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conception of the lives and feelings of others. Sympathy will thus in
most cases be a plant of natural and easy growth.

Intercourse with other children and with the older members of the
child's family will also furnish constant material for the thoughtful
mother. The baby bumps its head, and the mother soothes it with
gentle, loving words. It is more than likely that the three-or
four-year-old will express his sympathy also. Surely he will if the
mother says, "Poor baby. See the great bump. How it must hurt!" Or
perhaps "big sister" is happy on her birthday. Again, the
three-year-old is likely to show happiness also, and the wise mother
will help the child by a timely word to take the step from reflex
imitation of happiness to true sympathy. Nor must we overlook the
occasions when some one in the nursery has been "naughty" and must be
punished. "Poor Bobby! He is sad because he cannot play with us this
morning. He feels the way you did when you were naughty and had to sit
so still in your little chair. I am sorry for Bobby - aren't you? We
hope he will be good next time, don't we?"

[Illustration: Photograph by Brown Bros.
Kindergarten games afford the intercourse with other children
necessary to the child's development]

Teaching self-control is quite a different matter from the foregoing,
and one which requires infinitely more work and patience. The first
step is, however, the same. If you would have sympathy, show sympathy.
If you would have self-control in a child, control yourself. Remember
the strength of the imitative instinct. Next, strive to obtain control
in the young child in some small matter where control is easy. Any
normal child will learn that control _pays_ - _if you make it pay_.
Encourage the hungry child to stop crying while you prepare his food,
but prepare it quickly, or he will begin to cry again to make you
hurry. Mothers usually work hard to teach control of bodily functions,
but often far less to obtain control of mental and moral conditions.
Obedience, considered from time immemorial the chief virtue of
childhood, is really only of value as it conduces to self-control in
later life. The wise parent, therefore, while requiring obedience for
the convenience of the family and the safety of the child, will lay
far more stress upon teaching the child to control himself. The work
must be done almost entirely by indirect methods during the early
years. Offering artificial rewards and dealing out artificial
punishments are the crudest forms of encouraging effort. The natural
reward and the inevitable natural punishment are far better when they
can be employed.

[Illustration: Courtesy of the United Charities of Chicago
A group of children at the Mary Crane Nursery, Chicago. Children
acquire self-control by learning to help themselves]

The child who overcomes his tendency to play before or during his
dressing may be rewarded by some special morning privilege which will
automatically regulate itself. In our family it is the joyful task of
bringing in and distributing the morning mail. The child not dressed
"on time" necessarily loses the privilege. We are not punishing, but
"we can't wait." Lack of control of temper presupposes solitude.
"People can't have cross children about." Quarrels inevitably bring
cessation of group play or work - solitude again. The child's love of
approbation may also be made of great assistance. Always we must
remember that doing _what we tell him to do_ is not after all the main
thing. It is doing the right thing, being willing to do the right
thing, and being able to hold back the impulse to do the wrong thing,
that count. We are working "to train self-directed agents, not to make
soldiers."

Unselfishness is a plant of slow growth. Indeed it is properly not a
childish trait at all, and the most we can probably get is its outward
seeming. But it is important that we at least acquaint the child with
ideals of unselfishness. We must find much in the child to appeal to,
even though altruistic motives do not appear until much later than
this. The love of approbation will prove a strong help again, also the
sense of justice with which children seem endowed from the beginning.
"Help him because he helped you," or "Give her some because she always
gives you part of hers," is often effective. Just as in the case of
self-control, the child will learn to overcome his innate selfishness
"if it pays" to do so. It may seem wrong to encourage any but the
highest motive, but a habit of unselfish acts, resting upon a desire
to win the approbation of others, is a better foundation upon which to
build than no foundation at all. Purely disinterested or altruistic
motives do not appear in the normal child much before the age of
adolescence, and by that time selfishness, which accords so well with
the individualistic instincts of the child, will have hardened into a
fixed habit if not vigorously checked.

Care must be taken to _lead_ the child toward unselfish acts, but not
to _force_ them upon him. The common courtesies of life we may
require, but, beyond that, example, tactful suggestion, wisely chosen
stories, and judicious praise will do far more than force.

The idea of kindness may be grasped by young children and, together
with the great ideal of service, should be emphasized in their home
life and in their intercourse with other children. The "only child"
suffers most from lack of opportunity to learn these two great needs
of his best self - kindness and service. Occasions should be
systematically made for such a child (indeed for all children) to meet
other children on some common ground. Playthings should be shared,
help given and received, and the idea of interdependence brought out.
"We must help each other" should be emphasized from early childhood.

Much must be made of the little helps the child is able to give in the
home - bringing slippers for father, going on little errands about the
house for mother, picking up his own playthings, hanging up his coat
and hat, caring for the welfare of the family pets. Careful provision
should be made for the child's convenience in performing these little
services. There must be places for the toys, low hooks for the wraps,
and constant encouragement and recognition of the small helper. Some
day he may help you because he loves to help. Now he loves to be
praised for helping.

