a fly on the wall (and you thought this house was abandoned!)

Listen in to a recent conversation we had about child training, habit training, and the Holy Spirit. Enjoy, and may your trust in Jesus grow stronger as He reveals Himself as the God who works in us.

We love so many of Charlotte Mason's methods. Living books, feasts of beautiful ideas, hours in the outdoors, short, varied lessons, narration, the importance of free play... the list could go on!

Last year, after reading several volumes of Ambleside's Concise Summaries, I wondered whether it was possible (hypocritical, even?) to embrace someone's methods while disagreeing with their foundational philosophies. We decided that Charlotte's philosophies are not the only way to arrive at her conclusions.

Her methods were ahead of her time. We see the wisdom and benefit of those methods. Yet Charlotte was a woman of her time. Her beliefs and convictions were shaped by Victorian religion, a form of godliness which had largely forgotten the power of the Holy Spirit (which is why the Keswick Convention rocked England).

My question comes from having lived with several families, both North American and European, with a variety of opinions on child training. Some use a consistent method very similar to habit training, and... it's not enough. There's an ever-present tension between law and grace; children who are constantly watched, yet evade and disobey; disciplined and discipled with love and grace, yet their hearts are untouched; ever hearing, never penetrated by the dynamis of the Gospel, by the Person of Jesus.

Galatians 3:23-4:1: "The law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith.... the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything, but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father." Absolutely true. Parents are to train up a child in the way he should go. However, when the child becomes the focus, instead of the Way (Jesus), habit training can quickly derail and cut the legs out from under the Gospel. 

For Charlotte Mason, “the problem before the educator is to give the child control over his own nature” (Volume 1, page 103) so that he can overcome his bad traits, conquer his own inclinations, gain power over his own self. For Charlotte, the Will is what enables us to do that which we know is right but which we may not feel like doing, and therefore she desires to strengthen the Will. She is quick to add, “I do not undervalue the Divine grace––far otherwise; but we do not always make enough of the fact that Divine grace is exerted on the lines of enlightened human effort.”

Charlotte rightly recognizes the importance “of the Christian mother, whose highest desire is to train [her child] for the Christian life.” But she continues, “When he wakes to the consciousness of whose he is and whom he serves, she would have him ready for that high service, with every faculty in training––a man of war from his youth; above all, with an effective will, to will and to do of His good pleasure.” (Volume 1, page 323) Hold on! Those last words highlight the way that habit training can easily try to replace the Holy Spirit. Philippians 2:13 actually says, “It is God who works in you, both to will and to do of His good pleasure.”

Charlotte believes “it is because of the possibilities of ruin and loss which lie about every human life that I am pressing upon parents the duty of saving their children by the means put into their hands. Perhaps it is not too much to say, that ninety-nine out of a hundred lost lives lie at the door of parents who took no pains to... fortify them with the habits of a good life.” (Volume 1, page 330) Is this how the Bible views salvation? Can Christian parents save their children by fortifying them "with the habits of a good life”?

Corrie ten Boom knew something different. “When I try, I fail. When I trust, He succeeds.”

Even if we append "I am, I can, I ought, I will" with, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me," Charlotte's philosophy inclines a child to depend upon himself. When faced with the impossible standard of God's Word, such children often experience self-condemnation. The truth is confusing, because it seems to contradict everything they know: I am--a wretch? I cannot--but Jesus can?

I have seen what children are, when given free rein. I have seen what children are, when spanked ten times a day. I have seen what children are, when given time and space to consider their behavior, then gently led by a firm authority into the truth of Scripture. But it is not enough. None of these are enough. We must choose the Holy Spirit every single time, and we must help our children choose the Holy Spirit, every single time.

A couple things helped crystallize and articulate these thoughts. Andrew Murray, a Spirit-filled contemporary of Charlotte Mason:

In this [the child] is to become the master of his own will, that he voluntarily submits it to a higher authority.”

...cast yourself on the covenant for the leading of the Holy Spirit in your work, for the renewal of the Holy Spirit in your child, that it may be your and his joy to see his will given up to choose the good, to choose God.”

