Monthly Archives: October 2015

From My Commonplace- On Docility and Authority

I recently started reading School Education by Charlotte Mason, and wanted to reflect on what I’m reading. They probably will be of no interest to anyone but myself, however…

Chapter 1:

“Truer educational thought must of necessity result in an output of more worthy character.” (p. 4)

Education shapes our character. Ideally, we focus our educational efforts on what is true, beautiful, and good. I think the utilitarian education of the 21st century is not producing men and women of character.

“You cannot be quite frank and easy with beings who are obviously of a higher and of another order than yourself; at least you cannot when you are a little boy.” (p 4)

Charlotte is speaking here about the dangers of autocratic parenting. This hits home a bit to me– I want my children to feel at ease with me, yet it is so easy to drift into authoritarian parenting: “because I said so!” There must be a balance, because parents are in a position of authority. But authority does not mean authoritarian.

Authority- person in command, in charge, with the right to make decisions.

Authoritarian-  expecting or requiring people to obey rules or laws; not allowing personal freedom.

My goal is to be authoritative, but not authoritarian. Charlotte talks much elsewhere of respecting the child as a person. Keeping that in mind, I think will help me to be more sympathetic to my little ones.

“It is much to a child to know that he may question, may talk of the thing that perplexes him, and that there is comprehension for his perplexities. Effustive sympathy is a mistake, and bores a child when it does not make him silly. But just to know that you can ask and tell is a great outlet and means, to the parent, the power of direction, and to the child, free and natural development.” (p 5)

This, too, is a goal.

Charlotte warns, however, against the doctrine of the infallible reason, promulgated by John Locke:

“That doctrine accepted, individual reason becomes the aultimate authority, and every man is free to do that which is right in his own eyes. Provided, Locke would have added, that the reason be fully trained, and the mind instructed as to the merits of the particular case; but such proviso was readily lost sight of, and the broad principle remained.” (p. 5)

It’s hard to imagine that she is writing this in 1904!

She warns against the implications of Herbert Spencer‘s rationalistic philosophy:

“[Spencer} sees that the principle of infallible reason is directly antagonistic to the idea of authority… So long as men acknowledge a God, they of necessity acknowledge authority, supreme and deputed. But, says Mr. Spencer, in effect, every man finds his own final authority in his own reason.” (p. 6)

“From the dethronement of the divine, follows the dethronement of all human authority, whether it be of kings and their deputies over nations, or of parents over families. Every act of authority is, we are taught, an infrigement of the rights of man or of child…” (p. 6)

Mr Spencer’s work on education is so valuable a contribution to educational thought that many parents read it amd embrace it, as a whole, without perceiving that it is a part, and a carefully worked out part, of a scheme of philosophy with which perhaps they are little in sympathy… It is the labor of the author’s life to eliminate the idea of authority from the universe, that he repudiates the authority of parents because it is a link in the chain which binds the universe to God.” (p. 7)

She agrees that

“None of us has a right to exercise authority, in things great or small, except as we are, and acknowledge ourselves to be, deputed by one supreme and ultimate Authority”. (p. 7)

But Mason is operating from a strongly theistic, Christian worldview, and it is from this her philosophy of education is based:

“Nothing less than the Infinite will satisfy the spirit of a man. We again recognize that we are made for God, and have no rest until we find Him.” (p. 7)

Mason views authority and docility as fundamental principles on which the world exists. In short, someone always has to be in charge, whether it’s a football team, a corporation, or a family. Someone has to be the final decision maker. The rationalistic philosophers, she argues, have served to show us the dangers of authoritarianism.

“We know now that authority is vested in the office and not in the person; that the moment it is treated as a personal attribute it is forfeited. We know that a person in authority is a person authorizied; and that he who is authorized is under authority. The person under authority holds and fulfills a trust; in so far as he asserts himself, governs upon the impulse of his own will, he ceases to be authoritative and authorised, and becomes arbitrary and autocratic.” (p. 12)

For my own life, when I discipline my children, I need to be carefully considering why I am disciplining. Believing that I am under God’s authority– I need to consider whether their behavior is an affront to God’s laws (loving Him, loving others), or simply a matter of my inconvenience or against my personal preference. If they are being noisy and I am irritated, I have no right to snap at them or discipline for that infraction. They are people, and I am called to love them. If, on the otherhand, one hurts or injures the other, then a consequence is necessary, as they were not loving their neighbor as themselves.

Just my midafternoon musings, as I seek to work this this out in my mind…

Fall Term 1 in Review

We just completed our first six weeks of school, and so far things have been going well! Here is a belated update:

Bible: I changed my Bible plans last minute, after hearing rave reviews about The Child’s Story Bible by Catherine Vos. This term we read 16 chapters, roughly corresponding to Genesis 1-22. We read from this Bible four times a week at breakfast.

