James Pyle Wickersham.

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with the elements of Geography, Botany, Zoology,
Astronomy, Katural Philosophy, Physiology, and
other sciences like them. The simple facts of this
class of sciences seem to be particularly adapted to
the capacity of children between the ages of ^ve
and ten, and peculiarly pleasing to their tastes.
They are keenly alive to all that is new, or strange,
or curious. Before the age of ten, however, it should
be remembered, a child is not prepared to appreciate
generalizations, abstractions, systems, or theories,
and it is folly to attempt" to teach them to him.
Children cannot be made philosophers ; but the
condition of their mental nature admirably fits them
for learning the names and more obvious properties
of the multitudes of objects which the bountiful
hand of God has scattered all about us as if His
purpose was to furnish means of pleasing and
instructing little children.

Rational science is beyond the capacity of children
of ten years of age ; but the principles upon which
such sciences are founded, as previously stated, may
be made operative in their minds. They operate,
indeed, in the minds of all persons, however young
or ignorant ; but by a studied presentation of occa-
sions calculated to call them into activity, the mind
receives that discipline which eventually prepares it


for their apprehension and systematic elaboration.
The kind of instruction, therefore, that was con>
sidered proper up to the age of five must be con-
tinued to the age of ten and longer. Any attempt
to teach a child of this age to account for principles
which are to him simply instincts that guide his
life, or to make him comprehend eyen the first steps
of a systematically arranged Kational science, would
proye a fruitless labor. As inductions from par-
ticular facts, such principles can be understood by
a child ; but as abstract principles, independent of
facts but conditioning them, they can be compre-
hended only by mature minds. To open the minds
of his pupils to the comprehension of these princi-
ples in the only form in which they can be under-
stood, as a preparation for understanding them in
that higher form in which they become our main
reliance in solving the greatest problems of life, is
the highest duty of the educator.

History, when presented in a form suited to their
capacity, has great attractions for children. They
like the play of life — like to read accounts of voyages,
travels, and past events, and they do not forget what
they read. They are especially fond of the novel
and the marvelous. Fiction might be made highly
useful in the work of education. A Fiction may
be a faithful portraiture of life, and as such to be
commended. The strong appetite which the young
manifest for this kind of literature is not without
its meaning. With judicious management it can be
gratified without harm, and in due time will give
place to other mental appetites, for which it is, in
part, a preparation.


In the Arts, at this age, a pupil can be learning to
draw and write. His Drawing ought to be confined
to copying pictures, drawing simple objects from
nature, and inventing easy j)atterns. He ought to
learn to work, to imitate models, and to handle
tools. It will do him good to visit shops and manu-
factories. He should be taught to sing, and may
begin to take lessons upon some musical instrument.
Pictures will delight him, but not those which re-
present some abstract idea, but those rather which
exhibit life.

Third Period. — Youth. — With respect to Lan-
guage, instruction, during this period, should be
continued in all that relates to Reading and Com-
position. The pupil's vocabulary of words should
be enlarged by careful study. The Grammar of the
English language may be commenced at ten, and,
if other languages are to be studied, they may be
commenced at the same age. Some progress may
be made in speaking, reading, and writing our own
and other languages before this age; but their formal
study cannot profitably commence earlier. A course
of reading in both prose and poetry should be con-
tinued through the whole period of youth.

In Mathematics, Arithmetic, Geometry, and Alge-
bra can be completed by the time a pupil is sixteen
years, of age, at least so far as these subjects are
treated of in our ordinary text-books. During this
period, pupils must be carefully trained to habits of
correct reasoning — they must be taught to observe
the laws of Logic in their thinking. The higher
generalizations of abstract Logic may be beyond


their reach, but they can be made acquainted with
the most useful forms of syllogism, and with the
modes of discovering truth and exposing error.

Competent to classify and generalize, the youth
of fi'om ten to sixteen years of age may study the
properties and phenomena of objects in connection
with the laws that govern their relations. To do
this he must not only observe, but he must search
and make experiments ; and he should be so taught
that he may rise gradually from the sphere of scat-
tered facts to the sphere of united systems. During
this period great progress ought to be made in
sciences like Geography, Physiology, ;N"atural Phi-
losophy, Chemistry, Botany, and Astronomy. The
facts relating fo them should be classified, inferences
should be drawn, and a general preparation should
be made for the full discussion of their highest

The time for the study of the Pational sciences
does not come to many before the age of sixteen.
Instruction relating to them should, therefore, be
continued in the spirit of that described as appro-
priate for the period of childhood. In addition,
however, at about the age of sixteen, pupils may be
taught the distinction between universal, necessary,
and self-evident truths and such as are empirical.
Forms of expression may be given to some of the
grand maxims which constitute the basis of all
science, and pupils be taught to realize their truth.
Undefined standards of truth, beauty, and goodness
can be applied with great profit. Progress can be
made in the arts which depend upon the principles


of the Rational sciences long before these principles
themselves can be made an object of thought.

