Charlotte Mason was a 19th century British educator who was not only a teacher of students but a trainer of teachers. Charlotte Mason believed that children are gifts from God with great potential and that our job as parents and teachers is to help them reach those capabilities by not stifling their creativity and pursuit of knowledge. Charlotte Mason taught “there is no education but self-education” and it is our job as parents and teachers to give them the best books with which to learn. She also believed that there was no better growing ground for children than the home and no better teacher than the mother.
She taught that children should be outdoors as often as possible. She felt that children really learned about nature and connected with God’s creations when they had the freedom to be outside exploring and discovering them firsthand. “Do not sent them…take them. And long hours they should be; not two, but four, five, or six hours they should have on every tolerably fine day from April till October.” “Never be withindoors when you can rightly be without.” In response to this suggestion she says “I venture to suggest, not what is practicable in any household, but what seems to me absolutely best for the children; and that, in the faith that mothers work wonders once they are convinced that wonders are demanded of them.” This is my favorite quote because it is so true. We can work wonders when they are demanded of us.
Miss Mason cautioned against teaching children too early. “In this time of extraordinary pressure, educational and social, perhaps a mother’s first duty to her children is to secure for them a quiet growing time, a full six years of passive receptive life, the waking part for the most of it spent out in the fresh air…They must be let alone, left to themselves a great deal, to take in what they can of the beauty of earth and heavens; for of the evils of modern education few are worse than this––that the perpetual cackle of his elders leaves the poor child not a moment of time, nor an inch of space, wherein to wonder––and grow.”
She also believed that children learn by forming relationships. “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?” This is a much different idea of education than what we have today. It seems most are simply concerned with grades, test scores and how many facts can be spouted out.
A few of the hallmarks of a Charlotte Mason education include:
- Short and varied lessons: “But do not let the lesson last more than ten minutes, and insist, with brisk, bright determination, on the child’s full concentrated attention of eye and mind for the whole ten minutes. Do not allow a moment’s dawdling at lessons…The brain, or some portion of the brain, becomes exhausted when any given function has been exercised too long. The child has been doing sums for some time, and is getting unaccountably stupid: take away his slate and let him read history, and you find his wits fresh again.”
- Habit training: “We are inclined to think the best that can be done is to let it alone, to let every child develop unhindered according to the elements of character and disposition that are in him. This is precisely what half the parents in the world, and three-fourths of the teachers, are content to do; and what is the consequence? That the world is making advances, but the progress is, for the most part, amongst the few whose parents have taken their education seriously in hand; while the rest, who have been allowed to stay where they were, be no more, or no better than Nature made them, act as a heavy drag: for, indeed, the fact is, that they do not stay where they were; it is unchangeably true that the child who is not being constantly raised to a higher and a higher platform will sink to a lower and a lower. Wherefore, it is as much the parent’s duty to educate his child into moral strength and purpose and intellectual activity as it is to feed him and clothe him; and that in spite of his nature, if it must be so.”
- No formal academics until age 6: “The chief function of the child––his business in the world during the first six or seven years of his life––is to find out all he can, about whatever comes under his notice, by means of his five senses; that he has an insatiable appetite for knowledge got in this way; and that, therefore, the endeavour of his parents should be to put him in the way of making acquaintance freely with Nature and natural objects…”
- Nature Study: “There is no sort of knowledge to be got in these early years so valuable to children as that which they get for themselves of the world they live in. Let them once get touch with Nature, and a habit is formed which will be a source of delight through life. We were all meant to be naturalists, each in his degree, and it is inexcusable to live in a world so full of the marvels of plant and animal life and to care for none of these things.”
- Living Books: “We owe it to every child to put him in communication with great minds that he may get at great thoughts; with the minds, that is, of those who have left us great works; and the only vital method of education appears to be that children should read worthy books, many worthy books.” “Children have a right to the best we possess; therefore their lesson books should be, as far as possible, our best books.”
For more information about Charlotte Mason’s methods visit: https://www.amblesideonline.org/WhatIsCM.shtml
I also love this 31 Days of Charlotte Mason series.