When I first found the writings and philosophy of Charlotte Mason in the mid 1990’s, I was already the mother of six children. We were well into the adventure of home education and I was, each school year, weeding through all types of curriculum. My desire was to find the best for my children and that involved willingness, might I confess desperation, to try new ideas and see how they fit our family.
Meeting Charlotte Mason for the first time, I felt the wind of truth and it drew me like a moth to the flame. Could this be happening? Might I have found (or been led to) my heart’s desire, the truly best way to educate my beloved ones?
In Home Education, Volume One of The Home Education Series, Eighth Edition, published in 1916, we read her words:
A discontent, is it a divine discontent? Is upon us; and assuredly we should hail a workable, effectual philosophy of education as a deliverance from much perplexity. Before this great deliverance comes to us it is probable that many tentative efforts will be put forth, having more or less of the characters of a philosophy; notably, having a central idea, a body of thought with various members working in vital harmony.
Such a theory of education, which need not be careful to call itself a system of psychology, must be in harmony with the thought movements of the age; must regard education, not as a shut off compartment, but as being as much a part of life as birth or growth, marriage or work; and it must leave the pupil attached to the world at many points of contact. It is true that educationalists are already eager to establish such contact in several directions, but their efforts rest upon an axiom here and an idea there, and there is no broad unifying basis of thought to support the whole.
Fools rush in where angels fear to tread; and the hope that there may be tentative efforts towards a philosophy of education, and that all of them will bring us nearer to the magnum opus, encourages me to launch one such attempt. The central thought, or rather body of thought, upon which I found, is the somewhat obvious fact that the child is a person with all the possibilities and powers included in personality.
These were revolutionary words for me and I felt a freedom as I tossed the textbooks and brought in the living books. Rather than be isolated, we had new ways to share the joy of this journey. I knew, somewhere deep inside, that I wanted more for my children than “a good education.” I desired life long lovers of learning. I hoped for them a love affair with great books and great ideas. I didn’t want them to graduate with a piece of paper that said, “educated” and to never look back.
When I read that education should not be a “shut off compartment, but as much a part of life as birth or growth, marriage or work,” I knew this writer to be a friend, a mentor, and a truth-bearer. My mother’s heart had whispered those facts to me, but reading them cemented them into my heart and life. I had been given permission to fly and I could take my children with me.
I read further from the same volume these magical words,
“Mothers owe a ‘thinking love’ to their Children. ––”The mother is qualified,” says Pestalozzi, “and qualified by the Creator Himself, to become the principal agent in the development of her child; … and what is demanded of her is––a thinking love … God has given to the child all the faculties of our nature, but the grand point remains undecided––how shall this heart, this head, these hands be employed? To whose service shall they be dedicated? A question the answer to which involves a futurity of happiness or misery to a life so dear to thee. Maternal love is the first agent in education.”
I recognized truth in these words. Charlotte Mason, though never a mother of birth children, was leading the way for me to become a “joyful mother of children.” (Psalm 113:9) It was about this time, while away in a mountain cabin with the children, as I studied the Bible late one night, that I understood a life changing fact. My children were my spiritual brothers and sisters. When heaven comes for all of us, we will worship our Saviour as equals. This gave me a holy reverence for them that I had, as of yet, not experienced. In the day to day of being sure they ate, drank, were properly dressed and were learning to read, etc… I had not understood this profound reality. My mothering changed from that point.
My children are nearly grown now and we have two small grandchildren. A fellow Mason educator asked me this week, “How do you like being a grandmother?” I replied with a laugh, “I love it because I get to start all over again and do it right this time.”
I’m grateful for the wisdom of Charlotte Mason that has changed my life journey as a Mother and now as a “Mimi.” There is so much more to learn from her and I welcome the challenge to keep studying. I see that each of my children, their husbands, their wives, my precious “grands,” are all different and unique, each a “person” and not a cookie cutter image of me or anyone else. Charlotte Mason has been a wonderful Mother to me.
© Gladys Schaefer 2011