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Comprehension Questions? (Mothers' Education Course Part 1)

Many mothers feel that they are the better in body and mind for the mental activity that nothing but definite study affords.  We are making arrangements for a course of study on education - a three years' course - with monthly questions.        - Charlotte Mason


Image used by permission from the Charlotte Mason Digital Collection, Redeemer University College, Ancaster, Ontario, Canada
This lovely certificate was presented to mothers who completed Charlotte Mason's rigorous Mothers' Education Course (M.E.C.).  The mothers in the course were to read many different books, including Mason's 6 volume series and were to answer exam questions periodically.  The study also included books on divinity, physiology, psychology and nature lore. I'd like to think that I would have signed up for such a course.  Actually, it turns out that I have studied all of these things to some degree over the past 20 years.  I suspect that many of us homeschool moms have.

What I wanted to talk about in this post is not how busy moms of today might go about "definite study" (although that is an issue that should be explored), but those questions found in the back of her books in the appendices.  Have you seen those?


They read like comprehension questions and in some cases are quite leading.  They just don't seem to fit what we know about Mason and narration or exam questions.  I know that we have debated in our book discussion group what their purpose was as well as on forums.  According to The Story of Charlotte Mason, the students mentioned on the above page are actually the moms taking the M.E.C.  Here's the explanation:
The Mothers' Education Course consisted of Syllabus I and II with examination papers for each.  The questions for these papers still appear at the end of each volume of the Home Education Series as a help to study and to indicate points which the author considers significant.  The M.E.C. continued usefully for twenty-three years.  It came to an end with the war difficulties of 1915, when mothers had no leisure for study. (p. 45)
So there you have it!  These questions were used on examinations for the M.E.C.  They focused on what Ms. Mason considered significant and were an aid for those mothers who had not been educated using narration.  (That would be me.)

Comfort and joy,
Nancy

Read the next post in this series - Women as Persons (Mothers' Education Course Part II)

14 comments:

  1. Mystery solved! Very cool, Nancy. Thanks for sharing!

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  2. I always wondered about those questions!

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  3. Interesting, thanks Nancy. So did CM think narration and the type of exam questions we'd use for our children too difficult for adults/mothers? I think I'd find it pretty difficult. But what about older students who started late with a CM education?

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    1. Carol,
      I think that she must have known how difficult it is as she regularly trained young women at her college and those young women would most likely not have been raised on narration. I've read a rather stinging story about some teachers complaining about the students' narrations from Plutarch and she turns the tables and asks, in essence, "can you do any better?" As far as older students starting with CM, there would be a growing time in this habit. This post by Dr. Carroll Smith addresses that question - http://www.charlottemasoninstitute.org/practical-suggestions-for-narration-by-carroll-smith/

      Truly,
      Nancy

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  4. exactly. exam questions! i can't believe you posted this just now. seriously, i was just looking at these and some other related stuff at CMDC. funny. :)

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    1. Amy,
      Too funny is right!
      Truly,
      Nancy

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  5. How interesting! I have ALWAYS wondered about this - I just didn't expect to see the answer pop up today in my feed! What an excellent explanation! These questions make perfect sense now! Any non-CM-educator that has gone to a conference, or participated in a group CM narration session and been given an opportunity to narrate as a group knows just how challenging this is! So your explanation makes perfect sense now!! What a thrilling post to read in that it brings light to something I've wondered about for so long! Mystery solved! Great post!

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    1. Jen,
      Thank you! I was pretty excited when I put it together, too! I think narration is VERY challenging for those of us not raised on it - we haven't made it a habit.
      Comfort and joy,
      Nancy

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  6. Nancy,
    I am intrigued by the idea of this course of study. I found the Parents' Review article about the MEC and there it is stated that "papers being issued at the beginning of each year giving the names of the books which are to be read". Are there any copies of these lists? I'm dying of curiosity to know which books and how many would be assigned in a year!
    Blessings,
    Kim

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    1. I'd love to know to know the answer to this too. I am envisioning a modern day version....

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    2. Kim and Kelly,
      Yes, there are copies to view in the digital archives! Just search "Mothers Education Course". I will try to write more about it in an upcoming blog. (BTW - it was quite a bit of reading!)
      Truly,
      Nancy

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  7. Wow. How interesting! :) I love the simple beauty of the certificate...

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  8. I love when people solve CM mysteries and share them with the world! Thanks, Nancy!

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