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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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Parents' Review School

Volume 12, no. 9, 1901, pgs. 968-970


We have received some important suggestions and interesting questions about the Parents' Review School which may be best dealt with in a general statement. The obvious object of the School is to bring good and up-to-date teaching to families whose children are taught at home. Many families, both in Great Britain, in the Colonies, and on the Continent, have availed themselves of the School, and most of these shew very kind appreciation of our methods and their results. The percentage of idle families, where the work of the school is not done thoroughly and systematically, becomes smaller year by year, and nothing could be more encouraging than the difference between the manner of papers sent in ten years ago and those sent in to-day. We think we have introduced systematic and thorough work into many home school-rooms, and boys and girls taught in the Parents' Review School commonly do exceptionally well when they go to other schools. The Parents Review School is a preparation and not a substitute for the preparatory boys' school, but girls may remain with advantage in the School until they are sixteen or seventeen. But the object of the Parents' Review School is not merely to raise the standard of work in the home schoolroom. Our chief wish is that the pupils of the School should find knowledge delightful in itself and for its own sake, without thought of marks, place, prize or other reward; that they should develop an intelligent curiosity about whatever is on the earth or in the heavens, about the past and the present. The children respond and take to their lessons with keen pleasure, if they get even tolerably good teaching, and the want of marks, companionship, or other stimulus is not felt in those home schoolrooms where the interest of knowledge is allowed free play.

Certain means are adopted to secure this delight in knowledge:—
(a) For every term there is a quite fresh programme, up-to-date as regards matters of public interest and the best books.
(b) The children use a little library of lesson-books of literary value and lasting interest; and we are constantly receiving letters expressing their delight in their books. It is a large part of education to handle good books, and we are always sorry when we hear of mothers wishing to dispose of books used in such and such a class; the books set in the School are usually of a sort to be possessions for a lifetime. We congratulate ourselves on the sympathetic and generous attitude taken up by parents in this matter of books. Very few grudge the expense, and we believe that most parents of children in the Parents' Review School feel that it would be better to do without many things than without the best books, various books, and fresh books for the children's studies. As a matter of fact, the difference between educated and uneducated people is that the former know and love books; the latter may have passed examinations.
(c) We feel it desirable to obviate examination marks altogether; but it is necessary that parents should have some means of judging whether their children are or are not making satisfactory progress, and this information is best given by means of marks. But in order that there may be no undue pressure on the part of teachers, no eagerness on the part of the scholar to obtain marks to the neglect of interest in knowledge, the maximum marks are given, not to the best papers, but to papers shewing quite satisfactory progress for the age and class of the pupil. We find that boys, and girls too, take up the notion of working for places and marks readily enough when they go to other schools, and we beg that knowledge, for its own sake, may have a chance while they remain in the Parents' Review School.

The classification of the pupils is another matter that has been brought forward. In a home schoolroom this is a little difficult, as one governess cannot work an unlimited number of classes. Supposing that children in Classes i., ii., and iii., are in the schoolroom, the governess will probably take ii. and iii. together for elementary science, or nature knowledge, and for historical subjects. For arithmetic, reading, etc., the classes must work separately. Again, if a governess has Classes iii. and iv. in her schoolroom, it will not be easy to work them together, but the habit of independent study is very desirable for girls in Class iv., the teacher giving direction, stimulus, and examination of work.

One more point comes before us from time to time. Sometimes people expect their children to begin at the beginning of the various books used in their respective classes. Now the Parents' Review School is like all other schools in this, that it is impossible for new children when they join a class to begin at the beginning of every subject taught in that class; nor does it really matter. Historical and scientific subjects have only a nominal beginning, the important thing is that children should grip where they alight, should take hold of the subject with keen interest, and then in time they will feel their own way backwards and forwards. This is not true of all subjects—Euclid, English Grammar, Latin Grammar, and Arithmetic, for example—and in these there is always work for beginners on the programme. Where this does not meet the cases, parents or teachers are at liberty to set their own questions in the examination on any subject in which there is difficulty, and to give their own marks which are counted in the general total. By this means and by the overlapping of work in the transition from class to class, practical difficulties seem to be avoided; and, for an unique organisation, the school works with great ease, thanks to the intelligent co-operation of parents and teachers.

Proofread by Leslie Noelani Laurio, Feb 2009