November 13, 2023
A Feast of Living Ideas in a World of Bytes with Emily & Brynn Bowyer
The Charlotte Mason Centenary Series, a multi-authored monograph series commissioned in connection with the Charlotte Mason Centenary, is designed to highlight and explore the continuing educational and leadership relevance of the late 19th-century British educationalist Charlotte Mason (1842-1923) through the collective contributions of The Armitt Museum and Library, the University of Cumbria, the Charlotte Mason Institute, and other scholars and practitioners worldwide.
This post is included in a series on the monographs. Each post gives a snapshot of the author's motivation for writing, the various topics and content of each monograph, and suggestions for who might benefit most from the work.
Emily Rodgers Bowyer and Brynn Dickie Bowyer coauthored the monograph titled A Feast of Living Ideas in a World of Bytes: Welcoming Charlotte Mason into the Digital Age. Emily is an alumna of Ambleside School of Fredericksburg, Texas, and has returned to her childhood home and school as a Charlotte Mason enthusiast and educator. She graduated from Baylor University with a BA in University Scholars and an MSEd in Higher Education and Student Affairs. Following graduate school, Emily joined the work of L’Abri Fellowship in England for five years before falling in love and returning to Texas. Emily is married to Tim and is the mother of two vivacious preschoolers. She loves family bike rides in the evenings, painting with her kids, and joining as many book clubs as possible.
Brynn also graduated from Ambleside School of Fredericksburg, Texas, and is now a wife and mother of three who teaches using the Charlotte Mason philosophy at the high school level and seeks to incorporate Mason's values into the life space of three modern children. She attended Rhodes College for her undergraduate studies and is currently in her last year of a three-year master's degree program in Charlotte Mason philosophy and pedagogy. Brynn desires to carve out space for singing, reading, and running long distances but mostly finds herself in the kitchen preparing healthy meals that her children refuse to eat.
What motivated you to join this research project?
Emily Bowyer: As someone who has grown up in Mason-inspired home and school cultures since childhood, I'm delighted to see her ideas and their practical application taking root in this generation. The intersection of current research and scholarship and the legacy of thought we've inherited from Mason and her colleagues excites me!
Brynn Bowyer: Emily directed me to the project, which offered an excellent opportunity to stretch myself as a writer while contemplating ideas shaping my daily life.
Why did you pick your topic?
Emily: As an upper school teacher in a Charlotte Mason school and mother of young children, I'm revisiting Mason's ideas with a fresh perspective layered upon my memories of a Mason-infused childhood. I often refer back to Susan Macaulay's work, Elaine Cooper's work, and Mason's original texts. Still, I kept thinking about the impact of technological advancements on childhood and wondered what they would all have to say about that. The exciting discovery for me was that many of their concepts, and even how they articulate them, still apply. However, it's good to take up the old ideas and hold them in the light of our culture today to see what might refract in a slightly new or different way. I love Leah Boden's and Amber O'Neal Johnston's latest publications; they do this beautifully in their writing. I hope we've also added a little bit to this growing conversation.
Brynn: We wanted to revamp the antiquated language surrounding Charlotte Mason's philosophy. We don't like how closed the circle feels to outsiders because of the niche language often used to communicate her ideas. We hoped to begin the discussion that NOW is also a good time, not just THEN. We can use our current language and experiences to live out Mason. We don't have to be continuously reaching backward.
What was the most interesting thing you discovered during your research and writing?
Emily: I was so intrigued that Charlotte Mason and her colleagues had a wireless set installed at the House of Education in 1914 when the technology was still very new. That indicated that Mason was not a luddite but could instead embrace new technology with wisdom, knowing that their community's existing rhythms, structures, and priorities were well-rooted and robust enough to engage technology healthily. Their dependence upon the Holy Spirit as a guide, their ability to distinguish ideas from information, and their habits of attention and engaging thoughtfully would have made the broadcasts from the wireless an opportunity to add more to the feast rather than mere distractions. I wonder what (if any) boundaries they established around using the wireless or if they ever had to have it turned off or removed.
Brynn: I loved reading Amber O'Neal Johnston's book, A Place to Belong.
What one or two ideas do you most hope people take away from reading your monograph?
Emily: I hope that people find Mason's ideas accessible and applicable and that they can see that her way of approaching and educating children is for everyone, everywhere. You don't have to be a genius or a specialist to make good sense and good use of her ideas! She has a word for our times if we will pause to listen.
Brynn: It is good to live now, even with all our modern challenges. Mason's philosophy can still help us live well.
Who do you think should (especially) read your monograph?
Emily: Parents or teachers who are just starting to learn about Mason and are wondering how her ideas could apply at home or in the classroom will benefit most from our monograph.
Brynn: Moms and Dads or people who would like to be better-versed in Mason-ese and need a window into her philosophy and how to incorporate her philosophy today would benefit from reading this monograph.
Emily: Writing is both a science and an art; the work is never truly finished! There will always be more to say or a better way to articulate what has already been said. In this project, I did not let the Perfect be the enemy of the Good. And I hope those who read our monograph and resonate with the ideas will find the courage to start somewhere, knowing that bringing Mason's ideas into practice won't go perfectly, but the journey can bring about much good.
FROM THE TEXT
“The seemingly infinite resources, tools, and opportunities available to us today can be either conduits or hindrances for the education and thriving of children and adults alike, depending on how they are engaged.” (p.14)
“By giving our children meals full of living ideas, we can equip them for a flourishing life of the mind in the modern world.” (p.27)
“[Mason and her colleagues] engaged technologies as tools and resources to aid the nourishing work of education to which they applied themselves.” (p.33)
“We want to create spaces where appropriate accountability exists alongside life-giving independence.” (p. 35)
Emily’s and Brynn’s monograph is available as a physical or digital copy.
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