Tag Archives: christianity

The place of virtue in the Christian home

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how children become the adults they become. Specifically, I’ve been pondering the ways in which ‘unpleasant’ things like responsibility, duty, and honor are learned. I know that some families have specific instruction in these topics, selecting stories or studies that focus on a specific character trait. But people were responsible long before someone wrote a curriculum about it. People displayed duty and honor without being told they should be dutiful and honorable. Even people who aren’t Christians can be and are responsible, dutiful and honorable… How? How have some people been able to instill these qualities in their kids? Install? Perhaps it’s just gleaned?

I have heard a lot of derision against the idea of Christian parents raising ‘righteous pagans’ almost as if we parents, by the quality of our parenting, can somehow convert our children into Christ-followers (look- no saving relationship required! Just be sure to read the Bible every night and don’t squash their little spirits and souls and they’ll love God!).  I don’t believe we can ‘raise up’ Christians. We can certainly ‘raise up’ church-ified kids who know how to talk the talk, but we cannot create salvation in our children. Ultimately, their spiritual state is between them and our Father.

So what does it mean to raise up’ children in the way they should go? What can it possibly mean since people don’t inherit holiness or salvation from their parents?

I’ve been thinking a lot about those righteous pagans. Sometimes (thanks Literature degree), I think about Dante’s ‘virtuous pagans’ who occupy the first (least horrible) circle of hell. These people are composed of the good people of the world who don’t know Jesus (perhaps an imagining of where He went during His 3 days in the tomb?). People like Virgil and Homer and Ovid- people who did nothing ‘bad’ and actually did some good things and yet, due to the basic corruption of all flesh apart from Christ, cannot enter Heaven…

Can Christian parents do anything BUT raise virtuous pagans? Since we can’t ‘save’ our kids- they need their own personal relationship with Jesus to do that (and we don’t control their hearts)- what ‘s the best we can do for our kids?

I’ve been thinking about my parenting instincts- why is it important that my kids learn to clean up after themselves? Why is it important that they know how to complete a project, offer people basic respect, understand how to accept ‘No’ without a melt down? It’s because the BEST I can give my kids is virtue- not holiness.

Virtue (perhaps Dear Charlotte would have called this magnanimity?)- is the ability to choose a way that is higher than base flesh. It’s the ability to exercise some control over the corrupt flesh. Virtue tells the man- Christian or not- that he must provide for his family and be faithful to his wife, even if his flesh pulls him toward self-indulgence and lust (second and third circles of hell, by the way). Virtue is what tells a woman she should give out of her own need and strive for a patience, even when she wants to hoard her money and scream whenever her will is frustrated (fourth and fifth circles). Instilling (allowing children to glean?) virtue in our children does two things for them:

First, on a completely material level, virtue allows our children to live quiet, peaceful, secure lives whether they become Christians or not. Since we can’t ‘bestow’ salvation, regardless of how well we parent, virtue literally IS the best we can possibly do for our kids. Virtue is what creates reliable employees (who then have some job security and basic material needs met), peaceful families (who then have fulfilled personal lives) and strong communities (who are then able to care for one another when times are hard). Virtue is the key to peace with this world.

Second, practiced virtue is a support to a Christ-following lifestyle. The child who has been taught to complete a task in honor of his parents has an easier time completing a task in honor of his God. The girl who understands what it means to deny her flesh and clean her room even when (especially when) she doesn’t feel like it, will better be able to deny her flesh and honor her God even when (especially when) she doesn’t feel like it.

Our witness of God’s intervention in our own lives is lived out in spirit and truth, word and deed in front of our children every day (Lord please cover my failings!) to invite our children to remember their Creator, to accept His invitation to make them new. But a careful and intentional focus on virtue is  the most loving gift we can give our children of our own power. Let’s not overlook it.

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Lessons Learned In The Meantime…

It’s been weeks since I’ve posted and, as of today, it’s been weeks since we’ve ‘done school’. I look at my wonderful 36 week curriculum schedule with all my subjects neatly lined up and realize that we’re weeks ‘behind’. I say ‘behind’ even though the beauty of this system is that it holds a fantastic amount of flexibility for my family. We can easily move days around, or work within a specific subject- it’s just awesome like that (thanks to the original Ambleside Online moms who actually created the schedule)…

And yet, I’ve been feeling ‘behind’. Life has gotten in the way of school. Oh, I know that education is the sum of what our children take into themselves and that includes all the lessons learned along the way that are not planned or scheduled, but still, lately, I’ve been asking myself what has been worthwhile during this pause in our official schooling? What have my children been learning while we’ve been away from school?

