be amended to do so.
The parents are the ones most interested in this matter, and it is
through their efforts alone that improvement can be brought about. In
Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois,
Ohio, Washington, Oregon, Texas, Missouri, and California, free public
oral day schools have been established. This movement has reached its
highest development in Wisconsin and Michigan. In Wisconsin there are
twenty-four such schools scattered throughout the state, and in Michigan
fourteen. New schools are opened by the Board of Education under
prescribed conditions upon the request of a certain number of parents of
deaf children. Such a law should be on the statute books of every state,
and will be when the parents of deaf children organize and demand it.
THE DEAF CHILD AT FIVE YEARS OF AGE
When the little child that has been deaf from infancy is five years of
age, he should be placed in a _purely oral school_ for the deaf, if such
a thing is possible.
The child who has become deaf by illness or accident after speech has
been acquired, should be placed under experienced instruction by the
speech method _at once_.
To quote once more from my little book of suggestions to physicians:
"If the proper school for the little hearing child of five did not
happen to exist in his immediate neighborhood, no one would think of
insisting upon the necessity of sending the little one away to a distant
boarding school. But that is what must be done in the case of the little
deaf child, if precious and irrecoverable years are not to be lost. It
is often a difficult matter to persuade a mother to sacrifice her own
personal happiness and comfort in having the little child with her, and
to look far enough into the future to see that a true and unselfish love
for the child requires her to entrust him to the care of others during
those early and crucial years."
SCHOOLS FOR THE HEARING AND PRIVATE GOVERNESSES
If no oral day or boarding school is available near at hand, the mother
should have the far-sighted love that is unselfish, and the courage to
part with her little five-year-old child during the months of the school
year, and place him in some one of the distant schools where he can live
and be taught in a purely oral environment. There are two alternatives
to this, each of which is sometimes attempted, but both are undesirable.
First the mother not infrequently attempts to have her child educated in
the schools for hearing children. This is very unsatisfactory and even
dangerous, for if persisted in it results in wholly inadequate progress,
uneven development, bad speech, irretrievable loss of time, and often in
a complete nervous breakdown. This may not come for some years, but the
nervous system, once undermined by the excessive strain of trying to
keep up under impossible conditions, can never be fully repaired. Here
is what a _partially_ deaf woman writes of her experience as a child:
"When I was three and one-half years old scarlet fever left me almost
totally deaf. My father was a physician. He was urged to send me to a
school for the deaf, but his medical training told him that what was
needed was association with speaking children, if I were to retain my
speech, for at that time the oral method was unknown in our state. So I
went to school with hearing children. Unless you have been deaf, you
will not understand the misery in this statement. A little, lonely deaf
child, I went to a public school, hearing practically nothing of the
teachers' instructions or the pupils' recitations. Of the torture of
that deaf childhood I will not speak. You all know how cruel children
may be, and a deaf child among hearing children often suffers untold
The second alternative is to seek some person who will teach the child
in his own home. This, too, is very unsatisfactory, and involves loss of
time and opportunity that can never be recovered.
In the first place, the beginning years of a deaf child's educational
life are the most important of all. They are crucial. It is then he
requires the highest skill, the greatest experience, and the most
perfect conditions. The best teachers can seldom, if ever, be induced to
teach a single child in its home. Usually these teachers are more or
less inferior. But even the best teacher in the world cannot do for a
little deaf child in his home what she could accomplish for him in a
well-organized and properly conducted school.
Neither the intellect nor the character of the deaf child can be as
successfully developed, after five years of age, by a private teacher in
his home as in a good school.
The following elements are essential for the highest educational welfare
of a deaf child:
_First._ The stimulus and incentive of association and competitive
_Second._ The contact with more than one mind and more than one speaker.
_Third._ The avoidance of becoming dependent upon some one as an
interpreter, and the cultivation of independence and self-reliance
through constant practice with various teachers.
_Fourth._ A fully equipped and trained organization, providing a
complete and uninterrupted education under one head.
_Fifth._ Regularity of life, and the subordination of all living
conditions to the highest educational advantage (a thing utterly
incompatible with home conditions).
These most necessary conditions are not possible of attainment through
private instruction in the home. The child who is kept at home and given
private instruction too often grows up to be timid, self-distrustful,
and unfitted to cope with the difficulties and oppositions of the
world. He falls an easy prey to temptation and is quickly discouraged by
obstacles. Very often he is selfish, narrow, and overbearing. Not having
those about him of his own age and with the same desires, he has become
accustomed to having people yield to his whims and fancies as child
playmates would not yield. He is more or less excluded from the plays
and pleasures of childhood. All those about him have an advantage over
On the other hand, the tendencies of the school-bred child are to be
simple, natural, and childlike. His inclination to moodiness and
suspiciousness is much less. He is happier. He becomes self-reliant,
independent, and respectful of the rights of others. He is less petulant
and more obedient. The wisest parents do not educate their hearing
children at home, nor should they attempt it with a deaf child.
