S7 E4 | Knowledge of God | Virtual Book Club: A Philosophy of Education, Chapter 10 (Julie Ross with Shay Kemp)
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.
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Julie Ross Welcome to The Charlotte Mason Show, a podcast dedicated to discussing Miss. 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.
Julie Ross Here's a riddle for you parents: Homeschoolers love them. Enemies of freedom hate them. What are they? It's the Tuttle Twins books. With millions of copies sold, the Tuttle Twins help you teach your kids about entrepreneurship, personal responsibility, the Golden Rule, and more. Get a discounted set of books with free workbooks today at TuttleTwins.com/Homeschool. That's TuttleTwins.com/Homeschool. Alright, now on to today's show.
Julie Ross Hello everyone, and welcome back to The Charlotte Mason show for season seven with the amazing Shay Kemp, ready to jump back into this book club that-- How long have we been doing this? Has it been like a year?
Shay Kemp I don't know, but I like it, so let's just keep rolling. We just keep consistency in moving forward is what matters, right?
Julie Ross Yes, exactly. So all of you who are looking at your lesson plans and feel like you're behind and you have so much left to do, just keep moving forward. Just keep taking it in steps. All those little seeds, right? So, it's this slow and steady building of a life. So we are modeling this for you. You're very welcome.
Shay Kemp Possibly unintentionally. But yes, we are. I do think, though, it's really good, kind of, to spread it out, because I always go back and scaffold a little bit for myself before we start. And that's helped me.
Julie Ross So why don't you model that for everyone?
Shay Kemp Yes...
Julie Ross You've got to tell them where we've been and where we are now. That's great. Thanks for doing all this for me!
Shay Kemp Haha. It's helpful for me because I feel like, you know, you get so bogged down in the daily living out of the philosophy and really trying to live the methods in your daily school, sometimes you get removed from what she actually said. Or I do anyway. So being pulled back on a regular basis, even though it's just once a month, is very helpful to remind me. And there are several things in this that I'm like, "Okay, that is a great reminder for me." That sometimes when you just try to digest the whole volume at one time, you're just reading it through like you would read a book--you know, a regular book--it's almost more than you can take in. So you need that time for, like she says, for the connections to be made. And so I love it like this. I think it's very helpful for me.
Julie Ross Yeah. So kind of give everyone a recap of what...what did we cover in the first part? Because she does divide the volume into two parts. So we actually left off at the end of the season, at the end of the first part. So that was totally all planned and...
Shay Kemp Absolutely!
Julie Ross Yeah, something like that! So just, you know, to know that sometimes it just all works out.
Shay Kemp It does tend to. It does tend to. My mind says it won't, but my reality says that most of the time it really does. And so we've been talking about the principles that lead up to, really the "why" behind a lot of the "what." And so now we are getting to the, in the most simplistic of terms, the "what." So we're discussing the curriculum. And the first section we're going to talk about today is the knowledge of God. And even in the introduction of this chapter, it's super rich. And just the principle-- I had to go back and study the principle that she talks about just before we jumped in. So we've discussed why, and those are great podcasts. I really encourage anybody that hasn't listened to those-- There's a lot of them. I'm not sure how many there are now, but they're worth going back to the beginning.
Julie Ross Nine, maybe?
Shay Kemp Nine? Yes, probably. I think they're worth going back and listening to with your volume in your hand. And I've listened to some of our podcasts myself to help train some of the people in my co-op because it's a great quick refresher. And I listen to it while I'm washing dishes or whatever, and it's a good refresher if you need to be reminded on some of that.
Julie Ross Yes, right. And I agree because I think we want the "how," we want the "what," we want someone just to go, "Okay, here's what you do." And it really will not make sense if you don't have the "why." And so that's why we spend all that time, and why Charlotte Mason spent the first three fourths of this book laying down this kind of foundation, and her philosophy, and why she's going to show us now what we're doing. But without that, like...yeah, we need to have that foundation first. So I agree with you. If you have not listened to those episodes, if you have not read through Volume Six, the beginning, spend some time there, camp out there, discuss that with your friends. I think it's great that you shared that with some of the teachers at your co-op. I've heard from a couple of people that they have a group of friends, and they're reading through Volume Six together and listening to this.
Shay Kemp So have I.
Julie Ross A sweet little group of moms I met the other day and they all have like little preschoolers, which is so precious. And just wanting to really understand this before they jump into homeschooling, which is fantastic. So now we're going to move to this transition to, like you're saying, the "what" and the "how"--the practical here. And she calls this section "The Curriculum." So what are we actually doing on a daily basis in our homes here?
Shay Kemp This is what people ask the questions about. We don't get the questions about the "why" as often, sometimes, but the normal questions we get are, "Just tell me what to do." And so when you set the foundation, like you said so clearly, now we're to the "what plugs into those holes of the why and how does it look?"
