Thought breeds thought; children familiar with great thoughts take as naturally to thinking for themselves as the well-nourished body takes to growing; and we must bear in mind that growth, physical, intellectual, moral, spiritual, is the sole end of education.
I’m sure I’ve heard and observed murmurings of great connected conversation from my children over the 9 years we’ve been home educating, but my third born, Micah, has really brought home to me the beauty of what Charlotte Mason called the ‘science of relations’. We offer our children a feast of lives and love and literature and they make the connections and communicate them through their voice and life.
This is a beautiful thing to experience.
Earlier on this year we were taking a family walk across Hartshill Hayes Country Park in Nuneaton, the view from the top is idyllic; the rolling hills of the English countryside dotted with farmhouses and cows took our breath away. Micah stood quietly for a while soaking up the view and then confidently declared “Mummy, look – it’s like a Constable painting”. We’d been studying the English painter for over 6 weeks using the picture study portfolio from SCM, taking a couple of minutes every week to silently soak in and stare at brush strokes and themes; the children then one by one narrate what they see, how they feel and what they think about this week’s particular painting. I then hang the print somewhere around our dining room for them to glance at throughout our day, for it to linger in their minds and touch their hearts.
And it’s these books and sounds and collections and conversations around the table; the repeated rhythm of an educated family life that make a lasting imprint on our children’s minds. We stay well away from dumbing down the capacity of thought and understanding that our children have; great art, literature and lives create ‘higher thought’ – a rolling hill dotted with a farmhouse and cows becomes a live Constable painting, how rewarding is that?
I’ve learnt to listen to the chatting whilst walking, gathered around the table or driving along in the car; my 13-year-old stopping the chat to point everyone to look at the glorious early evening moon, or whilst sharing about Wordsworth’s life and poetry my 5-year-old remembers that “Beatrix Potter also lived in the Lake District”, my eldest son relating our reading of history to our old testament bible reading or one of my favourites; how the 1805 nursery rhyme ‘baby bunting’ referred to in Janet and Allan Ahlberg’s ‘Each peach pear plum’ reminded my youngest son of the story of Moses as a baby caught in the reeds.
Thought really does breed thought, and just as we trust the process of nutrition in our children’s bodies, whether we sneak a handful of spinach into a blended pasta sauce or hide courgette (zucchini) in their breakfast muffins (or maybe they take it gladly), we must trust the process of feeding our children the wonderful feast of literature and lives that Miss Mason suggests; it will produce in them not only incredible ideas and great thought but also “developing capacity, character, countenance, initiative and a sense of responsibility” (C M Mason, vol 6)
I collect these connections like treasure; I’ve learnt to trust the process of observation and narration and see the beauty whilst on this journey of experience in these educating days. These off-hand comments from my children come like wild flowers picked by a grubby toddler; thrust into my hand and heart as the most natural thing in the world, but for me – I smile and place another gem in the trove knowing their minds and lives are richer and fuller.
“…how full is the life he has before him?”