During the period of youth, History should
occupy a prominent place among the studies of
every pupil who desires a liberal education, or who
desires to guide his own life by the lamp of past
experience. First in importance is the History of
one's own country, then that of other countries
most closely related to it, or that of those which
have played the most important part in the world's
affairs. Biographies of the good and great will be
read with avidity, and are well calculated to exert a
favorable influence upon the young. The historical
development of the several sciences will furnish
matter of much interest. From these sources, vast
stores of facts can be collected, and will furnish a
basis for the generalizations which belong to the
Philosophy of History.

Sufficient skill for the ordinary purposes of life
may be acquired in Writing and Drawing during
this period. Instruction in Yocal Music should
continue, and if proficiency in Instrumental Music,
Painting, or any other branch of an ornamental
education be desirable, it can be most rapidly at-
tained during the years between ten and sixteen.
I think the Formal and the Empirical Sciences can
be most effectually taught in connection with the ap-
plication of their principles to the arts of which they
are the bases. Sciences like Arithmetic, Chemistry,
and Astronomy, excite much more interest in the
minds of students when they see that they can be
made practical — when they see their use in the
arts. When the young exhibit special mechanical


talent, or special talent in an art of any kind, that
talent should receive special culture.

Fourth Period. — Manhood. — At the termination
of this period, the scholastic course of study is
supposed to be completed.

Suitable studies in language are Rhetoric, Criti-
cism, Literature, and foreign languages, both an-
cient and modern.

Studies in the Formal Sciences should embrace
the higher Mathematics and Logic. Their relations
to other sciences should be pointed out, and an
application of their principles should be made.

The more abstruse principles of the Empirical
Sciences studied during this period, can be mas-
tered ; and such principles, and the relations of
these sciences to one another, are proper objects of
study for minds approaching maturity. Pupils
may be encouraged to select some one of the
sciences, and to prosecute original investigations
with respect to it. The ambition to add something
to the sum of human knowledge is a w^orthy one.

This period should be characterized by the study
of the Rational Sciences, furnishing as they do the
noblest themes for human thought, and the best
means of mental discipline. It will be fouiid, too,
that their principles underlie all other sciences, and
are necessary to their full comprehension. That
teacher deserves the name of wise man, who, taking
his pupils through many sciences, leads them at last
to the firm conviction that faith is the only sure
basis of all philosophy ; and this, when well under-
stood, is the spirit of all Metaphysical study.


Plistory must now embrace the History of science
and the History of philosophy, as well as reveal the
principles that have ever worked changes in the
affairs of men. Its highest province is to embrace
all science and all art in its comprehensive narra-
tions, and to trace out the causes and effects of
human actions, and thus solve the problem of
human life.

If it is thought proper to continue the study of
Drawing through any part of this period, it may
include the principles of Shading and Perspective.
Mechanical and Architectural Drawing might, in
som^ cases, be taught. The time to be devoted to
Music must depend upon other circumstances than
those which arise from its nature. This, too, is the
case with other arts, such as Painting, whicn are
considered more ornamental than useful. From
the age of sixteen to twenty-one, the realities of life
begin to press themselves upon the attention of the
young man or the young woman. They select a
profession, or seek to prepare themselves for some
kind of business. They feel the need of a profes-
sional education ; and such an education aims not
to impart knowledge of the sciences, but skill in
the arts. The highest of all arts is the art of living
ivell, and to this art all science contributes. Excep-
tions apparently to the common order of things are
the gifted sons of Genius — the great Artists of the
world. To them we are indebted for the noblest
creations of the human mind ; and, though but one
such person — poet or prophet — appear in a century,
a broad system of education cannot be unmindful

of the great fact.


What has now been written is intended to intro-
duce a discussion of those detailed methods of
instruction of which it is the special object of this
work to treat. In accordance with the classifica-
tion of studies already made, the remaining part of
the volume will be divided into seven chapters as
follows :

I. Instruction in the Elements or Knowledge.
II. Instruction in Language.
III. Instruction in the Formal Sciences.
ly. Instruction in the Empirical Sciences.
Y. Instruction in the Kational Sciences.
YI. Instruction in the Historical Sciences.
YII. Instruction in the Arts.



What is meant by the elements of knowledge has
already been explained. The elements of each
branch of knowledge, or of each class of branches,
might be treated of in connection with the discus-
sion of the methods of teaching that branch or that
class of branches ; but practically these elements are
not separated but combined in early education. A
child cannot study the sciences, but he can study
the general facts which form their bases.

