In the not-too distant past, courses like home economics, auto repair, and wood and metalworking were offered in most high schools to prepare young people at least for some of the mechanics of adulthood. Quite possibly, high school might be the place to teach courses that conveyed the methods of early cognitive development to tomorrow's parents. The benefits might be broadly felt. Young, single, inner-city mothers who otherwise would be trapped with their children in the multigenerational cycle of educational underachievement and poverty certainly would benefit from knowing how to shape their early interactions with their children to help them succeed in school.Certainly makes me wonder why educators haven't paid more attention to Froebel and Pestalozzi. Pestalozzi wrote the landmark book, "How Gertrude Teaches Her Children," 1801, as a guide to mothers interested in teaching their own children and in it he laid out the principles that guided his own exploration of scientific education. Froebel followed in the same vein with "Mother-Play and Nursery Songs," or Songs for Endearment by Mothers, 1844 and education today would be different if we had continued to listen to their wisdom rather than allowing ourselves to become distracted by the bells and whistles of technology. The following is from Unesco:
In his Songs of Endearment for Mothers, Fröbel comes very close to the everyday living world that he represents in scenes (pictorial illustrations), finger games and nursery rhymes. Experiences of the child’s everyday life are acted out through the perceived physical medium of finger games or in illustrations. The mother plays the finger game and the child is asked to imitate it. This book is a sequel to Pestalozzi’s Book for Mothers, but moves beyond that author’s cognitive and schematic method. Fröbel’s principle is motherly love. The mother shows loving care for her child through play. Initially, the infant is a being at one with himself/herself. As its own forces then begin to develop, i.e. its motor system, senses and intelligence, the child begins to become familiar with its surroundings and is able to differentiate and structure them. The true self gradually becomes structured and differentiated through this experience of the outside world.The method Froebel describes is not just verbal, but involves the use of the hands to create a foundation for intellectual growth and in doing so goes far beyond what Christensen, Horn and Johnson describe in Disrupting Class.
The following is from my blog post of January 14, 2007:
Too often now, parents are distracted by other things rather than being engaged with their full attention on play. With your child in your lap, its head on your knees and feet on your chest, start by moving your hands into and out of visual range. Weave your fingers together and then pull them apart. Repeat and then vary your motions. Your child will watch and in a short time will engage your hands with hers or his. My daughter Lucy and I could spend what seemed like hours in contemplation of our hands. As she became a couple months older, toys and rattles joined with the hands, and we never tired of the play. We don't have any way to measure the profound impact such simple things can have except to observe the results. I could spend days as I suspect many parents might, proclaiming the wonders of my daughter. I won't. But I will invite you to play with your child in the manner I describe. Hold him or her as shown in the position above.What often seems like idle play fulfills extremely important purposes in human development.
Friedrich Froebel, inventor of Kindergarten realized the incredible opportunity young mothers were missing in the development of their childrens' capacities for learning. Much of his early work was in developing songs, hand activities and games for mothers to play with their children. We hope that schools will do enough to educate our children, but don't count on it. They can't make up for the opportunities lost in the earliest days. But take your child in your lap and with your hands make a start.