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What I've Learned from Charlotte Mason [Part 3]

The Principal's Blog
February 27, 2022

As I had the opportunity to read Parents and Children, Mason’s second volume of her Educational Series, I was reminded of ideas and practices that we seek to live out daily in our classrooms and campus. They are becoming better ways to respond to weakness–our own, and our students’, better means to take advantage of the opportunities that we have to learn together, better goals for helping a child understand why. 

Instead of sharing a lot of my own ideas and words in this entry, I am going to invite you to read and reflect on Charlotte Mason’s own ideas with a number of excerpts and quotes that caught my attention in this reading. Some are also from other wise people whose words and life Mason went to for inspiration and principles. 

Each of these quotes could be the basis of an entire blog entry, easily. Each of them represents a page–some even a chapter or more–of Mason’s ideas on how to help children and adults grow in specific ways. Each invites us to consider our own role in a child’s life. 

I encourage you, dear reader, to set aside a few minutes to read these slowly and to reflect on how it depicts the reality of your life. Coming back to these on several occasions would be an even richer experience. And, of course, reading the whole book would be the best! 

I have grouped each set of quotes and ideas somewhat arbitrarily under ‘Idea’ headings. Use those as is helpful to understand Charlotte’s ideas in their context with each other. 

Idea of a High View of the Child

  • Children are born persons. (Preface) 
  • The is no worse infidelity than that which gives up the hope of mending any flaw of character, however bad, in a young creature. (p. 209) 
  • A child is a person in whom all possibilities are present. (p. 261)

Idea of Relationship with the Living God

  • Let children grow up aware of the constant, immediate, joy-giving Presence in the midst of them, and you may laugh at all assaults of infidelity, which is foolishness to him who knows his God as–only better than–he knows father, mother, wife, or child. (p. 57)
  • Such a place to hide him in should be the thought of God to every little child. (p. 48) 

Idea of the Role of Parents in a Child’s Education

  • The parent who would educate his children in any large sense of the word, must lay himself out for high thinking and low living; the highest thinking indeed possible to the human mind and the simplest, directest living. (p. 170) 
  • The destiny of the child is ruled by his parents, because they have the virgin soil all to themselves. (p. 29) 
  • The destiny of a life is shaped in the nursery, by the reverent naming of the Divine Name…(p. 40)
  • to exercise discipline is one of the chief functions of parenthood… (p. 65) 
  • “...the authority of parents rests on a secure foundation only as they keep well before the children that it is deputed authority; the child who knows that he is being brought up for the service of the nation [e.g. considering how to serve others, vs. just taking from others], that his parents are acting under a Divine commission, will not turn out a rebellious son. (p. 17). 
  • Children were not given to us with infinite possibilities of love and pity that we might choke the springs of pity and train them into hardness of heart. It is our part, on the contrary, to prepare these little ministers of grace for the larger and fuller revelation of the kingdom of heaven that is coming upon us. (p. 267) 
  • a way to an end is a method…’bringing up’ implies an aim, and ‘bringing’ an effort (p. 32) 

Idea of Self-Awareness 

  • There is not reference to above or below in the humble soul, which is equally humble before an infant, a primrose, a worm, a beggar, a prince. (p. 283) 
  • Humility does not think much or little of itself…This is the quality that makes heroes, and this is the quality that makes saints. (p. 284) 

Idea of Centrality of Character and Discipline to Education 

  • The function of education may be roughly defined as twofold: (a) the formation of habits; (b) the presentation of ideas. (p. 125) 
  • A disciple is a follower, and discipline is the state of the follower… (p. 66)
  • but character is an achievement, the one practical achievement possible to us for ourselves and our children (p. 72) 
  • Give the ill weeds no room to grow… Get rid of the weeds and foster the flowers. “Habit is driven out by habit.” Thomas a Kempis (pp. 84-87) 
  • Today is the day of salvation, physically speaking, because a habit is a thing of now; it may be begun in a moment, formed in a month, confirmed in three months, become the character, the very man, in a year. (p. 159) 
  • Educate the child in right habits and the man’s life will run in them, without the constant wear and tear of the moral effort of decision… (p. 124) 
  • Sow an act, reap a habit; 
    sow a habit, reap a character; 
    sow a character, reap a destiny.
    Quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson (p. 29) 
  • “Their aim is a pass, not knowledge; they cram to pass and not to know.” John Ruskin (p. 216-217) 
  • A child who has learned to ‘endeavor himself’... has learned to live. (p. 253) 

Idea of the Use and Limitations of Reason

  • Your business is to look at the thoughts as they come, to keep out the wrong thoughts, and let in the right…It is a great safeguard to know that your ‘reason’ is capable of proving any theory you allow yourself to entertain. (p. 46) 

I trust that you will find ideas that encourage, convict, and compel in Charlotte Mason’s writing. Time after time, I am amazed how relevant her words are nearly a century after her death. I imagine that is because she was rooted in the reality of the experience of the Church, Christ’s body on earth, as well as the experiences of the many wise–albeit imperfect–people who have gone on before us. Such writers’ words are a welcome relief from the myopic voices of our own day. 

They are truly, as C.S. Lewis once described, “the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds.” 

Serving together, 

Mr. Byrd