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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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A Few Words About the P.N.E.U.

by Madame Reppman, of Moscow
Volume 12, 1901, pgs. 701-710


"The object of the Parents' Union is the bettering of home education—the creation of a correct intercourse between school and home. . . Besides the influence with each other, the Union desires to bring parents and teachers to the true knowledge that education is a science requiring serious and thoughtful study; that the principal aim in education must be the foundation of character by instilling good habits, and by the presentation of living ideas."

Paper read at the meeting of the Pedagogical Society (Home Education Section), at the University of Moscow, on November 29th, 1900.

Last spring, when I was going to England with the intention of studying the pedagogical societies of that country, I was asked by the members of the section of Home Education (of the Pedagogical Society) to open up, if possible, intercourse between our section and these societies.

I did all in my power to fulfil as well as I could your commission. To-day I will in a few words tell you the results of my journey; after that I will ask you to allow me to acquaint you with the Parents' National Educational Union, and to share with you the impressions I had of the Union.

The Parents' National Educational Union and the Froebel Society, the representatives of which I had the pleasure to know personally, received my proposals of intercourse with our section of Home Education with interest and cordiality. They look with earnestness on such a connection; the identicalness of interests existing between people working on the same ground must bring men of different nationalities nearer to each other, giving them, in the first place, the opportunity of understanding each other, and in the second, the possibility of acquiring knowledge from one another.

I read the programme of our section at the conversazione during the annual conference of the P.N.E.U. [view it here] The conversazione is a very brilliant meeting of the Union. It takes place in the evening, and the foreign guests of the Union are asked to read and speak at the conversazione. After the reading of my paper, one of the members—Mr. Sadler—said the following kind words. (Here I translated Mr. Sadler's speech as it is in the Parents' Review for August, 1900. I also spoke of mentioning in your magazine the parts of our programme that could be useful to your own work.) At the end of the conference, by the help of some members of the Union, I had the opportunity of visiting some training colleges and kindergartens; I also spent a few delightful days at Ambleside. At Ambleside there is a House of Education, at the head of which is Miss Mason, the founder of the P.N.E.U., the author of Home Education, Parents and Children, and of many excellent papers that can be found in the Parents' Review.

If the modest knowledge I possess of the House of Education and the schools and training colleges I saw interests the members of our section, it is with the greatest pleasure that I will share with them the little I know. Now allow me to say a few words about the Parents' National Educational Union. I have been helped in my work by "The Principles and Objects of the Parents' National Educational Union"; an Address, by Mrs. Clement Parsons; and "The History and Aims of the P.N.E.U.," by Miss E. Kitching.

Last year, in a paper on different pedagogical societies existing abroad, Mr. Ventzel acquainted you with the history of the Union, so that I will exclusively speak of its internal life—of the moral and educational aim it has in view, and of the means that are employed to obtain the desired results.

The object of the Parents' Union is the bettering of home education—the creation of a correct intercourse between school and home. The Union wishes to present the opportunities to teachers and parents of meeting on neutral ground, and by a better acquaintance with each other to teach them to help one another in the difficult task of education. Besides the influence with each other, the Union desires to bring parents and teachers to the true knowledge that education is a science requiring serious and thoughtful study; that the principal aim in education must be the foundation of character by instilling good habits, and by the presentation of living ideas.

"To resolve the child's inheritance of mixed dispositions into sound character, into a sterling individuality, is, to Miss Mason and the Parents' Union, the ultimate problem of Education and its supreme end. Faithfully to translate this problem and end into terms of life, and of those little details of day by day which mean pretty nearly everything with a child, to make the means of its education, is the sole raison d'étre of the Parents' Union, and the gist of its thought and practice. According to Miss Mason, the alpha and omega of this education is habit, habit, habit. She takes with fervent literalness the famous sentence, 'Sow an Act, reap a Habit; sow a Habit, reap a Character; sow a Character, reap a Destiny,' and applies it to the whole scheme of Education. It is character alone, says the Parents' Union, that decides a human being's place in this world or in any other. By character alone can a man move his particular circle of the outside world, by character alone can he rule his own spirit. Talent dissevered from character is ineffectual, genius without character does but fret its hour. Whether of a nation or an individual, its own character is its supremest achievement."

