Part I was a long post, but I wanted to show you in detail how even examination questions were not random or afterthoughts in the PNEU schools. Whether or not we ourselves give actual examinations every term, the original questions give us clues about the Charlotte Mason "big picture." What important ideas were the students to appropriate from their schooling? What "power tools" did they now have in their belts?
Along with the exam questions, we can also learn from the Notes of Lessons that appear in Parents' Review articles and in Mason's books. The printed lesson plans begin with a note that such lessons are meant to introduce a new topic, to expand on or bring together something that has been studied in daily work. But for our purposes here, that doesn't matter; the aims of daily lessons would be the same.
I've pulled the goals from about thirty lessons, on subjects varying from needlework to
to algebra. What I've found is that, in many cases, the goals were similar,
almost interchangeable between the subjects; they might have been designing a
book cover or talking about Latin roots, but the philosophy behind what they were
doing reached across the curriculum. One
of the most unique was a lesson on design, where some general principles were
demonstrated and the students were to draw a design on paper, but where the
actual project (a linen book cover decorated with embroidered flowers) was
optional. Here are the goals:
To give the children an idea of how to fill a space decoratively, basing the design on a given plant.
To show them that good ornament is taken from nature, but a mere copy of nature to decorate an object is not necessarily ornamental.
To give them an appreciation for good ornament and help them to see what is bad.
To draw out their originality by letting them make designs for themselves.
If possible, to give them a taste for designing by giving them some ideas as to its use.
There are several interesting points we could look at there. One is that, in this case, it was not "anything goes"; there was "good" and there was "bad." Also, that just sticking a flower on the table and copying it mechanically isn't art (already we have some big ideas being raised here!). What sort of "originality" is needed in addition? What does it mean, though, that "good ornament is taken from nature?" How might that relate to larger issues of home decoration or personal adornment? If particular artists (or decorators, or dress designers) chose to flout that tradition, what effects might that have?
"With intricate welding, Tom delicately veined his leaves, and next stemmed them onto the vines. He felt it good that no two looked exactly the same, as he had observed in nature. Finally, in his seventh intensive week, Tom spot-welded his leafy vines onto their waiting window-grill frames.
"'Tom, I 'clare it look like dey jes' growin' somewheres!' Matilda exclaimed, staring in awe at her son's craftsmanship." ~~ Alex Haley, Roots
More in Part III.