The Child Under Eight
E.R. Murray and Henrietta Brown Smith

Part 3 out of 4

clay round it." "Why, there's clay in the playground." "You could put
the meat into a skin bag or a basket." Asked if the skin or basket could
be set on the fire, or if anything could be done to keep the basket from
catching fire, the answer comes, "Yes, dab clay round it. Then,"
joyfully, "it would hold water and you _could_ boil." "What would happen
to the clay when it was put on the fire?" This has to be discovered by a
quick experiment, but the children readily guess that when the hot water
is taken off the fire there would be "a sort of clay basin. Then they
could make more! and plates and cups!"

Experiments depend upon circumstances and upon the age of the children.
A thick and tiny basin put into a hot part of an ordinary fire does
harden and hold water to a certain extent even without glazing. But
elaborate baking may also be done.

I have found it convenient to take weaving as a bridge to history
stories, by using Sir Frederick Leighton's picture of the Phoenicians
bartering cloth for skins with the early Britons. The children are told
that the people dressed in cloth come from near the Bible-story country,
and those dressed in skins are the long-ago people of this very country.
What would these people think of the cloth? "They would think it was
animals' skins." And what would they do? "They'd feel it and look at
it." So cloth is produced and we pull it to pieces, first into threads
and then into hairs, and the children say the hairs are like "fur." Then
sheep's wool is produced and we try to make thread. Attempts at
thread-making and then at weaving last a long time, and along with this
come some history stories, probably arising out of the question, "How
did people know about all this?" The children are told about the
writings of Julius Caesar, and pictures of Roman ships and houses are
shown, beside pictures of coracles and bee-hive dwellings, etc. Old
coins, a flint battle-axe, some Roman pottery are also shown, along with
descriptions and pictures of the Roman villa at Brading and other Roman
remains. The children are thus helped to realise that other countries
exist where the people were far ahead of those in this country, and they
can begin to understand how social conditions vary, and how nations act
upon each other.

The work varies considerably from year to year, according to how it
takes hold upon the children's interest. But children of eight to nine
are usually considered ready for broad ideas of the world as a whole,
and the inquiry into where Julius Caesar came from, and why he came,
gives a fair start.



I am old, so old, I can write a letter.

Writing and reading have no place in the actual Kindergarten, much less
arithmetic. The stories are told to the child; drawing, modelling and
such-like will express all he wants to express in any permanent form,
and speech, as Froebel says, is "the element in which he lives." His
counting is of the simplest, and the main thing is to see that he does
not merely repeat a series while he handles material, but that the
series corresponds with the objects. Even this can be left alone if it
seems to annoy the little one. In the school he is on a very different
level, he has attained to the abstract, he can use signs: he can express
thoughts which he could not draw, and can communicate with those who are
absent. He can read any letter received and he is no longer dependent on
grown-ups for stories. He can count his own money and can get correct
change in small transactions, and he can probably do a variety of sums
which are of no use to him at all.

Between these two comes what Froebel called the Transition or Connecting
Class, in which the child learns the meaning of the signs which stand
for speech, and those which make calculation less arduous for weak

Much has been written as to when and how children are to be taught to
read. Some great authorities would put it off till eight or even ten.
Stanley Hall says between six and eight, while Dr. Montessori teaches
children of five and even of four. Froebel would have supported Stanley
Hall and would wait till the age of six. The strongest reason for
keeping children back from books is a physiological one. In the
_Psychology and Physiology of Reading_[30] strong arguments are adduced
against early reading as very injurious to eyesight, so it is surprising
that Dr. Montessori begins so soon. It has been said that her children
only learn to write, not to read, but it is to be supposed that they can
read what they write, and therefore can read other material.

[Footnote 30: Macmillan.]

If we agree not to begin until six years old, the next question is the
method. The alphabetic, whereby children were taught the letter names
and then memorised the spelling of each single word, has no supporters.
But controversy still goes on as to whether children shall begin with
word wholes or with the phonic sounds. It is not a matter of vital
importance, for the children who begin with words come to phonics later,
and so far as English is concerned, the children who begin with phonics
cannot go far without meeting irregularities, unless indeed they are
limited to books like those of Miss Dale.

In other languages which are phonic the difficulties are minimised.
Children in the ordinary Elementary Schools in Italy, though taught in
large classes, can write long sentences to dictation in four or five
months.[31] But in Italian each letter has its definite sound and every
letter is sounded. It is true that these children appear to spend most
of their time in formal work.

[Footnote 31: A class of children who began in the middle of October
wrote correctly to dictation on March 28, "Patria e lavoro siamo, miei
cari bambini, parole sante per voi. Amate la nostra cara e bella Italia,
crescete onesti e laboriosi e sarete degni di lei."]

The Froebelian who believes in learning by action will, of course,
expect the children to make or write from the beginning as a method of
learning, whether she begins with words or with sounds. But in English,
unless simplified spelling is introduced, the time must soon come when
reproduction must lag behind recognition. One child said with pathos one
day, "May we spell as we like to-day, for I've got such a lot to say?"

The phonic method dates back to about 1530. The variety used in the
Pestalozzi-Froebel House is said to have originated with Jacotot
(1780-1840). It is called the "Observing-Speaking-Writing and Reading
Method." Froebel's own adaptation was simpler; it was his principle to
begin with a desire on the part of the child, and he gives his method in
story form, "How Lina learned to write and read." Lina is six, she has
left the Kindergarten and is presently to attend the Primary School. She
notices with what pleasure her father, perhaps a somewhat exceptional
parent, receives and answers letters. She desires to write and her
mother makes her say her own name carefully, noticing first the "open"
or vowel sounds and then by noting the position of her tongue she finds
the closed sounds. As she hears the sound she is shown how to make it.
Her father leaves home at the right moment, Lina writes to him, receives
and is able to read his answer, printed like her own in Roman capitals.
He sends her a picture book and she is helped to see how the letters
resemble those she has learned and the reading is accomplished.

In England the phonic method best known is probably Miss Dale's. It is
very ingenious, the analysis is thorough and the books are prettily got
up, but to those who feel that reading, though a most valuable tool,
still is but a tool and one not needed for children under seven, the
method seems over-elaborate. Much depends upon the teacher but to see
fifty children sitting still while one child places the letters in their
places on the board suggests a great deal of lost time. The system is
also so rigidly phonic that it is a long time before a child can pick up
an ordinary book with any profit.

Stanley Hall holds that it is best to combine methods, and probably most
of us do this. "The growing agreement" is, he says, "that there is no
one and only orthodox way of teaching and learning this greatest and
hardest of all the arts, in which ear, mouth, eye and hand must each in
turn train the others to automatic perfection, in ways hard and easy, by
devices old and new, mechanically and consciously, actively and
passively ... this is a great gain and seems now secure. While a good
pedagogic method is one of the most economic--both of labour and of
money--of all inventions, we should never forget that the brightest
children, and indeed most children, if taught individually or at home,
need but very few refinements of method. Idiots, as Mr. Seguin first
showed, need and profit greatly by very elaborated methods in learning
how to walk, feed and dress themselves, which would only retard a normal
child. Above all it should be borne in mind that the stated use of any
method does not preclude the incidental use of any and perhaps of _all_

An adaptation of phonic combined with the word method can be found in
_Education by Life_. It is simpler than Miss Dale's, and being combined
with the word method, children get much more quickly to real stories.
Stanley Hall advocates the individual teaching of reading, and since Dr.
Montessori called every one's attention to this we have used it much
more freely, and have found that once the children know some sounds,
there is a great advantage in a certain amount of individual learning,
but class teaching has its own advantages and it seems best to have a
combination. Long since we taught a boy who was mentally deficient and
incapable of intelligent analysis, by whole words and corresponding
pictures. Miss Payne has developed this to a great extent. It is
practically an appeal to the interest in solving puzzles. The children
choose their own pictures and are supplied with envelopes containing
either single sounds, or whole words corresponding with the picture.
They lay _h_ on the house, _g_ on the girl, _p_ on the pond, and later
do the same with words. They certainly enjoy it, and no one is ever kept
waiting. Sometimes the puzzle is to set in order the words of a nursery
rhyme which they already know, sometimes it is to read and draw
everything mentioned.

It is not only how children learn to read that is important: even more
so is what they read. Much unintelligent reading in later life is due to
the reading primer in which there was nothing to understand. Children
should read books, as adults do, to get something out of them. The time
often wasted in teaching reading too soon would be far better employed
in cultivating a taste for good reading by telling or reading to the
children good stories and verses.[32]

[Footnote 32: It is difficult to find easy material that is worth giving
to intelligent children, and we have been glad to find Brown's _Young
Artists' Readers_, Series A.]

A revolution is going on just now in the method of teaching writing. It
is now generally recognised that much time and effort have been wasted
in teaching children to join letters which are easier to read unjoined.

A very interesting article appeared in the Fielden School Demonstration
Record No. II., and Mr. Graily Hewitt has brought the subject of writing
as it was done before copperplate was invented very much to the fore.
The Child Study Society has published a little monograph on the subject
giving the experience of different teachers and specimens of the

Little Marjorie Fleming was a voracious reader with a remarkable
capacity for writing. Her spelling was unconventional at times, but
there was never any doubt about her meaning. She expressed herself
strongly on many subjects, and one of these was arithmetic. "I am now
going to tell you the horrible and wretched plaege (plague) that my
multiplication gives me you cant conceive it the most Devilish thing is
8 times 8 and 7 times 7 it is what nature itself cant endure." Yet "if
you speak with the tongues of men and angels and make not mention of
arithmetic it profiteth you nothing," says Miss Wiggin.

There are a few little children who are really fond of number work.
There are not many of them, and they would probably learn more if they
were left to themselves. There are even a few mathematical geniuses who
hardly want teaching, but who are worthy of being taught by a Professor
of Mathematics, always supposing that he is worthy of them. But the
majority of children would probably be farther advanced at ten or twelve
if they had no teaching till they were seven. They ought to learn
through actual number games, through keeping score for other games, and
through any kind of calculation that is needed for construction or in
real life.

There are but few true number games, but dominoes and card games
introduce the number groups. In "Old maid" the children pair the groups
and so learn to recognise them; in dominoes they use this knowledge,
while "Snap" involves quick recognition. Any one can make up a game in
which scoring is necessary. Ninepins or skittles is a number game, and
one can score by using number groups, or by fetching counters, shells,
beads, etc., as reminders. The number groups are important; they form
what Miss Punnett calls "a scheme" for those who have no great
visualising power, and they combine the smallest groups into large ones.
It ought to be remembered that the repetition of a group is an easier
thing to deal with than the combination of two groups, that is, six is
a name for two threes and eight for two fours, but five and seven have
not so definite a meaning.[33]

[Footnote 33: This very morning a child cutting out brown paper pennies
for a shop said, 'Look! there are two sixes; that _would_ be a big

The Tillich bricks are good playthings, and so is cardboard
money--shillings, sixpences, threepences, pence and halfpence.