At the end of March my 15-year-old niece came to live with us. The situation has been unsettled and there is much healing to be done in her heart and mind. When Selena came to stay, all of us in the household had to make adjustments. School time became shorter as I handled phone calls, doctor appointments and therapy sessions. We think that perhaps this week the custody agreement might be finalized and Selena might legally be in our care for the forseeable future.

I ask myself ‘what have my children learned from this new living arrangement’?  It doesn’t take much to see they’ve learned that there’s enough space and love for everyone in our home and that no one gets left behind. They’ve seen that we all matter and that doing the right thing is sometimes hard and requires sacrifice. The atmosphere of this home lately has demonstrated that family is deeply important, but that ‘doing’ family isn’t always easy. Sometimes there is conflict, and we need the Lord so much to know the right way to behave and respond.

Then, about a month ago, our little family traveled to my in-laws to assist them after my mother-in-law’s knee surgery. Since they live just south of Erie, PA we took the opportunity to do some Charlotte-y things like visiting the lake and collecting lake-stones from the beach, spotting red-winged blackbirds for the first time, and visiting a small homestead to discover how the family lives almost completely self-sufficiently (lots of handicrafts going on there!).

Alex, Selena & Fae at the Lake

But during this trip they also learned how to sit quietly next to a fragile loved one and just spend time together. They learned that their presence and beautiful hearts can truly lift the spirits of someone going through something hard. They learned that we can all work together to get the job done and that fun happens in spite of hardship.

The day after we returned from our 9 day visit with the in-laws, I traveled to Albany, NY to collect my youngest sister and her two children. She has an almost 2-year-old daughter and her baby girl is about a month old now. For the past two weeks, we played host and opened our home to them. In this case, my kids learned something about generosity and being hospitable. They learned how to expand their circle of two to include their young cousin. They watched my sister faithfully care for her sweet newborn. They saw how we simply swept them into our daily life and made more room at the table. I think they saw how joy can come from giving one’s self to others. We all cried a little this past weekend as we waved goodbye to the plane that carried this precious little family away to Florida to my mother and grandmother.

As I sit here writing about some of the lessons I think my kiddos might have been receiving from Brian and me (and, mostly, from the Lord Who is their Great Teacher), I realize that the past two months have been opening and deepening the way my children understand family. They are seeing how we, their parens who are trying to live a life that is pleasing to our Savior, seek to serve and care for those around us. I am not patting myself on the back- doesn’t scripture say that even pagans care for those who care for them?- but these are good lessons for any child to learn…

These past months have been filled with lessons about faith, family, service, love, hardship, pain, joy and hope. The kids have learned these from real life instead of our beloved living books, from the script the Father has provided instead of the curriculum I’ve out together. And I’m ok with that; I’m ok with Life being my children’s Teacher.

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Taking Inventory…

It’s that time of the year- in PA Spring is definitely here. For the past three weeks, we’ve had unseasonably warm weather. My hyacinths have bloomed, the trees are budding and we’ve been doing lots of yard work and basking in the warm sun. It’s *also* the time of the year that my local MOPS group sets up their semi-annual consignment sale. So I begin my semi-annual Sorting of the Clothing…

Clothing Management is one of those ‘mom jobs’ I never heard about before I was pregnant and immersed in buying clothing for my little one. There I was, round and expecting in the middle of BabiesRUs, realizing that all these cute little clothes for 0-3 months were WAY too summer-y for a baby expected in mid-October. It hit me that, as a mom, I had to match sizes and clothing with seasons.

Thus began my spring/fall clothing management project. Each spring/fall, I pull out the clothes from the previous spring/fall, try everything on the kiddos and set aside whatever doesn’t fit to either give away or consign at the MOPS sale. Then I take an inventory of what the kids need for the upcoming season- boots, hats, coats, scarves, gloves/mittens and other cold weather attire for the fall & winter and bathing suits, rash guards, sandals, wind breakers, hats, shorts and eyewear for the spring & summer seasons.

