Comments 4

Miss Mason and Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle by Lisa Cadora

Before I had Charlotte as my education mentor, my role model for fruitful interaction with children was Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, a fictional character created by Betty Edwards who premiered in 1947 in a book of that title and was further developed in subsequent books in the series. Upon reading the first chapter of the first book, I was filled with admiration for this clever author’s wit and wisdom, and found myself laughing out loud at the ironic extremes in the situations she created. I delighted in recognizing my own child-self  and the efforts of adults around me in the stories penned from chapter to chapter.

The character “Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle” was a sort of Dr. Spock (Benjamin Spock — child psychologist, not the Vulcan) to a neighborhood full of mothers who wrung their hands and fretted themselves endlessly over their very ordinary children’s peccadilloes, struggling all the while to convince each other of their children’s superiority. 

Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, the sugar-cookie scented wife of a deceased pirate, lived in an upside-down house at the end of the street. She received children as visitors at all hours of the day, letting boys dig up her yard in search of her husband’s lost treasure and girls re-enact their favorite princess dramas over and over again. When the befuddled mothers consulted with her in exasperation over their children’s annoying behavior, her standard cures were natural consequences — enhanced by a little “magic” which inevitably pushed those consequences to extremes.

Each chapter begins with a series of phone calls from one mother to the others, explaining her latest challenge with her darling “Percival Lightfeather” or some such ludicrous name. Eventually one mother will refer the beleaguered parent to Mrs. P, and the cure will ensue. From “The Picky-Eater-Tiny-Bite-Taker” to “The Scaredy-Cat-Cure”, I think there is still a lot of wisdom to be gleaned from this sage’s intuitive understanding of how parents need to let consequences take their course. 

When I finally picked up Volume 5 of Charlotte Mason’s “Original Home Schooling Series” Formation of Character and met the characters she created to convey her points about the shaping of children’s personalities, I couldn’t help but laugh out loud just as I had done years before with Mrs. Piggle Wiggle. In these chapters, Charlotte takes the voices of fictional parents, conversing with each other and with friends over their not-quite-as-ridiculously-named children’s foibles. In my mind’s eye, I could picture Charlotte penning these accounts with a half-smile on her face and a gleam in her eye. “Inconstant” Kitty has “no faculty of attention” and Fred Bruce forgets “everything he is desired to remember” (Part I), while the “A-B-C Darians” sort through folk practices of child-rearing in light of the encroaching scientific principles of child-rearing, and come up with a new scheme for education, the outcome of which is the Parents’ National Education Union (PNEU) (Part II). 

These accounts show that Charlotte was a keen observer of family life and interaction between mother and father, child and parent, novice and professional in the detail with which she distinguishes her characters from each other and has them trot out quite eloquently the views on character development and education disputed in her day. Her comical though compassionate depictions of children caught up in bad habits shows forth her years of being present in the moment –watching and listening — in order to later reflect on what could have been done to address the situation effectively. The historical fiction of the beginning of the PNEU Charlotte  crafted through her likewise exquisite attentiveness to drawing room discussions and dinner conversations. It’s delightful to read Charlotte in this capacity of eavesdropper, and impressive to see her adeptness at conveying her ideas and principles through imagined dialogue and socially-situated interaction. 

In reading Betty Edwards’ Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle volumes, one will have no trouble picking up on the parenting weaknesses and wisdom of the mid 20th century. I recommend Leslie Laurio’s summaries and paraphrases of Formation of Character, found at, to support the reading of Volume 5 of the Original Home-Schooling Series. In either case, I’m certain that one will recognize the same foolishnesses and insights in the deliberations of the characters in both books. And because we deal with the same parenting and child-rearing matters today, readers will find themselves laughing out loud as they recognize their own fumbling issues and efforts in the pages of these delightful books.

Copyright Lisa Cadora 2012 

This entry was posted in: Philosophy


Carroll Smith has spoken on various topics related to Charlotte Mason. Currently he teaches at Gardner-Webb University and enjoys working with children, teachers, college students, and Charlotte Mason Institute. He was a teacher and a principal for 21 years before coming to Gardner-Webb University where he has been for six years. Having grown up in eastern North Carolina, he attended East Carolina University for his undergraduate degree and his master's in school administration. He completed his terminal degree and wrote his dissertation on Charlotte Mason at Virginia Tech. Carroll enjoys reading, gardening, and discussing ideas with friends. He and his wife, Andra, and their two young adult college-age children, Corban and Anna, enjoy living, working and playing in North Carolina.


  1. Kendra Barrow says

    Love this. Now that you point it out, I can see some similarities between Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle and dear Charlotte. Unfortunately, natural consequences are easier to see when looking at others’ children and not my own.

  2. Mrs. Bennet, my third grade teacher, read Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle aloud to us. My own children have loved these books and our family favorite is “The Thought-You-Saiders Cure”. You make an interesting comparison between Mason and Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle. Honestly, I never thought to compare the two. Fun post, Lisa!

  3. Pingback: More CM Educators Plus Volume 5 « Letters from Nebby

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