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    Educational Philosophy, Home Education

    How to Make Them Care

    May 4, 2015 by Brandy Vencel

    The question is not, — how much does the youth know? when he has finished his education — but how much does he care? and about how many orders of things does he care?
    — Charlotte Mason (School Education, p. 170-171)

    The title of this post is a bit of a misnomer because we can’t actually make someone care. We have no power over the human heart — this is something for the Holy Spirit. And yet, when Miss Mason says that caring — caring deeply and broadly — is the litmus test for a good childhood education, we immediately ask this exact questing: Well, then, how do we make them care?

    How to Make Them Care

    Unplanted, unwatered seeds never grow, as you know. While we can’t force caring, God always uses means; there are things we can do.

    Exposure to Many Orders

    The easiest piece of the puzzle to figure out is the one called about-how-many-orders-of-things-does-he-care. This is a reference to Miss Mason’s call for a broad and generous curriculum.

    When children are born, they are persons, yes, but they are persons of limited knowledge and experience. They don’t know what they don’t know. More importantly, they can’t love what they don’t know.

    Occasionally, I come across a truly ignorant, very badly educated person. What strikes me as tragic about these people is how very small their worlds are — they have so little to care about.

    We want the exact opposite for our children. We want them, as Miss Mason says, to rejoice with the Psalmist that truly Thou hast set my feet in a large room.

    A great gift to give to an ignorant person — including our little, limited children — is to enlarge their worlds — to introduce them to new orders of things.

    This is the preliminary step in caring: an introduction, the initial planting of seed. Caring is not a guaranteed result, but it remains the First Thing because a people cannot care about that which they do not know.

    Really Seeing

    The other day, O-Age-Six was in rare form. He occasionally has a day where the only solution is to muddle through. He is purposely obnoxious and also not purposely fractious. He thinks it hysterically funny to pester everyone around him, and when they respond with annoyance, he is fiercely angry at how “mean” they are. He can’t seem to hear or process verbal correction, doesn’t really respond to discipline, and often the only solution is to have him sit alone on his bed for extended periods of time.

    In a word, he’s impossible.

    He had a day like this last Monday, and I felt my temperature rising and my patience running out. He was sitting at the dining table, swinging his legs and eating pears while grinning impishly at his sisters, who were trying valiantly to ignore him and do their math lessons.

    Waiting for them to finish, I began to sketch him with a marker on the small white board in my hand. I started with his train engineer hat — the one he’d sleep in if I let him. The placement of his ear. The shape of his jawline. His delicate little eyelashes.

    Affection welled up inside me as I drew him — I suddenly liked him again.

    In her book The Living Page, Laurie Bestvater reminds us:

    [O]ne’s noticing leads to … reverent care …

    Bestvater shows us how Miss Mason’s practices were tools of sustained attention — of really seeing. Seeing was where care began to bloom. Everything was done care-fully (the most literal sense of that word).

    The nature notebook, with its careful record keeping and sketching. The commonplace, with its scribe-like attention to words. The picture study, with its steady gaze at beauty. Even narration following a single reading, which does for hearing what the others do for seeing — causing the student to forget himself and incline his mind to listening.

    We cannot make love grow, but if exposure is the planting of the seeds, surely fully seeing — paying careful attention — is the watering of the seed.


    A teacher who models the sort of love and care we’re hoping for in our students is the fertilizer. The Bible says that

    [E]veryone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher.

    In homeschooling circles this is sometimes the great unmentionable because we think we are already under so much pressure. The problem with this is that whether we like it or not, Mom’s interest in the subject at hand matters. Love is contagious and it can’t be faked. We study up and think that knowledge is the thing — and it is.


    Laurie Bestvater says:

    If we put the cart before the horse and seek only the knowledge … without the caring, we may endanger both …

    The Apostle Paul simply says that without love, we’re nothing but noise.

    Slow down. We need time to gaze steadily — long enough that we come to see the value of the things before us — what it is what makes them worth caring about.

    Wait on God

    The rest of the process is a great mystery and only God can make the sun shine. We may plant, water, and fertilize, but ultimately God grants the growth.

    So we ask His blessing and be patient, knowing that He works in His own time and way and His hand cannot be forced.

    Lord have mercy.

