This blog post is part of an on-going daily series this month as I read (very quickly) through School Education by Charlotte Mason. Join me! Pick up your book and read a chapter, or find it free online at Ambleside Online.
What kind of school books should our children use? Their spiritual life (the life of thought, of feeling, of the soul) is only sustained by a diet of living ideas.
Sadly, most regular school books are devoid of living thought and contain nothing but dry facts. To compensate for this, teachers give oral lessons. It is possible for living ideas to pass from teacher to student this way, but only when the teacher has vital interest and original thought on his subject. We can't expect teachers to have this kind of living interest in all of the wide feast of knowledge and ideas that we owe to our children. The teacher's job is really to be a guide, not the fount of all knowledge.
"And all the time we have books, books teeming with ideas fresh from the minds of thinkers upon every subject to which we can wish to introduce children." (p. 171)
Children are persons: intelligent, observant, logical, spiritual beings like ourselves. Our job is to inspire them with living ideas and to help them form good habits resting on these ideas. We cannot do this on our own, but the Holy Spirit is our helper. He is the supreme Educator in all things both (so-called) secular and sacred.
"It cannot be too often said that information is not education." (p. 169)
"The question is not,--how much does the youth know? when he has finished his education--but how much does he care? and about how many orders of things does he care? In fact, how large is the room in which he finds his feet set? and, therefore, how full is the life he has before him?" (p. 171)
"And children have not altered. This is how we find them--with intelligence more acute, logic more keen, observing powers more alert, moral sensibilities more quick, love and faith and hope more abounding; in fact, in all points like as we are, only more so; but absolutely ignorant of the world and its belongings, of us and our ways, and, above all, of how to control and direct and manifest the infinite possibilities with which they are born." (p. 172)
"...we perceive that the great work of education is to inspire children with vitalising ideas as to every relation of life, every department of knowledge, every subject of thought; and to give deliberate care to the formation of those habits of the good life which are the outcome of vitalising ideas." (p. 173)