Charlotte Mason was an educator in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. After some time teaching, she became ill and this gave her plenty of time to think and write about education. In 1905, she wrote “Home Education” which included 18 principles of education and in 1922, she wrote “Towards a Philosophy of Education” which revised those principles and added 2 more. (There were 4 more books in the middle of these titles, which I’m sure I’ll discuss later.)

For the next several weeks, I will review those 20 principles and explain how they work out in real life. I’ve used these principles in our homeschool and also in my church/tutoring classes.

  1. Children are born persons.

This is simple, but some educational systems and adults completely overlook this fact. I will give some examples:

Often, I have been talking with a child and an adult will walk up and interrupt as if what the child is saying is not important.

I have seen adults hear the words children say, but not really listen and not care to understand.

I have seen adults discount children’s hopes/fears/interests.

If you believe a child is a real person, you will:

Talk to the child like a person. 

Treat even young children like they are important by what you say and do.

Trust the child to do the work of his or her education.

In Charlotte’s own words:

“This is, briefly, how it works:––

A child is a Person with the spiritual requirements and capabilities of a person.

Knowledge ‘nourishes’ the mind as food nourishes the body.

A child requires knowledge as much as he requires food.”

 

We don’t do children any favors by watering down learning material for them. They need good nourishment and all we have to do is put them in touch with age-appropriate readings/ideas for them to take in as they will. Ambleside Online does an excellent job sorting great books into age/grade-appropriate groups if you need some ideas. In general, children are capable of understanding much more than you think.

Examples: In my church classes, I have taught two different ways. At times, I have read the Bible passage myself, then used puppets, stick figures, or drawings to explain what happened to a group of children. This is fine. The children are often able to repeat back what I said and repeat back the inferences I made in my lesson. There’s a time/place for this type of teaching.

The other way I teach, more often, is: I read the passage ahead of time, but for the actual lesson, I do a few minutes of scaffolding (i.e. What is leprosy? How were taxes collected in Rome? What would it be like to be disabled in the first century?) Then I read the actual Bible to the children without my commentary. Every few verses, I ask, “What’s happening here?” The children jump in and are usually excited to tell back what they heard. 

Then, the most amazing thing happens: as they tell back what they heard, the children make their own connections and add their own commentary. The most striking example was with a 7-year-old girl telling about Genesis 3, The Fall. When she told back, “They ate the apple and started to die,” she added, “It’s like the apple was poison for their bodies. The sin is poison.” A 7-year-old girl. And it was one of her first times narrating in this way.

Whoever does the work learns. When we let children be the persons they are, and we let the children do the work, they will learn and reason more effectively than when we step in and do the work for them.

Children are, indeed, born persons. 

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