There are several ways to define a “purist,” especially a Charlotte Mason purist! Some people define it by sticking to every. single. principle. and prescribed method, no matter if it works in their family or not. Others decide to follow it “more or less,” never really understanding the nuts and bolts of the method and thereby not understanding what they’re really looking at.

Now, as I said in a previous post, I have not read all of Miss Mason’s works. I am not an expert at her methods, but I’m learning and reading as much as I can. And what I have come to understand so far is that Charlotte Mason deferred to the mother. She did not mean to prescribe a set of hard-set rules to live by. She gave a standard that encompasses a wide variety of topics, suitable for all children, but in that standard, there is more than enough wiggle room.

One example that sticks out in my mind is reading. She did give suggestions on how to learn to read, but she never said that children MUST learn using that particular method. The point is to teach the child to read by whatever means possible. Thank goodness! We now understand that children with dyslexia and learning disabilities need a different approach than children who learn to read easily. In fact, the program that we use successfully does use several of Miss Mason’s ideas and suggestions, but as a whole it differs greatly from her prescribed method.

As to being a purist, it really boils down to her 20 principles and using them. You could not say that you love Charlotte Mason’s methods if you mean to say that you love nature and picture study but treat your children as if they must find a way to meet you on your terms. Charlotte’s posture is always bent towards the child, to his or her own personality, and to what they have to tell us. If we are not listening to our children, I do not see how we can say to follow Miss Mason at all.

Personally, I find that I wholeheartedly agree with Miss Mason’s principles and her view of children as a whole. I do not always follow her example (she did have a lot to say on health that is outdated and best overlooked), but I see her overall vision and strive to follow a similar path.