Who was Charlotte Mason?
Charlotte Mason (1842-1923) was was a British educator who worked to improve education. She believed in a “liberal education for all” regardless of social class.She developed her philosophy of education through years of teaching children, lecturing on education, training teachers, and writing. Much of her writing is compiled in a six Volume set.
A Few Key Principles of the Philosophy
children are born persons
This is the first and foundational principles of Charlotte Mason. On the surface this can seem like nothing more than a statement of the obvious. But often we overlook the fact that each child is an individual human being who thinks, acts and feels. We treat them more as possessions or pets. Charlotte mason respected a child’s mind as a cabable living organism with an appetite for knowledge, rather than simply a blank slate to be written on. The education of a child should always see the child as a whole person not just how many facts he knows or what tests he can pass. Charlotte Mason says:
“The question is not, – how much does the youth know? when he has finished his education – but how much does he care? and about how many orders of things does he care? In fact, how large is the room in which he finds his feet set? and, therefore, how full is the life he has before him?”Charlotte Mason(Vol. 3 School Education, Chapter 16, pg. 170
And this leads us to another important part of a CM education.
Education Should Be A Feast of Living Ideas
One of the first things that drew me to a Charlotte Mason education was that children should be given a feast of living ideas. The idea of an education filled with living ideas rather than worksheets, lists of facts, and dry textbooks, captured my imagination. In Volume 6 Charlotte Mason states:
“The mind is capable of dealing with only one kind of food; it lives, grows and is nourished upon ideas only; mere information is to it as a meal of sawdust to the body; there are no organs for the assimilation of the one more than of the other.”-Charlotte Mason( Vol. 6, pg. 218)
“We spread an abundant and delicate feast in the programmes and each small guest assimilates what he can”Charlotte Mason(Vol. 6, pg.183)
“Our business is to give children the great ideas of life, of religion, history, science; but it is the ideas we must give, clothed upon with facts as they occur, and must leave the child to deal with these as he chooses”Charlotte Mason (Vol. 6, pg 39-40)
All Education is Self Education
Charlotte Mason believed that the goal of was that the children, the students themselves would take the responsibility for their own education. The child must desire to learn and must do the actual work of learning. We as the teacher are not to squash that desire with too much lecturing or talking down to a child.
“The children, not the teachers, are the responsible persons; they do the work by self-effort”-Charlotte Mason(Vol. 6, pg. 6)
“There is no education but self-education”Charlotte Mason(Vol. 6, pg. 26)
Of the teacher’s role in education Charlotte says:
“…his part is not the weariful task of spoon-feeding . . . but the delightful commerce of equal minds where his is the part of guide, philosopher, and friend. “-Charlotte Mason(Vol. 6, pg 237)
So in respecting a child as a person, spreading a feast of ideas, and giving the child an interest in his own education we use living books, beautiful art and music, laying down habits, time outdoors in nature, time to digest the ideas given, and narrating them back.
How This Looks in Our Home
So what does this look like in practice?
It means we read many living books for history science, literature, geography and more. After each lesson the child narrates or tells back what they read as the way for them to process and digest it.
It means each lesson is relatively short and that they are varied to use different parts of the child’s brain and body. This helps train the child in the habit of attention.
It means that while we certainly focus on math, reading and other “basics” we don’t neglect art, poetry, music, and handicrafts. We spend a lot of time outdoors exploring and learning about nature. All important parts providing a rich and full life for a whole person.
How Can This Look In Community
In conclusion here are a few ideas of how you can join up with other families to enrich your Charlotte Mason Education.
- Start a Nature Walk Group- we have done this with friends on and off. It can be informal or more structured. Basically it is a time to meet regularly to get outside, explore, and learn together.
- Start or Join a Co-op- This would be a great option for a deeper community and for filling in areas that we are sometimes lacking in at home. (Should I mention our Co-op here)
- Get together with a group of Mom’s for a study of Charlotte Mason’s writings and philosophy.
“What is education after all? An answer lies in the phrase––Education is the Science of Relations. … What we are concerned with is the fact that we personally have relations with all that there is in the present, all that there has been in the past, and all that there will be in the future––with all above us and all about us…”Charlotte Mason( Volume 3, pg. 186-187)