Charlotte Mason and Your Heritage

Charlotte Mason and Your Heritage

Art Middlekauff speaks with Amber Johnston of in which they discuss the relevance and application of Charlotte Mason’s ideas for mothers and families today.


Recipe Versus Thought

Ask Art #2 – What Happened?

16 Replies to “Charlotte Mason and Your Heritage”

  1. Thank you for this, Art and Amber! I have always loved that quote about the Finnish child in South Korea 🙂 So many of us don’t fit in the “normal box.” It is always a blessing to be encouraged to keep seeking what is best for my family.

  2. I so appreciate the voice that Amber and others are bringing to the conversation in the Charlotte Mason home school community. Thank you for helping to broaden the feast! Thank you also for the reminder to bring ourselves into our home schools, to share what we love with our children. With regard to Latin (and other subjects) I agree that we shouldn’t force our children to study a subject just because it is on “the list,” but I also feel that we shouldn’t disregard it either because it is not our taste or our area of interest. We never know what idea is going to capture our children’s attention. That is why we spread the wide and varied curriculum! My children have all done at least one year of Latin. None of them have really shown an interest in going further, but they have had the exposure to it and can pick it up again when and if they are interested. Thanks again for the many wonderful ideas to chew on!

    1. Jennifer,

      Thank you for listening to this interview and thank you for sharing your thoughts. I want to clarify that Amber did not say that you should not to teach Latin, but rather that you should know why you are teaching Latin if you choose to do so. One theme of the interview was to distinguish the universals (principles) from the particulars (expressions of those principles) in the Charlotte Mason method. It is somewhat common nowadays to do this in the area of living languages, and so eyebrows are usually not raised when a CM parent-educator chooses Spanish over French. But I wanted to raise the question of whether Latin was a universal or a particular.

      I have heard at least five reasons to include Latin in the CM curriculum:

      1. CM herself included it.
      2. Learning a highly-inflected language aids in the comprehension of English grammar.
      3. Students who study Latin score better on the SAT.
      4. Latin opens the door to historical and contemporary Christian writing.
      5. Latin opens the door to writings of the classical era.

      Reason #1 is insufficient for all the reasons we discussed in this interview. The Finnish child in South Korea should not start with British history simply because CM began with British history. We need to understand why Mason included British history — and Latin.

      Reason #2 is not tied solely to Latin. There are other inflected languages. For example, a family could teach Arabic as a means to elucidate English grammar.

      Reason #3 seems very utilitarian. One of Mason’s key ideas is that we should not teach to the test. Neither student nor teacher is likely to get excited about Latin if this is the highest goal.

      Reason #4 is certainly applicable to Catholics and others in the Latin Christian tradition. However, it seems to me it would ring hollow for members of non-Latin traditions such as Russian, Greek, and Ethiopian Orthodox. I would think such families might choose their own church’s classical language over Latin.

      Reason #5 is the answer of Classical Christian Education (CCE). Clark & Jain in The Liberal Arts Tradition say that “Obedience to the fifth commandment involves being pious to one’s heritage and thus for the citizens of the West that means respecting medieval and classical culture” (p. 144). In fact, they go as far as to say that Latin “remains an essential tool through which to access reality” (p. 50).

      Must we teach Latin because of the Ten Commandments? Do we need Latin to “access reality”? As for me, my access to reality is through the revelation of God in Jesus Christ and Sacred Scripture. To the extent that Mason’s philosophy is derived from the Gospel of Christ and the nature of things as they are, it is universally applicable. In my view, the classical Latin authors, no matter how wise or virtuous, cannot make the same claim.

      I believe every modern CM educator must determine for herself whether Latin should be an element of her curriculum. Even a Finnish mother in South Korea, or an African mother in North America. And for the record, I would note that I am currently studying Latin myself and we do incorporate it in our homeschool.


      1. Art – Would you be willing to say what curriculum you are using and what you’re using in your homeschool? My student and I have been slogging through two years of Latin and it is not an enjoyment at all. That said, I’ve seen minute benefits to what we have learned — I just would like something we were less lost in. I realize that may mean I need to invest time; which I’m willing to do, but would appreciate recommendations on where to start.

