S7 E15 | Why Does it Matter That Children are Persons? (Jeannie Fulbright)
Modern education does not respect children as individuals with a God-given purpose. It attempts to shape all children into the same mold of thinking and reacting to the world--and that is what it was designed to do. But God has given each of our children a unique creative genius. Studies prove this is true. Our job is to fan that genius to life, nurture it; and give them opportunities to hone their interests, talents, passions, and skills. God has a plan and purpose for our children established before He laid the foundations for the earth. Modern education seeks to extinguish a child’s natural curiosity. It is a system of education that is failing to produce thinkers. As homeschoolers, we can toss out the methods used in schools, and tailor our children’s education to their exceptional genius, allowing God to be the primary educator and guide for our children’s education. As we lead our children to Him, He will lead them in the way they should go.
Jeannie Fulbright, a 24-year veteran homeschooler, is the author of the #1 best-selling, multi award-winning Apologia Young Explorer science series: Exploring Creation with Astronomy, Chemistry and Physics, Botany, Zoology, and Anatomy & Physiology. She is also the author of the action-packed historical time travel book series Rumble Tumbles Through Time, as well as preschool science books and activity kits, the Charlotte Mason Heirloom Planner, and many high-quality Charlotte Mason based products. Jeannie and her husband Jeff became empty nesters in 2019. All four of their children all went to the University of Georgia on scholarship (homeschooling works!). For more than 20 years Jeannie has traveled around the country speaking to homeschoolers at conventions, covering a plethora of topics from Charlotte Mason to marriage and prayer.
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Jeannie Fulbright Welcome to The Charlotte Mason Show, a podcast that is all things Charlotte Mason and her tried and true philosophy of education, designed to help you homeschool with more confidence, joy, and success. It is our hope that you'll find golden nuggets that will transform the way you think and the way you homeschool. I'm your host, author of the bestselling Charlotte Mason Science Curriculum, Jeannie Fulbright, and I am so glad you joined me today.
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Hey, everyone. Well, I am so excited to be here today. I just finished my first two conferences for the year, Missouri and South Carolina. And it is so inspiring to meet all of you homeschoolers, and meet your families. And talk to you about what you're doing and what's working and what's not working and find solutions.
I love homeschool conventions. And if you haven't ever been to one or were planning on going to one this year, I just want to encourage you to really think about doing it because it is inspiring for everyone to be around so many people who feel the way you do, think the way you do, and be able to interact with people who write your curriculum. To listen to speakers, to interact with one another. It's just such a huge blessing.
And so my next conference will be GHC, Ohio, and I would love to see you there, or in California or Texas. I also will be in Florida and Arizona at different conventions, but I would just love for you to make plans to attend one. If you do go to the GHC. Use my coupon code jf23 for $10 off.
Today we are going to be talking about something really interesting. As a Charlotte Mason homeschooler, I am sure that you have heard the term that Charlotte Mason uses over and over again that children are persons. And when I first heard that term or that phrase, I thought, well, obviously children are persons. That's quite obvious. So yes, I just believe that. But as I have spent more time studying Charlotte Mason and her core beliefs, this concept of children being persons actually turns out to be so much more profound than I ever thought. And I want to share with you some really main points that I think will help us as parents and educators. Really seeing our children through the eyes, through eternal eyes, through spiritual eyes.
The first really most important thing about this is to realize our children are, in fact, eternal. Charlotte Mason says they are eternal souls. That means that our children are going to live forever. That hit me to think about that, that I had the opportunity to educate these young people that God gave me. They are going to live forever. And we know that those first years are so formative in the person they are going to be for eternity. And we have such a privilege and such a responsibility to see our children as eternal souls. Not as just young children that need to be shaped and molded and taught and disciplined, but rather eternal souls that have incredible inherent value and worth being created in the image of God.
