If you been reading a little about Charlotte Mason you have probably heard of her 20 principles of education. Children are born persons. That is her first principle.
Think about it for a minute, what does that really mean to you? Of course children are people, they are just like adults who think and have opinions, they are just little.
But do we really treat them as if they are a person, as a person who deserves to be treated respectfully and as a person who we really listen to intently. Or do we talk down to children because we don’t think that they have the mental capacity to understand what we’re saying much less have an opinion on.
Do we look them in the eyes and truly hear what they have to say? I know there are days when this principle is a great reminder that my children are not only born persons but that they have their own life lessons, experiences, and thoughts that form who they are.
It doesn’t matter that I know the moral of the story is, for example, to treat others the way they want to be treated. They have to make that connection for themselves. When my daughter was five (before I found CM) we were reading books from the Five in a Row curriculum. These are wonderful books but the approach was all wrong.
We would read the book and I would tell her what to think about it. I would lead her to know what I wanted her to know. And, I felt resistance from my daughter, not only because she wasn’t exactly ready for formal lessons but because I was feeding her the knowledge.
She didn’t want me to tell her what to think. What was cool was when we were out and about and she would see something that reminded her of the story, of which I was oblivious and would never have thought about, and she would “connect the dots.” I was witnessing these “aha” moments when, well, when I got out of her way.
I love what Brandy Vencel says in her post about Charlotte Mason’s first principle: “As a homeschool mom, this takes a huge burden off of my back. Instead of thinking that the child’s learning is all my responsibility, I can know that it is the child’s responsibility. I can know that, in fact, no teacher has ever forced a child to learn something.”
I am here to lay before my children the opportunities, or ideas from which they gain knowledge and understanding. I am here to present ideas in a variety of subjects. I’m not here to push them to learn xyz or to form or mold them into the person I think they ought to be.
I am to accept my children for who they are and to see them for the wonderful and amazing human beings that they are: the way God accepts me and sees me for the person I am. I am wonderfully and fearfully made. I am loved just the way I am. Just as you are loved just the way you were made. We should accept our children just they way they were wonderfully and fearfully made.
You know, I think that the difference between the thought that children are born persons and the thought that they start as a blank slate for us to fill up, when it comes to education, is that in the latter a child is seen as something you do education to. Here you go Sally, take this information and now you know it just as I gave it to you. The former is someone who is made to form relationships and connections to the ideas and experiences in their life and that is what makes up their knowledge about things, and people, and places.
“Our business is to give children the great ideas of life, of religion, history, science; but it is the ideas we must give, clothed upon with facts as they occur, and must leave the child to deal with these as he chooses.” -Charlotte Mason [Vol. 6 pg. 40]
When you think about what Charlotte Mason said that children are born persons it makes you think differently about how you see your children. And the way you see your kids affects the way that you educate your kids.
Instead of filling him up with knowledge because you see him as some type of vessel that needs filling, you’re simply presenting an idea, and letting him “deal with [the idea] as he chooses.” He will become curious and begin to make connections and relate one thing to another. He will want to know more, so he will ask questions, and he will read more on the subject. It will be his will to learn.
“This is how any child’s mind works, and our concern is not to starve these fertile intelligences. They must have food in great abundance and variety. They know what to do with it well enough and we need not disturb ourselves to provide for the separate exercise of each so-called ‘faculty’; for the mind is one and works all together; reason, imagination, reflection, judgment, what you please, are like ‘all hands’ summoned by the ‘heave-ho!’ of the boatswain.” -Charlotte Mason [Vol. 6 pg. 41]
And that my friend, is called self-education. Isn’t is a beautiful thing for our children to learn that they are capable of knowing whatever they set out to know?!