Essays on the Life and Work of Charlotte Mason, Volume 2

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Essays on the Life and Work of Charlotte Mason, Volume 2

20.00

The second volume in the series of Essays on the Life and Work of Charlotte Mason.  Published by the Charlotte Mason Institute in June, 2015, this book contains several plenaries collected from recent CMI Conferences as well as an article by Mason.

From the Introduction by Carroll Smith…

"This is the second volume in the series, Essays on the Life and Work of Charlotte Mason published by the Charlotte Mason Institute (CMI). We are pleased to provide four new essays as well as a fifth essay by Mason herself. The essays combined in this volume provide insight to our current study of Mason as well as address some concerns of our day.

     The first essay discusses our modern day use of technology especially in the lives of children.  Because the use of technology is so prevalent in 21st century families, CMI invited Lowell Monke, PhD, Professor of Education at Wittenberg University to speak at the 2014 CMI Conference. He has written much about technology and its role in the life of children. In his abstract Lowell states, “In an era of technological enthusiasm, we are constantly told stories that promote the idea that our children’s welfare depends on providing them with the most powerful technologies possible. This essay challenges that belief by pointing to two serious omissions in how we think about the relationship between technology and children: 1) That children’s relationship with technology differs from that of adults in that powerful tools may substitute for rather than extend children’s nascent inner capacities; and 2) That over the past two generations the way children have come to know the world has shifted dramatically—from mostly first-hand experience to mostly symbolic representations enabled by a host of electronic technologies.” Further, “Technology,” Lowell suggests, “offers our children unprecedented power—but at a price.” What view then should we, in the 21st century, have of technology especially within the Mason educational community?  Lowell explores these interesting ideas related to technology and in so doing, helps us better navigate the digital world in which we live.

     There seems to be talk on almost every educational street corner about “testing,”—talk that is confusing and, to many parents, increasingly a concern.  In fact, testing has become such an issue that in the spring of 2015 CNN covered a story about the large number of children whose parents are opting them out of standardized tests. Many hours are spent in schools preparing for these tests. However, as Mason says, “Some cram to pass and not to know; they do pass and they don’t know.”  Therefore, we must ask, is this type of testing appropriate? How do we know if or when the learner knows? How should we think about the assessment of our children?  What is it we hope to gain from these tests? Some years ago Lisa Cadora navigated this topic in her plenary entitled, “Knowing What Knowers Know.”  In this chapter, she continues that discussion, encouraging us as parents, teachers and administrators to think more deeply about knowledge and assessment.

     Navigating the world of standardized tests is only a small part of the responsibility of parents. At the 2014 CMI conference, Art Middlekauff spoke to us about the call of parents—the duty and responsibility of raising their children.  What is the role of the mother, the father, or the school?  Art deals with these questions by taking us through Mason’s works, supplying us with many references providing clear and consistent support that parents are called to educate their children. Going through a series of lessons or textbooks to say the content has been covered—even using the best books and pedagogical methods—will not meet the fullness of this call.  What else is involved?  Inspiration, encouragement, sacrifice, moral development, dispositions, wisdom—Art explores these ideas and more through his discussion of what the call to parents really means.

     A magnanimous character—how often do we hear this term today? What does it mean and how would a person of magnanimous character live? How often do parents or schools teach Citizenship? And, what defines a good citizen? In her 2014 plenary, Nancy Kelly explores what Mason says about teaching morals. She continues the discussion in her essay, “Citizenship in the Curriculum:  Mason, Magnanimity, and the Moral Life.” Nancy takes us through Mason’s use of literary books in the curriculum as a means to teach citizenship. She covers not only the what of teaching citizenship but also when and why. Why is the ‘literary’ book connected to how we teach citizenship? What is the place of inspiration in the teaching of citizenship? Nancy’s exploration engages with these questions, weaving together both the pragmatic and theoretical to offer a great resource and challenge.

     The final chapter, “Reading and A Wide Curriculum” is by Charlotte Mason herself. During a trip to the Lake District in England in 2002, I found this document in the Charlotte Mason Archive which is housed in the Armitt Museum and Library. It is used with the generous permission of the Armitt Trust. It is not clear when this document was written and there does not seem to be a record of it having been published previously. However, it is easy to recognize the ideas from other Mason publications. It is such a succinct and clear explanation of much of Mason’s philosophy of education combined with practice that I believe it is worthy of publication.  Even in these modern times, it is good to hear the great teacher share with us her ideas about educating children."

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