IMPORTANCE OF THE BEGINNING
I wish to lay very special stress upon the necessity _at the beginning_
of the most expert and experienced instruction that is attainable. If
circumstances make it impossible to give to the child the best _all_ the
time, then he should have the best at the start rather than later. Every
effort and every sacrifice that are ever going to be made for the
child's sake should be at the beginning of his school training, and not
delayed till he is older. The years from five to eight or ten will
determine his future success. If he has poor teaching during these early
years, even the best teaching later will not be able to make up the loss
entirely. But if he has good teaching during the first few years, then
less expert teaching later cannot do him as much harm as it otherwise
would. The early years are his most crucial period, and the best efforts
should be expended then instead of when he is twelve or fourteen.
AVOID THE YOUNG AND INEXPERIENCED TEACHER
Between the ages of five and ten avoid the young and inexperienced
teacher and the amateur as you would the plague. Unfortunately, the idea
is prevalent that _any one_ can teach a little child, but that it takes
experience to teach the older pupils. This is a disastrous fallacy.
Young and inexperienced women are too often quite ready to assume the
great responsibility of teaching a little deaf child. They rush in where
angels might well fear to tread. Unfortunately, parents, and even school
superintendents, are often too ready to permit them to do this dangerous
ON ENTERING SCHOOL
Through the courtesy of the _Volta Review_, in which her article
appeared, and of the author, Miss Eleanor B. Worcester, a teacher of the
deaf for many years, and at one time the principal of a school, I am
able to include the following very sensible and valuable advice for the
guidance of mothers when their children enter school.
THE FIRST YEAR AT SCHOOL
BY ELEANOR B. WORCESTER
At last the time has come when you feel that it is best for your boy to
study with other children. And since your own town does not offer him a
suitable opportunity, it is necessary to send the little fellow to one
of the well-known boarding schools, where trained and wise men and women
are devoting their thought and energy to giving every advantage of
education, comfort, and happiness to the little people under their care.
You have already decided, after much thought and the writing of many
letters - perhaps after a visit to the school you incline to most - just
where it is best that the child shall go.
You have studied carefully all the directions about clothing given in
the school catalogue, and have made sure that every little blouse or
stocking has its owner's name written or sewed fast on it, and that all
the small garments are in perfect order and ready for use.
But have you thought how your own attitude toward this change in your
boy's life is unconsciously preparing him either to rebel against and
fear school, or to look forward to going there as one of the most
delightful and interesting events of his life?
I know that it is impossible for you to avoid dreading the day when your
child must go among strangers, but I beg you not to let him see what
your feeling is. It will take all your resolution and all your courage
to wear not only a cheerful face, but a happy one; but you must make
your boy feel that a very delightful time is coming.
If you go about the necessary preparations as you might if he were going
to the show or on a visit, he will enter into the spirit of things with
enthusiasm; but if you once let him find you crying over his packing he
will immediately jump to the conclusion that some dreadful thing is in
prospect, and will be entirely prepared to be frightened at being left
at school, and to break your heart by clinging to you and begging to go
home again. And, more than this, he will be far more likely to be
So, since you know it is best for him to be in school, and that it is
the only possible road to happiness and usefulness, why not lead him to
anticipate the going; to look forward to it as a treat, and to feel that
to be a schoolboy is really the great end of existence?
One of the first steps in this direction will be to help him understand
a little what kind of a place he is bound for.
Very likely the school you have decided on publishes an illustrated
catalogue, and weeks before school opens begin to show him the pictures
of the school buildings and grounds, and make him understand that on a
certain day in September, which you mark on the calendar with bright
crayon, you and he will go there. Let him see one of the little white
beds where he will sleep after you return home, the sunny dining room
where he will eat his morning porridge and his Sunday ice cream; the
playground full of rollicksome youngsters, with whom he will seesaw and
play tag by and by, and the busy schoolroom, where so many delightful
and interesting things are sure to happen.
Talk about all these things often and brightly and you will find that
school has become a most desirable and fascinating place, and that every
night there will be a great satisfaction in climbing on a chair to
scratch off from the calendar another day done before the joy of going
Then you can buy such delightful things to be put into that waiting
trunk - things often to be looked at, but never to be used till that
wonderful place is reached - long red and blue pencils, with rubbers on
the ends; boxes of writing paper, all gay with pictures and exactly
right for the first letters home; a foot rule, and, if you are a truly
brave mother, a real jackknife to sharpen the same red and blue pencils
and add to the joy of living.
