CM Monday – Education is a Life

Charlotte Mason’s motto was: “Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life.”  Meaning “the atmosphere of environment, the discipline of habit, and the presentation of living ideas.” She called these the three educational instruments.  This week, we will cover the idea of Education is a Life.  You can find this topic in Volume 6 – Towards a Philosophy of Education, Book 1, Chapter 6.

We have left until the last that instrument of education implied in the phrase ‘Education is a life’; ‘implied’ because life is no more self-existing than it is self-supporting; it requires sustenance, regular, ordered and fitting (vol. 6, book 1, chap. 6, pg. 104).

Living ideas are the absolute hallmark of a CM education.  Living books present living ideas for the mind.  Charlotte compared the mind’s appetite for living ideas with the body’s appetite for food.  In order to live and thrive, we must be fed regularly.  This applies to the mind & spirit as much as the physical body.  Children, who are literally growing into adulthood before our eyes, need a steady diet of good mind food.

For the mind is capable of dealing with only one kind of food; it lives, grows and is nourished upon ideas only; mere information is to it as a meal of sawdust to the body; there are no organs for the assimilation of the one more than of the other.

For the mind is capable of dealing with only one kind of food; it lives, grows and is nourished upon ideas only; mere information is to it as a meal of sawdust to the body; there are no organs for the assimilation of the one more than of the other.

What is an idea? we ask, and find ourselves plunged beyond our depth. A live thing of the mind, seems to be the conclusion of our greatest thinkers from Plato to Bacon, from Bacon to Coleridge. We all know how an idea ‘strikes,’ ‘seizes,’ ‘catches hold of,’ ‘impresses’ us and at last, if it be big enough, ‘possesses’ us; in a word, behaves like an entity (vol. 6, book 1, chap. 6, pg. 105-6).

From dictionary.com:

Strike – make an impression on the mind, senses, etc., as something seen or heard

Seize – grasp mentally; understand clearly and completely: to seize an idea

Impress – affect deeply or strongly in mind or feelings; influence in opinion

Posess – make (someone) owner, holder, or master, as of information, etc.

A living idea is something that should make an impression, is something we can clearly grasp/understand, should affect us deeply, and should eventually become something we own…as a part of us.

Living ideas shape our character as much as environment and good habits (the first two instruments).  I would venture to say this is the most important instrument.  The environment and habits provide the framework and the basic pattern, but living ideas are the colorful threads that come together to make a person unique, beautiful, vibrant, and ALIVE!  The ideas we choose to hold onto literally make us who we are…

Anyone can benefit from being presented living ideas, but children are just beginning their journey, and they are hungry for something more than dry information and senseless facts.  All of us are born with a desire to learn, to know, to connect with something bigger.

When we come into contact with the ideas, words, music, and art of the greatest minds on this planet, we are forging ourselves in the fire of education.  It reminds me of Proverbs 27:17 – “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”  As we all digest and posses these living ideas, we are sharpened.  Eventually, our ideas help to sharpen others.

I challenge you to present your children with living ideas…the best this world has to offer.  Not all of the ideas will take root; Charlotte suggested that most children will reject 9 out of 10 ideas presented to them.  Our job is to supply them with a variety and abundance, and allow them to choose what they need.

This is the final post on Charlotte Mason’s three educational instruments.  You can find the first post, “Education is an Atmosphere,” here.  The second post, “Education is a Discipline,” can be found here.

5 thoughts on “CM Monday – Education is a Life

  1. southernmel says:

    Oh, I love your very last paragraph which reminds us that not all will take root, but when we provide generously, many noble ideas will indeed leave lasting impressions.
    Yes, yes…thank you!

  2. Traci's Teaching Times says:

    Once roots are established things begin to grow. That’s what I love about having the privilege of giving my children a variety of gret books. Each time I give them a book that covers something we’ve covered previosly,Iam watering the seed that was dropped in to the ground earlier. Isn’t Charlotte Mason’s method of teaching great?

  3. Tanya says:

    “A living idea is something that should make an impression, is something we can grasp clearly grasp/understand, should affect us deeply, and should eventually become something we own…as a part of us.” The whole reason I homeschool!..Beautifully put! Loved this read!!

    Tanya

    • Becky says:

      Thank you, Tanya!

      You also helped me catch a writing error. Whoops! 😉

      Thanks for stopping by and reading. I truly appreciate it!

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