[Illustration: Photograph by Brown Bros.
Helping the little sister. Children will learn unselfishness and
kindness if they are early taught to help one another]

Activity is a natural and absorbing part of a child's life. He is
always doing something. It remains for the parent to direct this
restless movement and to transform some of it into useful labor. Work,
in the sense of accomplishing results for the satisfaction and benefit
of the parent, is quite foreign to our plan for training the young
child. But work for the child's own satisfaction and for the formation
of the habit of industry must occupy our attention in large measure.
The child's playthings should from his earliest days be chosen in
recognition of his desire to do things and make things. The shops are
filled with showy toys, mechanical and otherwise, and children find
the toyshop a veritable fairyland. But once satiated with the sight of
any particular toy, however cunningly devised - and satiety comes
soon - the child forsakes the gorgeous plaything for his blocks, or
paper and a pair of scissors, or even his mother's clothespins. He can
do something with these.

The Montessori materials are perhaps the most thoughtfully planned in
this direction of anything now obtainable; and no one having the care
of young children should be without some knowledge of this now famous
method. All the materials have this advantage: they offer definite
problems and consequently afford the child the joy of accomplishment.
A few of the occupations of life afford us unending enjoyment at every
stage of the doing, but not many. It is rather the achievement of our
end, the "lust of finishing," which carries us through the tiresome
details of our work. The child must therefore be early introduced to
the joy of accomplishment. Instead of unending toys, give him
something to work with. He will appreciate your thoughtfulness, and he
will find not only joy but real development in their use.

At first the child's work will consist of fragmentary efforts, but at
a remarkably early age he will show evidence of a power of
concentration and persistence which will make possible the
accomplishment of finished undertakings. He begins to know what he
wants to do and to exhibit considerable ingenuity in finding and
combining materials. Most of all, he wants to imitate the activities
he sees around him.

In the strain of modern life a widespread restlessness seems to have
seized mankind. Whatever people do, they want to be doing something
else, and the pathway of the average individual is strewn with crude
beginnings, half-finished jobs, abandoned work. The child very easily
falls into line with this tendency of his elders. Hence he needs
definite encouragement to see clearly what he has in hand and to bring
his industrial attempts to a worth-while conclusion. Avoid, even with
a little child, that inconsiderate habit of "grown-ups" of calling the
little worker away whenever you desire his attention or help, quite
regardless of the damage you may do to his work by your untimely
interruption. Keep the child, as far as possible, too, from
undertaking tasks too difficult or requiring too much time for
completion. Discourage aimless handling of tools. A cheerful "What are
you making?" sometimes crystallizes hitherto rambling desires. A
timely suggestion often meets with enthusiastic response.

[Illustration: Photograph by Brown Bros.
Helping in the home tasks. Wisely directed activity will teach the
child both unselfishness and industry]

The working outfit of a child under school age may or may not include
kindergarten or Montessori material. Balls, blocks, pencils and paper,
paste, colored crayons, scissors, a blackboard, a cart, a wheelbarrow,
stout little garden tools, a sand tray or, better, in summer an
outdoor sandpile, will furnish endless work and endless delight to a
child or group of children. It is not so much what sort of material we
use as the way in which we use it. Even at this age the child longs to
be a producer, to "make things"; and his best development requires
that we train this inclination. There is a prevalent notion that women
especially are no longer required to be producers and that all our
energies should be bent toward the sole task of making them
intelligent consumers. There is, however, a joy in producing without
which no life is really complete. And no scheme of education can be a
true success which ignores or neglects the necessity of producing. The
joy of work, the delight in achievement, should be the keynote of all
industrial training. This should be kept constantly in view.

To most people there is something wonderfully appealing about the
innocence of the little child. We watch with delight the marvelous
development of the little mind keeping pace with the growth of bodily
strength and dexterity. We are reluctant to see the day drawing near
when the child must begin his long course of training in school.
Sometimes we fail to recognize the fact that before school days come
the child has already received a considerable part of his education;
that the habits which will make or mar his future are often firmly
implanted and in a fair way to become masters of the young life. An
elaborate plan for the little child's training would probably be
abandoned even if undertaken, since elaborate plans involve endless
work. If, however, we attempt no more than I have outlined in this
chapter, we have some reasonable chance of success. Given good health,
with regular bodily habits, as a physical foundation, the child will
have had much done for him if we have begun to build the habits of
sympathy, self-control, industry, and service which will purify and
sweeten the family relations of later years and make the one-time
child worthy himself to undertake the important task of home building.

