A Philosophy of Education Restated

A Philosophy of Education Restated

Editor’s Note: Doreen Russo was educated at the Charlotte Mason College, formerly the House of Education. She later described how this training left an indelible mark upon her life:

I think, in a way, we took the College with us when we left to teach… the syllabus and timetables… which we worked in the Practising School, followed us all the way to our own classrooms. They became a way of life, I think.[1]

Her love for and knowledge of the Charlotte Mason tradition is reflected in her 1992 publication Charlotte Mason – A Pioneer of Sane Education, a 20-page booklet which explores the origin of the PNEU, the Parents’ Union School, and Charlotte Mason Teachers (CMTs).

In 1984, Susan Schaeffer Macaulay published her groundbreaking book For the Children’s Sake. Macaulay was of course not a Charlotte Mason Teacher; she discovered the beauty and power of the PNEU from the outside. Her book introduced the Charlotte Mason philosophy in a unique and memorable way; to this day, I recommend it as the best first book to read about Charlotte Mason.

But what might a Charlotte Mason “insider” say about the book? Someone steeped in the history and tradition of the PNEU, and trained at the Charlotte Mason College?

Well, in February 1985, just months after the publication of For the Children’s Sake, Doreen Russo wrote a book review. She had no idea that the modern Charlotte Mason movement had just begun. All she knew is that the Charlotte Mason philosophy had been restated — and restated quite well.

by Doreen Russo
The PNEU Journal, 1985, pp. 37-38


For the Children’s Sake by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay

The title of Mrs Macaulay’s book means much to those of us who trained at Charlotte Mason’s College in Ambleside. FOR THE CHILDREN’S SAKE was our motto, and the book’s subtitle Foundations of Education for Home and School was what our training was all about: the interpretation of education as enveloping the whole of a child’s daily life; the environment and the atmosphere in which he grew; an educational programme which would nourish his mind to the full, encourage his natural interest and curiosity and NOT stifle his inborn wish to learn nor his individuality, and would above all respect him as a person from his very birth. We set out to teach in PNEU schools, homes and classrooms armed with this philosophy and provided with programmes of work to guide us.

In her book Mrs Macaulay most ably reiterates and assesses Charlotte Mason’s ideas — and questions why they are not more widely known today — not as one professionally trained in the system, but as a parent who witnessed an “indescribable” and “electrifying change” in two of her young children after they joined a small PNEU school where, as she says, “true education was going on” from which they came home “glowing with life and interest… their eyes bright and their minds alert.” Thereafter she studied, tested and applied Charlotte Mason’s principles in the bringing up of her own four children and has spread this philosophy among her contacts in Switzerland, the USA and elsewhere. As she states in the initial acknowledgements, her book was “lived first and then written.” Like Charlotte Mason she realizes that the basis of a wholesome approach to life with children — as parent or teacher — is an appreciation of them as people. Looking at today’s world she sees all too often that children have become “the chattels of adults”, their worth expressed “in terms of dollars and cents”, the sole purpose of their education being seemingly “to fit them for the highest paid job possible.”

Charlotte Mason built her philosophy on a strong Christian base and as young parents the Macaulays had been searching for a practical philosophy of education which would “relate to the truth of Christianity.” But ideas which are good and true, as the book admits, are not the sole property of Christians; they are shared by those of other religions and by many who follow no religious faith at all. While quoting passages from the Bible in support of Charlotte Mason’s concepts, Mrs Macaulay is careful to point out that a ‘non-believer’ can see their wisdom and truth equally well. She sees Miss Mason’s philosophy and her own findings and ideas as being perfectly in keeping with the various beliefs of many peoples throughout the world. “The principles of education always remain the same, the details have to be planned so that they are appropriate for the individual, including the time and culture in which he is living.”

While leading the reader through the essence of Miss Mason’s books, yet mindful of today’s world, Mrs Macaulay stops from time to time to reconsider a concept from a rather different viewpoint. Giving a short synopsis of Miss Mason’s philosophy as a “plan to establish a better educational practice” she speaks, as indeed Miss Mason did in her own day, of “the disappointing experience of much school education.” But she also reminds us to be tolerant and realistic when scrutinizing any school’s curriculum, for there is an overriding compulsion to meet a country’s qualification examination requirements.

Whether you are already steeped in Charlotte Mason’s work, or quite new to it, you will find Mrs Macaulay’s book well worth reading and, what is more, enjoyable as well as worthwhile.

D. Russo (C.M.T.)

Editor’s Note: In 1978, six years before the publication of For the Children’s Sake, Susan Schaeffer Macaulay recorded an 80-minute interview with Joan Molyneux. We are sharing a biography from the Charlotte Mason Collection to give you an appreciation for Macaulay’s personal connection with the rich history of the PNEU.

