Editor’s note: This article first appeared on Charlotte Mason Living.
By the time my daughter reached the age for formal schooling, we had already decided to follow Charlotte Mason’s method. Barbara and I divided up the subjects and one that I took was Bible. I trusted the method with my own child-like faith, and implemented Bible lessons with a simplicity that I felt conformed with Mason’s guidelines.
Simplicity is perhaps an understatement. No lesson plans, commentaries, dictionaries, or devotional guides; just a Bible. Day after day we followed the same pattern from the time of her sixth birthday. She or I read a passage, and she narrated it. No questions, no agenda, no application, no explanation, no clarification. Just the Word of God and the words my daughter narrated back.
I valued those words. I adopted the perhaps unusual custom of typing my daughter’s narrations as she spoke. Sometimes the words that came forth were the Bible text, nearly verbatim. At other times the words revealed some measure of analysis, synthesis, reflection, application, and even misunderstanding. But I did not analyze or synthesize those narrations myself. I just typed them, read them, and loved them.
Before my very eyes this little girl became a young woman. We celebrated her fourteenth birthday with a very special father-daughter celebration: we went to Italy together! Walking through the streets of Siena, Florence, and Rome, I realized just how much this young woman had grown up. Sometimes I wondered which of the two of us was the more mature.
She was such a delightful travel companion as I took her through gallery after gallery housing some of the most wondrous paintings of all time. With a sweet interest she offered to take pictures of the paintings that I lingered over, the paintings that clearly touched my heart. She looked at me with wonder when I gazed at a work by Botticelli that nearly moved me to tears. So patient she was, so tireless.
So many of the paintings conveyed Bible scenes. She quickly developed the custom of telling me which Bible characters were portrayed. Whether from the Old Testament or the New, she got them all. Adam, Abraham, David, and Saul; Jesus and John, Peter, and Paul. I thought back on all those years of readings and narrations. So something sunk in after all!. She knows all the stories. She knows all the characters. She knows her Bible.
We walked everywhere, and it was always dark by the time we made our way back to our hotel. I have always had trouble with direction, and frequently she had to tell me when to turn. How do you know how to get back, I asked? She pointed to a statute of Christ, at the top of a particularly tall building. The statue was illuminated at night, and shown like a beacon over the streets of Rome. I follow that statue, she said. It shows me the way back to our hotel.
Of course, I thought. Finding your way home with a landmark. Why didn’t I think of that? What a clever girl she is.
Later that evening, I was immersed in my own writing, unwinding after a day of paintings and art. She interrupted my reverie.
“Is there a song called ‘Jesus my compass’?”
I looked up half-heartedly. A Bible song of some sort? Awana perhaps? I did a quick Google.
“Not that I know of.” Where did she hear about this? Is she making this up?
“There should be.”
“Why do you say that?” I asked.
“Well, every night when I have looked to that statue of Jesus, it has shown me the way back home. It reminds me of how in my life, Jesus is my compass. He shows me the way I should go.”
I closed my laptop so I could take in this moment. What was I hoping to accomplish with all those years of reading and narrating? I had no agenda, really. I just trusted the method.
Earlier that day I had been so relieved that she had learned something from it all. I was happy that she had gotten to know her Bible.
But that evening I got so see that a far deeper kind of knowing had been going on across all of those weeks and months and years. She was not only getting to know her Bible. She was getting to know her compass. And just like on our walks back to the hotel at night, my job was so simple. All I had to do was get out of the way. Jesus took care of the rest.