The "box of counters, and the red-veined stone," the brilliant quaint leaf, the twig, the bit of straw, all the child's treasures—these are the stimuli which, according to the biologist educator, must be supplied if the activities appropriate to each stage are to be called forth. Every one knows for how long a period a child can occupy himself examining, comparing and experimenting.
"Like things," says Froebel, "must be ranged together, unlike things separated.... The child loves all things that enter his small horizon and extend his little world. To him the least thing is a new discovery, but it must not come dead into the little world, nor lie dead therein, lest it obscure the small horizon and crush the little world. Therefore the child would know why he loves this thing, he would know all its properties. For this reason he examines the object on all sides; for this reason he tears and breaks it; for this reason he puts it in his mouth and bites it. We reprove the child for naughtiness and foolishness; and yet he is wiser than we who reprove him."
This experimenting is one side of a child's play, and the things with which he thus experiments are his toys, or, as Froebel puts it, "play material." Much of this is and ought to be self found, and where the child can find his own toys he asks for little more. The seaside supplies him with sand and water, stones, shells, rock pools, seaweed, and he asks us for nothing but a spade, which digs deeper than his naked hands, and a pail to carry water, which hands alone cannot convey.
The vista of the sand is the child's free land; where the grown-ups seem half afraid; even nurse forgets to sniff and to call "come here" as she sits very near to the far up cliff and you venture alone with your spade....
Even indoors, a child could probably find for himself all the material for investigation, all the stimuli he requires, if it were not that his investigations interfere with adult purposes. Even in very primitive times the child probably experimented upon the revolving qualities of his mother's spindle till she found it more convenient to let him have one for himself, and it became a toy or top.
Froebel, who made so much of play, to whom it was spontaneous education and self realisation, was bound to see that toys were important. "The man advanced in insight," he said, "even when he gives his child a plaything, must make clear to himself its purpose and the purpose of playthings and occupation material in general. This purpose is to aid the child freely to express what lies within him, and to bring the outer world nearer to him, and thus to serve as mediator between the mind and the world." Froebel's "Gifts" were an attempt to supply right play material. True to his faith in natural impulse, Froebel watched children to see what playthings they found for themselves, or which, among those presented by adults, were most appreciated. Soft little coloured balls seemed right material for a baby's tender hand, and it was clear that when the child could crawl about he was ready for something which he could roll on the floor and pursue on all fours. As early as two years old he loves to take things out of boxes and to move objects about, so boxes of bricks were supplied, graded in number and in variety of form. Not for a moment did Froebel suggest that the child was to be limited to these selected playthings, he expressly stated the contrary, and he frequently said that spontaneity was not to be checked. But from what has followed, from the way in which these little toys have been misused, we are tempted to speculate on whether these "Gifts" supplied that definite foundation without which, in these days, no notice would have been taken of the new ideas, or whether they have proved the sunken rock on which much that was valuable has perished. The world was not ready to believe in the educational value of play, just pure play. Nor is it yet. For the new system in its "didactic" apparatus out-Froebels Froebel in his mistake of trying to systematise the material for spontaneous education. Carefully planned, as were Froebel's own "gifts," the new apparatus presents a series of exercises in sense discrimination, satisfying no doubt while unfamiliar, but suffering from the defect of the "too finished and complex plaything," in which Froebel saw a danger "which slumbers like a viper under the roses." The danger is that "the child can begin no new thing with it, cannot produce enough variety by its means; his power of creative imagination, his power of giving outward form to his own ideas are thus actually deadened."
"To realise his aims, man, and more particularly the child, requires material, though it be only a bit of wood or a pebble, with which he makes something or which he makes into something. In order to lead the child to the handling of material we give him the ball, the cube and other bodies, the Kindergarten gifts. Each of these gifts incites the child to free spontaneous activity, to independent movement."
Froebel would have sympathised deeply with the views of Peter as expressed by Mr. Wells in regard to Ideals, which he, however, called toys:
"The theory of Ideals played almost as important a part in the early philosophy of Peter as it did in the philosophy of Plato. But Peter did not call them Ideals, he called them 'toys.' Toys were the simplified essences of things, pure, perfect and manageable. Real things were troublesome, uncontrollable, over-complicated and largely irrelevant. A Real Train, for example, was a poor, big, clumsy, limited thing that was obliged to go to Redhill, or Croydon, or London, that was full of unnecessary strangers, usually sitting firmly in the window seats, that you could do nothing with at all. A Toy Train was your very own; it took you wherever you wanted, to Fairyland, or Russia, or anywhere, at whatever pace you chose."
[Footnote 15: Joan and Peter, p. 77.]
Froebel asks what presents are most prized by the child and by mankind in general, and answers, "Those which afford him a means of developing his mind, of giving it freest activity, of expressing it clearly." For her ideas as to educative material Dr. Montessori went, not to normal life, not even to children, but to what may he called curative appliances, to the material invented by Seguin to develop the dormant powers of defective children. She herself came to the study of education from the medical side, the curative. Froebel, with his belief in human instinct, naturally went to what he called the mother's room, which we should call the nursery, and to the garden where the child finds his "bright round smooth pebble" and his "brilliant quaint leaf." No one would seek to under-value the importance of sense discrimination, but it can be exercised without formalism, and it need not be mere discrimination. It is in connection with the Taste and Smell games that Froebel tells the mother that "the higher is rooted in the lower, morality in instinct, the spiritual in the material." The baby enjoys the scent, thanks the kind spirit that put it there, and must let mother smell it too, so from the beginning there is a touch of aesthetic pleasure and a recognition of "what the dear God is saying outside." As to how sense discrimination may be exercised without formality, there is a charming picture in The Camp School:
"And then that sense of Smell, which got so little exercise and attention that it went to sleep altogether, so that millions get no warning and no joy through it. We met the need for its education in the Baby Camp by having a Herb Garden. Back from the shelters and open ground, in a shady place, we have planted fennel, mint, lavender, sage, marjoram, thyme, rosemary, herb gerrard and rue. And over and above these pungently smelling things there are little fields of mignonette. We have balm, indeed, everywhere in our garden. The toddlers go round the beds of herbs, pinching the leaves with their tiny fingers and then putting their fingers to their noses. There are two little couples going the rounds just now. One is a pair of new comers, very much astonished, the other couple old inhabitants, delighted to show the wonders of the place! Coming back with odorous hands, they perhaps want to tell us about the journey. Their eyes are bright, their mouths open."
In Chapter II. we quoted the biologist educator's ideal conception of the surroundings best suited to bring about right development. Let us now visit one or two actual Kindergartens and see if these conditions are in any way realised by the followers of Froebel.
The first one we enter is certainly a large bright room, for one side is open to light, with two large windows, and between them glass doors opening into the playground. There is no heap of sand in a corner, nor is there a tub of water; for the practical teacher knows how little hands, if not little feet, with their vigorous but as yet uncontrolled movements would splash the water and scatter the sand with dire effects as to the floor, which the theorist fondly imagines would always be clean enough to sit upon. But there is a sand-tray big enough and deep enough for six to eight children to use individually or together. As spontaneous activity, with its ceaseless efforts at experimenting, ceaselessly spills the sand, within easy reach are little brushes and dustpans to remedy such mishaps. The sand-tray is lined with zinc so that the sand can be replaced by water for boats and ducks, etc., when desired.
The low wall blackboard is there ready for use. Bright pictures are on the walls, well drawn and well coloured, some from nursery rhymes, some of Caldecott's, a frieze of hen and chickens, etc. Boxes for houses and shops are not in evidence, but their place is taken by bricks of such size and quantity that houses, shops, motors, engines and anything else may be built large enough for the children themselves to be shopkeepers or drivers, and there are also pieces of wood to use for various purposes of construction. There is no cooking stove, but simple cooking can be carried out on an open fire, and when a baking oven is required, an eager procession makes its way to the kitchen, where a kindly housekeeper permits the use of her oven. There is a doll's cot with a few dolls of various sizes. There are flowers and growing bulbs. There are light low tables and chairs, a family of guinea pigs in a large cage, and there is a cupboard which the children can reach.
Water is to be found in a passage room, between the Kindergarten and the rooms for children above that stage, and here, so placed that the children themselves can find and reach everything, are the sawdust, bran and oats for the guinea pigs, with a few carrots and a knife to cut them, some tiny scrubbing-brushes and a wiping-up cloth. Here also are stored the empty boxes, corrugated paper and odds and ends in constant demand for constructions.
In the cupboard there are certain shelves from which anything may be taken, and some from which nothing may be taken without leave. For the teacher here is of opinion that children of even three and four are not too young to begin to learn the lesson of meum and tuum, and she also thinks it is good to have some treasures which do not come out every day, and which may require more delicate handling than the ordinary toy ought to need. For this ought to be strong enough to bear unskilled handling and vigorous movements, for a broken toy ought to be a tragedy. At the same time it is part of a child's training to learn to use dainty objects with delicate handling, and such things form the children's art gems, showing beauty of construction and of colour. Children as well as grown-ups have their bad days, when something out of the usual is very welcome. "Do you know there's nothing in this world that I'm not tired of?" was said one day by a boy of six usually quite contented. "Give me something out of the cupboard that I've never seen before," said another whose digestion was troublesome. The open shelves contain pencils and paper, crayons, paint-boxes, boxes of building blocks, interlocking blocks, wooden animals, jigsaw and other puzzles, coloured tablets for pattern laying, toy scales, beads to thread, dominoes, etc., the only rule being that what is taken out must be tidily replaced. This Kindergarten is part of a large institution, and the playground, to which it has direct access, is of considerable extent. There is a big stretch of grass and another of asphalt, so that in suitable weather the tables and chairs, the sand-tray, the bricks and anything else that is wanted can be carried outside so that the children can live in the open, which of course is better than any room. In the playground there is a bank where the children can run up and down, and there are a few planks and a builder's trestle, on which they can be poised for seesaws or slides, and these are a constant source of pleasure.
