In my previous article, The Truth About Volume 6, I concluded that Volume 6 was meant to complement the other volumes, not to replace or supersede them. Rather than showing an evolutionary change in Mason’s method, it actually clarifies and unifies it. The evidence I presented supports the position that Miss Mason’s philosophy and method is best learned by reading the volumes in numerical order. I showed the consistent thread of thought from 1885, when she gave her “Lectures to Ladies,” all the way to 1925, when Towards a Philosophy of Education was published. The story of Volume 6 does not end there though. Today I would like to examine what happened after Volume 6 was published.
A Valuable Summary
Charlotte Mason finished her final volume, Towards a Philosophy of Education, in October of 1921, but unfortunately she did not live to see it published. Essex Cholmondeley wrote that “On 16th January 1923… she passed quietly through ‘along the road of peace into her native country of everlasting light’” (2000, p. 178).
In her final volume, Miss Mason expanded upon her 1904 Synopsis and linked those principles with all of her previous work. She also preserved the hard work of the PNEU and school teachers to bring her method beyond the home school room and into England’s wider education system. She also summarized her philosophy of education that had begun in 1886 with Home Education. Cholmondeley describes Mason’s intention for this last book:
Only an effectual philosophy of education could deliver the many well-meaning efforts from failures and disappointments. Miss Mason’s story is one of a lifetime of thought and work towards such a philosophy. Now during her last years she wrote for the men and women of the teaching world she had recently come to know so well. She reviews and restates ‘the central idea, the body of thought with various members working in harmony’ which to her is a philosophy. (2000, p. 176)
In the August, 1924 Parents’ Review, an announcement appeared under the heading “New Publications.” This announcement set the stage for how Volume 6 would be received: as a summary of the method that had been adopted and followed by the PNEU for decades. The announcement read:
It is delightful to be able to announce that Miss Mason’s valuable summary of her educational philosophy will appear shortly. It will be published by Messrs. Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner, and Co., with a foreword by the Hon. and Rev. E. Lyttleton, late Headmaster of Eton, and will be entitled: An Essay towards a Philosophy of Education. (Parsons, 1924, p. 528)
The excitement surrounding the release of her final work—this “valuable summary”—must have been palpable. And in the January 1925 issue of The Parents’ Review, the announcement was made that “An Essay Towards a Philosophy of Education: A Liberal Education for all” was published on “January 1st, 1925” (PNEU, 1925a, p. 1).
How did the PNEU incorporate this book in their training and practices? We get an early clue three years later, in a “Report of the Annual Meeting.” This report reveals struggles faced by some of the devoted members of the PNEU:
Miss Pennethorne, Miss Wiseman and Miss Gladding have worked untiringly in the Dominions and at home to secure a knowledge of principles before the programmes are attacked at all, for, as Miss Pennethorne says in one of her letters, “Our methods and our syllabus must go together; one without the other does not act.” We are still supposed by many teachers to issue just an optional list of books, or, as one teacher expressed it to Miss Gladding, “You call it the P.N.E.U. Method, but surely there is no method about it; it is just a study course.” (PNEU, 1928, p. 525)
Since Volume 6 was now available, the answer could have been to simply point teachers to this new book. Instead, the teachers were pointed to the preceding volumes as well:
It is found that even where teachers have read only Home Education and School Education this idea still persists, and therefore it has been urged that Parents and Children should be read as well, as offering a more detailed study of the principles behind the practice than the other two volumes, and so making the theory in these two more evident. The last volume, An Essay Towards a Philosophy of Education, is a final summary of theory and practice. (PNEU, 1928, p. 525)
These teachers needed a “more detailed study of the principles behind the practice” and were pointed to Volume 2—Parents and Children. This shows how valuable each volume is to understanding the whole. They knew that ignoring any of the volumes from the series was detrimental to the understanding of the whole—the theory and the practice.
Volume 6 was again referred to as a “summary” in this report. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, summary means “covering the main points succinctly” (2003). A summary is helpful for categorizing, analyzing, and synthesizing ideas. It also helps with recollection of previously covered material and serves as a reference. A summary is not meant to replace the full scope of a given subject. Volume 6 did not provide all of the detail on the principles that was needed by the teachers. Neither did Volume 1 or 3. It took reading the whole series to fully illuminate Miss Mason’s theory and practices.
As we might expect, then, the PUS programmes also continued to recommend that teachers read Volumes 1 and 3 to understand the method of teaching, even after Volume 6 was published. This is true even for the programmes for Form IV and above (corresponding to high school in our school system). Of course Volume 6 was included in the recommendations for “methods of teaching” due to its incredibly practical contents, but it was not viewed as a replacement (PNEU, 1925b, p. 6). It was simply a supplement to the previously published volumes.
