My personal testimony is essentially this: that in getting to know Charlotte Mason, I ‘chanced on a good thing’ . I have ‘tasted and seen and it is good’ ; I am not ‘there’ yet, but I’ve experienced just enough to trust Miss Mason and hold faith for the rest.
Adherence to a Charlotte Mason education is not to lock ourselves into an outdated, Victorian mode of life and learning. In fact, Mason was adamant that, “The Parents’ Union School was not intended as a cast-iron system and we must put away any idea of swaddling clothes which prescribe one way and one only of entry into the field of Knowledge.” When one of Mason’s teaching students tried to pin her down on a matter of lessons, she was rebuked: “when we asked for the precise recipe, we were told to ‘mix it with brains.’”
In our talk at CMER, I compared our task as educators to that of an aspiring artist, who follows in the tracks of the great masters of art, perhaps to the point of even visiting the same locations in order to paint the same landscapes. Most likely the landscape has changed since the time of the master, but it is yet recognizable.
Our philosophy of education must accommodate the reality of the time and place we live in; our children, uniquely created and staunchly resisting any attempt to be systematized or mass produced, will require to be met just where they are. We, too, will need to consider and ‘mix it with brains.’ Much to our frustration at times, Mason did not leave us a carefully scripted recipe to follow. At times, she was even vague. As we forge ahead, crafting a personalized education relevant to our time, our place and to our children, we have Charlotte Mason and the Parents’ National Educational Union, our ‘masters’ who have gone before us. And far from being left entirely to our own wits, Charlotte Mason has left us landmarks—guiding principles—that suggest our way and the laws of the mind, the sanctity of personhood, the nature and purpose of knowing are familiar, recognizable landscapes.
We may confidently set off to reclaim territory occupied by the dragons of fear, insecurity, educational fads and downright inhuman educational practices because we have great help—and, ultimately a Great Helper. Thanks be to God.
- Rev. of Plotted: A Literary Cartography, by Andrew DeGraff and Daniel Harmon. Los Angeles Review of Books, 20 Oct. 2015: online.
- Mason. A Philosophy of Education. Reprint. Charlotte Mason Research and Supply, 1989: 9.
- The Holy Bible. Psalm 34:8
- Cochrane, Jean. “Some Aspects of our Work in the Parents’ Union School.” Parents’ Review. 74: 213-216.
- Parrish, E.A. “Scale How.” In Memoriam. Parents’ National Educational Union: 200.