Jessica Smith (CFLE-P) discusses the parallels between the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, Charlotte Mason’s educational philosophy, and scientific research. Most importantly, parents will learn how to apply these big ideas in simple ways to create a home-based education for their family.
Simple WondersJun 08, 2023
26 | Teaching Myths and Time-Tested Methods
Charlotte Mason said that lessons should be based on living books and real things. But how do we use these materials once we have them?
Create activities? Quizzes? Lectures?
In this episode I discuss what we do with books and real things -- three methods that are time-tested and backed by science. Along with some teaching and learning methods that are frequently used, but aren't actually effective.
25 | What Are "Living Books" and Why Are They So Important? With Amber O'Neal Johnston of Heritage Mom
If you've been in the homeschooling realm for long you've probably heard the term "living books."
This is a term coined by Charlotte Mason, and has become extremely widespread, for good reason. Living books put the flesh on the dry bones of fact. Mason boldly stated that "
"no education seems to be worth the name which has not made children at home in the world of books, and so related them, mind to mind, with thinkers who have dealt with knowledge. We reject epitomes, compilations, and their like, and put into children’s hands books which, long or short, are living.”
(Charlotte Mason, School Education, p. 226)
Today I'm speaking with book enthusiast Amber O'Neal Johnston of Heritage Mom all about living books -- what they are, why they're so important, and how we can use them build a rich heritage in our homes.
Amber O’Neal Johnston is an author, speaker, and worldschooling Charlotte Mason mama who blends life-giving books and a culturally rich environment for her four children and others seeking to do the same. She recommends we offer children opportunities to see themselves and others reflected in their lessons, especially throughout their books, and she’s known for sharing literary “mirrors and windows” on HeritageMom.com and @heritagemomblog (IG). Amber is also the author of A Place to Belong, a guide for families of all backgrounds to raise kids to celebrate their heritage, community, and the world.
24 | The Early Years: What Preschool Children *Actually* Need
"What should I do with my preschool-age kids to make sure they're ready for school?"
"Which preschool/kindergarten curriculum should I use?"
"My first grader keeps getting in trouble at school. He's so wiggly and disruptive. What should I do?"
The Early Years, the stage from birth to six years old, is a special time of immense growth -- both physically, mentally, and emotionally. And because of this they require a totally different educational approach than school-age children.
What do young kids actually need from adults and how can we best provide a "quiet growing time?" I'll answer those questions and more in this episode.
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The Early Years Guide
Preschool + Kindergarten at Home | YouTube youtu.be/rdSjIrWw3mg?si=RctWVAy-5A_GD2nJ
23 | Education is a Life
How can I increase their curiosity and desire to learn?
What kind of subjects should I teach and how should I present them?
In this episode I discuss these questions and how they relate to the last instrument of education (and my personal favorite):
In Charlotte Mason's 20 principles she says: "in saying 'education is a life,' the need of intellectual and moral as well as of physical sustenance is implied. The mind feeds on ideas, and therefore children should have a generous curriculum.”
In this episode I'll discuss big ideas, like how the mind works, grows, and develops. What is the best kind of mind-food, and how parents can provide a feast of ideas for their children.
22 | Education is a Discipline
Which skills do my children need to succeed in life?
My house is in complete chaos. How can I make my days smoother?
My child’s behavior isn’t meeting my expectations. What can I do?
Paula Tough, author of How Children Succeed, was curious what kind of influences or conditions made some children do better in life than others. Charlotte Mason asked a similar question in her day: Why do some children never really succeed in life while others flourish?
Is it intelligence?
Level of education?
Through they’re extensive research both authors discovered this same answer: character traits like self-discipline, empathy, and positivity are more influential than anything else. Even more than intelligence.
That’s why Charlotte Mason made habits the second instrument of education in her twenty principles.
By "education is a discipline," we mean the discipline of habits, formed definitely and thoughtfully, whether habits of mind or body.” (Charlotte Mason, Philosophy of Education)
In this episode I discuss the big idea of discipline -- why good habits are essential, which ones to focus on, and how to set boundaries in your home.
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21 | Mother Culture with Leah Boden of Modern Miss Mason
In this episode Leah Boden, of Modern Miss Mason, joins me to discuss the big idea of mother culture and self-care. Mothers choosing to educate their children at home have many responsibilities, and burn out is common. Apparently, this is true for every generation of women as Charlotte Mason gave wise advice to weary mothers of her time, and it's just as applicable for mothers today.
