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A Life of Friedrich Froebel

Friedrich Froebel declared his educational vision in a letter to his brother in 1807.

"Not to be announced with trumpet tongue to the world, but to win for itself in a small circle, perhaps only among the parents whose children should be entrusted to his care, the name of a happy family institution . . ."

At the time, Froebel was teaching in Anton Gruner's school at Frankfurt after briefly studying Architecture at Frankfurt University and working as a forester

To prepare himself for his life's work Froebel visited Johann Pestalozzi at Yverdon and purused studies at the universities of Göttingen and Berlin ranging from jurisprudence to mineralogy. His studies were interrupted by military service in the famous volunteer corps of Lützow's "Black Riflemen," in the Prussian army against Napoleon. During this time he met Langenthal and Middendorf.

These three

began at Griesheim and Keilhau a school, according to Froebel's vision. The first students were Friedrich's nephews and two brothers who were descendants of Martin Luther. As the school expanded it attracted both praise and opposition. Inspectors sent by the authorites praised the educational achievements of the students and the success of the system. During this time, Friedrich Froebel wrote, Die Menschenerziehung, which was published in 1826. Translated into English as The Education of Man in 1885, it remains a rich source of material about Froebel's ideas and methods. Froebel was invited to Switzerland to open schools in 1831 and stayed for five years.

Kindergarten

is the achievement for which Friedrich Froebel is remembered. At Bad Blankenberg in 1837, Froebel created this unique approach to early childhood education; the gentle unfolding of a child's soul in a natural environment without arbitrary interference.

The acceptence of Kindergarten was both immediate and widespread. Friedrich Froebel lectured across Germany, inspiring people of different political and religious views to open Kindergartens and train as teachers. By 1849 there were more than fifty Kindergartens across Germany and at Marienthal, Froebel began training women as the educators of humanity.

A chill wind

blew through these new gardens for children on the 7th of August 1851. A Prussian ban closed Kindergartens in Prussia and many other German states felt compelled to follow the Prussian example. As the cold winds of Autumn scatter the seed in a garden, this ban scattered highly trained women around the world. Bertha Ronge and her husband, Johannes went to England and founded the first kindergartens there. Her sister, Margarethe emigrated to the United States with her husband Carl Schurz and founded the first American kindergarten in Wisconsin in 1856.

21 June 1852

Marienthal, at half past six in the evening Friedrich Froebel after a short illness departed this life. Middendorf wrote:

"As a child, Friedrich Froebel, the friend of children and the apostle of child-happiness, fell asleep. Without a struggle and without pain ended a life which never for a moment had had an egotistical thought but which had been entirely dedicated to humanity and childhood."

Baroness Bertha von Marenholtz - Buelow embarked on an ambitious campaign to spread the kindergarten to other European countries. She helped to found kindergartens in England, France, Belgium and Italy. Her book, Reminiscences of Froebel (Erinnerungen an Fröbel) recalls her conversations with Froebel during the last years of his life.

When the Prussian ban was lifted in 1860, the kindergarten movement was an international network, encouraging contact and cooperation among educated women in many different countries. Froebelian views of the social mission of women as the educators of humanity achieved considerable influence around the world.

a Life of Friedrich Froebel by Bruce Watson

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Friedrich Froebel: His Life, Times and Significance

This book by Peter Weston for the general reader is an illustrated life of Friedrich Froebel that places him in the turbulent political and intellectual context of his times. It also identifies those aspects of his educational practice that are of enduring value in the contemporary world.