S7 E22 | Why Our Nation Needs a Charlotte Mason Education (Julie Ross with Shay Kemp)
Miss Mason sums up her philosophy and the ways that it can affect the whole nation as we provide true knowledge in literary format in this last chapter of the Volume 6 book club.
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
Thank you to our sponsors!
Medi-Share: an affordable Christian alternative to traditional health insurance
Tuttle Twins: children’s books to help you teach your kids how the world really works
A Gentle Feast: a Charlotte Mason curriculum for the entire family
Want to know more about the Charlotte Mason method? Visit www.agentlefeast.com and click on LEARN MORE to receive a FREE four-day introduction course.
Have you joined us at one of the Great Homeschool Conventions? We hope to see you there!
Julie Ross Hello, everyone! Welcome to the Charlotte Mason Show. I'm your host, Julie Ross, and we are finishing up book six with the amazing Shay Kemp. Whoo!
Shay Kemp Yay! Kind of sad also. Kind of sad.
Julie Ross I know, but thank you everyone who has followed along and hung in there, listened to these episodes with us. We hope this has been encouraging and insightful in giving you some meat and guidance as you chew your way through Charlotte Mason's original writing. So give yourself a pat on the back to making it this far. Not everyone would keep going.
Shay Kemp You deserve a prize.
Julie Ross Yes, we'll send you a gold star. So today's chapter, again, is kind of like some extra credit. It's very meaty. So this was actually a series of letters that she wrote to The Times. She actually wrote these in 1912. So this is before World War 1, whereas volume six was written after World War 1. So it's helpful to kind of have this context, like, I wish they would have put it at the beginning of the book.
Shay Kemp Yes, that's a good point.
Julie Ross Because what she does is, you know, you'll see in here she is really addressing the nation and really talking to the whole country. And it is interesting to note that this was written before World War 1, whereas the rest of the chapter she's really appealing to this—the time has come, we cannot keep going. This is what happens when you have an uneducated society. We have this war, we've lost this many people, we need to change. But she was saying that even before that even happened. Like I said, it was written in 1921 before her death, but this is, you know, ten plus years or ten years before that. So she's been kind of working through her programs, working through her philosophy since she wrote Home Education back in what? 1860 something? 70 something? A long time ago! But I think it is important to kind of have that context here that the volume six that we just finished reading came out of this desire that she had that this is what the nation needs. I've written these programs. I've sent this throughout the British Empire, it's been used in these homes, I've trained governesses, it's been used in schools—let's do this, country. And then all this stuff happens and makes it even more so. And then she writes this volume. So I just want to give that little heads up.
Shay Kemp Yeah, this is like the magnifying glass chapter that like, zooms in and says, these are the problems we have. This has to be taken care of. And these are the answers. There's a lot of like, here's the problem, here's the answer; here's the problem, here's the answer in these...which, you know, I really love these chapters, and I almost think it might even be better to read these first, like, kind of wish these were at the beginning.
That's what I'm saying, yeah. I agree they should be at the beginning.
Shay Kemp Yes. Like, if you read these at the beginning, then you would have the summary of everything and then expansion would be in the rest of the volume, like you're saying, that came on later. So, lots of great nuggets of wisdom in this that she kind of boils down into a more...you can tell she's trying to get a lot of information in—Hey, I don't have a full book to write this in, but the letter...to say this in not an entire book to pour out my thoughts.
Julie Ross Yes. So there's kind of little subheadings, so it's easier to kind of break those down and kind of go with–this would have been the letter that she wrote and then several months later, you know, the next one would have been published. So kind of see her progression here and see it more as that than actual one whole chapter in a book is helpful. So the first part she talks about is knowledge, and she's saying we are in a bad way, people. So basically, okay, what's the problem here? What's the problem with our current state of knowledge? So she goes on to say, you know, we're living for these examinations, the individual is becoming less and less important more and more and more. And we talked last time, too, about like the utilitarian theory of education, saying, you know, it's not this industrialized factory education where everybody's working at the same pace and getting the same exact thing and we're going out this end product and we're all little cogs in the machine. So utilitarian, you know, is this is what's good for everybody. Again, these children are one person, so she's going back to that. So there's this problem here of just giving everyone kind of this mass education. She gives an example of aniseed trucks? Which I don't know what those are. Do you know, Shay?
Shay Kemp I looked it up. So anise is, like, has a licorice flavor. So it would be like...
Julie Ross That was the same flavor...
Shay Kemp It would be like licorice candy. Which I think is 100% disgusting. So, I mean, I'm sorry to all the licorice lovers out there because I think it's gross, but I was thinking I would do nothing for an aniseed drop. But apparently there were children that did.
Julie Ross And she saying, you know, she saw like a poor child in London and they didn't have any food, but they took these aniseed drops to kind of fill her stomach and make them feel hungry, even though the body wasn't actually getting the nourishment. What she's saying is that our modern education system is like these drop—it makes a mind seem like it is knowledgeable, but it doesn't actually have true knowledge. She said, the anise drops we have are "marks, prizes, scholarships, blue ribbons, all of which 'stay the stomach' of the boy who does not get any knowledge." So she's saying this utilitarian kind of style education, it looks like it's producing a result, but what it's really lacking here is knowledge.
