I. Education based upon natural law
Charlotte Mason first summarizes the previous parts, reminding readers about the provisions for healthy brains, and reiterating that the child younger than six or seven learns most effectively from free exploration in nature. She then introduces the theme of this part: “Habit is TEN natures.”
“[H]abit, in the hands of the mother, is as his wheel to the potter, his knife to the carver––the instrument by means of which she turns out the design she has already conceived in her brain,” states Mason, and a bit later, “I have been brought to look upon habit as the means whereby the parent may make almost anything he chooses of his child” (97).
I have a great big qualm to set aside if I am to give Mason the benefit of the doubt on this one!
We shall read on and see what exactly she means — I hope indeed that she does not really mean that parents decide what to make of their children and then set about the task. Perhaps the potter she envisions is the kind that looks first at the clay and endeavors to see what the clay wants to become… the kind that adapts, that is flexible, that follows what he learns as he works with the clay. And / or perhaps she’s thinking of very broad basic things like “I want my child to know how to learn,” things that could legitimately be goals for many children.
And yet, contrast those two sentences of hers with this:
This particular program [my friend was telling me about] boasted of children with higher intelligence. Other programs say they will make your child a genius, a prodigy, or a standout in a particular sport or discipline.
And it got me thinking about RIE. What does RIE promise to make our children? It doesn’t tell us they will be smarter. It doesn’t tell us they will be more confident. Perhaps spatially aware, but that’s a bit of an odd goal.
No, RIE tells us our children will be themselves.
Even writing that down makes me a bit uncomfortable. I want to go back and say, wait, what I really mean is that it will help them become a better version of themselves, or the best version of themselves, or a superhuman version of themselves. Right??
But it doesn’t. Just themselves.
Would you rather have a mother who has a design in mind to carve in you? Or a mother who wants you to be your own true self? Perhaps we will find, in further sections, that these two ideas are not so mutually exclusive as they seem. After all, gentle non-punitive parenting doesn’t imply permissive neglectful parenting, so perhaps parenting for the child’s own true self can include ideas and goals that the parent has for the child. It’s just… the way she flat out compares parenting to a potter executing a preconceived design… it just rubs me the wrong way.