Charlotte Mason and the Puritans

Dear Reader,

If you have been here at all, you will know that I have been delving quite deeply into Charlotte Mason’s writings. I have also begun a book on the Puritans recently (Worldly Saints by Leland Ryken).Though I am only about one chapter into the book, I am struck by how well Charlotte Mason’s ideas fit with the Puritan ideas.

Now Charlotte, I have been told, was a member of the Church of England, but perhaps there was still enough Puritan influence lingering to have left an impression in Charlotte’s day. I don’t honestly know that much about English church history, only that I see a lot of resonance between the two.

The first chapter of Ryken’s book in on the Puritan view of work. The first point he makes is that the Puritans did not distinguish between sacred and secular occupations, rather all work can and should be done to the glory of God. This reminds me very much of Charlotte’s saying that all areas of education are under the divine oversight; the Holy Spirit is the giver of wisdom whether the subject is theology or spelling (see this earlier post).

The second point is that the Puritans said everyone has a divine calling, some vocation to which the Lord had called them particularly. This is perhaps not so direct a connection, but I do believe Charlotte would have agreed. She saw the value in every person, even the children of workers who were despised by others. Her emphasis on the personhood of every child fits in well here. In both cases, the value of the individual is emphasized.

Ryken also addresses the motivation for work. He says that for the Puritans the motivation was not material wealth for its own sake but to be able to serve God and man. I had been thinking recently about motivating our children to do their schoolwork and whether it is acceptable to pay them to do their work (not that I was thinking of doing so myself). Charlotte’s take on motivation is that grades or rewards lead one to only work for the grades or rewards. In education, true motivation needs to come from an inherent love of learning. And the goal of education in the long run is not to produce wealth but to produce a whole, living person who will then serve God and society. In truth, when I examined the various approaches to education, I was made a little uncomfortable by those approaches which seemed to place the good of society at the forefront. Reading the Puritan take on work makes me a little more accepting of this idea so long as the societal good is always subordinate to the glory of God. My main question would be how to we instill these motivations in our children; how do we keep them from being motivated by the tangible, worldly things?

Even when wealth follows work, as it often does, the Puritan view was that this wealth was a blessing from God. It is always grace and is never one’s right. This is again less closely connected by I see here an echo of Charlotte’s view that it is the Holy Spirit that does the real work in education. It is our job to place the materials before the child, but only God can bring success to our endeavors.

I know I am comparing two not quite the same things, the Puritan view of work, as put forth by Mr. Ryken, and Charlotte Mason’s views on education, but I do see a lot of the same attitude in both. This pleases me since I have been attracted to Charlotte’s philosophy for a while and I expected to agree largely with the Puritans. I am not saying, of course, that Charlotte was a Puritan, only that I personally see a lot of the same ideas pervading their thoughts.


6 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Patti on January 30, 2013 at 3:15 am

    Sounds like a terrific book! I love it when connections can be made from one book to another!. It doesn’t really seem surprising that they mesh so well since God’s truth and His glory are the stated foundation for both philosophies – .it is then just the applications which vary and even they look similar. I’m always challenged and blessed by your blog. Thanks for sharing!


  2. Very interesting. I’ll have to see if our library has this book. I love that part of American history. Not sure how to answer your question about how to keep the proper motivation in children to learn. My 4th grader was in a charter school up until this year, so she was completely used to doing things just to get a grade. It’s been nice to see her shift gears and learn just because it’s interesting. CM was definitely on the right track!


  3. Thanks for the comments. I am slowly reading more of the Puritan book. So far I think I woudl have made a pretty good Puritan 🙂


  4. […] As I have mentioned, I am reading a book on the Puritans. While I like the book and find myself agreeing for the most part with what they believe, there hasn’t been a lot to write about. But I did make a connection the other day with something we are reading in homeschool. In the chapter on the Puritans’ view of marriage, it says that they had a higher view of women than those whom they were reacting against (Catholics mainly). They viewed women, shockingly, as not so different from men morally speaking, as capable of being men’s helpers and even equals in some ways. While they did not deny a husband’s headship, they also saw the wife as a te helper, not just a subordinate. In contrast to many current blog-o-sphere views of marriage, they expected a wife to speak up and hold her husband accountable. […]


  5. […] As I have mentioned before, I am reading a book in the Puritans and their beliefs on various topics. I have just finished the chapter on education and I am struck once again by how much their views remind my of Charlotte Mason’s educational philosophy. Now Charlotte was not a Puritan; she was Church of England. But she comes later than the Puritans and so I assume that her views, as she picked them up from her society, were influenced by those earlier writers. […]


  6. […] Leland Ryken. I have blogged on different aspects of this book three times before (here, here and here), but I thought I would give a more comprehensive review of […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s