The fact seems to be that children are like ourselves, not because they have become so, but because they are born so; that is, with tendencies, dispositions, towards good and evil, and also with a curious intuitive knowledge as to which is good and evil. Here we have the work of education indicated. There are good and evil tendencies in body and mind, heart and soul; and the hope set before us is that we can foster the good so as to attenuate the evil; that is, on condition that we put education in her true place as the handmaid of Religion.
I found this quote in the book, For The Children's Sake (chapter three on Authority and Freedom), taken from Towards a Philosophy of Education (p. 46) which is volume 6 of the Charlotte Mason's homeschool series. I have not ventured so far as to read many pages of the Charlotte Mason 6 volume set yet. I found it very overwhelming at first (I bought it well over a year ago) but am now eager to begin again as soon as I am through with For The Children's Sake. I 'think' it's serving as a good prelude to Mason's own works.
I have reread the above quote over and over. It resonates with me. As the author, Susan Schaefer Macaulay, points out , "the first task of education is a moral one". I wholeheartedly agree. I can't possibly say I have educated my child if I ignore morals and the teaching of our faith and don't spend time to foster the good heart that my child was born with as well as attempting to weaken the tendency to do wrong. So while I strive to offer my child all that I can in the way of reading skills, math skills, knowledge of history and science and the other academic areas, my ultimate goal is to weave our Orthodox Christian faith in God along with good habits and morals into those lessons and all parts of our day.
We do not start our day without morning prayer and our bible story. It simply isn't done. I feel I failed my older kids on this current determination of mine. We often did our morning prayers as a family and occasionally did some bible reading, especially during Lent; however, too often we also skipped this important part of our day in our rush to an outside activity or the chaos of the morning. My priorities are set right now. Bible and prayer comes before any academics. If I get nothing else done in a day, it must be that.
Right after bible stories with my younger son, we go over our habits list. I printed out a list of habits that I want to currently instill in my son. While Charlotte Mason followers believe in working on one habit at a time, I realize there are smaller habits that must be worked on continually. So my list may be a little long, but it's the goals we are specifically targeting right now (my son is 5).
- Say “Excuse Me, Please” when interrupting
- Say “Please” and “Thank you” when asking for something
- Do morning and evening chores daily
- Always Hang Up Your Coat
- Always put shoes in closet basket
- Always put dirty clothes in laundry in hamper;
- Pay Attention - Always listen and only ask ‘what’ one time IF NEEDED. (Adults avoid repeated directions; say “Alexander, pay attention to what I’m about to say…)
- Place tissues, wrappers and other trash in the garbage.
- Use a fork or spoon when eating a meal.
- Use a napkin to wipe your face and hands when eating.
- Always be honest.
- Be kind to others and our pets.
- Always do the right thing even when you don’t want to do it.
As you can see, some of them are pretty basic while some are a bit vague. Where is God in this? Good Manners. Kindness. Honesty. Always Do the Right Thing. These are things taught in the bible. When we talk about them, we talk about bible stories and what God wants for us. We were made in His image. What does that mean? It means we are to be loving, kind, honest people who always strive to do the right thing.
Will my son always do the right thing?
My son is a person. Just like me. And we are all sinners.
So what do I do when he falters? Shall I chastise? Shall I send him off to a corner? Tell him he's lazy or bad?
Children can be helped to acquire habits of Godly beings. The habits of being respectful, being honest, doing the right thing? They need to be modeled. So when he lapses in his own display of these moral habits, I must use the habits I'm tryining to instill in my approach of correction. I must be kind. I must respect and care for my child in a way that not only teaches, but fosters the love I want him to display.
It's not always easy. I sometimes falter too. And then what?
Always, Always, ALWAYS apologize to your kids when you have wronged them or fallen short of the habits you are trying to instill in them. What good is it to tell someone what they must do if you do not display that habit yourself or to arrogant to admit your failures?
And now to my main point of this post: Foster the Good!
When I notice my son has done something in accordance to these habits- I bestow praise. I take notice. "You put away the silverware so nicely today- it makes it so much easier for us to find a spoon when we need one." "You were so kind to your friend at church today. I'm sure you made him very happy." "I like the way you said your prayers without jumping around today." "THANK YOU for using good manners!"
We help a child the most when we notice and focus on their strong points and demonstrate a real liking and loving of his personhood. My son has an avid imagination. And he loves, loves, LOVES to draw and write! There are signs and drawings posted all over our house. That's one way I try to demonstrate a liking of his personhood. I can do this by listening avidly to his wild crazy stories and by respecting his love of making all these signs and drawings. As much as the clutter on the walls and fridge drive me insane (I'd much rather the fridge be bare!), I realize this allowance is honoring him for who he is. Eventually, they do get taken down, but there are ALWAYS MORE.
Appreciation of the person they are helps them to learn self-respect and self-confidence. We must love the person they ARE. The person they ARE was made in the image of God. There IS good there and it must be recognized and tended to. If I focus on all the times (and there's been plenty) he's drawn on the table, floor or wall, then I am not focusing on the good. Rather I focus on the times he's done right and drawn and written marvelous things on paper- paper I must provide often so that he's not tempted to draw in the wrong places!
My son loves to be read to and he loves to play games and he loves to be a part of what I am doing and he LOVES me to be a part of what he's doing. So I need to make sure these things are happening. I need to make sure he is read to often (rarely a problem) and I need to make sure I sit down and play a game with him from time to time (a bigger problem I need to tackle) and I need to figure out more ways to let him be a part of helping me out through the day so that it doesn't kill my nerves. 😉 And I need to take a few minutes here and there to watch him and join him in his free play time. All of these things are ways to show him love, respect and opportunities to practice the habits and moral attributes we are trying to teach.
As Susan Shaeffer Macaulay states, "...everything seems to come back to love and moral framework". When we demonstrate the morals and values we want our children to have, when we treat them as persons and love them for who they ARE, they will shine. Macaulay contends, and I agree, the curriculum is all that goes on outside of school hours as well as what we do in school. It is the balance that counts as education takes place during all of the waking hours and in all of our waking actions- not just the math lesson, science lesson and bible reading.
We absolutely must foster the good in our child every day in every possible moment.
What are some ways you foster the good in your child?