Once upon a time, a young mother and father began to search for a kindergarten for their darling first born, a son. This son had just turned five years of age, and, as the culture of the day declared, was to begin his formal education in three months. Fruitless and frustrating was the search, and the young parents determined that their son was young enough to stay home one more year. Happy was the child, for he knew nothing of the need for school, and life continued as he had always known it.
But the mother gave deep thought and prayer to the idea of school and began to teach her little son, always in the form of games and play, the skills he would need to build a strong foundation for his academic career. They had such delightful days, full of wonder and very active, that the parents began to entertain the idea of continuing their son’s formal education at home. A bit frightened at the awesomeness of the responsibility, the mother began to search for the tools, the resources she would need to accomplish such a task.
A small book was discovered at a local bookstore, and the mother quickly made her purchase and hurried home to absorb the knowledge it contained. The name of the book? For the Children’s Sake by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay. Mrs. Macaulay, as was known by the mother, was the daughter of Dr. Francis and Edith Schaeffer. The Schaeffers had written many books, and through those writings had mentored the young parents of whom I speak. So it seemed natural to select a book written by their daughter.
Her Spirit Was Stirred
As she read, the spirit of the mother was stirred within her, and she knew this little book contained the guidance they needed. But where could she find the knowledge to help her apply this philosophy of education about which she was learning? The works of Charlotte Mason, of whom the book referred, were no longer in print.
“I’ll do the best I can with the knowledge I have learned,” the mother determined. And she and her first-born son, as well as his little sister, spent many happy days playing in the sun, discovering God’s creation, and reading beautiful books together.
The time came, all too soon, for the mother to teach her young son how to read. Having never taught a child to read, she timidly chose a program highly recommended by a friend. This program demanded much study and preparation by the mother, and the golden hours of reading and of playing and discovering in nature were shortened accordingly. But the child learned to read and a whole new world was opened to him.
Feeling Unsure of Her Way
As the child grew and more academic work was required, the mother, feeling unsure of her way, began to follow the advice of her friends, straying from the philosophy that had so stirred her heart those few years before. Years progressed, and the young family was blessed with more babies. The mother, conscientious about her work, became overwhelmed with the responsibilities of home, family, and the education of her children. Her efforts to provide curriculum adequate for her children’s needs became insufficient in her eyes, but she had neither the time nor the energy to study and research as she desired. She purchased curriculum that made important decisions for her. And all the family struggled. The love of learning, the life in her children’s education, faded, and she felt that she had failed. Sadly, she endeavored to nurture any tiny flicker of life that might dimly appear during her children’s lessons. Living books were her only source of comfort in their school work, and her children still delighted in listening as she read to them.
Her first-born son, she now had five children, became more and more frustrated in his lessons and his behavior revealed evidence that he struggled in other areas as well. He would no longer allow his mother to teach him. His unhappiness infected the other children so that the weary and physically weakened mother mourned the atmosphere of her home, but had no strength to initiate the changes that were necessary to restore her family to life and love of learning. Finally, the father, out of his love and grave concern for his wife’s health, enrolled their son in a government-run high school. Believing her failure complete, the mother cried herself to sleep every night for months, her sorrow too deep for consolation.
A Glimmer of Hope
A glimmer of hope finally emerged, however, when she found that the works of Charlotte Mason had been reprinted. She purchased a set of the six volumes and slowly began to study, knowing she would find the answers for which she searched. The study was laborious as she had not read fine literature extensively; the language and sentence structure were demanding. But the mother persevered as she sensed she was blazing a trail out of her grief, her insufficiency, and her ignorance. A kind and dear friend offered to read with her, and together they struggled through the rich and profound ideas of Charlotte Mason’s work.
Change was very slow, and the younger three children gained the major benefit of it. Efforts to encourage the second child in the methods she was learning sparked a little interest, but the transition was difficult to effect. Seeing that school life was nearly over for her older two children, and her opportunity to develop in them a love of learning was, in essence, nearly gone, the mother turned the full force of her attention to developing that love in her three younger children. She did not possess the energy or the strength she had before, but she was determined. Crying out to God for His aid, one by one she applied the methods she was learning.
Reading Miss Mason’s works was becoming easier for the mother as she grew in understanding and in knowledge. Meetings were established so others could join in the study and, although she still struggled in applying all she was learning, the mother found she could encourage others along their way.
As the Mother Reflects
Many years of study and discussion have passed. Hours and hours of study reaped wisdom and knowledge although the mother knows there is much more to learn. The mother’s first-born, her son who refused to be taught, has overcome through many struggles and is now a fine husband and loving father, and the relationship with his parents is restored and strong. Now all her children are adults, and the mother is enjoying each new season as it comes, sons-in-law, daughters-in-law, and grandchildren.
As the mother reflects upon the last thirty years, she smiles realizing that though the days were long, truly the years were short. Far from perfect was the training and education she provided for her children. But faithful and true was the God upon whom she relied, redeeming the time, restoring the relationships. The mother recognizes that the education of her children was not only for the children’s sake. God, through the works of Charlotte Mason, taught her a love for learning which will continue through the rest of her life.