Why We Give a Broad Education (Why Include the Arts, etc?)

Dear Reader,

A Charlotte Mason education is a wide-ranging one. It includes many subjects which, while not always taking a lot of time, cover a lot of ground. These include poetry, art, music, and nature study among others. One is often asked why so many subjects are included (because, of course, all the standards are there too: math, language, history, science, geography, and so on). Another question which often arrives on the heels of this one is: what is the value of these subjects and of the arts in particular? I have addressed this in a previous post to some degree. But I would like to add some more to the discussion.

One of the biggest reasons Charlotte gives for including these “extracurricular” subjects is that they open a wide world to our children. The goal of a Charlotte Mason education is to allow the child to form relationships with as many things and ideas as possible so a broad base furthers this agenda. Charlotte also believes that if we do not introduce our children to such things in their youth, we will have lots the opportunity. Here is how she puts it:

“It would appear as if we are always handicapped by the faults of our education, not merely in a general way, but subject by subject, method by method, we are only able to go on with that which has had a living beginning in our youth.” (Formation of Character, p. 213)

Speaking of a specific example, she says that “The very subjects of his study as a boy, and no other subjects, fired and stimulated him to the end” (p. 226).  Thus the groundwork of the adult’s interests are laid in the youth. And as we do not know in what directions the adult may go, it is incumbent upon us to lay a broad groundwork.

Unfortunately, the subjects one encounters in one’s schoolwork are not always, indeed Charlotte would say not often, the source of one’s inspiration:

“If we look, on the other hand, at the records of most English men of renown, we find their school studies have passed into oblivion, as matters had no serious affect on their after career. The random reading that they do for themselves becomes a power in their lives,  but their set studies simply do not count.” (p.227)

Charlotte concludes from this, not that we should cease to try to educate, but that we should change how we educate. The living sources which these “men of renown” encountered on their own by chance should be just the sort of things that we provide intentionally in our children’s education. Our goal, she says, is “to feed him daily with the knowledge proper for him — in small portions, because he is a child, but of the finest intellectual quality” (p. 230).

So why do we include all these little, seemingly extraneous subjects? Because we care about who the child we be, not just what job he will have. Because children need to feed on living things, not dry textbooks. Because if these seeds are not planted in youth, they will not take root later in life.


3 responses to this post.

  1. […] young chldren. Nebby of Letters from Nebby looks at the Charlotte Mason philosphy in her post: Why We Give a Broad Education (Why Include the Arts, etc?).  Feeding brains with living things, not dry textbooks offers fertile learning […]


  2. […] idea that children need to be exposed to different areas early on is one of the reasons that a Charlotte mason education is broad and includes things like the arts, because if they are not introduced in youth it can be hard to impossible to acquire a taste for […]


  3. […] why bother with art? I have addressed this question before, but I love what Charlotte has to say here, that art is “of the spirit, and in ways of the […]


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