          1. Ohhhhh – thank you! I just read the PNEU article that was shared today and we need a refresh. Will look for it.

  3. Amber, God bless you. I have so struggled. I have made alterations to “traditional” books or years of introduction of a subject, etc. However, I always struggle internally and worry I’m despising my children somehow by not including a certain subject that year or making a certain book choice. I found your blog this spring and I’ve just been so blessed by your grace and love for everyone that is so obvious on your blog. I teared up several times throughout this talk. So much beauty here. I’ve been feeling a pull this year to stop trying to make a system out of Mason’s method and to actually spend time asking Holy Spirit for His input on what I’m doing. I pray for wisdom and guidance constantly but I don’t typically ask Him specific questions like “Should I use this book?” Or “What should I do about Latin?” I think I’m going to start doing that this week as I’m getting deeper into my planning. Thank you Art for the comment about the commentaries. Another example of how I’ve made this too legalistic trying to get that exact commentary when I just need a good one. We really do just get caught up in the details too much. I mean, I see value in looking at the texts she used; for example, I better understood what the Tales year was in history when I read what her Form 1b students would’ve read in British. However, I then turned around and figured out how to do that in American. Applying the principle of it, which I wouldn’t have known if I hadn’t looked at her book choices and her methods. It’s so tempting to follow her books just like it’s tempting to follow any curricula because we all want someone else to do the thinking for us. I’m so guilty of that. Thank you for the encouragement to do better and to be brave.

    1. Thank you for this, Rachel. Your story shows growth and humility, and I think those will always take us further than anxiety and shame. I hear that you want the best for your children, and that is a mother’s heart. But you’re also giving yourself more wiggle room (freedom, grace) when defining “the best,” and that will do more for our families than we’ll probably ever realize. May God bless your efforts.

  4. Thank you so much for this beautiful podcast; it has brought such joy and peace to my heart. We are Eastern Orthodox Christians who follow a Waldorf pedagogy but have been also very influenced by the principles espoused by Mason. We are also a family of multi-ethnic and racial children- my husband and I are white; our three sons Korean; and our daughter Ethiopian. I am grateful for your emphasis on the personhood of the child and how focusing on the person means a responsibility of honoring that child in their education. I also truly appreciate the understanding that one does not need to eliminate history but make room for other histories so that a fuller, more complete Truth will be told. Peace and goodness to you.

    1. Your family sounds beautiful, and I’m so happy that you found some nuggets to walk away with as you pursue the best for your children. I appreciate you taking the time to let us know that it resonated with you.

  5. Amber, thank you so much for this! This is so me this year. Everyone around me is sticking to the traditional CM Ambleside recommendations which is totally fine. It works for them. However, being hispanic and my husband being black I felt that I was missing something for our children. This year, our history looks different. Our composure studies and picture studies have so much diversity. It makes my heart happy to know that we are expanding our knowledge and going outside of the boxes. This is so important for me and my children. I want them to know about their heritage, but also to be well rounded. The beauty in other cultures.

  6. This is wonderful! I’m so glad that you have the confidence to bring your children’s heritage into your homeschool in a beautiful way. I pray that your year is full and satisfying in a new way!

  7. Thank you for this. My heart is overflowing with encouragement and affirmation as I listen! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

  8. You’re so welcome, Heather. I’m thankful that you took the time out of what I imagine is a very busy schedule to listen in. It always feels good to have our feelings validated when speaking with or listening to someone who understands. I hope you continue to feel encouraged on your journey.

  9. Wow!!! So much richness here!!! I can comment on EVERY topic because each one was so good! But I’ll just focus on a couple. 😉

    Amber, you beautifully described the importance of a mother doing the necessary work of meeting the needs of her family in their home education. Thank you for always giving voice to my feelings and my journey. I appreciate you so much.

    I also loved when both of you highlighted that need to affirm other families to implement CM’s principles within their context because Miss Mason’s approach was not cookie cutter. It was the complete opposite. Thank you for this!

    Art, I appreciated you sharing the story about your thoughts on classical music. You described exactly why I opposed using classical music in our homeschool when we first started CM. I talk a bit about that in this post that you might relate to:

    Thank you Art & Amber for providing such a rich and relevant conversation!! I pray it may bring a positive change and be a guide for those who are searching for a more broad and diverse feast for their homes.

  10. Thank you, Erika! It means a lot to me that you took the time to listen and especially that you felt that some of my words represented your experiences and feelings as well. I’ve heard from many who feel similarly, so I know that these discussions are timely and important. I love the work you’re doing as well, and I’m so happy to be part of a growing number of CM families who are opening paths for others to embrace her philosophy!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *