At the Charlotte Mason Institute we will continue our publication of Parents’ Review articles in what we are calling Curated Parents’ Review. These are available to our Charlotte Mason’s Alveary users and to our CMI Membership, which will be starting back up soon. Join the community and enjoy this introduction to next month’s Curated Parents’ Review.
“It is a great thing to possess a pageant of history in the background of one’s mind,” said Mason (Mason, 2015, p. 170). “How we shall begin to teach history,” Dorothea Beale announced in her article to late 19th century readers of the Parents’ Review (PR), “is a much disputed matter” (1892, p. 81). This matter, no doubt, is still disputed at the beginning of the 21st century and still needing the insight and practical help of several early PR authors writing about the teaching of history. The first article, “The Teaching of Chronology,” explains a system of using century charts, a practice which Beale herself had used in college and later, when she was a college principal, a practice she would require of all her college students at Cheltenham Ladies College. The next five articles are a series by H.B.: “History,” “History: The Teaching of History,” “History: Teaching Practically Considered,” “History: Teaching Practically considered,” (stage III continued), and “History: History and Fiction.” The collection concludes with a two part article by J. Porter-Porter, entitled, “A Rough Plan for the Teaching of History” and an article by B.Taylor entitled, “A New Method of Teaching History”. In this introduction to this collection, there are two authors highlighted: first Dorothea Beale, the well known educational reformer who was eleven years Mason’s senior, and second, the unknown H.B.—an eloquent writer with an expansive and majestic view of history, known to us today only as H.B. Efforts to discover H.B.’s identity have been disappointingly unfruitful. In this introduction, however, H.B. is assigned a male gender—only for ease in pronoun use so “his” can refer to H.B.’s work in contrast to Beale’s “her” work.
Since the use of century charts (CC)s and their extension into a Book of Centuries (BOC) is a vital feature of a Mason education, today’s readers may enjoy a peek into the person of Dorothea Beale and her use of CCs. She studied mathematics at Queen’s College, London, becoming in 1849 its first female faculty. Though she would later teach many higher mathematics classes and would for the rest of her life relentlessly champion the inclusion of mathematics and science for an intellectually robust education for women, Beale always loved history. At the age of 27, Beale wrote The Student’s Textbook of English and General History from B.C 100 to the Present Time. One can imagine how the “patient discipline” of “ordered knowledge” through the habit of keeping century charts became a powerful learning tool required by the precise and ordered mind of a mathematician. As principal of Cheltenham Ladies College, Beale further developed this French system so that by the early 1860s, all students were mandated to keep “The Chart.” “Tabulated knowledge” through use of a CC system was “valuable . . . as a basis of historical teaching.” “For grown up students, who are reading a short period,” a CC was kept open “and they simply write in words anything they wish to remember, and thus acquire a knowledge of dates without learning them.” Beale’s biographer noted that at the college
great stress [was] laid upon having a chart open before the student, so she might grow familiar with its look, and become able to call up the knowledge of any special event by remembering the position of a dot in a certain square. There were those to say with Canon Francis Holland, founder of the Church of England High Schools in London, ‘Why was I born before such aids were given to the understanding?’ (Raikes, 1908)
was among the first to insist on the importance of general history. . . . She was not content to let one period stand alone unlinked with its context. She would not cut off the history of England as a thing by itself, but showed its place in the stream of time, in the lives of the nations. . . . Here it was that the Chart and Textbook played so important a part. (Raikes, 1908, p. 260-261)
“It takes considerable thinking power to understand time-relations in history” said Beale. Beale’s and later Mason’s use of a CC as a visual framework that “saves events from getting shaken into disorder in the memory” is what we term today a graphic organizer. Mason echoes the need for a graphic organizer: a “simple table of centuries will suggest a graphic panorama to the child’s mind, and he will see events in their time-order” (Mason, 1989, p. 292). Although the term graphicacy—the ability to interpret and produce information represented in visual, mostly non-text forms such as diagrams, sketches, graphs, maps—was unknown in Beale’s day, she aptly describes it: “A plan of laying out a map of history” so “events present themselves to the mind’s eye” and the “practice of representing to the eye by means of diagrams the facts of science, physical and social.” Educators today, in our digital age when so much information is presented in graphs and charts, are calling for graphicacy to join the abilities of literacy and numeracy needed by students.
