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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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How Are The Principles of the P.N.E.U. To Be Spread Amongst Those We Designate "The Poor"?

by Isabella Copeland.
Volume 4, 1893/94, pgs. 846-849


All who are awake to the immense importance of the subject of the bringing up and training of children, must long by every means in their power, to help forward any movement that has the awakening and helping of parents for its aim. Many are watching with thankful hearts the success of the P.N.E.U. Begun as it was among some of the highest in our land, it is winding though the circles of society, permeating the thought and writings of more than one of our gifted men and women. But those to whom the subject grows increasingly important--fraught as it is with the weal or woe of coming generations, teeming with possibilities of the highest good--feel that more enthusiasm and earnest work are needed from every individual who had the welfare of young life really at heart. Each section of society had its own special individuality, and any subject or theory to be propagated successfully, must be presented and treated in such a way, as to meet its particular mode of thought and habit of life. To every interested woman quite a large field presents itself among friends and visitors; with very little tact and discretion is it easy to introduce the subject in conversation, and curiosity and interest may be aroused which may lead to happiest results. To lend a copy of the Parents' Review will be sure to secure at least a few subscribers among those who read, indeed we little know what a large good may accrue from such simple means; the great thing is to be intensely earnest to do our share in spreading what we know of the P.N.E.U. But this little paper is to deal solely with bringing its principles within grasp of those to whom the Parents' Review would be little less than a foreign language. Perhaps the two best agencies are mothers' meetings and cottage visiting. One thing needs to be very distinctly borne in mind, viz. the very different range of knowledge and degrees of intelligence, not to speak of moral differences, to be found among mothers belonging to the same class. Taking an average meeting we shall find a proportion of those whose homes are neat and well managed, who work hard to keep respectable. Some of these will be narrow in thought and exceedingly shy of a new idea; others like to read a little, seem to have a somewhat wider outlook on life in general, and take an interest in what their children learn at school.

Then we find those who have as little idea of household management and wise expenditure of money as a child; others who are simply indifferent to everything. Some again who are ignorant, but have a desire to know, and would learn gladly if they could. Of course there will be a sprinkling of the bad and coarse, as well as of the good and well meaning.

With many more shades of character than we can specify, we note some whose minds seem an absolute blank; only those who have talked with them can know at all how extremely small is their power of thinking, and how very gently, patiently and brightly, one must put any truth to them if there is to be any impression made. When we understand that, we cease to wonder that gossip has such an attraction, seeing it is the only recreation and enjoyment, almost indeed the only break, in a life most monotonous. Now to take a mothers' meeting composed of such varied and far-apart conditions, we see at a glance how difficult it would be to give the simplest address upon the training of children which should be teaching and helpful to all. Here comes in the necessity and good of the wise and discreet visitor: we say wise and discreet advisedly, for indeed no work requires more tact, greater aptitude, and more real love for our fellow creatures than does that of visiting the homes of our poor, if we are to do any real good. Those who teach, whether by simple addresses at mothers' meetings or influencing individually the mothers they visit, need not only a practical knowledge of children and their needs, but an intimate acquaintance with their homes. To understand the small amount of privacy attainable in a house of two or three rooms by a family of eight or nine,--to know what a different art cooking becomes where utensils are few and fire accommodations small, and often so much out of order that the frying pan does service too frequently with good excuse,--makes all the difference between giving advice well nigh impossible to carry out, applying principles in such a way as to suit the circumstance of those who hear. The twenty minutes or half hour devoted to Bible reading and talk is the sheet anchor of a mothers' meeting. I have been struck with the profound attention given to this when the reader was one who not only loved the Bible, but could read in a voice, and with a rendering, that was in itself an explanation, and then followed it with a few earnest words that went straight to the hearts of those who heard. This will often give an opportunity for hints regarding the children; but it seems to me we want something more,--such as a systematic course. If once a fortnight, or three weeks, a time was given for a simple, plain homely talk about the bringing up of our children, by a lady who is a mother, and who has real sympathy and helpfulness to offer to her less favored sisters, much good might be achieved. Of course much depends on the hold of the speaker upon the affection and esteem of her listeners. A little course marked out, especially if a simple syllabus were given to each mother, would be a help, and tend to waken interest. Few, if any, know the slightest thing about their own bodies, still less do they understand the laws of health. A few large diagrams of different parts of the human frame would be a great assistance, and enable some at least to see why milk is the only proper food for a baby up to a certain age. We want to beget first a reverence for the body, and thus lay the best foundation towards its being regarded and treated sacredly. A mother who has seen correct drawings of some of our wonderful organs, and listened to an understandable explanation of their working, must be more likely to think about the development of the little bodies entrusted to her keeping and care.

Starting from this, we proceed to speak of the soul and mind, and enter the world of morals. Here we must be specially guarded. Language of the simplest must be used, illustrations from the life with which they are familiar. Slowly but surely we want to bring them to feel that the responsibility of their children's life and future is laid upon them by God, that they have it in their power very largely to build healthy bodies, and form a character--the result of constant habit--that shall be a blessing to its owner and to society. A worker here will doubtless have many a heartache, but also many a joy. It is astonishing how attentively women and mothers, even of rather indifferent stamp, will listen to one who they feel really cares for them, and seeks to help them with the very heavy burden life is to numbers of them. And this brings us back to the foundation point. The one aim of mothers' meetings must be nothing less than making the Lord Christ so attractive to them that they shall yield themselves to Him. There is much less difficulty in helping a Christian mother to train her children than one who is not. Once gain their interest, once get women to realize that there are laws of education which if obeyed must lead to success, and if not heeded, to utter failure, and an important step is gained. As in most good work the success may seem small and slow for the thought, time and work given, but if one mother here and another there, shall send out into the world children fitted for their place in life, they in their turn shall spread the good, and the ultimate results be far beyond our ken or thought. If the lady who addresses the meeting cannot visit, the one who does should be present at the meetings, so as to become personally acquainted with the mothers there, and to hear the line of teaching and thought followed by the speaker. Given the right warm-hearted, clear-headed woman, the work of visiting with repay richly, many hidden difficulties will be disclosed, the ideas laid down in general terms adjusted to the peculiar circumstances, disposition or needs of each particular child. Indeed, if only a place in the heart be won, it is impossible to say what may be done, but it is work which, if well done, will repay tenfold.

The world's greatest need to-day is wise, capable mothers. Shall not those whose womanhood has been crowned with God's sweetest earthly gifts, seek to help those who have as a rule so thoroughly missed any right training for their duties as mothers? Some mothers' meetings have apparently little higher aim than helping the sewing and saving the pence: good so far as it goes, but not enough. Wherever mothers meet weekly, whether a dozen or a hundred, there is a grand opportunity of teaching and propagating P.N.E.U. principles. Mr. Ruskin says we should feel every ill-dressed women or child a personal disgrace. Shall we apply the same principle to ill trained children and wretched homes?<