Home Education Under Six

Home Education Under Six

Editor’s Note, by Haley Struecker

Miss Ellen A. Parish was known in Ambleside as a woman of constant bravery, and such a reputation must have befitted her, for in January of 1923, the will of Miss Charlotte Mason named her “Principal of the House of Education for life.” Ms. Essex Cholmondeley, biographer of Miss Mason, understood the weight of such an inheritance and believed that Miss Parish bore it faithfully:

How hard it is to tread in the footsteps of the great, Miss Parish trod that path with unfailing courage. She endeavored to keep for the students all that was essential in their special training, while giving them those opportunities and freedoms which were right for a new generation.

Miss Parish held herself responsible for carrying on Miss Mason’s work in Miss Mason’s way, as far as it lay within her power to do so.[1]

Though Miss Parish was devoted to her work at the College until her health forced her retirement in 1933, she never lost sight of the value of a child’s education at home before they began formal schooling. In this paper, she has compiled a guide to the first five or six years of childhood — what she considered to be “the most important period of life.”[2]

With expressions such as “terrible twos,” “troublesome threes,” and “ferocious fours” polluting the speech surrounding the youngest of our society, Miss Parish offers a more Heavenly view of children that echoes the feelings of her dear friend and predecessor:

A little child sees and touches holy things that are hidden to us, sometimes he lifts the veil for us, and we get a glimpse of the loveliness that is his.[3]

We pray that this article will better equip you for the stewardship of those precious Early Years which must not be taken lightly. As Miss Parish wisely said, “We must have the chart and compass ready.”[4]

By E. A. Parish (H.O.E.)
The Parents’ Review, 1931, pp. 451-463

Miss Mason’s contributions to our Annual Conferences were always a delight to us all, and we miss them now though each year some part of her message is considered and learnt anew.

This year, amidst the many learned and interesting papers we have all been enjoying, has run like a golden thread in the design, the thought of the importance of the early education of children, of all that must be done for them before they are six years old, if it is to be done at all. We cannot afford to wait to collect information from the child as to his nature and nurture. We must have the chart and compass ready.

I have sought to put together some of Miss Mason’s thoughts on this matter; I will not, therefore, apologise for a paper which consists almost entirely of passages from her books.

One can only approach a subject such as this through the channels of theory or experience, both can be summed up in one short sentence, “God has planted a world in man’s heart.” Thus has God treated us:—

“From dust I rise,
And out of nothing now awake,
These brighter regions which salute mine eyes,
A gift from God I take.
The earth, the seas, the light, the day, the skies,
The sun and stars are mine; if those I prize.

“A stranger here
Strange things doth meet, strange glories see;
Strange treasures lodg’d in this fair world appear,
Strange all and new to me;
But that they mine should be, who nothing was,
That strangest is of all, yet brought to pass.”[1]


“The skies in their magnificence,
The lively, lovely air;
Oh how divine, how soft, how sweet, how fair!
The stars did entertain my sense,
And all the works of God, so bright and pure
So rich and great did seem,
As if they ever must endure
In my esteem.

“A native health and innocence
Within my bones did grow,
And while my God did all his Glories show,
I felt a vigour in my sense
That was all Spirit. I within did flow
With seas of life, like wine;
I nothing in the world did know
But ’twas divine.”[2]

Thus the child enters upon his inheritance, discerning infinite possibilities in all he sees:—

“To see a world in a grain of sand;
And a heaven in a wild flower;
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour.”

Can there be greater bliss? What then do we do that makes things go wrong? They so often do go wrong. Children are said to be “born older” than they used to be, and therefore they must start earlier. But it is noticed that children, if set to work too early, flag when they are nine or ten years old. A word is needed too about only children who are submitted to the concentrated attention of mother and nurse. Irritability, obstinacy, are often a natural protest.