Missions: We finished reading Stories from Africa and began I Heard Good News Today, both recommended by Sonlight curriculum. We also read two biographies from the Little Lights series: Can Brown Eyes Be Made Blue? (Amy Carmichael)  and Could Somebody Please Pass the Salt? (Hudson Taylor).  We generally read missions stories on Fridays and both kids have really enjoyed this time. The Little Lights books were a big hit, so I hope to get more in this series.

Character: We focused on respect this term, using Laying Down the Rails for Children and some resources from Character First Education. We emphasized on respecting God, respecting other people, and respecting ourselves. It’s hard to measure success in character development, but we had some great conversations and opportunities for growth!

Awana: We use our Awana verses for Bible memory. This term Grace earned her HangGlider rank and three (almost four) jewels. She’s memorized 14 verses so far. Jonathan earned his WingRunner rank and memorized or reviewed 28 verses! He only has one more section to go before completing his handbook.

History: We are covered early American history this term from explorers to the founding of Jamestown. The books we have read include:

The Carving on the Tree by Elizabeth Campbell

Virginia Dare, Mystery Girl by Augusta Stevenson

Jamestown: New World Adventure by James Knight

John Smith, Jamestown Boy by Thomas Frank Barton

Geography: We have read the book Legends and Leagues several times and done several exercises on mapping from the accompanying workbook. We usually do this about once a week.

Science: We began our study of the human body, focusing on the Reproductive System (scary topic to begin with!) and the Skeletal System. Books we read included:

The Story of Me

How Are Babies Made?

God Made All of Me

The Skeleton Inside of You

A Book About Your Skeleton

Nature Study: We have been reading Outdoor Secrets as well as the Outdoor Secrets Companion. We started this late in the term, but we’ve learned about apples and went on a field trip apple picking! We have also spent lots of time outside exploring our yard as well as going to some local forest preserves.

Extras: We’ve dabbled with music study using the Classics for Kids podcast. We’ve dabbled with art appreciation using the ebook What Do You See? and poetry using Mother Goose and the fun poetry book The Llama Who Had No Pajama. For Spanish the kids have enjoyed watching Muzzy. They’ve also seen a lot of Signing Time because Kaitlyn loves Signing Time. Grace especially has shown a talent for picking up languages.


Reading– Jonathan has completed 12 lessons in All About Reading Level 3. He’s becoming a very fluent reader. I have him read to me every day and he’s read through most of Arnold Lobel’s books like the Frog and Toad series, Owl at Home, and Mouse Tales. These are fairly easy for him, but he hasn’t felt confident enough to branch out into chapter books.

Handwriting- We reviewed capital letters and numbers and have gone on to reviewing lowercase letters. This has been good practice for him, as he’s still comfortable writing in all caps. We’ve worked on copying words and sentences and his handwriting is pretty normal for a 6.5 year old boy. We are still using Handwriting without Tears First Grade.

Math- I have added Miquon math into our Singapore math studies and this has gone really well. Jonathan has covered addition within 10, subtraction within 10, shapes and length.

Spelling- We have branched into spelling with All About Spelling 1. Jonathan moved faster than I anticipated. We mostly worked on recognizing phonograms, segmenting words into phonograms, and isolating sounds in words.

Co-Op: Jonathan has enjoyed co-op so far. He has a class called Cartoons, Classical Music, and Composers. They have watched several Bugs Bunny cartoons utilizing classical music and also Peter and the Wolf. He was already familiar with Peter and the Wolf, but he has learned more about the orchestra and he loves and gives extensive narrations on the cartoons he sees. He is involved in a gym class which has focused on typical gym class activities: exercises, races, and kickball. Finally, he is in an art class in which they learn about an artist and attempt to learn about their techniques. He has worked with chalk, figure drawing, clay pottery, and watercolors. Jonathan is easily frustrated with art because what he pictures in his mind isn’t the same as what he is able to produce. But he’s hanging in there…


Reading- Grace has learned and reviewed the 26 basic phonograms and we’ve practiced building and reading words. She is easily reading CVC words and several common sight words. She really desires to read as well as Jonathan and we are slowly working towards it.

Math- Grace learned about measuring weight and capacity this term as well as comparing numbers (more than/less than). She finished the Singapore EarlyBird A kindergarten math book.

Handwriting- We are practicing letter formation using Kumon’s lowercase writing book. Grace loves to write and tries to write stories. However, she still reverses her letters, so we need to keep practicing proper letter formation.

Co-Op: Grace participates in art and Spanish at co-op. The kindergarten art class focuses more on exploring art. They have experimented with different mediums like chalk and watercolor as well as learned color mixing. Grace’s favorite is Spanish class. She has learned Spanish letters, numbers, and colors so far and always wants to practice!

Kaitlyn:  Kaitlyn doesn’t do school, but she’s always learning! She loves Signing Time and has picked up a lot of vocabulary (both verbal and signed). She’s speaking in short sentences, making her desires known. She’s even been dry at night and used the potty in the morning! Now if only she would do so during the day… I spent one day trying to potty train and decided to wait until she was a little older and we were also on break. It’s too much to homeschool and potty train!

So that’s what we’ve been up to the past 6 weeks!