Who Speaks for Froebel? (Helge Wasmuth)

Season #1 Episode #16

Does anyone really​ know what Froebel​ intended his Kindergarten to be? How much of that survives today, who changed it ... and why? Helge Wasmuth, Associate Professor in the Department of Childhood Education​ at Mercy College, researched these questions and joins us to discuss.

Check out Helge's Book: "Fröbel’s Pedagogy of Kindergarten and Play"
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Helge Wasmuth: And whenever I tell that my German colleagues, you know that we say like, well, it’s based on the property tax, so the richer the school is and the more fancy school gets, and everyone who knows anything about education looks at me and says, like, “Are they crazy? That’s the worst thing you can do.” You know, we should give more money to the kids who need better education, more resources, and we’re doing the opposite.

John Pottenger: Welcome to the Path to Learning podcast where three ordinary guys explore the world of education,

Jay Irwin: what’s working, what’s broken,

Scott Bultman: and what we can do to best advocate for children.

John: I’m John Pottenger.

Jay: I’m Jay Irwin.

Scott: And I’m Scott Bultman. And you’re listening to the Path to Learning.

John: We’re just jamming out to the beat … about to jump in to another episode.

John: Today in the house, we have Helge. How do you say it?

Scott: “Hay-guh. Hay-guh Vos-moot.”

John: Helge Wasmuth, who is from Germany? And a teacher trainer?

Scott: Yes. at Mercy College? Yes, yes. He’s Associate Professor of Early Childhood Education Department of Education at Mercy College in New York. We met back in 2015. He came to be interviewed for the Garden of Children documentary project.

John: I do remember that.

Scott: We heard Helge was coming. We did not expect the gentlemen. But we were very impressed with him and stayed in touch over the years

Jay: True story.

Jay: What I love about a guy is he’s a teacher trainer, specializing in kindergarten. And he’s also a history researcher and a philosophy researcher. So he kind of strikes this amazing balance of drawing from the past, but making it applicable to the now.

John: And one of the questions I think we’re trying to answer Today is you know, it what is authentic to Froebel? And is that even something that we need to be concerned with, but our conversation with him even took a lot of different turns on a lot of relevance to today and what teachers and parents can be doing to advocate for the kids, which is what we’re all about.

Scott: Well, so he’s a father of a young child. He is a teacher trainer but as a native German speaker, when it comes to Froebel (“Fruhr-bull”) he has the ability to read the real stuff, you know, whereas there’s a lot of misinformation here in English that goes back a century or more. So, you know, yeah, he was kind enough to work on this book, that’s just come out, and really sets the record straight. And he’s here with us today to do that live. So …

John: Let’s do it.

Jay: Helge, thanks so much for being with us today. We’re interested in hearing about what you’ve been working on. Why don’t we start with what brought you to the U.S.?

Helge Wasmuth: Well, I moved to the US in 2010. My wife started to work here for the United Nations. So we moved together here. At this time, I was still finishing my my PhD, which was on the history of early child education in Germany. Yeah. And then I started to work here and at the college where I’m still working, Mercy College in New York. Yeah, I guess around 2015, which is almost five years ago, I saw the advertisement. I don’t know who wrote it. But it was about that, that you guys are starting to work on the documentary about the history of early childhood education or the history of kindergarten. So I wrote an email to them. And I was just thinking, Well, okay, they would probably answer very politely and say, we have our own experts. But then I think Scott answered, like, maybe in one day or extremely quickly. And not only did he reply, but he asked to interview me. And I think that’s when we met at city and country school, right? Yeah, five years ago for the first time. Mm hmm. Yeah. And so we met there and Tiffeni (Goesel) was also there. And what I really can remember is how excited you were that There’s someone who can speak German and read further. Yeah. And I was thinking all the time, like, Yeah, well, but what’s the big deal? You know, I mean, there are like, there are millions of people who can read German and English. So what is so exciting about having someone who actually can read German … and Froebel? And then Scott and Tiffeni, talk to me about that? There hasn’t been anything translated, and the old translations are horrible. And they are not always accurate, and so on and so on. And then I realized, yeah, well, it’s interesting that there hasn’t been a lot of translations recently. And started to look into that. Yeah, though, we stayed in touch over the next months and years, right. And I remember, Tiffeni always writing emails to me and saying, I found this text, what does it mean? Can you translate it to me and that’s, that’s how we came, I came up with an idea where maybe it could be interesting to translate some of Froebel’s work into English because it has never been translated.


