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."
Notes on The Students' Conference

by H. M. Lake
Volume 14, 1903, pgs. 432-434

The Students' Conference was held at Ambleside during the week dating from the 20th of April, and thirty-four ex-students were present. The programme for the first three days was as follows:—


I. Mrs. Firth's opening address.
II. Letter from Miss Mason.
III. Discussion on the P.R.S., in connection with which papers were read on:—(a) The multiplicity of subjects. (b) Proportions of the amount of work set. (c) Preparation of boys for school. (d) Examination papers.


Paper I. The question of hand-writing.
Discussion. The teaching of modern languages.
Paper II. Brush-painting.
" III. The art of living in other people's houses.
Discussion on "L'Umile Pianta."


Paper I. Our possibilities of expansion.
" II. Nature study.
Two criticism lessons.

The papers read were full of interest, and were almost all followed by animated discussions. Mrs. Firth's opening address was most inspiring, putting before us high ideals and thoughts of all that is good, beautiful, and true. Miss Mason's paper, in the form of a letter to her "dear bairns," was then read by Miss Allen, and it gave just the helpful suggestions and encouragement that were needed.

The papers and discussions in connection with the P.R.S. were most helpful. All who were present expressed their warm appreciation of its value, and none would be willing to work without its aid. The discussions were all with a view to arriving at a better understanding of the practical working of the P.R.S., in loyal accordance with the spirit which animates the whole. It was agreed that the multiplicity of subjects in the P.R.S. is a real help in the development of our children, helping as it does to establish relations on all sides, thus giving the children a wider outlook upon life.

On Tuesday, Miss Baird read an excellent paper on "Brush-drawing," illustrating the three chief points in her paper (designs, nature painting, and original illustrations) by some perfectly wonderful paintings done by her pupils.

Miss Pennèthorne's paper, or rather talk, on the "Art of living in other people's houses" was most helpful and suggestive. A discussion followed, in which the degree of familiarity to be permitted between pupil and teacher was touched upon, and the superintendence of the pupils' pets, etc.

Miss Parish's paper on "Our possibilities of expansion" brought up several points of especial interest, and many students gave their experiences of different branches of outside work to which they had been able to devote some of their time. Miss Nesbitt has undertaken to write a definite article on the subject for "L'Umile Pianta." A paper from Miss Hirtzel was read on "Nature study," followed by a discussion, and there were many helpful suggestions.

The latter half of Wednesday morning was devoted to two criticism lessons, at which Miss Mason was present. The first was a lesson from Plutarch's Lives, given by Miss Drury to Class III., and the second was a combined geography lesson given to Classes I. (a), III. and IV., by Miss Pennethorne. It was most interesting to see how the three classes could best be worked together. The usual criticisms followed, and then Miss Mason made clear to us any points about which we had had any difficulty in the previous discussions.

As the House of Education term began on the Thursday, Miss Mason very kindly allowed all ex-students to attend any of the lectures or classes which were going on during the remainder of the week, and we were only too glad to avail ourselves of the privilege. There was a criticism lesson combining geography to Class III. and reading to Class I., given by one of the present students, besides an elocution lesson from Miss Barnett, philosophy from Miss Williams, and special sergeant's drill. Miss Sumner gave a delightful lesson on brush-drawing, chiefly dwelling upon the best way of using Pour dessiner simplement, the book set in the programme for Class II. On the Saturday, Miss Williams gave a most interesting lesson on Analytical Geometry, illustrated by diagrams on the blackboard.

The afternoons were mostly left free for excursions, but on the Tuesday we spent a very enjoyable afternoon at Mrs. Firth's. After enjoying the beauties of the garden and Stock Ghyll, we all assembled in the St. George's room, and an Oxford friend of Mrs. Firth's gave us a perfectly delightful lecture on Jane Austen.

On the Friday afternoon, Miss Williams kindly took some of the students for a Geography Walk up Loughrigg.

On the Saturday, Miss Mason invited us all to an "At Home," at Scale How. An interesting paper on Purcell was read by Miss Good, one of the present students, and the different points were illustrated by a delightful programme of Purcell's compositions, performed with the greatest success by the students.

The evenings were spent in jollities of various kinds, notably-a fancy dress dance, scenes from "A Midsummer Night's Dream," and a variety entertainment.

Nothing could have been a more fitting close to the Conference than the "Scale How Sunday." Miss Mason very kindly invited us all up to the house for the whole day, and the drawing-room with its rich store of books was put at our disposal. At the usual time, we all assembled there for meditations, and Miss Mason spoke to us of the Collect and Anthem for Easter Sunday, in her own beautiful way. When the time came to say good-bye, Miss Mason gave to each student a printed explanation of the meaning of the "Three-fold Cord" of the House of Education, i.e., the Badge, the Creed, and the Certificate—an explanation which will be treasured by all. With the Sunday the Conference came to an end, much to the regret of everyone, but I think it was felt by all that its effects will be long and lasting, inspiring us with renewed zeal and energy in the carrying out of our sacred work.

Proofread by Leslie Noelani Laurio, November 2008