The Story of Parents and Children

The Story of Parents and Children

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We can only imagine how Charlotte Mason felt when she saw the positive response to her new book Home Education in 1886. But perhaps she was not surprised. Margaret Coombs noted that Mason’s “remarkable assurance … infuses the original version”[1] of her book. It seems that assurance was derived from Mason’s deep conviction that she had a message for the world. Her mission was not to end with a single book.

The following year, Charlotte Mason partnered with Emeline Steinthal to form the Parents’ Educational Union in Bradford. The purpose of the organization was to promote the principles advanced in Mason’s watershed book. But even as Mason was steering her efforts towards establishing the union, she continued to write. In April 1887, she contributed an article entitled “Geography as a Means of Culture” to the London-based Journal of Education. Then in 1888 and 1889, she contributed four original articles to Murray’s Magazine:

  • “Character in Children,” published in the December 1888 issue (pp. 765–779), which describes the “culture of character.”
  • “Spoilt Lives,” published in the March 1889 issue (pp. 349–364), which tells the story of a “Poor Mrs. Jumeau.”
  • “A-B-C Darians,” published in the May 1889 issue (pp. 672–683), which describes the formation of the Parents’ Educational Union.
  • “The Education of the Future,” published in the June 1889 issue (pp. 845–855), Mason’s fascinating vision of 1990, known to readers today as “A Hundred Years After.”

While these articles were appearing in print, momentum was forming to expand the reach of the Parents’ Educational Union. By January of 1890, a national executive committee had been formed; the union was now the PNEU. The very next month, the first issue of The Parents’ Review was published. Mason now had her own communication vehicle; she no longer needed to vie for space in the Journal of Education or Murray’s Magazine.

In the seventh issue of The Parents’ Review, an interesting article appeared entitled “Parents and Children: (A Sequel to ‘Home Education’) I — The Family.”[2] This title revealed Mason’s intention to not simply write articles but rather to write a book. But she would not keep it all secret as she wrote. She would release it one chapter at a time to the Parents’ Review subscribers.

The steady stream of articles continued for several years, culminating in the immensely significant piece entitled “The Great Recognition,” published in March 1896.[3] With that her second major educational volume was ready to be compiled for press. Finally in 1897, Parents and Children was born.

The first edition of Parents and Children is a hefty volume indeed. Spanning 429 large pages, it is comprised of two “books.” Book I is entitled “Theory” and Book II is entitled “Essays in Practical Education.” Book I pretty closely matches what we know of as Parents and Children today. It begins with the first “Parents and Children” article from The Parents’ Review (“The Family,” from September 1890). Interestingly, it includes the “Character in Children” article from Murray’s Magazine, now split into two articles entitled “The Culture of Character” (chapters 8 and 9). It closes with the lovely “Eternal Child,” from The Parents’ Review volume 6, number 10 (pp. 768–774), while the later “Great Recognition” is actually the penultimate chapter.

Thus the chapters in the book do not always appear in chronological order. An important example is the article “P.N.E.U. Philosophy,” first published in July of 1892, but appearing as chapter 23 under the title “The Teaching of the ‘Parents’ National Educational Union,’ Part II.” This article contains Mason’s first reference to the term “the great recognition,” more than a year before her first trip to Florence.

Book II has twelve chapters. The titles are instantly recognizable to anyone familiar with Mason’s fifth volume, Formation of Character. The first nine correspond exactly to Part 1 of that volume (“Some Studies in Treatment”) and include the Murray’s Magazine tale of “Poor Mrs. Jumeau!” The last three correspond to chapters 1, 3, and 5 of Part 2 (“Essays in Practical Education”) and include the final two articles from Murray’s Magazine, including the endlessly fascinating “A Hundred Years After.”

After the publication of Parents and Children, Mason kept on writing. By 1904, she decided to revise her books and recast them as a series. Book 2 of Parents and Children was moved to Formation of Character. The much slimmer third edition of 1904 is what we think of as Parents and Children. At 319 pages, it is the slimmest of the final six-volume series.

