Chapter IX


Importance of Daily.—The subject of the natural training of eye and muscles was taken up pretty fully in treating of ‘Out-of-door Life.’ I will only add, that to give the child pleasure in light and easy motion—the sort of delight in the management of his own body that a good rider finds in managing his horse—dancing, drill, calisthenics, some sort of judicious physical exercise, should make part of every day’s routine. Swedish drill is especially valuable, and many of the exercises are quite suitable for the nursery. Certain moral qualities come into play in alert movements, eye-to-eye attention, prompt and intelligent replies; but it often happens that good children fail in these points for want of physical training.

          Drill of Good Manners.—Just let them go through the drill of good manners: let them rehearse little scenes in play,—Mary, the lady asking the way to the market; Harry, the boy who directs her, and
so on. Let them go through a position drill—eyes right, hands still, heads up. They will invent a hundred situations, and the behaviour proper to each, and will treasure hints thrown in for their guidance; but this sort of drill should be attempted while children are young, before the tyranny of mauvaise honte sets in. Encourage them to admire and take pride in light springing movements, and to eschew a heavy gait and clownish action of the limbs.

          Training of the Ear and Voice.—The training of the ear and voice is an exceedingly important part of physical culture. Drill the children in pure vowel sounds, in the enunciation of final consonants; do not let them speak of ‘walkin’ ’ and ‘talkin’,’ of a ‘fi-ine da-ay,’ ‘ni-ice boy-oys.’ Drill them in pronouncing difficult words—‘imperturbability,’ ‘ipecacuanha,’ ‘Antananarivo,’—with sharp precision after a single hearing; in producing the several sounds of each vowel; and the sounds of the consonants without attendant vowels. French, taught orally, is exceedingly valuable as affording training for both ear and voice.

          The Habit of Music.—As for a musical training, it would be hard to say how much that passes for inherited musical taste and ability is the result of the constant hearing and producing of musical sounds, the habit of music, that the child of musical people grows up with. Mr Hullah maintained that the art of singing is entirely a trained habit—that every child may be, and should be, trained to sing. Of course, transmitted habit must be taken into account. It is a pity that the musical training most children get is of a random character; that they are not trained, for instance, by carefully graduated ear and
voice exercises, to produce and distinguish musical tones and intervals.

          Let Children Alone.—In conclusion, let me say that the education of habit is successful in so far as it enables the mother to let her children alone, not teasing them with perpetual commands and directions—a running fire of Do and Don’t; but letting them go their own way and grow, having first secured that they will go the right way, and grow to fruitful purpose. The gardener, it is true, ‘digs about and dungs,’ prunes and trains, his peach tree; but that occupies a small fraction of the tree’s life: all the rest of the time the sweet airs and sunshine, the rains and dews, play about it and breathe upon it, get into its substance, and the result is—peaches. But let the gardener neglect his part, and the peaches will be no better than sloes.

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