When children have begun regular lessons (that is, as soon as they are six), this sort of study of pictures should not be left to chance, but they should take one artist after another, term by term, and study quietly some half-dozen reproductions of his work in the course of the term …We cannot measure the influence that one or another artist has upon the child’s sense of beauty, upon his power of seeing, as in a picture, the common sights of life; he is enriched more than we know in having really looked at even a single picture (Mason, 1955, p. 305).
As I have struggled over the past year with feeling overwhelmed and worrying that I’m not “doing”enough with my eight children at home, this spring a visit with my married daughter really did encourage me that spreading a feast and letting the Holy Spirit do the work is where I need to rest. Who knows what book, painting, piece of music will be instrumental in making our children more fully alive? How could one person foresee that or plan for it? Only the Holy Spirit can do that; I just need to spread the feast. That’s what I really learned this year.
When I flew to visit my girl this spring I knew it had been a hard winter for her. She had been very happy as a new wife and actually loved everything about living in Minneapolis. As a big city it had so much to offer that she wasn’t used to growing up in the rural foothills of North Carolina. Minnesota had been just great. Except for the weather. The lack of sun and warmth had really gotten to her. And then, after a time, she really did miss us!! So while I was there, she took me to the art museum and led me to the Chinese art room. She told me how during some of her darkest, saddest days she would walk to the museum. Once there, she had an ancient Chinese statue, carved in wood, which she would sit in front of. After a while, she walked all around it and got to know every inch of the figure. She pointed out to me the faint sheen of paint on part of the body. Some old gold gilding. Then a piece that must have been broken off at some point in history. She conjectured what it must have looked like when it was new. You could tell she felt a sense of knowing and a type of ownership with it. She said she’d sit and just look at it, knowing every part of it and often not go anywhere else in the museum. And then she would feel better. It helped some part of her soul to just do that. I almost cried standing there with her but I wasn’t sure she’d understand what I was thinking. She was so excited to show me this statue, like a little girl again running in with a butterfly or wild flower.
I know if I had not used the CM method and begun a journey into a different lifestyle that my children’s experience with art would have been very limited. But instead, a love of art in all forms is part of who my daughter is now and some of my best memories of visiting her in Minnnesota are going to the art museum and slowly savoring it together, as two adults feeding our souls, not as teacher and student. And I’m so happy that in her sad times, she has in her the correct urge to feed herself with something that is life giving and expanding. I know there is a lot I didn’t do right or could have done better but the Holy Spirit used some of my meager offering to feed her personhood and I’m so grateful. And it showed me to just spread the feast, let the thing be the thing and get out of the way.
But the people themselves begin to understand and to clamour for an education which shall qualify their children for life rather than for earning a living. As a matter of fact, it is the man who has read and thought on many subjects who is, with the necessary training, the most capable whether in handling tools, drawing plans, or keeping books. The more of a person we succeed in making a child, the better will he both fulfil his own life and serve society (Mason, 1954, p. 3).
Mason, C.M. (1954) An essay towards a philosophy of education (Vol 6). London: J. M. Dent & Sons, Ltd.
Mason, C.M. (1955) Home Education: The Education and Training of Children Under Nine (Vol. 1). Oxford: The Scrivener Press, LTD
© 2013 by Cheri Struble