Charlotte Mason: Education is the Science of Relations

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All knowledge and learning is interconnected. This “captain idea” of learning, as described by Charlotte Mason should guide all of our choices in education. The pursuit of knowledge is the pursuit of wisdom, that is, the goal of a liberal arts education. Instead of making those connections purposely for the child, we want our children to slowing make personal relationships and a close understanding about the ways of God, man, and the universe on their own. They can learn if we lay knowledge in front of them and not stifle them by telling them what to think and learn about each new glimpse of wisdom that they are exposed to. Knowledge and wisdom are gifts from God, and they are increasingly revealed to us as we grow and learn. Here are some quotes form Charlotte Mason on the topic of the Science of Relations.

Charlotte Mason’s Principle # 13 (School Education, Preface)

Education is the Science of Relations; that is, that a child has natural relations with a vast number of things and thoughts: so we must train him upon physical exercises, nature, handicrafts, science and art, and upon many living books; for we know that our business is, not to teach him all about anything, but to help him make valid, as many as may be of

‘Those first born affinities,

‘That fit our new existence to existing things.’

––What, then, have we to do for the child? Plainly we have not to develop the person; he is there already, with, possibly, every power that will serve him in his passage through life. Some day we shall be told that the very word education is a misnomer belonging to the stage of thought when the drawing forth of ‘faculties’ was supposed to be a teacher’s business. We shall have some fit new word meaning, perhaps, ‘applied wisdom,’ for wisdom is the science of relations and the thing we have to do for a young human being is to put him in touch, so far as we can, with all the relations proper to him. (Charlotte Mason, School Education, 75.)

“But who shall parcel out
His intellect by geometric rules,
Split like a province into round and square?
Who knows the individual hour in which
His habits were first sown, even as a seed?
Who that shall point as with a wand and say
‘This portion of the river of my mind
Came from yon fountain’? “

––William Wordsworth, Prelude.

The question is not,––how much does the youth know? when he has finished his education––but how much does he care? and about how many orders of things does he care? In fact, how large is the room in which he finds his feet set? and, therefore, how full is the life he has before him? (Charlotte Mason, School Education, 170-171)

A small English boy of nine living in Japan, remarked, “Isn’t it fun, Mother, learning all these things? Everything seems to fit into something else.” The boy had not found out the whole secret; everything fitted into something within himself. (Charlotte Mason, Philosophy of Education, 156-57)

Wisdom, the Recognition of Relations––It is curious how the philosophy of the Bible is always well in advance of our latest thought. ‘He grew in wisdom and in stature,’ we are told. Now what is wisdom, philosophy? Is it not the recognition of relations? First, we have to understand relations of time and space and matter, the natural philosophy which made up so much of the wisdom of Solomon; then, by slow degrees, and more and more, we learn that moral philosophy which determines our relations of love and justice and duty to each other: later, perhaps, we investigate the profound and puzzling subject of the inter-relations of our own most composite being, mental philosophy. And in all these and beyond all these we apprehend, slowly and feebly, the highest relation of all, the relation to God, which we call religion. In this science of the relations of things consists what we call wisdom, and wisdom is not born in any man,––apparently not even in the Son of man Himself…. Wisdom increases; Intelligence does not––He grew in wisdom, in the sweet gradual apprehension of all the relations of life: but the power of apprehending, the strong, subtle, discerning spirit, whose function it is to grasp and understand, appropriate and use, all the relations which bind all things to all other things––this was not given to Him by measure; nor, we may reverently believe, is it so given to us. (Charlotte Mason, Parents and Children, 258-59)

It has been said that ‘man doth not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God’; and the augustness of the occasion on which the words were spoken has caused us to confine their meaning to what we call the life of the soul; when, indeed, they include a great educational principle which was better understood by the mediæval Church than by ourselves. (Charlotte Mason, School Education, 153-53)

Let us set ourselves to labour with purpose and passion to restore to the world, enriched by the additions of later knowledge, that great scheme of unity of life which produced great men and great work in the past. (Charlotte Mason, School Education, 155-56)

How do we take this into our own home education journey? We leave the children alone. We don’t explain it all to them. We do not dumb down their learning. We don’t make all of the connections for them. We give ourselves grace and not stress about unit studies and connecting all of the learning for them.

Show them rich and beautiful knowledge and wisdom will grow. The fruit of your efforts will last for years to come.

Charlotte mason science of relations

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