The Parents' Review
A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture
"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."
Some Impressions of the Conference.
by Mdlle. De Neufville.
Having had the privilege of being present at the sixth annual conference of the P.N.E.U., I was asked to write my impressions of the meetings. I could not bring myself to refuse on the plea of my being French. The truth is that the example of simplicity and naturalness which was before my eyes all through these meetings was enough to encourage me, even if my gratitude for the very kind way in which I was received and introduced during these days, were not a sufficient incentive.
I do not wish to speak in detail of the very many good, practical ideas I noted down. The substance of the lectures will, I daresay, appear in the Parents' Review; but what this excellent paper will not be able to impart to the less fortunate ones who could not be present is the spiritual confraternity which made the divide very really present, although there was no religious cant. The high note struck was maintained during the whole four days. The cause of childhood was touched with much reverence and earnestness. Many of those present had, I feel sure, the happy experience of the angels of the little ones: "they saw the face of their Father in heaven."
The general cry seems to be, a better understanding! And this both for the soul and mind of the child. He is no more expected to be passively good because he cannot help being anything else as long as he is the weaker, waiting when the time comes of his being the stronger to take his revenge. No, the child-soul is to be brought face to face with truth, and open naturally before it, as the daisy to the sun. He will no more be expected to remember what he cannot understand, or admire what he sees nothing admirable in. A broad, healthy, true and full life is the right of the young soul, just as the bud partakes of the same refreshing dew and expanding heat as does the flower. The child is not to be looked on as a toy or an exuberance! Its individuality is to be recognised.
The last century has been marked by the freeing of the slave, this one will be the open door of understanding to the child. We are told to beware of falling into the opposite fault of making the life of the child so easy that selfishness will grow in proportion. No, the increasing fulness of the young life must bear increasing fruit of sympathy. If the hardships of misunderstood childhood are got rid of, let the child learn to share those of less fortunate ones willingly and not lose in power of sympathy what he has gained in happiness.
I congratulate the P.N.E.U. on having kept to practical lines and resisted the growing tendency of the day to hair-splitting psychology. I know too many societies founded to help the child which by adopting this tone have degenerated, without hope of recovery, into mere child study. Dry bones have been put in the place of living things. I should like to see similar associations, each with its national characteristics, founded in every country, when an international congress of such unions from time to time would tighten the link between them, and help to prepare the broad and kindly feeling between nations, which is too often a missing element in education.
The Conference, to which we members of the P.N.E.U. look forward throughout the year for renewed help and encouragement in our work, is now a thing of the past; and we sit down to think over quietly what it has meant to us and what we have gained by it. To Miss Mason's most beautiful paper on "Education as the Science of Relations," with its high and noble ideals, we could only listen with deep reverence and with a longing to embody some of its truths in our lives. The note struck gave the key-note to the whole Conference, and was so worked out that each paper seemed the complement of the one before it, and we realized, as never before, what a harmonious whole education can and should be. Where all was so stimulating and helpful, it is difficult to particularize; we must all, however, have felt that Mr. Burrell's plea for preserving and imaginative power in children was strong and convincing. His paper was delightful in its appreciation and understanding of the children's need for something more than the dry bones of instruction, while the more "technical" speakers showed us that subjects can be taught in a way which satisfies the child's love of knowledge, while feeding and elevating his imagination.
From Dr. Helen Webb's paper we gained many valuable and practical suggestions on the training of very young children, and this was most ably supplemented next day by Mrs. Ennis Richmond, who spoke to us of the moral education of older children, pointing out some errors which our very care for them might lead us to commit.
What we felt and appreciated above everything, was the intense enthusiasm for and the keen insight into child-nature shown by all who spoke to us; an enthusiasm and an insight which, joined to knowledge and experience, had worked out and was giving to us real practical help in our work of education.
One feature of the Conference which is always specially valuable and interesting, is the meeting to discuss "Concrete Problems." This meeting, in which we talk over informally any difficulties which may arise in our training of children, draws members of the P.N.E.U. into closer contact with each other, gives opportunities for the more experienced to help those who are less so, and promotes those feelings of fellowship and mutual dependence which are so strong a feature of our Union, and which go so far in making it that living and growing power which we all feel it to be.
From the numbers present at each meeting, and the keen interest shown, it was easy to see how these four days were appreciated. What was most striking and notable was the entire absence of formality joined to a friendly interest in all: a sinking of self in a loyal striving after the best and highest.
To the kind hospitality shown by Mrs. Winkworth at her Garden Party, and by Mrs. Franklin at her "At Home," we owed two enjoyable opportunities for social intercourse and interchange of ideas.
Most fittingly was our Conference brought to an end by the service at St. Mary Abbot's. No one who was present will soon forget Mr. Neligan's earnest and inspiring address. Speaking of the training of our children, he emphasized the great principle that what we ourselves are, not what we say or do, is the determining factor in developing or marring their characters. He brought home to us the great responsibility as well as the great privilege of our work.
It was surely good that, after much thinking and talking about what is best for the children, we should be reminded of the need of self-development and self-education. "For their sakes I sanctify myself" was a most inspiring "last word" with which to conclude a very stimulating and helpful Conference.
EXTRACT FROM LETTER OF A COUNTRY DELEGATE.
"I wish, if I may, to write a few lines to you about that delightful Conference, the teaching of which I suppose we are all assimilating and digesting. To me it appeared the greatest privilege to be allowed to attend it. During two successive years I have listened to the addresses and discussions at most of the meetings, and I can only say I wish every mother and every father also might be wafted by some power of the air, voluntarily or involuntarily, into the midst of the Conference assembly. The loftiness of tone, the broadness of view, the fertility of ideas, and the inspiration of numbers, all tend to draw out what is best in the individual and to prompt in the members renewed courage, patience and love. Surely all this should enable them, on their return home, to deal with truer insight with the needs of the coming generation; and by setting themselves a very high standard of conduct, to give their children such a lead that they triumphantly vindicate the aims and methods of this Society,"
Typed by happi, Oct. 2020; Proofread by LNL, Apr. 2021
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