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    Books & Reading, Home Education

    At School with Charlotte: Climbing the Ladder (Part 2)

    September 8, 2010 by Brandy Vencel

    In Part I, we dealt with all of the relations between the child and the “world of matter” (as Charlotte calls it), and touched a bit on the relations between the child and the “world of men.” Today, we’ll finish the second half of chapter 8 in Charlotte Mason’s Volume 3: School Education, the remaining relations of world of men, and also reach that queen of all knowledge, theology. But not crusty heartless theology (if there is such a thing), for Charlotte speaks of the personal relation with God.

    In her third volume, Charlotte Mason gives us a list of duties to which we and our children are obligated and then shows us how to teach them.

    The World of Men

    Charlotte discusses first the moral relation of person to person. She admits that we tend to build our associations upon common interests, but she declares this to be prone to mere sentimentality. She would rather we teach our children to relate to their fellow man on the basis of duty — of what they owe to their neighbors.

    The foundation of duty is Scripture, and she tells us that if we dispense with the Ten Commandments and the traditional, formal, thorough teaching of Scripture, we are left with teaching that is casual and non-binding. Duty, by definition, is binding. Duty cannot be taught without the authority of Scripture.

    Among the things owed to others, she lists

    • knowledge to the ignorant
    • comfort to the distressed
    • healing to the sick
    • reverence, courtesy and kindness to all men

    She reminds us that we all know shallow young people who care not for their duties, and the appropriate response to this is to ask ourselves why. She suggests we will find that their training was sadly neglected.

    I appreciate Charlotte for demanding that we be deliberate in our approach to teaching our children.

    Another relationship with the “world of man” is the relationship the child has … to himself. She says that we must teach him the key to having a happy humanity. We must teach him the possibility of being reformed. We do not leave him as he is, but help him grow in virtue daily.

    Yesterday, I was greeted by a little girl with red-rimmed teary eyes. She said that she was “thinking bad thoughts.” She told me what they were, and I agreed that they were not pleasant to think about. Together, we discussed our ability to change our thoughts, to think on something else. We then pondered the animal kingdom until the bad thoughts were forgotten.

    Thank you, Charlotte. I wouldn’t have known what to do otherwise.

    Likewise, we can teach our children the very basics — that they need good food, sunlight, and sleep — that others do, too. We can teach them that a bad habit can be replaced with a good one. We can teach them how to maintain their health. We can help them build a thousand good habits, and then remind them that we did so, that they might not graduate without the knowledge of the power of habits.

    And so on.

    Charlotte has taught us many secrets, and we can share them with our children.

    Next in the world of men, we have what Charlotte calls intimacy with persons of all classes. Apparently, Charlotte was writing to mothers in the upper classes. She wanted them to make sure that their children knew the butcher, the baker, the gardener, and the carpenter. For many of us, we will giggle, for Daddy himself might very well be one of these!

    But the idea still stands. It is healthy to know all of the types of people in the world around us, not just those in our own set. We have always had a habit of letting our children watch men at work. If a repairman comes to our house, we might have a two-year-old sitting in a chair (with express instructions not to leave it), watching the job being done right.

    Of course, this also points to the importance of hiring good men, does it not?

    If we are poor, then, the reverse may also be true. Having our children meet rich men, men who are leaders in the community, men who have what we call “white collar” jobs, would also be important. One of the reasons why Charlotte desires children to have this knowledge is to prevent them seeing the working men as a faceless group. We see this today, and in the reverse as well, where the poor and lower-middle classes perceive the rich as a faceless group, forgetting that they still live and die, that they have pain along the road of life … that they are human.

    So we help our children put faces to what might otherwise be generic groups of seemingly inhuman people. We make what might be impersonal, personal.

    We also take pains as to their fitness as citizens. She suggests clubs, debates, and anything else which might prepare them for civic participation. She specifically mentions the importance of public speaking ability (rhetoric).

    She also briefly mentions relations with each other as human beings, and she seems to be mostly reiterating what she has already said.

    Relation with Almighty God

    This is the most important relationship, and yet the least taught. This is Charlotte’s accusation, not mine. Charlotte again emphasizes the child’s duty to God, over and above sentimentality. The child must know who he is in God, and what is owed to his Maker. This is duty, not a choice.

    And what exactly is owed? Charlotte tells us their duty is to believe in God, fear God, love God with all their hearts and minds and souls and strength, that their life must be lived in service to Him.

    Charlotte ends with an assertion which gave me pause.

    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 …

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