Charlotte Mason had an idea she calls the ‘science of relations’. What she meant by this is that in giving children a broad and liberal education, they will naturally connect related ideas by themselves. This frees teachers from the need to artificially force connections of ideas for the students. A good example of this artificial or forced connection is unit studies. In fact, Charlotte Mason was opposed to using unit studies in education because it relieved the child of the valuable effort exerted in making their own connections, something she believed children were quite capable of doing.
This past week our homeschool experienced a lovely example of the science of relations. During our Bible time we were reading from the book of I Samuel and we read about Israel being unhappy with God as their King. The people were complaining to Samuel and telling of their dissatisfaction with his sons and wished for God to give them an earthly king. Over the past couple years we have read through the entire Child’s Story Bible and my children know quite well how things turn out for the Israelites with their long desired “earthly kings”. After we finished reading the I Samuel passage in school and its narrations, my 7-year-old daughter got very quiet and deep in thought and then blurted out, “It’s just like the frogs, Mommy!” At this point I gave a kind of interested, yet confused look as my mind was trying to make a connection between the Israelites and frogs. She continued to say, “You know, Mommy, like when the frogs were unhappy and they wished for a king and so they begged Jupiter to give them one. Then Jupiter sent down a big log to be their king, but they weren’t happy with that either and they grumbled and complained. Finally, Jupiter sent down a crane to be their king and he ate up all the frogs. See, that’s what it is going to be like for the Israelites.” At this point, in amazement, I said, “Yes, I see that connection.” I had remembered that we read this story in Aesop’s Fables a couple of years ago.
This is exactly what Charlotte Mason was talking about when she suggested that children, even as young as 7, can make connections with bigger and broader ideas on their own. And, something very different happens when a child’s own mind labors to connect an idea themselves; they own it.