And, you know, if you think about it, our time on earth is really short. If you look at the timeline of eternity and how long your life is going to last, the time we spend here on earth, the time that our children spend here on earth is a blip. A tiny little dot on this huge timeline. Yet, it is such an important part of who they are, who they are intrinsically is already wired into them. They are eternal souls. They are already persons created in the image of God. And I think that will help us as parents to undertake this homeschooling privilege with a sense of reverence. A reverence for the eternal soul that has been entrusted to our care.
And the modern education system absolutely does not hold to this truth, this intrinsic value, the intrinsic worth of children. And Charlotte Mason recognized that. She recognized that early on, because while she was training the governesses on how to best educate children using the methodologies that she had developed and honed based on all the learning experience that she had, she started noticing a really frightening trend began to happen in modern education in her time, during her time, which was modern education. Because of the Industrial Revolution, the Industrial Revolution required people not to be educated, but to be able to follow instructions and move into working in factories. It's essentially designed to create good workers, not great thinkers.
People who were being educated during the Enlightenment or given an opportunity to explore truths in-depth and immerse themselves in knowledge and learning of different fields of study and become thinkers. And they had practices that actually encouraged them to build character and grow in their ability to think. Practices like keeping a book of commonplace or a pocket notebook, as they called it back then. Charlotte Mason calls it a book of mottos. Is just writing down the passages that, when you read them, you are profoundly moved in your spirit. And that's really part of the divine education that creates children, that become thinkers, knowledgeable thinkers.
One of the most powerful and influential journalist, Men of Letters, in the early 1900s was H.L. Mencken, and he wrote much in criticism of government and society. And one of the things he wrote, which is so profound and so true in around 1920, he wrote "an erroneous assumption is to the effect that the aim of public education is to fill the young of the species with knowledge and awaken their intelligence, and make them fit to discharge the duties of citizenship in an enlightened and independent manner." Nothing, he says could be further from the truth.
The aim of public education instead is not to spread enlightenment at all. It is simply to reduce as many individuals as possible to the same safe level. To breed and train a standardized citizenry. To put down dissent and originality. That is its aim in the United States, and it is its aim everywhere else. If any contrary theory is cherished among us, it is simply because public schools are still new in America, and so their true character and purpose are but little understood. The notion that they are invented by American patriotism and ingenuity and go back, in fact, to the first days of the New England Puritans. This notion is, of course, only hollow nonsense. Their purpose, in brief, is to make docile and patriotic citizens to pile up majorities and to make John Doe and Richard Doe as nearly alike in their everyday reactions and ways of thinking as possible. The schoolmarm actually has no right to her own ideas. She is sworn to propagate only such ideas as happened to be official and no others. When she departs from that oath in the slightest way, she deserves to be handed over for punishment.
John de Rockefeller, one of the founders of the American education system, said, "I don't want a nation of thinkers. I want a nation of workers." You see these people who founded the modern system of education, did not view children as persons. They view them as products. As commodities and possessions to be treated as we will and to be shaped and molded into what we want them to be rather than being persons who have a unique and divine soul. A divine gift of ingenuity that is given by God. They're not treated as persons at all. They're given state standards and benchmarks and put into a meaningless obstacle course with no purpose except to move them to the next obstacle, obstacle after obstacle with the end goal of being graduation. Not the end goal of being knowledgeable and unique and individual as they are. The unique individual that God created them to be is extinguished through modern education.
There is a study that was conducted where they followed children over the course of their education and they started by measuring them at the age of four and five years old. There were 1,600 kids in the study at that age four and five, 98% of them scored at a creative and genius level. 98% of preschoolers were considered creative geniuses. That's a huge, very high number. By the middle of their elementary years, only 30% of them were considered creative geniuses. By high school, only 12% of them were still considered — same kids, still considered creative geniuses. And then later on, they studied them again. They tested them again. And they found that as adults, only 2% of them, less than 2%, actually scored high in creativity.
