Better Together – Excerpt from book: Modern Miss Mason by Leah Boden
Since the resurgence and growing popularity of Miss Mason’s philosophy amongst Home Educators in the USA in the early 1980s, her ideas, methods and legacy have taken their place in homes and small private school rooms across the globe. The Parents National Educational Union (PNEU) programmes, timetables and book lists have inspired the creation of many modern curriculums used by Home Educators all over the world today. Some use them straight from the archives and search for the vintage books. Others have recreated and revised the book lists, and many take their inspiration from the foundation of the philosophy and craft their own bespoke curriculum for their children. However archaic some of the programmes look to us today; it is without doubt that they were formed with great skill and intention. Yet it is the “roots and trunks” that many educators, at home and overseas, take their inspiration from and apply it to the culture and setting they were working within.
The PNEU held broad principles which Margaret Coombs describes in her Mason Biography as “open to variable local interpretation.” I personally don’t believe we have to directly copy a programme from the past, but I have respect for those that manage to do this if it is right for their family. I do think however there are three universal principles found in the PNEU programmes that are helpful for us as we curate our own curriculum for our context.
Firstly, we can see that the Charlotte Mason approach provides a rich and varied education. From the late 1800’s right through to the PNEU programmes formed in the 1970’s, we can see the richness and variety in the suggested format and resources. Well researched living books and age appropriate application working alongside handiwork, and plenty of time outdoors paint a picture of the philosophy at work. Whether we are guided by an organised programme, or form the daily guides ourselves, we can all appreciate and apply this liberal education for all! As well as the variety within the programme, we can learn from the intentional placing of subjects within the day and week. Miss Mason was an advocate of a child’s learning to not be overbearing, and to bring delight. Therefore, we know that the lessons are best kept short, varied, and interesting. This is reflected in the programmes over the years.
Secondly, we see from the PNEU programmes that valuing the child’s age and stage is important. We discover a pattern of progression from the age of 6 until the older teen years. Although on paper these suggestions seem rigid and detailed, there is freedom within the format. We must remember that connection and character trumps curriculum every time; as we become more and more observant of the born persons within our care, we will instinctively know when to move on and how. As 21st century homeschoolers we’re not trying to recreate a Victorian school room or an upper class, Governess led “nursery”, we’re accessing the freedom to facilitate our children’s education in a modern era where their needs and futures look very different to those of children living in the 1900’s.
Thirdly it is clear from Mason’s PNEU programmes that collaboration with others is key. They were researched and delivered by a myriad of people with academic accolades, teaching expertise and experience with children. Our Facebook groups and Instagram platforms may look a bit like this today. Don’t be afraid to ask for reviews and suggestions or offer your own tried and tested page turners that your children are reading. Ask and seek far and wide; let’s keep our selections and bookcases diverse, rich, and varied. I’m often reminded of the biblical proverb that states “if we walk with the wise, we become wise.” I make it a personal mission to befriend fellow students of Charlotte Mason, readers, creatives, and attentive explorers. They make the best of friends and become comrades in arms. If the proverb is true, as we journey and collaborate, we become a little more alike.
A Movement of individuals, together
Some friendships are for a reason, and a season, but not always for life. As I’ve got older, I’ve homed in on what I look for in community and companionship. I no longer look to find it all one person as I may have as a younger woman – it’s a collective gathering of women companions and treasure to behold. We don’t always have to think the same as each other to be able to connect with each other in kinship.
Charlotte Mason had many friends and colleagues who fitted into the facets of her life and needs. She travelled, worked, rested and sadly dealt with a constant health battle, but all with companions by her side. Her quiet, but assertive manner wooed the hearts of educators and parents alike. But there were a few who appreciated her for so much more than what she could do for them. There are three particular friends who walked closely with Miss Mason I want to highlight. These three ladies have stood out to me over the years as I’ve read letters, reports and biographies. I think we can learn so much from the qualities in these women and friendships held. It is comforting to know that in a world that so often judges our popularity by the number of online followers we have, it is the quality of our companions that really counts.
Modern Miss Mason is your invitation into an adventure, a call to turn a corner on your already incredible journey of parenting and let Leah Boden show you the fresh face of an age-old perspective on motherhood, childhood, and education.
Discover How Charlotte Mason’s Revolutionary Ideas on Home Education Can Change How You and Your Children Learn and Grow Together.
Available on preorder, release date is 23rd January 2023.