Shay Kemp Yeah, well, I think that's so important to understand is that she makes so many points about that. Like, if we don't understand the chief object of education, what our goal is, then all these things will look like they are successful, but they're not actually successful because we're not actually giving them anything to chew on. It's like giving your kid a snack and saying, okay, they're fine, but you know that they're not going to make it to the next meal, right? You're going to have to do something eventually, and the time has run out. We've been giving these children...she's talking about, we've been given them these snacks—snack after snack after snack, and now the time has come where they really need meals. And another of her food metaphors. But I love that she talks about what knowledge actually is.
Julie Ross Yes. So that's why she's like, okay, so what are we even talking about here? What is the aim? What actually is knowledge? Let's define that word before we keep going. And she kinda sometimes goes in circles, I feel like, of what she's saying about it, but it really is an overview of her whole entire philosophy here.
Shay Kemp Yeah, and I like that she says what it's not because sometimes I feel like it's easier for us to recognize something that's, like, a big idea by figuring out what the big idea is not, right?
Julie Ross So what is it not, Shay?
Shay Kemp She says it's not instruction, information, scholarship, a well-stored memory. That is...
Julie Ross Wait a minute. Isn't that just everything, Shay? It's not instruction, information, scholarship, a well-stored memory. What do we have left?
Shay Kemp Isn't that everything that we've been working toward for all these years? But I love the image she uses. It says, It is passed like the light of the torch from mind to mind. And the flame can be kindled at original minds only. Thought, we know, begets thought. It is as vital thought touches our minds that our ideas are vitalized, and out of our ideas comes our conduct of life. So she tells us what it is not, and then she says, But it is this thing that you will recognize when you see it. It's like a flame, and it has to be passed from one mind to the next mind. And elsewhere she talks about in this section how it doesn't need to be chewed up from someone else. Like, we don't need to learn about authors, we don't need to learn about books, we need to have the mind of an author meet the mind of a child.
Julie Ross I love that image of the passing of a torch and the mind to mind concept. So it's a good question to ask yourself as you're looking through the materials that you've selected in your homeschool: what kind of knowledge am I giving? Is it instruction, information, memorization? Or is it lighting a flame by putting them in touch with the actual mind, the actual artist, the actual composer, or the actual person who actually wrote the book?
Shay Kemp That's right.
Julie Ross Yeah. It's vastly different. So it's a good way to go...you're going to see really clearly right here if what you're doing falls in line with that or not. And there are a lot of materials out there, I'm just gonna say it and you can throw tomatoes or whatever, that are Charlotte Mason inspired that would fall into the first category of what knowledge is not and not passing mind to mind or not actually putting the child in touch with the living ideas and the authors themselves.
Shay Kemp That's right. And then we get so many questions of parents who are using these "inspired" things and then they're frustrated because their kids are not giving good narrations, their days are not full of beauty, their lessons are not short, and they're like, this "Charlotte Mason thing" does not work. That's because you are using, you know, instruction, information, scholarship, memory. It must be mind to mind. And it really is a simple way to consider, exactly like you said, is the mind of my child interacting with the mind of an author, the mind of a composer, the mind of an artist by what I'm giving? If not, that may be—I'm going to say probably is—why you're frustrated with some of the results that you're getting.
Julie Ross Yeah, absolutely. She says that here. She says, talking about if they have a short list of books, the scholar will not get mind stuff. If the books are not various his will will not be an all around development. If they are not original, but compiled at second hand, you will find no material in them for his intellectual growth. Again, if they are too easy and too direct, if they tell him straight away what he is to think, he will read, but he will not appropriate. He doesn't have to chew at the ideas and come to understanding of them if they are too easy, too direct, they're just regurgitated information. There's no mind chewing there. I can read it, but I'm not going to have to do that mental work that my body actually needs in order to grow. And she says we have a habit of deprecating children.
Shay Kemp Yes.
Julie Ross And again, I think it's so important here because she's just showing how highly she views children and what they're capable of. And she says, "Here are some maxims that should help us." Okay so like cross-stitch these on some pillows for your schoolroom, people. "Do not explain. Do not question. Let one reading of a passage suffice. Require the pupil to relate the passage he has read." There you go. That's all you gotta do, folks.
Shay Kemp Really? If you had a checklist of that on your wall, you know, I feel like it would just be...I may need to make one like on a big poster for myself to remind myself, because she says that, like you were saying, if we talk down to our children, water down their books, it is injurious. It literally is injurious to their curiosity. And then boom, boom, boom. So simplified.
