Character Training and the Divine Life
Character training may seem elusive and difficult to accomplish. Yet, Charlotte Mason gives us great insight into this most important aspect of a child’s education.
It’s quite simple, really.
Character training is a matter of conveying worthy ideas then allowing the Divine Life to work in the soul of the child.
It is this Divine Life that will build habits of right thinking that become habits of right doing.
Character is truly a matter of habits. Habits of thought and habits of deed.
You see, a child’s thinking shapes his temperament, which ultimately translates to behavior.
So what are we, as moms, to do? How can we train our children’s character?
First, we must impart to our children living ideas, those which are good and noble. We must abandon our long moralizing lectures and lengthy sermons in favor of something better.
If you read my last series on Masterly Inactivity, you know that our many words often get in the way of the Holy Spirit—our children’s ultimate Teacher.
How then do we build good ideas into the thoughts of our children?
Alas! The answer is rather simple. We impart living ideas through carefully chosen living books—parables, chapter books, novels, myths, legends and fables.
The right stories convey the right ideas which develop right thinking. This builds a strong foundation for what is good and noble.
And noble ideas take on a life of their own in shaping our children’s hearts.
Charlotte Mason tells us,
An idea fitly put, is taken in without effort. And once in, ideas behave like living creatures. They feed, grow, and multiply.
If you convey a noble idea to your child, you don’t have to nurture it with a lot of explaining. Your child will naturally nurture the idea and it will grow and multiply.
But we must take care because not every living book conveys good ideas.
Back in the 1990’s, I read the American Girl books to my daughter. One book, Meet Felicity, commended the young heroin for lying and sneaking out each night to save a horse.
Now, saving a horse is noble. But the Machiavellian notion that deceitful behavior is justified in certain circumstances is not an idea I want to plant in my children’s hearts.
THE WORD OF GOD
Ideas are indeed like seeds planted. They begin to grow and bloom and will eventually bear fruit—specific behaviors that reflect the ideas planted. This goes for both good and bad ideas.
As Charlotte Mason tells us: The Bible is the chief source of good, moral ideas for our children.
She stressed that the Holy Spirit would instruct our children as they hear, read and memorize the Word of God. Ms. Mason calls this “the Divine Life of the child.”
She instructs us to allow our children to feast upon God’s Word daily. And I would recommend making Bible the first business of your homeschool day.
“Let the child grow, so that,
new thoughts of God, new hopes of heaven
are a joy to him, too; things to be counted first amongst the blessings of a day. ~Charlotte Mason
Read God’s truth each morning and allow the Holy Spirit to do His work. Read and discuss, but don’t hinder the Divine Life by talking overmuch.
The Word of God is capable of interpreting itself.
Charlotte Mason direly warns us,
“A word about the reading of the Bible. I think we make a mistake in burying the text under our endless comments and applications. Also, I doubt if the picking out of individual verses, and grinding these into the child until they cease to have any meaning for him, is anything but a hindrance to the spiritual life.”
Let us endeavor not to be a hindrance to our children’s spiritual life.
Our words may seem wise to us. But God Himself can teach our child with Words so deeply spoken and felt that our child’s thoughts and soul are transformed by them.
These thoughts will become habits of thought and habits of behavior. We could never accomplish such a thing, no matter how brilliantly we express ourselves.
For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Hebrews 4:12
This verse powerfully reminds us that, ultimately, training character is not our job. It’s God’s job.
Charlotte Mason says it so well,
“But this holy mystery, this union and communion of God and the soul, how may human parents presume to meddle with it? What can they do? How can they promote it?… what can the parent do? Just this, and no more: he can present the idea of God to the soul of the child.“
“Who would say that a bee can produce apple trees?… the parent is little better in this matter than the witless bee; it is his part to deposit…some fruitful idea of God…[and then] the living Word reaches down, touches the soul,––and there is life; growth and beauty, flower and fruit.”
Training your children’s character really is this easy. Impart good and wholesome ideas. Trust the Holy Spirit to work in your child’s heart.
And don’t hinder the work of God. We must have faith that the God who created and deeply loves our children will guide and direct them.
There is only one way we should intervene.
OUR POWER IS IN PRAYER
The most important work we can do for our children’s character is done on our knees.
E.M. Bounds once said,
“No learning can make up for the failure to pray. No earnestness, no diligence, no study, no gifts will supply its lack.”
Yet how often do we seek answers from the Internet, books and friends rather than diligently seeking the Lord and asking for His intervention in our children’s character issues?
Dwight L. Moody, a great man of prayer, powerfully stated,
“Next to the wonder of seeing my savior, will be the wonder that I made so little use of the power of prayer.“
Throughout my twenty plus years of homeschooling, it became clear that when I neglected prayer, a gradual but certain downturn would occur in my children’s behavior and emotions.
On wearisome homeschool days, it’s hard to remember to pray for our children. Yet, it’s the only thing that can turn weariness into peace.
While certainly something worthy to reach for, a long quiet time each morning is not the only time you can effectively cry out to God for the needs of your children.
Pray in the shower. Pray while driving. Pray as they work.
Pray right then and there when the need arises.
God called you to this homeschool journey and He has great plans and purposes for your children. Trust Him to fulfill them.
Believe that God loves your children far more than you ever could and is the main Instructor of your child’s soul.
The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me [and my children]; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands. Psalm 138:8
This is God’s promise to you—and to your children.
This is the Divine Life.
For more Charlotte Mason insight read here.