Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Curiosity Makes Our Burden Light

Curiosity Makes Our Burden Light

     Dean took photos of William playing with one of the pull-toys we found at a
yard sale. For a few dollars I bought the whole lot. I was happy to see William
enjoying them (even in the hot summer sun). Dean’s photos of the tangible
evidence of curiosity decorate the abstract ideas of this post.

      The dozens of questions I received last year from mothers who felt home teaching
to be overwhelming concerned me. I sympathized. Home teaching is work, yes,
but it needn’t be such a heavy weight to bear. Miss Charlotte Mason’s philosophy
opens our eyes to see why and how the burden is light.
     She observed the tendency of hard working teachers. They would do a gallon of
teaching for an ounce of learning. Something was wrong. Not only was this just
plain inefficiency but also the whole intellectual atmosphere of such schooling
was, in a sense, morally off balance.

Placing Our Trust in God-given Curiosity

     Miss Mason placed her trust in a new “intellectual atmosphere” - one that rests
firmly on this invisible thing called, “curiosity.” A home teacher can breath a
peaceful sigh when she gains an understanding that God has endowed our little
persons with curiosity. The burden becomes lighter to a mother who realizes how
big a part curiosity plays in a child’s learning. It is not the only feature, but it is
capable of doing the lion’s share of the teaching.

     When a baby reaches his tiny hand for the colorful rattle you hold out to him, he does so out of curiosity. His first steps from crawling to walking are taken out of curiosity. When William plays with my new pull-toys he does so because he is curious at how he can make them move. Throughout the day William can be heard to ask, “Wus tha?” as he points to one object after another, inside and outside the house, for the pleasure of hearing his mother name the bird at the feeder, the rain on the windowpane, the car in the driveway. His mother, in a sense, is cooperating
with curiosity. She is cooperating with the work of the Holy Spirit in the child’s life.

     In her writings Miss Mason refers to the Holy Spirit as the “Supreme Educator.” God instructs the hearts of each single child. Her words are strong on this point. She says, “Let this be the mother’s key to the whole of the education of each boy and each girl.” And ends her paragraph with this: “We do not sufficiently rejoice in the wealth that the infinite nature of our God brings to each of us.” *

The Preservation of Curiosity


    Curiosity is so precious, so valuable, that it needs to be safeguarded. Sadly, more often it is “schooled out” of children. How do educators do this? It is done when the emphasis is on the following:

• Grades
• Prizes and Contests
• Competition
• Fun and Games
• Lectures
• Praise and Approval
• Punishments
• A Profusion of Quizzes and Tests

     These incentives all motivate the student to work, but over time his work
becomes mechanical. His schooling trains him to work for a list of reasons
except the reason that matters most—knowledge for the sake of knowledge.

Feed My Lambs

     What ought to motivate us to direct our children to open the pages of history, to observe the wonders of nature, to admire a painting, to appreciate a piece of music, to learn by heart the words of a hymn or a poem? Miss Mason believed that the primary motive of the educator must be the same as the command our Lord Christ gave to Peter: “Feed my lambs.”

The Child is a Person

     Curious children will learn for the sake of knowing, for the sake of growing. Feed your children well and they will grow in wisdom and favor with God and man.
This is the education of persons.

*Page 273, Parents & Children, Charlotte Mason.

Where do your child’s curiosities lie?


  1. Dear Karen,

    This post is exactly what every mother who is trying to teach their child should read!

    I have known about C.Mason for quite awhile, but always stood back from teaching my boys in this manner.

    Last year, I finally decided that the other methods were not working. Not only was I under a great deal of stress & frustration, but also my sons were not enjoying the learning process. I was so tired of attitudes that I just took the plunge and began to let go of all my past ideals and un-met standards and began to use Ms. Mason's method. It has changed all of our lives.

    My sons are once again, looking forward to school. They enjoy the living books. They enjoy the discussions around the breakfast table. Their curiosity have increased and they value their time learning new things.

    Yes, teaching our children is work, but when you strip everything that think is important, and focus on the child, one begins to discover.

    Great post!

  2. Dear Maria,
    Reading your comment I felt an inward, "Yea." [an emphatic 12th century phrase still in use by a modern day blogger]. Thank you for sharing the experience of regaining your sons' curiosity. You took the "living book plunge", placed your trust in Miss Mason's principles and have seen good results. How rewarding this is.

  3. Hi! This is my first visit to your site and I like what I see. Planning to home teach my own children, and having heard of Charlotte Mason's viewpoint, I appreciate curiosity-led teaching / learning.

    Thanks :)

  4. Dear Kim,
    Welcome. It is good to know of your interest in home teaching your children and in Charlotte Mason's principles of education. Every once in a while I'd like to have "A Minute with Miss Mason."
    Karen Andreola