More Than a Charlotte Mason Moment
Charlotte Mason structured her students’ school days by alternating inspirational and disciplinary subjects.
There are many ways we can structure our homeschool days! Blessedly, with Heart of Dakota, we can choose the structure we most prefer. We can disperse our boxes of plans throughout the day in varying ways. So, we might choose a structure that is different from another family’s structure. But, both can be right! As we begin pondering this, we should ask what Charlotte Mason’s thoughts on the matter were.
As we can see, Charlotte Mason put much thought into the structure of the day. She especially paid close attention to the order of subjects. Plus, she did so by considering something we might not often consider! What’s that, we may ask? Well, it’s alternating inspirational and disciplinary subjects. But, what does that really mean? To answer that question, we can first look at the difference between inspirational and disciplinary subjects.
So, what is the difference between inspirational and disciplinary subjects?
In general, Charlotte Mason categorized disciplinary subjects as skill-based. In contrast, she thought of inspirational subjects as being more content-based. She considered inspirational subjects as those that take thought. In contrast, she labeled disciplinary subjects as those that can be painstaking, requiring repeated practice to acquire skills. However, she found she could not place subjects exclusively in one category. Based on the assignment, she could place subjects in both categories. So, how we categorize a subject depends on how we teach the subject. However, we can typically place a subject more in one category than the other.
We can often place disciplinary subjects in mathematics, phonics, reading instruction, geography, handwriting, dictation, English/grammar, composition, copywork, research, timeline, drawing, and foreign language. In contrast,we can place inspirational subjects in history, poetry, Bible, read alouds, literature, science, picture study, composer study, and art appreciation.
So, how did Charlotte Mason categorize inspirational and disciplinary subjects? Well, let’s look at her list…
Notice Charlotte Mason maintained a balance of inspirational and disciplinary subjects!
Charlotte Mason listed 9 inspirational subjects and 10 disciplinary subjects. She discovered keeping a balance of each to be ideal! She found students need both kinds of subjects in their day. If a student omits disciplinary subjects because he finds they are not as inspiring, there will be major gaps in skills. Likewise, a student should not omit inspirational subjects. Just because he prefers the predictability of disciplinary subjects, he will miss the deep thought and true connections inspirational subjects provide.
It’s best to let disciplinary subjects be disciplinary, and inspirational subjects be inspirational!
It is sometimes tempting to try to make disciplinary subjects be inspirational. However, a student cannot live in a constant state of inspiration! Nor, should we expect him to. Can you imagine trying to be constantly inspired with every part of your day? I find the thought to be somewhat exhausting, don’t you? Imagine waking up and doing your Bible devotional and praying. You are inspired! What a special start to your day that was full of deep thought!
However, next it is time to unload the dishwasher, as the dishes are clean, and the children need to eat. Can you imagine trying to make unloading the dishwasher inspirational each day? You could try to change the plates to have more varied colors to unload. Or, you could try unloading the dishwasher in a new way each day. Maybe back to front, top to bottom, and then from left to right. Or, you could try to ponder the mechanics of how your dishwasher got your dishes clean. Hmmmm. Or… you could just unload it! Personally, I feel a real sense of accomplishment in just getting this done quickly and efficiently, don’t you?
Disciplinary subjects need not be dressed up!
Disciplinary subjects are like that dishwasher. They need not be ‘dressed up’ to be disguised as inspirational. If they are, the day just gets longer. We cannot live in a constant state of inspiration, nor can our children – and that’s okay! Not every moment of the school day is meant to be inspiring! Students just need to know their times tables eventually. They just need learn to spell words correctly. Or, they need to learn how to correct them. Likewise, continents just need to be recognized. Moreover, in grammar, they need to recognize a noun as a noun, and a verb as a verb. When students say they are not excited about disciplinary subjects, we need to remember… it is not possible (nor even desirable) for them to be always inspired. We can’t maintain that, and neither can they. We can find beauty in the balance! Likewise, they can too!
Inspirational subjects need not be stripped down!
We might also be tempted to try to make inspirational subjects be disciplinary. However, a student cannot live in a constant state of discipline! Nor, should we expect him to. Can you imagine trying to be constantly disciplined with every part of your day? The thought is somewhat exhausting, isn’t it? I can’t imagine taking the Bible and making it solely disciplinary.
Memorizing Bible verses, for example, is excellent to do! However, I find the the Word of God to be incredibly inspiring! I find the Bible a worthy subject to think deeply upon, rather than just Words to be memorized – albeit beautiful Words. There is merit in both! But, I find it sad when people can quote the Bible eloquently but profoundly miss out on the relationship with the Lord. That is what can happen when an inspirational subject is made into a solely disciplinary subject.
We can structure our students’ school days and our own personal days with inspiration and discipline in mind!
I am not only structuring my school days this way! Likewise, I am structuring my own days this way. I think this is going to be good for me! Sometimes, I tend to focus only on disciplinary subjects in my day. I set aside my inspirational subjects, thinking I don’t really need them in my day. Am I alone in this?!? Maybe! However, in truth, I find it is the inspirational ones I need the most sometimes! They balance out the more disciplinary parts of my day.
Let’s try alternating inspirational and disciplinary subjects!
So, join me, if you will! As we ponder how to structure our homeschool days, why don’t we try alternating disciplinary and inspirational subjects? We can find both in our HOD guides. We can find both in our lives too. So, we might as well try it in both! Let’s see if we notice a difference in our child’s focus and concentration, by alternating inspirational and disciplinary subjects. Likewise, let’s try it in our own lives! I think we may find both to be a healthy balance! So, let’s give it a try!