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History of Early Childhood Education – Comenius, Froebel, Montessori Essay

1. John Amos Comenius John Amos Comenius (1592-1670) was a Czech theologian, philosopher, teacher and writer who thought education could improve society. He advocated universal textbooks & language and believed children would enjoy learning more if they were methodically taught in early years. Comenius thought instruction should move from general to specific, from easy to difficult and believed to engage children with nature. He taught that education began in the earliest days of childhood, and continued throughout life.

1 Comenius believed in four different schools for different ages: -Nursery School – birth to 6 years of age, where hands-on learning, active experiences and sensory learning are of importance. 2 -Elementary (National) – ages 6 to 12 -Latin School (Gymnasium) – ages 13 -18 -Academy – gifted ages 19-24 From his point of view teachers should present lessons at a reasonable pace, use age-appropriate instruction, keep materials constantly before a child’s eyes and use a single method of instruction at all times.

Comenius rejected the conventional wisdom that children were inherently bad and that teachers needed to use corporal punishment to discipline them. 3 He was the first to promote continuing education and the first to advocate equal education for all, including women and the poor. Furthermore he wrote the Great Didactic (a textbook for curriculum and education) and was the first to use pictures in text books for teaching children (Orbis Pictus). “His philosophy of Pansophism (meaning ‘all knowledge’) attempted to incorporate theology, philosophy, and education into one.

” He believed that learning, spiritual, and emotional growth were all woven together” – especially in the teaching of children. “What Comenius referred to as the Via Lucis, or ‘way of light,’ was the pursuit of higher learning and spiritual enlightenment bound together. ” 4 In 1641/42 he was asked to completely restructure the school system of Sweden. As the Bishop of the Unitas Fratrum, the Moravian Church, Comenius was asked to be the first President of Harvard College, but declined. He died in Amsterdam in 1670. “Comenius’s theory incorporated spiritual love of human beings with emphasis on Nature’s goodness.

” 5 He was a naturalistic educator who believed children were innately good and learned most effectively and efficiently by examining objects in their immediate natural environment. “Comenius anticipated many practices associated with modern child-centered progressive education. ” 6 He believed that teaching should build on children’s interests and actively involve their senses. During his lifetime he published 154 books, mostly dealing with educational philosophy and theology. Known today as the ‘Father of Modern Education,’ he pioneered modern educational methods.

3 1Comenius Foundation, 2013, in: http://comeniusfoundation. org/pages/why-comenius/comenius-biography. php 2Essa & Young (1994), p. 36 3www. wou. edu/~girodm/foundations/pioneers. pdf, p. 106 4Comenius Foundation, 2013, in: http://comeniusfoundation. org/pages/why-comenius/comenius-biography. php 5www. wou. edu/~girodm/foundations/pioneers. pdf, p. 106 6www. wou. edu/~girodm/foundations/pioneers. pdf, p. 107 2. Friedrich Wilhelm August Froebel The German educationalist Friedrich Wilhelm August Froebel was born in 1782.

From 1798 to 1800 he was an apprentice to a forester and surveyor in Neuhaus, and attended the University of Jena from 1800 to 1802. In 1805 Froebel briefly studied architecture in Frankfurt, got hired as a teacher and took a short course with Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi at Yverdon, where he interned from 1808 to 1810. Although he accepted certain aspects of Pestalozzi’s method – the emphasis on nature, the permissive school atmosphere and the object lesson – he believed that Pestalozzi’s theory lacked an adequate philosophical foundation.

Froebel gave Pestalozzi’s object lesson a more symbolic meaning by saying that the concrete object was to stimulate recall of a corresponding idea in the child’s mind. He accepted Pestalozzi’s general method that saw schools as emotionally secure places for children, but he elevated the concept to a highly spiritual level. Like Pestalozzi, he wanted to prepare teachers who would be sensitive to children’s readiness and needs. 7 Furthermore Froebel studied languages and science at the University of Gottingen from 1810 to 1812 .

He wanted to identify linguistic structures that could be applied to language instruction. From 1812 to 1816 Froebel studied mineralogy at the University of Berlin. He believed the process of crystallization, moving from simple to complex, reflected a universal cosmic law that also governed human growth and development. Froebel was influenced by two trends in the first half of the 19th century: a resurgence of philosophical idealism and the rising nationalism of the post-Napoleonic eras.

Idealism emphasizes a spiritually based reality. Idealists saw the nation as embodying the world spirit on earth. During Froebel’s life, there were efforts to unite the various small German kingdoms into one large nation. He believed that an education that emphasized German traditions and folk tales would advance this cause. Froebel’s idealism was a reaction against the empiricism of Locke and Rosseau. However, his educational philosophy emphasized the dignity of child nature as recommended by Rousseau and Pestalozzi.

