Happy Holidays to one and all!

Heinrich Pestalozzi (1746 – 1827), a swiss educator who was influential in eradicating illiteracy, hardly gets any mention these days. In fact you are much more likely to hear about Montessori in early education circles. Pestalozzi’s ideas pre-date Montessori and align with progressive educators today with his phrase, “learning by head, hand and heart.”

Pestalozzi’s ideas inspired Charles Mayo who returned from Switzerland to work with his sister Elizabeth Mayo. Charles had lived with Pestalozzi from 1819 to 1822 at Yverdon. The two siblings were credited with founding the formal education of infant teachers in Britain.

Hadow Report, Education England, retrieved 1 January 2015

Elementary Education

Pestalozzi rightfully deserves a place in educational history for thinking about how education works and giving it some form that echoes to us today.

Pestalozzi was a Romantic who felt that education must be broken down to its elements in order to have a complete understanding of it. Based on what he learned by operating schools at Neuhof, Stans, Burgdorf and Yverdon, he emphasized that every aspect of the child’s life contributed to the formation of his personality, character, and capacity to reason.


We often think of student centered education as relatively recent in educational thinking, but Pestalozzi was on this way back then!

Pestalozzi’s educational methods were child-centered and based on individual differences, sense perception, and the student’s self-activity. Pestalozzi worked in Yverdon to “elementarize” the teaching of ancient languages, principally Latin, but also Hebrew and Greek. In 1819, Stephan Ludwig Roth came to study with Pestalozzi, and his new humanism contributed to the development of the method of language teaching, including considerations such as the function of the mother tongue in the teaching of ancient languages.

Physical Education

There has always been a need to combine the physical with the emotional and the thinking and learning….and here is Pestalozzi constructing educational thinking for the whole person.

Pestalozzi and Niederer were important influences on the theory of physical education; they developed a regimen of physical exercise and outdoor activity linked to general, moral, and intellectual education that reflected Pestalozzi’s ideal of harmony and human autonomy.[26]

Illiteracy Overcome!

And it is some accomplishment to eradicate illiteracy! Think of the need today in our country for a unified approach to this important issue.

He founded several educational institutions both in German- and French-speaking regions of Switzerland and wrote many works explaining his revolutionary modern principles of education. His motto was “Learning by head, hand and heart”. Thanks to Pestalozzi, illiteracy in 18th-century Switzerland was overcome almost completely by 1830.

Salmlesbury Hall

In my family, a school was started in our home in England that adopted these principles it was way a head of its time.

The next owner was John Cooper, who bought the building in 1850 and leased it to Mrs Mary Ann Harrison as a co-educational boarding school. She established a Pestolozzian Institution at the hall, based on the ideas of the 18th-century Swiss educational reformer Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi. The school was well ahead of its time and in some ways anticipated the better-known Montessori system by about fifty years.
Dr. Robert A. Southworth, Jr.

Dr. Robert A. Southworth, Jr.

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