Educating for the Full Life
A child can taste fine food without having to spend hours after school learning to bake it.
By Clint Fisher, Upper Elementary Principal
"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
Charlotte Mason wrote this statement at a time not unlike ours today. People with great affluence were providing every possible opportunity to their children to train them to be leaders. They took great pride in what their children knew. Many movies from that time depict aristocratic parties with a child playing the piano, singing a song, or otherwise entertaining the guest with some great skill or ability.
Similarly, we live in a world that offers training in every athletic, social, or musical skill, as well as every hobby and interest. All of these are good things. However, we may become lost in the effort to expose our children to so many options. Perhaps it is worth asking ourselves what goal we are trying to achieve by exposing them to such a plethora of choices.
The Goal of Choices
We consider a great many things when we are thinking about what we want to offer our children. We want to equip them for a successful life by providing a proper education leading to a career. We want to establish them in both strength of character, as well as self-discipline. However, we can see the effects of building up a child with great knowledge, skill, and determination without deep values. Children become arrogant, self-consumed, and eventually lost in their own pursuits within the world.
Real Faith over Rote Facts
We as a Christian school know and value this spiritual development of a child. Yet even in this goal, we can fall prey to the lure of establishing them in knowledge, skills, and habits. If we focus on this, yet they never taste and see that God is both real and a good friend, then we have lost. When we expose children to Christ, it must not be just facts, verses, and principles, but relationship, hope, joy, and real faith. It should be like sitting down to a fest of exquisite delicacies and having their palates changed forever! Once they taste something so delicious, the simple cracker won't be so desirable – and once they experience the sweet joy of relationship with the Savior, they won't settle for anything less. That must be the ultimate goal.
Creating the Large Room
Our kids are living in a world full of shallow joys, empty hopes and disappointing lies. In the midst of this reality, we as a covenant community are seeking to expose them through experiences to those things that carry real value and weight. We want them to taste and see that God is good, that the symphony is astonishing, that people are more important than possessions or recognition.
As Mason said, the size of the room in which we set their feet determines the fullness of the life set before them. We must expose them to a great many values and experiences through which they may develop a heart that cares for a great many things which God has created and called good.
Yet we must realize that exposure is not mastery. A child can taste a fine food without having to spend hours after school learning to bake it. A child can learn to enjoy a sport, a musical talent, a skill in the fine arts without hours of lessons and practice. Expose them to great things, and then discover what they want to pursue. They will live in the room in which we set their feet. Let it be large enough for a lifetime, and let it be open enough to allow them to fill it with their own pursuits.