Charlotte begins by reminding mothers that there is no higher calling, no greater responsibility than raising a child. Parents must envision what their goal is for their children and then learn the best way to get there. Children are not blank slates, but complete little people made in God's image and a parent's duty is to teach them right from wrong, give them habits of good self-discipline, and provide them with ideas in all fields of knowledge, especially knowledge of God. Besides rest and exercise, their young minds need the nourishment of inspiring ideas, and their bodies need proper care so that their brain is in top form. They will learn that God's laws (not just physical laws such as gravity, but spiritual laws such as the wisdom of financial planning) are true for secular people as well as Christians.
Children, especially preschoolers, should spend a lot of time outdoors. Young children are collecting experiences on which to base the rest of their education, and first-hand familiarity with nature provides wonder of God, hands-on familiarity with geographical concepts, exposure to order and classification as well as opportunities for lessons in maps, directions, weather and narration/remembering skills. Since young children learn best by touching, they need to be immersed in nature so they can handle natural objects.
Charlotte discusses the use of training in good habits to replace undesirable tendencies in children. Automatic habits remove many stressful decisions from the child, making life easier and smoother since a child with good habits will be well-behaved. In adulthood, the properly trained habits that were acquired in childhood will prevent pitfalls that many people fall into.
She discusses habits of attention (which trains children to focus their attention fully so they "get it" the first time), drawing conclusions by being observant, keeping a watch on their imaginations, fixing details in their mind to enhance memory, performing tasks with precise execution, obedience to authority, and truth in intent and accuracy.
Finally, she details how lessons in various school subjects can be done using her approach. Children's lessons should provide inspiring ideas, exercise the powers of the mind, increase their knowledge, and be interesting enough to be recalled years later with pleasure. School time should be short enough to allow lots of time for free play.
Even kindergarten is not too early to teach familiarity with nature, preciseness in work, love for great books and good habits. The best kindergarten teacher is the child's mother - she knows her child best and is more real to him than a cheerful teacher with contrived lessons.
Reading is taught by learning to recognize words of a beloved poem by sight and then adding words to the child's collection so that there is a sense of accomplishment and fun rather than tears of frustration associated with reading.
Narrating, or telling back from reading material, is something that comes naturally to children. Their creative mind already wants to tell forth what it knows; narration is simply harnessing what children already do. Writing, transcription, dictation, and spelling are all done with the goal of developing the habit of careful attention to detail and exactness. Composition flows naturally when children start writing down their narrations; no contrived 'creative writing' assignments are given, as these frustrate children who don't have the life experience to draw from in order to form creative essays of their own. Bible lessons should begin when children are young and should teach reverence and love, rather than dread, for God. Arithmetic is taught with counters and real life application (measuring real things, using money, solving real problems). Science is taught using books that convey wonder for nature rather than dry facts. Geography is taught in the same way that adults enjoy to find out about other places -- with colorful descriptions of the places and people there. History revolves around people -- heroes of the past. Grammar, French, art and music are also briefly discussed.
A child's will must be strengthened so that he is able to make himself do what he knows he should, even when he doesn't feel like it. A stubborn, impulsive child is a slave to his passions and lacks the strength to control his will. The conscience must be instructed because, even though everyone is born wanting to do right, lack of knowledge can twist the conscience and cause children to make bizarre decisions about what they should and shouldn't do. The Bible is the best conscience curriculum. Children should live in an environment where God's presence is felt as a loving, continual king but not driven in so often that the very idea of religion becomes a bore.
2004 Leslie N. Laurio
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