In 1816 Froebel established the Universal German Educational Institute at Griesheim. He moved the institute to Keilhau in 1817 where it functioned until 1829. In 1818 Froebel married Henrietta Wilhelmine Hoffmeister (1780–1839), who assisted him until her death. In 1831 Froebel established an institute at Wartensee on Lake Sempach in Switzerland and then relocated the school to Willisau. Froebel next operated an orphanage and boarding school at Burgdorf. He believed that every child’s inner self contained a spiritual essence that stimulated self-active learning.

He therefore designed the kindergarten system for children under the age of six (1837) that would be a prepared environment to externalize children’s interior spirituality through self-activity using play, songs, stories, and activities. He developed special materials (such as shaped wooden bricks and balls), a series of recommended activities (occupations) and movement activities (fine motor skills). This particular curriculum – now a standard part of early childhood education – stimulated children’s cognitive, social, emotional, creative and physical development.

Froebel’s reputation as an early childhood educator increased and kindergartens were established throughout the German states. In 1852 Froebel passed away. By the end of the nineteenth century, kindergartens had been established throughout Europe and North America. 4 7http://education. stateuniversity. com/pages/1999/Froebel-Friedrich-1782-1852. html 3. Maria Montessori On August 31st, 1870 Maria Montessori was born at Chiaravalle, Italy. Her father, Alessandro Montessori, worked for the civil service, and her mother, Renilde Stoppani, came from an academic family and was well educated.

The Montessori family moved to Rome in 1875, and the following year Maria enrolled in the local state school on the Via di San Nicolo da Tolentino. At 12, Montessori expressed her intention to attend what was called a technical school for her secondary education, which was unusual at the time as most girls who pursued secondary education studied the classics. From 1886 to 1890 she continued her studies at the Regio Instituto Tecnico Leonardo da Vinci, which she entered with the intention of becoming an engineer.

This decision didn’t find favor with her father, who believed that the education of females should be restricted to certain subjects. Upon her graduation, Montessori was determined to enter medical school and become a doctor. Her father opposed this course—medical school was then an all-male preserve—and initially Maria was refused entry by the head of the school. 8 In 1890, with her mother’s support, Montessori obtained her father’s reluctant permission to attend the University of Rome to study physics, mathematics and natural sciences, receiving her diploma two years later.

This and the Pope’s intercession enabled her to enter the College of Medicine, and she became the first woman to enter medical school in Italy. Montessori stood out not just because of her gender, but because she was actually intent on mastering the subject matter. She awarded for her work in pathology by winning a series of scholarships at medical school which, together with the money she earned through private tuition, enabled her to pay for most of her medical education. In 1895 she won a position as assistant in the University hospital.

Montessori’s time at medical school was a challenge, because her male colleagues showed their disapproval of her presence and she had to work alone on dissections since these were not allowed to be done in mixed classes. But she was a dedicated student and graduated in June 1896 at the top of her class as a specialist in surgery and in the diseases of women and children. She became the first woman to qualify as a doctor in Italy, and with this distinction also became known across the country. She was immediately employed in the San Giovanni Hospital attached to the University.

Later that year she was asked to represent Italy at the International Congress for Women’s Rights in Berlin, where she talked about the progress of education for women in Italy. In November 1896 Montessori added the appointment as surgical assistant at Santo Spirito Hospital in Rome to her portfolio of tasks. In 1897 she volunteered to join a research program at the psychiatric clinic of the University of Rome, and it was here that she worked alongside Giusseppe Montesano, with whom she would have a child a few years later.

As part of her work at the clinic she would visit Rome’s asylums for the insane, seeking patients for treatment at the clinic. Montessori discovered that many children with mental, physical, or emotional disabilities, who couldn’t stay at home or go to school or work, were being kept in asylums alongside adults with major psychiatric disorders. She came to realize that in such a bare, unfurnished environment the children were desperate for sensorial stimulation and activities for their hands, and that this deprivation was contributing to their condition.

She began to read what others had published about working with children with various disabilities and in particular she studied the groundbreaking work of two early 19th century Frenchmen, Jean-Marc Itard and Edouard Seguin, his student. 5 8A Biography of Dr Maria Montessori, in: http://montessori. org. au/montessori/biography. htm Itard had developed a technique of education through the senses, which Seguin later tried to adapt to mainstream education. Seguin emphasized respect and understanding for each individual child.

