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Thursday, March 30, 2017

A Scholastic Charlotte Mason Education



The topics on this blog for the current Lenten season have been all about giving up distractions, and I've focused quite a bit on homeschooling methods and resources. But reducing our distractions does not mean that we stop learning and growing. One way of simplifying matters is to go more deeply into an idea to achieve a clearer focus.

I've been pulling together some ideas that I've been exploring this entire school year, along the lines of applying certain principles of classical education to Charlotte Mason, as well as incorporating traditional Catholic curricula to insure that the Faith permeates the curriculum. I stepped back from the CM label for awhile in order to focus on the particularly Catholic elements in our homeschooling, and to explore the Catholic educational tradition of "living books through eyes of faith." I think I've discovered a missing link to connect these various facets; that is, the philosophy of scholasticism. 

I'm only beginning to explore what scholasticism is and will continue with my research, but I'll lay out the basics as I understand them. First read this article from New World Encyclopedia: http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Scholasticism. What I'm gathering is that scholasticism is the meeting of ancient classical philosophy (Greek and Latin) with Catholicism. It's the marriage of faith and reason. The Scholastic Method of education originates in the Middle Ages and is based upon the theology of St. Thomas Aquinas. In short, it's the Catholic interpretation of classical. This was the traditional method used in Catholic schools up until the burgeoning confusion following Vatican II. Seton Home Study employs the Scholastic Method, and I think Catholic Heritage Curricula incorporates it as well. Read the history of Seton and the use of the Scholastic Method here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seton_Home_Study_School.

I've discussed my opinion that Charlotte Mason is not a form of classical education as it's presented in the neoclassical movement (with the Trivium allegedly corresponding to stages of child development), despite the similarities that can be found between them. However, I have suggested that it may be edifying to explore how certain classical principles can be applied to CM, to provide one with a deeper formation and crystallizing of her unique philosophy and method. Or in other words, to explore how Charlotte Mason's interpretation of a liberal arts education is rooted in classical antiquity. I think we can do the same with scholasticism.

Charlotte was an Anglican Christian, and during her time there was a revival of medieval scholasticism, known as neo-scholasticism (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neo-Scholasticism). Though she was not Catholic, I am wondering if she took some inspiration from the neo-scholastic revival, considering her foundational idea, Education is the handmaid of Religion. While Protestant and disconnected from the papacy, the Anglican Church retains a strong degree of Tradition.

It has been argued that CM is clearly not classical, because it is specifically based upon the Bible, the current psychology of her era, and CM's personal observations of children (see Art Middlekauf's article at https://www.charlottemasoninstitute.org/reconsidering-charlotte-mason-and-the-classical-tradition-by-art-middlekauff/). Though clearly not scholastic either, there is that similar sensibility in CM of the marriage of faith and reason. The Scholastic Method is a form of classical learning. We might conclude that CM and scholasticism both have their roots in the classicism of antiquity, though they each represent a unique divergence.

While the Catholic CM homeschooler would not have to incorporate books from a scholastic provider such as Seton in order to make sure that the Faith permeates the curriculum, I think there is great appeal in connecting with our Catholic educational heritage in such a way. There is also the matter of convenience. Rather than gathering Catholic books from various sources as you would do with the Mater Amabilis curriculum, you can simply visit one website and find books that are solidly Catholic and that are designed to be used together. This may also benefit the parent who can use such books to increase a child's independent work, especially as he or she gets into the middle school years (6th through 8th grade). Also, if the parents want their child to receive a diploma from an accredited school, using a number of books from Seton would help facilitate the transition to high school.

So am I advocating a blending of the Scholastic Method with CM? I'm not entirely sure. I have advocated for choosing one method and sticking to it, and I would still say that we are substantially Charlotte Mason homeschoolers in my family. But considering that we are Catholic, that right there puts us into a niche that is not "pure CM." Charlotte Mason's writings do not give us a guide to providing a particularly Catholic education, and as Catholics faith formation must come first.

