Charlotte Mason – Book 6: A Philosophy of Education


A Philosophy of Education is the last book in the Charlotte Mason series, and it is a summing-up of all the volumes. She restates all her main points:

  1. “Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life.” Setting up our house to encourage continual learning, developing good habits, and establishing a lifelong love of learning would all fall under this category.
  2. “Education is the science of relations.” Unit studies do this very well, pulling all of our subject areas under one theme for better retention of all of it.
  3. A single reading is insisted on so that the student pays attention. He is required to narrate what he has read, whether orally or in written form.
  4. Knowledge is like food to the mind, presented through ideas, one mind to another.
  5. Children should be taught how to use their will to be in complete control of their thoughts and their behavior. They can control their thoughts by thinking of something else whenever a bad thought enters their mind.
  6. Children should be taught that their reason is fallible, that even evil thoughts and deeds can be defended logically, and that just because something seems right doesn’t mean it is right.

Children naturally have a hunger for knowledge, and if we present that knowledge in a literary form (through living books), the children will actually retain a surprising amount of knowledge. The ideas will excite their imagination, and in their mind’s eye, they will picture the knowledge. They must retell their knowledge so that it won’t escape their minds.

In foreign language teaching, a passage should be read in that language, and the children should narrate back what was read to them. Fluency of the language is grasped much sooner because they are required to think in that language.

Charlotte Mason feels that if the masses were educated, they would be less apt to be selfish and act ignorantly. Instead they would learn that “we have precisely the same rights as other people do and no more; that other people owe to us just such duties as we owe to them.” When we realize this fact, we will be thinking of other people’s rights and our duties to them.

Knowledge must proceed in an orderly way. We should not repeat anything. Every day should build on the previous day. That way knowledge is always fresh and new. (I disagree about repetition, especially in math. Also, a person needs to review previous knowledge occasionally to not lose it. But her concept of not repeating stale information over and over is good.)

Children should learn not only that which is useful; they should learn for the sake of knowledge itself. For example, history does not seem useful, but the full knowledge of history will cause a child to have a deeper understanding, and therefore make him wiser and a more well-rounded person. Plus, as a citizen, he can vote for people and propositions that he knows from the past will not cause horrible consequences.

Charlotte Mason stresses that the knowledge of God is the most important knowledge for our children to possess. It can be taught through Scripture and a general commentary. For example, look at the story of Cain and Abel. “Among the lessons taught are the following

  1. God judges man’s motives rather than his acts. The service of the heart is worth more than any ceremonial.
  2. It is not the sin of murder that is condemned so much as the sins of jealousy and malice…
  3. That each man is his brother’s keeper and has his share of responsibility for the conditions of the lives of others.
  4. Sin always brings its own punishment.
  5. God remonstrates (pleads in reproof) with man before the climax of sin is reached.”

I thought these points were very insightful.

Related product: Using Journals to Teach Writing

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2 Responses to “Charlotte Mason – Book 6: A Philosophy of Education”

  1. Susan says:

    You’re right. Children do have a natural desire for knowledge and we can either stoke that fire inside of them or cause it to be snuffed out. Thank you for this great article.

    • Susan says:

      The majority of our schools snuff out the natural desire for knowledge that our kids have, which is why so many people are homeschooling now.

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