In this episode we discuss the following topics:
- Why Charlotte Mason's method and philosophy are applicable for modern families
- How we can apply the three instruments of education
- A method versus a system
- Why mothers become burnt out, what Charlotte advised, and how we can apply it.
Leah Boden is wife to Dave, mother to four children, and a longtime home educator. With over two decades of experience in church leadership, Leah’s background also features many years in youth, children’s, and family work within the church and for the local education authority. Leah speaks, hosts podcasts and coaching sessions, and runs workshops sharing the beauty of a Charlotte Mason approach to childhood, motherhood, and education. She and her family live in the West Midlands, England.
20 | The One Room Schoolhouse and Family Style Learning with Donna Goff
One-room schoolhouses are extinct, but it's not because they were ineffective. On the contrary, one-room schoolhouses were actually more effective than grade-based at teaching multiple-age children and helping individual children advance intellectually than grade-based schools today.
So, why were one-room schoolhouses more effective and why are they extinct from the U.S. Education System? What did this model look like in practice?
In this episode Donna Goff shares the history behind the iconic one-room schoolhouse, why they were so effective at educating children, and how teachers were able to teach multiple age children different subjects every day. Most importantly, she shares how she adapted this model of teaching to work for families so you can begin implementing this method in your own home.
Donna Goff is the owner and Director at MentoringOurOwn.Com. She is known as the Homeschool Mommy Mentor, helping moms succeed in homeschooling, family, home, and life.
Donna and her husband, Roger, are parents of seven children and fifteen grandchildren. She began homeschooling in 1983 and is still in the trenches. She earned a Bachelor's of Art Degree in Fine Art & Design, and Master's of Arts Degree in Education.
Donna was first introduced to Charlotte Mason in 1988. She joined Penny Gardner's Charlotte Mason Study Group, in 1994. From 1995-2015, Donna hosted her own Charlotte Mason study group. From 2002-2015, Donna founded and led a private Charlotte Mason a cyber-cottage school. She is also the creator of the Power of an Hour: Gateway to a Classical Education curriculum and other Charlotte Mason inspired homeschooling resources.
Donna loves to be a wife, mother, grandmother, and aunt. She also loves blogging, presenting, learning, organizing mom schools, mentoring homeschool moms, gardening, engaging in the lost arts, singing, creating stained glass murals, micro sand-carving in glass, frugality, provident living, writing poetry, nature studies, family history, and sharing.
Since 1995, Donna has been presenting and keynoting at Charlotte Mason and Homeschooling conferences in California, Oregon, Nevada, Utah, Washington, Nebraska, Virginia, and online. She created the Mentoring Our Own Yahoo Group in 2002. Donna has authored Charlotte Mason articles, a chapter in The Charlotte Mason Study Guide, by Penny Gardner, and also is a co-author of the Homeschooling Basics Series, with her daughter Julia Groves. In 2009, Donna and her daughters Julia Groves and Jennifer Walton co-founded Princess Academies/ Royal Academe and finally Mentoring Our Own.
19 | Education is an Atmosphere (Relationships with the World)
"When we say that 'education is an atmosphere,' we do not mean that a child should be isolated in what may be called a 'child-environment' especially adapted and prepared, but that we should take into account the educational value of his natural home atmosphere, both as regards persons and things, and should let him live freely among his proper conditions. It stultifies a child to bring down his world to the child's level.”
In this episode I continue discussing the big idea of "education is an atmosphere" -- specifically how children form a relationship with the world around them and why hands-on, real life learning is far superior to the artificial environment of the classroom.
18 | Video Games and Play w/ Dr. Peter Gray (Part 2)
This is part two of my conversation with Dr Peter Gray. In this episode we discuss what play is, what it is not, as well as modern ways that children play, namely video games. As a psychologist, Dr Gray has done immense amounts of research on the cognitive effects of video games and addiction, and I was surprised at what he has to say about them.