...may a due sense of my own impotence, and Your Almighty Power working in me, combine to keep me humble and yet hopeful, conscious of my weakness, but confident in You.”

Also, part of an article by Leslie Ludy, titled Tending to Their Souls:

After walking our children through the Gospel, and joyfully watching them give their lives to Jesus, one of the most important principles we have had to continually remind them of is the concept of the “old man” and the “new man” (See Romans 6:8-13)

As they are newly planted in Christ, our children need to learn the principle of reckoning themselves dead unto sin and alive unto righteousness. When we see a sinful behavior pattern surfacing in their lives, we will often ask them where “old Kipling” or “old Harper” is. And they will remember that their “old man” is dead and buried, and that they are now “new Kipling” or “new Harper” who is in Christ Jesus. In their new position “in Christ,” they have the power to reckon themselves dead unto sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus. It may sound like a complicated truth for preschoolers to grasp. But we have found that they truly do “get it.” They are very aware of the difference between their “old” and “new” man. The old man has no ability to overcome sin. But now that they are “new creations in Christ,” old things have passed away. Through Christ, they have been given the power to choose righteousness over sin. When we remind them of these truths often, we see an incredible difference in the way they live their lives.

This certainly doesn’t mean we have perfect, sinless children. (Ha! Wouldn’t that be nice?!) But they are beginning to grasp the secret to living a godly life, and they are starting to understand the fact that sin no longer needs to control them.

For instance, when my youngest son begins to whine and resist obeying, I appeal to his understanding of the Gospel. “Remember that you are ‘new Kipling,’” I will remind him. “You can ask Jesus for the grace to say ‘no’ to sin right now. You are in Christ, Kipling. Disobedience no longer needs to control you. If sin can’t get to Jesus, it doesn’t need to get to you!”

Often, these words will motivate him to stop the downward spiral he’s on and ask for the grace to behave like “new Kipling” who is “in Christ Jesus.”


Frequently there is a marked difference in his attitude after taking the time to remind him of these truths. It’s truly a marvelous thing to watch God at work in his little soul. When you are working with your kid’s behavior issues, don’t stop short and rely only on discipline and character training principles. Incorporate the message of the Gospel, and frequently remind them of the covenant they have made with Jesus Christ. As they grow and develop, the victory and power of the Gospel will become an unshakable foundation in their lives. 

"I sway an airy kingdom"

(from My Library, by Maud Montgomery)

Music, wit and wisdom in 2014:

Best New Discoveries
Mystic: How to Live the Victorious Christian Life, by an unknown Christian
Novel: Children of the New Forest, by Frederick Marryat

Favorite (Albeit Only) Classic
Little Dorrit, by Charles Dickens

Favorite MG Novel
Boys of Blur, by N.D. Wilson

Most Difficult to Complete (But Loved It!)
Planet Narnia: The Seven Heavens in the Imagination of C.S. Lewis, by Michael Ward

Favorite Mystics
Abide in Me, by Andrew Murray
Raising Your Children for Christ, by Andrew Murray

Favorite ReReads
Gaudy Night, by Dorothy Sayers
Persuasion, by Jane Austen (the perfect book to read at age 27)

Favorite Sibling Read-Aloud
The Saturdays, by Elizabeth Enright

Looking Forward to in 2015
Life Together, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Autobiography of George Muller: A Million and a Half in Answer to Prayer
final, untitled installment of N.D. Wilson's Ashtown Burials series
The Art of Life, by Edith Schaeffer
The Faerie Queene, by Edmund Spenser
something (anything) of Andrew Murray
something of Dickens
The Penderwicks in Spring, by Jeanne Birdsall
Shaming the Devil, by Melina Marchetta
Greenglass House, by Kate Milford