When the names have a meaning the children will want signs, i.e.
figures. Clock figures (Roman) can be used first as simplest, showing
the closed fingers and the thumb for V; the only difficulty is IX. The
Arabic figures can be made by drawing round the number groups, or by
laying out their shapes in little sticks. 5 and 8 show very plainly how
to arrange five and eight sticks; for two and three they are placed
horizontally, the curves merely joining the lines.

In teaching children to count, the decimal system should be kept well in
mind, and the teacher should see that thirteen means three-ten, and that
the children can touch the three and the ten as they speak the word.
Eleven and twelve ought to be called oneteen and twoteen, half in joke.
The idea of grouping should never be lost sight of, and larger numbers
should at first be names for so many threes, fours, fives, etc. In order
to keep the meaning clear the children should say threety, fourty and
fivety, but there should be no need to write these numbers. The
Kindergarten sticks tied in bundles of ten are quite convenient counting
material when any counting is necessary. Tram tickets and cigarette
pictures can be used in the same way.

The decimal notation is a great thing to learn, how great any one will
discover who will take the trouble to work a simple addition sum,
involving hundreds, in Roman figures. Children are always taught the
number of the house they live in, which makes a starting-point. If, for
instance, 35 is compared with XXXV a meaning is given to the 3.

Many teachers make formal sums of numbers which could quite well be
added without any writing at all. By using any kind of material by which
ten can be made plain as a higher unit--bundles of sticks or tickets,
Sonnenschein's apparatus, Miss Punnett's number scheme, or the new
Montessori apparatus with its chains of beads: the material used is of
no great consequence--children should be able to deal as easily with
tens as with ones, and there is no need for little formal sums which
have no meaning.

Everything in daily life should be used before formal work is attempted.
"Measure, reckon, weigh, compare," said Rousseau. Children love to
measure, whether by lineal or liquid measure, or by learning to tell the
time or to use a pair of scales.

There are a few occasions when interest is in actual number relations,
as when a child for himself discovers that two sixes is six twos. One
boy on his own account compared a shilling and an hour, and said that he
could set out a shilling in five parts by the clock. He looked at the
clock and chose out a sixpence, a threepence, and 3 pennies. But usually
what is abstract belongs to a stage farther on.

So we can end where we began, by letting Froebel once more define the

"Creches and Infant Schools must be raised into Kindergartens wherein
the child is treated and trained according to his whole nature, so that
the claims of his body, his heart and his head, his active, moral and
intellectual powers, are all satisfied and developed.

"Not the training of the memory, not learning by rote, not familiarity
with the appearances of things, but culture by means of action,
realities and life itself, bring a blessing upon the individual, and
thereby a blessing upon the whole community; since each one, be he the
highest or the humblest, is a member of the community."






Early in the nineteenth century two men, moved by very different
impulses, founded what might be considered the beginnings of the Infant
School. For nearly fifty years their work grew separately, but now they
are merged together into something that seems to be permanent.

In a bleak Lanarkshire factory village in the south of Scotland, Robert
Owen, millowner, socialist and Welshman, found that unless he could
provide for the education of the children of his factory hands, no
parents would consent to settle in the district and he would be without
workers in his mill. As a consequence Owen found himself in the position
of education authority, privy purse and organiser, and he did not flinch
from the situation; he imposed no cheap makeshift, because he believed
in education as an end and not as an economic means; a twofold
institution was therefore established by him in 1816, one part for the
children of recognised school age, presumably over six, and one for
those under school age, whose only entrance test was their ability to
walk. It is with the latter that we are concerned.

The instructions given by Owen to the man and the women he chose for
his Infant School may serve to show his general aim; the babies under
their care were above all to be happy, to lead a natural life, outdoor
or indoor as weather permitted; learning their surroundings, playing,
singing, dancing, "not annoyed with books," not shadowed by the needs of
the upper school, but living the life their age demanded. In the light
of the 1918 Education Bill this seems almost prophetic.

Their guardians were selected solely on the grounds of personality, and
expected to work in the spirit in which Owen conceived the school. They
were gentle, without personal ambition, fond of children, caring only
for their welfare; but the sole guiding principle was Owen, and this was
at once the success and doom of the school, for the personality of Owen
was thus made the pivot round which the school revolved; without him
there was nothing to take hold of.

Very soon the experiment became known: persons with the stamp of
authority came to see it, and even official hearts were moved by the
reality of the children's happiness and their consequent development.
The visitors felt, rather than knew, that the thing was right.
Arrangements were made to establish similar institutions in London, and
after one or two experiments, a permanent one was founded which was
under the control of a man named Wilderspin.

Wilderspin's contribution to education is difficult to estimate;
certainly he never caught Owen's spirit, or realised his simple purpose:
he had ambitions reaching beyond the happiness of the children; and far
from trying to make their education suit their stage of growth, he
sought to produce the "Infant Prodigy," just as a contemporary of his
sought to produce the "Infant Saint." From what we can see, his aim was
what he honestly believed to be right, as far as his light went; but he
sought for no light beyond his own; and his outlook was not so narrow
as his application was unintelligent. Owen was still in Lanarkshire to
be consulted; Rousseau had already written _Emile_, Pestalozzi's work
was by this time fairly well known in England, the children were there
to be studied, but Wilderspin pursued his limited and unenlightened
work, until the Infant School was almost a dead thing in his hands and
in the hands of those who followed. The following is Birchenough's

"The school was in charge of a master and a female assistant, presumably
his wife. Much attention was given to training children in good personal
habits, cleanliness, tidiness, punctuality, etc., and to moral training.
Great stress was laid on information.... The curriculum included
reading, writing, arithmetic, geometry, lessons on common objects,
geography, singing and religion, and an effort was made to make the work
interesting and 'concrete.' To this end much importance was attached to
object-lessons, to the use of illustrations, to questioning and
exposition, while the memory was aided by means of didactic verse....
The real teaching devolved upon the master and mistress. This was of two
kinds: class teaching to a section of the children of approximately
equal attainments either on the floor or in the class-room, and
collective teaching to the whole school, regardless of age, on the

It is a curious coincidence that in 1816, the year of Owen's experiment,
a humble educational experiment was begun by Frederick Froebel in a very
small village in the heart of the Thuringian forest. Like Owen, his aim
was education solely for its own sake, and he had a simple faith in the
human goodness of the older Germany. But he came to education as a
philosopher rather than a social reformer, with a strong belief in its
power to improve humanity. This belief remained with him; it is embodied
in his aim, and leavened all his work.

The first twenty years of his experience convinced Froebel that the
neglect or mismanagement of the earliest years of a child's life
rendered useless all that was done later. What came to Owen as an
inspiration grew in Froebel to be a reasoned truth, and like Owen he put
it into practice. In 1837 the little Kindergarten at Blankenburg was
begun, with the village children as pupils; the beautiful surroundings
of forest-covered hills and green slopes made a very different
background from the bleak little Lanarkshire village, overshadowed by
the factory, where Owen's school stood, but the spirit was the same; the
children were in surroundings suitable for their growth, and the very
name of Kindergarten does more to make Froebel's aim clear than any
explanation. He lived to see other Kindergartens established in
different parts of Thuringia, and about the middle of the nineteenth
century some of his teachers came to England, and did similar work in
London, Croydon and Manchester. The private Kindergarten became an
established thing, and educationalists came to understand something of
its meaning.

In 1870 the London School Board suggested that the Kindergarten system
should be introduced into their Infant Schools, and in doing so they
were unconsciously the factors in bringing together the work initiated
by Owen and by Froebel. The Infant School of Wilderspin, already briefly
described, was almost a dead thing, with its galleries and its
mechanical prodigies, its object-lessons and its theology; now it was
breathed upon by the spirit of the man who said: "Play is the highest
phase of child development, of human development at this period: for it
is the spontaneous representation of the inner, from inner necessity and
impulse." "Play is the purest, most spiritual activity of man." "The
plays of childhood are the germinal leaves of all later life." "If the
child is injured at this period, if the germinal leaves of the future
tree of his life are marred at this time, he will only with the
greatest difficulty and the utmost effort grow into strong manhood."

It is perhaps not altogether to be wondered at that teachers at first
seized the apparatus rather than the spirit of the Kindergarten when we
remember that we have not accepted in anything like its fulness the
teaching of Froebel. Formalism and materialism always die slowly: play
in the Board School was interpreted as something that had to be dictated
and taught: the gifts, occupations and games were organised, and
appeared on the time-table as subjects side by side with Wilderspin's
theology and object-lessons. The combination must have been curious, but
even with its formalism the change was welcome to the children: at least
they could use their hands and do something; at least they could leave
their back-breaking galleries and dance and skip, even though the doing
and the dancing were according to strict rule.

The change was not welcome to all teachers. As late as 1907 a
headmistress who was a product of the training of that time remarked:
"We have Kindergarten on Wednesday afternoons and then it is over for
the week." But there were teachers who saw beneath the bricks and sticks
and pretty movements, who felt the spiritual side and kept themselves
alive till greater opportunities came. What was imperishable has
remained; the system of prescribed activities is nearly dead, but the
spirit of the true Kindergarten is more alive than ever.

The change from the early 'eighties till now is difficult to describe,
because it is a growth of spirit, a gradual change of values, rather
than a change in outward form; there has been no definite throwing off,
and no definite adoption, of any one system or theory; but the
difference between the best Infant Schools of 1880 and the best Infant
Schools of to-day is chiefly a difference in outlook. The older schools
aimed at copying a method, while the schools of to-day are more
concerned with realising the spirit.

At present we are trying to reconstruct education for the new world
after the war, and so it is convenient to regard the intervening period
of nearly half a century as a transition period: during that time the
education of the child under eight has changed much more than the
education of older children, at least in the elementary school; and
there have been certain marked phases that, though apparently
insignificant in themselves, have marked stages of progress in thought.

Perhaps the most significant and most important of these was the effect
of the child-study movement on the formal and external side of
Kindergarten work. It is first of all to America that we owe this, to
the pioneer Stanley Hall, and more especially here to Mr. Earl Barnes.
Very slowly, but surely, it was evident to the more enlightened teachers
that children had their own way of learning and doing, and the
adult-imposed system meant working against nature. For the logical
method of presenting material from the simple to the complex, from the
known to the unknown, from the concrete to the abstract, was substituted
the psychological method of watching the children's way of learning and
developing. Teachers found that what they considered to be "the simple"
was not the simple to children; what they took to be "the known" was the
unfamiliar to children. For instance, the "simple" in geography, in the
adult sense, was the definition of an island, with which most of us
began that study, and in geometry it was the point. To children of the
ordinary type, both are far-away ideas, and not related to everyday
experiences; "the known" in arithmetic, for example, was to teachers the
previous lesson, quite regardless of the fact that arithmetic enters
into many problems of life outside school. The life in school and the
life outside school were, in these early days of infant teaching, two
separate things, and only occasionally did a teacher stoop to take an
example from everyday life. A little girl in one of the poorest schools
brought her baby to show her teacher, and proudly displayed the baby's
powers of speech--"Say a pint of 'alf-an-'alf for teacher," said the
little girl to the baby by way of encouragement to both. This is the
kind of rude awakening teachers get, from time to time, when they
realise how much of the real child eludes them. Psychology has made it
clear that life is a unity and must be so regarded.

