I am reading all six of Charlotte Mason’s volumes on homeschooling in the next two years, reading just a little bit every week.
So I pulled out the first pink volume today, and after just one page, I knew I’d have to blog my way through it. This is good stuff.
Take the following, for instance. This is on the first two pages of volume 1, Home Education (1905):
Now, that work which is of most importance to society is the bringing up and instruction of the children––in the school, certainly, but far more in the home, because it is more than anything else the home influences brought to bear upon the child that determine the character and career of the future man or woman. It is a great thing to be a parent: there is no promotion, no dignity, to compare with it. The parents of but one child may be cherishing what shall prove a blessing to the world. But then, entrusted with such a charge, they are not free to say, “I may do as I will with mine own.” The children are, in truth, to be regarded less as personal property than as public trusts, put into the hands of parents that they may make the very most of them for the good of society. And this responsibility is not equally divided between the parents: it is upon the mothers of the present that the future of the world depends, in even a greater degree than upon the fathers, because it is the mothers who have the sole direction of the children’s early, most impressible years. This is why we hear so frequently of great men who have had good mothers––that is, mothers who brought up their children themselves, and did not make over their gravest duty to indifferent persons.
This is a powerful statement. Where circumstances make it possible (and we all know that, unfortunately, in today’s world it isn’t always possible), a parent at home can have a tremendous impact upon what sort of a person a child grows into.
It humbles me, because after all, I have chosen to stay at home with the kids instead of pursuing that career in medicine I was planning on. I hope someday my children will be remembered as great people with a good mother. Something to shoot for, that.
Charlotte’s quote reminds me of the late prophet David O. McKay’s famous statement (some of which is a paraphrase of another famous statement from Benjamin Disraeli):
The home is the first and most effective place for children to learn the lessons of life: truth, honor, virtue, self-control; the value of education, honest work, and the purpose and privilege of life. Nothing can take the place of home in rearing and teaching children, and no other success can compensate for failure in the home.
“The mother is qualified,” says Pestalozzi, “and qualified by the Creator Himself, to become the principal agent in the development of her child; … and what is demanded of her is––a thinking love. […] Maternal love is the first agent in education.”
We are waking up to our duties and in proportion as mothers become more highly educated and efficient, they will doubtless feel the more strongly that the education of their children during the first six years of life is an undertaking hardly to be entrusted to any hands but their own. And they will take it up as their profession––that is, with the diligence, regularity, and punctuality which men bestow on their professional labours.
Charlotte has articulated some feelings that I have had. I remember when I got the rejection to a neuroscience graduate program I had applied to… Upon opening the letter and reading the rejection, I had the most overwhelming sense of relief, release and peace… And surprise!
I hadn’t known before that moment that I didn’t actually want a Ph.D. in neuroscience. But upon rejection, it all became clear. What I wanted more than anything was to start my family, and I wanted to stay home–from school or work, or whatever!–and raise them.
And now that I’m here with three young children, I am pouring my soul into it! And the demand upon me, as a mother, is to consider and think upon how to teach the children God has gifted me. I wonder sometimes if this is a harder task than it would have been to conduct research in the graduate neuroscience laboratory.
Charlotte urges parents to use their thinking love to envision the end result of their child’s education (and this means more than just school, it means the development of character!). By keeping the vision of this end in mind, the little decisions parents make while raising their offspring will naturally guide the way toward it.
The parent who sees his way […] to educate his child, will make use of every circumstance of the child’s life almost without intention on his own part, so easy and spontaneous is a method of education based upon Natural Law. Does the child eat or drink, does he come, or go, or play––all the time he is being educated, though he is as little aware of it as he is of the act of breathing.
To be continued…