The Key to Knowledge


As I reflect on “the science of relations” – this month’s topic offered through the CMEC’s Mother’s Education Course, I am delighted that like all families that embrace education as an atmosphere, a discipline and a life (and even those who don’t because really you almost can’t run from it in family life), each member of our family discovered beautiful “relationships” this past term. And then, just as I compose this, my husband interrupted me with one he had just made. Sometimes simple, sometimes profound, it doesn’t matter. Each time I get a “window into the soul” of my sons, my daughter and my husband. (For a great post that speaks of this window read Celeste Cruz’ blog )

One child spoke to me of the story of Theseus, King Minos and the Minotaur and how that story is “so like what is happening in the book of Judges”. Terrible wrong (King Minos son murdered/ Israelites turning from God), Punishment (Athens has to send tributes to Greece for their error/ Israelites suffer from their conquerors ), contrition (Theseus recognizes that they do have to make up for what they did/Israel realizes they were wrong), and finally, deliverance (a hero arises who rescues the people). 

Another day, my daughter notices that from our reading in Luke 6 (“Bless those who curse you”) where Jesus says to win others over with sweet words, so does Petruchio win over Katherine by countering her harsh nature with sweet responses. Both kids liked that we read about Theseus and Hippolyta’s marriage and that they make a special appearance in A Midsummer’s Night Dream, the play that we are doing this year.

One asked if the “Little Billie” poem by William Thackeray we read yesterday (about a little boy who is going to be eaten by his shipmates in a hilarious fashion) is based on the french song we learned last year, “It etait in petit navire” in which a little boy also picks the short straw and will be eaten starving shipmates but is saved (On tira a la courte paille, pour savior qui-qui-qui serait mange).

My own connection to this whole theme twas when I read Luke 11: 52 a few weeks ago as part of our morning NT readings: “Woe to you experts in the law [teachers], you have taken away the key of knowledge. You yourselves have not entered and you have hindered those who were entering.” Holy smokes! Isn’t that exactly what Charlotte Mason was talking about when she quotes from the Bible  “don’t hinder the little children”! Teachers can inhibit true learning when they hold the key of knowledge to themselves, or don’t even use it themselves – which is to enter into, to have a living relationship with ideas and people, and ultimately with the biggest Idea out there. The pharisees held to legalistic formulas, minuteness, dry facts, boring interpretations, and could not see the truth when it stared them in the face.

Have I been a teacher- pharisee? Only wanting my own answers spewed back to me? Wanting to ‘guide’ the children to parrot the facts and information that only I deem important? Jesus wanted a living faith for his followers. A parent must believe that a living education is indeed possible. When teachers hold this back, they do a great disservice. The people read the same scriptures as the pharisees but they found a great hope within, and the pharisees suppressed it. My children are reading living books – books that breath life and connect through time and space to people and places they might not otherwise get a chance to know. Who am I to tell them what may speak to their heart, or what knowledge they may dig for and delight in at these wonderful meetings of the mind? What a sobering thought! Jesus rebuked teachers for hindering this (Woe to you!)

And to leave on a slightly lighter note, just as I am thinking about all these connections, my husband walks in and plays what he just listened to in his latest audiobook Sharpe novel, “Sharpe’s Fury”. The captain references how his shipmates are just like his ships, the men have “hearts of oak”. And the captain proceeds to sing the sea shanty on his audiobook that the kids have been learning and reprising EVERY dinner (Lord help us): “Heart of Oak are our ships, Heart of Oak are our men. We are always ready, steady boys steady.” He delights in the “relation” to what his kids are learning.

If you haven’t read Celeste Cruz’s great blog post on the science of relations as relayed by her son, please do. She writes“ [CM] is warning us that we don’t have to present a carefully-constructed curriculum of connected ideas to make sure our children can learn. Their building of those connections themselves IS their education. That’s not our job as teacher; in fact, it would be overstepping our bounds. It is a web, not a string, of relationship, with the learner right there in the middle.”

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