Thursday, April 24, 2014

Do Your Books Bring Forth a Moral Stir?

Do Your Books Bring Forth a Moral Stir? 

     May this post be helpful to you as you gather resources for next school year or consider what to read in the coming months of Mother Culture. 

      I photographed our daffodils. Dean took the other photographs during our recent commute to Philadelphia. In general I find the city – well - ugly. But once-in-a-while the eye rests on something handsome. Standing outside the main entrance to the hospital this is what we see on Broad Street - with a statue of William Penn at the top. If I hadn’t home taught my children with biographies and lively picture books, this Quaker wouldn’t mean much to me. Yet, my heart is stirred each time I see it.

Character, like a good pot of soup, is best made at home. 

     In today’s schoolbooks the high ideals of moral and religious motivation do not make a positive contribution - if any. We might say, then, that the moral stir is lost. Many of us were drawn to home teach because we wanted to include the high ideals of moral and religious motivation. Ah, read a well-written biography – even a children’s picture-book-biography – (written fifty years ago or so) and the truth comes out. Patriotic people were patriotic because they valued religious freedom, justice, and free enterprise. While the textbook is shallow, the biography tells the story - with the nitty-gritty details that the story deserves. The heart is stirred. 

‘Girls,’ said Meg seriously, looking from the tumbled head beside her to the two little night-capped ones in the room beyond, ‘mother wants us to read and love and mind these books, and we must begin at once. We used to be faithful about it; but since father went away, and all this war trouble unsettled us, we have neglected many things. You can do as you please; but I shall keep my book on the table here, and read a little every morning as soon as I wake, for I know it will do me good, and help me through the day.’    Little Woman, Chapter Two

Books should to one of these fours ends conduce,
For wisdom, piety, delight, or use. - John Denham 

The Joy of Reading

     I’ll never forget meeting a certain young couple at a home school conference where Dean and I spoke ten years ago. Their faces were radiant. They stood behind a baby stroller beaming as they said hello. The husband stepped up to Dean and admitted that he never liked reading. He found it amusing to learn in Dean’s talk, that we were both in the slow-reader’s circle, in grammar schools (six miles apart) where Dick and Jane had to “see Spot run” mechanically over and over again.

     Anyway, this young dad told us that he managed to get good grades in school in spite of his dislike for reading. But something wonderful happened. After he graduated from all his years of schooling and the textbooks were closed, he was drawn to open a book. For the first time in his life he started reading. What I gathered from his bright countenance was that in his reading – outside of the confines of the dry and amoral textbook - his imagination was warmed, his heart stirred, his mind enlightened - by inspiring ideas.

     His shy wife nodded with her smile as if she remembered the very moment her husband became a reader. Feeling talkative the husband went on to tell us that when they began home teaching, a whole world opened up to their family – the delightful world of children’s books. Entering this world gave them confidence that their children would indeed benefit by their home teaching. Why? They were anticipating all that they would learn together – real knowledge – from real books of various kinds, where the truth is not tied and gagged, water-down or condensed into a compendium.

     It’s been noted that very little actual reading takes place in classrooms. Shouldn’t this seem odd? It certainly seemed odd to Miss Charlotte Mason over one hundred years ago. To her, the lack of good books – and the reading of them in a child’s education - was a great educational negligence, a pity. Reading is a big part Charlotte Mason’s method. A student deals directly with the mind of authors. Classroom lectures are trimmed in size considerably. A teacher may introduce, make emphasis, review, but for the most part, her students derive pleasure from hearing the teacher read aloud or from their silent reading. Reading goes hand in hand with narration (telling). Walking this pathway, at whatever natural stride taken, the child becomes a reader and a thinker. And with narration he learns, too, how to express himself. 

     Meg’s “I know it will do me good” is a clue of the moral stir. A portion of piety does indeed “help me through the day.” Miss Charlotte Mason points out:

“ ‘Lives of great men all remind us we can make our lives sublime,’ and the study of the lives of great men and of the great moments in the lives of smaller men is most wonderfully inspiring to children, especially when they perceive the strenuousness of the childhood out of which a noble manhood has evolved itself. . . .The Bible is, of course, a storehouse of most inspiring biographies. . .” *1

     We can pull up a chair and sit beside someone grand on the pages of a biography. During high school, a biography is especially advantageous. Young people coming-of-age are polishing up their personality. Dotting the years of school from the youngest to the eldest, some direct ethical teaching is needed, also, to identify and discern virtue, vice, and worldviews.

     Charlotte Mason says,

A certain rough-and-ready kind of morality . . . does come by heredity and environment; but that most delicate and beautiful of human possessions, an educated conscience, comes only by teaching with authority and adorning by example. *2

     Miss Mason recommends the “Ten Commandments and our Lord’s exposition of the moral law.” These were once featured in every schoolbook in America – yet are tossed aside today for being a religious imposition or as trite a thing as an embarrassing old-fashioned eccentricity. For the Christian, however, they are a lamp unto his feet.