Peter Gray is a research professor of psychology and neuroscience at Boston College who has conducted and published research in behavioral biology, developmental psychology, anthropology, and education. He is author of an internationally acclaimed introductory psychology textbook (Psychology, Worth Publishers, now in its 8th edition), which views all of psychology from an evolutionary perspective. His recent research focuses on the role of play in human evolution and how children educate themselves through play and exploration, when they are free to do so. He has expanded on these ideas in his book, Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life (Basic Books), which has been translated into 18 languages. He also authors a regular blog called Freedom to Learn, for Psychology Today magazine. He is one of the founders of the nonprofit Alliance for Self-Directed Education and of the nonprofit Let Grow, the mission of which is to renew children’s freedom to play and explore independently of adult control. You can follow him on Facebook and find many of his published articles on his website .
Playborhood: Turn Your Neighborhood Into a Place For Play by Mike Lanza
17 | Real Life Learning with Dr. Peter Gray (Part 1)
Charlotte Mason said that “When we say that 'education is an atmosphere,' we do not mean that a child should be isolated in what may be called a 'child-environment' especially adapted and prepared, but that we should take into account the educational value of his natural home atmosphere, both as regards persons and things, and should let him live freely among his proper conditions. It stultifies a child to bring down his world to the child's level.”
To help me understand the educational value of the the natural home environment, I’ve invited Dr Peter Gray on the podcast today to discuss his experience and research in this area. This episode is part 1 of our conversation. We cover topics like why a classroom environment does not foster meaningful learning, why children learn better from from real life experiences, why public schools were started (and how they operate), and why the classroom environment actually nurtures anxiety, stress and bullying.
Peter Gray is a research professor of psychology and neuroscience at Boston College who has conducted and published research in behavioral biology, developmental psychology, anthropology, and education. He is author of an internationally acclaimed introductory psychology textbook (Psychology, Worth Publishers, now in its 8th edition), which views all of psychology from an evolutionary perspective. His recent research focuses on the role of play in human evolution and how children educate themselves through play and exploration, when they are free to do so. He has expanded on these ideas in his book, Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life (Basic Books), which has been translated into 18 languages. He also authors a regular blog called Freedom to Learn , for Psychology Today magazine. He is one of the founders of the nonprofit Alliance for Self-Directed Education and of the nonprofit Let Grow , the mission of which is to renew children’s freedom to play and explore independently of adult control. You can follow him on Facebook and find many of his published articles on his website .
16 | Education is an Atmosphere (Relationships with People)
Charlotte Mason famously stated that parents and teachers have three instruments available to educate children: atmosphere, discipline, and life.
What did Charlotte mean by "atmosphere?" She explains: “When we say that "education is an atmosphere," we do not mean that a child should be isolated in what may be called a 'child-environment' especially adapted and prepared, but that we should take into account the educational value of his natural home atmosphere, both as regards persons and things, and should let him live freely among his proper conditions. It stultifies a child to bring down his world to the child's level.”
In this episode I discuss why children learn better when in mixed-age classrooms, and what they learn from the natural relationships of their family and community. Finally, I discuss how children form a relationship with God and how we can nurture an atmosphere that invites the Spirit. Show Notes: https://simplewonders.org/2023/09/01/education-is-an-atmosphere-relationships-with-people/
15 | The Ideal Parenting Style
Children need love and discipline to reach their full potential. But what happens when parents exert too much control and not enough love? Or the opposite: too much love and not enough authority? What does a balance of love and control look like? Today we’ll discuss the ideal balance: authoritative parenting. Show Notes: https://simplewonders.org/2023/05/05/the-ideal-parenting-style/
14 | Punished By Rewards with Alfie Kohn
Charlotte Mason advised that we shouldn’t use external motivators to make children learn. She said “[grades], prizes, places, rewards, punishments, praise, blame, or other inducements are not necessary to secure attention, which is voluntary, immediate and surprisingly perfect” without them. ( A Philosophy of Education, p. 7.)
But is this true today? Are rewards really that bad? How will our kids behave and learn if we don’t give them a little incentive to motivate them? And what can we do instead? To help answer these questions I’ve asked Alfie Kohn to chat with me today.
Alfie Kohn is the author of fourteen books on education, parenting, and human behavior, including PUNISHED BY REWARDS (1993/2018), THE SCHOOLS OUR CHILDREN DESERVE (1999), UNCONDITIONAL PARENTING (2005), THE HOMEWORK MYTH (2006), and THE MYTH OF THE SPOILED CHILD (2014). He has written for most of the leading education periodicals and has appeared twice on “Oprah.” Time magazine described him as “perhaps the country’s most outspoken critic of education’s fixation on grades and test scores.” A strong supporter of public schooling, Kohn works with educators and parents, speaking regularly at national conferences. He lives (actually) in the Boston area and (virtually) at www.alfiekohn.org.