Julie Ross Yes. I love in here too she goes through...okay, "The child must read to know; the teacher's business is to see that he knows." This is not complicated, people, here. She's like, Really? I'm making this very simple, okay? The child's going to read to know, your job as the teacher is to see that he knows. "All the acts of generalization, analysis, comparison, judgment, and so on, the mind performs for itself in the act of knowing." Active knowing is narration. So, you know, you can give your child a bunch of comprehension questions, which requires absolutely no thinking whatsoever. Like, what color was Johnny's shirt? Or you can have them narrate and people are like, Oh, that's not enough. They're not doing enough. Really? Because they're generalizing, analyzing, comparising and judging, they're making connections. All these higher level thinking skills, their minds are doing in this act of knowing. It really is simple.
Shay Kemp Yes, we like to overcomplicate it. We do. And we've talked about it over and over again through this entire book club, but I feel like you can't say it enough because it's so different from the way we were educated and the way the education is done now. So, talking about the simplicity of it does not mean that it is simple. Just because it is a simple process does not mean that it is simple mind work. It's rich and it's deep.
Julie Ross She's even saying this—if you doubt this, why don't you try to read a chapter of Jane Austen or the Bible before you go to bed and then narrate it in the morning. If you think this narration stuff is just willy-nilly-silly easy stuff, you try it and see how hard it is.
Shay Kemp That's right.
Julie Ross And see how hard it is, or try to read like a, you know, a book about physics or something and narrate it. It's hard.
Shay Kemp It is. It's hard. And when my children were smaller and I was trying to really do a lot of modeling, of narrating for them, different things like that were not their lessons, but so that they would see, I'm like, Wow, it does give you an appreciation. You really should try it. I mean, I really think these moms should try...read something and then try to...just read a good living book.
Julie Ross Charlotte Mason's writings, right?
Shay Kemp Yes. And that's really what we're trying to do in this book club—we narrate and, you know, it works our brains. We're tired when we're done because we've really tried to think about what it means and how does it relate to our own lives. And yet, as many times as I've read—this is probably the third time I've read this volume—I've gotten more out of it this time. You know why? Because I've had to narrate it.
Julie Ross And it shows you the power of it, right? It's not just when you're kind of out the other, when you have to teach it, when you have to talk about it, you retain way more.
Shay Kemp Yes. Yep. You chew on it.
Julie Ross And then she goes on talking about her high view of children, about okay, well, let me tell you some of the books that will help them with this knowledge. So when they're seven, they should read Pilgrim's Progress, and then they should also be reading Shakespeare and Plutarch's Lives, and things that adults don't read. So again, she has this very, very high view of children. She says that "these children will have generous enthusiasms, keen sympathies, a wide outlook and sound judgment because they are treated from the first as beings of large discourse, looking before and after. They are persons of leisure too, with time for hobbies, because their work is easily done in the hours of morning school." So not only is she expecting them to chew on such hard material, but because she has these short and various lessons, they're able to get it done in a short amount of time and still be children that can have leisure and hobbies and have this wide, generous life as well.
Shay Kemp And they're not exhausted from...they're interested. We've harness the power of the will, the power of reason; we harness the power of curiosity that we've talked about so much in this book. And because we're harnessing those and the lessons and we're varying, like you said, in her schools, you know, you wouldn't have three heavy to narrate lessons back to back because we are...and this is where it all kind of comes together, because we're doing that, they're not exhausted after a morning of school. We've harnessed the power that is within them instead of browbeating them into lessons that are not interesting. So then when they come to the afternoon, those ideas are all swirling around their minds, swirling around their heads, and they can go...I had a mom today tell me...we had a coach...a Charlotte Mason co-op meeting, and it was so powerful, she's just beginning to trust this process and this philosophy. So she's reading to her seven year old Treasure Island. And she said, I thought, I'm just going to read this and we're just going to narrate. And so she's reading in a small bit, her kids never want her to stop–ding, ding, ding—which is what we talk about, you know, leave it with the cliffhanger when the timer goes off. And then she says in the afternoons they are creating all these things, they drew their own map. She's like, I used to make these unit studies where I had to come up with all this stuff, and now I can't believe they're actually making their own maps. They're getting the book out and copying the map in the front of the book themselves, and they're playing with these ships in the tub at night. It works. I'm like, yes. I literally stood up at the table and applauded. Yay! It's working. I knew it would work. I knew you would see it. So it really does. It really does work.
Julie Ross Yeah. You really do have to trust the process here. Okay, let's go on to part two: Letters, Knowledge, and Virtue. So in this section, she's saying, well, she's talking about Letters. Basically what she's talking about is the humanities—subjects that can be taught in a literary form here. And she talks about the power of the classics here—a Foundation of Great Books—and she's saying that out of this knowledge that will come from this great literature, from these Letters, is where virtue is going to come from. So this kind of knowledge shapes a person's character. So what stood out to you in this section?
Shay Kemp I think one of the things that's so important to know where she said,"There is no better way of knowing a people than to know something of their own words in their own speech." So we don't need to process all this stuff when we're learning about a culture, we can actually put them in context with a book about that culture. And sometimes we boil geography down to just the maps. And this is why it's so important, like in A General Feast, I love the way that we read books about that area. We're reading books about that culture from those words, and they're actually learning to chew on that themselves instead of me saying, Okay, these are what the people are like in this area. These are what the...I don't read to chew that. They can learn about themselves from their own words, which is not the way I learned geography. My daughter's favorite subject is that.
