Saturday, June 16, 2018
Book Review // For the Children’s Sake: Foundations of Education for Home and School by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay
This work comes from Francis Schaeffer’s daughter as she builds on and provides a warm, impassioned introduction to the works of Charlotte Mason, a wonderful educator and teacher with a vision for vibrant, Biblical, cultural change in the late 19th-early 20th centuries. Mason's philosophy isn't caught up in some sort of rosy bubble, out of touch with the shifting sands of a post-Christian world. To quote:
“Nor is a social revolution the only one pending. There is a horror of great darkness abroad, Christianity is on its trial; and more than that, the most elementary belief in, and worship of, Almighty God. The judgment to come, the resurrection of the body, the life everlasting,--these fundamental articles of a Christian’s faith have come to be pooh-poohed; and this, not only among profane persons and ungodly livers, but amongst people of reputation both for goodness and wisdom. And how are the young to be prepared to meet this religious crisis? In the first place, it is unwise to keep them in the dark as to the anxious questions stirring.” Macaulay quoting Mason, pp. 96
(Note, in the following I’m not really analyzing the method itself so much as reviewing this particular presentation of it, so by extension I’m presupposing some familiarity with her overarching approach/ideas. 😊)
Also, let me say right off the bat that many of the principles can be applied no matter what educational method you prefer. And it’s not just for parents and teachers. As Christ followers, we are to have a tender heart for overlooked, needy children all round us. Sometimes they just need one person in their life (be it uncle, aunt, grandparent, neighbor etc.) to come alongside, throwing open windows to the world and really listening to them. Even if the child is in a God-fearing, loving household, there can be all sorts of opportunities to come alongside and serve. There’s a lot of work to be done and we need to roll up our sleeves and figure out where we’ve been called to jump in.
I do love this approach for its respect of children as persons, made in God’s image. It’s big picture, it’s about raising thinkers, and it’s tremendously helpful in its integral approach (taking into consideration the simultaneous maturation of the child’s heart, mind, and body) in raising children who not only think outside little categorical boxes, but are unafraid to step out courageously in the pursuit of truth and virtue. Of course, every good, serious-minded Christian parent is heartily seeking the same goal, but Charlotte Mason’s ideas (with their strong emphasis on narration and storytelling, the tremendous -- never to be underestimated -- importance of play, the warm parent-child relationship, etc.) does seem to foster a very particular love of learning, an internalizing of the materials, of making broad connections, and finally a deep, vivid understanding of the world.
I love it’s imagery of spreading a feast before the little ones and then guiding them in delving in. Now (to pause a moment), this is where I think the methodology could be misinterpreted (i.e. that we’re to let the child run riot on the loaded table without direction or supervision), but if you stop and think about it the image is perfect. The table is groaning with good things, but there is still an ordered approach to feasting. Table manners must be learned. And properly understood (not applied with an iron fist) table manners lead to rich enjoyment. The focus becomes delight in the feast.
There are a few points in the book I don’t implicitly agree with (though honestly, at this point I can’t specify whether they’re Mason’s or Macaulay’s). And it’s not even that I disagree particularly with her conclusions or the underlying philosophy per se. The biggest one is I’d like to have seen a balancing section on the role of church authority and community in a child’s life (and by extension, leading into adulthood). I think the philosophy itself harmoniously fits with a proper understanding, but since it wasn’t expounded on it leaves a (very probably unintended) slightly lopsided presentation, specifically if someone set out to deliberately extrapolate some sort of autonomous individuality out of it. Again, I have to read Mason’s books themselves, but I’m pretty positive she would have concurred with the dangers of postmodern individualism. She was just operating under a very different society/community structure, which -- even if it was becoming the mere vestiges of the mighty cathedral it once was -- had yet been a robustly Christian framework. Mason (and Macaulay) are both vividly aware of the undermining of the entirety of Christian culture (in fact, that’s rather the whole point). So I don’t think it’s anything to do with the understanding or philosophy of either, just a slight imbalance in this particular book. And to be fair, Macaulay is also stressing/underlining the importance of acknowledging the personhood of each one of our children as God’s unique creation over against the wild errors in that regard running rampant in our modern world. So maybe it’s just a bit of overcompensation going on. It’s very slight too, so how much it jumps out at you probably also depends on the particular battle you’re fighting and your frame of reference.
I (might) also disagree in a couple small areas of application, but they aren’t really worth expounding on at the moment, as one of the great strengths of the whole approach to begin with is flexibility – which fits hand-in-glove with understanding and acknowledging the particular God-given calling of each family.
Sin is very real, and no one approach/method, especially if applied without discernment, is guaranteed to create all gladness and light (which I’m sure Mason understood). There is always the need for discipleship and discipline, with understanding. We must take the time to understand the child, know the heart of the child -- leading the little lambs back to their Shepherd, pointing them to Christ time and time again.
We are called to be Christ-centric. Not parent or child or even family-centric. Each has a hugely important, weighty, and glorious calling. But Christ and His kingdom must be the focus and center, and everything else falls into its proper place.
Our covenant children are little saints (born sinners under the same sun as us) given to us to bring alongside, training as warriors. The goal is mature children (not little adults -- we are called to guard their tender hearts in the process), but mature at each and every stage, right all the way up into adulthood. We’re all in this together. And we’re in the business of sharpening arrows.
