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is, by this means, often released from premature domestic care, and left free to attend school, for her own improvement. The whole question now touched upon, with all its supposed difficulties, resolves itself into this shape,–Whether it is well to send young children to school a year or two earlier than has been customary, and to allow them the benefit of protection, care, and instruction, adapted to their tender age ? This question is fully settled by the effects already attending the infant schools. It is found that infants may not only be kept out of harm's way, and kindly tended, but that they may be kept constantly happy, and be actually taught much that is immediately useful to them as moral beings, and that serves to prepare the way for further instruction in other schools. Mind and body are both turned to good account ; both are employed in useful and pleasing ways; both are gently treated and skilfully cultivated. In addition to this, the disposition is developed, and trained to rectitude and happiness; and reason, in all its benignant influence, is brought out to mould the forming character. Let an observer look into one of our infant schools, and he will see a little community unperverted in understanding, fresh and uncontaminated in feeling, proinpt and cheerful in action ; kindness and joy pervading the whole in common sympathy ; actions instantly approved or condemned ; all the natural and sinless propensities of animal and intellectual nature in free exercise ; admonition given in tones of constant gentleness ; instruction expanding and delighting, (never oppressing or straining,) the mind; the whole soul, the whole being, not only unrestrained by arbitrary rule, not only permitted to act, but invited to act, and kept in agreeable action, unless when purposely permitted to rest. No parent, it is believed, has ever left such a scene, without wishing that all classes of society were furnished with such schools, adapted to their condition and brought to their doors.*
To enter into a detailed account of the exact number of infant schools, or of the children estimated to be benefitted by them, would occupy time which perhaps would be more usefully employed in general views of the whole subject, as a department of education, and as a source of valuable instruction to teachers and parents. It must suffice, therefore, for the present, to say that the infant schools, as they exist in England are doing extensive good, by suiting the purpose of preparatory training for the National Schools, or those of the British and Foreign School Society,-a class of schools corresponding in some respects to the common or district schools of New-England. Children are admitted into the infant schools at any age, from that of six years to that of eighteen months; and remain till they are transferred to the other schools mentioned, which they enter at the age of seven years.
* Private schools for infant children, we are happy to observe, are now established; and several are proposed in different vicinities within the city.
The early age at which children are admitted to the primary schools of New-England, and those of this city in particular, which receive children at the age of four years, seemed to some persons to supersede the necessity of infant schools, or in fact to preclude their existence entirely. This objection to these schools, has, like all the others made on presumption, been set aside by experience.
The age from two to four years, is precisely that at which a child, whose mother is necessarily much occupied otherwise, is most exposed to danger, and inost apt to commit petty faults. It is at this age that the mother most needs assistance in the charge of her offspring, and is consequently, though reluctantly, compelled to resort to the aid of an elder sister or brother, who must be detained from school for the purpose. It is at this age, too, perhaps an attentive observer of the circumstances of the poor would say, that the disposition receives that tinge of bitterness, which so extensively pervades the domestic temper and manners of the poorest class. The innocent little being who is so often thwarted in his wishes, and checked in his actions, and punished for unintentional transgressions, finds himself governed by a capricious and unintelligible authority. He sympathizes of necessity with the angry feeling of which he has been the temporary cause ; and he suffers in reality from the pain inflicted on him. By imitative instinct, he treats others as he is treated himself; and long before he is old enough to become a candidate for admission to a primary school, selfishness, in the form of violence and ill temper, has got possession of his heart; and the primary teacher must be efficient indeed, who succeeds in eradicating these. This is no picture of fancy. But assertion is needless to those who have been observers of these things; and to others nothing but observation can carry full intelligence or conviction.
The intellectual not less than the moral interests of the rising generation plead for the introduction or the farther extension of
infant schools. Along with all due care and protection, much actual instruction may be afforded to infancy ; or rather the mind may be early set agoing in those directions in which it is to move, when the period of education has formally commenced. The infant stage of life may be seized as a happy opportunity for giving the mind a delight in natural' objects and in useful knowledge ; for expanding it to the grateful rays of intellectual light, by a wise guidance of the warmth of the heart; for making the young pupil an intelligent and exact observer of facts, an early disciple of nature and its sublime truths. If the little innocent is, according to the irrational though time-hallowed course, to be fastened down, at the age of four, to eight inches of space on a bench, and to the unnatural task of conning the arbitrary marks which are the representatives of speech ; if he is to be punished for attempting to change his irksome position; if he is to be taught that it is a crime to smile, and an unpardonable offence to express his thoughts ;- let at least two years of his life be spent in freedom and happiness : give him so much time in which to think and act and move as a free agent. Do not begrudge him this season of natural and strong delight in animals and pictures, and new things and new thoughts. Do not hinder him from acting out his impulses and enjoying his nature ; for even thus his mind will have been so enlivened and strengthened, that he will prove, at the appointed time, more than a match for the stillest and the tamest pupil of a dull and mechanical discipline. But if all this is not to happen ;-if, as is every day taking place, a clearer light is falling on the subject of early education, and our methods of attempting to gain access to the mind are becoming more congenial, more intellectual, more gentle, more cheerful ; if the school room is not to be a place of bondage to body and mind ; if amusement and recreation are admitted within doors as well as without, and are blended with the exercises of intellect, and the whole course of instruction is to pay homage to the mind and its Author ;' then by all means embrace these early and precious moments, in which to begin this benign course of development and conscious progress. The good work cannot be commenced too early, if commenced aright. The first indications of the wants of the mind may be read in the natural actions and looks of infancy. Obey these ; and watch them, as they become daily more numerous and varied ; comply with all that are harmless ; follow this course, with the necessary modifications, through the whole period of education ; and there will be produced, what, VOL IV NO. I
perhaps, has seldom yet been seen in the world of mind, an undistorted, uninjured, unrepressed, human soul, whose vigour, elasticity, proportion, and grace, are but dimly shadowed in the beautiful perfection of those human forms, which suggested the conceptions of the master pieces of human art.
