I loved Karen Glass’ book, Consider This: Charlotte Mason and the Classical Tradition. It truly is the bridge into classical principles for those not ready to undertake Norms and Nobility or Poetic Knowledge. Those are daunting, heady books that will take most of us to the limits of our brain power, especially since our energies are and must be spread around to keep life humming along at home, too. Consider This is approachable, readable, yet she covers the same concepts and taps into the core of classical education and the heart of what Miss Mason was trying to accomplish.
He is motivated to act rightly because he has learned to care. Classical education involves the heart as much as it does the mind. –Karen Glass, Consider This
The core of classical education cannot fit on a modern transcript.
Classical and modern assumptions about what people are, what society is doing, and what education is are completely opposed. These differing principles, differing foundational assumptions, change what is done and how it is done. Classical education was for the free. Bureaucracy – like the paperwork of transcripts – is for control. Now, of course we will play the game of Get The Paperwork In Order, but we must guard ourselves against being tricked into aligning with modern goals by shaping what we do to fit the paperwork.
Let us be brave enough to prioritize true learning and real education, then jump through whatever hoops we must without losing sight of our aim.
Karen Glass writes:
We have looked at three things that will never appear on a transcript, and yet are vital to the classical tradition of education. First, the primary purpose of education is wisdom and virtue, and every part of the program should serve to teach learners how to think and act rightly. Second, humility is vital to the pursuit of virtue because it keeps us teachable. Third, our approach to knowledge should be relational, synthetic, so that we develop a foundational understanding of the unity of knowledge and our own place in the universe.
Karen says that these three characteristics are at the heart of classical education – not memorization, not grammar, not even Latin. No single subject is at the center of any education philosophy handed down in the Western cultural flow. Rather, the common thread that runs through education theory until the industrial revolution is that we want to form more human humans: more virtuous, more humble, more wise human beings.
The three vital pursuits of classical education throughout the historic stream are
Virtue. Teaching people to act in accordance with what they know.
Humility. We can only learn when we are teachable and open to correction.
Wisdom or Understanding. This is much deeper than factual knowledge of data.
So to do classical education means to pursue meaningful, personal understanding with humility in order to grow in virtue.
These three function together to make a whole.
These three things – pursuit of virtue, humility, and synthetic thinking that motivates to right action – form a complete circle that is the essence, the heart of what motivated the classical educators. We might call it the “classical ideal.” It is a pivot, or the hub around which all classical educational methods revolve.
The classical ideal is so much more than a book list or a single subject. It is a mode.
We who share the goals of the classical tradition should insist that every method of education which would call itself “classical” be based upon this ideal, so that we do not fall into the error of mimicking what the classical educators did while ignoring the reasons why they were doing it.
Thank you, Karen, for spending so much time in researching and writing this gem of an educational treatise.
Whether you relate to Charlotte Mason or the classical movement more, Consider This will put you in touch with the history of educational thought without throwing you in the deep end.
I like to talk about education philosophy and principles much more than methods, though I do have a soft spot for practical tips. However, unless we are grounded in our principles, we will be tossed to and fro by all the practical tips out there.
Every practical tip is born from underlying principles, and if the philosophy behind the practical tip you’re trying doesn’t match your own philosophy (because you have one, whether you’ve thought it through and acknowledged it or not – we all have foundational assumptions and we function from them), then the practical tip won’t be so practical for you. Maybe it won’t work for you or maybe it will work and will throw you off course.
Before applying practical tips, you need to know your foundational assumptions, your underlying principles. In Consider This, Karen Glass comments that education is simply applied philosophy, and it’s true. That’s why most philosophers also had educational theories and plans: education is where philosophy puts on flesh and makes waves in the real world.
Charlotte Mason had twenty principles she wrote as statements about the nature of children, about the nature of the world, and about the nature of learning. They are worth studying.
Over the last year, I’ve written about classical education principles and how they affect not only our curriculum and our teaching, but also how we as mothers live out our lives in our homes with our families. Because principles don’t just shape how we school. They shape how we live.
Then this Sunday our pastor preached from Philippians 4, which included verse 11: “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.”
What is contentment?
