網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

the beauty and variety of material things, whether works of God or works of man, made in the image of God.

The effect of these normal types in developing observation, classification and creative activity is quite remarkable. The shelves of the well conducted Kindergarten groan under the spools and buttons, the marbles and apples, nests and eges, bottles and blocks which the eager children bring in morning after morning saying they have found something inore like their ball, cube or cylinder. I remeniber well a little girl five years old who after playing for some time with her ball began to count over the different round objects she could remember, and after namning apples, grapes, cherries and peaches, suddenly exclaimed with a flash of quick pleasure in her face, “Why all fruits are round,” and, she added after a moment's thoughtful pause, “ so are all vegetables.” A little boy of the same age came one morning with a particularly eager face to the Kindergarten and begged "for a lump of clay to make his mamma's preserve dish.”

“How are you going to make it?" I asked as I handed him the clay. The answer was prompt and decided. “First I'll make a ball and flatten it to get a circle, on top of that I'll stand a long narrow cylinder, and above that I'll put a hollowed out half-ball.” In the field flowers and the leaves of the trees, in dew drops and jewels, in the patterns of carpets and oil cloths, in the figures on wallpaper, in architectural decorations, in the varied reflections of the sunlight and the shifting figures of the clouds, the wide-open eyes of the Kindergarten child rejoice in the revelation of familiar forms, and the heart made for unity detects it with a thrill of gladness under the infinite manifoldness of the external world.

III. There is a growing belief among educators that the mind should be kept in constant relation with all the essential branches of knowledge, but that the method of study should vary with the progressive stages of mental development. Thus they would present the sensible facts of any given science to the perceptions of the child, the relations of these facts to the understanding of the youth, and the synthesis of these relations to the reason of the mature student. By this method there is secured continuity of thought, and the ultimate inclusive principle is made to register the results of a vivid personal experience.

While the evolution of moral truths has been less distinctly formulated, it is I think widely felt that they must be rooted in the sympathies and fostered by exertion of the will. As we present knowledge successively to perception, reflection and pure thought, so we may present the same moral relationships successively to feeling, conscience, and spiritual insight and match our intellectual spiral of facts, relations and principles with a spiral of moral presentments, intuitions and comprehensions.

The Kindergarten deals with the first stage of this double development and offers to the mind perceptions, and to the heart presentiments. Moreover it deals not with special branches of study, but with primal facts, not with special moral obligations, but with fundamental moral relationships. And finally it appeals not separately to the mind and heart, but through the same objects and exercises touches both at once. In all this the Kindergarten is in accord with the nature of the child. No person can be thrown with children without noticing their religious aptitudes and sympathies, their strongly developed sense of analogy, and their aversion to analysis. The youth is analytic and investigative, ambitious to work out his own purposes, prone to question and to deny. But the little child is happy in the felt though uncomprehended unity of life, and the sage finds rest at last in a unity which he comprehends. Thus the end of life meets its beginning. At sunrise and at sunset we rejoice in the sun, though in the glare of the noonday we forget the glory of the light in the beauty of the things enlightened.

It seems to me, therefore, quite reasonable when Fröbel claims that the deepest and most universal truths should determine what we do for children and how we do it, and that precisely these deepest truths are the ones that the child will most readily recognize, though of course only under limited forms and applications. The deepest of all truths to Fröbel is that self-recognition is effected through self-activity, and the practical outcome of this insight is that education should from the beginning occupy the child with plastic material which he uses in subservievce to organic law. As he uses this material he is constantly illustrating the truths that all development begins in separation,—that through separation there is attained a higher union,--that every part is necessary to the whole and the whole is necessary to every part,—that deepening power is restricting power, and that, advancing from the homogeneous to the heterogeneous, a higher harmony results from a constantly increasing variety. These were the thoughts which ruled in Fröbel's mind, and he organized his gifts to give them material expression. First the undivided solids stamp themselves as wholes upon the child's mind. With the divided cube the child begins to transform and create, while by the repeated reconstruction of the original form, the relation of the parts to the whole is kept prominently in view. As the divisions of the cube increase in variety and complexity he finds he can produce more and more perfect forms, and when, through the constant association of the individual parts with the units from which they were derived, the idea of organic connection has become the regulator of his instinctive activity he advances to a gift which offers him not an object to transform, but independent elements which he combines in varied wholes.

Fröbel would be the weakest of educators if he claimed that children could understand these truths. But it is a very different thing to claim that they may, nay, that they must obey them and that activities regulated by these insights prepare the way for comprehension. The child who in perceptible things has been led to see the ordering of parts to a whole must as his mind develops grasp logical relations in the world of thought, and will, in a certain sense, be constrained to infer from visible effects their invisible causes. For there can be no connection without an underlying law, and it is impossible that there can be two systems of logic, one applying to the material and the other to the spiritual world. There is vast distance between the child's perception that he cannot rebuild his cube without using all the cubes into which it is divided and the man's recognition that he is an essential element of the great whole of humanity,-between the child's experience that the most beautiful forms he produces are those in which he most completely emphasizes individual elements and the man's glad certainty that his organic connections demand the rich fullness of his personality,--yet if there is continuity in life distance cannot abolish relation, and the full stream of the man's thought may be surely traced to the little springs of the child's perceptions.

Evidently these results will not come of themselves by simply playing with the Kindergarten gifts. Fröbel's material must be quickened with Fröbel's spirit, and she who aspires to guide a living mind must herself be regenerated by the truth. Only as she sees the end can she make the right beginning, and without violating the child's freedom wisely direct his steps. The mustard seed grows into a great tree, the leaven hid in the meal leavens the lump. Let a single vital truth, in however crude a form, be stirred to life in the mind, and straightway it both re-creates the mind in its own likeness and becomes prolific of related truths.