[Footnote 16: See p. 55.]
In another Kindergarten we find the walls enlivened with Cecil Aldin's fascinating friezes: here is Noah with all the animals walking in cheerful procession, and in the next room is an attractive procession of children with push-carts, hoops and toy motor cars. When we make our visit the day is fine and the room is empty, the children are all outside. The garden is not large, but there is some space, and under the shade of two big trees we find rugs spread, on which the children are sitting, standing, kneeling and lying, according to their occupation. One is building with large blocks, and must stand up to complete her erection; another is lying flat putting together a jigsaw; another, a boy, is threading beads; while another has built railway arches, and with much whistling and the greatest carefulness is guiding his train through the tunnels. The play is almost entirely individual, but very often you hear, "O Miss X, do come and see what I've done!" After about an hour, during which a few of the children have changed their occupations, those who wish to do so join some older children who are playing games involving movement. This may be a traditional game like Looby Loo, or Round and round the Village, or it may be one of the best of the old Kindergarten games. After lunch the washing up is to be done in a beautiful new white sink which is displayed with pride.
Our next visit is to a Free Kindergarten. The rooms are quite as attractive, as rich in charming friezes as in the others, and the furnishing in some ways is much the same. But here we see what we have not seen before, for here is a large room filled with tiny hammock beds. The windows are wide open, but the blinds are down, for the children are having their afternoon sleep.
Here, as in all Free Kindergartens, the children are provided with simple but pretty overalls which the parents are pleased to wash. House shoes are also provided, partly to minimise the noise from active little feet, but principally because the poor little boots are often a painfully inadequate protection from wet pavements. The children are trained to tidy ways and to independence. They cannot read, but by picture cards they recognise their own beds, pegs and other properties. They take out and put away their own things, and give all reasonable help in laying tables and serving food, in washing, dusting and sweeping up crumbs, as is done in any true Kindergarten.
In the garden of this Free Kindergarten there is a large sand-pit, surrounded by a low wooden framework, and having a pole across the middle so that it resembles a cucumber frame and a cover can be thrown over the sand to keep it clean when not in use.
Froebel's own list of playthings contains, besides balls and building blocks, coloured beads, coloured tablets for laying patterns, coloured papers for cutting, folding and plaiting; pencils, paints and brushes; modelling clay and sand; coloured wool for sewing patterns and pictures; and such little sticks and laths as children living in a forest region find for themselves. Considered in themselves, apart from the traditions of formality, these are quite good play material or stimuli, and Froebel meant the time to come "when we shall speak of the doll and the hobby horse as the first plays of the awakening life of the girl and the boy," but he died before he had done so. In the Mother Songs, too, we find quite a good list of toys which are now to be found in most Kindergartens.
Toys for the playground should be provided—a sand-heap, a seesaw, a substantial wheel-barrow, hoops, balls, reins and perhaps skipping-ropes. Something on which the child can balance, logs or planks which they can move about, and a trestle on which these can be supported, are invaluable. It was while an addition was being made to our place that we realised the importance of such things, and, as in Froebel's case, "our teachers were the children themselves." They were so supremely happy running up and down the plank roads laid by the builders for their wheel-barrows, seesawing or balancing and sliding on others, that we could not face the desolation of emptiness which would come when the workmen removed their things. So, for a few pounds, all that the children needed was secured, ordinary planks for seesawing, narrower for balancing and a couple of trestles. One exercise the children had specially enjoyed was jumping up and down on yielding planks, and this the workmen had forbidden because the planks might crack. But a sympathetic foreman told us what was needed: two planks of special springy wood were fastened together by cross pieces at each end, and besides making excellent slides, these made most exciting springboards.
For representations of real life the children require dolls and the simplest of furniture—a bed, which need only be a box, some means of carrying out the doll's washing, her personal requirements as well as her clothes; some little tea-things and pots and pans. A doll's house is not necessary, and can only be used by two or three children, but will be welcomed if provided, and its appointments give practice in dainty handling. Trains and signals of some kind, home-made or otherwise; animals for farm or Zoo; a pair of scales for a shop, and some sort of delivery van, which, of course, may be home-made.
There must also be provision for increase of skill and possibility of creation. If the Kindergarten can afford it, some of the Montessori material may be provided; there is no reason, except expense, why it should not be used if the children like it, and if it does not take up too much room. But it has no creative possibilities, and even at three years old this is required. Scissors are an important tool, and an old book of sample wall-papers is most useful; old match-boxes and used matches, paste and brushes and some old magazines to cut. Blackboard chalks and crayons, paint-boxes with four to six important colours, some Kindergarten folding papers, all these supply colour. Certain toys seem specially suited to give hand control, e.g. a Noah's Ark, where the small animals are to be set out carefully, tops or teetotums and tiddlywinks, at which some little children become proficient. The puzzle interest must not be forgotten, and simple jigsaw pictures give great pleasure. It is interesting to note here that the youngest children fit these puzzles not by the picture but by form, though they know they are making a picture and are pleased when it is finished. The puzzle with six pictures on the sides of cubes is much more difficult than a simple jigsaw.
All sorts of odds and ends come in useful, and especially for the poorer children these should be provided. Any one who remembers the pleasure derived from coloured envelope bands, from transparent paper from crackers, and from certain advertisements, will save these for children to whose homes such treasures never come. A box containing scraps of soft cloth, possibly a bit of velvet, some bits of smooth and shining coloured silk give the pleasure of sense discrimination without the formality of the Montessori graded boxes, and are easier to replace. Some substitute for "mother's button box," a box of shells or coloured seeds, a box of feathers, all these things will be played with, which means observation and discrimination, comparison and contrast, and in addition, where colour is involved, there is aesthetic pleasure, and this also enters into the touching of smooth or soft surfaces. Softness is a joy to children, as is shown in the woolly lambs, etc., provided for babies. A little one of my acquaintance had a bit of blanket which comforted many woes, and when once I offered her a feather boa as a substitute she sobbed out: "It isn't so soft as the blanket!"
In one of Miss McMillan's early books she wrote: "Very early the child begins more or less consciously to exercise the basal sense—the sense of touch. On waking from sleep he puts his tiny hands to grasp something, or turns his head on the firm soft pillow. He touches rather than looks, at first (for his hands and fingers perform a great many movements long before he learns to turn his eyeballs in various directions or follow the passage even of a light), and through touching many things he begins his education. If he is the nursling of wealthy parents, it is possible that his first exercises are rather restricted. He touches silk, ivory, muslin and fine linen. That is all, and that is not much. But the child of the cottager is often better off, for his mother gives him a great variety of objects to keep him quiet. The ridiculous command, 'Do not touch,' cannot be imposed on him while he is screaming in his cradle or protesting in his dinner chair; and so all manner of things—reels, rings, boxes, tins, that is to say a variety of surfaces—is offered to him, to his great delight and advantage. And lest he should not get the full benefit of such privilege he carries everything to his mouth, where the sense of touch is very keen."
[Footnote 17: Early Childhood: Swan Sonnenschein, published 1900.]
Among the treasures kept for special occasions there may be pipes for soap-bubbles, a prism of some kind with which to make rainbows, a tiny mirror to make "light-birds" on the wall and ceiling, and a magnet with the time-honoured ducks and fish, if these are still to be bought, along with other articles, delicately made or coloured, which require care.
Pictures and picture-books should also be considered; some being in constant use, some only brought out occasionally. For the very smallest children some may be rag books, but always children should be taught to treat books carefully. The pictures on the walls ought to be changed, sometimes with the children's help, sometimes as a surprise and discovery. For that purpose it is convenient to have series of pictures in frames with movable backs, but brown-paper frames will do quite well. The pictures belonging to the stories which have been told to the children ought to have a prominent place, and if the little ones desire to have one retold they will ask for it.
It is of course not at all either necessary or even desirable for any one school to have everything, and children should not have too much within the range of their attention at one time. Individual teachers will make their own selections, but in all cases there must be sufficient variety of material for each child to carry out his natural desire for observation, experiment and construction.
"ALL THE WORLD'S A STAGE"
A wedding or a festival, a mourning or a funeral... As if his whole vocation were endless imitation.
In every country and in every age those who have eyes to see have watched the same little dramas. What Wordsworth saw was seen nineteen hundred years ago in the Syrian market-place, where the children complained of their unresponsive companions: "We have piped the glad chaunt of the marriage, but ye have not danced, we have wailed our lamentation, but ye have not joined our mourning procession."