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  • Reply a. borealis May 11, 2015 at 1:51 pm

    Also, I’m pretty sure you said that your 6yo was an ENFP at one point…? My 9yo is too. He says he gets bored and wants to stir things up. He also lets his emotions (whatever it is) come UNHINGED at the drop of a hat. It is hard to reel him back in; like I said, isolation is pretty much the only thing that brings him back to his senses. It is rough.

    (I am an ENFP as well and this whole business has given me an entirely new perspective on my past self and a deeper understanding of the how and why of others’ response to me in my younger years. Goodness.)

    • Reply Brandy Vencel May 11, 2015 at 1:59 pm

      Yes. ENFP! Really awesome adults…really difficult children. 🙂

      • Reply a. borealis May 11, 2015 at 2:45 pm

        Heh. My mom has said as much of me. She had a self-described “limited skill set” and said that she didn’t even know what to do with me. Being my own little person, I saw things from the inside of course, and even in my adult years have had less understanding of the way people reacted to me than I do now. Having my own child going completely BONKERS has opened the window of revelation. I get it now.

  • Reply a. borealis May 11, 2015 at 1:33 pm

    I am so stuck on the description of your 6yo in “rare form”. You described the recent behavior of my 9yo boy almost exactly. Oh my goodness. His behavior has amped up in this “rare form” so severely in recent weeks/months that it has put our entire family into crisis mode. He is still “himself”, but tends to go buggy very quickly.

    Ugh, it is so hard. I’m just holding on and hoping it ends soon. But meanwhile, literally, just like you said with your little guy, isolation is the only thing that tames him and brings any kind of ration or sweetness back into him.

    I feel some kind of consolation knowing that it isn’t “just him”. (I mean, I know it isn’t, but it is still just so. hard.)

    • Reply Brandy Vencel May 11, 2015 at 1:53 pm

      I have to tell you…I got so fed up last week that I put him on a super low-sugar, sort of low-carb diet. He isn’t forbidden carbs, but he isn’t allowed to have a lot. Like when we had sandwiches, he got ONE piece of bread. Anyhow, I’m seeing a pretty big change in him, so I’m starting to think that he’s sugar sensitive! Or maybe his blood sugar spikes too much? I don’t know. Anyhow, if it keeps working, I’m going to write about it in a couple weeks, but I thought I’d share in care you are desperate, too. What happened was that I noticed his worst days were when he had had something sweet — like part of a pastry or something — for breakfast.

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  • Reply Karen @ The Simply Blog May 7, 2015 at 7:32 am

    LOL I do think it would be a great series….perfect for the planning season which is pretty much now throughout the summer. So you have lots of time to put it together. 😉

    No pressure or anything. 🙂

    Seriously though, I would be happy to write about CM at the high school level except that I feel like I’m far, far, FAR from an expert on it. I’ve navigated the CM high school waters, but I know I still could learn much more. 🙂 I might do a post on my blog, though, on CM high school scheduling because I sort of tried an experiment at the beginning of this year using the upper form time table as a foundation. And I found that it worked really well in helping to keep the school time manageable as well as keep that variety that we want in a CM generous curriculum.

    • Reply Cassie May 7, 2015 at 8:36 am

      I’m jumping up and down over here with excitement. It is hard to find CM high school information. I’ve found some great sources, but really just a drop in the bucket compared to the younger years.

  • Reply Cassie May 4, 2015 at 12:41 pm

    I am starting to think you can read my mind. Recently, you’ve been answering all my questions that I haven’t even asked. Much to think about! Love it!

    • Reply Brandy Vencel May 4, 2015 at 3:12 pm

      I can. I can read your mind. 😉

      So…what am I writing about next?? 🙂

      • Reply Cassie May 4, 2015 at 6:01 pm

        High school . . . . I have a high school student next year. We want to continue a Charlotte Mason style for high school. I’m sure I can think of more, but you are so good at reading my mind that I’m sure you know it better than myself. 😉

        • Reply Karen @ The Simply Blog May 5, 2015 at 7:03 am

          A CM high school would be a great next topic! 🙂

          • Brandy Vencel May 6, 2015 at 12:23 pm

            Ahem. You know I feel unqualified to write that one, right? 🙂

            I do, however plan to share our high school planning and executing adventures as we go along…

