AmblesideOnline AO Parents' Review Articles

The Parents' Review

A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture

Edited by Charlotte Mason.

"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."

Volume 2, 1891/92, pg. 634-636

"En hoexkens ende boexkens."

Has every girl Ruskin's Ethics of the Dust (7s. 6d., George Allen, 8, Bell Yard, Temple Bar, London) in her own private and particular library? If not, she certainly should have these "Ten Lectures to Little Housewives on the Elements of Crystallisation." They are not lectures at all, but delightful talks in which the little girls do their share. "I have seldom been more disappointed by the result of my best pains given to any of my books than by the earnest requests of my late publishers, after the opinion of the public had been taken on the 'Ethics of the Dust,' that I would 'write no more in dialogue.'" Every mother and every girl who is happy enough to possess this most charming opening into the world of thought will think that that publisher and that public made bad mistakes, and will rather agree with the author when he says "I would pray the readers . . . .to examine with care the passages in which the principal speaker sums the conclusions of any dialogue, for these summaries were written as introductions for young people to all that I have said on the same matters in my larger books; and on re-reading them they satisfy me better, and seem to me calculated to be more generally useful than anything else I have done of the kind." Deep questions are discussed, deep thoughts thrown into such simple forms as that "Florrie, on astronomical evidence presumed to be aged nine, " can understand every word, and grasp every idea, as well as "Mary (of whom everybody, including the old lecturer, is in great awe), aged twenty." This is the manner of this exquisite teaching:--



A very idle talk by the dining-room fire after raisin-and-almond time.


OLD LECTURER. (L.) Come here, Isabel, and tell me what the make-believe was this afternoon.

ISABEL (arranging herself very primly on the footstool). Such a dreadful one! Florrie and I were lost in the Valley of Diamonds.

L. What! Sinbad's, which nobody could get out of?

ISABEL. Yes; but Florrie and I got out of it.

L. So I see. At least I see you did; but are you sure Florrie did?

ISABEL. Quite sure.

FLORRIE. (Putting her head round from behind L.'s sofa cushion.) Quite sure. (Disappears again.)

L. I think I could be made to feel surer about it.
(FLORRIE reappears, gives L, a kiss, and again exit.

Then much playful talk mixed with wisdom, and an allegory which comes out in this: "Pride and lust, and envy, and anger, all give up their strength to avarice. The sin of the whole world is essentially the sin of Judas; men do not disbelieve their Christ, but they sell him." Strong meat this for the babes, but none too strong, as all who have measured the reflective powers of children will bear witness. And then, to end up with –

L. Your pencils, in fact, are all pointed with formless diamond, though they would be H H H pencils to purpose if it crystallized.

SYBIL. [sic] But what is crystallization?

L. A pleasant question when ones' half asleep, and it has been tea-time these two hours. What thoughtless things girls are!

SIBYL. Yes, we are, but we want to know for all that.

L. My dears, it would take a week to tell you.

SIBYL. Then tell us something that nobody knows.

L. Get along with you, and tell Dora to make tea.
(The house rises, but of course the LECTURER wanted to be forced to lecture again, and was.)

We earnestly advise all parents, who feel that "With all thy getting get wisdom" is a counsel for their children, to bring them to the feet of the revered master, the last of our prophets, or nearly the last, by introducing them to "Ethics of the Dust" and "Sesame and Lilies." (The same price and the same publisher.)

Hints on Child Training, by H. Clay Trumbull, Editor of the "Sunday School Times" (Hodder and Stoughton), and A Study of Child-Nature from the Kindergarten standpoint, by Elizabeth Harrison, Principal of the Chicago Kindergarten training School (where it is published). Here are two capital volumes for the parents' book-shelf, both marked by sound sense and by tender sympathy for the little folk. Mr. Trumbull tells us he writes without any theory of child-training, and the hints he gives are of the various "good plans" which tided him over some difficult hour. But there is more method than he allows in his madness, and his hints are very useful and suggestive. "Professor Porter, of Yale, said that the chief advantage of the college curriculum is that it trains a young man to do what he ought to do, when he ought to do it, whether he wants to do it or not." Almost "the unkindest treatment of a child is to give him everything he asks for." "Some of the best trained children in the world have been only children." "It is sadly to a parent's discredit when a child can truly say, 'My father, or my mother, never denied me any pleasure which it was fairly in his or her power to bestow.'" "The difficulty in the way is always with the parents, never with the children." "There are mothers who, without any thought of unkindness, are unwise enough to deliberately refuse a good-night kiss to their children as a penalty for some slight misconduct; . . . withholding this assurance of affection at a time when the tender heart prizes it above all else."

Mrs. Harrison, on the other hand, takes her stand on a carefully thought out educational basis. She knows why a child goes wrong and how to set him right. A little boy of four is brought to her kindergarten. She finds there is a serious obstacle to mental growth, viz., self-consciousness. 'What is the cause of it?' asks the mother. 'If the child had not such a sensible mother,' I replied, 'I should say that he had been "shown off" to visitors until the habit of thinking that everyone is looking at him has become fixed in his mind.' Instantly the blood mounted to her face, and she said, 'That is what has been done. You know that he sing very well. Last winter my young sister frequently had him stand on a chair beside the piano and sing for guests . . . . If I had known then what now I do I would have died rather than have allowed it.' " We may or may not agree with Mrs. Harrison's analysis of body, mind, and soul, and with the teaching she founds thereon, but throughout the volume are scattered hints like the above, full of leading light, which must needs be profitable to mothers.

Our readers would be interested in a remarkable pamphlet by Lady Welby entitled Witnesses to Ambiguity (W. Clarke, Steam Press Office, Grantham, 3 1/2 d. by post). It is a collection of perhaps two hundred protests from the pens of the ablest philosophical writers against that vague use of words which is the gravest hindrance to accurate and practical thought, "As a fact, do any two persons really mean the same thing exactly by the words they use? Does even the same person at different times?" (Venn, Empirical Logic). Truly we are in great need of a "Science of Meanings" to clear the ground for all other science, and parents can do more than others to further such science by insisting that their children shall express their concepts in language as accurate as they know how to make it.

Typed by Barbara McNiff, April 2013