Random Excerpts from Parents’ Review Magazines

Random notes from perusing hard copies I once had in my possession:

I’m finding myself very interested in Mrs. Steinthal- the Aunt Mai in the children’s section and one of the names Miss Mason lists as being involved from the beginning.

I found this in the preface of vol. 6-This is how the late Mrs. Francis Steinthal, who was the happy instigator of the movement in Council Schools, wrote,-” Think of the meaning of this in the lives of the children,-disciplined lives, and no lawless strikes, justice, an end to class warfare, developed intellects, and no market for trashy and corrupt literature! We shall, or rather they will, live in a redeemed world.” This was written in a moment of enthusiasm on hearing that a certain County Council had accepted a scheme of work for this pioneer school; enthusiasm sees in advance the fields white to the harvest, but indeed the event is likely to justify high expectations. Though less than nine years have passed since that pioneer school made the bold attempt, already many thousands of children working under numerous County Councils are finding that “Studies serve for delight”

The  Armitt Library holds a whole bunch of Charlote Mason archival stuff? Sophia Armitt was a regular contributor of nature writing in the PR. More about her here.


Other sidelines: At one point a Miss E. Stewart Woods offered to take up the art criticism of students’ work for older students, those who had graduated from Mrs. STeinthal’s teaching. I’d like to think I found some of her work here: http://www.artis-jgg.co.nz/j_grant/pics/eng_landscape.html



From the P.N.E.U. Notes of no. 7:

Richmond and Kew branch: “….Mrs. Edward Sieveking lectured on the “Practical Relation of Parents in the Educated Classes towards the Nursery.” …dwelt on the importance of mothers in the upper classes being more with their children and not relegating all their own duties to paid substitutes. Mothers lost a great deal by not doing more themselves for their children, as in many cases the children the children were more attached to the nurse than to the mother, which was only natural, the former being constantly with them. French and German mothers set a much better example. A German lady told Mrs. Sieveking that in her house there was no such thing as a nursery, the children lived entirely with their parents, and she expressed surprise that English children were left so much to servants….Mothers gave many excuses for not occupying themselves in their nurseries– health, claims of society, etc., A book which could be recommended to all mothers as the greatest help in the nursery was Miss Mason’s “Home Education.”….

Still, she also stresses the need to choose your nurse wisely, talks much about what the nurses can and should do and hoped that at some time ‘a large percentage of the educated classes would take up the nursery as a profession….’  Mrs. Edward Sieveking may possibly have been married to this Edward Sieveking, a prominent London physician who did some important work in the field of epilepsy research.

The P.N.E.U. had only 2,000 members at that time.

Miss Blogg, the secretary who later married G. K. Chesterton, gave a talk on the work of the main office. At the close of her speech Mrs. Steinthal thanked Miss Blogg and remarked “…We are constantly getting letters from mothers and others saying that she has quite won them over to our side by her nice letters.”

(sidenote:She also had a letter expressing her regret at leaving the work, not exactly regret, since she was happy to be marrying, but you know what I mean- and saying that just because she was leaving the secretarial position that did not mean she would not still be furthering the work of the Union and its ideals in any way she could.)

At the same meeting Miss Mason added that Mrs. Steinthal’s work was also very important. “The portfolio and the various sewing, cooking and gardening clubs are the great delights of children in many homes. I have known children who seize on the Parents’ Review before the parents get a chance, so keen are they to see what “Aunt Mai” has to say…” Miss Mason also said that a House of Education student had told her that a student’s improvement should be credited to The influence of the Union generally, and above all to ‘Aunt Mai….’ Miss Mason further added that “Aunt Mai’s” work is at the very heart of the Union.

Here’s a sample of one of Aunt Mai’s letters

“My Dear Children, — I must first of all wish you a very Happy New Year. The happiness depends on yourselves, does it not? If you make good resolutions that you will be very obedient, very orderly, and that you will help everybody younger and weaker than yourselves, then the year 1897 will be a very happy one, and mother and father will before pleased with their boys and girls.

We now begin all our new work, and I hope that many new nieces will join our extensive family. Many children have learned to love sewing while making the clothes for the wax and the live dolls.

