Charlotte Mason tells us that we must provide ideas as the food for our children’s minds. This sounds like novel language in our day, but I have been reading through Oliver Wendell Holmes’ Autocrat of the Breakfast Table and find similar notions:
“Now, when a gentleman’s brain is empty or ill-regulated, it is, to a great extent, his own fault; and so it is simple retribution, that, while he lies slothfully sleeping or aimlessly dreaming, the fatal habit settles on him like a vampire, and sucks his blood, fanning him all the while with its hot wings into deeper slumber or idler dreams. I am not such a hard-souled being as to apply this to the neglected poor, who have had no chance to fill their heads with wholesome ideas, and to be taught the lesson of self-government . . . But body and mind often flag, – perhaps they are ill-made to begin with, underfed with bread or ideas, overworked, or abused in some way.” (p. 106)
Notice a few similarities with Charlotte’s thought
- Ideas are to the mind as bread is to the body.
- Without its proper food, the mind will atrophy and other, unwanted, things will creep in.
- There are two things that are needed: a healthy diet of ideas and “the lesson of self-government,” i.e. habit training.