Welcome to week one of our Home Education book club! This week we’re covering pages 1-20 in Home Education by Charlotte Mason.
Attached here are some questions for you to ponder as you read the scheduled pages for this week. You don't have to answer them all, and they are not intended to cultivate guilt or self-doubt. They are only intended to gently prod you to ponder the topics presented. Many of these questions were also discussed in our live discussion on Instagram. You can find that video below, followed by my summary for this week.
Resources Mentioned in This Week’s Video:
Below is a synopsis of our week 1 readings. It is simply a “narration” of pages 1-20 in my own words.
Part I: Some Preliminary Considerations
Children are a public trust:
In this first section of the book, Charlotte lays out the importance of education for young children, laying the most basic foundation, and touching specifically on the mother’s duties to her little ones. She reminds us that children are not are personal property, but they are a “public trust,” meant to enter into the world one day and become contributing members of society. The education and upbringing that they receive (especially at home) can be either beneficial or detrimental to the world.
“That work which is of most importance to society is the bringing-up and instruction of the children.” (pg. 1)
Have we taken this into account? That one day these small souls we are nurturing will one day impact the world? So much rests on our shoulders as mothers and home educators!
“It is upon the mothers of the present that the future of the world depends.” (pg. 2)
Mothers Owe a ‘Thinking Love’ to their Children:
Charlotte goes on to point out that mothers are endowed by our Creator with the “principal agent in the development” of our children, and the love we have for our children is the very first agent in education. But if we are to take our task of home educating our children seriously, it is paramount that we seek out a proper theory of education.
The more we educate ourselves, the more likely we will begin to see our profession of educating our children as equally valuable to those professions of our husbands. (And it is through her Home Education volumes that Charlotte strove to empower mothers in such a task.)
If we view the task of home educating as a profession, doesn’t it make sense that we should seek to broaden our understanding of an educational philosophy?
“Is it not madness to make no provision for such a task?” (pg. 3)
Society may tell us otherwise, but this job is of UTMOST importance!
How parents usually proceed:
Our default assumption is that child development is the slow detachment of a child from his dependence on us: growth toward independence. While this approach does have some value, it only extends so far.
“Nothing is trivial that concerns a child; his foolish-seeming words and ways are pregnant with meaning for the wise. It is in the infinitely little that we must study the infinitely great; and the vast possibilities, and the right direction of education, are indicated in the open book of the child’s thoughts.” (pg. 5)
Our duty is to keep the big picture in mind: that one day they will go into the world and it is our responsibility to bring them up to their highest potential while they are in our care. Working to understand them will help us know how best to educate them.
I. A Method of Education
Traditional Methods of Education:
Theories for “how best to raise a child” abound… how to discipline, what they should eat, what they should be allowed to endure, what duties or activities they should be allowed or expected to participate in.
While the perfect method of raising children has yet to be achieved by any one parent, we should be diligent in how we approach the education of our children and have an overarching goal in mind.
A Method is a Means to an End:
Method = Goal + Pathway
Following a method means that you have an end goal in sight, and when you instruct from this perspective, learning opportunities come effortlessly through the life unfolding around you.
“So easy and spontaneous is a method of education based on Natural Law.” (pg. 8)
A System is Easier than a Method:
A system of education tends to hold more allure than a method because a system can be more easily measured. But systems don’t account for the individualities of each pupil. (Think standardized tests!) While systems have their place, they are faulty in their lack of providing space for the growth and nourishment of a real person.
So while we may be tempted to adopt a system of education because of its measurable process, we may find ourselves dissatisfied to learn that it has only produced development in one direction rather than the full and robust results we were hoping for.
So is a mother expected to teach the whole of everything?? It’s impossible! Instead, Charlotte suggests that a few broad and essential principles cover the whole field, and by implementing them, the art of whole child learning flows naturally.