We are inheritors of other people’s labours said Mason, whose curricula in different forms (referring to forms vs grade levels) included several strands of history. The use of CCs and later G. M. Bernau’s concept of the BOCs enabled PNEU students to make more connections about “time-relations in history.” Beale and Mason both saw how CCs help the young student to “realize something of the proportion of things” (Dorothea Beal) and “give definiteness to what may soon become a pretty wide knowledge of history” (Mason, 1989, p. 292). In the feast of the Mason model, as students fill their minds with the stories of exciting heroes, adventurous explorers, mourning nations, courageous pioneers and hard won battles, using graphic organizers like CCs keep these stories and events from twirling in disarray in a child’s mind, unhinged from its historical context. Beale, ever keen to the need for order, suggested to parents needing to jump in midstream at certain times with history lessons, how CCs would prevent events, “which are given out of their historical order, from being shaken together into a chaos.” It is not only the organized mind of a mathematician we see in Beale, but the power and depth of a woman whose whole life was committed to knowing the Living God. She understood that the “supreme joy” in knowing God was “attained only by the patient discipline, by the ordered knowledge through which that which seems chaos is transformed into a Kosmos, and we are able to think God’s thoughts after him?”
While CCs and BOCs are tools enabling students to organize and integrate events into larger “time-relationships of history,” these are effective tools for a child’s self-agency empowering students to personalize their own learning. First comes learning from the self-activity of a student reading and narrating followed by the self-activity of the student involved in making choices of what to record. The child is not focused on ‘getting the right answer’ or ‘trying to figure out what the teacher wants.’ The adult does not prescribe what items students record on their charts. When students must choose what to record, for example, what they found meaningful and what they assessed as significant, then they are acting as agents of their own learning. The very process of selecting stimulates reflection, which enriches the assimilation of the content. Content becomes crystallised into thought in the student’s mind when it has passed through the “the act of knowing” of narration, has become more individualised through the self-activity of reflection, selection, and more embedded in the physical act of writing or drawing.
Self-activity resonates in the words of H.B., the second author I considered: “knowledge, to be fully assimilated. . . [must] be handled, . . . examined, tested and criticised, to be synthesised at first hand by the intelligent activity of the learner himself.” Students must labor with their minds in their history lessons, must have opportunities of “classifying the events, comparing and observing similarities and differences . . . to examine and compare causes of events.” To deny students these times to labor with their mind, “to supply the pupil with generalizations ready made,” H.B. said was, “useless, perhaps almost a betrayal.” Rejecting “mechanical memory” activities for those of the “assimilative memory,” H.B. mirrors Mason’s outer and inner courts of the mind. “By the fact of assimilation the individuality has been affected: the knowledge assimilated has become a vital and integral portion of the individual essence; it has become living knowledge, and henceforth, given light and air, and rain from heaven; it will grow and entwine itself through the whole labyrinth of human existence. In the mechanical memory the seed corn has been hoarded up in the barn, as so much provender; in the assimilative memory it has been planted in a fruitful soil.”
Mason wanted authors skillful with the literary form with a passion for their subjects. Such criteria fits H.B. In our times when much of the grandeur of the study of history has been eviscerated and replaced by standards of historical analysis and skill development, we find H.B. injecting inspiration into the study of history. History deals with the activities of this organism known as humankind, “of the earth earthy, bound to the clod” but also “distinguished from the brutes by faculties which science has not yet defined. . . we may call spiritual, affinities with the powers divine.” How “these activities, in their manifestations so various,” are “moulded and shaped continuously by the unresting hands of evolving powers and forces” is history’s quest. History gives a “various and complex tracery” of the universal story of humankind’s activities with all its societies, “interwoven—nation with nation, art with art, science with science—crossed and recrossed, and crossed again;” stories of how “treasures of experience, treasures of habit, treasures of thought, are passed on, as in the torch race, without break or interval from generation to generation, and from hand to hand, in one ceaseless and undivided stream.”
Not only do we have CCs as frameworks to organize and integrate history, we have the framework of geography. Time and Place, History and Geography are inextricably interwoven for Mason and H.B. The activities of human endeavour, that flowing stream of history, “divided into pulsations by the pendulum stroke of time” should also be “defined by the measured world-map.” The features of place—mountains, rivers, mineral deposits, famines, storms—all mould, limit, direct its residents’ habits, struggles, ways of thought. “Each society of men, has its definite geographical environment; . . . the activities of each display themselves within a definite limited portion of the earth’s surface, and . . .every act of man, every detail of history, has its definite geographical locus without the ascertainment of which much of its relative historic value would be lost. The breadth and width then of History, the ground plan so to speak, must coincide with the longitude and latitude of the world map.”
