Monday, September 7, 2015

Charlotte Mason is permissive

by Anne White

I recently finished reading Susan Cain's book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking.

One of the ideas that struck me the most was Cain's assessment of cultural extroverted expectations. Raise your hand if you (or your children) were ever told by a teacher that you (or your children) needed to "speak up more in class." Raise both hands if you were told this by almost (to punctuate it currently) Every. Single. Teacher. Even if you thought you were "speaking up in class." Raise both hands and a foot if, on top of that, you were frequently told to "stop reading, go and play with the other children."

When this goes on for years and years, it's no wonder that introverts feel like they're not good enough, don't belong. Even good grades don't quite make up for not fitting into the General Agenda for Normal.

According to Cain, a great deal of this started about a hundred years ago, with Dale Carnegie, personal confidence, and the belief that success in the new century was as much about public face as it was about hard work or intelligence or personal honour. Those who could present well, be sufficiently aggressive or persuasive, got the job, got the client. Think advertising agencies.

With the new demands for common standards, education for many children is, more than ever, the demand that they measure up, academically and socially. Private schools and homeschools can reduce that pressure, to some extent, but we can still find ourselves pushing children to meet our own agenda or someone else's. It might be a required standardized test. It might be one of Charlotte Mason's lists of "attainments," which I personally think have taken on more weight than they should have; they were not intended to be timetables, just potentials if everything else was in place.

Charlotte Mason's philosophy of education is radical. Like Christ's "yoke that is easy," it removes burdens of expectations. It is about training in character, but without demanding a perfect result. It is about drawing in notebooks rather than colouring in the lines. It gives us permission to grow and learn freely, without standing against a measurement chart. Introverts, extroverts, slow learners, fast learners, those who excel in one thing or another, can all belong. Each of us has value because we are made in God's image.

We have permission to be us.

(Did you think I was referring only to the students?)


  1. And others are told to shut up (apparently, we are not talking about the right things). I don't think it's just "extrovert" traits, but dysfunctional traits -in the extrovert spectrum-, that are being pushed. I'm an extrovert but I followed class rules -I did not talk to my peers-, and I did not fit in the crowd -I was not popular-, and I read at recess my entire high school time. I'm an extrovert and I hated to have to work in groups (because there is always one or two doing all the work, and the others do nothing and get your grade), I'm an extrovert and at the last party I went to, I discretely got my phone and read a kindle book in it (I had never thought about taking a book with me, but I might next time).
    Cultural extrovert expectations may be different to personal extrovert traits.

  2. I really love this! Children, and mom's, are born persons!!

  3. Yes! I am introverted and have felt the pressure to get to all the co-op meetings and homeschool activities in our area. We have a lovely group, but I like being at home, and I tell myself that that's okay. My children are certainly having a different life than they would have with a more extroverted mom, but God entrusted them to me (and my introverted husband) for a reason. Our third child is the first extrovert in the family, and I know I will have to adjust to his needs in some ways as he grows. I'm going to look for that book at our library.

  4. Nelleke, I was able to read Quiet on my Overdrive e-book account. For anyone who doesn't know, you can use this through many public libraries. You sign in with your library card, "borrow" e-books and audio books for two weeks--then they disappear from your device. (No overdues, anyway!)

  5. I had to laugh at the "go outside and play" part...when I was in 5th grade, my parents grounded me from books. I was rather naughty and was getting grounded quite frequently, but didn't care because I'd just sit inside and read to my heart's content. My parents caught on and took my books away for a week or two as punishment for some infraction (probably a bad attitude). It was a very effective punishment. My teacher thought it was fantastic (she was in on the deal as I was also not allowed to read during recess).