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The Parents' Review

A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture

Edited by Charlotte Mason.

"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."
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The Parents' Review School

by the Editor.
Volume 2, 1891/92, pg. 308-317


"It's too provoking! Mary takes forty marks, while Bessie, with not half her power, takes seventy."

"How do you account for it?"

"What Mary does shows intelligence and pleasure in her work; but then she has done so little. She has only attempted one-third of the questions, and, even so, two of her answers are incomplete."

"She does not know as much as Bessie?"

"She knows six times as much. I believe she could have answered every question had she been able to pull herself together and get the work done in the time."

"Oh, well, that's everything. If she knows, it does not matter much about writing down what she knows; that is, unless she is going in for an 'examination career.'"

"Now, I should just reverse your statement and say, 'If she cannot write it down (that is, express it), it does not matter much what she knows.'"

"Don't you exaggerate the importance of examinations? Mary seems to me a nice, ladylike, intelligent girl; a good girl, too; and you allow that she is by no means ignorant. These qualities will last her lifetime; while who will care a pin next week whether she got forty or seventy marks for this paper! If I must have one of the two belong to me, give me Mary with her forty before Bessie with her seventy marks."

"Do forgive me for saying so, but you are talking nonsense. There is no question of comparison between Mary and Bessie; the one comes from a refined home, the other does not. It is not which is the better of the two, but how much better might Mary be if--? By better I mean of how much more use in the world. Society is insisting upon definite available worth in these days."

"And I maintain that Mary has definite worth--in the qualities I have named--sufficient to qualify her for any tests society may impose. Ability to pass examinations is merely a scholastic and not a social test."

"Mary's qualities are not available for the world's active work. As for examinations, they are merely tests; so is conversation; so is every domestic emergency a test; and the power of bringing what is in you to the fore when it is wanted is just the power possessed by the available capable people who serve their generation."

"I begin to see. You think Mary 'good stuff wasted.' But what is to be done? If the poor child is not born with that enviable capacity to produce her best when it is wanted, what help is there for a natural defect? How many women, and men too, alas, fail just there."

"Oh dear, when shall we learn not to take ourselves and other people as inevitable! Don't you see, the faults are in the child's bringing-up, not in her disposition. It is to her bringing-up she owes the refinement and intelligence you notice; and it is to her bringing-up she owes the disappointing fact that she continually falls into the ranks of girls younger and more ignorant than herself. It is impossible to pull her up. She will be at a disadvantage all her school-life. She will get into the habit of being at a disadvantage, and will not have the necessary self-confidence to take her fit place in the world. It is all summed up in a word; she has been brought up at home."

"I must confess to a weakness for home-trained girls. There is often a modesty and an air of good-breeding about them which I think I miss in your thorough-paced school girl, nice and frank a creature as she may be."

"I daresay you are right. Anyway, girls from nice homes have a very good effect on the school. But, don't you see, these home-birds have the defects of their qualities. I could give you a dozen examples. Fanny T. tells me 'I thought' so-and-so, when there was no call for her to think, but to listen to plain directions. Of course, she does the wrong thing, and loses marks. Emma H., 'Oh, I'm very sorry, but I forgot' - another breach of rules and loss of marks; and, what is of far more consequence, evasion of the discipline the rules are meant to give. Alice K. is perpetually occupied with nice cases of conscience; she confesses infinitesimal wrong-doings--consults you upon microscopic moral points. If her neighbour tells her what page she must read, is that unfair help? And she is gulping camels all the time she is straining out gnats. Then, you remarked what a delightfully intelligent child Annie B. is; her chatter is bright enough, I allow, but, do you try to teach her! Here awa' and there awa', like wander Willie, are the wits of the child. Miss Everett, her class-mistress, has a good story of her. Query, 'Seven sevens'? Answer, 'Jemima.' We never got to the bottom of 'Jemima.'"

