The Parents' Review
A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture
"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."
by Leila Payne
A friend made an experiment, of running a camp in Canada in accord with Miss Mason's ideas, for other people's children as well as our own.
Our numbers have varied through the summer, between ten and thirteen children, aged from five to fourteen.
We do not amuse them. We have no "big" boys and girls, no "counsellors," to play with the little ones and "keep them happy." The children have freedom to do what they wish within their boundaries, which, as a matter of interest, have never been broken. Nothing is compulsory, except punctuality at meals, and quiet during rest hour and between going to sleep and waking up signalsif to-day a small person prefers to build a sand house or to carry on domestic affairs high in the old willow, instead of swimming with the rest of the world, no one interferes.
The children brought no playthings, except perhaps a beloved doll or teddy-bear which might have been lonely without its small parent. But each was given a big wooden spoon, a ball, a nature note book and a paint box, and there is a constant succession of interests, in which grown-ups have had no share, except that of interested spectators, such interests as houses of sand and wood, shops of wild flowers and berries, plays acted and managed by the children alone, athletic "stunts," an Indian dance or two, all of course out of doors, for except to sleep in the tents we have lived entirely in the open for ten weeks, even rain only keeps us under canvas for a little while.
Every child is quite at home in the water, and can dive and swima few strokes only for the fives and sixesand manage a flat-bottomed boat alone and efficientlyand nothing has been taught, it has all been acquired almost unconsciously and most joyfully.
Everyone is clothed alike, a leaf-brown sun-suit and big straw hat for ten and under, the bigger boys, brown shorts and sleeveless vest, all bare legs and feet.
There are no badges, competitions or comparisons. All help with the camp "chores," dish-washing is shared with our jolly dietician by the several tens and over in turn.
The Pukwudjis (seven and under) help to lay the table (scrubbed boards on trestles), and each one has its own responsibility, of honey, salt, napkins, etc. Everyone clears and neatly stacks his own plate, cup, and cutlery, makes his bed and keeps his part of the tent tidy.
We sleep in tents with wooden floors, the big boys in teepees, we eat under a fly-sheet in all weathers, if it is very wet we wear mackintoshes.
We have no trouble over quarrelling. The children play alone and unsupervised for hours, contentedly and co-operatively.
They rest daily from one to three o'clock, with books if over seven, each on a blanket in the shade; we sleep if we can, if not, and we do not belong to the age that can read, we watch trees and grass and caterpillars.
There is no excited screaming, but a quiet, busy peacefulness, or else, at times, wholesome romping.
The children all come from well-to-do homes, and many were nervous and troublesome; at home, some unable to sleep; some "unable to eat" this or that, but now we are all hungry and eager for second helpings of nearly everything.
Among the campers are a puppy and three kittens, and for two weeks we were really completewith a sixteen-month baby boy, who took kindly to camping, and sat in a high-chair made out of a large barrel.
Wethe grown-upshad made various plans while preparing for camp, but these were discarded as we found the children required even less organisation than we had expected, and there are no classes, just restful leaving-alone, until we are wanted.
We have reading aloud.
We ruled out all trashy books and so-called "funny" papers, and at first our choice was not entirely popular, but if there is nothing else to read, you at last take what there is, and our plan has proved its worth, one ten-year-old has read fourteen books, but did not quite finish The Prince and the Pauper before leaving, so was going to get it when she went home. Our big boys have read, at first reluctantly, later with keen enjoyment, Macbeth, Julius Caesar and The Merchant of Venice.
Our Pukwudjis have listened to the holiday books from the P.N.E.U. programmes and other classics.
On Sundays we listen to the life of one of the Scripture heroes, read from the Bible, and morning and evening we read a few verses. The children enjoy their "pi" reading, and would not miss.
We insist on courtesy, looking after the other fellow at meals, and cleanliness of person, only one layer of dirt is allowed! Gentle voices are required, that the fairies and the creatures may not be disturbed.
All the children are hard as nails, brown as Indians, and have a beautiful carriagepokes, stoops and round shoulders have disappeared. A favourite "stunt" is to walk with a cup of water on the head and not to spill a drop.
Our nature lore is not scientific, most of the books have a rather smudgy appearance, but we have watched turtles coming out of the lake and climbing a steep bank to lay their eggs; we scamper excitedly to see a new toadstool which has appeared since last night; we are very proud of a hermit thrush who visits us occasionally, and of our cat bird friend who always joins our "pi." We thrill at the sunset colours of an empty clam shell, and the clam shell colours of the sunset sky, and we inveigle a passing grown-up to help us find the Pole Star and Vega, the Scorpion and the Milky Way, when we should have been asleep long ago. And we lie on our tummies and watch a beetle or a tiger moth, and love them, even if we don't know much of their private life.
And we go home, planning what we shall do at camp next summer.
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