The w^hole subject will be discussed in two sec-
tions as follows :

I. Informal Instruction in the Elements of

II. Formal Instruction in the Elements of

Under the first head it is intended to speak of
that instruction in the elements of knowledo-e which
a child acquires from parents, companions, and the
circumstances that surround him, without any
special teacher or any set lessons. Under the second
the design is to discuss that kind of instruction
which is now generally known by the name of
Object Lessons.



I. Informal Instruction in the Elements of
Knowledge. — How interesting to the educator is
the infant soul in its efforts to attain freedom !
"Wrapt in sleep, how softly it awakens to a state of
conscious existence ! Closely folded within the
depths whence it comes, how gently its tender
germs seek the light! An angel sent from God,
with what seeming hesitation it sets its delicate
feet upon the rough earth !

We know not what impressions a child may have
received before that time, but the beginning of its
instruction may be dated from the moment it knows
itself — from the moment it shows, by looks or
actions, that it recognizes something apart from its
own being. Commencing at this tender age, a child
must receive instruction suited in kind and method
to its capacity. Children exhibit in their mental
manifestations and predilections the kind of instruc-
tion and training which they need. There are
internal impulses which prompt them to satisfy
their mental cravings. By carefully watching the
outward play of these impulses, we may be guided
in selecting the most appropriate means and methods
of educating the young. "Follow the indications
of nature," said Rousseau. In order to make the
subject as definite as possible, the most important
educational inferences which can be derived in this
way, will be expressed in a series of propositions :

1. Children should be Allowed ample Oppor-
tunities FOR Exercising their Senses. — A child
can exercise the senses of touching, tasting, and
smelling before it can see and hear. Of the two


last named senses I am not sure which is first awak-
ened, that of seeing or hearing ; but when a few
weeks okl an infant will look at bright colors and
seem pleased with certain sounds. When a little
older, it will follow with its gaze the motions of
objects which attract its attention, and smile at the
sound of voices or of music. Soon after it learns to
hold and handle things, and to play with them, and
all the senses begin to develop themselves rapidly.

The maternal instincts of mothers generally teach
them how to supply the intellectual wants of their
young children. They sufier them to gaze at the
lamp, or the open fire, at the sunlight as passing
through openings in the window-blinds it plays
upon the floor or about the curtains, at the bright
colors of flowers, buttons, or clothing. They allow
them to look through the casement at what they
can see in yard, garden, street, or field. They
amuse them with talking and singing, with rattles,
little bells, or gingling keys. They place in their
hands numerous playthings difi:ering in size, shape,
texture, and color. They let them look at animals
in motion, vehicles passing on the highway, and
trees moved by the wind. 'No better mode of
awakening the slumbering intellect of a child than
this could be pointed out. It needs but to be
applied with more intelligence. Mothers might
place before their infants a great variety of objects
presenting marked contrasts in color and sound;
they might select and change their playthings with
more judgment, and make more attractive the world
of nature about them.

The mental growth of a child from the time it


becomes conscious of the existence of objects around
it until the time it can walk is truly wonderful. Its
power of discriminating colors, sounds, and consist-
encies is greatly increased. Its senses are rapidly
developed. It becomes alive to all that is passing,
around it, and exhibits a strong inclination to touch
and handle all objects within its reach. It learns to
walk, and then commences the active exercise of its
newly found powers. Drawers are opened, baskets
upset, cupboards and closets explored, flowers
plucked. The child seeks objects about the
kitchen, parlor, shop, yard, garden, and, if allowed,
on the highway or in the street. It is wide awake,
and knowledge seems to be taken in through every

This is a precious season in which to sow the seeds
of knowledge. Mothers especially at this time
enjoy opportunities of pouring instruction into the
opening mind. Says Harriet Martineau, "If the
mother is at work, and the children are running in
and out of the garden, it is only saying to the little
toddler, ' ^ow bring me a blue flower ; now bring me
a yellow flower; now bring me a green leaf.' At
another time she will ask for a round stone ; or a
thick stick ; or a thin stick. And sometimes she
will blow a feather, and let it fall again ; or she will
blow a dandelion-head all to pieces, and quite away.
If she is wise she will let the child alone, to try its
own little experiments, and learn for itself what is
hard, and what is soft; what is heavy, and light; hot,
and cold ; and what it can do with its little limbs
and quick senses. Taking care, of course, that it
does not injure itself, and that it has objects within


reacli in sufficient variety, she can do no better, at
this season of its life, than to let it be busy in its
own way. I saw a little fellow, one day, intently
occupied for a whole breakfast- time, and some time
afterwards, in trying to put the key of the house-
door into the key-hole of the tea-caddy. "When he
gave the matter up, and not before, his mother helped
him to see why he could not do it. If she had taken
the door-key from him at first, he would have missed
a valuable lesson. At this period of existence, the
children of rich and poor have, or may have, about
equal advantages, under the care of sensible parents.
They can be busy about aliy thing. There is nothing
that cannot be made a plaything of, and a certain
means of knowledge, if the faculties be awake. If
the child be dull, it must, of course, be tempted to
play. If the faculties be in their natural state of
liveliness, the mother has only to be aware that the
little creature must be busy while it is awake, and
to see that it has variety enough of things (the sim-
pler the better) to handle, and look at, and listen to,
and experiment upon."

