Archive for September, 2009

CM book collection

This picture is similar to one I took in the library, but it turned out better than mine…click on the picture and follow the link for a more scholarly post on a trip to the Armitt Museum!

As promised, my next few posts will be excerpts that I copied out from various sources that I stumbled across in the Charlotte Mason Archives.

Don’t know if anyone will catch the literary reference in the title (loved that book as a child!) but it is quite appropriate. Had I not made prior contact, I never would have seen the archives because the Armitt Museum is closed in order that the Charlotte Mason Archives, as well as some other archival materials, could be sorted and organized (or “organised”, which looks so much prettier in print, don’t you think?). I overheard snippets of conversations betwixt two of the staff while I sat at a table and busily scribbled out all the “nuggets of treasure” I could manage to write in three hours’ time, and it seems that things are in quite a mess of confusion.

However, there was a skeletal kind of index that gave us an idea of which numbered boxes held which materials.

It was Dr. Coombs who pulled out this letter and showed it to me:

CM letter Page 1

CM letter Page 2

(This letter was copied by hand and then re-typed. There may be typographical or copy errors. Shared with permission from the Armitt Museum, Ambleside, Cumbria, UK)

This letter was sent to Miss Mason’s good friend, Mrs. Franklin, and concerned her daughter Madge, who was around 9 years old at the time.

I almost cried after reading this…some of it reminded me so much of my own struggles with a “difficult” child…I nearly laughed out loud in the quiet, still library when I read “Handwork, so far, we have not managed”…!! I was struck by Miss Mason’s gentle confidence…I could almost visualize her smiling and softly laughing as she thought and wrote about this unique and apparently vibrant young girl.

Other observations, random in nature:

Did they eat ALL the time? Maybe “second breakfast” isn’t unique to Hobbits after all!

Many things can be accomplished in small pockets of time…quarters of an hour to learn an instrument or a language, and to think of starting at 8 am and still managing such a full yet delightful schedule, including a rest, and wrapping up by 7 or 8 in the evening. So often I feel so pressed for time, as if the clock is my enemy, and as though time for “school” has been squeezed out of my day by the tyranny of the urgent. Granted, Charlotte Mason lived at a school where there was a staff for such things as cleaning and cooking. But I have some “servants” as well, in the form of a dishwasher, microwave, and my fabulous washer and dryer. Have I ever mentioned my washer and dryer??? Oh…I digress…

Some children thrive on activity and adventure. I was not surprised to read that Madge was “radiant with happiness” after a long drive and a 6 mile walk. My own “active one” would be just as radiant were he to have such a holiday outing. That being said, not all of my other children would react similarly. There are times when we “divide and conquer” and one or some have an “adventure” with Dad or Grandma and Grandpa, and others remain at home.

I hope you have enjoyed reading this personal letter as much as I did!

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Well, we can’t have it all.

For those who have wondered, the title of my blog didn’t show up when you subscribed because I left it blank…on purpose. I wanted the title to appear in my “pretty” custom header, instead. However, that means that you have a blank line on your RSS feed, or none at all because you got too frustrated to even mess with it. My husband found a way to rename it so it shows up…thought I’d make things a little simpler so that others don’t have to go to any trouble.

Oh, well. Back to that “if you expect perfection or nothing you will always end up with nothing” idea!

🙂 Stephanie

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ambleside sign

The day is Tuesday, July 28th, and we have a 10:45 appointment at the Armitt Museum to meet Dr. Margaret Coombs and to gain entrance into the library to view any of the Archives that we wish to see. The setup of this meeting was really quite extraordinary…I had sent an email through the Armitt website requesting information as to opening times and cost. I received a message in return that the museum was regrettably closed for reorganisation. However, if I would like to call the museum during our stay, perhaps we could get in to view some of the collection. I was so disappointed, as seeing the archives was to be a highlight of our stay in the Lakes, and one of the reasons I chose that region of England for our week’s cottage rental.

Later, I received a message asking if I would like to come to the Armitt one day that week to meet with a researcher from Oxford who was working on a biography of Charlotte Mason. And so it was that we not only got into the “closed” museum, but we had the great privilege of being guided through the index of the archived materials by a woman who has spent nearly 30 years closely studying Miss Mason’s life and work. When asked if I had read all of the books and articles, I was embarrassed to admit that I had so far only made it through two and part way through another. I also at times found it hard to follow along when shown dozens of photographs and having names being thrown out at me, most of which I did not recognize.

However, our hours there were well spent and our digging through boxes of diaries and letters and record books did not disappoint. I came away from my time there with a snapshot of the culture of the House of Education that I could not have developed just from the books I have read and skimmed thus far. Paging through real Nature Note Books and students’ diaries and record books from the weekly Criticism Lessons made all of the “educational philosophy” that I had gleaned over the years come alive to me. To see and touch real examples of student work, real photographs of happy youths in full costume for a play, real application of theory as aspiring teachers were each week observed and then evaluated…for a visual and “experiential” learner like myself, this opportunity was thrilling and inspiring, as well as sobering as I felt the weight of my duty as the educator of my children.

Then to step outside the musty library and view the glory of the surrounding hills and peaks and the tranquil beauty of Lake Windermere. No wonder there was emphasis on nature study in the House of Education! How could there not be? Who could survey such majestic beauty and not wish to capture it on paper, read about it, study it and experience it?

Driving away, I tried to call my mother from Ambleside to wish her happy birthday from such a special spot for both of us…just missed her as she had run out for an errand, though I did get to call her while driving through later in the week.

Just a few pictures for those who have interest in these places that have become familiar and who, like myself, peruse books by and about Charlotte Mason with great joy and overflowing soul as we meet up with Truth about ourselves, the children in our lives, the nature of learning, and the God who is over it all. In my next few posts, I will share some tidbits from the archives!


The Armitt Museum, housing the Charlotte Mason Archives, as well as a small collection of watercolours by Beatrix Potter. We were allowed entrance into the gallery to see the watercolours, also very exciting for me!

The beehive

The Beehive

Scale How collage

Scale How, the main building of the House of Education

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