Where I'm at right now is in a process of thinking about the classical principles, as laid out by Christopher Perrin in his webinar videos on youtube, as informing our central Charlotte Mason method; and exploring how the Scholastic Method fits into the big picture as well. As I have done before, I'm using the model of the fleur-de-lis as a visual representation:



The base of the symbol is Catholic Faith Formation, and I think of the lower prongs as representing Jesus, Mary, and Joseph--the Holy Family. The central petal above the base represents Charlotte Mason as the primary method. The left and right petals represent Perrin's classical principles (and the idea of schole found in Sarah Mackenzie's book, Teaching from Rest), and the Scholastic Method of traditional Catholic education. The supporting petals are corollaries to the primary method.

My idea is not about mashing together a hodgepodge of methods and just calling it "eclectic," but rather about creating a holistic approach to a Catholic education, putting together elements that though distinct, are intrinsically related. Another variation on the fleur-de-lis model could be to put the Scholastic Method in the center, using books from a traditional Catholic program as a "spine" on which to hang the classical principles and particulars of the CM method. It's all about what makes the best organizational sense to you, what will make your efforts all come together and bring you to the end goal. Whatever the methods we choose to put together, we want to be clear about our aim. What's needed is a synthesis, an integration that brings a sense of wholeness to our efforts.

What do you all think about the connections I've drawn between the Classical, Scholastic, and Charlotte Mason traditions? Does it make sense? Does anyone else use a similar approach? As always, I welcome a discussion!

Friday, March 24, 2017

Giving Up Distractions--Procrastination




Are you a habitual procrastinator? We all put things off from time to time, but when we make it a habit, the weight those items that we are leaving undone can accumulate and hold us back from living the lives we hope for. I feel the pressure when there is a to-do list in the back of my mind, even when I'm not consciously thinking about it. I feel much lighter these days as a result of reducing the distractions I've been working on this Lent, including removing those burdens of procrastination.

If you have let certain things go for too long, start by getting them out of your head and on paper. That way you won't have to continue trying to hold them in your memory. Do the things you can easily do first. You might have doctor appointments that you need to make, a thank you letter or other correspondence that you need to send, phone calls to return, an overdue trip to the grocery store, or basic housework that needs attending to. Just catching up on the laundry can give one a huge boost!

Then you can move on to the longer, more involved projects. Repairs to the house, painting a space that desperately needs it, decluttering a room filled with overwhelming piles of stuff...

And that's where I am now. Having caught up on the smaller procrastinated items, I have no excuse left not to get to finishing my paring down and re-ordering of personal and household possessions. The best place to start is always with your own clothes. I've been in the habit for the past few years of going through my clothing in the spring and when the cold days of fall hit. I give away pieces that no longer fit or that I don't like anymore, or have just seen better days. This process helps with one's Lenten almsgiving. I'm putting the winter clothes I'm keeping away in the back of my closet and getting my spring/summer items washed.

For the rest of Lent I will keep you posted on my process of giving up clutter--once and for all! But remember, in all of the hustle and bustle of housekeeping and hospitality a la Martha, to prioritize the better part that Mary has chosen.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Giving Up Distractions--Social Media, Email & the News




I hope everyone is having a good Lent! The next set of distractions I've been working on reducing is social media, email, and the news. I am down to checking each of these only once per day, or at least that is the goal! The first thing I typically do is to log in to my yahoo account and check my email. I've already reduced blogs, newsletters, and the like that I subscribe to, so there typically isn't too much for me to go through. I immediately delete whatever I don't need. I cancel subscriptions to things I don't wish to receive; or maybe I did want to receive them, but I realize that I just don't have time to deal with it at the rate that it comes in.

My yahoo inbox will usually lead me to Facebook notifications, so I deal with those next. I respond to any ongoing conversations on my wall or in groups. Occasionally I scroll through my news feed. When I've closed out of my email, the yahoo news page comes up. I quickly look at the headlines. If something looks really interesting, I click on it. I'd say at least 90% of the stories are junk. I know all the political features are biased, so I rarely read them.

