Samuel Wilderspin.

The Infant System For Developing the Intellectual and Moral Powers of all Children, from One to Seven years of Age online

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been explained. A few specimens of the ditties thus used shall now be
given; and several others, both hymns and moral songs are to be found
in the Manual, recently published by myself in conjunction with a


Our days four seasons are at most,
And Infancy's the time of Spring;
Oh! with what trouble, care, and cost,
Must we be taught to pray and sing.

In Summer as our growth proceeds,
Good fruit should hang on every branch;
Our roots be clear'd from evil weeds,
As into knowledge we advance.

Our Autumn is the season, when
Temptations do our minds assail.
Our fruits are proved in manhood; then
Let not sin, death, and hell prevail.

For Winter brings old age and death,
If we've good fruits laid up in store;
Soon as we gasp our latest _breath_,
We land on a _triumphant shore_.


On March the twenty-first is Spring,
When little birds begin to sing;
Begin to build and hatch their brood,
And carefully provide them food.

Summer's the twenty-first of June,
The cuckoo changes then his tune;
All nature smiles, the fields look gay,
The weather's fair to make the hay.

September, on the twenty-third,
When sportsmen mark at ev'ry bird,
Autumn comes in; the fields are shorn,
The fruits are ripe; so is the corn.

Winter's cold frosts and northern blasts,
The season is we mention last;
The date of which in _truth_ we must
Fix for December - twenty-first.


All human beings must (with birds and beasts)
To be complete, five senses have at least:
The sense of hearing to the ear's confined;
The eye, we know, for seeing is design'd;
The nose to smell an odour sweet or ill;
The tongue to taste what will the belly fill.
The sense of feeling is in every part
While life gives motion to a beating heart.


If you'd in wisdom's ways proceed,
You intellectual knowledge need.
Let science be your guiding star,
Or from its path you'll wander far.

'Tis science that directs the mind,
The path of happiness to find.
If _goodness_ added is to _truth_,
'Twill bring reward to every youth.


All pence by the generous deposited here,
When holidays come I will equally share.
Among all good children attending this school,
I should wish not to find a dunce or a fool.
Then listen, all you, who a prize hope to gain,
Attend to your books, and you'll not hope in vain.



Come, children, listen to me now,
And you shall hear about the cow;
You'll find her useful, live or dead,
Whether she's black, or white, or red.

When milk-maids milk her morn and night,
She gives them milk so fresh and white;
And this, we little children think,
Is very nice for us to drink.

The curdled milk they press and squeeze,
And so they make it into cheese;
The cream they skim and shake in churns,
And then it soon to butter turns.

And when she's dead, her flesh is good,
For _beef_ is our true English food;
But though 'twill make us brave and strong,
To eat too much we know is wrong.

Her skin, with lime and bark together,
The tanner tans, and makes it leather;
And without _that_ what should we do
For soles to every boot or shoe?

The shoemaker cuts it with his knife,
And bound the tops are by his wife,
And then he nails it to the last.
And after sews it tight and fast.

The hair that grows upon her back
Is taken, whether white or black,
And mix'd with mortar, short or long,
Which makes it very firm and strong.

The plast'rer spreads it with a tool,
And this you'll find is just the rule,
And when he's spread it tight and fast,
I'm sure it many years will last.

And last of all, if cut with care,
Her horns make combs to comb our hair;
And so we learn - thanks to our teachers,
That cows are good and useful creatures.


Hark now to me, and silence keep,
And we will talk about the sheep;
For sheep are harmless, and we know
That on their backs the wool does grow.

The sheep are taken once a year,
And plunged in water clean and clear;
And there they swim, but never bite,
While men do wash them clean and white.

And then they take them, fat or lean,
Clip off the wool, both short and clean,
And this is call'd, we understand,
Shearing the sheep, throughout the land.

And then they take the wool so white,
And pack it up in bags quite tight;
And then they take those bags so full,
And sell to men that deal in wool.

The wool is wash'd and comb'd with hand,
Then it is spun with wheel and band;
And then with shuttle very soon,
Wove into cloth within the loom.

The cloth is first sent to be dyed;
Then it is wash'd, and press'd and dried;
The tailor then cuts out with care
The clothes that men and boys do wear.


Come, children, let us now discourse
About the pretty noble horse;
And then you soon will plainly see
How very useful he must be.

He draws the coach so fine and smart,
And likewise drags the loaded cart,
Along the road or up the hill,
Though then his task is harder still.

Upon his back men ride with ease,
He carries them just where they please;
And though it should be many a mile,
He gets there in a little while.

With saddle on his back they sit,
And manage him with reins and bit,
The whip and spur they use also,
When they would have him faster go.

And be the weather cold or hot,
As they may wish he'll walk or trot;
Or if to make more haste they need,
Will gallop with the greatest speed.

When dead his shining skin they use,
As leather for our boots and shoes;
Alive or dead, then, thus we see
How useful still the horse must be.


The cow, the sheep, the horse, have long,
Been made the subject of our song;
But there are many creatures yet,
Whose merits we must not forget.

And first the dog, so good to guard
His master's cottage, house, or yard, -
Dishonest men away to keep,
And guard us safely while we sleep.

For if at midnight, still and dark,
Strange steps he hears, with angry bark,
He bids his master wake and see,
If thieves or honest folks they be.

At home, abroad, obedient still,
His only guide his master's will;
Before his steps, or by his side,
He runs or walks with joy and pride.

He runs to fetch the stick or ball,
Returns obedient to the call;
Content and pleased if he but gains
A single pat for all his pains.

But whilst his merits thus we praise,
Pleased with his character and ways,
This let us learn, as well we may,
To love our teachers and obey.


[Footnote A: The following tale, though not adapted for the younger
children of an Infant School, and too long to be committed to memory
by the elder ones, might be read to such by the master, and would
serve as an admirable theme for conversation. It is likewise well
adapted as a tale for family circles.]


"What nice plum-cakes," said JAMES to JOHN,
"Our mother sends! Is your's all gone?"
"It is," JOHN answered; "is not thine?"
"No, JOHN, I've saved one half of mine;

"It was so large, as well as nice,
I thought that it should serve for twice,
Had I eat all to-day, to-morrow
I might have mourn'd such haste in sorrow;
So half my cake I wisely took,
And, seated in my favourite nook,
Enjoyed alone, the _double pleasure_,
Of present and of future treasure."
"I, too," said JOHN, "made up my mind
This morning, when our mother kind
Sent down the cakes so nice and sweet,
That I but half to-day would eat,
And half I ate; the other half - "
JAMES stopp'd his brother with a laugh;
"I know what you're about to say, -
The other half you gave away.
Now, brother, pray explain to me,
The charms which you in _giving_ see.
Shew me how _feasting_ foes or friends
Can for your _fasting_ make amends."
"A poor old man," said JOHN, "came by,
Whose looks implored for charity.
His eyes, bedimm'd with starting tears,
His body bowed by length of years,
His feeble limbs, his hoary hairs,
Were to my heart as silent prayers.
I saw, too, he was hungry, though
His lips had not informed me so.
To this poor creature, JAMES, I gave
The half which I had meant to save.
The lingering tears, with sudden start,
Ran down the furrows of his cheek,
I knew he thank'd me in his heart,
Although he strove in vain to speak.
The joy that from such acts we gain
I'll try for your sake to explain.
First, God is pleased, who, as you know,
Marks every action that we do;
That God 'from whom all blessings flow,'
So many JAMES to me and you.
_Our mother_, next, had she but seen
Her gifts of kindness so employ'd,
Would _she_ not JAMES, well pleased have been;
And all my feelings then enjoy'd?
_The poor old man_, was _he_ not pleased?
Must not his load of sorrow be,
Though but for one short moment, eased,
To think, 'Then some one feels for me.'
But still you ask, of all this pleasure,
How much will to _the giver_ fall?
The whole, rich, undiminish'd treasure, -
_He_ feels, _he_ shares the joy of _all_.
We eat the cake, and it is gone;
What have we left to think upon?
Who's pleased by what we then have done?
How many pray, JAMES, more than one?
The joys by sympathy supplied
Are many, great, and dignified.
But do not on my word rely,
Whilst you, dear JAMES, the fact may try;
And if you do not find it true,
I'll next time eat _both halves_ with you!"

