Editor’s Note: In the Charlotte Mason Digital Collection, we find a mostly unbroken series of programmes from 1921-1933. But in another box and another folder, we find a much older set from 1905, the year the Home Education Series was published. In the same stack with these programmes, numbers 42 and 43, there is another small booklet in exactly the same typeface, style, and size. It has the same heading: “Parents’ Review School.” Entitled “Suggestions,” it seems to be a “how to” manual sent to parents to accompany the programmes. The contents of that small booklet are transcribed here.

In the same year, the Fourth Edition of Home Education was published, which included many updates and additions to the First Edition. One addition was on the topic of mathematics. It marked a turning point from a resource mentioned in this programme: Sonnenschein’s A B C Arithmetic, with its corresponding blocks consisting of units, rods of 10’s, and squares of 100’s. In the 1905 Home Education, Charlotte Mason wrote:

I incline to think that an elaborate system of staves, cubes, etc., instead of tens, hundreds, thousands, errs by embarrassing the child’s mind with too much teaching, and by making the illustration occupy a more prominent place than the thing illustrated. (p. 262)

Later programmes reflected the concern that specially-designed manipulatives tend to fix a connection with the math facts in the child’s mind which is difficult to undo, and the systematized analysis leads children to be dependent on this particular presentation and specialized apparatus. It is informative to see how the Parents’ Review School brought itself to closer conformity with Mason’s principles over time.

Parents’ National Educational Union.

The Parents’ Review School.

Conducted by Miss Charlotte M. Mason.
Motto: “I am, I can, I ought, I will.”

The object of the Parents’ Review School is to help parents whose children are taught at home, by mother or governess, in the following ways:—

(a) To secure a common standard of attainment, so that the home-taught child shall be equal to the rest when he goes to school.

(b) To do this without sacrificing individual development, and the following of the bent of each child’s tastes and powers.

(c) To introduce good methods and good text-books into the home Schoolroom.

(d) To foster the habits of attention, punctuality, diligence, promptness, and the power of doing given work in a given time.

(e) To secure the gain of definite work upon a given syllabus, without the danger of “cram,” and with some freedom in the choice of subjects.

(f) To test and encourage the home school from term to term by examinations, testing intelligent knowledge rather than verbal memory.

(g) To give the home-taught child advantages which the school-taught child possesses.

(h) In a word, while increasing rather than diminishing the leisure of the home-taught child to counteract any dawdling, dilatory, procrastinating habits, which put him at a disadvantage as compared with the smarter school-child.

This help is given in the following ways:

“Preliminary questions” are sent to mothers framed to ascertain the physical and mental development as well as the attainments of each child. Upon the answers to these the children are classified and a programme of work for a term is sent for the children in each class, together with Time-Tables, “Suggestions” as to method of teaching and books to be used and the “Rules of the School.” At the end of a term the children’s work is tested by an examination. Examination papers are sent at Easter and Christmas and Midsummer. At Easter and Christmas the pupil’s work is sent up, and the parents receive a report upon it. For the Midsummer examination the work is not sent up, but the parents send up their report.

Families: Fees (payable to the Secretary, House of Education, Ambleside): One Guinea a year for a family of one or several children under ten years of age. Two Guineas for one child over ten. Three Guineas for a family in which one or more children are over ten.

Schools: One Guinea a year, paid as above, entitles a School to receive, from term to term, all the papers of the P.R.S., and to send up, if desired, the answers of one child under ten for examination. Three Guineas entitles to papers as above, and to the examination of the work of three children in different classes. Five Guineas entitles to a test examination covering the work of a Lower School (boys or girls under 14).

Children are not admitted to the School under six years of age; they may be admitted at any time except between August 1st and September 15th.

Members of the Parents’ Review School must belong to the P.N.E.U. Subscriptions, 10/- a year, whether for Schools, or families, to include the Parents’ Review, payable to the Secretary, P.N.E.U. Office, 26, Victoria Street, London, S.W.

Parents’ Review School.


Occupations (optional).

I. Class, 5 hours; II. Class, 7 1/2 hours; III. Class and IV. Class, 10 hours a week; at any time of day, in any division of time, to suit family arrangements; when possible, out of doors.

Music, including Lessons and Practising.—Class I., 20 min.; Class II., half an hour; Class III., three-quarters of an hour daily. In the case of older pupils, the time devoted to music should depend on the degree of talent shown by the pupil. The work of the term, including ear tests and theory, to be reported at the end of the term. Mrs. Curwen’s Child Pianist Series gives the best possible foundation for a musical training. The parents of somewhat advanced pupils would do well to write to

Edward Chadfield, Esq.,
Hon. Sec. to the Nat. Soc. of Professional Musicians,
49, Friar Gate, Derby,
for information as to examinations and book of questions for Preliminary Theoretical Examination, 1/-.

