It indicates the power to act, the desire to act, and the insight and self-restraint which forbid action.
- Charlotte Mason on masterly inactivity, Vol. 3 p. 28
Masterly inactivity is so important in your child's education. I sometimes think that more learning goes on during those times where they are going off and seeking out all those things that the day's reading has inspired them to pursue. The term masterly inactivity is referring to the parent or teacher and their roll in letting the student explore without getting in the student's way. Here are a few other terms Mason uses to describe it:
- delectable compound
- wise and passive letting alone
- best part of education
- wise passiveness (quoting Wordsworth)
Roller Skates (A Newbery Award Book)by Ruth Sawyer. Have you read it? We loved it. It has some different parts that normally aren't found in children's literature, but that's okay. We thought it was true to life - for better or for worse*. It is an autobiographical story about a year of her childhood in New York City in 1890. Her character's name is Lucinda and her situation was not of her choosing - her parents went to Italy and left her in the care of aunts when she was 10 years old. It is what she does with her time and relationships that is so enriching. That, and the crazy fact that she wanders everywhere around the city on roller skates. Shakespeare plays a prominent role in the story.
She was catching at an idea and sharing it abundantly. Uncle Earle had told her it was the custom in Mr. Shakespeare's time to give a play at Twelfth Night. Could there be a better play than The Tempest? She went into the work-room and staggered out with the theatre, sat down on the floor with it, and talked in an unbroken stream. She showed her accumulation of doll-actors; explained the theatre that was made out of a stout wooden box, with a back that dropped down on hinges like the lid of a desk. There were grooves at the bottom on which to run scenery; there were slits chiseled out at the sides, front and back, through which the actors made their entrances and exits. p. 56The performing of this play is only one of the many activities Lucinda throws herself into. How fun to learn that the books she read were many of the same books we enjoy!
The books she handled and put in their places with loving care. They filled a large portion of her inner world - a sanctuary built securely to keep out Aunt Emilys and French governesses. She smoothed her copy of Tanglewood Tales, with a gold Pegasus riding over a crimson cover; she patted Water Babies, without pictures and a feckless binding that matched The King of the Gold River and Plutarch's Lives. There was Hans Andersen, with a frontispiece of Little Ida and her flowers. Every story Andersen had written was in the book; and Lucinda had read them all since her tenth birthday. p. 20
I recommend this book as a read aloud. I never mentioned the words "masterly inactivity" while we were reading it because I didn't need to. Guess what play they are busily making costumes for and memorizing lines from?
From joy to joy,
*You will find plenty to talk and think about such as the death of a child and the murder of a friend.