Educating the Children, by the Master Teacher

I sympathize with the mother today who does not want to be at home with her own child. She has spent countless sleepless nights caring for a squalling infant, catering to the toddler’s every whim, supplying the preschooler with every educational toy to aide in his physical and cognitive development, only to be rewarded with an ungrateful, unruly, disrespectful and, if the truth were to be admitted, ‘nuisance of a child.’ No wonder she is relieved when the first day of kindergarten comes along and rescues her from a life of unhappiness.

Children were never intended to become a curse to their parents. But sadly, the child I just mentioned above is, indeed a curse and he will continue to bring sorrow to the mother all the days of her life if she does not find answers to her dilemma. The Creator intended for children to be a blessing to the parent, a ‘crown’ upon her head. How does one attain blessing rather than a curse from their family?

I love how Charlotte Mason summed up the answer by quoting from the greatest, most respected teacher who ever lived:

‘Take heed that ye 
one of these little ones.’  
Jesus of Nazareth

“So run the three educational laws of the New Testament, which, when separately examined, appear to me to cover all the help we can give the children and all the harm we can save them from--that is, whatever is included in training up a child in the way he should go.

We OFFEND them, when we do by them that which we ought not to have done; we despise them, when we leave undone those things which, for their sakes, we ought to have done.. An offense, we know, is literally a stumbling-block, that which trips up the walker and causes him to fall.

DESPISE: to have a low opinion of, to undervalue"--thus the dictionary; and, as a matter of fact, however much we may delight in them, we grown-up people have far too low an opinion of children.

HINDERING the children: The most fatal way of despising the child falls under the third educational law of the Gospels; it is to overlook and make light of his natural relationship with Almighty God. ‘Let the little children to come to Me,’ says the Savior, as if that were the natural thing for the children to do, the thing they do when they are not hindered by their elders.”

So what exactly should we be doing to help our children not to stumble? What should NOT be done? How can one make the child feel valued without spoiling him? How does one help make a child be aware of the Spiritual rather than lifeless religion? In order to solve a problem, one must first pinpoint it. Generalities will never do. Specificity is crucial.

It would be a worthwhile exercise to list all the possible stumbling blocks we, as parents may have put in our own children’s lives. (OFFEND) I do this on a regular basis as new situations continue to arise in our lives. Then I work on correcting it. The process of writing it down in a notebook has been invaluable to me.

Here are a few that Charlotte Mason mentioned:

Do we spoil them by giving into their whining even when we know it is not good for them?
Do we provide them healthy food and exercise, or stuff them with sweets?
Do we neglect to teach our children that we say ’no’ because we are compelled to do so by a greater sense of truth that does not just come from our own whims?
Do we squelch their intellectual curiosity by submitting them to dreary lessons (whether they be at home or school?)
Do we pit our children against one another?
Do we show favoritism?
Do we make them feel valued for their performance rather than for who they are?

Next, list possible ways we have displayed a low opinion of our children.(DESPISE)
Do we put them in nurseries (preschools) to be trained by others whom we hardly know?
Do we put them down while talking to other mothers? (Do we do it on our blogs?)
Do we leave them in the presence of other children unattended, not knowing what vulgarities and bad habits they are learning because we want our ‘needed time away’ from them.
Do we make light of their faults, putting off discipline, forgetting that if not rooted out of them now, they will be a hindrance to success in later years of life?

Lastly, have we HINDERED them from seeing and experiencing true spirituality?
Do we submit them, while at a tender age, to institutions that deny the existence of God?
Are we hypocrites? Do we teach them to do something that we do not do?
Do we say there is a Creator, but use his name in anger?
Are some of us rash enough to teach our children that there is no God simply because we have had bad experiences with religion?

For some of us, the list may be large. For others, there may be just a few areas needing work. (It never ends, by the way) but don’t let yourself get overwhelmed.

“Here, again, is an illustration of that fable of the anxious pendulum, overwhelmed with the thought of the number of ticks it must tick. But the ticks are to be delivered tick by tick, and there will always be a second of time to tick in. The mother devotes herself to the formation of one habit at a time, doing no more than keep watch over those already formed. If she be appalled by the thought of overmuch labour, let her limit the number of good habits she will lay herself out to form. The child who starts life with, say, twenty good habits, begins with a certain capital which he will lay out to endless profit as the years go on.” CM

If you would like to read more about this subject, it can be found in Volume 1, Part 1 Home Education by Charlotte Mason.