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Education In Later Childhood

( Originally Published Early 1900's )

Later childhood (ages eight to eleven), or the big Injun age as Lee calls it, emerges gradually from the period of middle childhood. It is characterized by group life which in time takes on the aspects of the gang and by a beginning sex antagonism. It is marked by a physical hardihood; feats of strength and prowess are "meat and drink" to the lad of this age. Family life is interrupted by the advent of the "hoodlum" and the "tomboy." The "golden age" of memory is dawning and the larger number of concepts now possessed makes possible an ability to reason and to judge superior to that manifested heretofore. Because of the greater physical skill of the child and the increased purposefulness this period has sometimes been termed "the age of the tool box and the work shop." As far as the moral-social development is concerned, however, no characteristic is of greater importance than the ascendancy of the hero who may be at first only admired for physical power but who in time is idealized for strength of character. "I wish I'd a been that David !" said a boy of ten after listening with breathless interest to the battle of David with the giant. The home loses its supreme significance while friendships of boys with boys and of girls with girls grow more dominant.


This is a period of slow growth; height and weight as a rule increase gradually. At nine the brain is full size. The limbs have lengthened considerably and the whole appearance of the body is more angular. There is an abounding health, although near the close of period there may be an unexplainable loss of vitality. Girls grow more rapidly than boys, and the differences which are more evident at adolescence begin to manifest themselves. The body of this child is tougher, less susceptible to contagions and able to stand changes of temperature as well as exposures to rain, snow and heat. There is much less danger too from malformations. The hardening of the muscles renders possible the increased physical strength, en-durance and skill. There is intense activity of the muscles. This child must have exercise; he possesses no great power of physical inhibition. He has been well captioned as "wriggly."

Such a physique renders possible games and feats upon the apparatus of the gymnasium and playground calling for an endurance, a strength and a skill which the child has not had before. Every boy and girl should have access to a gymnasium and a playground during the year and to out-of-door life on the farm and in the woods for the summer. A good play leader who can suggest the types of exercise most needed to develop each child should have general oversight of the play periods. He will know, of course, the value of sufficient freedom to secure joyous self-expression in all such play. To try to house boys and girls during these years in an apartment house or a tenement is as cruel as to pen up young colts in a box car. It is a nerve-racking process for parents, neighbors and the children themselves. Not only does the child meet the rigors of nature well but he craves a certain amount of struggle with the elements, and if in normal health he should have it. To plow through the snow, to battle with the wind on a wild March day, to wade in rubber boots through the ooze of the pond, to go barefoot through the fields, to dive into the old swimming hole, these are experiences that are the birthright of Juniors. They will toughen the body and fortify the nerves for the struggles of the business world later on. A plea for girls at this age needs to be made. They too should be permitted to play on apparatus, to race, to climb, to yell like their brothers. If they were allowed a more vigorous physical training there would not be so many weakly, neurotic women unable to bear the strain of modern industrial life, the vicissitudes of child birth and the cares of the fireside.

Because of the intense motor activity during these years the grave mistake of committing children to schools for long hours of sedentary living, is apparent. If there were no other reason for the new movement in education than the physical need of our children it would be amply justified. Stanwood Cobb, writing in the Atlantic Monthly, says, "Much of the nervousness of American school children can be attributed to the brutal (so it will seem a hundred years from now) custom of holding them to fixed seats,—six rows, seven in a row, for five hours a day." The school that has its workshops, studio, laboratories, gymnasium, playgrounds, as well as its library and class-rooms, is equipped to meet the needs of this growing child.

Even before later childhood the boy or girl can be challenged to take an interest in his own physical welfare; to watch his own increase in weight and height and to be genuinely proud if it approximates the normal. The charts prepared for schools by the Child Welfare Bureau have proved of great value in inspiring scores of children to a healthy rivalry for first place in physical fitness. So simple a device as a beam in the attic or the basement of the home which registers the child's slowly increasing height by pencil markings may prove an incentive to self-control in matters of eating and sleep. Regular hours are very essential and not less than ten hours of sleep are advisable. Such habits as brushing of the teeth, frequent baths, proper use of the bubbler or individual drinking cup, proper mastication of food and regular care of the bowels should be automatic. The child never grows so fixed in these habits, however, that there is not the possibility of uprising as new powers and a growing self-will find certain duties irksome. Bagley says that parents and teachers who have the stamina and perseverance to carry habit-forming processes to a successful conclusion are the crying need of these years.


