By Karen Canon
This is the third in a series of reflections on Marion Berry's I Buy A School, in which she tells of her experiences as headmistress of a PNEU school.
‘Brush End was a small utopian school in the New Forest…’ So starts a chapter in Marion Berry’s memoir, I Buy a School. It was the beginning of a chapter in her life as well, as she joined a former schoolmate to run this idyllic school in southern England. Enrolling elementary-age students, she joyously remarked, “It was an eye-opener for me to see what can be achieved with a group of young children with no pre-conceived ideas about school.” Soon, a ‘Nursery Class’ was added as well for children ages four to six.
By Karen Canon
Recently, I joined my husband in Las Vegas, taking a few days of much-needed respite. Nearly every summer for the past ten years, he has attended a conference in Las Vegas and, from time to time, I am able to join him for a few pre-conference days of R&R. Over the years, we have gotten rather adept at finding things to do away from Las Vegas Boulevard and typical Vegas entertainment.
One of our favorite destinations is Mt. Charleston. Only an hour away by car, the weather at Mt. Charleston is a delightful twenty-plus degrees cooler than Las Vegas. As I write this, for instance, the high in Vegas is 101 degrees while it is a lovely 76 in Mt. Charleston.
We decided to spend a day there this past July.
My husband is an avid photographer and I like to practice nature journaling, which means that we are ideally suited to hike with one another, neither of us at all minding frequent stops to change a camera lens or whip out a sketch book.
By Karen Canon
This is the second in a series of reflections on Marion Berry’s I Buy a School, in which she tells of her experiences as Headmistress of a PNEU school.
Post #1 - Planning Thoughts
In the form of a journal entry, Miss Berry shares a very practical narration tip. I will include the journal entry and the idea that caught my attention. After that, for those interested, I will explore the assumptions I made in interpreting this entry and some background information regarding the lesson she cites.
October 22nd 1951. I’m in the gym and the II are busy on a compo about Arthur. Executioners and Tapestry have been asked for on the board. The fire is on for the first time. It all seems so quiet and cosy with the green overalls and bent heads and pens and pencils going like mad, and the rain dripping on the roof. Jane wants to know if she must put a capital in front of Arthur and Hubert every time and that makes Diana wonder about a capital P for Prince. Anne says she’s finished, so I say she’s been too quick, and what about something about Constance his poor mother? Hands up all over the room. Tongue, Punishment, Princess eventually go on the board. Consternation when I say we must stop.”
Tip: When needed and appropriate, provide challenging names and spellings on a white board or piece of paper for your student to reference.
By Karen Canon
I am knee-deep in planning for our next school year.
It is a good place to be, for me. I enjoy this part of the process very much. But whether you enjoy it or not so much, whether you are a veteran CM practitioner, or just starting out, it is always refreshing to gather a few new ideas to inspire and encourage. I keep a folder of articles and/or books on hand just for that purpose.
As I was reading Marion Berry’s I Buy a School, a few thoughts struck me from her stories of the PNEU school she ran. Miss Berry attended Charlotte Mason’s Teacher’s Training college in Ambleside in the years just following Mason’s death. After college, she did a short stint as a governess before teaching in cottage schools. She then took over Miss Kitching’s Rickmansworth PNEU school and remained there for thirty years.
'It is January 1927 and I’m on the long seven hour train journey to Windermere in a coach reserved for the College…' (p. 21)
Her book is difficult to find so I thought I would share a few gleanings that were needful reminders and aids to me and might be of interest to you as you plan out your school year.
By Karen Canon
In early springtime, the atmospheric light acquires a brightness, a vibrancy. The sunlight dazzles the eyes, and it reaches everywhere. Within a few weeks, though, the trees begin putting on their summer dress and the landscape achieves a variety of tones, from bright spring sunlight to the deep undertones of cast shadows on lawns.
I enjoy noting each year in my Book of Firsts—a calendar of happenings in the natural world—the first of these tree shadows. Of course, a tree has a shadow all year long, but deciduous trees exhibit variety in the shadows they create. The shadow of their crown foliage is very different from the skeletal forms created by winter branches.
With the return of the foliage shadows, there are dark as well as light spaces; places where the eyes can rest as they scan the landscape. It is a sight I enjoy welcoming each spring. This year, in the Midwest, this spring event is coinciding with the opening days of May.
What is happening in your neck of the woods?
Here we come a-piping,
In Springtime and in May;
Green fruit a-ripening,
And Winter fled away.
The Queen she sits upon the strand,
Fair as a lily, white as wand;
Seven billows on the sea,
Horses riding fast and free.
And bells beyond the sand.
By Karen Canon
When I sit down to begin mapping out our school year, I categorize our work under three headings: Family Studies, Independent Studies, and Guided Studies. Family Studies are those we can all do together across the whole age spectrum and is known by other names such as Morning Time, Circle Time, Morning Basket and more. Independent Studies are subjects that a child reads or does independently and Guided Studies are those that a child does with me seated by their side guiding their work.
Family Studies is my personal favorite. It is where we are making those family memories, whether it’s a read-aloud, a folksong, or Scripture study. The subjects vary from term to term, and I generally aim for a middle school or Form III level of difficulty to tackle in Family Studies. Younger students rise to the challenge when the reading is accomplished out loud, and older ones benefit because it is in the nature of living ‘books and things’ to be deep wells, rarely failing to furnish new ideas. Though perhaps some subjects lend themselves to Family Studies more readily than others, I’ve found those that simply won’t work to be a very short list.
