Missio on Genesis 1: Charlotte Mason on Educating Children of God

I wonder how education would look if we approached it with a mindset influenced by Genesis 1:26-31. Would we teach a child differently if we viewed him or her as a ruler of creation, created in the image of the ruler of the universe? What kinds of lessons would be important? What would the setting be? How would the teacher’s own engagement with the student change? These are all questions to which British educational philosopher Charlotte Mason dedicated herself, and that I have the opportunity to see worked out practically this year as a first year Spanish teacher at Ambleside School in Herndon, VA.

reading-statue-1528168Charlotte Mason’s philosophy centers on the idea of children as “born persons,” already in relationship to creation by virtue of the dominion entrusted to humanity in the first pages of Scripture. They are, she insists, completed images of God, albeit “weak and ignorant” images in need of support and instruction. When you think of a child as a fellow “image of God,” rather than an unformed creation waiting to be molded into personhood, it changes much of the way you engage with her. But God didn’t stop at making us mere reflections. Even more than that, this passage in Genesis tells us that we are, by our God-given humanity, kings and queens of creation. What an incredible responsibility, then, to support the weakness and instruct the ignorance of a young royal!

In my preparation to begin my work with Ambleside, I was asked to do some reading from Charlotte Mason’s writing on her views of children. One of the things that stuck out to me was her description of a person as being incomprehensible in a way. People, she wrote, will always surprise you, especially when you think you’ve finally figured them out. While doing my own classwork, reading John Frame’s descriptions of God in Salvation Belongs to the Lord, this same idea came up. According to Frame, God is also incomprehensible. We can know Him, but we will never have all of Him figured out.

So if I really thought about all children as images of this God, chief among earthly beings and constantly defying complete understanding, wouldn’t I approach knowing each child I teach with equal fervor? Shouldn’t I be eagerly attuning myself to find out how I can support them, even if each one looks very different?  God says that they are royalty, purposed for dominion in His kingdom. He says that they are “very good.”

I am excited to experience more of how that idea changes the way we teach children about the world they have been given to steward. Even more, I look forward to how God will reveal more of himself through my students, those “weak and ignorant” kings and queens of creation.  May God give each of us grace to treat each child in our lives this way.

 

Emilee Lamb is a first-year teacher in the Washington, DC area and a member of the 2016-2017 class of the Capital Fellows Program at McLean Presbyterian Church.

Images: FreeImages.com/L. Emerson

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