Education is a Science of Relations!
The relations were like a trail of breadcrumbs leading to somewhere special. The breadcrumbs: a comment I made on Charlotte Mason Boot Camp, Brandy’s answer to my comment, my resolution to listen to the Book of Proverbs and Andrew Kern’s podcast — I had no idea where the Holy Spirit was leading me …
A little bit of background before I take you along on this trail.
I was lost in the forest of daily life of mothering, getting meals on the table, homeschooling, household chores and extra curricular activities. When I could, I would snatch moments to read about educational philosophy, theology, parenting, health and so on. I was trying desperately to fulfil my desire for knowledge while keeping the family going. Mothers need mind food too!
I read and pondered a lot! I worried about different things concerning my children — we all do. I would pray, and reach out for more books, listen to more podcasts, trying to satiate my desire to find out more. But, I wasn’t satisfied, I was missing something. I had formed an unhealthy habit of searching for wisdom, without taking the time to apply it practically to many of the concerns that troubled my heart.
My First Crumb: A Comment on the Charlotte Mason Boot Camp
I commented that I had a tendency to worry more than to actively ‘do’. Brandy answered with this quote from George Grant,
True education is a form of repentance.
Brandy’s interpretation was that, “as we are learning we will constantly be confronted with where we are wrong, where we are lacking, where we need to grow, where we are ignorant … It can feel very discouraging.” Then she added that the first thing in repentance is to acknowledge where we have gone wrong and then move on and not ‘self-flagellate’.
Repentance is to turn away, to turn the opposite direction and start moving on the right path. To re-calibrate … Even though things may feel weighty we pick one thing at a time to deal with and keep moving forward, while praying for wisdom … The Lord has grace for all our short comings.
Those words stopped me in my tracks. I needed to repent, pick up one thing and move forward while praying for wisdom.
Continuing One: Book of Proverbs and Andrew Kern’s Podcast
Solomon lists, right at the beginning of Proverbs, that one of his purposes for penning them was ‘to give prudence to the simple’. Prudence? Wait! In my eagerness to pursue knowledge I had entirely overlooked the possibility that Proverbs was anything more than a book about wisdom. Solomon goes on to write in Proverbs 8:12 that
Wisdom dwells with Prudence, and finds knowledge and discretion with her.
Who is she? How could I have missed her?
In his Ask Andrew podcast, Andrew Kern mentioned the Latin word ‘Prudentia’ which is means Prudence in English. He said that it is one of the most lost virtues, and gave a simple definition that Prudence is the
… virtue of seeing a principle clearly and embodying it in the circumstances.
This piqued my interest, I was now hot on the trail.
Who is this Lady ‘Prudence’?
Lady Prudence is pictured in the fresco of The Triumph of St. Thomas Aquinas, under the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. She carries a book, a symbol of an education which enables the differentiation between right and wrong.
(I made reference to this fresco when I wrote of my encounter with Hope).
In Christian tradition, she is considered a ‘cardinal virtue’. The word ‘cardinal’ stems from the Latin ‘cardo’ which means ‘hinge’. She is one of the hinges of a virtuous life, alongside Fortitude, Temperance, and Justice.
She is cautious and wise in her conduct, she is dictated by forethought (her Latin origin comes from prōvidēre — to foresee) and she is ‘wisdom applied to practice’ (Chambers Dictionary) The Online Etymology Dictionary would add that she is ‘intelligence’, and ‘practical judgement’.
Prudence uses common sense, discernment and insight — applying wisdom and principles to solve a problem.
It’s All About Love
Augustine wrote, that virtue leads us to a happy life and he regarded virtue to be nothing other than perfect love of God. He wrote that,
the object of this love is not anything, but only God, the chief good, the highest wisdom, the perfect harmony.
In defining the virtues as the perfect love of God he wrote of Prudence as a
love making a right distinction between what helps it towards God and what might hinder it.
So I realised, that Prudence is actually love. She makes the right distinction, with the gift of wisdom, between what helps or hinders her way towards God and then implements that wisdom into all of our thoughts, intentions, plans and actions.
She is “right thinking” leading into “right acting”. Prudence is a ‘thinking love’.
Let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. (1 John 3:18)
Charlotte Mason writes that Mothers owe a ‘thinking love’ to their Children.