We are here to consider the principles which Miss Mason would have us hold with regard to this most important period of life. What does Miss Mason mean when she says that “children are born persons”? One of her disciples tells us that she means:—

“A person, someone quite separate from us, someone with a direct relationship of his own towards the past, the present, the future, that no one else can share; someone who has to find out everything for himself; someone to whom we can give nothing, unless he be willing to receive it; someone who has a direct relationship with God, of his very own.”[3]

Perhaps we go wrong by taking too much upon ourselves, by leaving too little to these great people in our midst, who carry the world in their hearts. We refuse to limit ourselves to the three approaches which are all we may safely use. We make too little of environment. The thought of the times is as penetrating as the air we breathe, and our concern must be to place the feet of our children upon the firm rock of principle so that we can trust them to appropriate and use all that is best of current opinion. These are high sounding words for the education of children under six, they are none the less true. He who thinks back upon the impressions he received before that age knows that they were the impressions that have moulded his life. There is no necessity to use scientific means to recapture these memories, they come unsought, and they come when they are needed.

If we would act wisely, we must give deep thought to the words and indications which children give for our help:—

“Nothing is trivial that concerns a child; his foolish-seeming words and ways are pregnant with meaning for the wise. It is in the infinitely little we must study the infinitely great; and the vast possibilities and the right direction of education, are indicated in the open book of the little child’s thoughts.”[4]

“‘Please tell me, Uncle,’ Nixie asked gravely, with deep earnestness, ‘what is it people lose when they grow up?’ and he answered her, with equal gravity, speaking seriously as though the little body at his side were inhabited by an old discriminating soul. ‘Simplicity, I think, principally—and vision,’ he said. ‘They get wise with so many little details called facts that they lose the great view.’”[5]

It is precisely these little details called facts that cloud our vision and prevent us from seeing the child’s which is the great view. Then that book of the little child’s thoughts which should be open is closed, and we become of little use to him, we show ourselves unworthy of his confidence, and he withdraws into the fastness of his mind, where we cannot, must not, go. Yet he is lonely there for he finds little to sustain his spiritual life; the commerce of thought has stopped, and we know that the life of the mind is sustained upon ideas, and that ideas are passed from mind to mind.

We heard on Wednesday, in Mrs. Colin White’s beautiful paper, that obedience covers the whole duty of a little child. It is a hard duty for him to learn. First he must learn to obey promptly and unquestioningly; later he has to compel himself to obedience; unless he does this, little has been achieved.

But before the child is six a great deal more must be accomplished. Other habits must be formed, for habits are such a force in life:—

“The mother who takes pains to endow her children with good habits secures for herself smooth and easy days.” … “If she be appalled by the thought of overmuch labour, let her limit the number of good habits she will lay herself out to form. The child who starts in life with, say, twenty good habits, begins with a certain capital which he will lay out to endless profit as the years go on.”[6]

Amongst these Miss Mason places Cleanliness, Regularity,

Application, Attention, Imagining, Obedience, Truthfulness, and she says:—

“The education of habit is successful in so far as it enables the mother to let her children alone, not teasing them with perpetual commands and directions—a running fire of Do and Don’t; but letting them go their own way and grow, having first secured that they will go the right way, and grow to fruitful purpose.

“The gardener, it is true, ‘digs about and dungs,’ prunes and trains, his peach trees; but that occupies a small fraction of the tree’s life; all the rest of the time the sweet airs and sunshine, the rains and dews, play about it and breathe upon it, get into its substance, and the result is—peaches. But let the gardener neglect his part, and the peaches will be no better than sloes.”[7]

Many people are attracted by the thought of Masterly Inactivity when the education of children is in question, because there is an ever increasing sense of parental responsibility. “People feel that they can bring up their children to be something more than themselves, that they ought to do so and that they must; and it is to this keen sense of higher parental duty that the Parents’ Union owes its successful activity.”