So out goes the outgrown and in comes the new (to us) items- I buy probably 80% of my kids’ clothing at the consignment sale. Since Fae is a petite little thing, I only spent about $25 to outfit her for this spring/summer. Alex is in a weird ‘in-between’ stage where it’s hit or miss if a 5/6 will fit him correctly. When the new(er) items are purchased, they are washed and then get put in the closet along with the rest of the clothes for the new season. Any items that may still fit the following spring or fall, get stashed away in each child’s clothing storage bin to be tested for fit at the appropriate time…

So what does this have to do with homeschooling? I was thinking of the many ways we teach our children what is important in a family. In my family, this twice a year inventory & rotation has become part of our spring/fall cleaning. My children take it for granted that mom takes care of making sure they are outfitted for the coming season (Proverbs 31 anyone?). And this simple (laborious) task of making sure my family has well-fitting, seasonal clothing is one thing they will be accustomed to as they grow.

To my children, parents anticipate what the needs of the family will be- they look ahead into the coming months and they prepare the family to successfully navigate what’s ahead. This semi-annual familial habit of taking stock of what we have and what we may need is something that we should implement in a spiritual sense as well.

It’s still Lent for another week or so. During the remainder of this season, I am going to take spiritual inventory- what do I have in my life has been outgrown and needs to be set aside? What new things do I need to bring into my life to be prepared for what lies ahead? We anticipate a move out-of-state before the end of the year; Alex will be completing Kindergarten this summer; Fae will turn 3 and will no longer be a baby (she’ll always be my baby!!); Brian will be taking a new job. What will each of us need during the remainder of this year to be successful?

How to prepare according to the Word...

We are all growing in this family. We are all shedding the old and donning the new. As a mother, I think I bear witness to the growth of my family. I am keenly aware that the clothing that was once so roomy is now pulling across the chest. I notice when the shoes lose the wiggle-room in the toe. And I think I need to be really looking for the way my family is growing spiritually as well- where has someone had a breakthrough? Where is a child in need of a new responsibility or privilege? What do I need to let go of? What do I need to embrace?

I pray that my kids see their parents being serious about spiritual inventory and spiritual preparation. I pray that Brian and I can carefully prepare for the spiritual season that’s coming. It’s time to take stock, to repent, to rejoice and to get ready…

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Real Family Liturgy: Lent 2012

Hello friends!  This past Wednesday began the 2012 Lent season. If you didn’t know, my family really enjoys the cyclical nature of the liturgical year. I say that without ever having been part of a liturgical church. My husband and I use the church calendar to make seasonally appropriate family devotions and here we are again at Lent…

I realized the other day that some may feel that liturgy is a heavy thing- don’t you have to be serious and formal if you’re doing liturgy? How does one celebrate Lent with a 5 and a 2 year old? The focus of Lent traditionally is the need for mercy and that Jesus chose to die for our sins. How can our kids understand these deep issues?

Each year, we pull out our Lenten Wreath. It’s pretty cool- we simply picked up candle holders, added tea lights and glass beads and put it all together in a tray. Beginning on Ash Wednesday (and each Sunday thereafter) we light an additional candle right after dinner. On Good Friday, all the candles are darkened and they stay that way until Ressurection Day when the large white pillar candle- the Christ candle- is lit and we celebrate Jesus’ victory over the grave! When we light the candle each evening, we sing ‘Amazing Love’ . This year, we’re using ‘Lord Have Mercy’  by Amy Edwards as our family devotional. Brian reads the selected scripture passage and I say the included prayer. It’s simple and fast and it gives us a focused opportunity to once again present our kids with the gospel. And as our children grow, these are the holiday traditions they will remember- this is us trying to ‘raise them in the way they should go’. But it doesn’t have to be formal or opressive- I can’t tell you the number of devotions we’ve done with kids sitting half naked on the kitchen table (they like to strip right after dinner). That’s ok- we don’t have to expect perfectly still little bodies, solemnly listening as Daddy talks about salvation (oh, wouldn’t that be nice?). No- we can let our kids be who they are as the liturgy happens. They sit on laps, they finish up their dinners, they hold a baby or a stuffed animal and that’s fine- we make liturgy part of our daily life during this time of year.

I want to encourage you to give liturgy a try. Throughout the year, there are lots of liturgical celebrations. Some holidays we celebrate and use as devotions include Lent, Passover, Easter, Thanksgiving, Advent and Christmas. We have special symbolic devotionals we do for each of these and I hope to find more celebrations to center around Jesus!

