Keeping Your Balance: Masterly Inactivity

Keeping Your Balance

It is always interesting to hear the reasons different parents give for deciding to homeschool their children. We’ve heard many explanations and reasons over the years. But one thing we have never heard a parent say: “I’m homeschooling because I want to ruin my child.”

Is that your goal as a parent? Of course not! Most of us have a desire to see our children surpass ourselves, to have a better education and a better foundation upon which to build their lives. That’s what keeps us going through long division and daily peacemaking! We want to give our children something more.

As Charlotte Mason so aptly put it, “People feel that they can bring up their children to be something more than themselves, that they ought to do so, and that they must” (Vol. 3, p. 26).

But because of that desire, we can easily put too much emphasis on one extreme. Here is another area in which we must keep our balance. We’ve already looked at the importance of keeping our balance in our weekly schedules. Today let’s talk about keeping our balance between guiding and giving freedom.

You Need Both

This is how Charlotte described our tendency to lean too far in one direction and throw everything out of balance:

“We ought to do so much for our children, and are able to do so much for them, that we begin to think everything rests with us and that we should never intermit for a moment our conscious action on the young minds and hearts about us. Our endeavours become fussy and restless. We are too much with our children, ‘late and soon.’ We try to dominate them too much, even when we fail to govern, and we are unable to perceive that wise and purposeful letting alone is the best part of education” (Vol. 3, p. 27).

Wise parents know there is a healthy balance between guiding and giving freedom. “Wise and purposeful letting alone” may sound scary to some, but keep in mind the principle of balance. That idea of “letting alone” must be tempered by an equal weight of guiding authority on the other side.

It’s a concept that Charlotte called Masterly Inactivity—two words that, taken together, beautifully represent the necessary balance. Both words are important. You must have your authority in place and boundaries set up first (masterly) before you can practice wise passiveness (inactivity) in allowing the children to explore, learn, and grow within your boundaries.

Focus on only the Masterly part and you will end up with that fussy, restless spirit that Charlotte described. You’ll work yourself into a tizzy trying to control every single thing every single child does all day long (not to mention driving the children crazy)! But if you swing too far to the other extreme and decide to ignore your God-given authority and just be Inactive out of sheer laziness or selfishness, disaster will ensue!

The same is true in the academic area of homeschooling. If you veer too far to the Inactivity side—tolerating an attitude of laziness and a tendency to dawdle—the result will be less than stellar learning. Veer too far to the Masterly side by expecting too much and making lessons last too long, and you will remove your children’s God-given love for learning and natural curiosity.

Keeping a balance means that you work with your children as persons to establish good habits of reading for instruction, full attention, and best effort, and then you will be able to step back and allow them much leeway in their studies. They will have a wonderful feast of a variety of subjects during structured school time and the benefit of free time to explore personal interests after that.

Masterly Inactivity. Another wonderful example of Charlotte Mason’s emphasis on keeping your balance.