Julie Ross Oh yeah. It's fascinating to read.
Shay Kemp It wasn't taught in a literary way.
Julie Ross Yes. And she gives the example of, you know, a public school educated man who he doesn't know the history and literature of his country. He has this degree, but then he shuts his books and reads newspapers a little, perhaps a magazine or two—so like you might check on Facebook—but otherwise occupies himself with interesting sports, game shows or his employment. And I'm like, is she living right now?
Shay Kemp I know!
Julie Ross Was this really written in 1912? What!
Shay Kemp But it was so applicable, isn't it? Because that's exactly what we see.
Julie Ross Right? You know, that they have their lessons and they're done. They don't want any more. They're tired. They had stuff shoved in their faces for 12 years in the public school, they don't want it anymore. The curiosity has been completely died out from them. She talks in here about "grinding at grammar."
Shay Kemp I feel that way about grammar. It is a grind, I have to say. So I feel you.
Julie Ross Hey. Alreight, was there anything else in this section?
Shay Kemp I think the last sentence of that entire section was to me the most powerful. "The nation is in sore need of wise men, and these must be made out of educated boys." And men and women. So we'll insert that there. I know that's what she really meant there. But if we want wisdom in our children, we must consider how we're educating them. And throwing a bunch of curriculum at a wall to see what sticks, it's just not doing that. And so she knew that. I think it's really interesting talking about when she wrote this, knowing what some of those men and boys are educated in and what they were going to move into in the next few years, because some of these boys she's talking about educating, we know they went onto the battlefield.
Julie Ross Right. Right.
Shay Kemp Right. And so I thought that was pretty interesting.
Julie Ross This third section then she ties knowledge in with reason and rebellion, which is very fascinating. So not only does knowledge build virtue, it builds your character if it's filled with Letters, if it's filled with literary poetry, history, literature, those kind of subjects, the humanities, the classics, it will shape your virtue and your character. Otherwise, you know, you're going to be like she was saying here and not have that and just close your books and be done and entertain yourself. Now she's saying that knowledge is also tied to reason and rebellion. I love this: "Is it not true that a conviction of irresponsibility characterizes our generation?" Again, it's like are you here now?
Shay Kemp When are you writing this, lady?
Julie Ross Yes. And she says..so we did..and we link to this for those of you missed this chapter, go back and read The Way of Reason. Okay. So she has a whole chapter where she's explaining this section, this letter that she wrote for The Times here. So she goes much deeper in the chapter that's in volume sex. But she's saying knowledge and reason are not the same thing. We can reason anything our brain wants to reason is true. If I believe something, I could find a million reasons why what I believe is true. We can argue them, right? That doesn't mean that I have knowledge. She also says, again, with the way of the will, will and reason are tied together. And we talked about those in those chapters that, you know, our reason has to be founded on proper knowledge or we will choose to do things that we shouldn't do. Our will will reason that we can do the things that we want to do, not the things that we should do.
Shay Kemp And that's the way we want our children to be led, isn't it? Like we want them to be able to leave us and have that underlying foundation that we don't have to be concerned about the choices...I mean, they're always going to make choices we don't want them to make. That's just the way of the world. But I'm saying we understand that they're not just going to be making every choice because they think it's fine. They're going to think through these things, use the power of the will tied with reason, like she talks about, because they've seen it in these literary ways in every single subject. They've looked at people in history who have made these decisions for good and bad. People in geography, people in science for good and bad. And then we're putting those tools in their toolbox and they're taking them with them. Yeah, that's a powerful thing when you're thinking about kids leaving you that you want them to take. More than just, okay, I got through 12 years of school and I'm done now.
Julie Ross I love it, she says, "Without knowledge, reason carries a man into the wilderness and rebellion joins company." So without the knowledge we can, again, our reasoning powers are very strong and we can reason anything that we want to. And in today's world, we could find a million other people who will agree with us and back up our reason and we have this groupthink, right?
Shay Kemp Just put a little thing on social media and everybody will think..there you'll find plenty of people to back you up.
Julie Ross And then she's saying, you know, that this rebellion, this kind of mob mentality will go right along with whatever everybody else is thinking and saying, which we definitely see here. She says that the knowledge that we're greatly lacking that will kind of prevent some of this error in reason is knowledge of God.
Shay Kemp Yes.
Julie Ross And that...I thought this was interesting: "It is possible that church may err in keeping us underfed upon that knowledge, which is life. But she does not send us away empty." We can't get this knowledge...she says we can get a little bit in our little weekly sermons at church here, but we need way more and this to be part of our daily knowledge that we're getting. And growing, she says, upon admiration and wonder. She talks specifically about the teaching of science, and that science must also be taught in a living way, or it does not inspire admiration and wonder.
