CM 1: CM 101  – Who Was Charlotte Mason and Why Should I Care?

CM 1: CM 101 – Who Was Charlotte Mason and Why Should I Care?

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Show Notes:

Description: Perhaps you have heard the name Charlotte Mason in your homeschool community, but you aren’t sure who this woman was or why folks are so excited about her. In this episode, Julie H Ross gives a biography of Charlotte Mason and discusses why her philosophy is so revolutionary.

Meet Julie:

Julie H Ross believes that every child needs a feast of living ideas to grow intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually. As a former school teacher, Curriculum Coordinator, and Assistant Director of a Homeschool Academy, Julie Ross has worked with hundreds of students and parents over the past 20 years. She has also been homeschooling her own five children for over a decade. Julie Ross developed the Charlotte Mason curriculum, A Gentle Feast, to provide parents with the tools and resources needed to provide a rich and abundant educational feast full of books, beauty, and Biblical truth. Julie lives in South Carolina. When she’s not busy homeschooling, reading children’s books, hiking, or writing curriculum, you can find her taking a nap.


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Want to know more about Charlotte Mason? Click here for Julie’s FREE Introduction Course:

Connect with Julie:

[email protected], @agentlefeast

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Show Transcript:

Welcome to the Charlotte Mason show, a podcast dedicated to discussing Ms. Mason’s philosophy, principles, and methods. It is our hope that each episode will leave you inspired and offer practical wisdom on how to provide this rich, living education in your modern homeschool. So, pull up a chair, we’re glad you’re here.

Today’s episode of the Charlotte Mason show is brought by Medi-Share. Find out more about this affordable Christian alternative to traditional health insurance at

Hello, welcome to the Charlotte Mason show. This is episode number 1, and I am so excited to be starting this podcast endeavor. It’s just such an honor and a privilege to get to talk to you all about Charlotte Mason. And I’m so excited for some of the episodes that we have planned, and I just really hope it blesses you and gives you more information about this beautiful way to homeschool.

Before I get started, let me introduce myself. My name’s Julie Ross and I have five children, and I’ve been homeschooling now for over a decade. And my oldest is a freshman in college. So, I have one out the door and four more here at home still. And, I’ve always been drawn to the Charlotte Mason philosophy back when I taught public school.

My background is in elementary education and when I was teaching public school at my church’s library, I found the book, For the Children’s Sake, by Susan Schaffer McCauley. And many of our guests are gonna mention this book. It’s kind of, just an amazing resource. It’s a great introduction to the Charlotte Mason way of learning. Her children actually went to a Charlotte Mason school. And I just remember reading that and being so deeply moved by this beautiful picture of how children could learn. But I knew that in the constraints of the public-school system, and our testing requirements, it would have been impossible to teach that way, even though my heart was so drawn to it. And that was one of the reasons why I left public education.

And then I went and helped start a private Christian school, and then as more kiddos came, I decided I wanted to stay home and homeschool my own children. And I also helped start a homeschool academy based on the university model system. And, did that for several years. And then, just decided to focus on my children at home. And as I was doing so, and coming through all the living books that we were using, and all the resources, and just putting them all together, a friend of mine suggested that I share my plans with other people.

And I laughed when she told me this, and said, nobody’s going to want to see these. But I was wrong. I put them on a blog I had at the time and so many people downloaded them that I realized, wow, there are other moms who want to use this beautiful philosophy, but kind of feel overwhelmed on how to practically do that. And so, the curriculum that I created, it’s called A Gentle Feast, and it kind of grew out of what I was doing with my own family.

And that’s me in a nutshell. So now I’m going to start hosting this podcast as well. I have a variety of guests. Some of them are people who have created different Charlotte Mason resources. Some of them have really just jumped in and dug into her volumes and what she has to say and they focus in on different areas of the methods, so I consider them, somewhat experts in the area that they’re gonna come on and talk about.

Some of the interviews are just gonna be homeschool moms who don’t have a blog or don’t have anything that they’ve created, but they’re in the trenches, using this philosophy in their homes with their kids every day. And in my opinion, those people are experts as well, because they’re the ones practically living it out every day. And so, I just wanted to have those moms on too, and just for you to hear the realness and just kind of experience homeschooling through another mom’s eyes. So, I hope that you guys will enjoy that.

