Charlotte Mason

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Charlotte Maria Shaw Mason
Charlotte Mason.jpg
Born 1 January 1842
Bangor, Gwynedd
Died 16 January 1923(1923-01-16) (aged 81)
Ambleside
Residence Ambleside (from 1891)
Alma mater Home and Colonial Society
Occupation Educator
Employer Bishop Otter Teacher Training College, self-employed
Home town Worthing, England

Charlotte Maria Shaw Mason (1 January 1842 – 16 January 1923) was a classical English educator in England at the turn of the twentieth century. She proposed to base the education of children upon a wide and liberal curriculum. She was inspired by the writings of John Amos Comenius, Matthew Arnold and John Ruskin.

Biography[edit]

Charlotte Mason was born in the hamlet of Garth[1] near Bangor on the Northwest tip of Wales, near Caernarfon. Garth has now been incorporated into the modern city of Bangor. An only child, she was mostly educated at home by her parents.[2][3] Mason taught for more than ten years at Davison School in Worthing, England. During this time she developed her vision for "a liberal education for all".

Between 1880 and 1892, Charlotte Mason wrote a popular geography series called The Ambleside Geography Books:

  • Elementary Geography: Book I for Standard II (1881)
  • The British Empire and the Great Divisions of the Globe: Book II for Standard III (1882)
  • The Counties of England: Book III for Standard IV (1881)
  • The Countries of Europe Their Scenery and Peoples: Book IV for Standard V (1883)
  • The Old and New World: Asia, Africa, America, Australia: Book V (1884)

Mason was later a lecturer at the Bishop Otter Teacher Training College in Chichester, England, where she stayed for more than five years and gave a series of lectures about the education of children under 9, later published as Home Education[4] (1886).

She co-founded the Parents' Educational Union (PEU), an organisation that provided resources to parents educating their children at home. She launched and served as editor-in-chief at the Parents' Review[5] to keep in touch with PEU members.

In 1890 she met Henrietta Franklin in what others consider to be the "inspiring experience" of Franklin's life.[6] By 1892 Franklin had opened the first school in London based on Mason's principles. In 1894 Franklin became the secretary of the re-named Parents' National Educational Union and she undertook speaking tours to major cities in America, Europe and South Africa. She devoted her own money to the cause and wrote on its behalf. Franklin's biography cites that the PNEU's continued existence is down to her.[7]

Ambleside[edit]

Charlotte Mason - painted in 1902 by Frederic Yates

Mason moved to Ambleside, England, in 1891 and established the House of Education, a training school for governesses and others working with young children. By 1892, the Parents' Educational Union had added the word "National" to its title to become the Parents' National Educational Union (PNEU), and a Parents' Review School had been formed (later to be known as the Parents' Union School), at which the children followed Mason's educational philosophy and methods.

Mason wrote and published several other books developing and explaining her theories of education:

  • Parents and Children:[8] Parents and Children is a collection of her articles and essays previously published in various sources.
  • School Education:[9] outlines her methods for educating children from approximately age 9 to 12.
  • Ourselves,[10] was also published in 1904. In it, Mason addressed herself directly to the children, or for parents to read aloud with their children, to help them learn to examine themselves and develop high moral standards and self-control. The first part is for children under age 16. Book two of Ourselves is written for students over 16.[11]
  • Formation of Character,[12] published the following year, in 1905, was developed from a revision of earlier volumes. Mason explained in the preface to volume 5 (Formation of Character) that "In editing Home Education and Parents and Children for the 'Home Education' Series, the introduction of much new matter made it necessary to transfer a considerable part of the contents of those two members of the series to this volume, Some Studies In the Formation of Character." Her purpose with this volume, she said, was to demonstrate how her methods should assist children to naturally develop and strengthen good character traits.

"We may not make character our conscious objective," she wrote, but she believed that parents and teachers should "Provide a child with what he needs in the way of instruction, opportunity, and wholesome occupation, and his character will take care of itself: for normal children are persons of good will, with honest desires toward right thinking and right living. All we can do further is to help a child to get rid of some hindrance––a bad temper, for example––likely to spoil his life."

Mason's last book, Towards A Philosophy of Education[13] was published in 1923, nearly forty years after her first book. It is written primarily to address the application of her methods and principles with high school students, but she also revised a summary of her principles, and in some cases revises and refines what she had written in previous volumes. Many home educators who read her volumes recommend starting with volume 6.

