A Charlotte Mason Education, Digitization, Philosophy
Comments 4

Our Annual “Sanctification” by Laurie Bestvater

SanctifyEncarta says:

transitive verb


1.  make something holy:  to give something holy status

2.  free somebody from sin:  to perform a ritual or other act intended to free somebody from sin

3.  bless something through religious vow:  to give a religious blessing to something such as a marriage, usually through an oath or vow – sanctified the marriage

4.  officially approve something:  to give social moral, or official approval to something – rules sanctified by tradition

5. make something a route to holiness:  to make something a means of achieving holiness or a source of grace

[14th century. < Old French saintifier, later sanctifier< Latin sanctus “holy” (see saint)]

If we stick to definitions three through five, would it be too much to say the annual ChildLightUSA conference is a yearly sanctification?  We positively don’t give Charlotte Mason or her method holy status.  Just to be clear:  we understand that Mason had “feet of clay.”  We do not worship her (though some have joked about showing up in black crinolines some year for the sheer devilment of it!).  And we are certainly not performing in those four precious days together any ritual or act intended to free a body from sin. (Though some might contend they “saw the light.”)

That sanctifying process . . . .

Yet surely some of us do come away having made vows to the God Mason saw as the Source of all learning, clear intentions to go about our teaching in new ways.  Without a doubt, many of us come away “giving social, moral and official approval” to the educational revolution she envisioned “for the children’s sake.”  Many of us do feel that the pedagogy she unfolded could be called a means of (common) grace.  Clearly this annual encournter changes us. Listen to some of the comments that make their way to the organizers:

“. . .It will be challenging to shed the conventions of learning that have been embedded from my own learning experience, especially with regards to restraining myself in order to allow the students to come to discover the answers on their own, but I look forward to the challenge and am proud to be a part of the journey.”

“The conference in North Carolina was inspirational!  Not only was it a great learning opportunity, but it was a special time to meet “stranger-friends,” as one of our . . . members put it.  We were able to strike up conversations, discuss ideas, and encourage one another, even though we’d just met.  The idea of a “Relational Education” is tangible when you experience the like-mindedness of so many other people who are using these educational philosophies.  It is a wonderful reminder that it isn’t just us here in . . . . .it is thousands of people worldwide who’ve found this enduring path.”

“I am without adequate words to tell how wonderful it ALL was.  I was so uncertain about diving into CM with my two teens, one in middle school and one in high school, because there is so much we have missed already.  And, I just simply did not know how to get started in the middle of things and could not see how to construct a framework for our home education to be able to transition into the CM atmosphere. . . .  Though she and her sister have always been readers and willing learners, they are now so excited about the upcoming school year in a way they never have been before.  They are now reading book six together.  I am beside myself with joy and anticipation for what learning adventures lie in store for us now that CM has helped us remove our presupposed limitations on learning.”


Person One:  Screeeeeeech!

Gladys Schaefer talking to Marlene Power - Librarian at Redeemer University College and the person who has so magnificently organised the CM Digital Collection.

Person Two:  What was that????

Person One:  The sound of my paradigm shifting!!

“I desperately needed to attend the conference, both to learn and to get away . . . I must stop TELLING them things.  I need to let them make the connections — even if they are not the connections I would like them to make.  . . .I was reminded that children are person and deserve respect.  I was not raised with respect, and I struggle with this. . . .  It seems to me that there is an art to appearing to do very little, while actually bearing the awesome responsibility to present the feast, making sure that the children have the very best available to them.  You helped me clarify the thoughts that were swirling around in my head.”

And isn’t this as it should be if we are, all of us, teachers included, being changed and built up from within?  Each year people travel, some from rather long distances, to be part of this community that puts itself, to quote my friend Melanie, “in the way of these gifts.”  Aren’t we hoping to become more like God designed us to be, more His image bearers, more fully human?  Perhaps at first we are seeking some crumb or morsel or technique to apply to our teaching; but aren’t we surprised over and over again to find that all we have to offer in the classroom is ourselves, and that our best practice is learning that “fine art of standing aside.”  Some might call that Grace full. Did you know that the hymn [1] of the P.N.E.U. teachers “For the Children’s Sake” has the little subtitle “For their sakes I sanctify myself . . . .” from Jesus’ prayer for his disciples in the book of John? Matthew Henry says about this passage, “17:17-19 Christ next prayed for the disciples, that they might not only be kept from evil, but made good.  It is the prayer of Jesus for all that are his that they may be made holy.  Even disciples must pray for sanctifying grace.  The means of giving this grace is, through thy truth, thy word is truth.  Sanctify them, set them apart for thyself and thy service.  Own them in the office; let thy hand go with them.  Jesus entirely devoted himself to his undertaking, and all the parts of it, especially the offering up himself without spot unto God, by the eternal Spirit.  The real holiness of all true Christians is the fruit of Christ’s death, by which the gift of the Holy Ghost was purchased; he gave himself for his church, to sanctify it.  If our views have not this effect on us, they are not Divine truth, or we do not receive them by a living and working faith, but as mere notions.” Is that because Mason knew the only real change must be His?

