Charlotte Mason was a British educator who was dedicated to improving the quality of education, including homeschooling, in England. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, Mason made significant contributions to the effort through instilling ideas toward educating a whole person rather than just a mind.
In Mason’s words, “Education is an Atmosphere, a Discipline, a Life.” Her philosophies gained recognition and are used today across the United States, often by homeschool teachers, moms, and families.
3 Philosophies of Charlotte Mason
The first aspect of Mason’s educational philosophy is regarding Atmosphere. Her thoughts were that the ideas and priorities which the parents’ life is about will have a strong influence on the children’s learning experience. The environment of the child, Mason asserted, makes up about a third of the child’s education. Consider your home, what you believe and how that impacts your children’s attitude toward learning and life.
Not to be confused with parental discipline of an unruly child, Mason believed that the discipline of creating and instilling positive habits into the child’s character will make up a third of the children’s education. Creating habits of giving full attention, finishing what is started, telling the truth, working in a neat environment, being on time, and various other ideals will help to develop a child into a responsible adult. Obviously, this effort is a great fit for homeschooling families because the expectations remain the same at home and “at school”, rather than confusing the child with different rules and expectations in different places.
For the third portion of learning, Mason purported giving children academics through ideas for living for, not just pumping them full of factual information. Teaching children how to think for themselves and work through their own ideas, offering “living books” which are written as stories and make the book feel alive. In this concept, students are also encouraged to tell their own stories to be able to remember it and learn from it. Another concept of a living book is that of learning through the world around us, particularly nature. As well, Mason believed in introducing composers, artists, authors, poets, and speakers of foreign languages in ways which naturally come through living life.
Rather than simply seeking to fill the brain with information, Charlotte Mason proposed the idea of educating the entire child in order to live life while constantly learning. Her idea was to keep the children experiencing interesting things through short, concentrated lessons, which created a habit of giving full attention. There was an encouragement for younger children to alternate lessons in order to create variety and avoid fatigue. Once a child was able to perform a task to perfection, it was expected to always be performed to perfection before moving on to the next level.
How to Get Started with Charlotte Mason Methods
Rather than a curriculum, the Charlotte Mason approach is a compilation of methods. There are many resources available for parents to learn about the methods. Once parents understand the philosophies and methods, there is no one right way to begin applying them. Some families choose to dip in a toe, while others take a dive.
Charlotte Mason was a woman who believed in educating children as a whole being, and if you are on board with this as well, it may be worth taking a look at further information about her and this method of homeschooling. Each child is an individual and will respond differently to certain approaches of homeschooling. Creating an atmosphere of learning in your home, instilling good habits in your children, and using living resources is likely to bring your children to a life-long love of learning.