Since the very name Kindergarten is to imply a teaching which fulfils the child's own wants and desires, it must supply abundant provision for the dramatic representation of life. Adults have always been ready to use for their own purposes the strong tendency to imitate, which is a characteristic of all normal children, but few even now realise to what extent a child profits by his imitative play. The explanation that Froebel found for this will now be generally accepted, viz. that only by acting it out can a child fully grasp an idea, "For what he tries to represent or do, he begins to understand." He thinks in action, or as one writer put it, he "apperceives with his muscles." This explanation seems to cover imitative play, from the little child's imitative wave of the hand up to such elaborate imitations as are described in Stanley Hall's Story of a Sand Pile, or in Dewey's Schools of To-morrow. But when we think of the joy of such imaginative play as that of Red Indians, shipwrecks and desert islands, we feel that these show a craving for experience, for life, such a craving as causes the adult to lose himself in a book of travels or in a dramatic performance, and which explains the phenomenal success of the cinema, poor stuff as it is.
[Footnote 18: Or that delightful "Play Town" in The Play Way.]
We thirst for experiences, even for those which are unpleasant; we wonder "how it feels" to be up in an aeroplane or down in a submarine. We are far indeed from desiring air-raids, but if such things must be, there is a curious satisfaction in being "in it." And though the experiences they desire may be matters of everyday occurrence to us, children probably feel the craving even more keenly. "You may write what you like," said a teacher, and a somewhat inarticulate child wrote, "I was out last night, it was late." "Why, Jack," said another, "you've painted your cow green; did you ever see a green cow?" "No," said Jack, "but I'd like to."
In early Kindergarten days this imitative and dramatic tendency was chiefly met in games, and the children were by turns butterflies and bees, bakers and carpenters, clocks and windmills. The programme was suggested by Froebel's Mother Songs, in which he deals with the child's nearest environment. Too often, indeed, the realities to which Froebel referred were not realities to English children, but that was recognised as a defect, and the ideas themselves were suitable. Chickens, pigeons and farmyard animals; the homely pussy cat or canary bird; the workers to whom the child is indebted, farmer, baker, miner, builder or carpenter; the sun, the rain, the rainbow and the "light-bird"—such ideas were chosen as suitable centres, and stories and songs, games and handwork clustered round.
What was the reason for this binding of things together? Why did Froebel constantly plead for "unity" even for the tiny child, and tell us to link together his baby finger-games or his first weak efforts at building with his blocks chairs, tables, beds, walls and ladders?
Looking back over the years, it seems as if this idea of joining together has been trying to assert itself under various forms, each of which has reigned for its day, has been carried to extremes and been discarded, only to come up again in a somewhat different form. It has always seemed to aim at extending and ordering the mind content of children. For the Froebelian it was expressed in such words as "unity," "connectedness" and "continuity," while the Herbartians called it "correlation." Under these terms much work has been, and is still being, carried out, some very good and some very foolish. Ideas catch on, however, because of the truth that is in them, not because of the error which is likely to be mixed with it, and even the weakest effort after connection embodies an important truth. When we smile over absurd stories of forced "correlation," we seldom stop to think of what went on before the Kindergarten existed, for instance the still more absurd and totally disconnected lists of object lessons. One actual list for children of four years old ran: Soda, Elephant, Tea, Pig, Wax, Cow, Sugar, Spider, Potatoes, Sheep, Salt, Mouse, Bread, Camel.
Kindergarten practice was far ahead of this, for here the teacher was expected to choose her material according to (1) Time of Year; (2) Local Conditions, such as the pursuits of the people; (3) Social Customs. When it was possible the children went to see the real blacksmith or the real cow, and to let game or handwork be an expression, and a re-ordering of ideas gained was natural and right. Connectedness, however, meant more than this, it meant that the material itself was to be treated so that the children would be helped to that real understanding which comes from seeing things in their relations to each other. As Lloyd Morgan puts it, "We are mainly at work upon the mental background. It is our object to make this background as rich and full and orderly as possible, so that whatever is brought to the focus of consciousness shall be set in a relational background, which shall give it meaning; and so that our pupils may be able to feel the truth which Browning puts into the mouth of Fra Lippo Lippi:
This world's no blot for us Nor blank; it means intensely and means good: To find its meaning is my meat and drink."
According to Professor Dewey, some such linking or joining is necessary "to foster that sense which is at the basis of attention and of all intellectual growth, the sense of continuity." The Herbartian correlation was designed to further that well-connected circle of thought out of which would come the firm will, guided by right insight, inspired by true feeling, which is their aim in education.
Froebelian unity and connectedness have, like the others, an intellectual and a moral aspect. Intellectually "the essential characteristic of instruction is the treatment of individual things in their relationships"; morally, the idea of unity is that we are all members one of another. The child who, through unhindered activity, has reached the stage of self-consciousness is to go on to feel himself a part, a member of an ever-increasing whole—family, school, township, country, humanity—the All; to be "one with Nature, man and God."
Every one has heard something of the new teaching—which, by the way, sheds clearer light over Froebel's warning against arbitrary interference—viz. that a great part of the nervous instability which affects our generation is due to the thwarting and checking of the natural impulses of early years. But this new school also gives us something positive, and reinforces older doctrines by telling us to integrate behaviour. "This matter of the unthwarted lifelong progress of behaviour integration is of profound importance, for it is the transition from behaviour to conduct. The more integrated behaviour is harmonious and consistent behaviour toward a larger and more comprehensive situation, toward a bigger section of the universe; it is lucidity and breadth of purpose. The child playing with fire is only wrong conduct because it is behaviour that does not take into account consequences; it is not adjusted to enough of the environment; it will be made right by an enlargement of its scope and reach."
All selfish conduct, all rudeness and roughness come from ignorance; we are all more or less self-centred, and the child's consciousness of self has to be widened, his scope has to be enlarged to sympathy with the thoughts, feelings and desires of other selves. "The sane man is the man who (however limited the scope of his behaviour) has no such suppression incorporated in him. The wise man must be sane and must have scope as well."
[Footnote 19: The Freudian Wish, Edwin Holt.]
[Footnote 20: The Freudian Wish, Edwin Holt.]
Professor Earl Barnes always used to describe the child mind as "scrappy." How can we best aid development into the wholeness or healthiness and the scope of sanity and wisdom? For it may well be that this widening and ordering of experience, of consciousness, of behaviour into moral behaviour is our most important task as teachers. Froebel emphasised the "crying need" for connection of school and life, pointing out how the little child desires to imitate and the older to share in all that, as Professor Dewey puts it, is "surcharged with a sense of the mysterious values that attach to whatever their elders are concerned with." This is one of the points to which Professor Dewey called attention in his summing up of Froebel's educational principles, this letting the child reproduce on his own plane the typical doings and occupations of the larger, maturer society into which he is finally to go forth.
It is in this connection that he says the Kindergarten teacher has the opportunity to foster that most important "sense of continuity." In simple reproduction of the home life while there is abundant variety, since daily life may bring us into contact with all the life of the city or of the country, yet, because the work is within a whole, "there is opportunity to foster that sense which is at the basis of attention and of all intellectual growth, a sense of continuity."
Since Professor Dewey gave to the world the results of his experimental school, all the Kindergartens and most of the Infant Schools in England have tried to carry out their accustomed reproduction of home surroundings, more or less on the lines of the Primary Department of his experimental school. They have extended their scope, and in addition to the material already taken from workman and shop, from garden and farm, have also with much profit to older children used his suggestions about primitive industries.
Reproduction of home surroundings can be done in many ways, one of which is to help the children to furnish and to play with a doll's house. But the play must be play. It is not enough to use the drama as merely offering suggestions for handwork, and one small doll's house does not allow of real play for more than one or two children.
Our own children used to settle this by taking out the furniture, etc., and arranging different homes around the room. I can remember the never-ending pleasure given by similar play in my own nursery days, when the actors were the men and boys supplied by tailors' advertisements. Many and varied were the experiences of these paper families, families, it may be noted, none of whom demeaned themselves so far as to possess any womankind. For that nursery party of five had lost its mother sadly early and was ruled by two boys, who evidently thought little of the other sex.
Professor Dewey tells us that "nothing is more absurd than to suppose that there is no middle term between leaving a child to his unguided fancies, or controlling his activities by a formal succession of dictated directions." It is the teacher's business to know what is striving for utterance and to supply the needed stimulus and materials.
To show how under the inspiration of a thoroughly capable teacher this continuity may be secured and prolonged for quite a long period, an example may be taken from the work of Miss Janet Payne, who is remarkably successful in meeting and stimulating, without in any way forcing the "striving for utterance" mentioned by Dewey. On this occasion Miss Payne produced a doll about ten inches high, dressed to resemble the children's fathers, and suggested that a home should be made for him. The children adopted him with zeal, named him Mr. Bird, and his career lasted for two years.
Mr. Bird required a family, so Mrs. Bird had to be produced with her little girl Winnie, and later a baby was added to the family. Beds, tables and chairs, including a high chair for Winnie, were made of scraps from the wood box, and for a long time Mr. Bird was most domesticated. Miss Payne had used ordinary dolls' heads, but had constructed the bodies herself in such a way that the dolls could sit and stand, and use their arms to wield a broom or hold the baby. After some time, one child said, "Mr. Bird ought to go to business," and after much deliberation he became a grocer. His shop was made and stocked, and he attended it every day, going home to dinner regularly. One day he appeared to be having a meal on the shop counter, and it was explained that he had been "rather in a hurry" in the morning, so Mrs. Bird had given him his breakfast to take with him. The Bird family had various adventures, they had spring cleanings, removals, visited the Zoo and went to the seaside. One morning a little fellow sat in a trolley with the Bird family beside him for three-quarters of an hour evidently "imagining." I did inquire in passing if it was a drive or a picnic, but the answer was so brief, that I knew I was an interruption and retired. But a younger and bolder inquirer, who wanted to conduct an experiment in modelling, ventured to ask if Mr. Bird wanted anything that could be made "at clay modelling." "Yes, he wants some ink-pots for his post-office shop," was the answer, with the slightly irate addition, "but I wish you'd call it the china factory."