This child has a keen appetite. He is always hungry; he relishes anything from hardtacks to pumpkin pie. If he is not to ruin a good digestion during these years, it is necessary that he be supplied with an abundance of nourishing food at regular intervals which will satisfy his growing body. There will not be the craving for sweets and condiments which otherwise would be purchased or foraged to fill his ravenous insides. The penny lunch at school has done much for the children of both rich and poor to supplement the lacks in the family diet and to cut off the patronage of the candy store and bakery. The menu should include plenty of cereal, milk, fresh fruits and vegetables in season, and meats and desserts in very moderate portions. Fried foods and rich pastries are not in order for young or old, but are a double insult when forced upon a growing body. The cooperation of the child himself needs to be secured in matters of diet. As has been suggested he should have the pride of the athlete in his physical condition ; and he may be inspired to self-control through an account of the strenuous course of training of his favorite baseball hero. Parents and teachers must set the children a good example, and, strange to say, it is just here that the self-sacrifice of the parent falters most often. It is hard to deny our own appetites that our children may have the vitality which we have forfeited; but there is no other way so efficacious in teaching temperance.

The great desire of this child for motor activity has already been mentioned as well as his need for out-of-door play. Some one has said that he could play twenty hours out of the twenty-four. Not all of his play consists of organized games or of purposeful work. Unless he is prevented he spends a certain amount of time in yelling and tearing around. If he has the freedom of the city streets or of the woods and fields he roams at will, for the instinct of migration is strong, and it is furthered by his independence and hardihood. Unless the home and the school provide excursion and travel, summer camps and winter hikes for these children, there is danger of truancy and the permanent runaway. The Juvenile Court spends no little time upon cases of this character. Competing interests, however, may also be provided in the home and school environment as we will see later, but we plead here for a certain amount of gratification of the migratory instinct as beneficial physically and mentally, also in furnishing new material for thought and appreciation.

Supplying migration with an added motive is the collecting instinct or acquisitiveness, which as a rule reaches its maximum during these years. In a study made several years ago by Caroline Burk and reported in the Pedagogical Seminary, of the collections of 510 Santa Barbara children and of 704 Santa Rosa children (California of course) it was found that the most collections were made at ten years. The nature interest was highest in these collections for all children, being 29%. There was the greatest variety, however, in the kinds of things collected, largely due to circumstances, environment, suggestion or imitation. Up to nine years of age the only arrangement of collections was simply keeping them together; after that age there were some instances of classification according to color, size or both, some according to kind and two according to decoration. It is very evident that there is educational value in these collections and that the home and the school may utilize the collecting instinct in the teaching of the sciences by stimulating worthwhile nature collections and by providing a way to secure them and a place to keep them. The use of collections of religious or biblical interest may be continued in the church school.

The character of the play changes somewhat during these years. It consists chiefly in games of skill and competition. Races of all kinds are popular, ball games, and sedentary games such as checkers and marbles. The play for the most part is not aimless but distinctly purposeful. This child will do the hardest kind of work in order to carry through his play project. A group of children, girls and boys, built a house in the trees for which they carried the boards a mile, having ripped them from an old fence that distance away. They hoisted them up to the tree and made them secure with great diffuculty ; it required several days to finish the house but their zeal did not flag. As fighting enters into some of the play it is often violent and very strenuous. There is too a great interest in dramatic performances and in real plays. The movie has a dangerous fascination for children at this age. The growing interest in a hero, in fighting, in adventure, is appealed to in every film, while the presence of the "3 \T's" as Donald Robertson calls them, vice, vulgarity and violence, tends to coarsen the sensibilities of the child and cheapen his ideas of life. The emotions are so stirred that much of the present crime prevalent among these children as well as in adolescence may be traced to this incitement. The movie properly censored may become a great influence for good because it is a compelling interest; but at present it vitiates the child physically, men-tally and morally. Not only does this child like to witness the drama but he likes to take part in a play himself. A group of boys of this age wrote their own plays, staged and produced them with very little help from any outsider. It is most important that these children shall read the right type of literature, see wholesome plays in order that they may have material for dramatization, the production of which will give expression to the higher emotions and the finest ideals of which they are capable. We do not mean that plays should eliminate adventure, struggle or the representation of the dark and dangerous side of life, but that they should be wholesome, clean and sincere and should suggest a positive outcome. No better drama than Robin Hood was ever written for this period. In their plays and festivals children at this age require more setting and more personal adornment than do younger children. Girls like to play "lady dress up," and boys enjoy wearing badges and various insignia. Real food, real crowns and real beds are wanted by these children when they represent.

