Charlotte Mason proposes that “the intellectual life, like every manner of spiritual life, has but one food whereby it lives and grows–sustenance of living ideas.” She goes on to define ideas by saying, “What is an idea? we ask, and find ourselves plunged beyond our depth. A live thing of the mind seems to be the conclusion of our greatest thinkers from Plato to Bacon, from Bacon to Coleridge. We all know how an idea ‘strikes,’ ‘seizes,’ ‘catches hold of,’ ‘impresses’ us and at last, if it be big enough, ‘possesses’ us” (Vol. 1 Ch. 6).
In thinking about my own study of the intellectual life, I am apt to reflect on my time spent at University. In 2009, I was about to graduate with my master’s degree in education but was concerned about the state of the education system I was supposed to join. During this time, I was introduced to Charlotte Mason and her educational philosophy through Susan Schaeffer Macaulay’s book For the Children’s Sake. I was instantly attracted to Charlotte Mason’s educational philosophy, specifically her three tools of education: atmosphere, discipline, and life. The ideas presented in her work were feeding my mind in ways that I had not been fed in my coursework, and in turn, in ways that my students had not been fed. I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of this community first as a teacher, then as a Board member, and now as the mother of a kindergarten student. At Ambleside teachers “spread an abundant and delicate feast in the programmes and each small guest assimilates what he can” (Vol. 6). These feasts of ideas become a part of our students and how they think, interact, and see the world around them.
Now as I anticipate that next Thai meal and what new notes, flavors, connections, or conversations I might have,I look forward in the same way as a mother of an Ambleside student. I am eager to see what connections and relationships Thad will build as he encounters a vast collection of living ideas.