He created a practical apparatus and equipment to help develop the child’s sensory perceptions and motor skills, which Montessori was later to use in new ways. From 1897-98 she attended courses in pedagogy, studying the works of Rousseau, Pestalozzi and Froebel. In 1898 Montessori was becoming known for her work with and ideas about education for children with disabilities. In 1899, she began teaching at a college for the training of female teachers, and there she further explored and discussed ideas about education.

Then, in 1900, as a result of her work with children in hospitals and asylums, Montessori was asked to become the co-director of the Orthophrenic School for children with various disabilities that prevented them from doing well in regular schools. Montessori spent 2 years working at the Orthophrenic School, experimenting with and refining the materials devised by Itard and Seguin and bringing a scientific, analytical attitude to the work; teaching and observing the children by day and writing up her notes by night.

In 1898 Maria gave birth to a child, a boy named Mario, who was given into the care of a family who lived in the countryside near Rome. In 1901 Montessori left the Orthophrenic School and immersed herself in her own studies of educational philosophy and anthropology. In 1904 she took up a post as a lecturer at the Pedagogic School of the University of Rome, which she held until 1908. 9 During this period Rome was experiencing rapid population growth and industrialization. In the fever of speculative development, some construction companies were going bankrupt, leaving unfinished building projects which quickly attracted squatters.

One such development, which stood in the San Lorenzo district, was rescued by a group of wealthy bankers who undertook a basic restoration, dividing larger apartments into small units for impoverished working families. Many children not old enough for school or work were being left alone while their parents went to work each day. These unsupervised children were vandalizing the newly renovated buildings and getting into other kinds of trouble. This prompted the developers to approach Dr. Montessori to provide ways of occupying the children during the day to prevent further damage to the premises.

Montessori grasped the opportunity and established her first Casa dei Bambini or ‘Children’s House’. What Montessori came to realize was that children who were placed in an environment where activities were designed to support their natural development had the power to educate themselves (autoeducation). By the autumn of 1908 there were five Case dei Bambini operating, four in Rome and one in Milan. Children in a Casa dei Bambini made extraordinary progress, and soon 5-year-olds were writing and reading.

In the summer of 1909 Montessori gave the first training course in her approach to around 100 students. He published her first book that same year in Italy, which appeared in translation in the United States in 1912 as The Montessori Method, reaching second place on the U. S. nonfiction bestseller list. Soon afterwards it was translated into 20 different languages and has become a major influence in the field of education. A period of great expansion in the Montessori approach now followed in Europe and America.

By 1933 all Montessori schools in Germany had been closed. In the same year, after Montessori refused to cooperate with Mussolini’s plans to incorporate Italian Montessori schools into the fascist youth movement, he closed them all down. 9A Biography of Dr Maria Montessori, in: http://montessori. org. au/montessori/biography. htm 6 The outbreak of civil war in Spain forced the family to abandon their home in Barcelona, and they sailed to England in the summer of 1936. From England the refugees travelled to the Netherlands.

In 1939 Montessori and her son Mario traveled to India to give a 3-month training course in Madras followed by a lecture tour; they were not to return for nearly 7 years. With the outbreak of war, as Italian citizens, Mario was interned and Montessori put under house arrest. She was well looked after in India, where she met Gandhi, Nehru and Tagore. Her 70th birthday request to the Indian government, that Mario should be released and restored to her, was granted. Together they trained over a thousand Indian teachers. In 1946 they returned to the Netherlands.

A year later Montessori addressed UNESCO on the theme ‘Education and Peace’. In 1949 she received the first of three nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize. Her last public engagement was in London in 1951 when she attended the 9th International Montessori Congress. On May 6th 1952, at the holiday home of the Pierson family in the Netherlands, she passed away in the company of her son, Mario, to whom she bequeathed the legacy of her work. 10 10A Biography of Dr Maria Montessori, in: http://montessori. org. au/montessori/biography. htm 7 References: A Biography of Dr Maria Montessori, in: http://montessori.

org. au/montessori/biography. htm Comenius Foundation, 2013, in: http://comeniusfoundation. org/pages/why-comenius/comeniusbiography. php E. M. Standing, Maria Montessori: Her Life and Work (New York 1984), p. 38. Essa, E. & Young, R. (2003). Introduction to early childhood education (3rd Can. ed. ). Nelson: Canada Friedrich Froebel (1782–1852) – Biography, Froebel’s Kindergarten Philosophy, The Kindergarten Curriculum, Diffusion of the Kindergarten, in: http://education. stateuniversity. com/pages/1999/Froebel-Friedrich-1782-1852. html Julia Maria, “’Le Feminisme Italien: entrevue avec Mlle. Montessori”.

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