Friedrich Froebel was born in 1782 in Oberweissbach, Germany. His mother died when he was 9 months old and his father was away on pastoral duties quite often so he went and lived with his uncle when he was 10 years old. Froebel was not completely interested in school but enjoyed forestry, geometry, and land surveying (Dunn 169). His upbringing and interests, along with his Christian faith strongly influenced his educational philosophy.
“Friedrich used learner-centered, child-centered, experience-based ideas to develop the world’s first kindergarten, a school for young children” (Henson 8). The father of kindergarten was the title usually associated with Froebel and his philosophy. His methods allow children to grow and move on as they conquer new concepts not when educators or administrators decide. Froebel’s philosophy was influenced by the teaching methods of Pestalozzi (Dunn 169). He agreed with many of Pestalozzi’s ideas but thought that there was too much focus on memorization and direct instruction.
Froebel “balanced group activities with individual play, direction from teachers was balanced with periods of freedom, and the studies of nature, mathematics, and art were balanced by exploring” (Froebel Web). Through exploration by the child and observation by the teacher education could be distributed as was needed in the best interest of the child. He wanted students to figure things out for themselves through discovery. If a child can discover a concept on their own that child is more likely to grasp and clearly understand that concept because they were the means by which they learned the information.
Play was a major aspect of his philosophy because it gave children a chance to externalize their inner nature and a chance to imitate and try out various adult roles. Children had the chance to try on many faces and figures so that they could find out who they were and who they should be. Even today people try to find out who they are because in the essence of each of us we feel that who were are or supposed to be is already in our souls we just have to discover who that is. Through play and role playing children could learn how to solve their own problems.
Much of what people learn comes through their experiences, if children are able to practice and experience certain problems they will develop the skills necessary to problem solve. If children could work through these situations there could be a decrease in behavioral problems as children grow because they had the chance to develop their problem solving skills at a young age. “According to Froebel, the ultimate purpose of education is the realization of a faithful, pure, inviolate, and hence holy life” (Dunn 170).
Since Froebel’s philosophy was based on idealism he believed every person had spiritual worth and dignity. If a person assumes that each individual they encounter has worth and thus should be treated so more people in life would be, simply put, happier. It comes down to respecting each individual for whoever they are. Thus like idealists he believed that children had within him all he was to be at birth. As Dunn states, “practice in education should be designed to develop and cultivate individuals toward attainment of their destiny” (170).
Starting children off in kindergarten gave them a chance to grown and be what they were destined to be, by partaking in play and role playing with plenty of space to develop properly. In today’s society there is a lot of talk about finding yourself and taking space to figure out who they are. I think a lot of that is because people never had a chance to do so when they were young. Today’s society just speeds through life trying to get one step ahead of the next person and later in life they stop to reexamine who they have become because they didn’t take the chance to discover that person when they should have.
Froebel stressed the “importance of creating a happy, harmonious environment” where the child can grow; and where the “value of self activity and play” are foundation to the development of the whole person (Froebel Web). Teachers should observe students during play so that they know how and what to teach and gear toward each student because you need to cultivate the inner person in each. It isn’t all about chaos because there is order and structure in play and free will. Play and freedom are structured through “gifts and occupation.
” The gifts are used to help children understand concepts and the occupations to make products. Froebel was trying to create a school that uses the child’s imagination and creativity already in them to foster an education plan that fit their minds and souls. We have been taught in the bible to be like children because they are pure and clean, if more of us became like children then the world would be a better place. The effects this theory has on the classroom can be positive and negative.
The idea of a child-centered classroom is a terrific idea but can make the classroom seem very chaotic and haphazard which is difficult for some teachers and parents. With a child-centered classroom the planning a teacher puts into her lessons must be flexible and follow the needs of each individual, which is difficult because each child has different needs so planning could be a lot of different activities and flexibility. This philosophy allows opportunity for all students to completely succeed because it works with the child’s strengths and educational pace.
A problem with that is that children don’t develop at the same rate so children will be going over different material at the same time. By allowing children to work on their own, the behavior they have will improve because they feel that they have more control over their own education and pace. As many positive effects as this free child-centered philosophy has, it also has in negative effects. Students may not reach their potential if they are not challenged by high expectations. There are also fewer concrete assessments to gage child success and failure.
The philosophy could be a huge success if employed by a highly committed teacher who is prepared to truly encourage individual growth. The teacher’s role in the classroom is not just as observer who watches children play and explore independently but to guide the children to make discoveries. Open ended questions are a great way for teachers to foster critical thinking because the teacher does not provide the student with opinions (Froebel Web). Teachers are guiders and helpers for children to explore who and what they are to become.
There are a lot of great ideas that have come from this philosophy, one being the introduction of kindergarten into the educational system. Some people today even think that it is too early to start a child in school but when is it really a great time to start? There are more people who are starting to embrace the idea of a child-centered approach because too much of education is focused on what we think children need to learn and not necessarily what they need to learn or are ready to learn.
Teachers today need to stop and look at educators and philosophers of the past to recognize simple theories they employed. Today’s education has become caught up in speed and necessity to be better than the next guy, we have forgotten to look at the people we are teaching and the fact that some are not ready for what we think they should be. There is a need for adults to get back to a simpler way of life so that we don’t forget that children are precious gifts that must be treasured and fostered.