We’re not talking about blueprints and square footage today. Rather, the question, How large is your student’s room?, refers to a powerful passage that Charlotte Mason wrote in School Education.
It’s not about architecture; it’s about curriculum. Let me explain.
Picture a toddler who is learning about this world. That toddler wants to explore everything in sight. Some items grab his full attention, and he will spend hours discovering every aspect he possibly can about each one. Other items are duly noted and tucked away in his mind.
The best part is to watch him discover connections as he begins to venture outside his familiar rooms. You see his eyes light up when he realizes how something he just came across is related to something he has already experienced. As his world widens, he is actively on the lookout for those relations. His mind is constantly searching, analyzing, comparing, questioning, connecting: How is this item similar to or different from others I already know about? What does this idea remind me of? How is it connected to something else in my experience?
He is making sense of his world. And thoughtful parents will make sure he has a wide range, a good variety of areas to explore in order to make those all-important relations. For it is that innate sense of curiosity—that “being on the lookout”—and those mental connections that help him to grow.
But too often, when that child reaches school age, we limit the size of the rooms he has access to. We reduce his explorations to only a few carefully selected subjects—only those we think are necessary or only those that are convenient to teach. Perhaps we mistakenly think that by confining him to a smaller range, he will learn more.
Nothing could be further from the truth. True education is recognizing connections everywhere you turn, and that can only be done when you have a personal relation with a wide variety of subjects.
“Children make large demands upon us. We owe it to them to initiate an immense number of interests. ‘Thou hast set my feet in a large room,’ should be the glad cry of every intelligent soul. Life should be all living, and not merely a tedious passing of time; not all doing or all feeling or all thinking—the strain would be too great—but, all living; that is to say, we should be in touch wherever we go, whatever we hear, whatever we see, with some manner of vital interest” (School Education, p. 170).
When we limit a student’s subjects, it very often follows that he loses his love of learning. So would a toddler who was stuck in the same small space with the same few toys all day, every day, every week, for months. Our student needs to venture forth and explore the world around him. He needs access to a larger room, to other subjects—a wide variety—in order to make many crucial relations that connect one idea to another.
Oh, yes, an adult can tell him that this one thing in his confined space is like something else in the outside world, but the child learns best and grows most when he discovers and forms those relations for himself.
“We cannot give the children these interests” (School Education, p. 170).
It all comes down to one question: What is our goal in education? If our goal is that the child should know a certain body of information about certain things in the world, a limited number of subjects may be adequate. But if our goal is that the child will grow by forming as many personal relations and connections between things in this world as he can, and that he will keep that inquisitive “being on the lookout” and love of learning alive, then limiting him to a small room will not suffice.
“We prefer that they should never say they have learned botany or conchology, geology or astronomy. The question is not,—how much does the youth know? when he has finished his education—but how much does he care? and about how many orders of things does he care? In fact, how large is the room in which he finds his feet set? and, therefore, how full is the life he has before him?” (School Education, pp. 170, 171).
We owe it to our children to give them a broad curriculum through a wide variety of subjects.
How large is the room in which you have set your student?
A Wide Variety of Enriching Subjects
Our Enrichment Studies will help you give your students this important wide variety of subjects. Each volume outlines a simple and doable plan for including picture study, music study, nature study, hymn study, habit training, literature, art instruction, handicrafts, Scripture memory, and more in just one hour a day. See the complete resource list and a sample weekly schedule on our website.
“Our aim in education is to give children vital interests in as many directions as possible—to set their feet in a large room” (School Education, p. 231).