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     


  1. WOW. What a TREASURE trove!!! Thanks for sharing this interesting!! I save handwritten letters also...tie them up with ribbon...

  2. Your pictures are so precious! Your Laura Ashley outfit is fabulous! I do not have any volumes of these but have (and adore) all of your books then I need to look.

  3. Karen! I had no idea that the PR was still available! I'd love something like this! I like real learning ideas!

    When you get a chance I'd love to see what you have and the prices!


  4. I am in agreement with Mrs. Rabe!! I, too, would love to know prices and the selection still available. I thought these were gone forever!! What a treasure!!!


  5. Ah, yes, Karen! I have been looking at these on and off for a few years at your site. I am very interested in what you have and the prices. Thank you for sharing your history with your special sense of humor. You made me smile.

    Angela D.

  6. Karen,those issues of Parent's Review were such a breath of fresh ideas.I eagerly awaited as each new issue came out,slowly trying out Charlotte Mason's ideas in my home.I still peruse these issues,(as well as your lovely Companion book ) for inspiration and encouragement!Thank-you for bringing a Charlotte Mason eduction to the homeschooling community.Kathy S Canada

  7. Hello Karen, this is my second year of homeschooling my son Maxwell. I have found your blog and books a true joy. I would like more information on the Parents' Review.

  8. Oh, oh, oh! I've seen mention of these old copies and had no idea they were still available. Yes, please share the info on costs - wow, would love to read them. Interesting, how these old books and papers share so much valuable, time-tested info. I can almost smell the old papers, tucked away in a library somewhere. And scary how the on-disc, on-computer info can be lost. I am an old-fashioned need it in paper person, I'm afraid. Loved this portrait of your family's history and your learning process.

  9. I'd love to see what issues are available to order, too. Thank you! - Karis

  10. Karen,
    This is so funny. I just stopped by your beautiful blog with the intent of asking you how I might obtain issues of PR.
    I would be happy to purchase copies..

  11. Wow! What a great story about following your passion to create a life's work. I was one of those early subscribers. Thanks so much for making a difference. I was delighted to find this blog entry today.

  12. "Fresh ideas, a touch of culture, old-fashioned wisdom, and introductions to enduring works and lives of great people."



  13. Wonderful magazines!! I thoroughly enjoyed them! Glad to see they are still available. :-)

  14. I skimmed this at first and then came back today (with a little more computer time available) to really read.

    I knew about PR but never read them, they look wonderful. If I had them, they would be very dogeared. I did, however, read your books and loved them very much.

    Between your books and Susan Schaeffer Macaulay's books, I knew CM was the best way for me to homeschool my son. I also went back to them to re-read after a difficult day. :)

  15. Karen, I enjoyed reading the story behind PR. I enjoy my copies and love reading them seasonally. I need to pull my spring ones out. I hope you are having a good day.

  16. Dear Karen,
    My worn and dog-eared copies of your PR are a treasure to me. I simply will not lend them out--does that qualify as selfish-ness:-) I will have to work on that...LOL! Used Story Starters at the talk I gave today--the ladies LOVED it! I will write more when able. Thinking of you...

  17. Suzanne mentioned not lending her copies... I completely understand. Several dear-to-me items have never been returned. Now, I say with kindness, "I do not lend my books, but you are more than welcome to find a quiet spot here and read anytime you like."


  18. I loved reading your story,and all the pictures are wonderful. So cute of your son in his daddy's briefcase :-) Blessings

  19. I am happy to be greeted with your enthusiasm for the Parents' Review. Thank you for dropping me a line.

    After posting a batch of comments containing personal emails I went back (on second thought) and removed these for the sake your privacy. I very much appreciate you, however, sending them my way.

    How fun to hear that my book Story Starters was used in a workshop.

    My email is in the margin.
    Write either way, anytime,
    Karen A.

  20. Dear Karen, I look forward to reading your blog every time. I get so excited to see new posts from you. I was introduced to the Charlotte Mason Companion Last summer and fell in love with your book and the Charlotte Mason way of teaching. This year has been a wonderful year for us. Thank you for all you write and for bringing back
    "fresh air"in homeschooling our children! I would love to Know The titles and prices of the magazines. It will be a wonderful too to me and my Charlotte Mason friends! Thank you Karen.

  21. Dear Karen,

    I love reading your family's history and testimony of the Lord's blessings in your life! I know what you mean about having a pile of books that await a spare minute to be read; so many books, so little time!



  22. Karen, What great memories these magazines are for me! I think I had every issue when I was homeschooling and read and re-read the magazines over and over again. They were highlighted and much used and loved.

    My children are all grown up now so I passed my magazines on to other homeschoolers. I'm so happy to see that you're keeping these treasures alive.

  23. I am thrilled to know that you are still printing these!
    I had borrowed copies from a friend about 10 years ago but, alas, she has since moved to China. (She took her copies with her!) I would love to purchase my very own copies! Please let me know the prices and how to purchase.

    Your books have been such a blessing to our family and homeschool!


  24. Tenley,

    It is neat to know that Parents' Reviews were brought in a suitcase to China and that you miss reading your friend's shared volumes.
    My son is helping me put up the PR info on the here on the blog on a "Products Page." For now, if you write me at with your email I'll attach information on the list of articles and prices in my reply.

  25. Dear Karen,

    I bought the original PR's and have never parted with them. I can't tell you how much they meant to me when I was homeschooling during those years. Charlotte Mason's method was a "new" idea in the home school community and it was so hard to find like-minded individuals. These magazines were a life-line for me and helped me so much. My daughter will be homeschooling my grandchild this fall and I have passed these on to her. Thanks you so much for all the work you did on the Parent's Review.

  26. Dear Karen,
    Our mutual friend sent me a copy of your PR and I believe I still have it somewhere in my basement. They were very encouraging. Fun fact: You inspired my girls to make a "homespun" magazine of their own with friends who submitted poetry, pictures, stories, and the like. We used clip art on a clunky old computer and printed them out, stapled them, and mailed them to the "contributors." Fun times. Warmly, Sarah