Along with other Early Years colleagues from the UK and Europe, I was invited by Community Play Things (CPT) to join them on a short trip to Keilhau, Germany, to Froebel’s birthplace, kindergarten, school, museum and site of the first general council of teachers.
The trip was rightly called: ‘Rediscovering Froebel’.
I wasn’t the only guest to comment that I felt that I had won a Golden Ticket, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory style!
There is so much to write about. I will write again over the next few months about my experience and will of course share with others on my travels.
In short, Froebel’s mother died when he was an infant and he was treated harshly by his father and stepmother. At the age of 10, Froebel was ‘rescued’ by his maternal uncle and went to live with him.
Indeed, Dr. Jacqui Cousins states “Personal experiences & professional theories” and references Elinor Goldschmeid’s thoughts on the strong impact that our early childhood experiences have on our professional work with young children.
“We should never deny the impact of our own childhood experiences on our life-long development or on our professional thinking about young children… those personal experiences often provide a starting point for our action on behalf of young children… and on our professional theories about them….’
Over the three days of the visit, I could clearly see that Froebel’s early years drove him to speak up for children and do what was right for them.
Froebel once stated: “Educators need to have a passion of love for each child.”
Froebel would often be seen playing and connecting with children. It was very strange at that time to have a male working with young children. Maybe Froebel was the first male to work within Early Years!
This trip also acted as an extension to Penny Webb’s event that I attended a few days previously, appropriately called ‘Sharing, Networking and Connections.’ Penny, was also part of the special group in Keilhau.
The staff at Keilhau provided hospitality that was second to none, as was the kindness of CPT, who organised the trip and were the ‘glue’ throughout.
We laughed, cried, walked, ate and had reflective wonder and awe moments together. We heard beautiful singing from our CPT friends, and watched Irish and Scottish dancing from some of the UK guests. We heard wonderful stories from a number of people, and on the final night we devised a song and performed this to our Keilhau and CPT friends.
Froebel must be smiling to himself, as his spirit and his work lives on, in fact he once stated: “If after 300 years after my death my method of education shall be completely established according to its idea I shall rejoice in heaven.”
One can clearly see influences of Froebel’s work within other theories and philosophical Early Years pedagogy, such as Montessori, Reggio and Steiner.
Froebel also called the adults educators, rather than teachers. Right on Froebel!
I also loved that he gathered other like-minded colleagues to set up the first teaching council.
Froebel also had to battle with the ‘establishment’ who thought his ideas were not in line with current approaches and were anti-Christian! They tried many times to discredit his approach.
I don’t think that many educators realise that it was Froebel who coined the phrase ‘kindergarten’. As Sir Michael Cain would say: “Not a lot of people know that!”
Oh, Froebel was so ahead of his time!
If Elvis is the King of Rock and Roll, then Froebel is the King of Early Years Education!
Finally, Middendorf, who was a friend of Froebel and a co-founder of Keilhau, stood by Froebel’s graveside and predicted that the path forward to unity, love, and peace would not be sheltered from wind and storm. Indeed, on a global level, we are facing the ‘wind and storm’, as we continue to speak up for the ‘little people’, regarding their rights to a respectful play-based and loving Early Childhood.
Staff at the Froebel museum are passionately working on a project to restore the drawings of early Keilhau. If you would like to make a donation, please do so, via:
National Westminster Bank
16 High Street
Account Name: Community Products (UK) Ltd
Account No. (UK£): 59554916
Sort Code: 60-02-07
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