Last time, we talked about magazines as continuing education. Books are huge, of course, but Miss Mason’s parents and teachers also received training via magazines, and so can we.
Now we’re turning our attention to two other components: local group meetings and conferences.
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Local Group Meetings
I explained before that the Parents’ Review magazine was the publishing arm of the PNEU. The PNEU was the organization that helped promote Charlotte Mason’s philosophy initially, and later played a huge part in the Liberal Education for All movement.
One regular feature in Parents’ Review was called PNEU Notes. In it, we get a glimpse of what these local groups were up to. One thing that becomes evident very quickly when we read through these is that they met regularly (probably about once per month), and the meetings included lectures and addresses. We see a huge variety of topics — everything from physical education and health, books for children, habit formation, teaching chronology, and on and on. One thing is certain: people who attended these meetings left knowing more than when they arrived!
Some of the best articles appearing in Parents’ Review are actually transcripts of these very lectures.
Parents who were teaching their children at home, or directing their governesses to give their children a Charlotte Mason education (which they called a PNEU education), were attending these meetings and growing their knowledge base every single month. This was lifestyle of learning and intellectual fellowship with others.
Did you know that the PNEU also hosted an annual conference? Miss Mason was usually there. We know this because in 1901, she was unable to attend due to illness, and wrote a letter of regret to Lady Aberdeen (Lord and Lady Aberdeen presided over the conference that year). These conferences apparently lasted a number of days. I say this because the 1899 conference was four days long and the 1901 conference was as well. They were quite large, with a reported (in 1897 — the very first conference) 150 people attending Miss Mason’s afternoon lecture and 300-400 attending the evening Conversazione.
Here are a few notes on the content of the conference, which I pulled from my reading in the Parents’ Review:
- Miss Mason’s work was presented. Some of these presentations were, I believe, later incorporated into her volumes.
- Lecture on Hero-Worship as a Factor in Education. How I wish I could have been there for that one! Thankfully, the talk was later printed in the Parents’ Review!
- The work of the PNEU was defended.
- Discussion on concrete problems. Real questions were asked and their answers discussed. Examples are how to encourage truth-telling, how to teach children to handle money, how to guide the reading habits of children, etc.
- Lessons were given by graduates from the House of Education. This wasn’t really explained, but my guess is that they were example lessons.
- Talks to nurses. This was advice to attendees who were working in the nursery with very young children. My guess is that this is sort of thing that was said.
- There was a Garden Party. Time was definitely set aside for the social aspect of such a conference.
- Lecture on using a wide curriculum. This was later printed in the Parents’ Review.
- Lecture on the use of books in teaching history. This one, sadly, doesn’t seem to have been printed.
- The Mother’s Education Course was promoted.
- Much of the work of the college at Ambleside was explained.
- Discussion on implementing the “I am, I can, I ought, I will” motto.
In all, the conference was both practical and principal-based. It sounds like it was truly amazing.
The End of our History Lessons
Through all of this series, I’ve tried to focus on giving a sort of history lesson — what happened with Charlotte Mason and the PNEU and the college graduates and the mothers involved and so on and so forth. I was trying not to spend much time on my own opinions or observations.
From this point on, though, we’re going to turn our attention to what I think are the huge possibilities for us in light of all of this information.
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