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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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Tante in the Home.

by The Editor [Charlotte Mason]
Volume 2, 1891/92, pgs. 542-547


Who is Tante? Tante is a gracious vision we have rejoiced in for these three years past, and now she is so near taking form that we lift the veil and show her to our readers. Whether she is tall or short, dark or fair, are matters we will not confide at present; but her countenance is lovely in the beauty of love, sincerity, and purpose. Her dress is perfect, because it is harmonious, serviceable, and scrupulously neat. She speaks pure English undefiled in tones winning in their gentleness, commanding in the firmness of one who speaks with authority. She has a quick trained eye, ready to see and wise to avert the coming cloud on the child's face, to recognise the flushed cheek and quickened pulse or the dangerous "draught." She is grave with the seriousness of a responsible office, and merry with the mirth of a simple heart. The children love to feel her hands about them as she bathes and dresses, because her touch is firm and tender as "mother's." She believes in the sanctity of the little bodies she tends, and finds the small sock she is darning a thing to kiss. In illness, who so helpful as she? for her zeal is guided by knowledge, and she knows exactly what to do and how to do it in the sudden emergencies of the nursery. She has a store of delightful ballad songs and merry lilts, and the children catch the airs and dream over the words. She sings, "I think when I read," "A little ship was on the sea," and many more; and eyes grow big and hearts tender as the children round her knees listen. Then, she tells tales and repeats poems, a great store of them, of such sort and in such wise that little hearts beat quickly in manly resolve or melt with womanly tenderness.

[The German "Tante," not the French; two syllables; the "a" as the vowel sound in our own word aunt, the "e" as the "e" in "slipper."]

What is there she does not know? She knows how to draw cow and bird and rabbit, horse and ship, cat and cradle, with half a dozen bold lines, and the two-year-old baby screams with delight as the well-known form appears, while the older children eagerly copy. When baby is in bed, and the elders gather behind the curtains for one good-night peep at the starts, she teaches them to single out a group here and a group there, and give it a name--with an old legend and a great thought--so the face of the heavens is no more strange, but studded with friendly and familiar forms. The children learn from her where to look for the stitchwort and the speedwell, how to distinguish the songs of linnet and thrush. They undo at her bidding, with reverent little fingers, the snug coverings of the baby leaves, and find that various trees have various patterns for the fording of leaves within the leaf-bud, and they fold paper in the patterns and never forget. She does not teach the children any science, but she trains them the seeing eye, and they, with their keen curiosity, observe a thousand facts in their daily walks, and learn the how and the why of them, as the young mind can receive it.

Tante understands the physiology of habit--that is, she knows how muscles and nerves and brain have secret instructions to follow the lead of the faithful educator, and she fosters sweet habits of thinking and acting and speaking, knowing that habits make character and character rules destiny. She knows how fearfully and wonderfully a child is made, and knows the laws of his well-being and development. Therefore, she does not divide the little being into two parts, to the one of which it is "menial" to attend, and to the other "genteel." To her the child is one and indivisible; and she prefers to have the entire charge of him, body and mind, under his mother.

"Under his mother," because Tante believes that others are indeed blessed amongst women, and that every woman who is not a mother should hold it a privilege to serve an apprenticeship to motherhood. Indeed, although she is not of a critical or censorious turn, the woman she does not believe in much is she who is outside of the homely and the exalted duties of motherhood, and who has no wise care for little children.

Under Tante's care there is continuity in the child's life and in his early and most important "education." There is not great gulf fixed between the nursery and the schoolroom, but a gradual easy progress, for she knows the delightful and right ways by which little feet should climb those all-important first steps of learning. She teaches the little feet and the little tongues to trip to merry French rondos; she knows the pleasant mysteries of "sol-fa," she knows a variety of delightful "drills," with skipping-rope, dumb-bells, and what not; and rounded back and bent shoulders are things unknown where she is. The, too, she knows a hundred delightful and educative employments for the children, including, of course, the use of Froebel's "Gifts," and the dullest days pass cheerily and swiftly.

Tante does not scorn Baby, nor take to him as a mere plaything and joy, but even when she is specially concerned with the older children, she would fain be permitted to help in the all-important education of the cradle.

Tante knows her place; we do not mean her social place--that of course;she knows that she is a lady in all that is essential to ladyhood, or she would not be fit to be with children. She has no uneasiness about her rights and privileges, knowing very well that these things settle themselves. But she knows her place; she knows that the love and authority which belong to a mother are sacred possessions, and that to steal these would be to steal jewels; so she carefully keeps herself in the second place, and has no fine talk about "my nursery." Besides, she knows very well that not all her training and knowledge of the principles of education, nor even her love for the children, compare for a moment with the divinely-given insight, love and knowledge of her children's characters which mark the mother. She reverences the heads of the house, and is, in that, an example to the children.

