Mothers And The Kindergarten
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
THE kindergarten is the divine right of motherhood. Every mother is a co-worker with the head gardener, and receives directions from Him. It is the divine right of childhood to come into a kindergarten home,—that is a home conducted by a mother who is an educator as well as a care-taker. A figure-head mother is as pernicious as a plaything child. Kindergarten is the alluring name which the world over stands for nurture of the heart as well as nourishment of the body. The emphasis should be placed on the Garten, for it is by the gardening process that the children are to become the harvest treasure of society. Again, the title Kindergarten is a happy one, because it comforts the gardener to be reminded that weeding is also a part of the process of cultivation. Every mother and teacher has a fair image of the ideal, normal child in her heart, and the daily discrepancy between the real and the image child becomes the source of her vast discouragement. But it also is the incitement to work even such magic with the abnormal child as the wizard Burbank works with plants of a lesser order.
During the social demoralization which reigned in Europe after the Napoleonic wars, came the voice of one crying in the wilderness, and it was the fatherly Swiss reformer Pestalozzi, who preached the new gospel of intelligent parenthood, and family education, and fireside ethics. The motherless and the worse than fatherless were all about him as he cried, saying:
"Even such dare not be left without the father and mother influence during the school years, for by this influence alone may they know of and enter into the larger humanity. Every possible means, including the powers of Church and State, must be brought together to secure to these little ones the parental influence, which is the essence, yes, the germ of all human culture. And if this be not provided, then are these poor little creatures orphaned indeed ! All the schools may stand wide open to them later, they may be fed and clothed abundantly, yet will they forever lack that first, fine thing which is fundamental to human society—the parental principle."
And after Pestalozzi came another prophet, the German Froebel, who organized this idea of a composite education made up of mother, father, home and school influences, and called it Kindergarten. For forty years the Kindergarten has proven its benefits to the little children of the United States. During the forty years, many of these fortunate children who were in the earliest Kindergartens have grown up and some of the women have entered the Kindergarten training schools which have sprung up in the meantime. They have equipped them-selves to teach other little Raising Children, and some of them have entered homes and are to-day practicing the virtues of the method in their own nurseries. Such have indeed enjoyed the ideal preparation for motherhood, and are invariably a treasure in the community which shelters their home nest.
Those who come to the crown of motherhood without such privileges, may still take the study in part or in full, alongside of the home and family program, and even in time complete the regular two years' course now offered by the training schools in every city. To have a "real" mother in the Kindergarten training class is a benediction to the work. It is profitable, even to the busiest mother, to visit the Kindergarten often, to ask questions and get on familiar terms with the Kindergartner. If the Kindergartner is brave enough to hold mothers' meetings, the benefit will be mutual, if you as a mother attend and co-operate heartily with her endeavors. Should there be no Kindergarten in the community where you and your family make its home, there are three ways by which you may find some of the benefits of the method. You may secure the services of a Kindergartner to live in your own family as a mother's helper, and allow her to gradually draw other children to your home group ; you can organize a mother's reading group, and set out to find this treasure world of child nurture literature which is being created for your special benefit; or you may keep the record of your own experiences and observations of the development of your Raising Children, and by correspondence with other mothers or Kindergarten magazines compare these first hand notes, and even contribute to the science of child nurture.
The home and the Kindergarten never can in any sense displace each other. The best of mothers can not do all for her children at home, which even an average Kindergartner may do in the regularly organized Kindergarten. On the other hand, the most complete Kindergarten can not be a substitute for a home,—and yet each should partake of the nature of the other. The home life, with its daily associations, affections, services and reciprocities needs no defining or apostrophizing here. It is the instrument and adumbration of love, and as such fulfills the high law of its being.
The Kindergarten receives children from this home-life at the ages of three, four and five years. The particular features of the Kindergarten which are difficult to reproduce in the home are as follows :
1. The regular periods for such occupations as are developing and are proportioned to the growing ability of young Raising Children, including hand work, games and plays, song, story, picture and well-considered resting periods.
2. The companionship of other children of the same age but varying natures, and the directing hand and eye of the discriminating Kindergartner to guide these relationships.
3. The discipline which inevitably arises where social groups work and play together, and the establishment of fair play by taking turns, by appeals to the older to yield to the younger, by opportunities to share and to agree and to decide.
4. A progressive scheme which governs the hand work, subject matter, physical exercise, etc., all based on educational considerations.
Among the features of the Kindergarten which may be adopted in any home are the following : Free use of scissors and paper; picture books; picture making, with watercolors, pencils, crayons; paste to be provided on reasonable demand; story telling by both parents and children; keeping of festivals and birthdays with appropriate ceremony and recurring traditions; painting mother's birthday flower; making and sending valentines or Christmas gifts; opportunity to help mother.
The latter is one of the cardinal principles of the Kindergartner. Many kinds of home work are introduced into our elementary schools in order to satisfy this conspicuous trait of young children,—the desire to help mother. It is a social instinct which should be given full play at the time when it shows itself strongly. This may be the case in a little two-and-one-half-yearold girl. The Kindergartner is pledged to consider it worth while to "bother" with this helping spirit. There is sure to be trouble, if the little helper is set aside like a piece of furniture. Then the soul asserts itself and demands right of way to be altruistic.
As a man in business seeks to establish a clear, steady, trustworthy policy, which may be known to all men, so the family gardener, whether in a home or a school, is pushed to establish a consistent, even policy, worthy of the high business in hand. The Kindergarten is patterned after the home and family rather than the old-fashioned school, in all matters of discipline, government or regulation. Each parent looks to the clay when the son or daughter is weighed in the balance and not found wanting by society, and proves acceptable, efficient, self-supporting. The beginnings of these fine realizations are in the persistent and consistent consideration of the most important principles of development all the way from babyhood up to maturity, and these are pointed out and held sacred by the Kindergarten.
For this reason, if for no others, a busy mother may well consider it a comfort and a relief to send her little ones to a Kindergarten, and a troubled mother may there find reassurance when she is uncertain how to proceed with a troublesome one.
It is the Kindergartner's business to understand how to proceed, and with the mother's faith and help, she does proceed and succeed. The following motto by Froebel has helped the members of a certain mothers' club to live their lives over again in their children: "To learn to comprehend nature in the child,—is not that to comprehend one's own nature and the nature of mankind? Women can not take unto themselves anything higher and more comprehensive. The love of child-hood in its widest sense, is it not a love of humanity?"