Classical Charlotte Mason Homeschooling (with Adrienne Freas)

Adrienne Freas Homeschool Conversations Podcast interview classical charlotte mason homeschooling

In our final regular episode of Homeschool Conversations Season 3, I’m joined by Adrienne Freas, another one of the lovely guest suggestions I received from Karen Glass. Adrienne has experience as a Classical Charlotte Mason homeschooling mom, and has also worked to implement these ideas in charter school programs. Our conversation touched on topics like the Trivium as curriculum and pedagogy, the role of picture study and nature study in developing contemplation, and the realities and challenges of homeschool motherhood. I hope this conversation is an especial encouragement to you all as you transition from the end of one homeschool year into planning for the next!

Be sure to check out all the other interviews in our Homeschool Conversations series!

Watch the video. Listen to the podcast. Read the show notes. Share with your friends!

Adrienne Freas classical charlotte mason homeschooling podcast interview liberal arts education trivium quadrivium

{This post contains paid links. Please see disclaimer.}

Who is Adrienne Freas

Currently the Classical Education Advisor for the K-12 Classical Curriculum and Professional Development program at the University of Dallas, Adrienne brings twenty years of experience specializing in the Charlotte Mason pedagogy to the program. She has developed and led professional development for teachers in various forms of classical philosophies and methodologies, and is active in several classical communities of educators. Adrienne’s passions are helping home educators and classroom teachers by writing educational materials that help teachers understand classical philosophy and how to implement classical pedagogy. 

She founded and led the Charlotte Mason Book Club in Denton, Texas for three years. She transitioned out of homeschooling when her youngest was near graduating. At that time she was offered a position at a large charter school to help a dozen schools transition to a Classical Charlotte Mason model. 

She lives in Texas with her husband of 29 years and their two dogs. They enjoy spending time with their three grandchildren and are awning the birth of two more this summer!

Find Adrienne at

Watch my conversation with Adrienne Freas

Prefer to listen to your content? Subscribe to Homeschool Conversations on Apple podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts so you don’t miss a single episode!

Amy: Hello, everyone. I am delighted to be here with today’s guest Adriene Freas, currently the classical education advisor for the K to 12 Classical Curriculum and Professional Development Program at the University of Dallas. Adrienne brings 20 years of experience specializing in Charlotte Mason Pedagogy to the program. She has developed and led professional development for teachers in various forms of classical philosophies and methodologies and is active in several classical communities of educators.

Adriene’s passions are helping home educators and classroom teachers by writing educational materials that help teachers understand classical philosophy and how to implement classical pedagogy. You know why I had to have her on today. She founded and led the Charlotte Mason Book Club in Denton, Texas for three years. She transitioned out of homeschooling when her youngest was near graduating. At that time she was offered a position in a large charter school to help a dozen schools transition to a classical Charlotte Mason model.

She lives in Texas with her husband of 29 years and their two dogs and they enjoy spending time with their three soon-to-be five grandchildren. Congratulations on those new little ones.

4 Kids in 5 Years: then and now

Well, Adrienne, just here at the beginning, I would like to hear a little bit about your background with homeschooling, how you got started, and about you and your family.

Adrienne: My husband and I met in college and we married before we were finished with college and I actually never finished because I got pregnant about six months after we were married and had always been committed to being a stay-at-home mom. Also really wanted to have all my children close together because I was an only child for 10 years. My mom and dad had three more and I love my siblings, but I really wanted them to come when I was younger. I was like, “Mom, I want a brother or sister.” I really wanted siblings.

It was important to me if possible to have my kids close together. I had four kids in five years. That put me on the trajectory of really figuring out all the things you think about when you have a new baby, like, “Oh my goodness, I’ve got this little person here that I’m responsible for and how am I going to teach this little person everything they need to know and help and pray that they love God?”

That led me down the path of really embracing homeschooling. I did put my kids in public school for a short time for a number of reasons, but when we got married we knew we wanted to homeschool. Having my kids so close together I felt a little overwhelmed.

Amy: Understandably.

Adrienne: When my son was five, I was eight months pregnant, and kindergarten was going to be starting. We just decided, with nursing a newborn and having a two-year-old and a four-year-old who was very strong-willed, that putting him in kindergarten was a good choice for us at that time. He did go to school till he was in fourth grade and my other two went to school. Then at that point, we knew, “Okay, it’s time we’ve got to homeschool. We’re going to homeschool.”

My son, this is kind of funny, when he was eight. He was in school when this happened. We prayed with our kids a lot. One day he said to me, “Mom when I grow up I’m going to be a judge.” I said, “You really think you want to be a judge?” He goes, “Yes, I’ve been praying and I think that I’m going to be a judge someday.” A lot for an eight-year-old to say. Most eight-year-olds they’re going to say, “I want to be a fireman. [laughs] I want to be a police officer.” A judge is kind of like, “Okay, well, what do I do with that?” I just started praying and asking if my son was really on that path, what would I need to do for homeschooling?

That helped to shape some of the direction for him, especially. Knowing that he would need a real strong background in government and understanding American history, especially. Over the years we prayed with our kids always asking year to year, one thing I loved with my husband every summer he would fast and pray for three days about, what are we supposed to do this year? Every year from then on it was continuing to homeschool and so for my son, he prayed as well. Over the years he felt like he was supposed to go to law school. He actually is 28 and is graduating from law school in May.

Amy: [chuckles] Congratulations to him.

Adrienne: He got his undergrad from Patrick Henry in Government and then he got a master’s in national security and now he’s going to take the bar in the summer. My daughter, she didn’t want to go to college. One of my daughters, my other daughter went to college. She got a 50% scholarship, graduated in three years with honors in history degree. Then my younger daughter has been coming to the University of Dallas where I work. She’s expecting, they got married in October and she’s now expecting in August with her first.

Adrienne Freas classical charlotte mason homeschooling podcast interview liberal arts education trivium quadrivium

Giving the Best Homeschool Experience She Could

I think my homeschool experience with them was I always knew that I wanted to give them the best I could. I think that’s what all moms want. All parents want that. We were in a position where I could stay home with them. We made a lot of sacrifices. we lived in the hood for a while, so that I could stay home. It was a good experience. I think the thing that made it most successful for us was that I prayed a lot and I always asked the Lord, “Okay, God, you know these kids better than I do, help me to teach them what you want them to learn, help me to stay on the path that I need to stay on to be the right parent and teacher for them and help me not to get distracted from comparing our kids with other kids.”