Here is one subject that has not left our lineup since we started doing it as a group several years ago—Copywork.
For those unfamiliar with the term, copywork is the practice of copying by hand from a model and is the practice Charlotte Mason advocated for beginning penmanship. She refers to it as ‘transcription’ in Home Education (p. 238):
By Karen Canon [xi]
‘...that stability of mind and magnanimity of character which are the proper outcome and the unfailing test of a liberal education.’[i]
MAGNANIM'ITY, noun [Latin magnanimitas; magnus, great, and animus, mind.]
Greatness of mind; that elevation or dignity of soul, which encounters danger and trouble with tranquillity and firmness,
which raises the possessor above revenge, and makes him delight in acts of benevolence, which makes him disdain injustice and meanness,
and prompts him to sacrifice personal ease, interest and safety for the accomplishment of useful and noble objects.
Charlotte Mason: A Study in Magnanimity
in the words of her Friends and Students
Excerpted from In Memoriam: Charlotte M. Mason [ii]
By Karen Canon
In January of 2012, I had ten years of homeschooling under my belt, most of those using the methods and philosophy of Charlotte Mason. Ten years and I still had yet to meet in real life any other CMer. My husband, who had readily given his full confidence and cooperation when I told him about Mason and why I thought this was the right approach for us, had a busy job and ministry and little time to devote to becoming conversant in educational philosophy. So I was on my own to wade through Mason's philosophy and its application.
In those first ten years, I read Catherine Levison, Karen Andreola, and Susan Schaeffer Macaulay. I read Mason herself. Then I re-read Levison, Andreola and Macaulay again, to better understand what Mason was saying. As our internet access improved from dial-up to satellite to wireless, I slowly discovered bloggers who wrote about their CM homeschools and I developed one-sided relationships with Nancy Kelly and Tammy Glaser and Cindy Rollins and Amy Fisher. I was blessed by them and what they shared on their blogs, and I was very grateful to know there were others 'out there.'
Then, everything changed. In the course of one spring, I learned of a small group of like-minded educators meeting to read and discuss Charlotte Mason in my city, and I heard about a national conference that would be convening in a few short months in the little town of Boiling Springs, North Carolina. Immediately I signed up for both.
By Karen Canon
Architecture is a speech known and read for all men; and it is by its great buildings, even more than by its literature, that a country or an age is estimated by posterity. 'Hoc fecit Wykeham' Parents' Review, 1890/91.
Charlotte Mason said in her final volume, "Next in order to religious knowledge, history is the pivot upon which our curriculum turns." (Vol. 6, 273) I take it that her point was, first, that "the knowledge of God is the principal knowledge" (Vol. 6, 272) and, second, that history gives us a reference upon which other subjects move, or literally oscillate or vibrate. History provides a scaffolding, a structure that is orderly and progressive in the sense that one time period leads into and influences all that follows. There is a context to all that takes place in men's lives. The ultimate purpose, though, of history---as well as other subjects---is to grow in our knowledge of God. If we consider the three broad subject areas suitable for children, the Knowledge of God, of Man, and of the Universe, we could imagine Knowledge of God as the apex of a mountain. The Knowledge of Man and the Knowledge of the Universe would be the sides of the mountain where we walk the pathways of history, literature, mathematics, science and so on and we grow in our relationship with our creator.
I've come to better understand and appreciate this two-fold blessing: that history provides a structure and sense of order to the study of other subjects and that the other subjects in the realm of the Knowledge of Man---literature, citizenship, composition, languages, art and so on---'vibrate' about the story of mankind in time, harmonizing and deepening my understanding---and my relationship---with each other. It has been, for me personally, the key to unlocking a paradigm shift, setting subjects free of their isolated compartments and truly experiencing a relationship with learning.
One of those topics that pivots about history is that of Architecture. At the Second Charlotte Mason Educational Retreat I will be hosting an immersion session on Architecture. That means, rather than talk about architecture in a Mason education, we will dive in and experience some actual lessons on the topic. Our session will be full and yet there is much to say about the topic and how it relates to a Charlotte Mason education that might be of interest. So I thought a post would be timely to lay just a bit of that groundwork and whether you can come to the workshop or not, you might, hopefully, be inspired to consider the study of architecture.
By Karen Canon
It is that time of the school year. You spent your summer soaking up the sun, pre-reading books, making lists and envisioning days of happy learning in your home. Perhaps you are a veteran homeschooler and you carefully crafted your school term and learning plans, relying on experience to anticipate obstacles ahead. Or, perhaps you are newer to homeschooling and it was your idyll, supported by a clean school room and fresh school supplies, which carried you along. Either way, you started out strong. Everything went along swimmingly and yet, at the end of the term, the results were less than satisfying. All the lovely lessons of the term are not there at instant recall and the children's exams leave you tempted to be discouraged, disappointed and your confidence in those warm days of books enjoyed and narrated together is shaken.
It is why structuring your school year in a series of sprints makes the long distance we have to go do-able. We build in time, not just once a year, but intermittently, like rest stops on a journey so that we can look behind and ahead and make those corrections to our course that might be needed.
Charlotte Mason was familiar with this. She even wrote a letter to her 'Dear Bairns', former students of her teaching college, offering them wise advice.
At the CME Retreat Blog we hope to share with you more information about a Charlotte Mason Education, the retreat, the speakers, the workshops and so much more!
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