There is an ethical curiosity at this age that manifests itself in questions pertaining to politics, religion and social customs. The child wants to participate in the discussions of his elders at table and elsewhere. Although his questions and comments may be amusing at times, they should be treated with the utmost respect. Many times they astound us with a wisdom that seems much beyond his years. I remember sitting at table one day with a friend and his wife and their ten-year-old son. We were speaking of certain stories in the Bible and their moral influence upon children. I remarked that I doubted the advisability of using the story of Jacob and Esau, since I thought the child might argue that if Jacob was so successful in his deception it would pay to be tricky. John, who had been apparently absorbed in his dinner and whose presence I had forgotten, spoke at this moment. "Why," said he, "I never thought of that. It never worked that way with me."

There is also, in addition to an ethical curiosity, a great curiosity as to how things are made, what makes them work. "Clocks and clothes wringers," says Lee, "are in danger." There is a keen interest in investigating mechanical and natural laws while this boy revels in "the crash, the catastrophe and the shriek." His toys are real things, kites, bonfires, engines and automobiles, when he can lay hands on them. He is not only securing valuable information and growing in power to observe through his investigations but he uses in his own construction much of the knowledge that he secures. He is keenly interested in tools. Boys are fond of wood-work, while girls are equally interested in sewing. Very good tools should be provided for these children and they are ready for such instruction as will enable them to do finer and more accurate work for which they are fully capable. They show the ability to plan, execute and criticize their own work to an extent which was impossible before. It is a delight to go into the work-shop and see every child bent upon his own project or working out some plan in cooperation with a group,—selfreliant, accurate, original. Arithmetic gets a practical use in the shopwork where measurement and calculation are constantly employed. While in many of the art projects the child's increasing ability in handling the brush, the crayon and the pencil is shown in the accurate and pleasing results.

Individualism is marked by fighting, and many and bloody are the personal combats during these years. Brothers fight with brothers and sisters with sisters, while there are even greater antagonisms between the sexes. I remember how troubled my mother was when my sister and I began to have regular battles royal with the broom, the dish mop or any other handy article of warfare. Up to about this time I had always cherished her as the apple of my eye, and after one of these scrimmages I used to be sure that the disapproval of heaven was upon my unregenerate heart and hand. There is much self-assertion, frequent attempts to dominate and to "show off." Teasing and bullying are very prominent, especially between boys and girls. These anti-social manifestations are crude, clumsy and loud and very difficult for the adult members of the family to tolerate.

Other children, however, begin to have greater influence over the boy or girl at this age, and group co-operation is closer. Boys and girls form more lasting attachments than in middle childhood, and while the gang has no permanent organization, yet it is appearing. Gangs fight each other. There is much rivalry and competition. A good deal of it is outside the gang; some of it is inside. These children live to compete especially through tests of physical strength. Parents and teachers must work through the interests of these children and seek to stimulate cooperation for worthwhile ends within the group, as when the boys or girls are enlisted in working for a picture fund for the school, for a garden fair as a benefit for the playground, for clothes to send to the Armenians. If rivalry between classes in the Sunday-school is stimulated in order to see which class will secure the largest gift for the orphanage at Christmas or the most flowers for the hospital, and if fair play and good sportsmanship are cultivated, the value will carry over into the children's play. Parents cannot ignore the gang nor the influence of it over their boys and girls. In-stead they must seek to get into its good graces and influence the character of what goes on there without a realization on the part of the children that any effort is being made to interfere with their activities. One mother was greatly troubled when her boys of nine and twelve made a dugout in the back lot at some distance from the house and when smoke and evidence of yellow literature made their appearance. She was wise enough not to prohibit or scold. Instead she baked a large panful of crisp dough-nuts and approached the dugout with them as a peace offering. One of her sons appeared at the opening when she came within hailing distance, and it was amusing to see how his churlish expression changed when he beheld the doughnuts. He graciously thanked her for them and disappeared within. She repeated the performance later, and at last she was invited one day into the sacred sanctum by her own son. After that she was a frequent visitor. She bought some books of fine but clean adventure which took the place of the yellow-back variety ; and she even participated in a Hallowe'en raid on the neighbor-hood one dark night, steering the boys successfully away from jokes that were not funny. Standards of conduct are being fixed in these years, and it is most important that they should be in favor of honesty, truth and clean, decent play. Boys and girls need their parents and teachers, but comradery is the only open door.

