The Parents' Review
A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture
"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."
Notes and Queries.
The importance of "Mater's" inquiry, published in the September issue of the Parents' Review, lay in the implied suggestion (a correct one) that there are certain definite points in which home-taught boys are, as a fact, commonly found to fall short of standards within their reach, and that a knowledge of these points might prevent some misapplication of the teaching power at home. The suggestion, whether designed or not, is worthy of consideration. Meanwhile, I would offer "Mater" a few fragmentary hints on the subject of her inquiry.
In by far the greater number of cases, reading is the first and most serious stumbling-block in a new boy's path. There is too little thoroughness in the training which sends a young boy to school with some knowledge of the Latin primer as a passport to a creditable form, to be impeded, as it often turns out, for years, by want of power to read an English lesson book intelligently. The only safeguard is to make the reading lessons at home frequent, regular, and thorough, and at the same time to cultivate a taste for good books, discarding mere nursery literature as quickly as possible in favour of a more solid and nutritious pabulum. Little boys are far more apt to appreciate the English classics than they are often thought to be.
Writing, in a large sense, is the second stumbling-block. In an age of examinations, a considerable proportion of "writing out" is necessary at school, and here a slow and unpractised scribe is certain to fall below the position which his mere head-knowledge entitles him to occupy--very properly, too, since the power of saying a lesson is not of itself a sure test that the lesson is understood. Little boys require very careful training before they can translate their thoughts into the language of black and white; and one of the first and bitterest lessons a young form-master has to learn is, that knowledge which has been rehearsed orally alone is almost useless for examination purposes.
Touching the pronunciation of Latin little needs to be said. If Latin must be begun at home, the "old pronunciation" had better be adhered to; for while the question how Latin was pronounced in the golden age is hampered by paucity of data, its solution, from the teacher's point of view, is of no consequence whatever. The English method is at least consistent, and it saves the learner from needless difficulties, while the educational value of the language is unimpaired.
Let it be borne in mind, however, that while Preparatory Schools undertake to teach, and teach, Latin from the first page of the Primer, this is not the case in regard to the English language. A boy of eight cannot be expected to go to school having read deeply in the English classics--the majority have read nothing at all--but in small ways there is much good training to be gained from this source--training which, too often, schools do not provide; and, given intelligence in the pupil, culture and thoroughness in the teacher, the bare phrase "Reading and Writing" may be made to cover a preparation for school life, which, if it does send a boy to the lowest form, sends him there prepared to make the most of his opportunities, and progress thereafter with no unnecessary clog on his intelligence.
In conclusion, three additional points may be observed. (1) The value of Nature lessons cannot be over-estimated, and for such the free life of home gives an opportunity that may never recur. (2) Home-taught boys are apt to suffer from too much teaching. They must learn how to acquire knowledge for themselves, or the cold plunge into independence will paralyse them. (3) By far the best preparation for the classics is that gained from English books on ancient life, mythology, &c. Mahaffy's "Old Greek Life," Church's "Stories from Virgil," Kingsley's "Heroes," Hawthorne's "Tanglewood Tales," should be read before the Latin or Greek Grammar.
S. C. Sharland, M.A.
One more word on the use of Latin and Greek in the education of boys. Among the arguments for and against the continued use of Latin and Greek as subjects of instruction in higher-class schools, there is one point, to my thinking, of much importance, which I have not hitherto seen raised. A competent knowledge of the classical languages has immeasureable value; but the boy who, after spending years in a desultory struggle, quits school with but a smattering of Latin and Greek, in my opinion has not merely wasted his time, but is at the disadvantage of starting in life with a consciousness of intellectual failure.
Thinking then for the moment not of the bright and clever boy who by perseverance attains success, but of the average boy, with abilities rather below than above those around him, but yet abilities that are capable of development, I would call attention to the hopelessness and despondency with which such a boy, at the age of thirteen, must regard the study of Latin and Greek. He sees before him a precipice which he is convinced that he can never scale; a wall, the top of which is beyond his ken, which he must be always making useless and fruitless endeavors to climb. However useful they may be in other respects, the tendency of these studies on the average boy is to fill him with a sort of vaguely-realised despair, to weaken his self-reliance, and stint instead of stimulate his confidence in his own intellectual powers. To my mind and immense step forward has been made in the education of a child when you have enabled him to discover that he has mastered or is beginning to master some branch of knowledge. Confidence in attacking other subjects, Latin and Greek included, will then succeed to despondency, because he will have learnt that after all he, too, possesses abilities which perseverance will reward. If this view be correct, great importance attaches to the cultivation--in addition to the classics, and at a comparatively early age--of some branch of intellectual study in which a child can attain marked proficiency, say, by his thirteenth year. What that subject should be need not here be discussed; obviously there is a considerable range of choice; but on the whole, the most convenient subject for the purpose would generally be French. I know of one girl, English parentage, who has never left this country, and who at the age of thirteen has attained such a proficiency in the French language that her governess, herself a French woman, thinks it no longer necessary to pursue that branch of study. This girl is now learning German and Italian. Another child of my acquaintance, a boy of about the same age, is struggling with Latin and Greek; but he does not approach those subjects with the same advantages of mental tone that the girl just mentioned must possess, because he has not, like her, already fought a battle with a difficult subject, and found that he could win it.
H. G. K.
In an article in the Parents' Review for September, entitled "Work for Gentlewomen as Schoolmistresses," mention was made of this College, and I should like, with your permission to give the particulars as to some recent arrangements that appear not to have been known to the writer of that article. The committee have offered two scholarships, one of £20 per annum, and one of £10 per annum, both tenable for two years. These scholarships will be awarded on the result of an examination held in November--in arithmetic, grammar and literature, English history, music, drawing, and French or German. They are open to either Queen's scholars or private students who have received a liberal education. The second point I would draw attention to is a very recent rule of the Education Department, by which we have permission to receive five day students each year. If they pass the Queen's Scholarship Examination the Department will give them a grant of £35 per annum towards the expense of their training. Ladies who are rather older than the generality of students in Training Colleges may prefer the independence and quiet of living in lodgings to the necessarily greater restraint of residence in College; but, whether they desire to be either day or resident students, I would advise all who intend to adopt the profession to prepare at once to pass the Queen's Scholarship Examination in July. I will only add that I know of no work more interesting, and none in which a conscientious Christian gentlewoman can be of so much use in her generation as in the teaching and training of ignorant children, so as to fit them to fulfil worthily the duties that will be theirs in after life.
F. TREVOR, Principal.
Typed by Niki McAlister, Jan 2018
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