2. Children should be Instructed in Learning to
Talk. — Children are characterized by talkativeness.
They possess a wonderful capacity to learn words
and to form them into sentences. When five years
of age, children have been known to speak with
considerable fluency five difierent languages.

The use of language renders the acquirement of
knowledge more easy and rapid, if it is not essential
to it ; and in this, probably, may be found the rea-
son why children are endowed with the remarkable


power just referred to. A child likes to know the
names of all he sees, and is constantly asking,
'' What's this?" and "What's that?" He prattles
all day with father, mother, brother, sister, servant,
playmate ; and, when no one will listen, he talks to
his cat, bird, dog, toys, or to himself. It is just as
natural for him to do this as it is for a plant to grow,
or a bird to sing ; and his nature could not indicate
more clearly that it is the duty of parents or teachers
to instruct him in learning to talk.

A child in learning to talk performs two distinct
operations : the first, one of association ; the second,
one of imitation. He first associates certain verbal
utterances with particular things or thoughts, and
afterwards learns to imitate them. In learning a
word, therefore, a child must hear it correctly ut-
tered, and then learn to utter it correctly himself.

Instruction in learning to talk can be given to a
child in two ways : first, indirectly, by good ex-
ample ; second, directly, by correcting his errors
and presenting him proper models for imitation.

Parents should be careful, as far as practicable, to
sufier their children to listen to none but pure and
proper language, for they will imitate the language
to which they listen. If the words they hear spoken
are bad words, or the sentences uttered in their
presence are inelegant or ungrammatical, no care in
after life can completely correct the improper habits
of speech thus formed. In order to prevent their
children from forming such habits, parents should
use good language in talking with them or in their
presence, and be careful in the selection of servants,
governesses, and others with whom they come in


contact. Especially should tins care be exercised
in the choice of companions and playmates. A
single afternoon spent in play with those who use
them, will serve to introduce into a child's vocab-
ulary quite a list of bad words and uncouth ex-
pressions. His taste is thus blunted, and his heart
may be poisoned. The Gracchi, it is said, were
indebted to their mother's conversation for their
eloquence ; and Alexander could never get rid of
the defects of manner, gait, and speech which he con-
tracted in his infancy from his instructor, Leonidas.
Every one, indeed, must have noticed the difference
in the language of children whose parents and asso-
ciates exhibited good taste in their speech, and that
of those who did not possess this characteristic. The
scanty vocabulary and the rough forms of speech
which characterize the poor peasant-child, whose
parents are ignorant, contrast strongly with the full
flow of words and finely formed sentences which
distinguish the child whose parents are educated
and refined.

In addition to this indirect but most effective
teaching by example, parents should take advantage
of their capability of learning words so readily to
impart to their children more directly certain kinds
of instruction in language. It may be done by
attentively noticing their articulation and their im-
proper forms of expression, and carefully correcting
them. For this time and patience will be required.
The corrections should be made more in the manner
of play than of formal instruction. The child could
not appreciate reasons if given. The parent, noticing
the fault, should present the correct model, and


playfully induce the child to imitate it, once, twice,
or as many times as may be necessary, until the
difficulty shall be overcome.

At two years of age, a child will understand little
stories, if related or read to him in simple language,
and such exercises furnish valuable lessons. After
receiving them, children immediately exhibit in
their conversation the forms of expression thus
acquired. I cannot recommend these exercises of
conversing and reading with children too highly.
They should be engaged in every day. Those mis-
pronunciations and misconstructions, called "baby-
talk," however, are generally both hurtful to the
child and unbecoming to the parent.

Children can be taught to speak in learning to
sing or in hearing others sing. They are nearly
always fond of music, and will gladly commit little
songs and hymns, and thus improve their speech
while they cheer the household with their joyful

3. Children should have their Appetite for
Knowledge gratified. — It has already been shown
that children should be allowed to exercise their
senses, and it will now be made equally evident
that their appetite for knowledge should be grati-
fied. They should not only be encouraged to use
their senses for the purpose of using them, but for
the purpose of gaining knowledge. "With very
young children the discipline of the senses is the
principal end aimed at, but in a short time the
attainment of knowledge assumes greater impor-


Children exhibit great curiosity. They like to
see things, to handle and examine them. They
stand in raptures when papa opens his watch, or
mamma her drawers, for them. All their waking
hours are devoted to looking at things, playing
with them, or tearing them to pieces. These rest-
less inner promptings are natural to children, and

Online LibraryJames Pyle WickershamMethods of instruction .. → online text (page 8 of 31)