I will also be jumping in here from time to time and doing some teaching episodes cause that’s really… my heart is kind of… break this philosophy down in just really practical steps for people. So, I’ll be doing that as well. There’ll also be people reading their blog posts. I don’t know about you, but I really don’t have time to sit down anymore and read blog posts. But I’m always listening to podcasts while I’m cleaning or walking or doing a variety of other chores. And so, I really think that’s a great idea, to just have some people read their posts so you can get some of that content through your ears and not your eyes.

But there will be show notes for all these too, so if you wanna go back… if you’re like me, I’ll listen to something and then I’ll be like, wait, what did they say? Or, oh I wanna keep that quote somewhere. So, in the show notes you will find all those resources as well.

So today, I am just going to give very brief introduction here of who Charlotte Mason is and why should you care.

So maybe you have heard other homeschool friends mention this name, maybe you’ve seen it on Instagram or Pinterest. Or you’ve been to a homeschool convention and someone was talking about it, and you are curious as to what in the world they’re talking about. Who was this person? And why you should consider her, if you are homeschooling, or maybe you have been homeschooling for a while but you just kind of feel like you are in a rut or in a place where you might wanna change things up a little bit. And so, you just wanna kind of know more about the Charlotte Mason Method.

And so, today I’m just gonna give a little brief overview of that. Just to kind of give you an idea, and that might determine whether or not you wanna keep listening to some of these other episodes as well to get more information.

So, to talk to you about who Charlotte Mason was, I’m going to read from a tribute that was written in the Times on January 20, after her death. I just felt like this article gave a really good overview of her life and her work. So, here we go:

“Many hundreds of parents and teachers in all parts of the world will join in mourning Ms. Charlotte Mason who died in her sleep at the House of Education Ambleside at noon yesterday. She founded the Parent’s National Education Union so long ago, as 1887, and strove steadily for more than half a century to create a system of education that should form a balanced union of religious belief and literary and scientific thoroughness. Her personal influence was probably more widespread than that of any educationalist of her time. The loyalty which she inspired was more than could be accounted for by the mere weight and force of her educational philosophy. The House of Education, founded by her, rapidly acquired a tradition and a spirit radiating throughout the great system which she evolved of homeschools. With many hundreds of children and governesses, widely separated in space, but one in endeavor. Working through the same syllabuses with the same books, and passing by means of test papers sent to Ambleside for correction, through the same series of grades.

Until almost the last, it was the pride of Ms. Mason’s many disciples that she knew all the children in the Parent’s Union School, looked through their work, and followed their progress. The House of Education has been, incidentally, the only institution that has offered special professional training to the private governess.

Charlotte Marie Shaw Mason was born on January 1, 1842. The daughter of Joshua Mason, a Liverpool merchant. After a home education, she was drawn to teaching work, and after some experience in various schools and in a training college at Trichester, as she began her work as an educational reformer, and eventually founded the union associated with her name.

The principles which she preached and which she had lived to see widely adopted, both in the schools that confessedly carried out her ideas, and in schools that testedly adopted them, were the hunger for knowledge. The use of school life, as a deliberate preparation for the larger interests of life, and the cultivation of a natural and earnest interest in nature and art. She continually preached the oneness of education, and the universal necessity of knowledge. Without knowledge, reason carries a man into the wilderness and rebellion joins company. That is a quotation from a remarkable series of letters on the basis of national strength. Contributed to the Times in 1921.

Knowledge, well-balanced, was her panacea for the dangers of revolution. And such knowledge must be universal. It was the due balance on different sides of education which in her view made for national sanity. The Parent’s Union School was founded in 1891, to press for these principles. And by 1918 Ms. Mason’s ideas had permeated some forty elementary schools. A number or preparatory schools adopted the syllabuses in greater or lesser degree and became know as PNEU Schools.

A guaranteed appearance that the home point of view would at least not be disregarded. Great praise of the method came from various parts of the country. Bradford, Gloucestershire, and Ms. Mason was satisfied to the last that her scheme of education was making considerable progress in elementary as well as secondary schools. And in private teaching.

Ms. Mason’s publications include Home Education, Parents and Children, School Education, Ourselves, Some Studies in the Formation of Character, The Ambleside Geography Books, The Savior of the World: The Life of Christ, an issue running in six volumes, The Basis of National Strength, and a Liberal Education for All.

