As I mentioned before, I am rereading Susan Schaeffer Macaulay's book, _For the Children's Sake_. These are narration notes I took on a portion of Chapter 5, "Education: the Science of Relations". It has been very interesting to read this book again after studying Charlotte Mason's own writings and then reading Francis Schaeffer's book, _The God Who is There_ with my 15yo in the past couple of months. I feel like I understand Macaulay better than I did eleven years ago when I picked up her book for the first time, and I hope these ideas work into positive applications as I continue to facilitate the girls' education.
(FYI: These are rough notes, and some of the words are actually quotes from the book. I ought to have put quotes around them, but I wanted to hit 'publish' before picking Mariel up from orchestra rehearsal.)
A child is not a piece of paper to load up with facts and figures, and a child is also not a weed to leave unattended. Education is about opening doors to relationships—providing opportunities for children to walk through those doors. Education should not be chancy. This will play out differently for different kids. Education takes place both in and out of school.
The most important knowledge is the knowledge of God. Parents who believe that God is there will almost unconsciously include the existence of God in the atmosphere they provide their children. Children shy away from too much sermonizing, though. It is important to respect the child and not act as if we have all the answers. We are fellow pilgrims, after all, and the child has just as much ability to commune with the Lord as we do. Children deserve to read an actual Bible, or have it read to them. They do not need it predigested. In CM’s schools, appropriate Bible passages were chosen, a few vocabulary words discussed, perhaps a map briefly consulted, and then they read.
Reading the Bible is like planting a seed in the ground. Understanding and comprehension doesn’t sprout all at once, but grows a leaf at a time. A child may grasp one aspect of the passage at one time, and, as he ponders afterward, other aspects are gradually revealed to him.
Before children care to be good, they must feel allegiance to their King. Parents unconsciously encourage this by their own allegiance to Christ—by living in daily reverence and loyalty toward Christ, the King. In this way, it is part of the air the child breathes, and the child is brought up in fealty to the Lord. [Not mentioned in the book, but the Holy Spirit has a lot to do with whether the child ‘cares to be good’, also.]
It is vital that we share the story of Jesus with children, so that they may know that they are saved from their sins—that there is no condemnation to them that are in Christ. This knowledge saves them from guilt—allows the burden of sin to fall away. The child should also be told of the Holy Spirit, who helps us every day.
There is a fine line between sharing these things and being overbearing. We need to pray that the Lord will help us to be wise in discerning it.
How to deal with threats to Christian thought, though? Not by cocooning ourselves and the children in more and more ‘Christian material’, but by listening to the culture with our children and discussing the ideas put forth. Let them think about the dilemma of the non-Christian. They will want to talk and ask questions.
(This doesn’t mean we drag ourselves and our kids through degradation and evil. We have to be wise about what they are exposed to. Some things will have to be shut out, some things must be discussed and understood, and there is even a category we can enjoy.)
Certain aspects of childhood encourage a relationship with God: a foundation in the Bible, living with parents who trust God and share real life questions and God-sent answers with their children, and a wholesome child-life of play, imagination and liberty within boundaries. Also, listening in on conversations about things that matter, with people who hold a variety of viewpoints. Honest questions and honest answers. This kind of conversation teaches the child to bring all his power of thought in order to understand the depth and breadth of the truths he is called to believe. These conversations can take place around the dinner table, if you invite a variety of people to your home, and they certainly take place through the medium of books.
It is vital to invite this consideration. We hinder our children if we stifle their questions and limit their faith by emotional appeals. We ought not to compartmentalize our lives, closing ourselves up intellectually as soon as we begin to talk about faith. We can and ought to do better than that, because the truth of Christianity stands up to reality and reason. God is real. Christianity is true. It can take the questioning.
This means we can approach different subjects as Christian without slapping a Sunday-school song and dance on them. Math is Christian because it is part of the whole that God created. It isn’t ‘more Christian’ if we are measuring the dimensions of the ark. It is Christian for its own sake. It relates to the whole of truth. It fits the Christian framework in its own right.
“Do they know? All of this is ‘Christian education’. Seeing fallacies. Understanding. Knowing the Bible. Thinking. Judging ideas. Seeking and keeping ears open. Being in touch.”
Once you have presented the foundation, back off and let them have a private life. Some work belongs to the Holy Spirit only. Don’t push. Let the child be himself. Respect his individuality. We give the ideas, the experiences. The child thinks, reacts, and understands according to his own timetable. Leave the Lord and the child alone to work out their relationship. Individual personality is precious.