Saturday, February 21, 2015

Defining Charlotte...Character

As I'm reading through Charlotte Mason's six-volume series, I'm finding many new and unfamiliar words.  Our language has changed much over the last century.  Being a lover of lexicon, I find it unfortunate that we've lost so many great words from our everyday vocabulary.  In my educational quest, I usually read, noting words I'm unsure of, and then look them up later to understand the full meaning.  I believe this is key to understanding Charlotte's writings in context.

At our last CM Book Club discussion, several words came up with similar meaning.  Words that we often use interchangeably, like character, morals, virtue, habits, and ethics.  I've decided to start a series of posts attempting to define some of these words as Charlotte wrote them.  Obviously, I cannot read her mind and unfortunately, I cannot contact her for clarity.  However, I hope not only to give meaning for better understanding to those interested in learning more about Charlotte's methods, but to prompt others who may be unfamiliar with Charlotte Mason's methods to study her writings.

Our first word is....



Middle English caracter, from Latin character mark, distinctive quality, from Greek charaktēr, from charassein to scratch, engrave; perhaps akin to Lithuanian žerti to scratch
First Known Use: 14th century

Charlotte wrote an entire volume on the "Formation of Character" (volume 5) so I believe this is a good place to start.  Volume 5's subtitle is Shaping the child's personality.  This gives us a good indication of  Charlotte's meaning of the word character as it relates to personality.

According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, character is the way someone thinks, feels, and behaves : someone's personality.   A further definition is one of the attributes or features that make up and distinguish an individual.   When consulting the same online reference, I found the word personality to mean the set of emotional qualities, ways of behaving, etc., that makes a person different from other people. 

I'll leave you to ponder some of Charlotte's thoughts on character....

But the one achievement possible and necessary for every man is character; and character is as finely wrought metal beaten into shape and beauty by the repeated and accustomed action of will.  We who teach should make it clear to ourselves that our aim in education is less conduct than character; conduct may be arrived at, as we have seen, by indirect routes, but it is of value to the world only as it has its source in character.  (A Philosophy of Education, Vol. 6, p 129)

Let us take it to ourselves that great character comes out of great thoughts, and that great thought must be initiated by great thinkers; then we shall have a definite aim in education.  Thinking and not doing is the source of character.  (A Philosophy of Education, Vol. 6, p 278)

Disposition and Character. - If heredity means so much - if, as would seem at the first glance, the child comes into the world with his character ready-made–what remains for the parents to do but to enable him to work out his own salvation without let or hindrance of their making, upon the lines of his individuality?  The strong naturalism, shall we call it, of our day, inclines us to take this view of the objects and limitations of education; and without doubt it is a gospel; it is the truth; but it is not the whole truth.  The child brings with him into the world, not character, but disposition.  He has tendencies which may need only to be strengthened, or, again, to be diverted or even repressed.  His character - the efflorescence of the man wherein the fruit of his life is a - preparing  - is original disposition, modified, directed, expanded by education; by circumstances; later, by self-control and self-culture; above all, by the supreme agency of the Holy Ghost, even where that agency is little suspected, and as little solicited.  (Parents and Children, Vol. 2, p. 22-23) 

Here's how one homeschool mom teaches character in her home.  I think it's in line with what Charlotte was suggesting....

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