Thursday, July 3, 2008

The Kindergarten



Children Get the Idea That There Is Nothing Serious In Life, and They Get Into the Habit of Expecting to Be Always Amused — Other Objections.

It is a brave woman who nowadays dares to declare herself as out of sympathy with the kindergarten and its methods in even a slight degree. If with the courage of her convictions she does now and then venture an independent opinion, she is morally certain beforehand that she will be set down as a benighted heathen by her bosom friend and her next door neighbor alike. Nevertheless, like all questions of any importance, there are two sides to be considered.

I think every one must acknowledge the general superiority of the spirit of the gentle Frœbel's methods to the stern, inflexible law of blind obedience which obtained two or three generations ago, and perhaps if we err today it is a safer error into which we have fallen than that of which our grandmothers were innocently guilty so many years ago. But it is none the less true that there is much which is faulty in our training of children today, and for a large part of it the kindergarten, as we have it in its practical results, is responsible, however beautiful its theories may be.

In the first place, although it is supposed to have an exactly opposite effect, it gets children in the way of expecting to be entertained quite too much and makes them dependent for their amusement on their teachers and parents. This defeats the very object which the kindergarten is striving to attain, which is to make the child independent, fertile in resources within itself.

I have observed this one result in children again and again and do not recall a single instance where the child has gained in self reliance.

Again, there is a tendency that children may get the idea that there is nothing serious in life; that it is all one big joke, and, while in one way it is quite desirable to make everything pleasant for children and to keep the seriousness out of life as long as possible for them, still it is equally desirable for them to learn that there are times when it is necessary to obey at once and quickly, without stopping to reason, coax and explain, even though the reasons are afterward to be told them.

The free kindergarten, where the children of the poor are gathered in, and where they have an opportunity to learn beautiful thoughts and ideas, such as they never could have gained in their own wretched homes, is an institution whose power for good cannot be overestimated, and for such little ones it is a priceless blessing. But for the fortunate children who have good homes and refined, Christian parents it seems to me in very many cases almost if not quite unnecessary. The mother, if she will, can bring out the same beautiful ideas in the training of her own child, and because she knows its nature so thoroughly she can do infinitely more than the teacher. If the training at home is wrong, the kindergarten will not make it right, but if the really beautiful ideas and principles of the kindergarten are carried out in Christian homes by Christian parents the results are most satisfactory.

I very often see mothers who spend almost enough time going back and forth to kindergarten with their little toddlers to teach them all the pretty ideas which they are supposed to learn, and often in a much more practical way. One lady of my acquaintance is so enthusiastic on the subject that, besides sending all three of her little ones, she further tries to carry out some of the fine theories by keeping her children entirely by themselves outside of kindergarten hours. They are not even allowed to play with the little flock belonging to her next door neighbor, and I happen to know that these are better behaved than her own.

A short time ago her eldest boy was for the first time permitted to go to school and to mingle with other children of his own age. The mother conscientiously believes that she has been doing her whole duty by her boy, and that in being thus particular about his very early training she has now brought him to an age when he may safely try his wings alone. With no preparation to withstand outside influences he has all of a sudden been allowed to hop out of the home nest, and the result is that he is so beside himself with delight at being allowed to play with other children, their pastimes and practical ideas are all so very new to him, that he acts like a wild thing set free. He causes his teacher an immense amount of trouble and is, in fact, a very naughty boy, refusing to obey unless explicit reasons are assigned and each day having to be coaxed and persuaded in one way or another to do what the other children do as a matter of course.

It will perhaps be said in reply that this does not alter the truth of the theory, which is true enough, but it is one of many cases which go to prove that kindergarten training in its practical results is open to very many serious objections. My own little boy has so often seen children behaving in a way which seems wholly at variance with his ideas of what is right and respectful that he is firm in the belief that these objectionable things have been taught them at kindergarten, even though I have tried hard to convince him of his error. We have what we call our "home kindergarten," which is pleasant and profitable to us both, and I am sure it does not take as much of my time as many of my friends and neighbors spend going back and forth with their children to the place of meeting.

I do not mean to convey the idea that I have found all kindergarten children rude and ill behaved, for such is by no means the case. I have only wished to call attention to the fact that there are many imperfections in the system which should at least be made the subject of further consideration and reflection. — Mary M. Ward in Minneapolis Housekeeper.

Note: I'll just say Froebel here, since I think it would more likely show up in searches. And the school picture isn't from 1895 but is just an illustration.

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