Froebel Web

Life of Froebel

excerpts from the book by Denton J. Snider. Chicago: Sigma, 1900.

I. The Child at Home

His family is said to have originally come from Holland, though it seems to have lost all connection with that country.

Having no mother and almost no father, he falls to the care of servants and of his brothers who are older. Four of these brothers are mentioned, two of whom, August (who died early) and Traugott (who became a physician), have little to do with his career; but the other two, Christian and Christoph, are deeply woven into his life. Especially did he love Christoph who brothered and mothered him, protecting him outwardly and comforting him inwardly amid his trials.

The pastor (i.e Johann Jakob Froebel, Friedrich's father), took a second wife, who had a son (i.e. Karl Popo) of her own. The proverbial character of the step-mother was repeated in Froebel's experience; he was the boy Cinderella of the German fairy-tale. Still, while almost driven from the home, he was forbidden to go beyond the yard and garden, inclosed by fences, hedges and houses. Not only alone, but also in a prison the child was to occupy his young days.

The religious character of the family was of the strict old-German orthodox Protestant (i.e Evangelisch-lutherisch/Evangelical Lutheran) type and was in accordance with all the other restraints put upon the boy. The father taught him to read, however, though with great difficulty. Froebel confesses that it was hard work for him to learn to read, and this comports with what we know of him later. Human speech was his stumbling block, in his own mother-tongue he never could utter himself adequately.

(upon leaving his home at age 10 to live with his Uncle Hoffmann, brother of his deceased mother, who was a clergy-man in Stadt-Ilm)

And yet we cannot leave the step-mother without a sympathetic glance. Poor woman! what an immortality for that simple Thuringia country-girl who could not get along with her step-son! For he happened to be Frederick (i.e. Friedrich) Froebel, the greatest benefactor of the little child that ever lived, and he has fully reported her ill treatment of him as a little child.

The result is her name has gone through the wide world, and descended thus far through time, and is destined to go down through untold ages, leaving behind it a line of sighs and teads and low maledictions from thousands upon thousands of tender-hearted kindergartners (i.e kindergarten teachers) who read this story. Dear me! What a destiny for woman, who violates the trust given her, neglecting to obey the call, when it has come to her, to be a mother to a motherless child!

II. The Boy at Uncle Hoffmann’s

When he passed outside of his new home, the mountain-walls which before penned him in had vanished as in a dream; "I could go into my uncle’s gardens if I liked, but I also was at liberty to roam all over the neighborhood." Of course he must go to school, that was probably a chief object of the uncle taking the boy to himself. "I especially enjoyed the hours devoted to religious instruction;” he delighted in the sermons of his uncle, which were "mild, gentle, and full of sweet charity;" somewhat different, evidently, from those of his father. His heart would melt and he would burst into tears when the lesson "touched upon the life, the work, and the character of Jesus." He resolved to lead a similar life.

(Although he has trouble with Latin grammar, he admits), "Arithmetic was a favorite study of mine." We are, however, inclined to think that the musical side of his nature received a very considerable development at this time; his own mood and his environment fostered it, expressed it in a way, though he may not have learned much about the theory of music.

Confirmation. For this impressive ceremony he was prepared b his uncle, who thus brought him into union with the Church…

III. What Shall be Done with the Boy

Froebel puts stress upon the fact that during this time he first saw a drama, which was given by a company of strolling actors. The performance took strong hold upon him, for a while he seems to have been stage struck. Still the dramatic element was roused in him, and satisfied a certain need of his soul. It will remain with him in some form to the last; he will employ action for the purpose of education, and in the play-song he will create a little drama for the child.

To the University of Jena.

IV. Froebel At Jena

At this time Jena with its University was the very center of the intellectual life of Germany. Nay, we may go further and say that it stood in the heart of the mightiest spiritual movement of the last two centuries. The most splendid sunburst in philosophy which the ages have witnessed, with the possible exception of that ancient one in Athens, was then taking place at Jena. A few miles across the country lay Weimar, governed by the same ruler and controlled by the same spirit.; there the greatest literary movement of our modern era was in the process of fulfillment. Art and science felt the same regenerating breath of the new epoch.

Into this marvelous creative energy of the time the boy Frederick (Friedrich) Froebel is suddenly plunged at its fountain-head. It was at Jena that he became inoculated with the Teutonic renascence which produced Goethe and Schiller in poetry; Kant, Fichte, Schelling, and Hegel in philosophy; Mozart and Beethoven in music.

excerpted from the original by J. Froebel-Parker Froebel Gallery, Ltd. in collaboration with Froebel Web

childhood experiences of Froebel from the book Froebel, by Helmut Heiland (Rowohlt Verlag, Reinbeck bei Hamburg, 1982)

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