by Wilford E. Park
I want to congratulate you on the formation of this school & home club. It will be a distinct asset to your community and bring about closer co-operation between school and parents. It is a concrete demonstration of your interest in your children's education. After one of the lectures of the famous educationest [sic] the late Francis W. Parker in Chicago one of the ladies approached the famous man and asked him "when should I begin the education of my child?" Dr. Parker asked her "When will your child be born?" The woman replied "why Dr. my child is already five years old". Then he said "My goodness woman hurry home you have already wasted the best five years of his life."
I would advise you to start even sooner than that. The time to begin to think about the education of your child is before you are married. Teachers can't teach some children very rapidly because they haven't a very good endowment of brains to work on. The child should not be blamed. He is not responsible for choosing his parents. But you mother you are responsible for the kind of father he has because you chose him, and you father you are responsible for the kind of mother he has because you chose her. That is why I say the time to start thinking about your child's education is before you are married. Choose for yourself a partner who will not only please your fancy, but one whose family endowments of brains, temperament and healthy body will supplement and strengthen the best in your own physical and mental endowments. We all know that brains are inherited but we are not always in the mood to consider it. Sometimes the girl is so pretty and altogether charming that the young man just can't think of anything else. All he can do is roll up his eyes like a sick cow and murmur "Is'nt she wonderful?". A girl when she is choosing a husband may say "I love Harry. He is a fine boy but I can't stand any of the rest of the family. Well I'm not marrying the family anyway and I'll just stay away from them." That may be true in a personal sense but so far as her son is concerned she is literally marrying the family. In the children there is a confluence of not merely two individuals but two families. That is enough of eugenics but just remember girls that in the education of your sons and daughters there are some factors of more importance than a husband who has lots of money to foot the bill.
Where should the education of the child begin? I think we will all agree that it should be in the home. Regular feedings for the baby is your first opportunity to prove to the baby that yours is an ordered household. The next five or six years are most important in a child's life. These are the preschool years when the child is moulded almost exclusively by home influence. During these years should be established good habits of self-control, tidiness, cleanliness, good habits of speech and mannerly behaviour.
Some one said recently "the biggest job in the world is to be a good parent." But where in our educational system is there to be had training in how to be a good parent? We have all seen women who are not fit to be mothers and we have all seen men who are not fit to be fathers, and sometimes we have seen such a man and woman in the same home. What chance has a boy from such a home to became a good citizen? Well authorities say that about 50% of a child's environmental influence comes from the home in which he lives. Supposing his home influence is bad but all the other influences are good, that is he comes under the influence of a good teacher at school, his playmates are wholesome and he is exposed to the good influence of the church etc. then the boy has a 50% chance of turning out all right. But let him get in with bad playmates or miss the uplifting influence of church and Sunday school and the odds are against him.
You parents are interested in your children and the less fortunate children in your section. You see that good teachers are provided at your school. You have a comfortable school building, good drinking water and wholesome healthful surroundings for all. Your children have the influence of the church in your community. But unless the home is what it should be there will be. social problems in spite of these things.
Sometimes teachers have difficulties with certain children at school. Usually the child is blamed. Sometimes the teacher is at fault in not understanding the child but much more frequently the fault lies squarely on the shoulders of the parents. Don't be too critical of your teacher. Remember she does the best she can with the material you send her. Education of the child should be a co-operative effort between the teacher and the parents. I am glad to see you forming this club for that very purpose. But I hope in your efforts to improve your school you will not loose sight of the need to improve yourselves as parents and I would like to suggest that this would be the ideal place to study together some of the better books on child psychology. It would help both parents and teachers in the management and understanding of children. It would help you to see the natural tendencies and aptitudes which should lead or guide the child to find his natural niche in life.
I think it is a mistake for parents to decide what a boy or girl is going to make of himself. If the boy has been exposed to an all round education he should be able to choose for himself by the time he is well on in high school. You notice I said an all round education. Certainly an all round education cannot be obtained in our public and high schools. Much of that rounding out education can however be obtained in your own homes or about the farm. If you as parents fail in your part of the child's education he or she enters into life handicapped even though the public and high schools have done their best.
Many a so-called educated girl has become married soon after leaving school or after a few years of teaching without knowing the first thing about housekeeping, cooking or sewing, let alone homemaking for children or husband. We can't absolve the present educational system from all blame for this situation but I do think the parents are largely to blame or not holding up their end of the load. It is true there are special courses for homemaking such as technical schools, domestic science courses etc. and I believe the girl should take advantage of them whenever possible. However the fact remains that the majority of the girls at the present time cannot take advantage of these opportunities. Most of them will know no more about homemaking than you teach them in your own homes. Don't wait until the girls want to get married before you think about it. You can't start too young. All the years the child spends in your home are not too long to use for that training. Furthermore since there is no school course to prepare young men and women for parent responsibilities it puts the matter right up to you and me as parents. The home is then the only place where the foundation is laid to enable the child to ultimately become a good parent in his own home. No doubt you have noticed that usually good parents come from homes where their fathers and mothers were good parents. Consequently it behooves us to give this job the very best we have in order that we pass on to the next generation this heritage of true and noble parenthood.
You remember I mentioned some of the things a mother should teach her daughter. What are some of the things a father should teach his son in order to give him a well rounded out education? I have time to mention only a few of them; how to till the soil, how to fertilize the soil, crop rotation, selection and grading of seed, varieties of weeds and their eradication, how to dig a ditch, how to lay tile and the rudiments of drainage, harvesting and handling of farm produce, animal husbandry, killing and dressing of animals and fowl, curing of meats, handling and storage of fruits and vegetables, buying, selling and marketing, handling and repairing of machinery, grafting and pruning of fruit trees, repairing and painting of buildings, felling of tress, selection and handling of logs, cutting of wood, etc. etc.
If you have kept your boy at school and deprived him of these things you have not given him a proper education. And in addition to this everyday farm training, through well selected books and personal visits to factories, laboratories, mines and workshops, fairs and exhibitions, etc. the boy should be exposed to the appeal of various crafts and professions outside the farm. Yes I think I agree that being a parent is just about the biggest job in the world.
There are certain standards of conduct which are learned in the home -- good manners, graciousness, generosity, truthfulness, tolerance, sociability etc. And almost invariably they are learned by example and not by precept. To illustrate let me tell you a story. A young couple were having a little difficulty with their four year old son. He was a little inclined to lie and not very obedient. They talked with him and told him how wrong it was to lie etc. One night the parents were trying to get the boy to bed so that they could get away in time for the show. The boy suspected something and wanted his mother to put him to bed instead of the nursemaid. So his mother and father both put him to bed and assured him that they would be just down stairs all evening. The boy snuggled down in bed and the maid sat down to read to him. A short time later he heard a door open and close stealthily. He jumped out of bed and ran to the window. There he saw his mother and father going down the sidewalk together. He just stood there and the maid heard him say there goes the two biggest liars in the world.
Last week in Toronto a judge gave suspended sentence to five boys who bad been brought before him for various crimes. In handing down his decision he said I wish there were some penalty I could place on the parents of these boys because in almost every case the parents are to blame.
School teachers have very little difficulty with children who have been properly disciplined at home. That is one way you can co-operate with your teacher. But remember if you expect to control your children you must be able to control yourself. And let me say right here there is no standard of behaviour for parents and children, teachers and pupils and society in general, higher than the Christian standard. And we as parents & teachers should continually hold the banner high in our community, our schools and particularly in our homes.