        • Reply Brandy Vencel May 6, 2015 at 12:23 pm


          • Karen @ The Simply Blog May 7, 2015 at 4:39 am

            Well, maybe some basic CM principles with having a couple of guests share how they’ve applied CM at the high school level? I can think of several topics that would be great to approach…each with their own post. 🙂

          • Brandy Vencel May 7, 2015 at 7:13 am

            Well, *obviously* you should be my managing editor. 🙂

            I will see what I can do! That *would* be a great series, now that you mention it! 🙂

  • Reply Tricia Fowler May 4, 2015 at 12:38 pm

    Can’t stop with my last comment! The “caring” about what we teach our kids is the anti-sin (if I may use the term in the sense of anti-drug so popular when I was growing up). Caring is the marveling at what God has done and takes our mind off ourselves which leads us away from so many sinful habits. Charlotte seems to be saying this over and over in her book Ourselves.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel May 4, 2015 at 3:12 pm

      I am only partway through Ourselves, and it’s my first time reading it, but I see what you mean! Good point! 🙂

  • Reply Tricia Fowler May 4, 2015 at 12:30 pm

    Another great post! I think caring about what we are teaching our kids is essential. For moms out there to homeschool their kids and not care about what they teach them is tragic.

  • Reply Virginia Lee May 4, 2015 at 10:29 am

    This post made me cry. Happy tears, wishful tears and tears of determination. This is my favorite Charlotte Mason quote. The one that when I read it was the Holy Spirit’s answer to education for our family. The Circe’s definition of education is great and I always love posts about education being virtue. Because it is. But to me, my prayers for the end result of the time my kids have with me learning at home, what I hope transforms their minds and hearts is this.

    I have so many people in my extended family that do not care at all about much of anything. They consistently use the words boring and stupid. It is maddening, heartbreaking and truly makes you pity them. It is not surprising since they are definitely a product of their upbringing and education. But seeing the product of this has given me the courage to place my children into an even larger room than I was able to have. (It does take lots of courage and faith because almost all of our family thinks homeschooling is a crazy choice and especially the way we homeschool. 🙂 Mostly they don’t understand and have no desire to try.)

    My prayer is that my children will care, about many people and things, and will therefore love deeply. Charlotte Mason has been an answer to prayers for our family because she has helped shine a light on the planting, watering and fertilizing. It has been a journey that has (all thanks to God here) been filled with joy for us. Even the parts that have taken much work. Sometimes the hard work and the waiting is when we learn to care and love the most.

  • Reply Karen @ The Simply Blog May 4, 2015 at 8:38 am

    You said: “This is the preliminary step in caring: an introduction, the initial planting of seed. Caring is not a guaranteed result, but it remains the First Thing because a people cannot care about that which they do not know.”

    And this: “We cannot make love grow, but if exposure is the planting of the seeds, surely fully seeing — paying careful attention — is the watering of the seed.”

    So very well said. These two are definitely going in my Commonplace Book. 🙂 I really appreciated how you pointed out that one cannot care about what one doesn’t know about…and therefore, that’s why a liberal, generous curriculum is so important. We’re introducing them to a wide variety of subjects…of knowledge…and that is the first thing. For that foundation must be laid before a house of affections can be built.

  • Reply Melissa May 4, 2015 at 7:27 am

    Great post Brandy…thanks! Patience is definitely not my strong suit these days, but it’s so important to remember in the big picture and that God is in control, not me.

    I need to get The Living Page back out again. I started reading it last summer, but set it aside and kind of moved on. Thanks for the reminder 😉


  • Reply Paola Collazo May 4, 2015 at 6:51 am

    Lord have Mercy!

  • Reply Patty May 4, 2015 at 6:07 am

    “What strikes me as tragic about these people is how very small their worlds are — they have so little to care about.”

    I have always noticed how an ignorant person’s world is so small, but I have never equated ignorance with caring about so little. Yet, that is exactly the only reason I would categorize someone as ignorant.

    If I think back to the things I care about it is because at some point in my life I have given my complete attention to it. I have formed a relationship along the way.

    Charlotte Mason is sometimes hard to understand, but when we do understand the why’s behind the methods, it just makes so much sense. This is the reason for the broad and generous education. We plant, we water, we feed, the Lord brings growth.

    Lovely Post.

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