The dictionary gives us several definitions:
* in a state of peaceful happiness
* satisfied with a certain level of achievement, good fortune, etc., and not wishing for more
* a state of satisfaction
* accept as adequate despite wanting more or better
* ready to accept or acquiesce; willing:
But Jeremiah Burrough’s definition is my new favorite:
Christian contentment is that sweet, inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit, which freely submits to and delights in God’s wise and fatherly disposal in every condition.
The rest of his book is really a commentary, phrase by phrase, on this definition.
He also writes this admonition:
To be well skilled in the mystery of Christian contentment is the duty, glory, and excellence of a Christian.
Emphasizing that contentment is a heart-condition, a disposition, a matter of the inner spirit and not circumstance, Burroughs says contentment is a “grace spread through the whole soul” and a judgment that is “satisfied in the hand of God.”
I thought it was fascinating that one of the attitudes he used as counter to contentment is distractedness and instability, not being set firmly on a purpose:
We should prize duty more highly than to be distracted by every trivial occasion.
And one of the points my pastor made was that contentment is a trait learned. It isn’t something you’re zapped with. It is a process, something we grow in.
Kristi, with comment #5, will get to select the scents she’d prefer for each item in the package and it will be sent on it’s way. Congratulations! And thank you to Sarah and Robert for offering the giveaway.
Remember they have gift packages and sample packs and lovely lip balms which all make great Christmas gifts, especially in areas (like mine!) with dry air.
There’s a discount code currently so you can get 15% off your entire purchase with the code TDNgift through the end of December, plus they always have free priority shipping on orders over $35.
And if you’re still looking for gift ideas (or things to populate your own wishlist), check out not only my gift lists, but also these others for some great ideas!
It’s the time of year for gift guides, and I thought I’d try my hand at one, too. I don’t know about you, but I have the hardest time making my own gift list.
If you’re in need of ideas to populate your list for your husband or family, here are a few! These ones are themed around homemakers who have a practical bent, but I also made some lists (because you know I love lists) on gifts for an organization junkie (or wannabe) and gifts for the home cook.
There’s a special giveaway at the bottom of the post, so make sure you get all the way to the end!
Top Ten Great Gifts for a Practical Homemaker
1. Things to make a great cup of coffee
What sort of homemaker and homeschooler would I be without coffee? Not a good one. If you are the same way, an extra tool to make your coffee even better would make a great gift.
My mother-in-law gave me a foot soaking tub for Christmas several years ago and I use it almost weekly. I add a cup of Epsom salt to it and the tingle when I stick my feet in is like feeling the tension of the day leave. A good scrub with a pumice stone afterward helps, too.
Sometimes we need someone else to gift us these things as permission to update the closet or add accessories. A pair of Dansko shoes made all the difference for me after we moved into our current house with its very hard tile floor kitchen.
Last year my husband gifted me a framed poster print of Vermeer’s Milkmaid, and I love it. To me, it epitomizes the beauty of simple provisions, and the portrait of a pretty woman with strong arms, ample clothing, and wide hips is a good antidote to other images we all see elsewhere.
A framed art print or photograph to beautify the home is a good gift, as well as things like cloches, vases, trays, wall ledges, and other things you might like for decorating.
6. New kitchen tools
I never mind receiving new kitchen tools as gifts, because I use them so much. I tend to buy the cheap wooden spoons, but new bamboo spoons and silicone spatulas are a nice update.
Homemaking can be an active lifestyle, but it’s also easy to cultivate the sedentary possibilities. A Fitbit tracker will accurately count steps and motivate movement with numbers. It’s especially fun if you know others with them, because you can have competitions and see how you rank against each other.
I thought I was moving plenty until I got my fitbit and saw the hard numbers. Now I know that if I work it, I can get to 10,000 steps in a day – but it takes trying. If I don’t try, I stay between 3,000-5,000. That’s a pretty big difference. Plus, it’s fun having a dashboard of my personal stats.
Many want to make the switch from conventional soaps, cleaners, and cosmetics to more simple, natural options. The great thing about the natural options is that many cottage businesses have sprung up to fill that need, so you can choose handmade products over mass-produced, support likeminded families, and add an extra touch of beauty to your routine.
