R[obert] E[dward] Hughes.

Schools at home and abroad online

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pare with our neighbours in this work.

It is five years ago since the examination of infant
schools was abolished ; but such a system dies hard,
and even to-day semetimes the success of the school is
estimated by the proficiency of the scholars in the three
R's more than by the intelligence, the tone, and the
pleasure the school engenders in its little ones. Some
17 years ago, Jules Ferry, speaking of the French
infant schools, said :

" The success of the directress of an ecole maternelle
is, therefore, measured, not by the mass of imparted
knowledge, not by the number and length of lessons, but
rather by the sum of good influences with which the
child is surrounded, by the pleasure it feels in the school,
by the habits of order, neatness, politeness, attention,
intellectual activity it acquires there, as it were, in play.
Consequentl}', the directress should aim to promote to
the primary school, not so many children already well
advanced in instruction, but rather children well prepared
to receive instruction. All exercises of the ecole
maternelle should accord with this principle ; they
should favour the development of the various faculties
of the child without fatigue, without compulsion or
excessive application ; they should make him love the
school and give him at an early period a taste for work
by never requiring of him a kind of work incom-
patible with the weakness and instability of tender
years. The end in view, while considering the diversity
of temperaments, the precocity of some and the slowness
of others, is not to bring all to a certain grade of skill in
reading, writing, and arithmetic, but it is that they
know well what they may know, that they love their
tasks, their games, their lessons of any kind ; it is


particularly that they ma}' not have a dislike for those
first school exercises which would so readily become
distasteful if the patience, the versatilit)-, the ingenuous
affection of the teacher did not continue to vary them,
to enliven them, to get from them or attach to them
some pleasure for the child. Good health, the senses
already trained by a series of little games and experi-
ments calculated to educate them ; childlike, but distinct
and clear ideas on the first rudiments of what will become
primary instruction ; a start in the formation of habits
and tastes on which the school may base its regular
teaching ; a taste for gymnastics, singing, drawing,
pictures, stories, eagerness to listen, to look, to observe,
to imitate, to ask and answer questions ; a certain
power of attention resulting from docility, confidence,
and good disposition ; finally, an awakened intelligence
and a soul open to all good moral impressions ; these
are effects and results to be asked of the ecole
maternelle, and if the child comes from it to the
primary school with such a preparation, it matters
little whether it has acquired a few pages more or less
of the syllabus."

It is sometimes urged against the Kindergarten
system of teaching a child through play, that anything
lightly gained is lightly lost, and that children taught
on this plan never really know anything. As Madame
de Stael says, " The education that takes place through
amusement dissipates thought ; labour of some sort is
one of the great aids of Nature. The mind of the child
ought to accustom itself to the labour of study, just as
our soul to suffering. You will teach a multitude of
things to your child by means of pictures and cards, but
you will not teach him how to learn."

Ah, Madame, we of to-day see that though effort and


difficulty and trials may be good to man to open up the
deeper grit in his character, yet that they are not in-
dispensable even to man's salvation ; infinitely less so
are they to the child's !

Think you it is the kindly or the wise part to place
difficulties in the paths of these little ones, to cloud over
the bright sunshine (all too transient) of their childhood,
and to make Education, which is to be their saviour,
appear to them as an ugly, spiteful sprite, ever ready
to cause them to stumble and weep? Such concep-
tions of child training are the relics of that asceticism
which ostracised the Maypole and expurgated Shakes-