When these children moved to an upper class, Mr. Bird was laid away, but the children requested his presence. So he entered the new room and became a farmer. He had now to write letters, to arrange rents, etc., and the money had to be made and counted. The letters served for writing and reading lessons, and Miss Payne was careful to send the answers through the real post, properly addressed to Mr. Bird with the name of class and school. Mr. Bird hired labourers, the children grew corn, and thrashed it and sent it to the mill. A miller had to be produced, and the children, now his assistants, ground the wheat, and Mr. Bird came in his cart to fetch the sacks of flour, which ultimately became the Birds' Christmas pudding and was eaten by the labourers, now guests at the feast. In spring, after careful provision for their comfort, Mr. Bird went to the cattle market and bought cows. Though the milking had to be pretence, the butter and cheese were really made.
The first question of the summer term was, "What's Mr. Bird going to do this term?" Like other teachers inspired by Professor Dewey, we have found our children most responsive to the suggestion of playing out primitive man. But with some, not of course with the brightest, it is too great a stretch to go at one step from the present to the most primitive times, and we often spend a term over something of the nature of Robinson Crusoe, where the situation presents characters accustomed to modern civilisation and deprived of all its conveniences. Miss Payne is careful to give the children full opportunity for suggestions—one dull little boy puzzled his mother by telling her "I made a very good 'gestion' to-day"—so though she had not contemplated the renewed appearance of Mr. Bird she said, "What do you want him to do?" "Let him go out and shoot bears," cried an embryo sportsman. Somewhat taken aback, Miss Payne temporised with, "He wouldn't find them in this country." "Then let him go to India," cried one child, but another called out, "No, no, let him go to a desert island!" and that was carried with acclamation. Mr. Bird's various homes were on a miniature scale, and were contained in a series of zinc trays, which we have had made to fit the available tables and cupboard tops. We find these trays convenient, as a new one can be added when more scope is required to carry out new ideas.
The following accounts taken from the notes of Miss Hilda Beer, while a student in training, show another kind of play where the children themselves act the drama. The notes only cover a short period, but they show how the play may arise quite incidentally.
Mon., June 18.—As the ground is too damp for out-of-doors work, if the children were not ready with plans, I meant to suggest building a railway station, tunnel, etc., and later, I thought perhaps we might paint advertisements of seaside resorts for our station.
But the children brought several things with them, and Dorothy brought her own doll. Marie had left the baby doll from the other room in the cot, so Dorothy and Sylvia said they must look after the babies. So Cecil, Josie and I swept and dusted.
Then we began to play house. Cecil and Dorothy were Mr. and Mrs. Harry, Sylvia was Mrs. Loo (husband at the war). Josie was Nurse and I was Aunt Lizzie. The dolls were Winnie Harry, and Jack and Doreen Loo. Mr. and Mrs. Harry built themselves a house and so did we. Cecil said, "But what is the name of the road?" Mrs. Harry chose 25 Brookfield Avenue, and Mr. Harry 7 Victoria Street, but he gave in and Mrs. Loo took his name for her house. We had to put numbers on the houses; Sylvia could make 7, but the others could not make 25, so I put it on the board and they copied it. Josie having also made a 7 wanted to use it, but Mrs. Loo objected, and said, "The mother is more important than the nurse," so Josie fixed her 7 on the house opposite.
After lunch we bathed the babies and put them to sleep, and as it was time for the children's own rest, we all went to bed. When rest was over, we washed and dressed, and then Mrs. Harry asked for clay to make a water-tap for her house. That made all the children want to make things in clay, so we made cups and saucers, plates, and a baby's bottle, then scones and sponge-cakes, bread and a bread-board, and one of the children said we must put a B on that.
Then Mrs. Loo said, "But we haven't any shelves." I had to leave my class in Miss Payne's charge, and they spent the rest of the time fitting in shelves, water-taps, and sinks.
June 19.—After sweeping, dusting, and washing and dressing the dolls, I read to the children "How the House was built." Then we all pretended to bake, making rolls and cakes as next day was to be the doll Winnie's birthday. We baked our cakes on a piece of wood on the empty fireplace.
The other children were invited to Winnie's party, so we went out to shop. The children wanted lettuces from their own garden, but the grass was too wet, so we pretended. The shop was on the edge of the grass and we talked to imaginary shopmen, Cecil often exclaiming, "Eightpence! why, it's not worth it!"
As neither of the houses would hold all the guests invited to the party, we had to have a picnic instead.
June 20.—I must see that Sylvia and Dorothy do the sweeping to-morrow, and let Josie bath the doll; she is very good-natured, and I see that they give her the less attractive occupation. I think too that the food question has played too large a part, so if the children suggest more cooking I shall look in the larder and say that really we must not buy or bake as food goes bad in hot weather, and we must not waste in war time.
The children have suggested making cushions, painting pictures, and making knives and forks, but we have not had time.
Report.—Dorothy and Sylvia swept, Cecil mended the wall of the house, Josie took the children down to the beach (the sand tray), and I dusted. We looked into the larder and found that yesterday's greens were going bad, so decided not to buy more. Then we took the babies for a walk. We noticed how many nasturtiums were out, how the blackberry bushes were in flower and in bud, and the runner-bean was in flower, and the red flowers looked so pretty in the green leaves. We looked at the hollyhocks, because I have told the children that they will grow taller than I am, and they are always wondering how soon this will be. The children found some cherries which had fallen, and Dorothy said how pretty they were on the tree. I called attention to one branch that was laden with fruit, and looked particularly pretty with the sun shining on it. We also looked at the pear tree and the almond. Everything has come on so fast, and the children were ready to say it was because of the rain.
After rest, we went to the Hall to see the chickens. To-day they were much bigger, and Sylvia said had "bigger wings." We were able to watch them drinking, how they hold up their heads to let the water run down. The rest of the morning we made curtains, and the children loved it. There was much discussion and at first the children suggested making them all different, but they agreed that curtains at windows were usually alike. Mr. and Mrs. Harry nearly quarrelled, as one wanted green and the other pink. I suggested trimming the green with a strip of pink, and they were quite pleased. Mrs. Loo and Nurse chose green which was to be sewn with red silk. Sylvia said, "A pattern," and I said, "You saw something red and green to-day," and she called out, "Oh! cherries." She cut out a round of paper and tried to sew round it, holding it in place with her other hand. I suggested putting in a stitch to hold the paper. Cecil was absorbed in sewing, and it seemed quieting for such an excitable boy and good for his weak hands. One child said, "Fancy a boy sewing," so I told how soldiers and sailors sewed. They sewed just as they liked.
These notes are continued in Chapter IX., where they are used to show children's attitude towards Nature. Though separated here for a special purpose it is clear that there neither is nor ought to be any real separation in the lives of the children. Their lives are wholes and they continually pass from one "subject" to another, because life and its circumstances are making new demands. If it rains and you cannot gather the lettuces you have grown from seed, you take refuge in happy pretence; if it clears and the sun calls you out of doors, you take your doll-babies for their walk.
JOY IN MAKING
I, too, will something make, and joy in the making.
Built by that only Law, that Use be suggester of Beauty.
There has always been making in the Kindergarten, since to Froebel the impulse to create was a characteristic of self-conscious humanity. Stopford Brooke points out that Browning's Caliban, though almost brute, shows himself human, in that, besides thinking out his natural religion, he also dramatises and creates, "falls to make something."
'Tis solace making baubles, ay, and sport. Tasteth, himself, no finer good i' the world Than trying what to do with wit and strength—
What does a child gain from his ceaseless attempts at making? Froebel's answer was that intellectually, through making he gains ideas, which, received in words, remain mere words. "To learn through life and action is more developing than to learn through words: expression in plastic material, united with thought and speech, is far more developing than mere repetition of words." Morally, it is through impressing himself on his surroundings, that the child reaches the human attributes of self-consciousness and self-control. One of the most important passages Froebel ever wrote is this:
"The deepest craving of the child's life is to see itself mirrored in some external object. Through such reflection, he learns to know his own activity, its essence, direction and aim, and learns to determine his activity in accordance with outer things. Such mirroring of the inner life is essential, for through it the child comes to self-consciousness, and learns to order, determine and master himself."
It is from the point of view of expression alone that Froebel regards Art, and drawing, he takes to be "the first revelation of the creative power within the child." The very earliest drawing to which he refers is what he calls "sketching the object on itself," that is, the tracing round the outlines of things, whereby the child learns form by co-ordinating sight and motor perceptions, a stage on which Dr. Montessori has also laid much stress. Besides noting how children draw "round scissors and boxes, leaves and twigs, their own hands, and even shadows," he sees that from experimentation with any pointed stick or scrap of red stone or chalk, may come what Mr. E. Cooke called a language of line, and now "the horse of lines, the man of lines" will give much pleasure. After this it is true that "whatever a child knows he will put into his drawing," and the teacher's business is to see that he has abundant perceptions and images to express.
Another kind of drawing which children seem to find for themselves is what they call making patterns. Out of this came the old-fashioned chequer drawing, now condemned as injurious to eyesight and of little value.