Part of this child-study movement has resulted in the slow but sure
death of formalism: large classes, material results, and a lack of
psychology made formalism the path of least resistance. Painting became
"blobbing," constructive work was interpreted as "courses" of paper
folding, cutting, tearing; books of these courses were published with
minute directions for a graduated sequence. The aim was obedient
imitation on the part of the child, and the imagined virtues accruing to
him in consequence were good habits, patience, accuracy and technical
skill. Self-expression and creativeness were still only theories.

A second interesting phase of the transition period was the method
adopted for the training of the senses. From the days of Comenius till
now the importance of this has held its place firmly, but the means have
greatly changed. Pestalozzi's object-lesson was adopted by Wilderspin
and thoroughly sterilised; many teachers still remember the lessons on
the orange, leather, camphor, paper, sugar, in which the teacher's
senses were trained, for only she came in contact with the object, and
the children from their galleries answered questions on an object remote
from most of their senses, and only dimly visible to their eyes. Similar
lessons were given after 1870 on Froebel's gift II. in which the ball,
cylinder and cube were treated in the same manner: progress was slow,
but sometimes the children followed nature's promptings and played with
their specimens; this was followed by books of "gift-plays," where
organised play took the place of organised observation.

About 1890 or thereabouts the Nature Study movement swept over the
schools, and "nature specimens" then became the material for sense
training: as far as possible each child had a specimen, and by the
minute examination of these, stimulated their senses and stifled their
appreciation of all that was beautiful.

Question and answer still dominated the activity; the poor little
withered snowdrop took the place of the dead camphor or leather. But
underlying all the paralysing organisation the truth was slowly growing,
and the children were being brought nearer to real things.

A third phase in this transition period is that known as "correlation";
most teachers remember the elaborate programmes of work that drove them
to extremes in finding "connections." The following, taken from a
reputable book of the time, will exemplify the principle:


Object Lesson The Horse.
Phonetics The Foal, _oa_ sound.
Number Problems on the work of horses.
Story The Bell of Atri [story of a horse ringing a bell].
Song Busy Blacksmith [shoeing a horse].
Game The Blacksmith's Shop.
Reading On the Horse.
Poetry Kindness to Animals.
Paper Cutting The Bell of Atri.
Paper Folding A Trough.
Free-arm Drawing A Horseshoe.
Clay Modelling A Carrot for the Horse.
Brushwork A Turnip for the Horse.
Brown Paper Drawing A Stable.

Underneath it all the truth was growing, namely, the need of making
associations and so unifying the children's lines. But the process of
finding the truth was slow and cumbersome.

A fourth phase of the early Infant School was the strong belief of both
teachers and inspectors in uniformity of work and of results. It is
difficult to disentangle this from the paralysing influences of payment
by results and large classes: it was probably the teachers' unconscious
expression of the instinct of self-preservation, when working against
the heaviest odds. But it was constantly evident to the teacher that any
attempt on a child's part to be an individual, either in work or in
conduct, had to be arrested: and the theory of individual development
was regarded as so Utopian that the idea itself was lost. Goodness was
synonymous with uniform obedience and silence; naughtiness with
individuality, spontaneity and desire to investigate. A frequently-heard
admonition on the part of the teacher was, "Teacher didn't tell you to
do it that way--that's a naughty way"; but such an attitude of mind was
doubtless generated by the report of the inspector when he commended a
class by saying: "The work of the class showed a satisfactory

To obtain uniform results practice had to come before actual
performance, and many weary hours were spent over drill in reading,
drill in number, drill in handwork, drill in needlework. The extreme
point was reached when babies of three had thimble and needle drill long
before they began needlework. There were also conduct drills; Miss
Grant, of Devons Road School, remembers a school where the babies
"practised" their conduct before the visit of the "spectre," as they
called him, he being represented as a stick set up on a chair. There is
a curious symbolism in the whole occasion.

It is difficult to see the good underlying this phase, but it was
there. There is undoubtedly a place for practice, though not before
performance, and uniformity was undoubtedly the germ of an ideal.

All these phases stand for both progress and arrest. The average person
is readier to accept methods than investigate principles; but we must
recognise that all struggles and searchings after truth have made the
road of progress shorter for us by many a mile.

Perhaps the chief cause of stumbling lay in the fact that there was no
clearly realised aim or policy except that of material results. There
were many fine-sounding principles in the air, but they were unrelated
to each other; and the conditions of teaching were likely to crush the
finest endeavours, and to make impossible a teaching that could be
called educative.



Taking neither the best nor the worst, but the average school of to-day,
it will be profitable to review shortly where it stands, to consider how
far it has learnt the lessons of experience, and what kind of ideal it
has set before itself.

In externals there have been many improvements. Modern buildings are
better in many ways; there is more space and light, and the surroundings
are more attractive. Most of the galleries have disappeared, but the
furniture consists chiefly of dual desks, fixed and heavy, so that the
arrangement of the room cannot be changed. The impression given to a
visitor is that it is planned for listening and answering, except in the
Baby Room, where there are generally light tables and chairs, and
consequently no monotonous rows of children, unless a teacher arranges
them thus from sheer habit. In each room is a high narrow cupboard about
one quarter of the necessary size for all that education demands; most
education authorities provide some good pictures, but the best are
usually hung on the class-room wall behind the children, and all are
above the children's eye level. "Oh, teacher, my neck do ache!" was the
only appreciative remark made by a child after a tour made of the school
pictures, which were really beautiful.

As a rule the windows are too high for the children to see from, and
the lower part is generally frosted. In a new school which had a view up
one of the loveliest valleys in Great Britain, the windows were of this
description; the head of the school explained that it was a precaution
in case the children might see what was outside; in other words, they
might make the mistake of seeing a real river valley instead of
listening to a description of it.

In country schools of the older type the accommodation is not so good,
but the newer ones are often very attractive in appearance, and have
both space and light. The school garden is a common feature in the
country, and it is to be regretted so few even of the plot description
are to be found in town schools.

Of late years the apparatus has improved, though there is still much to
be done in this direction. Instead of the original tiny boxes of gifts
we have frequently real nursery bricks of a larger and more varied
character, and many other nursery toys. One of the best signs of a
progressive policy is that large numbers of _little_ toys have taken the
place of the big expensive ones that only an occasional child could use.
It is a pity that the use of toys comes to so sudden an end, and that
learning by this method does not follow the babies after they have
officially ceased to be babies, as is the custom in real life.

One of the most striking changes for the better is the evidence of care
of the children's health, of which some of the external signs are
doctor, nurse and care committee. A sense of responsibility in this
respect is gradually growing in the schools; a fair number provide for
sleep, a few try to train the children to eat lunch slowly and
carefully, and some try to arrange for milk or cod-liver oil in the case
of very delicate children. Though these instances are very much in the
minority, they represent a change of spirit. This is one of the striking
characteristics of the new Education Bill. A legacy from the old
formalism lies in the fact that every room has a highly organised
time-table, except perhaps in the Babies' Room, where the children's
actual needs are sometimes considered first. The morning in most classes
is occupied with Scripture, Reading, Arithmetic, Writing, and some less
formal work, such as Nature lesson or Recitation; some form of Physical
Exercise is always taken. The afternoons are mostly devoted to Games,
Stories, Handwork and Singing: this order is not universal, but the
general principle holds, of taking the more difficult and formal
subjects in the morning. In the Babies' Room some preparation for
reading is still too frequent. The lessons are short and the order
varied, but in one single morning or afternoon there is a bewildering
number of changes. Some years ago the unfortunate principle was laid
down in the Code, that fifteen minutes was sufficient time for a lesson
in an Infant School, and though this is not strictly followed the
lessons are short and numerous, giving an unsettled character to the
work; children appear to be swung at a moment's notice from topic to
topic without an apparent link or reason: for example, the day's work
may begin with the story of a little boy sent by train to the country,
settled at a farm and taken out to see the _cow_ and the _sow_: soon
this is found to be a reading lesson on words ending in "ow," but after
a short time the whole class is told quite suddenly, that one shilling
is to be spent at a shop in town, and while they are still interested in
calculating the change, paints are distributed, and the children are
painting the bluebell. The whole day is apt to be of this broken
character, which certainly does not make for training in mental
concentration, or for a realisation of the unity of life. Some teachers
still aim at correlation, but in a rather half-hearted way: others have
entirely discarded it because of its strained applications, but nothing
very definite has taken its place.

The curriculum which has been given is varied in character, and
sometimes includes a "free period." Except in the Babies' Class the
three R's occupy a prominent place, and children under six spend
relatively a great deal of time in formal subjects, while children
between six and seven, if they are still in the Infant School, are
taught to put down sums on paper, which they could nearly always
calculate without such help. As soon as a child can read well, and work
a fair number of sums on paper, he is considered fit for promotion, and
the question of whether he understands the method of working such sums,
is not considered so important as accuracy and quickness. The test of
so-called intelligence for promotion is reading and number, but it is
really the test of convenience, so that large numbers of children may be
taught together and brought, against the laws of nature, to a uniform

This poison of the promotion and uniformity test works down through the
Infant School: it can be seen when the babies are diverted from their
natural activities to learn reading, or when they are "examined": it can
be seen when a teacher yields up her "bright" children to fill a few
empty desks, it can be seen in the grind at reading and formal
arithmetic of the children under six, when weary and useless hours are
spent in working against nature, and precious time is wasted that will
never come back. Yet we _say_ we believe that "Children have their youth
that they may play," and that "Play is the purest, most spiritual
activity of man at this stage" [childhood].