     The first part of the Ten are our duty (what is due) to God and the second part of the Ten is our duty to man.

Verses for memory in The New England Primer, 1810.

The Sum of the Ten Commandments.

With all thy soul love God above,
And as thyself thy neighbour love.

Our Saviour’s Golden Rule.

Be you to others kind and true,
As you’d have others be to you.
And neither do nor lay to men,
Whate’er you would not take again. *3

Sadly, a great many students are unfamiliar with the aims of these today.       

The Poets Back Us Up

     The poets come to our aid in upholding virtues. Reading the Victorian verse familiar to Miss Mason, we are met with the moral stir. These poets, she says, “add love to law and devotion to duty.” A convenient resource for high school (or Mother Culture) is 101 Famous Poems by Roy J. Cook.

On the Roadside

     On a beautiful spring day last week, returning home from Philadelphia, Dean and I stopped at an historical house on the roadside. It was a bit of a thrill to learn that here General George Washington stayed during the battle of Brandywine. He made this house his headquarters in 1777.

     Its doors were not open for tours but peeking in the windows we saw that it is furnished for the period – right down to a rag doll on a small bed in the corner of the kitchen. (My imagination wandered back-in-time on this set-up).

      The grass is slightly worn around its four walls. It is evident that other admirers had peered inside its wavy glass as we had tried to do. I peeked into whichever window I could reach on tip-toe.

     Moseying along the worn grass to the next window I thought, “Would the average textbook evoke enough interest to create “admirers” - and so induce them to veer off the beaten path to walk along this one?

      Or had the admirers come because they were acquainted with the life and character of George Washington through his story?


     At a hazy distance the remarkable men and women in history books may seem as unreal as fairy tale characters. In a biography, however, the brave, the clever and the faithful, seem more like real people - like us. And we are more inclined to want to be, in some ways, like them.

Wishing to Make Your Visits Here Worthwhile,
Karen Andreola

Post Script 
Thank you for your order of Parents' Review and the Mother Culture CD. 

End Notes
*1  Charlotte Mason, School Education, pg 133 The word “evolved” here means “slow, gradual change” and is not in reference to Darwin’s theory.
*2  Ibid, pg 129 
*3  Clifton Johnson, Old-Time Schools and School-books, Dover, 1963, pg 92

Further Reading
School Education, Chap 12 “Some Unconsidered Asprects of Moral Training”
A Charlotte Mason Companion, Chap 24 “Hero-Admiration as a Factor in Education.”

To enliven the subject of science with biography, visit my post: “Charlotte Mason and the Scientific Spirit.”

Monday, April 7, 2014

Parents' Review Magazine - My Story

A Homespun Magazine for Home Training and Culture
My Parents’ Review Story
     I’ve been happy to answer questions that enter my email. The questions are varied. But if I had to pick a frequently asked question, it would this: Where do I find your Parents’ Review magazine - published 1991-96? Remarkable. Therefore, it is about time the editor shared her story.

The Parents' Review

  “What’s this?” I exclaimed with hands-on-hips. I was thinking out loud. My little girls were playing nearby. Overseas Federal Express dropped a pile of old whiskey boxes at the backdoor. One ragged box had a hole. Through the torn cardboard I could see that the boxes were heavily laden with hardcover books. I read the bill. It was 600 dollars. Perturbed, I telephoned my husband Dean at the office.
     “Is everything alright?” he asked.
     “No,” I said.
     “What’s wrong?”
     I told him what sat at the backdoor. I hoped the Tennessee clouds wouldn’t send their usual downpour of spring rain. Expecting a baby any week I couldn’t carry the boxes indoors.   
     After a brief pause to collect his thoughts Dean said, “I distinctly remember asking the librarian at the archive for a few of the earliest years of Parents’ Review. That’s all. Just a couple sample years, when Charlotte Mason was the editor. And to send them surface. I never thought the librarian would send them all. And at such an expensive rate as Fed-EX air.”
     “The bill is almost one month’s rent,” I said, with a flair for stating the obvious, and with more than a hint of stress in my voice.
     He took a breath. “There must’ve been a misunderstanding.” 
     “Yes. Well. If you ask me, your English and the librarian’s English are two different languages.”
     He laughed.

     It was 1989. We were tightly getting by on one income. We had one car that Dean drove into the city of Nashville daily. I was sort-of marooned in the ranch house we rented. It was in the woods. No one apparently wanted to buy it. We were told it was for sale for a long time - possibly because the house was half garage. The garage was huge. The kitchen was tiny and dark with dingy brown wallpaper. Most of the rooms had solid paned windows that didn’t open. The long driveway, as steep as a roller coaster rail, dipped down at the creek, then up just as steeply to the street.

