Friday, May 6, 2011

All Education is Divine

All Education Is Divine
 If I’ve learned a thing or two about my fellow homeschool mother, it is that she is conscientious. And, she is not lazy. I admire her for this. It is possible, however, to be so very conscientious that we may sink under the weight of our responsibility.

There is no escaping the fact we educate in part to equip children to pass tests. We must prove to government authorities (or college entrances boards - eventually) that indeed our children are achieving. But this must be subordinate to “knowledge pursued for its own sake,” - to use a phrase of Miss Charlotte Mason.

With this aim knowledge becomes holistic. It is this broader view of knowledge that wonderfully goes into the making of the whole person.

What are the symptoms of a home teacher who is loosing sight of the bigger picture? She may be worrisome, over-worked or overwhelmed. In her efforts to be sure her children are learning she may test them on every page of every book they read. She may feel the need to explain away and away to make sure they get it. But children’s minds are naturally active when they are fed ideas. The mind grows into an understanding gradually with every idea it receives. Do you believe this? I do.

A mother may choose materials, arrange lessons, guide, emphasize, foster noble thoughts, instill habits, but knowledge does not come to her children by her efforts alone. When I first read the following paragraph by Charlotte Mason a little “worry spot” in my heart (that I was holding on to) vanished. It introduces a principle held by the PNEU. Don’t you think it provides an outlook on education like no other?

 “This idea of all education springing from and resting upon our relation to Almighty God is one which we [PNEU] have ever labored to enforce. We take a very distinct stand upon this point. We do not merely give a religious education, because that would seem to imply the possibility of some other education, a secular education, for example. But we hold that all education is divine, that every good gift of knowledge and insight comes from above, that the Lord the Holy Spirit is the Supreme Educator of mankind, and that the culmination of all education (which may, at the same time, be reached by a little child) is that personal knowledge of and intimacy with God . . . We hold, in fact, that great conception of education held by the mediaeval Church." (Page 95 School Education)

This is why self-education in the home school works so well. And this, also, is why we can read a book that may not be written by someone professing to be a Christian and yet still glean some truth from it. Truth is truth no matter whose mouth speaks it. All truth originates from God.

To be awakened by this mediaeval conception of education, and then to trust in the influence of the Supreme Educator makes the home educator’s yoke easier and her burden lighter. She works in tandem. The Holy Spirit, in varying degrees, illuminates the minds of the writers of living books. Above all it is the enlightening work of the Holy Spirit that applies our reading to our hearts and minds.

In my book, A Charlotte Mason Companion, on page 75, I use a quote by Miss Mason to highlight the power of an idea. Sowing the seeds of an inspiring idea in the mind of a child is a positive component in child training.

“It is because we recognize the spiritual potency of the idea that we are able to bow reverently before the fact that God the Holy Spirit, is Himself the Supreme Educator, dealing with each of us in the things we call sacred and those secular. We lay ourselves open to the spiritual ideas, whether these be conveyed by the printed page, the human voice, or whether they reach us without visible sign.”

Knowledge cannot be poured into the head of a child like we pour milk into a glass. Knowledge is absorbed by “the person” of the child.  He, like a morsel of bread, must soak up the milk. Our children will soak up ideas when dealing with living books, engaging their own minds with narration.

Therefore it is okay to give children leisure to think about their lessons. In an empty moment, a quiet or bored moment, they may reflect upon it. They may even act upon it.

Should we guide our students to:

Progress to a higher skill level?
Prepare for tests?
Create an interesting portfolio?

Yes, by all means. But let’s remember to keep the bigger picture in sight; knowledge pursued for its own sake - applied to our hearts and minds by the work of the Supreme Educator.  

PNEU = Parents National Education Union

Discussion is invited

Post Script
I think I polished this post more than I polished my house this week. The subject requires sensitivity. I did, however, make some meal-starters for the freezer. My daughter Sophia is scheduled for a C-section at the end of May and I’d like to be as much of a help as I can. 

Anticipation is in the air.  
 Karen Andreola 


  1. Congratulations to Sophia! She is doubly blessed, to have not only a sweet baby on the way but a mother who is so helpful and considerate. :)

  2. I didn't realize Sophia was due so soon! Exciting!

    There have been times in our home educating life, that we have done very little "formal" school work. Yet, the children grow and learn and drink things in...I think this is the result of the Holy Spirit being the one who educates...

