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The Part We May Play

There is an inner thought life that constitutes the true education of a child, indeed of us all. The thoughts that come back to us of their own accord, that we mull over and toss around, become part of who we are. There is an inner thought life of children into which we may not intrude unless invited and it is in this place that the person develops- is what we commonly call “educated”. By the time the evidence of these thoughts make themselves noticeable we may be sure that, like the seedings in the garden, they have already thrust down roots of stability and nourishment. The idea has become a living thing of its own accord and is exerting its own influence.

What is growing in that secret place? What part are we allowed to play as parent?

A new snowfall softens the world. Before dawn, the children are bundled and off into a fairy land. All is quiet outside- all is quiet inside with wonder. The white Peking ducks that wade through the fluff suddenly don’t seem as white. My thoughts follow their dingy looking bodies through the trenches they carve, then turn to a story by Patricia St. John read years ago, which reminds me of the Bible’s reference to scarlet sins being made white as snow. Ducks and drifts and readings past mingle and suddenly I am keenly aware again that my best works are like filthy rags, that even on my best day- I am still in need of a savior. No preacher, no lecture, no orchestrated outline. Just the quiet and the ideas left alone together and then I hear that still small voice, am educated again.

Charlotte Mason says that that we must keep in mind that it is the Holy Spirit who is the supreme educator. What role do we play in such sacred business?

We feed ideas. Many diverse and living ideas. We don’t worry about whether they are secular or sacred. We don’t map out connections or organize how they shall lie in the child’s mind. We just feed, by books mainly, but also conversation and real life experiences; but books hold the most potential for consistency and availability, the best avenue for idea to flow from mind to mind without a middle-man stepping in. We scatter abroad and trust.

Of equal importance, we guard the quiet, recognize that it is in the lull that connections are made. We stand as a bulwark against the din of busy-ness and technology that would crowd them. Carve out for them a place of peace and slowness so that they know it as a thing of itself and not merely as the absence of something, and so cherish it- long for it. We cultivate for them a quiet that comforts rather than startles due to unfamiliarity. We guard for them a place that they will stake out for themselves when the time comes.

It is in this quiet that we grow. It is in the quiet that seeds germinate. If we ensure that the seed is good, make sure that it lies undisturbed, we work hand in hand with God. This is the part we may play. This is the part we must play.

S.Timothy 2020

Post Script: Charlotte Mason writes in detail about these things in chapter 3 of her book “School Education”.


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