one thousand gifts, norway, excerpt, week nine



Driving tour with an Irish Ms. Bates
Mølen
Viking cairns
Lungfulls of sea air
A thermos of milky tea and biscuits shared in the car, parked beside the water
Crispy chips (aka french fries) and leaf steak at a seaside convenience store
A starfish left by the tide
Dark chocolate and peanut butter
Waking in the night to see the full moon streaming through the window
Speaking to the 13 year old in Lithuanian, her mother tongue, and her reply: "Was that French?" (Note to self: must work on accent)
All the little children gone for the day... a deliciously quiet house
Curled up on the sofa with a mug of coffee and home on the phone
Tiny frozen blueberries over millet for breakfast
A letter from a friend
A sudden, brief downpour
Rainbow
Singing Norsk hymns in a state church
A black gospel soloist from Chicago, and my N. Irish friend saying, "fancy her being from the same county as you!" (We call them states in America, love ;-)
Purple crocus
A flight to Switzerland tomorrow morning

one thousand gifts, norway, excerpt, week eight



My feet on old familiar forest paths, now that the snow has melted
A splash of blue paint on a tree, assuring me that I'm still following the trail
Salty air
Wet, low-tide rocks
Dappled, muted light through forest branches, on ground covered with green moss
Walking home, thinking, Chocolate sounds really good. Looking down, and seeing a bite-size, unopened chocolate on the roadside
Walking further, seeing another one!
And another!
(Jesus forgot that Valentine's Day was last month. But better late than never, when it comes to chocolate.)
Playing football with the little boys at the old school's stadium
A full moon over the fjord... Seen from this hill, it shines, hovering like Howl's Moving Castle, halfway between dark earth and dark sky
Dvorak's cello concerto in B minor
An upright bass player, after the final piece, reaching up to stretch, clasping her hands over the bass scroll and resting there
Symphony performers in black skinny jeans, tights and mini skirts
Hand-picked lingonberries over Scotch pancakes, made by a Scotch woman
Cadbury chocolate from the UK, and her husband saying, she must like you, if she's sharing her Cadbury
Leaping (Why leap ye, ye high hills? this is the hill which God desireth to dwell in; yea, the LORD will dwell in it for ever.)
A new day

one thousand gifts, norway, excerpt, week seven



Spring term
Snowdrops brought from the forest in tightly clenched hands, held behind backs: "for you"
Chocolate cake and telephone calls
Deer in the yard
Slipping out onto the porch to sing, Come Spirit, come charm, come days that are warm
Tight white buds in the branches
A morning walk, the two year old in his stroller, a calmly trotting four year old at our side (alien behavior; I am all astonishment)
British Little Einsteins
Bird gossip at all hours (even 4 am)
Standing in the grass outside my door, wrapped in a wool blanket, humming Keith Green, make my life a prayer to you
This is no thaw... This is Spring!
Lying flat in the sunshine that covered the sofa
Paying for bus tickets, and the driver asking if I was also a student price
Missing our bus connection and walking home in the sun, rather than wait
Singing as we walk under a bridge, because tunnels are lovely for singing
Norwegian brunch, a long table crammed with plates and food and people from half a dozen countries
1 John outside in the sunshine
Checking out Celia's House from Open Library dot org
Blue sky morning
Airing out my sweaters
Nut cake with cream and pomegranates
Tidings of a chalet in the Alps two weeks hence

one thousand gifts, norway, excerpt, week six



My very own little blaze in the woodstove
Jello from a Thai neighbor that tastes exactly like Twizzlers
Sound of gentle rain
Headphones and Most Agreeable music from period dramas to shut out the two year old's bedtime tantrum
The sudden thought, "So this is...abiding" as I put clean sheets on the four year old's bed at the end of a long day
March!
Sending letters all day
Receiving letters (in my inbox) all day
Good news from a far-away friend
Lovely perfumes as chattering Chilean women walk past me into church
The first day of spring term
Walking past the girls' room and stopping to smile at the sight of the 13 year old sitting up in bed, knitting and listening to an audio book
The baby teething on the bars of his play pen
Babies sleeping in their prams on the porch
Homemade almond joys
Acts 3:16 It is His name, through faith in His name...a faith that comes from Him...that makes me strong and whole this day