I spend no more than a half hour in the morning with these three items. Now, sometimes I might check back with Facebook or email if I'm expecting an important message, but most days I keep this process to once a day. Then I am FREE the rest of the day from having to think about or react to anything I read or see. This makes it difficult to get caught up in any arguments on social media, if you have to wait until the next day to revisit it! I'm not a member of Twitter. This week my goal is to check my media only 3 times the entire week. Today was one! I want to be weaned down to nothing for Holy Week, so I will have no media distractions during that important time.

We don't have TV reception at my house, so I don't watch the news. If you do have TV, try not to watch more that one news program a day. When I did have TV, the same news was repeated all day long. There was a Netflix show that I was watching too often, but I finished all the seasons last week, and I'm picking up no new shows. I listen to Catholic Radio probably no more than half an hour, maybe 4 or 5 times per week. Try not listening to the radio at all when you're in the car! Oh, I don't have a "smart phone," so I don't have that temptation. If you do, consider setting serious limits there as well.

The thing to recognize is that checking our electronic media is habitual, even compulsive. It can be a way of escaping whatever it is that we ought to be doing or would be better off engaging in--like conversations with family members, visiting in person with friends and relatives, prayer and meditation, exercise, spiritual reading, good books, and clearing clutter. Virtual life has replaced real living. We must get our priorities straight, put first things first. One of the best things we can do for our children is to role model good habits! Remember, Lent is our time in the desert.

I'd love to hear about how you are reducing your distractions this Lent!

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Charlotte Mason Schedule, Term 3 Updates






Our spring homeschooling term began on the first of this month, and I have continued to work on spreading that delightful Charlotte Mason feast while at the same time embracing the classical education principle of multum non multa (much not more). In practical terms this means a pared down version of CM that allows us to sink more deeply into fewer books and subjects. After completing the schedule that we will begin next week, I feel satisfied and relaxed. God willing, I have struck a good balance. I have found the sweet spot. I am victorious!

I want to point out a few changes. After trying unsuccessfully to wing the Spanish lessons with flash cards and The Everything Kids Book of Spanish from the library, I broke down and bought a curriculum book and 3-CD set, Learn Spanish with Grace. And it's Catholic, so the Faith now permeates the curriculum in an additional subject. Yay! 

I took the Language Arts loop out and put those subjects into the Daily Core, designating how many times per week each will be done. (Items without a designation are done every day.) I did not list dictation, because this is included in the Language of God grammar and composition book from Catholic Heritage Curricula. The dictation lessons are drawn from the child's reading, so this is still CM-aligned. We take spelling words to work on from the dictation readings. "Free reading" means that the child is not required to narrate. However, I will perhaps have Beezy do a simple book report when she is finished with the novel. 

The remaining subjects are "looped" through. I plan for a 4-day week, so one item is done from the loop per day. 

I print this list off each week, making any necessary changes, and just use an orange pen to check each item off as it is accomplished. I also write what is covered daily in more detail on loose leaf notebook paper, which goes into Beezy's portfolio for the end-of-year review by a certified teacher.

I think the rest is pretty self-explanatory, but please feel free to ask any questions in the comments!

 
Catholic Charlotte Mason Schedule, 2016-2017 Term 3 (6th grade)

Daily Core: (open with prayer)
- free reading (A Wrinkle in Time, L'Engle)
- Hamilton’s Arithmetic
- Piano practice
- Cursive writing (Seton, 2 times per week)
- Grammar & Composition (CHC, 2 times per week)
- King David and His Songs (oral narration, 2 times per week)
- Learn Spanish with Grace (2 to 3 times per week)


Loop:

- Rosary: Sorrowful Mysteries (1952 Catholic Confraternity Bible)
- Nature Study & notebook (written narration/drawing): Minn of the Mississippi;
  Anna Comstock Handbook (reptiles); nature walk
- Religion 6 for Young Catholics (Seton)
- Artist and picture studies: Claude Monet (Nancy Nunhead); Linnea in Monet's
  Garden (Christina Bjork)


Weekly:

Piano lessons
Religious education class
Tumbling class