On what does Fulness of Living depend? –– Education is the Science of Relations . . . . What we are concerned with is the fact that we personally have relations with all that there is in the present, all that there has been in the past, and all that there will be in the future––with all above us and all about us––and that fulness of living, expansion, expression, and serviceableness, for each of us, depend upon how far we apprehend these relationships and how many of them we lay hold of. (School Education, p. 185-186)
When I first read about the Science of Relations, I was a bit confused. I was more than thrown by the terms, but eventually the phrase ‘fullness of life’ caught my eye. I knew I wanted to more fully understand, so I, as well as my children, could have this ‘fullness of life.’ Like many truly wonderful ideas, I have come to believe that the Science of Relations is incredibly simple while also infinitely complex and far-reaching.
Simply put – it’s all about relationships. Not just knowing about something but having a relationship with it. Not just a casual or passing interest, but a relationship that touches the heart, soul, and mind and leaves one changed never to be quite the same again. The deeper known and the more of these relationships we lay hold of, the fuller and richer our lives will be. At the same time we grow and have an increased ability to serve.
Charlotte Mason’s twelfth principle states–
“Education is the Science of Relations”; that is, that a child has natural relations with a vast number of things and thoughts: so we train him upon physical exercises, nature lore, handicrafts, science and art, and upon many living books, for we know that our business is not to teach him all about anything, but to help him make valid as many as may be of –
“Those first-born affinities
That fit our new existence to existing things.”
Each of us is born with affinities – the desire for relationships that are proper and natural to us. We want to know and to know deeply. The entire world lies open before us providing endless opportunities for relationship. Charlotte Mason tells us that the scope of education should encompass the knowledge of God, the knowledge of man, and the knowledge of the universe. How vast becomes the room in which our feet have been set! As we form relations we are changed, which in turn changes how we fit and respond within the world around us. It is through these relationships that we as individuals find our place within the larger scheme of the world, and it is here we find life and joy. The real question becomes which of these myriad relationships will we make our own and how?
It is also true that we cannot catch hold of any one of the affinities that are in waiting for us without strenuous effort and without reverence. (School Education, p. 211)
Relationships are important – vital even I would argue – to a full and serviceable life. We need to recognize their value and make them a priority for ourselves and for our children.
Relationships also take effort. Anything worth having tends to require hard work and generally lots of it. To really come to know something or someone usually does, doesn’t it? While working to cultivate these relations, it is beautiful and reassuring to know that eventually our labor will be “swallowed up in delight.” (School Education, p. 212)
Relationships can’t be rushed or hurried. When they are, they are lost and slip through our fingers, to become relegated to the status of passing knowledge that fades and leaves little trace that it was ever there. Relationships worth having take time.
To secure the adaption and the expansion and activity of the person, along the lines of the relations most proper to him, is the work of education; to be accomplished by the two factors of ideas and habits. Every relation must be initiated by its own ‘captain’ idea, sustained upon fitting ideas; and wrought into the material substance of the person by its proper habits. (School Education, p. 71)
We may not leave off the attempt to form good habits with tact and care, to suggest fruitful ideas, without too much insistence, and to make wise use of circumstances. (School Education, p. 185)
I think it is here we begin to delve into the complex. The wisdom and balance needed while presenting ideas, cultivating habits, but masterfully letting alone are essential. Here I get a glimpse of how the seemingly confined principle number twelve actually intertwines among the other aspects of Charlotte Mason’s philosophy. I begin to see how far-reaching and influential these relationships can be, how these relations weave together, and how they change the way we fit into the larger world. They leave their mark upon us, impacting and touching even the farthest corners of our lives, while also tinting the lives of those around us.
So wonderful is the economy of the world that when a man really lives his life he benefits his neighbor as well as himself; we all thrive in the well-being of each. (A Philosophy of Education, p. 328)
Over the years I have watched with interest Charlotte Mason graduates and their families, those that seem to really embrace this Charlotte Mason philosophy. What I have noticed is that these parents seem to have a peace about their children’s future, whether that future points to what society would deem prestigious and important or not. They seem to have a quiet confidence that their children are well-equipped for life, wherever that life takes them. At first, I chalked it up to the recognition and value of their children as persons, and it does indeed include that. But also, I think the Science of Relations comes into play. It is this deep fundamental understanding of what is really important, what life is really about, and where the fullness of living truly comes that allows them to face the future with calm assurance. It is this that allows them to shut out the clamoring cries of our culture which attempt to tell us what we need to be happy and successful and instead focus on relationship. They understand the Science of Relations. They have embraced it and thus are confident in their children’s ability to have a full and rich life, while also influencing the world around them for the better.
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. (School Education, p. 170)
What happens when we focus on relationship, embrace the Science of Relations, and change the way we school our children and live our lives? We embrace the understanding that relationships are vital, take effort, and allow time for their development. We work towards the establishment of proper habits, cherish vitalizing ideas, and keep alert for opportunities as they present themselves. We begin to really see the multitude of relations waiting before us and make them our own. It is here we find the fullness of life, and here we learn how to truly live.
Let us try, however imperfectly, to make education the science of relationships – in other words, try in one subject or another to let the children work upon living ideas. In this field small efforts are honored with great rewards, and we perceive that the education we are giving exceeds all that we intended or imagined. (School Education, p. 163)
© 2016 by Joy Shannon