It is, I think, our duty as teachers to study our pupils
to tr)' to see the world from tlieir point of view — not
ours. Children form the majority of our population and
therefore should have the rights of a majority. We
adults have no right whatever to force our ideas of
religion and morals down the throats of our children,
and to " discipline " them as we so often try to do. " All
control is wrong that attempts to fetter the child with
a man's thoughts, and a man's motives, or a man's
creed. Herein lies the greatest danger. It is a fatal
blunder to rob a child of its childhood. We interfere
too often with a child's spontaneity by checking its
plays or by rousing it from its reveries. Teachers
should remember that what would be folly and
indolence in them may be absolutely essential for the
highest development of the child physically, intellectually
and morally. A child may be injured morally by stop-
ping its play with the sand on the seashore, or its ramble
among the flowers, or its apparently idle dream as it
lies looking at the clouds, to force it to listen to religious
exercises it does not understand. The music of the


birds and bees is more like!}' to arouse its spiritual
nature than the music of an organ. He is the best
teacher who most clearly remembers the feelings and
thoughts of his own boyhood. We cannot force
maturity on a child in feeling, motive, thought or action
without making it a hypocrite and we can make nothing
worse out of it. The darkest hour of a child's life is the
hour when it draws a curtain over the windows of its
heart to shut out mother or teacher, and deceit usurps
the place of honest frankness."— [/^j- L. Hughes?^

I wish now to discuss very briefly the ideas under-
lying the various gifts of Froebel, of which there are, as
you know, twenty : * These twenty gifts have been
classified in five groups, of which the first group is made
up of the first six gifts, and in which definite, clear
conceptions of Form and Number are taught the child.
Thus the first gift teaches : — colour, direction, use of
terms for certain properties or qualities, such as Jiard,
soft; and organised use of the limbs. The second
gift teaches :— form, contrast, similarity, and dissimi-
larity (Sphere, Cube and Cylinder) : and right use of

The third (cubes) and fourth (bricks) gift teach
number and the beginning of .symmetry and design.
The fifth and sixth gifts extend the child's ideas of Form
and Number. The second group is made up of the
gifts 7, 8, 9, and 10, and deals with surfaces, and pro-
ceeds from block-laying and tablet-la}'ing up to drawing
with a pencil on square ruled-paper. Gifts eight and
nine deal with stick and ring laying, which form a
valuable link between the square and triangular tablets
and the art of drawing. One notices how the child is
interested first of all in solids, then in surfaces and
*See Report of Commissioner U.S.A. 1896-7, Vol. 1, p. S99.


angles, and finally his muscles are trained by drawing
over and through squares on paper.

Thus the Kindergarten is the proper foundation for
manual training, and it is in these early days that the
skilled artisan of later days is formed. " Two weeks'
practice of holding objects in his right hand will make
the infant in his first year right-handed for life."

The next group is formed of the eleventh and twelfth
gifts, in which the pupil's muscular training is continued,
and his knowledge of surfaces extended by outlining
objects by means of embroidery — first by perforating,
and then by using the needle. The latter exercise, I
need hardly point out, is the basis upon which all the
needlework training of later years is based. The next
group comprises gifts 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, and 18, and
covers : —

13. Paper-cutting (strips).

14. Mats.

15. Laths.

16. Jointed lath.

17. Paper-twining.

18. Paper-folding.

This group forms the natural basis of the arts of plait-
ing and weaving.

The last group is made up of gifts 19 and 20. In gift
19, corks and pieces of wire or sticks being used, solid
forms are built up. In the 20th gift, these solids are
modelled in clay or wax. The Kindergarten is a place
for training the mind through the eyes and hands.

Of the muscular training developed in the Kindergarten
it is difficult to speak too highly. Were our children's
muscles properly developed and trained, we should see
less of those slouching loafers on the corners, whose
fingers are all thumbs, and whose existence is one of



the heaviest indictments of the modern system of

But I have taken up already too much of my time in
discussing general tendencies. Let us now cross the
Straits of Dover, and observe what our rivals are doing
in the development of the Kindergarten. We shall find
that the Kindergartens are largely voluntary in Northern
Europe and Italy, and there we shall find that they have
developed most nearly in accordance with Froebel's
original ideas.

A very general plan of Kindergarten is one in which
there is a duplicate set of rooms, one set being the
ordinary class-rooms, and the other set being play-rooms,
where the children play various games, sing, march, and
drill, and out in the playground we have the garden plots
of the children. In the Continental Kindergarten schools
the dual Kindergarten desks have become obsolete, and
are supplanted by tables, around which the children sit,
and by means of which it is considered that the spirit of
co-operation and social dependence is increased.

