It’s a vacation with a reading list! Your guides (Richele, Art, and I) have compiled recommendations for our stops at Ambleside, Chawton, Florence, and Siena that will fuel our imaginations before we arrive and help make the experience all the richer. In this post I share the reads for each part of the trip. (For registration information, please contact Heidi at email@example.com . Dates for the LEH are June 3-13, 2020)
Nancy Kelly (@sageparnassus)
The Story of Charlotte Mason is the suggested reading for the first part of our upcoming adventure, the Living Education Holiday. The other books shown are some of my favorites for a trip to Ambleside as I will be leading much of this portion of the trip. I have a few more titles that I think would enrich anyone’s trip to the Lake District and will continue to share those in the upcoming weeks.
Why did Charlotte choose Ambleside?
The Story of Charlotte Mason will help us understand why Charlotte chose this lovely landscape as the site for her teacher training college, The House of Education. There were lots of reasons. At first, the training was only offered over summer break. Charlotte said, “we wish to combine a delightful summer holiday with valuable work”. Then we see her emphasizing that sense of place when she said, “Next we desire, by means of field work under able leaders, to give such knowledge of the physical geography, geology, meteorology, botany and natural history of the Lake Country as parents should be prepared to give their children concerning the neighbourhood of their own homes.” Also, Charlotte said that Ambleside was “an unwalled university all dedicate to plain living and high thinking. It is precisely the site for our training college, abounding as it does in sources of spiritual inspiration.” Finally, she believed that the district would always attract people of active mind and talent as it had for centuries and would never become a “spiritual backwater”.
Dr. Jack Beckman said that her location choice of Ambleside in the Lake District was itself “a metaphor illustrating the ideas of the life and intimate relationships of education.”
Sounds dreamy and literary, doesn’t it?
Richele Baburina (@rbaburina)
In the Spring Term of 1912, Jane Austen’s book about a misguided matchmaker named Emma Woodhouse was assigned as a family read-aloud to Miss Mason’s students in preparation for a special event to take place in July of that year. Members of the Parents’ Union School were invited to attend the Children’s Gathering held in Winchester to “feel themselves a part of a large whole, bound together by work, play and interests in common, and having an esprit de corps.” There was a full program that included nature walks, presentations, service in the cathedral, viewing of local architecture and geology, a special tea, and more.
In similar fashion, you’re invited to be among a merry band of travelers on the Living Education Holiday in June 2020. Beginning in Charlotte Mason’s Lake District, we’ll hike Wordsworth country, visit a Roman Fort, wonder at the Millet House, and visit the Armitt—the museum & library to whom Beatrix Potter bequeathed her botanical drawings and which also holds the Charlotte Mason archives.
From there we’ll sojourn to the village of Chawton, just 16 miles from Winchester, to explore the cottage where Jane Austen lived. We’ll follow Jane’s steps to her brother’s manor for lunch in the Great Hall, find her favorite reading alcove, and tour the extensive library and home.
Art Middlekauff (@artmiddlekauff)
In the spring of 1893, Miss Mason visited Florence with a book and a friend. The book was by John Ruskin and the friend was Mrs. Julia Firth. Equipped in this manner, her visit to a church became more than a sight-seeing tour. It became a way to symbolize and illuminate a philosophy of education. On our first morning in Florence, we will retrace the steps of Mason and Firth and look upon the fresco that became the “educational creed” of the House of Education. I will share about the elements of the famous fresco and how it tied into the development of Mason’s philosophy. In the afternoon we will visit the magnificent Duomo of Florence, and then enter the Galleria dell’Accademia. There we will several statues by the masterful Michelangelo Buonarroti. We will see why Mason said that statues by this artist were “human, living truths.”
The second day we will visit one of the greatest art galleries in the world, the Uffizi Gallery. This wondrous museum displays two paintings about which Mason wrote extended reflections. Both are by Sandro Botticelli; the first is entitled Calumny, and the second is Fortitude. There is special quality to seeing a painting on its original canvas rather than in pixels or a print. When I first saw the pieces at this gallery, I wrote, “Botticelli may hold the brush, but an angel guides every stroke.” In the afternoon we will visit the third major art gallery of Florence, the Palazzo Vecchio. At all three galleries, I will draw attention to paintings that featured in Mason’s writings, including in The Saviour of the World poetry volumes.
1) Charlotte Mason and the Great Recognition, edited by Nicole Handfield
2) The Story of Charlotte Mason, by Essex Cholmondley, pp. 48-51
3) Ourselves, Book I, by Charlotte Mason, pp. 150-155 (“Truth: Justice in Word”)
4) Ourselves, Book II, by Charlotte Mason, pp. 41-48 (“Fortitude”)
Art Middlekauff (@artmiddlekauff)
For the teaching of history, Charlotte Mason wrote, “Let him … linger pleasantly over the history of a single man, a short period, until he thinks the thoughts of that man, is at home in the ways of that period. Though he is reading and thinking of the lifetime of a single man, he is really getting intimately acquainted with the history of a whole nation for a whole age.”
When it came to her own study, Mason practiced what she preached. To learn about the Italian Peninsula in the High Middle Ages, she chose to linger over the history of a single woman. She obtained Margaret Roberts’s “Catherine of Siena and Her Times,” and it impacted her enough to prompt a book review in the 1907 Parents’ Review. In fact, her personal copy of the book may still be found in the Armitt Library, along with her trademark handwritten initials.
I am planning a day in Siena that will “be a delightful history of a delightful personage,” as we take a walking tour of this magical city, allowing landmarks and monuments to join with Catherine’s own writings to tell the story of this remarkable life. By the end of the day we will understand why Mason wrote of Catherine, “As for her own disciples, both men and women, their devotion to her had no limit at all, anymore than had her sense of the duty of service to them.”⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Home Education, p. 280
The Parents’ Review, vol. 18, p. 154
PR Book review of Saint Catherine of Siena and Her Times
If you are interested in seeing and experiencing these places with our “merry band of travelers”, contact Heidi at firstname.lastname@example.org and ask for registration information. Only a few spots left and some of the amazing lodging deals that we provide you with will expire at the end of October. Dates are June 3-13, 2020.
What is that book The Forty Shires? Is it part of her geography series, or is it something different?
The Forty Shires preceded her 5-volume geography series. It was written for students and was so popular that she went on to publish the geography series. It was “designed for pleasant holiday reading”.
This sounds like such a lovely journey! I just got back from Italy, and I highly recommend building in time for a meal across the Arno where it’s not quite as crowded or an evening meal in Fiesole where you can view the whole city from above. And the Firenze pass includes buses to Fiesole. I wish I could go again!!
Wonderful, Megan! And thank you for the tip. I can’t wait!
Ooooo. I’d love to join in reading with you all. I’ll have find some of these, of course, or borrow them. What a neat idea to be a small part of it, Nancy. Thanks.
Wonderful, Amy! I would love it if you would read along with us!