Friday, February 15, 2013

Miss Mason's Legacy: Carved in Stone

by Megan Hoyt

Legacy. What we leave behind. The lives we have impacted for good along the way.

Have you thought much about your legacy? What piece of your life will remain when you are long gone? How deep is your imprint? Who will remember your contributions to the world? Who will remember mine? I wonder about such things. And often. What greatness have we brought to the world that will endure with any amount of longevity? Do our lives really matter? As I approach the big 5-0, this idea is coming to the forefront of my mind with increasing urgency. I feel like such a nobody! Just some aging woman who obsesses over Downton Abbey and makes a mean cup of Ghirardelli hot chocolate. But take a look at who IS leaving their mark on our society. I mean, what do Brad Pitt, Clive Owen, or Ben Affleck have to tell the world that's more important than the wisdom I find in this man, a humble Romanian monk living in the mountains who few have even heard of?

If my heart's cry is to leave a legacy of love, kindness, joy, depth, and peace to my children and to provide them with an atmosphere filled with the glory and wonder of Almighty God, I know I can find all that wrapped in elegant paper with a giant Charlotte Mason bow on top. How do I know?

I began rereading Charlotte Mason's Original Homeschooling Series a few months ago -- Volume 1 through Volume 6. I'm not done yet, but I've learned a lot. Way more than I did the first time I read them, in my fresh, naive, over-eager state. I have also been reading Parents' Review articles. Ideas are now swirling in front of me, gradually taking shape and coming into more precise focus. I read the original programmes Miss Mason used with her students recently. As I did, I tried to imagine what her days would have looked like.

I noticed that on the programmes there was quite a bit more study devoted to the Bible and Christian texts than I had before realized. Their days were filled with the wonder and glory of Almighty God. His creation. The universe. Us. (The other thing I noticed was that her students weren't allowed to use pencil in art. But I'll save that for a later post!)

I have educated my children at home according to the tenets of Charlotte Mason, while teaching a lovely gaggle of delightful children at a Charlotte Mason styled homeschool co-op. I have delved more deeply into educational philosophy, reading everyone I could get my hands on from John Amos Comenius to Alfie Kohn and John Taylor Gatto, with a few dreary stops in front of Herbart and Locke and a bewildered glance at Raymond Moore and Cynthia Tobias. I have fallen in love with Thomas Rooper, Lewis Carroll (yes, the creator of Wonderland wrote about education) and Thomas Traherne. The more I read, the more firmly I believe in following the Charlotte Mason method. And I know my time would be well spent sharing this way of life with others.

I think when it comes to legacy, we'll never really know what ours is. Someone else will determine that -- my children, my students, my friends, my readers. Maybe we don't leave a legacy so much as we just... well... leave. And others remember the important things we did. And maybe they won't even be close to what we thought they were. 

Somewhere along the way during all this soul-searching at mid-life, I decided to take a peek at what was written on Charlotte Mason's tombstone. When it comes to our legacy, it's generally going to be boiled down and chinked in stone there if it's going to show up anywhere, right? Here's what it says.
photo courtesy of
In Loving Memory of
Charlotte Maria Shaw Mason
“Thine eyes shall see the King in His Beauty”

"Founder of the Parents’ National Educational Union,
The Parents’ Union School, and The House of Education,
she devoted her life to the work of education,
believing that children are dear to our heavenly father
and that they are a precious national possession."

“Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life”
I Am, I Can, I Ought, I Will”
"For the Children’s Sake"

I had never read this before. "Thine eyes shall see the King in His Beauty." 

This woman we all love and admire, who spoke so often about the beauty God has placed within our grasp in the world, was finally beholding Him face to face in all His beauty. How wonderful that must have been for her. What a blessed continuation of the delight she had already found in Him while on earth. 

