This post has been edited- the original post was meant to be lighthearted, but some people interpreted my tone as sarcastic. I’m sorry! It was never my intention. The purpose of this post has always been to share how I discern which Charlotte Mason recommendations I follow. For a new Charlotte Mason mom, jumping into the philosophy with the goal of becoming a Charlotte Mason purist is a little overwhelming! I hope to show you that you can follow Charlotte Mason’s philosophy, but you don’t have to feel caught up in every little detail.
You Might Not Be A Charlotte Mason Purist If….
- You don’t dress your children in wool during the winter
- There’s no nanny (nurse) in your home
- Your child has the occasional sweet treat
- Your nanny doesn’t understand the benefits of airing out the home
- You read stories to your young child (ages 0-6)
- Spending six hours outside each day seems like more of a challenge than a joy
- When you do get outside, you don’t haul your children to the country, but you go to the nearest park or even the backyard
- You put flowers in a bright pink vase
- You’ve put your infant in a somewhat messy high chair
This list is meant to be lighthearted! These are some of the recommendations that made me chuckle a little when I read them in Home Education. Notice that these aren’t her principles, but her recommendations.
I feel strongly that to attempt to work this method without a firm adherence to the few principles laid down would be not only idle but disastrous.” Charlotte Mason
I truly agree with Charlotte Mason’s twenty principles: I practice them, although not perfectly, everyday. But she wrote more that 2,000 pages describing her principles and recommendations. There are bound to be some that just don’t fit. Deciding that some of these recommendations don’t fit in your home doesn’t mean that you aren’t a Charlotte Mason purist. It means that you know your family and understand that there is flexibility in this method.
This podcast from The Schole Sisters addressed what Charlotte Mason meant by “few principles.” Even though she outlined 20 principles, some of them fit underneath the same umbrella, meaning that there really are just a few principles to follow.
How I Discern Which Recommendations to Follow
I Don’t Follow Blindly
Yes, I agree with Charlotte Mason’s philosophy and her principles and I find them to be true. But, I also understand that she was a human. She was not perfect or infallible. While I believe she was inspired by the Holy Spirit, her works aren’t God’s Word. This understanding that it isn’t Absolute Truth gives us room to question which practices fit into today’s world.
A child who has never had to think won’t think, and probably never will. Aren’t there enough people already going through the world without any deliberate attempt at thinking or using their wits? Children must be made to think every day of their lives. They should get at the ‘why’ of things for themselves.” Home Education, pages 153-154.
If children are encouraged to “get at the ‘why’ of things for themselves,” I am sure that this applies to adults, as well. Who wants to be witless, after all?! We should be able, even encouraged, to think about the philosophy she spelled out for us and consider how we interpret it and want to apply it.
By urging us to follow Charlotte Mason as closely as possible, people are asked to put down their own thinking skills and follow blindly. The ability to think and question the philosophy is especially important in light of my second reason.
Related: Legalism in Homeschooling Methods by Cindy at Our Journey Westward
I Understand that our World is Different
Many of Charlotte Mason’s suggestions aren’t applicable to today. The whole structure of the family has changed since then, not to mention the other cultural and educational changes.
I don’t bring these things up to say that Charlotte Mason was wrong. My point is that culturally, and according to research, some of these things don’t fit. In a different country over a hundred years later, there are bound to be differences!
Some of Her Advice Isn’t Practical
This is not my own observation, but Charlotte Mason’s confession. When she mentioned out of door life for young children in Home Education, she said:
Let me repeat, that I venture to suggest, not what is practicable in any household, but what seems to me absolutely best for the children, and that, in the faith that mothers work wonders once they are convinced that wonders are demanded of them.” Home Education, page 44
For us, being outside 4-6 hours a day isn’t practical. We don’t have anywhere to go on a daily basis that would allow that many hours outside to be fresh and exciting.
In Parents and Children, while talking about the application of her philosophy, she said that the principles are practical. I find this to be very true. Her principles are very practical, and I find that they have simplified our home tremendously. But her recommendations aren’t always practical.
Cultivating Taste Is Not My Priority
Many of Charlotte Mason’s recommendations revolved around establishing a child’s taste. Not just in observation of beautiful things, but a higher appreciation for them. They should learn to appreciate and ultimately choose the finer things in life (this is where the pink vase recommendation I mentioned earlier comes in!) This is not a priority for me. While I do want my children to focus on “whatever is lovely,” I don’t see any Biblical reason to teach my children to develop a taste for “things.” This doesn’t mean that I’m not going to teach classical music and worthy paintings, but it means that there’s a little less pressure to scour the Internet for the “right” artists or musicians to teach. When I read about Charlotte Mason’s philosophy now, I try to sort the recommendations that exist not to encroach on my children as persons from those that exist to cultivate taste.
Taste . . . is the only morality. . . . Tell me what you like,” Ruskin asserted, “And I’ll tell you what you are.” John Ruskin
Do you agree with this Victorian idea from John Ruskin? I definitely do not 🙂
The point of this post is not to convince you that you aren’t a Charlotte Mason purist, it was meant to encourage you because you’re doing a good job, mom. We don’t need to label and judge our efforts- we just need to keep trying and prayerfully seek what is right for our families.
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**Note- It took me a while to realize that it seems like I am making a negative reference to the Facebook group. This was not my intention! The group has been nothing but positive and helpful! I was making a general statement about the blog posts and podcasts that I found on the Internet explaining this concept.