Code of Education
“It may surprise parents who have not given much attention to the subject to discover also a code of education in the Gospels, expressly laid down by Christ.”
- Charlotte Mason, Home Education, p. 12
The “code of education” mentioned in the quote above is referring to several verses found in the book of Matthew. Interestingly, each one of the verses are things we are warned not to do to our children, “as if the chief thing required of grown-up people is that they should do no sort of injury to the children: Take heed that ye OFFEND not- DESPISE not-HINDER not- one of these little ones.” Charlotte Mason says that understanding this is a precursor to contemplating a philosophy of education. “...for if we once settle with ourselves what we may not do, we are greatly helped to see what we may do, and must do.”¹
So what does it mean when we say we are not to offend, hinder, or despise our children? We offend children when we place stumbling blocks in their path. The Bible further cautions us by saying those who offend their children and cause them to stumble would be better off to be drowned with a millstone around their neck (Matthew 18:6). In Home Education, Charlotte Mason writes, “We offend them when we do by them that which we ought not to have done.” She adds, “But the little child is going out into the world with uncertain tottering steps in many directions. There are causes of stumbling not so easy to remove as an offending footstool; and woe to him who causes the child to fall!”¹ Instead, perhaps, we are to be like John the Baptist - bringing down mountains, bringing up valleys and making paths straight for our children, as we read about in Luke chapter 3.
Most of us are likely familiar with the exhortation found in Matthew 18:10, “Take heed that ye not despise one of these little ones.” Despise in this case means to have a low opinion of or to undervalue. This idea is very much the tied to Charlotte Mason’s first (and most important!) principle of education that Children are born persons. As parents, it is too easy to despise our children simply because they are smaller and less mature. We know that they are made in God’s image in the same way that we are, but do our words and actions towards them exemplify that? Too often we, as adults, feel we superior in ways we shouldn't. Certainly, God placed our children under our authority, but that does not mean children's minds are inferior or less capable than ours.
Charlotte Mason states, “The most fatal way of despising the child falls under the third educational law of the Gospels; it is to overlook and make light of his natural relationship with Almighty God.”² Matthew 19:14 is where we find the warning not to hinder our children in their relationship with Him. We hinder our children when we believe they’re less capable of having a meaningful, authentic relationship with God simply because they are children; but perhaps their relationship with Him is more natural than we suspect, for “as the babe turns to his mother though he has no power to say her name, as the flower turns to the sun, so the hearts of the children turn to their Saviour and god with unconscious delight and trust.”³ These ideas are worthy of our contemplation. How we view our children, and how we apply what the Bible says about our relationship with our children will impact how we educate our children, and more importantly, how we do life with our children. Let us be cautious and diligent to ensure that, if at all possible, we do not offend, despise or hinder our children.
¹ Mason, Charlotte., Home Education. p. 13-14.
², ³ Mason, Charlotte., Home Educaiton., p. 18-20.