Scott: Well, there’s been so much misunderstanding. I mean, in terms of modern research, I think I can pare it down to there’s three basic books you’re recent book, Norman Brosterman’s Inventing Kindergarten, and Jeanne Ruben’s book Intimate Triangle. Other than there really hasn’t been much written and what has been written unfortunately by American researchers, is that they go back to previously published books in America in English. So without the fresh research from a German speaker with, you know, a lot of you know, and I’d like you to talk about who in Germany has been sort of doing this research like Helmut Heiland and others, because we’re not getting that we’re not getting that information here. If it wasn’t for you, we wouldn’t be getting that information.

Helge: Yeah, that was one of the things that I realized really quickly, and I find really interesting, because as you said, There hasn’t been much translation of recent German research on Froebel or the kindergarten, which is interesting because the German research on Froebel in the last three decades, has been extremely extensive and has been extremely rich and extremely fruitful for the reason because until 1989, the Froebel archive for separated. So some parts were in East Germany and other parts were in West Germany. And then it came together. And people started to look at the archives as a primary sources, especially as the letters and but for example, Helmut Heiland has done over the last 20 years, I guess, is to create this online edition of all the letters. So if you can reach them, you can go online now and see all the letters. It’s all there. It’s very well organized to find everything you’re looking for in a second. So there has been an amazing amount of research on Froebel, but nothing of that has been come to the to the English-speaking audience. And though I agree with you, there’s really a lack of this kind of research and that’s why I started to work on my book, because I felt like it’s necessary to print off some of these insights to the English-speaking audience as well.

Scott: Well, so you know, so you’re a German speaker, native German speaker, you know, maybe I should ask you put it in the form of a question just how easy was it to understand Herr Froebel in his native tongue?

Helge: Yeah. So even if you speak German to read and to understand Froebel is still very difficult, and I think that is one of the reasons why he is not read widely anymore. And why also very often, people just refer to the same and same paragraphs or excerpts from from some of his more well-known writings. The problem is it’s two-fold. So the first thing is his writing style is very complicated. And one could actually say it’s awful. So I mean, the way how he writes, you know, so he starts, he starts with an idea. And then the idea goes over two pages, and he goes somewhere totally adds and then he comes back. And sometimes you read it and you think, like, “What is he talking about?” I have no idea. Of course, then sometimes you read something and you think like, oh, wow, that’s so such a unique insight. And it’s so remarkably modern. And you could say the same today about the way how we think about children. But again, so he’s his writings and to read Froebel is it’s not fun. You know, even if you’re a German native speaker, it’s not that it’s an easy reading, then of course, it makes it only much more complicated if you if you want to translate him, so translate for. And I mean, I did that now for the book and I translated some of the parts that I found most interesting, most helpful. It’s very complicated, because first of all, his writing style. And the way how we write is complicated. Also, he invented a lot of words. So to express his own thinking, he came up with words that are not used in the same way. In German. Yeah. And some of them are inventions. They are only used in his text and again, makes it very, very complicated for him to understand. The other reason why it’s complicated, I think his thinking is very foreign for us today. It’s very far from how we think about the world how we think about human beings, because it is embedded in the in the time and the context of the time. I mean, not that I would say he was German, either list. Yeah, but of course, the philosophy of this time like Schelling and Kant Of course influenced him in a certain way. Yeah. And he the way how he thinks about the world is part of this time, this idea that says a unity and everything is connected, and everything is coming out of out of this unity and going back into this unity. Well, that’s an idea that’s not easy to understand today, because most people don’t think this way. And that’s true for me as well. So I don’t necessarily think this way. And I found it hard to understand what he means versus this whole idea, what he called the Law of the Sphere.

