Twice Blessed

Twice Blessed

Editor’s note: Today we are pleased to share chapter 6 of the new book by Karen Andreola entitled Mother Culture – For a Happy Homeschool. This exclusive excerpt entitled “Twice Blessed” is used by permission. Read by Ashley Olander.

The family who takes part in the Gentle Art of Learning (what I call Charlotte Mason’s practical philosophy) is like Shakespeare’s quality of mercy, “Twice Blessed.” The Gentle Art of Learning “blesses him that gives and him that takes, and a sort of radiancy of look distinguishes both scholar and teacher engaged in this manner of education.”[1]

What manner of education? It is one that relies on three tools: atmosphere, discipline of habit, and a life of ideas. After describing the benefits of these, Charlotte Mason ices the cake. Her words hit me hard when I first read them. She says that

… much and varied humane reading, as well as human thought expressed in the forms of art, is not a luxury, a tid-bit, to be given to children now and then, but their very bread of life, which they must have in abundant portions and at regular periods. This, and more, is implied in the phrase, “The mind feeds on ideas and therefore children should have a generous curriculum.”[2]

Sunlight on a Single Page

I remember where I was when I first read these words. It was 1987. I was a young mother. I had just returned from England with my husband, Dean, and two little girls, from a year of Christian missions in London. We had the complete set of Miss Mason’s books on loan from the president of what was then Charlotte Mason College, in the hopes that Dean could find a publisher who would take the financial risk of republishing all six volumes. I sat perched on the edge of the bed. My girls were napping next to me. A volume of Miss Mason’s was open on my lap. The room was dim, but a soft ray of sunlight shone through the window blinds onto the page. The sentences were long and seemed awkward, but what I could understand enthralled me.

Willing but Unprepared

Then that paragraph above hit me. I was knocked down by an ocean wave of self-pity. I realized, all at once, with a sickening lurch of my heart, that I was unprepared and unpracticed. How was I to give my children this manner of education? My childhood was empty of children’s books. All the years I had sat in government-school classrooms with bored teachers and bored classmates, staring at the clock that hung on the wall above each classroom door, and, waiting in the cafeteria line, riding the bus, tediously completing meaningless homework after dark, swept before my eyes. I had learned a pittance. Although I do remember a high school English teacher playing a record of Romeo and Juliet, I didn’t understand it. Otherwise, no good literature or poetry, no beautiful classical music, no beautiful paintings, no heroes, graced my girlhood. I was feeling deeply sorry for myself. Coming from this background, how on earth was I going to inspire my children with abundant portions of the humanities?

You Have Not, Because You Ask Not[3]

My answer to prayer came the moment I repented of my self-pity. It helped me to face the only possible way my children could experience anything remotely close to this “manner of education.” The answer? We would learn together. Determination welled up within me. This was God’s will for our lives. I had to trust Him. Unbeknownst to me then, it was God’s way of richly blessing our whole family.

“A journey of a thousand miles starts with a first step.” -Old Saying

This is what it means to be “Twice Blessed.” The home teacher who steps out in faith consequently enjoys the journey with her children. Now, more than thirty years later, I look back fondly on our adventure. I was not launched onto an uncharted sea. I had Charlotte Mason’s set of principles to guide me. Great blessings of Mother Culture came to me by way of making an education-by-the-humanities[4] our daily bread. And, learning alongside my children, I was given what I had missed in my childhood.

Through Deprivation

“If God closes one door, He opens another.” -Irish Proverb

I have seen it in my own life, and have been told by others, that God can bring blessing through deprivation. In hindsight, we can be thankful that all our prayers are not answered exactly as we wish. It is probable that if Dean and I had the financial means to pay for Christian school (and a second car for the transportation) or if I had had a complete curriculum kit available to me, I would not have clung so tightly to Miss Mason’s guidance. I may never have relied on her method of narration and an eclectic array of odd and interesting books that we so thoroughly enjoyed together.

Happy Golden Years

“Opportunities are usually disguised as hard work, so most people don’t recognize them.” -Ann Landers

Today, I look back and treasure the memories of those full, enriching, home teaching years. I have altogether forgotten how tired I was at the end of a day, although rest after labor is rest that is sweet. To borrow a phrase of Laura Ingalls Wilder, I see them as our “happy golden years.” Reflecting on the general knowledge we gleaned, I am astonished at the “abundant portions” that were (and are) possible by taking little daily steps. This bundle of “abundant portions” is sumptuous, and rivals (my husband, Dean, says “surpasses”) that of the average college education. It is with a full heart that I proclaim my gratitude to God for opening the door, for putting dedicated, outspoken Christians and the ideal of home-teaching in our path.

Karen Andreola is the author of A Charlotte Mason Companion, one of the most trusted and referenced books in the home school world. She also authored A Pocketful of Pinecones and Lessons at Blackberry Inn. She and her husband Dean were instrumental in bringing Charlotte Mason’s six volumes back into print in the 1980’s. Karen’s new book, Mother Culture – For a Happy Homeschool, is available now from Simply Charlotte Mason.

Copyright 2019, Karen Andreola.

[1]Charlotte Mason, A Philosophy of Education, p. 27. (Italics mine.)
[2]Ibid., p. 111.
[3]James 4:2.
[4]With a Christian’s critical eye, an education-by-the-humanities uncovers what is true, excellent and admirably expressed in history, science, literature, poetry, art and music, etc. This is not to be confused with secular humanism.

9 Replies to “Twice Blessed”

  1. I am so very glad Karen has written this new book! I can’t wait to dive in. She was an early guide for me and I still go back again and again to those “first” lights that went on when I read her work on Charlotte Mason. I am very grateful to you Karen! I now have two junior high kids and one not even school age (I had two littles when I first read your books), how wonderful it truly is to have those happy golden years. Thank you for being apart of those memories.

  2. Dear Cristina,
    Don’t children grow up fast? It’s good to know I was able to shine a light on a path you were looking for, the path of a Charlotte Mason Education, and that by your endeavors this path brought your family joy. Keep making memories. – Karen A.

  3. Can I just say that, even more than appreciating Karen’s wonderful words, I appreciate CMP for extending themselves to another lovely CM advocate. I know each CM group has its distinctives, but I really love to see when leaders of various organizations fueling the same CM philosophy join together. Thank you Karen, and thank you CMP!

    1. Anne,
      Thank you for this kind word of encouragement. It is we at CMP who are most blessed to share this piece by Mrs. Andreola (Hebrews 7:7). I have always admired the way that Mrs. Andreola takes Charlotte Mason at her word, and then expresses her ideas in such a colorful way that speaks to the heart as well as to the mind.

  4. Thank you so much for your inspiration and encouragement. You have truly touched my heart with your words of wisdom at a time I needed to hear it. I look forward to reading your new book.

  5. It is good to hear that you have been touched by my personal introduction to Charlotte Mason’s “Twice Blessed” way-of-life – of “teacher and taught” (I like that expression of Miss Mason’s) growing and learning together. I enjoyed reading your messages.

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