Monday, October 14, 2013

The Parents' Review And How It Came To You

Left: 2 Parents' Review volumes
In 1890 in conjunction with establishing the Parents' Union, Miss Mason also began publishing and editing a monthly periodical for supporting the families and schools using her methods. It was called The Parents Review.  The journal was sent to parents and teachers of Charlotte Mason's schools and to families who used her correspondence programs for homes. Miss Mason edited it until her death in 1923.  That was roughly 1000 pages a year for 30 years, in addition to her other work.

 At the end of each year, in common with most periodicals of the time, bound copies of that year's magazines were compiled into a single volume. You can read more about it and see a picture of one of those bound volumes here on the AO website.  You can also read a variety of articles representing many years' worth of back issues on our website.  Where did they all come from?

Some were given to us by diligent scholars who had gone to libraries and made photocopies of articles.  But the majority of them come from volumes the Advisory owns.  How did we acquire them?  I think it's a fascinating story, and one that illustrates the near miraculous teamwork that goes on behind the scenes at AO.

 Several years ago Advisory member Anne was browsing used books online, and discovered a set of 9 bound PR volumes being sold in Ireland.  She shared the link with the rest of us, mainly as a curiosity.  "Isn't that interesting," we thought.  "Wouldn't that be lovely," we thought, a little wistfully.  And then, "Why couldn't we?" suggested somebody.  I don't remember for certain which of us made that leap, but I think it might have been Karen.  We talked about that a bit and then, 'why couldn't we?' changed to 'why shouldn't we,' and shortly it became, "Well, of course, we must!"  Soon we were excitedly discussing ways and means to accomplish what had just the day before seemed unimaginable.

 The Advisory agreed that we would pool our funds, each of us contributing what we could.  Keep in mind that this was about ten years or more before we started adding affiliate links and AO began to pay for itself instead of being an additional child supported by each household, so, really, we were pooling our husbands' funds.  Meanwhile, because we didn't want to risk another second of time, I purchased them using our debit card and the house payment money, trusting my fellow Advisory members to get their shares to me in time to pay the bill. I had no worries that they would not repay me in time, because we had been through quite a bit together already and we knew we could depend on each other, but I must confess my own husband was tremendously relieved when the payments came in.

 Repaying us for the bound copies was a joint effort, as spontaneously some quietly chipped in more for those who couldn't spare a dime. Without needing to discuss it, we each knew we wanted to make sure that each of us had at least one copy. After several confusing attempts to get my bank to clear a debit charge from Ireland, the volumes were then shipped to my house.

 For about a week, I was the proud possessor of more PR volumes than any other known person in America owned or possibly had seen all at one time. It was a heady feeling. After emailing the other Advisory members multiple times to taunt them a little, gloat a bit, and share excerpts from the volumes I was greedily skimming through, I finally managed to repackage the volumes separately, drive to town and mail each of the other Advisory their own copies.  (Lynn Bruce and I each bought two of the volumes, and that left one each for the remaining members).

During the days I had those volumes in my own hot little hands, I may or may not have been seen to stroke them madly and hiss 'my precioussssss' over them. I will neither confirm nor deny. Big Grin

 One of the two I chose was volume II. I chose this one in particular because I'd previously visited the Library of Congress looking specifically for volume II, and learned that somebody before me had stolen the LOC copy. I had wanted the article on teaching chronology and creating a book of the centuries. I chose my second volume merely because it was not one of the oldest, and it was not in the best condition of the remaining volumes. I didn't want to be too greedy, since I had my volume II. I don't remember how the other Advisory members chose the volume(s) they received.

We spent a few lovely weeks skimming our respective volumes and sharing gems we found with each other on our email list.  Then we began the process of getting the articles online. I typed a few by hand. So did one or two of my daughters. Leslie collected volunteers to do the others. Some of the Advisory mailed their volumes to Leslie for photographing.  Leslie would share photographed pages with volunteers who would type from the images so Leslie could mail back the volumes to their anxious owners.

 I think my other volume (I don't even remember for sure which one it is), was largely already on our website, thanks to the Library of Congress and other volunteers. But volume II was special to me. For years, Leslie asked me to mail it to her so she could photograph it, but I couldn't bear to let it leave my house, and, after several bad experiences, I didn't trust our postal service. Then a near miracle occurred- all the Advisory were on the same continent at the same time, and we were able to free up a few days at the same time. They came to my house.  This was the very first time all of us were together in person- at least ten years after we'd begun working together! It was exciting and a rich blessing.

 During their all too short stay, Leslie was able to explain what she needed to my daughter Rebecca (who was also our chief cook for the visit so that I could devote all my time to playing with my friends). After the Advisory returned home, my Rebecca spent a few painstaking hours photographing every single page of that precious volume II so we could finally get it to Leslie for copying. We emailed it to her as a file (or several files) of images so that my volume stayed here with its doting mummy.=)

 And that is the story of how and why our wonderful volunteers on the AO Forum are able to type up an article from volume II (with much thanks to all our volunteers as well as to that forum's moderator, Cathy).  Brandy Vencel proofreads each article as she has time, and I proof her proofing by comparing with the original precious volume, and when necessary other Auxiliary members glance over it with their suggested corrections, and then Leslie puts it on the AO website. There, volume 2 of the PR is at last available for free reading by anybody with access to the internet, along with articles from multiple other volumes.

All it took was Leslie's grand idea  and all the hard work, blood, sweat, tears, laughter, and love that have gone into that grand idea,  a serendipitous online discovery, another wild idea, cooperation amongst the seven Advisory, cheerful and generous husbands, pooled funds, a debit card, communication betwixt Ireland and a bank in Colorado, the internet, the post office, various Advisory Progeny, several cameras, further cooperation and unspoken but unanimous agreement among the Advisory that our purpose was to share rather than make a profit from the Parents' Reviews, countless volunteers (I wish I could name them all) who have been tirelessly typing, a forum and a forum moderator who helps keep the project on track, proof-readers,  and an always generous outpouring of God's grace over the AO endeavor.
If you would like to contribute to this ongoing effort, please consider joining us in the forums.


  1. That is a fascinating, wonderful, inspiring, and very entertaining story. :D Thank you for sharing!

  2. "Brandy Vencel proofreads each article as she has time, and I proof her proofing by comparing with the original precious volume, and when necessary other Auxiliary members glance over it with their suggested corrections, and then Leslie puts it on the AO website." Actually, I don't wait for all that to happen before posting them. I initially post them as is, and proofreading is done hurriedly behind me. I am the impatient one of the bunch.

  3. What an incredible story. And it is true which makes it all the better. I love learning about the history of AO and everything that transpired to generate this incredible curriculum. It makes me appreciate all of you even more. Thank you!!

  4. What a wonderful story. We have a lot to learn from this story and we must be guided by our history.