In addition to the geography series and her six volumes on education, Mason also wrote and published a six volume work called The Saviour of the World (published between 1908–14), a study of the life and teaching of Jesus in verse.

Over the years between the publication of volumes 1 and 6 of her education series, other schools adopted her philosophy and methods, and the Ambleside establishment became a teacher training college to supply all the Parents' Union Schools that were springing up, as well as to assist with correspondence programs provided for British parents living overseas. Mason spent her final years overseeing this network of schools devoted to "a liberal education for all."

After her death, the training school became Charlotte Mason College and was run by the Cumbrian Local Education Authority. In the 1990s, due to financial pressure, it became the tenth college of Lancaster University. An unfavourable Ofsted report four years later led to a merger with St Martin's College to become the Ambleside campus of St Martin's College.[14]

The buildings now form part of the University of Cumbria and a health centre. There is also a museum attached. In March 2008, the University announced plans to end teacher training in Ambleside, developing the campus for postgraduate work and a conference centre.

Teaching philosophy[edit]

Mason's philosophy of education is probably best summarised by the principles given at the beginning of each book mentioned above. Two key mottos taken from those principles are "Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life" and "Education is the science of relations." She believed that children were born persons and should be respected as such; they should also be taught the Way of the Will and the Way of Reason. Her motto for students was "I am, I can, I ought, I will."[7]

Mason placed great emphasis on the reading of high-quality literature, and coined the phrase "living books" to denote those writings that "spark the imagination of the child through the subject matter."[15] Her philosophy has had a tremendous impact on homeschooling around the world and her methods were adopted by curriculum pioneers such as David Quine, Sonya Shafer, and Karen Smith, and lists of "living books" have been compiled by Leslie Nolani Laurio and Susan Craven.[citation needed]


Scouting[edit]

Charlotte Mason was the first person to perceive the educational potential of Scouting applied to children. In April 1905, she added Aids to Scouting by Robert Baden-Powell to the syllabus of the Parents' Union School. Later, Baden-Powell credited a governess trained by Mason, coupled with the reputation of Mason herself, for suggesting the educational possibilities of Scouting. This, amongst other influences, lead to Scouting for Boys and the formation of the Scouting movement.[16][17]

Mason and her teachers organised the Parents' Union Scouts for boys and girls around the country, both those educated at home and those at schools using the P.N.EU system (date?). When the Girl Guides were established, Mason suggested that the P.U. Scouts amalgamate with national organisations for boys and girls respectively.

Bibliography[edit]

Charlotte wrote several books in the latter portion of her life, mainly on the subjects Education & Geography.

  • Oursleves
  • Parents and Children
  • Home Eductation
  • School Education
  • Towards a Philosophy of Education
  • Elementary Geography
  • Formation of Charictor
  • Poetry the Savior of the World
  • Scale How Meditations

Mason vs. modern Classical Education[edit]

