Hmmm. PNEU Education for girls and boys

PR article


by Mrs. F. G. Hickson
Volume 14, 1903, pgs. 914-921

“But we are hampered in all our efforts by the fact that if we strike out in any new line in education, we may handicap our children in later life, by making it impossible for them to follow with success in the prescribed lines. With our boys it is almost impossible, with our girls it is becoming the same. It does not matter how excellent a woman may be, how efficient, unless she has passed certain examinations, she has absolutely no chance of obtaining employment. This, to many people, who think that their daughters might one day require to work for their living, must make them think twice before they decide to break away from the cram system, and educate them on wider lines of culture. But to anyone who has not this possibility before them, I would urge them to bring up their daughters on independent lines, not, it may be, on any new system of education, not on any stereotyped system at all, giving each child scope for full development, and being guided by circumstances and temperament rather than by Act of Parliament. We may pride ourselves on the higher education of women, which has been a feature of the last fifty years, and inasmuch that there is no field for study and activity now closed to women, we may indeed congratulate our daughters; but I doubt if our average modern girl is in the least better educated than–if half as well as–our mothers and grandmothers. In charm and intellectual acuteness, the highly-educated woman of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries would have held her own easily with the girl of the present day, and it is interesting in reading their letters to find how various the books they read and how many of them attained to considerable scholarship and erudition.

It has been said, with some justice, that in this day of specialisation it is necessary for the majority of our men to be narrow, if they would attain distinction in their career; but that woman should be more widely educated, be able to take a larger grasp of things, and have a true sense of proportion, so that she may hold the scales, and help man by her wider outlook. It is because I believe the curriculum of the Parents’ Review School and the books recommended by it are a good foundation for such an education, that I recommend them warmly to the present audience.”

Published in 1903, written, I believe,  by my old friend LIzzie Hickson.  Lizzie HIckson founded one of the only schools in Britain which used the PNEU curriculum for upper years, so she would know whereof she spoke .

A Charlotte Mason education is for both sexes.  Nobody I know has ever argued otherwise.   But Mrs. Hickson is acknowledging the reality of her time- that in the upper grades, more girls than boys would be participating in PNEU schools.  Since the British system was so firmly entrenched on particular style of schooling, tutoring, and exams for advancement, and that translated into careers in the civil service (where most middle to upper class men would seek careers), choosing this alternative style of education could hinder their advancement in the limited arena of respectable careers offered to men of a certain class.  Trade was not yet considered respectable.  A young man could found a school, or a lawyer’s office, but not really a butcher shop or a grocer’s and maintain his social circle (this would change shortly, but nobody could foresee that).

This is why, when you look at the programmes of the era and see the type of craft and work suggested for students, in the upper years there is a great emphasis on sewing and baking, but almost none on woodworking, carpentry, and building model steam engines and  so forth.

Mason, and other mmebers of the PNEU, desired this living education for both sexes, but they also recognized the world they lived in and knew their time with the sons of the upper middle classes and above would be limited except by the most open minded and broad-seeing families.   Much of her work, including promoting night schools using her principles for children of the working class and I suspect a good deal of the motivation behind volume VI, involved changing minds and attitudes so she could see the change in educational standards necessary to really implement her vision of an education for all.

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Balance between drudgery and delight

Neither drudgery nor delight is itself proof that something is or is not working in your school:


this Parents’ Review School is doing good work in trying to avoid the evils of modern education to which I have referred. One of the aims of those who provide its curriculum is to give a personal and human interest to the school work. In such subjects as history, geography and literature to show the children a little of the fascination of the subjects, and not to cram a great number of facts into their heads. To appeal to the imagination of the child and show them that no fairy tale that ever was written was half so thrilling as this fairy tale of men and women who played their part, were as human as we, and actuated by similar feelings and motives, merely under differing conditions; and they will learn to picture these conditions and take an interest in the problems of history in a way impossible unless the imagination has been fired. I consider the Parents’ Review School teaching of history is very successful, beginning as it does with simple tales on historical subjects, and then introducing that fascinating book, Arnold Forster’s History of England. When I compare it with a certain book of history we were condemned to in our school-days, I think our children are favoured indeed to possess such a delightful storehouse of interest and romance. In geography, Miss Mason has given us a charming series of books–books which the children love. She has taught interesting facts, woven human interest around the different places, and thus relieved the subject from being, perhaps, the dreariest of our school lessons. I have heard a child say when the geography hour came, “Oh, delightful geography!” and another begged for the lesson to be extended in, these words, “Do be kind–let us have the chapter on the inside of a mill; you are going to stop just where all the interesting part begins.”

