Ms. Mason wisely knew the value of our listening to our children. She shared a poignant story of Bobbie which can cut to the quick of a parent’s heart who has patted her child on the back and shooed him away, a bit too busy to take seriously his silly, prattling stories.
Bobbie will come home with a heroic narrative of a fight he has seen between 'Duke' and a dog in the street. It is wonderful! He has seen everything, and he tells everything with splendid vigour in the true epic vein; but so ingrained is our contempt for children that we see nothing in this but Bobbie's foolish childish way! (Volume 1, Home Education, p. 231)
I would like to say that was a moment which changed my life forever, but it didn’t. An inability to consistently listen continued to plague me. I wanted to be a better listener. I knew poor listening was reflective of a deeper heart issue of love of self and by not listening I was communicating, “What I have to think, say, or do is actually much more important than what you have to say.” I knew why I should listen: true listening is an act of love and a way of showing others we consider them more important than ourselves. But my selfish nature was strong, and listening was so very hard.
It would not be until I was willing to (perhaps it would be more accurate to say forced to) put in the hard work of actively practicing listening to my children’s narrations every day and the habit of listening began to take root that real change began to occur. My children were wise; they were quick to discern I was often not listening to their narrations. In the truthful way only children can sometimes do, they were also quick to call me out on it. I knew my poor listening could only go on for so long before my children tired of it, and narrating, the basis of our Charlotte Mason education, would take an awful blow from which it would not be easy to recover. Much was at stake.
Continuing Ms. Mason’s story of Bobbie, she goes on to say, “Whereas here, if we have eyes to see and grace to build, is the ground-plan of his education.” Pause and think about this: listening to our children is the ground-plan of their education.
So I dug in my heals and committed to listen to my children’s narrations. It was not easy. I often had to ask for forgiveness when they caught me not listening. Still, slowly, over time, I found myself not only listening because I had to, but also because I started to care at a deeper level about what they had to say. It spilled over out of our school day and into the rest of our life. The silly, prattling stories became a joy. Setting aside what I wanted to do to stop and listen became a habit. I caught myself more often and more quickly not letting my husband or a friend finish what he had to say and corrected myself.
There is still great work to do. I long for the day when listening is not as much work, when listening is such a part of my life that I could no sooner listen than breathe. Even if that day should never come, I am extremely grateful for the gift of listening narration has brought into my life.