School is designed to train creativity out of children. And I believe creativity is a gift we are given, our children are given, all of us are given by God. And putting them in the system of education, which was never designed to nurture our child's individual genius. Only serves to hinder the purpose and work that God gave for them to do by causing them to no longer think creatively, but to be able to memorize information and regurgitate it on a test or in worksheets. Worksheets and tests, marks and grades. That is what actually begins to stifle and remove our child's individual thinking. They end up graduating with no knowledge. Think about what you knew, what you really knew. All the knowledge that you had spent 12 years absorbing throughout your education, primary through secondary school. How much did you really know when you received that graduation diploma? How much could you discuss? How much of the knowledge and history and science and literature could you actually have a conversation about with others? I'm betting if you went whether public or private school, the answer is very little because we graduate with no knowledge and no appetite for knowledge and definitely no knowledge of how unique we are. And no knowledge of the purpose that God has placed in us to fulfill His plans for our future.
We graduate without direction. What direction we should take. Most of us just end up enrolling in college, really unsure what we're supposed to do. We have some ideas and usually that changes several times our freshman, sophomore, sometimes up to our junior, senior year. Or sometimes our goal is just to graduate and we don't know what we're going to do after that because remember it's an obstacle course of moving through obstacle after obstacle with the end goal not being knowledge, self-knowledge, the knowledge of who we are, our uniqueness and our purpose, but instead the object being graduation. And we all were preprogramed to go into these obstacle courses, to train, to be workers. Very few of us recognized our uniqueness, our creative genius. And very few of us were nurtured in our creativity, were given the opportunity to grow in our own unique creative genius. And that is what the school system does to children.
And what a Charlotte Mason education does is it honors the fact that every child has a unique, divinely given genius. Ephesians 2:10 tells us, "for we are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared in advance that we should walk in them." He already knows what it is that we were created to do and be. We have a divinely given purpose in life and God wants to lead and guide us to discover and hone the skills and creativity that we have to fulfill the purposes that he has for us. All children are born with a natural inclination to understand and know the world around them. They're given a divine curiosity, as Charlotte Mason says. And this divine curiosity is a gift from God. And it is different for every single child. What they're curious about, what they want to know, how they understand things, what things they want to learn next. What path they're pursuing in their pursuit of knowledge. Charlotte Mason says "the divine curiosity, which should have been an equipment for life, hardly survives early school days." Again, the Industrial Revolution happened and they just completely revamped education, not based on the wisdom of how children are best educated, but on how to get these kids to go into the workforce and work for the people in charge.
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The thing is, is that because our children are given a divine curiosity, they have a divinely given curiosity. They actually have a capacity for profound knowledge. They have the capacity to profoundly understand complicated truths. Charlotte Mason says "never is intellectual power so keen, the moral sense, so strong spiritual perceptions, so piercing as in the days of childhood." She also said, "This is how we find children – with intelligence more acute, logic more keen, observing powers more alert, moral sensibilities more quick, love and faith and hope more abounding; in fact, in all points like us, we are only much more so." This is how children are persons. They are as intelligent, as brilliant as the most creative, brilliant adult. But more so. The problem with our modern education system is they believe children are not intelligent enough for deep knowledge. So they spoon-feed them grade-level materials, dumbed-down for each individual grade, slowly adding more and more information as the child supposedly becomes more intelligent. And what that does is it exterminates their natural curiosity it exterminates natural creativity. It exterminates their desire for knowledge.
In the book, The Self-driven Child by William Strixwud, he found through scientific research that all children are born with self-motivation and a motivation to learn. And by seven years old, it is extinguished. What has happened by the age of seven? We all know they've been in school, they've been in the system. The system that tells us this is how you educate a child. This is what each child needs to know at this time. And we need to fill their minds with facts and information so that they will be able to measure up to our standards. That is not education. That is a system that was never designed to give children an education. It was never designed to give them a living education that respects their intelligence. We as educators can throw out those standards and benchmarks and all the way they do it in the system and do it well. Homeschool well, give them opportunity, give our children an opportunity to hone and develop their natural God-given divine curiosity. And give them an opportunity to immerse deeply in subjects of interest, absorb ideas.
