Not long ago I found a copy of a book from the early 1900s that was used in Charlotte Mason’s schools. Many books like this contain an introduction full of helpful comments, but the introduction to this book was so refreshing that I wanted to share a portion of it with you.
Of course, it stands to reason that the comments would dovetail with Charlotte’s philosophy. But I often find it helpful to read the same sentiments put into different words.
The book is a resource for teaching beginning reading and writing called The Happy Reader by E. L. Young, and the introduction is titled “Hints to Young Teachers.” Though addressed to those dealing with beginning reading, I think there is a timeless reminder in its words for all of us—young or old, new or experienced.
Hints to Teachers
The final paragraph of the hints contains this wisdom.
Do not forget that the education of the child’s mind is of infinitely more importance than the acquirements of reading and writing; these may be put off for years without injury to the child’s career, but the cultivation of reason, imagination, observation and sympathy, cannot be put off without injury to its moral and intellectual development. Therefore, do not trouble yourself at all about the child’s progress, but be very careful of its growth. Never treat its mistakes as faults, nor scold it for forgetting, but if it appears dull or inattentive revise your own method and redouble your efforts to interest it. Haphazard methods, hurry and worry, are the worst enemies of progress, but give the child a logical method and sympathetic attention, and it cannot fail to make as much progress as its intelligence is capable of.
Three points especially stood out to me.
Education is more important than acquirements.
Charlotte put it this way: “It cannot be too often said that information is not education” (Vol. 3, p. 169). Acquiring facts or skills is not true education. Yet it is easy for us to forget that truth when we are surrounded by requirements and tests that focus on how many academic facts and skills our students have acquired.
“The function of education is not to give technical skill but to develop a person” (Vol. 6, p. 147). True education is feeding the mind and heart on ideas; true education is guiding the student’s growth as a person. Which bring us to the second point.
Focus more on growth than on progress.
That’s hard to do. Let’s face it, we are often judged by how much progress our children have made in every area of life. And when others focus on progress, we can get our sights shifted in that direction too.
Instead, Charlotte encouraged us to keep our eyes fastened on the truth that “Children learn, to Grow”; not just to know (Vol. 1, p. 171). “We must bear in mind that growth, physical, intellectual, moral, spiritual, is the sole end of education” (The Story of Charlotte Mason, p. 231).
How will we know if we are focusing on progress or on growth? We will know by whether we fret at the pace at which our children are learning—if we feel ourselves panicking and pushing. Or if we can rest content in the knowledge that they are learning and growing in many areas, that they are becoming the best persons they can be.
Which brings us to the third point.
A logical method and sympathetic attention work better than haphazard methods and hurry and worry.
Rather than running hither and yon, switching curriculum every few months, and losing sleep over where Johnny “should be” in his math book, sometimes we simply need to be perceptive and patient.
The Charlotte Mason method works; we can trust it. And because it is a method, rather than a rigid system, we can tweak it as needed to fit our children and our situations. In other words, we can teach the child, not the curriculum. We are not tied to any particular set of lesson plans, any contrived timetable, or even any specific books. We are free to apply Charlotte’s wonderful methods, spread an appetizing feast of ideas, and encourage each child to partake and grow as the unique person that he or she is.
Quite a collection of wise reminders from this little reading resource! Young or old, newbie or veteran educator, we can all take these hints to heart.