THE BUDDING OF EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATIONIt is difficult to pinpoint the true beginnings of Early Childhood Education. Philosophers Plato and Aristotle are credited for having some of the first published suggestions on child-rearing. Plato is recognized as being the first person to suggest in writing that babies need protection and nurturing. He suggested “swaddling, rocking, and cooing to infants”. Aristotle wrote about young children in greater detail, and thought babies should be given a substantial amount of milk, or wine, a more easily accessible nutriment at the time.
Both of these philosophers recognized the difference between the stages of development that are adulthood and childhood. MOVING INTO THE 15th CENTURYIn the 15th century, educating young children became a priority.Martin Luther thought the ability to reading needed to become common knowledge, and noticed that children picked up easily on how to do so in their early years. Erasmus’ thought process allowed him to conclude children were born good and needed to be valued, educated and nurtured. Before this, most people left children to do their own rearing.COMENIUS AND GUTTENBERGIn the 14th through 17th centuries, European and American concern was not focused on early childhood, but John Comenius stressed the value of educating children, and created what is considered the first picture book.
John Guttenberg created the printing press during this period, which was advantageous in sharing information as time passed. LOCKE’S OBSERVATIONS IN THE 17th CENTURYIn the 1600s, John Locke published a comprehensive article, “Some Thoughts Concerning Education”, which discussed ways that the system of education in place needed to improve. By serving as a guardian and tutor of many children, he was able to pick up on how the younger generation learns, which helped him write this piece. During Locke’s time, his article was eye-opening to readers. Today, much of what he advised is thought of as “common sense”.
CONTROVERSIAL OPINIONS Jean Jacques Rousseau, a renowned philosopher from France, held the “controversial” opinion that children are naturally good, and that society’s influences can change this. He believed that children needed to be sheltered from the world, denied traditional educational tactics, and though children learned best through their experiences.Moving into the 18th and 19th centuries, Pestalozzi and Froebel are two major names in education. Pestalozzi took influence from Rousseau’s idea that children were ready for school at the age of 12. His philosophy was not widely accepted.THE CREATION OF KINDERGARTENFroebel appreciated Pestalozzi and Rousseau’s work, and used their ideas to influence his “practical” teaching methods. The creator of Kindergarten, Froebel thought of childhood as a special time, and that children ought to have time to play in school. He also introduced “gifts”, what we know as toys, to the kids he worked with.
DARWIN, HALL, FREUD– THEIR FINDINGS AND CONTRIBUTION TO EARLY CHILDHOOD In order to build a case for his theory of evolution, Darwin recorded observations he had about his son. Although his research wasn’t intended for this purpose, his findings confirmed research on infants at the time. One example of this is that he noted infants have reflexes.
Because of his findings, more journals were released to the public to guide parents as they raised their children.G. Stanley Hall is another person of influence throughout this period. He is credited with beginning the process of researching children to the States. He created over 100 questionnaires that helped him gather information on children that influences the way education in early childhood is carried out to this day. Freud developed a few surprising theories that are still challenged.
One of these is the Psychoanalytic Theory. Although some of his findings were questionable, his Attachment Theory still guides parents and early childhood educators. He noted that during the early stages of life, children develop attachment to their caregivers. Depending on the response of the caregivers, these attachments can be healthy or unhealthy. Dr. Freud also recognized that childhood has multiple stages of development.
THE 20th CENTURY AND A FRESH PERSPECTIVE ON CHILDHOODDewey’s “Democracy in Education” stirred the public’s view of education. With his argument that the US would not be a “true democratic society without education”, Dewey influenced parents across the nation to place a greater value on the subject. In this time of psychological discovery, Pavlov, Skinner and Gesell introduced modern childhood education theories that are still utilized by many. MONTESSORI AND NATURE VS. NURTUREMontessori, an Italian physician-turned-pedagogue is recognized widely for her self-titled educational theory. Her thought process was that children are heavily influenced by their environment, and learn best through self-discovery.
When teachers offer gentle guidance, and not firm instruction, children learn best. PATTY SMITH HILL Another influential woman in education, Hill founded the National Association for the Education of Young Children and served as a professor at Columbia University. She also noted that with young children, an authoritarian approach to education was less effective. To this day, NAEYC remains relevant in providing educators on up-to-date information on how to carry out effective teaching methods, national news concerning children, and holds quality standards for teachers to abide by.
WORLD WAR II AND ITS INFLUENCE ON CHILDRENDuring the war, early childhood research was at a standstill. As more women entered the workforce, children needed guardians. Through the Works Progress Administration, the United States government provided childcare to women as they helped the war effort. NEW RESEARCH ARISESAfter the war, more research on child development begins. Bandura introduces his Social Learning Theory that children learn through imitation.Jean Piaget, the “Grandfather of Cognitive Development”, has developed teaching methods that are used heavily in classrooms today, such as open-ended questions, and hands-on learning.Lev Vygotsky believed in constructivism, or that children develop their own ideas and knowledge through their learning experiences.In this time period, Erik Erikson was another key theorist that developed concepts surrounding early childhood.
MODERN RESEARCHERS, TEACHERS, PSYCHOLOGISTS AND THEORISTSToday, there are countless people studying how to improve early childhood education, children’s minds, and development. Household names include Mary Ainsworth, Urie Bronfenbrenner, T. Berry Brazelton and Howard Gardner. WHAT’S HAPPENING NOW AND HOPES FOR THE FUTURERight now, the field of Early Childhood Education is at a peak point in its development, but has room to grow. There are some imperfections: developmentally inappropriate, mandated testing, and common-core standards are two examples of this. Hopefully, more firm communication from teachers, researchers, and the public will produce results from those who govern.
When I enter the field, I wonder if any groundbreaking discoveries will be made that change the way we educate our children. I’m excited to find out more about current research, and what has been proven to be ineffective when it comes to teaching our kids.