It is absorbing work, too, to mark them all with one's name, so they may
never be mistaken for any other little boy's property, and to make a
place for a new toy or two, though if you are wise you will not buy many
playthings now, but will save them to send later, one by one, by parcel
post, to be received with a joy it is a pity you cannot be there to
see, it will be so out of proportion to any other pleasure you could
give by such simple means.
Of course, you must have some kodak pictures taken - ever so many of
them - showing the family, the house, and the pets, as well as the boy
himself. These are to be kept, too, to go in letters. They will be not
only very precious possessions, but if they are labeled carefully they
will be extremely useful in the classroom when your boy begins to learn
to speak the names of the people at home.
Since they are to be used for this double purpose, be sure that each
member of the family group is very distinctly marked, or the names of
Aunt Mary and sister Helen may get hopelessly mixed in the boy's mind!
Finally, the last little garment and the last package is in the trunk,
the last day is scratched off the calendar, and the boy himself is on
the train. And now let me tell you something that you will not
believe - that you will even resent, but which is perfectly true, and
which I hope will comfort you a little when you say good-by to the
boy - and that is this: it really is very unusual for a little child from
five to eight years old to be homesick at school. There are so many
distractions, so many new and curious things to see, so many interesting
things to do, and there are so many other children all friendly and all
happy, that even if your boy cries when you leave him, the probabilities
are high that before you reach the station he will be playing - shyly or
uproariously, as temperament may decide - but certainly happily, with
some new-found friend.
One of the most delightful things about a school for deaf children is
the way all the other pupils welcome, pet, and look out for a newcomer.
Every one makes much of him, and it would be hard indeed to be lonely
long in the midst of so much attention and friendliness.
And now a word about letters.
Before you sent the boy to school I hope you didn't fail to teach him to
recognize the written names of the different members of the family, so
that he might be sure to understand whom his first letters came from.
And don't forget that he will be eager for letters! Too many mothers
feel that it is useless to write to their children during their first
year away from them. They are so sure that no word from them can be
understood that they content themselves with sending inquiries to the
proper authorities, and an occasional picture postcard to the children
themselves, and fail to realize how soon their little boy or girl grasps
the fact that the other children have real letters in envelopes, and
that these come from home, or how sharp a disappointment it is when day
after day goes by and brings them nothing.
If you could see, as I have seen, a letter, so worn that it was cracked
on all its folds and dingy with much handling, carried day after day
inside a little blouse, or guimpe, and put under the pillows every
night, you would understand a little what those pieces of paper, covered
with very imperfectly understood characters, but carrying love and
remembrance from home, mean, even before the children can read them.
And very soon, if you are an observant mother, your child will really be
able to read them.
For example, your boy's first letter may be something like this:
"I am well. I love you. HARRY."
When you answer it you might say, with the certainty that every word
would be understood:
"Mamma loves you. Papa is well. Mamma and Papa love you.
Not a very satisfactory letter, do you say? Perhaps not to you, but most
delightful and understandable to the little boy to whom it is written.
And if a little later you follow it with another containing one of the
kodak pictures of the cat, with "Tommy" written under it, accompanying
such a note as this, not only your little boy, but his teacher will
"Mamma is well. Papa is well. Mamma and Papa love you. Tommy loves
you, too. Tommy is the cat. Tommy wants to see you.
I have written these two notes not as models to be copied, but to show
you how with a little thought and care you may ring the changes on
almost every sentence that your boy learns; and make use of every new
word, giving him a great deal of pleasure and helping to fix the phrases
in his mind and to make him realize that they are really valuable
additions to his means of communication. But I do not mean that you
should confine your letters entirely to words and sentences that the
child already knows. In fact, new expressions, if they are short and
simple, and if the main part of your letter is made up of things the
child understands at once, will add very much to the interest of your
letter. He will be eager to know what the strange words mean, and the
new nouns, verbs, and adjectives will go immediately to swell his
Like any child just learning to talk, your little boy will at first use
nouns, when later he will use pronouns, so in your earliest letters to
him you will be surer of making yourself understood if you do the same.
Probably, too, with the exception of two or three sentences like "I am
well. I love you," you will notice that all his statements are written
in the past tense, and that will be a guide to you to confine your own
remarks to the past, for the most part, till you notice that he has
begun to use the future and the present himself. Watch his letters
carefully and adapt your own language forms to his.