II. The Child’s Estate
The Child in the Midst:
These children we’ve been entrusted with are of the highest importance. Wodsworth described them as being most connected to God- our home. And even Jesus taught that children should be our example in regards to the kingdom of heaven.
Code of Education in the Gospels:
Christ offered a code of education in the gospels: “Take heed that ye OFFEND not-- DESPISE not-- HINDER not-- one of these little ones.”
Charlotte explains that we should look at these three laws as prohibitive in order to “clear the ground” to impart a method of education.
“... for if we once settle with ourselves what we may not do, we are greatly helped to see what we may do, and must do.” (pg. 13)
Let’s prune the dead limbs that aren’t contributing to positive development in order to clear the garden for the nourishing cultivation that needs to take place in our children!
III. Offending the Children
“We offend them, when we do by them that which we ought not to have done; we despise them, when we leave undone those things which, for their sakes, we ought to have done.” (pg. 13)
Children are Born Law-Abiding:
We’ve all seen that even the smallest of toddlers has an acute sense of right and wrong, and when mother is displeased with them their spirit is pricked with the pain of guilt. So how then do we develop natures of selfishness and wrong doing?
“By slow degrees, here a little and there a little, as all that is good or bad in character comes to pass.” (pg. 14)
When we allow a child to get away with little indiscretions, we are teaching him the habit of getting away with that which is forbidden, “and henceforth the child’s life becomes an endless struggle to get his own way.” (pg. 15)
They Must Perceive that their Governors are Law-Compelled:
But when we show by example that we, as his parent, are “law-compelled,” and there is no compromising when it comes to choosing to do what’s right, a child easily “submits with the sweet meekness which belongs to his age.” (pg. 15)
Explanations aren’t necessary when children are very young because they can read the resolution of a mother’s position in her face.
Parents may Offend their Children by Disregarding the Laws of Health, Intellect, and Moral Life:
Creating habits of unhealthy eating or laziness, providing an uninteresting or boring education, or even not showing equal affection to each child… we must consider how these things affect a child’s mind, and impact the whole of their lives.
IV. Despising the Children
Children Should have the Best of their Mothers:
Grown ups have far too low an opinion of children, often disregarding the fact that they are always learning and being impressed upon by the people around them and by the things they are exposed to. We should be extra careful in who and what they spend time around because bad habits are most easily caught.
This isn’t to say mothers can never be without their children. In fact, small amounts of time away may help her to come back refreshed.
“They should have the best of their mother, her freshest, and brightest hours.” (pg. 18)
Children’s Faults are Serious:
When we allow little indiscretions to pass by unchecked, we’re forming habits in our children that will be hard to undo. Better to form the good habits of right-doing now, than have to untangle the habits of wrong-doing in the future.
“If the mother settles in her own mind that the child never does wrong without being aware of his wrong-doing, she will see that he is not too young to have his fault corrected or prevented.” (pg. 19)
V. Hindering the Children
A Child’s Relationship with Almighty God:
“The most fatal way of despising the child falls under the third educational law of the Gospels; it is to overlook and make light of his natural relationship with Almighty God.” (pg. 19)
Jesus told his disciples to let the children come to him, as if it were the most natural thing for children to do… their natural inclination when grown people don’t interfere.
And this quote may be my favorite so far:
“And perhaps it is not too beautiful a thing to believe in this redeemed world that, as a babe turns to his mother though he has no power to say her name, as the flowers turn to the sun, so the hearts of the children turn to their Savior and God with unconsious delight and trust.” (pg. 19)
We have to be careful not to present God only as punisher when a child does wrong because this discourages him from the command to “come unto Me,” and makes him painfully unaware of Christ’s affection for them.
“The mischief lies in that same foolish undervaluing of the children, in the notion that the child can have no spiritual life until it please his elders to kindle the flame.” (pg. 20)
That concludes our week 1 readings summary! How are you feeling so far about Charlotte’s ideas? If you’re on Instagram be sure to check out the discussion on today’s post and keep your eyes peeled for our live discussion in my stories this weekend!