Tutoring in the Regency

Tutoring in the Regency

The topic of tutoring has been on my mind a lot in recent days, for reasons I’ll not go into here. Suffice it to say, I thought it would be an appropriate topic for a blog post. 🙂

Teacher explaining something to her pupil in a classroom

The standard government-run schools we see today were not a thing anywhere in the world that I’m aware of until the mid- to late-1800’s. In the Regency era, education could be best described as varied.

Let me just put it out there immediately that few among the poor had any education whatsoever, largely because there were no public schools available as we know them, and poor/working class parents could not afford to hire someone to teach their children. If they even saw a need for education at all.

For those with the funds to hire them, the basics of reading and arithmetic, and probably writing, were taught at home, by governesses. According to this article by Donna Hatch, governesses also taught geography, history, and other things. They taught girls and boys both, and started with the kiddos when the little ones were four or five.

For some families, the boys got a tutor instead of a governess. They would be taught Latin and other languages, business, science, and sports.

Sending the boy to a local gentleman who was educated was an option that some parents chose. This person was often a clergyman. Jane Austen’s father offered lessons to day students as a way to supplement his income. Sometimes, instead of only teaching day students, a minister might turn his home into a small boarding school to which parents from further away would send their boys.

After a few years with the tutor or receiving lessons from the clergyman or other educated gentleman, parents might send their sons to preparatory schools. These came in various sizes and prepared the boys for places like Eton, Harrow, etc. This is another thing Jane Austen’s father did, when they lived in Steventon. He ran a preparatory school, with his students being boarders. He charged £35 per term for each student, which allowed him to greatly increase his annual income.

Education for girls, while not always valued as highly as it was for their brothers, did exist. The Austen girls attended a boarding school for a while, which is something many girls did. The education was not as comprehensive as what boys received, but girls did learn languages, literature, writing, and basic arithmetic, all of which were needed to be able to one day run a home. Well, except for languages, but languages do make one a well-rounded person.

In addition to academic subjects, both boys and girls learned things like manners, discipline, dancing, and proper conversational skills. Where boys learned sports … hunting, boxing, and fencing, for example … girls learned sewing, knitting, and embroidery. Both were often taught to paint or draw or play an instrument. These sorts of things were seen as vital to attracting a person of the other sex as a marriage partner, thereby securing the future of the family line.

View of Eton College Chapel, Windsor, England

I have read in a couple places that sometimes, boys were taught by tutors up until they were ready to attend University. I suppose it depended upon the family’s needs and desires as to which avenue a child would take.

As you can see, what I said earlier about education in the Regency era being varied is true. Nowadays, there is an expected path that every child takes … pre-school, elementary school, middle/junior high school, then finally high school and maybe secondary education. Though the types of schools available varies, with some families choosing charter schools, private schools, or even homeschooling, every child is expected to be educated, and they generally all receive identical instruction. In the Regency, though, things were very different.

Given that I have always been shy and introverted (I’m not quite as shy now as I was forty years ago, but I remain quite introverted), I would have much preferred to have a tutor and learn at home. I love to learn but dislike people. LOL What about you?  

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July 20, 2022 8:46 AM

They didn’t have pre school when I was a child so I went to infant school from 5 – 8, then junior school from 8 – 11 then to Grammar School. I loved school, I’m not an extrovert but I had lots of friends and I loved the lessons and the extra curricular activities. At junior school we wrote, printed and sold a newspaper. At Grammar school we had socials, foreign language choirs, drama and gymnastic clubs.

July 19, 2022 4:55 PM

I had a terrible time in middle school so I would have definitely preferred a tutor.

Caryl Kane
Caryl Kane
July 18, 2022 2:34 PM

I’d would have enjoyed being homeschooled.

cindie snyder
cindie snyder
July 18, 2022 10:38 AM

I probably would have liked to be taught at home too. I was very shy and had a hard time sometimes but I think being in school around other kids was good too.

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