"Oh, yes, I know; but none of these are bad faults. You often see that sort of thing in children brought up at home."

"No doubt you do; and my contention is, that they are bad faults, standing in the way of progress and endeavour; and the children who betray them show bad training as much as if they were rude or deceitful."

"Do you think so? You have put your finger on failings of refined gently nurtured children; but don't you think good manners and even over-scrupulously show good training? I do not see why you should not value these things as highly as the readiness of the school girl."

"I do; what I complain of is that these are the children from the best homes, who have had the best training, and have the most in them. But, for lack of something analogous to school discipline in their early training, they begin school at a disadvantage, they begin 'life' at a disadvantage, and the world never gets the best of them."


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This is a true indictment, as everybody allows when "the boys" are in question. They must go to school, and to good schools, too, though the girls be poked up the chimney to pay for it. We need not say a word for the boys, excepting this--that their four or five years of school-life would be of fourfold service to them if they were sent to school in good training.

No school advantages can make up to a child for the scope for individual development he should find at home, under the direction of his parents, for the first eight or ten years of life. Later, sterner discipline, intellectual as well as physical, takes the field. The routine of the schoolroom is even more valuable than its teaching, and the virtues and habits of the communal life, the life of the citizen, are perhaps never so thoroughly acquired at home as at school. Exclusive home-training continued too long tends to exaggerated individuality, eccentricity; while school-life, begun too soon, tends to loss of original power and individual character.

But, theory apart, this is what actually happens. Most children of the educated classes, boys and girls, get their early "schooling" at home. The children of parents who live in the country, where good day-schools are unattainable, have no alternative.

Girls, of the professional class, living in the country, commonly get the whole of their "schooling" at home. Girls of the highest class are rarely sent to school.

Sometimes the mother teaches the home-school, with occasional help from the father.

More commonly, the busy mother is helped by a governess. The young governess may have little or no knowledge of educational principles and methods; her qualifications being, that she is a nice, well-mannered girl, imperfectly acquainted with "the rudiments" of various studies. She may, however, be highly qualified, and possessed of valuable certificates.

Where the mother teaches her children herself, or with the help of an untrained governess, it is possible that something might be done from without--

a. To secure a common standard of attainment, so that the home-taught child shall be equal to the rest when he goes to school.
b. To do this without sacrificing individual development, and the following of the bent of each child's tastes and powers.
c. To introduce good methods and good text-books into the home school-room.
d. To foster the habits of attention, punctuality, diligence, promptness, and the power of doing given work in a given time.
e. To secure the gain of definite work upon a given syllabus, without the danger of "cram," and with freedom in the choice of subjects.
f. To test and encourage the home-school from term to term by examinations, testing intelligent knowledge rather than verbal memory.
g. To give the home-taught child those advantages of comparison with others and of periodic classification which the school-taught child possesses.
h. In a word, while increasing rather than diminishing the leisure of the home-taught child, to counteract any dawdling, dilatory, procrastinating habits which put him at a disadvantage as compared with the smarter school-child.

We have not found ourselves able to give this kind of help to parents through the pages of the Parents' Review, because very mischievous results might follow from prescriptions of work being applied to children for whom they were totally unfitted. But we see a way, at last, to do what we have felt all along to be very important work.

We propose to open a "Parents' Review School."

It shall be a unique school, for the pupils shall go to school, and be taught at home, at one and the same time, and have the twofold advantages of school discipline and home culture.

This is our scheme:--

To invite such parents as wish to enter their children in our school to send in statements (in answer to questions) as to--

a. The physical condition of each child, with weight and measurements.
b. The powers of each child.
c. The tastes of each child.
d. The attainments of each child (with specimens of work from the older children), and, where parents have already framed a definite scheme of education--
e. The course of work they wish each child to follow.
f. The lesson books they wish their children to use.

A scheme of work and a time-table for a term, framed upon these data, will be sent; accompanied with conditions which should secure prompt, punctual, and definite work and ample leisure.