* * * * *

It is desirable that the master should add instrumental to vocal
music. He should be able to play on the violin, flute, or clarionet,
but, as he must speak much, the former is to be preferred. Such is the
influence of the weather, that children are almost always dull on dull
days, and then a little music is of great advantage. On wet days, when
they cannot go into the play-ground, it assists them in keeping the
step when they march, it cheers and animates their spirits, and, in
some measure, compensates for their privations. It will also aid
various evolutions.

Music may be employed, moreover, to soften the feelings, curb the
passions, and improve the temper, and it is strange that it should not
have been employed till the operation of the Infant System, to which
it is absolutely indispensable. When, for instance, after a trial by
jury, as explained in a former page, the children have been disposed
to harshness and severity, a soft and plaintive melody has produced
a different decision. To recite one case; when I was organizing the
Dry-gate School in Glasgow[A], a little girl in the gallery had lost
of her ear-rings (which, by the way, like beads, is a very improper
appendage, and ought by all means to be discouraged), and on
discovering the fact, commenced a most piteous lamentation. I made
inquiry for it immediately, while the children were seated in the
gallery, but in vain; and I subsequently found it in the hands of a
little girl at the bottom, who was attentively examining it, and who
gave it me the moment it was demanded. On asking the children what was
to be done in this case, they said she should have a pat of the hand.
I then showed, that had she intended to steal it, she would have
secreted it, which she did not, and that her attention was so absorbed
by it, that she had not heard my inquiry; but one little boy was not
satisfied; he said, "She kenned right weel it was nae her ain;" but
after singing a simple and touching air, I was pleased to find his
opinion changed. "Perhaps, sir," he said, "ye may as weel forgie her
this ance, as she is but a wee thing."

[Footnote A: This school has since become a very important Normal
school, from which many others have emanated, the head master
being the one I originally instructed: Mr. Stowe, also, one of the
directors, has applied the principles of the Infant School System to
the instruction of older children, which is called Stowe's Training
System; being applied to juveniles, with great success. I know of no
school, except the Dublin Normal Schools, equal to those, and of no
masters superior to those I have seen who have been taught there.]

The music chosen for children should be easy and simple, fluent and
varied. Hymn tunes should be of a rather lively character, as the more
dull and sombrous are not well adapted to the infant ear. Airs for
the tables or exercising songs are required to be very cheerful and
inspiring, and then they tend to excite pleasure and liveliness, which
should often be aimed at in an infant school.

As children take much interest in singing, and readily learn verses by
heart, so as to sing them, although not properly instructed in their
meaning or rightly understanding them, singing has been considered by
many persons the "soul of the system." This is a grievous error as
regards the intellectual advancement of the children, and still worse
as regards their health and that of the teacher. I have at times
entered schools as a visitor when the mistress has immediately made
the children show off by singing in succession a dozen pieces, as if
they were a musical box. Thus to sing without bounds is a very likely
way to bring the mistress to an early grave, and injure the lungs of
the dear little children. Use as not abusing is the proper rule,
tar all the new modes of teaching and amusing children that I have
introduced; but it has often appeared to me that abuse it as much as
possible was the rule acted upon. Call upon the first singers of the
day to sing in this manner, and where would they soon be?



_Method of instruction - Grammatical rhymes_.

* * * * *

"A few months ago, Mr. - - gave his little daughter, H - - , a child
of five years old, her first lesson in English Grammar; but no
alarming book of grammar was produced on the occasion, nor did the
father put on an unpropitious gravity of countenance. He explained
to the smiling child the nature of a verb, a pronoun, and a
substantive." - _Edgeworth_.

* * * * *

It has been well observed, "that grammar is the first thing taught,
and the last learnt." Now, though it is not my purpose to pretend that
I can so far simplify grammar, as to make all its rules comprehensible
to children so young as those found in infant schools, I do think
that enough may be imparted to them to render the matter more
comprehensible, than it is usually found to be in after years.