A few other changes were made in 1904 when the third edition was compiled. For some reason, chapter 21 (“Herbartian Pedagogics”) was moved to volume three (School Education) and renamed “A Great Educationalist,” even though it was taken from a relatively early Parents’ Review article (pp. 923–928 of volume 5, number 12, published in February, 1895). (This article may offer a clue as to why this was done.) Also, some of the chapter titles were changed:

  • “The Teaching of the ‘Parents’ National Educational Union,’ Part I” became “A Theory of Education Proposed to Parents” (originally “P.N.E.U. Principles,” first read at the 1894 Annual Meeting).[4]
  • “The Teaching of the ‘Parents’ National Educational Union,’ Part II” became “A Catechism of Educational Theory,” now the third name for this profoundly important document.

Sadly, the “Note” at the end of the volume was removed. This note contained Mason’s own translation of the extended French quotation of Madame de Staël at the start of chapter 12 (“Faith and Duty”). The absence of this translation has led several contemporary CM readers to supply their own translations of these two paragraphs for the community.

Parents and Children contains some of the most important writings by Miss Mason in existence. This was recognized after Mason’s death in 1928 at the Annual Meeting of the PNEU:

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.[5]

The Charlotte Mason Poetry transcription team agrees with this assessment. In light of our strong conviction about the importance of this book, we have taken a major new step to make it available to the world. As with our new edition of Home Education, our new online version of Parents and Children features these unique characteristics:

1. It is designed first and foremost for online viewing. Page numbers follow the third edition (and the “pinks”) but are inserted inline with the text so as not to interrupt the reader. This allows the best in readability while still making it possible to share with others what page you are on.

2. It contains no editorial additions or clarifications. You only see what Charlotte Mason herself approved. Everything was transcribed directly from editions published in Mason’s lifetime.

3. It contains everything: All the front matter, the table of contents, and the appendices; everything that greeted the historical reader of these volumes.

4. It contains the appendix (the “Note”) from the first edition, text which is not available in other online or print versions.

5. It was developed using the Charlotte Mason Poetry transcription process which has proven to result in very high-quality transcriptions with very few errors. We wanted to create a text that you could copy and paste with confidence.

6. It incorporates the formatting of the original edition. This includes typeface alterations such as bold, italics, and small-caps. It also includes indentation and line spacing to match the original as closely as possible. Why did we follow this formatting so carefully? Because just as facial expression accompanies the spoken word and gives it shades of meaning, so do typeface customizations deliver a shade of meaning to the written word. Now you can see a transcribed version that has the formatting attributes that consistently match the original.

7. It supports direct hyperlinks to individual pages. Now you can email a friend or post in social media with a link to the exact page where you found a particular quote. Simply append the page number to the URL. For example, to share a link to page 117, append #p117 to the URL as follows:

8. It is absolutely free. By that we mean it is free for you to use in any way you want, with no strings attached. What do we mean by that? We mean that you can translate it, print it, and even publish it commercially. The text is our gift for the community. Charlotte Mason Poetry is a labor of love. Our goal is to promote Charlotte Mason’s ideas. And we hope that an absolutely free edition of Parents and Children will go a long way to getting these words and ideas into the hands of more people.

We hope that every educator will have the opportunity to read the “detailed study of the principles behind the practice” of the Charlotte Mason method in Parents and Children. And we hope this gift to the community will bring us one step closer to that ideal.

Read Parents and Children at this link:

[1] Charlotte Mason: Hidden Heritage and Educational Influence, p. 146

[2] The Parents’ Review, vol. 1, pp. 514–519

[3] The Parents’ Review, vol. 7, pp. 52–59

[4] The Parents’ Review, vol. 5, pp. 426–431

[5] The Parents’ Review, vol. 39, p. 525

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