The intellectual training of the young people must be left, in the main, to the school authorities. It is useless to remark further upon the subjects or the methods of study; the schoolmaster settles all that, and he, as we have seen, is greatly influenced by the lines laid down by certain examining bodies. Even where the teaching of the school is not satisfactory, there is little to be done: there is neither time nor opportunity for any other direct mental training; and to attempt it, or to criticise unfavourably the working of the school, has a bad effect on the pupil—he learns to undervalue what his school has to give him, but gets nothing else. But though parents can, and should, do nothing counter to the teachers, they may do much by playing into their hands.
It is important that parents should, so far as possible, keep up with their children, should know where they are and how they are getting on in their studies, should look into their books, give an eye to their written work, be ready with an opinion, a hint, a word of encouragement. They may feel and show hearty interest in the matter of their children’s studies, and when the subject is less dry than the declension of a Latin noun, may throw side-lights upon it by making it matter of table-talk. And this, for a double reason,—both as holding up the hands of the schoolmaster, and as strengthening their own. Parents do not always consider how far a word of interest from them goes to convert the dead words of a lesson into a
living idea, never to be lost; and there is no excuse left for getting rusty in these days of many books. The schoolmaster reaps the benefit of such efforts—his task is lightened; he has to teach boys capable of responding; but of more consequence is it that the parents themselves keep their place as heads of the family. They keep the respect of their children; for once a boy begins to look down on the intellectual status of his parents, the entire honour and deference he owes them are at an end. Any pains taken to keep ahead should be repaid by the glow of honest pride the young people feel at every proof of intellectual power in their parents.