An example for that would be, and I feel like I was pretty successful at this, was my son. He was ready and able and wanting to read at four years old and he picked it up quick. We did Teach Your Child To Read in 100 Easy Lessons. There’s 100 lessons, by the 50th lesson, he took off, he was reading. Didn’t work at all for my other daughter [chuckles]. Not at all.

I think that just really being sensitive to praying and seeking and paying attention to what your kids need, it’s a really important part of being– What’s the word I want to say, sticking with it, not quitting, not giving up your homeschool because it’s really easy to get discouraged and you feel like a failure when you see other kids whose kids are reading at five and you have a 10-year-old who still can’t read, past the first-grade book, which I had one child that had that issue. It’s important to be praying and really following what you sense is the right path for your child. If that makes sense? That’s our little homeschool experience and background and hope that, does that answer your question?

Amy: Yes, indeed. I think that’s such an important reminder because if we’re trying to adjust, pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, and just power through this homeschool journey, all in our own strength, without prayer, without relying on the power of the Spirit to work in our families, you’re going to be exhausted and miserable and it is going to be impossible to really, you can sprint maybe for a little bit, in your mind, you can maybe succeed on your own strength for a little bit, but you’re going to lose heart. You’re going to lose steam and it’s not going to work long-term so that’s a really important encouragement.

Adrienne: It’s true. We go through phases where that happens and we just need to be pulled back in, “Okay, wait, what am I doing here?” The scripture that really carried me through all the 15 years of homeschooling was, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” That scripture meant a lot to me because I knew that what that meant was I needed to have peace. If my life was becoming chaotic, I always would step back and go, “Okay, wait a minute. What do I need to change or fix so that my yoke is easy and my burden is light?”

That for me really drove a lot of my decisions in how many activities we got involved in, what curriculum, how much we did of even the curriculum. I think there’s a stress on homeschool parents that they feel like when they buy a curriculum they have to do all of it. Well, even in the public schools, they never finish everything. They don’t even do all of it, you know? Just by doing even half of a good curriculum, you’re still giving your kids a lot. I think realizing that was something that was also how I was able to succeed at sticking with it.

Amy: Yes. Realizing our own authority over our own homeschool curriculum.

Adrienne: Exactly. Exactly. The freedom and the flexibility of being able to make choices within the curriculum you use.

Charlotte Mason Dawn Garrett

Growing into an understanding of a classical Charlotte Mason education

Amy: Yes. Well, were you always drawn to the classical Charlotte Mason stream of education? Then how has your understanding of this philosophy of education grown and changed over the years?

Adrienne: Sure. When my kids were young, I did stumble into a Charlotte Mason group in Ohio when we lived in Ohio. That was the first I’d heard of her. And AmblesideOnline was just piloting. I think this was like around 1998 or ’99. No, it was a little later. It was in the early two-thousands. Anyhow, that I was interested in it. I thought it was very fascinating. What drew me to it was, I have a strong background in art, so in ballet and in music and my mom was a music teacher, music major.

I went to college classes with her when I was little cause she was in college till I was about 10 and I just loved all of her music history classes, and her art classes. I was in ballet and I was a very, very serious ballet dancer. I knew that I wanted a curriculum that had an emphasis on the humanities, I knew I didn’t want a workbook approach. I knew I wanted an approach that was very rich in literature but also made sense with a really rich study of pictures, art, the best art in music. That was my immediate draw to Charlotte Mason.

Now when it came to the curriculum, I ended up buying a box curriculum that was a literature approach curriculum and used that for a couple of years, but I kept going to the Ambleside Online website because they were developing it. It was getting better, but it was complicated at first. I thought it was kind of difficult. So I struggled with it and I wanted that kind of, “what do I do every day?” To help me survive, I was in that mode of thinking. What happened was over the course of the second or third year using that program, I was using more Ambleside and I would say, “Well, we don’t really like this book. We’re going to send them somewhere. We’re going to use this one.”

After I was realizing that half of my books were tossed aside to use books from Ambleside, I just made the dive and switched to Ambleside Online. I was starting to understand it better. I had started to read Charlotte Mason’s original books, which made a huge difference because when I did this, there were no podcasts. We didn’t have a computer. We even didn’t have a computer until 2003, maybe. Even then there were, there were a few years where we didn’t even have internet and I took the kids to the library on Wednesdays and we did one hour of internet.

Amy: Wow.

Adrienne: That was probably around 2008, ’09 somewhere in there. I had to learn Charlotte Mason on my own. I had to read her books and of course was drawn straight to, first, For the Children’s Sake, that’s the book that draws everybody to Charlotte Mason, and rightfully so. Then I got in actually a pretty big homeschool support group in Frisco, Texas. I met some moms and they were starting a group for new homeschoolers, every week would be a different meeting for different types of homeschooling options.

It was very interesting. This one lady, Kim, shared about how Charlotte Mason worked. She had a Charlotte Mason book group at her house and Lynn Bruce, one of the Ambleside advisory creators was also part of that group. I started going to those meetings off and on. I didn’t go all the time, but I went pretty regularly. We were just reading one chapter a month through Charlotte Mason. That made a huge difference for me to be able to understand and apply. Of course, I didn’t apply everything all at once.

That’s another thing. As a new homeschooler and this is if it’s so new to you, it’s like drinking from a fire hose, fire hydrant, it’s a lot. You just have to, if you try to drink from the whole fire hose, you’re just going to drown. You literally are going to fall on the ground and you’re not going to make it. So if you’re going to drink from the fire hose, go and drink a little bit. I was already doing good books and having the kids listen to music and look at some art here and there, narration was hard. That was a big one that was hard for me to dive into, nature journaling, which also we’ll talk about a little bit. I wanted to get into that a little bit and how we failed at nature journaling but did fine at nature study [chuckles].

I think just taking what you can and doing what you can in little bites, you can’t eat an elephant all at once. Doing as much as you can was what worked for me with implementing the change, because if you’re not used to that approach and it’s new to you, it’s so very, very different. I’m a product of public school, right? It’s a completely different pedagogy, completely different philosophy of education, but I was drawn to it because of its beauty and its humane way of helping a child learn how to love everything, not just learn but learn how to be a human, learn how to have, like, Charlotte Mason says, the science of relations and art is something you do, science is something you know.