At the end of a term the children will be examined upon the work of the term, and classified according to results. The examinations, viva voce for the most part, should be conducted by the father of the family, or by some outsider, who will look upon the examination itself as a training in probity for the little people.

The few simple questions for little children will not occupy more than half an hour, and the regulations will be framed with a view to safeguard the children from worry, and to give them the habit of taking examinations as matters of course.

This opportunity to compare with others, and to work up to a common standard, will, we believe, be welcomed by all home teachers, whether parents or governesses, however well qualified and however much at liberty to give full attention to their children. But there are much-occupied parents who are compelled by circumstances to content themselves with governesses who have had no special preparation for the work of teaching. To these it would, we believe, be an assistance to have the instruction of their children more entirely under direction. That is--

To have the work of the week set for each week, with full directions for teaching at each step.

To have the work of the month--written work, handiwork, collections, etc.--sent up, month by month, for correction and inspection.

In fact, to have the work of the untrained and inexperienced governess so far supplemented that, with intelligent and conscientious co-operation on her part, the children may receive valuable training and teaching.

The Parents' Review Home School will thus fall into two divisions--
a. That under Supervision, including, term by term, programme of work, time-table, examination, and classification as may be necessary.
b. That under Direction. In this division much of the responsibility of teaching is undertaken, governess or mother simply carrying out instructions. Children will be examined and classified in the same way in both cases.

The fee for Supervision in one guinea a year, for Direction, five guineas. This fee is not for each child, but for the family whether it be large or small. We hope our readers will not think it unfair that the fee should be the same for one child as for half a dozen. The charges are made as low as possible, considering that the clerical work must be done by highly qualified teachers. But there are large families of intelligent, gently-born children whose parents are unable to afford educational advantages for them. We are exceedingly anxious to bring opportunities to the doors of such families, because the larger the family, the less money there is to spend on education. Therefore we admit a large family into our school at the same rate as a single child. Other ways of helping our work--subscriptions to the P.N.E.U., for example--are open to parents who desire them. Will our readers help us to reach, not only those parents who are "up to date" in the matter of education and on the alert for opportunities, but the countless families taught by young "nursery governesses," at salaries not exceeding, perhaps, £20 a year?

It is hardly necessary in these days to combat the old waste-thrift notion that any sort of teaching does for little children. We say, on the contrary, take care of the earliest lessons and the rest will take care of itself. Lay the foundations carefully, thoroughly, and systematically, and the superstructure of a "sound education" is almost inevitable.

Where shall we begin?

With the child's earliest lessons. Here, for example, is the sort of work that will be set for the first (lowest) class in our school during the first term.

To recite, beautifully, six easy poems and hymns.

To recite, perfectly and beautifully, a parable and a psalm.

To add and subtract numbers up to ten, with dominoes or counters.

To read--what, and how much, will depend on what we are told of the child; children vary much in their power of reading.

To copy in print-hand from a book.

To know the points of the compass with relation to their own home, where the sun rises and sets, and the way the wind blows.

To describe the boundaries of their own home.

To describe any lake, river, pond, island, etc., within easy reach.

To tell quite accurately (however shortly) three stories from Bible history, three from early English, and three from early Roman history.

To be able to describe three walks and three views.

To mount in a scrap book a dozen common wild flowers, with leaves (one every week); to name these, describe them in their own words, and say where they found them.

To do the same with the leaves and flowers of six forest trees.

To know six birds, by song, color and shape.

To send in certain Kindergarten or other handiwork, as directed.

To tell three stories about their own "pets"--rabbit, dog, or cat.

To name twenty common objects in French, and say a dozen little sentences.

To sing one hymn, one French song, and one English song.

To keep a caterpillar, and tell the life-story of a butterfly from his own observations.

