THE SCHOOL IN THE HOME

THIS most essential subject, one that so often proves a serious stumbling-block at school, can be made both simple and interesting if only a little imagination is used.

The trouble is that in many cases figures convey nothing but a jumble to the mind of the child. Ho cannot grasp their significance and, so long as thia lasts, he will be working in a hopeless muddle. If only, in the early stages, children can be made to understand what figures actually stand for – if they can see concrete examples of simple addition, subtraction, multiplication and division – then, when they come to the more intricate and difficult problems, they will be able to work with a clear mind.

It is necessary only to teach up to twelve to make a child understand the simple rules of arithmetic. Oranges are excellent as a means of demonstration. They are cheap and handy, and their bright colour attracts children.

Start, say, with two or three oranges. Here is one orange. Another orange is put on the table. Now there are two oranges. And now there are three oranges.

In this way, by drawing the oranges and the figures that represent their number, the little pupil is committing them to memory.

To vary this and to make it a little more exciting, shops can be played. The child is the shopkeoper, and is given a little stock of oranges, apples or sweets, all at a penny each. The mother, who is the customer, buys two or three articles with her pennies. The child must count aloud the number of the articles it is selling, and count the pennies exchanged to see that they correspond.

When this first lesson has been learnt thoroughly, but not before, the numbers may be increased gradually in the same way until twelve is reached.

Addition. The time has now arrived when a little simple addition can be taught. Twelve oranges will be needed, and any two numbers may be taken provided, of course, that their total does not exceed twelve.

ARITHMETIC

Let us add, say, two and three, making five. Two oranges should be put on the table and, a little space away, three oranges. The child should be asked to count the total number. He is now able to understand, having actually seen an instance of it, just exactly why two plus three equals five. This should be written down thus, 2 + 3 = 5, the signs plus and equal being explained. As by this time the child is already familiar with the figures, it should not be necessary for it to keep on drawing the oranges, the figures only need be used. Other simple additions should be taught in just the same way, first demonstrated with the oranges, and then being written down and committed to memory.

Subtraction. The same methods are used as in addition. From five oranges, two are taken, the child thus being shown that two from five leaves three, or, in other words, 5 – 2 = 3, the minus sign being explained. Other little subtraction sums may then be given until the child knows them by heart.

Multiplication. This also can be taught by means of oranges. Two oranges are put out, then the child shown that if jou multiply this by two, another lot of two oranges must be taken, making four in all. This sum can be put on paper, 2 x2=4, the multiplication sign being used and explained. Three rows, each consisting of three oranges, should then be shown, the child being taught that three times three equals nine. This sum, too, should be written down. Any numbers now may be multiplied providing- the answer does not exceed twelve.

Division. This will be taught in the reverse way of multiplication. Four oranges should be put on the table and the child asked to divide them into two lots. Then, when this is done, 4-7-2 = 2 should be written. Similarly, nine oranges should be divided into three lots, and so on until the rules of division have been learnt thoroughly.

There is really no need to teach a child any more of arithmetic than this. It will take some time for these four methods – addition, subtraction, multiplication and division – to be thoroughly absorbed by the childs mind, but, once this has been done, the rest will follow. He will go to school already knowing the figures, and how to count up to twelve, and will have a real working knowledge of the four rules that govern arithmetic.

There is not so much in this subject to appeal to the young and lively imagination as there is in some of the subjects that follow. It is a good plan to encourage the pupil by occasionally using sweets instead of oranges, and tolling him that he can have some of them if he learns his lessons well.

A little judicious praise is a good thing. It makes a child anxious to merit it in the future, and is a real incentive to study. If there are several children, however, and one is more backward than the others, on no account should this child be made to feel ashamed of his slowness. In this case it would not be fair to give prizes to the quicker ones, or to praise them to the exclusion of the backward child. They should all be made to feel that these little lessons are great fun, either playing shops, or schools with Mother. Backward children often push to the front in later years.

It is a good idea sometimes for the mother to take the part of the schoolteacher and the children the pupils, letting them have their dolls, or Teddies, or Bonzos, by their sides as fellow-pupils. When they have been exceptionally good and attentive, they should be given a little treat of some sort or other, all sharing alike.

GEOGRAPHY

ONLY the most elementary stages of tins vast subject can be taught to the very young child, but what is taught can be made really fascinating and interesting.

Begin with an explanation of some of the commoner geographical terms, such as island, lake, mountain and river. Little models can be made, for which purpose a box of plasticine will be needed.

The child is told what land and sea are, then he learns all about an island. A little model of the last-mentioned is made and stood in the centre of a bowl of water, so that the child may sec how the island is surrounded by sea, river or lake.

These should be used as much as possible in the education of the very young child because, at this early age, what a child actually sees is conveyed much more vividly to hia mind, and makes a far more lasting impression, than what he is told.

A larger model of an island is then made, with tiny trees and houses stuck here and there on it. On the surrounding water, winch may be either real water or a painted blue surface to represent it, are tiny models of boats. All of these models can be made of paper or thin cardboard, and then coloured, the child helping with the making of them, and getting a good deal of fun out of it. There is no need to hurry over any of this – it does not matter if it takes several weeks to teach the child just this one subject only. The building of the models keeps it amused and teaches it to be useful with its fingers. It awakens, too, the creative instinct.

The child is told that there are thousands of islands in the world, some very small, with no people living on them at all, and others so big that towns and mountains and rivers are on them.

Now to teach him what a map is. To do this, a map of imaginary islands is made. Several islands are drawn on a sheet of paper, some quite small, others large, and all varying in shape. These are painted pink, and the rest of the map blue to represent the sea. In order to make the child understand that all this is on a very small scale, and at the same time to make the lesson more interesting, the mother should exercise a good deal of imagination. A little make-believe along the following lines is what is needed.

An imaginary cruise around the islands is taken, the mother being the passenger and the child the captain of the ship. The mother follows on the map the outline of the route they are taking, either with her finger or with a pencil. She describes all that they pass on the way. First, around a small island, with its golden sandy shores; then, a bigger island with rocks and cliffs and some houses on it, then to the biggest island, on which they land, journeying through towns and villages, climbing hills, walking through forests and along river banks. This is done to make the child visualize an island, thus making geography real to him.

The definition of a lake follows, and the same methods are used to make this clear to the mind of the child as were used in the explanation of the island. Then comes a mountain, a river, and. If the child seems to have grasped all these subjects thoroughly, a few other terms may be explained, such as bay, gulf, peninsular, etc.

A map of England, Scotland, Wales, or Ireland may be drawn if the child has made sufficient progress to understand it. On this, places that it has heard of, or visited, are shown. Thus, the town in which it lives, the seaside and country towns it has seen, the rivers it has watched, may be marked on the map, because they have a special interest for the little learner.

Now comes the most fascinating part of these geography lessons. The mother can tell stories of children who live in foreign lands – little Eskimos, Japanese, Red Indians, Russians, Norwegians, eta. Many of these stories are to be found in ordinary childrens books , or books of fairy tales or folklore. One particular story is chosen and told to the child. Then, when the little listener is thoroughly interested in the characters, it can be told about the country in which they live – whether it ia hot or cold, if there is snow and ice there or burning desert Bands, what kind of animals live there, what food ia eaten, and what clothes are worn.

This can be continued until the child has become familiar with several countries. Then, when it goes to school and learns the somewhat heavy side of geography, such as climate, exports, populations, etc., instead of being bored it will be interested.

It will be surprising, too, if the mother does not find the teaching of this subject particularly stimulating. She will be re-learning those things that she has forgotten, and, in using her imagination, will be keeping alive her youthful ness of outlook.