We do not merely give a religious education
because that would seem to imply the possibility
of some other education, a secular education, for example.
But we hold that all education is divine,
that every good gift of knowledge and insight comes from above,
that the Lord the Holy Spirit is the supreme educator of mankind,
and that the culmination of all education
(which may at the same time be reached by a little child)
is that personal knowledge of and intimacy with God
in which our being finds its fullest perfection.
Charlotte Mason (1842-1923)
In 1983, Susan Schaeffer Macauley wrote the book For The Children's Sake, which is a beautiful exposition on the teaching of Charlotte Mason and the true nature and potential of education. Until that point, the educational philosophy of Miss Mason had taken a back seat to the Industrial Revolution; that social and economic movement that demanded workers instead of scholars, and which changed the face of the world's educational systems. Schaeffer Macaulay wrote her book to bring back around a conscious awareness of what education is meant to be and how to develop life-long learners. In so doing, she reintroduced the world to the educational reforms of Miss Charlotte Mason.
Charlotte Mason is often referred to as the founder of the modern homeschool movement, and she emphasized the need and importance of home education as a way of life, not just a mode of conveying material. She was a British educator who, after teaching for years, saw the disparity in the English educational structure between the social classes and how students were drilled with information, yet had only a veneer of knowledge; they had memorized vast quantities, yet they had not built a relationship with these great ideas, and so the knowledge was of no value to them, aside from the feat of parroting back large quantities of material.
In response to her own educational experience, and her desire to transform the broken system before her, she founded and directed her own Teachers' College at Ambleside in England, in order to train governesses, teachers and parents in her methods of education, concentrating on the need for home education, knowing that God gave the gift and responsibility of raising and educating children to their parents, not to the State.
She based her revolutionary new philosophy and methods on her Christian faith, with the understanding that all children, from their very beginning, bear the image of Christ and should not be treated as automatons in a standardized system that all develop at the same pace. She saw each child as unique with unlimited capabilities.
Armed with this knowledge, she utilized "living books" - texts with beautiful language, written by authors who are an authority on their subject matter, in lieu of textbooks or worksheets written at the level of the child, that only indicated work completed, not ideas digested. Her desire was to kindle in children the desire to learn; to love education not for the sake of rewards or merits, but for the joy of learning and building relationships with all aspects of wisdom and knowledge - from the Knowledge of God (with the Bible as the highest and most desirable authority in education) to the Knowledge of Man (a study of chronological history, geography, the arts and all aspects of Man's understanding and role in the world that point to our need for a Savior) and finally to the Knowledge of the Universe (natural history and the revelations in the scientific fields that demonstrate God's nature and character; those new discoveries that He is constantly revealing).
Miss Mason rightly believed that there is no such thing as secular education; that all wisdom and knowledge flows only from the Creator and He has fashioned each student to uniquely explore and understand Him through his created fields of wisdom and knowledge. Her greatest desire was to build in her students not the idea of right and wrong, or a morality that would lead them to be good people for the sake of being just. Rather, she sought to lead them to an intimate relationship with their Savior, from which they would be transformed and attain their highest calling and potential.
The specifics of Miss Mason's educational model are fully explained in her six volume set (which is available for purchase, as printed books, or online for free), but we also recommend that you take a look at our Resources Page for further reading and information regarding her methods.
“Our aim in Education is to give a Full Life.––We begin to see what we want. Children make large demands upon us. We owe it to them to initiate an immense number of interests. Thou hast set my feet in a large room; should be the glad cry of every intelligent soul. Life should be all living, and not merely a tedious passing of time; not all doing or all feeling or all thinking––the strain would be too great––but, all living; that is to say, we should be in touch wherever we go, whatever we hear, whatever we see, with some manner of vital interest. We cannot give the children these interests; we prefer that they should never say they have learned botany or conchology, geology or astronomy. The question is not,––how much does the youth know? when he has finished his education––but how much does he care? and about how many orders of things does he care? In fact, how large is the room in which he finds his feet set? and, therefore, how full is the life he has before him?”
-Charlotte Mason, (Vol. 3, p. 170-171)
I Am...A Child of God.
I Can...do all things through Christ who gives me strength.
I Ought...to do my duty to obey God and submit to my parents.
I Will...resolve to watch over my thoughts and do what it right, even if it's not what I want.
For further reading
Charlotte Mason's 20 Principles of Education