John: So why do you think there’s so much confusion around who Froebel actually was?

Helge: I think it has a lot to do with is Froebel actually …  his writings. Because he was very ambiguous, you know, it’s like, depending on which materials you read, which writings you look at, you can find different things that he is emphasizing or mentioning. So, for example, there’s this decade long debate, was he romanticism or Was he a pedagogue of the enlightened enlightenment you know, and you can find both because he has statements in his texts that support both ideas. And I think it has to do you know, so he wrote so many letters, and depending on to whom he was speaking, he changed his core ideas a little bit. I mean, he had always had this this core idea, which he called the Law of the Sphere, which can be found in all of his texts, but there are variations, things that he emphasized maybe around 1840. And then later, he changed the other terms and terminology sometimes, but this also makes it very, very complicated to understand what he was really about. And also, I’m not sure if he was always sure about what he wants to say, you know, so I think he was constantly changing his thinking his ideas, developing something new. Again, if you look at him, you know, what he’s most famous for today is the Kindergarten, but he basically only worked on the Kindergarten idea for the last 13 years of his life. So all his life before he was a school teacher, and of course, that was a different thinking. So I think that’s what makes it very complicated. You know, it’s not that there’s like one core text you can say like, this is Froebel, because another he never wrote that book. He wrote, of course, Die Menschenerziehung … how to translate into English? Scott, you know, what’s the English … his most famous book in English translation?

Scott: Well, they had they translated as the “Education of Man,” but it really should have been translated as “human education” (That) would have been a more accurate way of saying it I think,

Helge: Yeah, the “Education of Humankind.” Yeah, something like that. So I mean, this was his main work, but this he wrote that almost like 15 – 16 years before he started to think about the Kindergarten. So there is no systematic book on the Kindergarten idea, which again, makes it so complicated to say today, like what it actually is, What did he mean when he spoke of Kindergarten pedagogy or the pedagogy of play? That’s the first thing, the second to answer your second question. So what happened after his death, I mean, as much as that there, it was not fully clear what he meant also, because he was not famous there was not like an archive of his writings or that there was like some cortex that people could read. So it really mattered if you met Froebel at a certain time of his life and spoke to him, for example, the bonus is a good example because Froebel wrote her a very long letter at the end of his life. And many of the core ideas she developed, can be found in this letter, you know, so I can see that she saw like, “well, Froebel wrote his letter in his last year of his life to me, and this this is his key idea,” you know, but if you got an a letter, for example, that was written five years earlier, it could be different. So what happened after is that all these people took some of his ideas, but modified them to make it more popular, although they’re like, what the Baroness did. Surely, she clearly adapted it to the context of the time that German governments were looking more for daycare centers, where the people from the working class could be taken care of, and not necessarily educated as Froebel had envisioned that though she changed his concept. Quite a bit. Yeah.

Scott: Yeah, so that was the smoking gun for us was what we wanted, at what point in Kindergarten become babysitting and manual training. And we were really kind of surprised that it traced all the way back to the Baroness.

Helge: Yeah, I would say, though she was extremely influential, you know, especially at the beginning, she was the most influential Ferber supporter in Germany and also internationally because she was fluent in French and English. So she translated work and she was traveling around all the time. So until like the mid 70s, she influenced the whole kindergarten movement quite a bit with her is her idea of what kindergarten means. And then later, Henrietta Scott, a fireman was one who was very influential in in Germany. And she has a very different concept of kindergarten. She also called it for kindergarten or public kindergarten, but it’s were two very different concepts of kindergarten. And I mean, these concepts are the ones who have really influenced The further development of kindergarten and not necessarily Froebel’s original idea.

John: Yeah. So what was surprising as you were doing this research, Was there some things that were different than the common understanding of foible or the story there?

