Charlotte Mason – Book 4: Ourselves
This volume is my favorite of all six volumes because it analyzes who we are as people. It doesn't really have anything to do with homeschooling, but if you understand the make-up of your children, you'll be able to teach and train them better.
All people have four aspects of their being: body, mind, heart, and soul. Jesus Himself recognized these four areas when He said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind.” (Luke 10:27) Charlotte Mason gives details about each of these four areas.
The body needs food, water, and rest. If any of these three needs becomes obsessive, the result is gluttony, drunkenness, and sloth. To remain chaste in our bodies, we must remember that our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, and we must think pure thoughts at all times. If an impure thought presents itself, think of something else. Our five senses should be sharpened for us to live life to the fullest. If we taste something rotten, we throw it away before we have swallowed the first piece. But we shouldn't be ruled by our taste buds; we should eat what is set before us and not be picky and disagreeable.
Our sense of smell is lazy. We should be able to smell the stuffy air in a room to give it proper ventilation. We should be able to smell spoiled food before it enters our mouth. Smell can be used for our pleasure; we should be able to distinguish different plants by their smell.
Our sense of touch helps us to read if we are blind. We can feel frostbite, fire, or the cut of a knife; if we didn't feel any of these, our bodies would be suffering injury without being noticed. We should not be mastered by the physical pain we might feel. We must think of something else and not dwell on it.
Sight should be cultivated; you should be able to describe scenes in detail. If your childhood memories are hazy, it's because you never stopped to observe the details around you. You can't enjoy life fully until you begin to notice the details. For example, can you describe in detail one picture hanging on your parents' wall?
The sense of hearing has also been dulled. Outdoors you should be able to hear different chirps of birds, water gurgling, wind blowing through the treetops, or pine needles dropping. Enjoy great classical music by following the feeling of the music.
The mind is the second aspect of our beings. Imagination and reason must be brought to the ideas presented to our mind. For history and literature, we must picture the story in our minds in order to derive knowledge from it, and to remember it. Mathematics is worthwhile because our effort results in the knowledge of concrete truth. There are very few branches of knowledge where you can derive absolute truth from its study. Science builds on previous knowledge; however, you should also experience things firsthand to discover all the intricacies of a flower, for instance. Do not allow your mind to dwell on pictures of horror or uncleanness; instead, dwell on God's creation. The reason is used by our desires to logically defend any idea we want. Therefore it is important to not let into our mind any untrue or evil thought. Everything that everybody does is logical to them. Remember Brutus in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar? He reasons that he is doing right by murdering Julius Caesar. Anything can be justified. Our mind subconsciously justifies everything we do. Something isn't right just because it is logical. Everything can be logical.
The heart is ruled by love and justice, or the lack of it. Some aspects of love are pity, benevolence (goodwill), sympathy (comprehension of others), kindness (making life pleasant for others), generosity, gratitude, courage, loyalty (to king, country, family, and friends), humility (not thinking of ourselves at all), and gladness (joy in all circumstances.) We must be just to others in our opinions, truthful to others in all things, temperate in everything we do, using our time wisely.
Our soul is made for communion with God. We will feel incomplete in our lives until God fills us. We must desire the knowledge of God, which can only come from studying Scripture and mulling it over. We must pray, offer thanksgiving, praise Him, and have faith in Him. The more we know God, the more faith we will have. Also, we must keep in mind that just because our conscience is clear doesn't mean we are innocent. Remember, our reason will logically justify anything. This is why we must ask God to show us our sin, and to be silent and listen.