I should like suggestions to be sent to me this month of new competitions you would like to work for. Aunts have so much thinking to do, that sometimes they feel that they can invent nothing more, and then they are delighted if young brains set to work and help them, and the old ladies begin to feel quite young and fresh again.

Your loving

Auntie Mai.”


Vol. VIII, No. 11

Miss Mason writes in the letter bag that “It has long been our custom here to have a Sunday afternoon reading which we find very helpful, as giving us subjects in common for thought, prayer, and endeavour, increasing our interest in the Bible, enabling us to deal better with the doubts and difficulties which are in the air, and , above all, deepening our spiritual life. It is our habit to read through, from Sunday to Sunday, one of the four Gospels, with comments which are more in the nature of a practical meditation than of a lecture or of a lesson.” She further calls this a ‘weekly stimulus to a higher life….” And is offering to mail out their weekly readings to mothers and House of Education graduates in the field who may be interested in sharing.

From a Pater Junior (certainly a pen-name), who writes regularly to the letter-bag apparently in the nature of a clipping service on education related articles in other publications shares this:

“Mr. Quiller-Couch discourse pleasantly of education, classical, technical, maternal, not forgetting that branch of physical training which is concerned with the birch-rod….The following will appeal to teachers:– A distinguished pedagogue once observed that boys are usually amenable to reason, masters sometimes, parents never. I take it, he had his eye on the modern parent, who imagines technical instruction to be an excellent substitute for education, and that the study of the humanities can be profitably replaced by Sir. Isaac Pitman’s Shorthand. Education, which converts ‘the small apple-eating urchin, whom we know’ into an orderly citizen, respecting himself and his neighbour, is a gradual process not easily tested by examination papers. Technical instruction is far brisker, is quite easily tested, and produces the pleasantest immediate results in the shape of hard cash. The parent fascinated by these cheap advantages, is generally ill to deal with; and while the parent asks for shorthand, and the head-master for a free hand, there is bound to be some friction of temper.”

Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch (he was knighted in the late 1800’s/early 1900’s I think, for his work in the literary and educational fields) is the editor of the Oxford Anthology of English verse, used by CM in her schools and by HE in the upper years. He is also the “Q” referred to in ’84 Charing Cross Road’ and/or its sequel.

In Leeds a “Mrs. Mirrlees gave an address to mothers  on ‘Heart Culture.'”

And this article, the opening paragraph of which warms my heart:

“When I lived in what is sometimes called a “state of single bliss,” I used to find it easier to exhort parents– and especially mothers– about their parental duties, than I find it now. How many a time, as an inexperienced bachelor, did I almost wax eloquent in the enunciation of ideal principles which should guide parents in the important matter of training up a child in the way it should go! Since I became a parent myself and have got a look from the inside at the difficulties and responsibilities of a parent, and especially of a mother, I find I am not quite so ready of tongue to lecture parents, though my hear beats with fuller sympathy for them now than it ever did in bachelor days….It is easy to be a doctrinaire on the subject of parental duties, but to be a prophet one must graduate in the university of the nursery, where the professors are one’s own babies….”

Miss Mason spoke at several branch meetings in the fall; her topic was on Letting Alone. According to the report of the Harrow secretary, she said ‘that she thought that children are just a little too much to the front nowadays, and that we sacrifice the children’s virtues for the sake of developing our own– a suggestion behind which lies the deep waters of a seldom-thought-upon truth. She went on to remark that the “wistful mothers” of the present day are a little apt to wear on the children’s nerves. The lecture throughout was listened to with quiet, thoughtful attention…”

A Mr. Tufnail lectured two different branches on toadstools, and the secretaries of both branches referred to his lecture as suggestive and stimulating. I know this seems silly, but a suggestive and stimulating lecture on toadstools by a Mr. Tufnail struck my funny bone. I was equally amused by another report which was held with a Rev. Somebody Bird in the chair (chairing the meeting). I think somebody else noticed this, too, because the _next_ report from the branch was reworded- ‘in the chair was Rev. Somebody Bird.’

