Chapter 4 “A New Perspective” discussion question responses

For the Children’s Sake
Chapter 4
A New Perspective

Chapter 4 is a wonderful chapter where Susan Schaeffer Macaulay begins to delve into Charlotte Mason’s specific ideas on education more fully.

1. How did Charlotte arrive at her ideas of what education is supposed to be?

SSM provides us with a quote from Charlotte Mason that details how Charlotte arrived at her idea of what education is supposed to be on pages 59-61. In summary, Charlotte began her career as a brand new teacher with the idea that if children were “bad” students it was clearly the fault of the instructor being unable to teach them. What she quickly came to realize is that each child has a unique personality and that no amount of teaching subjects is going to change them as they are. It seemed that students would make progress one day only to regress the next. This led her to struggle with wondering what the point of education was in the first place. She felt that education had to be more than just the daily coverage of certain topics. “It must mean something over and above the daily plodding along at small tasks which goes by the name.” (CM page 60) Ultimately, she believed that it “is the business of education to find some way of supplementing that weakness of will which is the bane of most of us as of the children.” (CM pg 61).

What did she mean by this? Personally, I believe that what she intends for education for children is also education for us. There is one main goal: “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31. As Christ said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-40. What a freeing thought this is! It frees us from the burdens of the world, which teach us to pursue money or knowledge as our chief educational goal. There is nothing wrong with making money or having knowledge, as long as we do so within the framework of the main goal. It allows us to be ourselves, which is what Charlotte meant when she said that ‘Children are born persons.’ She is simply stating that we all were made with certain gifts and talents and the goal is to glorify God with our unique gifts and talents. It frees us from worrying about getting the RIGHT curriculum, but instead focusing on what our child’s specific needs are and finding a curriculum that suits their specific needs.

In the proceeding chapters, SSM discussed the idea that ‘Children are born Persons’ and that we are all under authority and as parents our authority comes to us through God. Understanding these concepts is fundamental in understanding the educational philosophies of Charlotte Mason.

2. What three educational instruments are we limited to as educators?
In order to get to these three educational instruments, SSM first lays forth Charlotte’s following points that are to be accepted as true and necessary before we can move forward with the instruments of education:
a. “Children are born persons
b. They are not born either good or bad, but with possibilities for good and evil.
c. The principles of authority on the one hand and obedience on the other, are natural, necessary and fundamental; but
d. These principles are limited by the respect due to the personality of the children, which must not be encroached upon, whether by fear or love, suggestion or influence, or undue play upon any one natural desire.” (pg 61)

With these points thus being laid out we are then limited to: education is an atmosphere, a discipline, and a life. But not really limited, more so, we are set free. Through these three instruments we have the tools to arrive at our goal of assisting the child in glorifying God with their life. And this will be a lifelong pursuit. Therefore, they need to be equipped in learning how to independently educate themselves properly.

3. What does she mean by “Education is an atmosphere”?
By saying that ‘Education is an atmosphere’ Charlotte is pointing toward an atmosphere where:
a. The child is valued for who he is: “that the Christian world view properly applied produces an atmosphere in which the child is accepted just as he is. He does not have to prove himself, pass a test or show particular talent. He is valuable and unique. He is loved by God, valued and respected by Him.” Page 70.
b. “The moral atmosphere is not judgmental.” Page 71.
c. The atmosphere produced in home or school is a positive one where “the adult is eagerly alive to the vital interest in book, subject, activity or what have you.” Emphasis added. Page 71.
d. The family atmosphere is aimed “toward an atmosphere of love and forgiveness” where the child “is not a job, he is a friend”. Page 72
e. Real life situations exist on a daily basis in the home and success and failure are normal, everyday occurrences. There is not some artificial classroom atmosphere that doesn’t truly replicate real life. Page 73
f. The children and their activities are not over organized.

When we create this type of atmosphere we have arrived at a place where a child can learn and be excited to learn, because he is valued as he is. We do not strive to educate our children through manipulation, whether that be using “harsh discipline” page 66, having them rely on strong adult personalities foregoing their own ability to “stand on their own two feet” page 67, or playing “upon the natural desires of power and ambition” page 67.