13 | Rewards, Praise, and Punishments
We can't discuss the big idea of authority without addressing rewards and punishments. Do they actually contribute to our goal of developing moral, disciplined, and curious kids? What are the temporal and spiritual effects of extrinsic motivation? And if we shouldn't use extrinsic motivators, what is the better way to motivate children? I'll answer these questions and more on this episode.
Check back next week for a bonus episode with Alfie Kohn, the author of Punished by Rewards!
12 | Authority and Docility
In this episode I’ll discuss the big idea of authority: what it is, why it's important, and how parents can maintain loving authority in their homes. The principles of authority and docility are important enough that Charlotte Mason placed them as principles 3 and 4 in her 20 principles of education:
“The principles of authority on the one hand, and of obedience on the other, are natural, necessary and fundamental; but--
These principles are limited by the respect due to the personality of children, which must not be encroached upon whether by the direct use of fear or love, suggestion or influence, or by undue play upon any one natural desire.
11 | Creating an Atmosphere of Love and Learning with Dr. Russell Osguthorpe
As I've studied attachment and love, I've wondered how they affect children's learning. So I asked Dr. Russell Osguthorpe, an expert in both attachment and learning, to come on the podcast to discuss the connection between the two. In this episode we discuss how attachment affects behavior and learning, and how parents can create an atmosphere of love that invites deep, meaningful learning.
Dr. Osguthorpe taught at Brigham Young University for multiple years. He has multiple degrees from Brigham Young University, including a PhD in Instructional Psychology. He is a former director of the Center for Teaching and Learning and a professor in the Department of Instructional Psychology and Technology at BYU. He is also a former general president of the Sunday School for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He is also an author and has written multiple books, including “Filled With His Love.”
Show Notes: https://simplewonders.org/2023/03/03/creating-an-atmosphere-of-love-and-learning-w-dr-russell-osguthorpe/
10 | Love + Attachment (Part 2)
Many of the behavioral problems parents face, during all generations of time, all stem from one thing: attachment. A healthy attachment to a parent affects everything from learning to to self-regulation. But why is attachment so important? How do we nurture a healthy attachment with our children? And how do we know if our attachment is suffering?
In this episode I'll answer these questions and more as we explore the big idea of attachment.
Show notes: https://simplewonders.org/2023/02/15/love-attachment-part-2/
9 | Love + Attachment (Part 1)
Why is it so difficult to teach my own children?
It feels like my child is emotionally distant. How can I repair our relationship?
Why has my child become so defiant?
Although these parenting issues may seem unrelated, they all have one thing in common: attachment. Unconditional love is the foundation for parenting and teaching because loving relationships are what keep our children's hearts tender and teachable. This episode is part one of two episodes where we discuss the big idea of love and attachment and how it affects our authority as parents and teachers.
In this episode I dive deep into the spiritual aspects of relationships and how parent either harden or soften their children's hearts.
Show Notes: https://simplewonders.org/2023/02/03/love-attachment-part-1/
8 | Dr. Jack Beckman on Freedom Within Boundaries
Although I've been studying Mason's philosophy of education for a few years now I still had some unanswered questions about her first principle.
- How does Mason's theory of child development compare to the well-known theories today?
- How do I respect my child's personhood and still set boundaries?
- What does Mason's first principle, children are born persons, look like in practice?
- How do I know if my child's school views children as born persons?
I invited Dr. Jack Beckman to chat with me and answer a few of those questions. In this episode we discuss how Mason's philosophy compares to the well-know child development theories today, how parents can give children liberty while still setting boundaries, and what he looks for in schools that respect children as people.
Dr. Jack Beckman began his career as an Early Childhood educator in the classroom, then as an educational leader, and finally as Professor of Elementary Education at Covenant College. He is a graduate of George State University, Covenant College and Cambridge University. He is also a Fellow at the University of Cumbria, UK, where he works with a team of colleagues to develop a research agenda on the life and work of Charlotte Mason.
