|Nigel harvesting lettuce from his garden in Maine.|
One spring, while I was in a temperamental-cleaning-mood, I stood in the doorway of my son's bedroom. "If I push a snow shovel along the floor we could actually walk in here. Then I could vacuum," I said.
His bedroom floor was regularly strewn with Lego, Tinker-toys, paper airplanes, and other miscellaneous clutter-y-bits.
Nigel was either taking things apart or putting things together.
Indoors, when not reading or eating our son was a boy-builder.
Perhaps you can relate. Is there a boy-builder in your house, or a girl-builder?
In good weather he added to his "fort" in the woods with an ax (Mom hiding her true colors of squeamishness).
|Nigel's fort in springtime was surrounded by ferns.|
With a boy-builder's inclination to know how things are made, I guess this is why Nigel was happy I made David Macaulay's The New Way Things Work part of his six grade science curriculum.
He narrated portions of it. He kept a notebook of written narration, too, shorter though they were than his oral narration.
And because Nigel was a doodler I recommended he carry this impulse further. "Doodle something worthwhile in your science notebook," I told him. I was wearing my teacher's hat. He knew this was more than jest.
It begins with the simple principles behind levers, pulleys, wheels, springs, gears, and so on.
As chapters progress we learn about heat, electricity, magnetism, flight, color photography, telecommunications, how a computer mouse works, and more.
Nigel adds: "I was shown the insides of mechanical devises I'd been wondering about - a microphone, violin, camera, microwave oven, and a car engine."
Curiosity Isn't Cool
Hearing an interview with Mr. Macaulay got me thinking. When asked why the average adult doesn't care how things work, he said, "They're missing that invitation that comes from looking at stuff around them." I detected exasperation in his tone. The interviewer could have asked a better question. One I assumed would be obvious. That is, "Why do young children have the urge to take things apart and find out how they work?"
Furthermore, in many a government school classroom, peer-opinion rules. It creates an atmosphere. When peers decide curiosity isn't cool, the curious student becomes an odd-ball. Rather than be snubbed, made fun of - or worse - suffer torment by Facebook-gossip, an odd-ball learns to maintain a low-profile.
Visiting a large youth-group, our son and another young man (home taught), were the only ones to volunteer answers to the discussion questions. They hadn't a clue this wasn't cool. It wasn't the "in" thing - even in church to appear alert, interested, or engaged. Evidently, a similar atmosphere of peer-opinion has seeped into some church groups.
Many a Charlotte-Mason-minded home-teacher has a child who (delightfully) is an odd-ball. He's an older, curious student. How refreshingly peculiar. She wouldn't brag about it. But if the topic arose, in polite conversation, she would smile and confess that her family lives in a kind of "alternate reality" or "alternate universe" (to borrow from science-fiction). Her homeschool is a vibrant place of learning. Her children are talkative. Sometimes tiresomely so.
What takes place in this alternate universe? With anticipation - within a warm family relationship - her studentsdelve into living books,take part in discussion,develop a train-of-thought with narration,
It is a principle of education that: suitably satisfied, curiosity stays awake.
A home-taught student could be an odd-ball because he reads odd books, such as The New Way Things Work. Its 400 pages of scientific facts satisfy the curiosity of the boy-builder.
This year Mr. Macaulay made another update published as The Way Things Work Now. But I am without a copy of it in my hands as I write you.
The Scenic Route
Slow down and take the meandering back roads, a few turns off the beaten path, and you will see much more.
Taking the scenic route was our approach to history - for both our son and daughters - who meandered off the beaten textbook path.
History is a string of wars. Wars have significance. But aside from war and its destruction, the scenic route gives a student picturesque tales of construction. David Macaulay's books of historical architecture offer us such a picturesque view.
|Some of David Macaulay's books on the back kitchen steps.|
The film versions are an off-shoot of Mr. Macaulay's architectural histories. I showed them (on video) during the upper elementary years - in case I needed to discuss any heathen dark spot depicted in them. Today the films are free on YouTube - where you may preview them. Please, as with anything on YouTube, cautiously take charge.
|Mom building an Amish inspried doll quilt. Paper-piecing the rows.|
Charlotte Mason's says, "genius is that of taking pains". Mr. Macaulay's willingness to take pains in creating his books is symptomatic of a fascination for his subject. He is an odd-ball adult who never lost his curiosity. This seems pretty-cool to me.
|Little guy on tip toe with money in his left hand from the sale of a melon.|
|Basting from the center out so the pins can be removed and hand-quilting begin.|
A student needn't be particularly fond of all his lessons. He can gain the power of self-discipline to complete a lesson that is hard or less interesting.
|Stars quilted plainly, purple squares quilted fancy with black thread.|
Do some of what you have to do,
With some of what you like to do.
And you will do well.
The toddler quilt (in girly colors) and knitted vest (both not shown) are ready for upcoming birthdays. We've had a week of a clouds, rain, fog, and overcast days. When the parlor is bright again I hope to take out the camera to show you the the toddler quilt, next.
|Pin-cushion filled with alfalfa seeds to hold her new basting pins.|
A click on The New Way Things Work will take you to the David Macaulay's page on Amazon where you can read about Pyramid, Cathedral, City, and Castle, too.
|The Amish doll quilt in the shadows of the front hall and stairway.|
Seeking to Minister and Stay in Touch,