Upon ﬁrst hearing the foundational principal of Charlotte Mason’s philosophy, “Children are born persons,” I couldn’t have been less impressed. It seemed like a statement of the obvious and a waste of paper to bother writing it down. Now, however, it is the lens which I look through to weigh all other thought regarding the education of children. It has taken a grip on my heart and breathes life into my decisions and relationships.
So what does this seemingly overt declaration mean and what are its implications? To understand it in its fullness we have to look back at life itself. We were all created in the image of God; and if we were all created in the image of God, then children were as well. Children are born complete, with all of the complexities and potential that they will ever have. While they will grow, mature, and be affected by the people and circumstances around them, the very essence of that eternal being which was knit together in His image is there from the beginning. The ramiﬁcations of this truth are far-reaching and humbling. Children are not ours to make into little displays or products to be used for our utilitarian end or for self-adulation. Neither are they the center of all, as Mason addressed by saying, “The other view is that the beautiful infant frame is but the setting of a jewel of such astonishing worth that, put the whole world in one scale and this jewel in the other, and the scale which holds the world ﬂies up outbalanced.”
In order to walk out this delicate balance of honoring the personhood of the child and training them up in the way that they should go, we must recognize the needs that are innate in their humanity. Every situation, be it public, private, or home school, provides strengths in meeting some needs while also making them vulnerable to weakness in others. It is our job as educators and parents to be diligently watching and assessing whether their needs are being met, and making the adjustments accordingly.
I’ve compiled a list that includes the majority of essential needs to ensure we are meeting. Children need:
God– Of course this is the greatest need, both now and for eternity. Education is merely the handmaid of religion. A child who grows up with excellent academics and devoid of Christ is put into the perilous position of being equipped to be self-sufﬁcient and successful in the eyes of the world and deceived with potentially eternal consequences.
Parents– Children crave to have a relationship that is healthy and thriving with their parents. They feel secure when there are clear boundaries and accountability. The unconditional love, acceptance, and encouragement that is meant to be experienced in a parent-child relationship, along with the authority and discipline create the positive tension that produces maximum growth in every area of their lives. Parents also serve to help children be able to properly relate to the Father God as part of the Trinity.
Peers– God created man in His image so that He could have fellowship with us. Certainly if God desired friendship, our children were created with that likeness as well. Friends play an increasingly important role in the shaping of a child’s character and interests as they get older, so we need to take measures to facilitate relationships that are going to nurture the right qualities.
Mentors– Part of the created design was for people to be discipled. No person has all of the qualities and expertise that a child needs to be cultivated for their individual giftings, weaknesses, and callings. God will provide a variety of people in life who will be able to model, give wisdom, and encourage in speciﬁc areas of need. We should be discerning and facilitating of these types of relationships for our children.
Liberal Education– Children were created as complex beings. In order for every area of a child to thrive they need to have a well-rounded education that touches them as a whole, not just a few isolated compartments. A liberal education helps facilitate connections across subjects in the brain and establishes deeper relationships to the areas of study. It also allows them to ﬁnd passions and interests that would have been missed otherwise.
Discipline– Many a life full of potential has been wrecked by a lack of discipline. Discipline will cultivate perseverance in a child that will allow them to meet goals, be reliable, and weather the storms that life brings them.
Beauty– Appreciation of beauty enlivens the soul and softens the heart. Fortunately, it is the topic of this years conference!
Time for Reﬂection and Pursuit of Individual Interests– Ruminating on ideas allows connections to be made, opinions to be formed, improves retention, and incorporation of the conclusions into their lives. Individual interests allow them to become excellent in something and develop passions that will likely lead to occupation or service to God. Without time for these things children will grow up to be like the masses- ordinary, mediocre, and discontent.
Inspiration– Awaking aspirations to greatness provoke children to work hard, be virtuous, be magnanimous, and makes their souls sing! A lack of inspiration results in a child settling for the least they need to do in order to get by and sets the course for a life of apathy.
Physical Attention– Practical things shouldn’t be overlooked. Exercise relieves stress, gets the “wiggles” out, and enables the mind to focus. Chemicals are released that give an overall feeling of well-being and conﬁdence that beneﬁt them as they address the other things in their life. Proper nutrition, hydration, and fresh air also keep minds sharp and refreshed and moods positive.
Community– Looking at the Trinity, we can see that God, by His very nature, embodies community. We were created, young and old alike, to live interdependently. It isn’t just connection, but a unity of intimate family relationships, lived out in a way that gives each other honor and preference. Our children will thrive in an environment with people sharing those qualities with and for one another.
When we provide a healthy balance of meeting all of these needs in our children it produces fruit that is rich and full. Even the things we are most diligent to work on can be shriveled and dead if the child is suffering from a lack in another area or areas. It is in the integration of all of these things that we will see our children ﬂourish in every capacity. They were created to be equipped, passionate, unique, and relational. We can’t enable them to live like this by addressing particular issues as a means to an end, only by nurturing the whole child, as a person.
© 2009 by Tara Schorr