Some mornings I take a walk across town to Island Park where you enter under a stone gateway that has the title, “Where Friends Meet.” Alas, no friends are meeting there at 6:00 a.m.! The park is bordered by the Des Moines River, a tributary of the Mississippi River. A few years ago, a dam was removed and replaced with two sets of riffles – rocks that slow the shallow water and gradually terrace the flow. The riffles are soothing and once I reach them, I sit down on a bench to pause, think, and pray. But there are times when this is not the peaceful experience that I just described. Sometimes, there is too much water and sometimes, too little. This reminds me of our homeschools and how easily our peace can be disrupted.
Occasionally, our little city experiences flood conditions and the water rises so high that the ball fields are covered and the riffles are no longer visible. Similarly, I think of our wonderful information age where we can find out anything we want to know, plus more, in the palm of our hands. I am thankful for all the new findings and amazing research that continues to come to light for those of us studying and implementing the Charlotte Mason philosophy of education. But like the flow of a swollen river, I have seen it quickly become too much information, overwhelming moms of all stripes. On top of that, one source may contradict another. What to do? “Analysis paralysis” sets in and one feels adrift.
Here are some simple ideas to help with this. First, make reading Mason’s volumes the main way you learn about the method. Second, ask the Holy Spirit to lead you to the sources that you should spend a little more time with, whether that be a friend, mentor, book, etc. Seriously consider whatever information highway you travel on a daily basis, perhaps setting specific limits on social media and news outlets.
There is a little article I found in the alumni magazine, L’Umile Pianta, that I often return to. It holds a few nuggets of wisdom for our school days. The topic at hand was “What Subjects to Leave Out of Class II When Time is Limited”. Miss Kitching introduced the subject with the following points:
- That the P.U.S. time-table is intended to serve simply as a guide to the teacher in making her own, for it stands to reason that no two schoolrooms are identical as regards the work done, or the time allotted it.
- That in making her own time-table the teacher must be careful that no two lessons requiring the same mental effort, follow one another in close proximity.
- That it is better to leave the term’s work unfinished, than to rush the pupils through for the sake of having finished the work set.
The article concluded that “the general outcome of the discussion was to the effect that some modification of the programme and time-table is absolutely necessary, each teacher using her own discretion in the matter. Somebody very wisely remarked that Miss Mason intends the programme to fit the child, and not, as some wildly imagine, the child to fit the programme.” Hopefully, those principles will encourage you when you are overwhelmed by the information coming your way and help you to make the appropriate adjustments.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have had trying days of drought where the riffles lie exposed and little movement of the water can be found. Similarly, scarcity and passivity will prevent peace from filling your days. Peace is not passivity. It takes great effort, action, and commitment to the daily monotony of routine. When it comes to teaching our children from peace, it takes work on both our part and the students’ part. Peace is compatible with work. Charlotte Mason said of the learner, be he parent or child, “It seems to be a law in the things of life and mind that we do not get anything for our own unless we work for it.” (Vol. 4, Bk. 1, p. 184)
And so we see that action and obedience factor into our peace. Charlotte tells us, “My peace shall flow like a river” has been said, and this is what we forget, that the peace of God is an active principle, ever-flowing, ever-going, ever-nourishing, ever-fertilising,-and not a passive state, a quiet creek where we may stagnate at our ease.” (Vol. 5, p. 416)
And here she tells us the key to peace:
This peace comes to all simple, natural persons who have faith in God…for faith is the only key to that science of the proportion of things which enables us to take ourselves simply as part of the general scheme, sure of being duly nourished and ordered, and under no compulsion to make life too strenuous. (Vol. 5, p. 416)
So a healthy river should flow strongly with not too much water, nor too little. Likewise, our homes should be a healthy, active balance of activity; they should be peaceful places where children and parents learn, grow, and come to know the Saviour. No one wants too much activity and information, and yet we must keep in mind that peace is not passivity and we must be obedient and active in our faith in God. Charlotte Mason herself claimed that this peace is a “necessary condition of growth” (Vol. 5, p. 416). Regardless of the circumstances surrounding us, true Peace can be maintained if it is rooted in the right place, or rather, person – Jesus Christ. What will you change this upcoming school year in order to have peace in your home?
Colossians 3:15 (NIV)
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.
Kitching, E. (1914). What subjects to leave out of class II when time is limited. In L’Umile Pianta, May, 1914 (pp. 58-59). London: Parents’ National Education Union.
This article appeared in the Volume 3 Issue 3 of Common Place Quarterly.