The PR had many clubs, one of which intrigued me was a foreign language translation group. They were set a passage in German to translate each month, mailed their translations in to be graded in some fashion and announcements were made in the PR as to who had done exceptionally well.

A new edition of Maria Edgeworth’s Helps for Parents comes in for some mild, but friendly praise in the book reviews.


Regarding movies: I note also that many of the local chapter meetings include ‘lime light’ shows- a form of slide show (One also featured everybody getting x-rayed and looking at their bones- sounds like a jolly meeting).

More on discipline and how things have changed…

Vol.. VIII, no.3: At the Derby branch of the PNEU: “… The results of scientific observation and experience in the matter of education should be widely known, because people could not now, as too often had been the habit, throw all the blame on parents, and say that the fault rested entirely with them….

Miss Barnette…delivered a… Lecture on “Training and Inheritance.”… ‘…and said that sometimes what was mistaken for heredity was merely imitation, and therefore it was beneficial to a child to be sent away from home for a time before its character was formed.”

She delivered this same lecture later in the month, at the Wallasey branch, so it must have been generally accepted by _somebody_ as PNEU compatible.


From an article on obedience in Vol. VIII, no. 4: “I find no difficulty in securing obedience from my children,” says one. ….”Suppose my little boy is playing in the drawing room, I tell him, ‘you may play as long as you’re good.’ He begins to be naughty. I ring the bell; the nurse comes down and the boy goes up. He forfeits the pleasure of my company. The plan is simplicity itself.”

Riiiiiight.  Of course it would be very easy to have your children always obedient in your presence if you banished them the second you find them tiresome and left them in somebody else’s care.  really, what an obnoxious, smug person.

For the Sol-fa people, here are a couple mentions of  Mrs. Curwen:

Volume VIII, No. 4, notes on the local PNEU groups:

Richmond and Kew branch:…”Mrs. Spencer Curwen, who had kindly consented to fill a blank at the last moment, delivered an interesting address on “Children’s Music.”…the first introduction to musical notation should be through the singing class, the tonic sol-fa notation and method being the best for this purpose. There was not advantage in beginning instrumental work at five or six years of age. Bad habits of technique might be formed by beginning too early. The first pianoforte lessons were often spoken of as drudgery…something wrong in the teaching.”

A reference to teaching foreign language in  Vol. VIII, no. 4;

Wimbledon branch had a lecture on teaching foreign language. Mdlle. Duriaux addressed previous defects in the teaching of foreign language based on long, tedious grammar rules and translations. Instead, she had prepared ‘ a course of quite short lessons, each consisting of a short series of actions that a child could easily follow and remember. One of these short series she then proceeded to give to a class of four little boys, and thereby unmistakeably [sic] proved the truth of what she had been saying. It was evident at once how interesting and intelligible such lessons must be to children, and how quickly they could learn to repeat and understand the few short sentences without word having been “translated” to them.”

This sounds exactly like a program I used to have,  but I can’t recall the name.

And this more general bit of info on the PNEU and the first conference has many little tidbits of information one could glean:

Vol VIII, No. 7; on the first PNEU Conference:

…”in framing the programme, the object kept in view was to tell members ‘what the P.N.E.U. Is,’ and how branches can bring its teaching before their members. The groundwork of the arrangements was the leaflet which is published each month in the Parents’ Review…

…To carry out this idea, Miss Helen Webb, M. B. [my note: she delivered the talk to nurses that I shared earlier], and Miss Mason were asked to read papers, which should help parents in working out the underlying principle of the Union, “That character is everything.” Miss Mason also gave definite help to branch secretaries as to the best subjects to put before their members when arranging for monthly lectures on the physical, mental, moral and spiritual development of children.

Mrs. Steinthal [note: Aunt Mai, who did the ‘Budget’, the children’s section of teh PR] emphasized the value of art and manual training in education, and the best method for securing it.”