The great mystery of grammar results, in my opinion, from not making
the children acquainted with the things of which the words used are
the signs, and moreover, from the use of a number of hard words,
which the children repeat without understanding. For instance, in the
classification of words, or the parts of speech, as they are called,
_nouns, substantives_, and _adjectives_, convey, as terms, no idea to
the minds of children; and, in spite of the definitions by which their
import is explained, remain to them as unintelligible as the language
of magical incantation. That the children can easily comprehend the
difference between words which express the names of things, and
those which express their qualities, and between words which express
actions, and those which express the nature of those actions, is
undeniable; and this is just what should be taught in an infant
school. In the first place, let the children be accustomed to repeat
the names of things, not of any certain number of things set down on a
lesson card, or in a book, but of any thing, and every thing, in the
school-room, play-ground, &c.: next let them be exercised in telling
something relating to those things - _their qualities_; as for
instance, the school-room is _large, clean_, &c., - the children
are _quiet, good, attentive_, &c. - the pictures are _pretty_: the
play-ground is _pleasant_, &c. Having accustomed the children, in this
manner, first to give you the _names_ of things, and then to observe
and repeat something respecting them - you have gained two ends; you
have, first, taught the children to be observant and discriminative;
and, secondly, you have taught them to distinguish two distinct
classes of words, or _names_ and _qualities_; and you may now, if
you please, give them terms by which to distinguish these respective
classes, viz. _substantives_ and _adjectives_. They will no longer be
mysterious words, "signifying nothing," but recognized signs, by which
the children will understand and express definite ideas. The next
thing you have to teach them is, the distinction betwixt singular and
plural, and, if you think proper, masculine and feminine; but before
you talk to the children about _plural number_ and _masculine gender_,
&c., let them be made acquainted with the realities of which these
hard-sounding words are the signs.

Having made the classification of words clear and comprehensible, you
next proceed to the second grand class of words, the verbs, and their
adjuncts, the _adverbs_. With these you will proceed as with the
former; let action be distinguished by words; - the children _walk,
play, read, eat, run_; master _laughs, frowns, speaks, sings_; and
so on; letting the children find their own examples; then comes the
demand from the master for words expressing the manner of action. How
do the children _walk? - slowly, quickly, orderly_. How do they _read,
eat run!_ How does the master _laugh, speak, sing?_ The children now
find you ADVERBS, and it will be quite time enough to give them terms
for the classification they thus intuitively make, when they have a
clear idea of what they are doing. When this end is attained, your
children have some ideas of grammar, and those clear ones. There is no
occasion to stop here. Proceed, but slowly, and in the same method.
The tenses of the verbs, and the subdivision into active, passive, and
neuter, will require the greatest care and attention which the
teacher can use, to simplify them sufficiently for the children's
comprehension; as it will likewise enable them to understand the
nature and office of the other classes of words. As, however, it is
not my intention to write a grammar here, but merely to throw out a
few hints on the subject, I shall leave the further development of
the plan to the ingenuity of those who may think fit to adopt its
principles, as above laid down.

English Grammar doth us teach,
That it hath nine parts of speech; -
Article, adjective, and noun,
Verb, conjunction, and pronoun,
With preposition, and adverb,
And interjection, as I've heard.
The letters are just twenty-six,
These form all words when rightly mix'd.
The vowels are a, e, o, i,
With u, and sometimes w and y.
Without the little vowels' aid,
No word or syllable is made;
But consonants the rest we call,
And so of these we've mention'd all.
Three little words we often see,
Are articles, - _a, an_, and _the_.
A noun's the name of any thing -
As _school_, or _garden, hoop,_ or _swing_.
Adjectives tell the kind of noun -
As _great, small, pretty, white,_ or _brown_.
Instead of nouns the pronouns stand,
John's head, _his_ face, _my_ arm, _your_ hand.
Verbs tell of something being done -
To _read, write, count, sing, jump_, or _run_.
How things are done the adverbs tell -
As _slowly, quickly, ill_, or _well_.
Conjunctions join the nouns together -
As men _and_ children, wind _or_ weather.
A preposition stands before
A noun, as _in_ or _through_ a door.
The interjection shows surprise -
As, _oh!_ how pretty, _ah!_ how wise.
The whole are called nine parts of speech,
Which, reading, writing, speaking teach.


