Was Charlotte Mason even a Christian?

Charlotte Mason believed that biblical Christianity is truth. She believed that children are born persons. In her day, children were seen commonly, by the world, as possessions. She took the opposite view. She felt the Christian adult looks at a child with reverence. We can only love a child and serve him; we cannot own the child. He is not ours. The child is a person who needs to grow in knowledge. (1)

What is this “knowledge” of which Charlotte Mason is always writing and how is it different from “retaining information?”

Modern “learning” has been boiled down to reading or seeing a snippet of something in a magazine, on television, or on the internet. We scan through it, believing we have learned something, then promptly forget the fragments. This is not education. We are merely forming a habit of amusing our interests. (2)

The definition of “knowing” is to understand reality and see the framework of truth. We adults have knowledge because we live in God’s world as persons and that knowledge can be shared. Plus, as Christians, we have God’s Word to explain our experience and understanding of life. (2)

The experiences of life provide wonderful opportunities for real knowledge as situations and circumstances play out right before the eyes of the child. It is a total immersion lesson. To explain the realities of historical times, far away cultures, and dangerous environments, we have two delightfully natural resources: living books and narration.

Narration is the obvious, natural response to the enjoyable experience of reading. It is a total human activity. (2) After reading the story, the child puts it into words, has to think for himself, uses memory, attends deeply, reacts personally and expresses personally. (2)

The result is acquired knowledge. Having expressed an idea or story creatively in his own words, he will remember it. (1)

What are the benefits of acquiring knowledge with this method?

  • A book becomes the child’s own possession,
  • he is acquainted with the flow and use of language,
  • he becomes a student of the author,
  • he notices the content himself,
  • (he is not forced to memorize facts,)
  • he reacts to the writing himself, and
  • he decides what part is important. (2)

It is an active experience of the mind, personality, and language. (1)

What type of materials did Charlotte Mason recommend?

A child’s mind is hungry for ideas. The child is born with an appetite for knowing and experiencing.

  • Provide material for their mental growth.
  • Provide material that will exercise the several powers of their minds.
  • Provide material that furnishes them with fruitful ideas.

Provide material that affords them with knowledge:

  • knowledge valuable for its own sake,
  • knowledge that is accurate,
  • knowledge that is interesting,
  • knowledge of the kind that the child may recall as a man with profit and pleasure. (1)

What are some of the modern mistakes adults make when educating children?

(This list was compiled by a leading authority of Charlotte Mason’s method, Susan Schaeffer Macaulay, over thirty years ago.)

Some of the modern mistakes adults make when educating children are the following; we

  • devalue their personhood
  • rob their minds of proper, interesting, strong meat for nourishment
  • belittle their interests
  • compete with the entertainment of television
  • use tricks to teach
  • rob them of free and happy childhood play
  • bore them with “play-approach” lessons
  • leave no time for imaginative real play in or out-of-doors
  • schedule out the answers to their questions
  • smother, pinch, push, manage, neglect
  • exchange beauty in God’s great outdoors for screen images
  • stop giving them time priority
  • categorize their supervision as a “menial job”
  • regard them as horrible
  • resent their intrusion into adults’ time and pocketbooks. (2)

What did Charlotte Mason herself say about education? (The executive summary version, please.)

Charlotte Mason said the following about the education of children:

  • Education is different from vocational training.
  • Education should qualify children for life rather than earning a living.
  • A person who has read and thought on many subjects is the most capable to handle tools, draw plans, or keep books.
  • Children don’t need “molding” (a pull, a push, a compression) to turn out “according to the pattern the educator has in his mind.”
  • Accept a child exactly as he is — do not romanticize him.
  • A child is a born person with a mind as complete and beautiful as his little body.
  • His mind is the instrument of his education; his education does not produce his mind.
  • Respect the mind of the child.

Disrespecting the mind of the child means not letting them come to any conclusions themselves, plying them with endless questions, and tiring them with workbooks. We provide them with “twaddle,” mentally inferior and useless stuff, that talks down to the child with insipid, stupid, dull stories. (1)

Miss Mason said that the basic problem with schooling in her day (circa 1908) was “[t]he recording of testable features of a child’s taught tricks (‘skills’) is held to be more important than the mysterious, exciting growth of a person.” (1)

What are the Fundamental Principles that made Charlotte Mason into a great educator?

Charlotte Mason stated that her philosophy revolved around treasuring a child’s mind. Any child. Not just the best and the brightest, but the dull and the dim, as well. Rich or poor. Country or city. She was inspired to teach after watching a class of poor, orphaned city children. The practical ramifications of this philosophy have the educator

  • enjoy sharing the good things of life with the eager minds of children,
  • deal with them on an eye-to-eye level [not related to authority or obedience, but as fellow explorers in a journey through ideas],
  • delight to introduce them to all aspects of reality with a positive joy, and
  • delight in their separate individuality. (2)

She never felt that they weren’t old enough to appreciate and think about things which she knew were good. (2)

(1) The Original Home Schooling Series, Charlotte Mason.

(2) For the Children’s Sake, Susan Schaeffer Macaulay.