The Parents' Review

A Monthly Magazine of Home-Training and Culture

Edited by Charlotte Mason.

"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."
The Briton of the Future: How Shall We Train Him?

By Constance Barnard.
Volume 13, 1902, pg. 277-283

(Continued from page 208.)

Unselfishness is cultivated in the Games, in the seeing that each has his due turn, that none is overlooked, that the weaker are helped by the stronger. And again in the making for others. When we begin work in the Kindergarten almost the first question is, Who will get that when it is finished? Are you making that for mother? Will that be a nice present for so-and-so's birthday? Always the thought that you must be thinking of someone else's happiness. Then the care of animals leads to unselfishness. "Bully looks out for you every day," and the little fish say, "When are those little children coming to feed me?"

Self-control, the extreme opposite of which is vividly pictured by Montaigne in his second essay, begins with learning to control motions of the body, so that all the games and drill lead more or less directly to this end. The body and limbs thus get practice while the Gifts and Occupations provide exercises for the smaller members, the eye, the hand, the fingers. Practical demonstration comes, too, in the control of the spirit. Impatience, haste, fidgeting, all spoil the beauty of the work done. In the Games we have submission to law as a necessary element of success. The exercises for developing the senses also give power to control them. It has been said, "A child may be physically capable of seeing and hearing, smelling, tasting and touching, and yet do none of these things to any purpose, because it has not yet grasped the fact that it is the ruler of its own little kingdom. That comprehension is the most important part of education." And we must help and encourage the child to feel his power. Therefore the occupations we give the child are such as are within his compass, though requiring a real effort to accomplish. Thus he feels the joy of overcoming and the ambition to try something more. In this way he is actually practising the virtue of obedience to the right; working by certain rules he produces certain effects. We are replacing outward compulsion by inward impulse. Give the wish to create and do, and the will power tries to control the action.

[Montaigne's second essay is "Of Sorrow," and this is the second paragraph: "Psammenitus, King of Egypt, being defeated and taken prisoner by Cambyses, King of Persia, seeing his own daughter pass by him as prisoner, and in a wretched habit, with a bucket to draw water, though his friends about him were so concerned as to break out into tears and lamentations, yet he himself remained unmoved, without uttering a word, his eyes fixed upon the ground; and seeing, moreover, his son immediately after led to execution, still maintained the same countenance. ; till spying at last one of his domestic and familiar friends dragged away amongst the captives, he fell to tearing his hair and beating his breast, with all the other extravagances of extreme sorrow."]

Truth comes next on our list. Let us ask with Pilate, What is Truth? And let us answer the question in our Lord's own words, "Let your yea be yea, and your nay, nay, for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil." In other words, Truth is accuracy of statement, or as Mr. M. Y. Maxwell puts it, "Truth--the correspondence between the order of ideas and the order of phenomena." Now throughout the whole of the Gifts and Occupations we are practising accuracy -- accuracy in thought, in word and in deed. The children are led by practical experience to feel and see their own inaccuracies, and to correct them. Locke says, "Truth is all simple, all pure, and will bear no mixture of anything else with it. To think of everything just as it is in itself is a proper business of the understanding, though it be not that which we always employ it to." And Mrs. Wiggin again, "One practice may be mentioned as especially contributive to veracity: the practice of accurate observation. To know anything correctly is the first and indispensable condition of describing or relating it correctly. The line is certainly not always clearly drawn between inaccuracy and falsehood. But surely there can be no doubt that conscientiously careful observation and truthful statement are very closely allied. It is well that children's intelligence should be trained in the accurate use of all their senses, and in the employment of their powers of speech. Morality is involved in both exercises."