May you and your family have a blessed Lenten season. May you understand the enormity of our Father’s sacrifice and our Savior’s victory. May you repent of old sins and move forward into the new way the Lord has for you. Blessings to you all as we approach Easter!

Bet you can't even tell Fae isn't wearing pants!

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Little Boys, Young Men and the Church

Earlier this week, I came across this article by David Murrow which discusses why young men seemed to have abandoned the church. As the mother of a five-year-old son, I spend a LOT of time thinking about how I want my son to grow up, how I hope to share my faith and what kind of history I want him to have when he leaves home to make his own life. The idea that something is ‘chasing’ young men away from the faith piques my curiosity. Along with several other issues, Murrow lays the responsibility for this phenomenon at the feet of female youth leaders and the accompanying tenor of their groups which, he says, alienate young men and Sunday school programs whose design either ignores or oppresses boys’ inherent make-up.

Murrow says that Sunday school systems are geared toward girls/women in that they require verbal, social interaction in which girls usually excel and boys sometimes don’t . He says that the system itself is hostile to how boys learn…  Hmmmm- as a homeschooler, this sounds familiar…

Sunday schools ARE systems based on government school models. Children are separated from their parents, age-graded, and are set homogenized tasks that are generally acknowledged by some outward reward like stickers or points. Now, I think there are some very nice things that children can learn in Sunday schools, but as a homeschooler, I have a hard time defending a system that is not Biblical (there are no Sunday schools in Scripture) and is based on a system that I believe is inherently flawed.

Give it your best guess- is this a Sunday school class at church or a government school class?

Sunday schools do not personalize a discipleship program geared toward each boys’ unique abilities and interests, just as government schools don’t personalize the academic education of their students.  Why would we expect a system that doesn’t work on even an academic level to have deep impact on a spiritual level? Just because Christian materials are used and people of honorable intent do the teaching doesn’t mean there will be significant differences in outcome. If the best students are generally held back by the lowest common denominator in public school, doesn’t it stand to reason that the same thing would happen in any public school based educational system? Sunday schools don’t encourage kids to excel or to explore deeply as God leads. That’s just not how the curriculum is designed.

Murrow goes on to say that women-led youth groups which focus on feelings, emotion, and expression alienate young men. Whether women should be teaching or in leadership positions over young men is a different post entirely (lol!), but the idea is the same as it is in Sunday school: where is this kind of discipleship- this kind of spiritual training- found in Scripture?  It’s NOT. There is no such thing as youth culture in scripture. The Bible doesn’t cast young people as a strange breed of human, separate from the main body of believers (or unbelievers) and needing special (and often ridiculous, twaddley, insulting) programs to introduce them to Christ.

So how *are* boys and young men designed to hear and respond to God?

C’mon, homeschoolers- we know this, right?

God designed people to learn in *families*. Children learn how to be fully socialized, integrated adults (of each gender) by modeling their behavior and ideas after their parents and the other trusted adults in their intimate family circle. For a Christian family, the child is introduced to Jesus through family-based evangelism, that is, the parents/adults model a relationship with God and encourage the child to make a decision to follow Jesus for himself. The actual relationship is between God & the child (oh, how like dear Charlotte’s assertion that the teacher must not interfere with the young student’s interaction with an author’s great thoughts!).

Boys learn to be men by watching their fathers, uncles, brothers and trusted family friends being men. By being *with* their adult male family as they minister, study, fellowship and lead at home, in the church and in the wider community. This is how God designed human beings to learn and is fully supported by those Deuteronomy 6 verses we Christian homeschoolers love so much.

Imagine a church in which every boy  is personally discipled by his father (or a primary surrogate if his father is not present for any reason) and several other strong Christian men. The young man ministers along-side his father when his father responds to some need in the Body, he has continuous opportunity to discuss personal issues with his mentors and to receive guidance from them, and he has authentic relationships with these mentors so that his true personality, gifts, weaknesses and callings are apparent to them. He can’t hide or be polite- they KNOW him and they love him. As this young man grows and becomes a man himself, he is accepted as an equal- fully integrated within the Body as an adult member.

Multi-generational, God-loving, world-changing... and oh so manly!

Young men aren’t abandoning the church/faith because they don’t like talking in Sunday school, or because youth group worship songs are too sappy or because they don’t get their flesh tickled enough by the girls at church- young men are abandoning the church because the church is utilizing non-Biblical methods of instruction. The problem isn’t that the church doesn’t understand ‘maleness’, the problem is that the church doesn’t understand God’s design for family-centered discipleship and, therefore, young men haven’t been taught how to BE men in the church.

