The Parents' Review

A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture

Edited by Charlotte Mason.

"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."
Some Reflections on the P.N.E.U. Conference

Volume 8, 1897/8, pgs. 409-410

Those who organized this, the first P.N.E.U. Conference, did so in fear and trembling. They asked some of our busiest workers to come from great distances and they dreaded lest the papers should be addressed to empty benches. Would members come to morning meetings during the London season? In other words, were they sufficiently in earnest to make a real sacrifice of time, in order to learn what the Parent's National Educational Union really is and how it can help its members in their stupendous task of training and teaching their children? These questions have been answered in the affirmative; the Conference was unanimously pronounced to be the most successful in every way and the attendance was quite excellent. There was an average of about 90 people at the morning meetings and there were about 150 at Miss Mason's afternoon lecture and between 300 and 400 at the evening conversazione. Next year we may hope for double the number, as Branch secretaries will make still greater effort to make the Conference known to all their members in good time. People came up from all parts of England, and many letters testify that they were glad they had done so. One lady writes, "I think I never had such a treat as our Conference. The feeling of 'Brotherhood' throughout and the enthusiasm were most inspiring,"--and a gentleman, "Certainly the proceedings were most remarkable. There was an air of purpose, conviction and reality which is to me wholly surprising."

The "inspiring idea" which led to the organization of the Conference, was the knowledge that many members of the P.N.E.U. can but get a very dim idea of its teaching and principles. They may go to some disjointed lectures delivered by outsiders, even by people to whom the Union itself is hardly known. These may be most interesting and most helpful, but unless members attend all the lectures regularly, month by month, and read the Review and books which embody P.N.E.U. thought, they cannot expect that true education which they as parents feel they need. Therefore, in framing the programme, the object kept in view was to tell members "what the P.N.E.U. is," and how branches can bring its teaching before their members. The groundwork of the arrangements was the leaflet which is published each month in the Parent's Review and widely distributed at all meetings of branches.

To carry out this idea, Miss Helen Webb, M.B. and Miss Mason were asked to read papers, which should help parents in working out the underlying principle of the Union, "That character is everything." Miss Mason also gave definite help to branch secretaries as to the best subjects to put before their members when arranging for monthly lectures on physical, mental, moral and spiritual development of children .

Mrs. Steinthal emphasized the value of art and manual training in education, and the best method of securing it.

A report of these papers follows this, but naturally in order to be kindled with the true fire of enthusiasm and inspiration, one should have heard the lectures and the discussions which followed them.

Then the second page of the leaflet was dealt with. It was thought that many members have never realised in how many different direction the Union offers them and their children a helping hand. Thus the central Natural History Club and exhibition were described, and representatives of branch Natural History Clubs explained the methods adopted by them in helping children to know and love Nature as she lives and breathes.

A paper was read on the Mother's Educational Course, and many mothers were roused thereby to take advantage of the actual training in their work, which is thus offered them. The Parents' Review School was also described and letters read testifying its appreciation by the school masters and mistresses who had received children taught under its direction. In the discussion following the papers, several schoolmasters and parents spoke of the value of the work of this part of the Union. The House of Education was brought before members by papers written from three points of view--that of the Lady Visitor (Mrs. Dallas Yorke), the ex-Student (Miss Lanphier), and the Examiner (Mr. Rooper, H.M.I.). All these brought before the audience a much clearer view of the excellent and invaluable work carried on in this delightful training college at Ambleside than they could possibly have had hitherto. The Library and Parents' Review were touched upon in Miss Blogg's speech, in which she explained the work done by the Secretary, and the use which can be made of the Central Office. One of the principles of the Union is to "help parents of all classes," and Mr. Rooper, H.M.I., very kindly accepted the Conference Committee's invitation to put before the members the necessity for bringing the principles and teaching of the Union home to the less educated classes, and the means of doing so. Practical suggestions arising out of the discussion were that members should give talks at mothers' meetings, clubs, etc., on "Habit," "Character Training," and other kindred subjects; that similar classes should be held for nurses and servants; that natural history rambles for village children (and town children where possible) should be organized in connection with natural history clubs; and that the hand-work and brush-drawing lessons should in a similar way be handled and organized at girl's clubs, etc. Dr. Gladstone, F.R.S., who took part in the discussion, urged P.N.E.U. parents who had leisure to become Board School managers.

In the evening conversazione, Mrs. Boyd Carpenter spoke on "Links in the Home Chain," in which, as a mother, she gave many practical suggestions as to how to carry out the Parents' Review School motto--"I am, I can, I ought, I will."

During the week, the Natural History Club Exhibition was on view, and many members availed themselves of the opportunity of seeing the collections sent up by members of the Central and Branch Natural History Clubs. Specimens of the handiwork of the students and ex-students of the House of Education and their pupils were also on view, as were some most beautiful Nature Note-books.

On Saturday, 29th, Miss Simpson, of the Yorkshire College, Leeds, delighted her hearers by a most interesting lecture on "The Life-history of a Butterfly." The beautiful lantern slides and the brightness of the lecture were greatly appreciated by the children, while the elders felt they had a demonstration of how Nature lessons should be given.

What is the outcome of it all, and what has one gained? Will the conference merely have helped us to pass a delightful and interesting week?

It appears to one at least of the members that it has done more, far more than this. To begin with, it has shown us as individuals that we are not alone in our earnest desire to learn and to do. It has proved that the P.N.E.U. is a living power, and that it is indeed a Union of thoughtful men and women, schoolmasters and mistresses, fathers and mothers and any interested in children (and who are not?) all in earnest, all working together "for the children's sake." It has aroused a feeling of gratitude that the movement has grown to what it is, without push, without advertisement, through its own inherent life.

It has shown those of us who are secretaries what our aims should be, has inspired us more and more to bring the teaching and principles of the Union before our members, to make the various organizations in connection with it known to them, to do our very utmost to bring out the living thought that is within our midst, and to get lecturers who have valuable ideas to offer members. We now deeply feel that though we can be of great service to our members in the organization of classes for subjects which are not otherwise provided in the neighbourhood, a branch of the Union exists for much more than this -- it has definite lines of thought to work out and bring before the members. We shall also arouse in our members a desire to attend the next Conference, and will ascertain subjects that might with advantage be discussed.

Lastly, we all of us will have learnt that we must study and work, and inasmuch as we are grateful for what the Union has done for us, we must pass it on to others. In the words of our annual report:--"In proportion as the members of the Union realise that they hold certain educational truths, they will recognise the responsibilities involved, and will not sit down under the frequent failures for which all must be prepared, but will work earnestly and humbly towards the realisation of their ideals. Bearing in mind the fact that a society is only fully alive when the majority of its members are living and active, the committee would urge upon all the duty of finding new members, of supporting new branches, upholding schools which recognise the principles of the Union, and sharing its ideas with fathers and mothers of the working classes as opportunity offers." To conclude all, lest we should get discouraged at the magnitude of our work with our own children, lest our frequent failures should cause us to despair, came Rev. Canon Scott Holland's cheering, inspiring, and restful sermon. We thus carried away with us enthusiasm for our cause, inspiration for further strenuous effort, and above all, faith and courage. "Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it."

Proofread by LNL, July 2020