Charlotte Mason’s (1842–1923) life began with the coronation of Queen Victoria and ended as Europe was still reeling from the carnage of World War I. An English educator, author, and thinker, she witnessed—and provoked—profound social and cultural change. Orphaned at an early age, always in delicate health, and never with much financial security, Mason was the unlikely pioneer of a social and intellectual movement. That she succeeded in doing so much testifies to the power of her ideas, the depth of her friendships, and—as she herself said—the work of the Holy Spirit. After teaching for nearly 30 years, Mason settled in the village of Ambleside, in England’s Lake District. With the support and encouragement of friends, she founded the House of Education, where she ran a teacher-preparation program, oversaw the operation of a global correspondence school, and advised education officials.
Mason spent her life bringing “common thought on the subject of education to the level of scientific research.” Her theories were tested in thousands of English schools in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Teachers and children using her approach consistently flourished in knowledge and character. Mason was, herself, a voracious reader who cultivated a rich life of the mind. Her thought and practice were shaped by the influences as diverse as the classical canon, 17th century Anglican poets; 19th century novelists and poets of nature, contemporary social critics, thinkers, and educators; travels abroad; and a vast correspondence. However, her colleagues, students, and friends recall encountering her rich imaginative life and powerful intellect not in a vacuum or a lecture, but in relationship with her.
The people themselves begin to understand and to clamour for an education which shall qualify their children for life rather than for earning a living. As a matter of fact, it is the man who has read and thought on many subjects who is, with the necessary training, the most capable in handling tools, drawing plans, or keeping books. The more of a person we succeed in making a child, the better will he both fulfill his own life and serve society.
Charlotte Mason, Education of Philosophy