Show Notes: https://simplewonders.org/2023/01/24/freedom-within-boundaries/
7 | Children Are Born Persons
It’s important to understand principles, to have a framework, before we move on to applying her methods.
So for the rest of the season we'll be discussing the big ideas in Charlotte Mason's 20 Principles. First, Children are Born Persons.
“We believe that the first article of our P.N.E.U. educational creed—“children are born persons”—is of a revolutionary character; for what is a revolution but a complete reversal of attitude?”
Why is it so revolutionary to think of children as persons? And how does this mentality change how we parent and teach children? In this episode we'll explore what this seemingly simple phrase means, and how our current culture measures up.
Show Notes: https://simplewonders.org/2023/01/06/children-are-born-persons/
6 | Teaching Children of All Abilities w/ Julie Christensen
My child has a learning disability. Can I still apply Charlotte Mason’s methods?
I'm feeling like my child needs more support outside of what the school system can give; where do I start?
How do I have a peaceful homeschool when my child's challenges create so much tension?
Because her philosophy is largely based on self-education, Charlotte Mason believed that her educational methods were for everyone – children of all cultures, time periods, and all abilities. Today I’m speaking with Julie Christensen, a mother, home educator, and senior writer at Bright Horizons.
Julie has a lot of experience with Charlotte Mason’s methods and educating a child with special needs. I’m very excited to speak with her today because I know that her experiences will resonate with so many mothers, and her wisdom will benefit everyone.
5 | The Connection Between Reading and Thinking w/ Natalie Wexler
We all want our children to receive a high-quality education – one that builds knowledge and teaches them how to think. But how do we go about this? Charlotte Mason said that education should be focused on feeding children a feast of living ideas (from books) then narrating what they learn, by speaking or writing about it.
But how does Mason’s method compare to cognitive science today? And why is this method of educating children so effective? I've invited the author Natalie Wexler to discuss these questions and more on this episode.
Natalie Wexler is an education writer and the author of The Knowledge Gap: The Hidden Cause of America’s Broken Education System—and How to Fix It (Avery 2019). She is also the co-author, with Judith C. Hochman, of The Writing Revolution: A Guide to Advancing Thinking Through Writing in All Subjects and Grades (Jossey-Bass 2017), and a senior contributor at Forbes.com. Her articles and essays on education and other topics have appeared in The NewYork Times, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, and on her free newsletter, Minding the Gap. She has spoken on education before a wide variety of groups and appeared on a number of TV and radio shows, including Morning Joe and NPR’s On Point and 1A. Find out more about Natalie and her work at her website, www.nataliewexler.com, or follow her on Twitter (@natwexler).
4 | Self-Education
What makes Charlotte Mason’s philosophy and methods different from others?
How do we nurture a love of learning in our children?
What should parents look for in a curriculum or school?
Over 100 years ago, Charlotte Mason said “Teaching, talk, and tale, however lucid or fascinating, affect nothing until self-activity be set up; that is, self-education is the only possible education; the rest is mere veneer laid on the surface of a child’s nature.”
In this episode I'll answer those questions as we explore perhaps one of Mason's most profound ideas: self-education. The secret to curious, motivated, intelligent children.
3 | Mothers Work Wonders w/ Cassie Shepherd
Families, especially mothers, are devalued in our society. We're told mothers are replaceable, that we need to modernize motherhood; but all the science says the opposite. In this episode, Cassie Shepherd and I discuss the importance of motherhood and why mothers are the best people to nurture a child's heart and mind.
Show Notes: https://simplewonders.org/2022/11/11/mothers-work-wonders-w-cassie-shepherd/
2 | Home-Centered Learning
In this episode, we explore the history of institutions for children and what we've learned from them. I'll discuss why home-centered learning is essential for all families and I'll share some simple strategies you can begin implementing today, no matter where your children go to school.
Show Notes: https://simplewonders.org/2022/10/24/home-centered-learning/
1 | Welcome
Welcome! This episode is the taste of what's to come with Simple Wonders. We explore the research of why "home-centered parenting" is needed and where to start. Hopefully you'll feel empowered and learn something on the way.
Simple Wonders is a new podcast for parents who want to raise happy, curious, life-long learners. Join me, Jessica Smith, as we discuss big ideas about education and parenting and how you can apply simple strategies that will work wonders in your home.