Charlotte Maria Shaw Mason (1 January 1842 – 16 January 1923) was born and raised at home by her parents as an only child in Wales, England. She taught at a secondary school for over ten years, where her vision for home education was birthed. She began lecturing at teacher training colleges and founded the Parents’ Educational Union, which procured resources for homeschooling families. By 1891 she had established a training school for governesses and others working with young children, called the House of Education.
Mason’s deep belief was that “education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life" and “education is the science of relations." She held that children are born whole persons, whose education should be filled with inspiring ideas and stimulating interactions with their environment. She emphasized teaching the child to reason and develop proper habits with mottos such as "I am, I can, I ought, I will." Instead of using abridged books, selections, or abstracts, she
emphasized the use of oral narration and “living books,” which spark the imagination of the child through the subject matter. Mason herself wrote numerous books on geography, education, and the teachings of Jesus Christ. She is widely considered the mother of home education.
"The Mother of Parent Educators"
Our son, Ben, as a graduate student was asked by one of his professors what it was like to be home schooled in our home. He answered by saying, "it was like I was never in school, but always learning."
From my background in science education and Shirley's background in early childhood education, we had learned that children need first-hand experience with real objects; they need verbal interaction with adults, and they need to have learning experiences which involved the unexpected rather than being "told" the answer before it happens.
I am so grateful to Shirley who began introducing wonderful books to our children from the very beginning of our home school adventure.
We were five years into home schooling our own children and had started writing our curriculum when we were first introduced to the ideas of Charlotte Mason through her books. We read them with great anticipation. What were her ideas? What was her philosophy of education? To our delight, we were already practicing in our home and in our curriculum many of the ideas she suggested. This was a great confirmation to us. Providing a "feast of ideas" and encouraging a love of what we were studying was exactly what we were doing in our home and encouraging families to do with their children through our curriculum.
The following are a few of the Charlotte Mason principles which we hold dear:
1 - an emphasis on the love of art and music
2 - an exposure to living ideas and major concepts from the earliest ages
3 - many opportunities for natural explorations with parent involvement
4 - an education which focuses on the whole and then filling in the parts
5 - focus on reasoning rather than mindless repetition
6 - creating a love of the subject before the skill of it
7 - a home filled with life and living books.