  • Some versions of the Classical education movement put less emphasis on the fine arts, especially visual art, although other classical Christian educators like George Grant,[18] draw heavily from the insights of both Charlotte Mason and Dorothy Sayers.[19]
  • Classical Education may sometimes be described as rigorous and systematic,[20] separating children and their learning into three rigid categories, Grammar, Dialectic, and Rhetoric.[21] Charlotte Mason believed that all children are born persons, and should be educated on real ideas, through their natural environment, the training of good habits and exposure to living ideas and concepts from the beginning.[22][23]
  • Classical Education often will introduce writing composition earlier and teaches it as a separate subject, while Mason depends on oral narration and a smooth transition into written narration in later grades without studying composition as a separate subject until the upper years.[24][25]
  • Classical Education also introduces formal grammar at an earlier age than Mason does, and Mason believed in beginning grammar lessons with whole sentences rather than parts of speech.[26]
  • Classical Education allows more parental explanations and distilling of information than Mason does.[27]
  • The version of classical education developed by Dorothy Sayers relies heavily on rote memorisation for young children.[28] Mason's students memorised scripture, poetry, and songs,[29] but she did not value rote memorisation for the sake of rote memory. She believed that children should be fed upon the best ideas, which she called 'mind-food.' She believed even the youngest children should be given 'ideas, clothed upon with facts' as they occur, inspiring tales, and worthy thoughts.[30][31]
  • The Classical Education approach in The Well Trained Mind relies on abridged books and simplified version of the classics for younger children in what this version of Classical Education terms 'the Grammar Stage'.[32] Charlotte Mason believed that children should be introduced to subjects through living books, not through the use of "compendiums, abstracts, or selections."[33] She used abridged books only when the content was deemed inappropriate for children. She preferred that parents or teachers read aloud those texts (such as Plutarch and the Old Testament), making omissions only where necessary.[34]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Power, Marlene. "Guides: Charlotte Mason Digital Collection (CMDC): Charlotte Mason Timeline". libguides.redeemer.ca. 
  2. ^ Cholmondley, Essex (1960)The Story of Charlotte Mason, (1842–1923)
  3. ^ Charlotte Mason Archived 28 October 2012 at the Wayback Machine., infed.org
  4. ^ "CM Series". www.amblesideonline.org. 
  5. ^ "Parents' Review" Archived 1 December 2016 at the Wayback Machine., AmblesideOnline Parents' Review Article Archive, Retrieved 11 November 2015
  6. ^ Jean Spence; Sarah Aiston; Maureen M. Meikle (10 September 2009). Women, Education, and Agency, 1600–2000. Routledge. pp. 110–. ISBN 978-1-135-85584-0. 
  7. ^ a b Sybil Oldfield, ‘Franklin , Henrietta [Netta] (1866–1964)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004; online edn, May 2015 accessed 22 Nov 2017
  8. ^ Parents and Children Archived 1 December 2016 at the Wayback Machine., Charlotte Mason, 1896, Retrieved 11 November 2015
  9. ^ School Education Archived 1 December 2016 at the Wayback Machine., Charlotte Mason, 1904, Retrieved 11 November 2015
  10. ^ "CM Series". www.amblesideonline.org. 
  11. ^ Preface to Ourselves, by Charlotte Mason Archived 4 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine.
  12. ^ "CM Series". www.amblesideonline.org. 
  13. ^ "CM Series". www.amblesideonline.org. 
  14. ^ History of St Martin's College Archived 2 February 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
  15. ^ "Homeschool Education & Biblical Worldview - Cornerstone Curriculum USA". Homeschool Education & Biblical Worldview - Cornerstone Curriculum USA. Retrieved 25 June 2018. 
  16. ^ "Aids to Scouting". Johnny Walker's Scouting Milestones. 2007. Retrieved 1 June 2015. 
  17. ^ "Be Prepared". DGS: Scouting, Interview from Listener magazine. 1937. Archived from the original on 20 January 2007. Retrieved 22 January 2007. 
  18. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 17 May 2016. Retrieved 10 July 2012. 
  19. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 15 October 2016. Retrieved 22 July 2010. 
  20. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 4 June 2016. Retrieved 20 August 2009. 
  21. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 18 May 2016. Retrieved 28 September 2010. 
  22. ^ AmblesideOnline, Charlotte Mason's 20 Principles: A Synopsis of her Educational Method Archived 9 May 2016 at the Wayback Machine.
  23. ^ Mason, Charlotte; School Education, chapter 19, "Educational Manifesto" Archived 11 April 2016 at the Wayback Machine.
  24. ^ Mason, Charlotte; School Education Archived 1 December 2016 at the Wayback Machine. page 286
  25. ^ Mason, Charlotte; Towards a Philosophy of Education Archived 1 December 2016 at the Wayback Machine., pp 15, 108, 154, 190,
  26. ^ Charlotte Mason, Mason, Charlotte; Home Education Archived 1 December 2016 at the Wayback Machine., page 295-300
  27. ^ Mason, Charlotte; School Education Archived 1 December 2016 at the Wayback Machine. page 229
  28. ^ Sayers, Dorothy; "The Lost Tools of Learning" Archived 16 December 2016 at the Wayback Machine.
  29. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 30 November 2016. Retrieved 28 September 2010. 
  30. ^ Mason, Charlotte, Parents and Children Archived 1 December 2016 at the Wayback Machine., p. 263
  31. ^ Mason, Charlotte Towards A Philosophy of Education Archived 1 December 2016 at the Wayback Machine., pp.88–90 109, 253, 256
  32. ^ Bauer, Susan Wise; Wise, Jessie; The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home page 61
  33. ^ Mason, Charlotte; School Education Archived 1 December 2016 at the Wayback Machine., page 247
  34. ^ Mason, Charlotte, Home Education Archived 1 December 2016 at the Wayback Machine. Home Education page 233

References[edit]

External links[edit]