This post is part of my series on Mother Culture – My Reading List.
I have finally finished reading Consider This by Karen Glass. It took me a lot longer than I expected. The book is not long, nor particularly difficult to read it is just so full of brilliant ideas and arguments that I needed time to mull and reflect on what I’d read. I’ve heard about slow reading but never come across a book that demanded it from me like this one has. I am usually a fiction reader, or non-fiction to research and write typically under a deadline.
I also began Consider This before reading Charlotte Mason’s works. I had read summaries and excerpts but the books themselves had eluded me being out of print. (Now I have a full set thanks to Living Book Press and some birthday money!) I don’t think this was a disadvantage since Karen so clearly lays out the heart of Charlotte Mason’s principles in her work, but it did mean I really needed to take it slow, and fully absorb all that I read. I will aim to read it again after I have finished CM’s works, and see what new ideas I garner.
Okay, so about the book itself. In Consider This, Karen Glass has argued that Charlotte Mason should be considered an example of a truly classical education. “Charlotte Mason,” she writes, “consciously places her methods and philosophy within this classical tradition” (p.81). In each chapter, she begins with the Classical tradition and then considers Charlotte Mason’s work in light of this. In the end, she concludes that Charlotte Mason has “shown us the way” to follow the Classical tradition in the modern world (p.110).
She looks to the very heart of classical education as the ancients understood and portrayed it, not looking so much to their systems and practices, but to their very purposes. “When our knowledge is transformed into action, it becomes virtue, and virtue was the goal of the classical educators.” (p.18) She draws out the relationship between virtue, humility and synthetic thinking in both the Classical model and Charlotte Mason’s works. Education is not to know about, but to know (as a relationship) for the goal of wisdom and virtue. She also briefly discusses the classical education as it is so often found today and refutes some misconceived practices that are around – the trivium as stages, and the focus on the seven liberal arts.
Finally, she includes an afterword in which she considers a biblical perspective of such an educational philosophy. She quotes one of my favourite verses, “the Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” The very circle of humility, virtue and synthetic thinking is seen in the walk of the believer.
Her writing is well researched and evidenced and yet is presented clearly and simply to read. I have walked away with a greater understanding of the foundational principles of both Classical and Charlotte Mason philosophies, the correlation between the two and a firmer conviction that this is the educational philosophy that we will raise our boys in. A wonderful book to read.
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