When children see anything rich in colour the general cry is "Let's paint it," which is their way of taking in the beauty. We should not, says Froebel, give them paints and brushes inconsiderately, to throw about, but give them the help they need, and he describes quite a sensible lesson given to boys "whose own painting did not seem to paint them long."
Teachers who want real help in the art training of children should read the excellent papers by Miss Findlay in School and Life, where we are told that we must rescue the term "design" from the limited uses to which it is often condemned in the drawing class, viz. the construction of pleasing arrangements of colour and form for surface decoration. "We shall use it in its full popular significance in constructive work.... The term will cover building houses, making kettles, laying out streets, planning rooms, dressing hair, as well as making patterns for cushion covers and cathedral windows.... In thus widening our art studies, we shall be harking back in a slight degree to the kind of training that in past ages produced the great masters.... Giotto designed his Campanile primarily for the bells that were to summon the Florentines to their cathedral; the Venetians wanted facades for their palaces, and made facades to delight their eyes; the Japanese have wanted small furniture for their small rooms, and have developed wonderful skill and taste in designing it. Neither art nor science can remain long afloat in high abstract regions above the needs and interests of human life. To quote A.H. Clough:
'A Cathedral Pure and Perfect. Built by that only Law, that Use be suggester of Beauty; Nothing concealed that is, done, but all things done to adornment; Meanest utilities seized as occasions to grace and embellish.'"
If this is true of the interests of the professional artist, much more must it be true of the art training of the child. We must not then despise the rough and ready productions of a child, nor force upon him a standard for which he is not ready.
Before any other construction is possible to him, a child can make with sand, and this is a constant joy, from the endless puddings that are turned out of patty pans, up to such models as that of the whole "Isle of Wight" with its tunnelled cliffs and system of railways, made by an ex-Kindergarten boy as yet innocent of geography lessons.
The child then who is making, especially making for use, is to a certain extent developing himself as an artist.
The little boys at Keilhau were well provided with sand, moss, etc., to use with their building blocks, and it was a former Keilhau boy who suggested to his old master that some kind of sand-box would make a good plaything for the children in his new Kindergarten. Miss Wiggin tells us that indirectly we owe the children's sand-heaps in the public parks to Froebel, since these were the result of a suggestion made by Frau Schrader to the Empress Frederick, and the idea was carried out during her husband's too brief reign.
Another very early "making" is the arranging of furniture for shops, carriages, trains, and the "ships upon the stairs," which made bright pictures in Stevenson's memory.
Building blocks are truly, as Froebel puts it, "the finest and most variable material that can be offered a boy for purposes of representation." The little boxes associated with the Kindergarten were originally planned for the use of nursery children two to three years of age, and in most if not in all Kindergartens these have been replaced by larger bricks. It is many years now since, at Miss Payne's suggestion, we bought some hundreds of road paving blocks, and these are such a source of pleasure that the children often dream about them. Living out the life around presents much opportunity for making, which may be done with blocks, but which even in the Kindergarten can be done with tools. Care must be exercised, but children have quite a strong instinct for self-preservation, and if shown how real workmen handle their tools, they are often more careful than at a much later stage. To make a workable railway signal is more interesting and much more educative than to use one that came from a shop. The teacher may make illuminating discoveries in the process, as when one set of children desired to make a counter for a shop, and arranged their piece of wood vertically so that the counter had no top. It was found that to these very little people the most important part was the high front against which they were accustomed to stand, not the flat top which they seldom saw. Another set of children made a cart on which the farmer was to carry his corn, and exemplified Dewey's "concrete logic of action." At first they only wanted a board on wheels, but the corn fell off, so they nailed on sides, but the cart never had either back or front and resembled some seen in Early English pictures.
Any kind of cooking that can be done is a most important kind of making; even the very little ones can help, and they thoroughly enjoy watching. "Her hands were in the dough from three years old," said a north-country mother, "so I taught her how to bake, and now (at seven) she can bake as well as I can."
Children delight in carrying out the processes involved in the making of flour, and they can easily thrash a little wheat, then winnow, grind between stones and sift it. Their best efforts produce but a tiny quantity of flour, but the experience is real, interest is great, and a new significance attaches to the shop flour from which bread is ultimately produced.
Butter and cheese can easily be made, also jam, and even a Christmas pudding. In very early Kindergartens we read of the growing, digging and cooking of potatoes, and of the extraction of starch to be used as paste.
Special anniversaries require special making. We possess a doll of 1794 to whom her old mother bequeathed her birthday. The doll's birthday is a great event, and on the previous day each class in turn bakes tiny loaves, or cakes or pastry for the party.
Christmas creates a need for decorations, Christmas cards and presents, and Empire Day and Trafalgar Day for flags, while in many places there is an annual sale on behalf of a charity.
It does not do to be too modern and to despise all the old-fashioned "makings," which gave such pleasure some years ago. Kindergarten Paper-folding has fallen into an undeserved oblivion. The making of boats or cocked-hats from old newspaper is a great achievement for a child, and to make pigs and purses, corner cupboards and chairs for paper dolls is still a delight, and calls forth real concentration and effort.
Making in connection with some whole, such as the continuous representation of life around us, and, at a later stage, the re-inventing of primitive industries, or making which arises out of some special interest may have a higher educational value, but apart from this, children want to make for making's sake. "Can't I make something in wood like Boy does?" asked a little girl. There is joy in the making, joy in being a cause, and for this the children need opportunity, space and time. There is a lesson to many of us in some verses by Miss F. Sharpley, lately published (Educational Handwork), which should be entitled, "When can I make my little Ship?"
I'd like to cut, and cut, and cut, And over the bare floor To strew my papers all about, And then to cut some more.
I'd sweep them up so neatly, too, But mother says, "Oh no! There is no time, it's seven o'clock; To bed you quickly go!"
In school, I'd just begun to make A pretty little ship, But I was slow, and all the rest Stood up to dance and skip.
When shall I make my little ship? At home there is no gloy, And father builds it by himself Or goes to buy a toy.
Let me tell the stories and I care not who makes the textbooks.
"Is it Bible story to-day or any kind of a story?" was the greeting of an eager child one morning. "Usually they were persuading him to tell stories," writes Ebers, from his recollections of Froebel as an old man at Keilhau. "He was never seen crossing the courtyard without a group of the younger pupils hanging to his coat tails and clasping his arms. Usually they were persuading him to tell stories, and when he condescended to do so, the older ones flocked around him, too, and they were never disappointed. What fire, what animation the old man had retained!"
So Froebel could write with feeling of "the joyful faces, the sparkling eyes, the merry shouts that welcome the genuine story-teller"; he had a right to pronounce that "the child's desire and craving for tales, for legends, for all kinds of stories, and later on for historical accounts, is very intense."
Surely there was never a little one who did not crave for stories, though here and there may be found an older child, who got none at the right time, and who, therefore, lost that most healthy of appetites. Most of us will agree that there is something wrong with the child who does not like stories, but it may be that the something wrong belonged to the mother. One such said to the Abbe Klein one day, "My children have never asked for stories." "But, madame," was the reply, "neither would they ask for cake if they had never eaten it, or even seen it."
It is easy for us to find reasons why we should tell stories. We can brush aside minor aims such as increasing the child's vocabulary. Undoubtedly his vocabulary does increase enormously from listening to stories, but it is difficult to imagine that any one could rise to real heights in story-telling with this as an aim or end. That the narrator should clothe his living story in words expressive of its atmosphere, and that the listener should in this way gain such power over language, that he, too, can fitly express himself is quite another matter.
First, then, we tell stories because we love to tell them and because the children love to listen. We choose stories that appeal to our audience. It is something beautiful, humorous, heroic or witty that we have found, and being social animals we want to share it. As educators with an aim before us, we deliberately tell stories in order to place before our children ideals of unselfishness, courage and truth. We know from our own experience, not only in childhood, but all through life how the story reaches our feelings as no sermon or moralising ever does, and we have learned that "out of the heart are the issues of life." Unguided feelings may be a danger, but the story does more than rouse feelings—it gives opportunity for the exercise of moral judgement, for the exercise of judgement upon questions of right and wrong. Feeling is aroused, but it is not usually a personal feeling, so judgement is likely to be unbiassed. It may, however, be biassed by the tone absorbed from the environment even in childhood, as when the mother makes more of table etiquette than of kindness, and the child, instead of condemning Jacob's refusal to feed his hungry brother with the red pottage, as all natural children do condemn, says: "No, Esau shouldn't have got it, 'cause he asked for it."
As a rule, the children's standard is correct enough, and approval or condemnation is justly bestowed, provided that the story has been chosen to suit the child's stage of development. One little girl objected strongly to Macaulay's ideal Roman, who "in Rome's quarrel, spared neither land nor gold, nor son nor wife." "That wasn't right," she said stoutly, "he ought to think of his own wife and children first." She was satisfied, however, when it was explained to her that Horatius might be able to save many fathers to many wives and children. In my earliest teaching days, having found certain history stories successful with children of seven, I tried the same with children of six, but only once. Edmund of East Anglia dying for his faith fell very flat. "What was the good of that?" said one little fellow, "'cause if you're dead you can't do anything! But if you're alive, you can get more soldiers and win a victory." The majority of the class, however, seemed to feel with another who asked, "Why didn't he promise while the Danes were there? He needn't have kept it when they went away."