Helge: Well, let me say it this way, I think, if you It depends on what you read. So but even if you read histories of kindergarten or Ferber very often what you can find about his pedagogy, as I said, at the beginning is very, it’s very superficial. It’s very often just they’re talking about the core ideas. And I mean, it’s interesting, if you look at many of these of these words, they are not reading for you know, they only referring to education of man, if at all, or otherwise they refer to other words. So there was, from my point of view, always very superficial understanding of Ferber, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that what I did totally changes the picture. I wouldn’t say that, you know, it’s clarifying some things. And also, that’s the point of my book is that it isn’t so easy to say what Froebel actually stands for, but also you can do that. And you can refer to something that is called authentic further.

Jay: Fantastic. So I feel like we haven’t given the listeners maybe the context from which you’re coming from you’re, you’re a teacher-trainer at Mercy College, correct?

Helge: That’s correct. So I work with teachers, aspiring teachers who work in early childhood or childhood settings. Yeah, yeah. In New York City.

Jay: So I’m curious as has that influenced what you do in teacher training at all your research?

Helge: You mean the Froebel?

Jay: Yeah. Froebel specific.

Helge: Yeah, that’s a good question. You know, the question what influences us in the way how we think about teaching. I think it has a lot to do with how we grew up ourselves and what we experienced our children and where we are coming from. And as I said, Before, I mean, I lived in Germany until 2010. And that’s where I went to school and everything and also where I studied. When I came I had a very different idea of what education actually means and what especially early childhood education means. And this is this has been influenced by the chairman’s rendition of kindergarten. And they asked him some ideas of Ferber, that can be found, right. So this whole idea that academic learning, or at least former direct instruction shouldn’t start until the children are six, seven years old, which is the idea still in Germany during kindergarten, there is no formal instruction in reading and writing and mathematics. So this had a lot of influence on me when I came here. And I said, After that I’m between these two worlds, you know that when I speak to my colleagues who, who have this American academic upbringing, and this American idea of what early childhood education is, which is very different to my idea, so I’m in between these two things right now, which I find very interesting. You know, I believe that everyone should make this experience and live somewhere else. work in a different education system because there are so many things that we take for granted because only the way how we grew up and But you have always experienced. And if you’re never challenged to question your own taking for granted beliefs, it’s very hard to overcome that. The further research, I’m using his gifts, and you know, I’m more, I’m more like a historian, not someone who’s really interested in practice, but because I went to the verbal USA conferences, and so how people work with the gifts and the plots. I really got excited about that and inspired by that. So I’m normally teaching a mathematics course. And I’m using the blocks. I mean, there’s only a little bit of time to do that. But I’m using the blocks to help my students to show how we could have some meaningful mess learning and teaching by using further blocks and gifts. Oh,

John: yeah. So kind of a piggyback question on that. Your father, how has this changed how you parent or have you used the Bible in your parenting?

Helge: Yeah, well, I have two blocks here, and I use them. Yeah. So the interesting thing is, you know, the interesting thing, he’s not really excited about it. It’s funny, you know, As a parent, you can only offer as many things you can do. Right? But you never know what the children will do. So when I when I got the plot, I was super excited. You know, Scott sent me the whole box, I got all the all the gifts, and I was super excited. And my son was more like, Yeah, okay. Yeah, it’s fine. But he played when I guess there are other children who can use the plot on their own for hours, you know, but that’s the whole point about young children. I mean, they are different. They have different interests, which we can only offer them many things, but I can’t force him to play this Laplace if he if he’s not so interested into it, right. What I find the how my research or how Ferber influences me as, as a parent, as a dad and also as an educator. And that’s always my point why I think it’s important to still read these classics to read verbal or even Montessori or he ends American context three to eight And other people. And also I think it’s important to read philosophy of education, but really always inspires me to, to value children. And that’s something I really like about Frodo because I think it’s a really modern idea, you know, that we have to value children as children, and that childhood has his value on its own. And it’s not about us, you know, it’s about the children and how can we help them. So by reading these old ideas, and to see like odd 80 years ago, people saw differently a little bit, but although there are some core ideas, I find it reminds us all the time to sing about what it actually means to live as children and to educate children. So I get this inspiration more in a more philosophical way. You know, I don’t I don’t think that Froebel actually can tell us very specifically what we can do in the classroom today. You know, I think it’s a different world. And I don’t think that you can use Froebel in the lab, say like, oh, god forbid us to block in this way. And that’s what we should do today. I don’t think that makes much sense. But there are a lot of inspiration. By taking these ideas, which is a problem in our, the way how we train our students and our teachers today, because very often all they learn is like, you do that this way. And this way, this is the right method, you know. So they’re not learning anymore to use ideas and to make something out of it and to adapt it to their own context, which I find is much more important when you want to be a good teacher, because every situation is new. Each year will be a new year, you know, that’s why we need history of education and philosophy of education so that we can get us inspired by it.

