If Charlotte Mason Were Your Life Coach

If Charlotte were your life coach, what would she model for you and inspire you to do? Here are ten ideas.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have someone who acts as your coach throughout life? Someone who counsels you, shows you the best way, and encourages you in your personal growth. Someone whose heart it is to help you improve in your relationships, and your work, and your daily life.

A life coach. That’s what we want.

I think we have one in Charlotte Mason. One girl who came to Charlotte’s teacher training course in the Lake District of England summed it up beautifully. Years later she recalled, “On my arrival at Ambleside I was interviewed by Miss Mason who asked me for what purpose I had come. I replied: ‘I have come to learn to teach.’ Then Miss Mason said: ‘My dear, you have come here to learn to live.’ I have never forgotten those precious words which have helped me with my children.”

You see, having a life coach is not a selfish thing to do. What we’re really desiring is to become the best version of ourselves so that we can continue to improve how we serve our families, our communities, our countries, and the world.

So if Charlotte were our life coach, what would she model for us and inspire us to do to keep growing in the art of living?

I’ve been thinking about that question lately, and I want to share with you ten ideas—both encouraging and challenging—that stood out to me as I reviewed her life. When you put them all together, they give us a glimpse of the atmosphere that surrounded Charlotte, the ideas that ruled her life and that she encouraged others to grow in as well.

Some of them she outright stated in her writings, others were related by those who knew her personally and spent time with her, and some are pulled from her daily life and example.

So if Charlotte Mason were your life coach, I think these are ten ideas that she would encourage you to focus on.

Life Coaching Idea #1: Honor each person.

We all know how strongly Charlotte advocated that the child is a person, but that respect wasn’t only for children. Charlotte believed and lived out the idea that each of us is a whole person who deserves to be honored as such. Here is some insight into how she lived out that idea, and how we can live it out too. These descriptions are from people who knew her personally:

A child is a ‘person,’ an individual having a separate entity, not merely one of a crowd; and everybody was a person, requiring separate understanding and inviting individual treatment. ‘Big or little,’ she seemed to say, ‘you and I are each one. Let us treat each other as such.’

In Memoriam, p. 81

She could not be anything but generous, and the ways of her mind were wide. So she did not make you feel small and foolish. You did not bite your lip or flush with vexation. She lifted and inspired. She did not drive: she led, and you went with her by happy choice.

In Memoriam, p. 43

I think Charlotte would coach us to honor each person we know and each person we meet.

Life Coaching Idea #2: Think for yourself.

Charlotte placed great importance on thinking for yourself, not depending on others to do your thinking for you. She believed that

‘Liberty is the most sacred and inalienable right’ of a child; that ‘public opinion is an insufferable bondage, depriving a person of his individual right to think for himself’; that ‘a mind that does not think and think its own thoughts, is as a paralysed arm or a blind eye.’

In Memoriam, p. 143

And her teachers in training recalled: 

We were to allow freedom to the ‘person,’ room for him to think his own thoughts.

In Memoriam, p. 145

She always tried to get our thoughts and views on subjects before she gave us her own. If our views did not quite coincide with hers, she simply gently told us what she thought about it and left us to think it over.

In Memoriam, p. 92

She laid down principles and waited for others to think along her lines of thought and find the right solution. She would not deliver those she loved from the growing pains of thinking for themselves . . . She thought and acted and she wished others to think too.

The Story of Charlotte Mason, p. 65

So if Charlotte were your life coach, she would encourage you to think for yourself, and that ties in to the next idea . . .

Life Coaching Idea #3: Form opinions carefully.

It’s easy to be swayed by others’ opinions. But when we pick up opinions based on popularity or convenience, we are not honoring each person. We owe it to our fellow humans to form opinions carefully and not make assumptions.

Charlotte wrote:

Every person has many opinions, either his own, honestly thought out, or picked up from his pet newspaper, or from his favourite companion. The person who thinks out his opinions modestly and carefully is doing his duty as truly as if he helped to save a life. There is no more or less about duty; and it is a great part of our work in life to do our duty in our thoughts and form just opinions.