Another way of stating our aim in telling stories to children is that a story presents morality in the concrete. Virtues and vices per se neither attract nor repel, they simply mean nothing to a child, until they are presented as the deeds of man or woman, boy or girl, living and acting in a world recognised as real. One telling story is that of the boy who got hold of Miss Edgeworth's Parent's Assistant and who said to his mother, "Mother, I've been reading 'The Little Merchants' and I know now how horrid it is to cheat and tell lies." "I have been telling you that ever since you could speak," said his mother, to which the boy answered, "Yes, I know, but that didn't interest me." Our children had been told the story of how the Countess of Buchan crowned the Bruce, a duty which should have been performed by her brother the Earl of Fife, who, however, was too much afraid of the wrath of English Edward. A few days after, an argument arose and one little girl was heard to say, "I don't want to be brave," and a boy rejoined, "Girls don't need to be brave." I said, "Which would you rather be, the Countess who put the crown on the King's head, or the brother who ran away?" And quickly came the answer, "Oh! the brave Countess," from the very child who didn't want to be brave!
Froebel sums up the teacher's aim in the words: "The telling of stories is a truly strengthening spirit-bath, it gives opportunity for the exercise of all mental powers, opportunity for testing individual judgement and individual feelings."
But why is it that children crave for stories? "Education," says Miss Blow, a veteran Froebelian, "is a series of responses to indicated needs," and undoubtedly the need for stories is as pressing as the need to explore, to experiment and to construct. What is the unconscious need that is expressed in this craving, why is this desire so deeply implanted by Nature? So far, no one seems to have given a better answer than Froebel has done, when he says that the desire for stories comes out of the need to understand life, that it is in fact rooted in the instinct of investigation. "Only the study of the life of others can furnish points of comparison with the life the boy himself has experienced. The story concerns other men, other circumstances, other times and places, yet the hearer seeks his own image, he beholds it and no one knows that he sees it."
Man cannot be master of his surroundings till he investigates and so gathers knowledge. But he has to adapt himself not only to the physical but to the human environment in which he lives. In stories of all kinds, children study human life in all kinds of circumstances, nay, if the story is sufficiently graphic they almost go through the experiences narrated, almost live the new life.
With very young children the most popular of all stories is the "The Three Bears" and it is worth a little analysis. A little girl runs away, and running away is a great temptation to little girls and boys, as great an adventure as running off to sea will be at a later stage. She goes into a wood and meets bears: what else could you expect! The story then deals with really interesting things, porridge, basins, chairs and beds. The strong contrast of the bears' voices fascinates children, and just when retribution might descend upon her, the heroine escapes and gets safe home. Children revel in the familiar details, but these alone would not suffice, there must be adventure, excitement, romance. One feels that Southey had the assistance of a child in making his story so complete, and we can hear the questions: "How did the big bear know that the little girl had tasted his porridge? Oh, because she had left the spoon. How did he know that she had sat in his chair? Because she left the cushion untidy, and as for the little bear's chair, why, she sat that right out."
That quite little children desire fresh experiences or adventures and really exciting ones, is shown by the following stories made by children. The first two are by a little girl of two-and-a-half, the third is taken from Lady Glenconner's recently published The Sayings of the Children.
"Once upon a time there was a giant and a little girl, and he told a little girl not to kiss a bear acos he would bite her, and the little girl climbed right on his back and she jumped right down the stairs and the bear came walking after the little girl and kissing her, and she called it a little bear and it was a big bear! (immense amusement).
"Once upon a time there was a little piggy and he was right in a big green and white fire and he didn't hurt hisself, and (told as a tremendous secret) he touched a fire with his handie. 'What a naughty piggy,' said Auntie, 'and what next?' He jumped right out of a fire. Auntie, can you smile? (For aunties cannot smile when people are naughty.)"
The third story is said to have been filled with pauses due to a certain slowness of speech, but the pauses are "lit by the lightning flash of a flying eyebrow, and the impressive nodding of a silken head."
"Once, you know, there was a fight between a little pony and a lion, and the lion sprang against the pony and the pony put his back against a stack and bited towards the lion, and the lion rolled over and the pony jumped up, and he ran up ... and the pony turned round and the lion ..."
His mother felt she had lost the thread. "Which won?" she asked. "Which won!" he repeated and after a moment's pause he said, "Oh! the little bear."
This surprising conclusion points to a stage when it is difficult for a child to hold the thread of a narrative, and at this stage, along with simple stories of little ones like themselves, repetition or "accumulation" stories seem to give most pleasure. "Henny Penny" and "Billy Bobtail"—told by Jacobs as "How Jack went to seek his Fortune"—are prime favourites. Repetition of rhythmic phrases has a great attraction, as in "Three Little Pigs," with its delightful repetition of "Little pig, little pig, let me come in," "No, no, by the hair of my chinny chin chin," "Then I'll huff and I'll puff and I'll blow your house in."
Very soon, however, the children are ready for the time-honoured fairy-tale or folk-tale.
The orthodox beginning, "Once upon a time, in a certain country there lived ...," fits the stage when neither time nor place is of any consequence. Animals speak, well why not, we can! The fairies accomplish wonders, again why not? Wonderful things do happen and they must have a wonderful cause, and, as one child said, if there never had been any fairies, how could people have written stories about them? Goodness is rewarded and wickedness is punished, as is only right in the child's eyes, and goodness usually means kindness, the virtue best understood of children. Obedience is no doubt the nursery virtue in the eyes of authority, but kindness is much more human and attractive.
"Both child and man," says Froebel, "desire to know the significance of what happens around them; this is the foundation of Greek choruses, especially in tragedy, and of many productions in the realm of legends and fairy-tales. It is the result of the deep-rooted consciousness, the slumbering premonition of being surrounded by that which is higher and more conscious than ourselves." The fairy tale is the child's mystery land, his recognition that there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in our philosophy or in our science. Dr. Montessori protests against the idea that fairy-tales have anything to do with the religious sense, saying that "faith and fable are as the poles apart." She does not understand that it is for their truth that we value fairy-tales. The truths they teach are such as that courage and intelligence can conquer brute strength, that love can brave and can overcome all dangers and always finds the lost, that kindness begets kindness and always wins in the end. The good and the faithful marries the princess—or the prince—and lives happy ever after. And assuredly if he does not marry his princess, he will not live happy, and if she does not marry the prince, she will live in no beautiful palace. And there is more. Take for instance, the story of "Toads and Diamonds." The courteous maiden who goes down the well, who gives help where it is needed, and who works faithfully for Mother Holle, comes home again dropping gold and diamonds when she speaks. Her silence may be silver, but her speech is golden, and her words give light in dark places. The selfish and lazy girl, who refuses help and whose work is unfaithful and only done for reward, has her reward. Henceforth, when she speaks, down fall toads and snakes her words are cold as she is, they may glitter but they sting.
[Footnote 21: This version is probably a mixture of the versions of Perrault and Grimm but Mother Holle shaking her feathers is worth bringing in.]
Fairy- and folk-tales give wholesome food to the desire for adventure, whereas in what we may call realistic stories, adventure is chiefly confined to the naughty child, who is therefore more attractive than the good and stodgy. Even among fairy-tales we may select. "Beauty and the Beast" and "The Sleeping Beauty" and "Snow-white and Rose-red" are distinctly preferable to "Jack the Giant Killer" or "Puss in Boots," while "Bluebeard" cannot be told. It seems to me that children can often safely read for themselves stories the adult cannot well tell. The child's notion of justice is crude, bad is bad, and whether embodied in an ogre or in Pharaoh of Egypt, it must be got rid of, put out of the story. No child is sorry for the giant when Jack's axe cleaves the beanstalk, and as for Pharaoh, "Well, it's a good thing he's drowned, for he was a bad man, wasn't he?" Death means nothing to children, as a rule, except disappearance. When children can read for themselves, they will take from their stories what suits their stage of development, their standard of judgement, and we need not interfere, even though they regard with perfect calm what seems gruesome to the adult.
As a valuable addition to the best-known fairy-tales, we may mention one or two others: Grannie's Wonderful Chair is a delightful set of stories, full of charming pictures, though the writer, Frances Brown, was born blind. Mrs. Ewing's stories for children, The Brownies, with Amelia and the Dwarfs and Timothy's Shoes, are inimitable, and her Old-Fashioned Fairy Tales are very good, but not for very young children. Her other stories are certainly about children, but are, as a rule, written for adults.
George Macdonald's stories are all too well known and too universally beloved to need recommendation. But in telling them, e.g. "The Princess and the Goblins" or "At the Back of the North Wind," the young teacher must remember that they are beautiful allegories. Before she ventures to tell them, the beginner should ponder well what the poet—for these are prose poems—means, and who is represented by the beautiful Great-great-grandmother always old and always young, or "North Wind" who must sink the ship but is able to bear the cry from it, because of the sound of a far-off song, which seems to swallow up all fear and pain and to set the suffering "singing it with the rest."
Water-Babies is a bridge between the fairy-tale of a child and equally wonderful and beautiful fairy-tales of Nature, and it, too, is full of meaning. If the teacher has gained this, the children will not lag behind. It was a child of backward development, who, when she heard of Mother Carey, "who made things make themselves," said, "Oh! I know who that was, that was God."
Such stories must be spread out over many days of telling, but they gain rather than lose from that, though for quite young children the stories do require to be short and simple, and often repeated. If children get plenty of these, the stage for longer stories is reached wonderfully soon.