The lack of any clear aim shows itself in the fluid nature of the term
"results"; to some teachers it signifies readiness for promotion, or a
piece of work that presents a satisfactory external appearance, such as
good writing, neat handwork, an orderly game, fluent reading. To others
it means something deeper, which they discover in some chance remark of
a child's that marks the growth of the spirit, or the awakening of the
interest of a child whose development is late, or the quickened power of
a child to express; or evidence of independent thought and the power to
use it, in some piece of handwork, or appreciation of music or
literature. According to the meaning attached to the term "results" so
the method of the teacher must vary; but one gets the general impression
that in this respect matters are in a transitional state; the first kind
of teacher is always a little uncertain of her ground and a little
fearful that she is not quite "up-to-date," while the second class of
teacher is sometimes a little timid, and not quite sure that she is
prepared to account for the rather subtle and intangible outcome of her

The same transitional character holds in the case of discipline: while
what is known as "military" discipline still prevails in many schools,
there are a very fair number with whom the grip has relaxed; but it is a
courageous teacher that will admit the term "free discipline" which has
nearly as bad a reputation as "free thought" used to have, and few are
prepared to go all the way. Probably the reason lies in the vagueness of
the meaning of the term, and the fact that its value is not clearly
realised because it is not clearly understood. Teachers have not faced
the question squarely: "What am I aiming at in promoting free

Taking a general view of the present school, one gets the impression of
a constant change of activity on the part of the children, but very
little change of position, a good deal of provision for general class
interest, but little for individual interest; of less demand than
formerly for uniformity of results, but the existence of a good deal of
uniformity of method, arresting the teacher's own initiative; of very
constant teaching on the part of the teacher and a good deal of
listening and oral expression on the part of the children, of many
lessons and little independent individual work. Below all this there is
evident a very friendly relationship between the teacher and the
children, a good deal of personal knowledge of the children on the part
of the teacher, and a good deal of affection on both sides. There is
less fear and more love than in the earlier days, less government and
more training, less restraint and more freedom. And the children are
greatly attached to their school.

From consideration of the foregoing summary it will be seen that
education in the Infant School is a thing of curious patches, of
strength and weakness, of light and shade; perhaps the greatest weakness
is its lack of cohesion, of unification: on the one hand we find much
provision for the children's real needs, much singleness of purpose in
the teacher's work, such a genuine spirit of whole-hearted desire for
their education: on the other hand, an unreasoning sense of haste, of
pushing on, of introducing prematurely work for which the children
admittedly are unready; an acceptance of new things on popular report,
without scientific basis, and a lack of courage to maintain the truth
for its own sake, in the face of so-called authority, and a craving to
be modern. At the root of all this inconsistency and possibly its cause,
is the lack of a guiding policy or aim, the lack of belief in the
scientific or psychological basis of education, and consequently the
want of that strong belief in absolute truth which helps the teacher to
pass all barriers.



If it be true that the Infant School of to-day suffers from lack of a
clear basis for its general policy, it will be profitable to have
clearly before us such principles as great educators have found to be
most vital to the education of young children.

We all believe that we have an aim and a high aim before us: it has been
variously expressed by past educationalists, but in the main they all
agree that the aim of education is conduct.

In actual practice, however, we act too often as if we only cared for
economic values. If we are to live up to our educational profession, we
must look our aim in the face and honestly practise what we believe.

While training of character and conduct is the accepted aim for
education in general, to make this useful and practical each teacher
must fix her attention on how this ultimate aim affects her own special
part of the whole work. By watching the free child she will discover how
best she can help him: he knows his own business, and when unfettered by
advice or command shows plainly that he is chiefly concerned with
_gaining experience_. He finds himself in what is to him a new and
complex world of people and things; actual experience is the foundation
for complete living, and the stronger the foundation the better the
result of later building. _The first vital principle then is that the
teacher of young children must provide life in miniature; that is, she
must provide abundant raw material and opportunities for experience_.

The next question is that of the best method of gaining this actual
experience. The child is unaware that he is laying foundations, he is
only vaguely conscious that he finds great pleasure in certain
activities, and that something impels him in certain directions. He
realises no definite future, he is content with the present; he cannot
work for a purpose other than the pleasure of the moment; without this
stimulus concentration is impossible. In the activities of this stage he
probably assimilates more actual matter than at any other period of his
life, and it is the same with his acquirements of skill. In happy
unconsciousness he gains knowledge of his own body and of its power, of
the external world, of his mother tongue and of his relations to other
people: he makes mistakes and commits faults, but these do not
necessarily cripple or incriminate him. He is not considered a social
outcast because he once kicked or bit, or because he threw his milk over
the table; he learns to balance and adjust his muscles on a seesaw, when
a fall on soft grass is a matter of little importance, and this is
better than waiting till he is compelled hastily to cross a river on a
narrow plank. It is all a kind of joyous rehearsal of life which we call
Play. We can force a child to passivity, to formal repetitions of
second-hand knowledge, to the acquisition of that for which he has no
apparent need, but we can never _educate_ him by these things. "Children
do not play because they are young, they have their youth that they may
play," as surely as they have their legs that they may walk.

_The second principle is therefore that the method of gaining experience
lies through Play, and that by this road we can best reach work_.

The third principle is the nature of the experience that a child seeks
to gain--the life he desires to live. How can we he sure that the
surroundings we provide and the activities we encourage are in accord
with children's needs?

Let us imagine a child of about five to six years of age, one of a
family, living in a small house to which a garden is attached; inside he
has the run of the house, but keeps his own toys, picture books and
collections of treasures. We will suppose that not being at school he is
free to arrange his own day, sometimes alone, and sometimes with other
children, or with his parents. What does he do?

He is interested in inanimate things, especially in using them, and so
he plays with his toys. He builds bricks, runs engines, solves simple
puzzle pictures, asks to work with his father's gardening tools, or his
mother's cooking utensils. He is interested in the life of the garden,
in the growing things, in the snail or spider he finds, in the cat, dog
or rabbit of the family; he wants to dig, water and feed these various
things, but he declines regular responsibility; his interest is in

He is interested in sounds, both in those he can produce and in those
produced by others: soon he is interested in music, he will listen to it
for considerable periods, and may join in it: at first more especially
on the rhythmical side. So, too, he likes the rhythm of poetry and the
melody sounds of words. He is interested in making things; on a wet day
he will ask for scissors and paste, or bring out his paint box or
chalks; on a fine day he mixes sand or mud with water, or builds a
shelter with poles and shawls; at any time when he has an opportunity he
shuts himself into the bathroom and experiments with the taps, sails
boats, colours water, blows bubbles, tries to mix things, wet and dry.

He is interested in the doings of other people, in their conduct and in
his own; he is more interested in their badness than in their goodness:
"Tell me more of the bad things your children do," said a little boy to
his teacher aunt, and the request is significant and general; we learn
so little by mere uncontrasted goodness. He is interested in the words
that clothe narrations and in their style, he is impatient of a change
in form of an accepted piece of prose or poetry. He is hungry for the
sounds of telling words and phrases.

He is interested in reproducing the doings of other people so that he
may experience them more fully, and this involves minute observation,
careful and intelligent imitation, and vivid imagination. His own word
for it is pretence.

There are other things that he grasps at more vaguely and later; he is
dimly aware that people have lived before, and he is less dimly aware
that people live in places different from his own surroundings. He
realises that some of the stories, such as the fairy stories, are true
in one sense, a sense that responds to something within himself; that
some are true in another more material, and external sense, one
concerned with things that really happen. He hears of "black men," and
of "ships that carry people across the sea," and of "things that come
back in those ships."

He is interested in the immaterial world suggested by the mysteries of
woods and gardens, he has a dim conception that there is some life
beyond the visible, he feels a power behind life and he reveals this in
his early questions. He is keenly interested in questions of birth and
death, and sometimes comes into close contact with them. He feels that
other wonders must be accounted for--the snow, thunder and lightning,
the colours of summer, the changeful sea. At first the world of fairy
lore may satisfy him, later comes the life of the undying spirit, but
the two are continuous. He may attend "religious observances," and these
may help or they may hinder.

He is keenly interested in games, whether they are games of physical
skill, of mental skill, or games of pretence. Here most especially he
comes into contact with other people, and here he realises some of the
experiences of social life.

Such are the most usual sides of life sought by the ordinary child, and
on such must we base the surroundings we provide for our children in
school, and the aspects of life to which we introduce them, commonly
called subjects of the curriculum.

_Our third principle is therefore, evident: we find, in the child's
spontaneous choice, the nature of the surroundings and of the activities
that he craves for; in other words, he makes his own curriculum and
selects his own subject matter_.

The next consideration is the atmosphere in which a child can best
develop character by means of these experiences. A young child is a
stranger in an unknown, untried country: he has many strange promptings
that seek for satisfaction; he has strong emotions arising from his
instincts, he feels crudely and fiercely and he must act without delay,
as a result of these emotions. He is like a tourist in a new strange
country, fresh and eager, and with a similar holiday spirit of
adventure: the stimulation of the new arouses a desire to interpret, to
investigate and to ask questions: it arouses strong emotions to like or
dislike, to fear, to be curious; it leads to certain modes of conduct,
as a result of these emotions. Picture such a young tourist buttonholed
by a blase guide, who had forgotten what first impressions meant, who
insisted on accompanying him wherever he went, regulating his procedure
by telling him just what should be observed and how to do so, pouring
out information so premature as to be obnoxious, correcting his taste,
subduing his enthusiasm, and modifying even his behaviour. The tourist
would presumably pay off the unwelcome guide, but the children cannot
pay off the teacher: they can and do rebel, but docility and
adaptability seem to play a large part in self-preservation. For the
young child freedom must precede docility, because the only reasonable
and profitable docility is one that comes after initiative and
experiment have been satisfied, and when the child feels that he needs

The world that the free child chooses represents every side of life that
he is ready to assimilate, and his freedom must be intellectual,
emotional and moral freedom. In the school with the rigidly organised
time-table, where the remarks of the children provoke the constantly
repeated reproach: "We are not talking of that just now," where the
apparatus is formal and the method of using it prescribed, where home
life and street life are ignored, where there are neither garden nor
picture books, where childish questions are passed over or hastily
answered, where the room is full of desks and the normal attitude is
sitting, where the teacher is teaching more often than the children are
doing, there is no intellectual freedom.

Where passion and excitement are instantly arrested, where appreciation
for strong colours, fierce punishments, loud noises, is killed, where
fear is ridiculed, where primitive likes and dislikes are interpreted as
coarseness, there is no emotional freedom. A child must have these
experiences if he is to come to his own later: this is not the time to
stamp out but only to deflect and guide; otherwise he becomes a weak and
pale reflection of his elders, with little resource or enthusiasm.

Where it is almost impossible to be openly naughty, where there is no
opportunity for choice or for making mistakes, where control is all from
the teacher and self-control has no place, there is no moral freedom.
The school is not for the righteous but for the so-called sinner, who is
only a child learning self-control by experience.

Self-control is a habit gained through habits; a child must acquire the
habit of arresting desire, of holding the physical side in check, the
habit of reflection, of choice, and most of all the habit of either
acting or holding back, as a result of all this. If in the earliest
years his will is in the hands of others, and he has the habit of
obedience to the exclusion of all other habits, then his development as
a self-reliant individual is arrested, and may be permanently weakened.
There is no other way to learn life, and build up an ideal from the raw
material he has gained in other ways. In the rehearsal of life at school
he can do this without serious harm; but every time a mode of conduct is
imposed upon him when he might have chosen, every time he is externally
controlled when he might have controlled himself, every time he is
balked in making a mistake that would have been experience to him, he
will be proportionally less fit to choose, to exercise self-control, to
learn by experience, and these are the chief lessons at this
impressionable period.