It is naturally a matter for regret that the teacher into whose hands
the child comes first at school usually knows so little of the home
training he has had or failed to have. Children whose parents have
made little or no attempt to teach these fundamental qualities which
we have had under discussion are sometimes forever handicapped unless
the teacher can supply the deficiency. Children who have made a good
beginning may lose much of what they have been taught unless the
teacher recognizes and holds them to the ideal. The kindergarten or
primary teacher needs to know the homes of her pupils; and the time is
not far distant when the school will recognize the home as after all
the first grade in school life. Then mothers will receive the
inspiration of contact with the teachers and their ideals, not alone
when their children reach school age, but from the time the first
child arrives in the home. The Sunday school has its "cradle roll."
The day school may emulate its example.


FOOTNOTES:

[Footnote 5: Cabot, _What Men Live By_.]




CHAPTER VII

TEACHING THE MECHANICS OF HOUSEKEEPING


Going to school marks an epoch in every child's life. Hitherto,
however wide or narrow the child's contact with the world has been,
the mother has been, at least nominally and in most cases actually,
the controlling power. Now she gives her child over for an
increasingly large part of every day to outside influence.

More and more we are coming to see that the evolution of a successful
homemaker requires that the school as well as the home keep the
homemaking ideal before it. And so the best schools of the country are
doing. The greatest needs of the little girl's early school days would
seem to be a definite understanding between teacher and mother of the
share each should assume in the homemaking training. This necessitates
personal conferences or mothers' meetings, or both.

The little girl of primary-school age points the way for both teacher
and mother by her adaptation and imitation of home activities in her
play. In primary grades girls are approaching the height of the doll
interest, which Hall and others place at eight or nine years. A doll's
house, therefore, may be made the source of almost infinite enjoyment
and profit in these grades. Indeed it is hardly too much to say that
no primary room is complete without one. Nor is there any reason why
any school should remain without one, since its making is the simplest
of processes. Four wooden boxes, of the same size, obtained probably
from the grocer, the dry-goods merchant, or the local shoe dealer,
will make a most satisfactory house if placed in two tiers of two
each, with the open sides toward the front. This gives four rooms,
which may be furnished as kitchen, dining room, living room, and
bedroom. Windows may be cut in the ends or back, if the boys of the
school are sufficiently expert with tools or if outside assistance can
be secured for an hour or so.

The best results with the doll's house are obtained if the children
are allowed to furnish it themselves, with the teacher's advice and
help, rather than to find it completely equipped and therefore merely
a "plaything" of the sort that children have less use for because they
can do little with it. An empty house presents exciting possibilities,
and perhaps for the first time these little girls look with seeing
eyes at the home furnishings, for they have wall paper to select,
curtains and rugs to make, and indeed no end of things to do.

[Illustration: The little girl adapts and imitates home activities in
play]

It is perhaps scarcely necessary to call to mind the educational
advantages possible in the planning and making of bedding, draperies,
table linen, towels, couches and pillows, window seats, and other
furnishings, as well as in the ingenuity brought into play in evolving
kitchen utensils and in stocking the cupboards with the necessities
for housekeeping. The free interchange of ideas should be encouraged,
and the spirit of seeking the best fostered.

The conspicuous results in this work are two: we secure the child's
attention to details of housekeeping, and we build up a foundation
ideal of what housekeeping equipment should be. Children in poorly
equipped homes may find the most practical of training in this way. My
experience has been that teachers have only to begin this work in
order to arouse enthusiasm in any class of little girls. Once begun,
it carries itself along. There should be no compulsion in this work.
Choice and not necessity must be the rule in all our training for
homemaking. To compel a child's attention to that which she will later
do voluntarily, if at all, will at the very outset defeat our purpose.

[Illustration: Making furniture for a doll's house affords
educational advantages in emphasizing the details of housekeeping]

The finest sort of coöperation arises in this work when parents are
led to provide the little girl at home with a doll's house fashioned
like the one at school. Perhaps they may go a step farther and find
space for a larger scheme of housekeeping, in the attic or elsewhere.
Coöperation among the children means interchange of ideas, materials,
and labor, most helpful to social ideals.

From the furnishing of the doll's house it is easy to pass to plays
involving the activities of home life. Children delight in sweeping,
dusting, washing dishes, arranging cupboards and pantries, and making
beds in their miniature houses, and if their efforts are wisely
directed, orderly habits easily begin to form. In all these varieties
of work the children must be led to feel that there is a right way,
and that only that way is good enough, even for play.

The great result of all play housekeeping is the formation of ideals.
It is just as easy to learn at seven or eight the most efficient way
of washing dishes as it is to defer that knowledge until years of
inefficient work harden into inefficient habits. The teacher will find
abundant and interesting studies in household efficiency in recently
published books to inspire her guidance of the children's activity.

