The very sound of the word is indicative of the nervous force that dominates the life during these years. It is well nigh impossible for action to be noiseless or measured in this period, especially during the latter part. The energy continues to be more vigorous in the physical realm, and active sports of all kinds are attractive. One of the greatest problems of nurture at this time, as has already been suggested, centers around the wise use of this energy in the home, the day school, the Sunday School and, most important of all, in the hours unoccupied with definite tasks, for habits are forming through its outgoing.
Another striking characteristic of this period appears in the rapid development of the social feelings. No longer is the child content with one or two playmates, but he craves the companionship of several of the same age and sex. This desire finds expression in the coterie of bosom friends, the gang and the club so prevalent between the ages of ten and fourteen. The bonfire with its circle of kindred spirits, the cave with its password and dark plottings, the street corner and recruiting whistle have almost irresistible fascination. What one boy does not dare, the gang will attempt, and the composite conscience may fall far below that of the individual. The sense of honor already mentioned is very strong among the members, and in absolute loyalty to one another they stand or fall.
These organizations exist among the girls as well as boys, but differ in the purpose for which they are formed, the girls organizing more as adults, while the boys’ clubs are overwhelmingly to expend energy, lawfully or otherwise.
The dangers and opportunities growing out of this strong tendency toward segregation can not be overestimated. A walk along a city street in the evening reveals the fact that the nurture of the sidewalk and the ice cream parlor has largely supplanted the nurture of the home on the social side. The table with the evening lamp—“the home’s lighthouse”—and the family circle complete about it, are an almost unknown experience in the life of the average American child. In a recent convention a speaker, who is in charge of a great penal institution filled with human derelicts, said he believed it to be as much a duty of the church to preserve at least one evening a week sacred to the home, as to designate another for the prayer meeting or preaching service.
The home ought to be the center of the child’s social life. Why can not the lights and music and companionship there be made as attractive as the lights of the corner store, or billiard hall, or the sound of the street piano, which pave the way to the saloon and the dance hall later? That boys and girls will congregate during this period and the next is a law unchangeable as the laws of the Medes and