Part 1: What exactly is education?

We all have our own ideas about what education is. Some of us may think of a good education as one that includes many experiences, a vast knowledge base, or excellent grades, while others may believe that an excellent education is based on critical thinking, cultural understanding, and global connections. Who would be correct? Education is touted as one of the most important aspects of life – with it, the sky is the limit; without it, a person is doomed to live out their days in the narrow confines of ignorance.

But who is to say when someone has received a good education? Can it even be defined and determined by human thought alone? Could it be that this growing and filling of the mind isn’t simply a physical or even a psychological phenomenon?

Does God care about education? Does He say anything about it?

In his new book, Education: Does God have an Opinion?, Israel Wayne writes:

 “The Christian worldview teaches that the real purpose for our existence is to know God. Why were we created? Think back to Adam working in the Garden of Eden. Did the God who created the whole universe with the breath of His mouth really need an employee to tend the vegetables and fruit trees? Of course not! He created us to have fellowship with Him. *The purpose of an education is to know our Creator. It is not even primarily to prepare us for Kingdom work. It is to teach us about the nature of God. The Westminster Shorter Catechism says the chief end of man is, ‘To glorify God, and enjoy Him forever.’ Harvard College’s original mission statement in 1636 defines the purpose of an education this way: ‘let every student be plainly instructed, and earnestly pressed to consider well, *the main end of his life and studies is to know God and Jesus Christ which is eternal life (John 17:3), and therefore to lay Christ in the bottom , as the only foundation of all sound knowledge and learning.’ “

Charlotte Mason said this about education:

“This idea of all education springing from and resting upon our relation to Almighty God – we do not merely give a religious education because that would seem to imply the possibility of some other education, a secular education, for example. But we hold that all education is divine, that every good gift of knowledge and insight comes from above, that the Lord the Holy Spirit is the supreme educator of mankind, and that *the culmination of all education (which may at the same time be reached by a little child) is that personal knowledge of and intimacy with God in which our being finds its fullest perfection.

*emphasis mine

Charlotte’s view of education being fulfilled through a relationship with God is the foundational reason that I endorse her method as much as I do.

It is absolutely imperative for me to clarify: Although I am a great admirer of many aspects of Miss Mason’s educational method,  I am not a Charlotte Mason puristMany aspects of her method makes the acquisition of knowledge, which is founded in the truth of God, doable and natural for us as home educators, but we must be aware that it is GOD who should and must be the director of our homes and families. No person or their method should ever be elevated to the position of infallible. We are called to love the LORD with all of our hearts, souls, and minds, and to have no other gods before Him. 

We also need to remember that Charlotte lived during the Victorian Era, and the children of that age dealt with astronomically different cultural issues than those that our children deal with. 

Lack of child protection laws, poor educational options for the lower class, and heavy, adult-sized responsibility placed on small shoulders…these are some of the cultural issues that Charlotte sought to shine a light on. These were the realities of children during her era.

 

Some things never change. Issues of the sanctity of life have always been at stake, but our children face the blatant attack on identity and the basic right to be born, as well.  These are the issues that we deal with in our current culture.

 

I think it’s safe to say that our culture is in a place it’s never been before. We all need to ask ourselves, are we preparing our children to be world changers in our current culture?

Charlotte Mason advocated giving the student a fitting education, but what is a fitting education for our student’s today? I believe she would be the first to tell us that it’s not the same education that the children of her day needed. 

In the next post in this series, I will unpack these three criteria of a fitting education: it serves the student, it fits the student, and it prepares the student.

[This blog series is based upon a workshop, titled The Charlotte Mason Method for: Today’s Student –  It’s All About Worldview, which I have been teaching at homeschool conferences this year.]

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