Julie Ross So this section covers five of her principles. So I'm just going to kind of recap them here. So the first one is Principle Eleven: That children need a full and generous curriculum and that their brains are naturally wired to digest ideas and not facts, initially. That's my...the Julie version of that principle. Principle Twelve is education is the science of relations. That the different pieces of things that they're learning about fit together, but it's the child's job to do that. Principle Thirteen is The Knowledge Principle. So a child should have much knowledge, they should have various knowledge, and they should have knowledge in literary form. Principle Fourteen is that knowledge doesn't take hold until it's told back. That's the principle of narration. And then Principle Fifteen is that we need to focus attention through a single reading--not asking a bunch of questions, not summarizing it for our children. So she, kind of, at the beginning of this section, summarizes these principles, which she's talked about in her other volumes as well. To say, "Okay, let's review. These are the really important things before we get into the nitty-gritty. What I'm going to show you is this kind of way that we can teach. Here's what you can do on a practical daily basis." She calls this even like a "syllabus for learning." But is it going to align with my beliefs here about how children should learn. To just to recap: they're going to learn a lot of different things, they're going to learn through ideas, they're going to learn by connecting those ideas to other ideas and different subjects and things that they're learning about--so they need various knowledge, much knowledge...they digest knowledge in literary form. So this kind of living books concept, if you will--they need to narrate, they need to tell back this knowledge to someone, and that they need to have focused attention through reading and not have us interfering with this natural process by which children learn. Does that sum it up?
Shay Kemp I think that's-- And it's powerful stuff. I mean, those things...you cover in just like a few minutes, you say them, but taking those things and implementing into your actual school day makes such a difference. And we just got an email today from a lady who's talking about how difficult it is to go from the classroom mindset of being a public school teacher to a homeschooling mindset and all this Charlotte Mason philosophy. And these are the things. If this is all that you, kind of, soaked in for a couple of weeks before you got started, I think that would really help you have a much more peaceful transition into, you know, what a home education looks like following Charlotte Mason. So it sounds like, "Okay, well, it's just this, this, and this." But really implementing those things are so powerful, you know. Just get your kids to read books and tell back, right? Give them some books, get them to tell you back, you know. But it's really powerful concepts that really make for a beautiful education and something so rich. And I was just telling my husband today as I was going back over my notes and stuff, I'm like, "You know, I wish I had had this when I was educated."
Julie Ross Oh, yeah, for sure. Yeah.
Shay Kemp It would have been so powerful for me. So it's worth it for the mommas that are listening and they're saying, "I'm just getting my mind wrapped around this." And it's so worth doing this work of listening to the podcast and reading. And you know, you can go buy a box curriculum, you absolutely can. But it's so worth doing this work. And that you and I are doing the work! I mean, we're still mommas, we're still homeschooling. It's worth us doing this work because then we're refreshed when we sit back down with our kids tomorrow and do school. We're like, "Okay, yes, there is a reason behind this." And it's really...it's worth it.
Julie Ross Yes, I one hundred percent agree. Yeah, and to kind of give us this introduction here: These are the principles. Is it possible even to make a curriculum based on this? You know, and she kind of asked that rhetorical question there, of course, because she's going to lay it out in the next couple chapters. But to get people's brains thinking, you know. Again, going back to what is the basis of education, why are we educating? And she's saying, we're not creating an education just for gentlemen, right? Not just like a university kind of academic education. We're not creating just an artisan education. Like what's a craftsman, skill-based model? She's like, "We are raising"--she calls it here--"a child of man." Again, going back to her first principle: Children are born persons. We are creating a person. Can we actually create a way to educate...that will educate a whole person? And she talks about men from the past or history, and in literature, poetry, art. As a child of God, they need to have all of this.
Shay Kemp Yes, that paragraph is powerful. I underlined the whole paragraph.
Julie Ross Well, do you want to read it?
Shay Kemp Oh, yeah, I'd love to actually, because I think it will encourage people who say, "Why do you include so much?," I think, to hear her words. So she says, "The days have gone by when the education, befitting either a gentleman or an artisan, was our aim. Now we must deal with the child of man who has our natural desire to know the history of his race and of his nation, what men thought in the past and are thinking now, the best thoughts of the best minds, taking form as literature, and, at its highest, as poetry or as poetry rendered in the plastic forms of art,"--I love that, by the way. That right there-- "as a child of God whose supreme desire and glory it is to know about and to know His Almighty Father, as a person of many parts and passions who must know how to use, care for, and discipline himself, body, mind, and soul, as a person of many relationships--to family, city, church, state, neighboring states, the world at large, as the inhabitant of a world full of beauty and interest, the features of which he must recognize and know how to name, and a world too, and a universe, whose every function of every part is ordered by laws which he must begin to know." I just think that is so powerful. And for me, I took a lot of notes on that because she's discussing a curriculum, right, of what does the curriculum look like? And I personally use this curriculum that's written by this really nice lady, named Julie Ross, that I love, and is very encouraging to me as I was writing those things down in a list to see how much we are covering of those things in a week.
