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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 54.djvu/404

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

study for young children has been known and proclaimed for more than a century, it is still in practice the study of later years, while young children study letters.

In the second place, from the development of the retentive powers of the child we infer that he is qualified to gain acquaintance not only with the real world around him, but with the real world of the past. We may call this history. History is now studied later by means of text-books. It may be studied with far greater economy during earlier years by means of direct narration by parent or teacher. It is wonderful how eagerly a child will listen to historical narration, and how easily he will retain it. This method of teaching history forms a striking contrast to the perfunctory manner in which it is often studied in the upper school grades, with the text-book "lesson,"

"recitation," and the "final examination." Upon the minds of many young people the study of history has a deadening effect when the history epoch is passed and the mathematical epoch has arrived. It has already been proposed, at a conference of educators lately held in Chicago, to extend the study of history downward into the lower grades, a proposition fully sanctioned by psychological pedagogy. In what I have here said about history for young people I refer not to the philosophy of history, which comes much later in the life of the student, but to history as a mere record of facts and events, the kind of history which is now studied in the grammar and high schools, the kind which many educators who would make all children philosophers are now saying should not be studied at all.

In the third place, what studies correspond to the development of the will in the child from five to ten? It is the habit-forming epoch. It is the time when a large and useful store of motor memory images may be acquired, and when permanent reflex tracts may be formed in the spinal cord and lower brain centers. This is the time to teach the child to do easily and habitually a large number of useful things. If we use the term in its broadest sense, we may call this branch of instruction morals, but it will also include, besides habits of conduct, various bodily activities, certain manual dexterities, and correct habits of speech, expression, and singing. But here some restrictions must be observed. The habit-forming period begins at birth and continues far beyond the age of ten, and the period from five to ten is not the time for the formation of all habits. The order of muscular development must be observed, and all dexterities involving finely co-ordinated movements of the fingers, or strain of the eyes, should be deferred beyond this period, or at most begun only in the latter part of it; such, for instance, as writing, drawing, modeling, sewing, knitting, playing upon musical instruments, and minute mechanical work, as well, of course, as the plaiting, pricking, stitching, weaving,