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The Education of the ChildThe Education of the Child by Ellen Key
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A wonderful book on how to rear a child. The author highlights how use of corporal punishment is detrimental to the growth of the child. She also highlights how forcing one’s opinion and worse wishes on the child turns the child into a limited human.

The author says that we should lead by example and create an environment where the child can pick up the right and good traits rather than drilling it into their heads.

Some of the strong statements made by the author are as under:

“To suppress the real personality of the child and to supplant it with another personality continues to be a pedagogical crime common to those who announce loudly that education should not develop the real individual nature of the child.”

“Education must be based on the certainty that faults cannot be atoned for, or blotted out, but must always have their consequences”. A moot point that is raised is does “saying sorry” really help? Or for that matter thrashing the child? The author goes on to say “At the same time, there is the other certainty that through progressive evolution, by slow adaptation to the conditions of environment they may be transformed. Only when this stage is reached will the education begin to be a science and art. We will give up all belief in miraculous effects of sudden interference; we shall act in the psychological sphere in accordance with the principle of indestructibility of matter. We shall never believe that a characteristic of the soul can be destroyed. There are but two possibilities. Either it can be brought into subjection or it can be raised up to a higher plane.” How pertinent it is when coming to reforming culprits.
“Madame de Stael’s words show much insight when she says that only those people who can play with children are able to educate them. For success in training children the first condition is to become as a child oneself, but this means no assumed childishness no condescending baby talks that the child immediately sees through and deeply abhors. It means to treat the child as really one’s equal, that is, to show him the same consideration, the same kind of confidence one shows to an adult. It means not to influence the child to be what we ourselves desire him to become but to influenced by the impression of what the child himself is; not to treat the child with deception, or by exercise of force, but with seriousness and sincerity proper to his own character.”

“Not leaving child in peace is the greatest evil of present day methods of training children.”

“The statement that no human being learns to understand another, or at least to be patient with another, is true above all of the intimate relation of child and parent in which, understanding, the deepest characteristic of love, is almost always absent.”

“Parents do not see that during the whole life the need of peace is never greater than in the years of childhood, an inner peace under all external unrest. The child has to enter into relations with his own infinite world, to conquer it, to make it the object of his dreams. But what does he experience? Obstacles, interference, corrections, the whole livelong day. The child is always required to leave something alone, or do something different, to find something different, or want something different from what he does, or finds or wants. He is always shunted off in another direction from that towards which his own character is leading him. All of this caused by our tenderness, vigilance, and zeal, in directing advising and helping the small specimen of humanity to become a complete example in model series”.

“The art of natural education consists in ignoring the faults of the children nine times out of ten, in avoiding immediate interference, which is usually a mistake, and devoting one’s while vigilance to the control of the environment in which the child is growing up, to watching the education which is allowed to go on by itself.”

“To bring up a child means carrying one’s soul in one’s hand, setting one’s feet on a narrow path, it means never placing ourselves in danger of meeting the cold look on part of the child that tells us without words that he finds us insufficient and unreliable. It means the humble realization of the truth that the ways of injuring the child are infinite, while the ways of being useful to him are few.” How true.

“What is required, above all, for children of the present day, is to be assigned real home occupations, tasks they must do conscientiously, habits of work arranged for week days and holidays without oversight, in every case where the child can help himself. Instead of the modern school child having a mother and servants about him to get him ready for school and help him remember things, he should have time every day before school to arrange his room and brush his clothes, and there should be no effort to make him remember what is connected with the school. The home and school should combine together systematically to let the child suffer for result of his negligence.
Just the revers of this system rules today. Mothers learn their children’s lessons, invent plays for them, read their story books to them, arrange their rooms after them, pick up what they have let fall, put in order the things they have left in confusion, and in this and in other words by protective pampering an attention, their desire for work, their endurance, the gifts of invention and imagination, qualities proper to a child, become weak and passive. The home now is only a preparation for school. In it, young people growing up, are accustomed to receive services, without performing any on their part. They are trained to be always receptive instead of giving something in return. Then people are surprised at a youthful generation, selfish and unrestrained, pressing forward shamelessly on all occasions before their elders, crudely unresponsive in respect of those attentions, which in earlier generations were a beautiful custom among the young.”

“We must begin in doing for the child in certain ways a thousand times more and in others a hundred thousand times less. A beginning must be made in the tenderest age to establish the child’s feeling for nature. Let him live year in and year out in the same country home, this is one f the most significant and profound factors in training. The same thing holds good of making a choice library, commencing with the first years of life, suitable books for each age; not as is now often the case, get quite spoilt by constant change of summer excursions, by worthless children’s books, and costly toys. They should never have any but the simplest books; the so called classical ones. They should be amply provided with means of preparing their own playthings. The worst feature of our system which imitate the luxury of grown people. By such objects the covetous impulse of the child for acquisition is increased, his own capacity for discover and imagination limited, or rather, it would be limited if children with sound instincts of preservation, did not happily smash the perfect playthings, which give them no creative opportunity, and themselves make new playthings from fir cones, acorns, thorns, and fragments of pottery, and all sorts of rubbish which can be transformed into objects of great price by the power of imagination.” Alas!

“Try to leave the child in peace; interfere directly as seldom as possible; keep away all crude and impure impressions; but give all your care and energy to see that personality, life itself, reality in its simplicity and in its nakedness, shall all be means of training the child”.

“Neither overbearing nor pampering parents do good for the child’s development. Both alike, torture their children though in different ways, by not understanding the child’s right to have his own point of view, his own ideal of happiness, his own proper tastes and occupation.”

“Family life would have an intelligent character if each one lived fully and entirely his own life and allowed others to do the same”.

“We must realize that every pebble by which one breaks into the glassy depths of the child’s soul will extend its influence through centuries and centuries in ever widening circles. Through our fathers, without our will and without choice, we are given a destiny which controls the deepest foundation of our own being. Through our posterity, which we ourselves create, we can in certain measure, as free beings, determine the future destiny of the human race.”

“An English specialist has maintained that the future thanks to the modern school system, will be able to get along without originally creative men, because the receptive activities of modern man will absorb the the cooperative powers of the brain to the disadvantage of the productive powers. And even if this were not a universally valid statement but only expressed a physiological certainty, people will some day perhaps cease filling down man’s brain by sandpapering process called a school curriculum.”

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