The Parents' Review

A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture

Edited by Charlotte Mason.

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

Volume 13, 1902, pg. 745-749

Story of the Nations (T. Fisher Unwin [publisher], published at 5/- each). Mr. Unwin is offering the fifty-six volumes of The Nations series to the public for £8 8s., with, if we recollect rightly, an additional incentive in the way of monthly payments. We doubt if Mr. Unwin's very fine enterprise in the issue of this series has had due recognition. Without it, our source of information on the history of Venice, Poland, Mexico, Austria, etc., is probably in nine cases out of ten limited to an article in an encyclopaedia. These volumes, all of them written by experts, many of them by stylists, offer just what we want--provocation to plunge into the histories of other nations. Several months ago we invested in the series, feeling that it was good for our household to be familiar with even the cover of a volume dealing with the history of Carthage, of Parthia, of British India, and what not, and that if any went so far as to take the book down and look at even a few of the forty capital illustrations which each volume contains, there would be a chance of the awakening of the history in their own set of shelves, but there seemed to be no evidence of curiosity as to their contents: when, one day at table the young King of Spain was talked of, and someone said that the account of the Queen Mother in Modern Spain was delightful and more interesting than a romance.

Someone else added: "Yes, and I have been reading Persia, I wanted to know more about Sohrab and Rustum; that too is delightful reading." A German lady present remarked on the soundness of the volume on Germany, and another person had funds of information about the "lake dwellers" of Switzerland. We were quite satisfied; our scheme had caught on in the best possible way--everyone reading to gratify her own intelligent curiosity. We would most strongly recommend that these volumes should be made a family possession in every educated household. Nothing differentiates people more than what we have called the history hunger; and if this is not awakened in childhood, we are not likely to get it in the rush and hurry of later life. The second, if not the first book the writer recollects is Layard's Nineveh, which was being read at home when she was six, and winged Bulls became a thought possession to her. If parents wish to put their children in touch with world history, there is really no alternative; Mr. Unwin has supplied us with the only possibility easily within reach. A big table of the centuries on the walls of their schoolroom, which children could fill up with the names of men and country as they read, would bring their knowledge into time order and lay a rich foundation of thought for after life. The work in each case has been put into competent hands--thus, The Moors in Spain is by Stanley Lane-Poole; Ancient Egypt, by Professor Rawlinson; The Hansa Towns, by Helen Zimmern; Modern France, by Andre Le Bon; Austria, by Sidney Whitman; Modern England, by Justin McCarthy. Each volume is furnished with capital maps and plants as well as with many pictures. We wish an authority had been given for each of the pictorial illustrations, some of which are the reproductions of pictures. The portraits are especially valuable. Just now we are turning over the volume about The Jews, and we come across portraits of Gambetta, Isaac Disraeli, Lord Beaconsfield, Heine, and Felix Mendelssohn.

[Story of the Nations series: Portugal, South American Republics, Barbary Corsairs, Ireland, Switzerland, Norway, Hansa Towns, Ancient Egypt, Bohemia, West Indies, Mexico, The Normans, Medieval Wales, British India; Wikipedia has a complete list.]

Special Reports on Educational Subjects, Vol. VIII.: Education in Scandinavia, Switzerland, Holland, Hungary, etc. (3/2). Mr. Sadler in these extraordinarily instructive reports is providing the country with an educational library of unique value. The essays on Education in Norway and Sweden are especially interesting, and the new law for secondary schools in Norway contains important suggestions. The article which attracts us most is that upon Children's Workshops in Sweden; the Arbetsstugor appear to us to do more than indicate the right way of teaching handwork to the children of the working classes. They strike at the root of a fallacy which tells against educational progress, that is, that educational results are in exact proportion to the elaborateness and costliness of appliances, buildings, etc. In the Arbetsstugor the children work in an ordinary cottage--no more and no less comfortable than a workman's dwelling. The head of every Arbetsstuga is a lady who, as a rule, gives her time freely to the work. Practical craftsmen are engaged when necessary to work under her direction. Boys and girls attend the Arbetsstuga separately every other day for two consecutive hours; the number of children attending one such school varies from fifty to two hundred. Ten to twelve form a class. Small rooms will do for a class because of the excellent method of ventilation employed. The work taught is of various kinds, chip and bast plaiting and needlework for the youngest children (7-9 years), for the elder pupils (10-14) fret-sawing, brush-making, weaving, netting, carpentry, boot-mending. "Thus the children have made different kinds of objects. They have plaited hats, made slippers, chairs, baskets of many kinds, tables, shelves, baking troughs, mended shoes, made waistcoats with the button-holes, pantaloons, children's dresses and aprons; they have woven mats, petticoats, aprons; they have made iron beds, sledges, etc." The work is disposed of at an annual sale, and the sales more than cover the expenses of fresh materials. The children are rewarded by a meal, either dinner or supper, and in these meals not only health and economy, but the tastes of the children are regarded. The children get to love work and to beg to have some to do at home. The paper on The Teaching of Arithmetic, by Mr. A. Sonnenschein, is a most helpful contribution, and not less so is that about The Teaching of Latin, by Dr. E. Sonnenschein. But the whole volume is too full of wise thought and suggestive practice for us to do it justice in a short notice.

Pastors and Teachers, by the Bishop of Coventry [Edmund Arbuthnott Knox] (Longmans, 5/-), Bishop Knox's six lectures on Pastoral Theology contain a fairly exhaustive examination of the subjects of religious instruction. We are glad to see a chapter devoted to the home and its teachings, with many suggestive thoughts. The Sunday School, the Confirmation Class, the Continuation School, are examined very fully; and on every page one meets with phrases which give us pause; as, for instance, this of "the child's proneness to disgust which may harden to absolute prejudice" as a factor to be considered in education. In the chapter on Methods of Catechising we have a discriminating examination of the "Method of S. Sulpice." The appendix contains an interesting collection of seven catechisms gathered from various sources.

Foreign Missions, by Bishop Henry H. Montgomery, D.D. (Longmans, 2/6). Bishop Montgomery's survey of Mission work all over the world, and by whatever church undertaken, is especially interesting just now when we believe there is general awakening to the supreme value and inevitableness of missionary work. Each chapter is headed by a short inevitableness of missionary work. Each chapter is headed by a short list of books recommended to the student of missions--a list indicating in every case liberal thought and wide reading. This is a singularly inspiring and instructive little volume. We think it will prove a delight to those who believe with the author that missionary work is the greatest work; and an instruction and stimulus to many whose ignorance of the fields and the results of missionary effort is somewhat shameful. There are things it is a shame not to know.

The Story of Euclid, by W. B. [William Barrett] Frankland, M.A. (Newnes, 1/-). We are grateful for a most vivifying and inspiring little book. We have always maintained that, in teaching, every science should be approached from the point of view of the discoverer; and here we have Euclid, the man, thinking his mighty thoughts, travelling sure-footed in the dim spaces of the abstract. We have too an enthusiast writing of an enthusiast. Seen through the medium of this book, Geometry is the living thought of living minds, burning with the passion of truth; and yet, says the preface, "so lacking in curiosity are we of this country, although I do not know that other people have shown themselves much more inquisitive in the matter, that there does not exist, so far as I am aware, any small book of this sort to tell us what in the story of Euclid is of interest or importance for busy men and women to know. Even in school books, I venture to suggest, there is a quite unaccountable lack of that historical and philosophical information which it is the aim of this little volume in some degree to communicate, and so in writing this brief sketch of Euclidian lore I have had in mind younger as well as older people."

The Story of Animal Life, by B. Lindsay (Newnes, 1/-). Another capital little member of a very useful series. It is amazing that a highly intelligent, interesting, and living account of so vast a subject as "animal life" can be got in such small compass. The illustrations are numerous and capital.

The Story of Fish Life, by W. P. [William Plane] Pycraft (Newnes, 1/-). Here we have another example of the thoroughness of scientific treatment brought to bear upon a popular treatise. The point of view in all of these volumes is, of course, that of the evolutionist, and though we may hesitate at a deduction here and there, we profit incalculably in having the light of a great unifying principle thrown upon what have hitherto been isolated conundrums of the natural world.

