Charlotte Mason's "Scientific Spirit"
Embodies the Humanities
. . . much and varied humane reading as well as human thought expressed in the forms of art, is, not a luxury, a tit-bit, to be given to children now and then, but their very bread of life, which they must have in abundant portions and at regular periods. This and more is implied in the phrase, “The mind feeds on ideas and therefore children should have a generous curriculum.” Philosophy of Education page 111.
The day I contemplated the above passage by Charlotte Mason twenty-some-odd years ago, was a sobering moment. It took account of how impoverished my education was in the area of the humanities. How on earth was I going to teach my children by a method that emphasized the humanities – something I was so lacking in myself? As a student who read few books cover to cover I still managed to graduate from high school with above average grades. I received at least a “smattering” of information from what might be called classroom lectures and then the hour-long homework assignments. But of books themselves – hardly a smattering.
Following graduation I committed my life to the Savior Christ Jesus. My interest in reading Scripture and books in general was lively. Such a spark of enlightenment (the epistles now wonderfully made sense) must have come from the Supreme Educator. I joke that I passed through all my years of school getting by with a sincere attentive reading of two books; one of these was Green Eggs and Ham.
“How injurious then is our habit of depreciating children; we water their books down and drain them of literary flavor, because we wrongly suppose that children cannot understand what we understand ourselves. . . .” Phil. of Ed. Pg 304.
My next question is best put with slang. Where did I get off thinking I was qualified to teach my own children? My answer is in hindsight. When confidence is low and still growing, courage steps up to lead. Love casts out fear. It fills the place in a mother’s heart where fear wishes to dwell.
“Show me a mother with an enduring love for her children and I’ll show you a mother who meets the requirements for home teaching. With love comes the self-sacrifice, daily discipline, kindness, patience, and determination needed to set her children’s feet on the paths of righteousness, skill, and knowledge. She who sows seeds by home teaching overtime will reap the fruits of her labor.” Lessons of Blackberry Inn Pg 222.
We learned together.
“Scientific truths,” said Descartes, “are battles won; describe to the young the principal and most heroic of these battles; you will thus interest them in the results of science, and you will develop in them a scientific spirit by means of the enthusiasm for the conquest of truth; you will make them see the power of the reasoning which has led to discoveries in the past, and which will do so again in the future.” Parents and Children Pg 128.
Science becomes “living” when we mix
drama (a touch of emotion),
some first hand observation.
Descartes’ word “heroic” must have swum around in the little quiet pool of my subconscious. For, when I was introduced to Your Story Hour audio I recognized its value. I was sensitive to whatever would help me bring the scientific spirit to our home school. If you ask my grown children about Your Story Hour they will tell you that they have fond memories of listening to it. Yolanda claims she “loves” it. The scripts are literary, philosophical, biographical, and touched with human emotion. (Mid to upper elementary and junior high.)
Some of the recordings were done as early as 1949 with a style that truly originates from the radio era. Perhaps this has something to do with their quality. Is there anything that surpasses them? They are a bit old-fashioned and corny around the edges, but never obnoxious, always respectful with an intelligent morality that is in keeping with a reverence for God.
Your Story Hour was a welcomed help to this mother in giving her children Miss Mason’s “abundant portions” of “varied humane reading.” The dramatized stories focus on persons in history who demonstrate attributes of strong moral character. Some are scientists.
Our first choice is “Heritage of Our Country” Album 6 with Alexander Graham Bell, the Wright brothers and others.
“Patterns of Destiny” Album 7 has Louis Pasteur and George W. Carver.
“Great Stories” Volume 10 also has a few scientists who persevere and struggle against adversity such as Fleming’s story of Penicillin and Roentgen’s discovery of the x-ray.
The Sowers series is an excellent source of biographies. (Read aloud to 4th grade up, silent reading - upper elementary) We particularly enjoyed Isaac Newton by the John Hudson Tiner who is an author enthusiastic about science. I was probably hoping to tack onto our year his Johannes Kepler. It looks fabulous but it is one book that fell through the cracks.
We read Jeanne Bendick’s Archimdedes and the Door of Science by Bethlehem Books.
In sixth grade Nigel enjoyed Michael Farady – Father of Electronics by Charles Ludwig.
We put our library discard to good use: Nikola Tesla –Giant of Electricity by Helen B. Walters. As a young boy Nikola spent much time gazing at nature and thinking. One of the lines reads, “No wonder God had looked at His world after creation and said it was good.” Authors of children’s books were still mentioning God incidentally in the 1960s when it was fitting.
I wish you and your children the scientific spirit.
Written narration with sketches from Nigel’s 6th grade science notebook – the Edison entries - help decorate this post.
The retro wooden radio was once handy for playing cassettes. I still use it as a radio in my office/sewing room where I write you.
My grandson’s kitty cat is no longer part of the family. On the sad day his mother made him a stuffed kitty out of felt scraps - a soothing consolation.
I’m saving certain books and the Your Story Hour for William and his baby brother Joseph who, by the way, is wearing the wool cardigan that his grandmother knit him. She couldn’t resist ending this post with the cute factor.
Discussion is invited.