    I really like this post, Karen. It has given me much to mull over again.


  3. Miss Karen, I love you. You bring peace to my soul. My homeschool would be oh so dreary if God hadn't brought me to you. Thank you.

    Will be praying for the c-section to go smoothly. I've had 4, so if you can take care of the "little things" that aren't so little, and let your daughter just take care of herself and the new baby for a week after she gets home, she will heal, oh so much faster. I speak from experience. My MIL did that for me, and I love her for it.

    With all my love,

  4. My mother always encouraged slow unscheduled summers for us when we were growing up. She believes that the previous year's learning and work needs time to take root and gel in a child's mind. I watched this happen in the lives of my own children. They would seem to mature and gain great insight over a summer, even though we were hardly dong any schoolwork at all. (I was not homeschooled, but my children were).

    As a homeshcooling family, we were able to enjoy interludes of quietness each day and longer interludes throughout the year. We did not have to wait for summer. Certainly, a regularly schooled family can hew out times of quiet. I am, however, very grateful for the natural times of masterly inactivity (as Miss Mason said) that homeschooling provided for our family.

    It is so easy to believe that we should use every minute to cram more and more educational experiences, more and more information into our children's brains. I am so grateful for my mother's and Miss Mason's insights into the growth of a person.

    Thank you, Karen for sharing Miss Mason's thoughts about the Holy Spirit being the Supreme Educator. I've been reminded so many times (sometimes the easy way, sometimes the hard way) that I shouldn't presume to do the work that only God's Holy Spirit can do.


  5. Yes, Karen, those times of inactivity are so important!

    I try to build them in, but with three teens, it's so easy to get very busy with 'bookwork' and other useful things, leaving no time for reflection.

    Blessings to your daughter!

    Annie Kate

  6. Dear Karen,
    Thank you for taking the time to encourage and remind us what true learning is all about, it's so easy for me to fall prey to "pleasing" the educational expectations of the system rather than giving my children a living education that inspires them to learn and explore for themselves. May the Lord Bless you today,

  7. My eyes have been opened even more after reading this post. I have a 7 yr old son and 4 year old daughter and I find myself very frustrated at times because I can't seem to get my son to do math or read a few pages because he wants to be outside creating things. When I lay these things before the Lord he answers. Karen, I am reading your past post's and articles from Homeschool Highlights and now I own 3 of your books and soaking up what I wasn't able to understand just 5 years ago when I first found you. I feel that the Lord keeps leading back to you and Charlotte Mason.
    Will be praying for Sophia's C-section and baby.
    You're a good Mama.
    Blessings to your family.

  8. I absolutely agree: "Truth is truth no matter whose mouth speaks it. All truth originates from God."

    And I've actually been thinking, quite a lot, on the point you've made about giving children time to think on those lessons they've already learnt .. even act on them.
    I've been SEEING the fruits of this with my own children, and know that nothing happening there is because of me. It's between each child and our Father.

  9. Thank you for this good advice. I enjoyed reading your beautiful, gracious words. Even though our children are growing out of naps, I keep them having a quiet time, on their beds, with no books, so they get some Thinking Time. Some quiet is good for the soul.

    Would you consider posting this (and others) in the CM Blog Carnival? I've enjoyed the Companion book you wrote, and the two fiction books of the hsing family. Sim.Gram. is on my to-buy list for this year and St.Strs. will be on it for next year, I think. Only recently did I come across your blog and have enjoyed reading around. Thank you for taking the time to write what you've learned as a help to other families.

    I'm also a PA gal, but from the other side of the river in York County. Our family is in Nepal, now though, but part of my heart is still in PA.

    Thank you, Karen, for your work. With love,

  10. Ladies,
    Thanks for your well-wishes. I like to read your thoughts and opinions and will look into the Blog Carnival. I'm glad to read that day dreaming (watching the clouds sail across the sky) and quiet reflection are taking place in the gentle art of learning.

  11. I found that as my children grew older, they educated themselves much of the time.
    Thank you for the card!