Pseudo-scientific stories, in which, for example, a drop of water discusses evaporation and condensation, are not stories at all, but a kind of mental meat lozenge, most unsatisfying and probably not even fulfilling their task of supplying nourishment in form of facts. Fables usually deal with the faults and failings of grown-ups, and may be left for children to read for themselves, to extract what suits them.
Illustrations are not always necessary, but if well chosen they are always a help. Warne has published some delightfully illustrated stories for little children, "The Three Pigs," "Hop o' my Thumb," "Beauty and the Beast," etc. They are illustrated by H.M. Brock and by Leslie Brooke, and they really are illustrated. The artists have enjoyed the stories and children equally enjoy the pictures.
The teacher must consider what ideas she is presenting and whether words alone can convey them properly. We must remember that most children visualise and that they can only do so from what they have seen. So, without illustrations, a castle may be a suburban house with Nottingham lace curtains and an aspidistra, while Perseus or Moses may differ little from the child's own father or brothers. Again, town children cannot visualise hill and valley, forest and moor, brook and river, not to mention jungles and snowfields and the trackless ocean. It is not easy to find pictures to give any idea of such scenes, but it is worth while to look for them, and it is also worth while for the teacher to visualise, and to practise vivid describing of what she sees. Children, of course, only want description when it is really a part of the story, as when Tom crosses the moor, descends Lewthwaite Crag, or travels from brook to river and from river to sea.
As to how a story should be told, opinions differ. It must be well told with a well-modulated voice and with slight but effective gesture. But the model should be the story as told in the home, not the story told from a platform. The children need not be spellbound all the time, but should be free to ask sensible questions and to make childlike comments in moderation. The language should fit the subject; beautiful thoughts need beauty of expression, high and noble deeds must be told in noble language. A teacher who wishes to be a really good teller of stories must herself read good literature, and she will do well not only to prepare her stories with care, but to consider the language she uses in daily life. There is a happy medium between pedantry and the latest variety of slang, and if daily speech is careless and slipshod, it is difficult to change it for special occasions. Our stories should not only prepare for literature, they should be literature, and those who realise what the story may do for children will not grudge time spent in preparation. If the story is to present an ideal, let us see that we present a worthy one; if it is to lead the children to judge of right and wrong, let us see that we give them time and opportunity to judge and that we do not force their judgement.
Lastly, if the story is to make the children feel, let us see that the feeling is on the right side, that they shrink from all that is mean, selfish, cruel and cowardly, and sympathise with whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report.
IN GRASSY PLACES
My heart leaps up when I behold A rainbow in the sky, So was it when my life began So be it when I shall grow old, Or let me die.
What is the real aim of what we call Nature-lessons, Nature-teaching, Nature-work? It is surely to foster delight in beauty, so that our hearts shall leap up at sight of the rainbow until we die. For, indeed, if we lose that uplift of the heart, some part of us has died already. Yet even Wordsworth mourns that nothing can bring back the hour of splendour in the grass and glory in the flower!
In its answer to the question "What is the chief end of man?" the old Shorter Catechism has a grand beginning: "Man's chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him for ever." Do we lose the vision because we are not bold enough to take that enjoyment as our chief end? To enjoy good is to enjoy God.
Our ends or aims are our desires, and Mr. Clutton Brock, in his Ultimate Belief, urges teachers to recognise that the spirit of man has three desires, three ends, and that it cannot be satisfied till it attains all three. Man desires to do right, so far as he sees it, for the sake of doing right; he desires to gain knowledge or to know for the sake of knowing, for the sake of truth; and he desires beauty.
"We do not value that which we call beautiful because it is true, or because it is good, but because it is beautiful. There is a glory of the universe which we call truth which we discover and apprehend, and a glory of the universe which we call beauty and which we discover or apprehend."
Froebel begins his Education of Man by an inquiry into the reason for our existence and his answer is that all things exist to make manifest the spirit, the elan vital, which brought them into being. "Sursum corda," says Stevenson,
Lift up your hearts Art and Blue Heaven April and God's Larks Green reeds and sky scattering river A Stately Music Enter God.
And Browning? "If you get simple beauty and nought else, you get about the best thing God invents."
To let children get that beauty should be our aim, and they must get it in their own way. "Life in and with Nature and with the fair silent things of Nature, should be fostered by parents and others," Froebel tells us, "as a chief fulcrum of child-life, and this is accomplished chiefly in play, which is at first simply natural life."
Let us surmount the ruts of our teaching experience and climb high enough to look back upon our own childhood, to see where beauty called to us, where we attained to beauty.
Among my own earliest recollections come a first view of the starry sky and the discovery of Heaven. No one called attention to the stars, they spoke themselves to a child of four or five and declared "the glory of God." Heaven was not on high among these glorious stars, however. It was a grassy place with flowers and sunshine. It had to be Heaven because you went through the cemetery to reach it, and because it was so bright and flowery and there were no graves in it. I never found it again, because I had forgotten how to get there.
Another very early memory is one of grief, to see from the window how the gardener was mowing down all the daisies, and there were so many, in the grass; and yet another is of a high, grassy, sunny field with a little stream running far down below. It was not really far and there was nothing particularly beautiful in the place to grown-up eyes, but the beholder was very small and loved it dearly. To his Art and Blue Heaven Stevenson might have added Sun and Green Grass. For he knew what grassy places are to the child, and that "happy play in grassy places" might well be Heaven to the little one.
A most interesting little book called What is a Kindergarten? was published some years ago in America. It is written by a landscape gardener, and contains most valuable suggestions as to how best to use for a Kindergarten or Nursery School plots of ground which may be secured for that purpose. Naturally the writer has much to say on the laying out and stocking the available space to the best advantage, choosing the most suitable positions for the house, where the teacher must live, he says, to supply the atmosphere of a home; for animal hutches, for sand-heaps and seesaws; for the necessary shelter, for the children's gardens, and for the lawn, for even on his smallest plan, a "twenty-five-foot lot," we find "room for a spot of green." Later he explains that for this green one must use what will grow, and if grass will not perhaps clover will. The way in which the trees and plants are chosen is most suggestive. Beauty and suitability are always considered, but he remembers his own youth, and also considers the special joys of childhood. For it is not Nature lessons that come into his calculations but "the mere association of plants and children." So the birch tree is chosen, partly for its grace and beauty, but also because of its bark, for one can scribble on its papery surface; the hazel, because children delight in the catkins with their showers of golden dust, and the nut "hidden in its cap of frills and tucks." And he adds: "How much more alluring than the naked fruit from the grocer's sack are these nuts, especially when dots for eyes and mouth are added, and a whole little face is tucked within this natural bonnet."
[Footnote 22: G. Hansen, pub. Elder, Morgan & Shepherd, San Francisco, 1891.]
In addition to the flowers chosen for beauty of colour, this lover of children and of gardens wants Canterbury Bells to ring, Forget-me-nots because they can stand so much watering, and "flowers with faces," pansies, sweet-peas, lupins, snapdragons, monkey flowers, red and white dead nettles, and red clover to bring the bees. Some of these are chosen because the child can do something with them, can find their own uses for them, can play with them. And, speaking generally, playing with them is the child's way of appreciating both plant and animal. Picking feathery grasses, red-tipped daisies, sweet-smelling clover and golden dandelions; feeding snapdragons with fallen petals, finding what's o'clock by blowing dandelion fruits, paying for dock tea out of a fairy purse, shading poppy dolls with woodruff parasols, that is how a child enjoys the beauty of colour, scent and form. He gets not more but less beauty when he must sit in a class and answer formal questions. "Must we talk about them before we take the flowers home?" asked a child one day; "they are so pretty." Clearly, the "talk" was going to lessen, not to deepen the beauty. And animals? The child plays with cat and dog, he feeds the chickens, the horse and the donkey, he watches with the utmost interest caterpillar, snail and spider, but he does not want to be asked questions about them—he does want to talk and perhaps to ask the questions himself—nor does he always want even to draw, paint or model them. Mostly he wants to watch, and perhaps just to stir them up a little if they do not perform to his satisfaction. He does not necessarily mean to tease, only why should he watch an animal that does nothing? "The animals haven't any habits when I watch them," a little girl once said to Professor Arthur Thomson.
All children should live in the country at least for part of the year. They should know fields and gardens, and have intercourse with hens and chickens, cows and calves, sheep and lambs; should make hay and see the corn cut. They would still want the wisely sympathetic teacher, not to arouse interest—that is not necessary, but to keep it alive by keeping pace with the child's natural development. It is not merely living in the country that develops the little child's interest in shape and colour and scent into something deeper. People still "spend all their time in the fields and forests and see and feel nothing of the beauties of Nature, and of their influence on the human heart"; and this, said Froebel—and it is just what Mr. Clutton Brock is saying now—is because the child "fails to find the same feelings among adults." Two effects follow: the child feels the want of sympathy and loses some respect for the elder, and also he loses his original joy in Nature.
"There is in every human being the passionate desire for this self-forgetfulness—to which it attains when it is aware of beauty—and a passionate delight in it when it comes. The child feels that delight among spring flowers; we can all remember how we felt it in the first apprehension of some new beauty of the universe, when we ceased to be little animals and became aware that there was this beauty outside us to be loved. And most of us must remember, too, the strange indifference of our elders. They were not considering the lilies of the field; they did not want us to get our feet wet among them. We might be forgetting ourselves, but they were remembering us; and we became suddenly aware of the bitterness of life and the tyranny of facts. Now parents and nurses (and teachers) have, of course, to remember children when they forget themselves. But they ought to be aware that the child, when he forgets himself in the beauty of the world, is passing through a sacred experience which will enrich and glorify the whole of his life. Children, because they are not engaged in the struggle for life, are more capable of this aesthetic self-forgetfulness than they will afterwards be; and they need all of it that they can get, so that they may remember it and prize it in later years. In these heaven-sent moments they know what disinterestedness is. They have a test by which they can value all future experience and know the dullness and staleness of worldly success. Therefore it is a sin to check, more than need be, their aesthetic delight" (The Ultimate Belief).