The step from washing play dishes at school to washing real dishes at
home is easily taken, and children are delighted to take it. Here
again the school and home may - indeed must, for best results - work
together. Some schools are giving school credit for home work along
domestic lines. That there are complex elements entering into the
successful working out of such a plan one must admit. A school giving
credit for work it does not see may put a premium upon quantity rather
than quality. The teacher who asks her little pupils to wash the home
dishes according to school methods may encounter adverse comment from
certain parents who are quick to resent outside "management."
Nevertheless, home practice in accordance with school theory is the
ideal of any coöperative education in the mechanics of housekeeping;
therefore some scheme must be worked out whereby the girls will
practice at home, and, having learned to do by doing, will continue to
do in the families where their doing will be a help.

Let us consider for a moment the present condition of the
school-credit-for-home-work idea. Schemes are being worked out in
various places, under one or the other of the following plans.

_Plan I_ (often known as the Massachusetts plan). Each pupil, with the
advice of his teacher and the consent of his parents, selects some one
definite piece of work to do at home regularly, under direction of the
school and with some study at school of the practical problems
involved. School credit depends upon approval by the teacher on the
occasion of a visit of inspection to the home.

_Plan II_ (sometimes called the Oregon plan). This is more directly
concerned with the cultivation of a helpful spirit than with perfect
technique or broad knowledge. No attempt is made to correlate home and
school work. Credit is given merely for the fact that the dishes were
washed, the table set, or the baby bathed, the fact being properly
certified by the parent. Whether the work was acceptably done or not
rests entirely with the parent. In the carrying out of the latter plan
blanks are usually issued to be filled out and handed in once a week
or once a month. Each task carries a certain value in school credit.

That either of these plans possesses certain weaknesses doubtless even
their makers would admit. But they are at least opening wedges. A plan
might be worked out whereby little girls are taught one household task
at a time, through their play housekeeping, after which credit may be
given for satisfactory performance of the task at home. Later another
household duty may be taught, and put into practice, with credit, at
home, thus building up a body of known duties for which the little
house-helper has been duly trained. For its highest efficiency such a
plan would require more than consent on the part of mothers. Its
success would depend upon coöperative leadership and its value upon
the acceptance, for school credit, of only that work done in
conformity with school ideals.

But at all events, whether school credit be given or not, the stimulus
of interest in home tasks may be given strength by the teacher's wise
suggestion, and thoughtful consideration of the matter in teachers'
and mothers' meetings will insure coöperation of the most helpful
sort. The tactful teacher will find ways to suggest to mothers that
children be held up at home to the ideals of efficiency she has been
at pains to put before them at school.

The suggestion has been recently made by several thoughtful educators
that the noon hour, in schools where children do not go home for
dinner, be made use of for the simplest of cooking lessons. The
children who at seven are quite content to play house soon pass into
the stage where they wish to see results from their work. They want to
"make things," real things, that they or some one can use. Children of
nine or ten can learn to cook cereals and eggs in various ways, to
make cocoa, and to prepare other simple dishes. Their pride and
delight in these accomplishments are intense. These activities are
equally suited to the small rural school and to the consolidated
schools which are happily taking the place of the one-room buildings.
In both, the teacher may find the lunch hour a real educational force
if it is used aright. If the teacher allows and guides these efforts
in the schoolroom, she must keep in mind her "ideal of efficiency."
Accurate measurements, logical processes, elimination of awkward and
unnecessary movements, care in following directions, neatness, and
precision are the real lessons to be learned.

[Illustration: Photograph by Brown Bros.
A school garden. The possibilities for good through school-garden
work are numberless]

School gardens are perhaps already too familiar to require more than a
word. Their possibilities for good are numberless. In them many
children get their first insight into the joys of making things grow
and are led by this joy to undertake the care of a home garden and to
beautify the home surroundings as they had never thought of doing
before. School-garden work leads to beautifying the school grounds,
with resulting pride and interest in the school.

Accompanying the activities we have suggested, teachers will find a
wide field in attractive stories of helpful coöperative home life.
Extracts from many of Miss Alcott's stories, the Cratchits' Christmas
dinner from Dickens' _Christmas Carol_, and many other delightful
glimpses of home life can be read, or, better, dramatized, with little
effort and with good results.

It may seem that the homemaking training here suggested for younger
children is too desultory, too slight, in fact, to affect the
situation much. But let us consider. Homemaking is an art, coming more
and more to be based on a foundation of science. For it is undoubtedly
true that, while the pessimists are telling us that the home is
doomed, we who are optimists see coming toward us a great wave of
homemaking knowledge which if seized upon will put the homemaker's art
upon a surer foundation than it has ever been.

The elements of housekeeping are the _ABC_ of homemaking. We shall do
well to teach them early, incidentally, and with no undue exaggeration
of their place in the scheme of living. We simply familiarize the


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Online LibraryMarguerite Stockman DicksonVocational Guidance for Girls → online text (page 6 of 14)