The Need of Training in Child Management-baby Management in Elementary Schools-the Use of Creches for Practical Teaching-a System Employed in Wales-how Teaching is Provided in Scarborough-a Scheme for London
The idea that natural woman understands by instinct how to look after a baby properly and efficiently is one of the greatest fallacies that exists.
True it is that in every country mothers, grandmothers, and elder sisters are largely occupied with the charge of young children. The child nurse, who comforts and cuffs, feeds and corrects the baby sister in her charge is part of the landscape all over the world. The Japanese girl of ten, with her baby brother fastened securely to her back; the Chinese sister in charge of half a dozen younger than herself; the little slum child teaching school in the backyards of every town in England-they are all playing at mothering with more or less success. The wonder is, in many cases, that they do it so well, just as it is somewhat remarkable that so many mothers of all classes rear their babies with the microscopic amount of knowledge they possess.
In truth, the care and management of children is the most difficult work that women can do, and they cannot possibly do it properly unless they are taught the business. So that the present movement towards teaching child management in girls' schools is a most hopeful sign of the times. Educational authorities are realising more and more that the girls who are the future mothers or the future nurses of children ought to have simple, practical, scientific training in the care of children. When we remember that perhaps 90 per cent, of women in all civilised countries must be occupied with home making, the need of preparing girls for this work is surely self-evident.
For some time past domestic science has occupied a very prominent place in the educational curriculum. Hygiene is also being considered an important subject, and we have this new idea of teaching child management to young girls during the latter years of school life. One reason why Japanese women are such excellent mothers is that they are educated all along towards this end in the schools. The Japanese doll is utilised for the purpose, and it is interesting to discover that the same idea is invading certain schools in England.
Think of all that the doll and the doll's-house might do from the educational standpoint ! Think of the precious hours which are devoted to superfluous subjects and ridiculous accomplishments in many girls' schools that might be so wisely spent in teaching the children how to dress their dolls, how to take proper care of them, how to manage the little doll's-house and doll's cooking to the best of their ability ! The great thing is to arouse in the girls' minds a keen interest in little children, and as Miss Hughes, whose work in South Wales is spreading to other schools, says, to utilise the natural love for young children which is to be found in almost every little woman.
What is being done, generally speaking, to teach young girls in our schools something about the management of children?
In the public elementary schools instruction is, in some cases, given in association with creches, so that the girls have a theoretical class in the school, supplemented by practical work amongst babies. These lessons are arranged by the local authorities,
A class of little schoolgirls at Penarth. South Wales, learning how a baby should be bathed. The ages of the children are from twelve to fourteen but they are not available for all girls, and at the present time they are too few in number to be of any real, lasting value to the scholars.
As a rule, a teacher with special qualifications visits the school to give six lessons on the subject of infant care. Two are devoted to the washing and dressing of baby, and these are utilised to teach facts concerning
A cutting-out class in the beautiful nursery of Highcliff School, Scarborough. Here the pupils are taught by a Queen Charlotte nurse all the practical details connected with the care of babies the care of clothes, the importance of cleanliness, and the danger of dirt.
What are the chief things that are necessary to teach girls of the school age with regard to baby management?
1. The preparation of the child's food.
Every girl, for example, should know that milk is the one and only proper food for the child during the first few months of its life. She should be taught that, next to natural feeding, the baby is most safely brought up on milk and barley-water, or milk and water in the proper proportions, and that no infant should be fed oftener than once in two hours, the intervals being increased as time goes on to three hours and three and a half between meals.
Then girls ought to be given practical instruction on how to dress and undress a baby, how to give it a bath at the temperature suitable to its age, and how to dry the child carefully, and avoid any risk of chill. They can see, if they are taught by means of a real baby, how much better the child thrives if he is out of doors the greater part of the day in the fresh air, and sleeps invariably in a room with open window.
The mere fact of teaching girls method with regard to baby management and pointing out the importance of regular rest and regular sleep, regular hours and regular meals, impresses upon them good habits of mind and method with regard to everything else they do. And, because this sort of teaching touches the human note, provides knowledge that is intensely interesting to every natural girl, it will be remembered and acted upon years afterwards, when historical dates and irregular verbs have faded absolutely from the student's memory.