Saturday, July 12, 2014

The Land of Storybooks

At evening when the lamp is lit,
Around the fire my parents sit;
They sit at home and talk and sing,
And do not play at anything.

Now, with my little gun, I crawl
All in the dark along the wall,
And follow round the forest track
Away behind the sofa back.

There, in the night, where none can spy,
All in my hunter's camp I lie,
And play at books that I have read
Till it is time to go to bed.

These are the hills, these are the woods,
These are my starry solitudes;
And there the river by whose brink
The roaring lions come to drink.

I see the others far away
As if in firelit camp they lay,
And I, like to an Indian scout,
Around their party prowled about.

So, when my nurse comes in for me,
Home I return across the sea,
And go to bed with backward looks
At my dear land of Story-books.

~Robert Louis Stevenson~

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

God Gave Us a Book

I think my 11 year old son believes everyone surely must have 17,000 books in their home.  He has no memories of life without books in every nook and cranny of his surroundings.  As much as he enjoys them, I think he takes them for granted.  Our conversation yesterday insinuated that anyway. 

As I was reshelving hundreds of books from library day and a huge book shopping trip, my son asked, "Momma, why do we need so many books?  Don't you think you have enough?  Why is this so important?" 

I stood up, looked him in the eye and replied, "Because God gave us a Book." 

Our culture, as I have lamented here many times, has come to disregard the written word, trading it for images on a screen, not only for their shallow knowledge, but their relationships as well.  Reading of any kind is fast becoming obsolete, inefficient, boring, irrelevant...the list goes on.

But God, in His infinite wisdom, chose to communicate to us through a Book.  The Bible is all we need for life and godliness.  The Word of God is living.  We are not to worship Him through images.  Yet when we refuse to engage in the most important activity that brings us closer to Him, reading His Word, prefering instead images on a screen,  we are really saying we do not want to know Him. 

There is not a single volume in my library that begins to compare with God's own Words.  None of them offer words of eternal life.  However, God is working in and through man and He derives glory from what we do.  Great words penned by great minds can speak to us, encourage us, challenge us and equip us.  We can learn about God's work throughout history by reading biographies, historical fiction, original source documents.  We marvel at His hand in the universe by studying living science books.  Fiction is a profound way to experience life situations played out in the made-up lives of others.  And most importantly, we practice the skill of meditating and ruminating as we linger over the pages of beloved treasures.  We are deceiving ourselves when we believe we can rewire our brains by immersing ourselves for hours a day in front of a screen, then magically be able to think deeply on the Word of God.  Science is discovering the implications of this habit.  We must consider the consequences of our actions.

Reading is hard work.  Getting to know others is hard work.  Yet we are commanded to come to Him through His Word and KNOW Him.  Will we obey?

Friday, July 4, 2014

I am a person...

In the inner nature, in the soul and self of it, each child is different from any other child, and the education that treats children as a class and not individual human beings is the education whose failure is bringing our civilization about our ears even as we speak.

Each child is an explorer in a new country - an explorer with it's own special needs and curiosities.  We put up iron railings to keep the explorers to our own sordidly asphalted paths.  The little free wild creatures would seek their meat from God:  we round them into needs, pen them in folds, and feed them with artificial foods - drab flat oil cakes all alike, not considering that for some brown nuts and red berries, and for some the new clean green grass, may be the bread of life.

Wings and the Child
E. Nesbit

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Do the Hard Thing

What do you think of when you consider a Charlotte Mason education?  Snuggling on the sofa with a cup of tea (or chocolate milk) and a lovely book?  Romping through meadows of buttercups and daisies?  Beautiful music playing in the background while contented children quietly do their handicrafts in the afternoon?  A gentle learning time for young children before their growth demands the rigors of a "real" education?

While there is some truth to this, I believe Charlotte Mason's wise philosophy has been tarnished by a false view of what her methods entail. 

As you know I have all boys.  In the 24 years I have been a mom, my mantra has been, "Do the Hard Thing."  (Or "thang" since I'm a southern gal.)  I am raising boys to be men who will be required to work hard with integrity, support a family, confront a dying culture, live an abundant life.  There is no room for laziness of mind or body.  Because of this, I believe a Charlotte Mason education will uniquely equip them for the life they have before them.

I think one of the barriers of communication when this discussion comes up is a difference in definition of terms.  While we've all heard that a CM education is "gentle", and I agree, I am here to assert that it is also exceedingly rigorous.  But how can the two co-exist? 

Gentle does not equal easy.

Rigorous does not equal drudgery.

The first principle of a Charlotte Mason education is, "Children are born persons."   From Ambleside Online's paraphrase we have this explanation.  "Children are born persons - they are not blank slates or embryonic oysters who have the potential of becoming persons.  They already are persons."   Charlotte recognized that children are made in the image of God and each child has a uniqe purpose in the world.  When we educate our children with this in mind, rather than viewing them as a bucket to be filled, we are meeting them where they are and working alongside the Holy Spirit to teach them what He wants them to know.  This naturally is a gentle education for the child because we are working with what God is making him to be.

However the methods are rigorous!  Charlotte insisted that children do the work of their education. The teacher is not the fountainhead of all knowledge.  The primary way children were asked to secure their knowledge was through narration.   If you don't know already, narration is hard!  Narration is the main tool Charlotte used to ensure the child knows.  In fact, she called it the act of knowing.  Children were required to narrate (tell back) after one  attentive reading.  One.  No repeats.  And they were able to do it with surprising ease.  Narrations could take many forms ranging from simple telling back, drawing, acting out, or even written in poetry form. 

Children in Charlotte Mason schools learned many languages including Latin.  They studies music, art, poetry, Plutarch, Shakespeare, nature study and many  many other subjects in addition to the 3 R's.  Charlotte believed in spreading the feast of ideas to children and they could take freely from the banquet.  But she did not spoonfeed them pre-digested bits of information.  They took what they were ready for, what the Holy Spirit stirred in their hearts at the time. 

Much of learning in Charlotte's schools was through books...filled with living ideas to feed the heart and mind of the child.  Children formed relations with the people, places and events they read about.  Learning was a joyful time of living ideas from great minds...not the drudgery found in reams of worksheets.  As children did the difficult work of wrestling with and pondering these ideas, they found their imaginations sparked and great satisfaction in coming to grips with the issues of the universe.  Their education was living.

Gentle?  Yes.  Rigorous?  Yes.  But with the result of a strong mind and body equipped to do the task they were created to do.