The Truth About Volume 6

The Truth About Volume 6

©2017 Morgan Conner

As a co-hostess of Charlotte Mason Soirée, a large Facebook group dedicated to Charlotte Mason’s principles and methods, I noticed a recurring question:

“Which of Miss Mason’s volumes should I read first?”

The replies to that simple question revealed two distinct opinions in the Charlotte Mason community: some say to begin with Volume 1 (it is after all the first in a series) and some say to begin with Volume 6 (it was the last one she wrote so it must be her definitive guide). But the replies also revealed something more. I learned that some believe that Volume 6 was written to a different audience than the other volumes. They imply that Volume 6 contains Mason’s pure philosophy, and that it has all the essentials we need for today.

So I began to wonder – which volume should we read first? And how does Volume 6 fit in with the rest of Miss Mason’s volumes? I had to find out for myself. I dug deep into the archives, searched through the volumes, and wrote up my findings. And now I am sharing it all with you.

Based on the research and investigation that I am presenting here, I have concluded that Miss Mason unfolded her philosophy and methods across all six volumes. They are interdependent. Volume 6 was meant to complement the other volumes, not to replace or supersede them. Furthermore, Volume 6 can only be properly understood with a knowledge of its structure and its composition. Miss Mason developed one method and one philosophy for all audiences and contexts, and this philosophy and method is best learned by reading the volumes in numerical order. The evidence to support my conclusion begins early in the PNEU movement itself. Join me on a brief survey of this history which will lead us to the truth about Volume 6.

I. A Brief History of Charlotte Mason and the PNEU movement

“The Beginning of Things”

During the late 1800’s England’s educational system was undergoing a huge change. One of the earliest pieces of reform was the 1862 provision called the “Revised Code” (Arnold, 1908, pp. 331ff). This provision gave grants to schools whose students excelled in academic testing. As we can imagine from our own experience in the US right now, this led to a restricted curriculum – only the three R’s were taught – and teachers no longer had freedom to teach to their students. They had to teach the test.

Also during this same period, infant schools and Froebelian kindergartens were gaining popularity. One source claims that during this time 45% of children under five were attending school (Cohen, 1974, p.51). The Herbartian pedagogy was also gaining attention. It was a teacher-intensive method that included five formal steps of instruction. Miss Mason stated that according to the Herbartian method “what a child learns matters less than how he learns it” (Mason, 1989f, p. xxx).

Charlotte Mason

Charlotte Mason had been a teacher in a church school for many years (Kitching, 1923, p. 120) and was later an instructor who trained teachers. She had an intimate knowledge of the changes and failings within the educational system. In 1885 Charlotte Mason’s church was in need. She offered to give a series of lectures – “Ladies Lectures” – to raise the money for the church’s building project. These lectures were published in 1886 as Home Education. What she proposed in these lectures was quite different from the current system and it was a thorough rejection of the old system. She was charting a new course, and the reaction was incredible. 

Elsie Kitching wrote that after Home Education was published:

… a single idea was gradually taking shape and forcing itself into prominence, becoming in fact a life-purpose, – how to approach parents without appearance of presumption and offer to them a few principles which seemed a very gospel of education. (Kitching, 1923, p. 123)

Just one year after the publication of Home Education, Miss Mason and her associates drew up a syllabus for a Parents’ Educational Union. The name was changed in 1890 to include the word National and it became the PNEU (Kitching, 1923, p. 135).  They felt that its success locally proved that the objects and aims of the Parents’ Educational Union needed to be brought to a wider public. In 1890, the following announcement was made in The Parents’ Review regarding the first Annual Meeting:

The object of the promoters is to overspread the country with a great national educational league of parents of every condition; and thus to testify that parents form an educational body, whose regard for the interests of the children is as intelligent as it is profound. (Kitching, 1923, p. 137)

The Parents’ Review was born in 1890 to “keep parents in touch with the best and latest thought on all those matters connected with the training and culture of children and young people which do not fall within the school curriculum” (Mason, 1890/1912a, p. 2). This magazine was considered a “vital organ” to the overall goals of the PNEU. They wanted to be able to communicate with their members and be sure their methods, principles, and practices were accurately portrayed. However, from the very first issue, the ambition was to reach out beyond the PNEU membership:

The Parents’ Review, conceived originally in the interests of the Parents’ National Educational Union, while it looks for a wider circle of readers than the society offers, must ever aim at furthering what should be the most important of all educational organisations. (Mason, 1890, p. 74)

Amazingly, this “wider circle of readers” was meant to include not only people outside of the PNEU in space, but also people outside of the PNEU in time. Miss Mason wrote to Henrietta Franklin:

When you and I are gone, the [Parents’ Review] will be long quoted and made much of in the annals of Education. (Mason, 1911, p. 17)

The Parents’ Review was not written only for contemporary members of the PNEU. It was also written for me and you!

