Inventing Kindergarten

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9780810935266: Inventing Kindergarten

Invented in the 1830s by German educator Friedrich Froebel, kindergarten was designed to teach young children about art, design, mathematics, and natural history. Inventing Kindergarten uses extraordinary visual materials to reconstruct this successful system, which grew to become a familiar institution throughout the world by the end of the 19th century. 130 illustrations, 55 in color.

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Review:

Adults over a certain age probably have similar memories of their first taste of school--the half-day kindergarten that featured singing, finger-painting, stories, and naptime. Whatever lessons we absorbed during those halcyon hours were not obvious ones, but we developed confidence, exercised our imaginations, and learned the basic schoolroom drill concerning school buses, milk money, and raising our hands before asking or answering a question. These days, kindergarten is a far departure from its earlier incarnation; instead of a loosely structured time to play and discover, modern kindergartens are more like First Grade 101, in which children are taught their numbers and letters and even assigned homework. Norman Brosterman, author of Inventing Kindergarten, doesn't approve.

Inventing Kindergarten is partly Brosterman's views about the importance of the traditional kindergarten in shaping the hearts and minds of children, partly a biography of an almost-forgotten educator, Friedrich Froebel, the inventor of kindergarten. In tracing Froebel's life and beliefs about education, Brosterman makes a strong case for returning to Froebel's original model in order to encourage the development of "a sensitive, inquisitive child with an uninhibited curiosity and a genuine respect for nature, family and society." Even if you don't agree with Brosterman's belief that kindergarten is responsible for many of modern art's geniuses, it's hard to argue with a philosophy that makes room for the importance of play in early education.

Review:

Norman Brosterman's book challenges this change. He makes a strong argument, supported by lush illustrations, that the inspiration for much of modern art and architecture can be linked to the invention of the kindergarten--its playful rather than its academic incarnation--in the mid-19th century. -- The New York Times Book Review, David Elkind

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