Charlotte Mason was born in Bangor. An only child, she was mostly educated at home by her parents. Her mother died when she was 16. Her father died the following year. Mason enrolled in the Home and Colonial Society for the training of teachers and earned a First Class Certificate. She taught for more than ten years at Davison School in Worthing, England. During this time she began to develop her vision for "a liberal education for all". The word "liberal", as it related to education in Mason's time, implied a generous and broad curriculum for all children, regardless of social class.
Between 1880 and 1892, Charlotte Mason wrote a popular geography series called The Ambleside Geography Books:
Mason was soon invited to teach and lecture at Bishop Otter Teacher Training College in Chichester, England, where she stayed for more than five years. Her experiences there convinced her that parents would be greatly helped if they understood some basic principles about bringing up children. So Mason gave a series of lectures, which were later published as Home Education (1886), a book explaining how to apply her principles to children from birth to nine. From this beginning, the Parents' Educational Union was formed and quickly expanded.
A periodical was launched, the "Parents' Review", to keep in touch with PEU members. Charlotte Mason edited the Parents' Review from approximately 1890 until her death. It was published monthly. Each issue included feature articles on educational topics related to Miss Mason's vision of a liberal arts education for all children, as well as regular monthly columns on nature, health, parenting, book reviews, letters to the editor and PNEU Notes about news from various districts.
Mason moved to Ambleside, England, in 1891 and established the House of Education, a training school for governesses and others working with young children. By 1892, the Parents' Education Union had added the word "National" to its title, and a Parents' Review School had been formed (later to be known as the Parents' Union School), at which the children followed Mason's educational philosophy and methods.
Miss Mason wrote and publish several other books developing and explaining her theories of education:
"We may not make character our conscious objective," she wrote, but she believed that parents and teachers should "Provide a child with what he needs in the way of instruction, opportunity, and wholesome occupation, and his character will take care of itself: for normal children are persons of good will, with honest desires toward right thinking and right ?living. All we can do further is to help a child to get rid of some hindrance––a bad temper, for example––likely to spoil his life."
Miss Mason's last book, Towards A Philosophy of Education was published in 1923, nearly forty years after her first book. It is written primarily to address the application of her methods and principles with high school students, but she also revised a summary of her principles, and in some cases revises and refines what she had written in previous volumes. Many home educators who read her volumes recommend starting with volume 6.?
In addition to the geography series and her six volumes on education, Miss Mason also wrote and published a six volume work called The Saviour of the World (published between 1908–14), a study of the life and teaching of Jesus in verse.
Over the years between the publication of volumes 1 and 6 of her education series, other schools adopted her philosophy and methods, and the Ambleside establishment became a teacher training college to supply all the Parents' Union Schools that were springing up, as well as to assist with correspondence programs provided for British parents living overseas. Mason spent her final years overseeing this network of schools devoted to "a liberal education for all".??
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