But this desire to do so much leads to restlessness and anxiety and we have to learn that amongst our many duties lies one of cultivating a masterly inactivity, for we have been thinking that we have to do it all, “we think that everything rests with us, and that we should never intermit for a moment our conscious action on the young minds and hearts about us. Our endeavours become fussy and restless. We are too much with our children, ‘late and soon.’”[8]

Masterly inactivity does not rest upon leisurely effort, the line of least resistance, it can only be practised when we know that people are in a position to manage their own affairs:—

“In this time of extraordinary pressure—educational and social—perhaps a mother’s first duty to her children is to secure for them a quiet growing time, a full six years of passive receptive life, the waking part of it spent for the most part out in the fresh air. And this, not for the gain in bodily health alone—body and soul, heart and minds, are nourished with food convenient for them when the children are let alone, let to live without friction and without stimulus amongst happy influences which incline them to be good.”[9]

A quiet growing time is therefore the first condition, no other stimulus, not too much adult society, but gentle, happy companionship of other children. Real play rather than organised games is what the child craves and simple toys that give scope for his imagination:—

“Tommy should be free to do what he likes with his limbs and his mind, through all the hours of the day when he is not sitting up nicely at meals. He should run and jump, leap and tumble, lie on his face watching a worm, or on his back watching the bees in a lime tree. Nature will look after him and give him prompting of desire to know many things, and somebody must tell as he wants to know; and to do many things, and somebody should be handy just to put him in the way; and to be many things, naughty and good, and somebody should give direction.”[10]

To be free under authority is liberty, to be free without authority is license:—

“This is the freedom which a child enjoys who has the confidence of his parents as to his coming and goings and childish doings, and who is all the time aware of their authority. He is brought up in the school proper for a being whose life is conditioned by ‘fate’ and ‘free-will.’ He has liberty, that is, with a sense of must behind it to relieve him of that unrest which comes with the constant effort of decision. He is free to do as he ought, but knows quite well in his secret heart that he is not free to do that which he ought not. The child who, on the contrary, grows up with no strong sense of authority behind all his actions, but who receives many exhortations to be good and obedient and what not, is aware that he may choose either good or evil, he may obey or not obey, he may tell the truth or tell a lie; and, even when he chooses aright, he does so at the cost of a great deal of nervous wear and tear. His parents have removed from him the support of their authority in the difficult choice of right-doing, and he is left alone to make that most trying of all efforts, the effort of decision. Is the distinction between being free to choose the right at one’s own option, and not free to do the wrong, too subtle to be grasped, too elusive to be practical? It may be so, but it is precisely the distinction which we are aware of in our own lives so far as we keep ourselves consciously under the divine governance. We are free to go in the ways of right living, and have the happy sense of liberty of choice, but the ways of transgressors are hard. We are aware of a restraining hand in the present, and of sure and certain retribution in the future. Just this delicate poise is to be aimed at for the child. He must be treated with full confidence, and must feel that right-doing is his own free choice, which his parents trust him to make; but he must also be very well aware of the deterrent force in the background, watchful to hinder him when he would do wrong.”[11]

Socrates tells us that he had from childhood a kind of voice which turned him back from things he was about to do though it never urged him to act.

Mr. Caxton must have had something like this in his mind when he dealt with “Pisistratus” who, as a little boy still in the nursery, braved Papa, Mama and Nurse and threw a much prized flower pot out of the window:—

“‘Good wishes don’t mend bad actions,’ said Mr. Caxton to his penitent little son. ‘Good actions mend bad actions.’ Later, when Sisty longs to repair his wrongdoing, Mr. Caxton puts him in the way of so doing, but Sisty fails to understand what he means. No explanation is vouchsafed. ‘My dear,’ said my father, leaning his hand on my shoulder, ‘everybody who is in earnest to be good, carries two fairies about him—one here,’ and he touched my heart, and ‘one here,’ and he touched my forehead.”[12]

Children hate fuss:—

“I never did, I never did, I never did like ‘Now, take care, dear!’
I never did, I never did, I never did want ‘Hold-my-hand’;
I never did, I never did, I never did think much of ‘Not up there, dear.’
It’s no good saying it. They don’t understand.”[13]

If we trusted children more, we should be spared anxiety and irritability, and they would be spared it too; if we trusted ourselves more, it would be better; we are always afraid we shall not be able to tackle difficulties when they arise; children admire the fine easy way of some people, the fine easy way which so endeared Uncle Paul to his nieces and nephews, but Uncle Paul lived in the children’s lives, and we must too, or we shall never know when to speak and be silent; we must be able to put ourselves in their place:—

