Posts Tagged ‘kindergarten’

Some Notes on Froebel

Dear Reader,

If you have read through Charlotte Mason’s volumes, you may have noticed she mentions some guy named Froebel occasionally. Friedrich Froebel (1782-1852) is known as the founder of the kindergarten movement. For my own purposes, I have done a little reading about him and his ideas. I thought I would share with you the notes I have made on him. This is really only a scratching of the surface, but hopefully it can help you (and me) begin to understand the situation in Charlotte’s day. I have given a very brief bibliography at the end. I began with an internet search and ended up buying (on Kindle) and reading selections form Froebel’s The Education of Man, which seems to be his foundational work, comparable to Charlotte Mason’s Home Education, though much shorter.

Friedrich Froebel

Theology/Religion:

  • “the son of a Lutheran minister and a devout Christian” (from “A Brief History of the Kindergarten”)
  • speak of the Unity (big “U”) which he then identifies with God
  • seems to be a very Unitarian (at least not Trinitarian) view
  • Jesus (as far as I have read) seems to be spoken of as an example, not God incarnate and not a savior; he is “our highest ideal” (Education of Man, #94)
  • there is an eternal law, known through the external and the internal (but no mention of Scripture)
  • “the divine effluence” lives in all things; all is united
  • speaks of unity (God), diversity (nature) and individuality (man), but still all is Unity

The Nature of the child and of man

  • did not believe in original sin; man’s natural state is unmarred:
  • “. . . the nature of man is in itself good . . . Man is by no means naturally bad, nor has he originally bad or evil qualities and tendencies . . .” (Education of Man, #51)

  • this state is rarely seen; it is usually very brief
  • though he doesn’t use the word sin, he sees the bad parts of human nature coming in when the child is somehow interfered with; the bad comes from without, not within the individual
  • ” . . .a suppressed or perverted good quality — a good tendency, only repressed, misunderstood, or misguided — lies originally at the bottom of every shortcoming in man” (Education of Man, #52)

  • ” . . . it generally is some other human being, not unfrequently the educator himself, that first makes the child or the boy bad. This is accomplished by attributing evil — or, at least, wrong — motives to all that the child or boy does from ignorance, precipitation, or even from a keen and praiseworthy sense of right and wrong.” (Education of Man, #52)

  • The cure for badness is to find and cultivate the good that has been repressed and to build it up again. “Thus the shortcoming will at last disappear, although it may involve a hard struggle against habit, but not against original depravity in man.” (Education of Man, #52)
  • once a child is given a bad start, it is hard, if not impossible, to come back from
  • people are inherently creative because they are made in the image of God and God was first (ie in Genesis) a Creator
  • the child goes through a kind of evolution (my word, not his) mirroring what all of humanity has gone through; the individual’s growth mirrors that of the race

Ideas about Education:

  • massive development occurs between birth and age 3
  • though he argues against clear lines between the stages of life, he clearly sees different developmental stages
  • because we can have such a profound effect on children, what we do is vitally important. We can mess up their progress for life because each stage depends upon the next. And once we screw them up, it is very hard to rectify.
  • children learn about life through games: “Play is the highest expression of human development in childhood, for it alone is the free expression of what is in a child’s soul.”
  • “Froebel believed that playing with blocks gives fundamental expression to a child’s soul and to the unity of life. Blocks represent the actual building blocks of the universe. The symmetry of the soul is symbolized as a child constructs with blocks, bringing them together to form a whole.” (from “Friedrich Froebel: His Life and Influence on Education”) 
  • The goal of education is a kind of metaphysical unity. “The aim of instruction is to bring the scholar to insight into the unity of all things, into the fact that all things have their being and life in God, so that in due time he may be able to act and live in accordance with this insight.” (Education of Man, #56)
  • The teacher is of paramount importance because he is “an intelligent consciousness” which “hovers over and between the outer world and the scholar, which unites in itself the essence of both, mediating between the two, imparting to them language and mutual understanding.” (Education of Man, #56)

Parts of a Froebel education:

  • Kindergarten (ages 4-6?): creative play, singing and dancing, observing and nurturing plants (this is not from Froebel’s book but from others writing about him)
  • Subjects for ages 6-8/9: he mentions religious instruction as the first subject but this is not Christianity as we define it; he did not use the Bible in his schools
  • nature is to be known for it is a revelation of God (see Education of Man, p. 252 for examples of lesson); heavy on classification; seems to be more about “object lessons”; he later mentions short excursions and walks outdoors
  • other subjects: physical exercise, to learn to control the body; language exercises, beginning with object lessons (see Education of Man, p. 273); mathematics comes out of this; geometry (see below); color which includes painting; grammatical exercises; writing; reading (seems to follow writing, oddly enough)
  • there is an emphasis on what we would call geometry; he likes shapes and forms because of his emphasis on the ideal and on unity; his famous “gifts” (ie wooden blocks and other such toys) were used for this
  • Stories: boys learn about their own lives by studying those of others; this is why they love legends and tales

In the spectrum of belief (as described by CM in Parents and Children, chapter 4):

  • tabula rasa — children are blank slates
  • children are empty vases (Pestalozzi)
  • children are plants  <———— Froebel
  • “children are born persons” (CM)

Later Influence:

  • influenced art and architecture incl. Frank Lloyd Wright and Buckminster Fuller; Klee, Kandinsky, Mondrian
  • influenced later educationalists incl. Montessori and Steiner (Waldorf)

What CM had to say about him/his work:

  • Good principles but bad, “wooden” practices: “On the whole, we may say that some of the principles which should govern Kindergarten training are precisely those in which every thoughtful mother endeavours to bring up her family; while the practices of the Kindergarten, being only ways, amongst others, of carrying out these principles, and being apt to become stereotyped and wooden, are unnecessary, but may be adopted so far as they fit in conveniently with the mother’s general scheme for the education of her family.” (Home Education, p. 181)
  • kindergarten (garden) idea tends to negate the individuality of the child: “And yet I enter a caveat. Our first care should be to preserve the individuality, to give play to the personality, of children. Now persons do not grow in a garden, much less in a greenhouse.” (Home Education, p. 186; see also Parents and Children, chapter 4)
  • “Organised Games are not Play” (School Education, chapter 4)
  • ” . . . it is questionable whether the conception of children as cherished plants in a cultured garden has not in it an element of weakness.” (School Education, chapter 6)

Sources:

Friedrich Froebel: His Life and Influence on Education,” by Miriam LeBlanc at Community Playthings

Froebelweb.org

A Brief History of the Kindergarten,” at Froebel Gifts.com

Froebel’s Kindergarten Curriculum Method & Educational Philosophy,” at Froebel Gifts.com

The Education of Man, by Friedrich Froebel.  Translated by W.N. Hailmann. New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1908.

 

 

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