If you’re reading Afterthoughts (and I’m assuming you are, of course), then you might start getting the feeling that you really should read The Liberal Arts Tradition, and you’d be right.

Where Karen Glass’ Consider This nudged Charlotte Mason devotees toward the classical tradition, The Liberal Arts Tradition nudges classical educators toward the Charlotte Mason – because these are actually channels within the same stream, not different streams. Charlotte Mason took the classical education principles she learned — by her own wide, extensive reading — and adapted them to fit her times and answer the philosophical and cultural environment of her day. That is precisely what we must do, as well. And that is exactly what Clark and Jain are doing with The Liberal Arts Tradition – ensuring we are firmly rooted in the classical tradition before moving on to practices and methods.

What is a musical education?

Musical education is soul-craft: carried out properly, it tunes the soul and makes one receptive to truth and goodness.

Clark and Jain define a musical education not as one that is full of music or instruments, but as one that is rich with “the subjects inspired by the Muses.” That might not ring any bells for us. What subjects are inspired by the muses? we wonder. I’m going to claim Protestant liberty here and liken the Greek muses to the concept of Catholic patron saints. There were 9 of them, they were goddess-daughters of Zeus, and they watched over the practice of their favorite arts, granting favor in the form of inspiration. They each had more than one pet cause, including such diverse areas of life as comedy, tragedy, dancing, poetry, history, conversation, geometry, agriculture, architecture, rhetoric, logic, fun, love, worship, grammar, astronomy, justice, and peace, as well as a variety of instruments. People engaging in any of these well were said to be inspired by the muses.

So although our English word “music” has a narrow meaning, “musical education” in the classically-rooted sense Clark & Jain are intending is quite broad – these are all legitimate areas to introduce to our children in order to direct and grow their affections and their souls. This is directly opposed to “3 R” education which says children only need reading, writing, and arithmetic to get ahead. To be fair, though, I do think that often the 3 R approach is done to limit “school” (which means analytical work to us, usually) time so there is room in children’s days and weeks for living a full life engaged in more musical activity.

Our grade school children should spend most of their time in an inspired, interested, pre-critical, receptive mode, soaking in
stories, songs, forms, nature, liberty and justice and peace.

The musical (coming from the same root as ‘museum’) education was an education in wonder.

I looked that one up for fun. A museum is “a building in which objects of historical, scientific, artistic, or cultural interest are stored and exhibited.” Originally, the word literally meant “Seat of the Muses.” So, our children should grow up wide-eyed, surrounded by as much historical, scientific, artistic, cultural (another root note: culture is built on what is commonly worshipped – we must provide our children with a Christian culture at least within our own homes and churches, even when society is not an appropriate culture) atmosphere as we can manage.

It should be the air they breathe, not the cold facts they learn from workbooks and flashcards.

Although musical education considers some of the same “subjects” as the liberal arts, it does so from the perspective of forming the heart, the sense of wonder, and the affections.

So a musical education is more of a mindset, an attitude, a posture, an approach than a set of practices and methods.

And Charlotte Mason moms will particularly enjoy and recognize this application of the musical approach to subjects:

Science as musical education has perhaps the greatest potential of all, especially in our context. Imagine if the foundations for all future science were a wonder and awe of God’s creation and sympathetic love of the created world. What might later scientific inquiry look like?

The heart of a wonder-based education is musical. Education should create a harmony between our children and their world.



  1. How fascinating, Mystie! A lot to chew on! Wishing I had time for this book, you and brandy make it sound so appealing…

  2. I just got back from a vacation and haven’t caught up yet on Brandy’s series… but I’m looking forward to doing so.

    I saw you linked to the Fitzgerald translation of the Odyssey – have you ever read the Fagles translation? I’m quite attached to it. I could read it over and over and over again (and in fact did so when I was in the newborn and baby period with my last child)

    A great post, I love the thought of a musical education relating to the muses – and you have some great quotes there too.

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