There are two things that, as a general rule, I would advise you not to
write about, and these are any illnesses in the family and - that supreme
joy of school life - the box you are planning to send.
My reasons for this taboo are that even very little children are often
made unhappy and anxious, sometimes for days, if they know there is
sickness at home, while in the second place boxes are so often delayed
that they become the source of much disturbance of mind when the
expressman fails to bring them.
I knew a little girl who watched every delivery for a week and cried
after every one because the box her mother had promised her did not
appear. So let illness and boxes go unmentioned till you can write
something like this, "Papa was sick last week. He is well now. He goes
to the office every day." And after the box has had time to reach its
destination you can say, "Mamma sent a box to you Wednesday. She put two
handkerchiefs, some new shoes, six oranges, and some money in the box.
Papa gave the money to you."
If you are like most mothers, before many weeks have gone by you will be
eager to visit your boy and see for yourself how he is getting on;
whether he is really as happy as the letters from school assure you he
is; what he is learning in class, and whether he has blankets enough on
his bed and sugar enough on his oatmeal.
But before the letter announcing the day of your arrival is posted or
your ticket is bought, sit down by the fire and think the matter over.
You have confidence in the school, else you would never have sent your
boy there; and you have been told repeatedly either that the little
fellow is happy and well or, it may be, that he was rather homesick at
first, but has now settled down to a very comfortable and contented
state of mind and is doing well in class.
Now, if you go to see him too soon after he has left home there will
really be a good deal more danger that the boy will be homesick after
you leave him than there was when you took him to school in September,
even if he has been quite happy up to the time of your visit.
In the first place, he will think, drawing his conclusions from visits
that he may have made before, that school is over and that you have
come to take him home. So it will be a great surprise and shock when you
go away without him. And in any case, after the separation of some
weeks, his love for you will make him want to be with you, and he will
really suffer when you say good-by.
So, if I were you, I would wait till after the Christmas holidays before
going for my visit. By that time he will be fully settled in his new
life and will look on it as an established part of existence. He will
know from observation that other mothers come for a little while and
then go home again without taking their children with them, and his
advance in understanding will make it much easier to explain to him that
your visit is temporary and will not make any radical change in his own
The delay will mean a good deal of self-sacrifice for you, but may very
possibly save your boy from a sharp attack of homesickness, while later
in the year this danger will usually have disappeared, and your visit
will bring nothing but pleasure to you both and will help to make
school what you want it to be - a place where all sorts of delightful
things are constantly sure to happen.
DURING THE SCHOOL PERIOD
But the opportunities and obligations of the parents of deaf children to
aid in their education by no means cease when the children enter school.
Throughout the entire period of school life, and even after their
children leave school, the parents can be of very great assistance to
them. During the time that the school is in session, if the child is
away from home, the parents should write not less than once a week, and
oftener if possible. These letters should contain all the little
happenings at home, no matter how insignificant and uninteresting they
may seem. If these things are expressed in simple language, using short
sentences and common words, the letters will be one of the most
efficient means of aiding the children to an ability to read, that the
teacher possesses. The child is full of eager curiosity to know the
smallest details of the familiar home life. He will exert his mind more
to dig out the meaning of the language of home letters than he will to
understand a story in a reader. Miss Worcester has suggested one or two
little letters that would do during the first half year at school. By
the beginning of the second year it would be helpful if the letters read
something like this:
"MY DEAR BOY:
"We got your nice letter. Thank you for it. We always like to know
what you do at school. We like to know the names of your
schoolmates. We are glad when you tell us about your books and your
teachers. Mother, Tom, Jane and I are well. We talk about you
often. We are glad you can go to school. A cat frightened the hens.
The hens ran. The cat was naughty. I drove the cat away. I think
the cat wanted to eat the little chickens.
"Tom hid behind the door. He jumped out quickly. He frightened
Jane. She screamed. He laughed. Jane cried. Mother scolded Tom
because he made Jane cry. Tom said Jane was a baby. Jane said Tom
was a bad boy. Then Jane laughed. She forgave Tom. Tom said he was
"We all love you.
Each year the letters can be a little more grown up and they should
always be frequent.
When vacation time comes and the children come home for the summer, the
home folks will probably have some trouble at first in understanding
their imperfect speech. Do not be discouraged. The speech will steadily
improve from year to year, and you will soon be able to comprehend it,
even when it is very faulty. But do not accept from the child anything
except the best speech he is capable of. When the boy first arrives you
will, probably, not know just how much to expect of him. To begin with,
it will do him no harm to ask him to repeat what he says, even if you
really did understand him the first time. He will probably speak much