Thursday, December 14, 2017

Parents and Children, Vol. 2, by Charlotte Mason

Parents and Children, Vol. 2
Charlotte Mason
Published 1904

Charlotte Mason began Parents and Children reproving and praising Rousseau, the French philosopher. She rebuked,
Jean Jacques Rousseau had not enough sterling character to warrant him to pose as an authority on any subject, least of all on that of education.
(I read his autobiography and the man gave away his five children that he had out of wedlock because he did not think himself - or the mother of his children - worthy to raise up their own).

Nonetheless, Mason stated that Rousseau "turned the hearts of parents back to their children" and realized "God placed the training of every child in the hands of two, a father and a mother." (Just not him or his woman.)

Charlotte Mason focused on the family unit. She demonstrated that families are a commune under absolute rule, and they must be social and serve their neighbors and the nation. Within the family, the parents represent the government. Parents must be able to rule their children because:
A ruler who fails to govern is like an unjust judge, an impious priest, an ignorant teacher.
It is good for the children to faithfully serve, honor and humbly obey their natural rulers.
Mason said that it is difficult to establish authority in these "democratic days," when everyone is demanding equality. (It was an issue in her times, too.) Everyone cannot be treated equally --- because they simply are not.

God forbid that we should ever lose faith in the blessedness of family life. Parents who hold their children as at the same time a public trust and a divine trust, and who recognize the authority they hold as deputed authority, not to be trifled with, laid aside, or abused -- such parents preserve for the nation the immunities of home, safeguard the privileges of their order.
Yet the autonomy of the child is just as essential as the authority of the parents. "It would be an encroachment on the rights of the child, and an transgression on the part of the parents," if parents did not encourage or teach self-government to the child.
The child who knows that he is being brought up for the service of the nation, that his parents are acting under a Divine commission, will not turn out a rebellious son.
Parents must inspire their children to spiritual life of intelligence and morality. While both parents are equally responsible to raise up their children to higher life, it is to mothers that children owe this second birth:
. . . great men have great mothers; mothers, that is, blest with an infinite capacity of taking pains with their work of bringing up children. - M. Adolf Monod

About that one-education-fits-all formula: the author stated that parents are protective over the individuality of their children and they rightly mistrust the plan to teach every child the same, or should we not "die of weariness of one another?" Individuality and personality are important to God and humanity, too.
In a word, we are very tenacious of the dignity and individuality of our children.

Are there children who do not wonder, or revere, or care for fairy tales, or think wise child-thoughts? Perhaps there are not; but if there are, it is because the fertilising pollen grain has never been conveyed to the ovule waiting for it in the child's soul.
Mason believed that children learn by ideas, and that parents must provide children with these ideas.  She believed,
The mind of the little child is an open field, surely 'good ground,' to plant the truth of the Word of God.
She stated: a parents' highest function is "To bring the human race, family by family, child by child, out of the savage and inhuman desolation where He is not, into the light and warmth and comfort of the presence of God, is no doubt, the chief thing we have to do in the world."

To educate children, they need opportunities to be inspired and directed, and they will "do their own education, intellectual, aesthetic, even moral, by reason of the balanced desires, powers, and affections which go to make up the human nature."


The formation of godly character is the ultimate object of education. 

End bad habits by promoting and encouraging good habits.  "The training of the will, the instruction of the conscience, . . . the development of the divine life in the child, are carried on simultaneously with this training in the habits of a good life."

A child who is taught about "giving and sharing, of loving and bearing, will always  spend himself freely on others, will love and serve, seeking for nothing again; but the child who recognizes that he is the object of constant attention, consideration, love and service,  becomes self-regardful, self-seeking, selfish, almost without his fault, so strongly is he influenced by the direction his thoughts receive from those about him." (Hello, SELF-ie generation.)

A child must be taught absolute humility, unconsciousness of self, fortitude, and altruism. It is not the responsibilitiy of the parents to make their child's life easy or happy.

The child's empathy and compassion must be broadened. "It is our part . . . to prepare these little ministers of grace for the larger and fuller revelation of the kingdom of heaven that is coming upon us."


Mason encouraged using [English] ballad literature to teach patriotism and heroism, like Beowulf. (I love Beowulf.)
But it is not only the ideas of a hero which we have in Beowulf, it is also the idea of a king, the just governor, the wise politician, the builder of peace, the defender of his own folk at the price of his life.
Children must be taught moral truth. Moral teaching must be effortless, candid, specific, and appeal to  reason, and with religious authority.  It is the responsibility of the parent to teach the child about the power of choice because some ideas may be evil and some may be good.


Mason states that today's education does not "produce reading people," and warns that we "should not get between books and our children." She says children must have living books, the best books, and "the frequent change of books for the constant stimulation of the child's intellectual life."

Subjectively, education is a life; objectively, education is a discipline; and relatively, education is an atmosphere.
Education is the training of good habits in which the child learns; a life, sustained and nourished by those ideas; and an atmosphere or environment, provided by his parents, where those ideas rule their own lives.


It may appear that Mason jumps from one topic to the other, but it is my review that jumps. There is so much to discuss that I cannot cover all of it, but rather I can only pull out a minor portion of a few topics. It is actually very fluid and connected, as each idea flows into the other.

Mason is a great encouragement to parents to love and inspire, correct and train up their children in proper godly discipline and obedience for His service, while encouraging the very good ideas that will make him or her noble and true. This is a book I wish I had read before I had children.


  1. I agree that it's difficult to review her books without feeling that you are jumping all over the place but I think you picked out some potent ideas. I was reviewing this book chapter by chapter for awhile but I left off to read Home Education, which was one I hadn't read in the past. Parents & Children is different ot her other books in the series as each chapter is an essay or article that can stand on its own.

    1. Nonetheless, it is relatable. Everything is intertwined and builds on the last. In other words, it is common sense. She was a woman before her time. Sadly, administrators and educators are not more influenced by her ideas.

      I wanted to read her books a long time ago, but they were so difficult to find or too expensive to buy. But when the series was reprinted this year, my husband bought them for me for my birthday. I only wish I had this information before I had kids or started homeschooling.

  2. I enjoy your blog and your ideas about homeschooling. I think if I had it to do over again (my children are adults) I would homeschool and this comes from a retired public school teacher. I am just fed up over the political nature of the school systems and the fact that we lower the bar rather than forcing the student to stretch. Of course that is a very vague general statement. Schools today make my head hurt (lol). Anyway, I love dropping in to see what you are reading next!