CM 2 Episode 2 Fairy Stories as a Help or Hindrance in Education Julie H. Ross
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Hello everyone. Welcome to the Charlotte Mason Show. I'm your host, Julie Ross. Today, I'm going to be reading a Parent's Review article entitled, Fairy Stories as a Help or Hindrance in Education, by Ms. Claudia Davidson, ex-student house of education, Volume 27, October 16, 1916.
So the Parent's Review was a monthly magazine edited by Charlotte Mason. And this student who wrote this article went to her house of education. So, this is someone who was under her direct teaching and I often get asked about using fairy tales in our home education. And the value of those. And so I thought this would be a good article to read to everyone.
So, Fairy Stories as a Help or Hindrance in Education.
A primrose by a river's brim. A yellow primrose was to him. And it was nothing more. I think if Peter Bell had been a PNEU child... just a way of explanation, PNEU is Parent's National Education Union. That was the schools that were under Ms. Mason's philosophy.
The primrose would have been something more to him because fairy stories would have formed part of his education. Fairy tales are of the greatest importance of the early education of both the imaginative and the unimaginative child. In the case of the first, they supply food for the child's eager fancy. In the case of the second, they bring to life a very necessary quality.
The child who has a very active imagination is in possession of a wonderful, though dangerous, gift. Its dangers are not far to seek. Everyone knows the child whose sense of accuracy in truth seem to remain undeveloped. Who cannot recount an incident without exaggeration, or describe an object without embroidering the original, so as to make it quite unrecognizable to his listeners?
This tendency, unchecked, becomes a habit, and the child grows into the man or woman whose statements must be taken with a grain of salt. These people, without any evil intentions, do incalculable harm. They spread untrue and mischievous tales and their word is never to be depended upon. Lies come more readily to them than truth, yet they are scarcely to be blamed. For they have altogether lost the power of distinguishing between truth and fiction and it has all arisen from an unchecked tendency in childhood.
Imagination in a child is not the imagination of the adult. It is something more fantastic and utterly ??? by knowledge. Wandering with delight in an impossible world that is peculiarly children's. Imagination is, properly speaking, a deeper and more powerful faculty than the exquisite and agile fancy of children. This gift of fancy demands food and work and determinably obtains both at any cost.
The child possessed of it is carried beyond his immediate surroundings by a mental energy we grownups frequently misunderstand. A young imagination, in its search for material, seizes upon what it can find and draws into itself, the incidence of everyday life, weaving out of them, wonderful fancies.
The child goes for a walk through a field of plastic cows and returning home, recounts his terrible adventure with loads of wild beasts which attacked him. The cows and the wild animals, of which he has furnished his imagination, with the food that it craves, and the result is this wonderful tale. His grownups, in wrath, accuse him of telling lies, which he certainly does, though he has no desire to be deceitful. Punishment does not cure the sinner unless it crushes out of him one of his most precious gifts. It is quite likely to be led to the deliberate falsehood in support of his disbelieved adventure.
Yet, if left unhindered, this tendency grows into being a habit of exaggeration and inaccuracy. We solve the problem by taking the child into a wonderful world of unfettered fancy, where he meets gnomes and goblins, mermaids and fairies, brave princes and terrible dragons, beautiful princesses, and horrible witches. A world in which good is never rewarded and wrong is never unpunished.
In it, he learned that the dewdrops and the leaves of the rose are fairies tears, and the knock tree, waving its branches so wildly, is a wicked witch being punished, that every thicket may hold a beautiful princess, to whose rescue a fearless prince is riding. All the wonderful people in fairyland are there, and his imagination is busy and happy living their lives, sharing in their adventures.
It is a land from which most of us are exiled when we are grown up, as the children know. But I think that every man and woman who, in childhood, lived in fairyland, is the richer for it. It has, because of it, a deeper and more tender vision into each minute center of the life of nature.
In this fairy world, every craving of the child's restless fancy is satisfied, and it is free to create what it will that the peculiar love of the terrible and adventure, which is characteristic of children, finds ample scope for its activities in fairyland. It is often argued that the giants and ogres of fairy stories frighten nervous children. I think it will always be found that the child who lies trembling in the dark, in case Blue Bird should slay him, or a dragon devour him, has been frightened by the silly stories of some ignorant nurse.
