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Being a Student at the House of Education in 1921 by Bonnie Buckingham

07 May 2017 4:17 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Have you ever wondered what it would have been like to be at the House of Education in Ambleside as a student teacher? Here are the requirements:

    Prospective candidates, who were not admitted under the age of 18, entered the House of Education in January. Each must have had a sound education and had taken an entrance exam in order to be educated to become a Primary Governess (not primary care, but rather the teaching of 6 – 10 year olds) or for a  Secondary Governess (upper grades: 10 – 17 or 18 years old) or to be Mistresses of the PUS schools or classes, and Mistresses in Secondary Schools. In becoming a primary or secondary governess, past certificates of attainments would determine which you qualified for. The course of study was for two years. Each of the two years consisted of three terms and three vacations. Seniors spent a summer in probationary teaching and Juniors were expected to spend some weeks in France. At the end, the student sat for the House of Education Certificate, which may be first, second, or third class. This certified teaching 6 year olds to 17 or 18, depending on Primary or Secondary levels. The student teacher also showed an enthusiasm for childhood to receive the certificate. In Charlotte’s words, this showed the work and training as heart-felt service to God.

     During the course of study, the students were required to write three papers, dealing with the history of education, practical methods, and theory of education. The final certificate depended on these papers. The aim of education, as presented to the students, is to produce a human being at his best—physically, mentally, morally, and spiritually quickened by religion, and with some knowledge of nature, art, literature, and manual work. Each student teacher undergoes Criticism Lessons and a lesson that is examined by an Inspector. On Thursday mornings, two or three students give Lessons for Criticism before the other students and staff. Miss Mason calls upon those present to criticise the lessons, finally summing them each up herself. The marks went towards the final certificate. On every Tuesday evening,  one of the students reads a paper dealing with a given author or composer, illustrated by readings or performances from his works. These evenings are known as "Scale How Tuesdays.” Some of these are in the Parent’s Review, labeled “Scale How Tuesdays.” Also, students took weekly charge, two at a time, of the girls (classroom pupils) who boarded while in the Practising School.

      They learned all subjects from learning to play the piano to great pains taken for elementary Greek, Latin, French, German, and Italian for excellent accents and fluency. This was tested orally.  Every student was required to keep a Nature Notebook and a Nature Lore Certificate assured the knowledge which should enable the teacher to gratify the intelligent curiosity of children, and to introduce her older pupils to the delightful pursuits of the field naturalist. This nature study is supplemented by definite scientific teaching in botany, biology, geology, astronomy, etc.

     There were difficulties, which a former H.E. student, Miss O’Ferrall, wrote in 1922: 

I believe that two of the difficulties of many parents who teach or have their children taught at home are (1) the choice of books, and (2) the fact that they don't know how their children stand with regard to other children of their own age. She presented the curriculum which was sent out as one joined the PNEU and how to do it (The Work and Aim of the Parents’ Union School link listed below). None of us can study at  the House of Education today but as Miss O’Ferrall encourages us from 1922: It must not be imagined from this that Scale How Students are the only people allowed to teach on this method. This is far from the case. Many parents have a governess who has studied the methods under Miss Mason herself, but a great many do not, for the demand for students far exceeds the supply, and there are hundreds of mothers and other people using the method who have never had the opportunity of Ambleside training. 

     Miss O’Ferrall  concludes with these words which we should take to heart: 

I can only say that the more I know of these ideals the more wonderful I find them to be and the more you study them the more you will realise the truth of our motto: "Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."

      Can you  imagine being at Scale How with Charlotte Mason observing your teaching in a Criticism Lesson or asking her all your questions? Read about one of her student’s experience in the Parents’ Review:  Miss Mason of the House of Education by R.A.Pennethorne Volume 34, 1923, pgs.73-77.  ( https://www.amblesideonline.org/PR/PR34p073InMemoriam.shtml)

From these Parents’ Reviews:

- The House of Education by Charlotte Mason (London: PNEU, 1921?), 1921?, pgs. 61-66 https://www.amblesideonline.org/PR/PR32p066HofEd.shtml

- The Work and Aims of the Parents' Union School  by Miss O'Ferrall (Ex-student H.E.) Volume 33, no. 11, November 1922, pgs. 777-787 https://www.amblesideonline.org/PR/PR33p777WorkAimsofPUS.shtml

- Training Lessons to Mothers by The Lady Isabel Margesson Volume 4, 1893/94, pgs. 17-24  https://www.amblesideonline.org/PR/PR04p017LessonsMothers.shtml

© 2017 Bonnie Buckingham

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