Friday, September 11, 2015

How Lina Learns to Write and Read...

With my work on Tiny Boxes nearly done but for beauty shots, drawings, materials lists and a seemingly endless exchange of edits, my attention returns to Kindergarten. No teacher should wander far from Kindergarten learning through joyful self-activity. Froebel had written a short pamphlet called "How Lina Learns to Write and to Read" in which he placed things in their proper order. Whereas when we refer normally to education, we say "learning to read and write" and thus miss the proper order of things, we learn best not by passive engagement but by action. Henry Barnard wrote the following:
*In his monograph: “How Lina learns to write and read” (and not to read and write), Fröbel fixes in a precise manner the age which is suited to learning to read; he puts this occupation in the last year of the kindergarten. He supposes that Lina has attained the age of six years, and that having observed the joy of her father at receiving a letter, and his eagerness to answer it, she has conceived the most intense desire to learn to write. But it must not be lost sight of that the little girl had been educated without suspecting it, in a perfectly normal manner, or as Fröbel expresses himself in an all-sided unity of life; before thinking of writing a letter she had learned to execute a multitude of things with the most simple playthings, to build beautifully with the cube and its derivatives; to make pretty designs with tablets of different forms and colors; as well as with the little sticks, etc. Lina then was a precocious child, and the age at which she begins to instruct herself cannot be taken for a rule, when the question is of children who have passed months in knitting a garter very badly, and years in making a stocking which a machine does infinitely better in a few minutes. Such children become adults without going out of leading strings. Fröbel attributes, in a great part, the imperfection of our schools and our teaching to our instructing our children without their feeling the want of it, and even after having extinguished that want in them.
I will disagree with Barnard in the first part of what he said. Froebel's intent was not to fix the year (6) at which reading should begin, but to describe the natural process through which a child arrived at an age in which their own desire to learn and grow led them to engage in writing and (then) reading. In conventional schooling we trample upon the children's natural inclination to learn and make what they do learn (generally outside the sphere of their interest) more difficult and irrelevant to them. Whereas for Froebel (and at the Clear Spring School) lessons are intended to connect with the interests of the child, not to adhere to some administratively derived targets for learning.

Make, fix, create, and instill in others the desire to do likewise.

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