Search This Blog

Monday, May 27, 2019


The result was a coherence in family life which allowed all manner of speculations on the purpose of the universe without threatening the fabric of existence.

That's a quote from Unfinished Journey, Twenty Years Later, by world-famous violinist Yehudi Menuhin

I am not even going to pretend I  measure up to Yehudi's parents, but I was struck by that quote when I first came across it because it connected with something else that happened at home.  Back in 2009. I'd been asked to lead a small group discussion at a lady's retreat, and my topic was raising children in the faith (it was assigned to me, it was not by choice. My kids were not all raised yet). In preparation, I asked my four oldest girls if they could think of anything I had done that they found most valuable to them and worth passing on to other parents. Their answers varied, of course, but one thing every single one of them said, and it took me by surprise, was something along the lines that I taught them at fairly young ages that not everybody believed what we believed, that good and intelligent and wonderful people believed things that were antithetical to our cherished beliefs, and that I allowed them to investigate, question, and explore other ideas.

I cannot tell you I did that, because I didn't even realize that I did.  It particularly surprised me because nobody who knows me thinks I keep my opinions to myself (which is rather frightening, since apparently nobody who knows me realizes just how much and how often I *do*.)

But it made me think of this section from volume 3 of Miss Mason's six volume series:
Should form their own Opinions––We have only room to mention one more point in which all of us, who have the care of young people, would do well to practise a wise 'letting alone.' There are burning questions in the air, seething opinions in men's minds: as to religion, politics, science, literature, art, as regards every kind of social effort, we are all disposed to hold strenuous opinions. The person who has not kept himself in touch with the movement of the thought of the world in all these matters has little cause to pride himself. It is our duty to form opinions carefully, and to hold them tenaciously in so far as the original grounds of our conclusions remain unshaken. But what we have no right to do, is to pass these opinions on to our children. We all know that nothing is easier than to make vehement partisans of young people, in any cause heartily adopted by their elders. But a reaction comes, and the swinging of the pendulum is apt to carry them to a point of thought painfully remote from our own. The mother of the Newmans [Jemima Fourdrinier, mother of Cardinal John Henry Newman and atheist Charles Robert Newman] was a devoted Evangelical, and in their early years passed her opinions over to her sons, ready-made; believing, perhaps, that the line of thought they received from her was what they had come to by their own thinking. But when they are released from the domination of their mother's opinions, one seeks anchorage in the Church of Rome,
and another will have no restriction as to his freedom of thought and will, and chooses to shape for himself his own creed or negation of a creed. Perhaps this pious mother would have been saved some anguish if she had given her children the living principles of the Christian faith, which are not matters of opinion, and allowed them to accept her particular practice in their youth without requiring them to take their stand on Evangelical opinions as offering practically the one way of salvation.
In politics, again, let children be fired with patriotism and instructed in the duties of citizenship, but, if they can be kept out of the party strife of an election, well for them. Children are far more likely to embrace the views of their parents, when they are ripe to form opinions, if these have not been forced upon them in early youth when their lack of knowledge and experience makes it impossible for them to form opinions at first hand. Only by masterly inactivity,' 'wise passiveness,' able 'letting alone,' can a child be trained––
     "To reverence his conscience as his king.",


  1. Do you think catechisms are contrary to this idea of “letting alone?”

  2. That is a really intriguing question. I am not sure I can give a fair answer, as I am not part of a faith tradition that has ever used the catechism, and that is part of the reason why. We don't see them used in the first century, and we strive to be faithful to the design for the first century church, and we do not like rote answers.

    But I think Charlotte Mason herself was probably fine with them, since she was a member in good standing of the Church of England.