Joy's concern, which you can read in its entirety in the comments section of yesterday's blog, was that some of my statements may have been a bit judgmental or condemning of people who are trying their best, who are in a different place along their journey, or who have made certain decisions because we live in a different time than Mason did. If that is the case, I apologize to anyone who took offense.
As unlikely as it may seem, this is precisely the conversation that I wanted to have when I started this blog, even at the risk of "stepping in it" sometimes. As long as everyone is committed to putting relationships above all else (and please know that I am), it is a very healthy, if sometimes uncomfortable, conversation to have. I have been to Joy's school, and it is lovely. I particularly love the fact that they have homeschoolers who are active in their school community. The founder is a good friend of mine and a wonderful person. She encouraged me so much when I started Willow Tree, and I am very grateful.
I 100% agree that Charlotte Mason would have been the first to say she didn't have everything figured out. In fact, our book study group just read the very beginning of Philosophy of Ed, where she hints at as much. In the preface, she writes, "I should like to add that we have no axe to grind. The public good is our aim." I sense that I struck a nerve in yesterday's blog, maybe because of the past experiences that some readers may have had, but I would like to echo Mason's words. If it didn't come across that way, I'll try to do better next time.
Then she says in chapter 1, "I have asked myself this question and have laboured for fifty years to find the answer, and am anxious to impart what I think I know, but the answer cannot be given in the form of 'Do' this and that, but rather as an invitation to 'Consider' this and that; action follows when we have thought duly."
I love the fact that she says that this is what she "thinks" she knows. She demonstrates true humility here.
Conversely, on p. 19, she says, "The reader will say with truth,--'I knew all this before and have always acted more or less on these principles'; and I can only point to the unusual results we obtain through adhering not 'more ore less,' but strictly to the principles and practices I have indicated."
But then again, a few lines down, she says, "Whether the way I have sketched out is the right and the only way remains to be tested still more widely than in the thousands of cases in which it has been applied; but assuredly education is slack and uncertain for the lack of sound principles exactly applied."
I see a lot of similarities here with what she believed about science (and education is as much a science as an art, I think)--she wanted her students to pay attention to current scientific discovery and thought, but to hold it loosely, knowing that tomorrow some new discovery may turn what they thought they knew on its head. I admire her for being willing to hold her own thoughts to the same standard.
I've always called Mason the "master of the paradox" because of instances like this--where she definitely, if gently, insists that doing things exactly as she has laid them out will yield the best results, and yet she herself never stopped refining her thoughts on education.
Joy rightly stated in her comment that we don't know what one of Mason's schools would have looked like in the 21st century, and if she didn't claim to have it all figured out, then we shouldn't, either. We should be supporting one another in this journey that we are all walking together. Yes! Even if yesterday's post didn't show it, what I want more than anything is for all of us who have adopted this philosophy and who are trying to work it out in our daily lives to come to the same table and help one another. Maybe this has been happening forever and I just noticed it last year, but I have sensed this current of competition within the Mason community. There seems to be a clamoring for who is going to be "the" expert or whose model is going to be "the" model. I am concerned about this. I think it is unhealthy and unsavory, and it is not serving the movement well. (That's another opportunity for me to have stepped in it, but there you go.) I think what is needed is the courage to be vulnerable with one another--to forgive past slights and let's get on with our shared mission together.
Joy, one advantage that Mason had over us is that she had a teaching college before she ever had schools. Today's teachers (including homeschool parents) usually don't have the luxury of knowing what we are doing before we walk into the classroom. We have to learn it as we go along. So, yes, let's practice grace with one another and come to the table over a nice cuppa.
Blessings on your day!