_The fourth principle therefore is that the atmosphere of freedom is the
only atmosphere in which a child can gain experiences that will help to
develop character and control conduct._

These four vital principles will be applied to practical work in the
following chapters.


Before applying these principles it is necessary for practical
considerations to set out clearly the various stages of this period.
During the first eight years of life, development is very rapid and not
always relatively continuous. Sometimes it takes leaps, and sometimes
appears for a time to be quiescent. But roughly the first stage, of a
child's developing life ends when he can walk, eat more or less ordinary
food, and is independent of his mother. At this point the Nursery School
stage begins: the child is learning for himself his world by experience,
and through play he chooses his raw material in an atmosphere of
freedom. When the period of play pure and simple begins to grow into a
desire to do things better, to learn and practise for a more remote
end--in other words, when the child begins to be willing to be taught,
the transitional period from play to work begins. It can never be said
to end, but the relative amount of play to work gradually defines the
life of the school: and so the transitional period merges into the
school period. Thus we are concerned first with the Nursery School
period which corresponds to what Froebel meant by his Kindergarten and
Owen by his Infant School; secondly, with the transitional period which
has been far too long neglected or rushed over, and which roughly
corresponds to the Standard I. of the Elementary School; and thirdly, we
have the beginnings of the Junior School where work is the predominant
factor. In spite of Shakespeare's assertion, there is much in a name,
and if these names were definitely adopted, teachers would realise
better the nature of their business.

The following chapters seek to apply practically the four vital
principles to these periods of a child's life, but in many cases the
Transition Classes and the Junior School are considered together.



"The first vital principle is that the teacher of young
children must provide for them life in miniature, i.e. she
must provide abundant raw material and opportunities for
acquiring experience."

The practical translation of this in the words of the teacher of to-day
is, "I must choose furniture, and requisition apparatus." The teacher of
to-morrow will say to her children, "I will bring the world into the
school for you to learn." The Local Education Authority of to-day says,
"We must build a school for instruction." The Local Education Authority
of to-morrow will say, "We must make a miniature world for our

The world of the Nursery School child probably requires the most careful
thought in this respect: a large room with sunlight and air, low clear
windows, a door leading to a garden and playground, low cupboards full
of toys, low-hung pictures, light chairs and tables that can be pushed
into a corner, stretcher beds equally disposable, a dresser with pretty
utensils for food; these are the chief requirements for satisfying
physical needs, apparent in the actual room. Physical habits will be
considered later, under another heading.

Outside, in the playground, there should be opportunities for physical
development, for its own sake: swings, giant strides, ladders laid
flat, slightly sloping planks, and a seesaw should all be available for
constant use; if the children are not warned or given constant advice
about their own safety, there is little fear of accidents.

Thus the purely physical side of the children is provided for, the side
that they are, if healthy, quite unconscious of; what else does
experience demand at this stage?

Roughly classified, the raw experience of this stage may be divided into
the experience of the natural world of living things, the world of
inanimate things, and the social world. For the natural world there
should be the garden outside, with its trees, grass and flower beds;
with its dovecot and rabbit hutch, and possibly a cat sunning herself on
its paths; inside there will be plants and flowers to care for; the
elements, especially water, earth and air, are very dear to a young
child, and it is quite possible to satisfy his cravings with a large
sand-heap of _dry_ and _wet_ sand; a large flat bath for sailing boats
and testing the theory of sinking and floating; a bin of clay; a pair of
bellows and several fans to set the air in motion. There is always the
fire to gaze at on the right side of the fire-guard, and appreciation of
the beauty of this element should be encouraged.

The world of inanimate things includes most of the toys that stimulate
activity and give ideas. The chief that should be found in the
cupboards, round the walls, or scattered about the room, are bricks of
all sizes and shapes, skittles, balls and bats or rackets, hoops, reins,
spades and other garden tools; pails and patty pans for the sand-heap;
pipes for bubbles, shells, fir-cones, buttons, acorns, and any
collection of small articles for handling; all kinds of vehicles that
can be pushed, such as carts, barrows, prams, engines; drums and other
musical instruments; materials for construction and expression, such as
chalks, boards, paints and paper.

For experiences of the social world, which is not very real at this
individualistic period, come the dolls and doll's house, horses and
stables, tea-things, cooking utensils, Noah's ark, scales for a shop,
boats, soldiers and forts: a very important item in this connection is
the collection of picture-books: they must be chosen with the greatest
care, and only pictures of such merit as those of Caldecott, Leslie
Brooke and Jessie Wilcox Smith should be selected. Pictures form one of
the richest sources of experience at this stage, as indeed at any stage
of life, and truth, beauty and suggestiveness must be their chief

The toys should be above all things durable, and if possible washable.
Broken and dirty toys make immoral children.

Besides the material surroundings there are opportunities, the seizing
of which gives valuable experiences. These belong to the social world,
and lie chiefly in the training in life's social observances and the
development of good habits. This side of life is one of the most
important in the Nursery School, and needs material help. The lavatories
and cloakrooms should be constructed so that there is every chance for a
child to become self-reliant and fastidious. The cloakrooms should be
provided with low pegs, boot holes, clothes brushes and shoe brushes:
there should be low basins with hot and cold water, enamel mugs and
tooth brushes _for each child,_ nail brushes, plenty of towels, and
where the district needs it, baths. The type provided by the Middlesex
Education Authority at Greenford Avenue School, Hanwell, gives a shower
bath to a whole group of children at once, thus making a more frequent
bath possible. Perhaps for very small children of the Nursery School age
separate baths are more suitable. This is a question for future
experience on the part of teachers. There should be plenty of time for
the children to learn to wash and dress themselves.

In the school-room there should either be tablecloths, or the tables
should be capable of being scrubbed by the children after each meal.
Their almost inevitable lack of manners at table gives an invaluable
opportunity for training, and again in such a case there should be no
question of haste. The meals should be laid, waited on and cleared away,
and the dishes washed by the children themselves, and they should be
responsible for the general tidiness of the room. This involves
tea-cloths, mops, dusters, washing bowls, brushes and dustpans.

In the Transition Classes and Junior School the furniture and apparatus
can be to a great extent very much the same, their difference lying
chiefly in degree. It is a pity to bring the age of toys to an abrupt
conclusion; in real life the older children still borrow the toys of the
younger ones while there are some definitely their own: such are, jigsaw
and other puzzles, dominoes, articles for dramatic representation,
playing cards, toys for games of physical skill, such as tops, kites,
skipping ropes, etc. Such prepared constructive materials as
meccano--and a great mass of raw material for construction, generally
termed "waste." There should be a series of boxes or shelves where such
waste products of the home, or of the woods, or of the seashore, or of
the shop, might be stored in some classified order: the collective
instinct is stronger than the more civilised habit of orderliness: here
is an opportunity for developing a habit from an instinct. There should
also be materials for expression, such as clay, paper, chalk, pencil,
paints, weaving materials, cardboard, and scenery materials; and such
tools as scissors, cardboard knives, needlework tools, paste brushes,
and others that may be necessary and suitable. The rooms should be large
and suitable for much moving about: the most usual conditions should be
a scattered class and not a seated listening class. This means light
chairs and tables or benches where handwork can be done; low cupboards
and lockers so that each child can get at his own things; broad
window-sills for plants and flowers and a bookcase for reading and
picture books. Here again good picture-books are as essential as, even
more essential than, readers in the Transition Class. They will be a
little more advanced than in the Nursery School, and will be of the type
of the Pied Piper illustrated, or pictures of children of other lands
and times. Some of Rackham's, of Harold Copping's, of the publications
by Black in _Peeps at Many Lands_, are suitable for this stage. Readers
should be chosen for their literary value from the recognised children's
classics, such as the Peter Rabbit type, _Alice in Wonderland,
Water-Babies,_ and not made up for the sake of reading practice.

The pictures on the walls should be hung at the right eye-level, and the
windows low enough for looking at the outside world--whatever it may be.
The teacher's desk should be in a corner, not in the central part of the
room, for she must remember that the children are still in the main
seeking experience, not listening to the experience of another. They
should have access to the garden and playground, and all the incitements
to activity should be there--similar to those of the Nursery School, or
those provided by the London County Council in parks. The bare
wilderness of playground now so familiar, where there is neither time
nor opportunity for children to be other than primitive savages, does
not represent the outside world of beauty and of adventure.

The lower classes of Junior School should differ very little in their
miniature world. Life is still activity to the child of eight, and
consequently should contain no immovable furniture. There will be more
books, and the children may be in their seats for longer periods; the
atmosphere of guided but still spontaneous work is more definite, but
the aim in choice of both furniture and apparatus is still the gaining
of experience of life, by direct contact in the main. Such is the
Requisition Sheet to be presented to the Stores Superintendent of the
Local Education Authority in the future, with an explanatory note
stating that in a general way what is actually required is the world in



"The Second Principle is that the method of gaining
experience lies through Play and that by this road we can
best reach work."

Play is marked off from work chiefly by the absence of any outside
pressure, and pleasure in the activity is the characteristic of play
pure and simple: if a child has forced upon him a hint of any ulterior
motive that may be in the mind of his teacher, the pleasure is spoilt
for him and the intrinsic value of the play is lost. In bringing
children into school during their play period, probably the most
important formative period of their lives, and in utilising their play
consciously, we are interfering with one of their most precious
possessions when they are still too helpless to resent it directly. Too
many of us make play a means of concealing the wholesome but unwelcome
morsel of information in jam, and we try to force it on the children
prematurely and surreptitiously, but Nature generally defeats us. The
only sound thing to do is to _play the game_ for all it is worth, and
recognise that in doing so education will look after itself. To
understand the nature of play, and to have the courage to follow it, is
the business of every teacher of young children. The Nursery School,
especially if it consists chiefly of children under five, presents at
first very hard problems to the teacher; however strong her belief in
play may be, it receives severe tests. So much of the play at first
seems to be aimless running and shouting, or throwing about of toys and
breaking them if possible, so much quarrelling and fighting and weeping
seem involved with any attempts at social life on the part of the
children; there seems very little desire to co-operate, and very little
desire to construct; as a rule, a child roams from one thing to another
with apparently only a fleeting attempt to play with it; yet on the
other hand, to make the problem more baffling, a child will spend a
whole morning at one thing: quite lately one child announced that he
meant to play with water all day, and he did; another never left the
sand-heap, and apparently repeated the same kind of activity during a
complete morning; visitors said in a rather disappointed tone, "they
just play all the time by themselves." One teacher brought out an
attractive picture and when a group of children gathered round it she
proceeded to tell the story; they listened politely for a few minutes,
and then the group gradually melted away; they were not ready for
concentrated effort. If those children had been in the ordinary Baby
Room of a school they would have been quite docile, sitting in their
places apparently listening to the story, amiably "using" their bricks
or other materials according to the teacher's directions, but they would
not, in the real sense, have been playing. This is an example of the
need for both principle and courage.