But it may be well asked, “Is the fact that a lesson is delightful a proof that it is of educational value?” Not necessarily, it is true, but in many subjects, such as history, literature and geography, it is the greatest help to be able to obtain the attention of the child willingly, indeed, an essential to much progress, and the saving of fatigue to the teacher is immeasurable when the subject is attractive to the children.

Again, it is contended, “But school life is a preparation for after life, and unless you have plenty of drudgery you are not fitting the children for the drudgery which they must necessarily go through later on.” This is a very legitimate criticism of a bad attempt at a kindergarten (of which there are too many in the country), where every lesson is treated as a game, and where the child is never allowed to go on long enough at any one subject to feel in the least tired. A little wholesome fatigue is as good for a child mentally as it is physically, and full mental growth is only attained when some amount of strenuous mental exertion is undertaken by the child. But this is no excuse for making everything as dull and dreary as possible, indeed the child will rarely put forth its strength unless its attention is held and its interest aroused. Drudgery there must be in all schoolrooms: to one child writing is a desperate effort, to another arithmetic, and the wise teacher will take advantage of these very subjects to teach the lessons of perseverance and courage, but she will not wish on that account to make every subject an effort and every lesson distasteful.” Mrs. F. G. Hickson

More here

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CM Science

I. Stem Science begins at birth, but for six years it has nothing to do with  ‘academics:’

Science begins with:

    1. Baths: splashing, floating, dropping things in the water, kicking, and more.


    1. Food: smearing it, fingering it, smelling it, wiping it on one’s face, and sometimes, eating it.


    1. Dropping things, over and over and over and over and over and over and over….


    1. Throwing things over and over and over and over and over


    1. Bumping into things.


    1. Getting hurt sometimes.


    1. Exploring, crawling in and out of cupboards and closets and losing things under the couch and feeling things – sharp things, soft things, pointed things, round things, angular things, faces, hands, puppies, water, ice, things that squish and things that don’t, things that are smooth or gritty, silky or prickly and more besides.


    Outdoor play in the wild- not on equipment at a sterile park, but play with mud puddles, ponds, dirt, trees, and the risk of skinned knees, bug bites, and splinters.  Play transitions into noticing- listening- smelling- seeing- feeling- wondering.  “Oh, look at this caterpillar!  I love that colour.  I wonder what it those bits that stick out are for?”  “Wow, this weed looks beautiful, but it stinks. I wonder why it smells?”  “See those tracks in the mud by the creek! I wonder what made them?  Do they remind you of anything? They kind of look like two crescent moons to me.  Let’s look these up when we go back home.”

All that is just off the top of my head. I am sure if we took more time we could come up with more things, but they would still all have this in common- they are what human babies, toddlers, preschoolers, and small children do and have done for ever and ever.

II: the nature notebooks, sketching

    You’ll transition to sketching, and let me stress here that it does not matter that you cannot draw, that you hate to draw.  The goal here is  not to produce lovely drawings (it’s nice if you can, bonus! But that’s NOT THE POINT!).  No, all you are trying to do is two things:
    ~Produce enough of a rough draft to serve as a reminder of what you saw to help you look it up later.
    1. ~ Notice details.  Try it and see.  Pick any two objects on your next nature exploratory, the leaves of two houseplants if you need to, or slice two different fruits into a cross section and sketch one, and take a photograph of the other to put in your nature journal. Set them aside. A week later think about them, compare, write a description from memory.  Look at them and write a description.  See which one has resulted in clearer, more detailed recollection *in your mind.*

    It’s fine to desire a beautiful product, and you can keep striving for that.  But what I’m saying is don’t give up because you don’t get there.  The other two things are excellent results, even if you never sketch better than rough scrawls.  Don’t give up!

    There is a deep, important relationship, a connection (or multiple connections) made in the brain that happens when you combine these experiences- seeing something wonderful, experiencing awe, wonder, curiosity, and then reprocessing that by recording it (by hand, not machine!) and putting it into words, words on paper, words you exchange with others- your kids, your parents, your classmates.

