The Parents' Review

A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture

Edited by Charlotte Mason.

"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."
Notes and Queries.

Volume 2, 1891/92, pg. 236-237


Although we should without doubt explain the rationale of arithmetical process, I submit that it is in most cases inadvisable to teach the performance of the actual process on rational lines (however easier at first this may be) because of the cumbrousness entailed. The method of learning addition, advocated on page 57, is a case in point. We can of course learn to arrive at the sum of 8 and 5 by saying 5 - 2 = 3 + (8 + 2 = 10) = 13, but it is much more ready and useful in practice to know at sight that 8 and 5 are 13.

In my own case the addition table was very little taught, but we were given immense columns of figures to add up. These I attacked with despair, using various cumbrous devices, as well as that described above. The result is that I can never now hope to add with facility. Similar reasoning applies, of course, to multiplication and subtraction.

Belfast, March 26, 1891.


While fully appreciating the general tenor of "Rosalind's" remarks in the March number of the Parents' Review, may I be allowed to demur on one point, where I think they must strike many with a sense of injustice?

Few women look upon a "public out-of-door career" as the "highest ambition of young womanhood."

But there are many, many whose self-respect revolts from the ignoble attitude of sitting down to wait for a possible husband as the whole raison d'etre of existence; and putting away with a resolute will all dreams of the sweet ties of wife and motherhood, determine to make a worthy a use as they may of the gifts God has given them.

"The deplorable results" of "ignorant mothers and housewives" are no necessary corollary of that quasi "public out-of-door career" which is often the only alternative to the prospect of an old age of dependence or poverty which every right-minded woman should do her best to avoid.

I go so far as to say that no woman's education is complete unless it has as a basis to any superstructure whatever the knowledge how to make a "Home," and no place is worthy that sacred name where ignorance and disorder reign. Let us have the House of Education by all means--for the present generation of future mothers need all we can give them--and I believe one of the first things they should be taught is that such domestic training ought to begin far earlier.

At seventeen or eighteen, when life is full of new interests, and the brain strong and eager for work more congenial, doubtless the drudgery of learning to see dirt (many people seem incapable of recognising uncleanliness) and how to avoid it is wearisome and uninteresting. But teach the children at an early age--when the less the brain is taxed with abstract knowledge the better for the body--the various lessons of good housewifery, and see with what delight they learn to clean and cook. Let us teach them habits and love of tidiness and cleanliness in their own bedrooms, nurseries, and play-cupboards; and needlework and knitting, by making their dolls' garments well. Above all, teach them that it is a thing to be ashamed of for a woman not to know how to do everything that is necessary for the wellbeing of the home, from cleaning the kitchen stove to hanging the drawingroom curtains. The "handiness" and sense of ability that come from such early teaching are a gain all through life, knowledge, as "Rosalind" so truly says, "that cannot be gained by theory," and is never so easily acquired as in childhood. As for economical expenditure, let them learn--by earning their pocket-money--the value of money as early as they learn to spend it. I know a boy of eleven who complained that he couldn't earn anything till he was a man. He was a little spendthrift, but cleaning his own boots before eight in the morning--for 15s. a year (1/2 d. a day)--has taught him more than the lesson of economy, for, having to clean his own boots has made him careful where he goes with them, and never since have they been plunged into a mud-pie, or waded through water for mere sport. A younger brother of six earns 1d. a week for leaving the bedroom tidy, putting towels and sponges in their place, and, on holidays, clears the breakfast-table as carefully and well as the cook herself. A girl of eight dusts her mother's writing-table with its appliances perfectly.

Such a foundation can be well laid before a girl is fourteen without discouraging her from any intellectual cultivation she can obtain in later school-day--days when the brain's demand for work is full of significance, a demand that the routine of merely mechanical duties fails to satisfy.

Lastly, if nurses and mothers need such educating, how much more do women need to lean, as wives, the laws of physiology and hygiene!


Typed by A. C. Mar 2013