This is one thing that has been keeping me busy the past week or so. This past week, I was to post a college assignment about kindergarten today versus Frobel's vision of kindergarten; of how the social and economic conditions of the 1800s and 1900s affected education of those eras; and describing if I follow more of a passive learning model (teacher-directed), active or proactive learning model (student-directed), or interactive learning model ( a little both, but with more teacher-direction than student-direction). My post has initiated nineteen responses (both others' opinions and my responses then their responses to my responses, etc.). Thought you might like seeing it.
What features of the kindergarten envisioned by Froebel exist even today and how has it changed?
I have to admit before I begin writing that I have not seen a modern-day public or even private kindergarten. The closest that I have come to seeing an actual kindergarten class was the kindergarten class at the local homeschooling co-op, which was anything but what Froebel envisioned. It followed a very traditional method of teaching that left the children - particularly many of the boys - feeling frustrated to the point of irritation.
So I spoke with a friend of mine today about her daughter's kindergarten class. She told me that the schools here in Salina, Kansas, are not play-based or child-centered whatsoever. And this is also what I have heard from several others (including teachers in the public school system) - that the children are expected to learn information to pass standardized tests. However, my friend did tell me that the small-town school that she sends her daughter to has an excellent kindergarten program. The teacher stresses the child's creativity rather than academics, which is definintely closer to what Froebel envisioned. The sad thing is, according to my friend, the other teachers at this school and even the school librarian criticize this kindergarten teacher because she does not try to force the children to learn what they are not developmentally ready for. I have read several articles recently about homework in kindergarten. I just cannot see Froebel advocating this. Kindergarten is often referred to as "the new first grade." Preschool is "the new kindergarten." It's really a vicious cycle. Based upon most of what I have heard from teachers, from friends with children in the public school system, and from articles that I have read; I would say that what preschool is today is more similar than kindergarten to what Froebel envisioned. I believe the biggest change in kindergartens came with No Child Left Behind and its emphasis on standardized testing. This changed the focus from play, exploration, and creativity to academics and teacher-centered activities.
How did the political, social, and economic conditions of the 1800's and the 1900's influence American education?
I believe the political, social, and economic conditions of the 1800s and 1900s had a huge impact on American education. I believe the primary influence of the 1800s was the Civil War. Many began to see that all of humanity is equal and began to have more compassion for others, including children. The Industrial Revolution of the 1800s also changed how people viewed education. The nation was expanding in more than just size. The middle class appeared on the scene. Child labor laws began. Environmental hazards were a concern. People saw change occuring everyday, and education had to coincide with that change (Dunn, 2005, pg.180).
Therefore, education sought to liberate people from social injustices, from poverty, from war. Educators sought to teach students how to deal with everyday life, real-life problems and issues, and felt that childhood was a time for natural learning. This philosophy continued through the first part of the 20th century (Dunn, 2005, pgs. 180-181).
However, more change occurred later in the 1900s. The 1900s saw the dawn of new technology and the space race. By the 1960's, many educational philosophers were no longer focusing on the good of the children, as they had in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Now what mattered was staying ahead of Russia. Education began to be seen, as in the past, as a way for the teacher to present new knowledge to the students. Science made a promise to change the world, and schools endeavored to create these scientists in school (Dunn, 2005, pgs. 180-181).
Which of the three learning models discussed in Chapter 10 of Foundations of Christian Education (Braley et al.) do you subscribe to and why?
I, personally, adhere to more of an active or proactive learning model. In theory, I believe the interactive model is successful; however I can see from experience and from the reading that the interactive model usually takes the form of being teacher-directed. I do believe that learning is both internal and external. However, I do believe the focus should be on the student, not on what the teacher feels the student should learn by a certain point in time. Even though the interactive model claims to be learner-centered (Braley, et. al, 2003, pg. 171), I have witnessed it being much more teacher-centered than student-centered.
I subscribe more to an active or proactive learning model, first and foremost, because I know it works. I have been criticized often - especially in Christian circles - because of my educational philosophy; but I truly believe student-directed is best for the students. God has given each child a natural curiosity and a talent. It is my firm belief that teacher-directed methods stifle that curiosity and talent by imposing what the teacher feels the child should be doing and learning.
I have to admit that all through my younger years, until the birth of my sons, I was totally opposed to the active model of learning. I had been taught that the adult needs to be "in control," that children need to learn specifics by a certain time, and that the only way for children to learn is through traditional methods. When my first son, Taliesin, was born I began devouring parenting information. As bad as this sounds, thankfully, I looked to secular parenting magazines rather than to so-called Christian or "God's Way" methods. The information that I received combined with common sense resulted in a happy baby and toddler. When Taliesin reached preschool age, we began homeschooling. Instead of following my common sense approach, I went back to the traditional methods I had learned as a teenager and young adult. To say that they did not work is an understatement. They were disasterous. This is when I discovered child-directed methods - all of the methods my early studies had warned me about. I began applying my new discoveries. Much to my surprise, my son was not only much happier but he learned so much more!
When my younger son, Nathanael, was born; he was just the opposite of Taliesin. Nathanael wanted to be held constantly. When my sons were babies, I firmly believed in feeding on demand. Nathanael really tested me on that - nursing every thirty minutes during the day and every two hours at night until around four months of age. He refused to sleep in a bassinet the second day he was home from the hospital. I always joke that Taliesin taught me about unschooling, Nathanael taught me about attachment parenting. As Nathanael grew, it only made sense to me to follow a child-directed method of learning for his homeschooling. Now at four years old, Nathanael is still very much a natural learner. He has to learn from experience. A good example of this happened just a few evenings ago - on Memorial Day. My husband and I took Taliesin and Nathanael on a picnic. We then hiked and played at a park most of the evening. The park that we chose also has a sprinkler park. It was getting cool out as evening approached, but Nathanael asked to play in the sprinkler. No matter how much we tried to explain it was too cool, he would not stop. So I told him it was okay. I told him not to get too wet, but to walk through it one time to see how it felt. He quickly removed his shoes and shirt and walked around the edge of the sprinklers. He ran back to me saying, "Mommy, I'm cold." He put his shirt and shoes back on and did not ask to play in them again the rest of our park visit.
Now, many people do offer the concern that I am simply allowing my sons to rebel. I do not agree. I am simply not expecting them to fit a certain mold that I formed for them. I cannot think of any positive example in the Bible of someone who fit inside the box, so to speak. Each of us are individuals, created by God. I allow my sons that individuality. If I did not allow them that, what kind of mother and teacher would I be?
It is exactly because of these reasons that I do adhere to a more proactive learning model.
Dunn, S. (2005). Philosophical Foundations of Education. Columbus, Ohio: Pearson, Merrill Prentice Hall.
Braley, J., Layman, J., and White, R. (2003). Foundations of Christian School Education. Colorado Springs, Colorado: Purposeful Design Publications.
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