Charlotte Mason and Character Training

On the formation of character- Charlotte Mason wrote a book with this title, but she didn’t really believe that parents could form and mold a child’s character. She believed that self-education was the only way to a true education, which included admirable character. She also believed that habit training was a tool that parents and teachers should use to help children on this path to self-development, self-culture:

I have used the current phrase ‘formation of character’ because it is current, and therefore convenient; but, to show that I recognise the fallacy it contains, I venture to quote the following (very inadequate) definition:––”His character––the efflorescence of the man wherein the fruit of his life is a-preparing––character is original disposition, modified, directed, expanded by education, by circumstances; later, by self-control and self-culture; above all, by the supreme agency of the Holy Spirit, even when that agency is little suspected and as little solicited”; [Parents and Children, pg 23.] that is to say, character is not the outcome of a formative educational process; but inherent tendencies are played upon, more or less incidentally, and the outcome is character.

I should like to urge that this incidental play of education and circumstances upon personality is our only legitimate course. We may not make character our conscious objective. 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. In our attempts to do this, our action should, I think, be most guarded.

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