Looking at this recommendation, we can see that Volume 1 contains information that is applicable to parents of high school students. The inverse is true as well. Volume 6 contains information that is applicable to parents of newborns. The age of our children does not dictate which volumes are relevant to our lives.
Mason herself explains the purpose of Volume 6 in the introduction to the volume when she writes:
This theory has already been set forth in volumes1 published at intervals during the last thirty-five years; so I shall indicate here only a few salient points which seem to me to differ from general theory and practice…
1The Home Education Series. (1989f, p. 6)
This is similar to a statement in the preface of Volume 3 which indicates that she is expanding on prior points, filling in gaps, not writing a self-contained treatise:
I have not thought it necessary to enlarge upon matters of common knowledge and general acceptance, but have dwelt upon aspects of training under each heading which are likely to be overlooked. (1989c, Preface)
It is interesting to note some of the enlarging and summarizing that takes place in the volumes. For example, Volume 1 dedicates 72 pages to discussing habits. Mason never discusses habit in such detail again. When she refers to habit in the later volumes, she assumes that the reader already understands her physiological model of habit. She does not lay the groundwork again. Thus it is simply impossible to fully grasp Mason’s concept of habit without reading these pages from Volume 1 (1989a, pp. 96-168).
We see something similar in Volume 3 regarding “masterly inactivity.” Miss Mason devotes an entire chapter to the concept (1989c, pp. 25-35). That phrase isn’t found in the other volumes, except for two passing references in Volume 1 (1989a, pp. 5, 192). Surprisingly, Mason does not use the term at all in Volume 6. That does not mean that Mason had dropped the concept, considered it nonessential, or restricted it to only certain settings. Rather, she assumed that readers would remember the concept from Volume 3.
In August of 1925, V. C. Curry published an article entitled “The Teaching of Nature Study” in which she states:
I think I may safely say that Miss Mason’s whole attitude toward the teaching of this subject [natural history] is contained briefly on page 218 and onwards in her latest book [Volume 6]. What is said there is but a repetition of what has been said in her other educational books of the Home Education series, and, since presumably I am speaking now to enthusiasts for the P.U.S. scheme of work who will therefore know these books very thoroughly, I will only touch very briefly on these tenets… (Curry, 1925, p. 529)
In Curry’s case, the “summarizing” in Volume 6 was evident in the topic of natural history. In Volume 1, Miss Mason provides many wonderful details regarding the “out-of-door life” across 50 pages (1989a, pp. 42-95) and discusses natural history as a school subject in about 7 pages (1989a, pp. 264-271). She devotes only two and a half pages to the subject in Volume 3 (1989c, pp. 236-238) and four and a half pages in Volume 6 (1989f, pp. 218-223). Readers were assumed to already have that natural history knowledge, so Volumes 3 and 6 simply act as summaries. Someone who read only Volume 6 would not fully grasp the importance of the “out-of-door life,” a concept which is nevertheless universally associated with Charlotte Mason today.
It was also understood by the PNEU that the volumes (including Volume 6) were a “progressive amplification.” That means that each successive volume builds on the foundation of the previous. This is similar to how, for example, math is learned. Calculus may be seen as an amplification of trigonometry, which in turn is an amplification of algebra. An advertisement for the “Reading Course” in a 1926 Parents’ Review reveals that the PNEU kept this course intact while adding in Miss Mason’s “latest and most important work”:
The attention of Members is called to this Course, which is open to all Members of the P.N.E.U. and the Parents’ Union School Association. It is designed to include the distinctive teaching of the Union, and therefore the five volumes of the Home Education Series are set for study. These books were specially prepared from time to time by Miss C. M. Mason for the use of the Parents’ National Educational Union. The method of these volumes is a progressive amplification of the principles of the Union. Each of the first four volumes is furnished with a full table of contents and with numerous questions which should aid the reader in self-examination. The course also includes Miss Mason’s latest and most important work, An Essay towards a Philosophy of Education. (PNEU, 1926, p. 65)
The Reading Course did not replace the first five volumes with Volume 6, even if the Union considered it her “most important work.” It was still considered just a part of the whole.
Because the volumes are a “progressive amplification,” a discernible sequence of thought may be traced through the first five volumes when read consecutively. The sixth volume continues this trend. In 1952, Elsie Kitching wrote:
Charlotte Mason’s manner of presentation makes it possible to trace her thought just as it is possible to trace the threads of a pattern on a weaver’s loom, though it is a bold thing to attempt it in the realm of thought. (Kitching, 1952, p. 305)
Nearly three decades after Mason’s death, Elsie Kitching attempted to trace Miss Mason’s thoughts on science and religion in her article “Wait Half a Century.” She cites several examples of Miss Mason’s early thoughts on the matter and then compares them with the current field of thought on the topics. Miss Kitching says that trying to trace those threads is “a bold thing to attempt.” But tracing Miss Mason’s thread of thought can help us to better understand how these volumes are a “progressive amplification” and why Volume 6 is a “valuable summary.”
