It has been a summer of stress and upheaval. Sure, we have chased lightning bugs, played in the back yard, went to the neighborhood pool, visited parks, and traveled to Arizona to see family. But traveling brings its own stress, and this trip was poorly planned, just as our house of ten years sold surprisingly within six days of being on the market. On top of all the moving mania, my husband and I are struggling with how to help our son with Asperger’s deal with his toxic levels of anger and frustration. We are nearly worn out.
Even my summer reading has decreased. Whereas I typically devour book after book in my spare time, this summer has only allowed me to complete four or five books. Rather, I should say I have only given priority to four or five. One book I have enjoyed, however, has been Susan Schaeffer Macaulay’s For the Children’s Sake: Foundations of Education for Home and School. It has been a tremendous refresher as I not only get ready for the upcoming school year, but also refocus myself as a parent.
The author is basically explaining the educational and parenting approach set forth by Charlotte Mason in Victorian England to the twenty-first century parent. She is to the United Kingdom and the United States what Maria Montessori was to Italy, promoting children’s rights and championing the respect for each person.
Among Charlotte Mason’s basic tenets are the belief that children are born as their own persons, an emphasis on nature studies and time spent outdoors, following the child’s own, genuine interests, and the practice of narration through “living books” as a means of creativity, mastery and sharing. Her educational philosophy is deeply spiritual, tied inextricably to a relationship with God, and the family, as a springboard to him.
Her motto -I am, I can , I ought, I will- resonates profoundly with me and I will certainly share how we start this upcoming school year making great use of it. Here are some of Charlotte Mason’s thoughts on educating our children as spiritual thinkers.
“Put earnest, intellectual works into their hands. Let them feel the necessity of bracing up every power of mind they have to gain comprehension of the breadth and the depth of the truths they are called to believe. Let them not grow up with the notion that Christan literature consists of emotional appeals, but that intellect, mind, is on the other side. Supply them with books of calibre to give the intellect something to grapple with – an important consideration, for the danger is, that young people in whom the spiritual life is not yet awakened should feel themselves superior to the vaunted simplicity of Christianity.”
– from Studies in the Formation of Character
I want to remember the gentleness of Charlotte Mason this year, the year my boys are 13, 11 and 5 years old, even amidst the trying times. One of my goals for this year is for them to emerge as thinkers, Jesus followers and responsible young men. It is certainly a process. I pray we are on our way.