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Use your skill to make his will supple and pliant to reason: teach him to love credit and commendation; to abhor being thought ill or meanly of, especially by you and his mother; and then the rest will come ail easily. But, I think, if you will do that, you must not shackle and tie him up with rules about indifferent matters, nor rebuke him for every little fault, or perhaps some, that to others would seem great ones. But of this I have said enough already.
150. When by these gentle ways he begins to be able to read, some easy pleasant book, suited to his capacity, should be put into his hands, wherein the entertainment that he finds, might draw him on, and reward his pains in reading; and yet not such as should fill his head with perfectly useless trumpery, or Jay the principles of vice and folly. To this purpose I think Æsop's Fables the best, which being stories apt to delight and entertain a child, may yet afford useful reflections to a grown man; and if bis memory retain them all his life after, he will not repent to find them there, amongst his manly thoughts, and serious business. If his Æsop has pictures in it, it will entertain him much the better, and encourage him to read, when it carries the increase of knowledge with it: for such visible objects children hear talked of in vain, and without any satisfaction, whilst they have no ideas of them; those ideas being not to be had from sounds, but from the things themselves, or their pictures. And therefore, I think, as soon as he begins to spell, as many pictures of animals should be got him as can be found, with the printed names to them, which at the same time will invite him to read, and afford him matter of inquiry and knowledge. Reynard the Fox is another book, I think, may be made use of to the same purpose. And if those about him will talk to him often about the stories ho has read, and hear him tell them, it will, besides other advantages, add encouragement and delight to his reading, when he finds there is some use and pleasure in it. These baits seem wholly neglected in the ordinary method; and it is usually long before learners find any use or pleasure in reading, which may tempt them to it, and so take books only for fashionable amusements, or impertinent troubles, good for nothing.
151. The Lord's prayer, the creed, and ten commandments, it is necessary ho should learn perfectly by heart; but, I think, not by reading them himself in his primer, but by somebody's repeating them to him, even before he can read. But learning by heart, and learning to read, should not, I think, be mixed, and so one made to clog the other. But his learning to read should be made as little trouble or business to him as might be.
What other books there are in English of the kind of those above-mentioned, fit to engage the liking of children, and tempt them to read, I do not know; but am apt to think, that children, being generally delivered over to the method of schools, where the fear of the rod is to enforce, and not any pleasure of the employment to invite them to learn; this sort of useful books, amongst the number of silly ones that are of all sorts, have yet had the fate to be neglected: and nothing that I know has been considered of this kind out of the ordinary road of the horn-book, primer, psalter, Testament, and Bible.
152. As for the Bible, which children are usually employed in, to exercise and improve their talent in reading, I think the promiscuous reading of it, though by chapters as they lie in order, is so far from being of any advantage to children, either for the perfecting their reading, or principling their roligion, that perhaps a worse could not be found. For what pleasure or encouragement can it be to a whild, to exercise himself in reading those parts of a book where he understands nothing? And how little are the law of Moses, the Song of Solomon, the prophecies in the Old, and the epistles and apocalypse in the New Testament, suited to a child's capacity? And though the history of the evangelists, and the Acts, have something easier; yet, taken all together, it is very disproportional to the understanding of childhood. I grant, that the principles of religion are to be drawn from thence, and in the words of the scripture; yet none should be proposed to a child, but such as are suited to a child's capacity and notions. But it is far from this to read through the whole Bible, and that for reading's sake. And what an odd jumble of thoughts must a child have in his head, if he have any at all, such as he should bave concerning religion, who in his tander age reads all the parts of the Bible indifferently, as the word of God, without any other distinction! I am apt to think, that this, in some men, has been the very reason why they never had clear and distinct thoughts of it all their lifetime.