If we want to see young men staying in church and influencing the Body in wonderful ways, we have to make sure families worship and learn together so young men know how to BE the church as they come to maturity. We have to return to New Testament styles of worship and discipleship and we have to recognize that God’s design for family is perfect for bringing children up into Him…

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HDJT?: Thinking Through Biblical Education and Charlotte Mason

Since we decided to homeschool many years ago, I’ve run into many different kinds of homeschoolers. Some of these wonderful ladies have very passionate views about their preferred methods and I’ve listened carefully as they explain their way of seeing things. Some of these moms (I don’t spend much time chatting with the dads!) are very ‘school at home’ having text and work books for just about every subject with the odd activity thrown in here and there. Others come from a very ‘unschooling’ point of view and have deep convictions about that life philosophy.

But, as we’ve just recently begun ‘formally’ homeschooling Alex, I find myself paying much closer attention to the educational opinions around me. Within the last month, I came across this article and this one both of which beg the questions ‘what does it mean to be educated?’ and ‘what kind of education best educates?’. I am absolutely the kind of person who takes information in and then lets it simmer for a while. Often times, I will suddenly come to a resolution about something I didn’t even know I was wrestling with. Perhaps this ‘eureka!’ moment is actually the small voice of a loving God who whispers in my ear telling me to go this way or that?

So all these conversations, blog posts, and articles spinning around in my mind came to a screeching halt when I asked the question: ‘HDJT?’

How Did Jesus Teach? Jesus, our Master, our Teacher, our Creator has certainly done some teaching. Surely, if the question is ‘What is the best way for humans to learn and grow?’ the answer must be found when we ask ‘how does God teach us about Himself?’

So then some verses that might be applied to education came flooding into my mind (not exhaustive, of course):

Deuteronomy 6:6-9: And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates.

Ephesians 6:4: And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

Proverbs 22:6: Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.

And we not only have the ‘command’ verses above, but the example of our Master Himself when He walked among men. Here’s an excellent blog post that discusses Jesus’ method of teaching. Jesus taught in parables. He purposefully sat in a position of authority to teach the masses and then intimately explained the truths He wanted to communicate to the disciples in a smaller setting.

Jesus’ teaching method was both didactic and exemplary.

Jesus had certain truths He wished to communicate. He was specific, purposeful, intentional. There were truths about Himself He wanted to teach and He made a point of doing so, the best examples of which are the Sermon on the Mount and His many parables. And God has always done thus- in the garden, He told Adam not to eat the forbidden fruit; He wrote out the Ten Commandments for Moses and the children of Israel; He sent prophet after prophet to specifically instruct kings in what they should and should not do. God instructs purposefully.

God also teaches by example. He sent His Son- God With Us, Emmanuel so we could know Him. He walked with the disciples for years teaching them how to respond to the world around them and how to do right before Him. He used every moment and the happenings of the day to continually reinforce to His followers how to belong to Him. God uses life to teach us about Himself.

So what do these truths mean to someone attracted to homeschooling in general and to Charlotte Mason specifically?

Some educational methods assert that the best way to educate a child is to simply get out of the way. Do absolutely nothing to purposefully influence the development of this unique human being- God has gifted children with a ‘personality DNA’ in which is written the kind of person that child should be and no one should disrupt the emergence of that person. In these methods, there shall be NO formal instruction. The child shall learn whatever s/he will because they are following that ‘personality DNA’ and will learn as God brings into their lives the things they will need to know in order to follow His calling on them. These parents read Proverbs 22:6 as “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”  The focus of education here is the child’s pursuit of self-knowledge and self-expression. Parents who subscribe to these methods believe that children will live what they see- children of Christian families will soak up that atmosphere and will follow the examples set before them, eventually- Lord willing- coming to know and serve Him. This sound a lot like Charlotte’s ‘Education is an atmosphere’ and I can’t argue with this idea: Children will learn what they live.

I have concerns about this method, however. How can a fallen being follow their own personal inclinations with no purposeful instruction and be led toward God? Does flesh lead to God? What about learning self-discipline? Self-sacrifice? Respect for others? Humility that others have something vital to teach? Does this method live up to the fullness of education that God uses? HDJT?

