Nature of a Child – Charlotte Mason

I am a bit overdue for sharing a few thoughts from my reading of A Philosophy of Education. Chapter Three was The Good and Evil Nature of a Child. The chapter itself is broken down into five sections. So much good food for thought throughout.

I suppose this is why it has taken me so long to pull together what I wanted to share in this post. And in reality, I am not sure I can even adequately paraphrase, sum up, or expound on Miss Mason’s thoughts. Perhaps her thoughts will have to speak for themselves.

“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 towards evil, and also with a curious intuitive knowledge as to which is good and which is evil.” p46

I will say that anyone who deals with the education of a child..in any way teaches a child..I think this chapter is worth reading. To say that this text would only benefit a homeschool parent is an error indeed.

“There is a common notion that it is our inalienable right not only to say what we please but to think as we please, that is, we believe that while the body is subject to physical laws, while the affections, love and justice, are subject to moral laws, the mind is a chartered libertine. Probably this notion has much to do with our neglect of the intellect.” P49

It is easy to read the title of this chapter and set our minds that we will be reading about how bad some children are and how good others are. But that is really missing the whole point of this chapter. We all have the capacity to do good and no doubt we have the capacity to do evil. Which aspect of the nature of the child do we want to feed? What do we want to encourage in growth?

“As for literature – to introduce children to literature is to instal them in a very rich and glorious kingdom, to bring a continual holiday to their doors, to lay before them a feast exquisitely served. But they must learn to know literature by being familiar with it from the very first. A child’s intercourse must always be with good books, the best that we can find.” p 57

When we set before the child a vast array of truth, beauty, and goodness…when they read great and beautiful literature, when they see the beauty of creation, when they see purpose in the numbers…it feeds that good nature in the child. They recognize it and develop an appetite for it that must be fed.

“The divine curiousity which should have been an equipment for life hardly survives early childhood” p57

”The love of knowledge is sufficient.” p57

There is an almost comedic occurrence here. I am typing, deleting, re-typing, deleting, rephrasing. Perhaps I will just end it with Miss Mason.

“Children are not to be fed morally like young pigeons with predigested food. They must pick and eat for themselves and they do so from the conduct of others which they hear of or perceive. But they want a great quantity of the sort of food whose issue is conduct, and that is why poetry, history, romance, geography, travel, biography, science and sums must all be pressed into service. No one can tell what particular morsel a child will select for his sustenance. p59

If you have not read any of Charlotte Mason’s works, I highly recommend that you do. Whether you agree fully with her philosophy or not, their is so much value and truth in this chapter.

Are you currently reading any of Miss Mason’s volumes? Which one? What have you found thought provoking or intriguing? Interesting?

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