Friday, March 19, 2021

Book Review: A Philosophy of Education by Charlotte M. Mason

A Philosophy of EducationA Philosophy of Education (Original Homeschooling, Volume 6). Charlotte M. Mason. Tyndale House (1989) First published 1925. Genre: Non-fiction.

First Lines: "These are anxious days for all who are engaged in education. We rejoiced in the fortitude, valour and devotion shown by our men in the War and recognize that these things are due to the Schools as well as to the fact that England still breeds, 'very valiant creatures.'"

Summary:  Charlotte M. Mason was a nineteenth century British educator living and teaching in the Lake District of England. She wrote the first book in this series in 1886 containing what she had learned about teaching young children.  She established her "House of Education" in 1892.  This was a training college for governesses.  This is the sixth volume of the Original Homeschooling Series written by Charlotte Mason.  This volume details her philosophy of education as well as giving specific details about each area of the curriculum for elementary and secondary schools. 

My thoughts:  I have read this volume three or four times and each time I learn something new or deepen my understanding of something.  I used Charlotte Mason's philosophies while home educating my children.  I was amazed at the simplicity and rigor of the methods.  

At the crux of CM's philosophy is the use of books of literary quality in the curriculum.  Because of this, I think her methods apply to anyone who reads and I always find reinforcement for the reading life in her works. The importance of being someone who reads and thinks can not be understated. 

Something else that always strikes me when reading this book is the relevancy of her methods.  For example, I was first introduced to the importance of habits from reading this series.  Part of the philosophy are "Three Instruments of Education".  The three instruments are: Education is an atmosphere, Education is a discipline and Education is a life.  She says of Education is a discipline: 
"By this formula we mean the discipline of habits formed definitely and thoughtfully whether habits of mind or of body."  Some of the habits of the mind, intellectual habits, she discusses are; the habit of self-education, the habit of telling what they have read either orally or in writing, the habit of attention.

"Attention is not the only habit that follows due self-education.  The habits of fitting and ready expression, of obedience, of good-will, and of an impersonal outlook are spontaneous bye-products of educations in this sort.  So, too, are habits of right thinking and right judging."

She talks about what physiologists tell us about thoughts that become habits.  There are several recent books that have been written on this very topic.  

I highly recommend this series and specifically this volume for anyone home educating their children.  But I also recommend it to all parents, teachers and anyone interested in education.


"People are naturally divided into those who read and think and those who do not read or think; and the business of schools is to see that all their scholars shall belong to the former class; it is worth while to remember that thinking is inseparable from reading which is concerned with the content of a passage and not merely with the printed matter."

"If we fail to ease life by laying down habits of right thinking and right acting, habits of wrong thinking and wrong acting fix themselves of their own accord."

"Consider how laborious life would be were its wheels not greased by habits of cleanliness, neatness, order, courtesy; had we to make the effort of decision about every detail of dressing and eating, coming and going, life would not be worth living."

"For the mind is capable of dealing with only one kind of food; it lives, grows and is nourished upon ideas only; mere information is to it as a meal of sawdust to the body; there are no organs for assimilation of the one more than of the other."

"Education is a life.  That life is sustained on ideas. Ideas are of spiritual origin, and God has made us so that we get them chiefly as we convey them to one another, whether by word of mouth, written page, Scripture word, musical symphony; but we must sustain a child's inner life with ideas as we sustain his body with food."

The Literary Life Reading Challenge - A book on education

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