In Charlotte Mason educational circles, we talk a lot about reading great literature, looking at beautiful art, and listening to beautiful music in our search for Truth, Goodness. and Beauty. That’s because Charlotte Mason had a lot to say about it, especially about reading great literature:
“Thought breeds thought; children familiar with great thoughts take as naturally to thinking for themselves as the well-nourished body takes to growing; and we must bear in mind that growth, physical, intellectual, moral, spiritual, is the sole end of education.” ~ Charlotte Mason
‘It is a sad fact the we are losing our joy in literary form. We are in such haste to be instructed by facts or titillated by theories, that we have no leisure to linger over the mere putting of a thought.” ~ vol 2 pg 263
“To introduce children to literature is to install them in a very rich and glorious kingdom, to bring a continual holiday to their doors, to lay before them a feast exquisitely served. But they must learn to know literature by being familiar with it from the very first. A child’s first course must always be with good books, the best that we can find.“
“Ideas must reach us directly from the mind of the thinker, and it is chiefly by means of books they have written that we get into touch with the best minds.” ~ vol 3 pg 177
“The mind is capable of dealing only with kind of food; it lives, grows, and is nourished upon ideas only; mere information is to it as a meal of sawdust is to the body.” ~ vol 6 pg 105
“There is no education but self-education.”
“We probably read Shakespeare in the first place for his stories, afterwards for his characters…. To become intimate with Shakespeare in this way is a great enrichment of mind and instruction of conscience. Then, by degrees, as we go on reading this world-teacher, lines of insight and beauty take possession of us, and unconsciously mould our judgments of men and things and of the great issues of life.”
“Having found the book which has a message for us, let us not be guilty of the folly of saying we have read it. We might as well say we have breakfasted, as if breakfasting on one day should last us for every day! The book that helps us deserves many readings, for assimilation comes by slow degrees.” ~ vol. 4,
“The only vital method of education appears to be that children should read worthy books, many worthy books…We owe it to every child to put him in communication of great minds that he may get at great ideas.” ~ vol 6 pg 12
I saw a post from the blog Glory to God for All Things called “Food for the Soul”. I appreciated his thoughts, especially this quote:
“Growing the soul is not at all an obvious thing. Plato, in his Republic, suggested that musical training be required for all children precisely for the formation of the soul. The soul is ever so much more about who we are, and the character of who we are than what we are and what we know.
As the traditional “canon” of literature continues to come under withering attack in the American academy, more and more people are simply “ignorant” souls. It is not so much that they lack the information gained from such literature (though they do), but that they lack a depth and the ability to reflect that is only made possible through engaging with the greatest ideas, the greatest music, the deepest beauty. Only a great soul can teach another soul to become great.” ~ Fr. Stephen Freeman
This is why Charlotte Mason encouraged us to read the best literature – only a great soul can teach another soul to become great.
To read the entire article by Fr. Stephen Freeman, click here. It is excellent and some of the comments have interesting recommendations as well.