Drawing.—Class I., 20 min.; Class II., half an hour; Class III., three-quarters of an hour three times a week. In the case of pupils above Class III., the time given to drawing should depend on the degree of talent the pupil shows. Brushwork: leaves, branches, flowers, ferns, vases, &c., copied immediately in colours without pencil drawing. Drawing, whether Brushwork or in Charcoal, should be from objects from the first, and shaded from the first. Pupils should join the Portfolio of Paintings: see The Children’s Quarterly (P.R.S. Programmes). For advanced pupils apply to Miss Wood, 44 Holland Street, Kensington (see P.R. each month).

Listening to Reading.—Two books worth reading should be read, or partly read, during the term. For example, Sesame and Lilies (Allen, 5/-); Kingsley’s Heroes (Allen, 5/-); Ethics of the Dust (Allen, 5/-); How Dante Climbed the Mountain (Macmillan, 3/6), or the books appointed on the Programmes; and poetry on the third reading day.

Handiwork.—Some definite handiwork should be done by each pupil: Modelling in Clay; Clay Modelling, by Mrs. Steinthal and Miss Simpson (Arnold & Sons, Leeds, 2/-); or (more advanced) A Manual of Clay Modelling, by H. Unwin (Longman, 3/-). Basket-work: Basket-work, by Miss Firth (Suabedissen, 1/6): Materials from Suabedissen (London). Chip-Carving: Models from O. Newman & Co., 84 Newman Street, London, W. Bent Iron-work: Materials, models, and instructions from Mr. Paratt, ironmonger, Ilkley. Sloyd: Card-board Modelling, by A. Sutcliffe and W. Nelson (Philip & Son, 2/6). Carpentering (Parts II. and III.), and Elementary Carving—1/8 each (Newman & Co.). Carton Work, by C. G. Hewitt (King & Sons, Halifax, 2/-).

Five of the thirteen waking hours should be at the disposal of the children; three, at least, of these, from two o’clock to five, for example, should be spent out of doors in all but very bad weather. This is the opportunity for out-of-door work, collecting wild flowers, describing walks and views, &c. (see Home Education, P.N.E.U. Office, 4/6). Brisk work and ample leisure and freedom should be the rule of the Home School. The Children’s Day will, on the whole, run thus: Lessons, 1 1/2 to 4 hours; meals, 2 hours; occupations, 1 to 3 hours; leisure, 5 to 7 hours, according to age. The work not done in its own time should be left undone. Children should not be embarrassed with arrears, and they should have due sense of the importance of time, and that there is no other time for work not done in its own time. Should the children flag at any time, a day’s holiday, a little country excursion, should refresh them.

Bible Lessons.—It is impossible to over-rate the Educational value of Bible lessons, if only as training children in the “classics” available for them, not to say the finest “classic” literature the world possesses. For the higher and all-important aspect of Bible teaching, see Parents and Children (P.N.E.U. Office, 4/6). Suggested method: Read aloud to the children a few verses, as, for example, the first five verses of Genesis xii. Read deliberately, carefully, and with just expression. Require the children to narrate what they have listened to, as nearly as possible in the Bible words. Talk the narrative over with them, adding all possible light from modern research and criticism. Let the teaching, moral and spiritual, reach them without too much personal application. At the end, let the children narrate the passage again, reverently and perfectly. Let each new lesson begin with questions on the last. Books for teachers (any of the following): Lessons on the Life of Our Lord, by Eugene Stock (Sunday School Institute, 2/-); Oxford Helps to the Study of the Bible (University Press, 1/-); Prof. Sayce’s Fresh Light from the Ancient Monuments (R.T.S., 2/6); Budge’s Dwellers on the Nile (R.T.S., 2/6); Ellicott’s Commentary for Schools: S. Luke (Cassell, 4/-); Merrill’s Galilee in the Time of Christ (R.T.S., 2/6), or Thomson’s The Land and the Book (Nelson, 7/6); The Bible for the Young, by Rev. J. Paterson Smyth (Sampson Low, 2/- a volume); Abbott’s Bible Lessons (Macmillan, 4/6); Yonge’s Scripture Readings, with comments (Macmillan’s First and Fourth Series, each 3/6). The Gospel History (C. C. James, University Press). The teacher should use such handbooks only to enable her to illustrate the text—manners and customs, geographical facts, &c. If children in Class Ia. fail to listen with interest to the Bible words, it may be well to tell the tale.

