Monday, June 4, 2012

Charlotte Mason's Home Education (Volume 1) - The Divine Life of the Child

Well guess what folks, I finally finished reading the first book in Charlotte Mason's Original Homeschooling Series - Home Education.  It took me almost a year...longer if you count the fact that I started over about a quarter of the way through because there was SO MUCH rich stuff in the book that I wanted to get a notebook and take notes on all I was reading.  But it was so, so worth it!   While there are many fantastic summaries and applications of CM's methods available in book and web form (see my Charlotte Mason Resources link in at the top of the side bar), there is really no substitute for reading her actual thoughts as she presented them.  This particular volume contains her thoughts on the education of young children up to the age of 9 - both in an academic and character/spiritual sense.   There is much here for parents in general even if you don't homeschool or are using a different philosophy to guide your homeschooling endeavours.  And in order to whet your appetites a bit, I would like to do a series of posts over the next few weeks, as time allows of course, to share some of the things that particularly stood out to me as I read.  In no particular order.   (And if you are inspired to read more, did you know you can get all of CM's works for free on your Kindle right here?!)

Anyhow, I digress.  I am actually going to start at the end, since that's what I just finished and it is still freshest in my mind.  Part VI of the book is titled "The Will, The Conscience, The Divine Life".  I'd like to focus on Part III, the Divine Life of the Child.   After spending some time discussing how to train a child's will and conscience, Charlotte turns her attention to the spiritual training of our children, which is really the foundation for all the rest.  We need to remember that we don't want our children to learn to be good just for the sake of being good, but as an extension of our love and gratitude towards our Saviour, and by the help of the Holy Spirit working in us.   Obviously we as parents cannot save our children by our own strength, but we can do much to introduce our children to our Saviour.  Charlotte likens this work to a bee pollinating a flower:
" is his part to deposit, so to speak, within reach of the soul of the child some fruitful idea of God, the immature soul makes no effort towards the idea, but the Living Word reaches down, touches the soul - and there is life; growth and beauty; flower and fruit."
We are seed planters, and God provides the growth.  Charlotte urges parents not to preach at our children and to carefully find  a balance between regular, progressive, direct Bible-teaching and overdoing our Bible teaching to the point that our children start to tune us out.  She urges us to avoid moralising over everything or turning God into a judge or taskmaster, but presenting the Lord as a living and personal Saviour worthy of our adoration.   How can we do this?
  •  Teach from our own hearts - present those ideas that we have taken into our own souls not merely as head knowledge, but as living ideas.
  •  Live out our loyalty to the King in all areas of our lives, not in word only.
  •  By dependence on the Holy Spirit:  "It is as the mother gets wisdom liberally from above, that she will be enabled for this divine task."
This was where I received a healthy dose of conviction.  I don't know about you, but I find myself guilty of spending a lot of time looking for the perfect curriculum or devotional materials to use with my kids.  I also find myself focusing more on the moral aspect of their training, easy to do when their behavior is right in your face day-in and day-out!   But what picture am I painting of God for my children?  Do they see in my life that He is worthy of love, worship, devotion?   Am I relying on a carefully laid out program to teach them, or depending on the Holy Spirit to help me respond to the teachable moments that present themselves?   If I am honest, I would have to say no.  All the 'programs' in the world can't replace living out an authentic Christianity before my children.  I am reminded that cultivating my own relationship with the Savior is of utmost importance even in these busy, busy days of little ones, homeschooling, housekeeping, and language learning.  I cannot pass on to my children what I don't have.   It is my prayer today that I would fall ever more deeply in love with the Lord and that that love for Him would overflow to those around me...starting right here at home.

All quotes taken from Home Education, Volume 1 in Charlotte Mason's Original Homeschooling Series, Chapter VI, Section III. 

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