AmblesideOnline AO Parents' Review Articles AmblesideOnline.org

The Parents' Review

A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture

Edited by Charlotte Mason.

"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."
______________________________________
The House of Education.

Volume 3, 1892/93, pgs. 651-656


Letter from the Visitor to the Lady Patronesses of the House of Education and Parents interested in its aims.

Madam,--May I call your attention to the enclosed application, addressed to the Trustees of the Pfeiffer Bequest, petitioning that a grant of money may be set apart as scholarships for the students training at the House of Education?

I am anxious not only to secure the signatures of the Patronesses to the above application, but also to enlist the sympathies of all parents in the extension of the work under notice. At the drawing-room meeting held last spring in Grosvenor Square, by kind permission of the Duke and Duchess of Portland (Sir Douglas Galton in the chair), the objects and aims of the House of Education were clearly defined.

The initial idea, which differentiates the House from some other training schools, is, that the education of a child begins at its birth. Only in very early childhood do we find that plasticity of nature which can be moulded into any shape, and then only, leaving the basis of individual character out of account, is a child's mind a blank sheet (if it is allowable to make use of the old theory of the tabula rasa by way of illustrating a child's receptivity to impressions) on which it becomes both our duty and our privilege to trace such outlines as shall determine, in a measure, the future forming of its character. That these outlines must not be left to chance, or be filled in ignorantly, carelessly, or unmethodically, every one will admit. To the mother's love and insight, which must always stand first in any enumeration of early educative influences, must be added, therefore, a knowledge of principles and methods, as well as the experience of how to teach. The great value of trained skill in school teachers has been thoroughly recognised, and the existing institutions which furnish certificated mistresses are already bearing good fruit in the much higher standard of mental training, as well as of mere teaching, which is now available in High Schools; but there has hitherto been no recognition of the need for specially trained nursery and schoolroom governesses for the house.

If education begins with the dawning of consciousness, we must have for the early days of training those who are versed not so much in book-learning as in the science of mental development, the knowledge of how to stimulate and control the activities of nerves peripherally and centrally initiated, i.e., those impressions that reach the brain from without, and those that travel outwards from within.

Under this head we must reckon, first, the developing of intelligence by quickening the powers of observation, teaching the child to see with his own eyes, and in like manner to use his other senses; second, the controlling of the emotional element in mind, whereby the feelings become a reliable factor in the evolution of imagination; third, the training of spontaneity, called will, in such a manner that it shall rule over the other faculties and capacities of human life, and thus determine character.

These are some of the aims of the House of Education; but Miss Mason, who is the originator as well as the Principal (and inspirer) of the institution, unites two rare qualities. She is not only in the van of scientific thought as to education, but she realises keenly the importance of mechanical training, and her students are only accepted on the understanding that they will have the practical, as well as the theoretical, elements of education. A "Tante" (a trained governess for young children, as opposed to the untrained and poorly equipped "nursery governess") or a governess leaving the House with a certificate, has a fair knowledge of Physiology, Hygiene, and First Aid, so necessary in the care of young children. She has been taught sewing, smocking, &c., and has had practice in the making of children's garments. She has learnt such home arts and industries as modelling, basket work, bent-iron work, chip carving, &c. She not only has adequate knowledge of the subjects proper for her pupils, of whatever age, but she has learned the rational, and therefore delightful, method of teaching each. Much importance is attached to "nature lore," and the students have a spring session of out-door work, under the direction of highly qualified naturalists. They are also prepared to work the Parents' Review School, the pupils of which vary in age from six to eighteen, with attainments correspondingly various.

I cannot yet speak with authority, as one who has seen the House, but I am able to lay before you the interesting testimony of two able witnesses, who have visited and critically inspected the workings of the institution.

Dr. Schofield, who was one of the first to grasp the importance of Miss Mason's new departure in principles of education, and who bore eloquent testimony to the fact at the meeting in Grosvenor Square, writes:

"Having called at Ambleside while in the North, I feel I can now speak from personal knowledge. I consider that the House of Education, as regards the class of pupils in training, the style of the House, the arrangements for management, and the general course of training, is well worthy of hearty support. And as the thing grows, it should become the most complete institution of its kind.

"I am quite sure the aims and the methods used would delight the heart of Ruskin, and if the young ladies only appropriate a tithe of what they are taught they will bring a new power into our schoolrooms."

Mrs. Frances Steinthal, who, as artist and educationalist, has written several valuable papers in the Parents' Review, writes:

"I spent a week at the House of Education last July, and was most satisfied with the students and their work. They are bright and intelligent, full of enthusiasm for this vocation, and for the training they are receiving. The doctor gives a lecture on hygiene every Tuesday, and the district nurse comes one evening a week to teach practical bandaging, sick nursing, poultice-making, &c.