Home

The education of children does not exclusively depend on school; it must begin in early childhood. The duties of the school teacher ought not to be to correct the mistakes of home education; it is only by uninterrupted work that satisfactory results may be obtained. Children must never be considered as playthings: they must be given healthy surroundings and then be left alone.

Down Time

"Miss Mason is of opinion that the constant society of his parents is too stimulating for a child. A young child needs frequent intervals, totally devoid of excitement to brain or nerves—intervals for a free stretching of every limb of his nature, for self-directed play, for mere gazing into space in animal tranquillity and perhaps in mental rumination. The Parents' Union believes that all children, boys as well as girls, should have a share of the very real happiness which comes from the exercise of the spiritualised strength we call skill. It sees, moreover, how extremely desirable it is that children should be educated in doing of common things well. Swimming and singing and knitting, cooking and cutting out and the knack of playing games—only the woman who is without these advantages perceives what advantages they are. But here, the Parents' Union would insert a warning note as follows. In the temptation to arrange for the children's learning such desirable things as basket work, clay-modelling, and Sloyd (which, through the medium of lectures, etc., we come to desire for our children), we must be sure that we look upon these as Child's Work and not as Child's Play. The Parents' Union urges us to respect the child's leisure and his growing time. What it really wants in connection with these matters is to see formed a public opinion of parents strong enough gradually to obtain this manual training of which I have spoken from the schools—as features, that is, in the ordinary school course. Real work is not over-work, and should never become so, and the Union would emphatically impress on parents the duty of securing leisure for their children and respecting that leisure themselves in the home."

I certainly have not the intention to give you a full characteristic of the views of the Parents' Union on education in this short paper, but perhaps the little I have said will be enough to give you a notion of the sound, practical and reasonable manner with which the founders of the Union approach the difficult task of education, and of the clearness of the aims to be reached.

Attentiveness, Accuracy, Living Ideas

I have not yet spoken of the views of the Union on the question of instruction. The aim of lessons is two-fold: to inculcate in the child mental habits of attentiveness and accuracy, and to present to him living ideas. A great stress is laid on the development of attentiveness, which is the fundamental power of every intellectual occupation, teach the child to concentrate and direct the strength of its mind on the task in hand; without attentiveness no sound reasoning is possible. Deeply persuaded of these truths, the Union acts according to its convictions, and advises the training of attentiveness and accuracy from early childhood.

Observation and Acquaintance with Nature

Another faculty of the mind, which parents and teachers must develop in their children, is the power of observation; acquaintance with natural history and natural objects is an excellent manner of training the power of observation. The knowledge of natural phenomena must not be theoretical but wholly practical, the child must gain his knowledge independently, by personal experience.

The Union possesses a natural history club, from which each branch can receive pamphlets and books treating on nature lore and natural history. Some branches have their own natural history clubs, the work of which has proved very satisfactory. The club arranges rambles and excursions for its members on a systematic plan. It edits a journal called The Children's Quarterly.

Every year, in May, during the annual conference, there is an exhibition of the works made by the young members of the club, which consist in collections of dried plants, drawings of flowers, plants and insects, which are often accompanied by personal descriptions, remarks and observations of the young explorer.

"Furthermore, it guides amateurs in giving Nature lessons, and recommends suitable text-books bearing on each section of natural history that is being taken up. Let me read you, from one of the Natural History Club pamphlets, some suggestions for children's work, Spring, 1899. For Members over ten years—

" 'No. 1.—Make a list of the flowers in your garden, and another of the flowers you see in the hedges.

" 'No. 2.—Watch the leaf buds as they open from day to day, and make notes of anything that strikes you in their various methods of opening. Make a list of the dates when the fruit trees blossom.

" 'No. 4.—Chrysalises collected in the autumn should be placed in dry moss in suitable breeding cages. Drawings should be made of them, and notes taken of their colour, structure, etc. Draw and describe the butterflies and moths that emerge.'

"For the children under ten the 'suggestion' is:—

" 'Make sketches of six different kinds of spring flowers, and tell where you found the flower and when. Don't forget the leaves.' "

Last year, during the summer vacation, an experiment was made by some members of the Union to awake the interest in Nature studies amongst the children of the poorer classes. For a beginning the result proved satisfactory. This winter some members of the Union were to visit schools, and by conversing with the pupils about Natural History and by showing them pictures, give them some knowledge of the subject.