If you look at the science of relations as knowing, it’s a knowing of knowing relationships. It’s a deep connection. I understood that and I liked that. I was like, “Whatever I can give my kids to help them have a mind-to-mind connection and a relationship with what they’re learning, that’s the kind of education that I want to give them.”

Charlotte Mason was definitely my first draw. Then Karen Glass wrote her book Consider This, I read that and was just so excited to see her making a strong connection to the classical world because at that time I had started leading a Charlotte Mason book group in Flower Mound, Texas, which is now the Denton, Texas Charlotte Mason group. A lot of the moms who were coming to those meetings were involved in another little classical homeschool co-op group. They would come to the Charlotte Mason meetings and go, “Wow, this is a very different approach than what we’re doing and our other classical.” Yet Karen Glass’s book was talking classical.

We had talked at Charlotte Mason’s book group, what a liberal education is and how a liberal education is a classical education and what a liberal education really looks like. I helped some of these moms as we were unpacking the ideas that Karen Glass wrote about the ideas of what Charlotte Mason wrote about seeing the connection to what a classical education really is rooted in which is the new movement, which is more progressive, which is different.

Even Susan Wise Bauer, who is, I think one of the leaders of the neo-classical movement says she is neoclassical and she also is declared a progressive. That is going to look different than the liberal arts classical approach of the medieval model, which is more similar to what Charlotte Mason’s approach is.

 I dove into reading. I wanted to help perpetuate some of the questions I saw happening and coming up from Karen Glass’s book within my circle of people. I thought, “Well, the only way to really do that and to answer their questions is for me to dive of myself into the original writers who the liberal tradition came from.”

I started reading Plato and Aristotle and Quintillian and Augustine and diving in. As I dove in, I was looking specifically for Charlotte Mason, for her ways. Because I understood her pedagogy. As I was doing that, oh my goodness. All the margins of my book, I have little CM for Charlotte, with arrows to so many things. I’m like, “Charlotte Mason, Charlotte Mason. Oh, definitely, she read these guys, there’s no doubt about it.” That’s where I started to see that there was such a real connection to classical education in the Charlotte Mason pedagogy. I guess it would be helpful. I wrote down here a little bit about explaining what a liberal arts education is. Do you think that would be helpful for your listeners?

Adrienne Freas classical charlotte mason homeschooling podcast interview liberal arts education trivium quadrivium

What is a Liberal Arts Education?

Amy: Sure. Why don’t you explain what you mean when you say a liberal arts education?

Adrienne: A liberal arts education helps students to prepare and pursue the things that matter, which is exactly what Charlotte Mason wanted us to do, pursuing the things that matter. That’s the heart of a liberal education and it’s all about relationships and seeking the good and gaining and understanding wisdom. As humans, we were created to have relationships, and we were designed by God to pursue the virtues and goodness, which is virtues, and then to pursue truth, which is Christ. We were created to pursue the beautiful, which is the invitation for us to be unified and harmonious with our education and the whole world around us and the people around us.

That’s the heart, the true, the good, and the beautiful of a liberal arts education. That’s the heart of a Charlotte Mason education. I don’t really see a divide in that at all. The liberal arts focus on truth, goodness, and beauty, which are the big buzzwords. Everybody, you go to visit a classical school truth, good, but nobody can really explain what that means but goodness is really rooted in virtues and in the virtues that because we were created in the image of God, we were created in his image, we have those virtues in us, but as parents and educators, we have to help bring that out.

Christ came to show us how to live a virtuous life. He came to show us that, and we are called to model and be Christ-like, so that’s where the good comes in, and then Christ is the truth. He’s truth incarnate and then beauty is the seeking of everything around us that’s harmonious and unified and not chaotic, it’s the opposite of chaos. That’s where this liberal arts tradition really brings those together in the way a child is educated and in the materials the child is given to learn from.

This was the medieval way of education of the early church, in the monastic practices in the schools and these are very similar to the methods that Charlotte Mason implemented and she called it also a liberal arts education. Some of the ways that a liberal arts education is rooted is in that they have a high view of man. Charlotte Mason said, “Children are born persons, they’re made in the image of God. They’re beautiful. We shouldn’t have a lowly view of them. We should think much of children and expect much from them.”

That high view of man is really important in a liberal arts approach. Aspiring to the transcendentals, which is truth, goodness, and beauty, and then to awaken beauty and stir up the poetic imagination and wonder in a child and helping them look at something and wonder more about it to awaken them to want to know more, that’s the heart of a liberal education. That’s the heart of what we hear when we read Plato when we read Quintillian, Augustine even, that it’s the soul and the spirit embodying the truth and the goodness of beauty of the being of God. God is true. God is good. God is beautiful.

As being these are what we want our whole life to encompass. That is the heart, I think of a liberal education.

Then when you look at the seven liberal arts, you have the Trivium (grammar, logic, rhetoric) and then you have the Quadrivium, which is arithmetic, music, astronomy, and geometry. Together they signify that a person has mastered a language. In Trivium, it’s master of language. In Quadrivium, it’s master of number, but you have to master language to master number, you have to be able to speak and communicate in order to learn math.

Together, that’s what makes up the seven liberal arts. I see Mason is incorporating all of that in her program. She referred to it as a feast and to put this generous feast out before the children, and we shouldn’t keep any of the feasts from them. We should, even if there’s something in the feast, we don’t like, we should still have it there for them. That’s one of the hard parts about homeschooling with Charlotte Mason, is you think, “Well, I’m not good at poetry, or I don’t like Shakespeare. I’m going to skip that.”

I have found and read, even from other moms time and time again, and I’m not a huge Shakespeare fan but who am I to know whether one of my kids would love it? Right. I think that’s another important part about Charlotte Mason that I like because it becomes very humane and allowing the child to experience a rich feast and grow into who they’re supposed to be.

Amy: One of the things that really draws me to Christian classical education, what I love about it is so many of these things that you were speaking of, how really, if we’re talking about Christian classical education in particular, which really is the only kind of classical education I’m interested in doing, but it is all rooted in the character of God, Himself, who He is, those words, truth, goodness, and beauty.