Fairy lore has a soothing effect on the excitable child, which no other form of story or legend can produce. The ogres of fairyland satisfy a hunger in the childish imagination while horrors belong more nearly to reality, haunt, and terrify. If any instance, a fairytale is likely to prey upon the child's mind, let it omitted. There are enough and to spare which can in no way enter the most sensitive disposition.
Ms. Mason, in School Education, reminds us that Wordsworth, when a little boy, witnessed the recovery of the body of a suicide from Estwhite Lake. And referring to the incident, he wrote, yet no soul debasing fear, young as I was, a child, not nine years old, possessed me, for my inner eye had seen such sights amongst the shining streams of fairyland. The forest of romance. Their spirit hallowed the sad spectacle with decoration of ideal grace, a dignity, a smoothness like the works of Grecian art in purest poetry.
If fairy lore forms thus a natural shield to the child, surely for that reason alone, it is of the utmost importance in every child's education. But there are children who know nothing of the restless activity of imagination, and they too will have their consequent failings. All agree that sympathy and intuition are essential to every person wishing to be a help in the world. Many an intended kindness is just the reverse, owing to the lack of true sympathy or quick intuition. Both of these qualities spring from imagination. It is not only the capacity for feeling for others but the power of feeling with them, which constitutes sympathy.
We can only feel with others in so far as we can exercise sufficient imagination to enable us to live through their sorrows as if they were our own. Intuition too is the outcome of a delicately balanced imagination, which is quick to appreciate the position of others. The unimaginative child therefore must not remain so, and fairy stories form the first step towards his cure.
There is, that in fairy tales, which appeals to some extent to every child and once introduced to them, he is forced to exercise imagination. As fairies in the world they live in are entirely products of fancy, the child envisualizing them uses that faculty. He must be encouraged to speak and to think about the inhabitants of his fairy book until he comes to make them his friends. For such children, the play of Peter Pan must be a great stimulus. Helping them to learn how to live in a world peopled with those whom they do not meet in everyday life.
Probably his land of fancy will never be as vivid to him as to the naturally imaginative child, yet channels of thought and new powers of mind will be awakened in him. No amount of care could be too great to expend on this use of fairy stories. Many children who read fairytales grow up unimaginative. But this is because they have never been encouraged to really live with fairy people, and have never felt, around them, the atmosphere of response to the calls of the fairy world.
If this habit of exercising the imagination is not formed in young children, how are they to reap any benefit from their reading in later years? How are they to live the lives of the heroes in their history books if they have never learned to visualize the stories they have heard? But those who have made the creatures of their own creative power their friends, will enter equipped into the more strenuous kingdom, and know how to live and strive beside the great deed of their country, and of the world.
To the influence of fairy stories, we owe much of our power to appreciate poetry. Have they not taught us to quicken our imagination and to live vividly in realms our eyes could never see? We often would fail to follow the poet's mind or even vaguely grasp his meaning. The intellectual enjoyment of poetry, and of all art, is a poor thing if imagination does not accompany intellect, to bring us into tune and sympathy with the artist's soul.
Fairy tales form, in themselves, a very beautiful branch of literature, and to know them and love them is the child's first step in the realms of the world's art. I have heard it argued that fairy stories are a hindrance in education because they serve to keep the child too young, and that therefore, they should remain unknown to the little ones, or be forbidden after a certain age. I think there is very little danger of their keeping any child too young. Fairy tales are suited to the mind of the young child in every essential. And when his intellect and character have developed, he will pass naturally from them to other, in more earnest forms of tales.
Fairyland is the children's kingdom to whatever nation or time they belong, and it is a wonderful thought that the little ones of so many nationalities have, for centuries, shared the same friends. Fairyland has been our common property for more years than we know, and they have a just claim to it, by right of their childhood gifts. Only they can discover its hidden treasures. It fills their early days with never-failing joy. It forms the foundation stone of that great power of afterlife. Imagination. It is a wonderful world and nothing else could ever take its place. Why should we deny the child entrance?
Alright, everyone, that concludes the article. Thank you for listening.
Thank you for joining us today on the Charlotte Mason Show. I'm your host, Julie Ross, and I would love to meet you in person. All of the Great Homeschool Conventions have been rescheduled to 2021. Go to GreatHomeschoolConventions.com to find a convention near you.
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