Charlotte Mason’s Alter-Ego?

Dear Reader,

I think I have previously recommended the series of books by Mary Rose Wood called the Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place. If not, allow me to do so. The third book in this wonderful series, The Unseen Guest, just made its way to our library. This series is from one of my favorite genres: stories about silly British people. The main character is a 16-year-old governess named Penelope Lumley who is hired to educate three children who have been found in the woods, apparently having been raised by wolves.  There are a lot of mysteries to be solved: who the children are, who Penelope’s parents are, what is going on with Lord Ashton, the children’s guardian who seems to have some wolf-like qualities himself; the list goes on and it seems the mysteries only deepen with each new book.

In addition to being immense fun, the books also explore ideas. One of the central ones is what it means to be civilized as the wolf-children often seem more well-bred than the lords and ladies of society. But the idea that has been sparking my interest as we read the third book is about how education occurs or should occur. And I am struck by the idea that Miss Lumley seems to take a Charlotte Mason-like approach to teaching her pupils. Though they come to Ashton Place without language, apparel or manners, Penelope does not skimp on the quality of their education. Though others are skeptical, she believes in the children and their ability to learn. She teaches them latin. She reads lots of poetry with them. And one of the best side-effects for me is that each book introduces bits of  a poem that my children then want to hear the whole of. In this last volume, it is Poe’s The Raven. And the incorrigible children love their Latin and their poetry. The children each develop their own interests, one loves navigation, another chooses to observe birds. One gets the impression that their education is not laid-back but that it captures their interest and they thrive on it and through it.

And the place of nature is also acknowledged. In the words on Penelope Lumley’s own teacher, Agatha Swanburne, “If you want fresh ideas in your head, get fresh mud on your boots.”

So I am left admiring what this fictional character has done with her wolf-children. And thinking that Charlotte Mason would heartily approve. Perhaps she also matriculated from Agatha Swanburne’s academy?


One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Christy Hissong on November 20, 2012 at 10:57 pm

    I’ve been telling all my CM friends that Agatha Swanburne is very Charlottesque, as is Penelope! Love these books!


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