Using Volume 4 with Students

…of all the knowledge which a child should get, the knowledge of God is first in importance, and the knowledge of himself, next. – Charlotte Mason Volume 5 p.363

            Charlotte intended for Volume 4 to be read by children under the age of sixteen. Her goal was that these students would grow in character from a thorough study of human nature. She titled this Volume Ourselves Book I. Her intent was that students should learn about themselves and also the people around them, thereby learning that as human beings created in Gods image, while we are all unique we are also all very much the same. We all have the same desires, needs, and potential. How we as individuals and citizens use these God given propensities is up to each one of us to train and develop.

            When my oldest children reached the age Charlotte intended for this work, I gave them Volume 4 Book 1 to read and orally narrate. This had varying degrees of success. It didn’t seem that we were getting all we could out of this insightful work. Maybe it was the pace that was set, maybe the amount being read at a setting was too lengthy, maybe it was their ability or inability to comprehend Charlotte’s rich, full vocabulary and sentence structure at their reading level; maybe it was their young age relatively speaking which lacked life experience and maturity, maybe it was not meant to be a read-alone book, needing an available partner to read alongside;—but whatever it was, I began to wonder if there were a way to better present this life-changing book to my children. I wanted this Volume to be read in a thoughtful way, not just something to check off the list, and certainly not something irritating.

            I began to break up the reading into manageable pieces for our family- taking into consideration the youngest suitable child for this Volume to the oldest who I knew could still receive valuable benefit from its wisdom. I realized that this would be best done if the reader wasn’t swallowing such large pieces of material at one sitting. Knowing that Charlotte packs into one sentence what some say in a paragraph, smaller bites of this volume would prove to be more than enough food for daily thought. Less is often more. Charlotte’s method of short lessons verified this smaller portion approach. By moving through the Volume a little each day ensured that we would, in fact, reach the end. I was delighted when I discovered that my divisions would fit nicely into 52 weeks. Smaller daily portions would also help the new or emerging reader avoid being overwhelmed.

            Interestingly in Volume 5, Charlotte speaks about what knowledge is most important to a child’s studies. First in importance, she tells us, is the knowledge of God. Second, is the knowledge of ourselves. In the sentences before this quote, Charlotte tells us that a child should be given fit knowledge in small portions, that is portions that are of the highest quality. Breaking down Volume 4 into manageable portions for a child is then advantageous to their study of this all important topic.

His limitations are not those of incapacity, but of ignorance and of physical feebleness. Therefore our business is to feed him daily with the knowledge proper for him—in small portions, because he is a child, but of the finest intellectual quality, because he is a person—rather than to furnish him with the tools for dealing with knowledge, or even to make him an expert in the use of these tools: and of all the knowledge which a child should get, the knowledge of God is first in importance, and the knowledge of himself, next. It is not necessary to send forth any normal child as a moral or intellectual runagate. – Charlotte Mason Volume 5 p.363

            From the mother-teacher’s perspective, I wanted the reading determined ahead so that lesson time would be utilized efficiently. To create flow, organizing topics per week along with an applicable verse, gave a sense of purpose and way to improve intentional training of so many vital character themes.

            I’m happy to tell you, the resource I created with these thoughts and intentions for my own home teaching, is now available for your family, personal use, or classroom. It is a study of ourselves that will take the reader on a year-long look at their own bodies, minds,  and hearts.

Have they adequate thoughts of the Supreme relation? Are they aware of owing aught to man or to God? Does not our teaching of religion fall short just because we have allowed ourselves to become ignorant of ourselves? And are we not therefore in danger of losing that conception of God which should keep us in the equipoise? Are we not so much in the habit of hearing of the love and care and saving power of our God that we accept ourselves as the objects of His infinite tenderness, and gradually lose the point of infinite tenderness, and gradually lose the point of view which makes men heroes and saints in the service of a Master? In a word, do we not implicitly teach our youth that meat is more than life, that getting on is the chief thing, that having is more than being or doing? No doubt there are noble youths who somehow seem to get themselves into right relations, as there are noble men and women to live with whom is continual inspiration; but, perhaps, these would be usual, and not exceptional, if we could arrive at a profounder and truer outlook upon life. Everything that need be taught to a youth is no doubt explicit or implicit in the Christian religion, but I cannot help thinking that we should make more progress in the way of that perfection which is commanded us if we set ourselves to the study of life with the method and purpose we give to other studies—pursuing this, however, with the sense of quite peculiar divine support and direction. – Charlotte Mason Volume 5 p.387

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