The next year the Parents’ Review School was begun (the name was changed to Parents’ Union School, PUS, in 1907) (Kitching, 1923, p. 140). This was essentially a correspondence course for families with “home taught” children. The families would subscribe to the School and receive a programme of study for their children. Mason explains:

We have not found ourselves able to give this kind of help to parents through the pages of the Parents’ Review, because very mischievous results might follow from prescriptions of work being applied to children for whom they were totally unfitted. But we see a way, at last, to do what we have felt all along to be very important work.

We propose to open a “Parents’ Review School.”

It shall be a unique school, for the pupils shall go to school and be taught at home, at one and the same time, and have the twofold advantages of school discipline and home culture. (Mason, 1891/1892, p. 312)

One year later, in June of 1892, Mason published an article in The Parents’ Review entitled “P.N.E.U. Philosophy,” where Mason first coined and described the term “the great recognition” (Mason, 1892/1893, p. 357). This article is the earliest systematic expression of Mason’s theory of education and was later republished in 1896 in Parents and Children (volume 2) under the title “A Catechism of Education Theory” (Mason, 1989b, pp. 233-248).

At the close of the 19th century the work of the PNEU was spreading. Elsie Kitching wrote in 1899:

Here is promise for the future. Is the day arriving when our Society will be not only national but international, a bond of peace, progress, and goodwill between the nations? Our cause has adherents in almost every region of the known world, from Constantinople to Fiji, from Ceylon to Japan, and we believe that there is more in store for us. (Kitching, 1899, p. 433)

At this time, only two of Mason’s six volumes had been written. But Kitching indicated that their message had already gone out to “every region of the known world.”

The Home Education Series

Mason published her third volume, School Education, in 1904. Like volume 2, it was comprised primarily of articles from The Parents’ Review. When we read these volumes, we are essentially reading the best of The Parents’ Review from that time.

Also in 1904, Mason took her “P.N.E.U. Philosophy” and systematized it still further to a “Short Synopsis” – the famous twenty principles found in the opening pages of her volumes today. (Originally it was expressed in eighteen principles.) The Synopsis was accepted by the PNEU Executive Committee on February 17, 1904. Charlotte Mason described the Synopsis in a letter to Henrietta Franklin:

Here is goodness and virtue! A long synopsis of our teaching… That is what your last letter produced.

Now you will have a foundation for any talking or writing you may have to do. (Mason, 1904, p. 2)

Shortly after the Synopsis was accepted by the PNEU, Miss Mason wrote in another letter to Henrietta Franklin:

You see the books are urgent – it is not quite safe to have sent the Synopsis abroad without them. (Mason, 1904, p. 14)

It stands to reason that the books she is referring to are volumes 1-3 – those books were needed to properly understand and apply her Synopsis. The relationship between the Synopsis and the volumes is analogous to the relationship between the Nicene Creed and the Bible. The early Christians did not develop the creed to replace the Bible. Rather, they formulated a concise statement of beliefs to help people better understand their faith. In the same way, the Synopsis was not meant to replace the volumes, but rather to provide a set of principles to help people better understand the method.

Mason published her fourth volume, Ourselves, in 1905. This volume was quite different from the other volumes because it was written for students. Miss Mason wrote in the introduction:

This volume is intended as an appeal to the young to make the most of themselves, because of the vast possibilities that are in them and of the law of God which constrains them. (Mason, 1989d, Introduction)

The fifth volume, Formation of Character, was published in 1906 and contained lectures VII and VIII from the 1886 edition of Home Education, along with articles from The Parents’ Review and a few other selections (Coombs, 2015, p. 219).

At this time the volumes were reorganized as the Home Education Series. This reorganization points to the unity of the volumes. They were meant to be read and utilized as a set. The PNEU Reading Course advertisement below states:

The method of these volumes is a progressive amplification of the principles set forth above. It is, therefore, desirable that the books should be studied in numerical order. (Mason, 1906a, p. 34)

The “numerical order” begins with volume 1, regardless of the ages of the children involved. This is because the ideas also begin with volume 1. Elsie Kitching explains:

“Home Education” contains in essence all that Miss Mason developed in her further writings and activities. In the first lecture we get the child’s estate, a belief in which led to what has been called the Children’s Magna Charta, the Parents’ Union School; this belief also runs through every detail of the work set in the programmes. Lecture II. takes up out-of-door life and this has led to the awakening of the world to the bliss of nature study, a subject now learned in most schools though nowhere with so much simple joy as in the Parents’ Union Schoolrooms where an academic or utilitarian aspect does not creep in… Lecture III. takes up moral training and Lecture IV. mental training… Lecture V. deals with Lessons, worked out later and more fully in “School Education:” Lection VI., with the moral and spiritual powers of a child. This was worked out later in detail in “Ourselves,” while in “Parents and Children” we get moral training from the parents’ point of view. In Lecture VII.* literary evenings are taken up, also the study of pictures, music and poetry.

