The Co-Operation of School and Home

The Co-Operation of School and Home

By Miss Charlotte M. Mason
Papers on Moral Education,[1] 1909, pp. 314–317, 61

Children should get their knowledge where for the most part we get our own—out of books. We receive a certain degree of mental titillation and interest, no doubt, from lectures, but, for the clear and definite understanding of a subject, we go to the best book to be had on that subject, and children should do the same. They are the true encyclopædists, demanding knowledge of many subjects; and for each subject they should have a whole book, or several books, the best books (in so far as these are of a literary character) and complete books, to be read all through chapter by chapter, each chapter (or part of a chapter) to be known at a single reading. In the habit of reading we get that bridge which should connect school and home. A boy should collect between 200 and 300 volumes, which he has read and knows, during his school career. Hardly any of these, not even the books he had as a little fellow of seven, should be of a sort that he would not turn over with interest at any time of his life. Therefore they are such as his parents may read with interest and discuss with animation.

Here we at once get co-operation, resting on a sound intellectual basis, between home and school. Such co-operation would be more immediate in the day, than in the boarding-school; but in the latter case, too, the gradual growth of the young scholar’s library would be watched by his parents with very great interest. It is commonly supposed that parents will not buy books, but, from perhaps unusually wide experience in this matter, I can say that it very seldom happens that a parent is unwilling to buy a desirable book. He does not care to buy books that are of no earthly use or interest to anybody outside the school-room, but these need be but a negligible quantity.

Having made out his curriculum for each class, allowing a score or two of books for each boy, according to class, which he requires the parents to buy in the holidays that they may have an opportunity of looking them over in advance, it seems to me that the teacher of the day-school might yet do something more to secure intellectual co-operation between school and home.

For instance, the parents of children of seven would like to see reproductions of the half-dozen pictures by Titian, or Corot, or Rembrandt, which their child is to study that term; to be reminded of the “Pilgrim’s Progress,” and to hear a stirring page from the “Heroes of Asgard.” Mrs. Frewen Lord’s “Tales from St. Paul’s” would be as interesting to the parents as to their boys and girls, and so, too, would a slight summary of the work to be done in the term. An illustrative passage, read here and there from the children’s book would, I believe, be found of very great interest to parents; while, as for the “pacing,” painting, singing, clay-modelling, drill and so on, these things are usually interesting.

The interest of the parents in the school-work should naturally increase as the children get older. Thus, for children of nine or ten, a passage from Plutarch’s “Alexander” might be read with a little résumé of the whole; from Shakespeare’s Richard III.; from Lytton’s “The Last of the Barons”; telling passages from their histories of England and of France; from Buckley’s “Life and Her Children;” from a description of Herefordshire, and so on, with in each case a slight résumé of the term’s work; and a few words on the handicrafts, pictures to be studied, drawing, singing, to be accomplished in the term, would be likely to interest parents.

Now we come to what might be called the middle school (boys and girls ranging from about twelve to fifteen), where the books increase in interest. Morals are definitely studied, and a passage from “Ourselves,” or any text-book in use, might be read. Also, passages from Macaulay’s “Essay on Clive,” from their books on French and English history, from “Redgauntlet,” from “Paul et Virginie” (with an outline of the story), etc.

Class IV., the upper school (from fifteen to eighteen), affords, besides work in classics, modern languages and mathematics, much delightful reading; for example, Maurice’s “Prophets and Kings,” Ethics (Aristotle), Trench’s “Past and Present,” “Emma,” The School for Scandal, Coleridge, “The Life of Queen Louisa of Prussia,” “The Household of the Lafayettes”—according to the period in Green’s “Shorter History,” in the history of Modern Europe, and in De Tocqueville’s “L’Ancien Régime,” which they may be studying. A short account of that part set for the term in some half-dozen such books, with illustrative readings, would be found stimulating and interesting.

I have not tried evenings of the kind with parents, but believe the idea would commend itself to teachers. The books mentioned are from the curriculum for one term in a school which is now doing its fifty-first term’s work on the lines I have indicated with cordial co-operation on the part of parents.

The terminal examination-answers which are sent home to the parents uncorrected, but reported upon, also tend to happy co-operation. I know of one large preparatory day-school where nearly half the little boys are too young to write steadily for a week long together, though they delight in their examinations. The master has hit upon the happy device of asking mothers, schoolboy brothers, governesses, etc., to come and write at the little fellows’ dictation. And—

Still the wonder grew

How one small head could carry all he knew!

I have confined myself in the above short paper to the means of securing intellectual co-operation between home and school; and, I believe, the whole question turns on the use of books, many living, delightful books. One more point I should like to urge. A wide curriculum, based on books, affords in itself a sound and broad moral training, not only because most of the books read are profitable “for example of life and instruction in manners,” but also because mental vacuity is a fertile source of wrong-thinking and wrong-doing.

May I repeat that the kind of education I suggest (which is, of course, followed to some extent in all good schools) rarely fails to meet with a sympathetic response from parents. They find their children “such interesting companions,” and many of the school studies are of a sort in which they can themselves participate. The books supply a channel for intellectual interests between the school and the home.

I may add that to read many books takes less time than does the writing required by the curricula of most schools. There need be no home-work and the afternoon should be devoted to field-work and handicrafts, so that only the morning school-hours are spent in study. I have made no mention of studies except such as, because they are literary, may induce the co-operation of parents.

The Hon. Mrs. Franklin (representing the Parents’ National Education Union, in the absence of Miss Charlotte Mason) claimed that their society made a practical effort to bring about co-operation between school and home. If good literature were more used in school, a means of home co-operation was at once provided, since parents also could read good books and discuss them with the children. There could be no greater divorce between school and home than that the child should hear at home nothing of the subjects talked of at school, but only discussion of other people’s faults, or of the amusements of the hour. Then the development of nature-study and hand-work afforded another bond to connect the parent with the teacher. It was good “indirect moral education” for a parent to share the love and the study of nature with his child. The same applied to picture-talks, lessons in music, architecture, etc. The home should also share in direct moral instruction; if the parents knew the children’s books better, they could discuss heroes and heroines and their conduct. Miss Yonge’s stories were unsurpassed for this purpose. Miss Mason’s book, Ourselves, could also be recommended.

[1] Spiller, Gustav (Ed.). (1909). Papers on Moral Education: Communicated to the First International Moral Education Congress Held at the University of London, September 25–29, 1908. London: Ballantyne & Co Limited.

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