Education is Not Secular
No matter how we choose to educate our children (i.e., private, charter, public or at home), we are ultimately the ones who are accountable for their education; and we shouldn't take this responsibility lightly. Charlotte Mason believed that life itself is education. In contrast, society often compartmentalizes “school” as nothing more than the acquisition of knowledge, facts, and academic skills; the truth is, this is only a small facet of a child’s entire education.
One of Charlotte Mason’s principles of education is, “We should allow no separation to grow up between the intellectual and 'spiritual' life of children; but should teach them that the divine Spirit has constant access to their spirits, and is their continual helper in all the interests, duties and joys of life.” This idea is incredibly countercultural. As we introduce children to new content, ideally it's through the lens that all knowledge is divine in nature. Even better is if we communicate this belief with our own sense of awe that our God created such a beautifully ordered and intricate universe for us to enjoy and discover. When we convey learning in this way, we encourage our children (and ourselves!) to catch glimpses of our Creator through His creation that we might otherwise take for granted or miss altogether.
If we focus so much on making sure our children master the "three Rs" that it strips away any sense of wonder, appreciation, and knowledge of our Heavenly Father, then we are doing our children a major disservice. While children certainly need to acquire a variety academic skills, where we tend to go wrong is by hyper-focusing on the skills themselves as the end goal. If we can begin to peel our philosophy away from the modern belief that utilitarian acquisition of knowledge (e.g., achieving good grades, meeting state standards etc.) is the highest purpose of education, only then can we begin to see the deep, vast, rich relationships with creation made available to us by the Creator.
As Charlotte Mason so aptly puts it,
“...we do not merely give a religious education because that would seem to imply the possibility of some other education, a secular education, for example. But we hold that all education is divine, that every good gift of knowledge and insight comes from above, that the Lord the Holy Spirit is the supreme educator of mankind, and that the culmination of all education (which may at the same time be reached by a little child) is that personal knowledge of and intimacy with God in which our being finds its fullest perfection."¹
Choosing this broad view of education gives us a renewed perspective that is a gift to our children. No longer will parents and teachers need to answer the dreaded question when will we ever use this in real life. Our goal in educating our children is not to equip them for real life (as if the here and now is somehow less real). The Lord cares deeply about our children, and this includes their education right now, in this very moment! Charlotte Mason implores us to keep, "education in her true place as the handmaid of Religion."² If we can tune out external pressures and messages that say education is one thing and religion is something completely different, but rather realize that education is intended to serve a higher spiritual purpose then we can more confidently navigate all the academic aspects of our children's education.
¹,² Mason, Charlotte., A Philosophy of Education, p. 183. & p. 47.