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We love our children. And we have great hopes for them. 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).
That’s why we homeschool. We want to give our children something more.
But because of that desire, we can easily fall into a trap. That trap — and its happy opposite — is what we will be discussing over the next few weeks. Here is how Charlotte described it:
“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).
“Wait a minute, now, Charlotte,” you say. ” ‘Wise and purposeful letting alone’? Do you mean we shouldn’t discipline our children? Just let them run wild and hope they’ll turn out okay?”
That’s not what Charlotte meant at all. In fact, this concept of Masterly Inactivity, as she called it, is based on a strong foundation of authority. You, as the parent, have the authority. And the children should be keenly aware of that authority. There is no way you will be able to practice or enjoy Masterly Inactivity if you do not have that foundation in place.
Both words — Masterly Inactivity — are important. You must have control of your children and have your authority in place first (masterly) before you can practice wise passiveness (inactivity) in allowing them breathing room — room to explore, learn, and grow within your boundaries.
Practicing only the Masterly part will result in 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 deciding to ignore your God-given authority and just be Inactive out of sheer laziness or selfishness will result in disaster!
You need both Masterly and Inactivity — in that order and in balance.
We will be exploring more about Masterly Inactivity in the coming weeks — both what it is and what it isn’t.
Next week we’ll talk about two party hosts and what we as parents can learn from them about Masterly Inactivity.