Book Review: For the Children’s Sake (a good gift idea for teachers!)

For the Children’s Sake presents a picture of a Charlotte Mason-inspired education that sounds like many Christian schools.

Charlotte Mason gives us a plan that is beautifully balanced. The children are given tasks, so that they learn basic skills. Their minds are nourished. They are put in touch with the whole of reality. They have structure and yet they are given time, half the day, for freedom. This was up to the age of 13 years [ in the Charlotte Mason style school] without homework. They can develop their own affinities. They can be, imagine, play, ponder, create, read. They can move, be noisy, quiet, social or alone…This growing time produces integrated people who understand their own limitations, desires, interests, gifts, and tendencies. One person will end up in the garage tinkering with an old motor; another will be playing with toddlers; another will draw pictures and tell stories while yet another thinks of ways to earn money. Children are respected and accepted as valid persons, but they are not left on the island of their own limited resources. Through careful choice they are nourished with the best we human beings have to offer. Mind is introduced to mind. Child to nature and activities. Pray that our children may be so educated in a total life that they are enabled to have clear, realistic, and true thinking and action, based on thought and principle.

Really, the whole book is full of quotable passages to inspire your favorite teacher:

We don’t have to chart exactly what a child has ‘learned’ from any of these sources to make it worthwhile using them. This is a different way of thinking about learning. Our job is to give the best nourishment regularly. The child takes what is appropriate to him at the time. A good example is when we enjoy a book together as a family. The nine-year-old enjoys hearing J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. He extracts nourishment for mind and spirit. The fourteen-year-old also is fed, but extracts something different. The parents enjoy it in yet another way. There is no ‘right’ way to react, no list of items one has to remember. Living life isn’t like that. We are individuals, and we leave it that way.

Children should have relationships with earth and water, should run and leap, ride and swim, should establish the relation of maker to material in as many kinds as may be; should have dear and intimate relations with persons, through present intercourse, through tale or poem, picture or statue; through flint arrow-head or modern motor-car: beast and bird, herb and tree, they must have familiar acquaintance with. Other peoples and their languages must not be strange to them. Above all they should find that most intimate and highest of all Relationships – the fulfillment of their being [their relationship with God].

This is not a bewildering program, because, in all these and more directions, children have affinities; and a human being does not fill his place in the universe without putting out tendrils of attachment in the directions proper to him. We must get rid of the notion that to learn the ‘three R’s’ or the Latin grammar well, a child should learn these and nothing else. It is true for children as for ourselves that, the wider the range of interests, the more intelligent is the apprehension of each.

The strength of this book is in encouraging teachers to treat their students as people who have their own worthy minds and interests and abilities and to remember to give them some freedom, while putting the best of the best material in front of them.

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