Again ; infant schools are needed on the score of health, not less than of mental improvement. To the children of the poor, home has generally few opportunities to afford for healthful recreation. The common air and light of heaven are often in a great measure denied to infancy in this condition ; the unaided vigour of the constitution is left to struggle with hindrances, and not unfrequently sinks under the evils of neglect. Our primary schools seldom offer any salutary counteracting influence to early injuries of this nature : they are too generally situated so as rather to prolong or aggravate them. A change, it is gratifying to observe, is now making, by which, it is to be hoped, spacious and pleasant rooms will be furnished for these schools, and the health and comfort of the teachers and the children secured.* But this change, desirable as it is, produces of course no change on the condition of infancy-nothing to counteract the disadvantages of damp, unwholesome, unventilated rooms, at that susceptible period ; and it is one great purpose of infant schools to provide airy and comfortable rooms, in which the little pupils may spend most of the day. Were no other good whatever effected by these schools, who can estimate the benefit thus conferred by them on the community ?
An important object in immediate connexion with our present subject, is the good eflected by infant schools, through their influence on elementary instruction generally, and the useful hints which they offer for the management of primary schools, and even the arrangement of the nursery. Of these highly interesting topics there is now little room to treat ; and a few only of the more important can but be briefly mentioned.
The spirit of the methods adopted in the infant schools would contribute effectually to the improveinent of all elementary schools; for these methods are strictly practical.
In conducting the business of education, we are too prone to forget that our influence over the mind is not direct and immediate, and that whatever instruction leaves the mind passive
* It is proposed that the rooms for primary schools be henceforth provided by the city, and not by the teachers. More suitable apartments will thus bc obtained without adding to the expense of supporting these schools, or occasioning loss to those who teach them.
merely, is of no real benefit. All living and expansive action in the mind, proceeds from itself and depends on itselt. We may succeed fully in conveying to the understanding a given idea, and the intellect yet receive no benefit from it in relation to the purposes of education. To obtain any substantial benefit from an idea received, the mind must act upon it, r "stassimilate itself to it, must identify it with itself. The most effectual influence over the mental character, therefore, is that which consists in placing objects so skilfully before the mind of the learner, that he recognizes, by his own perceptive power, their individual and relative character, and acquires bis whole knowledge of them by his own activity, and not by becoming the passive object on which the mind of his teacher is to act by inculcation. The same thing is true of niemory as of intellect. If we would have any fact remembered, we must show it to the sense or to the mind if we cannot do this, our next resort should be as vivid a delineation of it as possible, whether the representation be offered in the form of a picture or a written or oral description.*
Take, for an illustration, the science of grammar as commonly taught in elementary schools, and we find that these principles, though obvious, or at least readily admitted, are entirely overlooked. The first object with most writers on grammar, even when writing for children, is the perfect exactness of a definition abstractly. llence the great number of abstract terms in all treatises on grammar. But abstract terms, to the juvenile learner, little accustomed to generalize things, much less thoughts or words, are seldom intelligible ; and when they are so, the habits of his mind, running chiefly on particulars, render them of little or no use to him, as means of progress or improvement. Grammar, then, when taught after the manner prescribed in most books on that :subject, proves commonly to the young mind a formal, dull, unintelligible, and apparently useless branch of study. It is taught, in a word, too theoretically and too systematically. By generalizing to the utmost extent the language in which we convey instruction, and leaving the pupil as few illustrations as possible, on which his mind
* In this view of our subject an additional value is imparted to that excellent institution, the American Lyceum ; one of the objects of which is, to render associations for mutual improvement among adults, tributary to the improvement of elementary instruction, by furnishing from these sources the simple apparatus and natural specimens used in teaching the rudiments of science. Infant and primary schools generally will thus, it is expected, be provided with materials for rational, useful, and amusing instruction.