Is a CM Education for All? Principles, part II of III

Part 1 is here.

My premise is that yes, certainly a Charlotte Mason education is for pretty much everybody. When it isn’t, it’s because of two reasons:
1. somebody has misunderstood what a CM education is, or
2. Something is clinically wrong. Our Cherub, for instance, cannot really participate in much beyond the 9th principle- but for most children, yes, I do think this form of education is for the majority of all humans, and elements of it apply to every one of us.

Let’s pick up with principle 12:

“12. Education is the Science of Relations”; that is, that a child has natural relations with a vast number of things and thoughts: so we train him upon physical exercises, nature lore, handicrafts, science and art, and upon many living books, for we know that our business is not to teach him all about anything, but to help him to make valid as many as may be of––

“Those first-born affinities
“That fit our new existence to existing things.”

An affinity is a natural connection, a relationship, a sympathetic interest. It can also mean a ‘Relationship by marriage.’ This starts to make sense of what Miss Mason means when she says that ‘education is the science of relations.’

You see, the more things we know and find interesting, the more connections we discover between those old things and new things we learn- the more we know, the more we can know, and the more we care about things, the more interested we will be in knowing more. This isn’t some esoteric nonsense that only applies to a few people. This is the way the world, and human nature, work. It’s a description of things as they are, and it’s true for all of us. We all have ‘affinities,’ and there’s something uniquely special about those formed in childhood.

For the rest, do we really need to argue about whether or not it’s true that all children need some form of physical exercise? All children benefit from knowing nature lore, from knowing things about the world around them, from handicrafts, science, art, and living books.  None of us are better off for not knowing these things.


13. In devising a SYLLABUS for a normal child, of whatever social class, three points must be considered:

(a) He requires much knowledge, for the mind needs sufficient food as much as does the body.

(b) The knowledge should be various, for sameness in mental diet does not create appetite (i.e., curiosity)

(c) Knowledge should be communicated in well-chosen language, because his attention responds naturally to what is conveyed in literary form.”

As born persons, it’s obvious that they are born living.   Living organisms are sustained, they grow and develop, on what they take in, not by what is applied from without.  Whatever is applied from without might help or hinder proper growth, but it doesn’t nurture, sustain, and produce growth. Good shoes can protect feet, bad shoes can hurt them, but the shoes are not what make the feet grow. Food for the body must be nourishing and must be the sort of thing the body can absorb and derive nutrients.  Panda Bears thrive on a massive diet of bamboo because that is the food proper for
them. The food proper for the human mind is ideas.  Where there is a human who cannot take in and learn and grow from ideas, that is a human who is in need of a permanent care-giver, and I am not being rude.  Something has gone wrong.   But when a child’s mind is able to develop beyond that of an infant, that mind needs food and that food which nurtures minds is ideas, not merely facts. This is true of all humans.

I suppose some may chafe at the notion that all children should learn from books written in well chosen language and that children respond to what is conveyed in story form. For my part, I have known thousands of children to ask to hear a story, and I have never known one normal preschooler or school aged child to plead for his parents to recount the multiplication tables or a list of dates just for fun. I have known a few children who like to show off by recounting lists of memorized facts, but that’s different from wanting to hear somebody else perform the same demonstration.
Every culture has beginning stories, traditional stories told around the hearth or campfire or bedside, stories designed for teaching children the cultural standards and norms. Genesis begins with stories, not the geneologies.  Since all cultures do tell stories it seems that stories are uniquely suitable for all humans.


14. As knowledge is not assimilated until it is reproduced, children should ‘tell back’ after a single reading or hearing: or should write on some part of what they have read.

I first heard this principle iterated to me in a sixth grade science class by a teacher who had likely never heard of Miss Mason.  He told us that unless we could communicate what we had learned, we couldn’t really say we had learned it, and untill a scientific experiment had been written down and communicated to others, it was essentially incomplete.  “Telling  back” can be done in a variety of ways- the point is that they must reproduce the knowledge some way, in written form or oral, via a drawing, a skit, a report- the thing that matters is the telling back.


Your child might tell back by writing a poem, painting a picture, making a test, talking about it to you over the dishes, calling Grandma on the phone to tell her about it- all sorts of ways.  The telling back is the essential part, reproducing knowledge, working through it in his own mind.  This is often harder than it seems, but it’s no less worth doing.

I’ll cover the final five principles in a week or two.

Here is part III


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  1. Michelle Caldwell
    Posted March 8, 2018 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    I’m holding on for dear life for part 3!!

    • Headmistress
      Posted March 9, 2018 at 8:03 am | Permalink

      Sorry! I have been called to do some extra tutoring and English conversation lessons at school and it’s been insanely busy. I have been spending so much time with Korean students and no time at all with anybody who speaks English as a first language (my husband has been putting in 12 hour days, which is why I’ve been subbing so much), that recently I had a Visaya lesson and instead of translating it into English I translated one word into Korean, and I couldn’t think of the English word at all! IT was a basic word, too- Tiyo/ Samchoon/ uncle!

  2. Michelle Caldwell
    Posted March 9, 2018 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    No worries!! I’m just letting you know that I truly enjoyed this and I look forward to Part 3, WHEN AT YOUR LEISURE, you get to it!!! God bless!! 🙂

  3. Headmistress
    Posted January 24, 2019 at 2:35 pm | Permalink
    • Michelle
      Posted January 24, 2019 at 11:15 pm | Permalink

      Yay!! 🙂

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