Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 39.djvu/123

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113
THE EDUCATION OF CHILDREN.

roots are bruised and broken. Growth does not come by force. The right conditions must be supplied, the right food offered, and then the growth will take place naturally and freely. It is most true, as Froebel points out, that plant-life teaches many lessons about education.

In child-nature there is an infinite variety, and sympathy with the special needs of each individual is necessary for right development. We want to lighten somewhat the pressure of custom which lies upon us with a weight

"Heavy as frost and deep almost as life,"

and to bring out in every child something of that fresh originality of mind which, when it is found, makes even ignorant persons agreeable companions and useful members of society, and which is also the first condition of brilliant success in all work.

Nature is a great healer and sets many crooked things straight. A child's mind, when working under reasonably free conditions, seizes upon that which it requires and disregards that which is unnecessary or hurtful. There is some tendency on the part of teachers in the Kindergarten not to realize this quite sufficiently, and consequently to make their system a little too artificial. It is not satisfactory to bind one's self down too rigidly to one method however good. The laws of mental development are at present very imperfectly understood. Growth often takes place in unexpected ways, or does not take place when we should expect it. The order of development is less rigid and more variable than is sometimes supposed. If this were not the case, there would be more difference than there is at present between a child educated in a Kindergarten, and one educated in a well-ordered home. In the home the objects present themselves to the child without any fixed order—he tumbles into knowledge; and this want of system is not without its advantages, seeing that we can not make our systems perfect. Even if a definite system be pursued, some time and opportunity must be given at all stages of education for this chance development. In a home where a child is allowed, under the care of some educated person, to investigate the objects around him and the natural and artificial processes which are conducted in the house and its surroundings, much healthy development may take place without any fixed system. But a life which is limited to the nursery with artificial playthings and a daily walk by the side of a perambulator is eminently unsatisfactory. An ignorant nurse has no idea of the kind of sympathy and help a child requires. Even when she is fond of him she interrupts the workings of his mind with rude laughter. She does not understand how to speak the truth, though if convenient she will stigmatize an unintentional misstatement as a lie. She will capriciously surround him with vexatious restric-