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How was citizenship studied in Charlotte Mason’s PNEU programs?

Examining several PNEU programs will reveal that by Form 2B the study of citizenship was added. These Year Four students typically began to read or listen to either Stories from the History of Rome by Mrs. Beesley or Stories of the Old Greeks by W. H. D. Rouse. It was in Years Five and Six (Form 2A) that students began to study Plutarch’s Lives along with The Citizen Reader by H. O. Arnold-Forster, although later programs show the latter book as being read by both levels A and B within Form 2 (so Year Four along with the typical Years 5 and 6). Other books for Form 2A included Bunyan’s The Holy War and Sir Edward Parrott’s The Path of Glory. Forms 3 and 4 add Charlotte Mason’s Ourselves, the fourth volume in her series along with the continued study of Plutarch’s Lives. Once a student had reached Forms 5 and 6, the category of citizenship changed to one titled “Every-day Morals and Economics”.

Where does citizenship fit within this curriculum?

While many new programs are modeling themselves exactly after the PNEU programs outright, I try to see what was studied and how it was arranged, looking closely over many PNEU programs of varying years and at three consecutive terms, to determine what made up a year. This, along with any notes I can gather from Mason’s own writings and Parents’ Review articles, helps me to determine the purpose for the categories and the intent of the books within them. It is in knowing and then emulating Mason’s purpose and intent and not the exactness of book titles, which will ultimately lead us to a modern curriculum that she might have supported.

Citizenship was included so that children would not only learn about how their country was to be governed and the ideas which evoked patriotism, but also to develop their own individual character. This might include: distinguishing between good and bad ideas, discovering what inspires statesmanship, learning how leadership affects a country and its people and understanding what happens when a community has no voice. These are all solidly built on the Great Ideas.

This curriculum will include important speeches, documents and biographies, including Plutarch’s Lives, as part of the history and geography component of each year. Citizenship will be more clearly labeled in Year Five and will continue through Year Eight. From Year Nine through Twelve, the aspects of citizenship will be incorporated into history, geography, philosophy, government, economics and even literature. Great Ideas Discussions are already part of or will be part of the teaching guides for these areas, connecting ideas such as justice, mercy, courage and loyalty to citizens, leaders, kings, queens and countries.

A biography of a leader or significant person better gives a student the ability to connect to his life over that of a short summary of him in a history book, as the former’s length and detail better reveals him. Miss M. Ambler wrote in a Parents’ Review article that “The early histories also are practically biographies, written about great men by men of their own time. With the child, a biography is of greater use than a number of detached history stories, because in the latter it is difficult to make the characters real living men and women, whereas if he drops leisurely into some biography, he begins to think the thoughts and take the point of view of the man whose life he is studying, and he becomes accustomed to the dress and habits of his time. In this way, he is living not only in the life of one man, but in his period’’ (“’Plutarch’s Lives’ as Affording Some Education as a Citizen”). Plutarch was considered the best example of this. Mason writes “We find Plutarch's Lives exceedingly inspiring. These are read by the teacher (with suitable omissions) and narrated with great spirit by the children” (Mason Vol. 6). Other biographies and books were also used as well.

It is through the use of pivotal speeches and historical documents, those that define a country, biographies of leaders, pioneers and visionaries and government, political and economic books which will form the base of our citizenship study. Great Ideas and character will be further weighed and considered through discussions, narrations and essays, completing Mason’s purpose and intent.

This curriculum is designed for the United States of America, but you should freely substitute speeches, documents, biographies and books which will best support your country. Most of the discussion questions revolving around the Great Ideas and character will be applicable to any country, but please always adapt as needed.

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