Shay Kemp This is so important, I think. It's so important to consider this, because we think that many times, as we discussed in the first part, knowledge is just the information, especially the instruction, the memory, when it comes to science, that particular subject; but we've got to find ways, and she mentioned this in many ways here, many different quotes, but we have to find a way for science to ignite the wonder. And the flame of a great scientist—their mind—can easily be passed to the flame of a child's mind. When we teach science in this literary way..we're studying Thomas Edison this year, and I've been amazed at some of the things that my daughter has taken away from this brilliant man. Even though I knew the name Thomas Edison and I have known it my whole life, I never read about him in such a great literary way. And she's taken things away from more than just, okay, well, this is what he made, these are the inventions he came up with.
Julie Ross Right.
Shay Kemp It sparked wonder in her. And we often use that, especially in the older grades. Once we hit that form 2, you know, or form 3—like seventh, eighth grade. Okay, now it's all just facts. Now it's all just the boring textbook stuff.
Julie Ross Got to get all that in cause that's what real knowledge is, right?
Shay Kemp Gotta get that in. But she says, it leaves us cold, and we don't want our kids to be left cold. We want them to have that flame that they caught because somebody was interested in a subject enough to dedicate their life to it.
Julie Ross Yeah, I think what you said is really important because she's saying in here that science—she's talking about in the 18th century, like so in the 1700s, you know—science was alive, quick with emotion, and it found expression in literature. And then she says, "The fault is not in science... but in our presentation of it by means of facts, figures and demonstrations that mean no more to the general audience than the point demonstrated, never showing the wonder and magnificent reach of the law unfolding." So she says, The way that science is commonly taught it's crude, it leaves us narrow in judgment, it is cold, like you're saying. She's saying it's waiting for its literature. And so I think it's really unique the way that it's kind of set up in A Gentle Feast because you have a combination of here's a biography about the scientist, but then also here is the scientific information that that person was researching. So like you were saying, in cycle 4 they study...or cycle 3?
Shay Kemp 3, yes.
Julie Ross They study Thomas Edison, and then they're also learning about electricity. So they're learning about the things that he was working with in the fields that he was working with. So it does spur that emotion and that passion and have those living ideas that make you have admiration and wonder. So you're not just reading about a person—because I've seen that before, which is like a biography that's recommended for a year for science—you also have to have the scientific information right along with it to get the complete package. And there's other ones, you know, like again, with this "inspired" that really read like a textbook, you know, with some kind of narrative metaphors and wording in it, but really it's information.
Shay Kemp That's right.
Julie Ross The story...you don't get inspired by the person. You don't get inspired by the scientist.
Shay Kemp Yes. And there's one thing, too...I mean, I could give Elizabeth plenty of: this is my form 2. I could give her plenty of activities to do. But what makes it like the flame is that she's been reading about the person that did these types of experiments, and so she relates to that. Oh, this is the same sorts of things this person did. This is the same sorts of ways that they found out. So I don't have to have this dry, this-is-the-scientific-process lesson. We actually read about somebody who has followed that. Wow look what happened, and then we're going to get to do that thing. And those things hand in hand make science so much more interesting. I mean, it really is like that flame that gets lit. It's just totally different than a textbook, okay, I got to memorize this. And we always had short answers and fill in the blank in science when I grew up. So different.
Julie Ross Oh yeah, me too. In talking about just how she is so much should be writing for today. She says "We are losing our sense of any values, excepting money values that our young men no longer see visions and are attracted to a career in proportion as there's money in it. Nothing can come out of nothing. And if we bring up the children of the nation on sordid hopes and low ambitions, need we be surprised that every man plays for his own hand?"
Shay Kemp Nope. This is what happens.
Julie Ross Right. They're not inspired. They have sordid hopes and low ambitions. What can I do to make money and not change the world?
Shay Kemp And not have to chew on anything. How can I get the most money out of the least effort, right?
Julie Ross Oh, yes. And then the last sentence in this section is kind of the whole chapter here—knowledge is the basis of national strength. The stronger our nation is, the more knowledge we'll have—true knowledge, not just knowledge that puffs somebody up and looks like knowledge, not the knowledge that is devoid of God, because that kind of knowledge doesn't reason.
Shay Kemp Self-righteousness.
Julie Ross Right? Yeah. Makes you just... it has that groupthink problem with it. And it's also not just knowledge that ignores "Letters", that ignores the humanities, is not this utilitarian what are these just skills you need to get by in life kind of knowledge. The knowledge that shapes the whole person is in the humanities, that's what shapes your virtue. So she's gone through, okay, here's what knowledge is, here's what's not, here's what it is. We need knowledge in the humanities so it'll build virtue and character. We need knowledge of God and of awe and wonder in the sciences, because that will build someone's reasoning ability. Now, she's going to kind of give us a little history lesson here on new and old conceptions of knowledge. So she talks in here about the medieval mind—and we can link to this in the show notes as well—the fresco in Florence that she saw that kind of shows how the medieval mind saw knowledge coming down from the Holy Spirit but working through these learned men at the time, right, who weren't necessarily Christian. So even though the Holy Spirit is the giver of all ideas, she's saying he worked through Cicero, Aristotle, Euclid, you know, these "pagan people" who God gave them this knowledge and this information, and then this was passed on to the general medieval mind.