Julie Ross All of those, right? Yeah.
Shay Kemp Yes, everything! And it's very encouraging to see that. And that's why I do love that sort of list. I mean, I'm a list maker anyway. So that list sort of paragraph is such a great overview of what a rich, wide curriculum...or wide program she really provides. And that it's possible.
Julie Ross Yes. Right. And, you know, she calls this, this liberal education, this wide feast. She also refers to it like that. And I obviously call it that in A Gentle Feast here. But she's saying, you know, it's not the many subjects that are going to burn a child out, it is the too many hours spent on the same thing.
Shay Kemp Yes because variety-- Let's say, not the number of subjects, but the hours of work, bring fatigue to the scholar. And the variety in itself affords refreshment. So it's that variety that refreshes you. And we do have people who have said, "Wow, you're covering...why are you covering so much?" I mean, my daughter's friends even say that. She's in high school. They're like, "Why do you have so much school?" But those lessons she has may be thirty minutes. So it's this wide program of subject. It's not burdensome, you know, like it would be if she was sitting in that as a block schedule of history for an hour and thirty minutes, you know, three days a week. It's totally different.
Julie Ross Right? Yes. And, you know, we can look at it and go, "Oh, my goodness, there's so much to cover. There's so many different things, you know." And I think, you know, if you don't have that concept of short lessons and if you're trying to cover, you know, what a traditional maybe history textbook would have, which would take an hour and a half, you are going to burn out. Like when I first started-- I joke because I was like, "Oh yeah, I tried to do all those subjects in one day, all fifteen of them." And it was like, "How in the world are we supposed to be able to go outside and play, because it's taking all day long." So kind of wrapping your brain around: No, she wasn't doing all these subjects every day. She wasn't doing a traditional math lesson that takes an hour and a half. That her approach makes the lessons shorter, but you're able to cover a lot more and get through a lot more. So that's important. So she kind of lays the foundation of, "Okay, this is the kind of curriculum that I'm talking about, that has this wide feast because children need all this different kinds of knowledge to be a whole person. They need this in literary form through ideas. How do we actually do this?" And she breaks that into three parts: knowledge of God, knowledge of man, and knowledge of the universe. So we're going to jump in with the first and most important: knowledge of God. And I love that she starts out saying that, as mothers, we are the best people to teach this to our children. And I make that point to people all the time that Charlotte Mason really is the only educational philosophy that believed in homeschooling, that was written to be taught in homes. Other educational philosophies have been adapted to be used at home, but that was never the intention of the original person. They were written for schools. And so she really believed home was the best place for children to be educated, and especially about the knowledge of God. So I love what she says here, "Mothers are, on the whole, more successful in communicating this knowledge than are teachers, who know the children less well and have a narrower, poorer standard of the measurements of their minds. Parents do not talk down to children..." And I love a little bit later on she says, "A mother knows how to speak of God as she would of an absent father, with all the evidences of his care and love about her in his children." And she just talked about how a mother, you know, like we're instructed to do in the Old Testament, like as we're walking in, and as we're rising, and as we're going through life, you know...
Shay Kemp Whatever you're doing.
Julie Ross Yeah. That, as mothers, that naturally-- "Look at that flower. Look at the thing God made. Oh, you know, this is what's going on. And this is how God has met our family needs." We talk about that with our children, and that's the best way for them to learn this. So I thought that was so beautiful and encouraging.
Shay Kemp It is beautiful and encouraging. And, you know, moms need to hear, "You are meant...You are created to be able to teach your own children. You do not have to have a teaching degree. You do not have to have..." I've learned more from reading the six volumes of Charlotte Mason than I ever learned in four years of college or my master's classes. I mean, you know, I learned about actually what to do, how to teach my own children. So it's just so encouraging for moms to hear that and from somebody that--and you know what I mean--has some authority. I mean, this woman was intelligent and she did not have her own children. And so for her to be able to-- She was able to look at mothers and look at teachers in her own schools and say, "I see what you are doing, mom, and nobody is as good at it as you are." And that is a really powerful message for moms today.
Julie Ross Yeah! Go ahead, sorry.
Shay Kemp I was just going to say, we've had so many, I think, of those questions for one reason the past few years, because of that people have been thrown into homeschooling and feel like "I don't feel capable of doing this." And so many have stayed with it. It's unbelievable the numbers. But, you know, that message is something that I think is powerful, you don't get from a lot of places and a lot of curriculums. "You need us. You need this box. You need this book." You know what I mean?
Julie Ross "Buy more stuff and we'll solve all your problems." Haha.
Shay Kemp Yes. "Buy this program. Buy this. Spend this money. Get this." But that's not what we're saying. I mean, I love the curriculum I use, but, you and I've said very clearly many times, she didn't mean for it just to be something-- It should be your servant, not your master. So that's a good encouragement for all mommas, me included.
