Maps, Recipes, Processes, Systems

As you know I was at the Great Homeschool Convention in Cincinnati almost two weeks ago. It was a wonderful time of learning, encouragement, and being surrounded by like-minded friends.

Perhaps you know that I don’t stay down at the Duke Energy Center all weekend; I don’t get a hotel room and stay downtown. Rather, my Mother-in-law (the best ever MIL, sorry for the rest of you) graciously hosts me and my friends and we all, along with my Sister-in-law, drive in each morning and back to their homes each evening of the event. I do the driving; what with the minivan and not minding being in control or driving in downtown traffic.

We’ve been doing this drive ever since GHC moved down to the Duke from the multi-building church it used to be held at. For a long time, I had printed maps from Google to point the way and a passenger was my navigator, then I got a smartphone and the Google navigator became my friend and freed my passengers to visit.

I mostly know the path to get there by now, the navigator is a nice backup convenience. The exit we take into downtown Cincinnati is an odd exit, as it exits on the left of I-71. I have a touch of a lead foot, so the left lane doesn’t bother me too much … until I noticed “Exit Closed” for my exit on the very last sign for the exit prior to the one where we get off. And I don’t know Cincinnati.

For some reason, my previously trusty backup didn’t know that the exit is closed and I needed a new route. Since I really didn’t want to go to Kentucky, which is where Google will be leading me, I scrambled to the right and exit who knows where in Cincinnati. Happily, Google recalibrates.

The tool I was using is still a valid tool, still helpful to me and we made it to the convention center none the worse for wear. Well, maybe a little breathless because of the scrambling.


I love to cook. I love to follow a recipe once or twice and then just play with it and make it my own. I like to try new flavors (as long as they aren’t spicy. Or seafood.) and I like the process of bringing a meal together. I like to tie flavors between dishes. I like to make interesting combinations. Most of the time this works really well; sometimes it is a little more … um … adventurous.

But, I know the principles of cooking. I generally know how much heat and which ingredients to include. I know when to use the oven, the stovetop, the grill. I know how longish things should cook. While cooking is easy, I’m much more recipe and rule dependent when it comes to baking. I’m less free there.


In Cincinnati, Andrew Kern was on a roll. He was talking about processes versus knowledge. He gave the example, as he generally does of 3+2=6 minus 1. Then he talked about how the Liberal Arts allow us to have tools to create harmony in our minds. That if we stop at 3+2=6 we are uncomfortable and our minds in a state of discordance. That minus one relaxes us.

But if no one has taught us how to achieve harmony in, for instance, mathematics, we are left as under the control of the step-by-step process of math. Our understanding is enslaved rather than free.

“No one likes being a slave.” Andrew Kern


My husband is a software developer. He programs computers. They do what he tells them. The process inputs as he tells them. They only do what he tells them. If he tells them wrongly, if the input is incorrect the output is incorrect.

When I worked, I worked on the data entry side and then, later, on data retrieval and analysis. If the data was entered incorrectly, the output for analysis was just wrong.

But we, I, were working with computers not made in the image of God with bodies, emotions, and brains. They could only spit out and analyze what was put in. They couldn’t love.


Being a Charlotte Mason Educator is like driving. We learn the principles; we apply them; we learn more and recalculate. You can rely on your navigator, but a smart driver also reads the signs. Sometimes a slightly different route than the navigator’s might be better. The recalculated last minute Google route? Took us right to the parking garage rather than the convention center. I could look at the signs, see the problem, and work to solve it before it became major – ending up in Kentucky. My Google navigator was leading me astray in one instance, but it is a tool. I could use my own mind to override it and then take up again in order to arrive at my destination.

Most of the time Google Maps is a trustworthy tool. I can follow the directions and make it to my destination. When we choose excellent tools, we may not have to deviate very much from them. The alert driver – er educator – gets a choice. Sometimes the back roads are the most scenic.

Being a Charlotte Mason Educator is like cooking. We can try out the recipe and as we learn more change it up – still relying on the basic principles – to fit the needs and tastes of our family.

Being a Charlotte Mason Educator is like being a freeman – not a slave. We have the principles and knowledge of 3+2 and can create harmony in the education of our children by not being shackled to processes developed for a different time and setting: processes that are not principles.

Being a Charlotte Mason Educator is not like a computer. You cannot put in the input perfectly and expect perfect output. Following specified routines or a strict schedule will not a human make. Children (and mamas) are born persons. Children are not a formula that will become what “we” make them by our efforts. Children will make relationships with ideas presented them in astounding ways because they do the work in a CM education and God uses our faithful presentation of ideas to make the person of His will.

You can’t do education “right” so your children will be the image you have created for them. Education is not plug and play. You’re not a potter at a wheel. Cindy Rollins taught me that and I choose to learn from her shared experience rather than repeating the lesson myself. So thankful that she has shared it with us.

The principles wielded by a thinking mama who is making her own relationships with ideas and not trying to submit herself to processes designed for a different setting is what being a Charlotte Mason Educator is about.


  1. I am so glad I am not the potter; I would make a total mess of the jar! And you're right about Andrew Kern – definitely on a roll in Cincinnati. His talks were great!

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