If I am asking the question “How should I educate my children?” and scripture gives answers like: diligently, nurture, admonish, train- well, how does this kind of philosophy fit with those scripture? The specific verses above reveal that the parent has an active role in a child’s education. WE are to be diligent. WE are to nurture. WE are to admonish. WE are to train. There are things that we are to be doing concerning raising/teaching our little ones. Any educational method we adopt must fit these descriptions or we are not in line with Biblical commands to parents concerning the raising of children.

Other educational methods assert that children are blank slates- they will become what they are molded to become. So drill commences and the child is instructed not only on facts, but also on how to think about those facts. Their learning is carefully constructed to the point that the child’s mind doesn’t really interact with the provided material- the child is only expected to memorize and regurgitate the information at the appropriate time. They follow the instruction in their text books and fill out all the blanks in the workbooks and once that has been completed, they are left with no other instruction. How the information applies to life is not explored. Parents who subscribe to these methods read Proverbs 22:6 as “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”

My concern about these methods is that they are focused on only the academic portion of a child’s development. Spiritual development can be woefully overlooked to the point that a child could be performing in school masterfully and yet not be learning the lessons of how to live for Jesus. Does this method imitate God’s educational method? Again, HDJT? Will we allow our text books to be ‘christian’ and our words, attitudes, entertainment be whatever pleases the flesh? Do we think we are teaching our kids about God because we have purchased a Bible curriculum from a Christian homeschooling company? Remember that in the Deuteronomy verses above, we see that it is NOT only instructional time that teaches our children. Every moment of the day- what we do when we wake, what we talk about as we go through our day, the attitudes we display and revel in- all these are our children’s teachers as well. If we are to be educating our children, if we are to train them toward the Lord, we need to be diligently guarding what they take in from their environment. We need to be sure WE are walking rightly with the Lord so they have a good example to follow, just as the disciples followed Jesus…

Will it be any surprise to you, dear reader, that I find Charlotte’s methods of education most like that of our Lord’s?

A Masonian education is both didactic and exemplary. We are specific in that we select materials for their ability to teach both facts and morality. Children are taught to trust their own thoughts because we do not prescribe what MUST be thought by them. The creativity and ideas of others are respected and are celebrated. The spiritual development of our children is the foundational lessons Masonian parents see to in the forming of good habits in preschoolers. We also ensure that the child’s environment is optimal for their development, filled with things that are intended to shape the child’s experience. And we allow for lots of free time so the child is free to explore the unique callings and giftings God has placed on his life.

A Charlotte Mason education looks the most like Jesus’ discipliship method as revealed in scripture; it is both intentional and exemplary honoring both that the child must receive from others and also that the child innately has much to share with the world.

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Rewording of Charlotte Mason’s 20 Principles- Part I

The longer I live with dear Charlotte and steep in her words and wisdom, the more I realize I have to learn. A Charlotte Mason style education is not an easy thing to grasp. It is not easily explainable in just a few words or a blurb in a homeschooling magazine. I’ve been studying Charlotte’s ideas for about three years now and I still feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface! When her ideas capture us, we must have patience with ourselves and enact her methods as we understand them and see their value in our families.

However, Leslie Noelani, one of the wonderful moderators at Ambleside Online, took it upon herself to reword Charlotte’s ’20 Principles’ for the modern reader. These 20 concepts were listed in the front of each book Charlotte published (she wrote many) and give us a very good overview of her philosophy. This is very different than methodology, which we’ve been discussing in our ‘Wonders of the Last Sea’ threads. Anyone can take a book list and take a string of methods and put them into practice. What makes a Masonian education, in my opinion, is an internal agreement with Charlotte’s reasons for choosing those books, for using that method. The thought process and belief system behind the methodology give life to the method. I’ve been thinking through these lately and have been deeply impacted- again- by the depth of the insight dear Charlotte had concerning education. Well, let us begin:

Each child is unique and is born with the innate ability to become exactly who God has called her to be...

1. Children are born persons – they are not blank slates or embyonic oysters who have the potential of becoming persons. They already are persons.

