You will remember, little children, that we said we called George Washington the father of our country, because he fought so bravely for us, and won for us this free country. I am sure you will be glad to know who is the father of the Kindergarten. His name was Friedrich Froebel, and he was born 108 years ago, on the 21st day of April, in the village of Oberweisbach, in Thuringa, Germany.
This kind man was once a little child, just like you, little folks, but I do not think he had such a happy life. His mamma died when he was only one year old. A kind old lady took care of him, and kept house for his papa, who was a minister. They were poor people, and lived in a small house, of only three rooms. The furniture in these rooms was very plain. First came the papa's room; in it was a bed-stead, with very high posts, and on it were three feather-beds, which made the bed very high—so high that you, little folks, would have to get a step-ladder to climb into it—but such a nice, soft bed as it was, with two snowy white sheets, a nice red spread, and two soft pillows.
At one end of the room stood a wash-stand, on it a bowl and pitcher, soap-dish, and mug. On the towel rack hung a clean, white towel, and in the drawer of the stand was a comb and brush, hanging over it was a looking-glass.
In one corner of the room stood a cedar chest, for the papa's clothes. A table, covered with a green cover, stood in the center of the room, and on it were placed the books his papa needed, and beside the table stood two wooden chairs. The two windows were draped with white muslin curtains, looped back with white cord. The floor was uncarpeted, but not a speck of dust or dirt was there anywhere to be seen.
The next room was furnished in just the same way, except one more piece of furniture, this was a large press with five drawers; in this they kept sheets, pillow-cases, table cloths, and towels; and in this room slept baby Froebel and the old lady.
The next room was the kitchen, the largest room in the house—for you know this was their dining and sitting-room. The stove was so beautifully polished you could see your face in it; the tins were all hang ing on nails by the side of the stove; they were so bright, that you would think they were new; the cedar bucket, filled with nice spring water, was standing on a bench by the side of the wall; above it hung a tin cup; on the table was a red cover, and around the room, close to the wall, were six wooden chairs.
When the weather was warm, the old lady would open the door, and Froebel would sit on the door-step, and play with his rag-doll. You must know this little boy led a very lonely life, as he had no little play mates; but he was very fond of this rag-baby, and loved the bright sunshine, which used to come to the door-step and play with him and the rag-doll. As he grew older, he found much pleasure with the flowers in the garden, the birds and insects.
When he was seven years old he went to live with an uncle, who kept a school for boys. He now had many children of his own age to play with, and such delightful times as they used to have. In summer, when the days were very warm, they would be given a half-holiday, and it would not take them long to put away their books, and slates, take their hats from the rack and away to the woods. Here they had a little house which they had builded of twigs and leaves, where they kept their play-things. All would say, let us play soldiers; then they would put on their caps, made something like those we wore on Washington's birth-day. Santa Claus always brings a German boy, a sword, gun and drum, so you can think how much they looked like real soldiers; and Froebel was just as happy and merry as a boy could be. As a man, he always remembered those days with much pleasure.
When he was fifteen years old, his father thought he was old enough to learn a trade. Froebel thought he would like to be a farmer, and always live in the country, where he could see the flowers, the bright sunshine, and hear the rippling of the stream, for all of this was sweet music to his ear, so he went to live on a farm, and for awhile was quite contented; he was always longing to do something to make little children happy, and after many years of struggle, and hardships, he started a "Child's Garden." The plants in this garden were little children, just like you, little folks, and it was he who gave us all these lovely gifts.
These beautiful colored balls, these nice cubes and bricks with which to build houses, churches, and many other things; the cards and pictures for sewing, paper for folding and cutting; mats, peas work and modelling; the pretty rings and sticks with which we made the watch and chain, grandfathers spectacles, the bunch of grapes, and the hay wagon for the farmer.
Then he arranged our games and songs. In the games he has taught us how to be dear little birds that hop and fly, pigeons that walk, mill wheels that "grind the grain the farmer has sown," and little waves in the stream that are always giving to every thing they pass by, and many other games you can think of.
In our songs, he tells us how to love our mammas, papas, sisters and brothers, and how much care to take of the baby, the dear "little one of all." And of how happy the birds are in their homes too, with their mammas and papas. How we can be carpenters, shoe-makers, bakers and wheelwrights.
Then we sing of the sunshine, which God sends us to make us bright and happy.
Froebel wants us to be good soldiers, and if need be, fight for our country, so he gave us the brave "Knights," and the songs we sing to our flag.
Now, little folks, we have seen how much Froebel has done for all of us; do you not think we all should love him, and be very thankful for our Kindergarten, and never forget to celebrate each year the birth-day of him who said, "I love flowers, men, children, God! I love everything!"
A Fictional Short Story by
Agnes Taylor Ketchum & Ida M. Jorgensen