Thursday, May 24, 2007

Thoughts on 'Good and Bad Children.'

"They (Children) are not born either good or bad, but with possibilities for good and for evil."
Vol 6 preface

This statement is the second of Charlotte Mason's 20 Educational Principles. Many folks wonder just what was Miss Mason trying to say?

It is helpful to realize that a common belief during Miss Mason's day-the Victorian age, was that children of bad parents were pretty hopeless and would turn out bad themselves. Likewise, good parents passed 'good' genes on to their children. She seems to be trying to combat this prejudice and thus her principle of children not being born 'bad' or 'good' makes perfect sense. She does not seem to be referring to the human propensity to sin that is indicated in the Bible and is so evident throughout history since the sin of Adam because as you read her volumes she does refer to the sinful tendencies of children. And no, I don't have my proof because I never thought to write down the references; don't take my word for it, but read for yourself and see what you find it this issue interests you.

I especially appreciated the passage from Vol 2 that was brought up this week in the CMseries Yahoo group because I believe it helps to prove my point:

... speaking about recent scientific findings: "There is no necessary adaptation in the cerebrum of the new-born child to make place for evil thoughts. In a word, the child of the vicious may be born as fit and able for good living as the child of the righteous. Inherent modifications are, it is true transmitted, and the line between inherent and acquired modifications may not be easy to define. But anyway, there is hope to go on with. The child of the wicked may have as good a start in life, so far as his birthright goes, as the child of the just."

That said, I still believe that Miss Mason's writings sometimes indicate a 'too simplistic and idealistic' approach to habit training and the nature of the child. More often than not, 'A gentle look' is simply not enough to turn a child from mischief. But I do appreciate the gentle firmness she insists upon as well as the many wonderful ideas she sets forth concerning habit training.

It is good to remember that ALL truth is from God, regardless of the source, and thus it is good. Where ever I can find truth, I try to embrace the baby without throwing out the bathwater. This is why you will find books in my curriculum (and Miss Mason's) that I would not turn my child loose with, but will read aloud and freely edit because there is truth contained therein that is timely and clothed in living garments. Likewise, this is why I can embrace Miss Mason's ideas even though I may not completely agree with everything she writes. Although, I must admit that nine times out of ten, upon further study of an idea that didn't set right with me while reading CM's volumes, I find that my judgment was hasty and my initial perceptions and ideas were flawed, not hers. By the way, Miss Mason's style is one in which she often makes extreme statements, but if you read on, you will find that she further expounds and clarifies.

one step at a time...


  1. Anonymous24.5.07

    YEAH! I'm so glad to read you this morning! I love your level head. Mine is not always so and I have thrown out bathwater, baby and the tub at times. Thank you for the reminder!
    Tarheel Mama

  2. Great post! I think that "Prove all things: hold fast that which is good" also applies here.

  3. I had thought about that 'gentle look' she writes of.
    How I do wish that is all it would take!

  4. lindafay,

    I found that when I am reading her volumes I sometimes get confused about who is talking. She will freely quote and discuss other people's views and thoughts and then I mistakenly think *she* was saying those things. It took me some time to remember to make sure I was reading what she was actually writing and not what she was sharing from other writers.

    I would get really confused and wonder what she was trying to say and then realize she was disagreeing also.

    I must remmember to engage my brain's "on" switch when reading Charlotte Mason.

    Harmony Art Mom

  5. I'm finding that, it also helps to read everything she says in the CONTEXT of her whole philosophy. For example, when she talks about giving a child the look, it helps me to remember that she was adamant about "laying down the rails" and that, if I've been diligent in doing so, there MAY come a time when just a look will suffice.

    Also, because of the time she lived in, weren't there a lot of parents who had "nannies" and such? Sometimes when I read her writings, it almost sounds like she has to remind parents to be involved with their children.

    Whatever the case, I think some of her writing is best read with the time period in mind as well. (Her advice on a child's diet is a little out-dated, for example!)

    Thanks for this post! I'm always happy to get some clarity here.

  6. Betty24.5.07


    I'm so glad you are back! This post really clarified things for me. Keep writing!

    Grace and Peace,

  7. Mrs
    I just wanted to let you know how much I admirer you! I love the way you school, I love the way you think, and I love the way you've rasied your children!

    Thank you so much for being who you are!!
    How did you become this way? Were you always like this in your thinking?


  8. Great points, Barb and Jana. I've thought the same things at times, just wasn't sharp enough to write them out.

    You are too kind. I try real hard to be a good mama, but I want to be a great mama, so I keep plugging away at it.

  9. Dawne25.5.07

    Welcome back! :-)

  10. Well, I love you!

  11. Anonymous24.6.07

    Hi there :) I'm in the CMSeries group and I had no idea this was your blog! I've visited several times before - it's a great resource :) Thanks so much!

    I have my own little blog to chronicle the beginning of our CM journey :) My oldest of four is 6 years old :) If you're interested, stop by!