Does this sound like something you have used? What if it was put in the form of questions often posed to children?
• Son, don’t you want to succeed?
• How are you going to get into college if you don’t know this?
• Mommy really wants you to learn this and you want mommy to be happy, right?
• You’re going to learn this or you’re grounded!
• Don’t you want to make a lot of money when you get older?
• So and so’s daughter got an A in math. Don’t you want to make your mommy and daddy proud?

Then how do we motivate our children? Through great material which Charlotte Mason refers to as “Living Books” and through proper use of time. SSM lays out the following points: “Teach the skills for their own sake, introduce the child to a wide curriculum of living books, keep teaching time short so that his natural hunger for “real” life can be satisfied (meaning that he can get outdoors and play!).” Page 69

4. What does she mean by “Education is a discipline”?

By discipline, Charlotte Mason means habits. She emphasizes that most of what we do is driven by our habits. Consider your daily routine: Eat breakfast, take a shower, brush your teeth, and get dressed. How many of these things do you do without thinking about them? When did you learn these habits? They are probably all done routinely every day without a second thought, and they were all probably taught to you by your mother (if not, your caretaker). They were not things that you learned in school, but they are habits you utilize every day. Consider your habits: good and bad. Consider how difficult it is to break a bad habit. We should strive to teach our children the necessary habits they will require in life. The main habit is obedience. Other habits that SSM covers in pages 77-81: attention-concentration, truthfulness, self-control and unselfishness. We teach these habits through ‘structure and form’, which SSM covers on pages 81-82.

5. What does she mean by “Education is a life”?

Give your children access to “the best that mankind has produced in art, books, music ideas and many more.” Page 83 And let them “freely play in and enjoy the gardens, meadows, woods, and lanes…every afternoon.” Page 86.

Does this sound exciting? It should! “Life is just too interesting for boredom.” Page 41. If you haven’t read this book, please do so. You are simply missing out if you don’t!

What are your thoughts?  What inspired you?



For the Children’s Sake Chapter 4 “A New Perspective”

For the Children’s Sake
Chapter 4
A New Perspective

1. How did Charlotte arrive at her ideas of what education is supposed to be?

2. What three educational instruments are we limited to?

3. What does she mean by “Education is an atmosphere”?

4. What does she mean by “Education is a discipline”?

5. What does she mean by “Education is a life”?


For the Children’s Sake – Chapter 3 “Authority and Freedom”

Discussion Questions:

For the Children’s Sake
Chapter 3
Authority and Freedom

1. The first question posed: Are children naturally good or bad? How does she answer this question? Per Charlotte, children are born with disposition towards good and bad just as we are. “There are good and evil tendencies in body and mind, heart and soul; and the hope set before us is that we can foster the good so as to attenuate the evil; that is, on condition that we put education in her true place as the handmaid of Religion.” Charlotte Mason, Page 43

2. Is there anything said that specifically strikes you? A quote that really struck home? “There is an objective truth, the very substance of the infinite God who is indeed there and has not been silent.” Pg 43 “The child should be given the source material on the subject of right and wrong directly from the Bible.” Pg 43

3. Can you give an example of an arbitrary rule? Have you ever issued an arbitrary rule? Do I have the right to propose arbitrary rules upon those under me? “The adult is as much under God’s authority as the child.” Pg 44 “We march under the same orders.” Page 44

4. Do you work on habit formation with your children? Can you identify some habits that are important for you to pass on to your children? Pg 45 “Charlotte Mason believed that the right habits should be established in childhood.” “The first habit, of course, is obedience. In fact, this is the single greatest pattern to be formed.” Pg 45 “Ninety-nine out of a hundred things we do, are done, well or ill, as mere matters of habit…” CM Pg 45

5. “Blessed are the peacemakers. I believe all adults who have an office of authority over children should meditate on this regularly.” Pg 46 What do you think SSM meant by this?

6. As the authority in your home, what were some considerations SSM mentioned to keep in mind? Consider the child’s needs, Be fair, Be dependable, Use diversions, Use care when considering handing over authority, Be loving! Pgs 48 – 55


Family books with literary power

In this week’s “For the Children’s Sake” reading, SSM discusses “twaddle”, referring to books that are “mentally inferior and useless stuff produced or written for children by adults”. (pg 16).  In contrast, she points out that we should be supplying our children with “living books” written with “literary power” (pg 30).

