Portrait of Victorian education pioneer Charlotte Mason that is from The Armitt museum and gallery in Ambleside in England's Lake District

Lakes focus on internationally renowned Victorian icon


When Charlotte Mason established her Victorian ‘house of education’ in Ambleside little did she realise her philosophies would form part of a worldwide teaching movement in her name.

Her former college, now part of University of Cumbria, plans to play host to three prominent academics from the Charlotte Mason Institute (CMI), which serves thousands of international educators and students.

Director of Ambleside campus, Professor Lois Mansfield, explained a partnership had been established between CMI and the university.

The virtual visiting research fellows from America and Canada will play a key role in fact-finding, writing and actions connecting a pivotal legacy with education today.

Prof Mansfield added: “Although an iconic figure in Australasia, Canada, Japan, India and the States, where around 11-million pupils are home-schooled, Charlotte Mason’s guiding principles live on here in only a handful of schools and learning groups.

“We look forward to welcoming the three to Ambleside, hopefully next year, and expect the five-year-long appointments will see lasting relationships forged with our students, as well as local schools and the community.”

The three expressed delight at their appointments and the opportunity to return to a seat of learning which had strongly impacted on their lives and careers.

They are: Dr Carroll Smith, CMI’s founder and former executive director, from Virginia; South Carolina’s Dr Jennifer Spencer, the institute’s curriculum project director, and Dr Deani Van Pelt, president of Ontario-based Edvance Christian Schools Association, which oversees 80 independent schools.

CMI’s curriculum is used by significant numbers of students across America and Canada, as well as many military and missionary overseas families.

Dr Spencer said: “I want to pull Charlotte Mason back from the fringes and showcase her as a woman who was so forward-thinking that she is still in the vanguard of educational thought, even a century after her death.

“I’m looking forward to building long-term relationships with the university and local school heads. It would be wonderful to create action research projects, bringing some of Mason’s ideas back to where they were birthed.

“Her principles had nothing to do with grades or test scores for career preparation. It was all about teaching us to be ‘more of a person’, cultivating wide interests, magnanimous character, humane boundaries and deeper relationships.”

Dr Van Pelt said her main aim was to be editor and organiser of a monograph series, highlighting and exploring Mason’s educational and leadership role.

She added: “Our dream is to contribute to connecting people to the legacy of the teacher training college established at Ambleside, probing Mason’s ideas and their relevance to education today.

“She influenced how I raised my own children, my dreams for my grandchildren, my interaction with parents, educators and leaders in my work with independent schools in Canada.”

Dr Smith will complete a publication of Mason’s letters to educationist Henrietta Franklin.

He said: “Mason revolutionised the way I taught. Her deep understanding of children as persons and not vessels to be filled made a huge impact on my educational career.”

Pictures below show:

Victorian education icon Charlotte Mason

Dr Jennifer Spencer, CMI curriculum project director, from South Carolina

Dr Deani Van Pelt, president of Ontario-based Edvance Christian Schools Association

Virginia’s Dr Carroll Smith, CMI’s founder and former executive director