“If people ask me,
I always tell them:
‘Quite well, thank you, I’m very glad to say.’
If people ask me,
I always answer,
‘Quite well, thank you, how are you to-day?’
I always answer,
I always tell them,
If they ask me
Politely …
But Sometimes

I wish

That they wouldn’t.”[14]

“Parents and teachers must, of course, be omniscient; their children expect this of them, and a mother or father who can be hoodwinked is a person easy to reckon with in the mind of even the best child. For children are always playing a game—half of chance, half of skill; they are trying how far they can go, how much of the management of their own lives they can get for the taking, and how much they must leave in the hands of the stronger powers. Therefore the mother who is not up to children is at their mercy, and need expect no quarter. But she must see without watching, know without telling, be on the alert always, yet never obviously, fussily, so. This open-eyed attitude must be sphinx-like in its repose. The children must know themselves to be let alone, whether to do their own duty or to seek their own pleasure.”[15]

“The constraining power should be present, but passive, so that the child may not feel himself hemmed in without choice. That free-will of man, which has for ages exercised faithful souls who would prefer to be compelled into all righteousness and obedience, is after all a pattern for parents. The child who is good because he must be so, loses his power of initiative more than he gains in seemly behaviour. Every time a child feels that he chooses to obey of his own accord, his power of initiative is strengthened. The bearing-rein may not be used. When it occurs to a child to reflect on his behaviour, he should have that sense of liberty which makes his good behaviour appear to him a matter of his own preference and choice.”[16]

Dr. Cameron in his helpful book, The Nervous Child, deals with the imitativeness of a little child who unconsciously reflects our actions, our speech and our manners. Dr. Cameron gives the example of the tell-tale child who tells of his sister’s misdoings because day by day he hears his own misdoings, recounted by his nurse to his mother. Tale telling is therefore no crime in his eyes but a way of being interesting.

Dr. Cameron begs us to leave the children to themselves and to worry them as little as possible. He reminds us that a child finds his happiness in doing real things, loves getting his gaiters from his cupboard, or helping to clear the tea-table. He also says a good deal about suggestibility. We recognise that the use of suggestion, even self-suggestion, as an aid to the will is to be deprecated as helping to stultify the character, but some of us may have failed to realise how sensitive a child is to impressions from outside:—

“That which is thought of and feared for the child, that he rapidly becomes. Placid, comfortable people, who do not worry about their children find their children sensible and easy to manage. Parents who take a pride in the daring and naughty pranks of their children unconsciously convey the suggestion to their minds that such conduct is characteristic of them. Nervous and apprehensive parents who are distressed when the child refuses to eat or to sleep, and who worry all day long over possible sources of danger to him, are forced to watch their child acquire a reputation for nervousness, which, as always, is passively accepted and consistently acted up to. Differences in type, determined by hereditary factors, no doubt, exist and are often strongly marked. Yet it is not untrue to say that variations in children, dependent upon heredity, show chiefly in the relative susceptibility or insusceptibility of the child to the influences of environment and management. It is no easy task to distinguish between the nervous child and the child of the nervous mother, between the child who inherits an unusually sensitive nervous system and the child who is nervous only because he breathes constantly an atmosphere charged with doubt and anxiety.”[17]

It is by our failure to live in the children’s lives that we make things so difficult for them. We do not see how very important things are to children:—

“If there was one thing Maria couldn’t abide, it was a fly floating in her bath. It was extraordinary that though its carcase was such a minute thing you could at such a moment see absolutely nothing else. It was extraordinary that the whole of the water seemed at such a moment like fly water.”[18]

We do not allow ourselves to measure how cold a little child’s feet get on the snow; how horribly hot his soup is; and how dreadful when there is too much salt in it, too much for his sensitive palate; how tight his coat is, how scrubby his pull-over is, how tickly his socks. It may be said he has to learn to bear all these things, but that is only partly true. We do not bear them ourselves, we “take steps.” So we can avoid the fly water for him and turn his thoughts till these matters take their right place in the landscape.