SSM quotes Charlotte Mason’s point that “children can take in ideas and principles, whether the latter be moral or mechanical, as quickly and clearly as we do ourselves (perhaps more so); but detailed processes, lists and summaries, blunt the edge of a child’s delicate mind” (pg 32).

SSM goes on to provide personal examples of her family’s “living books” (pgs 33-34):

The Bible
Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan
Tanglewood Tales by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
Hans Christian Anderson’s and Grimm’s fairy tales
Peter Rabbit and other books by Beatrix Potter
Just So Stories by Rudyard Kippling
All of Laura Ingalls Wilder
The Secret Garden by Frances Burnett
Abraham Lincoln by Ingrid and Edgard D’Aulaire
The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
Johnny Tremaine by Esther Forbes
Carry on, Mr. Bowditch by Jean Lee Latham
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Kon-Tiki by Thor Heyerdahl
Oliver Twist and Hard Times by Charles Dickens
Plays by Shakespeare – read aloud as plays, for shared pleasure
Robert Frost’s poetry
The Oxford Book of English Verse
The Wheel on the School, The House of 60 Fathers and anything else by Meindert Dejong
The Heroes of Asgard by A. and E. Keary
The Silver Sword by Ian Serraillier
The Sheldon Book of Verses by Oxford University Press
A Wrinkle in Time and others by Madeleine Engle
Ring Out Bow Bells by Cynthia Harnett
The Princess and the Goblin and others by George MacDonald
The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkien
Star of Light, Tanglewood Secrets, Teasures of the Snow, and Rainbow Garden by Patricia St. John

“For the Children’s Sake” – Chapter 2 – Children are Born Persons.

This week for book club we turned to Chapter 2 of the book “For the Children’s Sake” entitled “Children are Born Persons”.  The title of the chapter is actually a quote from Charlotte Mason. Right off the bat, Susan Schaeffar Macaulay seeks to impress upon us the importance of this quote and warns us not to just read it and move on, but to consider it.  She stresses that “He is a separate human being whose strength lies in who he is, not in who he will become.” (pg 12).

I have to say that this was a very profound statement to read.  I was educated in a traditional school system, and I realize after reading this chapter that I need to confront all my ideas about what school is and how it is done.  This child is not a pitcher to be filled with ideas that I like.   I must first turn to my child: observe him, talk to him, consider him.  I need to truly get to know my child.  Not just usher him through exercises and daily routines, passing through the day without ever really engaging him.

SSM continues this theme through the rest of the chapter as she helps us understand how we may get to know our children: by reading books with them, by listening to them.  She stresses here that we must leave off giving them “twaddle” defined on page 15 as “the mentally inferior and useless stuff produced or written for children by adults.” In contrast, we need to give them books with ‘literary power’ (pg 32).  “As for the matter of these books, let us remember that children can take in ideas and principles, whether the latter be moral or mechanical, as quickly and clearly as we do ourselves.” (quote from Charlotte Mason)  She warns, though, that “the adult, whether teacher or parent, has to be able to enjoy and understand what he or she is reading with the children.”

She leaves us with this final quote, “Life is just too interesting for boredom!” – page 41

What an encouragement I have found “For the Children’s Sake” to be! I hope you enjoyed this simple narration of Chapter 2 🙂  I realized after reading this chapter that my approach to Chapter 1 with our book club (go here to see that) was a very “traditional” school approach where I was plying my book club friends with questions that I thought up, very much like what SSM warned against in Chapter 2 (page 16).

What did you think of Chapter 2?

I hope you found this helpful.

May God Bless You on Your Walk!

For the Children’s Sake – Chapter 1 “What is Education?”

Okay, so I was super excited when I woke up this morning and realized that it was finally the first day of book club.  I was nervous, too, hoping that people would show up and that fun would be had by all, but I just couldn’t wait to dive into the first chapter of this book.

Over the course of reading the first chapter, I had been formulating book club questions in the back of my mind.  Not so much to run the conversation, but to help it along if we seemed to run out of things to say.