Fortunately for those who have the character building of this child in charge, imitation begins to take the form of hero worship. To be sure the hero is at first the physically able one, but if the child can be exposed to men of physical prowess who at the same time exemplify certain of the outstanding Christian graces such as honesty, generous treatment of others, courtesy, fair play, clean living, he will imbibe gradually these characteristics and incorporate them in his ideal. The heroes of history, of literature, of the Old Testament may be brought through story and through the child's own reading; and Jesus may be so presented as to win supreme allegiance. The child at this age vies for the approval of his hero and of the other members of his group or gang; he openly courts the disapproval of members of the opposite sex and of the rest of society in general. If one of his heroes is a teacher who has charge of the school athletics or the Y. M. gymnasium or his Sunday-school class then there is every chance of the boy being led aright. If he thinks of God as his constant companion or of Jesus as a friend who is always with him, the thought will be a steadying influence upon every occasion. Hartshorne relates the incident of a twelve-year-old boy who in a race got an early start, ran about three yards, then stopped and dropped out. When the starter asked him what was the matter, he replied, "I believe my start was a steal and I couldn't run ; God wouldn't like it."

The parental instinct is strong toward pets and frequently toward younger children. This child must have a pet; it may be a pony, a dog, a turtle or a fish. He also upon occasion shows marvelous devotion in his care of others. Angelo Patri tells the story of a "wonder child" as he calls him, a little fellow who every day disappeared once or twice from school for a short time, returning later. Upon inquiry Patri discovered that the child had a feeble-minded mother who had in the home one or two young children. This boy, knowing her forget-fulness and feeling her general inefficiency, slipped off to see that these tiny children were fed and safe. Another writer tells of the death of a boy of eleven who had lost mother and father and who kept the little family together and worked to support them until the charities found the case. The lad succumbed to illness as the result of the nervous strain. The suggestions made in the last chapter for utilizing the nurture instinct in the development of a habit of service need to be applied in these years also.

As has been indicated, a sex consciousness is appearing which must be wisely dealt with. The child should be prepared during these years for the physical changes which are soon to come so that he will not be shocked and so that the sexual vitality will be conserved for its great end. This preparation should not be made all at once. Gradually through the years the child should have been taught to reverence his body, first by the respect of the father and mother toward it and by the modesty of the home relations. Every effort to prevent abuse of the sex organs by the handling of them should have been made by the parents, such as clean clothing, loose and comfortable, frequent baths, wise employment for busy hands, the habit of going to sleep regularly and rising as soon as awake, and circumcision for boys when necessary. Constant vigilance is the price parents must pay if they would keep their children pure. When once the habit has gained some headway, then if the child is old enough to understand, the mother or father should explain that the child cannot grow up well and strong to be a good father or mother if he continues this practice, so that he will see the necessity of helping to break the habit. Never should he be harshly treated for this mistake or "shamed," since such treatment is very likely to lead to secretiveness; he should be treated rationally and kindly but with firmness. When he begins to question, as a child under six often does, about the origin of life, he may be led through the processes of nature in the hatching of the baby birds and little chicks, in the birth of little kittens and in the pollination of the flowers to make the right application to human life and his own source. He may be led to think of the birth of a baby as the most wonderful of God's miracles, as indeed it is. It is very unwise to ignore his questions or to mislead him lest he may go to some polluted well for the water of life, and all his thinking on this most vital topic be poisoned forever after. It is necessary to give him at each age such information as satisfies him, and he can be led to consider this topic as one which he discusses only with father and mother. Before adolescence irreparable mischief may be done because the child is ignorant of the facts which alone afford protection. The subject should always be discussed in such a matter-of-fact yet reverent way that there will be no self-consciousness or morbid brooding at any time.

