« PreviousContinue »
parentage, but the spirit is necessary to the complete education and growth. Think, if you can, what change it would work in social life if that was the accepted universal attitude toward childhood. We should not have any reason to fear the decay of the home spirit, but should welcome it in its new form. A home suited to the broader and higher life of developed humanity and more complete spiritual ideals. Motherhood would no longer be looked upon as a slavery, but the crown of womanhood.
HENRY W. BLAKE of Springfield, Mass., editor of the “Kindergarten News,” was introduced as a kindergarten father, and spoke on the same subject. He said that the kindergarten brings into the home the trained hand, the watchful eye, the invigorated body, the quickened intellect, and the cultivated heart. It also brings into the home the spirit of song, the love of nature, and the love of God. All these things constitute an excellent platform for citizenship. Although Froebel is physically dead, the influence which he exerts is more thoroughly alive than ever before. He is with us in the kindergarten and the home, when we gather the children about us in the morning circle, or when they nestle in our arms at evening, pleading for “one more story," 'ere we breathe with them the evening prayer.
MOTHERS' MEETINGS—HOW TO CONDUCT THEM.
BY MISS MARY C. McCULLOCH, ST. LOUIS, MO.
Fifty years ago in Germany, an appeal was made that impressed a few earnest men and women with the truth that the realization of the possibilities of the individual and the perfection of humanity necessitated a knowledge of the development and needs of child-life.
“Come, let us live with the children,” was a true life-call, uniting all in itself as in a central point; not only uniting human beings and human life with each other and with humanity but even with the Cre. ator who said: "Let us make man in our image.” To-day this call is answered by the efforts of leading educators to realize Frobel's ideals.
The widening influence of the kindergarten asserts itself in its extension and introduction into the public schools, in the harmonizing of primary and kindergarten methods, and in the demands for teachers imbued with the spirit of the new education. With each advancing step of appreciation the purpose of education and the means to be employed become more clearly defined. In the light of Freebel's insight "each stage of development of man, as in the plant, is from a preceding one, and the perfection of each depends upon the one that precedes, leading back to the beginning, to the mother at the cradle of her child."
To her loving care is intrusted the unfoldment and the nourishment of the child's powers. She is baby's interpreter of the world that bursts upon him-new, strange, and apparently disconnected. The consciousness of a mother's relation to the spiritual life of her child deepens the conviction that safe guidance demands conscious aims and methods.
Mothers are awakening to the sacredness of their trust, and recognize there is a science of motherhood to be mastered to make them worthy of their responsibility. Child culture clubs have been organized to study the natural instincts of childhood and the tendencies that mar or aid harmonious development. The revelation of Freebel's teaching is an inspiration to all who are led to see that the destiny and life work of man is to become clearly conscious of his divine nature.
To kindergartners, mothers' meetings have become an effective means to gain the co-operation of those in the home circle. That conscientious efforts may be crowned with successful results, it is necessary to unify the influences of the home and the kindergarten; therefore, it is fitting that there should be frequent occasions for “coming together,” to establish a sympathetic appreciation of the work to be accomplished and give an opportunity for an interchange of views upon all subjects relating to the welfare of the children.
The hand upon the dial of our kindergarten experience points to "mothers' meetings” and tells me that the phase of the work demands united effort to establish it as an essential factor in education. May we not with Froebel turn to the mothers to learn the secret of the maternal spirit? May not the mothers gladly accept a message that reveals the meaning of their instincts and brightens the war with insights into the characteristics and needs of universal childhood? The celebration of the festal days have proved favorable occasions to attract the mothers to the kindergarten. In the sunny atmosphere of love is ofttimes born a desire to understand the meaning of play.
The mother's desire to know and the kindergartner's desire to impart establishes a bond of mutual helpfulness, that is followed by the "heart to heart” talks on the needs of particular children. This is the initiative step that leads us on to the true object of mothers' meetings, a study of child nature. For inspiration and growth we turn to Frobel's “Mother Play” book.
The interpretation of the songs makes clear the spiritual truths embodied in the child's relationships, and suggests a series of experiences through which the child may be led to prepare him for the duties of life. To quote from Susan E. Blow, the “Mother Play” book should be the guide of every mother who aspires to do what is best for her children. It should be the favorite picture and song-book in every nursery. It should be the beacon light by which each kindergartner directs her course. It should be the beating heart of every kindergartner. It should be the center around which revolve all the concentric circles of kindergarten activities. Only by its varied use will its secret be learned and the world understand the meaning of “Come, let us live with our children!"
MOTHERS' MEETINGS- HOW TO CONDUCT TIEM AMONG
BY MISS WILHELMINA T. CALDWELL, D'ENVER, COLO.