In Germany the most interesting Kindergarten is the
Pestalozzi-Froebel House at Berlin, which was begun in
1870 by Madam Schrader, an old pupil of Froebel's, as a
private school, but which in 1880 developed into a public
school, controlled by an association of wealthy Germans
interested in the development of Froebel's work. We
are told that in this school a special attempt has been
made to preserve and extend the home influence and
training ; for example, the children are taught the usual
home occupations, the little girls make their beds, and
clean the windows, and grow their own flowers, whilst
the boys make rugs, picture frames and playthings. A
sketch of a day in this institution is given by Bertha
Meyer, author of "From the Cradle to the School.''


Thus, speaking of the babies' class, she says : " We
notice that the playthings of the nursery are not banished
from their room. We see here dolls, dolls' beds and
carriages, cooking utensils, a Noah's Ark, hollow forms,
for the sand games, a railroad, and many other things.
Frequently they may use these things as they please,
yet at other times much is prudently withheld. One of
their regular occupations is stringing of beads. During
this time they are told a story, or sing a song, or give
vent to their own fancies in free conversation. Here a
bead strung on a thread plays varied parts. Now it is a
bell swinging to and fro, now a locomotive puffing noisily
away. The various colours of the beads enable the
children to discover many instructive distinctions among
them. Thus they vary song and work until the time is
past. Another favourite occupation is the sand game.
The children fashion, with the help of their hollow sand
forms, or suitable kitchen utensils, a variety of things
from moist sand ; cooking ranges, all sorts of cakes and
pastry ; or they make little gardens which they adorn
with real flowers or pine sprays, or with paper trees and
birds which the upper divisions have made for them.
Another occupation is the drawing out of threads from
coarse woollen rags. These threads they tie into dolls,
little birds, or mice, or they make brooms with them, or
lay them loosely into a small basket or clay saucer to
represent the nest of birds or mice, or they manufacture
them into small beds for dolls, cut from paper or wood.
However, after the very first occupation, the signal for
luncheon is given. The children march again to the
large playroom. In the meantime the two little helpers
place at each seat a small round piece of board upon the
table, and on each of these boards a small slice of bread
and butter is laid and cut into small pieces. When all


preparations are made, the children march back to
luncheon amid suitable calisthenic exercises. After
breakfast the children again repair to the playroom, while
the little helpers clear the tables and prepare for the new
occupation. This lasts until 11.45, when the children
are dismissed to their homes, with the exception of those
whose mothers work away from their homes, who receive
their dinner at the Kindergarten. These remain under
supervision during the entire noon recess, and, should
they feel tired, they take a nap on mattresses provided
for this purpose. The afternoon session lasts from 2 to
4 o'clock, and is spent chiefly in free play or movement
games." " In the upper classes, and, indeed, throughout
this school, much stress is laid on intelligent intercourse
w^ith nature, and on the activities of daily domestic life.
Subjects for instruction are chosen chiefly from nature,
and in accordance with the seasons. Thus, in March,
the lessons and plays dealt with peas, lentils, and beans ;
in April with violets and Spring beauties ; in May with
some prominent May-blossoms, and other trees ; in June
with grass and cereals ; in July with chickens ; in Sep-
tember with water ; in October with the apple tree and
ivy ; in November with the mouse and baked apples ;
in December with the pine tree, and so on."

