Thursday, August 24, 2017

Come Wonder and Delight!

Hello everyone! Can you believe we are finishing up summer break and beginning another school year? Well, time doesn’t stand still and we must embrace the movement of it. But often there is anxiety at the pace and quality of the movement of life, don’t you think? Well, you are not alone, we all feel this way, and that is how the Charlotte Mason Study Guild of Denver came into existence. It came from a need to slow things down and notice the wonder, beauty, and goodness of the life we have been so graciously been given by Our Heavenly Father. In our guild, we take time to ponder and savor the loveliness of our lives and the lives we share with our families in our homeschool and in our everyday practices through studying the methods and philosophies of a 19th century British educator named Charlotte Mason. Our meetings are twice a month; the second Thursday evening for a moms’ book study and the last Wednesday of the month for a study/play time for our children. Below is the information for our upcoming meetings for September.

Our moms meetings will begin on Thursday, Sept.14th here in Lakewood at our local Panera Bread at Alameda and Wadsworth in the Belmar shopping district from 6:30-8:00 pm. We will be studying "Real Learning" by Elizabeth Foss once a month to continue a journey we started into Charlotte Mason's methods and philosophy six years ago when the guild came into existence. (*We realized that the book is very hard to find so moms generously donated a few books making so that we should have copies for everyone to share borrow for the year.) Our time together will be full rousing discussions and questions and answers as we better understand the methods and lifestyle Charlotte's work truly reflected and how to implement these desires to our homeschooled and to our everyday life. It's really a good time.

There will be no need to read the book ahead of time for the first meeting. I have attached a file here with the first chapter of Real Learning for us to begin our work. Oh, and if you have your own copy, please bring it. If you have a copy you would like to sell, donate or lend, please let me know at We are still looking for a few copies.  

Now for our children, we will be meeting on the last Wednesdays of the month which for September is September 27th at 1:30 pm to 2:15 pm at Lakewood Library in their front meeting room for a nature study read aloud and a hands on activity for all ages. RSVP is strong suggested to have enough supplies.

So that's it. Please feel free to contact me with any questions. God Bless! 😊

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Challenge Them, I Say!

To the rear march, to the rear march, hut two, three, four. Ok, what's going on you might be asking yourself. Well, I am in boot camp, everyone. Yep, I am in the Charlotte Mason Boot Camp for the next 4 weeks (already having completed 2 weeks) with Brandy Vencel, one of the advisers for Ambleside Online. We have been learning a great deal and really going deep into Charlotte Mason's thoughts about educating our children.

As we were studying last week, we came across this very interesting piece of information from Miss Mason's writings regarding the relationship between media and education. She wrote:

"Children of a poor school in the slums are eager to tell the whole story of the Waverly, falling continually into the beautiful language and style of the author. They talk about the Rosetta Stone and about treasures in their local museum; they discuss Coriolanus and conclude that "his mother must have spoiled him." They know by heart every detail of a picture by La Hooch, Rembrandt, Botticelli, and not only is no evolution of history or drama, no subtle sweetness, no inspiration of a poet, beyond them, but they decline to know that which does not reach them in literary form."

"What they receive under this condition they absorb immediately and show that they know by that test of knowledge which applies to us all, that is, they can tell it with power, clearness, vivacity, and charm. These are the children to whom we have been dolling out the 'three R's' for generations! Small wonder that juvenile crime increases; the intellectually starved boy must find food for his imagination, scope for his intellectual power; and crime like the cinema (movies, tv, computers; my addition) offers, it must be admitted, brave adventures. (A Philosophy of Education p. 63) 

Charlotte is saying in these two paragraphs that we can expose children of any background (good schools, poor schools, affluent financial means or meager) to the rich offerings of the world around us. Great literature, artists, music, and the like keeps the mind rich and engaged and excited for embracing life long learning. But if we just "drill and kill" and regularly expose the children to dry facts, true and false questions, fill in the blanks, or multiple choice we are certain to intellectually starve a child's mind and imagination. Thus the child must look to the "cinema" (movies, tv, computers and such) to aid him (her) on discovering and perusing brave adventures that are more exciting and interesting than that of the dry information he is receiving in his schooling. 

So be watchful... If your child is aching to watch tv or play computer games or can not wait to get his school done so he can get onto the more important things of his day, he/she may need more brave adventures and challenges in his homeschooling hours. So before you give in to those demands for more media, take a look at your books and your curriculum and see what needs tweaking to temper your child's need to look toward the virtual world for satisfaction. 

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Masterly Inactivity Looks Like a Cardboard Box

Charlotte Mason was very interested and concerned for a child's mind to be preserved in it's natural state of wonder, joy, and love for their life. Charlotte Mason was a great proponent of "masterly inactivity" which allows a child to be gently guided toward certain academic and imaginative ideas and then left to discover. But what does masterly inactivity look like. 