    I was in the sixth grade and we had a series of science assignments where we had to find short little science experiments or demonstrations to present to the class, and also write about them and give our written work to the teacher. EAch part of the assignment was half the grade for the assignment, which was a substantial portion of our class grade. They could be very, very simple, but we had to write at least a paragraph about what we’d done. It isn’t really science, said our teacher, until you’ve communicated about it. One could nitpick the finer points of that, but essentially, he was right.

    III.  Why is nature and time outside so important:

  1. Outdoor play, and lots of it, followed by first informal and later some more formal Nature study is building an important foundation for later formal science. Your child is stocking his mind with an incredible collection of real, concrete experiences with the physical world and how it works. These experiences are vital to a later conceptual understanding, to the later ability to translate those experiences into the abstract concepts he learns of. IT will enable him to more accurately hypothesize and predict results.

    You want “to stimulate observation and to excite a living and lasting
    interest in the world that lies about us” (Home Education by Charlotte Mason, Vol. 1 of her 6 volume series, p. 267)  Miss Mason is quoting Edward Holden, author of The Sciences there.   Nobody has any business asking ‘but what about STEM’ if they haven’t been out in the great outdoors getting gloriously dirty- the outdoors can be your backyard, the neighbor’s yard, the empty lot up the road, the back corner of a park, a 3rd story balcony with a variety of potted plants, possibly a bird feeder, and inside a goldfish bowl with a water snail and a couple water weeds to observe.


    While the science is important, as is the appreciation of the natural world, we actually are also looking for something more, something deeper- a type of sanity, common sense, and level headed approach to life which flourishes best in minds and hearts which regularly have the cobwebs brushed away by time in the natural world contemplating a larger world and the Creator who formed it.

    In the Parents Review article “The value of Scientific
    Training”, Prof. J. Logan Lobley says:

    “So wondrous, too, are the revelations of natural science in opening to the view illimitable fields of knowledge, that instead of generating conceit or hateful priggishness in the youthful student, they suffuse the spirit with awe and reverence for the majesty of the universe, and modesty and humbleness from the consciousness of the little that is known and the boundless extent of the unknown.

    With the increase of the habit of observation comes an increase of the power of observation, that is, in fact, the power of accurate observation. More is seen, and the ability to discriminate between similar objects rapidly develops. Use of the power increases the power, even as the muscles of the body are developed by their frequent employment.

    Beyond this development of the observing and discriminating powers, which is most valuable in itself, thought, consideration, deduction, and analytical and synthetical mental processes, are begotten, encouraged, and developed, with the result that mental activity becomes usual and normal instead of being merely occasional and abnormal. Thus the mind is both fed and stimulated, developed, strengthened, and enlivened, its range of vision is vastly enlarged, and its activities largely increased. It is consequently less liable to be unduly influenced by those small considerations and allurements that in so many cases most injuriously and sometimes disastrously affect the life.”

    Nature study, outdoor time, is absolutely unconditionally, irrefutably valuable for building up the foundation for future science learning. IT’s also good for the soul.
    It is not that nature is some minor deity. It’s not magic, it’s not a replacement for other things (teaching, heart, the Holy Spirit, a relationship with God)- but it is a tool, and a highly effective one, for resting the fractious soul, renewing vigor, strengthening the will, building relationships both God-ward and with other people, for informing the conscience. A child who has spent some time really observing an ant hill and watching them work, who has watched a nest from building season to hatching season and beyond, who has put food in a bird feeder and filled the bird bath regularly is less likely to be a child who cannot put himself in the place of creatures smaller and weaker than himself, less likely to be a carelessly cruel child (this happens over time, don’t despair of your small 3 year old psychopath who stomps on caterpillars).

    There’s a Reason for this. I will look up to the hills, from whence cometh my strength. Consider the lilies. Go to the ant. Ask the birds and they will teach you. The Heavens declare the glory of God. The sky proclaims His handiwork. His invisible attributes…. have been clearly perceived ever since the creation of the world in the things which He created. Ask the beasts, and they will teach you. Speak to the earth, and let it teach you; And let the fish of the sea declare to you…* The same Creator who made the world made us and put us in it- the first place he chose for mankind, made in His image, was a garden. There is already a connection. Some of us need more effort to winkle it out and strengthen it because it’s been squelched by years of air conditioned, sterile, insect free, indoor living.

