When I reflect on the influence of my mother, I have to look further back to the influence of my grandmothers as well, both of whom are gone, both of whom had a tremendous role in my life. It was my mother’s mother who told me stories by the hour as I sat on her lap, who mailed letters with a quarter inside. Yes, I am old enough that that quarter could buy a little Golden Book at the neighborhood drugstore.
It was my father’s mother who modeled a love of books, having shelves and stacks of them in every available corner of her house and who read a book a day up into her nineties.
It was my mother who joined with other parents in our town to battle with the school board to allow blind children into the public school so that I was not sent away from home to the Michigan State School for the Blind and who labored tirelessly to provide teachers who taught me Braille and how to cope with school in a sighted world. It was my mother who after a long day working outside and inside the home always found time for a bedtime story. It was my mother who considered books special gifts at holidays and found an endless supply of recorded stories for me to enjoy.
None of us has been raised in a vacuum. We are shaped by the atmosphere of our homes and the practices and values of the people who care about us. As my daughter and I work to promote good reading and high quality books in a generation that is losing its grip on the use of the written word, I am absolutely aware that this desire did not begin with me, but that I am indebted to the women who came before me and brought me up in a world of books and stories.
And to those of you who have not been blessed with your own children yet, but share this vision, I commend Miss Charlotte Mason to you, a woman who became motherless as a very young woman, and who never married or had children of her own. Her devotion to the education of children has borne fruit in the lives of countless thousands. We know thousands of children were blessed by her during her lifetime, and who can even know how many others in the ensuing three generations since her death. Her life’s work continues today. Here are a few choice quotes of hers on the vital influence of mothers:
“That work which is of most importance to society is the bringing up and instruction of the children––in the school, certainly, but far more in the home, because it is more than anything else the home influences brought to bear upon the child that determine the character and career of the future man or woman. It is a great thing to be a parent: there is no promotion, no dignity, to compare with it. The parents of but one child may be cherishing what shall prove a blessing to the world.”
“It is upon the mothers of the present that the future of the world depends, in even a greater degree than upon the fathers, because it is the mothers who have the sole direction of the children's early, most impressible years. This is why we hear so frequently of great men who have had good mothers––that is, mothers who brought up their children themselves, and did not make over their gravest duty to others. ..Maternal love is the first agent in education.”
“The ideas which quicken come from above; the mind of the little child is an open field, surely 'good ground,' where, morning by morning, the sower goes forth to sow, and the seed is the Word. All our teaching of children should be given reverently, with the humble sense that we are invited in this matter to co-operate with the Holy Spirit; but it should be given dutifully and diligently, with the awful sense that our co-operation would appear to be made a condition of the Divine action; that the Saviour of the world pleads with us to 'suffer the little children to come unto Me,' as if we had the power to hinder, as we know that we have.”
(From Parents and Children, Volume 2 of the series)
In light of the blessing of grandmothers, the blessing of a mother, and the blessing of Ms. Charlotte Mason as well, I humbly acknowledge that I owe a debt of eternal gratitude to these women.
For the joy of reading,