From Sir Vincent Kennett Barrington’s remarks: “Miss Mason has told us that the Union lays no claim to any exclusive methods; she reminds us that we are a progressive body, and that we are going on by the help of modern thinkers…” ———————————–

I both enjoyed the browsing and found it discouraging at the same time. I wrote to myself: “I  think I need to get _much_ better organized. I think I need to get up at 5 a.m. and put the kitchen in order, get a crockpot meal going, have a breakfast casserole made, or maybe start once a month cooking again. I need to plan and prepare various tasks in advance for the purpose of distracting the children. You know, when I see that look in the macknae’s eye, I _could_ send him to the crockpot- I could have a dish of spices or cut up veggies ready and waiting for him to add. I could have salad stuff ready for them to mix, I could have a letter ready for somebody to go put in the mail box, a plant to be watered, a pickle to put in daddy’s lunch box for the next day…. Sigh. This all requires so much _forethought_ and I am so much a loosey-goosey type who has wonderful ideas- but at best,  two hours after the time to implement them…. I think I need a nurse. And an under-nurse. And a cook. And a gardener. And definitely a housemaid.



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This is just for fun, but a survey of British vegetarians finds that 1/3 of them eat meat when they get drunk.


Not at all funny: Puerto Rico may be without electricity for four to six months.  Things are really, really bad.

Earthquake in Mexico kills over 200 people (so far)

In Miami, one city bureaucracy was up and running on speed within hours after Hurricane Irma- and ticketing residents for code violations for their yard conditions.  Jerks.

In Spain, gov’t cracks down on Catalan independence efforts. 

Amazon is removing unfavorable reviews of Hilary Clinton’s book.  They do not typically do this for other customers.

Climate scientists admit the models were wrong, warming lower than expected, doomsday now 20 years further off.  Never mind that this means climate ‘skeptics’ were right, we should keep believing the guys who have been wrong.


Media’s tap dancing on a high wire with the Trump wire-tapping story.
Obama and his administration knew what they were doing was illegal, which is why they had to continue.


Trump’s U.N. Speech

My favourite part:

We call for the full restoration of democracy and political freedoms in Venezuela.


The problem in Venezuela is not that socialism has been poorly implemented, but that socialism has been faithfully implemented.

(Scattered applause)

From the Soviet Union to Cuba to Venezuela, wherever true socialism or communism has been adopted, it has delivered anguish and devastation and failure. Those who preach the tenets of these discredited ideologies only contribute to the continued suffering of the people who live under these cruel systems. America stands with every person living under a brutal regime. Our respect for sovereignty is also a call for action. All people deserve a government that cares for their safety, their interests and their wellbeing, including their prosperity.

Bill Rhodes’ negative reactions

Politico on evil dictator Kim Il Jung’s side.


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small things

I love this kitchen tip- put a quarter on top of a cup of ice in your freezer if the quarter ever drops down in the cup you will know that your freezer has thawed and then refrozen.

It’s a good tip.  But it’s interesting the assumption that most people aren’t going to notice.

I’ve shared before about back when we were very poor, so poor we picked up money off the street to do laundry or pay for toiletries, so poor we didn’t have electricity, and I sometimes washed a load of clothes in the bathtub.  I was in a Bible study with a group of Filipino friends, all of them are professionals (a different group from the congregation where we worship).  The class was on money and I had mentioned our former poverty a couple times.  I realized at one point I needed to explain.
“I know,” I said, “that being poor in America is nothing like being poor in the Philippines. I know that.  We were not as poor as the most poverty stricken here.  But we were poor in ways not entirely typical for America, either.” I explained about the lack of food and the no electricity (but we did have gas and running water and a solid roof).  It helped to put things in some perspective.  And even in our more dire than typical circumstances, some of them were so dire because we wouldn’t ask for help.  In the Philippines, there are people living in shanties and shacks with no running water or electricity ankle deep in flood water after an average rain storm, and anybody they might ask for help is living in the same circumstances.

Later when we were chatting, I said one other interesting difference I had noticed is that when we were so poor, we could collect some change, enough to do a load of laundry or two, or buy cheap shampoo by picking up change in the road or parking lots of stores, or near vending machines.  I haven’t seen vending machines here, and I also have never seen any change in the street at all.  Not so much as a centavo (it takes about ten of them to make up a 2 cent coin).   You see less change in the U.S. these days because we are less and less of a cash based society. People use cards for everything now, sometimes even vending machines.  But the Philippines is a cash based economy.  We pay our utilities and rent in cash. We have to go to the office to pay the utility bills, including the internet.  Occasionally we find a place that takes a card, but it’s not common, and it’s not often.  And yet, nobody leaves coins on the ground.

