The Parents' Review

A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture

Edited by Charlotte Mason.

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

Volume 1, 1890, pg. 547

A Working Plan.--Considering the singular importance of a good system of education, one might expect some record of consistent direction, results summarised into a definite body of facts and hints, at least some channel where the quicksands and sunken rocks of instruction are plainly beaconed off or scoured out by the winds and tides of use.

When I commenced teaching, what most I sought for was a working plan; some definite system or code suggestions which the long ages of pedagogy might have condensed into all that was required for an ordinary teacher's guidance. Instead, I found remarks of Plato and Aristotle, which had germinated into Grecian subtlety and narrowness of the ancient philosophies, followed by the directions of Cicero and Quintilian, foreshadowing Roman force and singleness of aim, with her fatal deficiency of noble ideal. Long after these lived in England such men as Ascham, Locke, and Stow; Rousseau and Montaigne in France; Sturm, Pestalozzi, and Kant, in Germany; but none of these had left a formulated scheme, i.e., a body of facts by which a workman who had little time or ability to reconcile there conflicting enunciations, or construct a reliable standard for himself, could test and regulate his work.

While trying to become reconciled to this want I was roused to an appreciation of this wonderful powers of the mind as exhibited in Mill's "Autobiography," in Carpenter's "Mental Physiology," specially in those parts bearing on the order and relation of the mental faculties, and in Spencer's "Essays on Education," where I discovered materials enough to electrify every parent into strenuous and unceasing activity.

In none of these books, however, did I find what I was in search of, nor have I as yet found it. We want some general system by which in practice we might feel we were working in harmony with a power immeasurably greater than our own, everywhere present and ever active, a Power who does nothing in vain, who implants in the human breast instincts and propensities admitting of boundless development towards the good and the true.

If no short and comprehensive scheme for the practice of education can as yet be devised, the presumptions is we do not know all the conditions under which it must be carried on, and that we must be prepared to meet any emergency.

The feeling that each one who can, ought to contribute to this much-needed result has tempted me to throw together in a connected form, experiences gained by experiments not falling to the lot of many to make, and carried out under conditions more favourable to a distinct issue than are often enjoyed.

Professor Tyndall remarks: "In our conceptions and reasonings regarding the facts of Nature we perpetually make use of symbols, which, when they possess a high representative value, we dignify with the name of theories. Such conceptions afford peaceful lodging for the intellect for a time, but they also circumscribe it, and by and by, when the mind has grown too large for its lodging, it often finds difficulty in breaking down the walls of what has become its prison instead of its home."--("Faraday as a Discover," pp 65,66)

We have two great classes of teachers, which, as they lean more to accepted formularies of instruction, or go to Nature as their guide and preceptor, may be called psychologists or naturalists. To make this distinction plainer, it may be said that the cut and dried principles of psychology are the usual means employed by the former, while inductions freshly derived from the observation of Nature are followed by the latter. This distinction is broadly marked, yet neither class can boast of a pure system. Each borrows much from the other. The psychologist aims at moulding the character of a child after a preconceived model; to make way for which all the luxuriant growth of spontaneous impulse is lopped off with total indifference to the pain caused by the operation, and heedless of the danger done to independence, in order that no impediment may be left to bending the now bare and helpless twig to the required deformity. The attempt, in measure, may be successful; the character may take the required torsion, and grow into a tamed and hopeless mediocrity, or it may make a new shoot just at the point of flexure, either in the directions of its natural impulse, when some of its original force may be one day recovered; or by way of compensation for the violence it has already undergone it may start away in an entirely opposite direction, to its own utter misfortune and ruin.

The naturalist rejoices in the exhibition of strong feelings and quick resolves, which often assume fantastic shapes, but are always beautiful in their pliability and harmony with Nature. He seldom uses the pruning-hook, and hates nothing more than the desolation of "a thorough breaking in." He marks the general direction of growth, gently weaves one spray with another, draws one refractory branch to this side, another to that, inserts a prop here, a band there, and imperceptibly gets every leaf and sucker to perform its destined function in drawing sap from the roots and sending back vigour to the parent stem. Thus growth is never checked, suppleness is induced by careful handling, and the young shoots may then be readily trained to the light and the open, where they will revel in freedom and learn to love the hand which gives the delight of developing their own powers.

St. Paul says, "When the Gentiles, who have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, they are a law into the themselves." He thus shows the power of Nature as a substitute for law, and the superior hold on the being the natural law has over the artificial. Acting on this principle, the naturalist sees that "A child's intellectual instincts are more trustworthy than his own reasonings," gives up his theories when they produce unnatural results, and experimentally seeks others more suitable.

Darmstadt. J. KING CUMMIN>


Drawing as an occupation for Children. -- I have three nephews, three, six, and seven years of age; they are rather wild and high-spirited, therefore it is not always an easy task to keep them quiet. But no occupation has proved so profitable for this purpose, and at the same time so much in favour with the children, as drawing. There they sit, each one bent most seriously over his paper, pencil in hand, and head full of all sorts of ideas, all of them to be faithfully represented.

