The Science of Relations

Dear Reader,

The upcoming CM Blog Carnival is going to be on Charlotte Mason’s 12th principle: “Education is the science of relations.” I have been thinking lately about what it means to have  a relationship with something. I was struck as I read through one of Charlotte’s books (sorry, I can’t remember where it was) of how simple a “relation” could be. Charlotte was telling the story of a man who in his youth read about some adventurer (Drake perhaps?). The idea took hold of him, and he maintained an interested in adventuring throughout his life. It did not directly affect how he lived his own life, but his sons grew up to travel to far places. I had always thought of the ideas Charlotte speaks of children acquiring as grand things, but this showed me that they could be simple things, just a spark of interest that takes hold. It also illustrates Charlotte’s assertion that ideas must be transmitted form mind to mind. The father’s interest did not translate into action, but as he passed it on to his sons, they were able to act upon it.

Now I know in other places Charlotte distinguished between interests and relations, the former being inferior and not what we aim for. I am not quite sure where to draw the line or how to define one versus the other. I think often we speak of interests when we mean what Charlotte called relations. The latter term is not used by most people in this context today.

One complaint I hear not infrequently from other moms is that their kids don’t seem to have any interests. My first thought on this is that one should look at their curriculum to see if it is capable of inspiring interests. If it seems dull to you, it is probably dull to your child as well. The second is that these children usually do have some interests, but they are not the ones their parents want. They are interested in TV or video games or Pokemon. If we want children to form relations with real, living things, we must limit the twaddle they are exposed to. Charlotte’s idea was that we should put a rich, varied diet of ideas before the child and that they will select what to ingest. But if we put things before them that are soupy and easy to take in but have no nutritive value, they will choose the easy way. We need to give them a meaty intellectual diet with no easy outs.Of course, practically speaking, this may require a gradual transition.

My last thought on the topic of relations is that sometimes we see these sparks come out in unusual or fun ways. I am thinking here os the many things my children have played over the years including the assassination of William McKinley and the trench warfare of WWI. This playing at what they have learned is something Charlotte mentions too. It is wonderful to see in young children and I think they rarely forget what they have played at. Charlotte recognizes this phenomenon:

“A single sentence in lesson or talk, the slightest sketch of a historical character, and they will play at it for a week, inventing endless incidents.”

[Parents and Children (Seven Treasures Publications, 2009) p. 114]

And when they do play at it, you know they are beginning to form relations with the material.


5 responses to this post.

  1. Hi Nebby,
    Well said! I particularly liked your comment that ideas could be simple things that spark interest.


  2. Thank you. This explains something I didn’t really understand at all. Simple things that spark an interest. This interest may be translated to our children the same way the man translated it to his sons.


  3. I love your approach! It is so true – that once children have discovered the joy of great books, they quickly learn to discern the poor quality stuff. My kids call these poor books “candy floss”.


  4. […] I love that my children and I can form relationships with people long dead through their writings, art, music, […]


  5. […] writes about the Science of Relations on her blog, Letters from Nebby. She mentions that it is the spark of interest that takes hold of […]


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