As I mentioned last week, I will be studying Charlotte Mason’s 20 principles of education. To do this I will be using Brandy Vencel’s Start Here study guide. I invite you to study along with me. Here are the details for the study.
In addition to the Start Here study guide, you will also need For The Children’s Sake by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay and A Philosophy of Education (Volume 6) by Charlotte Mason. Volume 6 is available to read for free online at Ambleside Online if you don’t own the hard copy.
We will discuss a principle a month most of the time, except where Brandy has combined principles that are related. These are outlined in her Start Here study guide. I plan to post my thoughts on the 3rd Tuesday of every month. I will try really hard to keep to this schedule but I cannot guarantee that life will not get in the way from time to time. I highly recommend that you subscribe to the blog to get notified of the next post in the study. You can do this by entering your email address into the orange box on the right or the bottom of the page.
Once I’ve posted my thoughts about the principle, it is your turn. Post your thoughts, questions, and discussions points in the comments. Feel free to link to your own blog in the comments if you have a post that discusses the principle being considered.
Keeping it together
This page will serve as a landing page for the study. There will be a list of links to each post for easy navigation. I will continue to add links as we make our way through the study.
Who was Charlotte Mason?
Lastly, Brandy says it is a good idea to know who Charlotte Mason was and why it is worth our time to study her. Read this article to learn about Charlotte Mason herself.
A Journey Through Charlotte Mason 20 Principles Directory
- Principle 1:
Children are born persons.
- Principle 2:
[Children] are not born either good or bad, but with the possibilities for good and for evil.
- Principle 3:
The principles of authority on the one hand, and of obedience on the other, are natural, necessary and fundamental…
- Principle 4:
These principles [of authority and obedience] are limited by the respect due to the personality of children, which must not be encroached upon whether by the direct use of fear or love, suggestion or influence, or by undue play upon any one natural desire.
- Principle 5a & 6:
Therefore, we are limited to three educational instruments – [the first is] the atmosphere of environment…(6)When we say that “education is an atmosphere,” we do not mean a child should be isolated in what may be called a ‘child environment’ especially adapted and prepared, but that we should take into account the educational value of his natural home atmosphere, both as regards persons and things, and should let him live freely among his proper conditions. It stultifies a child to bring down his world to the child’s level.
- Principles 5b & 7:
Therefore, we are limited to three educational instruments – [the second being] the discipline of habit…(7)By “education is a discipline,” we mean the discipline of habits, formed definitely and thoughtfully, whether habits of mind or body. Physiologists tell us of the adaptation of brain structures to habitual lines of thought, i.e., to our habits.
- Principles 5c & 8:
Therefore, we are limited to three educational instruments – [the third of which is] the presentation of living ideas…(8)In saying that “education is a life,” the need of intellectual and moral as well as of physical sustenance is implied. The mind feeds on ideas, and therefore children should have a generous curriculum.
- Principles 9,10, and 11:
We hold that the child’s mind is no mere sac to hold ideas; but is rather, if the figure may be allowed, a spiritual organism, with an appetite for all knowledge. This is its proper diet, with which it is prepared to deal; and which it can digest and assimilate as the body does foodstuffs.(10)Such a doctrine as e.g. the Herbartian, that the mind is a receptacle, lays the stress of education (the preparation of knowledge in enticing morsels duly ordered) upon the teacher. Children taught on this principle are in danger of receiving much teaching with little knowledge; and the teacher’s axiom is, ‘what a child learns matters less than how he learns it.’(11)But we, believing that the normal child has powers of mind which fit him to deal with all knowledge proper to him, give him a full and generous curriculum; taking care only that all knowledge offered him is vital, that is, that facts are not presented without their informing ideas.
- Principle 12:
Out of this conception [that the child’s mind comes fit to deal with knowledge, and that facts must not be presented without their informing ideas] comes our principle that, – “Education is the Science of Relations”; that is, that a child has natural relations with a vast number of things and thoughts: so we train him upon physical exercises, naturelore, handicrafts, science and art, and upon many living books, for we know that our business is not to teach him all about anything, but to help him to make valid as many as may be of–“Those first-born affinities“That fit our new existence to existing things.”
- Principle 13:
In devising a SYLLABUS for a normal child, of whatever social class, three points must be considered:(a) He requires much knowledge, for the mind needs sufficient food as much as does the body.(b) The knowledge should be various, for sameness in mental diet does not create appetite (i.e., curiosity).(c) Knowledge should be communicated in well-chosen language, because his attention responds naturally to what is conveyed in literary form.
- Principles 14 & 15:
As knowledge is not assimilated until it is reproduced, children should ‘tell back’ after a single reading or hearing: or should write on some part of what they have read.(15) A single reading is insisted on, because children have naturally great power of attention; but this force is dissipated by the re-reading of passages, and also, by questioning, summarizing, and the like.Acting upon these and some other points in the behaviour of mind, we find that the educability of children is enormously greater than has hitherto been supposed, and is but little dependent on such circumstances as heredity and environment.Nor is the accuracy of this statement limited to clever children or to children of the educated classes: thousands of children in Elementary Schools respond freely to this method, which is based on the behaviour of mind.
- Principles 16a and 17:
There are two guides to moral and intellectual self-management to offer to children, [the first] we may call ‘the way of the will’…(17)The way of the will: Children should be taught, (a) to distinguish between ‘I want’ and ‘I will.’ (b) That the way to will effectively is to turn our thoughts from that which we desire but do not will. (c) That the best wayto turn our thoughts is to think of or do some quite different thing, entertaining or interesting. (d) That after a little rest in this way, the will returns to its work with new vigour. (This adjunct of the will is familiar to us as diversion, whose office it is to ease us for a time from will effort, that we may ‘will’ again with added power. The use of suggestion as an aid to the will is to be deprecated, as tending to stultify and stereotype character. It would seem that spontaneity is a condition of development, and that human nature needs the discipline of failure as well as of success.)
- Principles 16b and 18:
There are two guides to moral and intellectual self-management to offer to children, [the second] we may call ‘the way of the reason’…(18)The way of reason: We teach children, too, not to ‘lean (too confidently) to their own understanding’; because the function of reason is to give logical demonstration (a) of mathematical truth, (b) of an initial idea, accepted by the will. In the former case, reason is, practically, an infallible guide, but in the latter, it is not always a safe one; for, whether that idea be right or wrong, reason will confirm it by irrefragable proofs.
- Principle 19:
Therefore, children should be taught, as they become mature enough to understand such teaching, that the chief responsibility which rests on them as persons is the acceptance or rejection of ideas. To help them in this choice we give them principles of conduct, and a wide range of the knowledge fitted to them. These principles should save children from some of the loose thinking and heedless action which cause most of us to live at a lower level than we need.
- Principle 20:
We allow no separation to grow up between the intellectual and ‘spiritual’ life of children, but teach them that the Divine Spirit has constant access to their spirits, and is their Continual Helper in all the interests, duties and joys of life.