It’s about the character of God. He defines those terms. That gives meaning and a framework then as we look at the creation that then He made right to point back to Himself, as we learn to be more fully human, how He designed us to be invested as image-bearers of God, and then to really draw us, to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength which is wisdom.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Then to love our neighbor as ourselves, that our education is driving us to more and more humility and doxology, if I can put it that way, but to worshiping God and then acting, serving our neighbor, those around us. I think that of all the approaches to education, that’s why I choose to educate my children the way I do because I think that it most helpfully points us in that direction and equips us in those ways.

Adrienne: That’s so true.

The Trivium as Curriculum and Pedagogy

Amy: Now, you talked a little bit about the seven liberal arts, so Trivium and Quadrivium. I’d like to hear a little bit more about your thoughts on the Trivium, which is a term that we, again, all these terms that get thrown around a lot, as often thought of as a curriculum. There’s an aspect of that, but it’s also a pedagogy, so a means of teaching. Could you talk to us a little bit about that?

Adrienne: Sure. A lot of people are familiar with the Trivium through the essay that Dorothy Sayers wrote. She really was not, I don’t believe she was ever intending for her essay to be taken literally as, “Oh, this is how we’re going to set up all these classical schools.” It was more just, and she said, it’s just an idea and she was making some connections to the progressive movement of education of cognition and how kids learn in stages. It was a neat idea and a great conversation.

I’d love to have a Socratic seminar about it, but it’s not really the way the Trivium was set up in the medieval model and the way in. She knew that because she was a medievalist. In the medieval model, when you go back and you look at– you can see the Trivium unpacked in Plato even though it’s not called the Trivium. When you go back and you look at how it was taught in the early monastic schools in the medieval ages, and you see it unpacking and see the writings, I read several of them, well, Consolation of Philosophy by Boethius impacts some of it.

The name is slipping me, but I have it. The allegory I’ll come up with it. Anyhow, I’ve read it. What you see is that the Trivium activates more as modes of thinking.


The art of imitating, which is called mimesis, is really the grammar mode. In the grammar mode, students are imitating. We’ll hear this is where you do memory work and recitation, drilling, but it’s not– the heart of drilling isn’t really what the grammar mode is. The grammar mode is more the when you are learning something new, okay, you’re gathering the information, you’re learning, seeing harmony and beauty and ordering and you learn to imitate.

If you’re going to learn how to crochet you first in your mind, learn it through the grammar mode, you start imitating what you see, you follow a pattern, or you follow somebody else is doing it in front of you and helping you shape your hands to do the crocheting. This is with anything, learning how to cook, anything, and it can happen at any age. To categorize grammar as being a K5 activity, cognitive activity, limits what the Trivium really is.

If you look at grammar as a mode of thought, and it’s the beginning phases of learning something new, no matter how old you are, you are going to always activate the full Trivium as modes of thinking when you’re learning something. Looking at it more as an art, rather than a tool. It’s not really a lost tool, it’s a lost art and that was her essay was the lost tools of learning. If we look at it as an art or skill, an art is a skill that we’re learning, it’s something we are doing. It changes how you’re going to teach and what the curriculum is going to look like. Okay.

When we’re talking about grammar, we’re not talking about grammar in identifying parts of speech. We were talking about it as a mode. This is where you’re learning to imitate something really well and it’s the foundation of habit training as well. The foundation of learning new habits and getting those habits set is very much a part of the grammar mode. When this is happening, in the mind, you’re making discoveries, you’re asking questions, you’re wondering and you’re learning to imitate that which is good and true and beautiful. That’s where Charlotte Mason comes in about wanting the kids to only be exposed to the things that are beautiful, the best of everything.

As a curriculum, the grammar mode happens when you’re doing copy work, when you’re doing anything beautiful for the sake of beauty, not just for the sake of regurgitating facts. Recitation falls in there, but recitation, first and primarily, ought to be the work of developing habits of the mind towards things that are beautiful, not just facts that you need to learn. Does that make sense?

Amy: Oh, definitely. That’s something we are passionate about around here at Humility and Doxology. We love to encourage, focus on memorizing beautiful poems and wonderful speeches. That is certainly a huge part of my own home school.

Adrienne: It’s not something that you just do for K5. It’s all the way through, even as an adult, you should be working on that. It’s not something that you’re ever done doing. That’s what I’m talking about, it’s different than just this stage of learning at a certain age and oh, boy, if you going to fifth grade at a classical school and you didn’t go to the grammar school, oh, you’re never going to succeed now because you missed all of it. No, that’s not how we’re wired. We’re a lot more complex than just boxing us into stages, right?

Amy: Yes, definitely.

Adrienne Freas classical charlotte mason homeschooling podcast interview liberal arts education trivium quadrivium


Adrienne: Then the dialectic or logic is the art of thinking. We’ve got the art of imitating for grammar, then we’ve got the art of thinking, this is where you’re learning to reason, internalize, understand and develop skills. Even a two-year-old is doing this, they’re learning how to reason, they learn how to try to change your mind about things. They may not be great at it, but they’re doing it. In this stage, this is where we go into the maieutic mode. The maieutic is just simply a midwifery and birthing, helping to birth a child.

Plato talks about this in one of his dialogues Theaetetus, I know I’m not saying that correctly, but in that dialogue, he talks about his mom or his grandmother as a midwife and how the midwife is there to help birth the child. She’s not doing the work of birthing the child. She’s doing the guiding in the coaching to help the mom birth the child. It’s called maieutic, it’s just the Greek word for– We can also call that Socratic, Socratic teaching, Socratic dialogues.

If as a teacher or coach, when you’re having a discussion with a child or student, the maieutic mode, thinking mode, the questions ought to be questions that don’t necessarily tell the child– You have to be super careful with learning how to answer, ask the right questions and not just dumb. I wish I had examples in front of me because I teach on this. I teach teachers on this. I’m blanking right now. You’re not asking those kinds of questions that are on a worksheet.

Amy: The easy fill in the blanks.

Adrienne: Yes, what did Charlotte have for breakfast? Charlotte’s pig or something. What did the mother put on the table? I remember that was one of the questions, just to see if they’ve read the story or listened. That’s not the point. The point is more the bigger questions. Charlotte Mason’s questions are fantastic for that. All of her exam questions are on the Ambleside Online website if you go into their library. You go into the Ambleside website, go to their library and you scroll all the way down to the bottom there, you’ll see these Charlotte Mason exams.

