Charlotte Mason on modern education

“I am jealous for the children; every modern educational movement tends to belittle them intellectually; and none more so than a late ingenious attempt to feed normal children with the pap-meat which may (?) be good for the mentally sick: but, “To all wildly popular things comes suddenly and inexorably death, without hope of resurrection.” If Mr. Bernard Shaw is right, I need not discuss a certain popular form of ‘New Education.’ It has been ably said that education should profit by the divorce which is now in progress from psychology on the one hand and sociology on the other; but what if education should use her recovered liberty to make a monstrous alliance with pathology?

Various considerations urge upon me a rather distasteful task. It is time I showed my hand and gave some account of work, the principles and practices of which should, I think, be of general use. Like those lepers who feasted at the gates of a famished city, I begin to take shame to myself! I have attempted to unfold (in various volumes) a system of educational theory which seems to me able to meet any rational demand, even that severest criterion set up by Plato; it is able to “run the gauntlet of objections, and is ready to disprove them, not by appeals to opinion, but to absolute truth.” Some of it is new, much of it is old. ”

Charlotte Mason, volume VI, Toward a Philosophy of Education emphasis mine

She wrote this nearly a hundred years ago, but I find it is largely still true- modern educational movements tend to belittle the children intellectually.

We keep leaping to ever newer fads and rages, and, like other fads and rages (all wildly popular things), they come to a sudden end, and off we are to find the new reform.

I am surprised to know there was at one time an ongoing divorce of Education from psychology and sociology, because it seems to me that progressive education firmly welded them all together.

And hasn’t modern education become allied in a significant way with pathology?  Everybody had a diagnosis, a label.

She categorizes Plato’s criteria as a severe, yet rational demand.

And after explaining that much of her educational approach is old, she writes just a few sentences later that she has only ‘discovered’ this in the sense that it was already there, and ‘no sane person’ would take credit for that.

I really love how much I learn from reading even a single paragraph of Charlotte Mason, whereas most modern educators can write an entire chapter which will contain only one really useful idea.

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Adoption from Other Places

Foreign adoption isn’t a panacea.  Sometimes we are far too quick to seek adoption when the children would be better off being supported in their home countries, especially when they are ‘poverty orphans,’ ie. they have parents, but the parents can’t find work and cannot feed them.  Moving to a new country with a new language, new name, new family, new food, new culture- this is hugely traumatic and difficult and we’re piling it on top of other trauma, the trauma that is behind the children’s need for a forever family in the first place.  It’s not always the way to go.


It’s not never the way to go, either. If you are interested in adopting from another country: Read here.

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Acapellago: Joy to the World

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Free4Kindle: Nature and wildlife reading

Bears I have Met and Others, free!


Late in October, I heard that a bear had got into a trap on Gleason Mountain, and leaving Pinto to his own devices, I went over to look at the captive. The Mexican acting as jailor did not know me, and I discovered that Allen Kelly was supposed to be the agent of a millionaire and an “easy mark,” who would pay a fabulous sum for a bear. The Mexican assured me that he was about to get wealth beyond the dreams of avarice for that bear from a San Francisco man, meaning said Kelly, whereupon I congratulated him, disparaged the bear and turned to go. The Mexican followed me down the trail and began complaining that the alleged purchaser of the bear was dilatory in closing the deal with cash. He, Mateo, was aggrieved by this unbusinesslike behavior, and it would be no more than proper for him to resent it and teach the man a lesson in commercial manners by selling the bear to somebody else, even to me, for instance. Mateo’s haste to get that bear off his hands was evident, but the reason for it was not apparent. Later I understood.

Monarch had the bad luck to get into a trap built by a little syndicate of which Mateo was a member. Mateo watched the trap, while the others supplied beef for bait. They were to divide the large sum which they expected to get from me in case they caught a bear before I did, and very likely my fired assistant had a contingent interest in the enterprise. Mateo was the only member of the syndicate on deck when I arrived, and deeming a bird in his hand worth a whole flock in the syndicate bush, he made the best bargain he could and left the others to whistle for dividends. Ten years afterward I met the cattleman who furnished the capital and the beef, and from his strenuous remarks about his Mexican partner I inferred that the syndicate had been deeply disappointed. I also learned for the first time why Mateo was so anxious for me to take the bear off his hands when the evident original purpose was to held me up for a good round sum. The hold-up would have failed, however, because I had spent more than $1,200 and lost five months’ time, was nearly broke, did not represent anybody but myself at that stage of my bear-catching career, and for all I knew the editor might have changed his mind about wanting a Grizzly at any price.

Finally I consented to take the bear and struck a bargain, and not until money had passed and a receipt was to be signed did Mateo know with whom he was dealing. He paid me the dubious compliment of muttering that I was “un coyote,” and as that animal is the B’rer Rabbit of Mexican folk lore, I inferred that the excellent Mateo intended to express admiration for the only evidence of business capacity to be found in my entire career. That dicker for a bear stands out as the sole trade I ever made in which I was not unmistakably and comprehensively “stuck.” Mateo was more than repaid for his trouble, however. He helped me build a box, and get the bear into it, and I took Monarch to San Francisco and sold him to the editor of the enterprising paper, who eventually gave him to Golden Gate Park.

The newspaper account of the capture of Monarch was elaborated to suit the exigencies of enterprising journalism, picturesque features were introduced where the editorial judgment dictated, and mere facts, such as the name of the county in which the bear was caught, fell under the ban of a careless blue pencil and were distorted beyond recognition.

More than one-fourth of Joaquin Miller’s “True Bear Stories”‘ consists of that newspaper yarn, copied verbatim and without amendment, revision or verification. The other three-fourths of the book, it is to be hoped, is at least equally true.