Bravery, constancy, resolution and such abstract virtues grow out of self control, and are stimulated by stories illustrating those virtues in others. Stories I have hitherto only mentioned in connection with imagination, but we use them in almost every connection to suggest, impress, and clinch every step we take in every direction. We have stories in connection with each building lesson, emphasizing the point which the building is to illustrate; stories in connection with each nature lesson; stories in connection with each occupation; and stories to lead on to history later and enlarge the horizon both of fact and of mental and moral development. The stories, as well as everything else, are carefully graded and must be suited to the stage of development of the child, as ancient stories and legends were suited to the development of the race; for Froebel wishes us to lead the child along the way the race has trod. The teacher in this as in all subjects must watch for the budding points (to go back again to Froebel's simile): the new subject must come to satisfy the mental need. To accomplish this we must study the mental needs of the child. We see in him (1) a love of activity; (2) a touch hunger; (3) a craving for rhythm; (4) curiosity, i.e., a desire to observe and know; (5) social need; (6) a desire to operate upon material and to create. Most of the points I have touched upon sufficiently for you to see that the Kindergarten does partially, if not altogether, satisfy them. The last mentioned, the creative instinct, Froebel speaks of thus: "God creates the works productively in uninterrupted continuity. Each thought of God is a work, a deed, a product; and each thought of God continues to work with creative power in endless productive activity to all eternity. Let him who has not seen this behold Jesus in His life and work; let him behold genuine life and work in man; let him, if he truly lives, behold his own life and work. God created man in His own image, therefore man should create and bring forth like God." And again: "The child develops, like every other essential being, in accordance with laws as simple as they are imperative. Of these laws the most important and the simplest is, that force existing must exert itself; exerting itself it grows strong; strengthening, it unfolds; unfolding, it represents and creates; representing and creating; unfolding, it rises into consciousness and culminates in insight." Carlyle has the same thought: "Produce! produce!" he cries in his vigorous way. "Were it but the pitifulest, infinitesimal fraction of a product, produce it in God's name!"

For this ideal of creativeness in education Froebel lived and toiled and pleaded. In the light of this ideal, his Gifts are seen to be instrumentalities for self-development through self-expression. Without such light they collapse "into mere paper sticks and stones." And here you have the great fundamental difference between Kindergarten and school work. The inner is made outer; that is, the child's nature expresses itself and is given the suitable environment and means, and in the course of so doing he learns much that will be useful to him later, and most certainly develops those God-given faculties which are the instruments by which he will gain information later. In the school, on the contrary, information is the chief object; and although in gaining information character is still being developed and strengthened, how much better equipped must the child be who takes with him instruments well-tempered, strengthened and sharpened for use, instead of worn, rusted, and blunted, as must be the case where he has been left to his own guidance, or has been guided wrongly.

Some people object to the Kindergarten that we begin too early. "Seven years old is quite soon enough for my child to go to school." Yes it is, if by going to school you mean learning outside matters which are of no interest or use to the child at that stage of his being, such as the multiplication table, dates of kings, definitions of physical geography, &c. Even learning to read may quite well be left until that age. But learning things and facts in the small world in which he takes an interest--well, he is trying to do that from the moment he opens his eyes upon his new surroundings, and from his birth he is receiving impressions and storing them away in the recesses of his mind, while the germs of reasoning and judgment are already there. Is it not of great importance that these impressions should be presented in an orderly and systematically way, so that clear perceptions may lead to clear thought and understanding? So Froebel says, begin the education of your child in the cradle. I have not space in this short paper to go step by step into the process; I can only hope to arouse in you sufficient interest to read and study for yourselves Froebel's suggestions on the subject.

And why Froebel? Other people, as I have shown you, have had equally beautiful thoughts about children and education. I have quoted Wordsworth, Carlyle, Locke, and Ruskin, and there have been many others, notably a monk of Italy, Rosmini, who was a contemporary of Froebel, though they seem never to have met or heard of each other. He actually sketches out a course of training for children in words which might be used to describe the Kindergarten Gifts and Occupations. Why this coincidence? Because they both based their principles of education on the laws of human nature and development. But Froebel went on, where no one else ventured, to the complete practical application of the principles to the education of children from the cradle upwards. Miss Nora Smith says, "If you can work out his principles (or better ones still, when we find better ones) by other means, pray do it if you prefer, since the object of the Kindergartner is not to make Froebel an idol, but an ideal. He seems to have found type-forms admirable for awaking the higher senses of the child, and, unlike the usual scheme of object lessons, they tell a continued story." And, in another place, "The fact that Froebel's occupation materials contain nothing new, but are based, on the contrary, upon the traditional employments of childhood, is one of the strongest arguments in their favour, for they must have been wholly wrong from a psychological point of view had they been evolved from his own mind instead of devised from a careful study of the playing child."

