Charlotte Mason first introduced her theory of education in a series of lectures in 1885 which were published in 1886. In the years which followed, she wrote many additional articles and books. However, over time she increasingly felt the need to distill her theory of education into a concise summary or synopsis. She completed this in 1904, and it is now commonly referred to as her “Twenty Principles.” In this plenary, we will consider the meaning and significance of each of these twenty principles, thereby surveying Mason’s theory of education according to the structure she herself formalized in her synopsis.
How to Learn the Charlotte Mason Method
H.W. Household wrote, “If you regard the Charlotte Mason method as a bag of tricks of which you can select one or two for adoption, leaving the rest, you will have nothing but disappointment.” How do we avoid reducing Charlotte Mason’s method to a “bag of tricks”? How do we obtain an understanding of the principles and the philosophy that can transform a book list into a living education? We are all busy, and we have limited time in which to both teach and learn. In this session we will explore the various avenues available to us to learn Mason’s method.
There are containers for time, containers for objects, and containers for chemicals. Sometimes it is hard to find the right container for a substance. Of course, chemicals that are inert are very safe. But some acids are so reactive that they interact with their container. If you are not careful, the container can be transformed by what’s inside. Years ago I decided to implement Charlotte Mason’s ideas into my homeschool. At first I just took Charlotte Mason’s ideas and put them into the containers of my week that were set aside for lessons. I did not realize that these ideas were more reactive than any chemical. Anyone interested in applying Charlotte Mason’s ideas, be forewarned: you may set out to transform your teaching, but you may end up transforming yourself.
Christian Overman wrote, “Ideas do make a difference! And significant ideas cast much longer shadows than do the men or women who originally think them.” What ideas are casting a shadow on your practice of education? And how do these ideas make a difference? The focus of this session is to uncover which ideas correlate with Mason’s philosophy of education. Was she continuing a previously existing tradition? And what difference does this make in our practice of education today?
Mason’s program for Bible lessons
Charlotte Mason wrote, ”Now our objective in this most important part of education is to give the children the knowledge of God.” Mason did not approach this ”most important part of education” in a haphazard fashion; rather, she developed a progressive program of study for children from ages 6 to 18 that is breathtaking in its simplicity, elegance, and efficacy. In this session, we will review the content, sequence, and structure that Mason developed for Bible lessons for Forms I through VI. With the understanding that education is the science of relations, we will explore her approach to facilitate the most important relationship of all.
Dads and the Three Educational Instruments
In most contemporary American families, the father is not the primary educator of his children. Many children attend school outside the home, and in the home schoolroom, mothers are usually the primary teachers. What role remains for dads in a Charlotte Mason education? Miss Mason wrote that, “we are limited to three educational instruments—the atmosphere of environment, the discipline of habit, and the presentation of living ideas.” In this session, we will explore how busy dads can educate their children with atmosphere, discipline, and life, even outside of classroom hours.
When you think of moral development, what are the first ideas that come to mind? Perhaps ideas such as behavior, training, action, and love. But probably not “knowledge”. In fact we often disparage “head knowledge” as something quite opposite to moral development. But does knowledge play a role in moral development? If so, is it a primary or incidental role? This session will explore what Charlotte Mason said about this important topic.
The Sacrament of Education
Charlotte Mason made many references to the role of the Holy Spirit in education. For example, she wrote that “God the Holy Spirit is Himself, personally, the Imparter of knowledge.” But she also insisted on the complementary role of the teacher. For example, she wrote that we should “conceive of the divine teaching as co-operating with ours in a child’s arithmetic lesson.” This concept can be puzzling until we grasp more about Mason’s understanding of how God interacts with the world. By looking at Mason’s frequent references to the concept of a sacrament, we can better understand how to co-operate with the Holy Spirit in the practice of education.
Charlotte Mason as seen through her poetry
Many people are aware that Charlotte Mason wrote six volumes of poetry entitled The Saviour of the World. But fewer people know that Mason wrote a variety of additional poems that have never been published. Mason wrote The Saviour of the World with the hope that “the Son of Man, lifted up, would draw all men unto Himself.” While her writings focus on Christ, her words also reveal much about herself. In this session, we will explore examples of Charlotte Mason’s poetry that may help us look at her educational volumes in a fresh and enhanced way.
Maria Montessori In Her Own Words
Charlotte Mason found what she believed to be a “scientific basis of education.” A contemporary of Miss Mason also looked to science for insight on how to educate children: Maria Montessori. As with Mason, Montessori also looked to the timeless truths of Christianity to guide the development of her method. What conclusions did Montessori reach about education? In this session we will reflect on her own words about how science and faith inform how we teach our children.
Charlotte Mason’s writings on education are interspersed with references to God, Christ, and other spiritual topics. What theology lies behind these scattered references? Should Mason be considered theologically orthodox, or was she a theological innovator? Was she faithful to the Christian tradition that we have received, or did she chart a new course? Does it even matter? This session will focus on Mason’s theology of personhood and personal development and examine how her views relate to traditional Christian theology.
Poetry and Spiritual Formation
Charlotte Mason wrote, “Poetry is, perhaps, the most searching and intimate of our teachers… Poetry, too, supplies us with tools for the modeling of our lives… As we ‘inwardly digest,’ reverence comes to us unawares…” Mason believed that poetry plays a crucial role in the spiritual formation of Christ’s disciples, young and old. In this workshop, we will interact with devotional poetry and reflect on its role in the home, church, and school.
In her third volume, entitled School Education, Mason wrote of a “A Medieval Conception of Education” –– the “idea of all education springing from and resting upon our relation to Almighty God.” Did this concept originate with “the medieval Church”, later to be rediscovered by Mason on the walls of the Spanish Chapel in Florence? Or does the concept spring from a deeper and more ancient spring? This workshop will search for the Great Recognition in the Scriptures, the tradition of Israel, the history of the church, and in the purposes of God Himself. With an understanding of the broader context of this Recognition, we hope to be able to apply it more consistently fully.
When describing of the human person, Charlotte Mason employed an analogy to the Old Testament “tabernacle in the wilderness.” In this session, we will explore how this analogy helps us better understand certain themes and elements in Mason’s writings.
Saviour of the World Immersion
Charlotte Mason wrote, “Poetry is, perhaps, the most searching and intimate of our teachers… As we ’inwardly digest,’ reverence comes to us unawares…” Mason believed that poetry plays a crucial role in the spiritual formation of Christ’s disciples, so much so that she wrote six volumes of poems for use in school lessons. In this immersion session, we will experience an actual Bible lesson, illuminated by poetry, according to the method laid down by Mason herself.