All of her exam questions are just fantastic, open-ended types of questions. Those are maieutic questions. In that dialectic and logic mode, the student is going into that mode of birthing an idea, the aha moment is beginning to happen. That as a curriculum is where you’re going to have your dynamic Socratic dialogues, but equally important to that is quiet contemplate of time, where you’re not saying anything and being okay with silence and allowing the student to have time to ruminate what they’ve learned.

This happens when you’re asking a student to narrate as well. When you’re asking them to narrate, they’re having to think through the process of ordering, reasoning and developing what they’re going to say. That quiet contemplation time is very much a part of the dialectic and logic mode of thinking. It’s not just about talking and asking questions, it’s also about having quiet time.


In the mind, you’re going back and forth, the grammar and dialectic mode are very much going back and forth and the same then when you add the rhetorical mode.

Rhetoric is the art of communicating. We’ve got art of imitating, art of thinking, the art of communicating. In this mode, we’re applying the truth of an idea through creating and performing and wisely– It’s learning to wisely express and eloquently express the truth. That does take time to learn but giving students the opportunity to do rhetoric when they’re very young is important. They need to learn how to express their ideas in order of these ideas.

In the mode, what’s happening in the mind, this is the act of poiesis is a Greek word, which means is the act of creating something that did not exist before. Also, one of the books, Poetics by Aristotle, the translation might have, he says that poiesis is the thing that is made, but it’s also the act of making it. If you can think about when a student does a response to a lesson, it is a rhetorical response because they’re creating a response to that.

This is where they’re formally ordering the knowledge so that it can be communicated. This is where students show their work. In curriculum, they’re showing their work. It’s very, I think, a lot simpler and a lot more humane to see the Trivium in this way. I think it’s very much in line with Charlotte Mason’s approach to look at the Trivium as this type of pedagogy and curriculum unfolding in this way. Does that make sense? Do you have any questions?

Get Your FREE Homeschool Planning Guide

✔4 Questions to Ask Before Planning

✔7 Steps to an Easy Homeschool Plan

Featured Image

Amy: Yes. I think that it’s very helpful and very important to see that they’re not these boxes that are completely categorized separately from one another, that these are modes of thinking that often overlap and that you’re not just restricted to one at a time. I think even in my own family, we, again, early on, encouraging some reading journals is what we call them, essentially, they are written narrations, but–

At first, when a child is doing that, it may just be copying, copy something you think is a key idea, which then they’re actually having to think about all those different modes of thinking about what they read, but then they’re not having to come up with their own unique thinks, they’re just learning. Then as they get older and they get more practice with that, having to then be able to communicate the idea in their own words. You think, “Well, that seems almost too easy. It should be more complicated than that.”

Adrienne: It’s not.

Amy: It’s not. Yes.


Nature Study Cindy West interview

Nature Study and Picture Study

Which is pretty great. I like things not complicated. I want to transition a little bit here, because when you and I first chatted, and this has been several months ago now, but we had all these delightful rabbit trails in our conversation. One of those rabbit trails took us down that path of talking about nature study and picture study. I want to ask, are those really necessary? Are they important and necessary in our homeschool? Then if a mom is like, “Well, maybe they’re important, but I just felt completely inadequate to implement these in our home school.” What would you say to that mama?

Adrienne: Sure. In picture study, picture study is easy and delightful, everybody loves picture study. When I train teachers and we start doing picture study, it’s fun. Then I do surveys, I get surveys back, the reactions, everybody loves picture study, the kids love it, the teachers love it, the parents love it. What pictures study has done for so many students, especially in a classroom, and I think it’d be something that you would see at home as well, is that it allows students who are otherwise more afraid to answer a question because they’re afraid they’re going to be wrong to open up because you’re asking them, “Narrate what you saw in the picture.”

Everybody is like, “Oh, oh, I want to share, I want to share.” Everybody sees something. It becomes this very dynamic and beautiful way of helping students to engage the ability to see beauty, the ability to express what they see. Seeing and looking really help cultivate… and contemplation is so important and it’s something we’re missing in our culture right now. We’re just slammed by everything, everything’s so fast. I think really taking the time to help children learn to contemplate is more important now than it’s ever been actually, and I think picture study and nature study both lend themselves to teaching the habit of contemplation. They love it. Kids love it.

I was telling you before one of my favorite places to buy picture studies, and some of them are free, is online website called a humble place, a She does wonderful picture study prints. They’re very affordable. Some of her stuff is free downloads and great resource for picture study and she gives a little biographical sketches of the artists and it’s a great source for that.

I think that picture study is something that’s important not to skip, even if it’s just one day a week, it really is important, and it’s one of those activities that you can do to help slow down the family to just, “Okay,” and you can do it at the dinner time with the dad home too. It’s a way to involve a dad and not a really hugely academic way of learning. What’s interesting that happens is the more you do picture study, the more you start to enjoy and understand what beauty is, and the more you look outside of yourself.

It draws you out of yourself and into a relationship with everything around you. One of the fun side benefits of picture study is that kids who do this, and I’ve gotten this testimony from teachers, is when they take them to the museum, the kids will recognize pictures and say, “Oh, that’s a Renoir.

If you want to impress that apprehensive grandmother who doesn’t think homeschooling is good, do picture study and then have the grandma take him to the art museum. [laughs]

Amy: I love it.

Adrienne: It is a very important activity. One that shouldn’t be missed, especially if you’re a parent who allows your kids to watch some TV, who allows your kids to do some gaming or internet things, which I’m fine with, but if you are allowing that, you especially need to do pictures, especially should not be skipped because they need to learn to slow down. Allowing that space and that comfort of what did you notice? What did you wonder? What does it remind you of?

These the three key questions to get an engaged conversation going, is what did you notice? What did you wonder? What did it remind you of? When you do picture study, you should turn the picture– Give them a few minutes to look in there quietly and then turn it over and have everybody tell something they noticed. That’s where the conversation starts, because then they want to turn it back over and look, and don’t let them turn it over, because you got to get through, what did you notice? What did you wonder? By the time you’re done having that conversation, everybody’s dying to look at the picture again because they didn’t notice that and they want to see the snail that Joey saw that they didn’t. It opens up this dynamic fun conversation, it becomes dialectic.