Scott: Well, so I follow you on Twitter. And I know you’re very passionate about, you know, the important best practices and themes that are going on currently in education. But what is your opinion? What do you think is getting in the way right now of doing quality early childhood work here in the US?

Helge: Well, how much time do we have to talk about that?

Scott: 30 seconds.

Helge: What I mean to summarize it, I think the biggest issue of you’re facing here is what’s normally called standardized learning and teaching But starts with his standards, but all of the way how we implement them in order the discussion about the standards we have right now. I’m not necessarily against standards, per se. But the standards we have right now are very problematic for me, it’s sometimes I don’t think it’s age appropriate. So it’s asking too much of the children. But of course, also what it has, how the very heart is implemented, and how the classrooms look like now, because everyone wants to align everything with the Common Core and to achieve that, and I think that’s really, really destroying the curiosity and the wonder of our children. So that’s one thing that testing is, of course, a huge, huge issue. No, I mean, this whole idea of standardized testing, when the kids come into third grade and everything’s about testing, that’s for me, it’s a big issue. I mean, the first problem and the biggest problem is the way how the educational system here in the US is built, you know that you have this huge inequality that had met us so much where you are living too To which school you can go, or if you can afford private school, you know, the difference in the quality of our schools here, it’s so huge because of the way how we finance our schools. And whenever I tell that my Chairman colleagues, you know, that we say like, well, it’s, it’s based on the property tax. So the richer a district is, the richer the school is, and the more fun to school get. And everyone who knows anything about education looks at me and says, like, Are they crazy? That’s, that’s a verse and you can do you know, we should give more money to the kids who need better education, more resources, and we’re doing the opposite. So, you know, it’s, I don’t think it can be changed by fixing and tweaking a little pedagogy here and there, you know, it would need a huge shift you, you would need to change the whole educational system because I mean, the idea should be that every child in this country should have access to high quality education, you know, and right now, it’s not like that now, right now, and it’s only getting worse. This whole idea of like pf, compete for Students that you have to find the right school, and that there will be winners and losers. You know, there shouldn’t be any losers. There should be no children who has to go to school. That’s not acceptable. Everyone should go to a very good school. And we as society should provide that. And we are not doing that right now. And I mean, with everything that’s going on, right, and I, and he talks about the budget cuts. I mean, I can only speak about New York City, you know, if you hear the budget cuts that are planned for next year, that’s gonna be a disaster. I mean, we wouldn’t need more money, because the lot of the children will be traumatized through what they had to go through. I mean, they have the that you would need more money, or you would need more money because you need a smaller classroom class sizes, you know, so to cut education at this point, this is like, it’s insane. It’s, it can’t work well, but these are big questions.

Jay: As a parent, what can I do?