Charlotte Mason says "children will think more and better if they're given an opportunity to learn on their own. We give them whole books with rich information filled with ideas, ideas presented from one soul or one spirit to another. Living books that convey the author's passion for the topic, not just facts and information for them to memorize, to move on to the next set of standards. Because children are persons and they have an innate curiosity given to them by God, their very own personal educator, they are led and guided by Him in their interests, passions and pursuits. And this is one of the reasons Charlotte Mason talks about giving children free time in the afternoon. Afternoons should be free for the children to pursue their interests with liberty, with freedom because when given freedom over their education, children will actually pursue it with purpose.
Charlotte Mason says "self-education is the only possible education. The rest is a mere veneer laid on the surface of the child's nature." But so often we as homeschoolers, we consider our schedule, the curriculum we've chosen, and the way it's written and the things it tells us we have to do as more important. As the master of our children's education. Rather than letting God alone be the number one master of their education. Letting God be our children's primary teacher because our children are persons and have this innate hunger for the knowledge of the things that God leads them to have hunger and knowledge for. Our job, our main number one job, is to guide our children into a relationship with the one who created their curiosity, who designed them for a purpose that he planned far in advance before they were even born. He's the one who sparks their passion. And our job is to nurture their hearts towards Him so that will put the desires in their hearts that He intends to fulfill.
I love that verse "delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart." And I believe the reason that's true is because when we delight ourselves in the Lord, He begins to lead us into the desires that He wants for us. And He will give us those desires as we delight in Him; because our hearts are molded and shaped by the Spirit of God when we are in relationship with Him. He leads us by his still small voice, stirrings in our heart, and the ideas that germinate from the ideas that we have received. The ideas that our children receive will begin to germinate and grow into new thoughts and to innovation and inventive creations of the mind given to them by God. We are not our children's primary educator. It is not on our shoulders. It is on His. And He has a plan and purpose for them. And that is one thing that if we could get that knowledge from our head to our heart, then we would be set free. Set free to educate our children as God leads. He promises to be our guide.
Psalm 48:14. "You are our God. Forever and ever. You will be our guide, even to the end." As homeschoolers, we need to release the fear about how our children are going to turn out. And that it's all up to us. If we trust God, if we have faith in His Word, He will fulfill His purposes. Psalm 138:8 "the Lord will fulfill His purposes. For me and my children, your steadfast love, oh Lord, endures forever." He will not forsake the work of His hands. Our children are not only persons, they are His persons. And I think that's one of the most powerful concepts that if we can truly absorb the truth of that, we would naturally give our children the best education for them. A unique education designed just for them, by God.
Thank you so much for tuning in today! I hope it was encouraging for you. I hope to see you at one of the conferences this summer. And if not, find me online. And I would love to answer any questions you have. Thanks again.
Hey, a couple more things: Do you wish you had a Charlotte Mason mentor? Someone to keep you focused on the things that matter--the Lord, and His word, and prayer, and habit training and living books, nature study, and of course, the most neglected thing of all, self-care? Well, I have the perfect mentor for you: the Charlotte Mason heirloom planner. It is much more than a planner. It's a guide and a mentor and a place to chronicle your treasured moments and memories--all the things you want to remember and keep sacred and special from this homeschool journey. Check it out on my website at JeannieFulbright.com, and learn about that and so many of the other Charlotte Mason curriculum and tools that I've created to make your homeschool journey the richest and most fulfilling experience of your life. Thanks again for listening to The Charlotte Mason show.
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Have you joined us at one of the Great Homeschool Conventions? I would love for you to come! On my website, I have a special coupon code that you can use when you register. The Great Homeschool Conventions are the homeschooling events of the year with amazing speakers, hundreds of workshops to help you homeschool well, and the largest curriculum exhibit halls in the United States. People travel from all over the United States to Missouri, South Carolina, Ohio, California, and Texas to find encouragement, friendship, and curriculum. Be sure to go to my website JeannieFulbright.com for your coupon code. And when you're at the convention, please come by my booth and say hello, because I love meeting homeschoolers in real life. It's always fun to have new homeschool friends. So thank you so much for listening and I do hope to see you at the convention. Have a blessed rest of the week.