You will find guidance in the art of thought turning in Home Education and in Dr. Helen Webb’s valuable book. A child’s thoughts must be turned outwards, his heart and mind must be filled with big matters and his interests must centre round others, and “self” must be forgotten. A little child’s life should be one lovely adventure with stories to hear, and happy occupations such as are suggested in Leaflet S. It is not an unusual thing to find the younger of two children much the “brighter” because his elder brother has unconsciously brought him on.

Living as I do beside the Director of the Parents’ Union School, I often have access to the entrance papers of persons of six, who are presumably starting their education. It amazes me every time to see what a little child can bring with him of loveliness which he has learnt and enjoyed before any lessons have been given. In most cases his powers of observation are remarkable, he is an accomplished master in joining cause to effect, he remembers what he hears and sees. He has a fine appreciation of beauty, some knowledge of literature, acquaintance with the flowers of his neighbourhood, some friends amongst the stars,—one little child admitting “I sometimes know which is Mars.” He knows a great many Bible stories and is familiar with the Gospel story. This does not cover his equipment, but it gives us some idea of what a very full equipment it is.

It is unfortunate that many people are so intolerant of the relief children find in pretending:—

“As soon as I’m in bed at night
And snugly settled down,
The little girl I am by day
Goes very suddenly away,
And then I’m Mrs. Brown.

“I have a family of six,
And all of them have names,
The girls are Joyce and Nancy Maud,
The boys are Marmaduke and Claude
And Percival and James.

“We have a house with twenty rooms
A mile away from town;
I think it’s good for girls and boys
To be allowed to make a noise—
And so does Mr. Brown.

“We do the most exciting things,
Enough to make you creep;
And on and on and on we go—
I sometimes wonder if I know
When I have gone to sleep.”[19]

Do we dull adults never pretend? How many mountains do we look forward to climbing, making out all details of the expedition without the least hope of finding time or strength to make the ascent in reality? How many a time one is cheered by elaborate plans of journeys, which are never made? So, too, the children need the refuge of this world of make-believe. Grown-ups would do well not to intrude, that would be much resented and despised, but they must take it for granted as though make-believe were a matter of course. I am sure this is a means of rescuing many a potential liar and making accuracy and truthfulness about actual happenings dear to him. The need for make-believe is not necessarily a prolonged necessity. Children who have the run of woods and streams and meadows find their fairyland early, town-dwellers need the refuge longer; if children can have either solitude or each other’s society, life is easier for them. Grown-ups are a terrible handicap, grown-ups with their pressing cares and their small interests. “Think what it must mean to a general in command of his forces to be told by some intruder into the play-world to tie his shoe-strings.”[20]

It is a curious but beautiful fact that this make-believe is the doorway into the religious life of many a little child, for make-believe is a region that is so peculiarly his own, and it is a place where anything may happen; so impossibly and wonderfully beautiful. A little child sees and touches holy things that are hidden to us, sometimes he lifts the veil for us, and we get a glimpse of the loveliness that is his.

“In old days there were angels who came and took men by the hand and led them away from the city of destruction. We see no white-winged angels now. But yet men are led away from threatening destruction: a hand is put into theirs, which leads them forth gently towards a calm and bright land; and the hand may be a little child’s.”[21]

Dr. Helen Webb in her book on children brings us near to that calm and bright land perhaps because she lived in it herself, and in it she says:—

“May not the members of this Union, whose first object is the improvement of the race, set before their minds an ideal of strong, healthy, wise people, who will sometime inhabit the world and hope that in spite of all difficulties there may again be gods on the earth in future days.”[22]

If so, parents must look to it that their first care is the spiritual life of their child. “The soul of man is for God, as God is for the soul,” said S. Augustine. “But this holy mystery, this union and communion of God and the soul, how may human parents presume to meddle with it?”