Joan Lindsay Molyneux 1908–1986

Many readers of the Journal will remember the name and possibly the signature of Joan Molyneux who was Principal of the PNEU School from July 1966 until August 1974 and during that time edited the Journal.

It was as Principal that she signed the examination papers sent in to PNEU Headquarters in Vandon Street for marking and assessment and the strong, upright, straightforward signature mirrored the person she was, a woman of integrity, of strong Christian faith, devoted to the principles of Charlotte Mason, founder of the PNEU, which she upheld throughout her life. “I have always lived within the sphere of influence of Charlotte Mason, as my parents became PNEU members before I was born,” she wrote in her farewell Editorial in the July Journal of 1974.

The second of four daughters of the Molyneux family, Joan, like her sisters, was taught at home by a PNEU governess until she went to the PNEU School in Burgess Hill in 1921. She stayed there until January 1927 when she went to the House of Education (now Charlotte Mason College) in Ambleside, as did her elder sister Elizabeth. That their training was successful is shewn by the fact that both of them, in due course, became Principals of the PNEU.

Joan qualified in 1928 and her first post, as was usual for most students in the college then, was as a governess. She taught a boy and a girl in a family near Winchester. This was a very happy time and it was obvious that she was a good teacher since her pupils became her life-long friends.

For some years in the 1930s Joan and a younger sister, Ruth, taught at Dorothy Bernau’s small PNEU School in St Albans, distinguished by their pupils as Miss Molyneux (Joan) and Miss Music Molyneux (Ruth). This was a wonderful time for the sisters who not only worked together but shared many leisure-time interests. Ruth ran a Madrigal Choir which Joan joined. She was very modest about her accomplishments; few knew that Joan was musical. She was also a keen Guide at school and later at college where she became a Guider and in her retirement was actively involved with the Trefoil Guild.

In whatever organisation she was involved, Joan gave of herself unstintingly, being for many years Secretary of the Burgess Hill Old Girls’ Association, Secretary of the Ambleside Old Students’ Association, and a loyal and efficient member of both for over fifty years.

For a few years Joan returned to her old school, Burgess Hill, as a Housemistress where her contact with children in the classroom and in a boarding situation shewed her skill as a teacher. Children responded to her calm, quiet manner and to her respect for them as persons. She communicated with them easily, sharing her many interests with them, enjoying their company and their spontaneity. Her staffroom colleagues recall her delighted chuckle as she recounted some of their exploits and sayings, always with understanding and appreciation.

In 1947 Essex Cholmondeley bought Highlands PNEU School at Peppard Common in Oxfordshire, inviting Joan and her friend of many years, Nora Hamlyn, to run it, which they did most successfully for sixteen years. It was during those years that Joan was able to fulfil herself in close contact with children and parents, carrying out the principles of Charlotte Mason which she believed in and lived by faithfully in a teaching career which spanned forty years.

Her experience in family and school fitted her for her work as Principal of the PNEU at a time of change and expansion. Here her organising ability, meticulous attention to detail, her determination to ensure that programmes of work were fitting for and attractive to children, her belief in the rightness of PNEU principles, the attention she gave to examination papers sent in by PNEU schools and home-school families, used her fully and she remained at PNEU Headquarters for the rest of her working life. Her particular pleasure in this work was her contact with children, especially those from abroad, when their parents brought them in to meet the person who signed their examination papers with that strong, firm signature.

In 1934 her father bought Mulberry Lodge in St Albans as a family home and here Joan spent her holidays until her retirement from Highlands School when it became her settled home. During her years as Principal of the PNEU she commuted daily from St Albans to London and the recollection of those who worked with her is that she was never once late at the office in the morning.

Even in her years of retirement after leaving PNEU Headquarters Joan led a busy life in her gentle, serene way, helping her sister in her music shop and tending her beloved garden – her fruit and vegetables were the envy of her friends because they never seemed to suffer from pests or plant ailments but simply grew and prospered with something of her own untroubled serenity. Joan continued to be active in the Trefoil Guild and worked on a voluntary basis in the Abbey bookstall in St Albans where she loved meeting the children who came there and found in her a kindred spirit.

In the words of colleagues, friends and family: “Joan was a stimulating and delightful companion with many interests … a reserved, very private person who seemed to sense the needs of others be they children or adults … a wonderful person, utterly dependable … a most selfless person … the most marvellous, supporting and understanding sister that anyone ever had.”

These words speak for themselves of Joan’s serene life of service, sustained by a deep and understanding Christian faith.

Editor’s Note: The formatting of the above articles were optimized for online viewing. To access a version which is formatted more similarly to the original, and which includes the original page numbers, please click here and here.

Endnotes for the Editor’s Note

[1] Interviewed by J. Beckman. Beckman, “Lessons to Learn,” p. 167.

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