Thursday, September 30, 2010

Certain Relations Proper to a Child

Certain relations proper to a child--how much that phrase encompasses!  Volume 3, Chapter 8 almost sums up Charlotte Mason's academic goals entirely.
<<We are more exacting than the Jesuits. They are content to have a child till he is seven; but we want him till he is twelve or fourteen, if we may not have him longer. You may do what you like with him afterwards. Given this period for the establishing of relations, we may undertake to prepare for the world a man, vital and vigorous, full of living interests, available and serviceable.>>
Here is our mission: to train up the child so that by age 12 or 14 he is fitted to meet the world head-on.  We do this by establishing "certain relations proper to a child".  What are these?
* Science
* Dynamic relations
* Power over material
* Intimacy with animals
* The great human relationships
* Almighty God
<<Geology, mineralogy, physical geography, botany, natural history, biology, astronomy––the whole circle of the sciences is, as it were, set with gates ajar in order that a child may go forth furnished, not with scientific knowledge, but with, what Huxley calls, common information, so that he may feel for objects on the earth and in the heavens the sort of proprietary interest which the son of an old house has in its heirlooms.>>
Dynamic relations
By this she means movement, interacting with ourselves and our world--dancing, rowing, skating, climbing.
<<This is an elemental relationship for the lack of which nothing compensates.>>
Power over material
<<He should be able to make with his hands and should take delight in making.>>
Intimacy with animals
<<A fourth relation is to the dumb creation; a relation of intelligent comprehension as well as of kindness.>>
The great human relationships
<<Perhaps the main part of a child's education should be concerned with the great human relationships, relationships of love and service, of authority and obedience, of reverence and pity and neighbourly kindness; relationships to kin and friend and neighbour, to 'cause' and country and kind, to the past and the present.>>
And how do we do this?
<<It rests with us to give the awakening idea and then to form the habit of thought and of life.>>
So we must supply the child with the "awakening idea" and then help to form the habits of thought and life that will facilitate these relationships.

<<there seems good reason to believe that  the limit to human intelligence arises largely from the limit to human interests>>
I found this so inspiring.  What can we or our children not do if we really set our minds to doing it?  What good is a broad or even a deep knowledge if there is no enthusiasm to carry us on into action?

<<We talk of lost ideals, but perhaps they are not lost, only changed; when our ideal for ourselves and for our children becomes limited to prosperity and comfort, we get these, very likely, for ourselves and for them, but we get no more.>>
Ah, what do I want for my children?  What am I willing to trade (from myself or from them) to gain that?

<<The psychology of the hour has had a curious effect upon the sense of duty. Persons who are no more than a 'state of consciousness' cannot be expected to take up moral responsibilities, except such as appeal to them at the moment.>>
What duty do we owe to the various people and other entities we encounter?  Do our children understand the concept of duty?  Do they know the meaning of "ought" and feel its demands on them?

<<If we receive it, that the whole of education consists in the establishment of relations, then, the relations with our fellow-beings must be of the first importance; and all associations formed upon any basis except that of 'my duty towards my neighbour,'––as upon sympathy in art or literature, for example,––are apt to degenerate into sentimental bonds; and the power of original thought appears curiously to depart with that of moral insight.>>
So many thoughts here:
* "the whole of education consists in the establishment of relations"
* "the relations with our fellow-beings must be of the first importance" - this is of first importance in education; this is our primary focus for most of our work
* "all associations formed upon any basis except that of 'my duty towards my neighbor' . . . are apt to degenerate into sentimental bonds"
* "the power of original thought appears curiously to depart with that of moral insight"

<<We owe it to the past to use its gains worthily and to advance from the point at which it left off: We owe it to the future to prepare a generation better than ourselves. We owe it to the present to  live, to live with all expansion of heart and soul, all reaching out of our personality towards those relations appointed for us.>>
Our duty--do we seriously attempt to fulfill it?  Do we teach it to our children?

<<We owe knowledge to the ignorant, comfort to the distressed, healing to the sick, reverence, courtesy and kindness to all men, especially to those with whom we are connected by ties of family or neighbourhood; and the sense of these dues does not come by nature.>>
Children will not learn these duties without teaching.  Society will not function if these duties are not fulfilled.

<<Another preparation for his relations in life which we owe to a young person is, that he should be made familiar with such a working system of psychology or philosophy, whichever one likes to call it, as shall help him to conduct his relations with himself and with other people.>>
We need to learn to understand ourselves and others.

<<There is nothing like early intimacy for helping one to know people.>>
We need to get to know other people, even people very different from ourselves in terms of age or situation.  Children need to be allowed, helped even, to form relationships with those older than themselves and those in various stations in life.

<<The value of self-managed clubs and committees, debating societies, etc., for young people, is becoming more and more fully recognised. Organising capacity, business habits, and some power of public speaking, should be a part of our fitness as citizens.>>
4-H performs this valuable function when it's done well.  Allowing the young people to handle their own affairs in these organizations provides them with experience that will stand them in good stead as adults.

<<To secure the power of speaking, I think it would be well if the habit of narration were more encouraged, in place of written composition. On the whole, it is more useful to be able to speak than to write, and the man or woman who is able to do the former can generally do the latter.>>
This helps to address the common concern of parents familiar with current practices in writing instruction.  We do not ask young children to write, to compose.  We focus on narration so that they can perfect their spoken composition first.  Only later do we ask them to write, by which time they have already learned most of what they need to know about composition through their oral practice in narration.