“But what can the parent do? Just this, and no more; he can present the idea of God to the soul of the child. Here, as throughout His universe, Almighty God works by apparently inadequate means. Who would say that a bee can produce apple trees? Yet a bee flies from an apple tree laden with the pollen of its flowers; this it unwittingly deposits on the stigmas of the flowers of the next tree it comes to. The bee goes, but the pollen remains, but with all the length of the style between it and the immature ovule below. That does not matter; the ovule has no power to reach the pollen grain, but the latter sends forth a slender tube, within the tube of the style; the ovule is reached; behold, then, the fruit, with its seed, and, if you like, future apple trees. Accept the parable: the parent is little better in this matter than the witless bee; it is his part to deposit, so to speak, within reach of the soul of the child some fruitful idea of God; the immature soul makes no effort towards that idea, but the living Word reaches down, touches the soul,—and there is life; growth and beauty, flower and fruit.”[23]

This sweet and natural spiritual life should know no beginning:—

“A child should not be able to recall a time before the sweet stories of the Bible filled his imagination; he should have heard the voice of the Lord God in the garden in the cool of the evening; should have been an awed spectator where the angels ascended and descended upon Jacob’s stony pillow; should have followed Christ through the cornfield on the Sabbath-day, and sat in the rows of the hungry multitudes—so long ago that such sacred scenes form the unconscious background of his thoughts. All things are possible to the little child, and the touch of the spiritual upon our material world, the difficult problems, the hard sayings, which are an offence, in the Bible sense of the word, to his elders, present no difficulties to the child’s all-embracing faith.”[24]

In the fourth volume of The Saviour of the World, Miss Mason has given us guidance. You will remember her chapters in Home Education on the code of education in the Gospels, summed up in three commandments: Take heed that ye offendnot,—despise not,—hinder not, one of these little ones.

I propose to read to you what she writes about despising children. We shall find in it a working out of the thoughts I have tried to set before you:—The World that is in a child’s heart; the gradual shrinking of that world as we fill it with paltry boons, poor thoughts, unworthy aims; the necessity for an equipment of good habits, beginning with the habit of obedience; the wisdom of Masterly Inactivity; the quiet growing time; the courtesy and confidence that are due to a little child and finally our great responsibility towards him:—

“Take heed that ye despise not one of these!
Behold, I shew you a mystery; children come,
Not all divorced and separate from Him,
Their Eternal Father; not given o’er to men
To use as shall please them, cherish or neglect;
Continual commerce holds the Father still
With His children, lent to men; for every child
Hath his angel who beholds the Father’s face,
Bears quick report of all the little one’s state
And carries instant back the Father’s love
To wrap the child, invuln’rable, from the world,—
Shield from the rubbing harshness of men’s use
As invisible mantle,—down of mother bird;
Then, how despise ye them God cherisheth?”

The Disciples heard; with eyes ope’d wide in awe
They gazed on th’ child in their midst as they had seen,
Sudden, a glorious angel standing there,
Still shining radiant from the face of God:
Then, gathering courage, spake they:—“Lord, make plain
To us, how we despise Thy little ones
Nor know our offence at all? Sure, we, Thy Jews,
Have ever cherished offspring—brought them up
In the fear of God, abiding in the Law,
And precious to us as the gift of God?
Remember we how Eli spoiled his sons,
How Solomon bade use the rod betimes,
How Manoah and his wife the angel prayed,
‘How shall we order the child?’ E’en so do we,
Our Nation by its families, importune.”

“Aye, cherish ye the children, as one holds
His own possessions precious,—kine in field
Or jewel in its casket,—so the child!
Said I not to you,—Ye shall not despise
Or think to possess a child, who yet is God’s—
The while he sheds his radiance in your ways?
Which then is more—a man or his possessions,
E’en the costliest he hath? So ye’re assured
That each of you is greater than a child;
That what ye give must needs be his increase;
That what ye say with wisdom edifies!
And so the child,—one greatest in the Kingdom,
Graced with nobility in heavenly course,—
Is taught to frame his life on mean exemplar,
To covet baubles, think your shallow thoughts!

Ye deem the child has nought but what ye give,
Ye, or the ancestors ye reckon yours;
That while he’s little, he may scarce do well,—
‘Wait till he’s grown’—become as good as a man.
So, lax, ye rule him, ‘What knows he of law,
A silly child, unknowing right or wrong!’
Despise ye so the children, nor perceive
That God hath writ on th’ heart of every child,—
‘Obey, and thou shalt live; transgress, and die:’
The infant child still sucking at the breast
Knows this thing,—till ye teach him to despise,
As ye yourselves despise, the Law of God:—
Idle ye bid him do some idle task
Nor heed when ’tis not performed. The child comes, meek,
Beholding you as gods to whom right and wrong
Are as ye choose to name them. Quick, he learns
To do as ye do, transgress as ye allow,
And day by day forsakes him that fine sense
Whereby discerning good and evil came he.
Thus, ye despise the children.