IV. All the features of the Kindergarten thus far alluded to are simply results of a single ruling thought,-flowers and fruit of one hidden root. When we comprehend this prolific thought we comprehend Fröbel. Until then we can only see in the Kindergarten a system of more or less valuable detail. Briefly stated this root thought is that as God knows himself through creation so must man, or in other words that to truly live we must constantly create, and that the condition of a complete self-consciousness is a complete reflection. The life of the soul is a struggle towards self-knowledge, and self-knowledge comes only through self-externalization. As Fröbel puts it, “ The inward as inward can never be known, it is only revealed by being made outward. The mind like the eye sees not itself but by reflection.” What we want is to know ourselves, and we learn to know ourselves not by taking in but by giving out. God " for His own glory" makes man in His own image, or differently stated, completes His self-consciousness in the consciousness of the creature, and man too can only realize himself by producing his image.

Fröbel's merit lies not in the recognition of this truth, but in its application. Many thinkers have stated it more clearly than he, and other educators have traced it in the ceaseless bubbling over of the child's speech and in the ardor of his play. But Fröbel alone, with insight into the end the child blindly seeks, has aimed to aid the instinctive struggle towards self-consciousness, and by wisely organized material to stimulate and direct creative activity.

However we may criticise the basis of Fröbel's thought, no fair observer will question the results of his method. Let a child try to fashion his lump of clay into a bird's nest, and though his effort yield no other result it will certainly lead him to examine carefully the next bird's nest he sees. Let him make an apple and a pear and he must feel their difference in form as he would never have done had he simply looked at the two fruits. Let him attempt to lay with his sticks the outline of a house and his attention cannot fail to be caught by facts of direction and proportion. Let him apply numbers in weaving and their relations grow interesting to him. Lead him to construct symmetrical figures and he must feel the laws of symmetry. Teach him rhythmic movements and he must recognize rhythm. All things are revealed in the doing, and productive activity both enlightens and develops the mind.

It has always been a difficult problem to strike the balance between knowledge and power. The mind is not a sponge, nor is education the absorption of facts. On the other hand nothing is more dangerous than energy uncontrolled by knowledge and insight. The mind like the stomach suffers from overloading, yet both need constant food. The test of healthy assimilation is increasing strength, and we know we are supplying the mind with the right kind and amount of food if we notice a gain in vigor and originality. The child's intense play is nature's effort to order the thronging impressions of the first years of life, and the Kindergarten simply follows nature in alternating receptive and creative activities, and in constantly registering the results of perception in reproduction.

In an age so analytical and scientific as our own the Kindergarten has a special value. Scientific methods need to be supplemented in education by artistic processes. The scientist beginning with the embodied fact seeks its relations and its causes,—the thought of the artist is the final cause of the statue, the painting or the poem. The scientist, " handicapped by fact and riveted to matter," struggles painfully towards the spiritual, while before the artist the invisible is constantly shaping the visible and the eternal declaring itself in the transitory. The restless scientist strives to order a bewildering variety, the artist instinctively realizes the unity from which variety is evolved and feels the soul of the whole animating each particular part. We prepare the children for spiritual insight when we lead them to create.

Again, the representative system is death to superficiality and selfconceit. The child's imperfect results teach him humility and stir him to fresh effort. He is constantly testing his perceptions by production, and measuring himself by his attainment. He learns that what he can use is his,-that only what he consciously holds he truly possesses. He finds out in what directions he can best work and transforms uncomprehended tendency into definite character. He advances on the one hand from perception to conception, from conception to reproduction, from reproduction to definition, and on the other from an instinctive to a self-directing activity, and from this to self-knowledge and self-control. Thus by the same process he unlocks creation and realizes in himself the image of his Creator.

The order of the Kindergarten gifts follows the order of mental evolution, and at each stage of the child's growth Fröbel presents him with his “ objective counterpart.” “ The child,” he says, “develops like all things, according to laws as simple as they are imperative. Of these the simplest and most imperative is that force existing must exert itself,—exerting itself it grows strong-strengthening it unfolds—unfolding it represents and creates—representing and creating it lifts itself to consciousness and culminates in insight.” This perception of the course of development determines his idea of the stages of early education. It should aim, first, to strengthen the senses and muscles conceived as the tools of the spirit,-second, to prepare for work by technical training, and to aid self-expression by supplying objects which through their indefiniteness may be made widely representative,—third, to provide material adapted to the conscious production of definite things and diminish the suggestiveness of this material in direct ratio to the increase of creative power, and fourth, by analysis of the objects produced, and the method of their production lift the child to conscious communion with his own thought. The first stage of this educational process is realized through the “Songs for Mother and Child,”-the second through the Kindergarten games, the simpler occupations and the first two Gifts,—the third through the exercises with blocks, tablets, slats, sticks and rings, and the work in drawing, folding, cutting, peas work and modeling, and the fourth through the wise appeal of the Kindergartner to the thought of the child as she leads him slowly from the what to the how, and from the how to the why and wherefore of his own action.

The definitely productive exercises begin with the Third Gift. Fröbel contends that the proverbial destructiveness of children is a perversion of the faculties of investigation and construction, and that the broken toys strewn over our nursery floors express the mind's impatient protest against finished and complicated things. Unable to rest in ex. ternals the child breaks his toys to find out “what is inside," and scorn. ful of what makes no appeal to his activity he turns from the most elegant playthings to the crude results of his own manufacture. What he wants is not something made for him, but material to make something himself. What he needs is an object which he can take to pieces without destroying, and through which he can gratify his instinct to transform and to reconstruct. At the same time the possibilities of the object must not be too varied and it must be suggestive through its limitations. The young mind may be as easily crushed by excess as it,

« 上一頁繼續 »