It looks like an eight year old little girl who finds out that her mom and dad have to go straight away to buy a new dishwasher as the old one started leaking into the basement. The little girl discovers that the new dishwasher comes not only with all the wonderful features of cleaning glory, but also with a precious, most magnificent cardboard box. This is the mother of all gifts, and she carefully slides the box into the playroom to become her portal into the world of imagination. Her mom brings her an armful of blankets and clothes and her dolls to leave her for the next bunch of hours while she discovers the wonderful things this box holds. Masterly inactivity also looks like when the little girl's twelve year old brother asks his little sister if he can spend the night in her box, and she is pleased that her brother understands the wonder of the box.  Masterly inactivity looks like a mom and dad who happily agree to him sleeping in the box providing him with a sleeping bag, pillow, lantern and a good night kiss. 

Homeschooling looks like a sleepy little twelve year old boy telling his little sister in the morning that he had the best night's sleep inside that box. :)

Practice masterly inactivity; guide, shape, move in when needed and retreat when you sense the timing is proper. Begin to know when it's time for hands on and when it's time for hands off. Know when to speak and when to be silent, being watchful for perpetual cackle. When to intervene in a child's playtime moment (like when they climb on the roof of the house to see the neighbors rooftop) and when to step back to let the child's imagination grow. (like the cardboard box sleep over) Masterly Inactivity well practiced would make Miss Mason proud, and your children quite happy.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Consider This - Chapter 2 Summary and Think Abouts


Dear Friends,

It was just recently brought to my attention that the audio link that I had hope would be here, did not post, and of course as life would have it, my computer updated and the link was deleted. 

With that being said, I will go back to writing the summary, and post an audio link for the next chapter. (Oh, and thank you for your patience and fortitude as I slowly work through these chapters. I am doing that purposefully so as to slow us down to absorb the information gradually. Human nature drives us to want to eat and eat to brimful not allowing us to enjoy and savor when we have found something wonderful to delight in. So it is good practice to only take on little bites.) 

So let's begin...

Karen Glass begins Chapter 2 with the one of the greatest of Charlotte Mason's reflections on the education of children. Charlotte Mason didn't ask "what shall we teach and how shall we teach it?" But instead she went right to the heart of the matter looking more at a fundamental question of "what is a person?" The manner in which a person or culture answers that question will drive its educational practices. If the resounding answer is "man is a machine", for example then education may be directed toward making that machine most efficient and least troublesome. A machine-child must learn what he needs to know in order to perform with optimum efficiency those tasks which fall to him, and little else is needed except perhaps some entertainment to keep him content between tasks." 

But if the answer to the question, "what is man?" with "man is a living soul created in the image of God," our educational task will be much difference as we seek to discover all the potential in each child so that he can become everything that God meant him to be. All that we give him will not be too much nor go to wasteCharlotte Mason understood this, and she knew that every philosophy, including every philosophy of education, must begin and develop naturally around a chosen understanding of man and remain consistent with that conception. 

This was not the thinking of the time though. The scientific trends were being widely embraced and were effecting the educational aspects at the turn of the twentieth century. Concepts such as the new science of evolution affected the cultural thought of Miss Mason's time in different ways. First, it was widely disseminated that at birth children were less than person - akin to oysters- and not yet capable of thoughts and feelings that belong to a person. It was imagined that babies did not merely grow, but evolved in the womb and was not complete even at birth. Charlotte Mason did not agree that children were incomplete and without mental capacity so she was emphatic about children being from the very beginning complete persons who deserve respect.

Miss Mason also rejected the scientific idea of hereditary determinism that replaced an older superstition regarding fate. This new determinism supposed that a person was born good or born bad, and that education or habit training could not change his nature. You do not need to look far in the literature of her time to find evidence of this thinking. In Pride and Prejudice you read about the main character referring to someone in the story as "naturally bad" as if the person were "born bad", and there was nothing that could be done to prevent the person from acting according to her nature. This was meant to "console" the parents of this person and allow them to not bear the weight of responsibility as it is not their fault, they could not change the dear's nature. 

But Charlotte Mason view was different, quite counter cultural. She felt all possibilities lie within a child - and educational endeavors must be taken to assist them. If a child's character has possibilities for both good and evil, then care must be taken to lay a foundation of good principles and nurture them, while at the same time helping the child to see and correct his own character faults. Nothing may be taken for granted. Wisdom and virtue must be a primary goal in education was Charlotte's vision, and although hereditary determinism is not widely discussed today, remnants of it do affect our contemporary thinking.  

Think About's: Here are some questions to consider as you ruminate on this post.

1. Charlotte Mason wrote her first two principles to make her view of man (or a child) clear to her contemporaries. Can you express your view of man in a sentence or two which would speak to our culture today? What cultural ideas might we need to refute in our principles?

