Saturday, January 3, 2015

Charlotte Mason Comes to America - by Karen Andreola

 Charlotte Mason Comes to America 
Our Story
Publishing The Original Homeschooling Series was our first contribution to the homeschooling movement. After a long run, our edition is now out-of-print. It's hard saying goodbye. Do you have a minute for me to share the story with you of its beginnings?  The photographs in this post were taken during our year of Christian literature missions with Operation Mobilization - based in Bromley, England.

Bromley, Kent - England - where we lived
A Light in The Dark
Once upon a time, British educator Miss Charlotte Mason (1842-1923) was not a household name with American home educators. That was about to change.

One of seven stores Dean was overseeing in the UK.- 1986-87

Karen on the balcony of the third floor flat on London Road
It was midnight. All was quiet. The room was dark. I was sitting in a little pool of light reading Home Education by Charlotte Mason. I had finally got hold of a rare copy by way of London's inter-library loan. Intrigued by what I had read that winter of 1986, in Susan Schaeffer Macaulay's book, For the Children's Sake, I longed to read more. My children were young. We were Americans living in the London suburbs far from the dawning homeschool movement back home.

Joy!  We moved to a semi-detached with back garden.
Tiny tots - Yolanda and Sophia
I longed for a copy of Home Education of my very own. Miss Mason's wisdom gave me the practical direction I craved. At first, I found my reading of it to be a little of an awkward experience (she wrote Home Education 100 years prior). Yet her words were welcoming, confidently authoritative, and assuring. This kept me reading. She made me want to step out and try what she so ardently advised. Thus began my husband's amazing quest.

Karen and Sophia summer 1986
In search of any and all books written by Miss Mason, Dean telephoned every used bookshop in Great Britain. To no avail. Next, Dean tracked down the last British publisher of Miss Mason's books and gave them a call. A salesman told him that they had just relegated a warehouse full of Miss Mason's hardcover books "to the bin" (a dumpster in this case) due to lack of sales. "If only you would've rung up two weeks ago. I could've sold 'im to you cheap. We've been sitting on 'im since the 1950's."

Just as Dean was about to give up, an elderly book shop owner told him, "Haven't seen any of Miss Mason's works for years . . . but have you tried the Charlotte Mason College?" A stunned silence followed. We were unaware that such a place existed.
A Lake District Village of gray stone and pink stucco
Crossing Paths
In the early spring of '87 Dean was away on business for the Christian literature mission he worked with. Travels north brought him near Scotland's boarder, and as Providence would have it, the Lake District of England; home of Beatrix Potter, William Wordsworth and . . . the Charlotte Mason College. After booking into a B&B in the quaint village of Ambleside, he stepped into the college library and asked the librarian to direct him to the works of Miss Charlotte Mason.

Dean en-route to Ambleside
"Oh, we don't keep them out here," the librarian said, waving a hand toward the shelves all around the room. "Not much interest these days. I'll get the set out of the vault if you care to sit with them for a bit." And sit Dean did . . . for the next several hours . . . wishing that I were beside him to enjoy the moment. He wasn't watching the clock. After closing his eyes and rubbing his forehead he got up and found the librarian again. He hazarded to ask if he could borrow the books. The librarian strictly informed him, "It's the only complete set we have, and they're not for loan." 

Having come so far Dean was not ready to call it quits. He said, "May I have a word with the college president, if he is available?"

"He sees no one without an appointment," came the reply.

"Tell him that I represent publishers in the USA who may wish to reprint these books and I would be delighted if the president would consider writing the forward."

The librarian dialed the president's office from a short-corded wall phone. With his back turned, he spoke in hushed tones. Dean waited, composed but a little anxious, straining his ears for what he hoped would be good news. He didn't wait long. Soon after he was met squarely with, "Dr. Thorley will see you in five minutes."

Dean spent the next hour with cheerful, gracious Dr. John Thorley, a Greek and Medieval history scholar, who exhibited a rare enthusiasm for educational reform. He was more than happy to give Dean a walking history of the school, a brief biographical sketch of Miss Mason, and finally to his delight, a package containing all six of Charlotte Mason's rare out-of-print books - on loan from the archives.

Lake Windermere - England
We Headed Home
Our mission term ended that spring. We headed home with one of the only complete sets of Miss Mason's books. It was nestled securely in a carry-on flight bag - not a suitcase. Dean would not entrust them to any airline baggage handlers. Back in the States Dean was in communication with Christian publishers to see who would take on the expensive and risky project of reprinting the entire six volumes in a box set. After months of rejections one publisher agreed. And in 1989 The Original Homeschooling Series was published by Tyndale House with Dr. Thorley's forward as promised. Tyndale House kept it in print a few years. After this we took on the printing - although the cover remained the same. Only in its latter years did we bother to make the change to our logo.

