Charlotte Mason Remembered

Charlotte Mason Remembered

BBC portray a pioneer of home education in a very positive light

What’s been said?

For once the BBC has done home education proud, with a positive and informative New Year article on their Cumbrian Regional News to mark the one hundred and eightieth anniversary of Charlotte Mason’s birth: Charlotte Mason: Education pioneer was ‘guiding light’.

Recognising the significance of Mason as an “educational pioneer and reformer,” the nicely illustrated piece provides biographical detail about her life plus evidence of her ongoing influence in the world of education to this day.

Her personal beliefs about education were developed through her own upbringing – “an only child… educated mostly at home by her parents” – and the teaching career she followed in later years after the death of her parents.

We read that by the time she reached her forties, Mason had developed “a vision of a ‘liberal education for all’, which understood and respected the academic, emotional, and spiritual needs of the child.”

Amidst a Victorian culture of rote learning, Mason reportedly “had a new way of approaching things,” and viewed education as “an atmosphere, a discipline, a way of life.”

Her beliefs went well beyond pedagogical theory though. They were translated into an impressive array of actions. Charlotte Mason wrote books. She lectured about home education (though it should be noted that this was ‘education at home’ rather than necessarily parental involvement with the child’s learning) and founded a House of Education for training governesses and children’s workers. She helped to establish the Parents’ National Education Union (PNEU).

A building at the University of Cumbria’s Ambleside Campus still bears her name today. The Armitt Museum, located near the site of the original college, with its plentiful archives about this pioneering lady, continues to attract both British and transatlantic home educating visitors.

Why does it matter?

As the writer of this article has grasped, Charlotte Mason was unusual for her time, believing as she did that “education should involve the whole child not just the mind.” Her approach therefore incorporated time spent outdoors in nature and physical exercise as well as book learning.

In the words of Faye Morrisey, Manager of the Armitt Museum in Ambleside, “Charlotte Mason was very radical and forward-thinking for her time. One of her key principles was that children were persons or people, individuals in their own right – we should see them as that and respect them as persons.”

Such ideas transcend the years, and explain why the Charlotte Mason approach remains so popular amongst today’s home educators.

Morrisey also comments on their relevance to present circumstances, where lockdowns and prolonged educational uncertainties have provoked some parents into thinking more deeply about their options.

What can I do?

This article is a worthwhile read if you know little about Charlotte Mason.

If you are ever in the Lake District, a visit to the Armitt Museum could be interesting. (Next year will be the centenary of Mason’s death, and they hope to mount a special exhibition to mark this.)

Encouraging children’s natural love of learning remains as relevant today as when Mason first wrote about it, and you will find a wealth of information about all things Charlotte Mason on the Ambleside Online website.

And finally, you might even consider letting the BBC know how much you appreciated them portraying a pioneer of home education in such a positive light…