It is into this chaotic method of gaining experience that the teacher
comes with her interpretive power--she sees in it the beginnings of all
the big things of life--and like a bigger child she joins, and like a
bigger child she improves. She sees in the apparent chaos an attempt to
get experience of the different aspects of life, in the apparently
aimless activity an attempt to realise and develop the bodily powers, in
the fighting and quarrelling an attempt to establish a place in social
life. It is all unconscious on the part of a child, but a necessary
phase of real development.

Gradually the little primitive man begins to yield to civilisation. He
is interested in things for longer and asks for stories, music and
rhymes, and what does this mean?

As he develops a child learns much about life in his care of the garden,
about language in his games, about human conduct from stories; but he
does these things because he wants to do them, and because there is a
play need behind it all, which for him is a life need; in order to build
a straight wall he must classify his bricks, in order to be a real
shopman he must know his weights, in order to be a good workman he must
measure his paper; all the ideas gained from these things come to him
_along with sense activity_; they are associated with the needs and
interests of daily life; and because of this he puts into the activity
all the effort of which he is capable, or as Dewey has expressed it,
"the maximum of consciousness" into the experience which is his play.
This is real sense training, differing in this respect from the training
given by the Montessori material, which has no appeal to life interest,
aims at exercising the senses separately, and discourages _play_ with
the apparatus. It is activity without a body, practice without an end,
and nothing develops from it of a constructive or expressive nature.

In the nursery class therefore our curriculum is life, our apparatus all
that a child's world includes, and our method the one of joyful
investigation, by means of which ideas and skill are being acquired. The
teacher is player in chief, ready to suggest, co-operate, supply
information, lead or follow as circumstances demand: responsibility must
still belong to the children, for while most of them know quite
naturally how to play, there are many who will never get beyond a rather
narrow limit, through lack of experience or of initiative.

It is quite safe to let experience take its chance through play, but
there are certain things that must be dealt with quite definitely, when
the teacher is not there as a playmate, but as something more in the
capacity of a mother. It is impossible to train all the habits necessary
at this time, through the spontaneous play, although incidentally many
will be greatly helped and made significant by it. If the children come
from poor homes where speech is imperfect, probably mere imitation of
the teacher, which is the chief factor in ordinary language training,
will be insufficient. It will be necessary to invent ways, chiefly
games, by which the vocal organs may be used; this may be considered
play, but it is more artificial and less spontaneous than the informal
activity already described. It is well to be clear as to the kind of
exercises best suited to make the vocal organs supple, and then to make
these the basis of a game: for example, little children constantly
imitate the cries of ordinary life; town children could dramatise a
railway station where the sounds produced by engines and by porters give
a valuable training; they could imitate street cries, the sound of the
wind, of motor hooters, sirens, or of church bells. Country children
could use the sounds of the farm-yard, the birds, or the wind. In the
recognition of sound, which is as necessary as its production, such a
guessing game could be taught as "I sent my son to be a grocer and the
first thing he sold began with _s_ and ended with _p_," using the
_sounds_, not names of the letters. For the acquisition of a vocabulary,
such a game as the Family Coach might be played and turned into many
other vehicles or objects about which many stories could be told. All
the time the game must be played with the same fidelity to the spirit of
play as previously, but the introduction must be recognised as more
artificial and forced, and this can be justified because so many
children are not normal with regard to speech, and only where this is
the case should language training be forced upon them. Habits of
courtesy, of behaviour at table, of position, of dressing and
undressing, of washing hands and brushing teeth, and many others, must
all be _taught_, but taught at the time when the need comes. Occasions
will certainly occur during play, but the chances of repetition are not
sufficient to count on.

Thus we summarise the chief business of the Nursery School teacher when
we say that it is concerned chiefly with habits and play and right

Play in the Transition Class is less informal. After the age of six
certain ambitions grow and must be satisfied. The aspects of life are
more separated, and concentration on individual ones is commoner; this
means more separation into subjects, and thus a child is more willing to
be organised, and to have his day to _some_ extent arranged for him.
While in the nursery class only what was absolutely necessary was fixed,
in the Transition Class it is convenient to fix rather more, for the
sake of establishing certain regular habits, and because it is necessary
to give the freshest hours to the work that requires most concentration.
We must remember, however, that it _is_ a transition class, and not set
up a completely fashioned time-table for the whole day. Reading and
arithmetic must be acquired both as knowledge and skill, the mother
tongue requires definite practice, there must be a time for physical
activity, and living things must not be attended to spasmodically.
Therefore it seems best that these things be taken in the morning hours,
while the afternoon is still a time for free choice of activity.

The following is a plan for the Transition Class, showing the bridge
between absolute freedom and a fully organised time-table--


Monday |Nature |Reading |Stories from |Organised games and
|work. |and Number.|Scripture or other |handwork.
---------|Care |-----------|literature, and |-----------------------
Tuesday |of the |Reading |stories of social |Music and handwork.
|room. |and Number.|life; music and |
---------|Nature |-----------|singing; industrial|-----------------------
Wednesday|chart |Reading |activities such as |Excursion or handwork.
|and |and Number.|solving puzzles, |
---------|General|-----------|playing games of |-----------------------
Thursday |talk. |Reading |skill, looking at |Dramatic representation
| |and Number.|pictures, arranging|including preparations.
---------| |-----------|collections. |-----------------------
Friday | |Reading | |Gardening or handwork.
| |and Number.| |

Granting this arrangement we must be clear how play as a method can
still hold.

It does not hold in the informal incidental sense of the Nursery School:
there are periods in the Transition Class when the children know that
they are working for a definite purpose which is not direct play--as in
reading; and there are times when they are dissatisfied with their
performances of skill and ask to be shown a better way, and voluntarily
practise to secure the end, as in handwork, arithmetic and some kinds of
physical games. The remainder is probably still pursued for its own
sake. How then can this play spirit be maintained side by side with

First of all, the children should not be required to do anything without
having behind it a purpose that appeals to them; it may not be the
ultimate purpose of "their good," but a secondary reason may be given to
which they will respond readily, generally the pretence reason.
Arithmetic to the ordinary person is a thing of real life; we count
chiefly in connection with money, with making things, with distributing
things, or with arranging things, and we count carefully when we keep
scores in games; in adult life we seldom or never count or perform
arithmetical operations for sheer pleasure in the activity, but there
are many children who do so in the same spirit as we play patience or
chess. And all this is our basis. The arithmetical activities in the
Transition Class should therefore be based on such everyday experiences
as have been mentioned, else there will be no associations made between
the experiences of school and those of life outside. The two must merge.
There is no such thing as arithmetic pure and simple for children unless
they seek it; they must play at real life, and the real life that they
are now capable of appreciating.

Skill in calculation, accuracy and quickness can be acquired by a kind
of practice that children are quite ready for, if it comes when they
realise the need; most children feel that their power to score for games
is often too slow and inaccurate; as store clerks they are uncertain in
their calculations; they will be willing to practise quick additions,
subtractions, multiplications and divisions, in pure arithmetical form,
if the pretence purpose is clearly in view, which to them is a real
purpose; the same thing occurs in writing which should be considered a
side issue of reading; meaningless words or sentences are written
wearily and without pains, but to write the name of a picture you have
painted, at the bottom of it, or to write something that Cinderella's
Godmother said, or bit by bit to write a letter, will be having a
purpose that gives life to an apparently meaningless act, and
thoroughness to the effort.

In handwork, too, at this stage, practice takes an important place: a
child is willing to hem, to try certain brush strokes, to cut evenly,
and later on to use his cardboard knife to effect for the sake of a
future result if he has already experimented freely. This is in full
harmony with the spirit of play, when we think of the practiced
"strokes" and "throws" of the later games, but it is a more advanced
quality of play, because there is the beginning of a purpose which is
separated from immediate pleasure in the activity, there is the hint of
an end in view though it is a child's end, and not the adult or economic

The training of the mother tongue can be made very effective by means
of games: in the days when children's parties were simple, and family
life was united, language games in the long dark evenings gave to many a
grip of words and expressions. Children learnt to describe accurately,
to be very fastidious in choice of words, to ask direct questions, to
give verbal form to thought, all through the stress of such games--Man
and his Shadow, Clumps, Subject and Object, Russian Scandal, the
Minister's Cat, I see a Light, Charades, and acting of all kinds. No
number of picture talks, oral compositions, or observations can compete
in real value with these games, because behind them was a purpose or
need for language that compelled the greatest efforts.

Physical development and its adjustment to mental control owes its
greatest stimulus to games. When physical strength, speed, or nimble
adjustability is the pivot upon which the game depends, special muscles
are made subservient to will: behind the game there is the stimulus of
strong emotion, and here is the greatest factor in establishing
permanent associations between body and mind; psychologists see in many
of these games of physical activity the evolution of the race: drill
pure and simple has its place partly in the same sense as "practice" in
number or handwork, and partly as a corrective to our fallacious system
of education by listening, instead of by activity: and we cannot in a
lifetime acquire the powers of the race except by concentrated practice.
But no amount of drill can give the all-round experience necessary for
physical readiness for an emergency, physical and mental power to
endure, active co-operation, where self-control holds in check ambitious
personal impulses: and no drill seems to give grace and beauty of motion
that the natural activity of dancing can give. It is through the games
that British children inherit, and by means of which they have
unconsciously rehearsed many of the situations of life, that they have
been able to take their place readily in the life of the nation and even
to help to save it. Again, as in other directions, children must be made
to play the game in its thoroughness, for a well-played game gives the
right balance to the activities: drill is more specialised, and has
specialisation for its end: a game calls on the whole of an individual:
he must be alert mentally and physically; and at the same time the sense
of fairness cannot be too strongly insisted on; no game can be tolerated
as part of education where there is looseness in this direction, from
the skittles of the nursery class to the cricket and hockey of the
seventh standard, and nothing will so entirely outrage the children's
feelings as a teacher's careless arbitration. In physical games, too,
the social side is strongly developed: leadership, self-effacement and
co-operation are more valuable lessons of experience than fluent reading
or neat writing or accurate additions: but they have not counted as such
in our economic system of education; they have taken their chance: few
inspectors ask to see whether children know how to "play the game," and
yet they are so soon to play the independent game of life. But the
individual output of reading and sums of a sneaking and cowardly, or
assertive and selfish child, is as good probably as that of a child that
has the makings of a hero in him. And then we wonder at the propensities
of the "lower classes." It is because we have never made sure that they
can play the game.

