Because I am a Charlotte Mason educator, I get these sorts of questions a lot:
Q. How did you find time to read when you just had littles?
Sometimes, I didn’t. More often, I simply neglected household chores that other people consider necessities and I did not (and neither did my husband). People laugh when I say that, but it’s true. There are some things I wish I had done better, but by and large I do not regret reading good books when I could have been ironing, sweeping, dusting, or washing windows instead. I do wish I had done dishes more regularly, and that I had worked harder at putting things away instead of putting them down (likewise, I wish I’d done better at teaching these habits to the children). But I figure it takes about the same amount of time to dust the house whether I do it once a week or once very six months- plus, if you wait long enough, you can use the vacuum cleaner.
I usually had one thoroughly childproofed room where I read while the babies played on and around me Fortunately, my husband didn’t mind. I also had a head-start on a lot of reading because I read voraciously from childhood on, and my parents did introduce me to good books, art, and music.
If you are familiar with Librivox, they have a lot of good books as audio files. I did do some ‘reading’ by listening to audio books. One place we lived in particular, the library had an outstanding audio selection. I took very long showers while listening to Bleak House by Dickens.=) My kids still remember that.
Q. Don’t you think Miss Mason would have used movies had they been available to her?
No, I don’t. One reason is because movies were very much available to her. They weren’t talkies, it’s true, but nobody much cared at the time, the general public was very much enamored with this new form of entertainment. The Motion picture industry was so large that ten years before Miss Mason’s death there were multiple fan magazines, and ‘picture palaces’ or motion picture theatres/theaters, and cinemas all over the world. The Gish sisters,Tom Mix, Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Mary Pickford, and Fatty Arbuckle were famous a decade before Miss Mason died. Stories from the pens of Shakespeare, Dante, Dickens, and even a Bible story or two had already been immortalized on screen.
And this is what she had to say about them:
See volume six,somewhere around page 56 or so (this passage also speaks to what we have been discussing about the uses of imagination):
Imagination may become like that cave Ezekiel tells of wherein were all manner of unseemly and evil things; it may be a temple wherein self is glorified; it may be a chamber of horrors and dangers; but it may also be a House Beautiful. It is enough for us to remember that imagination is stored with those images supplied day by day whether by the cinema, the penny dreadful, by Homer or Shakespeare, by the great picture or the flaming ‘shocker.’ We have heard of the imaginative man who conceived a passion for the Sphinx!
Page 79 of volume 6:
What we have reason to deplore is that after some eight or twelve years’ brilliant teaching in school, the cinema show and the football field, polo or golf, satisfy the needs of our former pupils to whatever class they belong. We are filled with compassion when we detect the lifeless hand or leg, the artificial nose or jaw, that many a man has brought home as a consequence of the War. But many of our young men and women go about more seriously maimed than these. They are devoid of intellectual interests, history and poetry are without charm for them, the scientific work of the day is only slightly interesting, their ‘job’ and the social amenities they can secure are all that their life has for them.
The maimed existence in which a man goes on from day to day without either nourishing or using his intellect, is causing anxiety to those interested in education, who know that after religion it is our chief concern, is, indeed, the necessary handmaid of religion.
Page 116 of volume 6, where she is speaking of the folly of unit studies:
. . . The whole thing must be highly amusing to the teacher, as ingenious amplifications self-produced always are: that the children too were entertained, one does not doubt. The teacher was probably at her best in getting by sheer force much out of little: she was, in fact, acting a part and the children were entertained as at a show, cinema or other… (emphasis added)
So she was familiar with movies, and yet, never recommends them or mentions them in any context but that of passive entertainment (which she generally deplores).
Somewhere around the middle of volume 6 (page 157-160 or so?) Charlotte says that she does not think pictures helpful in learning geography or models helpful in learning anything. She says that these ‘aids’ to the understanding actually stultify and hinder the understanding. I think she means they hinder our imagination, the ability to picture for ourselves based on verbal descriptions because we rely too much on them rather than on our own application to the topic, just like repeating a reading more than once makes it easier and easier not to pay attention to it.
