Everyone who associates with children becomes deeply interested in them. Their helplessness during their early years appeals warmly to sympathy; their acute desire to learn and their responsiveness to suggestion make teaching a delight; their loyalty and devotion warm the heart and inspire the wish to do the things that count for most. Everything combines to increase a sense of responsibility and to make the elders active in bringing to bear those influences that make for character, power and success.
Every worthy teacher in every school gives more than her salary commands and puts heart power into every act. By example and precept the lessons are taught and growth follows in response to cultivation. But the schools are handicapped by lack of time for much personal care, by lack of facilities for the best of instruction and by the multiplicity of things that must be done. Under the best conditions a teacher has but a small part of a child’s time and then instruction must be given usually to classes and not to individuals. Outside of school for a considerable time each day the child falls under the influence of playmates who may or may not be helpful, but the greater part of every twenty-four hours belongs to the home.
Parents, guardians, brothers and sisters, servants, consciously or unconsciously, wisely or unwisely, are teaching all the time. It is from this great complex of influences that every child builds his character and lays the foundation of whatever success he afterwards achieves.
Undoubtedly the home is the greatest single influence and that is strongest during the early years. Before a boy is seven the elements of his character begin to form; by the time he is fourteen his future usually can be predicted, and after he is twenty, few real changes are brought about in the character of the man. The schools can do little more than plant the seeds of culture; in the family must the young plants be watered, nourished and trained. Then will the growth be symmetrical and beautiful.
When the school and the home work together, when parents and teacher are in hearty sympathy, the great work is easily accomplished. But this harmony in interest is difficult to secure. In the first place it is not possible frequently for parents and teachers to become acquainted; usually is it impossible for them to know one another intimately. Here there are two forces, each ignorant of the other, but both trying for a common end. Again, parents in many, many instances are not acquainted with the schools nor with the methods of instruction which are followed therein. What is done by one may be undone by the other. If there could be a common ground of meeting, much labor would be saved and greater harmony of effort established.
When fathers and mothers are willing to take time enough from their other duties to show that sympathetic interest in juvenile tasks which is the greatest stimulus to intelligent effort, when they wish to know what work each child is doing and where in each text book his lessons are, when the multiplication table and the story of Cinderella are of as much importance as the price of meat or the profit on a yard of silk, then will the parents and the teachers come together in whatever field appears mutually acceptable....