Ye think, ye wise ones, ye alone can know
If ye be learned, all the ways of God,
If ye be crafty, all the hearts of men:
‘The little child, great thoughts are not for him’—
So think ye in your arrogance, and provide
Baubles and petty trinkets to amuse
Him whom his Father thought on from the first,
And planned a playground filled with various joys—
Where little feet may wander, hands take hold,
Cool fancies play, as glinting sunshine falls,
And the little child and his angel walk with God
But ye fill all his days with paltry boons,
Poor thoughts, unworthy aims; that sacred place,
The altar of a child’s pure heart, defile;
Thus ye despise the children.

Intrude not on his thoughts, his springs of love
And fear, the impulses that move, and all that store
He gathers to him to build his house of soul:
Let your communication be ‘Yea, yea:
Nay, nay:’ and let your ‘yea’ be full assured,
Your ‘nay’ be just and final: wary, walk warily,
Nor trespass on the child as were he clay
And you the forming potter: he is more;

See you, he comes with mind to comprehend;
With thoughts unformed, unplumbed, aware of all;
So filled with love from the pure Source, that toy
Of rag or stone or stick wakes tenderness,—
Behold, he hath transfigured the poor thing,
Made it yielding, loving, beauteous as himself!
Think you, he knows not God for he has no words
To tell you what he knows? E’en you, grown stale
In the world’s uses, how can you discover
To any the deep thoughts which move you most?
Ye think him ignorant of right and wrong,
An unlettered sheet ’tis your part to inscribe?
On fleshy tablets are the Commandments writ—
The Child’s obedient heart!

See ye to it

That children are honoured amongst you; that I see,
At play in city streets, no little child
Made common by your usage,—hard and vain,
Wilful and greedy, loving but himself;—
Because ye say, forsooth, ‘He is but small—
What matters aught a little child may do?’
Verily, it matters much; your Father wills
That all these little ones be kept in love
And guileless as He sent them;—souls uplift
To God as flowers uplift their face to the sun:
Not one would God have perish, learn deceit,
And that alien worship where He hath no place—
Self-consciousness, which hedgeth as a wall,
Shutting out God and life and needs of men!

I charge you, guard the little ones, and know,—
To keep them humble, innocent, as they grow,
Your chiefest care—task by the Father set!”


[1] The Salutation, by Thomas Traherne.

[2] Wonder, by Thomas Traherne.

[3] How the P.N.E.U. helps Parents and Children, by Mrs. Tasker.

[4] Home Education.

[5] The Education of Uncle Paul, by Algernon Blackwood.

[6] Home Education.

[7] Home Education.

[8] Home Education.

[9] Home Education.

[10] Home Education.

[11] School Education.

[12] The Caxtons, by Bulwer Lytton.

[13] When we were Very Young, by A. A. Milne.

[14] When we were Very Young, by A. A. Milne.

[15] School Education.

[16] School Education.

[17] The Nervous Child.

[18] Maria Fly, by Walter de la Mare.

[19] Rose Fyleman.

[20] School Education.

[21] Silas Marner, by George Eliot.

[22] The Stress of Life.

[23] Home Education.

[24] Parents and Children.

Editor’s Note: The formatting of the above article was optimized for online viewing. To access a version which is formatted more similarly to the original, and which includes the original page numbers, please click here.

Endnotes for the Editor’s Note

[1] Cholmondeley, E. (1952). “The House of Education Under Miss E. A. Parish.” Parents’ Review, vol. 63, p. 124.

[2] Parish, E. A. (1931). “Home Education Under Six.” Parents’ Review, vol. 42, p. 452.

[3] Ibid., p. 460.

[4] Ibid., p. 451.

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