And who, you will say, is sufficient for these things? Who, indeed? The mother, Froebel says, is the ideal teacher. Much of this education should be carried out at home. Indeed, many of you may have been thinking this is not the province of the school. "I only expect the school to teach my child to read and write and so on." Quite true! But does the average parent, do you yourselves, see to this at home? Does he or she take the children every day at regular times and give them this systematic training in all that is necessary? I hope that some day we shall give all our girls on leaving school a course of Kindergarten training to help them to become ideal mothers; but meanwhile, for those who have not the training, or, perhaps, the strength or the time, would it not be better to let the children be with some one who has the necessary qualifications? Let me in someone else's words give you the qualifications of an ideal Kindergartner, though in so doing I shall be reflecting severely on myself. "The ideal teacher of little children is not born. We have to struggle on as best we can, without her. She would be born if we knew how to conceive her, how to cherish her. She needs the strength of Vulcan and the delicacy of Ariel; she needs a child's heart, a woman's heart, in one; she needs clear judgment and ready sympathy, strength of will, equal elasticity, keen insights, oversight; the buoyancy of hope, the serenity of faith, the tenderness of patience."

Long ago, when I was just beginning the study of childhood, and when all its possibilities were rising before me, "up, up, from glory to glory,"--long ago I was asked to give what I considered the qualifications of an ideal Kindergarten.

My answer was as follows--brief, perhaps, but certainly comprehensive:--

The music of St. Cecilia.
The art of Raphael.
The dramatic genius of Rachel.
The administrative ability of Cromwell.
The wisdom of Solomon.
The meekness of Moses, and--
The patience of Job.

Twelve years' experience with children has not lowered by ideals one whit, nor led me to deem superfluous any of these qualifications; in fact, I should make the list a little longer were I to write it now, and should add, perhaps, the prudence of Franklin, the inventive power of Edison, and the talent for improvisation of the early Troubadours.

There are the natural qualifications, but there is more required.

"The Kindergartner must of course be intellectually equipped at every point, she must know the theory which underlies the use of the Kindergarten tools and be able to handle them wisely, she must understand the secrets of play and of story-telling; she must know something of the laws of the mind and its workings; but she may have all this knowledge and yet have a heart so dry and withered that not one drop of life-giving honey will distil from it."

Seeing these things, one ceases to wonder at Froebel's remark that "if three hundred years after his death there should be in the world one Kindergartner like that in his mind, his fondest hope would be more than realized."

I would entreat you then who wish to send your children to a Kindergarten or to recommend one to your friends, learn something about the subject, and then go to the Kindergartens within reach and judge for yourselves. Choose the Kindergartner who is the least removed from this ideal, and remember that "the true and valuable results lie deep. They cannot be written on blackboards, nor brought home by the children on slips of paper, nor can a child tell what he has learned. The results of Kindergarten training are found in the tendency of head and heart; they become manifest in the mode of thinking and feeling, they grow stronger and more beautiful with the child."

To sum up shortly in words not my own--"The Kindergarten is the only original educational system that practically takes into account the whole child, physical, intellectual, moral and spiritual. It stimulates him to activity all round, awakens as many faculties as possible, in short, leaves no dead place within him. Farther, it develops him harmoniously and in proportion and keeps his powers well balanced; and lastly it gives the child time to grow, time to realise his environment, time to awaken to the interest of life; to throw off the innumerable fears that beset the young, and to be fully and thoroughly himself."

And in Froebel's own words:--

"No one would believe, without seeing it, how the child soul--the child life--develops when treated as a whole, and in the sense of forming a part of the great connected life of the world, by some skilled Kindergartner, nay, even by one who is only simple-hearted, thoughtful and attentive; nor how it blooms into delicious harmonies like a beautifully tinted flower. Oh, if I could only shout aloud with ten thousand lung power the truth that I now tell you in silence. Then would I make the ears of a hundred thousand men ring with it! What keenness of sensation, what a soul, what a mind, what force of will and active energy, what dexterity and skill of muscular movement and of perception, and what calm and patience will not all these things call out in the children."

* [The Parents Review reprinted part of Home Education in this edition directly after this article, either as a supplement to Constance Barnard, who refers to Home Education, or perhaps as a preliminary rebuttal.]

Typed by happi, Apr 2020; Proofread by LNL, Apr 2020