Extracts from Charlotte Mason

compiled by Rev. John de la Haye

"...the fact is, we undervalue children."

The following are a series of quotations from a fascinating but little-known book that is of considerable help to Christians who take the education of their children seriously, whether this be done through schooling of some kind, or by home education. The book is actually called "Home and School Education", and it is by Charlotte Mason (1842-1923); these quotations are from Volume III, which deals with the education of children over nine years old. The British Library reference number of the book is W13-7848. I think you will agree that she was a real thinker! You are about to read something very different to what is taught today...so fasten your seat belts!

Living ideas The intellectual life...has but one food whereby it lives and grows - the sustenance of living ideas.

Nothing is so practical as a great idea, because nothing produces such an abundant outcome of practical effort.

Stimulus Our aim in education is to give children vital interests in as many directions as possible - to set their feet in a large room - because the crying evil of the day is...intellectual inanition [starvation].

Our part is to remove obstructions, to give stimulus and guidance to the child who is trying to get in touch with the universe of things and thoughts. Our error is to suppose that we must act as his showman to the universe, and that there is no community between child and universe except such as we choose to set up.

Against marks: We find their studies are so interesting to the children that they need no other stimulus.

Do teachers always realise the paralysing and stupefying effect that a flood of talk has on the mind?

Carlyle: "To be poured into like a bucket is not exhilarating to any soul."

Oral lessons have their occasional use, and when they are fitly given it is the children who ask the questions.

...the diluted oral lesson, in place of the living and arresting book.

The use of books We...put into children's hands books which, long or short, are living.

Our great failure seems to be caused by the fact that we do not form the habit of reading books that are worth while in children while they are at school and are under twelve years of age.

The free use of books implies correct spelling and easy and vigorous composition without direct teaching of these subjects.

No education seems to be worth the name which has not made children at home in the world of books, and so related them, mind to mind, with thinkers who have dealt with knowledge.

Knowledge Education should aim at giving knowledge `touched with emotion'.

It cannot be said too often that information is not education...

Children get knowledge only as they dig for it. Labour prepares the way for assimilation, that mental process which converts information into knowledge; and the effort of taking in the sequence of thought of the author is worth to the child a great deal of oral teaching.

The information acquired in the course of education is only by chance, and here and there, of practical value. Knowledge, on the other hand, that is, the product of the vital action of the mind on the material presented to it, is power...the child who has got knowledge will certainly show power in dealing with it. He will recast, condense, illustrate, or narrate with vividness and freedom in the arrangement of his words. The child who has only got information will write and speak in the stereotyped phrases of his text-book, or will mangle in his notes the words of his teacher.

Self-discipline Touch the right spring and children are capable of an amazing amount of steady effort.

The disciplined life has more power of fresh enjoyment than is given to the unrestrained.

Matthew Arnold: "Tasks in hours of insight willed, Can be through hours of gloom fulfilled."

Genius itself, we have been told, is an infinite capacity for taking pains; we would rather say, is the habit of taking infinite pains, for every child is born with the capacity...the fact is, we undervalue children.

Training in godliness In the moral training of children arbitrary action almost always produces revolt.

"Because of the angels" (I Corinthians 11:10, A.V.) should be a thought to repress unbecoming behaviour in children. It is a mistake to suppose that the forms of reverence need be tiresome to them [such as kneeling to pray by their bed].

Preparation for life Ruskin: "...our youth - whatever we make of it - abides with us to the end."

Success in life depends...on the cultivation of alertness to seize opportunities, and this is largely a physical habit.

In a rich suburb, people live too much with their own sort. They are cut off from the small and the great, from labour, adventure, and privation.

Children taught in this way are remarkable for their keenness after knowledge...do well in exams...are prepared to take their full share of all that life offers of intellectual and practical interests.

Copyright © Family Matters 1997