Thursday, May 9, 2013

Children are born persons: what does that mean anyhow?

Charlotte Mason’s first principle of education is the idea that “children are born persons”.   I think most of us would agree with that idea in theory – of course they’re ‘persons’ – they’re not rainbows or puppies or trees, right?   But how many of us put that idea into practice?   I know I never really thought through the implications of it until I started really digging in to Charlotte Mason’s philosophy.   And as we are discovering in our reading and discussion of this principle over on the Forum, the implications of this principle are HUGE.     If we TRULY believe our children are “persons”, it will have huge implications for the way that we talk to them, the way that we train and discipline them, the way that we educate them, and so on.  
What does that mean anyhow, “children are born persons?”    Children are already “persons” from the time they are born – they don’t become “persons” when they grow up .   They aren’t empty pitchers or blank slates that are waiting to be filled.   They have value because they are made in the image of God.  They have minds that they are able to use from day one.  (Charlotte supports this idea by reminding us that infants learn more in the first two years of life than in any other 2 year period from then on.  I think anyone who has spent time with young children can attest to how true this is!)  And they have great potential.  In her article on this subject, Megan Hoyt uses the example that children are like acorns – young, small, and immature – but possessing all that they need to someday become trees.   And they are their OWN persons.   They aren’t our property to do with what we would like.   We certainly have a great responsibility to guide them and train them along the path of life, but ultimately they are responsible for their own decisions, ideas, and opinions.  Ultimately, we have to get out of the way and let the Holy Spirit work directly in our children’s hearts.
Just a few of the possible implications of fully embracing this idea:
  • We feed them ideas and true knowledge, not just information.  Ideas are the food of the mind, and lead to the growth of the ‘person’.  This must be held more important than the tricks and “facts” that are testable.
  • We don’t brainwash him or tell him what to think – no matter how well intentioned we might be.
  • We serve the child where he is – we don’t compare him to others or try to force him into an arbitrary mold.
  • We make space in our lives to give the child the time and room and space he needs to grow.
  • We seek to keep wonder and delight alive.
  • We let him experience life and learn from those experiences…even the hard ones.
  • We show them respect in the words, tone and attention we use when we speak with them.
There’s probably more.  In fact I’m quite sure there is.   This is really only the tip of the iceberg .   I couldn’t possibly begin to explore all the implications here, but as I am inspired, some of my thoughts will very likely spill over into this space.  Stay tuned.

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