FROEBEL, fro'bel, Friedrich Wilhelm August, German educationist : b. Oberweissbach, Thuringia, 21 April 1782; d. Marienthal, 21 June 1852. It was Froebel who said, clearer the thread that runs through our lives backward to our childhood, the clearer will be our onward glance to the and in the fragment of autobiography he has left us, he illustrates forcibly the truth of his own saying. The motherless baby who plays alone in the village pastor's quiet house; the dreamy child who wanders solitary in the high-walled gar den; the thoughtful lad, neglected, misunder stood, who forgets the harsh realities of life in pondering the mysteries of the flowers, the con tradictions of existence, and the dogmas of orthodox theology; who decides in early boy hood that the pleasures of the senses are with out enduring influence and therefore on no ac count to be eagerly pursued:— these present ments of himself, which he summons up for vs from the past, show the vividness of his early recollections and indicate the course which the stream of his life is to run.
The coldness and injustice of the new mother who assumed control of the household when he was four years old, his isolation from other chil dren, the merely casual notice he received from the busy father absorbed in his parish work, all tended to turn inward the tide of his mental and spiritual life. He studied himself, not only be cause it was the bent of his nature, but because he lacked outside objects of interest; and to this early habit of introspection we owe many of the valuable features of his educational philosophy. Whoever has learned thoroughly to understand one child, has conquered a spot of firm ground on which to rest while he studies the world of• children; and because the great teacher realized this truth, because he longed to give to others the means of development denied him, he turns for us the heart-leaves of his boyhood.
It would appear that Froebel's characteristics were strongly marked and unusual from the beginning. Called by every one as moon-struck child° in Oberweissbach, the village of his birth, he was just as unanimously considered aan old when, crowned with the experience of 70 years, he played with the village children on the green hills of Thuringia. The intensity of
his inward life, the white heat of his convic tions, his absolute blindness to any selfish idea or aim, his enthusiasm, the exaltation of his spiritual nature, all furnish so many cogent reasons why the people of any day or of any community should have failed to understand him, and scorned what they could not compre hend. It is the old story of the seers and the prophets repeated as many times as they ap pear; for colossal souls,>> as Emerson said, a long focal distance to be seen.x' At 10 years old the sensitive boy was for tunately removed from the uncongenial atinos phere of the parental household; and in his uncle's home at Ilm he spent five free and happy years, being apprenticed at the end of this time to a forester in his native Thuringian woods. Then followed a year's course in the University of Jena, and four years spent in the study of farming, in clerical work of various kinds, and in land-surveying. All these em ployments, however, Froebel himself felt to be merely provisional; for like the hazel wand in the diviner's hand, his instinct was blindly seek ing through these many restless years the well spring of his life.
In Frankfort, where he had gone intending to study architecture, Destiny touched him on the shoulder, and he turned and knew her. Through a curious combination of circum stances he gained employment in Herr Gruner's Model School, and it was found at once that he was what the Germans love to call teacher by the grace of God?' The first time he met his class of boys he tells us that he felt inexpressibly happy; the hazel wand had found the waters and was fixed at last. From this time on, all the events of his life were connected with his experience as a teacher. Impelled as soon as he had begun his work by a desire for more effect ive methods, he visited Yverdon, then the cen tre of educational thought, and studied with Pestalozzi. He went again in 1808, accompanied by three pupils, and spent two years there, alter nately studying and teaching.