In this current climate children and parents know all too well what it is like to ‘home school’ but at the beginning of the 20th century, for many wealthy families’ home schooling was very much the norm.
Petronell Grubb, a little girl from Cashel, was one of these home-schooled children. Petronell was born in 1908 in Cashel, Tipperary. She was the youngest of four siblings and was the only girl. She received her home schooling education from her Governess who followed a curriculum assigned by the ‘Parents National Educational Union’ (PNEU) in England.
The PNEU was founded by Charlotte Mason in the latter quarter of the 1800s and was the first ‘Home School’ organisation. She was also headmistress of the ‘House of Education’ which was a teacher training College. The parents of each child would pay a quarterly subscription and the curriculum guidelines would then be sent to the household via the post along with an exam at the end of the term. The completed exam would then be sent to England for grading and comment. The curriculum covered various subjects such as English Grammar, history, music, art, mathematics, sewing, singing, French and many more.
This curriculum was also quite unique in its ideologies. Charlotte Mason was of the opinion that each child should be treated as an individual and that it was important that the whole person was educated, not just the mind. The Children of the British Empire, which is what Petronell was, learned what it meant to be British and be part of an Empire. One of the PNEU’s core modules was entitled ‘Citizenship’ and gave the students the means to focus on what it meant to be British and to solidify their British national identity. The children born and raised in England had this status secure, but those living outside of England had certain pressures in regard to their British citizenship. The idea of being a ‘Good’ mother meant you had to send your children away to England to be educated, which was the case for Petronell’s three older brothers.
100 years previous to this, education for young girls from wealthy families was quite different. It was assumed that young girls would go on to marry therefore extensive formal education was seen as non-essential and reserved for the males in the family. As long as the women could run the household, arrange flowers and play the piano to some degree- the need for schooling was unnecessary. Over the following years the increase in formal education for girls results in renewed demands for votes for women. The rest, as they say is history.
Pictured below is an example of some of her work. Unfortunately Petronell died on the 13th of October 1919 from Typhoid. She was aged 11 years. Why not pop into the Museum when we reopen to see some more of Petronell’s work, as well as some of her personal belongings- a great time capsule of the life of a wealthy young girl at the beginning of the 20th century.