The Parents' Review Magazine

The organ of the society is the Parents' Review, "dedicated with great deference, and with a strong assurance of their warm sympathy and support, to parents. The efforts which the Editor has already made to elucidate the problems which press upon the attention of parents have met with such an extraordinary response as to convince her that there is an imperative and immediate demand for a literary organ devoted to their interests . . .

"In these and other respects, the aim of the Parents' Review is to raise common thought on the subject of education to the level of scientific research, and to give parents grip of some half-dozen principles which should act as enormously powerful levers in the elevation of character.

"The object of this monthly magazine is to keep parents in touch with the best and latest thought on all those matters connected with the training and culture of children and young people which do not fall within the school curriculum."

A very interesting part of the magazine is "Aunt Mai's Budget," wholly devoted to children. The articles are written by children. Every month some subjects for drawings are issued. The drawings if desired are sent to Aunt Mai (Mrs. Steinthal). The Little Workers' Society, in which each member makes two garments a year for a child known to the little worker, the garment being suggested by the founder of the society.

PR Correspondence School

Allow me to speak to you now of another creation of the P.N.E.U., that is, of the Parents' Review School; the object of which is to help parents whose children are taught at home. I quote the programme. (The "Parents' Review School" Report for 1900, page 49, translated in Russian, till the examiner's report.)

Training for Mothers

Another very interesting work of the P.N.E.U. is "The Mothers' Educational Course." (Report for 1900, page 52, translated in Russian.)

Health

"Talks to Children's Nurses" (Report for 1900, page 14, translated to "have been held"). This year in one of the branches, Home Education is read and explained to nurses. After the reading there is a discussion, and I have been told the nurses take very great interest in the reading, ask what they don't understand and relate facts of their own practice. At the second or third of these lectures a young nurse remarked that "Now she could take real interest in her charges."

During the annual conference there was a lecture to nurses delivered by Dr. Helen Webb; I had the pleasure of being present at it. With a lively interest did the nurses listen to the paper read and to the discussion that followed, which is a proof of the many thoughts that were awakened by it.

Socio-Economic Differences

As the Parents' Union endeavours to have moral influence over parents of all classes, "the question of class legislation caused some perplexity in the first instance. It was felt that while here was common ground on which the rich and poor should meet together, yet, on the other hand, the details of home training and culture are not the same for people who have nurseries and artistic surroundings and for those whose lot is cast within narrower lines. But the difficulty settled itself; it was found that, to meet the artisan class, it is desirable to go to their usual places of meeting, and to work through existing organizations rather than to press another society on their attention. Work in mothers' unions, guilds, temperance halls, etc., is incumbent on every branch."

Branches

"And now a word upon the advantages offered to the member of each Parents' Union Local Branch, in return for their yearly subscription of half-a-sovereign or five shillings (the sum varies according to the individual decision of Secretaries as to whether to include the Parents' Review or not in the subscription). First, the members are invited to attend a certain number of free lectures yearly, and, secondly, they find therein the opportunity I have spoken of as the essence of the Union for consultation and consequent cooperation between parents and teachers. Furthermore, the members of the Branch are enabled to form and attend courses of lectures for themselves and classes for their children, which are arranged by the Local Honorary Secretaries. Thus, in our Hyde Park and Bayswater Branch, Mrs. Franklin placed six of such opportunities before the members last session, viz., for the children a brush-work class, a Sloyd and basket-work class, and a drill and gymnastic class; and for the adults, as well as children, hockey afternoons twice a week, with similar cricket arrangements commencing in May."

Some of the branches have reading circles and their work has proved very satisfactory. At the central office exists a large Educational Library, every branch may borrow twenty volumes each session, which can be lent round among the members.

(The Rules of the P.N.E.U., translated from the report for 1900.)

Conferences

In May the P.N.E.U. has its annual conference, which lasts four days; whichever of the members has the possibility comes to spend those few days in London. They are received as guests by the members of the Union living in that town. At the meetings as well as at the conversazione, excellent speeches are made, and papers on various educational subjects are read. I had a most excellent impression of the conference, I learned a good deal, and received many interesting suggestions that had to be thought over afterwards. One feels the members are all in earnest about their work; they have a great desire to come to the point in view, and as so much is already accomplished, there is a good prospect for the future. There seems to be something so genuine and good in the very atmosphere that surrounds one.

