A first grader carefully adds three to four. Third graders diligently journey into ancient Egypt. A student shares with her parents insightful and detailed reflections on Robinson Crusoe. These are characteristic of students who care. When it comes to education, the first question parents and teachers must ask is not, “How much does the child know?” But rather, “How much does he care?”
Inevitably, the student (like the adult) who cares little will fritter away the hours. She drifts from class to class, enduring one day after another, all in hopes of some afterschool or weekend thrill. Finding no joy in the ordinary, always looking for the exciting; days turn to weeks, weeks to months, and months to years. A young life is lost in passing time rather than in fully living.
Charlotte Mason spoke of a vast inheritance offered to all. We are offered the possibility of knowledge in all its varied dimensions; not knowing as mere information, but the knowing which implies relationship. Let us bring our students back to the wide room – read of the lifecycle of the frog, observe the vibrant purple of the American Beauty, digest the nature of exponents, and wrestle to understand why a blind girl sees more than we. Last week, I observed teachers doing all this and more!
“Thou hast set my feet in a large room” should be the glad cry of every intelligent soul. Life should be all living and not merely a tedious passing of time; not all doing or all feeling or all thinking––the strain would be too great––but, all living; that is to say, we should be in touch wherever we go, whatever we hear, whatever we see, with some manner of vital interest…. The question is not,––how much does the youth know? When he has finished his education––but how much does he care? And about how many orders of things does he care? In fact, how large is the room in which he finds his feet set? And, therefore, how full is the life he has before him? (Charlotte Mason, School Education p.171)