Shall I have mothers' meetings? and, How shall I conduct them? are questions which confront every kindergartner in the beginning of her work, for in no other way can the home and kindergarten be brought into the close connection necessary for the good of the child than by the calling together of mothers to talk over with the teacher questions of common interest to all. The kindergartner should have a definite plan in conducting the meetings; but, before this can be carried out, she must gain the good will and co-operation of the mothers who send their children to the kindergarten. The trite say. ing, that first impressions are lasting, is applicable to mothers' meetings, and care should be exercised in arranging for the first meeting, for future success depends partly on the interest aroused. A study of the environment of the kindergarten should precede the meeting, for in no other way can the necessary knowledge be gained for the work than by visiting the children's homes. No matter how sordid and poor the district is in which the kindergarten is placed, the kin. dergartner should remember that the privacy and rights of the meanest house should be as sacred to her as any mansion on Capitol Hill. Household affairs do not always run smoothly in the best regulated families; cleanliness and order are not always possible when living in two rooms with six children. No unasked advice should be given at this or any other period of the work, and the visitor should have
eyes that see not, ears that are deaf, showing the same courtesy and consideration which she would give to her friend. No matter how low in the social world the patrons of the kindergarten may be, but little good can be accomplished unless the kindergartner remembers, that, in the kindergarten, high and low meet on the same social plane.
A day and hour convenient to all should be chosen for the meetings. A written invitation addressed to the mother, to come and help with some work for the children, carried home by the children, will always secure a good attendance, even for the first meeting. Entertainment should be provided for the little ones who cannot be left at home, so that the mothers may be relieved of the care of them during the hour.
There is nothing like working for a common object to draw people together. In making some simple decoration for the kindergarten or a scrap-book, all formality and stiffness vanishes, a feeling of goodwill is established, and the first step is gained. Then, in working for the children, it is easy to pass to the children's work in the kindergarten and its purpose.
After some time spent in this way, some of the children's games could be played or their favorite songs sung. If possible, the songs should be type-printed; but if this cannot be done, have the words written on a blackboard and provide paper and pencils for copying.
The question of refreshments is a vexed one, but when given they should be of the simplest kind. With a small alcohol stove, a cup of tea or coffee, with crackers, can be served, and is all that is necessary. Let the table-cloth and china be of the commonest kind; but the cloth should be spotless and the cups and saucers as pretty as can be bought. If possible always have flowers on the table, even if they are only a handful of dandelions gathered from adjoining lot. We should remember that indirect influence is often the strongest, and the simplest kindergarten tea-table may teach its lesson in many homes. Cheap and ugly are synonymous in too many houses.
The meetings should always close promptly on the hour, so that those whose home duties are pressing may feel free to leave. The singing of one of the kindergarten good-by songs is a good signal for dismissal. “Will you come again, and help me finish the work for the children?” will bring all together again.
During the next hour a short sketch of Freebel's life may be given. In the succeeding meetings, the chief principles of his educational system may be presented; but in what manner must be left to the judgment of the kindergartner.
The holding of mothers' meetings in the kindergartens connected with School District No. 1 has been optional with the directors. Thirty-five meetings have been held, with an average of attendance
of thirty mothers. The same general plan as sketched in the preceding pages has been followed. After the co-operation of the neighborhood has been gained, different lines of work have succeeded. In one kindergarten a series of talks on typical songs from the "Mother Play” have been given, while in others model lessons on the gifts or on nature study have employed the time. Some of the directors have preferred giving the manual work; but the last half of the hour has always been spent in singing, the playing of games, and general discussions.
In one neighborhood collections of pictures have been shown to the older brothers and sisters on the same day the mothers' meetings have been held. A visit to the kindergarten one noon by some boys, to see the "little ones' school,” suggested the idea. Their interest and delight with the pictures led to having a picture exhibit. Through the kindness of the librarian of the East Denver Public Library a number of woodcuts, colored and uncolored prints mounted on cardboard, were hung around the kindergarten. Five of these collections have been shown. At the last one, twenty minutes before the doors were open the boys had collected and waited not very patiently until allowed to enter. Hatless, shoeless, some in rags and tatters, few with clean hands, they came trooping in. The general order was good, although the excitement among the boys over the voting for the fa vorite picture ran high. Every pencil borrowed was returned, and when the ninety grimy pieces of paper were counted it was found that Longfellow's portrait had received one vote, and the picture of an ascension of a balloon was up among the forties. "No matter," said the director; "many of the Italians have had toy balloons; two boys have seen a balloon go up from the gardens. So we will be Herbar: tians, and call it an example of apperception."
In a district where it has been difficult to reach the families, on account of the inability of the majority of mothers and their children to speak or understand English, the children's gardens have been a link between home and the kindergarten. The director gives the following report of the last mothers' meeting:
We went into the yard, where the mothers were much interested in the children's gardens. One woman asked the name of a brilliant geranium, so she could buy one like it. Then, after being told how to plant them, each woman was given a package of seeds, and on our way home that evening we passed a house where a woman told us she had already planted her seeds.
Another woman said she had no place to plant her seeds, as there was no fence in front of the house; but a day or two later we were pleased to see a fence around the house. This house has been one of the worst looking in the neighbor hood, but a great change has come over it. A good many improvements have been made. While the child was very irregular, there is now a marked change in his attendance.