Ms. Mason’s work was not dethroned by the various modern developments in the direction of freedom of education. Together with the other educational reformers of today, she saw children, not as little unwilling receptacles for information, but growing creatures struggling towards the light, eager to learn, eager to work, and too often starved of the means to do so.

Today’s episode is brought to you by A Gentle Feast. A Gentle Feast is a complete curriculum for grades one through twelve, that is family centered inspired by Ms. Mason’s programs and philosophy and rooted in books, beauty, and Biblical Truth. We’re gonna find out how smooth and easy days are closer than you think at

So just to recap here, so she was born in the mid-1800s and was orphaned. She went to training to become a teacher herself and was a teacher. And then she started giving these series of lectures and these eventually became her first volume, Home Education.

Then she founded the Parent’s Union. She created home… her school in Ambleside, where she trained governesses and that was the House of Education. And then these Parent’s National Education Union. This was where parents would subscribe to get her syllabus.

So, she would send out a 12-week one term syllabus, and it would have the Living Books that they would use per form, which we think of grades. These forms would have several grades together, so it’s a little different than what we’re use to. But it would list the Living Books and the parents would use these. And I think that’s one of the things, why, if you’re a homeschooling parent, you should consider Charlotte Mason. Because she was one of the only, as far as I know, educational reformers and philosophers that was primarily geared towards home education. That was her first volume.

Her school taught governesses to go into homes and to teach the children in those homes. And then later, as, you know, the governesses tended to fade away in the early 1900s, but also as the British Empire was expanding, people in the colonies and throughout the empire, would subscribe to her programs and get the syllabus, and they would teach their children at home as they didn’t have means to have a governess.

So, it really was this kind of grass roots homeschooling movement in the late 1800s, which is super cool. And just the staying power of that and the spread of that throughout homeschooling today, just shows how long lasting it is. This is not some little fad homeschool idea, we’re gonna leave public education and create this whole new way of learning.

No, this has been around for hundreds of years long. Well, I mean her, Charlotte Mason was only around for a hundred years, but the principles which she built her philosophy upon. And then she also practically played that out with the children that were going through her syllabi and going through her curriculum and through the teachers that she was training.

She observed children as a teacher herself. And then, as the parents were using her syllabi in their homes, they would do end of term exams. And Charlotte Mason would actually go through these exams herself and evaluate how the children were learning, she would write little comments on them, and then she would make her choices as to what books to change out of her curriculum. And based on the student’s responses.

So, her curriculum was a living… these syllabi, they would get with the Living Books for each term, it was a living program. She would be changing it out based on new books that have been published and what the children were learning and how they were doing on these exams.

So again, I think it’s really key to note that this was for children to learn at home. But Charlotte Mason believed that was the best place for children to learn. That this would be adopted throughout many schools as well. So, you know, they were practically playing out this philosophy in schools and seeing success throughout England as well. So, it’s been used by many, many children. And I think that’s important to know. And, I get the question all the time, like, If I use this philosophy will my kids get into college, and I know that’s so important and that’s such a fear of us homeschooling parents. We want our children to be academically successful and successful in life. But really, because of the staying power of this philosophy and how many children have gone through it, I don’t think there’s any fear that this is not a very thorough way of educating our children.

And the fact that it is a living education. Like it talks here that Ms. Mason did not believe that children were little unwilling receptacles for information, but they were growing creatures. And you’ll see that as we dig into her philosophy more, that every subject is taught in a living manner through living books and through experiences. And that the children really are doing the work of their own education and that makes them eager to learn. And they’re not starved, like she says, she uses this food metaphor a lot. Which is why I named my curriculum A Gentle Feast, but she gives this idea that we are providing this feast for our children and we are abundantly giving them rich and deep subjects. And they’re coming in there… they’re feeding themselves. The mind needs this knowledge, just like our bodies need food, our children crave it and they will learn best when they are doing that work for themselves. So, we’ll go more into that throughout some of these episodes.

Her philosophy is also… of education is also a preparation for life. It’s not just learning a bunch of information. She talks a lot about the character of the … a person. The way of the will, the way of reason. She talks a lot about habits. So, it encompasses the whole life of a child and not just academics in one part of their life.

