I am editing Mind to Mind, and I came to this quote (from volume VI).
The easy tolerance which holds smilingly that everything is as good as everything else, that one educational doctrine is as good as another, that, in fact, a mixture of all such doctrines gives pretty safe results,—this sort of complacent attitude produces lukewarm effort and disappointing progress. I feel strongly that to attempt to work this method without a firm adherence to the few principles laid down would be not only idle but disastrous. “Oh, we could do anything with books like those,” said a master; he tried the books and failed conspicuously because he ignored the principles.
This quote has always made me feel guilty, a failure, a very inadequate educator. I always heard it quoted by those who showed all they did, and how well they did it. It was always the example of why some of us, or our children, struggled with their progress. But nowadays, my eyes have opened to a more humble reading of the initial quote. As I am editing, Charlotte Mason seems to be criticizing, not us, homeschooling moms who try to live and do our best, but those who were in a position to decide for schools and students (notice she writes ‘said a master’), those who could but didn’t decide for the children’s sake. Those who, probably moved by utilitarian minds and a goal of quick results and success, did not want to pay careful consideration to the principles Charlotte Mason uncovered and restated for us. Principles she applied to her schools, and articulated through her volumes, articles, and that she taught others while she lived.
Most moms I know who teach at home (and many who don’t), know the value of good books, and true learning. We all stick to a very few principles from which the rest branch off, and we try to live by them. We all read good literature, we understand the need to think and learn as self learners, and, first of all, many of us feed on The Scriptures!
Actually, the person who has taught me most about Charlotte Mason this year, is not a homeschooling mom, but our preacher’s wife, Miss Beth. I am ‘helping’ her in class (which is more like sitting and receiving a solid and well prepared lesson on her side), and I am humbled and encouraged to see how she lives by those two principles that Charlotte Mason highlighted for us, and that my friend Karen Glass reminded me about in a conversation recently,
1) children are born persons and
2) education is the science of relations.
Karen also believes the rest of the principles branch off these basic two. She also pointed me to the preface to volume 2, Parents and Children, which I quoted in full in the post prior to this one. From it, I love this part:
Believing that the individuality of parents is a great possession for their children, and knowing that when an idea possesses the mind, ways of applying it suggest themselves, I have tried not to weight these pages with many directions, practical suggestions, and other such crutches, likely to interfere with the free relations of parent and child. Our greatness as a nation depends upon how far parents take liberal and enlightened views of their high office and of the means to discharge it which are placed in their hands.
Don’t be discouraged by those who tell you about those many directions, practical suggestions, how to do this, how to do that, how to “cure” children from their whatever it is they have, through diets, steps, practices, and the like. Those who tell us how many books, how many subjects, how this and that looks like in their homes, how they have overcome this obstacle, or achieved this or that goal. We all like to share how ideas and their application have been of so much profit in our lives and the lives of our children. Our desire to ‘see’ principles in action is very natural. Thomas wanted to touch our Lord too! Just don’t let that forget that principles are NOT exclusively explained or ratified by their possible and diverse practices, their worth is not determined by how well or how poorly we are able to live by them. We still have the right to believe in them, even if they seem out of reach, even when it takes forever for them to show us their value. Because they are rooted in faith. Likewise, works show faith, but they don’t earn us salvation.
It is undeniable that Charlotte Mason believed that there are some things that are better than others. Any of us who calls herself a christian will recognize a Truth with capital T. From the Truth, principles, norms, morality, and beliefs, emanate. She was not a relativist or politically correct person when it came to life or education. I join her. Whenever we come to the understanding of a principle that we believe in, carry on with it, believe in it. I add this, have the courage to remember the principle in question will look different at your home than at everyone else’s! I believe that when we see the results of a principle at work in others, they may have a common factor, but they too will be different than our own, (faster, more copious). This reality can cause us to doubt the principle.
In the event that you have thrown the principle with the practices that were out of your reach, there is still hope for you, weary parent. The second quote from volume 2 is crucial if we want to be strong in keeping up with those two simple principles many of us believe in. This quote talks about individuality described as our CHILDREN’S GREAT POSSESSION! Now, THAT is encouraging, friends.