Spreading the Feast

One of my favorite things about the Charlotte Mason method is the way Charlotte valued all children; rich, poor, strong, weak, bright and dull. She believed in what she called “spreading the feast” for all children: reading the same rich books, studying the same art, enjoying Shakespeare, history, studying nature and science – all the goodness with each child, and letting them take what they could get!  Of course, she expresses this much more intelligently:

“We spread an abundant and delicate feast in the programmes and each small guest assimilates what he can. The child of genius and imagination gets greatly more than his duller comrade but all sit down to the same feast and each one gets according to his needs and powers.


The surprises afforded by the dull and even the ‘backward’ children are encouraging and illuminating. We think we know that man is an educable being, but when we afford to children all that they want, we discover how straitened were our views, how poor and narrow the education we offered.”


-Charlotte Mason  A Philosophy of Education, p.183

Since I am in the middle of what I would term “experimental education” with several of my children, this idea is comforting and challenging to me. There is hope for all children when introduced to a beautiful, worthy and rich education. Being faithful to continue spreading the feast with the hope that Charlotte was right after all…well some days that is the challenge!

The idea of the feast came back to me last week as I was being begged by a child (not the one you’d think) to “PLEASE DO SOME SHAKESPEARE TOGETHER!” (I had to say no – no feast for you, buddy! For good reason, we were on our way out the door!). I thought, seriously? How does this child even know the word Shakespeare?

Because of the feast.

There was another surprising moment last week. It struck me as the same issue, slightly disguised.

I had begun the book Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis with a child who didn’t seem up for it. We read a bit, and it was a little slow and painful. In this situation, I might put the book on hold for awhile until the child is older. I was prepared to do that, and then we happened onto this conversation: the child and I were discussing something completely unrelated to what we’d read in Mere Christianity, when suddenly, he said: “oh, and you know Mom, remember when we were reading that one book, and it talked about how we don’t think we have rules until someone breaks them? Well, that happened to me the other day, and then I remembered what that book said.”

He then went on to recount every single detail of what we’d read, how it applied to the situation with another sibling, and how he was pretty impressed that the book was right!

I was pretty impressed myself. Stunned, in fact.

He was taking his own bit away from the feast, assimilating it in his intensely personal time and way, and letting me know that he had noticed. I could only listen in amazement.

“Education, like faith, is the evidence of things not seen.”


-Charlotte Mason


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