Letting Go

Dear Reader,

In preparation for the next Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival I have been reading through the seventh chapter of Charlotte’s sixth book which is entitled “How We make Use of Mind.” There is a lot in this chapter and I don’t see any way to touch on it all so I am mainly going to concentrate on the first part.

There is a lot here that made me think of other discussions I have had lately. Charlotte spends the first part of the chapter arguing against the Herbartian view which was prevalent (in practice if not in theory) in her day. Basically, this says that children are empty vessels or blank slates and that the teacher’s role is to fill them up or write upon them. Obviously, this view exalts the role of the teacher since whatever the children will eventually become is essentially put into them by the teacher. As Charlotte says, this is a very flattering view from the teacher’s perspective; it seems to give them a lot of power and influence. I can also see how it easily leads to a situation in which teachers are viewed as highly trained professionals whose place no one else could easily take (a view teachers’ unions would like us to have and which many non-homeschooling parents seem willing to accept). Here is how Charlotte puts it:

“Herbart’s psychology is extraordinarily gratifying and attractive to teachers who are, like other people, eager to magnify their office; and here is a scheme which shows how every child is a new creation as he comes forth from the hands of his teacher. The teacher learns how to do it; he has but to draw together a mass of those ideas which themselves will combine in the mind into which they effect an entrance, and, behold, the thing is done: the teacher has done it; he has selected. the ideas, shewn the correlation of each with the other and the work is complete!” (p.114)

Even homeschoolers can readily fall into this trap — the trap of thinking that it is all up to us. There is so much curriculum available out there and it is easy to think that if we can just find the perfect materials that our children are guaranteed success. And the fact that we so desperately want their success (however we may define that success; it need not be purely academic, it may rather be their spiritual state we are concerned with) makes us particularly susceptible to the idea that there is a perfect formula out there somewhere that  will generate the results we desire.

But this is just not so. Our children come to us as unique individuals. If I may use an artistic metaphor, they are not blank canvasses on which we paint as we will. They are, rather, pieces of sculpture which already have their own contours. We basically throw paint at them but we cannot control what sticks or where it sticks. And while we can do a lot in terms of providing the proper materials (the paint in this analogy), they will also pick up other things we know not where.

Parenting itself is increasingly about letting go. Our children, of course, are designed to grow beyond us. I will not say they get to the point where they do not need us at all, but they certainly become more and more independent. But even in the early years, we can control a lot less than we want to.

People want control in their lives. Especially over things they deem very important. But God does not give us that control. He constantly asks us to rely upon Him, to let Him be in charge. And He is, whether we acknowledge it or not. Adam and Eve in the garden wanted to take on God’s role. They wanted to be His equals. And there are still many ways in which we try to stem the tide, in which we try to control what we cannot ultimately control.

I was looking at a local parenting magazine the other day and it has an article on creating one’s birth plan. Now I don’t want to say there is no place for thinking about how you would like your child’s birth to go and what is most important to you in it. But I think there are many, many moms out there who will tell you that this is not something you can plan. It takes on a life of its own (no pun intended). You can’t control the process. And I think many end up feeling very disappointed to say the least because they were led to believe that they could do it all their way.

Which brings me back to education. We want to be able to control what our children learn and who they become. But we can’t. They are not blank slates; they are persons. All we can do is to provide the best materials, ideas, Charlotte would say, to feed their hopefully eager minds. But we cannot force them to take them in.

Just as God saves us so only He cans ave them. And only He can educate them. It is also a work of the Holy Spirit. We were talking last night in our Bible study about what it means to be filled with the Holy Spirit and wisdom. We had read that the first deacons in Acts 6 were and we read of other people who in the Bible were said to be filled with these things. And what I noticed is that they were not always filled for the same purpose. One was filled with wisdom to be a craftsman on Solomon’s temple. Another to prophesy. Another to lead God’s people into battle. But whatever task God had for them, He was the one to fill them with the kind of wisdom they needed (usually accompanied by a filling with the Holy Spirit) so that they could complete the task he had for them.

We don’t know what God is calling each of our children too. They may have aptitudes that we think we discern, but we don’t know for sure. Our job is to provide them will all the right resources, to give them a varied, ample, and healthy intellectual diet, and then to let go and leave the rest to God and to trust that He will fill them to the degree and in the ways that He knows they need.

And that’s really hard to do, especially when as homeschoolers we find ourselves very defensive about our children’s education. We may even have to prove to the state that they are learning. But God calls us to not to exalt ourselves and think that we can accomplish this through our wisdom and strength, but to let Him do it.


3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Patti on April 25, 2013 at 6:49 pm

    Dear Nebby: I so much appreciate this post. I find these ideas very freeing as well as challenging. I let go of the control over my children, but I also must yield myself to the Spirit and His work in me…. In the end it is all about Him. Thank you for sharing.


  2. […] I stumbled across this post in my travels and the words hit a little too close to […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s