[*] Now published in Vol. V. “Some Studies in the Formation of Character.” (Kitching, 1923, pp. 121-122)

Miss Mason herself confirmed Elsie Kitching’s explanation of volume 1. In 1904 she wrote:

The Society originated in the little manual called “Home Education” which contains the whole in the germ and every succeeding expansion and elucidation has appeared in the Parents Review and has for the most part been read at the Annual Conferences of the Union. (Mason, 1904, p. 4)

The Synopsis was done and the series might have been considered complete. But there was no “concordance” to show where in the volumes to find a more detailed explanation of any particular point of the Synopsis. Furthermore, a new challenge appeared on the horizon: a new set of ideas had just exploded into the world from the pen of another educational thinker… but this one was Italian, not English.

The Basis of National Strength

The turn of the century brought about even more changes to England’s educational system. The Revised Code was relaxed and teachers were given more flexibility, but many felt that England’s educational system was lagging behind the US and other European nations. There was an explosion of legislation to provide government funding for schools and to expand kindergartens, secondary schools, and training schools.

Maria Montessori

There was also growing interest in an Italian educator named Maria Montessori. Miss Montessori was a medical doctor who specialized in disabled children. She was asked to open a school for children in 1906 where she developed her method. According to Cohen:

[Montessori utilized] training of the senses, exercises of practical life, motor or muscular education, and … training in the three R’s. The method depended heavily on the ‘didactic apparatus’, colourful, varied, and graded educational toys and games designed by Montessori herself after models first created by Itard and Seguin. (Cohen, 1974, p. 53)

Montessori opened four more schools in Italy and word spread about this new method of education.  In August 1911 the Fortnightly Review published an article by Josephine Tozier entitled “An Educational Wonder Worker: Maria Montessori’s Methods” (Cohen, 1974, p. 53). In the spring of 1912 the book Montessori Method was published in English (Cohen, 1974, p. 55). Articles praising this new method sprung up across England in The Times and other major papers (Cohen, 1974, p. 56).

Miss Mason did not hide her dismay over the growth and popularity of the Montessori method. In her article “Three Education Idylls” she warned:

… it behoves us to look closely into a discovery which may prove disastrous to mankind in proportion as it is attractive. (Mason, 1912b, p. 803)

She also observed:

… the pictured children in the “The Montessori Method” appear to be rather wanting in vivacity. (Mason, 1912b, p. 803)

She specifically warned against the repetitive work, the lack of songs and tales, and the emphasis on scientific rather than religious pedagogy.

All this time, Charlotte Mason’s Parents’ Review School continued to grow, the PNEU expanded, and the tremendous success of her methods was documented. By now she had years of experience under her belt and untold success stories. We can only imagine how alarmed she was at the rapid explosion of the Montessori method – a new and unproven system. Mason knew her philosophy was proven, sound, and well-documented. She had to respond – not only to Montessori but also to the entire country, because of the direction in which it was headed.

And she did just that. In the spring of 1912 she wrote seven letters which appeared in The Times Educational Supplement. Essex Cholmondeley explains that these letters were “written in defence of knowledge”:

In a series of six letters written to The Times Miss Mason develops the theme that knowledge is the basis of national strength. The crying demand of the nation is that every person should understand the science of the relations of things and the science of the proportions of things. (Cholmondeley, 2000 p. 119)

The reason Mason began with a lengthy “defence of knowledge” was revealed in the seventh letter, entitled “The Montessori System.” It was solely devoted to her distaste for the Montessori method. The final paragraph summarized the contrast between her method and Montessori’s:

Because a child is a person, … because he increases upon such ideas as are to be found in book, pictures, and the like, … I should regard the spread of schools conducted on any method which contemns knowledge in favour of appliances and employments as a calamity, no matter how prettily the children may for the present behave. (Mason, 1913a, p. 53)

The next year, all seven letters were published together in a 53-page pamphlet entitled The Basis of National Strength. Mason commended the pamphlet as follows in The Parents’ Review:

The writer ventures to hope that readers of the Parents’ Review will give their careful attention to this pamphlet, because it concerns us as a Society to influence public opinion on the subject treated of in these letters, that is, the general neglect of knowledge and the mischievous effect of this neglect upon national life. (Mason, 1913b, p. 157)

This pamphlet was meant to be “evangelistic” in nature – Mason was promoting her ideas and warning the nation of the dangers of “The Montessori Method.” The Basis of National Strength was certainly not an attempt to present a simplified version of her philosophy. In fact, it pointed to the fullness of the method as presented in the programmes:

Those who have read the papers entitled “The Basis of National Strength” which appeared in The Times Educational Supplement during the Spring of last year, will recognize how Miss Mason carries out the theories she presented in them, in the programme of work set for use in the P.U.S. (Faunce, 1913, p. 512)