"The students live in an atmosphere of culture which cannot fail to greatly influence the little ones they will afterwards come in contact with."

The ten weeks of the summer holidays have been used as a probationary term of teaching for the students in training since Christmas. The result has been most satisfactory, the families with whom these students have been placed, desiring urgently to obtain their services when their course of training shall be completed.

The practical spirit of the House seems to be thoroughly exemplified in its internal working.

The fee for training and boarding for the year is L50. (fifty pounds)

Each boarding-house is under the superintendence of a responsible lady. This gives great elasticity to the institution, as boarding-houses can be added as they are required.

The first house is already filled, and a second is now open. The class-rooms are capable of holding a hundred or more students. (The kindness of friends has placed an admirable building at the service of the Institution at a minimum cost for necessary expenses.)

Notwithstanding the small sum charged for board and training, the number of students now in residence, though rapidly increasing, is sadly inadequate to supply the demand for governesses trained by Miss Mason.

On the other hand, all those who have any connection with the work know how many well-educated girls, daughters of clergymen, officers, &c. would gladly avail themselves of this college for a year. It would be the means of utilising their past teaching by brining it to bear directly on the science of education, and it would kindle in those who had it that spark of enthusiasm which would transform their teaching career from a mere profession into a sacred vocation, while it would also be a practical way of sifting out from the ranks of certificated governesses those who had no sympathy for children, and who would be more congenially employed in other professions.

Unfortunately, the difficulty of postponing the bread-earning age, and of finding the necessary funds for another year of school life, is the sad reason why an ever-increasing number of inadequately trained governesses fills the educational market, while parents who apply to the House for a "Tante" or for a Governess are sent empty away, hardly even, as yet, with a promise of better things to come.

It is for this reason I ask your earnest support of the enclosed appeal.

I am requested by the Principal to make it known that, in addition to the year's training given to those who enter as students to obtain the certificate, facilities of studying the aims and methods of the House of Education are afforded to all who make teaching their vocation.

There are many governesses of splendidly developed mental powers and trained faculty who realise that their influence in schoolroom life is limited to the teaching of lessons.

To them the principles of true education, the training of character, and the laws of mental development, are as yet a sealed book, and they would probably be the first to acknowledge that while they turn out pupils to pass creditable examinations, they have merely touched the surface of mind--laid on a veneer that will not stand the strain of life--whereas did they know how to work from the centre, instead of only in the circumference, their efforts would tend in the direction, morally, of developing in their pupils that discipline of character summed up in self-reverence, self-knowledge, self-control, and, mentally, in helping them to acquire habits of concentration of mind, of intellectual curiosity, and of conscientious work. These latter are the factors which incite a pupil to learn, instead of merely letting herself be taught, and they make schoolroom days the beginning of a splendid career of self-education rather than the narrow limit of a discipline which is to end with "coming out."

Miss Mason's scheme is elastic enough to find room also for those who realise that though their schoolroom days are over, their education is only beginning on the freer, fuller lines of dawning womanhood. A residence of some months at Ambleside, joining the students' classes, learning how to teach as well as what to teach, and profiting by the whole atmosphere of the House, which is essentially developmental, would amply repay those who chose to make such a sacrifice in their first years of leisure.

I need hardly emphasise the fact that the House of Education in no way attempts to compete with colleges or other educational institutions where a far higher standard of learning is available. Its object is essentially the practical one of suggesting larger and truer conceptions of home education, and meeting the demand consequent thereon by the supply of highly trained educationalists as teachers.

The largest and truest conception of education embraces the relation of human sonship to the divine fatherhood, and accepts the responsibilities as well as the privileges attaching thereto, not half-heartedly, but in the spirit of generous response to highest calling. This is the keynote of the House of Education.

To those ladies, governesses, and others, who grasp the scope of this theory of education, Miss Mason offers the facilities necessary for studying its aims and methods at Ambleside.

As individual requirements must vary, no undeviating plan as to length of stay or mode of living is laid down by the rule for students who have not in view the certificate of the House of Education.

Each lady applying to the Principal, House of Education, Ambleside, will receive all the information she requires.

Believe me, yours truly
Frances Dallas Yorke,
Visitor to the
House of Education.
Walmsgate, Louth.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *

Parents' attention is called to Miss Mason's valuable book, Home Education, 3s. 6d. (Kegan Paul), also to the monthly serial entitled Parents' Review, edited by Miss Mason, price 6d.



Proofread by Stephanie H. 2008