Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Charlotte Mason's thoughts on introducing children to God

"There is one thing the mother will allow herself to do as interpreter between Nature and the child, but that not oftener than once a week or once a month, and with look and gesture of delight rather than with flow of improving words--she will point out to the child some touch of especial loveliness in colouring or grouping in the landscape or in the heavens. One other thing she will do, but very rarely, and with tender filial reverence (most likely she will say her prayers, and speak out of her prayer, for to touch on this ground with hard words is to wound the soul of the child): she will point to some lovely flower or gracious tree, not only as a beautiful work, but a beautiful thought of God, in which we may believe He finds continual pleasure, and which He is pleased to see his human children rejoice in. Such a seed of sympathy with the Divine thought sown in the heart of the child is worth many of the sermons the man may listen to hereafter, much of the 'divinity' he may read" (Vol. 1, pp. 79, 80).

"The parent must not make blundering, witless efforts: as this is the highest duty imposed upon him, it is also the most delicate; and he will have infinite need of faith and prayer, tact and discretion, humility, gentleness, love, and sound judgment, if he would present his child to God, and the thought of God to the soul of his child." (Vol. 1, p. 345).

From Laying Down the Rails: A Charlotte Mason Handbook

I found myself hesitant, intimidated, almost reluctant to introduce the idea of God to my children for the first time. I want nothing higher for them than that they learn to love and follow Him, and Deuteronomy 11:18-19 urges God's people to teach their children His words as part of daily life. But I was reluctant to mar their understanding of God by doing it poorly. I didn't want to steal from them the pleasure and profound life change that results from discovering truth on their own. When something is too familiar, the brain shuts off, and you build up a sort of immunity to it; I experienced those things myself growing up, and I wished there was a way to keep it from happening. I don't suppose there's a way to prevent boredom with Sunday school Bible stories retold and retold, or to keep the eyes from skimming the ending to stories that conclude with a moral and a verse. But I think Charlotte Mason has the right idea by prescribing an approach of delicacy and tact, setting an example and planting ideas sparingly, without a lot of preaching and moralizing. It leaves room for a relationship and understanding of God to develop naturally, to maintain a sense of intrigue and mystery. I do not worry that reading the story of David and Goliath to them from I Samuel 17 will lead to boredom. They request it again and again and again. His Word isn't boring. I think the real danger lies in preaching to them and moralizing with "flow of improving words", watering down the stories and drawing trite "lessons" from them.

Now for some self-examination, because I know, even before sitting down and trying to recall specific examples, that I'm guilty of losing their interest by talking too much.

1 comment:

Autumn said...

Thanks for sharing those thought-provoking quotes. It would be easy, perhaps easier, to inundate our children with talk of God, but you're right - to over emphasize His work somehow cheapens and dulls His majesty. There is a lot to be said for allowing them to experience God for themselves and discover His awesomeness on a personal level. Good word. I can tell I'm going to need to read more from Charlotte Mason.