One of the things I love about this whole living education thing is that everyday I get to learn and discover alongside my children. Then I become interested in something that strikes me and pursue it at my own pace. Learning about Amy Carmichael, the Irish missionary to low caste girls and boys in India for over 50 years is one of those pursuits.
Since she lived from 1867 to 1951, one of the first questions that I ask is "Did she know of Charlotte Mason?"
In this case, the answer is "Yes!"
Susan Schaeffer Macaulay has written a few words about this in the highly-recommended book, When Children Love to Learn. She states, "The Ambleside books by her (Mason) on education were sent out to India to Amy Carmichael, who founded the Dohnavur Fellowship. She too recognized in the writings the “roots and trunk” she was looking for as she cared for and educated Indian children.”
Amy Carmichael 'Beauty For Ashes' and listen as he describes the education Amy provided for these cast-off children.
Evangelicals were unaccustomed to think in terms of the education of lower-class girls; such a programme hardly existed in India, and few saw any urgency for its provision.Amy Carmichael has left a legacy that continues to this day.
Amy took the need very seriously and had a definite understanding of what she wanted. First, the objective of schooling must be the formation of character, not merely a training of the intellect. That meant that love was the starting point, to be taught in the first instance by example. Not a child went to sleep at night without a kiss from Amy, and even when the numbers ultimately made that impossible, as long as she could, she sought to see each child every day...as much as possible everything characteristic of an institution was avoided.
Education was not in order to bring a rise in social standing, or material prosperity. It was preparation to serve Christ and others. Learning Scripture was therefore foundational, and at Dohnavur this was made as appealing as possible. Just as Amy wanted her girls dressed in bright colours (especially blue!), she wanted them to see Christianity as the source of a truly happy life. She herself was a musician, and an artist with words as well as pictures. Many truths and observations from nature were put into verse by her to be sung by the children. Yet care was taken that song should not be an end in itself. (Murray, p. 54-55)
Teaching was to be made as appealing as possible. This was not the same as being as entertaining as possible. The years of childhood were too important to be filled with temporary amusement. She wanted them to take in what they would need for life.
Along with the Bible, the book of creation was a constant study. Animals, flowers, trees, birds and much more, were all to be enjoyed and to be the subject of study. The children had their own gardens, and sometimes their own pets; they learned how to see chlorophyll in the leaves of plants and to study drops of water through a microscope. There were outings to 'the forest' in the mountains where there was swimming and fun as well as learning.
We also know that before she left for India (from whence she never returned!) she attended the Keswick Convention in the Lake District. The meeting in 1887 changed her life when she heard Hudson Taylor speak. It was then that she devoted her life to serving God on the mission field. I can't find that Charlotte Mason ever attended this convention, but she certainly must have known about it and quotes one of the founders on occasion, the Quaker Robert Wilson.
I have also enjoyed Elizabeth Elliot's biography A Chance to Die. Murray's book is shorter and more like a primer on Carmichael - a good place to begin learning more. Amy also wrote a lovely devotional that I enjoy, Edges of His Ways.
I will leave you with a wonderful poem from Mountain Breezes, The Collected Poems of Amy Carmichael. If you get this book, check out the poem "Looking Through the Microscope." It really lets you see how her enthusiasm for God's world must have influenced those children! Here is one of my favorites, "Wonderland."
by Amy Carmichael
Lord, Thy little children stand
At the opening of the day
Bordering on Wonderland.
Very near to us it lies,
Gathers round us as we play,
Waiting for our seeing eyes.
Wonderland is everywhere;
Can we go where it is not?
When we go, we find Thee there.
And Thou art so very kind;
Thou hast never once forgot
To put things for us to find.
Oh, a thousand voices call,
"Come and find what has been hidden;
All the world's a Wonder-ball."
Father, may we take Thy hand?
We will do as we are bidden.
Come with us to Wonderland.