Meet Charlotte M. Mason

CHARLOTTE MASON Posted 5/99

"Education is a life. That life is sustained on ideas . . . we must sustain a child’s inner life with ideas as we sustain his body with food."—Charlotte Mason

Prolific author and devoted teacher, Charlotte Mason earned a reputation as one of the foremost educational innovators of her day. She was born in 1842 in England, where her father was a Liverpool merchant. She was educated at home until her father, who went bankrupt, died when Charlotte was 16. Her home education kindled her lifelong passion for learning, and after her father’s death she entered a training college for teachers in London in 1860. Upon graduation, she taught in Sussex and then went on to obtain a position at Bishop Otter Teaching Training College.

The philosophy of the college—that education should be available to both boys and girls—was revolutionary for its time and profoundly influenced Charlotte’s thinking. In 1886, she published Home Education, the first book in a 6-volume collection now known as The Original Home Schooling Series. Written in a down-to-earth style and from an evangelical perspective, it emphasized the importance of a nurturing home environment and clearly explained how parents could provide their children with an exciting education.

Charlotte truly loved children and believed that their naturally curious minds should be fed with the best books, art, and music, as well as the beauty of the natural world. At the heart of her philosophy lay the concept of "living books" and the practice of narration. She used timeless literature instead of dry textbooks to stimulate children’s love of learning, and encouraged her students to tell or write back what was read to them. Charlotte believed that "the child . . . should be trained from the first to think that one reading of any lesson is enough to enable him to narrate what he has read, and will thus get the habit of slow, careful reading, intelligent even when it is silent, because he reads with an eye to the full meaning of every clause."

Home Education became a bestseller and established Charlotte’s reputation as a foremost authority on early childhood education. In 1892, Charlotte opened the House of Education, a training school for governesses located in the Lake District of England. Her educational ideas became so influential that they were adopted by many day schools and home schools around the country. Thus she became known as the "founder of the homeschool movement."

Although Charlotte Mason died in 1923, her philosophy of education lives on in today’s burgeoning homeschool movement. Her teaching principles have been adopted successfully by home educators across the United States. Homeschoolers have found Karen Andreola’s A Charlotte Mason Companion a valuable resource for learning about and implementing Charlotte Mason’s methods.

(Biographical information gathered from the foreword of A Charlotte Mason Companion. Charlotte Mason quotes gathered from the Classical Academy Web site.)

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