That’s why I think picture study is important.

Your other question I think was about nature study. Nature study, I think is very, very important as well for contemplation. I went on a walk yesterday simply just to sit outside and watch birds. I took an hour and I just went for a walk and I found a bench and I just sat there and I just watched and listened, just watch and listened.

I heard at least 20 different birds and I heard the wind in the trees, then I heard this clicking behind me and I turned around and there was a little squirrel just eating off of the tree and just there’s something about just getting fresh air, going outside and sitting. That’s really hard with little ones because they want to go everywhere and they’re all over the place, and that’s okay, but taking the time to just go outside and give something to pay attention to. Let’s just look for one thing that we can pay attention to is important.

Now, one of the things that I thought was super discouraging as a homeschool mom was this idea of nature notebooks. I was like, “There’s no way, I’m not an artist. I cannot do it. This is not happening.” We actually didn’t do nature notebooks for a long time, but we did nature study. I want moms to feel like even if they don’t have time to do this whole program– This is where it goes back to if you’re a person who thinks you have to do the whole curriculum or not at all.

Just go outside, find a planted grass, make it simple. It doesn’t have to be– We totally failed in notebooking in our home. I do it now, but we failed as– when the kids were growing up, we didn’t do great at. My youngest daughter, I think got it. I think I finally succeeded by the time I did it with my fourth, [laughs] we got some good nature journal going. They’re not beautiful by any means, but the habit of being still and recognizing that the world is big and it’s not all about to me is so important. That’s something that you shouldn’t skip.

This is why I think nature study is important and a failure to do notebooking is never a good excuse to skip nature study or a failure to do it formally. Now, there are some good– Oh, I want to share my raindrop story, right?

Adrienne Freas classical charlotte mason homeschooling podcast interview liberal arts education trivium quadrivium

Amy: Yes, yes. I love that story.

Adrienne: I went to see John Muir Laws. He has wonderful resources. He has great free stuff online. You can look up John Muir, its M-U-I-R Laws. He has great videos on YouTube talking about nature journaling. Now his nature journals are beautiful and fancy, so don’t let that intimidate you but it’s still worth looking at and watching and his videos are great too and his materials are free.

I went to his conference and it was a Charlotte Mason Conference and he was there. He said, “Hey, you know what, it rained last night and there’s lots of rain drops outside on the ground and on the leaves, let’s just go out in just groups of three or four and find a drop, one drop of water and study it,” and that was the assignment. It was very random and then he didn’t plan it, it rained so that was what we were going to do.

We went out in groups of three or four and we were standing at a tree in my little group, we found this one raindrop on this one leaf, we all said, “Okay, we’re going to look at that rain drop.” We all got really close and we were all staring at the little raindrop and we were noticed, I was like– He said talk about what you noticed and what you wonder, what does it remind you of. That’s where I got that, the three questions.

I looked at the raindrop and I started describing what I noticed, and I was noticing a reflection and I was describing the reflection I was seeing. The lady standing on this side of the raindrop was looking at it and she goes, “Well, that’s not what I see. I see this,” and she starts describing her perspective of what was being reflected in the raindrop, which was completely different than mine. I said, “What, there’s no way.” I said, “Change places.”

We switched places and sure enough, I was seeing everything she saw. She was seeing everything I saw and that to me was my mind-blowing lesson in understanding human relationships with people who have different perspectives. That was mind-blowing to me. It totally changed how I see other people’s perspectives, totally changed it, and I was blown away. I’m still blown away by how much you can see in a little raindrop.

Everything behind you is reflective in it and it’s beautiful little picture, but what is mind-blowing to me too is that you can go to the other side and see something completely different. It’s not going through the raindrop. I still I’m wondered. I’m still mind-boggled at how in the world a raindrop does that and I’m sure some high-level chemist or a physicist could explain it to me, but what’s good about that is, it awakened my desire to know more.

That’s the idea that a child may be then would want to know more and would want to go study and investigate. There you are, you’re awakening a desire for science lesson. That’s what Charlotte Mason means when it becomes very natural, and that’s what I mean when I say just find something, you’re going to find something. If you have a plan for something, go for it. If you find something else on the way, let that happen.

One of the schools we work with a teacher had this beautiful nature lesson plan, she had turned it into her principal. She was doing this lesson plan and when they got outside, the little girl, a lady bug came and flew and landed on her arm. The entire nature lesson that she had planned was scratched, set aside for another day when there isn’t something to find, but when you have those moments where the wonder happens and the students want to know, drop your formerly plan lesson and go with where the kids are or where you see some.

That’s important. That’s why having a checklist is dangerous because you can be so married to that checklist and feel like a failure if you don’t do it. You can have checklists, but have them loose, carry them very loosely, be willing to let whatever disaster happens in the day interrupt your checklist because you’re dealing with little people.

The same goes with your lessons, let the glory and the wonder of God’s creation around you happen, if it happens. I have a list of some ideas and things for nature notebooks. Do you want me to share them here, or do you want to put them on your website?

Amy: How about if you send those to me and I’ll make sure that they’re in the show notes for this episode. We’ll have the transcript and the show notes over at

Adrienne: Just a couple of real simple books I think are good to start with and some good materials for watercolors and good notebooks to start.

Amy: Oh, that will be fantastic. That will be great. I love those three questions from John Muir Laws too and actually, when you’re listening to this podcast, guys, go back in your podcast feed to the episode I did with Jennifer Dow about poetry, because Jennifer brought up those exact same questions and she was using it in the context of helping your children think about a poem in the same kind of these words, wonder, curiosity.

These are the words that keep coming up from all of my guests no matter what topic we’re talking about because really that’s what we’re wanting to nurture in our children. I loved those questions and just to think about and then you can use them with pictures study. I just think pretty much you use those three questions and you’ve got your homeschool curriculum.

Adrienne: It’s true. You can do the same thing when you’re teaching a math lesson and get the kids to start teaching the math lesson to you.