And then, the other thing is that this isn’t just a philosophy of education. She really does give a practical method for how to teach every subject and really lays that out very clearly in her volumes. So, you’re not left wondering, oh, what should I do here? What does this mean? And then different people take the philosophy and do things differently, in different ways. No, there is a very thoroughness to the philosophy and the method of teaching that she developed in her volumes as well. So, I think that’s why it’s important to know.

So just to conclude, I wanted to read some from… some mothers who wrote letters after Charlotte Mason passed away, just explaining their thanks to her. And these can be found on Ambleside online, and I’ll link to these in the show notes as well if you’d like to read these for yourself.

So, this first one here is from a mother’s point of view…

The obituary account of Ms. Mason’s work in the Times took me back to the days when I was a young mother, I started to teach my small boys with the help of the PNEU schools… so that’s the Parent’s National Education Union, I was… talked to you about before, where they would get the syllabi for how to do things… she said, how little I thought when the first PUS papers came, for how many years I should go on with the work. I knew nothing of teaching, and too, had forgotten much of what I learned at school. How could I accomplish such an impossible task? Only by the arrival of the PUS syllabus, term by term. As I look at some of the old books the interviewing years have forgotten, I am back once more in the thought to the days gone by when the children and I were learning together. History was a fascinating subject when taught by Arnold Foster. ??? went something with the story of the sewing machine. Elizabeth became a real person as one read Killingworth and Westward Ho. French History, and later on as they grew older, European History, out of different points of view. Geography, such a dull subject in my days, lists of capes and bays, imports and exports, quite another thing as one wandered through Northern Italy, or took part in lion hunting in Africa. So, too, nature study, by the help of Mrs. ??? and her delightful pets, or Gilbert White, or that old friend, life and her children.

Literature we generally took after lunch. I had old fashioned respect for the value of rest then for the children, and I wish I’d kept a list of books that I read aloud to them then. How many subjects we took, and what a good library we gathered together, and how exciting it was to see the new books that arrived each term. Picture talks with the reproductions of artists of bygone days or modern times, tales of Saint Paul’s cathedral in Westminster Abbey, Shakespeare plays that we read together. What a wide world we lived in though we worked in the depths of the country. In the end of the term examination, I, a secretary taking down what my small people happened to remember. As days went on it was rather a comfort that they were able to write down their own answers. And at the end of the week the big envelope went off.

Others will write of Ms. Mason’s work from the point of view of the trained teacher. But how much greater is the debt of a mother who, without any training at all, could teach her children through the method that Ms. Mason had worked out. It was she who made the impossible possible. Who showed us term by term what books to use and how to use them. Who taught us to take the children straight to the fountainhead and let them learn from the books themselves. It was she who realized what home education might become, who changed the whole atmosphere of the homeschool room, who inspired us for our work and gave us the power to carry it out. A pioneer who blazed the trail that many of us followed with keen enjoyment and grateful hearts.

And then another mother writes...

The task God has given to mothers must always be the most responsible committed to any human being, that is nothing less than the training for the service of His own children, children whose bodies must be sound and healthy, whose minds must be disciplined and alert, whose souls must learn to grow in the knowledge and love of their Father if they are to fulfill the purpose for which He has sent them here. It was this vision which Ms. Mason saw, and which she gave her life to make real. This ideal, which she held ever before the eyes of those who in dusty ways of daily life, were apt to rest content with the Lord in more a material standard.

So, I just think these letters just show such a beautiful picture of what these mothers experienced in their homeschool. And the debt that they had to Ms. Mason for showing them what books to use, but also teaching them the method of how to bring about this living education in their homes. And I just so look forward to sharing these other podcasts with you. I just know you’re gonna learn so much from the guests that I’m going to have on and the discussion with real homeschool moms. And the blog posts that are gonna be read, and I just, I just hope this encourages you to take a look a little deeper into Ms. Mason’s works and her readings. It is such an inspiring way of education, and I just hope that you will consider following along with us for the rest of this season and listening to these podcasts. And I so appreciate it.

Thanks! Bye everybody, have a great day.

Thank you for joining us today on the Charlotte Mason Show. I’m your host, Julie Ross, and I would love to meet you in 2020. I will be at all seven Great Homeschool Conventions, speaking as part of their Charlotte Mason Track. Go to to find one near you.

If you want more information on what was shared in today’s podcast, go to for the show notes.

Also, don’t forget to subscribe to this podcast in iTunes or Google Play so you never miss an episode. Until next time.


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