For the Children’s Sake

For their sakes I sanctify myself

Ye who for the truth contending,

Love the path which Jesus trod,

Help the children who are wending

Jennifer Gagnon's High School Immersion Group

That same way to worship God.

Wake! Awake!

Keep the road for the children’s sake!

On through wilderness or garden,

Blackest night or fairest day,

Casting out the cares which harden,

Tread the path, prepare the way,

Courage Take!

Faithful be! For the children’s sake.

Cultivate the desert places,

Plough and sow the fallow ground,

Plant with joy the barren spaces

Which in every realm abound.

Wake! Awake!

Labour now! For the children’s sake.

Seek not ease, and love not leisure,

Give to Caesar all his due,

Lay not up the earthly treasure,

Other gold they need of you.

All forsake!

Follow Christ–For the Children’s sake.

You who see the acorn lying

Humbly in the cool spring earth

Learn to share its patient dying,

Learn to wait its glorious birth.

Sleep–to wake!

Lose yourselves for the children’s sake.

In the precious months of training,

In the patient years of toil,

When at last you are attaining

Mastery of air and soil, God’s hand take,

Hold it fast, for the children’s sake.

Living the philosophy - Friday Night at the Greenway

Likely I have stretched the reasonable limits of this word sanctification.  Perhaps you will grant me poetic license.  With this hymn before me and the ongoing life of this nourishing community, my vision is purified:   I see (again) that the change that needs to happen in education begins with me, and proceeds from the hand of God, the Originator of “relational.”  I am put in mind of that ancient family, “going up to Jerusalem.”  Wouldn’t you like to hear Janet Pressley Barr leading us in a version of this . . .what do you say, next year at . . . Boiling Springs?  (“Hope IS a thing with feathers!”) ______________________

[1] So far we know little about the hymn.  John Thorley thinks it may have been written by Charlotte herself.  He feels it was probably not often used as it seems to come up in other P.N.E.U. documents seldom.  You can see a copy with the music on the home page of the Charlotte Mason Digital Collection at Redeemer University College here:  http://www.redeemer.ca/charlotte-mason.

© 2011 Laurie Bestvater


Carroll Smith has spoken on various topics related to Charlotte Mason. Currently he teaches at Gardner-Webb University and enjoys working with children, teachers, college students, and Charlotte Mason Institute. He was a teacher and a principal for 21 years before coming to Gardner-Webb University where he has been for six years. Having grown up in eastern North Carolina, he attended East Carolina University for his undergraduate degree and his master's in school administration. He completed his terminal degree and wrote his dissertation on Charlotte Mason at Virginia Tech. Carroll enjoys reading, gardening, and discussing ideas with friends. He and his wife, Andra, and their two young adult college-age children, Corban and Anna, enjoy living, working and playing in North Carolina.


  1. If we truly believe in our hearts the Great Recognition, that the Holy Spirit is guiding us and the Holy Spirit is speaking to the souls, hearts, and minds of our children, then it ought to be easier to stand aside and let children make those connections. I need to read your post to remind myself of the importance of watching quietly to see what unfolds.

    During the summer season of a slower pace I do see it. Pamela asked me out of the blue how people in B.C. times used the toilet, so one of her friends who has been to Ephesus posted a picture! She pointed out to me that we should listen to Vivaldi’s Summer and that inspired me to make Van Gogh’s “Patch of Grass” my desktop wallpaper. She got us talking about summer in Spanish while we were shopping today.

    • laurie says

      It ought to be easier, but behaviourism and practical atheism often capture me. I am so glad for these kinds of conversations in a community that draws me “farther up and further in.”

  2. I’m very sorry to have missed the opportunity to be “sanctified” this year. Thanks for your words and the photos that allow me to join in in a small way.

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