Julie Ross Yes. So that's encouraging. And it is also kind of convicting, you know, that this is on us. But we don't have to be Bible scholars, we don't have to have all the answers, we don't have to have gone to seminary to teach our children Bible. We are teaching that through our relationship with God and what we're learning. So if you are growing in your knowledge and faith in God, just share that with your kids, you know. And it's that simple, "Oh, look at this flower." You know, she gives that example of going on a nature walk and talking about God, talking about the things that you're learning and these truths, to pass that along in a very natural way. She goes on to say, you know, that the principle of narration applies to their knowledge of God as well, just like everything else. But this is even more important that they're able to kind of take it in and make it their own. You know, she says, we need to give them the straight source. We need to put them in touch with God's Word, the Bible. We don't need to have it watered down version, children's Bible, etc. What are your other principles do you see in that?
Shay Kemp One thing that I think is easy to skip over, is back just a tiny bit, but she talks about the children before age six. And we get so many questions about education there. And so she makes this point, she says, "They are no doubt capable of beginning a year or two earlier. But the fact is that nature and circumstances have provided such a wide field of education for young children that it seems better to abstain from requiring direct intellectual efforts until they have arrived at that age." So the notes that I made was just that we're not saying that children before six get no lessons, and they sit in front of a television or an iPad and you just let them do nothing until their age six. What we're saying instead is, that nature and circumstances are their wide field of education. And you can use that up until age six. You know, baking some muffins and learning how to use the scooper is-- "How do I measure that?" That's enough for those up to that age. And so because we get so many questions about that age, I think that's a really-- It's a quote I'd never noticed before-- That we're just abstaining from direct intellectual efforts, but they are getting an education there. So I didn't want to skip over that. But I do love the part that she talks about how the source is the Bible and that we do an indignity to children when we substitute something that is been chewed up and already spit out for children. That is, you'll see-- It says, "Some other benevolent person's rendering for the fine English poetic diction and lucid statements of the Bible." And I find that my kids really want...they understand the reading. I don't have to dumb it down for them. Even at a young age, you know, you don't have to dumb it down. I do use different versions sometimes. I don't use the King James Version, which is probably what she read. But I do feel like they can pick up on those tales of Old and New Testament, like she says. Because I think the story in itself is enough.
Julie Ross Oh, yes, for sure. Yeah. So she kind of gives like different age ranges here. So the younger kids, forms one and two, you know, they're reading these tales from the Old and the New Testament, obviously with some editing in choice on your part of what tales you're going to include, right? And the point of that being, that is engaging the kid's imagination, at this age, of God. And letting their thoughts kind of be their own. They can be very expressive with their narrations, you know. My kids like to act things out and stuff like that. Then as they get older, they can start reading... She talks about them reading the Old Testament for themselves. You know, having their Bible readings be something that they're doing. Obviously, that depends on you and your family. So this is what she's saying here. I kind of brought it together in a way so that we could all be reading different things together. And then I would give my older kids kind of some additional readings to do on their own. But, you know, when they are older, you do want them to have more that they're also reading independently more of the poetry, the prophets, the letters, and the things that you might not have covered in the younger ages that aren't as narrative fashion. Let them read them on their own. She does mention several commentaries in here. So, you know, if they have a question, she says, "Let us not try to put down or evade their questions or give them the answers, but introduce them to a thoughtful commentator who weighs difficult questions with modesty and scrupulous care." So, again, you don't have to have all the answers. "I don't know. Let's go look up what this person had to say about it." And I think that's also very refreshing because it shows-- A, it takes a lot of pressure off the mom. But it also it's refreshing in a way because it shows your children it's okay to ask questions and it's okay to not have the answers. But here are some resources and some people, that we respect what they have to say, and they have studied these things, and we respect what their answer is. So let's go find out.
Shay Kemp That's a huge space, I think, that's really important because, you know, the definition of faith really is you're just going to have some unanswered questions, but you're choosing to step out anyway. And so we tend to want to make sure, "Well, we've got to give our kids all the right answers so that they all feel confident." But, you know, I mean, I'm 48 and I've yet to find out that all the answers...all the questions are answered, you know. And so I love the way that she talks about to read the commentary that gives a little background, and then read the Scripture. And a lot of times I'll even look at Charlotte's own poetry to go with that, that goes along with the different Scriptures, especially if we're reading, of course, the life of Christ. And I actually looked at a couple of these I've never heard before. I had never looked up the Patterson Smyth, but those resources are free online by his family.
Julie Ross Yeah, we can link those in the show notes.
Shay Kemp Yes. And we're going to start using those. There's a couple that I think would be really great for my sixth grader as I was looking through those when I found this. I've just never heard of him before. And I know I've read this, but I just didn't make a note. But I do like, like he says, that he "takes the measure of children's minds to help them over real difficulties, give impulse to their thoughts and direction to their conduct." The ones that I read through, they definitely don't speak down to children, and I think that's super important when you are talking about matters of faith, is that we really do respect them as persons. And we are guiding them and teaching them about what God's Word says, but at the same time, they do have that space to ask the questions they need to ask. And, you know, not just, "Well, here's the final answer, and you're not allowed to ask that question again." And so that's really powerful.
