Charlotte Mason was a British educator from the early part of the last century. Her methods and philosophies have recently experienced a resurgence—especially among American homeschooling families. Her emphasis on developing a lifetime love of learning was in stark contrast to the almost anti-child climate of her time.
According to a World Wide Education Service (WES), pamphlet she lived in an era when …
“… they practised reading, writing and arithmetic, sitting bolt upright on hard chairs (no slouching was allowed!) and writing on a piece of slate which could be wiped clean and used again. They were often given long lists to learn by heart, such as capital cities or dates from history or hard spellings. If they did not learn their work they were punished, sometimes by caning…”
In response to her own experience and education, Mason conducted lectures, wrote numerous books on educational topics, founded a school for training governesses and others working with children in her methods, and published a monthly periodical called The Parents’ Review which allowed her to stay in touch with her followers throughout the country (and the world).
Mason’s philosophies were originally used by governesses in England to educate (i.e.: homeschool) the children in their charge. Eventually the Parents’ Union Schools based on her philosophies sprung up throughout England, and her training school became a college to supply teachers for the Parents’ Union Schools.
Mason developed a lifetime love of learning in her students by engaging the children firsthand with nature, literature, science, history, art, music, and avoiding dumbed-down materials as much as possible. The main focus of Mason’s educational ideas and philosophy was having the students read top quality literature—real books rather than textbooks—and delving into a wide variety of serious topics throughout childhood. Mason described most literature written to children as “twaddle” and felt that childish materials should be avoided at all costs.
Charlotte Mason is often referred to as the founder of the modern homeschooling movement, although her name became virtually unknown to modern American homeschoolers for many years. Charlotte Mason’s original writings were rediscovered by Susan Schaeffer-McCaulay (author of For the Children’s Sake) in the late 1970’s and eventually brought back into print by Karen Andreola (original publisher of The Original Homeschooling Six Volume Set and author of A Charlotte Mason Companion).