The Parents' Review

     But there were things we liked about the place. The trees gave us shade. The weedy areas had stick-bugs and wildflowers. The sandy creek had crayfish and turtle hatchlings to observe. Our sparsely furnished family room offered the children room enough to play and one sunny window - a sliding glass door.  Although furniture was sparse we were surrounded by an abundance of books, art supplies, dolls, blocks, wooden puzzles, and audio cassettes. And there was always the odd cardboard box awaiting discarding.   

     Dean cringed at the state of the wobbly whiskey boxes when he saw them. The hardcover bound volumes looked to be loosely thrown in. They could easily have been lost in shipping. Dean paid the bill. He set up a bookshelf. And I carefully checked each volume to make sure all the years were accounted for. It took the space of four or five sets of encyclopedias. “How on earth will I ever find time to read all these?” I thought.
    Heavy-with-unborn-baby I put my feet up on the sofa each afternoon. While the girls were occupied – I would reach for a copy of Parents’ Review and hold its small print before my eyes for ten minutes. I already had a stack of books by the bedside such as Miss Charlotte Mason’s 6-volume-set that we had brought back to America. It was forming a rather long queue.
     I scanned the pages of Parents’ Review, stopping at what caught my eye. Never had I read articles so unusual, so meaty, so British. I sipped the paragraphs like tea. It gave me something to think about while standing in front of the kitchen sink full of soapy dishes or baskets of clean laundry overturned on the bed. Sometimes ideas rolled over in my mind while the girls were in the bathtub. “Education is an awesome undertaking” was my overall impression. But there was something so invigorating and curiously inviting about the high ideals. 

The Parents' Review

The Parents' Review    

     When tackling anything high or big it is best to just get on with it, bit by bit. So I started plodding. As the saying goes: Inch by inch it’s a cinch, mile by mile, it’s a trial. Here and there I would experience a sense of fulfillment. It told me, that’s enough. Stop reading. It’s time to put these appealing ideas into practice – somehow - even by trial and error. It didn’t matter that I felt an awkward lack of confidence. (This was to be expected. After all, I hadn’t received an education like it myself.) The attractiveness of the ideals drew me forward. And I knew that anything really worth doing is worth doing not-so-very-well, at least at the start. 

     I mulled over that irksome Fed-Ex bill. Women tend to brood and plan. And I’m one of them. After praying about the situation I came up with a suggestion. Perhaps I could re-coop our outlay by photocopying choice articles and offering them for sale to anyone interested.

Baby crawled into Daddy's brief case.

     With this aim in mind, and with the girls and the baby tucked into bed for the night, and Dean out-of-state on business (two weeks out of the month) I sifted. I book-marked. I scribbled notes. The articles stimulated my mind in many directions. This is precisely what its editor, Miss Charlotte Mason, originally meant them to do. It was a sort of blessed enlightenment. By 1991 I had selected a variety of topics for the first issue of my own magazine. Would my fellow home teacher find them to be of mutual encouragement?  She did. She was hungry for inspiring ideas.  

     On the cover of PR I placed this phrase:

“May its pages supply your educational endeavors with fresh ideas, a touch of culture, old-fashioned wisdom, and introductions to enduring works and lives of great people.”

     I embellished my magazine with antique black & white book illustrations and related research. As insights unfolded from what I was learning from Miss Mason’s books, unknown to me, I was laying the groundwork for the chapters of A Charlotte Mason Companion and for spreading ideas far and wide. Today it is amazing to see the fruition of seeds sown in the 1990s.

The Parents' Review
I invited my readers to send, on postcard, a drawing of a bird observed. 

     Cut & paste was the way to do a homespun magazine on the kitchen table then. It was the early days of the home-learning-boom. Reading material for home teachers was scarce. Consequently, friends told friends about Parents’ Review. In couple of years I had hundreds of subscribers who were looking to give their family a Charlotte Mason Education.

Nature Notebooks at Longwood Gardens - Karen in a Laura Ashley jumpsuit.


     We recouped the Fed-Ex charges after several years of work. Eventually, we mailed the volumes back to the British library surface rate, wrapped snug and secure for travel. I remember standing in our dinning room, in Maryland, finding myself giving every volume, one by one, a tender pat-of-the-hand in farewell, as I fitted it into its box. I had grown rather attached to them.  

      As editor of Parents’s Review (1991-1996) I answered hundreds of paper letters from America and some from overseas. (Some I still save in an ornate hatbox.) During those years my husband, Dean, changed jobs three times. Our family made seven household moves. But never was there any feeling of hurry to contend with. The quarterly schedule was a nice pace. 

Nigel - Junior Salesman (Moving from Maryland to Maine).