Julie Ross Today's episode is brought to you by A Gentle Feast. A Gentle Feast is a complete curriculum for grades one through twelve, that is family centered, inspired by Miss. 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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Shay Kemp A couple of these are not available from what I could find, but I also loved the teacher's role that she talked about. If you don't mind me reading that quote, it's, "Before the close of the lesson, the teacher brings out such new thoughts of God or new points of behavior as the reading has avoided, emphasizing the moral or religious lesson to be learned, rather by a reverent and sympathetic manner than by any attempt at personal application." So that's an important distinction there, because it's not like we're reading the Scripture and not making an obvious point. It is that we're doing it in a reverent, sympathetic manner, saying, "Look, I'm not saying, 'Hey, you should never lie.' I'm saying, 'Wow, you know, as people we just tend to want to tell distruths sometimes, don't we? And I've been there, too.' In other words, in a sympathetic way, you know, whatever the moral point is there. And that, I think, creates connection with our children rather than putting us above them as like some religious scholar. We're really saying, "We're all in the same boat here." So that that's a great point there.
Julie Ross Oh, yeah. For sure. Yes. I think that's key, is kind of: here are the steps to a Bible lesson. And she does have some kind of commentary, even for the younger kids, that she would kind of read for a background knowledge. I don't include those. You can look at some of her free ones. But again, that's so dependent on...
Shay Kemp I haven't done a lot of that.
Julie Ross ...personal denominations, etc. So, you know, finding something that might work for you for that. Then you're going to read the passage, then your children are going to narrate. So before you say anything about the lesson, they are going to tell it back here. And then you can say, "Let's bring out some points: What are some new thoughts of God?" And I love that. Always start there. "What do we see about God in this story?" And then, "What are some new..." She talks points of behavior, you know, "What are some lessons for people that might be in this passage that I read?" And like you're saying, not making this all about us and making it all a personal application activity, which is very common.
Shay Kemp Yeah. Or like, "You know how you treated your brother last week? Well, this Scripture, tells you don't do that? And you see why mom disciplined..." You know, I mean, it's easy for parents and we want to-- You know, I get it. And I've been guilty of that. So this is me preaching to the choir. But it's easy to do that. But that's not allowing your child to interact with the passage on their own, which we want to do whether it's a Bible passage or a literature passage or a poet, or whatever it is...history passage. We want to carry those same principles over into the Scripture as well.
Julie Ross Yeah. She goes on to later say that very little hortatory teaching is desirable. You know, a lot of us talking, basically. "The danger of boring young listeners is great."
Shay Kemp I know. I circled that too! I was like, oh...
Julie Ross Her sense of humor is so funny! But here she says, "There's also the further danger of provoking counter opinions, even counter convictions in the innocent-looking audience. On the whole, we shall perhaps do well to allow the Scripture reading itself to point to the moral." So if we're, "Okay, well, I really see in today's lesson that Joseph...and how his brothers treated him...and the point of this story is we really don't want to throw our brother in a ditch. And how we can all not be jealous of each other." You know, and we go on and we're "blah, blah, blah, blah, blah," A, we're going to bore them-- I feel like the teacher in Ferris Bueller, you know, like, "Wah, wah." So boring! Even if we think we're fascinating, our children might not also agree. But we have this danger of them going, "Well, I don't agree with that. I actually think that the lesson of this story was blah, blah, blah, blah." Because we've just insulted their personhood by telling them what they should think about it.
Shay Kemp And it's also why, I think, that same point goes to the reading of the Scripture. Not like, "Hey, we're going to read ten verses about love this week, and ten verses about joy this week, and ten verses about..." I'm not saying there's not-- There are times for that, right? But as a whole, as the feast, it's so much more powerful to read the Scriptures and let the Scriptures speak to the child in that story. She talks about the life of Jesus in part of this, and, you know, the way that we learn from Him is His philosophic method of His own teaching. You know, He didn't tell the stories and say, "Okay, now, the reason I told you this story about the prodigal son was: you were this person in this story...." Which is probably what I would do, more like the hortatory. But He says His own words should be fulfilled, and the Son of Man lifted up will draw all men to Himself. He just put it out there and He allowed the respect of those people and their personhood, which is where Charlotte got these principles from. Like she says, the Holy Spirit, the Divine teacher-- She says in many of her writings, I didn't just come up with these things, this is from my study, prayer, observation, working with children, you know, all this stuff. That we let these Scriptures speak. And then, yes, maybe one day we're reading this type of story and the next day another type of story. But the connections will be made by the children, because education is the science of relations. So we can relate an Old Testament story to a New Testament story the next day. And I don't need to be the one drawing the arrows from one to another on their behalf.