Ourselves, Book 1, pp. 180, 181

Today we might modernize her first statement to “Every person has many opinions, either her own, honestly thought out, or picked up from social media or her favorite podcaster.” The point is, Charlotte would encourage us to read, learn, listen, and consider—to gather the facts. Look for fallacies. Seek to understand all sides of the issue at hand. Then each person should form her own opinion conscientiously and carefully, being careful not to be swayed by emotions.

We have a blog series on forming just opinions that further explores Charlotte’s coaching on this important aspect of life. You can take a look if you’re interested in learning more.

Life Coaching Idea #4: Don’t depend too heavily on your reason.

If Charlotte were your life coach, I think she would caution you not to make logic and reason the pinnacle of your education. Charlotte knew that reason is fickle. We can talk ourselves into or out of anything if we want it badly enough. She wouldn’t coach us to throw out reason altogether, but she would encourage us to keep an eye on it, know its tendencies and limitations, and make sure we are also instructing our consciences with solid principles in the art of living. Without the tempering that an instructed conscience can bring, reason can lead us in the wrong direction. 

Charlotte put it this way:

Without knowledge Reason carries a man into the wilderness and Rebellion joins company.

In Memoriam, p. 25

It’s important to be able to spot fallacies in an argument and recognize when we’re being swayed by emotions and desires. I recently talked about the place of reason in a Charlotte Mason education.

We need to understand how reason works as we seek to form our opinions carefully, and as we seek to make good decisions. That brings us to the next coaching idea . . .

Life Coaching Idea #5: Strengthen your will.

If Charlotte were your life coach, I think she would spend a lot of time encouraging you to strengthen your will so that you would have the willpower to make wise choices that will benefit you and those around you. We all face choices every day that can either help us or hinder us, and those choices affect our families. 

They are watching to see what kind of choices we make. Charlotte observed that our model in this area of life has a strong influence on our children. She noticed that the will of the child is “weaker in the children of the weak, stronger in the children of the strong” (Home Education, p. 103).

She wrote a lot about how the will works and gave lots of practical coaching on how to strengthen it and what to do when it feels weak. You can take a look at a free e-book and a blog post if you’re interested.

Life Coaching Idea #6: Cultivate good habits.

You knew that one was coming, didn’t you? Good habits make wonderful servants. They can serve us well and reduce our mental stress. Yes, Charlotte encouraged us to cultivate good habits in our children, but she also said, “It is pleasant to know that, even in mature life, it is possible by a little persistent effort to acquire a desirable habit” (Home Education, p. 135). 

We live our daily lives mostly out of habit anyway. “We are all mere creatures of habit,” Charlotte recognized that fact in Home Education, page 110. So why not make our daily habits serve us well?

Let me share a couple of habits that Charlotte Mason put into place in her own life. I think she would coach us to build these same habits into our own daily rhythms.

Life Coaching Idea #7: Spend time in nature every day.

Charlotte made it a priority to set aside her work and take a walk in nature every day. Some of you might not realize that, when she got older, she was almost an invalid, but she still spent time in nature. Her friends described it for us:

The walks which had played so important a part in the active years of Miss Mason’s life had given place to drives. She went in a pony-cart along the little roads of the district . . . But showery weather is unpleasant in an open pony-cart and it was replaced by a victoria . . .

The Story of Charlotte Mason, p. 66

A victoria is a type of covered horse-drawn carriage, and Charlotte’s was a gift from a friend. So even with her declining health and chronic pain, 

At two-fifteen whatever the weather (unless it was raining heavily or there was a high wind) Miss Mason drove out in her little victoria till four. Her life was a constant evidence of the joy of ‘the science of relations,’ her relations with earth, with man, with bird, with beast and flower, and with God. She never came back without some ‘find,’ some fresh flower out, some new sound she had heard, some new aspect of the beauty in the sky or on the fell. And she was ready with expectancy to hear of what others had to tell.