Three little words we hear and see
In frequent use, _a, an_, and _the_;
These words so useful, though so small,
Are those which articles we call.

The first two, _a_ and _an_, we use
When speaking of one thing alone;
For instance, we might wish to say
An _oak_, a _man_, a _dog_, a _bone_.

_The_ speaks of either one or more, -
The cow, the cows, the pig, the pigs,
The plum, the plums (you like a score),
The pear, the pears, the fig, the figs.

An oak, a man; means _any_ oak,
Or _any_ man of all mankind;
A dog, a bone, means _any_ dog,
Or _any_ bone a dog may find.

This article we only use
Whenever it may be our wish
To speak of some determined thing,
As thus; - _the_ bird, _the_ ox, _the_ fish.

By which we mean not _any_ bird,
That flying in the air may be,
Or _any_ ox amongst the herd,
Or _any_ fish in stream or sea.

But some one certain bird or ox,
Or fish (let it be which it may)
Of which we're speaking, or of which
We something mean to write or say.

Remember these things when you see
The little words, a, an, and the.
These words so useful, though so small
Are those which articles we call.

Nothing can be more absurd than to compel young children to commit
to memory mere abstract rules expressed in difficult and technical
language. Such requires a painful effort of the mind, and one
calculated to give a disgust against learning. _Grammar was formed on
language and not language by grammar_, and from this it necessarily
follows, that children should acquire a considerable store of words
from a knowledge of reading and of things, before their minds are
taxed by abstract rules. To be thoroughly understood they require
words to be compared with words, and one word to be compared with
another; and how can this be done without the memory being amply
supplied with them previously. Such simple instruction as this chapter
directs may easily be given; but to attempt much more would be like
endeavouring to build an elegant and ornamental structure before you
had collected materials to build with.



_Method Explained - Its success_.

* * * * *

"He tried each art." - _Goldsmith_.

* * * * *

All persons acquainted with children are aware of the torpor of some
minds, and of the occasional apathy of others, and to this it is
necessary to provide some counteraction. This is done effectually by
what is called the elliptical plan, according to which, words are
omitted in a narrative or poem repeated by the teacher, for the
purpose of being supplied by the children.

These exercises are very agreeable to the children, and by them some
features of the mental character become conspicuous. Children are
usually sensible of their need of instruction, but if they can make
it appear that any of their statements are original, their delight is
especially manifest. There seems, too, a dislike at first, to take any
trouble to arrive at the truth; careless children will therefore guess
several times; but an observant teacher will at once perceive that
there is no effort of the understanding, point it out to the child,
and thus prevent its recurrence.

Dr. Gilchrist observes, in a letter sent to me, "You have now the
whole method before you, and I shall boldly stake all my hard-earned
fame, as a practical orientalist, on the salutary consequences that
will spring from the adoption of short elliptical tales at your
interesting institution."

My usual practice with respect to the elliptical method of teaching,
is, to deliver some appropriate, simple, extemporaneous tale, leaving
out but few words at first, and those such as must obviously strike
the children; as they get used to the plan, I make the omissions more
frequent, and of words less obvious. The following specimens will
render the whole plain to the understandings of my readers.

A gardener's youngest[a] - - was walking among the
fruit[b] - - of his father's[c] - - , he saw a little[d]
- - fly up and sit on one of the[e] - - of the trees;
the[f] - - lifted a stone, and was going to[g] - - it at
the poor[h] - - which seemed to[i] - - most sweetly

My[k] - - is[l] - - of moss and hair,
The[m] - - are[n] - - and sheltered there;
When[o] - - soon shall my young[p] - - fly
Far from the[q] - - school[r] - - eye."

The[s] - - eldest[t] - - who understood the[u] - -

Online LibrarySamuel WilderspinThe Infant System For Developing the Intellectual and Moral Powers of all Children, from One to Seven years of Age → online text (page 27 of 29)