In one of the first posts I made relating to Charlotte Mason, I mentioned my caution regarding eponymous methods or curricula, partly because through experience I have known otherwise sensible individuals who accept all kinds of odd things because, ‘The guru said so’. Anyway, I continue to be delighted by reading Charlotte Mason’s works, but have also been quite amused by some of the ‘medical’ or ‘physiological’ facts that she held as modern advances in science.
An example is her prescription for plenty of fresh air. I also agree that children should be outside almost as much as possible when they are young, and a major reason for this that she expands upon is the wonderful interaction with nature, God’s amazing creation, which teaches so many wonderful things in a gentle and natural way. But she also had some wonderfully inaccurate additional reasons. ‘Now it is observed that people who live much in the sunshine are of a ruddy countenance – that is, a great many of these red corpuscles are present in their blood; while the poor souls who live in cellars or sunless alleys have skins the colour of whitey-brown paper. Therefore, it is concluded that light and sunshine are favourable to the production of red corpuscles in the blood...’ She has similarly bizarre views about the importance of free perspiration, ‘if it be checked, or if a considerable proportion of the skin be glazed so that it is impervious, death will result... Therefore if the brain is to be duly nourished, it is important to keep the whole surface of the skin in a condition to throw off freely excretions from the blood’. For this reason, she moves on to explain why the only fabric that should ideally be worn, or slept under, is wool, in various layers depending on the ambient temperature, and that a daily bath during which the skin is vigorously rubbed is essential! Later, she lists the appropriate diet to nourish a growing brain, and the details also brought a smile to my face. There are some great paradoxes, such as ‘everybody knows that a child should not eat pork’, whereas ‘bacon fat’ is hailed as nutritious.
I write this not to mock this great educationalist who was clearly a leader in her time, ahead of her time many would argue. But rather, I wish to urge caution that even with the greatest of human wisdom, we weigh things up against all the evidence, and consider each individual element of a teaching or a philosophy. We may dismiss something because of one or two erroneous elements, or may feel constrained to follow something absolutely prescriptively.
I am continuing to be inspired as I read through the works of Charlotte Mason, and will soon be posting more of my encouragements and inspiration. But today’s post has a different purpose. I also hope it brought a smile to your face, as it certainly did to mine!