September 28, 2023

The History of “Homeschooling”

By Art Middlekauff

Translated from “The Story of ‘Home Education'” by volunteer team of CMO ©translators 2022.

In 1885, Charlotte Mason was a published author who had written several books on geography, but not on the general subject of education. However, he had gained much experience teaching at Davison School and Archbishop Otter’s Memorial College. He had also read many books, both scientific and spiritual, and many ideas were taking shape in his mind.

Mason began attending St. Mark’s Church in Manningham and met Pastor Edward Wynne and his wife. Wynne had “examined” Mason’s book on the forty counties and found it a “very instructive little book.” [1] When the church began a construction project, Mason offered to give a series of fundraising conferences. Mr. and Mrs. Wynne gladly accepted the offer, and the “workshop” of the eight lectures Mason presented that winter was as follows:Some Preliminary ConditionsOutdoor Living for KidsThe habit is “ten natures”Some Habits of Mind: Some Moral HabitsLessons as instruments of educationWill, conscience, divine life in the childThe Relationship Between School Life and Home Life: School Discipline and Home EducationAdolescent girls—the formation of character and opinions

Mr. Wynne read the manuscript of the sixth lecture and then wrote to Ms. Mason:

You get straight to the point and treat the whole thing in a totally practical way. I have been very impressed with some of the advice you give for the religious formation of the child, knowing that it is opposed to the ordinary practice of worthy Christian parents, but convinced that they are suitable for developing a healthy spiritual character. […] I am satisfied that the publication of these lectures will be a great help to the cause of Christian education. [2]

In a short time, the eight lectures were collected into a single volume. The first edition was published by Kegan Paul, Trench & Co. in 1886 and was entitled Home Education: A Course of Teaching for Women, held at Bradford in the winter of 1885-1886. The author is specified as Charlotte M. Mason, “Professor of Education and Professor of Human Physiology at Archbishop Otter College in Chichester.” The book was well received and led directly to the homeschooling establishment of the National Parents Education Union and eventually propelled Mason to national and even international fame.

The first edition sold out and resulted in a second and then a third edition. I have had the pleasure of reviewing a copy of the third edition, which bears the publication date of 1904 and the abbreviated title Home Education: A Course of Lectures to Ladies. The author is now said to be Charlotte M. Mason, “Director of the Ambleside House of Education.” The book contains the same eight lectures as in the first edition and two appendices have been added. The first is Charlotte Mason’s French translation of Eugène Bersier’s “The Imperative Demand.” The importance of this work is explained in an article by Dr. Benjamin Bernier. The second appendix is simply entitled “Fragment” and contains a fascinating array of extracts from Mason’s writings produced after 1886.

The following year was an important event in the codification of Mason’s philosophy.The year was 1905 and Home Education became not just a book, but a series, the “Home Education Series.” The first volume was entitled Home Education, but it was not the same eight lectures of the third edition and earlier. Rather, lectures 7 and 8 were moved to volume 5 of the series, and much of the content of the “Excerpts” was moved to the appropriate locations in the first six lectures. It also incorporated content from articles in the Parents’ Review and new writing in various places. The title of the volume was further abbreviated to simply Homeschooling, and now the author is Charlotte M. Mason; Apparently, it was no longer considered necessary to explain who she was.

The fourth edition contained a new preface, and the index used different terms: instead of Class I, Class II, etc., it referred to Part I, Part II, and so on, up to Part VI, the part that so impressed Reverend Wynne. Another novelty of the fourth edition was the Synopsis, which had recently been approved by the Executive Committee of PNEU. At the time, there were 18 principles that summarized Mason’s philosophy of education. Unfortunately, however, the appendices of the third edition were removed. “The Imperative Demand” was eliminated in favor of four new appendices:List of booksQuestions for Student UseThe examination of a seven-year-old child after a period of work along the lines indicated in this volumeThe examination of a nine-year-old child after a period of work.

The following year, the fifth edition was published. I have examined a scan of that edition that has a publication date of 1906. Many additional editions were published over the years, culminating in a fifteenth edition in 1942. But the last major changes were for the fourth edition in 1905. All subsequent editions followed the same pagination and content of the room. Although at some point three of the appendices were removed, leaving only the second: “Questions for student use.”

After the fifteenth edition of Kegan Paul, Trench & Co., Home Education went out of circulation. The collector can still find some of these old editions, but they ceased to be the standard reference for education that it used to be. In fact, in 1986, even the original publisher discarded the remaining inventory. But a few months later a miracle occurred. A year and a century after Home Education was first published, Dean and Karen Andreola obtained a print of the book in 1925 in England. Of course, it followed the pagination and content of the fourth standard edition and included the unique appendix on “Questions for Student Use.” In 1989, a facsimile edition was printed, which became the “Charlotte Mason Research & Supply edition.” But few people refer to it in such formal language. Most of us affectionately refer to the series and the accompanying volumes as “the pink volumes.”

In December 2004 I got my own copy of “Los Rosados.” I quickly read the first volume and Charlotte Mason’s ideas were firmly implanted in my lifestyle. The “Charlotte Mason Research & Supply edition” became the standard version for modern CM educators. The books were seen in reading groups and conferences across the country.

But eventually these little paperbacks also sold out. Fortunately, in 2017, Simply Charlotte Mason published a new “Authorized” reprint of the “Charlotte Mason Research & Supply edition.” It begins with a beautiful new reflection by Dean Andreola entitled “Foreword to the edition of Simply Charlotte Mason.” And so, once again, Home Education is printed and available at an affordable price. Simply Charlotte Mason also released a wonderful PDF facsimile version, which is the version I used for my daily reading. (With my lifestyle, I need to carry my library on my tablet.)

The Charlotte Mason Poetry transcription team obtained scans of the 1904 third edition in the public domain and the fifth edition in 1906 of Home Education. While reviewing the scans, we have asked ourselves some questions:Wouldn’t it be good to bring the original appendix, “The Imperative Demand,” back into circulation for modern readers?Wouldn’t it be nice to restore the three missing appendices of the fourth edition that have been removed from all subsequent Home Education reprints?What if we applied our high-fidelity, high-precision transcription process to this pivotal work by Charlotte Mason?