The Story of Charlotte Mason, p. 63

Why was time in nature so important? I think there is a revealing comment in Ourselves, Book 2. Charlotte wrote that nature helps us “get life into focus” and helps us “learn to distinguish between small matters and great, to see that we ourselves are not of very great importance, that the world is wide, that things are sweet, that people are sweet, too; that, indeed, we are compassed about by an atmosphere of sweetness, airs of heaven coming from our God.” (Ourselves, Book 2, p. 98)

That’s why she spent time in nature every day, and that’s why she would coach us to develop that habit too.

Life Coaching Idea #8: Read daily.

Besides her morning and evening Bible reading each day, she scheduled 10 minutes of a classic author before lunch, one hour to read some old favorite novel before supper, and she always ended her day with a novel by Sir Walter Scott. She would just continually cycle through his books over the years. All of this reading was in addition to the books she read for school work. These were books for her personal enjoyment and growth. 

Now, I realize that Charlotte was not dealing with preschoolers and the interruptions that young children can bring. But Charlotte had other interruptions and responsibilities surrounding her. So don’t get hung up on the number of minutes she was able to devote to reading, just focus on the main habit: read daily. 

If Charlotte Mason were your life coach, she would tell you:

Never be without a really good book on hand. If you find yourself sinking to a dull commonplace level, with nothing particular to say, the reason is probably that you are not reading, and, therefore, not thinking . . . I know that all good teachers have some study each day in preparing for the next day’s work, but besides this study two or three subjects, definitely on your own account. Do not think this is a selfish thing to do, because the advantage does not end with yourself.

The Story of Charlotte Mason, p.162

Life Coaching Idea #9: Balance work and rest.

Even with all of her responsibilities, Charlotte intentionally scheduled times for leisure and rest. One friend recalled that

Miss Mason considered leisure to be as important as work, for it is during leisure that ideas are sifted and grow; moreover ‘leisure out of doors, with all the wild things of Nature, is soothing and restful to the tired mind; it gives a time when ideas can grow.’

In Memoriam, p. 203

I wrote a blog post that details what Charlotte’s personal daily schedule looked like and how she purposefully had set times for work and set times for rest and leisure. The post is called “What I Learned from Charlotte’s Schedule.”

Life Coaching Idea #10: Love God.

Charlotte loved God deeply, and that love shines through in her writings and in her personal life. She believed that “the knowledge of God is the principal knowledge” (Ourselves, Book 1, preface) and reminded us that, “as the friend listens to the voice, pores over the written word of his friend, so the lover of God searches the Bible for the fuller knowledge he craves” (Ourselves, Book 2, p. 184).

She encouraged us to turn our thoughts toward God a hundred times a day in prayer, offering thanksgiving, praise, and repentance, and aligning our hearts to His. But she also counseled us to set aside specific seasons, places, and purposes for prayer. In her words, “We must give ourselves time to pray and times of prayer” (Ourselves, Book 2, p. 189).

Everything Charlotte did flowed out of her deep faith in and love for God. I’m sure she would want the same for us.

So, do you want to know how to improve your relationships, your work, and your daily life? If Charlotte were your life coach, I think these are the places where she would encourage you to focus your attention and give your best effort:

  1. Honor each person.
  2. Think for yourself.
  3. Form opinions carefully.
  4. Don’t depend too heavily on your reason.
  5. Strengthen your will.
  6. Cultivate good habits.
  7. Spend time in nature every day.
  8. Read daily.
  9. Balance work and rest.
  10. Love God.

These are ten ideas that ruled Charlotte’s life. They are life-giving principles that permeated the atmosphere around her. And they are how we can continue to grow in the art of living. Which one are you going to start with?

Take these ideas with you!

Download this free printable bookmark with all ten ideas. Tuck it into the book you’re reading every day (idea #8!) and be reminded of who Charlotte Mason wanted you to be.

2 Comments

  1. I love this beautiful list of Charlotte Mason’s advice about life! The balance and enrichment she brings to every part of developing as a person are a blessing.

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