Of course they have not had any regular drawing-lessons, but from the beginning it has been a joyfully-greeted amusement, if father, mother, or auntie took the pencil, and drew, with a few characteristic lines, such familiar objects as could be easily recognised by the little spectators. Perhaps first there came the sun, with innumerable beams all round it, them the moon and the stars, afterwards a flower, a forget-me-not or a daisy, their shapes easily recognisable. Then a hat, consisting of four simple lines and when finished greeted with shouts of delight as "papa's hat." Next a little house, by degrees provided with a roof, windows, and a door, near which a tree is planted. A chimney from which the smoke is rising is by no means wanting. From the house it is not far to the church, and it is not absolutely necessary that the spire should be of Gothic architecture. All ordinary things in daily use, such as cups, teapots, and glasses, can easily be represented by a few lines.

To entertain children thus by drawing one need not be decidedly talented; an open eye for the characteristic shape of things is quite enough. Seeing familiar objects presented to view by a few easy strokes the children soon with to try and draw for themselves, and to copy even more difficult and intricate subjects. In a short time they advance from "papa's hat" and the beloved whip, to the carriage and horse. No doubt the latter requires a great deal of imagination to define it, and looks like a shapeless "something" with four legs. But practice makes perfect; and in short time the five-year-old little boy objects reproachfully to the horse that "Auntie" with much inward anxiety draws at his request. "But, auntie, where is the horse's chest?" is the puzzled query.

To draw the human figure is at first a difficult task for the young artist. Alas! even when the picture is finished, he feels that his man does not look "real." Doubtless, it does not, for he has drawn him after the naive fashion of the ancient Egyptians, head and body "full face," and legs and feet in "profile." But all the greater is the joy when, after much trouble and not a little patience, the difficulty is overcome.

Later on these first drawing experiments are followed by copying good drawings, by which the eyes are trained to appreciate and love the beautiful. Also, an inexhaustible source of delight is opened by colours, which, first in the shape of coloured pencils and then in the paint-box, give new and unknown sides to the children's drawing, making the beloved occupation even more interesting. MARIE BURKNER.


Dresden.--I wonder whether many mothers have felt a difficulty which has met me in the training of my children. It is this: What to do with the very little ones when, with childish honesty, they state decidedly that they do not like to say their prayers.

Perhaps it may be of some use to mention a method of overcoming this difficulty which I have found effectual with my own child, a very little girl, who, as the youngest of a large family and through natural backwardness, is truly a baby, though just four years of age.

Although so infantine in many respects, this little woman has a very determined will of her own, and when she expressed decided unwillingness to say her morning prayers, I was fairly puzzled as to how her mood should be treated, especially as she has often prayed voluntarily when wanting to "be good again" after a fit of temper. Of course the age of a child of three or four is not one in which reasoning is the best method of conquering a fault of this kind. Persuasion I had tried, but in vain, and I believe that obedience in the matter of prayer may be purchased at too dear a cost by turning indolence or mere passing unwillingness for the effort into absolute repugnance. I bethought me of an expedient, however, which in my little Jean's case has answered its purpose.

One day when she refused to say her prayers, I took her into a room where several tall lilies were arranged in pots, and asked her would she like to kneel by them and thank God for making beautiful things.

She at once consented, her interest being awakened, and every morning since she has done the same thing--said her usual prayer, adding a word of praise for the lovely lilies, and the habit of declining to pray has been broken.

Of course the suggestion my experience offers would not suit every case of childish indevotion, and would perhaps be harmful in that of older children, but I think it may be helpful to mothers in tiding very little ones over a passing phase of laziness which ought not to be denounced or driven into becoming naughtiness, while it may save the loss of the habit of prayer by yielding to the child's unwillingness for it.

Again, some such method of meeting the difficulty would help to give zest to prayer which has become wearisome through mere monotony--connecting it with the child's enjoyment of happy Nature.

Moreover, and this seems to me a most important point, it would be a way of instilling into its mind while quite young, the hardly recognised truth that it is always in Church in a very real sense, because it is in its Heavenly Father's House, the universe, where every created thing is sacred, and a divine gift to be received with thanksgiving. A MOTHER>


The irritation of the nerves, that follows illness and shows itself by unusual outbursts in children, has been a problem before me lately, in a little daughter of seven years.

The following idea was not wholly successful, but it certainly did help the child to control herself. I had, two years before, bough a child's sword for her, to hang up over her bed for a few nights after conquering some bad habit (this had succeeded more than once in its first purpose; biting nails for instance). This sword I brought out, and girded it round her day by day, reminding her of the lovely story of "Little Christian on his Pilgrimage" (see Sunday for 1886), and of the foes he slew; and she prepared eagerly to fight the enemies "Temper" and "Peevishness" that I warned her were about her. When she felt her danger she was to put her hand on it, and if conquered, it was ungirded and laid aside. No one but "Mother" was to understand the secret!

To quiet the same child in a passion at three, four, and five years old I found that to take her to look at Holman Hunt's "Light of the World" would have a calming effect that no words would produce. Often a first sign of regret was asking me to take her to it, and one day she came creeping up to me whispering, "I've been looking at that 'pickur.'" E.V.