Worship is growing more thoughtful. Since this is the age when the hero is assuming ascendency, Jesus may be so presented as to embody the ideal which this child can understand in personality. He unconsciously reverences his ideal and seeks to emulate him. There may be definite training in the forms of worship, and the habit of regular prayer should be firmly established. If the child has been led to pray spontaneously as an expression of his thoughts and feelings, he will now in prayer voice the problems of his daily living in which he needs God's help, and also the abounding joys. He is not yet ready to worship in the phraseology and concepts of the Lord's Prayer, but other suitable prayer material may be found and verses may be selected from the Bible for memorization which he can comprehend. The reasoning power and the will are sufficiently developed so that this child may be given the opportunity to make many conscious and de-liberate choices between good and evil. Toward the close of this period or at the age of twelve it is customary in our church schools to ask for a confession of faith. If required at all such an expression of choice must be very carefully prepared for through the knowledge that the child has gained of Jesus on the human side in the simple daily contacts with life. It should be reverently and quietly solicited at a time when there is perfect confidence between teacher or parent and child. A form of presentation that the child can appreciate should be used. He can understand from his own experience what it means to accept Jesus as a friend to help on every occasion and what obedience and loyalty involve.


Although we have indicated at several points the mental capacity of this child, it will be of value to consider its implications in more detail. Sense perception is marked by more accurate observation. There is keen awareness to environment, provided there has been any opportunity or challenge in past education to observe. Differences as well as likenesses are clearly noted. At eight years of age every normal child can answer correctly the questions in the Binet-Simon Intelligence test: "What is the difference between a fly and a butterfly ?" "Wood and glass ?" "Paper and cloth ?" These children are able to make much more difficult distinctions and to define exactly. Concept formation goes on apace. Much more abstraction is possible, for this child is dealing largely in ideas. However, he is not yet ready for the more difficult religious concepts and ideas. Many children are utterly perplexed by such symbolic statements as "Come to Jesus," "Give your life to Jesus," "He taketh away the sins of the world," "The blood of the lamb cleanseth us from all sin." It is well to get a free expression from the child at this age as to what he thinks may be meant by any command or statement that you are not sure he under-stands. You will find that religious experience especially suffers serious injury at just this point.

Attention and interest are of longer duration. There is an insistent demand for longer stories. The story-teller is often greeted with "Is it a long one ?" and if the reply is satisfactory the boys and girls settle back to enjoy to their heart's content. Reading is a keen interest at this age, and books of adventure, travel and heroism are devoured. Boys like to fish, and weaving is a form of handwork which gives much pleasure. In the home as well as in the school these interests may be appealed to. Every child should have his own library to which books are added for birthdays, Christmas and as occasional surprises between times. Two or three good magazines should be provided. In addition he should use the children's room in the public library. As a child I was an omnivorous reader. My mother instead of seeking to curb my appetite for books sought to guide it. She took the librarian into her confidence, and when I appeared at the library the proper books for my perusal were al-ways delightfully presented to me, so that those years and the succeeding ones of adolescence were safely and profitably passed. As a result I have had a rich back-ground of varied content from my reading which has been an inspiration in the busier years when there has been little time for general reading.

This has been termed the golden age of rote memory. Many adults are rich in the gems of poetry and prose which were stored away in these years. At home, school and church school, material should be presented for memorization which is full of content values for this period and which inspires healthy emotional expression. It is needless to add that it should be of excellent literary form. One home had the custom of keeping a scrapbook for beautiful modern prose and poetry; parents and children contributed to the collection and many of the selections were memorized. The mental grasp is decidedly widened. This child is apparently engaged in one occupation while he keeps "the run" of two or three others. Nothing escapes him. He is of course ready for more complexity in story, song, verse and game. The reasoning powers are greater; more complex problems may be solved, but there is not the seasoned judgment of the adult. He is still swayed often by instinct. Some of the test questions of the Binet-Simon series are of interest here in indicating the type of problem that he normally solves correctly. We quote first for the tenth year :

What ought one to do:

1—When one has missed the train?