Helge: I think you can do things, and I have to think about how I want to phrase it. I mean, what one thing I think should have All parents should advocate for his public education in general. You know, even if you decide you want to send to your child to a private school and pay for that, I mean, that’s your right. And I have no problem with that. I still believe that everyone should fight for public education, because public education needs to be a public good. And we can’t have democracy without public education, you know. So what’s happening right now, this whole attack on public education, and the whole push for privatization in my eyes is clearly also destroying democracy in our country right now. But that’s one thing. The other thing, of course, and I think that’s a very difficult question for many parents, you know, this whole idea of that people share the resources more, more fairly. I think that what should be done, you know, it shouldn’t matter where you are living and that you are rich and you have more and you and you give the money to your school. I think it should be distributed much more fairly, but of course, it would require the parents of some parents at least To change their mindset to not to only think about the own children, but to think about all children and other children’s as well. But there’s, of course, it’s very difficult to see that happening right now in the society we are living in.

Scott: Well, so you’re a teacher-trainer, is there something that you can do to help improve this situation?

Helge: It’s, I think it’s a very, it’s very difficult for us also, because we also get a lot of pressure from [*garbled*], in many ways, you know, our students now have to do they have to do a lot of exams to get certified teachers. I mean, the same is happening now to higher education. So if our students are not doing well, on these tests, at one point, there was a threat that they will close down our school of education because supposedly we are not working well. There are even other ideas that they are saying, you know, like they will look in five years How are students doing in the classroom by raising test scores, and they will use this kind of data to say like, all this is a good school of education. So the same nonsense is happening there. Which makes it difficult for us as well because we somehow have to play the game that they want us to play and help our students to become this kind of teachers, even if it’s, you know, not always necessarily clear on it. However, what I’m always doing is I’m trying to bring in these ideas that we are talking about right now. Yeah, this different idea of what education actually means that education is not only that you are good test taker, or have high test scores, but that you actually getting becoming a full human being you know, so we trying to have these ideas or the teaching that I’m … that when I bring in Froebel materials, or when I’m talking about that real learning is about inquiry. And using the children’s idea to come to solutions and not direct instruction, which is the opposite of what our students very often have it that’s an interesting thing. You know, the generation that’s coming out right now and we become teachers, is mainly a generation who’s only used to this kind of teaching that many people like myself don’t agree with, you know, but they have only that’s it The only things I have experienced so sometimes I had to segment I showed him a video, which I thought is awful. You know, I’ve My idea was to show them a video of all through teaching. And then some students are like, oh, wow, this looks great. You know, that’s actually what teaching should look like, because it was very teacher directed instruction, and I was sitting by the neck, okay, we have a really big problem here, you know, so I’m always pretty pregnant, this new ideas, and then, and then also, my students very often tell me after the class is like, it’s all nice, what you’re talking about. But the reality is so different, you know, so what can I do? I mean, to say, like, I would like to have this kind of child centered education, but what can I do if my principal is telling me you have to do that, because we have to raise the test scores, and they are afraid of losing their jobs. You know, this is this whole idea of, you know, the way our people think about accountability is a big issue. So it’s, it’s a fight out there for us to introduce these ideas that we value. Yeah.

Scott: Well, you know, so my mentor was Dorothy Hewes from San Diego State. And she had a little tongue twister she likes to say that “teachers teach as they were taught, not as they were taught to teach,” meaning these generations of students that have come up in this standardized academic preschool are going to be more predisposed to continue that method, no matter what I think you’re able to do in training them, you know, it’s and that’s the scariest thing for me. So …

John: uphill battle.

Helge: Yes, absolutely. Your own experience has so much importance, because we believe that’s a very how it is. And it’s very hard. I mean, only if you have a very negative experience, maybe you will question it, but otherwise you think, yeah, that’s what school is. I totally agree that will be an even more difficult challenge to change these mindsets. Yeah.

Jay: Yeah. So two part question for you. One, as a parent, how can you advocate for your child, if you feel like your kid isn’t getting the experience you want, how can you work with the school or teacher? Do you have advice on that? And part two of the question is, how can you supplement that at home?

