mental activity, and of all those improvements he may afterwards. make during the future scenes of his existence, whether in the present life, or in the life to come. And, if this be admitted, it. will evidently appear to be a matter of considerable importance -that nothing but useful and correct ideas be imparted to the infant mind, and that care be taken that every thing that is whimsical, fanciful, or inconsistent with existing facts, be excluded from juvenile instruction, so that a child may never afterwards have occasion to struggle with youthful prejudices, or to couneract any of the instructions or impressions he had previously received. And in order to accomplish this end, it is requisite, that servants, nurses, and every other person connected with a family, be specifically instructed as to the manner in which they ought to conduct themselves towards children, both in their words and their actions, and strictly looked after, that nothing be said or done inconsistent with the rules of parental tuition.-At the period of life to which I now refer, it would be almost preposterous, to pester the child with learning the characters of the alphabet, or the uninteresting sounds of b a, ba, b i, bi, b o, bo; unless it can be done purely in the way of amusement. For a child is generally disgusted with every thing given him as a task, and which is not accompanied with pleasing emotions. It is quite time enough, at the age of four years, in ordinary cases, to instruct a child in reading his native language; though, before this time, he may speak it with considerable correctness, and acquire an indefinite number of ideas. And when he has once seriously commenced his scholastic instructions, they should be associated with every thing that may have a tendency to render them interesting and delightful-a principle which ought to be kept in view throughout all the subsequent departments of edu cation.

I have enlarged farther on the subject of infant education than I at first intended, from a strong conviction of its primary importance to the improvement of society in knowledge and virtue. If domestic training, during the three first years of human existence, be either trifled with, or not conducted on rational and moral principles, the arrangements in regard to their future education will be to a certain degree frustrated. The habits acquired, and the impressions made upon the mind of a child, during this period, may have an influence on his improvement and happiness, not only in the present world, but throughout the whole of that endless existence to which he is destined.*

It gives me pleasure to learn, that the subject of infant education is now beginning to excite more attention than it has hitherto received; pas

On Infant Schools.

NoT many years ago, it would have been deemed romantic and even absurd in the extreme, to have attempted the establishment of seminaries for the instruction of infants of the age of eighteen or twenty months, or even of two or three years. But such institutions have not only been attempted, but actually established to a considerable extent in various States both in Europe and America, and have been attended with the most delightful and beneficial effects. Children, at a very early period, as formerly noticed, before they have acquired the alphabet of any language, are capable of receiving a very considerable portion of mental instruction. They possess the five senses, in nearly as great perfection as those of mature years; and it is through the medium of these senses that all our knowledge, whether historical, philosophical, or religious, is acquired. Children possess, in a high degree, the desire of novelty and the principle of curiosity-faculties intended by the Creator to stimulate to the prosecution of knowledge; and it is only requisite, that we direct the operation. of these faculties in a proper channel, and present interesting and appropriate objects to stimulate their activity.

The principal objects of infant schools ought therefore to beto exhibit to the view of children as great a variety as possible of the scenes of nature and the operations of art, either by directing their views immediately to the objects themselves, or by means of pictorial representations-to teach them to distinguish

ticularly by the establishment of Maternal Associations. The first mater nal institution appears to have originated with Mrs. Payson of Portland, province of Maine, North America, about 1815. A maternal association was first organized in Utica, in 1824. It commenced with eight members; but it appears from the Report of 1833, that it now consists of above a hundred. Similar associations were formed, about the same time, in Boston, New England, and at Hartford, and they have lately been organized in Glasgow, Greenock, and several other towns in Great Britain. Their object is to diffuse information in relation to the best methods of training up children in knowledge and moral habits, and promoting their best interests, both in respect to the present life and the life to come. For accomplishing these objects-besides regular meetings for prayer and conversation, at which the children sometimes attend-a periodical has been commenced in America, entitled, "The Mother's Magazine," which is reprinted in London, containing various useful facts, narratives, and observations, illustrative of this subject. Such associations, if judiciously conducted, cannot fail of producing a highly beneficial effect on the rising generation, and ultimately on the state of general society.

one object from another, to mark its peculiar qualities, to compare one object with another, and to deduce certain useful truths or conclusions from them-to instruct them how to use their voices, their eyes and ears, their hands and feet-to teach them the properties of numbers, the magnitudes, distances, and relative positions of objects, the forms and habits of animals, the different classes and uses of vegetables and minerals, the various objects to be seen in the fields and gardens, and the general aspect and phenomena of the atmosphere and the heavens-to impress their minds with the existence of a Supreme Being, of their continual dependence upon him, of his Goodness, Power, and Omnipresence, and of the duties they owe him—to teach them the fundamental maxims and rules of the Christian system, and make them reduce them to practice to train them to kindness and affection towards one another, to habits of cleanliness, neatness, and regularity in all their movements, and to conduct themselves with moral order and propriety, both in the school, the play-ground, and in their domestic associations-in short, to develop all the intellectual and moral powers of the mind, at a much earlier period than has hitherto been deemed expedient, in order to prevent the growth of vicious habits and false opinions, and to prepare them for all the subsequent instructions and scenes of action through which they may afterwards pass, that they may become blessings, instead of curses, to the world, and rise up in wisdom and knowledge, and in favour with God and with man.