Considering all the frills of fiction that were put into the story to make it readable, the careless inaccuracies that were edited into it, and the fact that many persons knew of the preliminary attempts to buy any old bear and fake a capture, it is not strange that people who always know the “inside history” of everything that happens, wag their heads wisely and declare that Monarch was obtained from a bankrupt circus, or is an ex-dancer of the streets sold to the newspaper by a hard-up Italian.


The Amateur Poacher by Richard Jeffries, English nature writer, 1870s


They burned the old gun that used to stand in the dark corner up in the garret, close to the stuffed fox that always grinned so fiercely. Perhaps the reason why he seemed in such a ghastly rage was that he did not come by his death fairly. Otherwise his pelt would not have been so perfect. And why else was he put away up there out of sight?—and so magnificent a brush as he had too. But there he stood, and mounted guard over the old flintlock that was so powerful a magnet to us in those days. Though to go up there alone was no slight trial of moral courage after listening to the horrible tales of the carters in the stable, or the old women who used to sit under the hedge in the shade, on an armful of hay, munching their crusts at luncheon time.

The great cavernous place was full of shadows in the brightest summer day; for the light came only through the chinks in the shutters. These were flush with the floor and bolted firmly. The silence was intense, it being so near the roof and so far away from the inhabited parts of the house. Yet there were sometimes strange acoustical effects—as when there came a low tapping at the shutters, enough to make your heart stand still. There was then nothing for it but to dash through the doorway into the empty cheese-room adjoining, which was better lighted. No doubt it was nothing but the labourers knocking the stakes in for the railing round the rickyard, but why did it sound just exactly outside the shutters? When that ceased the staircase creaked, or the pear-tree boughs rustled against the window. The staircase always waited till you had forgotten all about it before the loose worm-eaten planks sprang back to their place.


Fox-Trapping- I wouldn’t use this for trapping foxes, obviously.  I would use it for learning more about foxes and possibly improving my chances of seeing them in the wild.  Details about skinning and curing skins not for the weak of heart.


In hilly and mountainous countries they travel much on the highest ground, and have regular “crossings,” where the experienced hunter or trapper often makes a kill or catch.

Foxes are carnivorous–living on flesh. Their principal food consists of rabbits, squirrels, mice, birds, bugs, eggs, etc. In some places where the food named is not plenty they visit creeks, lakes and ponds hunting crabs and fish. While they prefer fresh meat, they take stale and even decayed meats in severe weather.

Most wild animals can be attracted a short distance by “scent” or “decoy,” and the fox is one of them. Several good recipts for scent are given, but if there are no foxes in your neighborhood you can use all the “scents” and “decoys” you wish on a hundred traps all season without making a catch. There is no “decoy” that will attract a fox a mile, but there are some that are good. That many of the writers made good catches is bourn out by the various photographs, and in some instances by personal visits by the author to the trapper.

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Great Grandmother’s Journal, Week of November 11, 1956


Sunday, November 11, 1956

Loafed around all day. Read the Papers. Watched Purcell’s television in the evening.

Monday, November 12

Joe’s birthday- He has been everything a boy could be- to parents- in fact all 4 are just as fine and good-

got so sick during the night. got to thinking its the last round up which is a foolish way to think. I preach positive thinking- (she’s still recovering from what may have been Asian flu)

Roger came over and put my storm sash. He’s a grand good guy.

Tuesday, November 13

Receiv’d Otto Green $30

Rent from November 9-November 23

Mrs. Purcell’s friend gave her a permanent yesterday.

Warm and so windy.

Watched television in the evening.

The Garden Club was to meet and I am on the committee. No chance of getting down. Buses still on strike.

November 14, Wednesday

Worked around-

talked to (somebody whose name I cannot read- looks like Freudenreichs)

they came thru (the town where the cottage/Rattery is)  Tuesday- too bad I didn’t know about it.  later learned that Mr. and Mrs Woods drove to (another nearby town, so she could have gotten a ride to her garden club meeting had she known).

November 15, Thursday

Worked around- read- did some washing and ironing.

Watched television

ate a good supper with Purcells

Friday November 16

Same job- a little work here and there

Lois wanted me to come out with Roger Sat. am. but it makes me stay too long- watched television

November 17, Saturday

Changed my bed, washed. will go to Rogers Sunday a.m. when he gets off his 12-8 shift

Watched Purcells television.

November 18, Sunday

Spent Sunday with Rogers. children went to S. S.

had such a good roast beef supper. Watched television.

cups border

I could find nothing about a bus strike in Chicago, East Chicago, Northern Indiana in 1956, but down in Alabama the year long bus boycott in Montgomery was nearly at an end.  I don’t think this had anything to do with my great grandmother’s inability to attend her garden club meeting, but it is interesting to see what big things were going on in the country at the time, things which she rarely mentions in her journals.

For those who don’t know, the S.S. the children attended here is Sunday School, not some secret nazi club.

I’ve always found her method of referring to people and families interesting.  If somebody is named Charla Brown and she is going to visit Charla Brown’s family at their home, she doesn’t say ‘the Browns’,’ or ‘the Browns’ house,’ she says ‘Charlas’- Charla’s family provided me with a lovely dinner would be Charlas provided me with a lovely dinner.  At least in her references, whether she refers to a family by the first name of the husband or wife largely seems to depend on which of them is her progeny. If Charla is her daughter, it’s Charlas. Otherwise, she seems to default to the male.

I came across a similar language quirk in something I read by either Amish or old order Mennonites, and my great-grandmother was of German ancestry, so I wonder if that’s why.


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