30 OCTOBER 1880, Page 20


' • The Kindergarten Principle. By Mary J. LyechInska. London : lebleter and C/o. MR. MUNDELLA'S recent promise to the representatives of the Kindergarten principle in this country that he would consider

their case in dealing with his next Code will be fresh in the memories of all who are interested in elementary education, as will also his good-humoured but significant hint that our common-school teaching requires some saving just now from theorists and visionaries. A book, therefore, upon Kindergarten appears opportunely, and will be read with the more curiosity that its authoress, Miss Mary J. Lyschinska, not only derives the knowledge of her subject from long association with a mem- ber of FrObel's family, but also occupies the considerable posi- tion of superintendent of method in the infant schools under the London School Board. In her preface to this work, Miss Lyschinska modestly lays no claim to originality; but if she is not actually original, she is not seldom both shrewd and suggestive; as, for example, where she joins issue with those who would include as objects or forms of beauty designs or patterns used for Kindergarten purposes which, however symmetrical, are produced on merely mechanical principles. "The sense of the beautiful," as she justly remarks, "having its roots in the emotional side of the mind, obeys the laws and exhibits the characteristics of feeling in general, and cannot be brought under any such mechanical classification." She pre- fers to substitute for the ordinary classification of forms of utility, beauty, and geometrical or numerical exercises, occu- pations which (1) teach children to find out by observation the

elements of form, and so to discover; (2), exercises in the copying of these elements, which promote the faculty of imitation ; (3), exercises in their combination in new ways, which induce efforts at invention. Miss Lyschinska also attacks the pictorial illus- trations used in our elementary schools, from a fresh point of view, when she describes the admirably drawn and coloured animal-sheets now so much in vogue as cold and unsympathetic, —"The suggestive incidents of surroundings, the links which bind that object to all others, the artistic truth of the picture, are absent." This is an acute criticism, which, it is to be trusted, our publishers, and the artists they employ, will not be

slow to act upon. We remember seeing the walls of an infant school-room artistically illustrated upon this principle, by a clever hand, with the result that object-lessons became much more enjoyable, and thus much more teachable to the children.

German grandiloquence is a quality which now and then crops up in this book, and is, perhaps, most noticeable in the passage on Water on pages 22 and 23. But Miss Lyschinska is evidently an enthusiast, and may, therefore, be forgiven for a little high-flying.

In addressing children, she is bright, suggestive, animated, and her picture of the German Kindergarten at Berlin is a vivid and pleasing one. There were three classes in this school, each class representing a year of age, the children entering the lowest division when three years old

The first quarter of an hour was generally devoted to a chat; but as the children were many, and the family type was upheld, the teacher took the children in relays of six or seven at a time, to look at one or two plates in Probers Mother's Book ; the rest were mean- while building or stick-laying, or playing in the garden under the direction of an assistant. The day's proceedings were not desultory, but sustained by some central thought, which was generally taken from a conversational lesson over the picture-book, or else from the present circumstance, such as of some live pet which had to be cared for and fed."

After some very suggestive Kindergarten lessons, containing, however, some very poor verses, Miss Lyschinska takes a tilt at thc oral teaching common in English infant schools, quoting the Rev. Henry Moseley's Report in the Minutes of Council, 1853-54, where, in a really admirable passage, he shows the worse than uselessness of many object lessons that even now, nearly seven-and-twenty years later, are, unfortunately, not extinct species. Indeed, that very lesson upon a piece of coal, which is held up before the class by the teacher until "'he in- duces them, by many ingenious devices, much circumlocution, and an extravagant expenditure of the time of the school, to say that it is solid, that it is heavy, that it is opaque, that it is black, that it is friable, and that it is combustible,"—that identical lesson still haunts the training colleges, and still maddens her Majesty's Inspectors. "This tendency, from

ignorance of things, to teach words only," is undoubtedly the weak point in our object-lesson teaching, upon which we should gladly see the Kindergarten principle grafted. For, as Miss Lyschinska writes, "the first thing to do is not so much to talk about the things, as to be busy with

them it is not the dry anatomy of Nature's facts, but the personal relation in which the child finds himself to certain objects, that first awakens his interest." But whilst we quite agree with the present author that the list of object-lessons given between Midsummer and Christmas in an English infant school, quoted by her as a typical one, could only result in a cram of words, surely her German friends fell into the opposite extreme, when they took the whole of one month for a single subject, such as "The Violet" or "The Cockchafer."

These lessons appear to have been most elaborately schemed by the Kindergiirtnerin and her assistants, who met once a week for the consideration and the preparation of the objects and their accessories. Now, we are even ready to concede that it requires greater natural faculty of a peculiar kind to teach infants than older children, and that the Jesuits have another reason than a mere disciplinary one for setting the best teacher to teach the lowest class in the school. Yet where are we to find English infant-mistfesses ready and able to gather and digest such information upon a plant as "the process of germ- ination, vascular tissue, extraordinary vessels and fluids, its place in domestic economy," as Miss Lyschinska's German ones appear able to do ? And if they are to be found, can we hope, with the warning of that lesson on coal fresh in our minds, that when they are primed with these scientific terms they will not only religiously keep them out of the children's hearing, but will also be able to translate the ideas they express so as to be attractive to infants ?

Miss Lyschinska considers that the chief difficulty in the way of the introduction of Kindergarten into our elementary schools arises out of the meaning attached to the Code by educational committees, teachers, and more especially her Majesty's Inspectors. These, according to her, regard the infant school as important only so far as the success of the upper department depends on it, and on that account have drawn up infant schemes so regulated as simply to ensure as many mechanical passes in reading, writing, and arithmetic as possible from children moving into the first standard out of the infant school, whereas an intelligent know- ledge of objects and colour, besides fairly graduated require- ments in elementary reading, writing, and arithmetic, are sought for by'many of them. Indeed, we have seen schools in which reasonable acquaintance with the "three R'S" is shown side by side with a good Kindergarten training, and that without the staff Miss Lyschinska deems necessary. But no doubtthe Kinder- garten has not been given a fair trial in this country, and until one or more of our training colleges is specially devoted to it, it will not receive that fair trial. This done, a satisfactory test might be applied to Miss Lyschinska's proposal, "that School Boards here and there should set apart a few infant schools for Kindergarten purposes, under sanction of the Government, and to be judged under special instructions, to Inspectors." We -venture to prophesy that in the result the truth will be found to lie between Miss Lyschinska and the younger Inspectors, whom we should strongly advise to procure and study her book. When they have done so, they will probably admit that the methods there recommended can best open the minds of infants to receive the elements of reading, writing, and arithmetic. On the other hand, Miss Lyschinska should concede that this very elementary information required by the Inspectors should be the practical test of her method of instruction. How much more easy should it be for children who have mastered the knowledge of many every-day objects under Kindergarten teaching to learn to read or write the words that represent them, the more so as they are in so many instances mono- syllables belonging to their mother-tongue, the Anglo-Saxon.