One of the things that is so refreshing about Charlotte Mason’s writings is her biblical literacy. If she could write a six-volume poetic work of the Gospels, The Savior of the World, she must have spent much of her life meditating on them. She uses so many allusions and phrases from the Scriptures in her six-volume Original Homeschooling Series that oftentimes I miss them, maybe picking them up during my second or third reading. While some writers of curricula explicitly state the scriptures they use as bases for their materials and methods, in Charlotte Mason’s case the truths of Scripture are woven inextricably throughout her writings.
A favorite quote of many is found in the section titled “Our Aim in Education is to Give a Full Life”:
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? (Vol. 3 p. 171)
She mentions this “large room” idea in other places. Vol. 3 p. 231 reads:
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.
The “large room” concept is drawn from Psalm 31:8: “And hast not shut me up into the hand of the enemy: thou hast set my feet in a large room.” David found protection and safety from the wrath of Saul through God’s protection. The largeness signifies comfort and safety as opposed to straightness which represents sorrow and peril.
So, in thinking 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 the third use of the large room phraseology 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”. Here, 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. (Vol. 2 p. 275)
Once a person understands his relationship to God, there is comfort, safety and freedom. Oh, that all children could have the opportunity, the freedom and the joy of setting their feet in that large room – that place where both their heads and hearts are directed towards God and they can explore their world as it truly is.
Nancy Kelly is a homeschool mother of 6 and lives in Windom, MN. She coordinates the Fifth Annual Living Education Retreat, a small conference that brings the ideas of Charlotte Mason to educators in southwest Minnesota.
© Nancy Kelly 2010