In order to accomplish these purposes with the greatest effect, infant schools, as well as all others, should be erected, if possible, in an open and commanding situation, that a full view may be obtained of the heavens, the earth, and the ordinary phenomena of nature. The best dimensions for the school-room are found to be about 80 feet long, by 22 or 24 wide, with seats all round, and a rising platform or gallery at one end. Connected with this should be a room, from 14 to 18 feet square, for the purpose of teaching the children in classes, and for those children who have made greater progress than the rest, that they may be trained for monitors. The furniture necessary for such a school, consists of a desk for the master; a rostrum for the occasional use of the monitors; seats for the children, who should all sit round the school-room with their backs to the wall; a lesson-stand, of a considerable elevation, for exhibiting pictures and lessons pasted on mill-board; stools for the monitors; slates and pencils; pictures of natural history, of scriptural subjects, of landscapes, of rural and domestic life, &c.; alphabets and spelling-lessons; brass letters and figures, with boards for them cubes parallelograms,

[ocr errors]

geometrical figures of various descriptions, illustrative of plain and solid geometry; the transposition-frame, or arithmeticon, for illustrating the properties of numbers. To these should be added various little books, with cuts, level to the comprehension of children; and sets of maps, on a large scale, with the states, kingdoms, provinces, counties, &c. accurately distinguished and neatly coloured. It is indispensably requisite that a play-ground be attached to every infant school, containing swings and other contrivances for the purpose of amusement, and that the children may divert themselves without danger, in any innocent way their fancies may devise. This play-ground should be as spacious as possible. Even in towns, where property is most valuable, the space allotted for this purpose (including the school-room and teacher's house) should not, if possible, be less than about 180 feet long, and from 60 to 100 feet broad. In villages, where the ground is less valuable, it may be made of still larger dimensions. With such accommodations, infants, to the number of 150 or 200, may be trained by a master and an occasional assistant.

One of the main principles on which infant schools should be conducted, is that of Love; and therefore, in commencing such an institution, every action and every circumstance should be attended to, which is calculated to convince them that their teacher sincerely loves them, and wishes to promote their happiness, and that they ought to be kind and affectionate to one another. The first difficulty to be encountered, is to arrest and keep up their attention, to make them act in concert, and to class them according to their age and capacities, causing those who obey any commands with the greatest promptness to be classed together. Such difficulties are generally surmounted by making them all move their hands and feet at the same time, when repeating any sentence; sometimes by causing them to march in a regular body round the school; sometimes by making them put their hands one on the other when they are repeating a fact or a sentiment, and sometimes by exciting them to dance to the sound of a clarionet or the viol. Monitors are selected by drilling the oldest and the most expert of the children at separate hours, instructing them particularly in the work they have to perform, and making every one of them answerable for the conduct of his class. These little masters frequently conduct themselves with great shrewdness and ability, and sometimes with a degree of importance and pomposity which it is found necessary to check. The children are taught singing, by the master singing a psalm or hymn several times in their hearing, till they acquire a certain ilea of the tune; after which they are required to join with the

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

teacher, and, in a short time, the greater part are enabled to join in the music with considerable correctness; and nothing can be more interesting and exhilarating to a pious and benevolent mind, than to listen to a hundred young voices thus joining in unison, in a hymn of praise to their Creator. They are taught to repeat hymns generally in the following manner. One of the monitors is placed in the rostrum, with a book in his hand; he then reads one line, and pauses till all the children in unison have repeated it; he then reads or repeats another, and so on in succession till the hymn is finished. The same method is adopted in teaching them spelling, catechisms, moral maxims and precepts, and whatever else is to be committed to memory. It should, however, be attended to, that every thing they commit to memory from catechisms, hymns, or other books, should be previously explained; so that in every case, if possible, they may acquire the ideas contained in the passages they are to repeat, before they charge their memories with the vocables by which they are expressed.

The Alphabet is taught by means of twenty-six cards, corresponding to the number of letters, on each of which is engraved a letter, along with some object of nature or art, whose name begins with that letter. Thus, on the card of the letter A is engraved an apple. This card is held up to the children, who name the letter and the object depicted beside it. A variety of questions is then put representing the nature, form, and properties of the apple, and of the root, trunk, branches, leaves, &c. of the tree on which it grows; by which the attention of the children is kept alive, certain portions of useful knowledge communicated, and the idea of the letter more deeply impressed upon their minds. On the card of letter C, a cow, a camel, or a cat, is depicted; which is exhibited in the same manner, and various questions put respecting the figure, parts, habits, and uses of either of these animals: and so on through the other letters of the alphabet. This exhibition is varied as much as possible, and practised only two or three times a week, that the children may not be wearied by its too frequent repetition. Another plan is sometimes adopted,—an alphabet, printed in large letters, both Roman and Italic, is pasted on a board, and placed against the wall; the whole class then stands around it, and the master or mistress points to the letters, desiring the children in a body to pronounce the letter to which he points. In spelling, each child is supplied with a card and tin, on which certain short words are printed. A monitor leads the rest in the following manner: "C-h-a-i-r;" the other children immediately follow and when they have spelled one word, he repeats another, till he has gone through all the words on the


[ocr errors]
« VorigeDoorgaan »