Jo and Mr. Bhaer spend a year apart, working and waiting to have enough money to get married. In their second year apart, Aunt March dies and leaves her mansion, Plumfield, to Jo.
Laurie assumes Jo will sell the mansion, but Jo explains that she is planning to use the building to open a boarding school for boys.
The whole family likes Jo's plan: Mr. Bhaer can teach the subjects he knows, Mr. March can experiment with progressive education techniques, and old Mr. Laurence can sponsor the school.
Jo explains that she has been considering this plan for a long time – it combines her love for tomboyish sport with her mothering instinct. She's planning to care for abandoned or lost boys who might otherwise be corrupted.
Laurie wonders how Jo will pay for the school if all the boys are charity cases. She says that she'll have rich pupils at first, and then use the proceeds from their tuition to grant scholarships to needy boys. After all, rich boys need a good moral education, too.
Jo says she's already "brought up" one boy pretty well – Laurie himself! She tells him that he can be a model for the other boys.
Jo is overwhelmed by the love and enthusiasm of her family. She only misses one thing – Mr. Bhaer, who is still away in the West earning money as a teacher.
Now that Jo has Plumfield, Mr. Bhaer returns and they get married. Their school at Plumfield takes off right away; they have six or seven boys, many of them sponsored by Mr. Laurence.
The narrator tells us that the school is "poetic justice" – Aunt March used to terrorize the local boys, and now her estate is a home for them.
The school isn't fashionable and they don't make a fortune, but it is happy and they care for their boys well. And now Jo is called – wait for a terrible pun – Mother Bhaer. Say it out loud and...yes, we know, it's a terrible pun. Blame Louisa May Alcott, not Shmoop.
Jo does make mistakes and there are a lot of funny incidents at the school, but her love and hard work win out and even the most hard-hearted boy relents and becomes better under her care.
After a few years, Jo has two boys of her own: Rob, named for her father, and Teddy, named for Laurie.
One day in October, five years after Jo's wedding, the whole extended family – Marches, Laurences, Brookes, and Bhaers – gathers together to pick apples and have a picnic.
Everyone eats and talks and has a great time. As they pick apples, the boys play, the men discuss philosophy, Amy sketches and Mrs. March and Meg sort the apples.
At 4:00 everyone takes a break and has a meal. Professor Bhaer makes a toast to Aunt March, and then another to Grandma's sixtieth birthday. Grandma, of course, is Marmee.
Everyone gives presents to Marmee. Most of the children give handmade gifts.
Finally, the Professor leads the boys in singing a song that Jo wrote for the occasion.
After the singing, the boys play. The adults sit together and the March girls reminisce about the old days.
Amy comments on how different Jo's life is from what she originally thought it would be. Jo says that she's very happy, but she still hopes to write a great book someday.
Meg says that she came very close to achieving the "castle in the air" that she built for herself – remember that bit in Chapter 13? She's happy and content with the home that she has.
Amy says that her life is also different from what she expected, but like Jo she hasn't given up on her art. She is making a marble statue of her infant daughter, who is sickly and likely to die young.
Everyone agrees that they are extremely happy, and the novel ends with Marmee saying that she could never wish them greater happiness than they already have. Aww, isn't that sweet.