Charlotte Mason Summaries

Short Summary of Ourselves - Volume 4 of the Charlotte Mason Series

Volume 4 was written directly to children to help them understand the good and evil tendencies within themselves and their duty to master themselves and obey God.

Book I. Self-Knowledge

Part I describes the various desires and appetites within all of us and explains how they can be allowed to run out of control to our very destruction. For instance, hunger is necessary and desirable, but if allowed to rule us, we become its slave.

Part II describes the God-given helpers we have in our own minds--intellect, sense of beauty, imagination, reason, etc. These things are helpful when they serve us in submission to our Will, but in excess they will make us unbalanced.

Part III details the ways in which we feel and express love for others--pity, kindness, generosity, etc. This chapters encourages us to do even small tokens of kindness and not to neglect politenesses.

Justice, which must work in sync with Love, is also detailed. We must not focus on what's fair for us, but what's fair for others. We must be just in word (truth-telling) and deed (integrity in our actions). We must be fair in giving others the benefit of the doubt and thinking the best of them.

Part IV encourages us to develop the habit of being useful. Serving others is more important than being good-looking or getting the best grades in school.

Book II. Self-Direction

Part I is about the Conscience. It can prick us when we've done wrong, but can be fooled so that it fails to see error for what it is. Reading classic stories with great characters will help define right and wrong by the examples of the people in the stories. Temperance, chastity, fortitude and prudence are discussed.

Even remote tribes understand the concept of right/wrong, although their understanding of rules may seem odd to us. The conscience doesn't grow properly without learning to define right from wrong. Reading is the best way to instruct the conscience.

Our conscience will make us feel guilty when we do wrong, and that is our cue to repent. We should be merciful in overlooking the faults of others. We should distract our thoughts when tempted to sin. Rules are meant to help us, and we should feel free to choose to obey them for our own good.

Part II is about the Will. Our will is the decision-making part of us that keeps the rest of us in control. A strong will can make people resolve to do evil plans as well as good ones because the Will itself is neither good nor bad.

Every decision we make, whether to purchase an item, or obey our authority, or anything else, is made by the Will. Those with a weak will tend to be goaded along by public opinion and circumstances, and they may have passions or tempers out of control. Those with a strong Will can resolve to think through decisions and not let peers sway them. If we don't watch which notions we entertain, we may find our best intentions forgotten and our lives out of our control.

Part III is about the Soul. It is the part of us that yearns for something more, something infinite. Our Soul longs for communion with God. Reading the Bible and praying will help us deepen our friendship with God. Thanks and praise should be a continual habit. The better we know God, the easier it will be to believe what He has said in the Bible.

Read the complete chapter-by-chapter summary of Volume 4


2004 Leslie N. Laurio
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