Education Of Home
( Originally Published Late 1800's )
The first education that a man receives is given in the home. Here the lines of character are laid and the work of habit is begun. If the will of the parent brings the child to obedience, industry, truthfulness in the home, these virtues will be practiced in after life. But those higher elements of true manhood are never nurtured in the barren regions of a vagabond life. Upon the early training of the child in the home turn the great questions of his existence. The measure of his usefulness in manhood is decided by the kind of treatment he receives in the early years of childhood. For instance, no man can succeed well in life who has not learned the value of time and has not acquired the habit of industry ; and unless the child be trained in these virtues by the example of the parents, and taught to use his time to a purpose in childhood, he will never learn it as he ought. We have said else-where that the training of the hand for the useful labors of life cannot, be taught in schools. It must be learned in the home, in the shop, on the farm, or in different places where these labors are practically carried on. Hence it is always wise to require the child to perform some duties habitually day by day. That policy of home life which indulges children in a regular round of pleasure and play and requires no work whatever, spoils the man or the woman of a score of years hence. We cannot insist too strongly upon the proper education and instruction of young children at home. The work of teachers in our schools would be immensely simplified if the children under their care had ever received an intelligent home training. But parents will shirk the responsibility of instructing their children and inculcating habits of industry and application, and expect a teacher to take an untrained savage and make him a docile, intelligent, useful man. If the teacher succeed sometimes, his work should be looked upon as a miracle ; if he fail, it is what ought to be naturally expected. We believe this responsibility of parents in the training of their children to the simple habits that they are to follow in after life, is a grave and serious one. It cannot be shirked without the most grave and serious consequences ; if it is not met, it will produce the gravest results upon the life and success of the child.
Ask ten men what home is, and, if they tell you truly, you will have ten different definitions. To one it is a place of luxurious display, of fine rooms, soft carpets, downy beds, and all the appointments of comfort and peace. But the shadow of the death angel is there, and home is to him a dreary unhappiness. To another, it is a boarding-house, with broken furniture, thread-bare carpets, and a general air of gloom. Its inmates stay there a portion of their time; they do not live ; they simply stay there. In after-years, when they may have passed from this island of exile to a better home, they always think of the old boarding-house with a shudder and a chill. To another man, home means "love at the hearth, plenty at the table, industry at the work-stand, intelligence at the books, devotion at the altar; it means a greeting at the door and a smile at the chair, peace hovering like wings, joy clapping its hands with laughter, life a tranquil lake, with the sleeping shadows pillowed on the ripples." To another man, home is the place of poverty; want meets him at the door; want mocks him from the empty fire-grate; sorrow and poverty "knead hunger in the empty bread-tray." No picture on the wall; no book upon the table; no bible on the shelf; no peace or comfort in the wretched rooms. The damp air is loaded with curses. The husband is a wreck, the mother an inebriate, the children robbers and murderers ; the education of the home a schooling of desperate wickedness and a vagabond existence. In infancy obscene songs were the music of their lullaby. No Sabbaths, no Sunday-school lesson, no hope. of a better life ever sheds benign influence in the darkened house. "Vestibule of the pit, furnace for forging everlasting chains; it reeks with ruin, it chokes with woe, it sweats with the death-agony of despair." In homes like these grow up the citizens of the state. Under influences of early training, such as these pictures portray, the children grow up to man-hood or womanhood to bless or curse the world, and the relation of the home-life to social and national life is a most important one. As men act in the home, so will they act in society, so will they act in the capacity of citizens. If the home be a school of vice, woe to society, woe to the state; for in a million homes, with the simple practices of Christian virtue, or in the slumbering ruin of a home of wretchedness, lie the important interests of the state half a century hence. If the angel of peace guards the American home, the same angel guards the American state; if the grim furies with locks of fire and whips of scorpions it at the hearth-fire, anarchy will sit upon the throne of our precious American liberties. We think that the tendencies of the present, which are undermining the blessed influence of home-life in many quarters, is a-menace of evil to the future happiness and permanence of American society. We hope the day may not come when the large mass of our American families shall live in rented apartments, whose narrow walls and evil influences should never be dignified by the use of the word home.
In the hopeless scramble for wealth, so common in our day, our homes are neglected. They are not made bright and beautiful as they ought to be made. The father and the mother are loaded with cares, and, weary with the labors of life, they do not exhibit that kindness, attention and love for the children which they ought. As they grow up to manhood and womanhood, and the restless energies of youth yearn for activity, home becomes a straightened and dull place for them. The money that is devoted to swelling the bank account must not be used to buy books and music and pictures to make home beautiful and attractive. These are too costly, the parents think. The children are therefore scarcely in their "teens" before they seek every opportunity to leave their dull homes and find companionship elsewhere. When a boy of fifteen is driven from his home by the scourge of discomfort to seek companionship in the street and among other boys, in nine cases out of ten the hope of his usefulness in life is doomed. Thousands upon thousands of the criminals, sneaks and murderers that fill our prisons and, die upon the gibbet took their first step in crime as they rushed out of their stupid, unpleasant homes away to the street for companion-ship. When a girl of fifteen finds the society of home less attractive than that of giddy companions elsewhere, her best hope of womanhood has perished. Our homes ought to be the most beautiful, the most comfortable, the most lovely spots on earth. The temple of a family-life should be more sacred to the memories of the family than anything else in human life. If the associations of home were what they ought to be; if there were rational employments, and rational amusements, and rational pleasures in them; if the mother cared more for home than external matters; if the father cared more for his home than for his club and the society of loafing companions; if father and mother were determined and united to make home attractive and comfortable and peaceful, the children would not leave it for the miserable allurements of the streets, the theatre, the saloon, and the evening party. lf the father and mother and boys and girls knew each other, and loved each other, and understood each other's pursuits and longings and ambitions, and there was any sort of delightful associations in home-life, a new era would dawn upon American society. Oh, the estrangements, the heart-breakings, the chill and neglect of these false associations of home-life !
" It is not the elm before the door of home that the sailor pines for when tossing on the distant sea. It is not the house that sheltered his childhood, the well that gave him drink, nor the humble bed where he used to lie and dream. These may be the objects that come to his vision as he paces the lonely deck; but the heart within him longs for the sweet influences that came through all these things, or were associated with them ; for the heart clings to the institution which developed it—to that beautiful tree of which it is the fruit. Wherever, therefore, the heart wanders, it carries the thought of home with it. Wherever, by the rivers of Babylon, the heart feels its loss and loneliness, it hangs its harp upon the willows and weeps. It prefers home to its chief joy. It will never forget it. For there swelled its first throb; there was developed its first affections ; there a mother's eyes looked into it; there a mother's voice spoke to it; 'there a mother's prayers blessed it ; there the love of parents and brothers and sisters gave it precious entertainment ; there bubbled up from unseen fountains life's first effervescing hopes ; there life took form, and color, and consistence. From that center went out all its young ambitions. Towards that focus return its concentrating memories. There it took form and fitted itself to loving natures and pleasant natural scenes ; and it will carry that impress wherever it may go, unless it become perverted by sin, or make itself another home, sanctified by a new and more precious affection."— Titcomb's Letters.