Charlotte Mason Volume I Preface

I am reading Charlotte Mason’s Original Homeschooling Series on Mark’s Kindle.


The preface explains why she thinks there’s a need for a unifying, thorough philosophy of education. The lack of one, she says, leads to the kinds of failures she saw in her day.

Seems to me people complain about the state of schools and of society in every generation. But I still agree that having a solid understanding of education — what it is, how it works best, and so on — is important. Same for any endeavor. Perhaps one might have an intuitive grasp of the relevant principles, without having studied or researched or put it into words — rather like some excellent musicians implicitly know music theory even though they might fail a written theory test. But, as I think is also true for musicians, it is still worth studying.

CM talks about a law of education, or a law of educational liberty. I’m not sure what she means by calling it a law. Perhaps along the lines of natural law — discovering how things do, in fact, work, why things happen the way they do, etc. I suppose maybe this law is another way of talking about the philosophy of education.

She says the law is

  • pervasive (involving all areas of life)
  • illuminating (reveals value or lack of value)
  • a measure (provides a standard to test things against)
  • liberal (includes all that is good, true, etc)
  • continuous and progressive (from cradle to grave)
  • in harmony with the thought movements of the age” (not sure what she means there — i.e. how much she things is universal and timeless vs. how much is culturally and temporally mediated)
  • connected to the world, not a distinct and separate compartment of life.

She also says that knowledge of God is the principle knowledge and the chief end of education. She said that in the middle of the section on the law of education — to me it didn’t seem to flow as part of that list.

The central idea for a CM philosophy is that “the child is a person with all the possibilities and powers included in personality. The object of education is to put a child in living touch with as much as may be of the life of nature and of thought.” Add to that some tools for self-knowledge, and off they go.

At the end she briefly explains her reason for writing out her philosophy — that it’s based on thirty to forty years of work, each bit inductive and verified through long and wide experience. She doesn’t claim to set it out methodically, but “incidental[ly].”


7 thoughts on “Charlotte Mason Volume I Preface

    • I have read a few of the introductions / summaries, and still felt like I didn’t know how to set up or organize or lead a CM homeschool, so that’s the main reason I’m reading the originals! It is interesting so far… she was definitely writing in a context, responding to certain things, etc…

  1. Marcy, I am thrilled you are reading CM’s volume 1. Do you happen to have a schedule of readings? I just recently read it completely, but would love to go through it again, especially with a brain like yours for feedback.

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