Due to the large readership of The Times, Mason’s letters made even more people in England aware of her work. Cholmondeley wrote that the “story of the ‘great national work’” began with that series of letters in The Times (Cholmondeley, 2000, p. 122). In February 1913 Miss Mason wrote to Mrs. Franklin after a glowing examiner’s report on her students’ work:

I feel more and more ashamed that we should be keeping all this good thing to ourselves. We must make it national, quite independent of us… (as cited in Cholmondeley, 2000, p. 122)

From a home school standpoint, it already was national. Miss Mason wrote in a letter to Mrs. Steinthal that the PNEU was “an organization that touches every county in England” (as cited in Cholmondeley, 2000, p. 124). But though it touched every county, it did not reach inside the state schools. To achieve true national density, the method had to penetrate the state schools.

In 1914 the door to state schools was opened and the “Liberal Education for All Movement” began.

The Drighlington Experiment

In April of 1914, a teacher named Miss Ambler applied Mason’s method to a classroom of about 45 students at Drighlington in Yorkshire. She was assisted by Mrs. Steinthal of the PNEU.  This school was located in a very poor mining district (Cholmondeley, 2000, p. 123) – a perfect proving ground for Miss Mason’s method. Miss Ambler put it this way:

If Miss Mason’s principles are true ones, they must be the ones to adopt, and a way must be found whatever circumstances obtain. (as cited in Cholmondeley, 2000, p. 124)

Miss Ambler gave an account of how she got started:

First of all, I ought to tell you how I came to hear of this scheme. I was asked by a friend to try the effect of reading for about ten minutes at a time daily from a good book to my youngest classes, then to ask them to narrate what they had heard and note the result. I watched the children to see what power of concentration they possessed and how this increased with continual practice. The results were certainly surprising. I then heard of the P.U.S. and of Miss Mason and was invited, together with other head teachers, to meet Miss Drury of the House of Education, Ambleside, who would explain the scheme to us…

After this meeting we procured some of Miss Mason’s publications, notably her first one, Home Education, and studied them all. (as cited in Cholmondeley, 2000, p. 123)

Observe that the most notable resource for this state school teacher was Home Education (volume 1), not The Basis of National Strength.

This experiment at Drighlington was a huge success. Miss Steinthal gave the teachers “just the wise counsel and encouragement they needed” (Cholmondeley, 2000, p. 129). Miss Parish visited the school and wrote:

In the schoolroom I found the most utter peace that I have ever found in my life. It was the realization of the hopes we have been cherishing of supplying the children of the less privileged classes with mental food which they can digest… I marvelled at their intelligence and their power, not only of narration, but of thinking and of stringing their thoughts together. (as cited in Cholmondeley, 2000, p. 125)

This incredible classroom scene was achieved because Miss Ambler had studied Mason’s volumes.

The success at Drighlington and at the other schools that followed in its footsteps must be attributed to the teacher’s “faithful adherence to principles and practice” (Cholmondeley, 2000, p. 144). And Miss Mason herself wrote:

Teacher’s schemes are, I know, exceedingly intelligent and liberal-minded, but for lack of the informing principles, they do not produce the rather astonishing results which follow the use of this scheme. (as cited in Cholmondeley, 2000, p. 132)

Mrs. Steinthal further noted to Miss Mason that “a lifeless, dull class” was making progress due to “their teacher… drinking in your books and principles” (as cited in Cholmondeley, 2000, p. 130). These teachers did not find what they needed in The Basis of National Strength. They had to read all of Mason’s books – the volumes in the Home Education Series.

The Growth of the PUS

Other schools in the Yorkshire area began to follow Miss Ambler’s example and the results were so encouraging that Miss Mason decided to reach out to more schools.

In the summer of 1915, Miss Mason and Miss Parish “planned together a campaign to introduce the P.U.S. programmes and the teaching method as widely as possible” (Cholmondeley, 2000, p. 124). Again, notice that Miss Mason emphasized the details contained in the programmes, not simply the overarching principles. Miss Parish travelled all over England visiting schools small and large, in the cities and the villages, encouraging teachers who were beginning to follow the PUS programmes (Cholmondeley, 2000, p. 143). These programmes were the very same PUS programmes that were sent to the home school rooms.