She quotes Pestalozzi that
The mother is qualified … and qualified by the Creator Himself, to become the principal agent in the development of her child; … and what is demanded of her is — a thinking love … God has given to the child all the faculties of our nature, but the grand point remains undecided — how shall this heart, this head, these hands be employed? to whose service shall they be dedicated? A question the answer to which involves a futurity of happiness or misery to a life so dear to thee. Maternal love is the first agent in education.
She goes on,
We are waking up to our duties and in proportion as mothers become more highly educated and efficient … they will take it up as their profession — that is, with the diligence, regularity, and punctuality which men bestow on their professional labours. (Vol. 1, pp. 2-3)
We have a duty towards our children, and that can only be fulfilled with the help of Prudence, a thinking love.
Prudence the Charioteer of Virtues, a powerful agent of the Holy Spirit.
What was I missing on my way?
St. Thomas Aquinas prescribed the following steps to making decisions in a prudent manner. (Summa Theologica II-II, Q. 47, Art. 8)
- Take Counsel: A prudent decision will start with the act of inquiry, gathering information and principles while constantly deliberating Truth.
- Judge Soundly: Separate the relevant from irrelevant information and apply it to the situation at hand. It is here that considered decisions are made. We procrastinate when we don’t make a final judgement!
- Take Action: Once wise counsel has been considered, and judgement has been made, we should act! We do not have the virtue of prudence until we have executed what we have judged to be right.
I know where I went wrong. I was taking counsel and judging soundly but not taking action!
In Norms and Nobility, David Hicks wrote that,
The purpose of education is not the assimilation of facts or the retention of information, but the habituation of the mind and body to will and to act in accordance with what one knows.
I remember Brandy’s strong words that repentance is to turn away, and start moving along the right path.
The breadcrumbs have lead me to my ‘house beautiful’.
Through skilful and Godly Wisdom is a house (a life, a home, a family) built, and by understanding it is established [on a sound and good foundation], and by knowledge shall its chambers [of every area] be filled with all precious and pleasant riches. Proverbs 24:3-4
Come, let us dwell with Wisdom and Prudence.
I am now heeding the call of Lady Prudence. I’m learning not to just assimilate information, but act in accordance with it and live a fuller life, a happier life that is leading me closer to God, the chief good, the highest wisdom, the perfect harmony.
Meditating on the Word of God, studying Charlotte Mason’s volumes, sitting at the feet of those gone before and reading living books, — all of these, and so much more, are helping me on this journey towards a ‘thinking love’. I also appreciate all the people who have helped me along the way, giving me tools to apply wisdom to my practises, and encouraging me to parent and teach lovingly and mindfully — seeing principles clearly and embodying them in the circumstances (A. Kern).
Some tools from my treasure chest that have helped me recently:
A Mother’s Diary
Charlotte Mason recommends that parents use a diary that would help toward cultivating a ‘thinking love’. Here are some questions she said to consider:
- “When do the first stirrings of the moral sense appear in the child?
- How do they manifest themselves?
- What are the emotional and the intellectual equipments of the child at different periods, and how do these respond with its moral outfit?
- At what time does conscience enter on the scene?
- To what acts or omissions does the child apply the terms right or wrong?
If observations of this kind were made with care and duly recorded, the science of education would have at its disposal a considerable quantity of material from which, no doubt, valuable generalisations might be deduced. Every mother, especially, should keep a diary in which to note the successive phases of her child’s physical, mental, and moral growth, with particular attention to the moral; so that parents may be enabled to make a timely forecast of their children’s character; to foster in them every germ of good, and by prompt precautions to suppress, or at least restrain, what is bad. (Vol. 2, pp. 105-106)
Brandy introduced me to this diary in her Charlotte Mason Boot Camp. She outlines a very beautiful way to use it and really challenged me to be a more prudent parent.
Nancy Kelly of Sage Parnassus has published a lovely bound mother’s diary that could be used exactly for this purpose.
The Scholé Sisters’ Audits
The Scholé Sisters have a three episode series on Charlotte Mason’s motto that education is an atmosphere, a discipline, and a life. They have great food for thought in these discussions and offer three audits to put these principles into action.
Do you have any other tools that have helped you to have relationship with Lady Prudence?