What are You Learning These Days?

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What are You Learning These Days?

By Jeannette Webb 

I greatly admire Charlotte Mason and the educational philosophy she espoused. Her approach looks more like life than an institution. And, she clearly saw the importance of the educator’s continual education: 

“Never be without a good book on hand. If you will read and ponder, you will find that it stimulates your educational thought in many directions and keeps you from drifting into mere routine. Do not think this is a selfish thing to do, because the advance does not end with yourself.” 

If we are to raise interesting, inquisitive children, we must first be that way ourselves! 

Charlotte recommended that, at all times, a mother should keep three books going besides the Bible: a stiff book, a moderately easy book, and a novel. You then read the one you feel fit for that day. Following that protocol, it is amazing what you can get through in a year! 

When I was a young, single woman, I was always up for the hard stuff. I would tackle a single huge book to completion, never wavering. But Charlotte knew the limits of a woman’s frame. When you throw a husband, children, laundry, meals, teaching, community responsibilities, illness, age, and fatigue into the mix there are some days you can’t face the stiff theology book or even the moderately easy biography. 

As much as I’m committed to developing my mind, I’m a realist, like Charlotte. There are days when my happiness is more important than tackling a scholarly work or a massive classical novel. In fact, during particularly hard times I’ll even resort to my favorite juvenile fiction (remember, my homeschooling days are long over). I might opt for a ripping good story that makes me laugh like Swallows and Amazons. If I’m in the mood for adventure, I reach for Rosemary Sutcliff. When I’m mellow and need to do some re-framing, I head to my mommy shelf filled with old-fashioned authors like Elizabeth Goudge, Lucy Maude Montgomery, Bess Streeter Aldrich, Willa Cather, Jane Austin, and Grace Richmond. Their beautiful language intrigues me and their stories challenge and encourage me without pounding me over the head theologically. My shelves hold a continually expanding group of contemporary authors too such as Penelope Wilcock and Jan Karon, as well as books of short stories and poetry.

I have had a pious acquaintance sneer at some of my choices as “mere mind candy,” but I came to understand long ago that my mind and heart could be elevated and encouraged by an unpretentious book as well as a complex one. 

So, like Charlotte Mason suggested, I keep a mix of books going and read what I can handle that day. I have a stack of books going in my happy spot (my favorite hangout in our living room where my husband and I read in the evening). There is usually another one by my bed, one in my office, one on the counter where I eat lunch, and one in the bathroom (what can I say?). The magazines and newspapers are by my rocking chair near the kitchen. The mix keeps me laughing and keeps me thinking. It also keeps me sane.

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Look Who’s Talking! 

“The weekly reminder (in your blog post) is so important as you gently nudge the parents to keep on task toward the big picture. Your comments are like a breath of fresh air to run the good race, to look out of the trenches for just a moment and remember why we are here.”     ~ Kathy

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