Cindy Rollins Interview homeschool

Getting Started Homeschooling the classical Charlotte Mason way

Amy: Yes, indeed. You have touched on this several times already, but this feeling of overwhelm for the homeschool mom where there’s this feeling like we have to do all of the things, or we have to do them all the right way, this all or nothing. If we’re not doing it just the way I saw it listed on this website, then it doesn’t really count. If you were talking to a mom, especially maybe one who’s new to homeschooling in general or new to some of these classical ideas, where would you encourage her to start?

Adrienne: I recommend for moms who are new to homeschooling to start with For the Children’s Sake by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay because she really does a great job, is setting forth a Christian humane education for children, and then Charlotte Mason’s Volume 6. I can’t emphasize enough how much if you want to use a Charlotte Mason approach to actually read Mason and not go looking for all the blogs and all the podcasts about Charlotte Mason and all the books about Charlotte Mason, but just actually read Charlotte Mason. I think that’s just super important.

It goes with her philosophy, which is to read the original author. If Charlotte Mason’s writing is too daunting, there’s a couple of options. One is on the Ambleside Online website. They have an abridged summarized version, but they also have modern translation. If you go I’m going to say Charlotte Mason’s original series, and that the top of the page, you can click on the modern translation.

I had to do that for a while until I got used to the language and I would read both. I tried to read the original, I’d get confused and then I’d go read the modern translation and that helped a lot. Eventually, I bought the books, but for a while, just getting started, I was reading what I could for free on the Ambleside website. Also Cindy Rollins Mere Motherhood is a good place to start. It’s an encouraging book. It’s her story of homeschooling and what it really looks like and knowing what it really looks like can be really encouraging, I think, to especially a new homeschooler so that they don’t have their hopes too high.

Just know one of the wisest pieces of advice that I got from another homeschooling mom was just know that the first two years is going to be a wash. You’re going to feel like you’ve accomplished absolutely nothing. You just need to know you’re retraining children in habits, especially if you’re pulling them out of school. You’re having to reset, retrain in habits, getting a whole new routine, getting to know each other because they’ve been in school. That’s what I had to deal with. For me, it was hard.

Just knowing that and being okay with it is an important place to start. If you can find a local support group, that’s also really helpful. I was thankful that I had a local support group. I know not everybody does. My daughter, she’s military, so it’s really difficult for her to connect with people locally, which is why it’s great for the fact that we have such a mobile society now.

It’s great that there are those podcasts and Facebook pages of Charlotte Mason groups and things. Those are super helpful but we didn’t use to have that, but we weren’t as mobile as we are now, so encouraging to join those. There are debates within the Charlotte Mason circles, so it is really important for you to read her works yourself if you’re interested in using her way of teaching.

The other thing is, if you want to know what other education philosophies are out there, you just need to do some research. Do some research and look at them all and compare them and find what you think is best for you, for your family’s needs. For a time, the boxed curriculum worked for me. It’s where I was. If that’s where you need to start to ease your way into this approach, start there.

There’s some good literature, boxed curriculums out there that are literary-based that have lots of books, if you want to go that approach. One of the great things about Ambleside and one that I love is there’s so many more resources now that there didn’t use to be. They do the weekly schedule and you would just have to pace out your own week what you want that to look like.

I like that it doesn’t give a daily schedule because you can make it fit for your family and you can make one week stretch to two weeks if you need to. I like the flexibility in that. I think there are moms now who have created one-week schedules that you can find them if you look for them. If you get on a good Charlotte Mason page and ask where those are located, they– but we just didn’t have them.

If you wanted something to help you go day by day, you had to buy it. They didn’t have that.

 I also recommend The Literary Life Podcast with Angelina Stanford and Cindy Rollins. It’s a great podcast for you as a mom to dive into some books and get to hear conversations with adults, which you need as a mom and to participate. They have a really vibrant Facebook page where you can post questions about books you’re reading that are literature books. It doesn’t have to be a book that they’re reading on their podcast either. It’s a very vibrant Facebook page and very fun and I think can be a really good mental support for a new mom.

That’s where I would recommend starting, but if you have a local homeschool support group, by all means, try to find it and plugin if you can.

Amy: I think that’s in real-life communities are still important and I actually see them being slightly undervalued. As a second-generation homeschooler, I grew up with a real relational focus and we didn’t all have to agree on the same educational philosophy anyway, but it was really a focus on relationship. I don’t notice that as much now, unfortunately.

Adrienne: That’s true. I was part of a local homeschool group that everybody was using all different philosophies and we would just have a local once a month. I was in the Charlotte Mason group because we had a local group, which not everybody does in this larger group, and they would have monthly support meetings with general topics and it was helpful and it’s just good to get out and meet other moms who feel the same struggles you feel, dirty diapers, kids growing up [crosstalk]

Amy: Those people when someone’s sick or you have a new baby, they’re going to be the ones who can bring food to your doorstep. The virtual community can’t.

Adrienne: That’s true and they do. I think that getting that support group, especially if you don’t have family members on board. My mom was on board, my mother-in-law was on board, and that was super helpful, but if you don’t have that, it’s even more important, I think.

What Adrienne Freas is reading lately

Amy: Adrienne, this has been such a helpful conversation and here it as we come to the close I’m going to ask you the same questions I’ve been asking all of my guests this season. The first question is just, what are you reading lately?

Adrienne: I just finished The Betrothed by Manzoni. It’s a book set in the black plague in Italy. It was a very good book. I read it because several people from my church were reading it and wanting to have a little book group discussion and it was fun and I had never read it. It’s a classic. It’s fantastic. I just finished that, but now I am reading The Ethics of Beauty, which is a fantastic I strongly recommend the book.

It’s pretty big and meaty, but it’s very, very good, but I like this kind of book. I’m doing a talk on truth, goodness, and beauty in a conference in October at a classical homeschool, or not homeschool, but a classical conference. I’m doing a big talk on beauty and atmosphere and how important beauty is to set the stage for your entire atmosphere of your learning environment, and so I felt like I need to read this book and it’s a lot better than I thought it would be. It’s really good.

I’m also reading Unbinding Prometheus by Donald Cowan. He used to be the president of the University of Dallas, and he and his wife developed the whole teaching on the poetic imagination and getting the whole core program that UD developed, which is a great program. The core program is where all students are reading the same books. Everybody reads Paradise Lost, everybody’s reading– It’s about half of your degree is this core program and it’s nice because everybody’s doing it, and so everybody has this commonality that they can talk about.