2. Why and how does the way we view a person affect our educational philosophy? What does it mean when David Hicks in the book Norms and Nobility says "No education is innocent of an attitude toward man and his purpose."

The next chapter is going to look at the plague of utilitarianism in our modern education. Stay tuned. 

Monday, April 17, 2017

Et qui a mortuis Surrexit!

Surrexit Christus spes mea!
Christ, my hope is arisen!

Blessed Easter To You All!

This painting of "Christ the Comforter" by Carl Bloch hangs on the east wall of our dining room. On Holy Saturday evening I move it from the wall to the top of the bookcase by the front door so anyone who enters meets the loving and longing eyes of Jesus. I am the man clinging to Jesus' robe on His left side as I come down slowly from the emotional reeling of these past few days. The days of the Tritium are emotional as the events of the surrendering of Our Lord to the Holy Will of the Father are relived. As we walked the way of last moments of Jesus, our hearts are broken beyond measure and then come soaring back to life as we know the beauty and the glory and the triumph at the end of this epic saga. It's so much to think about and ponder and wonder on. There are so many beautiful reflections shared especially written about this time of year. 

Below I have selected just a few thoughts to "Schole" over with a friend or two or a spouse or a group. Just choose one and read it slowly letting the words move deeply. There is much to gain from these readings. So eat slowly and deliberately and let these words digest before you move on. 

This dead body is our handiwork. This is what we are capable of doing. And now, after everything we have done, we ask forgiveness. Who do we think we are?! we are those for whom Jesus died. He died so that when we repent and seek forgiveness, the well of his mercy will always be open and full. So often we are afraid that reestablishing a relationship with someone we have wronged is hypocritical; but Christians call this reconciliation. How many friendships have ended because the one who has betrayed will not forgive himself, and so will not allow the other to forgive him? This is the story of Judas. Let us rather follow Peter. he is absent from the Way of the Cross, but he leads the Church in the way of repentance. Peter's life and preaching feed us by witnessing to Christ's infinite mercy. 
                                                                                                                       ~Father Richard Veras

“If man had his way, the plan of redemption would be an endless and bloody conflict. In reality, salvation was bought not by Jesus' fist, but by His nail-pierced hands; not by muscle but by love; not by vengeance but by forgiveness; not by force but by sacrifice. Jesus Christ our Lord surrendered in order that He might win; He destroyed His enemies by dying for them and conquered death by allowing death to conquer Him.” 

                                                                                                                                           ~ A.W. Tozer

This is the peak of Good Friday's liturgy. The cross is set up, no longer on the hill of Calvary before the gates of ancient Jerusalem; it is no longer surrounded by the cursing of heathen soldiers, but by the reverent Church which receives as consolation, at this moment of deepest sorrow, a faint taste of joy at Resurrection to come. "Your cross, O Lord, do we adore and your sacred rising we praise and glorify; look, through it joy has entered the entire world." Easter is anticipated only for a moment. The Church sings of Resurrection and of joy. We are to hold on to that: the unforgettable impression of this suppressed and melancholy, yet still at its deepest, happy song of Good Friday. "Through the cross joy has entered the entire world." The Church's life is a life of the cross, a continual dying. Yet her speech is joyful; her liturgy is the festival of life. She suffers death, but she already lives the Resurrection, for her food is the meat of immortality; she has part in the risen Christ, and cannot perish. 

                                                                                                                                        ~ St. Aemiliana 

Friday, February 17, 2017

Consider This - Chapter 1 Summary and Think Abouts

As we explore different ideas for teaching our children, we weigh many factors in hope to bring the best to them. In looking at Miss Charlotte Mason and in reading her writings, we hear her speak of wanting for a "liberal education for all". But she understood (as we, to are to understand) that there is not enough time in the years we are given to educate our children to make a classics scholar of every pupil. It may not even be appropriate to make them such. (Pride of the mom and dad comethst before the fall, yes?) It just may not be suited for everyone and who needs that kind of pressure; parent or child. There is time, however, to do much more than the "three R's", which are no more than a utilitarian acquisition of basic skills. Instead Miss Mason desired just as we desire to give every student a rich feast of all the best knowledge the world has to offer: a liberal or better said, a generous education.

Miss Mason walked the streets of England during the nineteenth century with it's sweeping Victorian landscape. We view this time as we look back to it as a quaint time of refined sensibilities. A time of garden parties and copious amounts of fabric in dresses and gentlemanly behavior and the drinking of much tea from china tea sets, but the Victorians did not view themselves in that way at all. They saw themselves as modern, advanced, and forward-thinking. One of the questions of the time as the people desired to throw off the trappings of older thinking was, should education continue to focus on the classical languages and literature or should it become more scientific? In looking at our current educational system, we do not have to ask which side won because we live in the world, and were probably educated in the system, that grew out of the "science" side of the question.

