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The Best Part of Education - Masterly Inactivity and Roller Skates


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)
I couldn't help think of masterly inactivity as we read and enjoyed 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. 56
The 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,
Nancy


*You will find plenty to talk and think about such as the death of a child and the murder of a friend.

12 comments:

  1. There is something wonderful about watching your children sail off to a place to explore and create. The book sounds great. Is this one on the Ambleside Online book lists?

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    1. Dear Sarah,
      I agree, Sarah. And no, I don't think it is on AO.
      From joy to joy,
      Nancy

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  2. Nancy,
    I too love Lucinda, once found myself missing her as if she was an absent friend, and was overjoyed to discover later that day that there is a sequel. Our family then read Year of Jubilo and it was special to go with Lucinda into other scenes with other people. I'm so glad your family loved her too.

    Liz

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    1. Liz,
      You know, I faintly remember that! Thank you - I will seek that title out!
      From joy to joy,
      Nancy

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  3. I'm kicking myself...awhile ago I sent off a copy of this via Paper Back Swap! Oops. Thanks for sharing this with us!!

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    Replies
    1. Been there...done that! Lol!

      From joy to joy,
      Nancy

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  4. "Do nothing and all shall be done," as one old Buddhist said.

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  5. W have lots of masterly inactivity around here! Books are meant to be read, re-read, acted out, and re-made. It happens every day!

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  6. How wonderful to read about another child deeply loving the same books as your children love! I enjoy seeing my children dress up and play the story outside, or make and use paper dolls or puppets.
    We are also sad when a beloved book ends. Sometimes it is hard to move on to a new author or genre. Thanks for sharing about this book and your experiences.

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  7. I witnessed it the other day when walking our favorite nature trail with other CM families. Some children found pieces of wood that reminded them of Paddle to the Sea. They put their R2D2 on it and called on R2D2 Paddle and the other Boogie Board R2D2. Then, they wondered if R2D2 could travel all the way to the Atlantic Ocean from Lake Marion.

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  8. What's even more fun is reading the books in the quote to the kids. We actually just started King of the Golden River yesterday, so now, the next real aloud may be Roller Skates, so I can hear them all shout when we get tot hat paragraph.

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  9. We always love your ideas! Thanks for sharing with us at Share It .
    Ice Skates & Roller Skates


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