Julie Ross Right. Oh yes, that is so great, Shay! Thank you for making that point. Yeah. And she does do that, too. So, you know, they're reading through chronologically stories from the Old Testament one day and then stories from the New Testament. So it's not like we're going to read the whole Old Testament and then, you know....she kind of has that balance there. And I include Psalms and Proverbs, even for the younger ones, even though she didn't include that, that would have been for the older kids to read on their own. And a lot of times parents are like, "Well, my kid can't narrate Psalm 103." Okay, well, that was not the point. They narrate the narrative stories and then the poetry and the prophets and the proverbs, you know, those are...let them be what they are. You know, and they can go into your kids minds.
Shay Kemp Right. You respond to that image, and that's all that they need. And there's-- You don't need to say, "Okay, can you quote that back to me?"
Julie Ross Right. And I think there's a difference here. And we'll see this. I just love how thorough she is, because she doesn't teach one subject or one idea one way, and then it's something else completely different, it's consistent through everything. So with teaching children about God, it's this idea of synthetic thinking versus analytical thinking. It will go for all the subjects here. So synthetic thinking is bringing ideas together--education is the science of relations--the ability for our minds to make connections abroad broad concepts. You know, neuroscience and everything shows that this is actually how human beings learn best is by building new synapses between different neural pathways. Blah, blah, blah. Anyway, what we tend to do is we teach analytical thinking: How can we dissect this? Break it apart. What was the author's meaning before they did blah, blah, blah, blah, blah? What came first? What came last? Why did this happen? And we break and we analyze things to death. And it kills the love of learning.
Shay Kemp Yes. And we suck it dry. And then we wonder why children aren't interested in the beautiful language. It's because they are not allowed to interact with the language as beautiful language. They're going to have to figure out, "Well, why did..." or "Is this metaphor?" I'm not saying there's not time for that later on, you know, high school years, you can figure that out. But when you're able to interact with it, then you can take it in personally. Because you know, an image in Psalm--when we read Psalm with my children--I always say, "What stuck out? What image meant something to you?" It's never what image stuck out to me! It's always something different. And that's because we are people. And I'm not going through the same thing that my 16-year-old daughter is going through. So she needs to hear God say, perhaps, "I'm your refuge," and maybe I needed to hear the part of the Psalm that says He's my defender, right? But God, the Holy Spirit, the Divine Teacher-- This is where the trust comes in, and this is where the hard part is, you know, is for us to trust that He will speak to our children through the Scriptures Himself without us having to just make sure every "t" is crossed and every "i" is dotted. They got everything sucked out of that passage that they might possibly have missed there.
Julie Ross Yeah. I love...she puts it this way, she says, "We are at present in a phase of religious thought, Christian and pseudo-Christian, when a synthetic study of the life and teaching of Christ may be well abused in that synthetic recognition." She says, "We have analyzed until the mind turns in weariness from the broken fragments we have criticized until there remains no new standpoint for the critic. But if we could only get a whole conception of Christ's life among men." And like you were saying, you read that...the next quote here. So, you know, and I can totally relate to that. Like I at one point went back to seminary, or I went back to school to get a master's in theology. So I went to seminary, and in my Old Testament class we just analyzed and criticized, and it was like soul-killing to me. Because it was like taking all of this stuff apart and all these things, and it was like-- And just in the life and the things that I've been going through the past couple of years-- And I can't find it in here, where she says, "I think we would just do better to look at the life of Christ in His words.
Shay Kemp Yes. And let His...
Julie Ross Yeah, do you find that? Is that what you said next? I think.
Shay Kemp I think that's the next: "His own words will be fulfilled." Yes.
Julie Ross His own words. Right. And for me, that's just how...where I've had to camp out for the past couple of years is just reading about Christ. Reading what He has to say over and over and over again. I can't analyze it. I can't read all this heavy stuff right now. It's is like [deep breath] those words are the healing balm, you know. And just, you know, her-- And you mentioned it before (and we can put this in the show notes) like she wrote a whole volume of poetry on Jesus.
Shay Kemp Yes, so powerful!
Julie Ross And I think that's why she was just such an amazing person, and God used her in such mighty ways because she just spent so much time just reflecting on Jesus. And that comes through with everything that she teaches, and the way that she views children, and the way that she treated people, and the amazing things that she was able to do, even with all of her health issues and things, that she just kept focusing on Jesus.
Shay Kemp And I think that's so powerful because--spending time with Jesus, reading his own words--is because, the concept and the methods are the same, like you said, all the way across the board. But what's different when it comes to the College of Man is we are introducing our children to a Person, right? It's beyond just, yes a fact, because they're going to get facts even if you have a great living book, they're going to get some facts there. We know there's going to be great ideas in a living book. The Bible, even if somebody read it as a piece of history, it's full of amazing ideas they can make connections to. But what we're saying is even-- And she talks about this many times-- There's a quote in here about how it's His personality, the personality of God. That's what we're saying. We actually are introducing our children to a Person through His own word, right? And so when we do that, and when we allow them that freedom to just read His words without the critical analysis, He is able to speak to them. It would be like if you sent me this really sweet letter and then, you know, I annotated it, marked it back up and sent it, you know! It would be like, "Wow, okay, like Shay..."
