As you guide your children through their school days implementing the Charlotte Mason method, you will notice how wide and generous the curriculum is! Her program is not just the three Rs, not only vocational work, not the latest trend in education, and certainly not test preparation. No, her philosophy of education encourages us to establish the vast science of relations for our students by putting them in contact with many different subjects found within the knowledge of God, the knowledge of man, and the knowledge of the universe.
I consider it such a blessing and a privilege to be able to walk alongside my children in the variety of subjects that we have experienced over the years: things like geology, geography, picture study, handicrafts, sloyd, nature study, composer study, Shakespeare, Plutarch, etymology and more. But just think about the topics yet to come as you chart out year after year of home educating. Your wide curriculum will certainly be the first step in unlocking the door of knowledge and entering the large room where you want their feet firmly planted.
What a lovely word picture the term “large room” forms in our mind! Charlotte uses the phrase many times and it never seems to be far from her thoughts. In Volume 3, p. 171 we read,
“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… 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?”
Later she states, “Our aim in education is to give children vital interests in as many directions as possible––to set their feet in a large room ––because the crying evil of the day is, it seems to me, intellectual inanition.”
Not surprisingly, Charlotte takes this concept from Psalm 31:8. The verse reads, “And hast not shut me up into the hand of the enemy: thou hast set my feet in a large room.” (KJV) Here we have David running for his life, away from Saul, and he ends up in a cave. Yet, despite where he is – hidden, in peril, in a tight place – he can utter these words of praise. How can he say this when he clearly isn’t in a large room – he’s in a narrow cave! And this narrowness signifies sorrow and peril while largeness signifies comfort and peace. He can say this because of his relationship with Almighty God. And you can say it, too, no matter where you live or what your circumstance may be in life, God will give you grace and liberty to live in this large room if you know Him.
As we think about this large room, we think of the wide variety of studies, the freedom to explore the world and the genuine interest in our surroundings that lead to a full life. But there is a caveat to all of this. It’s found in another mention of the large room and beautifully reflects the comfort mentioned in Psalm 31:8. Without it, we are in danger of having our student become a “free thinker, an agnostic”. Mason explains:
“But once the intimate relation, the relation of Teacher and taught in all things of the mind and spirit, be fully recognised, our feet are set in a large room; there is space for free development in all directions, and this free and joyous development, whether of intellect or heart, is recognised as a Godward movement.”
So what I have come to realize is that this large room concept applies not only to the children but also to the mother and father. Are your feet set in a large room? Have you realized an intimate relation with Jesus Christ? Are you amazed at all there is to know and see in the knowledge of God, the knowledge of man, and the knowledge of the universe? How can you expect your own children to be found in a large room if you aren’t living there yet?
One can see that the large room is the place we want to set our feet. Part of it is the wide curriculum we celebrate in a living education. But all of these subjects and interests should help our students expand their science of relations and ultimately, to move them towards a closer relationship with our Creator. Once a person understands his relationship to God, there is comfort, safety and freedom. Oh, that all children could have the opportunity and joy of setting their feet in that large room – that place where both their heads and hearts are joyously directed towards God.
Teaching from peace,
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PARENTS ARE PEACEMAKERS by Essex Cholmondeley
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