Relationship is a term never used in most educational theories, except perhaps that of pupil and teacher. Charlotte Mason, however, placed it as the very definition of education when she said, "Education is the Science of Relations." Education is the process of bringing the child into a right relationship with the world and what is in it.
Many people have stated that education is not just knowledge; yet surely education cannot be less than knowledge. Rather it is knowledge and something more. That something more is a relationship: the union of knowledge and affection. Knowledge without affection is dry and sterile; it cannot be passed on to another, cannot grow into new areas, and is not available for use in unexpected ways.
Yet affection without knowledge is equally empty–a crush, shallow and petty. It accomplishes nothing but passing entertainment for the admirer or the object of admiration, unless it grows with knowledge into genuine regard and relationship.
A relationship is reciprocal. Both sides put something in, and both sides receive something back. A relationship is fruitful. It produces new ideas, new actions, renewed strength and focus, perhaps even new people.
But practically, what does this look like? In the case of reading, if we were concerned about knowledge, we could ensure that a child was drilled in all the proper phonetic forms and given daily practice reading flashcards until he knew the phonetic system inside and out and could decipher any word he had encountered. But if, in this process, he lost, or never gained, any desire to find out what was in books, the knowledge would be an utter failure.
On the other hand, if we surrounded the child with lots of fun to make sure that reading practice was an enjoyable experience, but never gave him any real tools to handle harder works or discipline to challenge himself, we would probably find that his love of reading lasted a very short time and was soon replaced by a preference for visual storytelling.
But, if a child forms a genuine relationship with books–if he wants to know what is in them, and he learns what he needs to get that out of them, then it will carry him his whole life. The books will give to him new ideas, new horizons, new opportunities; and he will give them love and advocacy and share them with others. The relationship will bear fruit.
Deep relationships will carry all through life, and can never be slighted without creating a gap. To have the right relationships with the right things is true education.