2—When one has been struck by a playmate who did not do it purposely?

3—When one has broken something that does not belong to one?

4—When one is detained so that he will be late for school? 5—What ought one to do before taking part in an important affair?

6—Why does one excuse a wrong act committed in anger more

readily than a wrong act committed without anger?

7—What should one do when asked his opinion of one he knows only a little?

8—Why ought one to judge a person more by his acts than by his words?

The last four questions are a transition from the tenth to the eleventh years, while in the eleventh year these sentences are given to see if the child can detect the contradiction or absurdity :

1—An unfortunate cyclist has had his head broken and is dead from the fall; they have taken him to the hospital and they do not think that he will recover.

2—I have three brothers, Paul, Ernest and myself.

3—The police found yesterday the body of a young girl cut into eighteen pieces. They believed that she killed herself.

There are two others in this series which we will not repeat here. This child is keenly interested in puzzles and conundrums and in games which contain these. They are an excellent form of problem solving and should be utilized at home and at school, while in the church school some use of such a method in reviewing biblical facts would be of interest and of value. There is much social criticism and experimentation, and parents particularly have the opportunity to help the child to apply his standards and ideals of social conduct to everyday living.

Imagination is well under control, since the child is able to make clear distinctions between the world of reality and the world of fiction. For this reason it has been said that "a lie at twelve is tragic." Constructive imagination is evident in the child's ability to image by means of words only as he listens to stories, pursues his reading, arithmetic, geography and history and participates in physical exercises or folk games where directions are given. However, it is still well to use some pictures, diagrams, maps and objects during all of these years as an aid to the imagination. Creative imagination should be apparent in the writing of original stories, plays, verses, songs and in the handwork projects. Two sisters at nine and eleven wrote a continued story of several chapters which they carefully copied in book form and hand-decorated, as a birthday gift for their mother. The entire project occupied several weeks and was done under lock and key in their playroom without any instigation or help from other members of the household. A group of children in the fourth grade wrote as beautiful a series of bird poems as I have ever read ; but this flowering into verse was the result of an intimate knowledge and appreciation of nature and of poetry. Through the imagination during these years the child may picture the needs, the customs, the surroundings of children of other races and other lands and may come to feel a kinship with the children of the world. His imagination should not be perverted to destructive uses by the presentations of the movies, yellow literature and the "funny sheet" of the Sunday newspaper supplement. Parents need to beware of coarse humor and of obscene and vicious pictures.

Credulity is no longer a characteristic; in fact this child is more likely to be a "skeptic." "You can't fool me" is a common expression. Having been "taken in" so to speak rather often in the past, he is wary of counterfeits and is very sensitive about seeming simple or silly, to use his own word. Suggestibility is still great, as is proved by the influence of books and companions. The duty of parents and teachers in guiding subtly to wise choices here is very apparent. I have known families that have moved solely to get their boys and girls out of a very undesirable environment during these years or away from a pernicious companion. If there is no other way of controlling the situation then certainly business ought not to stand in the way of the child's best interests.

The will is less impulsive and action is better controlled by ideas, less by feeling. There is often great self-control, evidenced in reaching an end. The emotions are also under more control, but when once aroused may be very intense and prolonged, in anger, hatred or jealousy. This child is capable of working out a definite plot to get even and of carrying it through successfully. The great need is therefore apparent of furnishing him with the right ideals through stories depicting moral struggles, of sup-plying him with worthy heroes, of establishing standards of conduct involving personal self control, fair play, generosity, service, so that he is fortified against that day when his passions are aroused and he is provoked to do evil. He is still a child, it must be remembered, and for the most part he is docile and teachable. He is not to be dealt with as an adolescent, although he is fast approaching that period. Upon the foundation of habits of clean thinking and right living built up in these and preceding years will the house stand firm, when the doubts, the rebellions, the romantic imaginings of adolescence appear. Fortunate is he if he carries with him a faith in the goodness and love of God, a sense of His righteousness and power, and an ideal of Jesus as the matchless friend of men.

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