I think Charlotte Mason thought she was writing something simple when she said, “Give your child a single valuable idea, and you have done more for his education [and we can add, perhaps, his or her character] than if you had laid upon his mind the burden of bushels of information.” “A single idea” was behind the audacious thought that we could educate our own children; that it wasn’t just something people better and smarter might be able to do, but it could be attainable for the rest of us. But to keep it from turning into a never-ending list of moral habits and particular ideas that somebody has to be constantly checking like a railway timetable, Mason also wrote “the busy mother says she has no leisure to be that somebody…but we must not make a fetish of habit; education is a life as well as a discipline.” She tries to help us relax a bit by saying that we just need to provide “…..A little guiding, a little restraining, much reverent watching…” Wendell Berry wrote that “People who don’t care, or know enough to care, or care enough to know, don’t watch…What is necessary and attractive here is the introduction of the idea of a practical and practicing love.”
So to paraphrase Charlotte Mason, we ask not how much we know, but how much we watch, and therefore how much we love. But the important thing is that we have to begin, even if it’s with one single idea, like limestone.
Come to your windows, people of the world,Wendell Berry, “Look Out”
look out at whatever you see wherever you are…
We want our students to know about the wider world, but we may be surprised how much we can learn about it by what’s right at hand, right around us, right under our feet. And the students can surprise us back, because they are also amazingly and uniquely created; also part of “whatever we see wherever we are.”