Facts must be clothed in literary form insisted Mason. “Story is the mother of history,” said H.B.: “motives impelling us towards the study of history—the love of story and the satisfaction of inquisitiveness—both appetites deeply seated in human nature.”
History, essential for citizenship for Mason and H.B., furnishes “the knowledge necessary to render him a capable and useful citizen—an upholder of light and sanity in the midst of his social surroundings, however limited.”
We don’t know Mason’s relationship with H.B. but we do know Beale’s health and schedule finally allowed her to make the promised visit to Ambleside in 1895 where she lectured on geometry for the House of Education students. How fun it would have been to be a fly on the wall at that visit listening to Mason and Beale, both intellectual giants, for whom knowledge was so much more than information and education was the formation of character. “Miss Beale’s aim was to make knowledge quick with life.” “The main object of her work at Cheltenham and elsewhere was not to instruct the mind, but to inspire the character” (Steadman, 1931, p. 188-189). It is interesting to note that neither of these magnanimous giants of the Christian faith wanted their biographies written, insisting that the ideas for which they had laboured and lived (Mason’s “principles,” Beale’s “ideals”) should be their legacy. Their view of education came through their expansive and compelling communion with God. Steadman says it well about Beale, but it could easily be said about Mason.
A deep love was hers—a deep fervour of spirit kindled and sustained by the sense of communion with God. It was her love of God that made her anxious to follow all the leadings of the Divine mind into the treasures of thought, history and science. It was that love that impelled her to seek an ever deeper communion and fellowship with the mind of God as the whole universe reveals it. . . . If we were to study with her eyes the wonderful history of the evolution of our race, we should see Jesus standing everywhere as the Way—the Way that in spite of many wonderings leads the world back to God. If we read in her company, widely and deeply, we should feel that never in all of our studies could we pass outside the presents of Jesus as the Truth. And we should feel with her that in every stage of our experience, He, and He alone, was the source of a deep, abiding, and eternal life. (Steadman, 1931, p. 189-190)
Beale, D. (1892). The teaching of chronology. Parents’ Review, vol 2. Issue 2. 81-90. London: Parents’ National Educational Union.
H. B. (1894). History. Parents’ Review, vol 4. Issue 10. 721-727. London: Parents’ National Educational Union.
H. B. (1894). History: The teaching of history. Parents’ Review, vol 4. Issue 11. 822-826. London: Parents’ National Educational Union.
H. B. (1894). History: Teaching practically considered. Parents’ Review, vol 4. Issue 12. 890-896. London: Parents’ National Educational Union.
H. B. (1895). History: teaching practically considered. Parents’ Review, vol 5. Issue 1. 14-18. London: Parents’ National Educational Union.
H. B. (1895). History: History and fiction. Parents’ Review, vol 5. Issue 5. 255-259. London: Parents’ National Educational Union.
Mason, C.M. (1989) Home education. Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndall House Publishers. Original work published in 1935.
Mason, C.M. (2015). An essay towards a philosophy of education. PA: Riverbend Press. Original work published in 1925.
Porter-Porter, J. (1896). A rough plan for the teaching of history. Parents’ Review, vol 6. Issue 11. 823-832. London: Parents’ National Educational Union.
Porter-Porter, J. (1896). A rough plan for the teaching of history. Parents’ Review, vol 6. Issue 12. 930-937. London: Parents’ National Educational Union.
Raikes, E. (1908) Dorothea Beale of Cheltenham. London, UK: Archibald Constable and Company Ltd. Retrieved 9/4/19 https://www.gutenberg.org/files/60064/60064-h/60064-h.htm#CHAPTER_V
Steadman, F. C. (1931). In the days of Miss Beale: a study of her work and influence. London: E. J. Burrow.
Taylor, B. (1896). A new method of teaching history. Parents’ Review, vol 6. Issue 10. 741-745. London: Parents’ National Educational Union.
*Note: Quotations without a page number come from the articles in this collection.
© 2019 Andra Smith