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.
I just love how Charlotte Mason begins this chapter: "I should like to preface my remarks on Religious Education by saying that there is not the slightest pretence that they are exhaustive. ...I very earnestly hope that the reader will find I have left out things I ought to have said, or said things I ought not to have said." (p. 137)
Or in other words, "mix it with brains."
For children, the knowledge of God and his continual presence with them is the first step to submitting to his Authority over their lives and serving Him with reverence.
Habits of thought are very important in the religious life, "for every act and attitude is begotten of a thought, however unaware we be of thinking." (p. 140)
The thought of God
Regularity in devotions
Reading the Bible
One could object that teaching these things as habits leads to dry formalism in religion, and children should be left free to express their worship in a more natural way. However, Charlotte Mason says "it is just as true to say that the form gives birth to the feeling as that the feeling should give birth to the form." (I have certainly found this to be true in my own life. I am carried through the periods that are spiritually dry by the regular habits I have formed in Bible reading, praise, etc. Usually, it is persistence in these things that brings back the joy and love.) At the same time, children also need to realize that their own works in these areas do not give them extra favour with God.
As always, habits must be inspired by ideas. These are the essential ones:
The fatherhood of God - a relationship of love and trust
The kingship of Christ - drawing forth loyalty and admiration
Christ as our Saviour - he saves from sin, and children know what sin is!
The Indwelling of the Holy Spirit - not only to lead them into the knowledge of God, but also into all truth, whether "secular" or "sacred."
"A child cannot have a lasting sense of duty until he is brought into contact with a supreme Authority, who is the source of law, and the pleasing of whom converts duty into joy." (p. 137)
"To keep a child in this habit of the thought of God--so that to lose it, for even a little while, is like coming home after an absence and finding his mother out--is a very delicate part of a parent's work." (p. 141)
"We are, before all things, sincere, and are afraid to insist upon 'mere forms,' feeling it best to leave the child to the natural expression of his own emotions. Here perhaps we are wrong, as it is just as true to say that the form gives birth to the feeling as that the feeling should give birth to the form. Children should be taught to take time, to be reverent at grace before meals, at family prayers, at their own prayers, in church, when they are old enough to attend." (p. 141)
"If children must be taken to long services, they should be allowed the resource of a Sunday picture-book, and told that the hymns and the 'Our Father,' for example, are the parts of the service for them." (p. 141-142)
"But it is a great thing for all of us to get the habit of 'saying our prayers' at a given time and in a given place, which comes to be to us as a holy place." (p. 142)
"But while pressing the importance of habits of prayer and devotional reading, it should be remembered that children are little formalists by nature, and that they should not be encouraged in long readings or long prayers with a notion of any merit in such exercises." (p. 143)
"...the habit of soft and reverent singing, of offering our very best in praise, should be carefully formed." (p. 143)
"Children should be trained in the habits of attention and real devotion during short services or parts of services." (p. 143)
'The habit of Sunday observances, not rigid, not dull, and yet peculiar to the day, is especially important. Sunday stories, Sunday hymns, Sunday walks, Sunday talks, Sunday painting, Sunday knitting even, Sunday card-games, should all be special to the day,--quiet, glad, serene. ...There is hardly a more precious inheritance to be handed on that that of the traditional English Sunday, stripped of its austerities, we hope, but keeping its character of quiet gladness and communion with Nature as well as with God." (p. 144)
"Many a naughty, passionate, or sulky and generally hardened little offender is so, simply because he does not know, with any personal knowledge, that there is a Saviour of the world, who has for him instant forgiveness and waiting love. But here again, the thoughts of a child should be turned outwards to Jesus, our Saviour, and not inward to his own thoughts and feelings towards our blessed Saviour." (p. 146)
"But it would be well if we could hinder in our children's minds the rise of a wall of separation between things sacred and things so-called secular, by making them feel that all 'sound learning,' as well as all 'religious instruction,' falls within the office of God, the Holy Spirit, the supreme educator of mankind." (p. 146)
Well. Today I am rebuked for my doubts of yesterday. I should have read both chapters together ...moral training can't be considered apart from religious education.
I missed a day this week (I spent it at the beach!), but I will not be doubling up. I'll just keep going. See you Monday with "A Master-Thought."