Shay Kemp Mm hmm. I love the quote that on page 323, it says that the "seven Liberal Arts were fully under the direct outpouring of the Holy Ghost, but that every fruitful idea, every original conception, be it in geometry, or grammar, or music, was directly derived from a Divine source." And when we learn these things that she's talking about here, these seven Liberal Arts and grammar, music, geometry, when we learn them from living books, then we can grab a hold of that Divine source. If we get it in a dry way, then it just feels like another subject in the day. And there is such a difference..and I mean, when you're connected to...basically she's saying, like, we can be connected to God through our lessons. We can be. It doesn't have to be a separation between the sacred and the secular. She talks about that so many times and so many of her writings that sort of concept there. But it can be a way to connect with God if we are allowing it to be taught through true knowledge, like you said before, truth and the living ideas. Then okay, I recognize this Divine source. I can see it. And our kids recognize it.
Julie Ross Yeah, I kinda read through this section and I found like four points of...cause she says, "Supposing that we accept this medieval philosophy tentatively for present relief, what would be our gain?" So what would be the gain of believing that there's this Divine teacher that is teaching these things to our children? First of all, she says, it's a relief. Can we all give an amen? Because it's not on me to figure it all out and figure out how to teach everything and present it in a way that's going to grasp my kids' attention and make them love learning and make them retain...
Shay Kemp ...retain them! Right!
Julie Ross I can sit back and relax and go, I'm putting them in touch with this living source, and God is the one instructing. That is a huge...
Shay Kemp Huge.
Julie Ross I can't even use a correct adjective to describe how amazing that is of a relief.
Shay Kemp If there's no other reason to "try" or go into following the philosophy, I think that is the biggest one, is the relief that has put on me as a mom. I do not feel stressed, I do not freak out, I do not feel burdened in any way by the education I am giving my children because I know that these living books that I'm giving them connect them to the Divine source. And the relief is huge. Yes, I put a huge asterisk and I circled that and put a star by that one.
Julie Ross And then two, the other gain, like you were saying, that there's no longer a divide between sacred and secular. That great, practical, theoretical knowledge can be sacred, comes from a beautiful whole, embracing God, man and the universe—the different types of education she was talking about—that knowledge is vital for everyday life, that we need it every day, it's like oxygen, we must have it, and that it is this kind of knowledge that makes someone grow as a person. Those were the four things I saw as kind of these would be the gains if we're adopting these. And it says we have the theory that it does not matter what a child learns, but only how he learns it. So she's talking about how other people are perceiving knowledge, which as sound as it is, it does not matter what a child eats, but only that he eats it so let's feed him sawdust. That's basically talking about reasoning here. You want to follow all that logic here? It doesn't matter what a child learns, but only how he learns it. Well, then it doesn't matter what they eat. So let's just give him sawdust. It's cheaper, right?
Shay Kemp It's probably fit in your belly longer.
Julie Ross Exactly. Right. That makes no sense. We would never do that. That's injurious to a child. And she's saying it's the same thing of what we are feeding them if we're not cooperating with this Divine teacher. All right. Was there anything else in that section?
Shay Kemp I love the quote that says, "Now, forceful personalities, persons of weight and integrity, of decision and sound judgment, are what the country is most in need of." And I think, wow, they didn't even know how much they were going to need that, right? "And we propose to bring such persons up for the public service, the gradual inception of knowledge is one condition amongst others." So she's saying this is the end game here of what we want. How do we get that? This is how we get it. I love that.
Julie Ross And then this last section..I think it was actually the second to last section: Education and the Fullness of Life. I just love this one.
Shay Kemp I do too.
Julie Ross What we're really doing here is we're giving our children a full life. It's not just knowledge to check a box, go on. We're shaping them as a person that's going to give us a whole life. She talks in here about nature study, how that gives you a full life of understanding creation that gives you that awe and wonder. She talks in here about the importance of handicrafts. She says about handicrafts: "Each shall 'live his life'; and that, not at his neighbor's expense; because, so wonderful is the economy of the world that when a man really lives his life he benefits his neighbor as well as himself; we all thrive in the well-being of each." I mean, I just got goosebumps. Like seriously.
Shay Kemp I know.
Julie Ross Because when you meet someone who is living their life to the fullest, and they are overflowing with enthusiasm for life and for people that they love well, and they have interests in so many different things, it makes you better to be around those people, right? That's the kind of person I want myself to be. And my children, right?
Shay Kemp And I feel like I'm more of that the more that I began to trust the philosophy. You know, we sort of started dipping our tippy toes in it at first because I'm like, I don't know...
Julie Ross But once you drank the Kool-Aid!
Shay Kemp Once you drank the Kool-Aid, the Kool-Aid has been drunk, right? You can't go back. I feel like I'm definitely much more that person, because it's more than just a curriculum choice, right? It's a life choice, it's like a whole life. And she talks about why this education matters to society in this section. Like, why does it matter to more than just your family? And I just think that..."So that the next generation bid fair to be provided with many ways of living their lives, ways which do not encroach upon the lives of others." And "the contribution of our generation to the science of education...it is not an unworthy one." And she keeps going on to talk about almost exactly the quote that she gave, but this is important to me because I have married kids who I'm thinking about the next generation now. You know, I'm thinking about my grandkids one day coming and I'm like, how powerful that my kids got educated this way. And then they're going to influence that next generation. That's three whole generations. It's influenced me. And that's why this education makes a difference. Yeah, that's why it matters to more than just your little family sitting around your dining room table.