Helge: Um, regarding the first question, I think what I’m already saying is like, you know, the first thing we should do, we should value teachers and we should trust the teachers and, and really trust them that they are the ones who know what, what they are doing and why they are doing that, you know, and I think that’s maybe the one thing of the pandemic we are living in right now is that parents will realize, Wow, it’s so awful and so hard to teach these kids. You know, it’s like, I mean, often probably parents think like, Oh, what is this parent doing what’s this teacher doing, you know, it can be so complicated. And now they realize how complicated this is, is to teach young children or children in general, you know, same for me. I mean, we just had yet this week like so my son, and my school is really good and the teacher of my son is really good too. And he’s handling the whole situation very well. I have to say that But he still doesn’t want to do an assignment. And he told me this week, “you are not, you are not my teacher.” And you are … you are not the … I think he I think he said like, “you are not a good teacher, my normal teacher is so much better.” Yeah, but you probably have a point, you know.

Helge: So that but I think in general, like I really I think that’s one of the problems here in this country, too, that teachers are not valued and trusted because of all the media and all the stories you hear about the supposed bad teachers, you know, sure there are teachers who are not doing a good job, but I think the huge majority of the people who work in this field are people who are really trying to do their best every day. And they are really out there for our children. And I mean, but at one point, I think parents also have to say like, okay, it’s the school, the school knows what I’m doing. I mean, sure, if your kid is really struggling with something in school, then it’s a different question. But I think for the huge majority of children also we should we should trust our children, our teachers. Let them do their work. Yeah.

Helge: Well, I supplement at home. And some parents asked me like what I’m doing with Oscar at home. And I’m always saying, like, don’t do any worksheets. So he’s in second grade. And now I’ve heard that some parents have tutors for the children because they are supposedly falling behind in math. I think that’s a horrible idea to start at second grade was tutoring, you know, yeah. I mean, it’s the parents find games. So we play a lot of games, they have some mass content, talk about these things, make it interesting. And again, as I said before, you know, if the children don’t react to it in a in a positive way, by forcing them, you know, if I don’t see the point of, if you’re, if your child is already starting to dislike something, and then to put it in a context, which is even worse for them, and let’s say even start to hate it more, you know, I understand that this is hard. You know, though I understand it’s hard for parents to do these kind of things, but I would just always say I try to be there again, think about your child and their well-being first, you know that your child is happy that they have a good life and how can you help them to learn a little bit more if it’s needed?

Scott: Well, so what is it like … you’re in New York City? So obviously, there is the best of the best in terms of education there. What’s it like being a parent of a young child in preschool and, and later trying to find a place of quality education?

Helge: To find a spot in the beginning, this was really how can I say it not competitive, but there was a lot of pressure of us because it was not clear which place he would get in although it starts when they are turning into pre-K, that you need to find a spot and I mean, again, this brings me back to the issue of, of the system. In general. You know, normally for every parent out there, there should be a good spot in a good institution of early childhood education and you don’t have to find it and you have to fight for it. –

Helge: At the same time when he started kindergarten though, the thing was there were some rumors that he could maybe not get into his public school because where there are now more families living here with children than before, but in the end, it worked out. And since then, I think we’re really trying to be relaxed, and not to freak out, which is sometimes tough. If you hear other parents talking about what their children are doing all the time, you know, if you have like an after school program every day, and some kids are doing, I don’t know, start to learn an instrument, and then they have another language, and then they do that. And so it’s very competitive. And that’s another problem. This whole idea of children’s lives here is so competitive, you know, if you think something like – soccer, you know, I mean, as a German, of course, soccer is something that the kids just to play without having to pay so much in the first place. But then also, it’s, you know, there’s competition to get into the right team and all these kind of stuffs and that can really freak parents out. You know, I can see that. Yeah.

John: If you’re, I mean, you have an advantage because you know, What good teaching looks like you know how to train teachers? You’re kind of the superhero of teaching in that regard. What should a parent do? If they’re not a teacher? How do they find a good school? Do you have advice on what to look for?