153. And now I am by chance fallen on this subject, give me leave to say, that there are some parts of the scripture, which may be proper to be put into the hands of a child to engage him to read; such as are the story of Joseph and his brethren, of David and Goliath, of David and Jonathan, &c., and others, that he should be made to read for his instruction; as that, “What you would have others do unto you, do you the same unto them;" and such other easy and plain moral rules, which, being fitly chosen, might often be made use of, both for reading and instruction together; and so often read, till they are thoroughly fixed in his memory; and then afterwards, as he grows ripe for them, may in their turns, on fit occasions, be inculcated as the standing and sacred rules of his life and actions. But the reading of the whole scripture indifferently, is what I think very inconvenient for children, till, after having been made acquainted with the plainest fundamental parts of it, they have got some kind of general view of what they ought principally to believe and practice, which yet, I think, they ought to receive in the very words of the scripture, and not in such as men, prepossessed by systems and analogies, are apt in this case to make use of, and force upon them. Dr. Worthington, to avoid this, has made a catechism, which has all its answers in the precise words of the scripture, a thing of good example, and such a sound form of words as no Christian can except against, as not fit for his child to learn. Of this, as soon as he can say the Lord's prayer, creed, and ten commandments by heart, it may be fit for him to learn a question every day, or every week, as his understanding is able to receive, and his memory to retain them. And, when he has this catechism perfectly by heart, so as readily and roundly to answer to any question in the whole book, it may be convenient to lodge in his mind the remaining moral rules, scattered up and down in the Bible, as the best exercise of liis memory, and that which may be always a rule to him, ready at hand, in the whole conduct of his life.
154. When he can read English well, it will be seasonable to enter him in writing. And here the first thing should be taught him, is to bold his pen right; and this he should be perfect in, before he should be suffered to put it to paper: for not only children, but any body else, that would do any thing well, should never be put upon too much of it at once, or be set to perfect, themselves in two parts of an action at the same time, if they can possibly be separated. I think the Italian way of holding the pen between the thumb and the fore-finger alone may be best; but in this you should consult some good writing-master, or any other person who writes well and quick. When he has learned to hold his pen right, in the next place he should learn how to lay his paper, and place his arm and body to it. These practices being got over, the way to teach him to write without much trouble, is to get a plate graved with the characters of such a hand as you like best: but you must remember to have them a pretty deal bigger than he should ordinarily write; for every one naturally comes by degrees to write a less hand than he at first was taught, but never a bigger. Such a plate being graved, let several sheets of good writing-paper be printed off with red ink, which he has nothing to do but to go over with a good pen filled with black ink, which will quickly bring his hand to the formation of those characters, being at first showed where to begin, and how to form every letter. And when he can do that well, he must then exercise on fair paper; and so may easily be brought to write the hand you desire.
155. When he can write well, and quick, I think it may be convenient, not only to continue the exercise of his hand in writing, but also to improve the use of it farther in drawing, a thing very useful to a gentleman on several occasions, but especially if he travel, as that which helps a man often to express, in a few lines well put together, what a whole sheet of paper in writing would not be able to represent and make intelligible. How many buildings may a man see, how many machines and habits meet with, the ideas whereof would be easily retained and communicated by a little skill in drawing; which, being, committed to words, are in danger to be lost, or at best but ill retained in the most exact descriptions? I do not mean that I would have your son a perfect painter; to be that to any tolerable degree, will require more time than a young gentleman can spare from his other improvements of greater moment; but so much insight into perspective, and skill in drawing, as will enable him to represent tolerably on paper any thing he sees, except faces, may, I think, be got in a little time, especially if he have a genius to it; but where that is wanting, unless it be in the things absolutely necessary, it is better to let him pass them by quietly, than to vex him about them to no purpose ; and therefore in this, as in all other things not absolutely necessary, the rule holds, "Nihil invità Minerva."
| 1. Short-hand, an art, as I have been told, known only in England, may perhaps be thought worth the learning, both for dispatch in what men write for their own memory, and concealment of what they would not have lie open to every eye. For he that has once learned any sort of character, may easily vary it to his own private use or fancy, and with more contraction suit it to the business he would employ it in. Mr. Rich's, the best contrived of any I have seen, may, as I think, by one who knows and considers grammar well, be made much easier and shorter. But, for the learning this compendious way of writing, there will be no need hastily to look out a master; it will be early enough, when any convenient opportunity offers itself, at any time after his hand is well settled in fuir and quick writing. For boys have but little use of short-hand, and should by no means practice it, till they write perfectly well, and have thor. oughly fixed the habit of doing so.
156. As soon as he can speak English, it is time for him to learn some other language; this nobody doubts of, when French is proposed. And the reason is, because people are accustomed to the right way of teaching that language, which is by talking it into children in constant conversation, and not by grammatical rules. Tho Latin tongue would easily be taught the same way, if his tutor, being constantly with him, would talk nothing else to him, and make him answer still in the same language. But because French is a living language, and to be used more in speaking, that should be first learned, that the yet pliant organs of speech might be accustomed to a due formation of those sounds, and he get the habit of pronouncing French well, which is the harder to be done, the longer it is delayed.
