“Treatment of Children at School,” by Dr. S.B. Woodward (from The Mother’s Assistant, October 1845; pp. 78-79)
Children under eight years of age should not usually be confined to the school-room more than one hour at a time, nor more than four hours in a day.
These hours should afford considerable diversity of employments, so as to enable the child to change his position frequently, and to be more or less upon his feet; and, also, to change the subject of thought, so that the mind shall not be occupied by one subject too long or too intensely.
Intensity should be carefully avoided; it leads directly to disease of the brain, which often probably arises from this cause. Precocity is generally the result of a morbid condition of this organ, either functional or organic; the former may generally be cured by timely attention; the latter exhibits itself in epilepsy, insanity, or an imbecility of mind, or proves fatal, by the occurrence of inflammation or convulsions.
If a child exhibits any symptoms of precocity, it should be taken immediately from books, and be permitted to ramble and play in the open air, or engaged in manual labor and such amusements as will give rest to the mind, and health and vigor to the body.
The recess at school, for children of eight years and under, should be long, the play active and even noisy, (for the lungs acquire strength by exercise, as well as the muscles;) every child should be required to unite in the sports of play-time.
Fifteen minutes are a short time for recess; half an hour is better, particularly in summer.
During recess, the school-room should be thrown open in warm weather, and the windows be dropped a little way in cold weather, so as thoroughly to ventilate the apartments. We have hardly learned yet that pure air is equally as important to health and life as good nourishment and pure water.
In school regulations, regard is usually had to mental and moral improvement only. We forget that we have bodies, the preservation and training of which are not less necessary to the young, than the acquisition of knowledge. Without health, we can have little enjoyment. With it, we can learn all that is necessary, with ease,
—if we are not in too great haste. No limit is given to the age in which the vigorous and healthy may acquire useful knowledge.
It is of little use to make great acquirements, if, in doing so, we sow the seeds of disease which will destroy the happiness and usefulness of life.