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- The Story of My Life, Volume 3. - 7/7 -
one, and your child comes to ask you about anything which interests him, break off your conversation, no matter what may be the rank of the person who is speaking to you," and who also directed that the child should receive not only love but respect. The first postulate shows that he valued the demands of the soul far above social forms. Thus it happened that during the first years of the institute, which he then governed himself, he was reproached with paying too little attention to the outward forms, the "behaviour," the manners of the boys entrusted to his care. His characteristic answer was: "I place no value on these forms unless they depend upon and express the inner self. Where that is thoroughly trained for life and work, externals may be left to themselves, and will supplement the other." The opponent admits this, but declares that the Keilhau method, which made no account of outward form, may defer this "supplement" in a way disastrous to certain pupils. Froebel's answer is: "Certainly, a wax pear can be made much more quickly and is just as beautiful as those on the tree, which require a much longer time to ripen. But the wax pear is only to look at, can barely be touched, far less could it afford refreshment to the thirsty and the sick. It is empty--a mere nothing! The child's nature, it is said, resembles wax. Very well, we don't grudge wax fruits to any one who likes them. But nothing must be expected from them if we are ill and thirsty; and what is to become of them when temptations and trials come, and to whom do they not come? Our educational products must mature slowly, but thoroughly, to genuine human beings whose inner selves will be deficient in no respect. Let the tailor provide for the clothes."
Froebel himself was certainly very careless in the choice of his. The long cloth coat in which I always saw him was fashioned by the village tailor, and the old gentleman probably liked the garment because half a dozen children hung by the tails when he crossed the court-yard. It needed to be durable; but the well-fitting coats worn by Barop and Langethal were equally so, and both men believed that the good gardener should also care for the form of the fruit he cultivates, because, when ripe, it is more valuable if it looks well. They, too, cared nothing for wax fruits; nay, did not even consider them because they did not recognize them as fruit at all.
Froebel's conversion was delayed, but after his marriage it was all the more thorough. The choice of this intellectual and kindly natured man, who set no value on the external forms of life, was, I might say, "naturally" a very elegant woman, a native of Berlin, the widow of the Kriegsrath Hofmeister. She speedily opened Froebel's eyes to the aesthetic and artistic element in the lives of the boys entrusted to his care--the element to which Langethal, from the time of his entrance into the institution, had directed his attention.
So in Keilhau, too, woman was to pave the way to greater refinement.
This had occurred long before our entrance into the institution. Froebel did not allude to wax pears now when he saw the pupils well dressed and courteous in manner; nay, afterwards, in establishing the kindergarten, he praised and sought to utilize the comprehensive influence upon humanity of "woman," the guardian of lofty morality. Wives and mothers owe him as great a debt of gratitude as children, and should never forget the saying, "The mother's heart alone is the true source of the welfare of the child, and the salvation of humanity." The fundamental necessity of the hour is to prepare this soil for the noble human blossom, and render it fit for its mission.
To meet the need mentioned in this sentence the whole labour of the evening of his life was devoted. Amid many cares and in defiance of strong opposition he exerted his best powers for the realization of his ideal, finding courage to do so in the conviction uttered in the saying, "Only through the pure hands and full hearts of wives and mothers can the kingdom of God become a reality."
Unfortunately, I cannot enter more comprehensively here into the details of the kindergarten system--it is connected with Keilhau only in so far that both were founded by the same man. Old Froebel was often visited there by female kindergarten teachers and pedagogues who wished to learn something of this new institute. We called the former "Schakelinen"; the latter, according to a popular etymology, "Schakale." The odd name bestowed upon the female kindergarten teachers was derived, as I learned afterwards, from no beast of prey, but from a figure in Jean Paul's "Levana," endowed with beautiful gifts. Her name is Madame Jacqueline, and she was used by the author to give expression to his own opinions of female education. Froebel has adopted many suggestions of Jean Paul, but the idea of the kindergarten arose from his own unhappy childhood. He wished to make the first five years of life, which to him had been a chain of sorrows, happy and fruitful to children--especially to those who, like him, were motherless.
Sullen tempers, the rod, and the strictest, almost cruel, constraint had overshadowed his childhood, and now his effort was directed towards having the whole world of little people join joyously in his favourite cry, "Friede, Freude, Freiheit!" (Peace, Pleasure, Liberty), which corresponds with the motto of the Jahn gymnasium, "Frisch, fromm, frohlich, frei."
He also desired to utilize for public instruction the educational talents which woman undoubtedly possesses.
As in his youth, shoulder to shoulder with Pestalozzi, he had striven to rear growing boys in a motherly fashion to be worthy men, he now wished to turn to account, for the benefit of the whole wide circle of younger children, the trait of maternal solicitude which exists in every woman. Women were to be trained for teachers, and the places where children received their first instruction were to resemble nurseries as closely as possible. He also desired to see the maternal tone prevail in this instruction.
He, through whose whole life had run the echo of the Saviour's words, "Suffer little children to come unto me," understood the child's nature, and knew that its impulse to play must be used, in order to afford it suitable future nourishment for the mind and soul.
The instruction, the activity, and the movements of the child should be associated with the things which most interest him, and meanwhile it should be constantly employed in some creative occupation adapted to its intelligence.
If, for instance, butter was spoken of, by the help of suitable motions the cow was milked, the milk was poured into a pan and skimmed, the cream was churned, the butter was made into pats and finally sent to market. Then came the payment, which required little accounts. When the game was over, a different one followed, perhaps something which rendered the little hands skilful by preparing fine weaving from strips of paper; for Froebel had perceived that change brought rest.
Every kindergarten should have a small garden, to afford an opportunity to watch the development of the plants, though only one at a time--for instance, the bean. By watching the clouds in the sky he directed the childish intelligence to the rivers, seas, and circulation of moisture. In the autumn the observation of the chrysalis state of insects was connected with that of the various stages of their existence.
In this way the child can be guided in its play to a certain creative activity, rendered familiar with the life of Nature, the claims of the household, the toil of the peasants, mechanics, etc., and at the same time increase its dexterity in using its fingers and the suppleness of its body. It learns to play, to obey, and to submit to the rules of the school, and is protected from the contradictory orders of unreasonable mothers and nurses.
Women and girls, too, were benefitted by the kindergarten.
Mothers, whose time, inclination, or talents, forbade them to devote sufficient time to the child, were relieved by the kindergarten. Girls learned, as if in a preparatory school of future wife and motherhood, how to give the little one what it needed, and, as Froebel expresses it, to become the mediators between Nature and mind.
Yet even this enterprise, the outcome of pure love for the most innocent and harmless creatures, was prohibited and persecuted as perilous to the state under Frederick William IV, during the period of the reaction which followed the insurrection of 1848.
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