Friday, June 21, 2019

Meeting Charlotte Mason Part 1: Why Charlotte Mason?

Earlier in June, the Charlotte Mason Study Group I am part of hosted an evening to introduce and discuss the education and parenting ideas of Charlotte Mason to interested parents and teachers. Before we addressed the main topics of the evening, I gave a brief five-minute talk on Why you would consider a Charlotte Mason style of education for your children or students. This talk is shared below.

Why Charlotte Mason?

If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea. ~ Antoine de Saint-Exupery

I'm standing in front of you this evening not as a professional speaker nor as someone who has studied the methods and ideas of Charlotte Mason her whole life. But simply as a mom who desires that her children grow to live a life that enriches themselves and those around them. That the fruit of their thought life and the interests they cultivate will nourish their souls and further the Kingdom of Christ.
The only reason I’m up here and you are sitting there is because I’m old. And because I’m old, I have had time to make more mistakes and waste more time than you. My hope is that you will take the handful of ideas presented tonight and you will run farther with them than I have.
In order for you to do that, I want to briefly discuss three reasons why you would consider a Charlotte Mason method of education and then three reassurances no matter what you do after tonight.
The first reason is because you understand that your child is a person and therefore we have limits to what we may do for their education. We may not manipulate their emotions, desires or passions. We may however use a child’s natural environment, instruct them in good habits for life and provide opportunities to interact with the nourishing food of ideas.

Second, because you understand how a child must work for their knowledge. They must provide the habit of attention to the readings, they must provide the retelling or narration and thereby they are able to give themselves the reward, the connections formed between the ideas, people and places they meet in their lessons.
And who would want to steal from someone that glorious lightbulb moment, the moment where their memory and their mind work together to produce an everlasting idea that grows into a lifetime of thoughtful living?

And third, because you understand what kind of nourishment must be given to such a mind that is capable of doing all of this and the soul that grows and bears fruit. Children need to be given the choicest of morsels which we will discuss in more detail later this evening.
In summary, you understand that your child is a person who must ‘dig their own knowledge’ and who therefore must be given suitable places to go mining for ideas. It cannot be too often said that information is not education.
Therefore not just any book is to be presented to children for their studies. We must be choosy and we must see that it is good books that power the imagination, the images and the insight that form in our minds.
Now that we’ve looked at three reasons to take on this task and it is an enormous one in many ways, let me offer three reassurances that I hope will encourage you.

The first is to Worry Less.
There may be times it will look like you’re not doing enough, that you’re not doing the right stuff, and that you’re not doing it at the right time. You need to know that there will always be the temptation to look over at what your friend is doing, at what the school is doing and at what that neighbor kid is doing. And then you will worry, you will really worry. Try not to overthink this. Do what you are able and when you are able. Practice something like a calm consistency, a recognizable routine that allows for interruptions without panicking.
Give the best of yourself to your children and when something happens and it will, give yourself to extra prayer because the Mom Guilt will crush you into doing nothing except All Worry, All the Time. So be prepared to deal with the constant threat of worry overtaking this endeavor and remember the admonishment from Scripture to not worry, that you and your children are more important than Sparrows and even they are cared for by God Himself.  

The second is to Care More.
You will need to decide what matters most to you and your family: Satisfying outsiders’ requirements and concerns or satisfying the needs of your home and your children. There will always be someone who sees how it could be done differently, done better and done easier. As parents, the responsibility for our children is ours.  We love our children which is why we want to give them the world. We will gladly sacrifice for them, but it has to be our vision, our goals that keep us tethered to them. Be careful where you go for advice, whose shoulder you cry on and what voices you let stay with you. You need to care more for the sake of your children than you do for the sake of your reputation.

The third is to Look Ahead.
Your children will not always be this little, this likeable, this teachable. Consider the end goal of their education. What will your grown children care about? What will they have an appetite for? What will they want for their family? For their life?
When you embark on this journey together, you are cultivating a collection of family history and memories that will bring you into a continued relationship with your grown children, as God wills. Yet because we are only human, we do not know what their lives will bring. We cannot even know what will happen from one minute to the next.
We are called to do this work without being able to see around the corner and know for sure what the road looks like. So do look ahead, because only a fool does not plan wisely and intentionally for the future, but remember that these children have a life that has been mapped out by their Creator, who is not you. And one day, they will give an account for what they have done with their life and while our training as a parent is vital, it is not meant to weigh down our children with our expectations. Look ahead and be prepared for the day when they no longer need to obey you, but want to honor you as the Lord commands.
So I offer these three reassurances to you: Worry less, Care more and Look ahead. By God’s grace, you can do this.

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