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Schools And Education
Child Development
Child's Education
Education And Life
The Common School
Physical Education
Citizenship And Schools
Education In Democratic Society
Ethics In Schools
Efficiency Of Our Schools
Creative Education
Drama And Education

Child Development

( Originally Published 1913 )

The aim and object of parental care, in the domestic and family circle, is to awaken and develop, to quicken all the powers and natural gifts of the child, to enable all the members and organs of man to fulfill the requirements of the child's powers and gifts. The natural mother does all this instinctively, without instruction and direction; but this is not enough; it is needful that she should do it consciously, as a conscious being acting upon another being which is growing into consciousness, and consciously tending toward the continuous development of the human being, in a certain inner living connection.

The child-your child, ye fathers-follows you wherever you are, wherever you go, in whatever you do. Do not harshly repel him; show no impatience about his ever-recurring questions. Every harshly repelling word crushes a bud or shoot of his tree of life. Do not, however, tell him in words much more than he could find himself without your words. For it is, of course, easier to hear the answer from another, perhaps, to only half hear and understand it, than it is to seek and discover it himself. To have found one-fourth of the answer by his own efforts is of more value and importance to the child than it is to half hear and half understand it in the words of another; for this causes mental indolence. Do not, therefore, always answer your children's questions at once and directly; but as soon as they have gathered sufficient strength and experience, furnish them with the means to find the answers in the sphere of their own knowledge.

On the part of parents and educators the period of infancy demands chiefly fostering care. During the succeeding period of childhood, which looks upon man predominantly as a unit, and would lead him to unity, training prevails. The period of boyhood leads man chiefly to the consideration of particular relationships and individual things, in order to enable him later on to discover their inner unity. The inner tendencies and relationships of individual things and conditions are sought and established.

Such a process constitutes the school in the widest sense of the word. The school, then, leads man to a knowledge of external things, and of their nature in accordance with the particular and general laws that lie in them; by the presentation of the external, the individual, the particular, it leads man to a knowledge of the internal, of unity, of the universal. Therefore, on entering the period of boyhood, man becomes at the same time a schoolboy. With this period, school begins for him, be it in the home or out of it, and taught by the father, the members of the family, or a teacher. School, then, means here by no means the schoolroom, nor schoolkeeping, but the conscious communication o f knowledge, for a definite purpose and in definite inner connection.

On the other hand, as it has appeared and continues to appear in every aspect, the development and cultivation of man, for the attainment of his destiny, and the fulfillment of his mission, constitute an unbroken whole, steadily and continuously progressing, gradually ascending. The feeling of community, awakened in the infant, becomes in the child impulse, inclination; these lead to the formation of the disposition and of the heart and arouse in the boy his intellect and will. To give firmness to the will, to quicken it, and to make it pure, strong, and enduring, in a life of pure humanity, is the chief concern, the main object in the guidance of the boy, in instruction and the school.

Will is the mental activity, ever consciously proceeding from a definite point in a definite direction towards a definite object, in harmony with the man's nature as a whole. This statement contains everything, and indicates all that parent and educator, teacher and school, should be or should give to the boy in example and precept during these years. The starting point of all mental activity in the boy should be energetic and sound; the source whence it flows, pure, clear, and ever flowing; the direction, simple, definite; the object, fixed, clear, living and life giving, elevating, worthy of the effort, worthy of the destiny and mission of man, worthy of his essential nature, and tending to develop it and give it full expression.

Instruction in example and in words, which later on become precept and example, furnishes the means for this. Neither example alone nor words alone will do; not example alone, for it is particular and special, and the word is needed to give to particular individual examples universal applicability; not words alone, for example is needed to interpret and explain the word which is general, spiritual, and of many meanings. But instruction and example alone and in themselves are not sufficient; they must meet a good, pure heart, and this is an outcome of proper educational influences in childhood.

In the family the child sees the parents, and other members at work, producing, doing something; the same he notices with adults generally in life and in those active interests with which his family is concerned. Consequently, the child, at this stage, would like himself to represent what he sees. He would like to represent-and tries to do so-all he sees his parents and other adults do and represent in work, all which he thus sees represented by human power and human skill.

What formerly the child did only for the sake of the activity, the boy now does for the sake of the result or product of his activity; the child's instinct of activity has in the boy become a formative instinct, and this occupies the whole outward life, the outward manifestation of boy life at this period. How cheerfully and eagerly the boy and girl at this age begin to share the work of father and mother-not the easy work, indeed, but the difficult work, calling for strength and labor!

By no means, however, do all the plays and occupations of boys at this age aim at the representation of things; on the contrary, many are predominantly mere practice and trials of strength, and many aim simply at display of strength. Nevertheless, the play of this period always bears a peculiar character, corresponding with its inner life. For, while during the previous period of childhood the aim of play consisted simply in activity as such, its aim lies now in a definite, conscious purpose; it seeks representation as such, or the thing to be represented in the activity. This character is developed more and more in the free boyish games as the boys advance in age.

It is the sense of rare and reliable power, the sense of its increase, both as an individual and as a member of the group, that fills the boy with all-pervading, jubilant joy during these games. It is by no means, however, only the physical power that is fed and strengthened in these gains; intellectual and moral power, too, is definitely and steadily gained and brought under control. Indeed, a comparison of the relative gains of the mental and of the physical phases would scarcely yield the palm to the body. Justice, moderation, self-control, truthfulness, loyalty, brotherly love, and, again, strict impartialitywho, when he approaches a group of boys engaged in such games, could fail to catch the fragrance of these delicious blossomings of the heart and mind, and of a firm will; not to mention the beautiful, though perhaps less fragrant blossoms of courage, perseverance, resolution, prudence, together with the severe elimination of indolent indulgence? Whoever would inhale a fresh, quickening breath of life, should visit the playgrounds of such boys.

The existence of the present teaches man the existence of the past. This, too, which was before he was, he would know. Then there is developed in the boy at this age the desire and craving for tales, for legends, for all kinds of stories, and later on for historical accounts. This craving, especially in its first appearance, is very intense; so much so, that, when others fail to gratify it, the boys seek to gratify it themselves, particularly on days of leisure, and in times when the regular employments of the day are ended.

Man is by no means naturally bad, nor has he originally bad or evil qualities or tendencies; unless, indeed, we consider as naturally evil, bad, and faulty, the finite, the material, the transitory, the physical, as such, and the logical consequences of the existing of these phenomena, namely, that man must have the possibility of failure in order to be good and virtuous, that he must be able to make himself a slave in order to be truly free. Yet these things are the necessary concomitants of the manifestation of the eternal in the temporal, of unity in diversity, and follow necessarily from man's destiny to become a conscious, reasonable, and free being.

A suppressed or perverted good quality-a good tendency, only repressed, misunderstood, or misguided-lies originally at the bottom of every shortcoming in man. Hence, the only and infallible remedy for counteracting any shortcomings and even wickedness is to find the originally good source, the originally good side of the human being that has been repressed, disturbed, or misled into the shortcoming, and then to foster, build up, and properly guide this good side. Thus the shortcoming will at last disappear, although it may involve a hard struggle against habit, but not against original depravity in man; and this is accomplished so much the more rapidly and surely because man himself tends to abandon his shortcomings, for man prefers right to wrong. -Froebel

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