Lake District country side
To Learn it and Live It
Years of endeavoring to work out what I understood from my reading followed. In the 1990s we hosted a monthly CM home discussion group, edited and mailed out a quarterly CM magazine (Parents' Review),  and Mary Pride asked me to become a columnist for her Practical Homeschooling magazine - which enabled me to offer my personal interpretations of the CM method to her readers.
"She never quite leaves her children at home, even when she doesn't take them along." Margaret Culkin Banning
Hastings, England - Courtyard- a tired tourist
We were invited to speak at conferences. Although I practiced my speeches, a shy person addressing a large crowd is unmistakably challenged. Dean, however, is a natural at it.  Anyway, under the heading of "The Gentle Art of Learning," I think we were able, happily, to make Miss Mason's practical philosophy approachable to our eager listeners. During those few times a year that we flew out-of-state, leaving our children at home, I remember having to remind myself often that they were in good hands with a young couple from our church. And it helped to knit mittens on the airplane between short prayers. (Can you, too, relate to the above quote?)

In '97 I finished writing A Charlotte Mason Companion. A movement was emerging. Today by way of the Internet, many voices are spreading the message. It's marvelous. Miss Mason's simple, yet straightforward method is being employed with freedom and success in homeschools and a growing number of private schools. For those who have the courage to trust in the natural, God-given curiosity of their student - a burden is lifted. A new refreshing learning experience awaits all who follow what I call "The Gentle Art of Learning."

Charlotte Mason's ideas are being passed friend-to-friend, mother-to-daughter. I now hear, "My mom read your book." Miss Mason could not have known how her wisdom would be enthusiastically welcomed by tens of thousands of American families a century later. Thank you Susan Macaulay for introducing us to her. Thank you Dean for finding her writings and keeping them in print for more than twenty years. Thank you Mary Pride for inviting me to write in Practical Homeschooling back-in-the-day.
Swan Inn - Grasmere, England - of Wordsworth fame
Tea and Sympathy
My gratitude also goes out  to my blog readers who have shared their copy of A Charlotte Mason Companion or a book from The Original Homeschooling Series, hosted a discussion group, or have passed along Miss Mason's helpful ideas to a lonely, overwrought mom. Let's keep encouraging one another. Good ideas given in friendship go a long long way. Apstotle Paul tells us that what we do out of love abides. (1 Cor. 13:8,13). I have the gray hair to have lived long enough to witness this. 


Post Script
A few remaining sets of Original Homeschooling Series are on our shelves. The set is a rare facsimile of Miss Mason's books (a faithful word-for-word rendering - not retyped or edited) We also have individual copies of Home Education (Vol 1.) and copies of A Philosophy of Education (Vol  6.) The set is expensive. For information on purchasing email: karenjandreola@gmail.com

The new name of our company is Charlotte Mason Research (LLC). We shortened it.

Karen overlooking the back garden from the kitchen sink - in Bromley
Happy New Year,
Karen Andreola


29 comments:

  1. Karen and Dean, Thank you so much for bringing Charlotte Mason's teachings back. We have loved our homeschooling journey. (We're in our 24th year with one more to go.) Many overfull bookshelves of art, history, and nature books, and excellent novels attest that I have paid attention to much that you and Charlotte Mason taught. You have been great encouragers over the years. God bless you. I hope that you will have a wonderful year.

    Dianne L

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  2. Dear Karen,
    Thank you for sharing this story! I was sent my boxed set in 1993 when, alone in Minnesota without any guidance on homeschooling, I joined Conservative Book Club and they sent out the 6 volumes as a gift for joining! I have you to thank for introducing me to Charlotte Mason through the reprinting of her works. What a blessing your hard work has been to so many.
    Happy New Year,
    Nancy

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    1. It is good hearing about the connection my readers have with Miss Mason's writings.
      Thanks Ladies, Karen A.

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  3. Enjoyed reading this as well as the rest of your blog! It's been such a long time since I've last seen you! I hope that all is well with you and your family! Much love to you!

    Linda Murphy

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    1. Dear Linda, It has indeed been a long time. What a nice surprise. Since you moved I have no address for you, or email.
      Please keep in touch,
      Karen A.

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  4. Thank you for such an informative and interesting trip back in time to share with us, Karen - I enjoyed it so much.
    And I really loved seeing those photographs from your time in England.

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  5. I'm embarrassed to say, I had no idea that you were involved in reprinting the Original Series. However, after reading your post, I checked my copies and sure enough, they are indeed your reprints. Thank you so much for sharing your wisdom and vision.

    I'm excited to report, next Friday is the beginning of a new CM Book Club here in WI! We will be studying Charlotte's 20 principals using Vol 6 and For the Children's Sake. Your contribution to the CM community has made a huge impact.