Let that sink in a moment, let it rest in your mind. Are the implications of such a statement becoming clear? That children are people, with thoughts, needs, desires, opinions, hopes, fears, and dreams is a revolutuonary thought- even in our modern time! This is the entire basis for the Attachment Parenting movement around the world- that children are people whose needs should be respected. This is far more than an educational theory- this impacts to the very core what it means to be human; it colors our ideas of who deserves to be treated as I would like to be treated as our Master commanded us. If my child is a sentient being- a person- then she deserves intellectual respect (in addition to every other kind of consideration).  This means that I cannot assume that she has no ability to think until I teach her to do so or until I fill her mind with tons of facts so she has something ‘worthwhile’ to say. As Dr. Suess wrote, “A person’s a person, no matter how small”. Indeed.

This fundamental respect for the child is the basis upon which the other nineteen Principles are founded.

2. Although children are born with a sin nature, they are neither all bad, nor all good. Children from all walks of life and backgrounds may make choices for good or evil.

As I said above, these Principles are more than educational theory- these describe a basic world-view. This is why it is so diffucult to explain what a Masonian education is- we can describe what it looks like (methodology), but describing the inspiration means digging into the very way we see the world, our most basic beliefs about people, our nature and our possibilities.

In this second point, Charlotte is reminding us that each child we deal with is a fallen being, BUT is a fallen being with hope. Any of us, no matter who we are, have failed. We have sinned and have done horrendous wrong. But we are also capable of great good and compassion. In Jesus, we all have potential to be better than we are on our own. I think this statement also calls to mind the idea that there is no kind of education that is unattainable for anyone. The meanest street urchin in Brazil can make a choice for good regardless of his background- his potential, in Jesus, is not limited by his past. Also, the most privledged child may have the greediest bent. Origen does not portend destiny.

3. The concepts of authority and obedience are true for all people whether they accept it or not. Submission to authority is necessary for any society or group or family to run smoothly.

God has ordered the universe. He has ordered the planets to revolve, He has ordered the flower to grow, He has ordered parents to raise their children lovingly and has ordered that those children heed the authority of their parents. We, every one of us, exist under authority, even if we disregard it. God is Master, Jesus is King. Due to His kindness, some of us turn and acknowledge this relationship of ‘Ruler’ over ‘ruled’.  But He has passed on that authority to parents as well. We are to reflect the Lord to our children- both His love and His authority. Just how we do this depends in large amount on how we personally perceive God.

In my family, we see both His lovingkindness and gentleness and His awesomeness and fearsome-ness. He is our dear Savior, our Brother, our Father and our Friend, but He is also the Holy One, The Alpha and Omega, the great I AM. We can be perfectly safe, secure and loved, and yet understand that our God will not be mocked. Because God is nuanced in His relationship to us, we try to be similarly balanced with our children- free and ample with laughter and praise and grace, but firm where we believe it is needed.

Loving parents value their child's view of the world...

4. Authority is not a license to abuse children, or to play upon their emotions or other desires, and adults are not free to limit a child’s education or use fear, love, power of suggestion, or their own influence over a child to make a child learn.

There’s just so much to unwrap in this statement! We are not to: ‘abuse‘- children are not to be belittled, criticized or bullied into compliance; ‘play upon emotions or other desires’– we can not manipulate our children using rewards or promises to obtain their cooperation; ‘limits– we are not to decide when our children have had enough education. They must pursue their God-given educational inclinations and abilities to their furthest extent. This says to me, we should not be teaching our children that they only need ‘so much’ education and that will be good enough for their adult life. God instills the desire to learn in children, we must not come between that desire and the fulfillment of that desire because God has determined for that child what & how much s/he needs to know;  ‘use fear’– children should not be concerned about punishments or reprecussions for not attending to lessons, nor should they fear that they will not be allowed to learn unless they are completely compliant; ‘use love’– so often, I’ve heard people say that a child will do something if you only love them enough. What they are really saying is that the child will feel guilty if that thing is not done due to his love for the parent. Our love for our children should not be manipulated as a means to an end. Love is too pure a Person to be used to gain compliance; ‘power of suggestion’– I think this has to do with being an intermediary between the child and the Great Thought in the material being studied. We are not to direct a child toward a particluar interpretation of the work in question. We are to encourage the child to think his own thoughts and to support them from the work itself…

I believe that the basic two thoughts being communicated to us by dear Charlotte above are that 1) Kids have been created to learn and are pre-wired to do so according to their particular, God-given programming, and that 2) we shouldn’t try to force them to learn in any specific way.

In the next part of this series, we’ll discuss what parents CAN do, according to dear Charlotte, to help their little one’s learn…

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