Miss Mason was in these times and saw the beginning of the implantation of the changes to the more "science" of education and reacted to it. Although she was a minimally educated young woman, having only a basic education through high school and one year of teachers college, she was able to see the "big picture" and draw out common principles from various philosophies. This was her particular genius. We know by her own testimony that she began her teaching career with enthusiasm but great ignorance, and had certain ideas which she had to alter almost at once. The children themselves in whom she taught convinced her that their needs were greater than she had previously realized. She found that the modern theories she had learned were not adequate for her task. She needed something more to satisfy the eager minds of the children in her charge. Where was it to be found?

Well, Charlotte looked around and to the past. We can safely infer from her writings that she read and read, but with discernment. From Plato and Quintilian to Milton and Ascham who were equally dissatisfied and expressed their displeasure in the usual educational practices. They proposed reforms, and better methods based on sound principles. Charlotte Mason looked at the progressive practices of her time that made education utilitarian and mechanical, and the distortion of classical education as it was widely practiced was inadequate to meet the needs she saw in the children she taught.

One of her colleagues, a teacher and founding member of the Parents National Education Union (Charlotte Mason's association of parents and teachers who were interested in the educational welfare of children.) wrote:
   Sound principles that are old may easily be laid on the shelf and forgotten, unless in              each successive generation a few industrious people can be found who will take the                trouble to draw them forth from the storehouse.

Charlotte Mason still finds willing hearers today. A second wave of parents have read the books she wrote, and fueled by the same desires as the parents of the PNEU, they wish to provide their own children with a liberal education based on excellent books. The principles and methods Charlotte Mason advocated, however, were not of her own invention. She herself said that she and her colleagues had "discovered" them, because they represent universal truths about education that have their roots in the classical world.

Think Abouts:

After reading this synopsis of Chapter One of "Consider This", what are your thoughts about educating your children? Take about 10 minutes to think of your desires in educating. If you feel so inclined, write it down in your planner or common place book so you can go back to it when you are feeling discouraged and want to run to your nearest school to drop off your children.

*The content of this work is a combination of Karen Glass's words and my own. Please see the content of "Consider This" for further insight. The credit for the origination of the thought process in this work goes to Mrs. Glass.

Monday, January 30, 2017

InCoWriMo 2017

It's a day like any other day. You watch from your window the movement of life outside. Ambitious birds fly from the ground to the trees and chattering scurrying squirrels descending the trees to the ground. The wind blows gently and you notice an approaching vehicle hugging the curb coming toward your home. The shape is one you know so well and anticipate with hope and joy at it's arrival. The white boxy mini truck with it's patriotic stripes slows down at your letter box and makes a deposit. You wait with gracious social courtesy (not to seem too eager) for the mailman to make his way down the block. Timing things just right, you dash to your mail box to see what awaits you because as you know it's InCoWriMo 2017. (pronounced Inko-RieMo)

"You open the mailbox. Inside awaits a mystery. You slowly pull the letter from the darkness, barely containing your excitement. The envelope is stiff and crinkles pleasantly in your hand. You recognize the scrawled name and begin to imagine the words scribbled inside- heartfelt, funny, or simply informative? You don't know yet! It is an envelope full of promising possibilities. Is there anything better than the simple pleasure of receiving a handwritten letter?

International Correspondence Writing Month, or InCoWriMo for short, is a month dedicated to exploring the joys of written correspondence. Some may say that snail mail is through- a throwback to a prior era, unnecessary in a world full of tweets, texts, and email. I'm not against these forms of communication, by any means, but for me, nothing can replace the handwritten word. And while receiving a letter is a beautiful thing, writing one is arguably equally as fun. So I say, embrace nostalgia! Take your pen in hand and battle against the digital tide.

To participate in InCoWriMo, all you need to do is write one letter every day for the month of February. That's it! 

If you are looking to participate, but aren't sure who to write to, we've got a few ideas for you...

Write to:

  • your parents or grandparents
  • an influential teacher, professor, or coach
  • your favorite author 
  • a neighbor 
  • someone you look up to in your field
Additionally, I've put together this awesome list of people who would probably, most likely, love to hear from you.  Additionally, if you'd like to impart some words of love to a stranger, you can choose to participate in the More Love Letters movement. "

                                                                                                      ~ Goulet Pen Company

We, the Swavely Family, have signed up for the InCoWriMo 2017 and would love for families, friends, and relations to join us. And please do not feel that you have failed if you do no write every day just do the very best you can. And do not scrutinize or critique your handwriting or the handwriting of any of your family members who would like to participate, just write. For the pleasure of writing your thoughts and the pleasure of knowing the pleased smile of the recipient who will hold your kindness in their hands awaiting the mystery you have put inside the envelope. So ready your pens, InCoWriMo begins on Wednesday.