My garden is my summer children. I take care of the flowers just like I take care of children. Every year the flowers are different, and I don’t know why. Mother Nature has her own agenda. Every year children are different, too – just like flowers.
Flowers are much like young children. They grow at different rates, have their own agenda, fight for the sun, take a backseat to other flowers… some are strong, some are working to get there. I have watched our flowers grow and change for many years, like I have watched children grow and change over decades.
What have I learned? Give them plenty of care, but don’t force changes. Accept their beauty. Be ready to help.
What children need and what flowers need to grow hasn’t changed. I keep that in crystal clear focus. Times might change, but children and flowers have not. Kindergarten means “garden of children.” They are nourished with stories, music, nature, and dramatic play. The Arts are the roots to grow children. Providing opportunities for unbounded creativity is the fire to want to learn. I know this firsthand. I pay attention to every child, nourishing them like I do my flowers. Some need hugs, some need academic challenges.
The point is, every child is different. Friedrich Froebel understood children and what they needed. He established the first kindergarten in Germany in 1837. It was radical at the time.
A Brief History of Kindergarten
Published by Redleaf Press, 2010
Friedrich Froebel, a German educator, opened the first kindergarten in Blankenburg, Germany, in 1837. During the 1830s and 1840s he developed his vision for kindergarten based on the ideas of the French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau and the later Swiss educator Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi. These progressive education reformers introduced the concept that children were naturally good and active learners. At the time, this thinking was quite radical. The common belief until then had been that children were little creatures who needed stern handling to become good adults. Play was seen as a waste of time and proof that children should be tamed so they could be more productive.
Undaunted, Froebel argued that teachers should use music, nature study, stories, and dramatic play to teach children. He encouraged the use of crafts and manipulatives, such as small building blocks or puzzles. He also promoted the idea of circle time for children to learn in a group. Froebel proposed that children acquire cognitive and social skills by using their natural curiosity and desire to learn. He believed women had the best sensitivity and qualities to work with young children in developing their emotional skills. Consequently, Froebel opened a training school just for women.
Froebel’s ideas were so new that the Prussian government closed all kindergartens in 1851, fearing a socialist revolutionary movement. Nevertheless, the concept spread quickly throughout the rest of the world, and by the end of the nineteenth century, many countries had started kindergartens for middle-class children. Then, between 1900 and the start of World War I, England and France began to establish free kindergartens for poor children. Kindergartens also reopened in Germany at the end of the nineteenth century, and they still serve children who are three to six years old.
The word kindergarten means “garden of children,” a beautiful metaphor for what happens there—children growing like flowers and plants, nurtured by a positive environment with good soil, rain, and sun, as well as an attentive gardener.
Today, Froebel’s words and findings are still spot on. Yet, schools are more concerned with academics; they forget (or don’t understand) that young children need to experience – touch, build, experiment – before real learning can happen. Frank Lloyd Wright attributes his success in architecture to the blocks he had as a child. Yes, building with blocks.
I will forever champion children, give them opportunities to explore and ask questions, challenge them to do more when they’re excited, and give them support and love along the way. They’re my garden of children.