Saturday, October 2, 2010

Parents As Inspirers

Parents As Inspirers

Ask anyone in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania about the annual agricultural fairs and you will be told that they are serious business. They’re fun, too. Our town begins with a parade. The streets are lined with enthusiastic faces. Three days of exhibits on the fairgrounds follow. Ferris wheels and all other rides are barred from the fair, so are prize stalls. Therefore no ticket stubs litter the ground.



The fair is free. Many volunteer to run it. Many more enter exhibits. Five years ago, the first time the Lady-of-the-house stepped into an exhibit hall, she was astounded. She wasn’t expecting to see so many entries, so carefully crafted by both children and adults (displayed safely under plastic). Within moments a tear filled her eye and she wiped it away instantly as she does not like to appear emotional in public places. She was impressed. Even more wonderful is she felt inspired.

The Lady-of-the house examined the knitting, sewn garments, quilts, embroidery, and knew from experience the unmarked hours that had gone into each entry. She marveled at what was home grown. Flowers more beautiful than in a florist shop. Fruits, vegetables, herbs, baked goods, and preserves glowed more appealingly fresh and delicious than what can be bought at the grocery store. Indeed things are still made in America – as long as there are pumpkins . . .  

Never had she seen such fastidiously groomed and healthy dairy cows and other farm animals. She couldn’t help notice their owners – the young people. They handled their animals with pride and confidence.

The isles of photographs, the tables of crafts and a wall of paintings spoke to her that people have found things to like about their world - enough to capture it in art. The dreary, murmuring attitude of “why bother” was put to shame. 

The key word here is inspiration. Those who were inspired to make an entry in the fair had to have been inspired by someone. From whence do you derive your inspiration?
Our Educational Responsibilities
To educate is to inspire. It is to sustain the inner life of a child with ideas. Ideas come by inspiration. We find them in books and experiences. As home teachers we are tempted (when exhausted) to tackle our educational responsibilities with the burdensome view of getting through a stack of educational materials. So much needs to be covered before the week is out, before the semester is out, before the year is out. This singular thought can weigh us down.

A Yoke That is Easy
The Lady-of-the-house once mentioned in A Charlotte Mason Companion: It isn’t how much a child covers that matters most but how much he cares. When we understand that education is much-much more than covering all the material, we are refitted with a yoke that is easy. We are more willingly harnessed to the task and work faithfully, carefully and lovingly. Why does the yoke seem easier? We recognize the importance of our call and have taken on a special role. Parents are to be inspirers. 

A Child’s First Copybook
By the very lives we live we are sowing seeds of ideas in our children. A sobering old proverb states: Parents are a child’s first copybook. Because we love our children we seek God to help us demonstrate understanding, kindness, patience, cheerfulness, hard work, and reverence in our homes. How else can children learn how to show these to others? Through books, written by people inspired by ideas, we give children what is pure, lovely, noble and just to think about. Books alive with ideas do the teaching.

Passing on the Torch
  This fallen world is not all sweetness. Therefore we reach for books that accompany life’s hard truths with hope. In literature, we meet sorrow but we ought also to meet large-hearted characters that comfort. In history we meet those who destroy so we look for those brave souls who build, defend, or minister the gospel. Science rises to meet the challenge of hardship and sickness and so we read about the inventors and the healers. Inspiration comes by way of those who uncover truth and pass on the flaming torch of ideas (especially needed in dark places). Someday our children may be one of the torchbearers.

In Parents & Children, page 39, Charlotte Mason borrows language from Ecclesiastes.
"The duty of parents is to sustain a child’s inner life with ideas as they sustain his body with food. The child is an eclectic; he may choose this or that; therefore, in the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thy hand, for thou knowest not which shall prosper. . ."

Thanks to the Man-of-the-house for the photographs. Congratulations, Nigel, for being awarded “best of show” in the painting category for your butterfly. 


  1. I would love to go to the fair with you sometime--and be inspired, too.

  2. I've been away from your blog for too long, and here it is, just what I needed before my day tomorrow: "It isn't how much a child covers that matters but how much he CARES." I also needed to hear that old proverb about parents being a child's first copybook. Thank you, Karen, for your humble reminders, which cut straight to the heart. Reading your past posts inspires me to spend more time outdoors with my boys. Congratulations to Nigel. I can see the reason for the blue ribbon! Stunning.

  3. What a timely reminder to slow down and encourage my children's individual strengths. I want our morning to "hum along" (as I think you describe in the CM Companion) so that our afternoon is open for creative endeavors and free time.

    How frequently I need to tell myself that the items on the checklist can not only be checked off, but crossed off entirely to make room for other valuable experiences !

    Congratulations to Nigel. His painting is beautiful.

  4. Hello ladies,
    I am happy to hear that my gentle reminders are being well received and that they are sparking personal ideas. I like to hear about these ideas.

    I'll tell Nigel that you like his butterfly. He puts up my posts for me with his computer. Can you believe that Sophia is age 28, Yolanda is 25 and Nigel is 21? A big thing that you are making in your homeschool is lots and lots of memories. I know, because memories are where my mind sometimes wanders.

    Karen A.

  5. I can relate with you Karen,as my mind often wanders to memories. Our children are now 29,25,and 21. Our youngest will be married next May. That leaves my dear husband and I empty nesters, so we are most thankful for these memories.Thank you for your blog, it is most inspirational. Congrats to Nigel, his work is great. i love the pencil drawings in your books.Dawn Brown

  6. Greetings, Karen!

    Mrs. Sharp's Traditions...a reminder for me to pull mine out of hiberation! A few years back, I bought 3 more copies for each of my girls. At the time, I could not find the pretty hardback like yours and mine. But, the content is the same, quite nostalgic.

    Your comment, "To educate is to inspire..." Truthfully, I am finding it difficult these days to invoke such inspiration in my dear children! So, I reach to be inspired myself..with Scripture, true stories of heroes past, books by dear ones such as yourself :0)
    These all serve to inpire and encourage me. I'm thinking that when my children see me reaching for these things with positive results, then they will do the same in their weary days. Points to your other comment, "Parents are a child's forst copybook."

    Wonderful artwork, Nigel!

    Blessings to you this day, dear sister!

    Lori in TX