I have attempted to read Charlotte Mason’s writings many a time in the past 10 years. I get along well until the 20th page and then I start to zone out; reading is discontinued. This rhythm has been carried out for most of the time that I have been homeschooling. I just could not get into her writings. I have been familiar with her principles but, again, they didn’t really stick with me. Dare I admit here that whenever I hear the word principle I, again, start to zone out? When my kids were younger I didn’t have time for principles, I wanted the nitty gritty of what I was to do with each child. I wanted a list of ‘do this, now do this.’ I think that is why The Well Trained Mind initially stuck with me because it was a ‘do this’ list. But the WTM ‘do this’ list didn’t work for my kids so I went on a search for another ‘do this’ list. I kept bumping up against the word ‘principles’ from the Circe Institute and Ambleside Online and a fog always ensued. I didn’t know what to do with principles. I know, that’s pretty pathetic, isn’t it? Well, I have never proclaimed to be the smartest knife in the drawer.
I am sheepishly admitting that the idea of principles are finally making sense to me; I am getting it. Praise the Lord for the dissipation of the fog! I am seeing that these principles don’t just apply to education but also to parenting.
I recently acquired the ebook from Brandy regarding the 20 principles of a Charlotte Mason education. Brandy put a lot of work into this book, it is an excellent overview of the principles. In the book, each principle is accompanied with links to the readings in Miss Mason’s books that apply to that particular principle. There is also other blog posts or articles from other people that discuss that same principle.
I have gotten as far as the first principle. I read CM’s writings and the accompanying blog posts and I just sat there for awhile. I had always thought of the first principle as an easy one to grasp: Children are born persons. Easy peasy! We know that children are born with their own passions, likes and dislikes; we need to honour that. But after all of my reading, I realized that Miss Mason was going a little bit deeper with this principle. What I took away from my time with this principle is that I can offer a feast of various educational opportunities to my children but if they do not take it all in, if they choose to ignore what is being presented to them then that is exactly what it is; their choice. I do the best that I can possibly do in teaching my children but if they don’t ‘get’ it, if the ideas and the knowledge doesn’t seep in, well, that isn’t my problem; it’s theirs, because they are their own person, they are able to make their own choices about how they are going to learn.
This also applies to parenting. Let me give an example; recently, one of my children was accused of some wrong doing. The accusation came from a stranger and what this child was accused of was very serious. This child denied that he/she had anything to do with what he/she was accused of doing. There is a back story here that made me question this child’s culpability in this situation. I spent the first two hours after this accusation feeling a heaviness of heart. I beat myself up over my ability to be a good parent. If this child was indeed guilty of what he/she was accused of then I had failed in my parenting; I must have done something wrong in the raising of my children. After two hours of wallowing in self-pity, I remembered the first CM principle: Children are born persons. This child knows the difference between right and wrong. This child has the ability to make good, wise choices. I have done the best I can to raise this child up in the ways of the Lord and His word, if he/she chooses not to live his/her life in that manner then that is up to him/her. I am not responsible for this child’s choices. I am not responsible for any of the choices my children make.
This knowledge helped me in dealing with this child in the aftermath of the situation. I was able to step back and deal with this child with love and grace. If I had put this child’s choices on to myself, I would not have been able to take that step back. It felt very freeing.
I am now thankful for principles. I finally ‘get’ it.