Waking Up to Our Duties

An annual summer tradition for our sons is to attend a family camp with their grandparents.  This was the first year that one of our sons participated in youth camp, which is for students in junior high through high school. Although I did not attend the camp, I personally felt the difference upon registration this past Sunday.

It was my task to register four kids under 6th grade, including nieces and a nephew, in addition to my seventh grader.  There were tables in a long row with signs indicating the class grade.  At each appropriate table, I provided the requested information including age, birthdate, emergency contact names, emergency contact numbers, allergies, medications, any behavioral issues, whether the child needed to be reminded to go potty, the name of the adult who would pick up the child after each session, and “any other important information” they “needed to know” about each child.  Sweating under the hot sun, I diligently provided information designed to enable the best care of each child. 

Moving down the row, I came to the youth camp table.  In a split-second, with no words spoken but with a glance at the marked lack of any registration papers on the table, I recognized that I was supposed to step back. 

I indicated to my son with my eyes that he was to step forward. 

Freeze-frame that moment. 

See mom taking a deep breath.

When have you recently had to take a deep breath as something changed?  Something important to you.  Perhaps it was an unanticipated change.  Or, as in my case, perhaps it was a change that you knew was brewing but was crystallized in a moment or an event.

I felt like someone waking up to a new reality.

Or, as an employee might feel when she suspects that “something is up” after working 12 years at her job.  Then one day her boss comes and changes her job description--not so much that there is a new title, but enough that she feels she is not prepared for the new tasks. 

To Charlotte Mason, the mother’s job description is no less than the superintending and regulating of the unfolding of a human being in body and mind.  This job, as any other, requires preparation.

Is it, then, that the unfolding of a human being in body and mind is so comparatively simple a process that any one may superintend and regulate it with no preparation whatever? If not––if the process is, with one exception, more complex than any in Nature, and the task of ministering to it one of the surpassing difficulty––is it not madness to make no provision for such a task!?[1]

I am not fully prepared for this next stage of development in my son’s life.  I find myself with a lot of the same feelings of inadequacy that I had when anticipating labor, then nursing, then early habit training, then decisions about first foods, then early education decisions.  These feelings have been brewing this past year and intensifying.  I recognize that I need to grow in a range of new relational skills.  I also need to grow in knowledge that will help me make wise decisions about my son’s education and guide his growth in relationship with God, himself and others.  I am ignorant.

The good news is, according to Charlotte Mason, that my office qualifies me.  But how can I be ignorant, yet qualified?  An analogy comes to mind.  The Apostle Paul says of all believers that we are “blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.”[2]  The Apostle Peter says that we have been “granted all things that pertain to life and godliness.”[3]  The Apostle John says that God has given us His Spirit.[4]  These things are true of us, whether we act on them or feel them, by virtue of our identity as children of God.  They are also the foundational provision available to us as parents and teachers.

But occupying the office is not enough.  Staying ignorant is shirking duty at any age in life.[5]  Indeed, Charlotte Mason spells out the duty that comes with the office of motherhood:

Mothers owe a 'thinking love' to their Children.––"The mother is qualified," says Pestalozzi, "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."

We are waking up to our duties and in proportion as mothers become more highly educated and efficient, they will doubtless feel the more strongly that the education of their children during the first six years of life is an undertaking hardly to be entrusted to any hands but their own. And they will take it up as their profession––that is, with the diligence, regularity, and punctuality which men bestow on their professional labours.

That the mother may know what she is about, may come thoroughly furnished to her work, she should have something more than a hearsay acquaintance with the theory of education, and with those conditions of the child's nature upon which such theory rests.[6]

Do you have thinking love?  Do you have a habit of seeking knowledge when you identify an area of your own ignorance in your care of a child?  What would this habit look like in your life?  Whether you are a parent or a teacher, or both, to whom or what do you turn when you need to be informed?  What provision are you making for the task currently facing you?  Perhaps a few new books and articles are in order, or a return to a sage favorite, such as the writings of Charlotte Mason.  Or, how about an in-depth discussion with your mentor or principal?  Whom do you need to come alongside you?  Is an Ambleside internship in order?  Have you spent time in God’s word seeking provision?  Have you submitted the task at hand to consistent prayer?  These are questions I am pondering as I prepare for this stage of my son’s growth as a person.  “Is it not madness to make no provision for such a task?”[7]


[1] Mason, Charlotte.  Home Education, Vol. 1, p. 3.

[2] Ephesians 1:3

[3] 2 Peter 1:3

[4] I John 4:13

[5] Mason, Charlotte. A Philosophy of Education, Vol. 6, p. 238.  Charlotte Mason speaks of children as “weak and ignorant persons, whose ignorance we must inform and who weakness we must support.”  Experience teaches that ignorance and weakness are common throughout life.

[6] Mason, Charlotte.  Home Education, Vol. 1, pp. 2-3.

[7] Mason, Charlotte.  Home Education, Vol. 1, p. 3.