Seventeen years of Treehouse talk

Seventeen years of Treehouse talk

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Peeling back the veil: a thought on Charlotte Mason and history

In one of Ellis Peters' medieval mysteries, The Leper of St. Giles, the diseased beggars living near Shrewsbury wear cloaks and veils that allow only their eyes to show.  Sometimes this appears almost to encourage rough treatment by others passing by, as if it is easier to abuse someone you can't really see; the beggars are more like shadows or ghosts than real people, individuals, flesh and blood beings.  But Brother Cadfael, reflecting on the times he has treated some of their sores (through his work as the abbey's herbalist), says that he has found sharp minds, unique personalities behind the veils..."by a thousand infinitesimal foibles of character that pierced through the disguise, they emerged every one unique."  He has the gift of seeing what others miss.

In The Living Page, Laurie Bestvater says, "One of Mason's primary purposes for making history the 'pivot' of her curriculum is to allow the child to see the flow of history and to think of himself within it."  She points us to Philosophy of Education, page 273, where Charlotte Mason calls history "the proper corrective of intolerable individualism."  So history, as a way of seeing, cuts us down to size but also shows us where we belong; gives us a place and time but makes it clear that there are other places and times that matter just as much.

But we have to see it.  However we can make that happen, for ourselves and our children.

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