Recitation.—See Burrell’s Handbook (Griffiths & Farran, 3/6). Bible passages should be recited at least as carefully and beautifully as any poem.

French.—Objects: to acquire a vocabulary, and facility in speaking French while the organs are flexible. To be learnt orally, entirely, until the child knows, say, 1,000 French words. Where possible the teaching should be by Series, according to M. Gouin’s method. See The Study of French, by Eugéne & Duriaux (Macmillan, 3/6).

Drill.—Should correct stooping posture, round shoulders, poking, &c. Dr. Roth’s Swedish Drill( Philip & Son, Liverpool, 1/-); Alexander’s Musical Drill for Infants (Philip & Son, Liverpool, 2/3), for Class I. Mrs. Steinthal’s Bandage Drill (Philip & Son, Liverpool, 6d.). Ball Drill (Aunt Mai’s Annual, Mrs. Steinthal, S. John’s, Ilkley, 2/6). Musical Drill for Standards (Philip & Son, 2/6).

Latin Grammar.—To afford intellectual drill, it would be well that all children, even those for whom a classical education is not proposed, should learn the Latin grammar with this object, which, perhaps, no other study promotes as well.

English History.—To give the child such a knowledge of the life of his own nation as shall give birth to ideas. Freeman’s Old English History, 6/-; Bede’s Ecclesiastical History, Bohn’s Lib. (Geo. Bell & Son, 5/-). Miss Beale’s charts should be used, 6d. each, Ladies’ College, Cheltenham, and her Students’ Text Book of English and General History (2/6), will enable the teacher to furnish an outline of general history for the period the child is studying, but should not be used to cram facts. A History of England, by Mr. H. O. Arnold Forster (Cassell, 5/-), to be read with Green’s Shorter History of the English People (Macmillan, 7/6).

Greek History.—To help the children to realise how personal and intimate is the relation of the individual to the state. Plutarch’s Lives, in Cassell’s National Library, 3d. each. It will be necessary for the teacher to read the life beforehand, marking such passages as are well within the range of children. Sewell’s Ancient History (Macmillan, 6/-), or Yonge’s Landmarks of Ancient History (Macmillan, 2/6), will enable the teacher, using chart, to give an idea of the general history of the time; Dr. Smith’s Smaller History of Greece and Smaller History of Rome (Murray, 3/6).

Geography.—Objects: To secure the power and the habit of gaining information and ideas from maps; to secure that every fact shall be hung upon the peg of an idea. London Geographical Readers (Stanford). Books I. (1/-), II. (1/6), III. (2/3), IV. (2/3), V. (2/6). The Map questions in these must be most carefully done at the beginning of each lesson. Also, the children should be introduced to any book of travels in family reading and to places mentioned in the newspapers.

English Grammar.—Abbott’s How to Tell the Parts of Speech, 2/-. For children more advanced, Morris’s Primer of English Grammar (Macmillan, 1/-).

Singing.—Tonic Sol-fa—to secure intelligent appreciation of music, as well as power to sing. Ten Minutes’ Lessons (Curwen & Son), French Songs and Rondes (Augener & Co.), Deutscher Liedergarten, La Lyre des Ecoles (Curwen, 2/6 each).

Copy Books.—Every day one letter, as or s, should be conquered; no lapse should be allowed. Mrs. Bridges’ Handwriting for Teachers.

Dictation.—Should be prepared before it is written and words not known written on blackboard; a page or half a page, from which the teacher will select a few lines to dictate.

Arithmetic.—Sonnenschein’s A B C Arithmetic, Parts I. and II. (1/- each). Little children learn with dominoes; box, double sizes (Philip & Son, 1/-). Bag containing 100 cubes (Philip & Son, 2/-). Sums should be dictated, or taken down from words, not figures; that is, the children should deal only with numbers whose value they know. Wrong sums must not be “done again.” If the fault is in a “table,” let the table be learnt; if in a “rule,” go back, and teach the rule again. Five minutes’ mental arithmetic in each arithmetic lesson. Mair’s Mental Arithmetic (Sonnenschein, 9d.).

Nature Lore and Science.—Directions accompany programmes.

Composition.—Written composition not to be begun until the children are in Class IV. Concise, orderly narrations in clear sentences must be exacted from the first. Good writing.

Reading.—The recitation lessons should teach reading. History, geography, &c., will afford practice.

A few of the books used now or at some time in the School are mentioned here by way of example, but these vary from term to term, and are given in the programmes.

Teachers would find the Articles on the teaching of the various subjects which appear constantly in the Parents’ Review useful.

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