If you’re like me, you probably spent a lot of time preparing for the new school year, filled with excitement, hope and enthusiasm for the year to come. As far as I was aware, I had everything ready for the greatest year yet! And certainly the books were wonderful. My understanding of Charlotte’s Mason’s method had grown a lot from the year before. I was the most prepared and equipped than any year previously.
Our first term began and it was beautiful. My eldest was more inspired by his science than in any year previously. My middle son took to Pilgrim’s Progress more intently than I had imagined. My youngest, who is not yet six, played wonderfully on his own when needed and sat in with us peacefully when invited. Success!
And as in every term, we finished our term with exams. I was sure this also would be beautiful. But as exams always do, they reveal more about the books and the teacher than they do about the students. There were celebratory moments and moments of disappointment. The exams revealed areas where the books and my approach were strong and areas that needed some overhaul. And if I’m honest, those latter areas hurt just a little…okay maybe a lot. But the Lord is faithful to help me recognize that’s my pride being rubbed away and that is a good and Godly thing. As I began thinking about our next term and the changes I would make, I was reminded of this short piece I had read in The L’Umile Pianta. It blessed my heart to tears, and I pray it provides you also with the same encouragement and understanding we all need in this “vast and infinite work.”
From The L’Umile Pianta: For the Children’s Sake, July 1901, pg 14
(my emphasis added)
“The higher the ideals with which a teacher has started the more likely is she to become discouraged at the difficulty of their realization. The greatness of her work, as a whole, becomes absorbed and obscured in the multitude of seeming trifles and details that go to make up a practical life. In such a case, the teacher must remember that nothing is unimportant in her work; at the same time she must be willing to follow Nature’s lead. She must not let her plan of education (and she should have some definite plan, aiming at definite objects) become a mere system. She must not be discouraged because she only propose and not dispose for her pupils. If some of her means fail her aim may yet be advanced in other ways. If the object of education were merely to impart the knowledge of certain facts, to train certain faculties or events, cultivate certain habits of mechanical action, she might expect to fulfill these objects in a given time. But when she aims at helping a child in his start at an infinite career, at opening to him infinite possibilities, she must not be surprised to find her work also vast and infinite. The more she does, the more appears still undone, but this does not mean that there has been no progress. The teacher wants to arm herself against despondency by a vivid enthusiasm for her work, which must be quite distinct from personal ambition, a candid attitude towards others so that although she has opinions and methods of her own they shall not be exclusive, and a hopeful mind willing to do her best and leave the rest. To keep up their enthusiasm and interest teachers should communicate as much as possible with others, read educational works, and, as far as possible, keep some other good, though not necessarily professional, works at hand. The more objective interest she can bring into her own life the better it will be for her pupils, and the more she can keep in touch with others who are fired with enthusiasm in their work the more likely is her own enthusiasm to burn brightly.”