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