Furthermore, her objections to pictures for learning are based on the lack of application the student has to make to obtain the information- how much more true this is of a movie! On page 340 of volume 6, she says that:
“We trust much to pictures, lantern slides, cinematography displays; but without labour there is no profit, and probably the pictures which remain with us are those which we have first conceived through the medium of words; pictures may help us to correct our notions, but the imagination does not work upon a visual presentation.” (emphasis added)
I will have more on the use of movies and television as educational tools another day. It’s not that we don’t watch them ourselves, however, it’s just that I don’t think they are ideal, and specifically, they aren’t really ‘Charlotte Mason.’ You don’t have to be a purist- I am not, at least not in that way. But I do like accuracy. It’s okay to do things differently from CM, just don’t call them ‘CM.’
Q. How did you handle potty training?
To be honest, it’s not my favorite part of parenting. I thought it was way easier to teach kids how to read.
I preferred to wait until a child was old enough for me to point at the toilet and say, “Go here from now on,” and the child would say ‘Okay,’ and we were done. Okay, that is mostly kidding. Although that is kind of what happened with one child who didn’t come to us until she was nearly 4. After months of gentle attempts at potty training I simply told her outright that I thought changing diapers was a gross job, and she was surprised. Go figure. For the rest, I used a very relaxed version of the ideas I found in this book:
Toilet Training in Less Than A Day, or one like it, which I picked up at a yard sale.
I did not expect it to work in a day, and that’s a good thing.
I stocked up on gummy bears and M&Ms- I actually started with carob chips and raisins because I was a totally crunchy mom, but we got nowheresville fast with those ‘treats.’
I let the potty training child pretty much go nude (unless we lived where we had carpeting. I hate carpeting). I rewarded them regularly for being dry. I let them choose which colour of gummy bear or M8M they wanted (my kids all learned their colors while toilet training- at least the colours that M&Ms and gummy bears come in). After a bit I chose the color if they were only being rewarded for still being dry and clean, and they only got to choose when they had successfully used the toilet. For all my kids this was highly motivational, maybe because we were otherwise so crunchy and sugar free in the diet.
Of course we cheered and did huge victory dances for successful toileting in the toilet.
As time went on when there were accidents that came from simply playing too long and not going to the bathroom in time, I had the children help with the clean up- it wasn’t a punishment so much as it was a consequence. I had one who refused to use the toilet for number 2, and after a while it was clearly a discipline issue and not a learning issue and we handled it that way- and when I say clearly, I mean, very, very clearly. And that’s all I am going to say about that.
One of my married daughters is interested in trying elimination training or diaper free baby now that they are in their own house, and I don’t know much about that. I hope it goes well for them and then she can share the details.
I will only add one other thing, and that is about boys. This is a delicate matter but I am not going to be delicate. I am going to be blunt and forthright. Boys do NOT have to pee on your floor. Really. My husband trained our son, he did it before the Boy was 2, before he was talking, even. I don’t really know what he did, but he did a great job. And he taught him from the start that it is not somehow ‘manly’ to go to the bathroom on the floor (or seat) and leave it for others to clean up. If your aim is really that pathetic, then you clean up your own mess, was and is my husband’s philosophy. I love that man for many reasons, and honestly, this is far from the least of them- I have often been subjected to listening to other wives complaining about their husband’s bathroom habits and I do so fervently thank God for mine. In fact, years ago when we were still in our twenties and I had been listening to one such gabfest from about a dozen of my friends, I came home and said, “I just have to ask. Apparently I am the only wife I know who doesn’t have to clean up her husband’s toileting accidents. Is your aim that good or do you just clean up after yourself?” He was a little indignant that I would question his perfect aim.
There is nothing remotely masculine or inevitable about leaving your own waste products on the floor for others to clean up, not in your own house and certainly not at somebody else’s home.
Understand the two parts of the above soapbox- for reasons I do not know and do not (I promise you) want to know, ever, it may be true that perfect aim is a familial trait to which the males in your family cannot attain. That’s fine. But there is absolutely no excuse for not learning to clean up after themselves. And if they won’t do it at home, then please, when you go to somebody else’s home, follow your men-folk after they go to the bathroom at your hostess’s house and clean up after them. Nobody else should have to do this.
Q. What’s that noise?
That is the combined groans of my Progeny as they collectively say, “MOTHER!” in that shocked and disapproving tone only the Progeny can muster, and the scuffling noises are probably their attempt to wrestle the keyboard away from me so I can’t embarrass them any further.