CMP Review 2024-01-30

CMP Review 2024-01-30

January 30, 2024

In Charlotte Mason’s first volume, she writes that “our first care should be to preserve the individuality, give play to the personality, of children.” Then in her final volume she solemnly warns that “we cannot commit a greater offence than to maim or crush, or subvert any part of a person.” Charlotte Mason’s first principle is that “children are born persons,” and that personhood must be respected.

As we read Mason’s words, it is natural to make assumptions about what it means to “preserve individuality” and “give play to personality.” It seems axiomatic that personhood and individuality come from within, and that it must be our duty as parents to listen carefully as our children tell us who they are.

But such assumptions rest uneasily against other words of Mason in her volumes. “Obedience is the whole duty of the child,” she writes in Home Education, “and for this reason—every other duty of the child is fulfilled as a matter of obedience to his parents.” How can the child possibly develop his individuality and express his personality if his entire focus is on obedience to someone else?

In an attempt to chart a course in the face of two apparently opposite ideals, it is natural to gravitate towards one or the other. One academic journal in 2023 asserted that one of Miss Mason’s key ideas is “that learning must be fun,” while others take great pains to distinguish Mason’s philosophy from so-called “child-centered” approaches.

But is it really necessary to take one side or the other? Or may the deeper meaning of Charlotte Mason’s first principle be found in reconciling individuality with obedience, and delight with duty? Laura Teeple believes so. Today we share her first article in a new series of three on the topic of “Personhood Explored.” Read or listen to her thoughtful and challenging paper which shows the path from contradiction to truth. Find it here.