One of Charlotte Mason’s least discussed but most critical teachings is that of the Divine Life. It’s this foundational tenet that most powerfully permeates the words and works of Ms. Mason.
She insists that the Lord is our children’s best and ultimate teacher, and her philosophy of education rests firmly on this truth.
The concept of the Divine Life cannot be extracted from a true Charlotte Mason education; the two are inseparable.
Therefore, Ms. Mason’s educational philosophy cannot be authentically employed in the homeschool apart from the Divine Life teachings.
Ms. Mason believes it is our job as home educators to impart this understanding to our children—this Truth that God will enlighten them and give insight as they assimilate and grow in habit and character through the ideas presented in living books.
She tells us very early in the first volume of her works,
“We should allow no separation to grow up between the intellectual and ‘spiritual’ life of children; but should teach them that the divine Spirit has constant access to their spirits, and is their continual helper in all the interests, duties and joys of life.”
That is the essence of a Charlotte Mason education. The very core of it all.
So, what does this mean for us as homeschool parents?
It means that in every aspect of our children’s education, in every subject, we should be pointing their thoughts upward.
“I know Geometry can seem difficult to grasp in the beginning, but if you seek God for clarity of the concepts, He will help you understand.”
“What ideas is the Lord revealing to you as ponder the story and its theme?”
“Isn’t it marvelous how God created everything to work to brilliantly? Look at the glitter, the beauty, the detail He put into such a small thing as the petal of a flower?”
When I was a young mother, I read a book by Elizabeth Elliot (or maybe it was Elizabeth Prentiss) that explained how from the earliest childhood years Elizabeth’s mother sought to build in her a strong foundation of faith by always pointing her heart heavenward.
When her mother explained how the seed grows into a plant, it was always with a, “Isn’t God marvelous?”
I decided at once I wanted my children to see God in this way. That’s the main reason I wrote the Apologia Elementary Science books as I did.
My vision was to increase every child’s faith as they explored creation.
My heart’s desire was that children would not separate the intellectual learning of science from their spiritual life, from the Divine Life—the Giver of all.
And this is exactly what Charlotte Mason explains to us:
––”Our Father, who is in heaven,” is perhaps the first idea of God which the mother will present to her child––Father and Giver, straight from whom comes all the gladness of every day. ‘What a happy birthday our Father has given to my little boy!’ ‘The flowers are coming again; our Father has taken care of the life of the plants all through the winter cold!’ ‘Listen to the skylark! It is a wonder how our Father can put so much joy into the heart of one little bird.’ ‘Thank God for making my little girl so happy and merry!’ Out of this thought comes prayer, the free utterance of the child’s heart, more often in thanks for the little joys of the day counted up than in desire, just yet. The words do not matter; any simple form the child can understand will do; the rising Godward of the child-heart is the true prayer.
What a precious and simple task for us.
LAYING A FOUNDATION
Our spoken words of truth, our thanksgiving for things great and small, and our continual acknowledgment of the Author of everything are together working a foundation in our children’s hearts and minds.
We’ll notice their thoughts becoming prayers of thanksgiving for all the joys they see and experience. We’ll see them delighting in the Lord.
And as they do this, their blessings will be abundant. This is a promise!
Delight yourself also in the LORD, And He shall give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4
Not only should we speak words of praise and thanksgiving to the Lord as we educate our children, we should also choose and offer curriculum that reinforces God’s truths to them.
History is His story of His work in, for, and through mankind. Thus, we should never teach history as separate and apart from God. The stories of nations point to Him and Him alone. With so many wonderful curriculum options, look for those that honor the Lord and view history through the lens of eternity.
Science is His creation and every aspect of it—law, every detail, every concept—was designed by Him. What a beautiful opportunity we have to offer praise to the Lord as we learn of His incredible brilliance through our scientific discoveries. Let us not teach science as if it is a topic that doesn’t involve God. After all, the creation of the world and all that is in it is His work.
Russian scientist, Dmitri Mendeleev, a man of deep faith, sought to order all the chemical elements he knew of. One afternoon, he fell asleep at his desk and the Lord gave him a dream. He awoke and the periodic table of the elements became a reality. The Lord showed him and told how He Himself had ordered the elements.
God is in the details. Literally. What joy to help our children see this!
Literature, living books, are a feast of ideas that the Lord will use to shape our children’s thoughts. As we daily offer our lives and homeschools to the Lord, He will do great things in our hearts and minds through the great books He leads us to read.
As He tells us,
Commit your works to the LORD, And your thoughts will be established.” Proverbs 16:3
All school subjects should take the Lord’s work, His wisdom, and His will into account. But the Word of God must remain the highest priority in our homeschool.
Charlotte Mason tells us,
“Bible lessons should help them to realize in early days that the knowledge of God is the principal knowledge, and, therefore, that their Bible lessons are their chief lessons.”
Many times at conventions, I’ve told the story of when I began neglecting morning devotions in our homeschool. During that season, I was overwhelmed—and we were behind (as if there is such a thing).
I decided “just for today,” we’ll skip devotions. After all, we had so much to do!
But today turned into weeks and months. Weeks and months and days and days without the Divine Life.
My children were miserable. School was laborious. Trying to accomplish any subject was like walking up hill in twelve inches of mud.
Living became treacherous, and I was about to throw in the homeschool towel.
We needed a break or I was going to break!
Desperate, I decided we would just do devotions. That was it. Nothing else.
Instead of going straight to the schoolroom after breakfast, I told the kids we were doing devotions. (I didn’t divulge my plans to take a break from “school.”)
We spent over an hour engaged in long and lingering time with God. We sang hymns, read the Bible and a devotional book, and prayed for ourselves and others. Moment by moment, a weight was lifted from my shoulders.
The Divine Life was given prominence and joy returned.
And to my amazement, my children got up from the couch and trotted happily to the schoolroom to begin their assignments—without any prompting from me.
I was utterly dumbfounded.
Somehow, our time with the Lord moved upon them to do what was right. To do school without grumbling and complaining. As I led their hearts to the Lord, He established their thoughts. They did this not for me, but for Him. Their spirits were softened, their hearts pliable, and He, the Divine Life, moved within them.
Charlotte Mason explains why this occurred:
“Conscience … is effective only as it is moved from within… the keys … are placed in the hands of parents, and it is … in their power to enthrone the King, to induct the Priest, that every human cries for.”
If we take care to enthrone the King in our children’s hearts, He will guide their conscience and their behavior.
He’ll instruct their thoughts and prompt them toward doing what He wills.
The enthroned King will lead them to the paths He’s purposed for them to walk in. He will shape them into the people He made them to be.
This is the teaching of the Divine Life.
And herein lies the power of a true Charlotte Mason inspired education.
For more Charlotte Mason insight read here.