Mason’s Program for Bible Lessons

Mason’s Program for Bible Lessons

Charlotte Mason wrote, ”Now our objective in this most important part of education is to give the children the knowledge of God.” Mason did not approach this ”most important part of education” in a haphazard fashion; rather, she developed a progressive program of study for children from ages 6 to 18 that is breathtaking in its simplicity, elegance, and efficacy. This presentation reviews the content, sequence, and structure that Mason developed for Bible lessons for Forms I through VI. With the understanding that education is the science of relations, we explore her approach to facilitate the most important relationship of all.

This live presentation was filmed at the Charlotte Mason Soirée Summer Mountain Mini in June, 2018.

You can download the slides from the presentation.

This link provides an audio-only version of the presentation:

4 Replies to “Mason’s Program for Bible Lessons”

  1. Art, thank you for sharing this talk along with these slides. I’m wondering whether you think teaching through J. Patterson Smyth’s selections “The Gospel Story” could replace going through his individual volumes on the gospels (Matthew, Luke, Mark) in the earlier forms. It seems that he goes through the life of Christ chronologically in “The Gospel Story”, choosing passages from the different accounts. Thanks for your time and consideration.

    1. Lovejoy,

      Thank you for asking this interesting question. No, I do not think Smyth’s The Gospel Story should take the place of reading through the Synoptic Gospels in the early forms. As I explain in my presentation, one key element of Mason’s program for Bible lessons is the reading books of the Bible in their entirety. As she wrote:

      How delightful it would be that each birthday should bring with it a gift of a new book of the Bible, progressing in difficulty from year to year, beautifully bound and illustrated, and printed in clear, inviting type and on good paper. One can imagine the Christian child collecting his library of sacred books with great joy and interest, and making a diligent and delighted study of the volume for the year in its appointed time.” (volume 2, pp. 111-112)

      One error in my presentation is that I wrongly assumed that Smyth had written a commentary on St. Luke’s Gospel. In volume 6, Charlotte Mason wrote, “I know of no commentator for children, say, from six to twelve, better than Canon Paterson Smyth (The Bible for the Young)” (p. 162). The PNEU programmes reflect this, assigning “Lessons” from Smyth for the Gospel readings in Forms 1 and 2. However, when I was researching the programmes, I noticed that when the Gospel of Luke was assigned, “chapters” were listed instead of “Lessons”:

      The Bible for the Young, by Dr. Paterson Smyth (P.N.E.U. Office, 1/6): (a) Genesis, Lessons 17-24, (b) St. Luke’s Gospel, chapters 16-24. (S.P.C.K. Commentary, 9d.). (Programme 90, Form I, 1921)

      At the time, I didn’t grasp why “chapters” were assigned for Luke only, not “Lessons” as with Matthew and Mark. I assumed, however, that somehow, somewhere, there must be a commentary by Smyth on the Gospel of Luke.

      Recently Ashley Olander pressed the point and forced me to accept that no such commentary exists. I looked more carefully at the programmes and saw this time what I had missed before: “S.P.C.K. Commentary,” a note that is placed in the Form I and II programmes for Luke only. I knew that Forms III and IV used an S.P.C.K commentary for the Gospel of John: “Form IV adds the Gospel of St. John and The Acts, assisted by the capital Commentaries on the several Gospels by Bishop Walsham How, published by the S.P.C.K.” (vol. 6, p. 169). I began to wonder whether the How commentary for Luke was recommended for teachers of Forms I and II.

      A programme from 1933 (number 122) for Form 1 pointed me to an answer. In this programme we read, “Teacher may study… Commentary on St. Mark, by Bishop Walsham How (S.P.C.K., 9d.).” Perhaps Smyth’s commentary was by then out of print, and How’s commentary was suggested since it had been assigned for Luke years ago. Interestingly, in the 1945 “P.N.E.U. Lending Library,” we see listed two books by “Bishop Walsham”—“The Gospel (St. Luke)” and “The Gospel (St. John).” Perhaps those two volumes remained from the days of programme 90 and earlier.

      It was enough to convince me. I will be updating the slides for my Bible Lessons presentation accordingly. And to bring one more element of the PNEU to the 21st century, printer-friendly PDF’s of How’s commentary on Luke chapters 1-14 are now available for download.

      Blessings,
      Art

  2. Thank you so much! Your presentation was illuminating and helped me consider Bible study from a new vantage point. I have three children in Forms 1A, 2B and 3. I’m wondering how one would conduct Bible study with a non-reader, a very fluent reader and a child who would should be embarking on reading The Gospel History and Saviour of the World. I’ve tried to combine the younger two and let the older student read on his own, but I feel my older child and I are missing out on the rich conversation that could be occurring. I’d like to keep Bible study as the first thing on our morning agenda, but it seems like it would also be beneficial to stagger the readings. Do you have suggestions for reading the Bible with multiple children? Thank you so much! I have greatly benefitted from your ministry here. Heather

    1. Heather,

      Thank you for reviewing my presentation and posting this question. I might ask a similar question: how do you teach math when one child is learning fractions and the other is learning algebra? Surely the answer is not to leave the older child to learn algebra by himself. Quite simply, the answer is to take the time to have a personal face-to-face lesson with one child on fractions, and a personal face-to-face lesson with the other child on algebra. In your case, I suggest you do the same with Bible lessons. Combining your Form 1 and 2 children into a single group lesson makes perfect sense. Then I urge you to carve out separate time to work directly with your Form 3 child on The Gospel History and Saviour of the World. These will be wonderful times with your older child that you will remember and cherish for the rest of your life.

      Blessings,
      Art

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