So, here is the list that we used for our guide:

For the Children’s Sake
Foundations of Education for Home and School
Book Club
Week 1

Why are we here?  The idea for forming a book club in the first place came from my desire to read this book.  I had tried reading it on my own but life always seemed to get in the way.  I knew that if I was responsible for a book club, I would read the book.  And, it’s true!

After reading Chapter 1 page 7, I would also add that I have been helped immensely by other mothers who have read about and know Charlotte Mason’s theories and have led discussion groups covering them.  Therefore, I willingly answer Charlotte’s call to “all parents who had been helped” by her theories “to organize meetings and so pass on the ideas to the mothers who would never be reached through her books.”

After that introduction to the book club, we briefly went over the Introduction from the book.  You can read a quick summary about that here.

Group questions:

1) In the beginning, Susan Schaeffer Macaulay (SSM) and her husband were unsure about what what to do about their daughter’s education.  Did you ever feel that way?  How did you come to the decision to home school?

2) How did Charlotte Mason view children?

3)  What do you think education is?  How did Charlotte define education?

4) What did Charlotte think of the job of parents?

5) Do you approach all your children the same way?

6) What is really important?

I did not record exact responses out of respect for the privacy of those that attended the gathering.    Also, as we discussed, our conversation naturally led down many paths, which would be very difficult to record here.  Therefore, I will summarize in italics below what we came up with so that you can get the gist of our responses.

1) In the beginning, Susan Schaeffer Macaulay (SSM) and her husband were unsure about what what to do about their daughter’s education.  Did you ever feel that way?  How did you come to the decision to home school?

This was a great ice breaker question.  We went around and everyone spoke about what brought them to homeschooling. It was neat to hear about the journey that led each mother to home school.

2) How did Charlotte Mason view children?

“Charlotte Mason believed passionately that children are persons who should be treated as individuals as they are introduced to the variety and richness of the world in which they live.” This contrasts with the commonly held views some hold that children are more like pitchers needing to be filled and have no ideas and thoughts of their own or that all children are alike and can be taught in exactly the same manner. 

3)  What do you think education is?  How did Charlotte define education?

‘What is education?’ is a very thought provoking question.  We framed it this way: when your child graduates from high school what is it that you want them to know.  One person said that education is life long. Another person said that education is also life skills and those tend to be overlooked.  We all agreed that we had some informal list that we had in our minds that we didn’t learn that we wanted to make sure that we imparted to our kids.  SSM on page 8 said, “When a baby is picked up, spoken to, and loved, he is starting his education as God planned it.  For all our lives we are human beings, in an active state of learning, responding, understanding. Education extends to all of life.”

4) What did Charlotte think of the job of parents?

Charlotte believed “that they (the parents) had the most interesting and valuable vocation that exists amongst mankind.”

5) Do you approach all your children the same way?

The overall response was ‘No’.  We all see that each of our children have different needs and are different people.  While we come together as one family unit, we appreciate all the different personalities in the family.

6) What is really important?

Page 11 “If Christianity is indeed true, then every last little child matters.”  “One day we will stand before the Creator.  Were we willing to give, serve and sacrifice “for the children’s sake“?


Top sites for Charlotte Mason related content

Here are some of my favorite places to go when I need more information and I want it to be Charlotte Mason related:

Ambleside Online: Hands down this is my favorite website for Charlotte Mason related information.  They offer free curriculum, a free version of the Charlotte Mason six volume home school series in the original and the modern English paraphrase version, the Ambleside Online Parents’ Review Archives, a blog, Archipelago, written by the AO advisory board, and so much more.

Simply Charlotte Mason: SCM has a bookstore with products to help you apply the Charlotte Mason method and it includes some free ebooks for download, a blog to uplift and inform you about Charlotte Mason and her methods, events, a free curriculum guide, and more.  I like the free downloadable ebooks.

Charlotte Mason Help: CHM describes itself as “Practical Ways to apply the lofty ideas of Charlotte Mason in your Home and School”.  My favorite part of this site is the history section.  They have a historical wall timeline and four year history rotation that is very nice!

These are my top three so far.  I hope you find them helpful, too.