Karen Andreola’s book The Charlotte Mason Companion: Personal Reflections on The Gentle Art of Learning has been a delight to me this spring. I’m so grateful to have seen it on a friend’s bookshelf... a kind friend who was willing to let me enjoy it for a time.
From all that I’ve read of Charlotte Mason’s ideas, I am blown away by the goodness and excellence of providing this kind of education for our kids and shaping our home, our minds and our lives together with this kind of living. And now I’m learning from Ms. Mason and Mrs. Andreola in this latest volume. The descriptions, in my opinion, are sometimes not the very best, (the superlatives and “guarantee” sounding stuff is a bit unfortunate) but still these thoughts are immensely helpful and wise and good for me to consider.
Here’s a few of the gems:
Andreola quotes from Henry Clay Trumbull’s book Hints on Child Training (Trumbull lived from 1830- 1903 and is the founder of the American Sunday School movement)
“A parent looses his opportunity for good to his child, if he fails to have sympathy with this child in that child’s weakness and follies and misdoings. It is in every child’s nature to long for sympathy at the point where he needs it most; and when he has done wrong, or has indulged evil thoughts, or is feeling the force of temptation, he is glad to turn to some one stronger and better than himself, and make confession of his faults and failures. If as he comes to his parents at such a time, he is met with manifest sympathy, he is drawn to his parents with new confidence and new trust. (p 52)
Here Andreola writes her own paraphrase of Ms. Mason’s teachings:
“The two main causes of family bickerings are selfishness and harsh judgement of others. No punishment is of the smallest use to combat these. In fact, punishment may awaken resentment and arouse greater spite against the person on whose account it is incurred. It will never diminish the selfishness. Penalties will suffice for the moment, but another kind of correction is needed.
“Virtues, like flowers, grow in the sunshine. You can cultivate them or draw them out with love and reason, but you can neither force nor whip them into existence. Try to do so and the virtue you want will come forth in the guise of it’s corresponding vice. Instead of truth-speaking courage, you will get a lying cowardice, instead of obedience, obstinacy....
“...Never be angry when the children are cross, and never add a harsh word of reproof when a child is still sore under what it feels to be an injustice. This is often difficult to do because it is our natural response to control his temper with a stronger one of our own. Yet I recommend you work against any tendency to overpower the child in this instance. Gently draw the belligerent’s mind to the fact that he is feeling very unhappy, that this is merely the natural result of saying unkind things; and that as it would not be fair to make everyone else unhappy too, he must for other people’s sakes go away from the room, or leave the game till he can be pleasant.” (p 58-59)
And this is my cherry-on-top favorite. Andreola shares, (p 61-62)
“I once read about a large family in which bickering was unknown, though at one time there were signs of great friction among the members. The mother weeded out the thorns of family upsets by working with each child’s imagination. She set them up to fight giants. Her lessons began with a parable, for there is no moral teacher better than the parable. The mother, apropos of the Jack the Giant Killer, gave a sketch of the giants that beset the young people, and morally devour them, such as Self-Love, Vanity, Obstinacy, and Falsehood, and she excited their interest by telling them that these giants were so curiously huddled together that if one were conquered, the others would probably flee.
“As the Advent season was upon them, she told them that it would be good to think of giving secret gifts of abstaining from personal faults that rubbed the other family members the wrong way- and to do something good in place of displaying that fault. She told her children that in order to do this, they would have to fight a battle with a personal giant- a spiritual enemy. Each child was to keep his own secret, and whisper into Mother’s ear the particular giant he wanted to fight, and she would give him the right weapons for it.
“One by one the whispers came to her. Cubby Susie said she thought she was “dreadfully greedy for sweets,” and she would fight that ogre. Mother would do her best not to have so many Christmas delicacies around the house, but keep to the traditional Christmas pudding only. A more nervous member whispered that she did not want to “feel so cross at johnny,” whose teasing jokes always seem to bother her. A third confessed that their enemy was “Vanity.” she did not “want anybody to do things as well as herself.” And a fourth sighed that it was “very hard to keep one’s temper” when everybody seemed so aggravating. That evening Mother came up with her weapons: seven Bible texts, one for each child for each day.
“If by Christmas the giants are not dead, at least they will certainly be wounded, and have less power, “ promised Mother. "