Julie Ross "Why did Julie put a colon there and not a comma?"
Shay Kemp Right, Right. Or, "I'm not sure this metaphor means..." You know, I mean, you know what I'm saying? Yes, there's time for that. I'm not saying we don't ever study Scripture that way, but what you and I are discussing is like the daily diet, right? We're talking about what your daily doing with your children as a curriculum. And it really makes a difference because she--the more I read of her and as I follow her philosophies--she was able to understand the way we learn as a people because she was close to the Creator of us who are the learners. And that revelation is what makes this philosophy a powerful philosophy.
Julie Ross Yes. And I think that's so good for parents to hear because we can, kind of, sometimes approach this as another subject, another thing to cross off our list, and another thing we're supposed to be doing, and that it's up to us to teach all of these truths to our children, rather than what you're saying: we're putting them in touch with their Creator. So, you know, like when we read history, instead of me feeling like I need to understand all of the history concepts and all of the facts and dates and persons, and break that apart and teach my children that, I put them in touch with the people who actually wrote the history books. They learn the biographies and the stories of these historical people. They're filled with those ideas. I'm putting them in touch with the fountain of information. It's not me, right? I'm getting out of the way. Same thing with the knowledge of God, right? More so than anything else, right? "Okay, we are taking you to the Source of all knowledge. We are taking you to the One who could teach you everything." So why do I think I need to get in the way of that, right?
Shay Kemp And, well, for one thing, for me personally, the answer to that for me is because that's the way I was educated in it. And so I have to get-- For me to step outside myself is-- You know, I'm my biggest hindrance when it comes to following the Charlotte Mason philosophy, and I see it I am my biggest...
Julie Ross Like Taylor Swift, right? "Hey, I'm the problem. It's me." Yeah, mm hmm.
Shay Kemp Exactly! I'll raise my hand and say, "Yes," because my tendency is to carry that burden. And that is why these things we are doing are so important to me. I get really emotional about thinking about...hoping that people listen to these podcasts and they are really hearing our heart and the heart of Charlotte Mason, because it will take the burden off of you and it will help you to educate your children with a freedom to trust their personhood, to trust the Divine Creator, in a way that I really do not believe there's anything else out there that is going to enable you to do that with that kind of freedom and connection with your own children. You know, to hear what did God say to them in the stories of the Old Testament, to hear how the God of the Old Testament revealed Himself to a sixth grader through the story that we read today, or to hear how the words of Jesus in the story are revealed to my 16-year-old, and what it says to her. I'm not going to get that in any other way. And it's just really powerful and it takes the pressure off. And I'm really-- And I think, I loved these examples that she gives in verse. They're too long to read, of course, from the form fours as they tackle their exam questions. And as I read those, I was like, you can hear those children interacting with the Word of God in a powerful way.
Julie Ross Well, I do want to just read one section of it. She gives examples of two exam questions. And these are from high school kids, okay. Where they-- In their exam, they're supposed to take a passage, a concept, and write about it. So the first one is "I am the Light of the World," and then the second one is, "Write an essay or poem on the Bread of Life." And I think sometimes people can read these, or they read the exam answers in the appendix for Volume Three, and it's like, "Oh my goodness, my kids could never write this kind of stuff." Or like, "We're failing! We're so far behind." Okay, you know, don't compare this to your child. And I love that that was the exam question, right? Like not "Give me six names that Jesus called Himself and reference the Old Testament passage that backed up the..." you know, the blah blah blah blah blah.
Shay Kemp "Name five prophecies in Isaiah." It's not like that, it's just interaction.
Julie Ross It's, "Write a poem about what it means to be the Bread of Life." I'm like, "That is just so beautiful!" But one part that I thought was really encouraging-- So this is in the one on the Bread of Life: "Labor ye not for meat that perish, but rather for the everlasting bread, which I will give. Where is this bread? They cry. They know not tis a heavenly bread He gives, but seek for earthly food. I am the Bread of Life, and all who come to Me, I feed with bread."
Shay Kemp Ahh, that's so good! And that's what we're giving our kids, I feel like. We're just giving them, "Here's the bread. Here it is. I'm not going to tell you how to eat it. You want to toast it....Yeah, you want to grab a hunk..." You know what I'm saying? I mean, there's so much freedom of interaction there. And I think what's interesting is, were they even asked to write these in poetry? Like the other girl didn't even have to write a poem, she just decided to.
