for the little ones, I think, to be provided the opportunity to wrestle with those things in a protected way. And that's why I think fairy tales are so important, because they do get to be introduced to these concepts that are real out in the world: good, bad, evil, bad people, good people, people that make bad choices and good choices. And they're not ready to handle that in the real world. We would never give— like, you're not going to give a first grader a current event that's going to be about something scary, right? Okay. What what you can do is take that same concept—like you're saying—in a fairy tale or a folktale, and it's the same concept, but it's protected.
Julie Ross Yeah. The good guy always wins.
Shay Kemp Not real. Clearly not real. It's clearly not real. Clearly not going to frighten them, but allow them to start understanding that we do live in a black, gray, and white world. You know, it's all mixed up together, but it's in a protected way. And I love that.
Julie Ross Yeah. Yeah. I love that she includes that too. One of the things I thought was hilarious in here is she talks about with older children going through crimes and how criminals can rationalize and justify their behavior. Looking for the fallacies in their reasoning. I was like, so we can watch Criminal Minds all day and call it school. I love this. Thank you, Charlotte.
Shay Kemp You can listen to all the murder podcasts that you want.
Julie Ross Because I have two kids that are super into crime shows. Super. And I'm like, "Is that okay? Is that weird?" Like my one daughter actually almost switched her major to criminal justice. I'm like, "We aren't getting any more classes. No."
Shay Kemp I have a kid taking forensics this year. She's taking forensics.
Julie Ross Yeah, my daughter took forensic chemistry in college because she needed a science class, and she's like, "This sounds the most interesting." And I was like, "Really? That's creepy."
Shay Kemp Yeah. It's crazy. She's so fascinated by it. She's only been in class a couple of weeks, and she's just fascinated by it. But I do love this, and I also think it goes to show that nothing new is under the sun.
Julie Ross I mean, Charlotte Mason was cool. She's like, "Yeah, let's look at some serial killer's thinking here and talk about—" I'm like, this is before crime documentaries were actually a thing, Charlotte. Like where were you getting these reports from?
Shay Kemp I have no idea. But I do think it's funny that she obviously understood—and it's so easy for us to ignore—is that we can very easily make a very strong case for whatever bad decision we are going to make. And so if we know that we are capable of that—that we can easily make a poor decision based on a great, great reasoning—then if we help our children understand that when they do come up to these crossroads. I have three that have grown and gone, and when they come up to these crossroads, they're certainly not going to call mom and say, "What's the right decision here?" But that they've wrestled with the fact that I can make a good point for a good decision or a bad decision. I can back up either of these decisions. So that's why she's saying— I love this one phrase here. She says—when she's talking about making these choices—she said, "We're telling our children, in a word, I want, am made for, and must have a god. I want to put that on my wall. And so when we're raising them with that understanding of the divine creator and with the divine teacher, and she talks about religion and what that really looks like. I love that she says, "If we wish children to keep clear of all the religious clamors in the air, we must help them to understand what religion is." And this is her—after a page or so—this is her summary. I want, am made for, and must have a God. That is what we— we're not going to tell them, "Your religion tells you you must make this decision," because we cannot ever understand what crossroads they are going to come up to.
Julie Ross Right.
Shay Kemp But if we help them to understand that when they bank up against those crossroads, where are they going to make that choice? And not only that, we can't be— I don't want to be, as a parent, responsible for telling my children what is the right choice in these situations when they're grown because I'm not in their shoes.
Julie Ross Right. Oh, that's so hard to let that go. So hard to lose that controlling part. When they're little, we can control. "Okay. Well, you made the wrong choice, so now you get to have five minutes of time out," and we are so controlling that. And when they're older and we have to let them kind of make the decisions that we might not agree with at all and trust that it's going to work its way out. They have that training and they're going to choose that path and this is part of their story. And to just go, "I'm here for you and I support you and yeah, you want to talk through that? No? Okay, well, I'm still here for you." Letting that go is like...
Shay Kemp And that's why, though, I think it's important— you know, when you have littles, it's hard to project your mind that far in advance. You can imagine that. But we do get them to wrestle with those things—like we're talking about at this young age—because they are going to be in that place one day. And so we're thinking about that end goal of children who are able to reason to something that will have a positive result, but also know we can't be the ones— just like I don't tell them what to narrate. We can't be the ones to dictate that.
Julie Ross You touched on two points here that I want to go back to. So there's four ways that we can instruct them in this reason. She says the first one is with these everyday objects, these questions, the curious conversations we have with our little people. The second is teaching them how to trace fallacies in other people's reasoning for good or for bad through your current events, your history, your literature, through Bible study and whatnot. And then the third way we do that is by gently—and by gently, I mean really gently—pointing out the fallacies in their thinking, right? Because sometimes when we point them out, they kind of persist even more that they're right, and this is why they're right, and don't you tell me I'm wrong. So you have to be very, very cautious and careful with that. But it does help for you to point that out gently sometimes. And it does help if they see that other people also had fallacies in their reasoning. Alexander the Great, well, here's the reason why he justified— blah, blah, blah. He was able to do these things. But that thinking wasn't that great. Maybe my thinking sometimes isn't always 100% true either, and teach them to start questioning their thinking is a huge skill. And then the fourth one is instruct them in timeless truths. So that's what we were talking about with the scriptures. You're teaching them to have that biblical worldview, that foundation, not you going, "This is— you must think da da da about it," right? But instructing them in the truth and showing them what is beautiful and what is good constantly before them. And she talks— we also train them and caution them against these two things. The first one was idle propositions and then blasphemy. She said, so idol propositions, basically, they rest on nothing and they lead to nothing. There's nothing to them. There's no foundation to that. And that's, again, what we see all the time. So we're going to really have to teach our kids to recognize that. There's nothing backing that up. That's just someone's opinion or someone's emotion or someone is angry about whatever. And the ranting. That is not actually a well thought through argument. And then blasphemy, being impudent towards God. So we can get lost in the muddle sometimes of the minute points of Scripture and we lose the big picture. The big picture is the heart. Right? And the heart for God.