To summarise: play in the Nursery School stage is unorganised, informal,
and pursued with no motive but pleasure in the activity itself; it is
mainly individual. Play in the Transition Class is more definitely in
the form of games, _i.e._ organised play, efforts of skill, mental or
physical; it becomes social. Play in the Junior School is almost an
occasional method, because the work motive is by this time getting



"We find in the child's spontaneous choice the nature of the
surroundings and of the activities he craves for; in other
words, he makes his own curriculum, and selects his own
subject matter."

The next problem we have to solve is how to unify the bewildering
variety of ideas and activities that a child seeks contact with during a
day. We found that the curriculum of the Infant School of to-day
presented a rather confusing variety of ideas, not necessarily arranged
as the children would have chosen; they would certainly not have chosen
to break off some intense interest, because an arbitrary timetable
hurried them to something else, and they would have been right. If we
asked the children their reasons for choosing, we would find no clue
except that they chose what they wanted to, neither could they tell us
why they spent so much more time over one thing than another. If a
similar study were to be made of a child from a slum also free to
arrange his day, we should find that while certain general features were
the same others would be different: he would ask for different stories,
probably play different games, or the same games in a different way, his
back-yard would present different aspects, the things he made would be

It is evident that the old correlation method has little or nothing to
do with the matter; a child may or may not draw the rabbit he feeds, he
certainly does not play a rabbit game because of the rabbit he has fed,
nor does he build a rabbit-hutch with his bricks. He might try to make a
real one if the rabbit really needed it, but that arises out of an
obvious necessity. If he could put his unconscious promptings into
words, he would say he did the things because he wanted to, because
somebody else did them, or because of something he saw yesterday, and so
on; but he would always refer back to _himself_. The central link in
each case is in the child, with his special store of experiences derived
from his own particular surroundings; he brings to new experiences his
store of present experiences, his interests not always satisfied, his
powers variously used, he interprets the new by these, and seeks for
more in the line of the old. It is life he has experienced, and he seeks
for more life.

How then can we secure for him that the new experiences presented to him
in school will be in line with the old? We will take three typical cases
of children to illustrate the real nature of this problem.

The first is the case of a child living in a very poor district of
London or of any large town. The school is presumably situated in a
narrow street running off the High Street of the district, the street
where all the shopping is done; at the corner is a hide factory with an
evil smell. Most of the dwelling-houses abut on the pavement, some with
a very small yard behind, some without any. Several families live in one
house, and often one room is all a family can afford; as that has to be
paid for in advance the family address may change frequently. The father
may be a dock labourer with uncertain pay, a coster, a rag and bone
merchant, or he may follow some unskilled occupation of a similarly
precarious nature; in consequence the mother has frequently to do daily
work, the home is locked up till evening, and she often leaves before
the children start for morning school. It is a curious but very common
fact that, free though these children are, they know only a very small
radius around their own homes. They are accustomed to be sent shopping
into High Street, where household stores are bought in pennyworths or
twopennyworths, owing to uncertain finance and no storage accommodation.
Generally there is one tap and one sink in the basement for the needs of
all the families in the house. There is usually a park somewhere within
reach, but it may be a mile away; in it would, at least, be trees, a
pond, grass, flowers. But an excursion there, unless it is undertaken by
the school, can only be hoped for on a fine Bank Holiday; there is
neither time nor money to go on a Saturday, and Sunday cannot be said to
begin till dinner-time, about 3 P.M., when the public-houses close, and
the father comes home to dinner.

It is difficult to imagine the conversation of such a household; family
life exists only on Sunday at dinner-time; the child's background of
family life is a room which is at once a bedroom, living room and
laundry. There is nearly always some part of a meal on the table, and
some washing hanging up. Outside there are the dingy street, the crowded
shops, the pavement to play on, and both outside and in, the bleaker and
more sordid aspects of life, sometimes miserable, sometimes exciting. On
Saturday night the lights are brilliant and life is at least intense.
Bed is a very crowded affair, in which many half-undressed children
sleep covered with the remainder of the day's wardrobe.

What store of experiences does a child from such a neighbourhood bring
to school, to be assimilated with the new experiences provided there?
What do such terms as home, dinner, bed, bath, birth, death, country,
mean to him? They mean _something_.[34]

[Footnote 34: See _Child Life_, October 1916.]

Not a mile away we may come to a very respectable suburb of the average
type; and what is said of it may apply in some degree to a provincial
or country town or, at least, the application can easily be made. The
school probably stands at the top corner of a road of houses rented, at
L25 to L35 per annum, with gardens in front and behind. The road
generally runs into a main road with shops and traffic. Here and there
in the residential road are little oases of shops, patronised by the
neighbourhood, and some of the children may live over these. The home
life is more ordinary and needs less descriptive detail, but there are
some features that must be considered. The decencies, not to say
refinements of eating, sleeping and washing are taken for granted: there
is often a bath-room and always a kitchen. The father's occupation may
be local, but a good many fathers will go to town; there is generally a
family holiday to the sea, or less often to the country. In the house
the degree of refinement varies; there are nearly always pictures of a
sort, books of a sort, and the children are supplied with toys of a
sort. They visit each other's houses, and the observances of social life
are kept variously. Often the horizon is very narrow; the mother's
interest is very local and timid; the father's business life may be
absolutely apart from his home life and never mentioned there. The
family conversation while quite amiable and agreeable may be round very
few topics, and the vocabulary, while quite respectable, may be most
limited. Children's questions may be put aside as either trivial or
unsuitable. In one sense the slum child may be said to have a broader
background, the realities of life are bare to him on their most sordid
side, there is neither mystery nor beauty around life, or death, or the
natural affections. The suburban child may on the contrary be balked and
restricted so that unnecessary mystery gives an unwholesome interest to
these things and conventionality a dishonest reserve.

A suburb of this type is described by Beresford in _Housemates_:--"In
such districts (as Gospel Oak) I am depressed by the flatness of an
awful monotony. The slums vex me far less. There I find adventure and
jest whatever the squalor; the marks of the primitive struggle through
dirt and darkness towards release. Those horrible lines of moody,
complacent streets represent not struggle, but the achievement of a
worthless aspiration. The houses, with their deadly similarity, their
smug, false exteriors, their conformity to an ideal which is typified by
their poor imitative decoration, could only be inhabited by people who
have no thought or desire for expression.... The dwellers in such
districts are cramped into the vice of their environment. Their homes
represent the dull concession to a state rule; and their lives take tone
from the grey, smoke-grimed repetition of one endlessly repeated design.
The same foolish ornamentation on every house reiterates the same
suggestion. Their places of worship, the blank chapels and pseudo-Gothic
churches rear themselves head and shoulders above the dull level, only
to repeat the same threat of obedience to a gloomy law.... The thought
of Gospel Oak and its like is the thought of imitation, of imitation
falling back and becoming stereotyped, until the meaning of the thing so
persistently copied has been lost and forgotten."

A third case is that of the country child, the child who attends the
village school. Many villages lie several miles from a railway station,
so that the younger children may not see a railway train more than once
or twice a year. The fathers may be engaged in village trades, such as a
shoemaker, carpenter, gardener, general shop merchant, farm labourer, or
farmer. The village houses are often cramped and small, but there is
wholesome space outside, and generally a good garden which supplies some
of the family food; milk and eggs are easily obtainable, and conditions
of living are seldom as crowded as in a town. The country children see
more of life in complete miniature than the slum or the suburban child
can do, for the whole life of the village lies before him. The school
is generally in the centre, with a good playground, and of late years a
good school garden is frequent. The village church, generally old, is
another centre of life, and there is at least the vicarage to give a
type of life under different social conditions.

The home intellectual background may vary, but on the whole cannot be
reckoned on very much; though in some ways it is more narrow than the
suburban one, it is often less superficial. In a different way from the
slum child, but none the less definitely, the country child comes face
to face with the realities of life, in a more natural and desirable way
than either of the others. It is difficult to estimate some of the
effects of living in the midst of real nature on children;
unconsciously, they acquire much deep knowledge impossible to learn
through nature study, however good, a kind of knowledge that is part of
their being; but how far it affects them emotionally or enters into
their scheme of life, is hard to say. As they grow up much of it is
merely economic acquirement: if they are to work on the land, or rear
cattle, or drive a van through the country, it is all to the good; but
one thing is noticeable, that they take very quickly to such allurements
of town life as a cinema, or a picture paper or gramophone, and this
points to unsatisfied cravings of some sort, not necessarily so unworthy
or superficial as the means sought to satisfy them.

From these rather extreme cases we get near the solution of the problem;
it is quite evident that each of these children brings to school very
different contributions of experience on which to build, though their
general needs and interests are similar. Therefore the curriculum of the
school will depend on the general surroundings and circumstances of the
children, and all programmes of work and many questions of organisation
will be built on this. The model programme so dear to some teachers must
be banished, as a doctor would banish a general prescription; no honest
teacher can allow this part of her work to be done for her by any one

Therefore the central point is the child's previous experience, and on
this the experience provided by school, _i.e._ curriculum and subject
matter, depends. One or two examples of the working out of this might
make the application clearer. Probably the realities of life in relation
to money differ greatly. The kind of problem presented to the poor town
child will deal with shopping in pennyworths or ounces, with getting
coals in pound bagfuls. Clothes are generally second-hand, and so
ordinary standard prices are out of the question. Bread is bought stale
and therefore cheaper, early in the morning. Preserved milk only is
bought, and that in halfpenny quantities. Only problems based on these
will be real to this child at first.

The suburban child's economic experience may be based on his
pocket-money, money in the bank, and the normal shopping of ordinary

The country child is frequently very ignorant of money values; probably
it will be necessary to take the country general shop as the basis. He
could also begin to estimate the produce of the school garden.


It is quite obvious from the nature of play at this stage that a
time-table is out of the question and in fact an outrage against nature.
Only for social convenience and for the establishment of certain
physical habits can there be fixed hours. There must be approximate
limits as to the times of arrival and departure, but nothing of the
nature of marking registers to record exact minutes. Little children
sometimes sleep late, or, on the other hand, the mothers may have to
leave home very early; all this must be allowed for. There should be
fixed times for meals and for sleep, and these should be rigidly
observed, and there should be regular times for the children to go to
the lavatories; all these establish regularity and self-control, as well
as improving general health. But anything in the nature of story
periods, games periods, handwork periods, only impedes the variously
developing children in their hunger for experiences.

Their curriculum is life as the teacher has spread it out before them;
there are no subjects at this stage; the various aspects ought to be of
the nature of a glorious feast to these young children. Traherne says in
the seventeenth century:--

"Will you see the infancy of this sublime and celestial greatness? Those
pure and virgin apprehensions I had in my infancy, and that divine light
wherewith I was born, are the best unto this day wherein I can see the
Universe.... Verily they form the greatest gift His wisdom can bestow,
for without them all other gifts had been dead and vain. They are
unattainable by books and therefore will I teach them by experience....
Certainly Adam in Paradise had not more sweet and curious apprehensions
of the world than I when I was a child.