The subjects chosen by the readers were remarkably various, not only theoretical, answering the many questions that had been interesting the parents and teachers during the past year. We had a paper "On School Books and how they make for Education"; "The Educational Aspect of Gardening"; Professor Earl Barnes on "Education in America"; "Training for Nurses"; "Ruskin on Education"; and "Cookery for Children." During the conference, as I have already said, there was a special address to nurses, and a meeting for children, where they heard a very interesting paper on natural history. The lectures are delivered in a masterly way, and one feels that the members are in the habit of speaking and know how to express their thoughts clearly, concisely, going straight to the point desired. The conference was closed by a brilliant garden party, given by one of the members. The reception was one of the most cordial; many interesting topics were discussed about the days that we had just spent together.

Twelve years ago, England had nothing like the P.N.E.U., and the founders of the Union had almost to excuse themselves for the novelty they wanted to introduce into daily educational life.

Miss Charlotte Mason

Miss Mason has the warmest affection for her work; notwithstanding her delicate health, she is the editor of the Parents' Review, looks through the mass of work belonging to the Parents' Review School, and of the Mothers' Course, and is at the head of the House of Education.

House of Education Teacher Training

I hope to speak to you soon of Ambleside, and to tell you how truly good and thorough is the work done there, and how much thought and love has been put into the foundation of the House of Education; what thorough knowledge of youth has dictated its statutes; what a sound, healthy and happy life is prepared for the pupils. They spend two years at Ambleside, and leave it quite prepared for the difficult task of being governess and teacher.




After the reading of her paper, Mrs. Reppman was thanked by Mr. Boltolon, both for her paper and for the work done in England; the assembly joined him in the most cordial manner.

The following debate took place:—

Mr. Galanine found it especially sensible that the Parents' Union took such care to develop attentiveness, accuracy and exactness. These elements of human nature submit to the influence of education, their development is certainly of first importance. Kindness, honesty, and other moral qualities depend on another great factor in education, of life itself. The means employed to develop attentiveness and observation in children by the study of nature and a personal acquaintance with it, is certainly an excellent method.

Dr. Rossolimo said that the paper just read had produced a two-fold impression on him, awakening in his heart, on the one hand, a feeling of satisfaction, and, on the other, one of sadness. The knowledge that connections are opened between our section and societies of the same nature abroad, is certainly very encouraging, and especially the impression received by what we have just heard that the work of the Union is in such strength and full bloom. Intercourse between such societies must be fruitful and useful for us. On the other hand, a sensation of sadness comes over me, said the speaker, when I compare how much is being done for education on the other side of Europe, and how very little is being done here. There life is at full pressure, there is conformity between the claims and their accomplishment. We live by words, they live by deeds.

Mr. Boltolon remarked that Mrs. Reppman had not only complied with the request of the section by opening up a connection between the societies, but that through her acquaintance with the institutions, by her presence at the meetings, and her acquaintance with the members of the society, she has given us a valuable knowledge of the P.N.E.U. He asked Mrs. Reppman to be the intermediaire between the Moscow section of home education and the English pedagogical societies for the future. The methods of education of the P.N.E.U., continued Mr. Boltolon, are based on natural laws; some work on the same lines has already been done by our section.

During the discussion, Mrs. Biske pointed out that, very often, reproach had been made to the members of our society for not having taken part in the discussions that followed the reading of a paper, even if that paper had been of great interest. She was convinced that if the meetings of the P.N.E.U. were full of interest, if the members had taken a share in the debates, and if they had spoken concisely and sensibly, with a real connaissance de cause, the reason would be found in their being prepared for their work. The paper just read tells us that the P.N.E.U. gives its members the chance of a certain preparation, which would acquaint them with the sciences related to education and make them feel sure of themselves; without such a preparation, all the discussions would have to depend on personal experience, or on ideas picked up in a haphazard way. If, on the contrary there were no preparations, their opinions would then be unfounded, unclear and uncertain. The competent members of our society could prove of great assistance in this case, by helping us organize a series of systematic lectures.


Proofread by Leslie Noelani Laurio, Mar 2009