     When we lived in Oregon, Sue, a fellow home educating mother, told me that her husband knew computer layout and could “make” the magazine for us. Wonderful news. No more cut & paste (1994-96). These issues that were on disk were lost. We have wondered what to do with the paper masters of our six years of back issues. PDF is hard to read and with most of the issues at 40 pages, the file would be enormous. So we’ve kept them in their original state. And although the cost of printing since the 90's has increased more than tenfold, we’ve kept the cost of each issue the same for our new readers.

     Apart from the odd book review the pages of Parents’ Review are advertisement-free. Friends still tell friends. Curious moms find us. Therefore, those six years of Parents’ Review have never gone out-of-print. Here is a photograph of the oak bookcase built into our office/family room in Maine. We’ve since downsized our library but appreciated, then, having such an expansive accommodating arrangement. You can see Parents’ Review stacked horizontally at the left. Apparently, there are some people who still like to recline peacefully with paper in hand. I do. 

     If you are curious to know the titles of the articles in PR and prices, click below. Or go to "Products" on this blog. It is also on the new website that my son designed for me  

Thanks for allowing me to share my story in words and pictures.
Karen Andreola     

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Home Sweet Home

Home Sweet Home

     Before leaving for Philadelphia I started an article. It is in the polishing stage - to be posted soon. Since my longstanding readers might like a report of our Philadelphia experience I am posting this chatty piece first.

     Many thanks to those who said a prayer.  The emails and caring cards sent across the miles, were appreciated. I was touched to tears. What sympathetic readers I have. It is delightful to be home.

     I am sad to say that Nigel’s two-weeks of medical treatments in Philadelphia were unsuccessful. Dean and I sank under the disappointment initially. But we trust God for His ongoing blessings of life and love. Nigel has his low moments but generally he is looking forward to freelance work and has accepted having to write his own instruction manual (figuratively) for living with RSD by holistic means.  
     Through the long winter Nigel put his talent and skill to work by building us a new website. He is eager to finish it. You might be startled when you see how gorgeous the graphics are. What’s the hold-up? It needs more text. He is waiting on me.
     I am reading aloud, Miss Buncle’s Book by D. E. Stevenson, from my kindle. It came highly recommended. It makes us chuckle. Nigel has read - and listened on-line - to stories by P. G. Wodehouse. To be nice to his mother he says that in comparison, Miss Buncle’s Book is almost as funny. (It has a sobering side, too.)   

Charming set of old row houses at the foot of the hotel

     Each day, while Dean wheeled Nigel from the hotel along the city sidewalks to Drexel’s out-patient infusion suite - and back again - I was across the street - in the hospital. Those twelve days were indeed trying. But I kept an upward gaze. Aside from Small Fiber Neuropathy I was given an additional diagnosis of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome from a top-doc, the Professor of Neurology at Drexel. The results of this series of treatments (unique to him) are pending my next month of out-patient treatments. I am a sort-of experiment.
     Dean, Nigel, and our married daughter Yolanda (who came to help) stayed at the Hampton Inn. The photograph (below) was taken from their hotel-room-window. Hahnemann Hospital is a few blocks away. I was on the 14th floor. If I stood at the window in the hallway gazing at the busy city I could see their hotel-room-window.

As well as overseeing Nigel, Dean managed to visit me every day. Yolanda visited, too. One afternoon before Dean departed, he got an idea. “Let’s shine our flashlights at our windows at nine o’clock on the dot - as a final good night.” It worked. In the dark of the night I could see his little circle of light shinning clearly in his hotel window. He could see mine. My nurse smiled and thought this was cute. To me it was an inner comfort.

     How relaxing it is to be sitting in my sunny parlor again. It is necessary for women to find some way of counter-acting stress in their lives, especially when pain becomes a growing problem. Too often we shrug off, in disbelieve, the power that twenty minutes of calm can have in enabling us to unwind. Stitching a flower in four different reds was my chosen way to unwind from the stress of those two weeks in Philadelphia. At home in my parlor I re-entered the soothing, artistic world of sampler making. A rabbit with a nasturtium in its mouth and a fat bird perched on a branch, were stitched during subsequent sittings.

      This is a “make-do” sampler. I am only using threads leftover from other projects.
“Gold” Sophia decided, is the house color. The royal crown above the roof symbolizes
a Christian household where the family members seek to serve the Lord.  


     Commuting into Philadelphia is a daylong venture. The treatments make me weak and wobbly afterwards. The traffic makes the driver tired. Dean is an attentive husband and father. Recently, I dug out a picture of Daddy – complete with mustache and goatee – drawn during our daughter’s early childhood. He hasn’t changed much in twenty-five years. But I do think he now has a smaller head. 

Happy to be blogging again,
Karen Andreola