I hope you enjoy this new series of posts sharing my personal thoughts and favorite quotes as I read through “For the Childrens Sake” by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay – one of the most-recommended books on Charlotte Mason education – and raising and educating children in general!
Remember when I started reading the books written by Charlotte Mason (free online here)? Well, I began to feel a bit overwhelmed so I am taking a break and reading For the Children’s Sake by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay as a way of kind of dipping my toe into the subject matter. I really thought I could finish all of Charlotte Mason’s books before we started Kindergarten – or maybe I thought I had to – but now I’m seeing that I don’t have to do that (and it’s impossible). It’s almost as daunting as the thought of reading the entire Bible in a couple of months. Ha! These are long books! Not to mention meaty – you can hardly fly through them.
Anyway, as I began chapter 1 I realized there is a lot to discuss! So here I am.
Favorite Quote: There has never been a generation when children have so desperately needed their parents’ time, thoughtful creativity, and friendship.
Chapter 1 contains the author’s experiences with her children and schools before discovering Charlotte Mason and a short biography of Miss Mason. I thought it was cool that the author actually found a school that used some of CM’s ideas – if I couldn’t homeschool that would be a wonderful find! Chapter 1 also discusses what education truly is and really focuses on the fact that children should be treated like “persons”.
Children and their Wonderful Uniqueness
It is certainly true that when you start thinking of your children as small versions of people with their own thoughts, likes and dislikes, aptitudes, and struggles, and you stop thinking of your job being to make them become what YOU want them to be (which is, by the way, completely pointless), your whole attitude about parenting and teaching your kids can change. Your attitude toward your children can change, too – for the good. I’m not talking about teaching your kids good values and how to be responsible, because that certainly is our job. But they are born special and unique and with their own little quirks and personalities. Those things you can’t change, and hopefully don’t want to change!
Isn’t it amazing to think of giving birth to a little person? And not just a baby that you will mold into someone special. They’re already special. :) To me this is just a miracle and another confirmation that we’re “fearfully and wonderfully made” by Someone who loves us. (Psalm 139)
Before I had my own children, I thought that parenting was pretty simple. I know, I was clueless, right? I thought if you followed a parenting formula you would be just fine. THEN Emma was born and I realized I had had NO IDEA. This wasn’t a child waiting to be told what to do and be molded into a civilized human being (well, they do need a little help with the civilized part), it was a little person born with a will and ideas of her own!
Isaac was even more of a shock. :-p Every once in awhile someone tells me about how easy their child was or is, how he or she never left their side in public, was quiet, and did everything they asked without a struggle. This is probably a slight exaggeration but when people tell me these things I just stand there with my mouth open because my children have both had very strong wills and have been independent. Kids are most definitely “born as persons” and what I am here for is to teach them right from wrong, guide them, and educate them. And to lead by example. (Yikes.)
Quote: “When a baby is picked up, spoken to, and loved, he is starting his education as God planned it. For all our lives we are human beings, in an active state of learning, responding, understanding. Education extends to all of life. In fact, an educational system that says, one bright summers day in the dawn of my youth, ‘There. Now you are educated. This piece of paper says so,’ is doing me a gross disfavor. The truly educated person has only had many doors of interest opened. He knows that life will not be long enough to follow everything through fully.” – pg. 8
This really hits home. I remember thinking when I was finished with school, “Thats IT? Im done learning?” I was intensely disappointed because I loved school, I devoured biographies of historical people I was interested in, I loved to write, I wanted to do more, improve my mind, just…. not be done.
Is that crazy?
I really love that I don’t have to follow everyone else’s idea of what “school” should look like, of what what giving your child a “good education” is. Oh, the freedom! Homeschooling is a wonderful, wonderful privilege. I can make sure my kids know what they need to (the three Rs) and fill the rest of the time that would be wasted at school waiting (for the bus, for the teacher to finish with another student, for the bathroom, for lunch, etc) with the things that I believe are important for education. I cant help but be excited about it!
Choosing Carefully What Our Children Take In
“Children ask for bread. Do we give them white gummy glue covered with saturated fat? Do we feed their bodies on any careless prepacked junk that comes into view? Or do we provide them with honest good food?
And what about their minds, their spirits? Do we make those bright eager eyes focus on any old, canned, mental junk food? Do we brush off the eager questions, and then expect the children to listen to some “spiritual lecture” another time?” – pg 10
Well, I do have to admit that I have given them the gummy gluey bread in the past and every now and then. I do try to make my own bread when I can, but the way we go through bread lately is crazy! Isaac is going through a picky eating stage right now and he practically lives on peanut butter and jelly. ;-)
But yes, we can make the decision to provide our kids with quality books and television to watch, and thanks to the internet, libraries, and Netflix there are a lot of options that wont cost us an arm and a leg! So the only challenge is to find the good stuff and lay it out before our children. Again, the internet is full of great lists of the best books and movies out there, and they arent all classic books, either – though I do find that most of the time the classics are the best and not written as though they are talking down to the children of the world like so many are nowadays. Charlotte Mason called it “twaddle” when something was written so simply that your mind goes numb reading it, and without a point. I figure out what I believe is twaddle for us pretty easily – unless a child really loves it, if I cant stand to read it or to hear it on the television then it goes. I really do take issue with people assuming kids need characters with high-pitched voices and meaningless repetition in order to keep their attention. Now there is a place for silly characters, of course, but just not all the time.
Children are very intelligent, even (and especially) at very young ages. We shouldn’t let the world or media dictate what their intelligence is or should be.
Doors of Interest and My Way is Best
“The truly educated person has only had many doors of interest opened.” I think this is very important. I want to make sure my kids have the opportunity to try many different things throughout their education. As their teacher (and mom), its my job to note what they are interested in, what they have an aptitude for, what they love, and make sure they have the opportunity to expand on those interests in any way they need. There are so many resources – college classes, volunteering, tours, and probably more things I am not even aware of but will find out about. This is why its important to get involved in homeschool groups in your area I think. Those groups will know about and create opportunities like that.
I appreciated that the author brought up that every family and even different children within one family will need to have different decisions made for their education, and that we shouldn’t judge that. I know it is easy to think that your way is best – I have seen a lot of judgment as to which is the “right way” to homeschool, and even I know the excitement of finding something we love and wanting to shout it from the rooftops and share it with all the homeschoolers I know! I can hardly believe anyone would reject the CM atmosphere of homeschooling after hearing about living books, narration, nature study, and all of the other things that make it special and unique. To me it is wonderful and freeing and fun! But of course it isnt for everyone, and I understand that.
So remember, although I do want to educate my kids using many of her methods and ideas, I’m not a CM snob. ;-)
That’s it for chapter 1. What did you think? I for one am excited to move on to chapter 2!