" In the highest class the work in the Froebel occupa-
tions is gradually combined with the rudiments of school
work. Instruction begins at 8.30. In writing, they
learn to make simple letters ; in arithmetic, they analyse
numbers with the help of sticks and lines, from one to
five ; in German, they learn to form simple sentences and
to analyse them into words, and these into syllables ; in
drawing, they draw from stencils the outlines of right
angles, squares, etc., and fill these with lines — they learn
to recognise angles, and to draw them ; in home geo-


graphy, they learn to know the cardinal points of the
compass, and the directions in which to find familiar
buildings and localities. They observe the position of
the sun, and other similar facts. They measure the
schoolroom, and distances of objects from each other,
and make a ground plan of the house and its contents.
They become familiar with native plants and animals."
Let me in passing quote from a report written over 30
years ago by the German Froebel x'\ssociation : " Yes,
you say, but how about reading and writing ? Writing ?
The child must learn to walk before it can skip and run ;
similarly it must first learn to draw, and then to write,
for writing is only a particular kind of drawing. And
reading ? Why, indeed, should a child learn by reading
how a house, a right angle, a horse, a plough looks, what
the farmer and miller do. . . . Why not, rather, hear
about these things, and, so far as possible, see and do
and represent these things? Will not these things be
to him in these ways clearer, more living, and more im-
pressive than reading about them could make them ? "
Just one more quotation before we leave this point, and
this time from i\ppendix 8 of the Instructions to Inspec-
tors of the English Education Department : " It will be
found that the elementary subjects, when taught on right
methods, can be treated with greater variety. Reading
becomes a Kindergarten lesson through pictures and
word-building. Writing becomes a variety of Kinder-
garten dra\Ving. Elementary exercises in number are
associated with many of the Kindergarten occupations.
It is the experience of many good teachers that by the
adoption of such methods, it is found to be unnecessary
before the sixth year is passed to employ books for
reading, except occasionally for a change of occupation,
or perform any exercise in writing, except the elements


of letters, or to do any formal arithmetic work on

Germany has no complete system of infant training
such as we possess. Indeed, not a few Germans express
much regret at this, stating that it is a loss that these
impressionable years should be allowed to pass without
any other training being possible than what the home
affords.* Very often this home training is about as bad
as possible, the little ones often seeing and hearing mucli
that must have a permanently pernicious influence on
their characters. Until quite recently Germany was very
largely an agricultural and rural community, but the
growth of modern industry, of capitalism, has resulted in
an enormous increase of the urban population and of
material wealth. Some German cities have grown faster
than even American cities. The result is that
the bad effects of the factory system are only now
beginning to be seriously felt in Germany. Hitherto,
the German housewife has been able to train her children
upon the excellent system that she herself was trained
in, but the factory must interfere very seriously, indeed,
with this, and the need of a substitute for the home will
then be sadly needed. Many societies are at present
working to fill up this lacuna. There are in all the
large German towns private Kindergartens, where the
children of different classes may find children of their
own class gathered together for training on the principles
of Froebel. Those attended by the poorer classes supply
a mid-day meal for one penny a day. One of such

* " Jean Paul says of the child that it learns more m the
first three years of its life than an adult in his three years at the
University ; that a circumnavigator of the globe is indebted for
more notions to his nurse than to all the peoples of the world with
whom he has come in contact." — Lange.


private Kindergartens had, when visited by me, about
40 children present ; but in the winter they have twice
as many. The teachers were most industrious and skilful ;
indeed, so zealously do they work that my wonder is that
they are able to stand so great a strain. Of course, the
classes are small — ten children to one teacher. The
children all sit around a table, and talking (orderly talk-
ing, of course) is encouraged as much as possible. The
walls are papered, and the rooms generally have a very
homely appearance. The idea is to make the place as
little like school and as much like home as possible.
The lessons are quite informal. No time-table appears
to be drawn up, only a scheme of instruction, and this is
for the purpose of securing unity in the curriculum. The
Kindergarten is open from 9 to 12 in the morning, and
3 to 6 in the afternoon, but much of this time is spent in
the open air under a shed in the playground, or playing"
in the playground. The sand-pit in the playground is
evidently a favourite spot. Then they have their garden
plots, where plants are grown and pets kept. No formal
lessons in the three R's are given ; five is the limit in
number ; no writing on slates nor reading from books is
taken, but language exercise is very largely cultivated.
All the lessons centre round the nature lesson.