A formidable list of attainments for a child of five or six, but it is nearly all play-work, and to be done out-of-doors. The "sit-still" work should not occupy more than an hour and a half daily, and the time-table will show how all can be done, little by little, by day-by-day efforts. Our aim is to gather up the fragments of the child's desultory knowledge, so that nothing be lost. There is no waste more sad than the waste of those early years when the child's curiosity is keen and his memory retentive, and when he might lay up a great store of knowledge of the world he lives in with pure delight to himself; but this fine curiosity is allowed to spend itself on trivial things, and the retentive memory--does it not sometimes store the idle gossip of the maids?

Where shall we leave off? We have no necessary limitations. If the parents desire it, those members of a family who are old enough may be prepared for the Cambridge Local, or other public examination (subject to a small additional fee). We do not lay ourselves out to prepare pupils for examination, but are willing to do so when they belong to families entered in our "School."

One condition we must make--that Parents who avail themselves of the "P.R. School" shall be (or become) subscribers of the Parents' Review, as some guarantee that they are themselves making a study of the principles of education.

The Parents' Review School "opens" on June 15th, that we may secure half a term's work before the summer holidays. Enquiries should be addressed to the Editor, care of Publishers. Pupils may be entered at any time.

The House of Education.

We are prepared to begin the work of the House of Education with a six weeks' summer session in lovely Ambleside. Two considerations have determined the choice of place. First, we wish to combine a delightful summer holiday with valuable work. Next, we desire, by means of field work under able learners, to give such knowledge of the physical geography, geology, meteorology, botany, and natural history of the lake country as parents should be prepared to give to their children concerning the neighborhood of their own homes.

We invite women who are, or are ever likely to become, the mothers, sisters, aunts, governesses, friends or neighbors of little children, to embrace this short and quite inexpensive course of training, which definite outdoor work in lovely country should make very pleasant.

This first summer session of the House of Education will, we hope, be made the occasion of an informal summer meeting of our friends. Many well-wishers to the Parents' Review and to the Parents' National Educational Union have expressed a wish to meet and discuss ways and means to help forward the work they have at heart. We propose a most pleasant place of meeting. Mothers who come with their families would be able to take up a considerable part of the training course, and some of the lectures and field-work may prove attractive to the gentlemen of a family. All the work of the session will be definitely practical; lectures, classes, demonstration-lessons, and field-work, bearing on the training and teaching of children' and we believe that all will be found attractive. Friends who help ably in the Parents' Review, and other leaders, will add their efforts to make this little "congress" of parents delightful and useful.

Arrangements will be made for excursions (with a view to field-work) covering the lake country. In the evenings, musical recitals, conversaziones, etc., will give opportunities for conference, as well as for social intercourse.

It is desirable that this opportunity should be taken to spread interest in the work. We hope that our friends will induce their friends to come, so that our "summer meeting" may lead to the formation of many local centres of work.

The price of tickets will be on the same scale as that for similar summer meetings elsewhere. A party of four or five (dividing expenses) might lodge in Ambleside at small cost. Indeed, lodgings may be secured here of the same quality, and at the same rates, as at most other holiday places. But our readers should write promptly (enclosing addressed cover and three stamps) for programme and list of lodgings, as the latter should be secured before the season begins.

The session to begin on Monday, August 3.

* * Since the commencement of the P.N.E.U. We have desired to start a magazine which should take the place of the Parents' Review in cottage homes. We are delighted to announce that the Editor of Onward and Upward* (the Countess of Aberdeen) has this month brought out a special P.N.E.U. Edition of that most taking, genial, and helpful of magazines (with "Wee Willie Winkie" for the bairns). We hope this generous effort to meet our needs will be warmly supported. Any of our readers who would like a number of specimen copies (free) to introduce may write to--The Secretary, Onward and Upward, Haddo House, Aberdeen, N.B.

* Address Editor, care of Publisher, "House of Education" on left-hand corner of envelope.
* 1d. a month, all Booksellers, P.N.E.U. edition.


Typed by *amy in peru* (March 2013)