But who is this sara avis, and where is she to be picked up, and why is she Tante? Three questions in one! We will answer the last first. She enters a home not merely, or inn the first place, to earn her living (though this also), but to fulfill a real relationship to parents and children. It is a relationship of service, certainly, but not of mercenary service. There are few things so damaging to the character of a child as a temper of perfunctory mercenary service in those about him. A child knows no relations but "blood" relations, and not only the dear young "aunties" who have their own pleasant sphere in the nursery, but all near friends are dubbed "uncle" and "aunt." Here is our precedent for "Tante," who is more than nurse and more than governess, but whom the pretty foreign title distinguishes from the "born aunties," marking the fact too that her relationship is not quite the same as theirs. Our Tante deserves more that "Miss So-and-so" of the little people, and her Christian name does not sufficiently convert her title to there respect; children are nice observers; besides, "Tante" readily becomes an easy household word.

"But where is she to be had? We are content to call her 'Tante' or anything else. Only tell us where to find this priceless treasure."

That is just what we are about to disclose. Our contribution to the September number should have been a paper on "The Sanctity of the Body," but the arrival of the foregoing article by "Gnome" put all other thoughts to the rout. The raw material of "Tante" exists in happy abundance--in the shape of good women, refined, educated, capable, doing nothing, or doing the wrong thing for them, because they have not found their life-work; some of them, with the child-hunger upon them which comes soon or late to all true women.

As many of these as will come to us, we shall be prepared to receive into training in the middle of January, 1892, and by the following December we hope to supply what we expect to be a large demand for "Tante." We hope that in time the House of Education will be prosperous enough to be incorporated as a public institution. In the meantime we begin with a day of small things. We begin on the sound principle that the work shall be self-supporting; and, because the class of students we hope for are not always in a position to afford a costly training, we are arranging to combine very great economy with perfect efficiency.

As we have already indicated, the work of the House of Education is to be begun in Ambleside. The very name is so attractive that we need hardly justify our choice of situation, expect for the fact that Ambleside is seven or eight hours from London. But, in view of that sad fact, let us say--

Our students must be deeply impressed with, keenly sensitive to, natural beauty, and for this manner a learning England offers not better school.

This lake country is rich in wild flowers, mosses, ferns, birds, "stones"--the sorts of "natural objects" with which our students must make careful and intimate acquaintance. They must be observant of every change brought about by the procession of the seasons; and here they have opportunities.

The individuality, so to speak, of great natural features--mountain, pass, valley, watershed, lake, river-system, waterfall--must be impressed upon them. Here are object lessons without end in geography, vivid pictures which, stamped on the mind of the teacher, will be conveyed hereafter in many a graphic word-picture which shall make geography a delight.

The students of the House of Education must know enough of geology to be aware how the landscape of a district depends on its geological formation, and here are impressive examples and a standard of comparison.

So much--and we might say much more--for the teaching by way of object lesson which the place affords. Considerations of economy and convenience are not less obvious. Excellent lodgings are abundant here, to be had at comparatively low rents, except during the "season" when we shall have our long vacation. Ambleside is so small a town that we know each other here. Ambleside offers other economic advantages into which we cannot enter here, but the results is, that a year's training, with board and lodging, may be accomplished for a small sum of **30. [It may, in some few cases, make the cost of training more possible if we state that only the training fee need be paid in advance. Then shillings a week during the weeks in residence will meet cost of lodging and living.] The training fee ( **10), is the same in all cases, but students who can afford more, can, of course, lodge and live according to their means. We shall make proper arrangements for girls whose parents consider that a year's training in the House of Education is a fitting termination to school work and preparations for a woman's life work, though wage-earning is not necessarily in prospect. But this is not the place for the minor details of our scheme.

But will a year's training at the House of Education produce "Tante"? We have no doubt of it. The value of training, in giving impulse and direction, as well as knowledge and power, can hardly be overstated. We shall select as our students healthful, earnest, educated women; and when they leave us it will be with certificates guaranteeing--

1. Knowledge of human physiology and nursing, such as will fit them to take intelligent care of children in healthy, and give intelligent help in sickness.

2. Knowledge of the principles of education.

3. Knowledge of the "nature lore" children should possess.

4. Knowledge of the subjects of instruction proper for children, and of the right method and order of teaching each.

The "Principles of Education" is a wide subject; the course to be taken up is indicated rather fully in a little book called "Home Education," [Kegan Paul and Co., 3s. 6d.] with which many of our readers are acquainted. The difference, however, between merely reading an educational work and being trained on the principles laid down in the work is as the difference between seeing a light and being kindled at a flame. Our object is to kindle the--if we may adapt a phrase--enthusiasm of childhood, which makes all work of teaching and training heart-service done for God. We ask our readers to help us to find the right students for the "House of Education." Any who think of undertaking the training may write to, The Editor of the Parents' Review, Ambleside.

And will our readers bear our work in mind? By December, 1892, we hope to be able to supply teachers, whether for the nursery only, or the schoolroom only, or both, and for pupils of all ages. Probably some of our students will hold certificates of high qualifications before they come to us.


Typed by A.C., April 2013