    Not every child is going to grow up to be a scientist. But every child should be somebody who can find delight in science in both childhood and as they become adults. Every human should be able to read the science and technology sections of a paper or news site with some basic ability and interest- especially interest.


  2. More to follow
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In lieu of flowers, watch a K-Drama

Some husbands bring home flowers when they make a mistake.  Mine is watching k-dramas with me, finally. He impetuously gave away our savings,* sold our youngest child to pirates,* and gave somebody permission to do something we previously had agreed we would *not* give permission to do, and he feels very embarrassed and so he should.

It was a day or two later when he suggested that he would watch a K-drama of my choosing with me, and that  was, I believe, his substitution for flowers, and an adequate substitute it was.  We watched Descendants of the Sun.
Then we watched City Hunter.
And then we watched King 2Hearts and he’s wondering how anything ever can top that (it can’t).  
Then it was Strong Girl Do Bok Soon, and he was utterly charmed.  

Now we are watching My Girlfriend is a Gumiho (Nine-tailed fox) . Earlier today- before breakfast, in fact-  we finished episode 6. He has pestered me for spoilers multiple times. While I was making hamburgers for supper he tried again, “Really, HOW do they resolve this? What happens?”

Me: exasperated glaring at him over the cheese I am slicing for hamburgers.
Him: Come on, you can tell me.
Me: Well, you realize we haven’t hit the halfway point.
Him: yeah, so?
Me: Well, this was all just build-up to now. Next we switch to the real story. The ajusshi who owns the acting/stunt school and the eomo become the main couple, and they get together and make adorable babies by the end. Koreans really are not into mixed marriages, so that whole human/gumiho relationship was too daring for the regular audience. (we have spent the last year working closely with lots of Koreans, and he knows they value their homogenous culture).
Him: Blink. Blink.
Me: putting the cheese on the burgers with a straight face.
Him: Blink. Blink blink.
Me: slices tomatoes and pulls apart lettuce.   They are a very charming couple.  Possibly they got married in real life, I’m not sure. He’s a big name actor and he’s senior, so maybe he insisted, and his hoobae couldn’t really argue.

Him: Really? Like how the Korean teachers at the school can’t really speak up in the teacher’s meeting with the Head of School there?

Me: Mmmmm.  Slicing red onions for the burgers and keeping the straight face almost to the end.
Him: Oh. That was good. And I guess that’s all you’re going to say?
I don’t even answer that. I don’t give spoilers. But it’s funny that he is not sure how it ends, because I don’t watch sad dramas, and if I ever accidentally do, I never watch it twice. The fact that I watch a K-drama with him is itself a dead giveaway that the OTP do not die, and do get together.
Oooh. I had planned on Secret Garden next, and it’s still in the line up.  However (insert evil chuckle here)….. He is the very sensitive, tender hearted papa of six daughters (and a son). I think we’ll watch It’s Okay, Daddy’s Girl soon.
*Parts of this account may have been exaggerated or lightly fictionalized for effect.
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Difficult but important read

I just bought The Last Closet, by Moira Greyland.  I had read enough of the background to expect to find this a searingly painful read, and I thought I might not be able to finish it.  But I also have read enough of the background to know that I want her story to get out as widely as possible, and I want her to know, in real and tangible ways, that she is not alone, and that there are strangers who care, who support her, who hate what was done to her.  And reading the foreword inspired me to hope that I will find it possible to read it all and be inspired as well.

Peter Grant reviews it.

You can read the foreword here.  And you should.  Here’s an excerpt:

“Her story is more than a triumph of the human spirit, more than a tale of survival, and more than a devastating indictment of a seriously depraved community. It is an inspiration to everyone, particularly for anyone who has ever been subjected to abuse or ill-treatment as a child.

Moira’s message is clear: they can hurt you, they can harm you, and they can leave you with scars that last a lifetime, but they cannot touch your soul. Their sins are not your sins and their shame is not your shame. And there is a light that is always waiting to heal those who summon the strength to walk out of the last closet and turn their back on the darkness inside it.”


Updated to add, partial disclosure- as most of our readers know, there are real and personal reasons why Moira’s story is also personal and why it’s particularly painful to read, and why I want people to know about his book.  Her story is hers, and mine is mine, but there are similarities.

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