Julie Ross Oh, absolutely. And she talks in here about the leisure activities that a person has. And before she's talking about like the man who, you know, reads a little bit of a magazine or two, but like, his whole life is consumed with sports games, making money, entertainment; but she's saying here these kind of interests—nature, study, handicrafts, music, art, dance—that their general joy and well-being is increased. And I love that because these kind of leisure activities bring you joy rather than just mindless entertainment of Netflix or Instagram or whatever that don't increase your joy. And as you increase your joy and as you are living your life completely, you're able to do it to the service of others. Like you're saying, this is what is helping the whole entire nation here. It's not just, you know, a bunch of books. It's this kind of education that shapes you as an entire person, and that is going to help us. She says men move the world, but the motives which move men are conveyed by words. I mean, cross stitch that on a pillow, people: Men move the world, but the motives which move men are conveyed by words. What words are you filling your children with?
Shay Kemp Yeah, I love even the next paragraph, she says, only as he has been and is nourished upon books is a man able to live his life. And she talks about how there's things that we can do in solitude, right, that are mechanical things, but we need to connect with the mind for the knowledge that we need. It's not just, you know, people think Charlotte Mason...maybe you're just...I actually had a lady say this today, It just made me picture, before I understood the principles, that we're all just sitting in our house by ourselves and we're reading books, and that's all we're doing. And she said, Now I realize that we're just connecting with everything. There's all these connections, and that's why it's so far reaching. It's more than just me, it's more than just my family; it's all the people that we connect with, by the way we influence the world because of how much we're enjoying our own lives. That's the thing that gives me goosebumps and makes me say, okay, this is worth doing and me putting my effort into and finding these rich things is because I know it's making a difference in their whole lives, not just what we do for school lessons.
Julie Ross For sure. Yes. And I hope people see that. And I think once you start doing it for yourself, you'll see how much it changes you and it'll allow you to have faith that it's also changing your children, even if you don't always see that fruit right away. One of the things we can put in the show notes as well, Shay, is I have a free Morning Time packet that they can sign up for and get if they just want to try. That, I think, is a great place to start because you're filling your time with this music and art and handicrafts and nature and things like that, and you could do it quickly in the morning and just see, you know, in 20 or 30 minutes a day how much it actually changes your whole day and your whole outlook on life. It's so amazingly powerful. All right, and in the very last section, she's talking about knowledge in literary form. Again, those "Letters," as she refers to it here, "as the staple of education is no new thing; nor is the suggestion new that to turn a young person into a library is to educate him." That made me laugh. People come over to my house and they're like, to my kids, Ugh, you guys read all those books?
Shay Kemp Yeah. I had somebody say that today—we had a meeting today—and one of the ladies had not been here at my house and I literally have books, I mean, you've been here—they're on every surface, pretty much everywhere, all over the place. But I read a lot of books before I was truly educated in the Charlotte Mason manner, right? I mean, you know, just because you read a lot doesn't mean that you're necessarily being educated, because it depends on what you're reading.
Julie Ross Right. And that's what she's saying here. So we need an actual philosophy and it needs to have order to it. So she says, "We can go about picking up a maxim here, a motto there, an idea elsewhere, and make a patchwork of the whole which we call our principles." Been there, done that.
Shay Kemp Yes. That was my home. And that was my whole attack as a public school teacher. That was what we did. They just gave us all this, well, this, this, this, this, this, this and this subject, this and this. There was no overarching understanding of why we are doing things the way we're doing them.
Julie Ross That idea sounds good. Oh, wait, now here's a new one. Oh, that sounds good. Oh, did you hear that, lady? Oh her talk was really great, now I'm going to go to that. We're blown by the wind of everything. And we both have been there, so there's no judgment, right?
Shay Kemp Right. I mean I...
Julie Ross If that is what you're doing in home educating your children, you're not going to get these results that I've been talking about.
Shay Kemp That's right. No, you won't.
Julie Ross You have to have a principle and a philosophy that has an order to it.
Shay Kemp Right. And I think the frustration when...what usually I see is somebody tries that and they...all the new things, all the new things, and then all of a sudden they hit the wall of frustration because they're not getting the results that they thought they were going to get. Why don't my children, you know, why are they giving bad narrations? or why is there no interest or all these different things? And so that's why you don't just throw more curriculum at it. You back up, consider your philosophy, chew on that, understand it, and then start from there. And that's the way to move forward.
