One morning recently, in a desperate attempt for survival, I had a timeout.
The day started off as usual but, during a reading lesson, my seven year old and I came to a standoff. She refused to do what I asked. I pushed my agenda. Tensions escalated for both of us.
Then came total meltdown and tears.
Hiding out on the floor of the bathroom in self-imposed timeout, I made a decision. I would not despise her and her behaviour. I would embrace her. After several deep breaths, I returned to apologize and invited her to join me on the couch.
As I began reading Understood Betsy, she snuggled under my arm and wiped away her tears. Slowly we both began to breathe again. Later we were able to calmly return to that contentious reading lesson. But it is by being shaped by Mason’s principles that it was possible for me to dispel our negative moment and partner with God’s work in her life, and mine.
That reading lesson was intense for me. It had me on my knees that night, shaking my head at my failure and God’s grace.
There on my knees, I felt the Lord remind me that this is holy business.
Mason articulates this well: “never let her [the mother] contemplate any kind of instruction for her child, except under the sense of divine cooperation” (Mason, 1925, p. 274). Mason goes on to say that “our cooperation appears to be the indispensable condition of all the divine workings” (Mason, 1925, p. 274).
When I stumbled upon Charlotte Mason four years ago, God provided a friend who gently explained the practices to me. Yet she was very clear: if you’re going to use Mason’s methods, you’ve got to become a student of her philosophy. Our serious study, guided by God’s Spirit, is part of what Mason meant when she said that our cooperation is indispensable.
I took my friend’s wisdom to heart.
I’ve learned that it’s not about using certain methods so much as it’s holy work – not easy work. As Mason says, it requires the “diligence, regularity and punctuality which men bestow on their professional labours” (Mason, 1925, p. 3).
When the reading lesson went sideways, it was the Christ-inspired principles of Mason that I leaned on. Without a life-giving atmosphere, my child’s hunger for knowledge would fade. Without a view of her as a born person, there would be no flexibility. Without understanding the way of the will, there would be no larger vision.
Feasting at the table of Charlotte Mason’s philosophy is hard mental work but in return I’ve entered into deep mysteries in a way that satisfies my soul.
How about for you?
As a student of Mason’s work, young or old, examining her practices is only the beginning. You, too, must enter into the riches of her philosophy for yourself. You just might save your reading lesson and forge deeper into this holy business.
Mason, C. M. (1925). Home education (Vol. 1). London, England: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner and Co. Ltd.
Mason, C. M. (1925). Parents and children (Vol. 2). London, England: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner and Co. Ltd.
Copyright © Colleen Klatt 2017
Colleen Klatt lives in Calgary, Alberta, Canada where she homeschools her three daughters using Charlotte Mason’s ideas.