The verse is from Isaiah 33. Here is the context:

"Thine eyes shall see the king in his beauty: they shall behold the land that is very far off... But there the glorious LORD will be unto us a place of broad rivers and streams; wherein shall go no galley with oars, neither shall gallant ship pass thereby ... Thy tacklings are loosed; they could not well strengthen their mast, they could not spread the sail: then is the prey of a great spoil divided; the lame take the prey.

Tacklings are the riggings of a ship. I know it's a gigantic stretch, but when I read that verse I couldn't help but think that as Miss Mason's tacklings were loosed (as she passed away) the prey of a great spoil was divided among the lame (us). Her legacy gave us the treasure. Now it's up to us to share this broad feast with everyone we meet, wherever we may be. That can be our legacy.

"She devoted her life to the work of education, believing that children are dear to our heavenly Father and that they are a precious national possession."

Dear and Precious. That is what children are. They are of inestimable value to God. Diamonds in the rough, full of possibilities.

Jesus didn't say "Let those griping, back-biting, arrogant, hard-hearted, ambitious, limelight-seeking adults come unto Me, for of such is the kingdom of Heaven," did He?

In this lovely poem she wrote, reprinted in Miss Mason's In Memoriam, we see that for her, Heaven had already begun on earth. And I believe, by following her educational methods, our children can have an early slice of Heaven, too. God promises us we can, through the Holy Spirit, Whom He sent as an earnest or promise of things to come.
Death opes not heaven’s gate; for long ago,
Soon as the King
Shone in upon the soul
Did heaven begin:
A blessed state, a lifting up for ever;
Not some far seats when soul and body sever.

In his book Commentaries of Heaven wherein The Mysteries of Felicitie Are Opened and ALL THINGS Discovered to be Objects of Happiness (long title!) Thomas Traherne tells us more about God's promises:

"God is Almighty. He is all-sufficient. He is able to supply our wants, to hear our prayers, to deliver us out of miseries, to comfort us in afflictions, to protect us from dangers, to enrich us in the world, to pardon our sins, to comfort our souls, to give us peace of conscience, to enlighten our understandings, to sanctify our natures, to subdue our enemies, to raise us friends, to prosper our undertakings, to lengthen our lives, to crown us with honor and glory, to give us immortality, to advance us unto Heaven, to furnish us with powers and faculties, to prepare objects, to beautify all ages, and to fill eternity with delights and treasures. He is able by reason of His all-sufficiency to be our Creator, Preserver, Redeemer, Sanctifier, our Light and Example, our Shield and Glory, our exceeding great Reward, our Life, our Joy, our Greatness, our Love, our Friend, our Blessedness, our Counselor, our Father, our King, our God, our Benefactor, our Aid, our Strength, our Bridegroom, our End. Finally, by this, He is all in all."

This great God, who knows our needs before we ask and gives abundantly to us of His Holy Spirit, poured out the prescription for a nation's educational ills onto his humble servant, Charlotte Maria Shaw Mason. And now He allows it to trickle out yet again through our own feeble efforts. May we keep this in mind as we teach our children, since it is for their sake that we do what we do. 

I'll leave you with this lovely video tour of the city of Ambleside and its surrounding fells. This is where Charlotte Mason walked, traveled, and taught.  This was the "nature" of her nature study; these were the lovely surroundings in which she met with God. This is also where William Wordsworth was inspired to write his lush, beautiful poetry and where Beatrix Potter lived and worked.



  1. Megan, thank you for the legacy you are creating here and for the MANY ways you have helped, inspired, & impacted me for the good. This is a lovely tribute to CM. Your thoughts on Isaiah 33 encourage me to persevere until we too see our King Jesus in all His beauty. Enjoyed the video tour of Ambleside...probably the only way I'll ever get to visit the Lake District, sigh.:-) Gorgeous, like the NC mountains.
    Abiding in His Grace,

  2. Thank you! You are such a blessing! And you never know -- maybe one day we'll both get to go to Ambleside. With God, all things are possible! Love you!