Wednesdays with Words: The Medium of Ideas

Last week I shared a Charlotte Mason quote from For the Children’s Sake. Today, I’d like to share Charlotte Mason directly from A Philosophy of Education.

In the second chapter, she deals quite extensively with the concept of ideas. She argues that ideas are what people latch onto and how they connect with other people and ideas.  These interconnections are integral to the education we wish to provide.

Mason tells us that the brain is not the mind, merely the means by which the mind plays with ideas:

I am anxious to bring before teachers the fact that a child comes into their hands with a mind of amazing potentialities: he has a brain too, no doubt, the organ and instrument of that same mind, as a piano is not music but the instrument of music. (pg 38)

But she goes on to expand; the brain is a part of that which a person’s thoughts are thunk, but that:

It is still true that that which is born of the spirit is spirit.  The way to mind is quite a direct way.  Mind must come into contact with mind through the medium of ideas. (pg 39)


That which was born of the spirit, the idea, came first and demanded to confirm and illustrate … Education, like faith, is the evidence of things not seen. (pg 39)


Our business is to give children the great ideas of life, of religion, history, science; but it is the ideas we must give, clothed upon with facts as they occur, and must leave the child to deal with these as he chooses.(pg 40, italics hers)

Happily, she expands upon this by showing, through a geography lesson, one way these ideas are communicated through the words and descriptions in well-written literature.  I’ve always been a little afraid of ideas –facts I get– but ideas almost seem too big for me to conceptualize.  Her explanation that ideas are really how minds, how persons, connect helps clarify the concept of “idea” for me.



  1. Teaching through ideas is a lot harder to nail down. Since myself and my first two are Ns (in MBTI personality), it comes pretty naturally to us, but I think I will be following more closely to AO patterns for my third, who is an S, to help lead her along the right paths.

    1. I, too, am an N but it is intuitive and I can't always find the words to form the idea, I've always just appropriated ideas as *understood* … the AO patterns are very helpful to me because of that. Maybe the appropriation of ideas without words is because of my F instead of T, though.

  2. How funny because my commonplace share today is all about ideas, and in the context of Little Town on the Prairie, no less! LOL I find the whole "idea" of teaching through ideas to be so inspiring for *me,* let alone my children. Friends from our homeschool group complain about managing their kids' work, and I won't say it's all roses here, but I *can* say that I am genuinely inspired by the children's studies, each and every day. It is a joy.

    1. We have had more wonderful days dealing with the ideas they're presented with in the AO readings this year alone than we ever had before. I know exactly what you mean. Thanks, Celeste!

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