Miss Mason always consistently emphasized the importance of adopting the whole of her principles and practices. She wrote the following in a letter to a Head of School who had expressed interest in beginning PUS work; notice how Mason emphasized the importance of adopting her method as a whole:

Is it not possible to pay a fee, receive the papers of the Parents’ Union Curriculum and make as much or as little use of them as we think well? This appears on the face of it an attitude justifiable from every point of view, but I think that by admitting that position we should be doing serious harm to the cause of education, adding one more patch to a garment which is already a patchwork over which most of us grieve. (Mason, 1906b, p. 588)

Miss Mason adds later in the letter:

But our conception of education is of a vital whole, harmonious, living and effective. You will see, therefore, that every little plan we recommend rises out of a principle and that each such principle is a part of a living educational philosophy (if I may call it so), and does not very well bear to be broken off and used by itself. (Mason, 1906b, p. 588)

Miss Mason also made conditions to schools who wanted to use the Parents’ Union Curriculum. Some of these conditions are so particular that we can understand why Mason spoke of “every little plan we recommend.” For example, she specified:

That the amount of time for each of these subjects shall be not more nor less than that stated on the Time-tables. (Mason, 1906c, p. 587)

Mason certainly did not revoke these conditions upon publication of The Basis of National Strength. That pamphlet was meant to generate interest in her method, not to replace her method.

II. Two Important Papers

The pamphlet did generate interest. Many educators in the state schools read The Basis of National Strength, but it did not contain enough information for them to implement the Charlotte Mason method. Miss Mason understood this and in 1916 a conference was held for the teachers of Yorkshire. During this conference, at which Miss Mason was present, two important papers were read: “Theory” by Miss Mason and “Practice” by Miss Drury (Cholmondeley, 2000, p. 126).

Let’s take a closer look at those two papers. As you can see here they were labeled as No. 1 and No. 2 – they obviously go together:

Miss Mason’s “Theory” paper begins with the failure of the current “scheme of education” (Mason, 1916, p. 641) and highlights the success of the Drighlington schools. Mason goes on to discuss the requirements of the mind, the ways we depreciate children, and our contempt for knowledge. She briefly describes her methods and summarizes her educational theory in a section called “Statement of Theory” (Mason, 1916, pp. 657-658). She points out numerous times that the principles and methods are suitable for large classes. (She is probably trying to reassure teachers that her home education method could indeed work in a school setting.) She even explains “the choice of books and the character of the terminal examinations” (Mason, 1916, p. 658).

Miss Drury opens her paper by justifying its need:

As it is for the children’s sake that you have come to this Vacation Course [the conference for teachers], so it is for the children’s sake – because we are convinced that they need what the P.N.E.U. has to offer – that I welcome the opportunity of telling you quite simply how we teach in the Parents’ Union School. (Drury, 1916, p. 661)

She then proceeds to walk the teachers step-by-step through each subject in the programmes and time-tables. She explains how to scaffold each lesson and gives sample narrations to illustrate the differences expected between upper and lower forms. She explains narration in detail. What strikes me most about this paper is its precision and practicality. Miss Drury knew that Miss Mason had already explained the “why” of the subjects. Her purpose was just to show the “how.” I imagine those teachers were much like we are today: “Just tell us what to do!” Honestly, it reminds me of A Delectable Education podcast. The teachers must have felt the same way I did when I first heard the why’s and how’s explained so concisely on the podcast.

According to Cholmondeley these two papers, by Miss Mason and Miss Drury, “were published and appeared as ‘A Liberal Education for All’” (Cholmondeley, 2000, p. 126). Copies of both papers were sent to all Directors of Education in the country (Cholmondeley, 2000, p. 126). The two papers together were the “CliffsNotes” of her volumes.

A Startling Discovery

Mason was very prescriptive with her theory and practice. She wanted it to be followed wholly and consistently. She felt the entire package – theory and practice – must be embraced for it to be successful. In this 1916 paper, she used an interesting analogy to explain this. In her analogy she use the words “principles and practices” – an obvious reference to her “theory” paper and Drury’s “practices” paper. Just as the two papers together formed a whole picture of the method, both principles as well as practices are necessary for implementing the method.

Joseph Lister

The analogy she used was the struggle Joseph Lister faced when he introduced the consistent use of antiseptics in surgery. Even though Lister had successfully prevented infections for years using his method, he was criticized by surgeons who had either never tried it or if they had, they had not done so consistently or systematically. Miss Mason wrote:

The reader will say with truth, “I knew all this before and have always acted more or less on these principles”; and I can only point to the unusual results we obtain through adhering, not, “more or less,” but strictly, to the principles and practices I have indicated. I suppose the difficulties are of the sort that Lister had to contend with; every surgeon knew that his instruments and appurtenances should be kept clean, but the saving of innumerable lives has resulted from the use of the great surgeon’s antiseptic treatment; that is, from the substitution of exact principles scrupulously applied for the rather casual “more or less” methods of earlier days. (Mason, 1916, p. 659)

Mason wrote this in 1916 – nine years before the publication of volume 6. Context determines meaning. This quote was originally located at the closing of her “Theory” paper, just after she discussed book choices and examinations. It was meant to refer the reader to the principles she had just summarized in her “Theory” paper and to the practices that were outlined in Drury’s “Practices” paper. This famous Lister quote cannot be twisted into applying only to the Synopsis or to some subset of Mason’s philosophy. It sits right in the middle of “A Liberal Education for All.”

III. Volume 6


Five years later, in October of 1921, Miss Mason finished An Essay Towards a Philosophy of Education; however, it wasn’t published until 1925, two years after her death (Coombs, 2015, p. xx). Miss Mason had two purposes for writing this volume:

  1. She wanted to help people understand how her many educational concepts from the earlier volumes relate to the 20 principles, almost like a concordance (Coombs, 2015, p. 243).
  1. She wanted to preserve the “Liberal Education for All” writings in a book and not just a pamphlet. It was that important to her.

Volume 6 can only be understood if we understand its structure and purpose.

Structure Old Material New Material
Introduction Part of her “Theory” paper How she developed her method
Book I The 1904 Synopsis (expanded from 18 to 20 principles) How it relates to her previously articulated ideas about education
Book II 1. The rest of her “Theory” paper – renamed “A Liberal Education for All in Elementary Schools”

2. “A Liberal Education for All in Continuation Schools”

3. “The Scope of Continuation Schools”

4. “The Basis of National Strength” – except for the seventh letter (“The Montessori System”)


An Interesting Note

At the end of the Contents section of volume 6, on p. xxii, there is a small note:

The first thing to note is that the Trustees had to reduce the size of the volume at the request of the publishers. The Trustees omitted:

(A) – Children’s examination answers and, (B) – Some discussions of the method by Educational Authorities and teachers. (Mason, 1989f, p. xxii)

Given that the publishers were concerned about the size, there was apparently no possibility of including the Drury paper, even though in The Parents’ Review it comprised one-half of the “Liberal Education for All” message. Presumably since it was not written by Mason, it was not included.

It is also interesting to note this statement:

The added chapters… as illustrating the history of the “Liberal Educational for All” movement… were first published as follows…

The Trustees were acknowledging the actual progression of the work, because historically The Basis of National Strength was published first, although it appears last in the sequence in volume 6.


The Introduction of volume 6 contains many sections found in Mason’s “Theory” paper, including the Lister quote. Miss Mason moved about half of the contents of the “Theory” paper to the Introduction. It also includes an account of how she developed her method. According to Margaret Coombs, this was the first time she explained these details:

Emphasising the mind’s hunger for knowledge and the sacredness of personality, Miss Mason revealed for the first time her life-changing engagement with the home education of Miss Brandreth’s insatiably curious young Anglo-Indian niece and nephews… (Coombs, 2015, p. 243)

In Book I Miss Mason, “finally linked the Synopsis points to her familiar educational themes, a considerable achievement” (Coombs, 2015, p. 243). It truly was a considerable achievement. Miss Mason had written to Ms. Franklin in 1911 about her intention to do this:

I have a notion that I shall write a paper on each point of the Synopsis —  but don’t hurry me… (Mason, 1911, p. 16)

This notion was clearly fulfilled by Part 1 of volume 6.

Book II consists of those four documents noted on pg. xxii of volume 6, but in a different order.

  • “Liberal Education in Elementary Schools” is actually the 1916 paper we discussed earlier – “Theory.” It was edited slightly, as a significant portion was moved to the Introduction, and it was reformatted, but the wording is almost identical.
  • “Liberal Education in Secondary Schools” was included next, followed by “The Scope of Continuation Schools.” These articles address issues specific to older children.
  • Book II was concluded by “The Basis of National Strength,” even though it was actually comprised of the six letters to The Times that led to all the other articles in Book II.

A Volume that Rests on the Shoulders of Giants

The “Liberal Education for All” movement had been underway for more than seven years when Miss Mason wrote Volume 6. It was not a new work for a new audience. It also wasn’t a revision of her previous thoughts. In fact, Volume 6 itself refers readers to the other volumes multiple times:

We want an education which shall nourish the mind while not neglecting either physical or vocational training; in short, we want a working philosophy of education. I think that we of the P.N.E.U. have arrived at such a body of theory, tested and corrected by some thirty years of successful practice with thousands of children. 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, — (Mason, 1989f, p. 6)

1 The Home Education Series. (Mason, 1989f, p. 22)

I have attempted to unfold (in various volumes1) a system of educational theory which seems to me able to meet any rational demand, even that severest criterion set up by Plato; it is able to “run the gauntlet of objections, and is ready to disprove them, not by appeals to opinion, but to absolute truth.” (Mason, 1989f, p. 27)

1 The Home Education Series. (Mason, 1989f, p. 32)

In fact, volume 6 points not only to the first five volumes, but even to the programmes themselves:

The Parents’ Union School, originally organised [1891] for the benefit of children educated at home, is worked by means of programmes followed by examination papers sent out term by term. When the same work, if not the whole of it, was taken up by Council Schools, [1913] the advantage of such an organisation was apparent, especially in that it afforded a common curriculum for children of all classes. By using this curriculum we were enabled to see that the slum child in a poor school compares quite favourably with the child of clever or opulent parents who had given heed to his education. (Mason, 1989f, p. 293)

Additionally, Essex Cholmondeley stated that after the “Theory” paper (included in volume 6) and the “Practice” paper were presented at the Bingley conference:

Teachers in other counties became interested and joined the movement. They read Miss Mason’s writings and studied her methods helped by the friendly visits of Miss Parish and Miss Wix… (Cholmondeley, 2000, p. 126)

Volume 6 was a commentary on and elucidation of the ideas expressed in Mason’s earlier volumes. It was neither a revision of, nor a replacement for, nor an alternate version of the previous five volumes.

I have proven that the PNEU’s goal from the beginning was to reach every child in England, the rich and the poor, in homes and in schools, and in every county. By the time volume 6 was published that goal had largely been accomplished. I have shown that volume 6 was written to the same audience as the other five volumes. Volume 6 complemented the content of the previous volumes and The Parents’ Review as shown by its references to the previous volumes and its structure and composition. And we know that Miss Mason believed that the material in The Parent’s Review would be remembered in the annals of history.

The volumes depend on each other to fully explain and illuminate those “germs of truth” contained in volume 1 – Home Education. When we begin with Home Education in our study of Miss Mason’s method, we are able to experience “the progressive amplification of the principles” as we continue through each book. Like any good series we can’t skip to the last book and expect to understand the depth and breadth of its meaning.  It would be like reading The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis before reading The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe. The reader would walk away with an incomplete picture of Miss Mason’s theory a half-filled toolbox of practices if she depended solely upon volume 6.

The recommended approach by all of us at Charlotte Mason Soirée is to begin at the beginning and travel the path with Miss Mason.

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. 

Editor’s note: The 2018-2020 Idyll Challenge will read the six volumes in numerical order.


Arnold, M. (1908). Reports on elementary schools. London: Wyman and Sons, Limited.

Cholmondeley, E. (2000). The story of Charlotte Mason. Petersfield: Child Light Ltd.

Cohen, S. (1974). The Montessori movement in England. In History of education, volume 3 (pp. 51-67). Abingdon: Routledge.

Coombs, M. (2015). Charlotte Mason: hidden heritage and educational influence. Cambridge: The Lutterworth Press.

Drury, A. (1916). A liberal education: No. 2 practice. In The Parents’ Review, volume 27 (pp. 661-680). London: Parents’ National Educational Union.

Faunce, L. (1913). How we teach citizenship. In The Parents’ Review (pp. 508-513). London: Parents’ National Educational Union.

Kitching, E. (1899). The history and aims of the P.N.E.U. In The Parents’ Review, volume 10 (pp. 411-434). London: Parents’ National Educational Union.

Kitching, E. (1923). The beginning of things. In In Memoriam (pp. 118-143). London: Parents’ National Educational Union.

Mason, C. (1890). A new educational departure. In The Parents’ Review, volume 1 (pp. 69-74). London: Parents’ National Educational Union.

Mason, C. (1892). The parents’ review school. In The Parents’ Review, volume 2 (pp. 308-317). London: Parents’ National Educational Union. (Original work published 1891)

Mason, C. (1893). P.N.E.U. philosophy. In The Parents’ Review, volume 3 (pp. 349-358). London: Parents’ National Educational Union. (Original work published 1892)

Mason, C. (1904). Wallet of copies (transcripts) of letters from Charlotte Mason (to Henrietta Franklin). Ancaster: Redeemer University College.

Mason, C. (1906a). Some suggestions for the school curriculum of girls and boys under 14. London: Parents’ National Educational Union.

Mason, C. (1906b). The following letter may make some points clearer. In The Parents’ Review, volume 17 (pp. 588-589). London: Parents’ National Educational Union.

Mason, C. (1906c). The Parents’ Union Curriculum. In The Parents’ Review, volume 17 (pp. 586-588). London: Parents’ National Educational Union.

Mason, C. (1911). Wallet of copies (transcripts) of letters from Charlotte Mason (to Henrietta Franklin). Ancaster: Redeemer University College.

Mason, C. (1912a). Foreword, February, 1890. In The Parents’ Review, volume 23 (pp. 1-2). London: Parents’ National Educational Union. (Original work published 1890)

Macon, C. (1912b). Three educational idylls. In The Parents’ Review, volume 23 (pp. 801-811). London: Parents’ National Educational Union.

Mason, C. (1913a). The basis of national strength. London: Parents’ National Educational Union.

Mason, C. (1913b). Books. In The Parents’ Review, volume 24 (pp. 157-158). London: Parents’ National Educational Union.

Mason, C. (1916). A liberal education: No. 1 theory. In The Parents’ Review, volume 27 (pp. 641-660). London: Parents’ National Educational Union.

Mason, C. (1989b). Parents and children. Quarryville: Charlotte Mason Research & Supply.

Mason, C. (1989d). Ourselves. Quarryville: Charlotte Mason Research & Supply.

Mason, C. (1989f). A philosophy of education. Quarryville: Charlotte Mason Research & Supply.

19 Replies to “The Truth About Volume 6”

  1. That was a wonderful article, Morgan! So well researched and presented in a way that had me sitting on the edge of my seat. Thank you so much for the (clearly extensive) time and effort you put in for the benefit of the rest of us.

    Recently, I again read the section entitled “Science” in School Education (vol. 3 pp. 236-238.) As I read those two pages, I marveled at the idea that I could literally talk for several hours on all that was said “between the lines”. Each sentence was a synopsis of what could actually be a complete web article! As I contemplated why Miss. Mason would be so terribly concise, I remembered that those two pages were not the first time she had covered this topic. In fact, in Home Education (vol 1,) she expounded on those ideas for 50 pages! It didn’t need saying all over again. But it does beg the question, what if a person doesn’t start with volume one? Science gets six pages in A Philosophy Of Education (vol. 6,) but even that includes an entire exam. Each of these is a super condensed list of her ideas. They are clearly not meant to inform. It shows, once again, the importance of reading Miss. Mason’s work in order.

    Thank you again, Morgan. Research like this takes time and effort, and even more time and effort to present clearly. I appreciate your contribution to this beautiful CM community!

    1. Thank you so much Nicole. I love your example of how the first volume lays a foundation for understanding the Science section in Vol 6. Thank you for sharing that here!

  2. Morgan! This is a wonderful, very informative post. Thank you for taking the time to write this for all of us and our continuing education! I am now off to read the “practices” paper by Drury.

    Blessings on you and your school,

  3. Thank you, Morgan! I am slowly learning Mason’s methods, even while I am in the last season of homeschooling my two sons. Your article is compelling, and answered a question that has been front and center in my mind. I learned so much!

    1. I am so glad that it was helpful to you. I am slowly learning right along with you! I love knowing I am on this journey with so many other mamas. Blessings to you!

  4. Thank you! This was fascinating to read. The Archives are such a gift, aren’t they! I’m off to spend a little time reading some of your links. Thank you for sharing the fruits of your research. I’m also thinking I need to return to Vol. 1 – I’ve revisited little pieces here and there, but I haven’t read the whole volume for several years.

    1. I could spend hours every day browsing the archives! It’s fantastic! Maybe you could lead some other mamas in a study of Volume 1? What a blessing that would be!

      1. I’m already leading a Vol. 2 study and a Vol. 6 study and participating in another Vol. 6 study… I think my study group plate is about full right now. ? But thanks for the encouragement! Perhaps when one of the Vol. 6 studies is over I’ll do that.

  5. What a wonderful, well written, and well researched article, Morgan! Thank you for all you put into your research to write such an informative article! I lead a CM book study as well as co-lead another one. Your article would have informed us better where to begin had we known all this a few years ago. I’m thankful to have the information and know which book to read next with our groups.

  6. Morgan, I want to know one thing more: do you sleep? When on earth did you have time to write such a phenomenal paper?? It sounds to me like CM was ahead of her time with her ideas about all of England’s children having the same education….would that our own Common Core be even half as worthy….

    1. Haha Jen! My house was a total disaster and the laundry was piled sky high during the writing of this article! But thank you for the compliment. I love that her methods were tested on home schools and public schools, the wealthy and the poor, those that were gifted and those that had some sort of special need. No wonder she wanted every child in England to have access to it!

  7. I learned so much from this. Thank you, thank you, thank you for the work you did on this and for sharing it here! Tremendous.

  8. This was extremely helpful, Morgan. I’m in a reading group just finishing up volume 6, and I’ve regularly had the question, what is it that I’m reading?? I was badly wanting the background as an aid to understanding where a particular section was going. Even though the article was long, it was easy to negotiate because your presentation was so logical. I also appreciated your focus: that of understanding how does volume 6 fit into the series. I now have a handle on the volumes and where they came from. You’ve given me my first larger understanding of not only the books, but of the various acronyms that I hear referenced, but had no picture of how they interfaced. (I’m not saying I haven’t been given this picture before – but this was my first time of putting the big picture together.) Thank you VERY much.

  9. Well! I found this doing research on Volume 6 because my local group is starting a study on it this week. And yes, we’re starting with vol. 6 per the recommendations I’d heard from others. 😛 Thank you so much for this history–I know it will help us to understand Vol. 6 better and will likely spur us on to read the volumes in order after this.

    Also, I’m in Arkansas, too. Would love to know more about your state-wide plans. 🙂

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