They had belonged to my mother – a regular subscriber – who looked forward to reading each edition.
Although she was by then near the end of a long career as an early childhood educator (her first appointment was in 1935) she remained an avid learner, always ready to add ideas and activities to her extensive repertoire of teaching techniques.
What is striking about these magazines is what they imply about the teachers who read them.
Each edition is packed with practical ideas for music, art, crafts, science as well as reading and numbers. There are songs, poems, stories and all kinds of background on harbors and tugboats and bridges and trains and life on the farm.
Each edition contains ideas and background for nature study – butterflies, bird migration, river life – and not a worksheet in site. There’s a strong emphasis on music, poetry, movement and the natural world.
Children, it seems, were expected to be in classrooms that were rich with creativity, wonder and activity.
This is from the Museum of Childhood (UK) which recently acquired another seventy-five editions of the magazine from 1950-1975 :
The readership of Child Education must have been lively, interesting teachers, passionate about trying new things and doing the best for the children in their tutelage. Articles on emerging psychological theory, educational spaces, and pedagogy give an academic underpinning to the crafts and poems printed to be cut and copied.
We think of the sixties as a time of great change in education and elsewhere. And so it was. The Plowden Report – Children and their Primary Schools was soon (1967) to extol progressive approaches to education, stressing that “at the heart of the educational process lies the child”.
And while these editions harken back to a more traditional time in the poetry and music there are references to immigration and social change as well as more timeless concerns about mixed-age groupings, child psychology, managing difficult children and creating classroom community.
Clearly, Child Education was reaching out to an audience and serving the needs of creative and forward-looking teachers open to new ideas and interested in how best to teach young children.
This article The Colour-Factor Set in Historical Perspective is a fascinating on the origins of math manipulatives. We take them for granted now but we can thank Froebel and other progressive educators for introducing them to the classroom.
I love the way the article begins:
Every development in the field of teaching aids rests upon the inventive insight of known and unknown educationists of bygone days, without whose work that development could not have taken place.
It’s easy to smile as some of material. This riveting – the story of Bess and Jim – aid for beginning readers for example. But that said, it behooves us to remember, and build on, the best of the past just as we devise new ways to do the same old work.
And there’s one more aspect of the magazine that noteworthy:
Take a look at this small child playing with fire. She’s serious, intent on her work, safe and clearly deemed capable of behaving responsibly.
That edition from the Museum’s collection (not mine) is from 1953 when it seems to me that children had all kinds of freedom to run wild and their parents had very little. That balance seems to have flipped .