Saturday, July 12, 2014

Masterly Inactivity: On Knowing When to Let Go

Thoughts on School Education: Chapter 4 "Some Rights of Children as Persons"
In this chapter, Charlotte lays out some specific examples of ways that we can respect the personhood of our children and practice masterly inactivity.  Some of those ideas included:
  • Giving them freedom in play rather than over-stuffing their schedules with organized games and activities.
  • Giving them the opportunities to express themselves freely rather than micromanaging.  Specific examples suggested were the freedom to explore creatively and come up with their own ideas and designs when doing art and craft projects rather than expecting a set outcome and freedom to write about topics of interest.  It occurred to me that the use of the 'blank page' in a notebook (as described in The Living Page) as a tool of response to a lesson rather than a fill-in-the-blanks worksheet was one way that this particular suggestion could be applied.  Nelleke shares another example here of giving her son freedom to explore as he has begun learning how to play the piano.
  • Giving children the opportunity to "stand or fall by their own efforts" – experiencing for themselves the natural rewards or consequences of their actions, rather than nagging or bribing them to correct behavior.
  • Giving children the freedom to choose their own friends.
  • Giving children the freedom to spend their pocket money as they choose.
  • Allowing children to form their own opinions on things like politics and religion as they grow into adults rather than expecting or influencing them to adopt the exact same position that we hold.
I think it's important to note here that one needs to take these suggestions within the whole context of Charlotte's ideas. (And, as Cindy points out in her post, one needs to consider age-appropriateness with these suggestions too.)  Masterly Inactivity doesn't mean a totally 'hands off' approach. It does mean understanding and applying our God-given authority rightly.  It means understanding that our role as parents and teachers is to set before our children the great feast of ideas and to diligently train them in good habits.  It is only within this framework that we will be able to have the freedom not to give into the temptation to micromanage.  The key principle that I took away from the examples Charlotte writes of in this chapter was the idea that our role as parents is to instill our children with right ideas, sound principles, and good habits and then LET GO and not try to micromanage every aspect of their lives, even if that sometimes means letting them learn certain lessons 'the hard way'.   Easier said than done!  Once  again, I find it comes back down to the idea of resting in the Lord and entrusting our children to Him.  It goes back to remembering that we don't have the power to save our children or make them wise in our own power and strength – only God can do that.   We sow the seeds and let the Lord take care of bringing forth the harvest in their lives in His good time.   This has been such a repeated message to me lately!  It has certainly brought home to me the absolute necessity of praying regularly and fervently for my children and for the Lord to work in their lives.  (Lisa has a beautiful, must-read post on this topic here.)


  1. I read this chapter this morning. The part that struck me most was that we need to let our children stand or fall by their own efforts. That. Is. So. Hard!

    Then right after I'd finished reading the chapter I saw myself prodding them along, making sure they got chores and piano practice done before we had to leave for swimming lessons. I really need to focus on this standing back and letting go... I think I am getting better, but I know there is still a long way to go.

    (Thanks for linking to me, by the way. It was exciting to come here and see my post mentioned!)

    1. I know, seriously. So much easier said than done. My default mode is often nagging or prodding unless I really consciously stop myself from doing it. It's as much about mama changing her habits and children, I think!

      Your post was great and I couldn't help but share it...I had already mostly written this post when I saw it and it just fit in there so well. :)