157. When he can speak and read French well, which in this method is usually in a year or two, he should proceed to Latin, which it is a wonder parents, when they have had the experiment in French, should not think ought to be learned the same way, by talking and reading. Only care is to be taken, whilst he is learning these foreign languages, by speaking and reading nothing else with his tutor, that he do not forget to read English, which may be preserved by his mother, or somebody else, hearing him read some chosen parts of the Scripture or other English book, every day.
158. Latin I look upon as absolutely necessary to a gentleman; and indeed custom, which prevails over every thing, has made it so much a part of education, that even those children are whipped to it, and made to spend many hours of their precious time uneasily in Latin, who, after they are once gone from school, are never to have more to do with it, as long as they live. Can there be any thing more ridiculous, than that a father should wasto his own money, and his son's time, in setting him to learn the Roman language, when, at the same time, he designs him for a trade, wherein he having no use of Latin, fails not to forget that little which he brought from school, and which it is ten to ono he abhors for the ill usage it procured him ? Could it be believed, unless we had every where amongst us examples of it, that a child should be forced to learn the rudiments of a language, which he is dever to use in the course of life that he is designed to, and neglect all the while the writing a good hand, and casting accounts, which are of great advantage in all conditions of life, and to most trades indispensably necessary ? But though these qualifications, requisite to trade and commerce, and the business of the world, are seldom or never to be had at grammar-schools; yet thither not only gentlemen send their younger sons intended for trades, but even tradesmen and farmers fail not to send their children, though they have neither intention nor ability to make them scholars. If you ask them, why they do this ? they think it as strange a question as if you should ask them why they go to church? Custom serves for reason, and has, to those who take it for reason, so consecrated this method, that it is almost religiously observed by them; and they stick to it, as if their children had scarce an orthodox education, unless they learned Lilly's grammar.
159. But how necessary soever Latin be to some, and is thought to be to others, to whom it is of no manner of use or service, yet the ordinary way of learning it in a grammar-school, is that, which having had thoughts about, I can not be forward to encourage. The reasons against it are so evident and cogent, that they have prevailed with some intelligent persons to quit the ordinary road, not without success, though the method made use of was not ex. actly that which I imagine the easiest, and in short is this: to trouble the child with no grammar at all, but to have Latin, as English has been, without the perplexity of rules, talked into him; for, if you will consider it, Latin is no more unknown to a child, when he comes into the world, thau English; and yet he learns English without master, rule, or grammar; and so might he Latin too, as Tully did, if he had somebody always to talk to him in this language. And when we so often see a French woman teach an English girl to speak and read French perfectly, in a year or two, without any rule of grammar, or any thing else, but prattling to her; I can not but wonder, how gentlemen have been overseen this way for their sons, and thought them more dull or incapable than their daughters.
160. If therefore a man could be got, who, himself speaking good Latin, could always be about your son, talk constantly to him, and suffer him to speak or read nothing else, this will be the true and genuine way, and that which I would propose, not only as the easiest and best, wherein a child might, with. out pains or chiding, get a language, which others are wont to be whipped for at school, six or seven years together; but also as that, wherein at the same time he might have his mind and manners formed, and he be instructed to boot in several sciences, such as are a good part of geography, astronomy, chronology, anatomy, besides some parts of history, and all other parts of knowledge of things, that fall under the senses, and require little more than memory. For there, if we would take the true way, our knowledge should begin, and in those things be laid the foundation; and not in the abstract notions of logic and metaphysics, which are fitter to amuse, than inform the understanding, in its first setting out towards knowledge. When young men have had their heads employed a while in those abstract speculations, without finding the success and improvement, or that use of them which they expected, they are apt to have mean thoughts, either of learning, or themselves; they are tempted to quit their studies, and throw away their books, as containing nothing but hard words, and empty sounds: or else to conclude that if there be any real knowledge in them, they themselves have not understandings capable of it. That this is so, perhaps I could assure you upon my own experience. Amongst other things to be learned by a young gentleman in this method, whilst others of his age are wholly taken up with Latin and languages, I may also set down geometry for one, having known a young gentle. man, bred something after this way, able to demonstrate several propositions inz Euclid, before he was thirteen.
161. But if such a man can not be got, who speaks good Latin, and, being able to instruct your son in all these parts of knowledge, will undertake it by this inethod; the next best is to have him taught as near this way as may be, which is by taking some easy and pleasant book, such as Æsop's Fables, and writing the English translation, (made as literal as it can be,) in one line, and the Latin words, which answer each of them, just over it in another. These let him read every day over and over again, till he perfectly understands tho