Nature Life and Study, by Clifton F. Hodge, P.H.D. (Ginn & Co., 7/6). This is a singularly repellant volume, all the more so because the early chapters are full of phrases which appear to indicate a generous sympathy with nature. Professor Stanley P. Hall, in his warmly eulogistic introduction, states that "for some years preceding adolescence the normal child can be appealed to on the practical, unsentimental, and utilitarian side of his nature." This is the error which to our minds has spoiled what might have been an important book. Nature is subtle and coy, and is to be wooed for her own sake or not at all. Now Professor Hodge admits that "my plan has often been criticised on the ground that it emphasizes unduly the economic side." We entirely agree with the critics, and the attempt to treat nature-study in the light of "human values" is disastrous educationally; for what we humbly ask of Nature is to give us the "open sesame" to her playground for heart and mind and soul, to help and heal and comfort. Therefore we should leave it to the specialist to treat of insects that infest the human head and how they are dealt with--of insects harmful to certain crops and how to get rid of them--of how to set about an insect collection--of how a mosquito may in 180 days reproduce itself to the extent of a whole line of figures, beginning with 2. Of course it is well to know of the pear tree borer, "This is quite destructive to pear trees, its presence is revealed by chips resembling fine sawdust in the bark of the tree, it should be dug out with knife and wire wherever found." But is this the sort of information to kindle a passion in any living soul? The blessed passion for Nature is coming upon us for our help and healing, and therefore we resent exceedingly the fact that such a book as Professor Hodge's with the sanction of his name and of what is evidently a kind and sympathetic heart, should be presented to children as their key to the world of nature. Kingsley knew better: "Dear Daddy, kiss this beautiful cockroach," and he did.

Studies in Education, edited by Earl Barnes (4.401, Sanson Street, Philadelphia). These Studies are published on the first day of each month by Earl Barnes, at a cost of 6/- a year in England. There are five Studies in this number (May, 1902)--Children and Animals, Children's Pets, Children's Drawings, Children's Stories, and a type study on Ideals. In each case a large number of children, some of them London Board School children, have certain questions set, the answers to which give the child's opinion on given points, as for example, what animal you would choose for a pet, why? &c. Who would you choose to be like, and why? The child's drawing and the boy's poem are especially interesting, but it seems to us that they hardly lend themselves to "child-study," because they are the work of exceptional children. All the papers are interesting, for we, in this generation, take an excessive and perhaps unhealthy interest in all the doings and sayings of children, or, to speak according to book, of "the child." We cannot help thinking that these Studies with the numerous scientific-looking charts which accompany them, are--not a waste of time, that would be trifling matter--but a futile preoccupation of time, thought and energy, for the serviceable use of which there is most urgent need. Consider the results of these elaborate Studies. "At eight years old," we are told, "38 percent more children choose birds than dogs, while children of 13 choose 7 percent more dogs than birds" (for pets). Again, "only three boys of nine and under refer to the affection of their actual pet for them, only two wish for it in their ideal pet, but their references to their own affection for their actual pet rise above 50 percent." We have not the analysis of the evidence on the question of who would you choose to be like, but the answers are distinctly entertaining. A teacher's work is sometimes dull, perhaps, and to vary it by the collection and analysis of this kind of information must afford a little amusing variety. Most of us remember when we were called upon to make "confessions" in every drawing-room as our favourite book, our favourite exercise, when we go to bed, etc., etc. No one has yet thought of collecting and analysing these "confessions," which no doubt exist in hundreds of old albums, but probably a little respect for a person, quâ person, is left amongst us. Here we think is the fallacy of the "child-study" movement. Every child is a person alone and by himself. The baby in arms declares the fact, and the growing boy is apt to set up effectual barriers between himself and intrusive personalities without him. Any test which is intended to bring out average tendencies, inclinations, aspirations, will present us with human averages, and not with distinctively child averages, because common human nature and individual character are proper to child and man alike, with wider knowledge and experience on the part of the man. Now his personality, individuality, is the most inalienable and precious property attaching to a person, and the attempt to finger it and examine it and put it under a microscope, to tabulate it and generalise upon it, is, as has been well remarked, an impertinence equal to his who would peep and botanise upon his mother's grave. It may be urged--whether "child-study" is legitimate or not--it is useful. But is it? Is not every person of average common sense capable of answering most questions of the kind about the children he is concerned with? And again, has the information any educational value? And again, the worth of an opinion depends entirely upon the character and knowledge of the person who offers the opinion. The young, the ignorant, and the uninformed are proverbially ready with opinions on every subject under the sun, echoes for the most part, or idle assertions made for the sake of talking. It is not safe to treat children as oracles. One gift they have, that of thought-reading, and we venture to say it is impossible to give a "child-study" test so that children shall not catch a hint of their personal importance in the matter, and be tempted to one or another of the poses of which their lives are so largely made up, for is not their whole vocation endless imitation?

Typed by happi, Feb. 2021; Proofread by LNL, Apr. 2021