March 22, 2005

What are you reading...

I have decided to pursue self-education as a means to an end. What end, you ask? Well, the end of the book, I guess. Charlotte Mason, a 19th Century British philosopher and educator coined the phrase "education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life" and believed that the process of learning never stops. She encouraged self-education for women at a time when women possessed very little rights and few were educated at all. She started one of the first teaching colleges for women (in England) and her teaching methods have gained tremendous popularity among Christian Homeschoolers (of whom, I am one) in the last two decades.

Miss Mason was an highly educated woman, well-read, and able to speak with authority on par with the notables of her time (Dickens, Darwin, etc.) There is a wonderful article that addresses the value of mothers pursuing self-education. I am posting it here as it is well-worth reading:

Mrs. Alfred Booth offers the following commentary on the subject of "The Influence and Teaching of the Educated Mother," in a paper given at the Bristol Conference of Women Workers, 1893/4:

What, then, is education? Who is the educated mother? What ought her teaching and influence to be?

What is education? We are apt to think we know very well what education is, and when asked this question give an answer which we hope will satisfy ourselves and others. When, however, we begin to think seriously on the subject we are surprised to find how dim and hazy our opinions are, and we cannot be satisfied until we try to classify them and arrive at some definite conclusions. Speaking of education therefore in reference to women as mothers, I should venture to say its first and prime object ought to be to make women think, and that all education which does not tend to make thinking easy and natural fails of its object and is not education.
The original meaning of the word educate is to draw forth; education should therefore aim at drawing forth all the different powers of human beings. True education should train the intellect, establish principles, and regulate the heart. In answering the question, what is education? --especially in reference to girls --I would strike this threefold cord, believing that if the intellect is trained to habits of thought by the development of its faculties, the conscience to the perception of the reasonableness of principles founded on intelligible moral laws, and the heart to a wise regulation of its spontaneous action, we may hope for results which will be most likely to prepare women for the particular duties and responsibilities which motherhood brings.

She continues with...

Who, then, is the educated mother? The educated mother is pre-eminently a woman who thinks, and the results of her regulated thought will be seen in the daily administration of her home.

The educated mother must, however, be much more than a nursery machine and a technical instructress. Realising that the children of to-day will rapidly develop into individuals keen to learn and be taught, she will always be alive to the necessity of cultivating her own mind, and the work of self-education and improvement will go on for her while life lasts. It is absolutely necessary a mother should know how to care for the small bodies, but it is equally important she should understand and satisfy the unfolding intellects of her children. It is a painful spectacle, that of a mother who has allowed her children to outstrip her as thinking beings, and can no longer keep pace with them in their pursuits and interests.

The educated mother knows this, and will keep well in touch with all the interests of life. Religion, politics, social and philanthropic problems are all of absorbing interest to her, and she recognises she can keep her children's confidence, some of whom probably are cleverer then herself, only by habits of thoughtful interest in all which concerns humanity. Beyond this the educated mother will seek to prepare her sons and daughters for that trying period in their lives when, emerging from childhood, they stand on the threshold of woman and manhood, oppressed often by new, bewildering thoughts, and open to guidance in a peculiarly sensitive and receptive manner. For this critical period the mother has already prepared herself by her knowledge of laws human and divine, and she earnestly endeavours to be herself the guide of her developing children.

and concludes with the following remarks:

In conclusion, the influence and teaching of the educated mother is all for righteousness; and the formation in her children of character, based on self-control and self-sacrifice, the daily object of her life.

The Influence and Teaching of the Educated Mother By Mrs. Alfred Booth [Paper read at Bristol Conference of Women Workers. Reprinted by kind permission of Bristol Ladies' Association for the Care of Girls.] 1893/4 Parents Review Volume 4 pgs 081-090

It is this mother's desire to continue to educate herself through a classical study program. With the invention of the Internet, the canon of Western thought is now readily available and easily accessible. There is therefore no reason for this or any mother to not be able to continue to enrich and enlarge her education for any reason: whether cost, inconvenience, or lack of compansionship.

To help me accomplish this goal, I have formed a reading/discussion group on Yahoo. It is called the Arete Classical Study program and is open to anyone who desires to self-educate through a systematic reading of the great books of western civilization.

http://homepages.rootsweb.com/~cheps/arete/index.html

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