Friedrich Froebel is a renowned philosopher whose influence on childhood education is evident in the contemporary world. Froebel was born on 21st April of 1784 in Thuringia, Germany. (Gutek) He was Johann Jacob Froebel’s child and the youngest of the latter’s five sons. His father was a Lutheran pastor at Oberweissbach who was strict on the way he raised his children. Unfortunately, Froebel lost his mother when he was only nine months old, and his father took all the responsibility of nurturing him. However, the burden seemed unbearable because Froebel’s father remarried when his son was four years old (Gutek). Although his father needed a companion, the decision to get another wife negatively impacted his childhood life. Froebel experienced an intensely unhappy childhood because he felt neglected by his stepmother. Therefore, he spent much of his time alone in the gardens near his home, exploring and playing with the surroundings. This act influenced his deep love of nature, which later positively impacted his later achievements.
Froebel attended a girl’s primary school, unlike other boys, due to his father’s insistence. He later went to live with his mother’s brother, Herr Hoffman, from 1793 to 1798 (Gutek). At his maternal uncle’s place, Froebel had an opportunity at the local town school. He then became an apprentice to a forester for two years that followed and then joined the University of Jena from 1800 to 1902 (Gutek). The two years apprenticeship to the forester further inspired Froebel’s great love of nature. Froebel pursued architectural studies briefly in 1805, equipping him with symmetry and artistic perspectives. He intended to become an architect; however, the year marked the turning point of his life because he became a teacher. He was hired by Pestalozzian Frankfurt Model School headmaster, Anton Gruener, to serve as a teacher at the age of 24 years (Curtis). His employer organized how Froebel would take a short course at Johann Henrich Pestalozzi at Yverdon, Switzerland, to prepare him as an educator.
Froebel appreciated the institution’s effort to respect children’s dignity and establish a learning environment that supports the latter’s emotional security. He used the knowledge from Pestalozzi I teaching children at the model school until 1808, when he decided to go back to Yverdon for further studies up to 1810 (Curtis). He moved to the University of Gottingen (1810 to 1812) and the University of Berlin (1812 to 1816) to study languages and science as well as mineralogy, respectively (Gutek). Froebel also served briefly as an army that opposed Napoleon during this period. He strongly believed in the crystallization process as universal cosmic law that governs human growth and development. Therefore, he was determined to establish an institution that could facilitate effective human development.
Froebel moved to Griesheim in 1816 and established the Universal German Education Institute. A year later, he moved the institution to Keilhau, where it operated until 1829, actualizing his educational theories (Gutek). The school’s curriculum covered all aspects of learners’ growth and development, mental and physical. Froebel married Henrietta Hoffmeister in 1818, who served as a companion and assistant until when she died (Gutek). He moved to Switzerland in 1831 and created a school at Wartensee on Lake Sempach, which he later relocated to Willisau. Froebel also ran a boarding school and an orphanage at Burgdorf until when he returned to Germany.
Froebel returned to Germany from Switzerland in 1837 and opened a children’s school at Blankenburg. He referred to the childhood school as the Child Nature and Activity Institute. He later renamed it Kindergarten or garden of children for three to four years kids. Froebel used stories, activities, and songs to design the kindergarten as an educational setting where children can develop the right direction own self-activity (Curtis). He postulated that the youngsters would follow divinely defined human growth laws through their own activities. As an early childhood educator, Froebel’s reputation progressed, and kindergartens were instituted in entire Germany and other parts of the world. Froebel’s move was a significant milestone since there was no educational system for children below seven years. Additionally, no one recognized kids’ capability to learn intellectual and social skills instrumental as a strong foundation for their lives.
Froebel’s interest in supporting children to grow and develop well during their early ages made him instill rich information and knowledge to other teachers. He started instructing other educators on the principles and approaches of kindergarten in 1840 (Curtis). In 1843, he designed a song and a picture book, and kings (Curtis). He dedicated the rest of his life expounding, popularizing, and defending the kindergarten’s practices and principles. Froebel settled in Liebenstein in 1849 after touring Germany to spread the kindergarten’s idea (Gutek). The three years that followed before he died in June 1852 were not easy for Froebel because he constantly combated conservative forces that opposed his educational theories (Gutek). At some point, the Prussian government banned this system of childhood schooling in 1851 (Curtis). However, the ban was lifted in 1860, eight years after Froebel’s death (Curtis). Despite the challenges Frobel faced, his childhood educational philosophies are recognized even to date.
The Kindergarten Philosophy
Froebel played a significant role in shaping early childhood educational philosophy despite opposition from various perspectives. In his most recognized educational work, the Education of man (1826), he explained that the unity of all things was the fundamental principle that guided his instructive activities (Gutek). In the book, Froebel highlighted imported themes that he applied in establishing a kindergarten educational setting. The first one was that God is the source of all existence. The second theme was that human beings have inherent spiritual essence that serves as a force of development. The last one is that an ordered and systematic universe interconnects all beings and ideas. He used these principles as the foundation of his work, accentuating that children have an internal life force that can only be externalized through self-activity (Gutek). Additionally, child development facilitates the unfolding of what is present in persons. Therefore, Froebel established a kindergarten as a unique educational setting that allows self-active development. He integrated occupations, kindergarten gifts, cultural and social activities to promote self-actualization.
Froebel’s experience in teaching made him realize what is vital for effective childhood growth and development. He believed that kindergartens should fundamentally focus on play to help children express their innermost needs, desires, and thoughts (Curtis). He disregarded the notion that play is a sign of disorder or idleness and an undesirable element in human life. He held that play is an instrumental tool vital to the imitation of adult socialization and vocational activities. A loving kindergarten instructor is a necessity to encourage and guide children’s interaction. Thus, children socialize and copy grownups’ economic and social activities, steadily introducing them into the world. The gifts, occupations, and block play that defined the kindergarten curriculum encouraged children to practically participate in learning experiences. Froebel’s kindergarten philosophy made him a child advocate.
Froebel as a Child Advocate
Froebel’s childhood, Education, and teaching experience influenced the way he understood what is imperative for children’s effective growth and development. He was deprived of motherly affection and the opportunity to play with other children. He was determined to promote children’s overall well-being, physical and psychological health. As a teacher, he learned what children need and approaches to meet those essentials. Despite the challenges and oppositions of conventional educationalists, he relentlessly promoted what he believed is best for children aged three to seven years of growth and development. As a result, he designed and implemented kindergartens and Education that encouraged children to play and express their thoughts and desires. Eventually, these childhood educational institutions and curricula were embraced and spread across the world. Indeed, his philosophies and ideas are recognized as an instrumental tool for childhood development.
Implementation of Froebel’s Philosophies and Ideas in Modern Classrooms
Teachers implement Froebel’s philosophies and ideas in classrooms in different ways. They provide children with different resources that encourage them to play and socialize. For instance, they give children various objects and ask them to arrange them in a particular order, individually and as a group, to form shapes of certain things they know. The teachers further design areas for the children to play with without hurting themselves or one another. They also support children’s learning by intervening in the classroom activities such as the arrangement of resources. Further, the instructors give the children opportunities to express themselves through songs and stories that they know.
Curtis, Stanley James. “Friedrich Froebel German educator”. Encyclopedia Britannica, 2021, Web.
Gutek, Gerald L. “Friedrich Froebel (1782–1852) – Biography, Froebel’s kindergarten philosophy, the kindergarten curriculum, diffusion of the kindergarten”. Education.Stateuniversity.Com, Web.