Education, the Growth of Ideas

“Now that life which we call education, receives only one kind of sustenance; it grows upon ideas. You may go through years of so-called education without getting a single, vital idea; and that is why many a well-fed body carries about a feeble, starved intelligence…”

When I read that last week, I will admit to feeling some stress. I immediately wanted to rush out and fill my children with ideas. I fretted a little over how to give them ideas, although I have been providing the food for ideas for years.

Still, I fret.

There is a sense of time passing that gets to us mothers. We feel the need to cram more in. More ideas, more books, more extras. Meanwhile the atmosphere at home becomes rushed, stressed and devoid of time to even think over an idea. (!)

And where do we get these ideas? Charlotte says that we know already where they come from…

“…for the best thought the world possesses is stored in books; we must open books to children, the best books; our own concern is abundant provision and orderly serving.”

-Charlotte Mason, A Philosophy of Education , p. 26

Today a few of us were reading the Bible together. We were reading of the wayward wife and foolish men who follow her down the path of destruction. We discussed seductive and wicked women, foolish men. Eyes were big, mouths were gaping, questions were flowing.

Then a pair of  serious little eyes got very close to mine and said “I will not be a wicked woman.”

Another chivalrous voice piped up: “I will FIGHT the bad foolish guys, so they never go down the bad path.”

Later, as I put a thoughtful child to bed for rest time, she looked up at me and said: “Mom. I will never be a wicked woman.”

Ideas. Ideas are churning in those minds.


Yesterday we were reading a verse that can be falsely comforting when pulled out of it’s context. We discussed the danger of doing so, and how it can harm our love and trust of God. Intelligent questions and comments abounded. When I asked them to think of a single instance in the New Testament of God promising us physical safety from all harm, they were quick. No. They couldn’t think of any. But they could think of several who did come to disastrous ends, because of their faith in Jesus. Someone exclaimed: “It’s just like Christian in Pilgrim’s Progress, Mom. He had to go through a lot of bad things, his safety was later.”

Ideas. Everywhere we turn, ideas. Their hearts and minds are gripped by them.

“We form an ideal…a[n] embodied idea-and our ideal exercises the very strongest formative influence upon us. Why do you devote yourself to this pursuit, that cause? ‘Because twenty years ago such and such an idea struck me,’ is the sort of history which might be given of every purposeful life- every life devoted to the working out of an idea.”

-Charlotte Mason, Parents and Children, p.34

This was comforting.

If I continue to feed them deep, rich mind food, the ideas will come. I will be patient. After all, “Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life”. Charlotte talks about the “Vital Stir” which marks the inception of an idea. I am relieved to know that I have often seen and heard that Vital Stir. I hope and pray for many more.

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