Thursday, October 10, 2013

Thoughts on Relationship

I have slowly been working my way through Charlotte Mason's Home Education series and have had a great deal to think about. I will probably end up with quite a lot of posts relating to her and her writings because I find them so inspiring. Consider this:

"Have we considered that in the Divine estimate the child's estate is higher than ours; that it is ours to "become as little children," rather than theirs to become as grown men and women..."

 and then this from Volume 3, chapter 9:
"the culmination of all education (which may at the same time be reached by a little child) is that personal knowledge of and intimacy with God in which our being finds its fullest perfection."

and finally this from a different book I read called Conversations with Children by Sister Magdalen: "Holiness is not a question of duty or virtue as much as an opportunity to relate to God and other humans in joyfully-given and humble love."

"Our respect for [the child's] personhood means we cannot be reluctant as teachers" but "[e]very teacher is well advised to ask himself sometimes as he thinks about his role: 'Who am I to teach these precious souls?'".

All these readings together have been enlightening for me. Children are still so close to that innocent state in which they love others unconditionally and totally. This love is an image, if you will, of the love of the Holy Trinity which Jesus manifested to us through His death on the Cross. It is our duty as parents and educators to set up our children's education so that it establishes and fosters that relationship between self and God and then self and others in order for them (and us) to become closer to God throughout their lives. This should be the true purpose of education.

If we respect the child's personhood then we must recognize that we are not to get in the way of their relationship with God. It falls in line with Miss Mason's concept of offering children a "feast of ideas" (and here she's speaking of ideas that are True, Good and Beautiful presented in a careful, deliberate way, not just any random ideas that are encountered accidentally) but not being able to choose which ideas they will interact with and which they will reject. We must do our best to help them establish those relationships for their own sakes and so we must be careful that we do not put ourselves in the way of that. All children have the capacity for these relationships, but all to often we adults get in the way precisely because we have not taken the time to carefully consider these things.

 Really we ought to be focusing on helping our children to develop fully the ability to do what we were created to do - which is to worship our Creator. And what does it mean to worship other than to be in relation with God? [Fr. Thomas Hopko has an excellent podcast series on worship at Ancient Faith Radio.]

Charlotte Mason also says,
“…a liberal education is, like justice, religion, liberty, fresh air, the natural birthright of every child.” Vol 6, p 235

 I would go so far as to say that not only is it our birthright, but that we were created for a liberal education in the sense that we can glorify God in all that we do. Our whole lives can become a prayer if we allow ourselves to worship as we were made to do. That is clear in this quote about the Holy Spirit being present everywhere where she says:

“Many Christian people rise a little higher; they conceive that even grammar and arithmetic may in some not very clear way be used for God; but the great recognition, that God the Holy Spirit is Himself, personally, the Imparter of knowledge, the Instructor of youth, the Inspirer of genius, is a conception so far lost to us that we should think it distinctly irreverent to conceive of the divine teaching as co-operating with ours in a child's arithmetic lesson, for example. But the Florentine mind of the Middle Ages went further than this: it believed, not only that the seven Liberal Arts were fully under the direct outpouring of the Holy Ghost, but that every fruitful idea, every original conception, whether in Euclid, or grammar, or music, was a direct inspiration from the Holy Spirit, without any thought at all as to whether the person so inspired named himself by the name of God, or recognised whence his inspiration came. All of these seven figures are those of persons whom we should roughly class as pagans, and whom we might be lightly inclined to consider as outside the pale of the divine inspiration.” Vol 2, pp 270-1

We have a beautiful prayer in the Orthodox church that speaks to this:

"O Heavenly King, O Comforter, the Spirit of Truth;

Who art everywhere present and fillest all things;
Treasury of good things and giver of life;
Come and dwell in us, and cleanse us from every impurity,
And save our souls, O Gracious Lord."

If we truly believe that God is "everywhere present and fillest all things" then we don't have to (and ought not) compartmentalize religion/faith and separate it from "regular" school subjects, but allow faith to breathe into every thing that we do. If we do that, and wish to do our best to bring glory to God in all areas of our lives then it seems to me that it naturally follows that we will have a wide and varied curriculum because we will be inspired to love all the things that are true, good and beautiful, because they point to the True, Good and Beautiful Person of Jesus Christ. 


  1. This post is very good in that we as Orthodox Christians view the world as sacramental, including education...everywhere present. Have you read For The Life Of The World by Schmemann? It is amazing how we get to keep things "together" not separate as homeschoolers. Great post!

    1. I feel like I did read For the Life of the World ages ago, but I can't remember it at all, so even if I did actually read it, it's time to do so again! I may even have a copy, I'll have to check....

  2. Lisa, good post. I listened to a podcast the other day called isermon by Fr. Ted (Something) and he said that he hates the statement "children are the future" because it means that they are not important NOW and this is what we are all about as Christians, the present moment. I think that aligns with what you said about children being closer to God, in a sense, than we are. We must give ourselves to "all" relationships (perhaps even more to those with children) as fully as we can. Fr. Ted said also that he believes we should not "dumb down" for children because "they don't understand". We need to talk to them like anyone else. I am not quite sure I agree totally, but I do in some aspects. Just some added thoughts. Thanks for sharing. -Will


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