"Let us save Christianity for our children by bringing them into allegiance to Christ, the King. How? How did the old Cavaliers bring up sons and daughters, in passionate loyalty and reverence for not too worthy princes? Their own hearts were full of it; their lips spake it; their acts proclaimed it; the style of their clothes, the ring of their voices, the carriage of their heads--all was one proclamation of boundless devotion to their king and his cause. . . what shall we say of 'the Chief among ten thousand, the altogether lovely'?" Macaulay quoting Mason, pp. 94
As a final note, I’m doing this review slightly backwards as (if you’re new to Charlotte Mason’s ideas or just getting into them), there are a couple other titles I might recommend first, making this a kind of second, deeper introduction. That being said, it’s definitely a foundational educational classic with which to be acquainted and (if your library doesn’t have it) well worth purchasing for ongoing future reference. I can see myself reading it again in a few years and can already tell certain sections will be helpful to reread many times down the road. 😊
Hoping you're all having a lovely Saturday!
Friday, March 23, 2018
So now (and not to say I don't love looking at and dreaming of visiting places like
or that if we have a large family and decide to build someday we might not plan something bigger), but, since getting more of a handle on my own organizational plan in this second year of marriage/seeing how the work I put into the house in the first year is paying off, I’ve come to personally really appreciate a small floor plan.
So here are 5 reasons why I love living in a small house:
1. There’s the obvious plus of more inexpensive heating and cooling. And changing/playing around with interior design elements is less of an investment -- i.e. your $100 worth of paint goes a long way.
2. Cleaning. Cleaning is WAY faster. It'd be misleading to say it's easy peasy (it most definitely isn't and I do not in any way have my cleaning schedule down pat yet), but because it’s smaller there just is LESS. Fewer windows, less floor to sweep/vacuum/mop. One bathroom.
3. It forces you to purge.
4. It’s easier to keep track of everyone. You don’t have to shout. And you can hear what the baby or toddler is up to.
5. First for a quick proviso, this is NOT to say you can’t have a close knit family in a mansion (I’m not saying that A’TALL), but, by nature, living in a small space does tend toward creating close knit bonds (between parents, parents and children, and child and child). Of course, it can all very easily turn sour, too, so it’s really and always God’s grace granting the fruits of the Spirit to each and every member, but living in a small place can definitely facilitate/be one of the means He uses. You’re bumping elbows all the time and it forces you to keep short accounts. (Note: I’m not against corners and reading nooks and quiet places either – on the contrary, it’s one of the first things I’ve been thinking about when rearranging things in the house.)
Now since everything’s happening in the same areas you do have to stay on top of things or everything will quickly start falling to pieces. The mess is right there under foot, and you can’t close the door on it and just move to a different area of the house. No, one must simply gird up ones loins and just do something about it. ;D But then, when it's all tidied up and you can see the floor again it's such a very rewarding feeling.
So there you are! What are some of the reasons you're thankful for where you are -- large or small? Would you like some organization posts sometime? :)
Wednesday, March 14, 2018
So I'm holding a busy baby on one side ;) and popping on to remind everyone about the showing of The Riot and the Dance happening this upcoming Monday the 19th! From the trailers etc. I'm kinda SUPER CRAZY excited (but trying not to think about it too much, you know. ;P)
"Join in the glorious uproar of creation with The Riot and the Dance, a boisterous new nature documentary featuring a biologist who was once told he would never succeed if he kept blabbing about all that silly Creator-creature nonsense. But now you can follow along with Dr. Gordon Wilson as he traverses our planet, basking in God’s masterpieces whether he’s catching wildlife in his own back yard or in the jungles of Sri Lanka. (Yeah, he did get bitten, but not by the cobra.)
Showstopping footage and powerful narration will open your eyes to the extraordinary glory found all over the animal kingdom. From leopards and langurs to vipers and elephants and beyond, The Riot and the Dance is a cinematic exploration that you won’t want to miss."
Here's a link to their website with all the details.
Is anyone else going??
Now I'm off to change a diaper and switch the laundry. I hope you're all having a great week -- talk soon!
Thursday, March 1, 2018
Happy 1st of March everyone!
*waves hat frantically*
This is short and sweet just so's you all know you have a special invitation to check out my new blog look! ;)
I still have to finish some rewrites on the additional blog pages etc., but I cleaned up my sidebar -- changing things that hadn't been adjusted since I started the blog (yikes, it's really kinda scary), but I'm super pleased with how things are coming out. It feels fresh and new and clean.
I can't wait to hear what you all think! (Idea to make it more fun -- what if you jotted down three quick words it makes you think of? :) I'm really curious to see what it evokes for you.)
P.S. How is March beginning where you're at? It's coming in like a lion here...
Thursday, February 22, 2018
Loving these quotes today, all from the same source:
"Know something about the world, and by this I mean the world outside of books. This might require joining the Marines, or working on an oil rig or as a hashslinger at a truck stop in Kentucky. Know what things smell like out there. If everything you write smells like a library, then your prospective audience will be limited to those who like the smell of libraries."
"Real life duties should be preferred over real life tourism."
"Authenticity in writing will only arise from authenticity in living."
"Enjoy yourself. If you enjoy what you are living, you will enjoy writing about it. ...Writing is a form of teaching, even when it is not being didactic in some formal kind of way. And the most contagious form of teaching is when an instructor loves his material in the presence of others -- whom he also loves."
-- Wordsmithy by Douglas Wilson
Also, a big thank you to all who replied to my last post(!) and if you haven't been able to read it yet here's the link. Your input's much appreciated! ;)