    Many blessings to you....
    Melissa

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  6. Karen...this is such a neat story! I remember a bit of it from your book and yet the pictures and other tidbits bring it to life. A friend gifted me my set completely unused and I've sorta beaten it up. I'm trying to be more careful but it's hard!!! :) Thank you!!!!

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  7. And because of your hard work, so many have been blessed. I find myself amazed at the timeliness of Charlotte's wisdom for today each time I read and re-read the series. Thank you also for the Parent's Review. I received my first copy from you personally when you were at our then very small curriculum fair in Chattanooga. What a treasure! I quickly subscribed and then ordered all the back copies I had missed. It gave me a vision for stories and for the gentle art of learning, and for Mother Culture. I believed I joined the Conservative Book Club just to get a copy of the Series. 3 of our 4 children have graduated being taught largely with CM's philosophy. I am still so enjoying the journey with the youngest. Is there any chance of the Original Series being brought back into print?

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  8. I don't own Miss Mason's books, but I did buy yours in 1998 perhaps. It truly changed our homeschool and gave me confidence to educate my children. This year, I gave my only copy of your book - the one that had been my companion all these years to a young mom who planned to homeschool. I wanted her to be encouraged that she could do this with out it becoming overwhelming and burdensome.

    Thank you to you and Dean for all you've meant to many homeschooling families, Karen.

    Much affection
    Deanna

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  9. What fun to read this story! I have been just reading again your "Charlotte Mason Companion". I am so encouraged by that book and feel renewed in my homeschooling of my 4 children. I have been thinking how fun it would be to find some way to encourage other mother's to try out this "Gentle art of learning". I think it would relieve so much stress in so many homes. I have been thinking I should read Charlotte Mason's own books too.

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  10. What a fascinating story! Dean and you can be very, very proud of your achievements.
    Your "Charlotte Mason Companion" on my shelves has just gotten even more valuable whenever I look at it...

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    1. If I were to recommend any of Miss Mason's individual books it would be the one that the Parents National Education Union published after Miss Mason's death - "A Philosophy of Education." We have a good supply of these for sale. Yes, the books do get beaten' up. My first copy of Phil. of Ed. fell to pieces not long ago but I have heard that some readers had their local printer put their books onto a coil. I'd like to do this with my new copy.

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  11. Karen,
    It is lovely to read your story and see the photos you shared. I too have to thank you for bringing these books with you to the US. The words in them have brought new life to our home, and I am almost positive that I would have worn myself to a frazzle already in my 3 years of homeschool, if it were not for the 'gentle' part of this art of learning.
    Blessings,
    Bobby Jo

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    1. It's me again, Karen.

      I just wanted to let you know I mentioned you on my blog and added a link here.

      http://wheretheblacktopends.weebly.com/home/settling-in

      Bobby Jo

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  12. The families represented here owe much to your family's interest and perseverance. The Lord God has surely blessed my family through your efforts. I think the word gentle, from Your Gentle Art of Learning has meant the most to me over the years as I have sought to make our home and encourage our children to learn and grow. Gentleness is in such quiet contrast to the striving hurry that often characterizes our society.

    Happy New Year!
    Susan

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  13. We are in our 9th year of homeschooling now. I've employed Miss Mason's methods for much of our schooling. I was introduced to your books years ago and I am ever so glad you took the time to publish them. The Companion has been a homeschool bible of sorts for us. Thanks for all your hard work!

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  14. Thank you Karen for your contribution to the homeschooling movement! I am just beginning my journey of schooling my 3 1/2 and 1 1/2 year old children. I have read your Companion twice already in preparation and have the volume set, although it has been hard for me to sit down and read them during my short rest times. Do you recommend reading them in order? Or what would you recommend for a mom that is pressed for time?

    thank you!
    Mrs. Lind

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    1. Thank you for sending along your voices of appreciation. It is as good as today's sunshine.

      If you have small children I recommend starting with Miss Mason's Home Education. Little children in the house are high maintenance, I know. It is difficult to keep two consecutive thoughts in one's head when the needs of the children are always at hand. When you do have a moment leaf through the pages of a book, stopping at whatever sounds most interesting. My advice is to sip a paragraph like tea. It might be strange but I don't always read non-fiction from beginning to end. And reading over a passage again the following day can bring enlightenment - before continuing on to a new paragraph or new idea. You can, of course, go back and read from beginning to end at any time.