The helpful tip above about leaving a quarter on the top of a cup of ice is so much a tip from a well developed, wealthy nation.  I’m not talking about  presuming a refrigerator, we had an ice chest back in the day, but the refrigerator is a different category of thing.  I’m talking about the money.  It’s the quarter that catches my attention.  Why does it need to be a unit of money? You could use a stone, a pebble, a screw, a paperclip, a metal washer,  a magnet, a marble, anything at all that sinks in water.  That sort of easy, careless attitude about money is only possible in a comfortable economy like America’s.

But it’s only a quarter, you say?


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Bird’s Nest Fern

Asplenium nidus, ‘Birds nest fern’

I can not turn these pictures the right way. I don’t know why my phone and the blog are conspiring against me so, but they are.

It’s a nifty plant- the leaves are thick, lush, green, grow closely together, leaving, however, a sweet little secret spot in the dead center- the ‘bird’s nest’ of the common name.

Bird’s nest ferns (Asplenium nidus) are identified by their flat, wavy or crinkly fronds. Their appearance can bring to mind a seaweed plant growing on dry land. Bird’s nest fern is an epiphytic fern, which means in the wild it typically grows on other things, like tree trunks or buildings. When you buy it as a houseplant, it will be planted in a container, but it can be affixed to planks and hung on a wall much like staghorn ferns.

Read more at Gardening Know How: Bird’s Nest Fern Care – How To Grow Bird’s Nest Fern https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/houseplants/birds-nest-fern/birds-nest-fern-care.htm

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REview: Stranger in a Strange Land

If you know the term grok, then  you have either read this book or know somebody who has, or of course know somebody who knows somebody who knows somebody…
I would have said I had not read this one of Heinlein’s.  I would have been wrong. It’s the weirdest thing.  Because I definitely read it, but the things I remember, the things that made the deepest impression on me were not the things most people would remember, do remember, or expect other people to remember.  Grok?  I knew it because of friends, but I would have told you had never read a book with that term in it.
What I have never forgotten is the exact scene where Jubal asks Ann, the Fair Witness, to describe a house she sees and tell them what colour the roof is.  She answers very precisely that the roof on this side appears to be white (or whatever), making no assumptions about the side she cannot see.  For some reason, that impressed me strongly.  I wanted to be a fair witness. I thought everybody should be a fair witness.  I aspired to that kind of fair, neutral observation.  Turns out, it’s not a very popular goal.  Turns out, I don’t care that much.  Turns out, I’m also too human for it, although I do at least own my biases I think.
But anyway.  That is the main thing I remembered. I hadn’t remembered which book it was in, my impression was an H.G. Wells title.  But I did remember that a a couple other things- the Rodin statues conversation was fabulous.  The idea that a good kiss is one to which you devote your whole attention, not thinking about anything else.  Okay, I think I was 13, maybe.
But the other stuff, the ground-breaking, iconoclastic stuff about how jealousy is a bad, awful, selfish thing you never feel for your loved on and being in a loving relationship is all about multiple sex partners and that is what all women would want if they were only freed from the chains of taboos, free love and open ‘marriage,’ and  and so much more spoiled horse-radish, I read it and dismissed it.  I thought it was stupid and irritating and wrong then, and so I glossed over it, and I think it’s stupid and irritating and wrong now and wonder how on earth so many people, including Heinlein himself, bought into it.   He did claim he didn’t write the book to convince people of one thing or another or to start a religion, he wrote it to make people think.  I think it’s intellectually and philosophically a very lightweight book.

I did appreciate the irony that all the wisest, more level headed characters and the religious fanatics are equally, ridiculously wrong about the afterlife. There is one, and it’s nothing like anybody expected.  But it doesn’t seem all that different from a large, 1950s bureaucracy, either, although we mainly only see middle management, I guess.

I don’t agree with every jot and tittle in this review, but I do agree with a lot of it, and definitely the smug:

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