<<To complete his education, I think there is but one more relation to be considered––his relation to Almighty God. How many children are to-day taught to say at their mother's knee, to learn from day to day and from hour to hour, in all its fulness of meaning––'My duty towards God is to believe in Him, to fear Him, and to love Him with all my heart, with all my mind, with all my soul, and with all my strength; to worship Him, to give Him thanks, to put my whole trust in Him, to call upon Him, to honour His holy name and His word, and to serve Him truly all the days of my life'?>>
Do we teach this?  Do we teach it explicitly or hint at it and hope the children absorb our hints? Do we outsource these lessons to our church or church-related programs?  Do our children truly know the hope that we have and why we have that hope?  Do we weave this into the fabric of our days?

<<Sentiment is optional; and young people grow up to think that they  may  believe in God,  may  fear God,  may  love God in a measure––but that they  must  do these things, that there is no choice at all about the love and service of God, that it is their duty, that which they  owe, to love Him 'with all their heart, with all their mind, with all their soul, with all their strength,' these things are seldom taught and understood as they should be.>>
Everything is optional these days.  The sense of "must" is lost even to many of us adults.  And then even when we try to emphasize their duty to God, we sometimes, all too often, go astray and emphasize their duty to certain doctrines rather than their duty to God Himself.

<<Even where our sentiment is warm, our religious notions are lax; and children, the children of good, religious parents, grow up without that intimate, ever-open, ever-cordial, ever-corresponding relation with Almighty God, which is the very fulfilment of life; which, whoso hath, hath eternal life; which, whoso hath not, is, like Coleridge's 'lovely Lady Geraldine,' ice-cold and dead at heart, however much he may labour for the free course of all other relations.>>
We can drill our children in correct theology or the catechism or apologetics, but if they have not the love for God their Father, the joy of knowing Him intimately, they have nothing but dust.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Respect for Differing Opinions

I've been reading Charlotte Mason's Volume 3 on an email list, and we recently read Chapter 4, which has a great passage I can never find when I'm looking for.

The applicable passage is on page 42:
<<We have only room to mention one more point in which all of us, who have the care of young people, would do well to practise a wise 'letting alone.' There are burning questions in the air, seething opinions in men's minds: as to religion, politics, science, literature, art, as regards every kind of social effort, we are all disposed to hold strenuous opinions. The person who has not kept himself in touch with the movement of the thought of the world in all these matters has little cause to pride himself. It is our duty to form opinions carefully, and to hold them tenaciously in so far as the original grounds of our conclusions remain unshaken. But what we have no right to do, is to pass these opinions on to our children. We all know that nothing is easier than to make vehement partisans of young people, in any cause heartily adopted by their elders. But a reaction comes, and the swinging of the pendulum is apt to carry them to a point of thought painfully remote from our own. The mother of the Newmans was a devoted Evangelical, and in their early years passed her opinions over to her sons, ready-made; believing, perhaps, that the line of thought they received from her was what they had come to by their own thinking. But when they are released from the domination of their mother's opinions, one seeks anchorage in the Church of Rome, and another will have no restriction as to his freedom of thought and will, and chooses to shape for himself his own creed or negation of a creed. Perhaps this pious mother would have been saved some anguish if she had given her children the living principles of the Christian faith, which are not matters of opinion, and allowed them to accept her particular practice in their youth without requiring them to take their stand on Evangelical opinions as offering practically the one way of salvation.

In politics, again, let children be fired with patriotism and instructed in the duties of citizenship, but, if they can be kept out of the party strife of an election, well for them. Children are far more likely to embrace the views of their parents, when they are ripe to form opinions, if these have not been forced upon them in early youth when their lack of knowledge and experience makes it impossible for them to form opinions at first hand. Only by masterly inactivity,' 'wise passiveness,' able 'letting alone,' can a child be trained--

     "To reverence his conscience as his king.">>

CM's point here is that sometimes we grownups form strong opinions on religious or political matters (other than the essential doctrines of Christianity, which are necessarily few) and then teach them to our children as though they are the only possible acceptable view.  When we do this, we stunt their development and make it harder for them to understand the reasoning behind our own conclusions and therefore actually make it more likely that they will radically depart from our own position when they are grown and suddenly see that many other positions also have reasonable bases.

Among Christians, there are some who find force abhorrent and some who find force absolutely holy.  Do you understand the position of each group and why they feel their view is right?  Do you accept that believing Christians could hold both viewpoints and still be trying to follow scripture faithfully?

Among Christians, there are some who find that observing special religious holidays draws them closer to God and some who find religious holidays unacceptable.    Do you understand the position of each group and why they feel their view is right?  Do you accept that believing Christians could hold both viewpoints and still be trying to follow scripture faithfully?

Among Christians, there are some who believe that spanking is absolutely necessary and others who believe it is never necessary or acceptable.    Do you understand the position of each group and why they feel their view is right?  Do you accept that believing Christians could hold both viewpoints and still be trying to follow scripture faithfully?

Among Christians, there are some who believe the earth is quite young and others who believe it is quite old, both groups accepting that it was created by God exactly as spelled out in the Genesis account.  Do you understand the position of each group and why they feel their view is right?  Do you accept that believing Christians could hold both viewpoints and still be trying to follow scripture faithfully?

(There are other possible positions on each of these issues.  This wasn't meant to be a comprehensive list but just to hopefully hit some bugaboo for each of us.  <g>)

If your understanding of an opposing position was gained by reading an explanation written by someone who holds *your* position, understand that you probably misunderstand the opposing position.

I'll recommend a book here that can be helpful for looking at multiple sides of these issues: