Here’s a principle that may ruffle some feathers, but stick with me here:

2. Children are not born bad but with possibilities for good and for evil.

At first glance, it might seem like Charlotte is talking about original sin, or, rather, a lack of original sin, but it’s actually more like a call not to be prejudiced against children for socio-economic status. Remember the part in Oliver Twist when Mr. Grimwig insists that Oliver will swindle Mr. Brownlow simply because Oliver was thin and poor? This is the exact culture that Charlotte Mason was raised in. When she went to teaching school, these prejudiced ideas were likely the norm.

Charlotte saw for herself that children from many backgrounds could be positively influenced by a proper education.

BUT – VERY IMPORTANT HERE: She did not mean attaching a “moral” to every story or lesson. In fact, she says in Volume 6:

“As for moral lessons, they are worse than useless; children want a great deal of fine and various moral feeding, from which they draw the ‘lessons’ they require. It is a wonderful thing that every child, even the rudest, is endowed with Love and is able for all its manifestations, kindness, benevolence, generosity, gratitude, pity, sympathy, loyalty, humility, gladness; we older persons are amazed at the lavish display of any one of these to which the most ignorant child may treat us. But these aptitudes are so much coin of the realm with which a child is provided that he may be able to pay his way through life; and, alas, we are aware of certain vulgar commonplace tendencies in ourselves which make us walk delicately and trust, not to our own teaching, but to the best that we have in art and literature and above all to that storehouse of example and precept, the Bible, to enable us to touch these delicate spirits to fine issues.” 

Tying a story up with a nice moral “bow” completely takes away the magic of the story and doesn’t let the story do it’s work on the child. Imagine finishing Charlotte’s Web, children tearing up, and as you close the book saying, “Now remember kids, it’s important to be a kind friend.” Or, “If you wake up early, you might get to raise a pig.” Or “There can be redemption in grief.” Those are all things that one could pull from the text, but spelling it out for the child is *you* doing the work and taking the opportunity away from the child to draw their own conclusion.

Interestingly, even Aesop’s Fables, I have heard, did not originally include the “morals” at the end of each tale. So, when we read the stories, I always leave off the “moral,” and instead, we talk through what happened in the story. Often, the child will work out a perfectly fine conclusion on her own. And if she doesn’t, let the story marinate. The story will always be tucked away in the back of her mind to recall as needed. 

Let the child do the work. Trust that the Holy Spirit will do the work.


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