Shay Kemp That one statement she made.
Julie Ross Oh, you have it?
Shay Kemp I am made for and I must have a god. That loving—
Julie Ross Mic drop. Thank you, Charlotte.
Shay Kemp Yes, right.
Julie Ross And I think that's kind of like going back to the verse in Philippines, you know, "Whatever is true, whatever noble, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, think about these things." We are instructing our kids in truth, beauty, and goodness, and showing them that picture. And that will also help develop their reasoning and their affections towards those things. So one last quote that I love and then I want your closing thoughts here. She says—and this is just, again, maybe you could cross-stitch this on a pillow for me, Shay, because I love this quote.
Shay Kemp I could embroider it for you. Tell me what you want.
Julie Ross "The business of teachers is to open as many doors as possible." Isn't that beautiful?
Shay Kemp It's so beautiful. I just love it so much. And she says very, very similarly— what I marked as like a main point is her quote that says, "For ourselves and for our children, it is enough to know that reason will put a good face on any matter we propose. And that we can prove ourselves to be in the right is no justification. For there is absolutely no theory we may receive, no action we may contemplate which our reason will not affirm." So that's why we have to be a teacher that opens all these doors. To show them— these people that said, "Oh, well, their reasoning justified this, and they murdered this person."
Julie Ross Right.
Shay Kemp And their reason justified this, and they started a war, right?
Julie Ross Right.
Shay Kemp And their reason justified this, but look at the beauty that came from that. The trick is that we don't moralisticly point that out, and it's very hard. I find it very hard for myself, even. We're reading about Napoleon right now. And I find myself very much wanting to make points that my sixth grader does not notice yet. The connections have been like, "Did not see how—" but I'm opening the doors. Right? Like you said, I am the teacher opening the doors.
Julie Ross Yes, I love that. Well, thank you so much for joining us. I hope that was helpful for people. And again, I just really hope that this encourages you. If you're struggling with some of these kind of subjects and you want to feel the need to censor everything that lines up with the way you think things happened or the way that things should be explained to allow your child to read things that have both sides, for you to be able to do that and develop your kind of reasoning, and talk to people that are different than you, and explore that so that your children can have that opportunity as well. And it really is a leap of faith, but it's so beautiful to see. And again, it's going to be so beneficial for them in their life to be able to realize my will will go for good or for ill, and my logic will back that up and be able to question their own thinking. And for you as well, because sometimes, you know, things seem so true to us and we think, oh, my child's struggling with blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, or I'm failing as a mom because of blah, blah, blah and we don't ever question our own thinking either to go, is that 100% true all the time?
Shay Kemp Right. And we can really, I think— this is why I love the philosophy, I love the methods, I love homeschooling is because I'm growing along with my child when I open myself up to that. And they're not only seeing it through—like you said—the four different ways, but they're watching an adult. I used to think grown-ups had everything figured out. I was magically going to hit 30 and get it figured out, right? But they're watching. I don't know where I got that from, but that's what I thought. And then I got to about 26, I'm like, "Four years is not going to do this for me. This is not going to happen in four years." But they are watching an adult be willing to struggle with these ideas. Well, you know, I really thought this, but now that I read this book about this particular thing, I'm thinking there's some other ways to think about that. Or I listened to this particular podcast about maybe a current event, and I'm thinking something else. It's that they're watching a grown-up be open to struggle with these same things and to consider my own reason, like she said, to go to God and be based on those truths and go back to that and say, okay, where does that back this up? Where does it not? How does my own thinking need to change? And that's just as important as any book that we as a teacher would open the door, too, to our children is the living that we're doing in front of them.
Julie Ross Yeah, that's awesome. Well, thanks, friend. And I look forward to talking with you about chapter ten.
Shay Kemp All right. Next time.
Julie Ross Hey, 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 for a free four-day introduction course. 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. If you haven't already, please subscribe to the podcast, and while you're there, could you leave us a quick review? This will help other homeschooling parents like you get connected to our community. And finally, tag us on Instagram @Homeschoolingdotmom and let us know what you thought of today's episode. Don't forget to check out the people at Medi-Share because you deserve health care you can trust. To learn more about Medi-Share and why over 400,000 Christians have made the switch, go to GreatHomeschoolConventions.com/MediShare. Have you joined us at one of the Great Homeschool Conventions? The Great Homeschool Conventions are the homeschooling events of the year, offering outstanding speakers, hundreds of workshops covering today's top parenting and homeschooling topics, and the largest homeschool curriculum exhibit halls in the United States. Find out more at GreatHomeschoolConventions.com. I hope to see you there. Until next time, I hope your days are full of books, beauty, and biblical truth. Thanks for listening.