Many other examples of “progressive amplification” across the series could be cited as well. One such example is with regard to the role of parents:
|Volume 1||Presents to parents the idea that they are the most influential teacher their child will have.|
|Volume 2||Expands upon this idea throughout the entire volume.|
|Volume 3||Opens with two chapters about authority in the school setting particularly.|
|Volume 4||Equips parents by means of a book for children that affirms these teachings.|
|Volume 5||Provides practical examples.|
|Volume 6||Shows how the ideas relate to the 20 principles of the synopsis.|
An Adventure Worth Taking
Elsie Kitching wrote about her exciting journey through the volumes where she discovered the “gradual amplification” in 1952:
It is an intellectual and spiritual adventure to be able to give a year or two to the consecutive reading of the ‘Home Education Series’ in order to get some idea of the wholeness of Charlotte Mason’s thought; to find that the gradual amplification of it passes from volume to volume and is a spur to reading. A mother (C. M. C.) who brought her three children up in the P.U.S., and is now lecturing on its work, wrote the other day: ‘I have just finished reading consecutively Home Education, Parents and Children and School Education; I must say that I felt a good deal shaken… I was quite astonished to find so much that appeared fresh to me; I have never read them through in the same way before, though I have often dipped into them, which is not the same thing.’ (Kitching, 1952, p. 303)
The “adventure” that Miss Kitching recommended in 1952 is still the best way to read the volumes today. Of course, there are situations where someone may read the volumes out of order. If you have a local study group, I encourage you to join in wherever in the series the group happens to be. But I will say that something special happens when the volumes are read in numerical order. Miss Kitching wrote:
It is hoped that this slight adventure into Charlotte Mason’s thought may suggest that consecutive reading through her books is worth while and that the reader will find many other revealing lines of thought. (Kitching, 1952, p. 315)
Miss Kitching’s “slight adventure” is just like my own, and I say with her, that “consecutive reading through her books” is worthwhile and reveals many “lines of thought.”
The reception of Volume 6 by the PNEU shows that it was seen as complementary to the other five volumes. For many years, the PNEU utilized it in conjunction with the other volumes. It was not seen as an evolution of Mason’s thought or as a repudiation of anything that came before. Rather, it was the finishing touch of the work of a genius. I don’t know about you, but I usually prefer to start a book at the beginning and read the chapters in order till the end. That’s the way I read Charlotte Mason’s volumes too.
Cholmondeley, E. (2000). The story of Charlotte Mason. Petersfield: Child Light Ltd.
Kitching, E. (1952). Wait half a century. In The Parents’ Review, volume 63 (pp. 303-315). London: Parents’ National Educational Union.
Mason, C. (1989a). Home education. Quarryville: Charlotte Mason Research & Supply.
Mason, C. (1989c). School education. Quarryville: Charlotte Mason Research & Supply.
Mason, C. (1989f). A philosophy of education. Quarryville: Charlotte Mason Research & Supply.
Merriam-Webster. (2003). Merriam-Webster’s collegiate dictionary. (Eleventh ed.). Springfield: Merriam-Webster, Inc.
Parsons, C. (1924). Report of the annual meeting. In The Parents’ Review, volume 35 (pp. 523-536). London: Parents’ National Educational Union.
PNEU. (1925a). The Parents’ Review, volume 36. London: Parents’ National Educational Union.
PNEU. (1925b). Programme 101. Form IV. London: Parents’ National Educational Union.
PNEU. (1926). Our work. In The Parents’ Review, volume 37 (pp. 65-70). London: Parents’ National Educational Union.
PNEU. (1928). Report of the annual meeting of the P.N.E.U. In The Parents’ Review, volume 39 (pp. 491-530). London: Parents’ National Educational Union.
About Morgan Conner
Morgan and her husband Jason are homeschooling their five girls in The Natural State, Arkansas. She is a co-hostess of the Facebook group, Charlotte Mason Soirée. She is also a contributor to the Charlotte Mason Soirée blog and the Charlotte Mason Soirée Instagram account. Morgan is passionate about encouraging mamas and leads a book club and Natural History Club locally. She recently organized a retreat for fellow Natural State mamas and has big plans for a statewide Charlotte Mason organization. In her spare time she loves to read and research about all things Charlotte Mason.
©2017 Morgan Conner