Helge: Well, I would first say, I’m a teacher of teachers, that doesn’t necessarily mean that that I’m a good teacher at home, being a parent. And that’s another thing, being a parent is not the same as being a teacher. Right? It’s different roles, and you should have different things in mind. You know, again, that brings me back to this point that he said to me, this week, that I’m not – his teacher. And I mean, he’s right. I’m not his teacher, I have a different job. I have to look after his his well being right now. And that should be my priority. And it shouldn’t be my priority that he is finishing a writing assignment at this time. And that’s always true, right? Your – parent is not a teacher and the other way around you also not the friend of the child, your parents, you have responsibilities that you have to do somehow.

Scott: Well, and that’s what I think I really like about But there’s a lot of good things I think that he talked about. And one was a building that relationship between the child and the parent and the teacher so that it’s a sort of a community. His – schools seem to be more communities where they involve the parents are and

Helge: I mean, relationships, I think are so important and right – now again, in the context, and – to see how the schools look like, very often the importance of relationships is just pushed to the side. It’s all about academic content, you know, yeah. But it should be so much more about so much more about relationships and the importance of, of relationship. Again, if you look at philosophy of education, there are so many great ideas about how it sinks how we can live together with children and have real relationships. And I think that’s, that’s much more important than the focus on academics only. Yeah,

Scott: well, so and that’s why I really appreciate your book. You know, what we’re trying to do with the documentary and what the podcast to is, and we’ve known how to have a quality early childhood education. For nearly 200 years, it’s not that we don’t know how to do it. It’s the things that are standing in the way. So we can move from tribal to Montessori to Waldorf to Reggio, and on to whatever comes next. But it’s not about the methodology as much as the things in our society that are standing in the way. So one of the things we do we have to wrap this up. So how can people reach you and find your book? And we’ll put some links in, but just if you can kind of give us some sense of that.

Helge: Well, if they have a question, if you Google my name, and my college I show up is my email address. And I’m always happy to talk about Froebel.

Scott: We’ll make sure to put links to your Twitter

Helge: I can’t talk enough about him.

Helge: I mean, that’s a funny thing. You know, like when I finished the book, I thought, “That’s it,” and I will never write or read anything about Froebel. But right now, I’m already starting a new project. This is two of the of my German colleagues who are doing a lot of interesting work on Froebel in Germany, and so probably there will be a new project and we are trying to do something new. So I’m still I’m still interested in in doing some research on probate. Yeah. You have to kind of maybe be at the plan to maybe write a real biography about Froebel? Sure. You know, yeah. So our idea is that this is still missing. You know, if I, if I had two chapters on him, I think that could be it could be worthwhile to, to write a biography about him. So let’s see how it goes.

Scott: Well, I share your pain. And I know John and Jay now do too. We once you pick up this stuff and go with it, it sort of sticks with you, and it’s kind of yours for – you the rest of your life kind of thing. So … but we really appreciate your taking time today and share your work and your ideas. And yeah …

Helge: Sure. Thanks so much for having me. Yeah. Thank you so much. Pleasure.

Jay: We’ll have to follow up on your new projects.

John: Yeah, I’m excited about that. I can’t stop talking about Froebel either.

Helge: Then it’s good that we met today.

Scott: Yes. Thanks a lot, I can’t keep up the good work. And well, we’ll be back in touch soon.

Helge: Okay, thank you.

Jay: Thank you.


John: Well, that was really, really interesting to hear about some of the insights that he’s been able to gather from his research. And, you know, just the fact that he could bring that German translation that hasn’t really been done before, into the conversation that we’re having is really been helpful. So …

Scott: Yeah, and as somebody that grew up in and worked in another country, he’s got a really great perspective on what we’re doing here and how it compares. It’s always great to talk to Helge always great to hang out with him, so

Jay: And that guy’s always got amazing hair.

Jay: So thank you for that.

John: Well, if you enjoyed this podcast and you want to support what we’re doing, you can check us out on http://[email protected]/pathtolearning and we’ve got a whole bunch of other websites you can join us on, put those in the show notes, but yeah, thanks for joining us today. Thanks, everybody. Thank you.


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