      As soon as my children were tucked into bed I'd put my tired feet up and read a little. I had the laundry folded and put away, the kitchen clean and tidy, the floor clear of the obstruction of toys, etc., before I settled the children to bed so that I needn't be doing housework in the evenings. Dean also read aloud to the children at bedtime. I think the evening is best set aside for unwinding, for reading, husband-wife time, etc. But if you have a 15-20 minuted screen-free quiet time during the middle of the day (nap time) this allows you to unwind. When you are calm and composed (perhaps after a some soothing needlework) then look at a page or two (or a paragraph). Just one paragraph can carry needed inspiration into your life. I read the Bible this way, too, sometimes. A busy mom can keep the Bible open on a dresser and catch of glimpse of it at different times of the day. A few ideas "to grow by" can go a long way if we ponder them in odd moments.

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  15. Thank you, Karen and Dean, for opening the door into this large room for my family and so many other families. Your work has blessed countless children and parents alike!

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  16. Good afternoon Karen! It was so lovely to read the entire story of how you came to republish the series. I had only heard bits and pieces of the whole story. :-)

    I am so thankful for all your ministry to us cm homeschool mommas!

    I hope that you are having a blessed day!

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  17. I am so old school that I cannot convince blogger to post my comment and that I all think of the original series as "finally" back in print.... How can it be out of print already?! Thank you, again, Dean and Karen. I never expected when I became a homeschool mom 13 years ago that after 10 years I would be homeschooling as a single mom. I have needed the art of learning to be "gentle. " You have my thanks and admiration! Now I hope this works...

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  18. I so enjoyed this post, particularly the photos! And you probably never thought you'd be sharing them with so many other home-teaching mothers! Thank you for sharing your experiences with us, Karen, and thank you, Dean and Karen, for bringing Charlotte Mason to America and to our own little family! I have read (and reread) both your Companion, as well as Pocketful of Pinecones and Lessons at Blackberry Inn. I admire all the moms who have read Charlotte so widely! I am reading her work VERY slowly. It is why I am so grateful to you and others who have made her writing and learning lifestyle so accessible. Thank you, dear Karen! Claudia

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  19. Karen, Thanks for this story about how the Original Homeschooling Series came back into print. What an adventure! I own one of the sets you published--it looks just like that next-to-last photo in your post, except that the paper cover that held the books together has long since disintegrated. Charlotte Mason has deeply influenced how I educate my children and live my life, and I'm so grateful to you and your husband for making her work available, so that I could learn from her wisdom. Blessings on you both!

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  20. Karen, I decided today to post on my blog about receiving my CM books and CD from you. I just couldn't find the right words to say what was in my heart, but I decided to go ahead and post it. I want to thank you again for your inspiration, encouragement and kindness. I pray the Lord will bless you. Donna

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  21. What a beautiful story. Without your perseverance and Dean's, we wouldn't have Charlotte Mason's knowledge to glean from. As I sit here reading I was sad because I didn't get to use Charlotte's ways because my husband had different ideas of education even though we home school he is very much "traditional". But, it dawned on me that reading your books and Mrs. Macaulay's book helped me believe that with God's help I could home school my children. You, along with other's that followed you, made it possible for this low confidence, high school graduate mother, know that I could do this. I wrote to you and you sent me a letter of encouragement to me and I thank you for that and will always remember.
    Jessica

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  22. This is so wonderful! I just Google searched "Charlotte Mason Mary Pride" and found your blog post because my mom bought the set after reading Mary Pride's magazine and hearing her speak at a homeschool convention in the early '90s! I started reading my mom's copy of Volume 1 in 2015 and I am currently reading through Volume 6 and Volume 3! Thank you for sharing your story! And continue to be encouraged that the movement is going strong! We started a CM group in 2015 with 3 people and it has grown to over 100 interested local moms in our FB group and an average of 20 moms present each month at our book study! Blessings to you!!! I also think it is such a small world that my homeschooling journey started with my mom educating us in Michigan and now I am educating my children just south of Franklin, TN where you wrote your introduction in Vol. 1!

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    1. I am encouraged by your comment here, RaeAnna. Wow, how wonderful to have 20 interested mothers attend your book-study. You must have a generous spirit to be hospitably helping these eager-to-learn mothers. Your mother's faithfulness, her labor of love, has left a lasting impression on you. And what you are learning from Charlotte Mason's writings is top-notch, and so good for your families. I'm still uncovering gems from her books. She gives us so much to think about.

      I first met Mary Pride when she spoke in Nashville, TN. She helped spread the word about Charlotte Mason when she asked me to be a columnist.

      Thank you for your contribution to the home school movement, RaeAnna. What you are doing is no small thing. America's public schools are in a shambles, morally. Teachers (now retired) write me secretly to tell me what is going on and urge me to sound the alarm.

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  23. Yes, I taught from 2002-2011 in Williamson County Schools and although they have a wonderful reputation, the calling to homeschool my children (age 8 and 5) is something I have known that I would always follow. They are entrusted to me and I will do my best to give them my best and use "a Thinking Love" to raise them right just as my parents raised me! ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

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