One such home business is Third Day Naturals, owned and operated by Sarah and Robert David. Sarah has been a long-time blog reader, and she wanted to do a giveaway for you all!
She sent me a few things to try and I love them! The hard lotion stick is my favorite – it’s like a jumbo chapstick you can use anywhere. In fact, my hands were already dry and cracking, like they do in the cold, and within three or four days of using the hard lotion 2-3 times a day, they had cleared up!
With a java and a chocolate lip balm option, how can you go wrong? A sample soap pack and some lip balms would make the perfect stocking stuffer. And, they are offering a 15% off your entire purchase with the code TDNgift through the end of December, plus they always have free priority shipping on orders over $35.
Third Day Naturals has offered a generous giveaway of their Cleanse – Smooth – Nourish – PLUS gift set, which normally sells for $37! Whether you win thi s set or purchase it as a gift, you get to select the scent (or lack thereof) for each particular item.
Just leave a comment and you’ll be entered to win the gift pack from Third Day Naturals. I’ll select the winner and announce it on Thursday!
Third Day Naturals did send me free product to try, but did not pay me for this mention, review, or giveaway. My opinion, of course, is my own. Simply Convivial does not do sponsorships or advertising.
~ Capturing the context of contentment in everyday life ~
It’s funny how sometimes a simple solution really hits the spot and solves more problems than you hoped it would. I found one of those these last couple weeks, and I should savor it. It might not last all year – in fact, I know it won’t – and there are still issues and conflicts and difficulties in our days – but one small change totally shifted our mornings into a different gear.
~ Pretty & Not So Pretty ~
Unassuming tea. Plain white mugs. Simple and cheap.
You see, somehow my older two boys thought they could buck the pattern of the last 6 years and go play Legos after their chores were done instead of getting to their math or Bible reading. It’s true, I was frequently distracted by my email inbox or by an oatmeal-encrusted toddler or by an overflowing laundry hamper, but still.
I tried being more on top of the situation in the morning, but it came across as clamping down on their fun and being the morning kill-joy and slave-driver. It was decidedly not pretty.
And even so, our morning start was creeping later and later, which translated into less being done overall.
~ Happy Answer ~
So, one Sunday evening I told the older two boys: “If you have your chores done by 8, then you can make yourself tea.”
Now I’m fun mom! Now I’m extending privileges! I’m happy, they’re happy. They can heat the water, get their tea, add 1/2 teaspoon of sugar, and clean up their own mess. It adds zero additional work to my day and a lot of joy to theirs.
The younger children have been told this is a privilege for those 8-and-up. The younger ones don’t really care for a cup of hot tea, but every morning they think they do until I’ve made them one. A policy of age privilege, though, seems to be acceptable.
~ Funny Consequences ~
The funny thing is, the tea answer not only stopped them from holing up in their rooms in the morning, it also has made their mornings incredibly more productive – and it’s not the caffeine.
Once they have a cup of tea, they have to be at the table. And they feel quite accomplished to be sitting at the table with a mug and some work. So they tackle their math over their tea and we’ve had significantly fewer math meltdowns and passed lessons much faster.
And it’s all because of their mood going into it. They are self-starting: making their own tea, asking for their math, and feeling like they’re getting somewhere. Part of that mood uplift is definitely that I have removed prodding and ordering from the morning routine as well. I don’t give the signal to start anymore, they get to their tea and then their work as soon as they can get their work done – by 8am.
It’s a Christmas miracle.
~ Real Life ~
Not that there aren’t ever tears or frustration anymore, of course. Let’s be real. But the entire atmosphere of our mornings, which were steadily declining, suddenly and drastically did a 180 with the introduction of this small ritual.
It’s not the tea. Yes, I let them choose English Breakfast if they want, but they often prefer herbal. It’s not caffeine.
It’s that they have a starting ritual, a signal to begin their work day, and it no longer requires my input at all.
This is the start of taking responsibility and stepping into real life – it’s provided a way for them to become self-starters and take that authority for themselves. They are ready for it and they have seized their opportunity and own it.
It’s made me look at the day and wonder what other small tweaks I can make to foster independence.