The purpose of the Kindergarten is to provide the necessary and natural help which poor mothers require who have to be about their work all day, and must leave their children to themselves. The occupations pursued in the Kindergarten are the following: free play of a child by itself; free play of several children by themselves; associated play under the guidance of a teacher; gymnastic exercises; several sorts of handiwork suited to little children; going for walks; learning music, both instrumental and vocal; learning the repetition of poetry; story-telling; looking at really good pictures; aiding in domestic occupations; gardening.
Friedrich Froebel was born in a Thuringian village, April Twenty-first, Seventeen Hundred Eighty-two. His father was pastor of the Lutheran Church. When scarcely a year old his mother died. Erelong a stepmother came to fill her place–but didn’t. This stepmother was the kind we read about in the “Six Best Sellers.”
Her severity, lack of love, and needlessly religious zeal served the future Kindergartner a dark background on which to paint a joyous picture. Froebel was educated by antithesis. His home was the type etched so unforgetably by Colonel Ed. Howe in his “Story of a Country Town,” which isn’t bad enough to be one of the Six Best Sellers.
At the age of ten, out of pure pity, young Friedrich was rescued from the cuckoo’s nest by an uncle who had a big family of his own and love without limit. There was a goodly brood left, so little Friedrich, slim, slender, yellow, pensive and sad, was really never missed.
The uncle brought the boy up to work, but treated him like a human being, answering his questions, even allowing him to have stick horses and little log houses and a garden of his own.
At fifteen his nature had begun to awaken, and the uncle, harkening to the boy’s wish, apprenticed him for two years to a forester. The young man’s first work was to make a list of the trees in a certain tract and approximate their respective ages. The night before his work began he lay awake thinking of the fun he was going to have at the job. In after-years he told of this incident in showing that it was absurd to try to divorce work from play.
The two years as forester’s apprentice, from fifteen to seventeen, were really better for him than any university could have been. His stepmother’s instructions had mostly been in the line of prohibition. From earliest babyhood he had been warned to “look out.” When he went on the street it was with a prophecy that he would get run over by a cart, or stolen by the gypsies, or fall off the bridge and be drowned. The idea of danger had been dinged into his ears so that fear had become a part of the fabric of his nature. Even at fifteen, he took pains to get out of the woods before sundown to avoid the bears. At the same time his intellect told him there were no bears there. But the shudder habit was upon him.
Yet by degrees the work in the woods built up his body and he grew to be at home in the forest, both day and night. His duties taught him to observe, to describe, to draw, to investigate, to decide. Then it was transplantation, and perhaps the best of college life consists in taking the youth out of the home environment and supplying him new surroundings.
Forestry in America is a brand-new science. To clear the ground has been our desire, and so to strip, burn and destroy, saving only such logs as appealed to us for “lumber,” was the desideratum. But now we are seriously considering the matter of tree-planting and tree-preservation, and perhaps it would be well to ask ourselves if two years at forestry, right out of doors, in contact with Nature, wrestling with the world of wood, rock, plant and living things, wouldn’t be better for the boy than double the time in stuffy dormitories and still more stuffy recitation-rooms–listening to stuffy lectures about things that are foreign to life.