"All appeared new and strange at first, inexpressibly rare and
delightful and beautiful. I was a little stranger which at my entrance
into the world was saluted and surrounded with innumerable joys.... I
knew by intuition those things which since my apostasy I collected again
by the highest reason.... All things were spotless and pure and
glorious; yea, and infinitely mine, and joyful and precious.... I saw in
all the peace of Eden.... Is it not that an infant should be heir of the
whole world, and see those mysteries which the books of the learned
never unfold?

"The corn was orient and immortal wheat which never should be reaped,
nor was ever sown. I thought it stood from everlasting to everlasting.
The dust and stones of the street were as precious as gold: the gates
were at first the end of the world. The green trees when I saw them
first through one of the gates transported and ravished me: ... the
skies were mine, and so were the sun and moon and stars, and all the
world was mine: and I the only spectator and enjoyer of it.... So that
with much ado I was corrupted and made to learn the dirty devices of
this world, which I now unlearn, and become, as it were, a little child
again that I may enter into the Kingdom of Heaven."

If this is what life means to the young child, and Traherne only records
what many of us have forgotten there is little need for interference: we
can only spread the feast and stand aside to watch for opportunities.

The following extract is given from a teacher's note-book: it shows how
many possibilities open out to a teacher, and how impossible it is to
keep to a time-table, or even to try to name the activities. The
children concerned were about five years old, newly admitted to a poor
school in S.E. London. The records are selected from a continuous
period, and do not apply to one day:--


_Number Occupations._--This will The children played, freely
be entirely free and the children chalking most of the time; those
will choose their own toys and threading beads were most
put them away. interested. Again I noticed the
lack of idea of colour; I found
one new boy placing his sticks
according to colour, without
knowing the names of the colours.
The boys thought the soldiers
belonged to them, and laughed at
a little girl for choosing them.

_Language Training._--I have I realised this was a failure,
discovered that they love to for I asked the children to use
imitate sounds, so we will play their boards and chalks for a
at this. They could draw a cat definite drawing, and they should
and say "miauw," and a duck and have had the time to use them
say "quack." They could also freely and discover their use. I
imitate the wind. got very little information about
their vocabulary.

_Language Training_ (_another I found that many children
day_).--I shall try to induce the pronounced words so strangely
children to speak to me about their that I could only with difficulty
homes, in order to discover any recognise them. One said she
difficulties of pronunciation and had a "bresser" with "clates"
to make them more fluent. on it and "knies" Others spoke
of "manckle," "firebrace," "forts."
One child speaking of curly hair
called it "killeyer." We had no
time for the story.

_Playing with Toys._--The Noah's arks, dolls, and bricks
children will choose their own toys, were used, and I found that the
and as far as possible I will put girls who had no dolls at home
a child who knows how to use them were delighted to be able to dress
next to one who desires to sit and undress them and put them
still. to bed. One little girl walked
backwards and forwards before
the class getting her doll to
sleep; the boys were making a
noise with their arks and she
remarked on this, so we induced
them to be silent while the dolls
were put to sleep. The boys
arranged their animals in long
lines. The bricks were much more
carefully put away to-day.


Even after the Nursery School period much of the curriculum and subject
matter is in the hands of the children themselves, though the relative
proportions will vary according to the children's experiences. It is
pretty evident to the honest-minded teacher that the subjects are, in
school terms, nature work and elementary science, mathematics,
constructive and expressive work, literature, music, language, physical
exercise and religion. The business of the younger child is with real
things and activity, not with symbols and passivity, therefore he is not
really in need of reading, writing, or arithmetic. We hear arguments
from ambitious teachers that children are fond of reading lessons
because they enjoy the fantasies in which these lessons are wrapped, or
the efforts made by the teacher to create interest; we hear that
children ask to be taught to read; they also ask to be taught to drive a
tram or to cook a dinner; but it is all part of the pretence game of
playing at being grown up. They do not need to read while stories and
poetry can be told or read to them; they are not ready to make the
effort of working for a remote economic end, where there is no real
pleasure in the activity, and no opportunity of putting their powers to
use. No child under six wants to sit down and read, and it would be very
harmful if he did; his business is with real things and with his
vocabulary, which is not nearly ready to put into symbols yet. If
reading is delayed, hours of weary drudgery will be saved and energy
stored for more precious attainments.

Therefore in the transition class (_i.e._ children over six at lowest)
the only addition to the curriculum already set out for the nursery
class, would be arithmetic and reading, including writing. The other
differences would be in degree only. In the junior class (with children
over seven at lowest) a desire to know something of the doings of people
in other countries, to hear about other parts of our own land, will lead
to the beginnings of geography; while with this less imaginative and
more literal period comes the request for stories that are more verbally
true, and questions about origins, leading to the beginnings of history.

It is very much easier to give the general curriculum than to deal with
the choice of actual material, because that is involved largely with the
principle of the unity of experience, and, as we know, experiences vary.
The normal town and country child, and the abnormal child of poverty
have all certain human cravings in common, and these are provided for in
the aspects of life or subjects that have been named--but this is far
too general an application to be the end of the matter; each subject has
many sides to offer. There may be for example the pottery town, the
weaving town, the country town, the fishing town, the colliery town: in
the country there is the district of the dairy farmer, of the sheep
farmer, of the grain grower and miller, of the fruit farmer, of the hop
grower, and many districts may partake of more than one characteristic.
Perhaps the most curious anomaly of experience is that of the child of
the London slums who goes "hopping" into some of the loveliest parts of
Kent, in early autumn. And so in a general way at least the concentrated
experience of school must fill gaps and supply experiences that life has
not provided for.

One of the pottery towns in Staffordshire is built on very unfertile
clay; there are several potteries in the town belching out smoke, and,
in addition, rows of monotonous smoke-blackened houses; almost always a
yellow pall of smoke hangs over the whole district, and even where the
edge of the country might begin, the grass and trees are poor and
blackened, and distant views are seen through a haze. There are almost
no gardens in the town, and very little attempt has been made to
beautify it, because the results are so disappointing. Beauty,
therefore, in various forms must be a large part of the curriculum:
already design is a common interest in the pottery museums of the
district, and this could be made a motive for the older children; but in
the Junior and Nursery School pictures of natural beauty, wild flowers
if it is possible to get them, music, painting and drawing, and
literature should bulk largely enough to make a permanent impression on
the children. In a very remote country village where life seems to go
slowly, and days are long, children should be encouraged, by means of
the school influence, to make things that absorb thought and interest,
to tell and hear stories. Storytelling in the evening round the fire is
a habit of the past, and might well supply some of the cravings that
have to be satisfied by the "pictures." Most of us have to keep
ourselves well in hand when we listen to a recitation in much the same
way as when a slate pencil used to creak; it would be very much better
if the art of storytelling were cultivated at school, encouraged at
home, and applied to entertainments. Indeed the entertainments of a
village school, instead of being the unnatural and feverish production
of hours of overtime, might well be the ordinary outcome of work both at
school and at home--and thus a motive for leisure is naturally supplied
and probably a hobby initiated.

It is profitable sometimes to group the subjects of experience in order
to preserve balance. All getting of experience is active, but some kinds
more obviously than others. Undoubtedly in hearing stories and poetry,
in watching a snail or a bee, in listening to music, the activity is
mental rather than physical and assimilation of ideas is more direct; in
discovering experiences by means of construction, expression, experiment
or imitation, assimilation is less direct but often more permanent and
secure. Froebel discriminates between impression and expression, or
taking in and giving out, and although he constantly emphasised that the
child takes in by giving, it is convenient to recognise this
distinction. Another helpful grouping is the more objective one. Some
subjects refer more particularly to human conduct, the enlargement of
experiences of human beings, and the building up of the ideal: these are
literature, music, history and geography; others refer to life other
than that of human beings, commonly known as nature study and science;
others to the properties of inanimate things, and to questions
throughout all life of measurement, size and force--this is known as
mathematics; others of the life behind the material and the spiritual
world--this is known as religion.



"The atmosphere of freedom is the only atmosphere in which a
child can gain experiences that will help to develop

The principle of Freedom underlies all the activities of the school and
does not refer to conduct simply; intellectual and emotional aspects of
discipline are too often ignored and we have as a product the
commonplace, narrow, imitative person, too timid or too indolent to
think a new thought, or to feel strongly enough to stand for a cause.
Self-control is the goal of discipline, but independent thinking,
enthusiasm and initiative are all included in the term.

It will be well to discriminate between the occasions, both in the
Nursery School and in the transition and junior classes, when a child
should be free to learn by experience and when he should be controlled
from without. We shall probably find occasions which partake of the
nature of each.

The Nursery School is a collection of individuals presumably from 2-1/2
to 5-1/2 years of age. They know no social life beyond the family life,
and family experience is relative to the size of the family. In any case
they have not yet measured themselves against their peers, with the
exception of the occasional twin. A few months ago about twenty children
of this description formed the nucleus of a new Nursery School where, as
far as possible, the world in miniature was spread out before them, and
they were guided in their entrance to it by an experienced teacher and
a young helper. For the first few weeks the chief characteristic was
noise; the children rushed up and down the large room, shouting, and
pushing any portable toys they could find. One little boy of 2-1/2
employed himself in what can only be called "punching" the other
children, snatching their possessions away from them and responding to
the teacher by the law of contra-suggestion. He was the most intelligent
child in the school. He generally left a line of weeping children behind
him, and several began to imitate him. The pugnacious instinct requires
little encouragement. Lunch was a period of snatching, spilling, and
making plans to get the best. Many of the toys provided were carelessly
trampled upon and broken: requests to put away things at the end of the
day were almost unavailing.

When the time for sleeping came in the afternoon many of the children
refused to lie down: some consented but only to sing and talk as they
lay. Only one, a child of 2-1/2, slept, because he cried himself to
sleep from sheer strangeness. This apparently unbeautiful picture is
only the first battle of the individual on his entrance to the life of
the community.

On the other hand, there were intervals of keen joy: water, sand and
clay chiefly absorbed the younger children: the older ones wanted to
wash up and scrub, and many spent a good deal of time looking at
picture-books. This was the raw material for the teacher to begin with:
the children came from comfortable suburban homes: none were really
poor, and many had known no privation. They were keen for experiences
and disposed to be very friendly to her.

After five months there is a marked difference in spirit. The noise is
modified because the children found other absorbing interests, though at
times nature still demands voice production. During lunch time and
sleeping time there is quiet, but the teacher has never _asked_ for
silence unless there was some such evident reason. There is no silence
game. The difference has come from within the children. All now lie down
in the afternoon quietly, and the greater number sleep; but there has
been no command or any kind of general plan: again the desire has
gradually come to individuals from suggestion and imitation. Lunch is


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