Five Important Differences Between Charlotte Mason and Classical Christian Education

Five Important Differences Between Charlotte Mason and Classical Christian Education

Editor’s Note, February 25, 2021: Slide 26 of the deck linked below has been amended with a clarifying note to incorporate insights gained from my latest research. —Art

At the Charlotte Mason Institute 2016 Eastern Conference in Wilmore, Kentucky, I co-led a chat on the topic of  “Charlotte Mason and the Classical Tradition.” At this chat, I presented these slides.

I enjoyed having the opportunity to speak about this topic with such an interested audience. The slides are not exhaustive in any way, and it is only a high-level summary. If you would like to go deeper on any of the points, feel free to drop me a line.

7 Replies to “Five Important Differences Between Charlotte Mason and Classical Christian Education”

  1. I find it interesting that Christian classical educators ignore Aquinas’ high and distorted view of reason – ignoring the very real noetic effects of sin. His adherence to Aristotle in this instance is another example of their commitment to a Hellenistic model of life and learning. Mason focused her energies on a clear Biblical-theological approach that was integral to understanding the nature of the learner and learning.

    1. Thank you for bringing out this interesting angle. Mason felt that it was important to emphasize the fallibility of human reason, so she devoted one of her twenty principles to the concept (principle 18). Interestingly, she identified knowledge as a key safeguard to counterbalance the limitations of reason. So we find again the interlocking nature of Mason’s principles of education: a wide curriculum is important because reason “is not always a safe” guide.

  2. I realize I am a little late to the game but have been slowly working through the CM/Classical controversy in the blogosphere. I would love it if you could unpack a little bit the difference between the goal of “virtue” vs. the goal of a “relationship with God”? I know the Bible talks about training for godliness… is this not what the virtue in the Christian classical tradition is about?

  3. I do really appreciate the fact that miss mason used the gospels and observation of children to form her philosophies, too many ignore the vital foundation (the Bible) and the observation Of reality (which is not the same as what a PHD classroom thinks up as reality).
    However the inclusion of so much psychology I find very disturbing. I can see that at the time Christian thinking had not yet been stripped and beaten out of these sciences (just the same as evolution, but look at it now ) and so it must have seemed reasonable to her that it was true. If you look at the foundations of psychology they are against God and humans created in his imaged with value at every turn. It’s a truly satanic mode of thinking that in its implementation appears to be leading our culture down the pathway right to the door of death.

    I understand she thinks we must stick to her philosophy whole heartedly but I disagree, atheistic evolution and psychology (both disregard and scoff at a creator and the ultimate value of human beings made in the image of God) and it’s influence must be stripped from her philosophies to make them a true biblical model.

    1. Linda,

      Thank you for sharing these thoughts. I would actually say that Charlotte Mason, like you, was very skeptical of psychology. What she explored instead was “that science of the correlation and interaction of mind and brain, which is at present rather clumsily expressed in such terms as ‘mental physiology’” (vol. 2 p. 35). She believed that physiology, which is a hard science, could teach us a lot about education, but that psychology offered little. When we study the physical impact to the brain that results from the formation of habit, we are learning about God’s creation, and in so doing I think we honor Him.


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