Saturday, November 08, 2014

Education is a discipline: use the tools

"...this way delight is necessary for happiness. For it is caused by the appetite being at rest in the good attained ~~ St. Thomas Aquinas

I'm thinking about "enough."  Knowing when you have read enough, bought enough, eaten enough.  It takes discipline to start a task, and discipline to stop at the right time or the right amount. However, my bread machine does exactly those things when I push a button, and human beings aren't machines, so it's not simply a matter of having the right parameters programmed into us.

Or is it? If we are first shaped by our habits, we have accepted a certain amount of "programming," and that's probably a good thing. Maybe our kids are used to taking one or two cookies, no more, and the habit puts that particular limit on their cookie appetite. Habit is ten natures, as Charlotte Mason reminds us; adults "cursed" with a bad temper or procrastination might have been able to avoid the worst of those things simply by being trained out of those habits. And as the conversation goes in Formation of Character, that in no way diminishes the theology of sin and salvation, or our need for grace and the work of the Holy Spirit; it is simply making use of the natural laws of how we are made.  

That distinction is really important, because, as in CM's original conversation, some will see it still as "bypassing God."  There was a popular teaching in my area, back in the 1980's, that emphasized repentance in all things, and it taught a prayer that said, "I am not willing to ___, but make me willing, or make me willing to be willing." This may have been solid enough at its start, but it got misused, and I think some people got stalled on the "I am not willing" part--as in, well, the Lord hasn't made me willing on that one yet, so we can blame the Lord. In Charlotte Mason's thinking, this makes about as much sense as owning a vacuum cleaner but blaming the Lord for your dirty floor, or owning a toolbox and allowing the house to fall apart but saying that God just hasn't fixed it. That, in her view, was the real blasphemy, and she applied that thinking to people. If our understanding of human nature allows us to treat our children well, or to resolve conflict well, or to teach a class well, or to change a habit, then we should use those tools, within the bounds of respect for people's individuality etc., but without saying that any of those actions are usurping God's work.

As Mason had one of her characters say particularly, not to use those opportunities is, itself, a demonstration of ingratitude. I posted a real-life example of this last year:
"I was going to say, "stay tuned for Part Three" and leave it at that, but something funny (and suggestive, as CM would say) happened. We are having some tree work done this morning in the Treehouse yard. (Aftermath of the quite violent storms last month.) One of the tree guys said that he had planned to put a bolt into one of the trees, but he couldn't do it this morning, because his drill was broken. Mr. Fixit told him to hold on. He disappeared into the workshop and came back with his late grandpa's 1950's brace and bit. The tree guy was very impressed.  "Do you know how hard it is to find good equipment like this?" We just have to know how to use [the tools]. And provide sufficient amounts of material (mind-food) to make it worthwhile."


Unknown said...

This is so good! I love the link to Afterthoughts also. I really see so much truth in this, especially coming to Charlotte Mason a little later in my parenting and home educating. Our foundation is a bit shaky and so I'm hoping to correct is sorta like the Leaning Tower of Pisa fix. :( God willing, though, as I learn more and apply these things we can reverse some of the stuff. I, personally, have so many bad habits myself. Just reading this, I started thinking of all the things I do without even thinking. Very interesting concept when applying it to all areas of life!

walking said...

The Fruit of the Spirit comes to mind as well. Charlotte Mason believed in the Holy Spirit as our helper coming alongside us as we guide and teach and alongside our children as they learn and mature. We can try to instill habits without the help of the Holy Spirit, but it is a lot easier when we are mindful of where the Spirit is leading us and our children.

Mama Squirrel said...

Right! I think I was trying to figure out a way to say that too, but it was already getting kind of clunky. I like the idea of the Holy Spirit being OUR helper in this as well.