Charlotte M. Mason, 1842-1923, was a British educator who established a teachers’ college in the Lake District of England at Ambleside for the training of governesses, parents who were teaching their children at home, and teachers in her Parents’ Union Schools (PUS). A single woman from a underclass background, Charlotte distinguished herself as an experienced, extremely wide-read, and very articulate educator whose influence on infant school education was felt well into the mid twentieth century in England.
Her educational beliefs and practices grew out of her Anglican faith, as she believed all children, no matter their social class, to be “born persons,” bearing the image of God as early as infancy. Because of that, she taught that students of all ages should be respected in the way they were taught, not manipulated into appearing to know a great deal through memorization. Manipulations through either shame or reward aside, the only valid means left by which to educate, she believed, were DISCIPLINE, ATMOSHPERE, and LIFE. Through the establishment of habits in an atmosphere of love and respect and the feeding of the mind with living ideas, children of any class and ability could live abundant lives in happy relationship with themselves, each other, the world around them, and their Creator.
Her work was discovered by Ranald and Susan Schaeffer Macaulay in the late 70’s, early 80’s as their daughter experienced a Charlotte Mason education first hand at a cottage school in England. Susan’s book, FOR THE CHILDREN’S SAKE, published in 1983, inspired school and home educators in the United STates to embrace a kinder, gentler, more humane education for children skilled and drilled to death in what was even then an increasingly high-stakes testing atmosphere.
Since then, Charlotte Mason’s six volumes, originally titled the HOME EDUCATION SERIES, has been republished in hard copy and online (amblesideonline.com), and numerous individuals have taken it upon themselves to research her archives (at the Armitt Museum in Ambleside, Cumbria, England and now available on-line through Redeemer University College’s library (redeemer.ca) in order to re-institute the practices of the Parents’ Union Schools and offer support to each other via the Internet and local conferences in order to authentically practice her philosophy.