Donald Cowan and Louise Cowan founded the core program here and they also founded the Dallas Institute. I’ve heard a lot of good about this book, but I had never read it and I just picked it up, started reading it and it’s fantastic and it’s very approachable. If you want to learn and understand the spirit of classical education, this is a really good read and you can just read a chapter, there’s no order that you really have to read it to.

Last night or a couple days, I read The Spirit of Liberal Learning, all on its own. It’s a very good chapter, and then the next chapter is called The Three Moments of Learning, which is also excellent. He actually has unfolded this. The Three Moments of Learning is The Trivium and the three modes of thinking, but he didn’t call it that, but I’m like, ‘That’s exactly what it is.” It’s really good. That’s another one I’m reading. That’s great and I would like to read a quote, if it’s okay-

Amy: Yes, please.

Adrienne: -from this one, he said from Unbinding Prometheus, he said, “Enjoyment is the true response to learning and internal and reflective activity that touching on a higher harmony outside the soul resonates in the soul and affects its transformation.” I was like, “Yes, that’s exactly Charlotte Mason.” That’s what Charlotte Mason does for students and that’s what a classical education should do for students. It’s not just about the mom having a checklist, but it’s about enjoyment.

I want to say one thing about enjoyment, it’s not the same as fun activity. As humans we’re designed to enjoy contemplating ideas. We should enjoy having time to ruminate. It brings the soul formation into a deeper enjoyment that at first may not look enjoyable, if that makes sense. Helping kids learn habits is really, really hard, but once they do it, they’ll actually enjoy life more.

When we can learn to do something well, that’s an enjoyment. I think that’s what he means by that quote. I just thought that was a really good quote from that book.

Amy: Yes, oh, I love that. I have his wife’s book Invitation to the Classics. She co-wrote that maybe with, was that with Os Guinness or something? I can’t remember, but that’s a great resource, but I didn’t realize the connection with your college and everything. That’s cool.

Adrienne: That book is as a good resource, this book is more of a good read for philosophy of classical education. The other one I’m reading again, which I read all the time is Quintilian’s Institutes of Oratory. I’d like that book and there’s a lot in there about how to teach little kids, especially narration and copy work, habits of learning how to read, write, and speak well are all in there and I see The Trivium. I’m unpacking it again and looking for The Triviumin that book as a way to support some of my thesis on The Trivium as modes of thinking. I’m reading that one again, but those are my three main reads right now.

Tips for the Homeschool Day Going Off the Rails

Amy: All sounds delightful. Final question here is just, what tips would you give to the mom whose homeschool day seems to be going completely off the rails?

Adrienne: I wrote down my response because I had a memory of a day that it was going off the rails for me. I’m going to read what I wrote here. I said, I had four kids in five years so many of my days were going all wrong constantly. I have a daughter who’s following suit and is pregnant with baby number three, is currently has a one-year-old and her almost three-year-old.

Really just adapting to all the hard things is how you survive. Having a routine is very helpful, but being very, very flexible with that routine is the most important way to help you keep your sanity. If you’re too rigid with checklists and routines, you can quickly feel like a failure and get burned out. I remember when I was coming home from the grocery store shopping with four kids, five and under, I was putting all the groceries away and my baby was crying because she wanted to nurse, but I had to put the cold stuff away.

I dropped an entire gallon of milk and, of course, it exploded all over the kitchen floor and went under the refrigerator. I remember that I just stopped and I started to laugh. I called the dog into the kitchen. She crawls around the bottom of the refrigerator and while the dog happily lapped up what’s he could, I took my baby out of the car seat, lifted the mess to go quietly nurse her and I think that the gift of nursing a baby forced me to slow down and learn how to get to let go of things.

Homeschooling is the hardest thing you will ever do. It’s harder than natural childbirth, which I did. You’ll be so tired that you have no idea who you are anymore, but just stopping, praying, even if the only chance you get to praise is when you’re going to the bathroom, cry out to God, “Help me and show me how to be the mom my kids need, because I don’t know how,” and he’ll meet you, and so that’s how I did it.

Amy: That is such an encouragement and thank you for sharing that story too. I know that there’s the mom right now who’s like laugh crying because she probably has something like that that happened to her this week. It’s good to just remember that we’re not alone and that we can just stop and pray and continue on.

Adrienne: It’s normal.

Amy: No one is a perfect superhuman homeschool mom, that does not exist.

Adrienne: The husband came home later and pulled the refrigerator and cleaned underneath. I didn’t have to do it and the dog got everything else that was in the kitchen. You do what you got to do and just laugh.

Find Adrienne Freas Online

Amy: Yes, laughter is good medicine. Adrienne, this has been lovely. Thank you again, especially with the technical issues we had there in the middle. I really appreciate you taking the time to chat today. Where can people find you around the internet?

Adrienne: Oh, thanks for having me. This was fun. I’m on Facebook, so I follow lots of different little Facebook pages. I have a Facebook page called Classical Education, like What is Classical Education? If you just type in Facebook classical education, then it should come up with a picture of a stack of books that says, What is Classical Education? That’s actually my page, I started it.

It’s a generic page. I let people really post just about anything about classical ed. It’s not just Charlotte Mason, but I use it as my little platform to be able to plug some Charlotte Mason things here and there. That’s probably the best place, and then my name on Facebook is Adrienne Marie, M-A-R-I-E, but I don’t normally to take friend requests from people I don’t know, but-

Amy: I don’t either. No, that’s creepy.

Adrienne: Watch my name on the classical ed Facebook page and I’m on the Angelina Stanford Literary Podcast Life Page and if you have a Facebook page, I’d get on there too.

Amy: I will have links to all of that in the show notes for this episode and then of course, if anyone has any questions for you, they can comment on the blog post, which will include the full transcript as well and links to the many things that we’ve talked about today and I’ll make sure if anyone sends a question there, I’ll make sure that gets to you.

Adrienne: Okay. Sounds great. Thanks.

Amy: Thank you. Have a wonderful afternoon.

Check out all the other interviews in my Homeschool Conversations series!

Homeschool Conversations Video Interviews Podcast Amy Sloan
Spread the love

Join My Newsletter
Enjoy subscriber exclusives and a weekly poem!
Get the printable video transcript and learn why we follow a Christian Classical Education in our Homeschool!!
Featured Image

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *