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Magazines as Continuing Education

July 30, 2014 by Brandy Vencel

When we think of Charlotte Mason, the word magazine isn’t the first to come to mind, is it? We usually think of the thousands of pages we find in her volumes. If Miss Mason was anything, it was a prolific writer. Of course, if we read those volumes carefully, we come to realize that some of them are compilations of articles published elsewhere. I don’t know about you, but it took me years to make the mental connection between that fact, and the wealth of wisdom found in the online collection of the Parents’ Review magazine.

So let’s discuss a little history.


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Charlotte Mason helped found an organization called the Parents’ National Education Union, often abbreviated as PNEU. The PNEU existed to promote Miss Mason’s philosophy {(i.e., the principles we find delineated at the beginning of each of Mason’s volumes), educating parents who in turn directed their own children’s education. Some PNEU children were homeschooled, while others went to PNEU schools, and they all benefited from Charlotte Mason’s wonderful curriculum, which was an expression of the philosophy upon which the PNEU was founded.

The PNEU was a very decentralized organization. Each meeting place was its own little club, and each little club was tied to the others by shared principles, rather than shared government. In The Story of Charlotte Mason, Essex Cholmondeley tells us:

Each branch was left free to organize itself and to make its own by-laws; each sent a yearly report on its activities to the central council.

‘A broad unifying base of thought’ supported the whole union. (p. 42)

The Parents’ Review 

A magazine called the Parents’ Review (many of the old volumes can be found and perused for free, complements of AmblesideOnline and our many volunteers) was created as the “inspiring organ” for the PNEU, which was in its infancy at the time. According to Miss Mason herself, it was feared that without something like the Parents’ Review to ground the PNEU, the whole thing could potentially become

a mere tool to the hand of every educational faddist who had a theory to advance. Now the PNEU owes its vitality to the fact that it is a propagandist society, existing to disseminate certain educational principles. Such a society must obviously have the means of communicating month by month with its scattered members, must guide the progress of the movement towards the end in view. (p. 27)

The Parents’ Review was supposed to:

  • “Raise common thought on the subject of education to the level of scientific research.”
  • Give parents some basic principles that would help them form their children’s characters.
  • 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.”

Essentially, the Parents’ Review was a partner with the parents as they grew in their understanding, as they became better equipped to direct their own children’s educations.

L’Umile Pianta

Another (lesser-known) publication associated with Charlotte Mason’s name is L’Umile Pianta. This was created by the students who graduated from the teacher’s college at Ambleside. It was essentially the alumni magazine. Within its pages, the graduates talked with each other, encouraged each other, and furthered their own intellectual lives. Not only did former students furnish articles, but members of the Ambleside staff, as well as Miss Mason herself, also wrote for its pages.

In fact, it was an article from L’Umile Pianta, written by Miss Mason herself, which originally inspired this entire series.

Many Avenues to Intellectual Growth

My point in this series has been to explore all the ways in which Miss Mason and her associates nurtured their own intellectual lives. These two magazines were one of those many ways. We see that whether one was a parent, or a student, one was regularly reminded of the basic principles, as well as new and living thought.

I’m going to go into this more in future posts, but for now I think that if we’re trying to apply this to today, we could include blogs along with magazines. Not all blogs, of course, but certain ones would fall into this category, I think.

Next time, we’ll talk about PNEU meetings.

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4 Comments

  • Reply Thoughtworthy (Tech Tips and MORE Edition) | Afterthoughts February 12, 2019 at 4:53 pm

    […] Click here to listen, but it’s better to subscribe in your favorite podcast player. If you ever have trouble finding the show in a player, let me know and I’ll see what I can do. […]

  • Reply Local Group Meetings and Conferences for Continuing Education | Afterthoughts January 18, 2019 at 5:00 pm

    […] time, we talked about magazines as continuing education. Books are huge, of course, but Miss Mason’s parents and teachers also received training via […]

  • Reply Nikki March 22, 2018 at 3:30 pm

    I heard you speak this past weekend and was inspired in ways I did not even know were in great need. Thank you!

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