The barometer that is the pit of my stomach has often been a faithful guide in my educational journey. From the first flip flop of fear at being left under the eye of my graying and stern Kindergarten teacher, through the perils of the curriculum hall as a new ” homeschooler,” past the monolithic teachers’ union temple in my community that stands as testimony of the power of the culture shaping lords of education, my uneasiness has been a constant. Clearly our educational choices are fraught with fearful consequences. Perhaps the Holy Spirit, who whispers, “this is the way, walk in it,” leads also through the gut but maturity requires something more than living by feelings. Grandparents and school officials alike are relieved when we home educators can converse about educational philosophy and we ourselves are satisfied to sort these things out for ourselves, to “give a reason for the hope that is within us.”
That is why I love the work of Charlotte Mason. Mason has allowed me, over the years, not only to identify and name those pit of the stomach experiences, but to elucidate what children are like, what living with them is like, what God and His world is like and therefore, what an education true to all these things ought to be like. Who of us, upon reading Susan Schaeffer Macaulay’s seminal, providential book, For The Children’s Sake, did not have almost a visceral reaction, an epiphany, an “ah ha moment” that changed our direction completely? We have suspected something terribly wrong with the education we witness but often, until Mason, it has remained nameless. In talking with those who are committed to Mason’s work, the story is often the same; stumbling onto this burning bush in the desert of education and immediately taking off our shoes, not because we deify the bush, as it were, but rather, recognize the Fire. As Macaulay says herself, “We did not know it, but we were looking for Charlotte Mason and the historical PNEU schools that grew out of her philosophy of life and education” (p. 20).
The problem with reading Mason is it leads to more and deeper episodes of uneasiness. The more I know of what she has tried to explain about children and how our Christianity relates to their education, the more I am spoiled for anything else. I’ve experienced this terrible restless dissatisfaction in the public schools, wider home schooling community and also in the private Christian school setting. Bear with me . . . .
For more of this article by Laurie Bestvater watch for the Charlotte Mason Educational Review to be online by the first of next week or sooner.