Julie Ross Hmm. And I love this, okay, so if I had a soapbox...I'm going to get on it right now so that those of you who are just listening and those of you who are watching, I'm not really getting on a soapbox, but just visualize me on a soapbox here, okay? Because this word she has here is so, so important, and it just gets you so fired up. She says, "We want more life. There is not enough life for our living. We have no great, engrossing interests, we hasten from one engagement to the other, and glance furtively at the clock to see how much time life is getting on. We triumph if a week seems to have passed quickly. Who knows but that the approach of an inevitable end might find us glad to get it all over. We want hope. We busy ourselves excitedly about some automated desire, but the pleasure we get is in effort, not in attainment." Stop just living on autopilot. If you want to create something in your home, this is how to do it. Wake up! Okay, I'll get off my soapbox. This is what she's saying here—you want hope, but you're busily filling your life with all this other stuff that's distracting you from your real purpose and your real vision for what you want in your home.
Shay Kemp Right. She gives a whole list of things I underlined here. She says, we want more life, we want hope, we want to be governed, we want a new start, she says in this paragraph. We're sick of ourselves. She names all these things and then she has said over and over again, so what is the answer to this? What is the answer? Is the answer in another class? Is the answer in another, you know...
Julie Ross It's more stuff.
Shay Kemp ...or another activity? No, it's not. She goes on and she talks about the answer is in these "Letters" or like you're talking about this literary form, that we are going to present knowledge, that's how we get the answer to these things. Instead of just like you said, Well, let's just keep doing the same old, same old, same old, even though we're not getting a decent result, which is we know the definition of insanity.
Julie Ross Been there, done that. Yep. Okay. And again, she goes back to if we want to have this change, we cannot neglect the knowledge of God, and we have to turn to that first, and we need to seek an orderly way in which we are living out this philosophy. So her philosophy is really based on what she says is this Divine teaching and what she saw as the way that Jesus was teaching his disciples and the way that I love to educate people. It's such a beautiful...it makes it so unique and different than any other education philisophy out there. And she says, "We shall bring up our children as students of Divinity and shall purpose our own life-long studies in the same school." Recollecting your own life-long studies, you're not going to be able to do this. So first put your own oxygen mask on and work on growing your own mind, and then that will pour forth into, you know, as you're changing and growing, your children are changing and growing, too. And we're all in the same school here. We're all together.
Shay Kemp Yes. It brought so much unity, and, you know, I started a couple of years ago reading books within the same history cycle that my children are reading. Either I would read the form 4 book or maybe a form 3 book, or maybe another book that wasn't in our curriculum, but that I wanted to read. And it's amazing, not just my children watching me, but it's amazing how following the philosophy myself brought life to my whole homeschool. So it wasn't like I was perched up on some podium looking down, telling you, this is what you guys should do. It brought us all down to the same level. I'm a learner, you're a learner, you're a learner, you're a learner, we're all learners. And so what I started doing was writing that book...we have a period, usually, at the end of morning time when I would give them some time to read their fable, and we just set the timer and read. So I would read whatever book I was reading during that time. And so then they had to watch Mom narrate what she's reading and share what she's reading, just like they do. And it really levels the playing field so that the life is breathed into everybody, you know. It's all across the board and we're all leveling that. And that's what I think she's talking about, this lifelong study. I'm much older than they are, and yet I'm still a student. And that really does impact kids, I think.
Julie Ross Yes. And. I love the ending here. Let's just end on this note. She says, "But the country of our love will not stand still if we let the people sink into the mire of a material education our doom is sealed; eyes now living will see us take even a third-rate place among the nations, for it is knowledge that exalteth a nation, because of duly-ordered knowledge proceedeth righteousness and prosperity ensueth. Think clear, feel deep, bear fruit well."
Shay Kemp Mm. Oh.
Julie Ross Mic drop. End of book! Whoo!
Shay Kemp We did it, Julie!
Julie Ross There's nothing else to say after that, right? That's what she's saying her country needed in 1912, and this is what we need in 2023.
Shay Kemp Yes. And that's why we've done this, is because we really pray that we and all the people that have listened to us over the past year will say...or more, however long it's been...that we all will do that—we'll think clear, feel deep, and we will bear fruit well. I mean, that's what I want my life to look like, right? That's what I want people to say about me and see in my life, and instead of me wondering my whole life, well, how do I do that? Then I have these tools in my hand, I have this understanding of this philosophy that makes me, instead of being frustrated, to have a direction to go in and a way to move my family in that direction. That's why we take the time to study these books.
Julie Ross So thank you so much, Shay, for walking through this volume with me. Again, like you said, it's been so helpful for me to read it and have to narrate it and teach it. I've grown so much as well, and thank you for everyone who has listened. We hope this has been a blessing for you as you have dived through this. This is really giving you a lot of insight into just the 'why' behind the philosophy, and then as you kind of order things in your home, they will make a lot more sense of practically living out the philosophy. So may all you be encouraged from this, and know if you have friends that you want to read with I highly recommend that. It definitely helps having a book club with friends to narrate and discuss these concepts with you because they are very meaty. So thank you, Shay, for being my friend and journeying this with me.
Shay Kemp Oh, it's been so much fun. Thank you so much for letting me come along.
Julie Ross All right. Bye, everyone.