My little girl, aged three and a-half years, lunches with me regularly, and when we are alone is allowed to talk freely, understanding that when strangers are present she is to be quiet. An aunt came on a visit, and no particular notice was taken of a child. Suddenly one day she enigmatically addressed us with "Dick (her brother of eighteen months) is very glad auntie has come." "Why, dear," said I, "aren't you glad too?" "No, I aren't, but Dick is very glad." It suddenly struck me that the reason lay in her enforced silence, and that she wished to put it as nicely, and hurt as few feelings as possible, which proved to be the case on inquiry. A.G.


May I tell you a story for "By the Way"? When my little boy was about five years old I was in the habit of telling the children stories at their early dinner, between the meat and the pudding. One great favourite was the story of how Marcus Curtius leapt fully armed into the hole which had opened in the Roman forum. On one occasion I had closed the story with the usual words, "And the hole closed, and the city was saved, for Rome's most precious treasure was a brave man. But Marcus Curtius was never seen again." This may seem to you trivial, and without special application, but to me it has often brought since, "thoughts that do lie too deep for tears." May my little boy in many a future crisis of his life stop to wonder "what would his mother say"? C.M.B.



Extract from the Memoir of Bishop Steere, of the Universities' Mission to East Equatorial Africa.

"In the forenoon of each day he was busy translating S. John's Epistles, and by way of varying his task, he showed us how to plait grass for thatching, not being satisfied with the way in which the houses were being roofed at Maglia. . . . No one could fail to bend himself to the work with such an example before him, however mean an occupation grass-tying might have seemed previously.

"Wherever Bishop Steere saw anything to be done he invariably did it, without waiting to consider whether it was within his province, and utterly refusing to regard anything as beneath his attention. Thus it was, that to us who knew him, it seemed as natural to see him plying a chisel, or hammer, or a needle, as to see him celebrating the Holy Mysteries or preaching to a native crowd. Like S. Wilfred, he could show the natives how to do their own particular work better than they knew how to do it themselves, and could help them to improve the natural resources of their country.

"I a myself inclined to think that his claim to be regarded as a great missionary rests rather on his aptitude in this respect--his readiness to turn his brain or his hands to any work." (pp. 167, 168).

"Having been a musketry inspector for five years, he requested me to instruct him, 'as it might be useful.' . . I afterwards had a letter from him thanking me much for what I had taught him, and the good service I had therefore done the mission, as he could now show his men how to clean guns and put locks together almost as well as he could. The little information imparted had upon several occasions enabled him to kill and keep off wild animals on his way up country. When he was in England in 1877, he suddenly said: 'I want to be building out there. You set me up about guns; can you help me about bricks?' . . So I took him next day to a regular brick-making place, and we went thoroughly into the whole matter. He quite won the heart of the manager by his practical questions and the way in which he insisted on working himself at every part of the process that was at all possible.

"We found him in his shirt sleeves in a wheelwright's shop in Lincolnshire 'finding out what was the matter with the wheels we make at Mbweni.'" (pp. 201, 203).

"Here is a picture drawn by one of his chaplains (Archdeacon Hodgson):--'The Bishop had been absent from the diocese for several months, hence we were all anxious to give him a hearty welcome, and perhaps also to appear at our best on his arrival. . . On this auspicious occasion the children had all turned out in Sunday best and were waiting round the hall door for the Europeans and the Bishop to go in first. We were just going across the court-yard, when the Bishop's eye fell on a tub used for catching rainwater. This had been carelessly handled, and two of the iron hoops had been allowed to get loose and come off. There and then, regardless of hunger and fatigue, the Bishop must needs point out the impending dissolution of an article not easily replaced in Zanzibar, and resolutely deaf to all protestations that it should be attended to immediately after breakfast, insist on restoring with his own hands the rusty hoops to their original position.' It was certainly a very practical sermon against carelessness; and though at the time we may have thought the lesson rather severe, we learnt no to consider any useful work beneath our dignity." (pp. 212, 213).

"So," says the Bishop, "we feel that in making carts at Mbweni, and teaching oxen to draw them, and now in using our traction engine, we are doing a very real missionary work" (p. 248).

"To sum up the Bishop's own personal work for the year (1877) we may note the completion and printing at the native press of the translation of the New Testament into Swahili; the completion of the Prayer Book in the same tongue; the completion of the outer fabric of the church in the slave market, and its opening on Christmas Day; the commencement of a stone church at Mbweni; and an expedition by the Bishop into the Zaramo country" (p. 240).

The Bishop writes: "The curse of this age is not irreligion, but hollow religion" (p. 402).

"I should like to hear of people who had lost their life for Christ's sake, not as rare wonders, which make good people hope their own sons will not take a missionary turn, but as very much a thing to be expected of a Christian, and a special subject for all his friends and relations to rejoice in" (p. 98).

"Missions to the heathen do not require inferior men; they require very superior men indeed" (p. 380).--VERA.

Typed by cobweb, Mar 2016