It would take me too long to tell you of the interesting
lessons I heard, or the games I saw played, but I was
much delighted with the school. The children were so
thoroughly happy, so unconscious of their training, so
natural, that I felt convinced that this, indeed, was much
nearer Froebel's ideal than anything I had seen before.
There was no attempt to check the natural vivacity,
restlessness, and talkativeness of the children. The
teachers recognise fully the physiological truth that
children cannot, and were never intended by Mother


Nature to sit still. There was no " Be quiet," nor

Sh sh " heard, but rather the children were encouraged

to talk — in an orderly manner. There can be no doubt
that such a training-ground as this must produce that
love of learning which is the greatest gift the people's
schools can give a child.

In Switzerland, the home of so many great educational
reformers, the spirit of Froebel has not penetrated very
deeply into infant education. The infant schools of
Switzerland are looked upon, as they are in some other
countries, as merely preparatory courses for the primary
schools. Yet they are rapidly improving and extending,
and, being amenable to that healthy public opinion on
national education that characterises the modern Swiss,
they are bound to become fine examples of what well-
staffed and well - supplied Kindergartens should be.
These Swiss schools are composed of a lower division
for children between the ages of three and six, and a
higher division for children between six and seven. In
both divisions the instruction consists chiefly of object
lessons, manual occupations, games, and songs. These
schools are gratuitous, but not obligatory. The infant
schools are open daily, except on Sundays, Thursdays,
and legal holidays, from 8 to 1 1 a.m., and from i to 4 p.m.
When the number of children exceeds 40 an assistant
must be provided. The duty of the teachers is to watch
over the intellectual, moral, and physical education of
the children ; to inculcate good principles ; establish
good habits, proper manners and correct language.

The Belgian Kindergartens were supported mainly by
the Municipalities, but since 1870 they have been largely
subsidised by the State. It is not proposed to discuss
in detail the organisation and administration of these
schools ; it must suffice for my purpose to sketch very


briefly how a day is spent in a Kindergarten in Brussels,
and in doing so I shall paraphrase a description given by
one of the teachers. (Mdle. H. Van Molle Andre, in the
Commissioners' Report, 1890-1, vol. II., p. 690.)

If you enter such a school between eight and nine in
the morning, you will notice the children dropping in
casually, accompanied often by their elder brothers and
sisters, or by their parents. Punctuality is not a virtue.
You will see them drop in even up to nearly ten o'clock.
The children appear thoroughly happy, and amuse them-
selves in the corridors or playgrounds until nine o'clock.
The first and second classes are inspected as to cleanliness,
and then marched off to their class-rooms, where the first
class have as an occupation " Folding," and the second class
" Tablets." With these tablets the children are taught col-
our and design, and these designs are reproduced in chalk
on the blackboard by the teacher. You will notice that the
children laugh and talk thoroughly at their ease, and
there is no attempt on the teacher's part to restrain their
natural restlessness. They consider it as wrong to try to
make a child sit quite still, as it would be to tie him up
in ropes to secure it.

In the first class you will see the children making
paper models of boats, houses, and so on, and then sailing
their models on the water-trough placed on the teacher's

What are the babies doing ? You will find that they
are playing a circle game, under the direction of their
teacher, in which full rein is given to the babies'
boisterous fun. At half-past nine the lessons are changed.
The first class march to their playroom and go through
exercises in drill, to the accompaniment of a piano. The
babies have " cubes," with which occur the usual exer-
cises, but completed by each child making whatever


form he pleases, and then conversing about it with the
teacher. The second class, meanwhile, are engaged in
blind man's buff in their playroom. At ten o'clock the
next change takes place. The first and second classes
are given pencils and slates, and leaves of trees are dis-
tributed to each child, who then draws it by passing the
pencil around it, the cleverer children also adding the
veins. Whilst the drawing is going on the teacher of
the first class converses with the children about the walk
they had the day before through the wood, and she

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Online LibraryR[obert] E[dward] HughesSchools at home and abroad → online text (page 19 of 24)