Julie Ross No, that one was a poem. Like that was the essay question. The other one was just, "Explain what it means: I am the Light of the World." And she wrote a poem as an answer. But I love this. If you do go and read them (and I encourage everyone to do that) is what you do see--and I saw this in my own children when they were in high school--is their voice. Because they were not trained on how to write, you know, by paragraph essay in the stilted kind of form, all these different things. They were able to express themselves through oral and written narration for years. And then you see this beautiful writing that comes out and you're like, "Wow!" But they have a voice in both of these essays that is quite outstanding. And to close she talks about that there are catechism questions, prayer book, church history, dogmas of the church...she says, "Those are good for Sundays, and often to be covered in preparation for confirmation class."
Shay Kemp I laughed that actually, because I was like, "Okay, we clearly hear you. You don't want that Monday through Friday when we're doing school lessons, gotcha! Okay." I do think that is a great point because we're not...you're not saying everybody's denominational preferences or ideas about certain specific things-- There's plenty of room for that. She does not say-- You know, there's plenty of room. But I think it's so beautiful because there is room. We're not saying, "Read this devotional by this guy, and this one by this guy." I mean, I love the commentaries. And, you know, you have to chew up some like watermelon and spit out the seeds that you don't agree with or whatever. But she's saying, "There's room for that." But it doesn't need to be the main source of your curriculum during the week when you're reading with your children.
Julie Ross Right and if you go-- Maybe you go somewhere where you don't have Sunday School or confirmation class, and so you do want to cover that. Like I leave Fridays open for kind of what you feel called to teach on those days. And like you're saying, there is room for that because it's not this huge textbook of Bible that we're studying most of the week, you know.
Shay Kemp It's not burdensome.
It's simple, in my house, ten-minute lessons where we're reading a passage and we're talking about it, and that's it, you know. But it's super powerful and we're not overwhelming them with a bunch of information. We really are putting them in touch with the living Word, which is God's word, the Bible. You know, and we're getting out of the way and letting them come to the source for themselves, which is just so beautiful and a beautiful gift. And so it takes some of that pressure off. I hope, you know, as-- That would be my encouragement--and I'd love to hear yours--as we close here is just, you don't need a bunch of stuff and you don't have to do all of this exactly right. And, "Oh, I got to read these things in these orders at this age or we're not doing Bible correctly." And I hear that kind of stuff too. It's like, no, do it as you feel called and led. But, you know, these are the general patterns she recommends. But just again, bring your children to the source, reflect on Christ and who He is, and put them in touch with that. And there a quote that I read-- And we can put it in the show notes. This episode's going to air after Christmas. It's before Christmas here when we're recording it. But when she talks about spending the holidays with your kids, she says, "Focus on love. And Christmas time, more than any other time, is the time where we show children how much God loves them and how much God cares for them. And the way that we do that is through, not just our words, but our actions." And especially this time of year, we're pointing them to the Savior through what we're doing. And so we're doing that in the way that we allow our children to feel seen and heard, the way that we respect them as a person, just like God sees and hears us and loves and respects us.
Shay Kemp Yes, such powerful encouragement. And it just-- I mean, I know I needed to hear that myself for my own children, because you have-- Especially as they get older, you know, when you start having juniors and seniors, like, "We didn't cover this. What about this? We didn't..." Maybe I'm the only one that panics like that. And so I get the same panic over, you know, like, "Oh, gosh, you know, we're not going to finish, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah because of this cycle. We didn't get through Isaiah, we didn't get through..." Or whatever, you know. And it's like, "Wait a minute, God is perfectly able. What am I doing? What am I thinking, Shay?" Oh my goodness. So it's very encouraging.
Julie Ross So really, with you know-- I think sometimes we can get bogged down and, you know, we're like, "Oh, we just need to go back to the basics, and we just need to make sure we're doing math and reading every day." And we and we miss out on the beauty.
Shay Kemp Yes!
Julie Ross Do not skip this part.
Shay Kemp I told my husband that today when I was re-going through these notes. I said, "I am so grateful that this is..." Because sometimes my kids would want to skip-- Especially my 16-year-old, you know, she has some classes and there's homework and there's some-- She's taking a lab, and those things that you farm out, because I'm not going to be doing a forensic lab, I'll just tell you. And so she has homework and stuff, and she's like, "Oh, we could skip morning time." Because of her time, but I won't give it up. I won't give up the read-aloud. I won't give it up. And I'm so glad of that encouragement because that beauty really impacts them, and it impacts the connections in your family, and it impacts the way your day starts. It really makes a difference, especially when you start every day with God's Word, which is what we do. And Lord knows, momma needs it.
Julie Ross Absolutely, one hundred percent! So thank you very much. That was very encouraging. And next, we're going to jump into a little Knowledge of Man, which is a huge section, isn't it? It might be two episodes, I'm not quite sure. But there's a lot of subjects.
Shay Kemp Lot's in there! Yep.
Julie Ross Yes, but we'll try. So everyone, thanks for listening and I hope you all take care. Thanks, Shay.
Shay Kemp Thank you!
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 are 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. That's @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 healthcare you can trust. To learn more about Medi-Share and why over 400,000 Christians have made the switch, go to GreatHomeschoolConventions.com/MediShare.
Julie Ross 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.