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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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Some Reflections on the P.N.E.U. Conference

by Author Name
Volume 8, 1897/8, pgs. 409-410


Those who organized this, the first P.N.E.U. Conference, did so in fear and trembling. They asked some of our busiest workers to come from great distances and they dreaded lest the papers should be addressed to empty benches. Would members come to morning meeting during the London season? In other words were they sufficiently in earnest to make a real sacrifice of time, in order to learn what the Parent's National Educational Union really is and how it can help its members in their stupendous task of training and teaching their children? These questions have been answered in the affirmative; the Conference was unanimously pronounced to be the most successful in every way and the attendance was quite excellent. There was an average of about 90 people at the morning meetings and there were about 150 at Miss Mason's afternoon lecture and between 300 and 400 at the evening conversazione. Next year we may hope for double the number, as Branch secretaries will make still greater effort to make the Conference known to all their members in good time. People came up from all parts of England, and many letters testify that they were glad they had done so. One lady writes, "I think I never had such a treat as our Conference. The feeling of 'Brotherhood' throughout and the enthusiasm were most inspiring,"--and a gentleman, "Certainly the proceedings were most remarkable. There was an air of purpose, conviction and reality which is to me wholly surprising."

The "inspiring idea" which led to the organization of the Conference, was the knowledge that many members of the P.N.E.U. can but get a very dim idea of its teaching and principles. They may go to some disjointed lectures delivered by outsiders, even by people to whom the Union itself is hardly known. These may be most interesting and most helpful, but unless members attend all the lectures regularly, month by month, and read the Review and books which embody P.N.E.U. thought they cannot expect that true education which they as parents feel they need. Therefore, in framing the programme, the object kept in view was to tell members "what the P.N.E.U. is," and how branches can bring its teaching before their members. The groundwork of the arrangements was the leaflet which is published each month in the Parent's Review and widely distributed at all meetings of branches.

To carry out this idea, Miss Helen Webb, M.R. and Miss Mason were asked to read papers, which should help parents in working out the underlying principle of the Union, "That character is everything." Miss Mason also gave definite help to branch secretaries as to the best subjects to put before their members when arranging for monthly lectures on physical, mental, moral and spiritual development of children .

Mrs. Steinthal emphasized the value of art and manual training in education, and the best method of securing it.

A report of these papers follows this, but naturally in order to be kindled with the true fire of enthusiasm and inspiration, one should have heard the lectures and the discussions which followed them.

Then the second page of the leaflet was dealt with. It was thought that many members have never realised in how many different direction the Union offers them and their children a helping hand. Thus the central Natural History Club and exhibition were described and representatives of branch Natural History Clubs explained the methods adopted by them in helping children to know and love Nature as she lives and breathes.

A paper was read on the Mother's Educational Course, and many mothers were roused thereby to take advantage of the actual training in their work, which is thus offered them. The Parents' Review School was also described and letters read testifying its appreciation by the school masters and mistresses who had received children taught under its direction. In the discussion following the papers, several schoolmasters and parents spoke of the value of the work of this part of the Union. The House of Education was brought before members by papers written from three points of view--that of the Lady Visitor (Mrs. Dallas Yorke), the ex-Student (Miss Lanphier), and the Examiner (Mr. Rooper, H.M.I.). All these brought before the audience a much clearer view of the excellent and invaluable work carried on in this delightful training college at Ambleside than they could possibly have had hitherto. The Library and Parents' Review were touched upon in Miss Blogg's speech, in which she explained the work done by the Secretary, and the use which can be made of the Central Office. One of the principles of the Union is to "help parents of all classes," and Mr. Rooper, H.M.I., very kindly accepted the Conference Committee's invitation to put before the members the necessity for bringing the principles and teaching of the Union home to the less educated classes, and the means of doing so. Practical suggestions arising out of the discussion were that members should give talks at mothers' meetings, clubs, etc., on "Habit," "Character Training," and other kindred subjects; that similar classes should be held for nurses and servants; that natural history rambles for village children (and town children where possible) should be organized in connection with natural history clubs; and that the hand-work and brush-drawing lessons should in a similar way be handled and organized at girl's clubs, etc. Dr. Gladstone, F.R.S., who took part in the discussion, urged P.N.E.U. parents who had leisure to become Board School managers.

In the evening conversazione, Mrs. Boyd Carpenter spoke on "Links in the Home Chain," in which, as a mother, she gave many practical suggestions as to how to carry out the Parents' Review School motto--"I am, I can, I ought, I will."

During the week the Natural History Club Exhibition was on view, and many members availed themselves of the opportunity of seeing the collections sent up by members of the Central and Branch Natural History Clubs. Specimens of the handiwork of the students and ex-students of the House of Education and their pupils were also on view, as were some most beautiful Nature Note-books.

On Saturday, 29th, Miss Simpson, of the Yorkshire College, Leeds, delighted her hearers by a most interesting lecture on "The life-history of a Butterfly." The beautiful lantern slides and the brightness of the lecture were greatly appreciated by the children, while the elders felt they had a demonstration of how Nature lessons should be given.

What is the outcome of it all, and what has one gained? Will the conference merely have helped us to pass a delightful and interesting week?

It appears to one at least of the members that it has done more, far more than this. To begin with it has shown us as individuals that we are not alone in our earnest desire to learn

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