Disrupting the Status Quo: Charlotte Mason’s Challenge for Parents

As you read Charlotte Mason’s writing, very quickly something begins to dawn on you. Her words are a challenge to our safe, comfortable status quo as parents.

Sometimes parents don’t appreciate a challenge. It can be uncomfortable. We’re tired, we’re busy, we don’t want to think about how our decisions today are affecting our child’s future.

But Charlotte Mason remained steadfast. She continued to bring to light what would be best for the children. 

Charlotte’s challenge is similar to Christ’s: she encourages us to die to ourselves. She inspires us not to choose the easy path of parenting, but instead to consider what is most important for the child. Charlotte’s challenge calls us to joyfully embrace self-denial in all of our dealings with them.

And that is difficult. Nearly too difficult.

It may be tempting to think “well, she never had any children of her own, so she isn’t really able to understand what it’s like to be a parent. She didn’t know how hard this is”.

I have even said some of those things myself.

But the more I use this method and read her work, I realize how hard she worked to make up for this apparent lack of experience.

She observed intensely. Children. Parents. Parents and children.

Charlotte spent years teaching children, parents and teachers. She prayed and meditated on God’s word, and realized that she was being given a gift to pass on to parents.

She tenaciously immersed herself in the study of children.

And because she was willing to do this, she has given the world something beautiful, and immensely challenging.

Her cautions are a hard word many days, because they urge me to not be lazy and irresponsible in how I parent my children. I understand that her ideas come from a correct view of the personhood of the child, the God-given responsibility of the parent, and how those things fit together.

“The wonder that Almighty God can endure so far to leave the very making of an immortal being in the hands of human parents is only matched by the wonder that human parents can accept this divine trust with hardly a thought of its significance.”

-Charlotte Mason, Home Education, page 333

As a parent reading and implementing Charlotte’s ideas, I am challenged every day. Her words affect the way I parent, the way I talk with my children and think about them, the things I expect of them…or don’t.

She uses phrases like this:

“The mother must exercise great self-restraint…”

“[It is better for the parent to] sacrifice accomplishments than omit this all-essential [training of children]…”

“We grown-up people have far too low an opinion of children…”

“[The children] should have the best of their mother, her freshest, brightest hours…”

“There is no way of escape for parents; they [must be] ‘inspirers’ to their children…”

And you know what? She was right.

It hurts our pride to be told that many of our habits are harming the children. But she goes ahead and says it anyway, trusting that the Holy Spirit will mediate between her words and our hearts. And, graciously, He does.

I am grateful. Charlotte’s writings and ideas bless our home and children every day.

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“What parents think, what they do, what they believe, and above all, what they are, will influence their children and their children’s children to an extent which transcends imagination.”

-Charlotte Mason

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