Classical Meets Charlotte Mason

Classical Meets Charlotte Mason

Editor’s Note: The debate between Charlotte Mason and classical education has been going on for years. Does it really make a difference whether Mason was a classical educator or was influenced by classical theories of education? In this episode, Shannon weighs in on this topic as she recounts her journey from classical teacher to Mason educator and researcher. She explores what is really at stake in this debate and how meshing the two methods can lead to surprising consequences. She also unveils the new insights she gained through her dissertation research at a classical school that implemented Mason’s teaching methods. Recorded live at the 2021 Living Education Retreat.

The slides for this presentation may be found here.

Shannon Whiteside discovered the life-giving principles of Charlotte Mason ten years ago while searching the Internet for alternative educational philosophies to use to teach her children. She and her husband Mark live in northwest Indiana. She has been homeschooling her three children for over 10 years. Before homeschooling, she was an elementary teacher for 7 years at two different classical Christian schools. Her dissertation research focused on storytelling aspects of narration and how Mason’s educational theories compare to the classical model of education. Her desire is to teach at the college level and expose future teachers to the revolutionary principles of Mason. You can find her writings and videos about education at her website.


11 Replies to “Classical Meets Charlotte Mason”

  1. Thank you Shannon for a wonderful talk! I learned things that I never knew about Christian Classical Ed. I think you were able to flesh out the thoughts I’ve had on this subject. How interesting to be able to observe that “hybrid” school!

    1. Amanda,
      Thank you for listening to my talk and taking the time to share your feedback. I am glad it was helpful to you and that you could resonate with the ideas I was communicating.

  2. Excellent, Shannon! Thank you so much for researching and articulating these fundamental differences. I’m looking forward to sharing your talk with my community and beyond!

    1. Lisa,
      Thanks for taking the time to listen. I am glad you want to pass it along and encourage others to think through these issues.

  3. Dear Shannon, thank you for this wonderful presentation! I confess that my understanding of Classical Christian education was very limited what you’ve shared broaden my mind and helped me understand many questions I didn’t even know I had 🙂 I’m so happy you found a dear friend in Miss Mason!

  4. Mariana,
    I am happy to hear that my presentation helped you understand classical education better. My motivation is to not be divisive but to encourage people to meet Charlotte Mason on her terms and to be inspired by her ideas.

  5. Thank you Shannon for this wonderful presentation of the core differences between Classical and Charlotte Mason’s heart for education. You were clear but gracious in saying the two are not compatible which I appreciate immensely. I learned a lot and am thankful to have a more clear way to share with others why Charlotte’s method is truly different. Blessings to you as you continue on your journey.

    1. Leah,
      I appreciate your kind comments, and I am glad that it will help you in your discussions with others. Thank you for acknowledging my “clear but gracious” tone. That is an important aspect of my work.

  6. Dear Shannon,
    Thank you for this talk. It was quite interesting – I’ll certainly be looking into more of your work.

    I do have a few questions about the lecture. In the beginning you talk about how the modern classical Christian project is kind of an experiment, one based on a lecture given by a mystery novelist. But at the end, when explaining why Charlotte Mason is not compatible with the Classical model, you refer to the model as this long tradition that Miss Mason was intentionally not a part of. Is the current classical model a brand new experiment, or is it part of a long tradition?

    Similarly, you described the current classical model as a set of subjects turned into a methodology (subjects of grammar, logic, and rhetoric, turned into stages of learning any subject). The goal, while perhaps confused, is to teach children in an appropriate manner to their age/level and in a way that interests them. This seems actually better to fit your definition of a progressive model (one that begins with the student, how they learn, what interests them, etc.) than to fit a subject based model.

    Thanks for considering!

    1. Amy,
      Thank you for listening to my talk and taking the time to respond. I appreciate your questions and am happy to respond to the points that you raised. I am working on a follow-up article that will address your questions and several others in full detail. I hope you will check back and read that article when it is posted!

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