We cannot all give to our children the experiences we should like to supply, but if we are clear that we are aiming at enjoyment of Nature, and not at supplying information, we shall come nearer to what is desirable. For years, almost since it opened in 1908, Miss Reed of the Michaelis Free Kindergarten has taken her children to the country. It means a great deal of work and responsibility, it means collecting funds and giving up one's scanty leisure, it means devoted service, but it has been done, and it has been kept up even during war time, though with great difficulty as to funds, because of the inestimable benefit to the children. Miss Stokes of the Somers Town Nursery School secured a country holiday for her little ones in various ways, partly through the Children's Country Holiday Fund, but since the war she has been unable to secure help of that kind, and has managed to take the children away to a country cottage. A paragraph in the report says: "The children in the country had a delightful time, and what was seen and done during their holiday is still talked about continually. These joys entered into all the work of the nursery school and helped the children for months to retain a breath of the country in their London surroundings. They realised much from that visit. Cows now have horns, wasps have wings and fly—alas they sting also. Hens sit on eggs, an almost unbelievable thing. Fishes, newts, tadpoles, were all met with and greeted as friends. Children and helpers alike returned home full of health and vigour and longing for the next time. One little maid wept bitterly, and there seemed no joy in life at home until she came across the school rabbit, which was tenderly caressed, and consoled her with memories of the country and hopes for future visits."
In the days when teachers argued about the differences between Object-lessons and Nature-lessons, one point insisted upon was that the Nature-lesson far surpassed the Object-lesson because it dealt with life.
We have learned now that we should as much as we can surround our children with life and growth. Even indoors it is easy to give the joy of growing seeds and bulbs and of opening chestnut branches: without any cruelty we can let them enjoy watching snails and worms and we can keep caterpillars or silkworms and so let them drink their fill of the miracle of development. But beauty comes to children in very different ways, and always it is Nature, though it may not be life.
Children revel in colour, colour for its own sake, and should be allowed to create it. In a modern novel there is a description of a mother doing her washing in the open air and "at her feet sat a baby intent upon the assimilation of a gingerbread elephant, but now and then tugging at her skirts and holding up a fat hand. Each time he was rewarded by a dab of soapsuds, which she deposited good-naturedly in his palm. He received it with solemn delight; watching the roseate play of colour as the bubbles shrank and broke, and the lovely iridescent treasure vanished in a smear of dirty wetness while he looked. Then he would beat his fists delightedly against his mother's dress and presently demand another handful."
The following notes from another student's report show how this may spring naturally out of the children's life:
[Footnote 23: Miss Edith Jones.]
"We were spinning the teetotum yesterday and it did not spin well so we made new ones. While the children were painting their tops, Oliver grew very eager when he found he could fill in all the spaces in different colours, but Betty made her colours very insipid. I want them to get the feeling of beautiful colour, so I shall show them a book with the colours graded in it, and we shall each have a paper and paint on it all the rich colours we can think of. The colours will probably run into each other, and so the children will get ideas about the blending of colours, but I will watch to see that they do not get the colour too wet. If they are not tired of painting I want to show them a painted circle to turn on a string and they can make these for themselves, using the colours they have already used.
"I want the children to do some group work, and I thought we might make a village with shops and houses under the trees in the garden and have little men and women to represent ourselves. The suggestion will probably have to come from the teacher, but the children will probably have the desire when it is suggested, and I hope we shall be able to go on enlarging our town on the pattern of the towns the children know. If they want bricks for their houses they can dig clay in the garden.
"Report.—The children wanted to make a tea-set, so we carried our clay outside. They began discussing why their china would not be so fine as the china at home, and I said the clay might be different. Then Bernard asked what sort of china we should get from the clay in the garden, and I told him that kind of clay was generally made into bricks, and suggested making bricks. From that we went on to the use of bricks, and to-morrow we are going to dig, and make bricks to build a town. Bernard is anxious to know how we shall make mortar. Just then it started to rain, and Bernard said that if the sun kept shining and it rained hard enough we should have a rainbow, and he wished it would come so as to see the beautiful colours. I thought this rather a coincidence, and told him I had a book with all the rainbow colours in it. They asked to see it, so I showed it and suggested painting the colours ourselves. Those who had finished their dishes started, and we talked about the richness of the colours. One or two children started with very watery colour, so I showed them the book and began to paint myself. They all enjoyed it very much, especially the different colours made where the colours ran into each other. The results pleased them and they are to be used as wall-papers to sell in our town, but Sybil wants to have a toy shop, and she is going to make a painted circle for it like the one I showed."
This is clearly the time to show a glass prism and to let these children make rainbows for themselves, to tell the story of Iris, and to use any colour material, Milton Bradley spectrum papers, Montessori silks, colour top, and anything else so long as the children keep up their interest. The interest in colour need never die out; it will probably show itself now in finer discrimination, and more careful reproduction of the colours of flowers and leaves, and the sympathy given will heighten interest and increase enjoyment.
Here are some notes showing children's numerous activities in a suburban garden where they were allowed to visit a hen and chickens.
"Monday—To-day the children took up their mustard and cress, dug and raked the ground ready for transplanting the lettuces. After their rest we went to see the chickens at the Hall (the Students' Hostel), and the Hall garden seemed to them a wonderful place. They watched the trains go in and out of the station at the foot of the garden, and explored all the side doors, going up and down all the steps and into the cycle shed. They helped Miss S. to stir the soot water, then they went to the grassy bank and ran down it, slid down it, and rolled down it. They peeped over the wall into the next garden, they peeped through holes in the fences and finished up with a swing in the hammock. Each child had twenty swings, and they enjoyed counting in time with the swaying of the hammock, and swayed their own bodies as they pushed.
[Footnote 24: These notes are part of those already given on pp. 68-71.]
"Another example of love and rhythm was when they went to say good-bye to the hen and chickens, and kept on repeating 'Good-bye, good-bye' all together, nodding their heads at the same time.
"I did not know if I should have let them do so much, but I was not sure that we should be allowed to come back and I wanted them to enjoy the garden.
"Wednesday.—First we watered the lettuces we had transplanted, and transplanted more. Then, as we had permission to come again, we took some of our lettuces to the chickens. We saw the mother hen with one wing spread right out, and the children were much surprised to see how large it was. We looked at the roses, and saw how the bud of yesterday was full blown to-day. The children again ran down and rolled down the bank, and had turns in the hammock, this time to the rhythm of "Margery Daw" sung twice through, and then counting up to twenty. Very often they went to watch the trains. Cecil is particularly interested in them, and wanted to know how long was the time between. He said three minutes, I guessed nine, but we found they were irregular. In the intervals while waiting for a train to pass, we played a 'listening' game, listening to what sounds we could hear. A thrush came and sang right over our heads, so the listening was concentrated on his song, and we tried to say what we thought he meant to say. One child said, 'He says, "Come here, come here,"' but they found this too difficult. We also watched a boy cleaning the station windows, and Dorothy said, 'Miss Beer, isn't it wonderful that you can see through glass?' I agreed, but made no other remark because I did not know what to say.
"We rested outside to-day under an almond tree. I pointed out how pretty the sky looked when you only saw it peeping through the leaves. After rest the children noticed feathery grasses, and spent the rest of the morning gathering them. I suggested that they should see how many kinds they could find. They found three, but were not enthusiastic about it, being content just to pluck, but they were delighted when they found specially long and beautiful grasses hidden deep under a leafy bush. They also found clover leaves, and I told them its name and sang to them the verse from 'The Bee,' with 'The sweet-smelling clover, he, humming, hangs over.'
"Thursday.—Brushed and dusted the room, gave fresh water to the flowers, and then went to gardening. The children were delighted to find ladybirds on the lettuces they were transplanting, and we also noticed how the cherries were ripening.
"They joined the Transition Class for games. Later, while playing with the sand, Cecil made a discovery. He said, 'Miss Beer, do you know, I know what sand is, it's little tiny tiny stones.'"
It may be worth while to notice some things in these notes. First the pleasure in exploring the new surroundings and then the variety of delights. Our landscape gardener mentions that "any slope to our grounds should be welcomed.... For as we leave the level land and flee to the mountains to spend our vacation, so will a child avoid the street and seek the gutter and the bank on the unimproved lot to enjoy its pastime." Our own children have been fortunate enough to have a bank for their play, and though, unfortunately, extension of buildings has taken away much of this, we have had abundant opportunity to see the value of sloping ground. Then there are the discoveries, the feathery grasses, especially those which were hidden, the ladybirds, that sand is really "tiny tiny stones"—has every adult noticed that, or is sand "just sand"?—and the "wonder" that we can see through glass, a wonder realised by a little girl of four years old. Also we can notice what the children did not desire. They liked listening to the thrush, but to make out what the thrush was "saying" was beyond them. They liked gathering feathery grasses, but to sort these into different kinds gave no pleasure, though older children would have enjoyed trying to find many varieties.