Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Wonder-knowledge of Nature

The Wonder-knowledge of Nature

    A very special book is kept on my shelf in the room where I write my posts to you: my sewing room in the attic. This homemade book is more than ten years old. It is the girlhood Nature Notebook of my daughter Yolanda. She is married and lives nearby. Oh, someday, Yolanda will want to look through her youthful recordings, and show them to the children she hopes to have, but for now it is in my possession. And it is dear to me.

    Here is a small sampling of spring flowers from Yolanda’s Nature Notebook. I find it curious that she chose to look up the age-old language of flowers and add them to her entrees. It is one of the ways she has shown herself to be like Jane Austin’s Marianne.

    A satisfying aspect of Mother Culture is the joy that comes from watching children take delight in the natural world around them.

The Art of Seeing

    In her book, Home Education Miss Charlotte Mason recommends that a mother first guide her children in “the art of seeing.” A mother can direct their attention to notice details of landscape, growing things and living creatures.

    Of the dandelion, for instance, she might say, “What do these sharp points on the leaves remind you of? After a few moments she may mention that the leaves reminded someone of the teeth of a lion and this may have gone into the forming of the plant’s name. The child can better remember this leaf detail and later see it in his mind’s eye anytime afterwards. If he fingers the softness of the flower he knows something more about it than just its yellow color. And who, when a child, has not picked a fussy dandelion filled with ripened seeds, held it to his lips and blown its fuzziness into the breeze to watch the fuzz sail? To read the poem Yolanda chose to copy around her dandelion click on the notebook page.

The Picture Gallery of our Minds

    Noticing details brings a fuller knowledge of the world around us: the sparkling water of a rocky stream, the golden expanse of a field of drying hay, the bright blue/purple of a Lupine by the sunny roadside, the flickering wings of an iridescent dragonfly. Such details can be stored in the “picture gallery” of our minds. When the child is set on this path of close observation he will later be able to recall these scenes from his picture gallery at will. This is what people did before the common use of photography. I suspect this is what my Amish neighbors do.

Some Wise Letting Alone
    But after introducing to children how to notice details closely, a mother then does some “wise letting-alone.” She leaves the observer to discover things for himself. Miss Mason goes so far as to say that a mother “had better make a vow to suppress herself” of much talk which is an intrusion. It is possible to step on the toes of curiosity. A child will experience a quiet curiosity, an internal delight, if we do not always come between him and the wonder-knowledge of nature. Wonder-knowledge isn’t something that can be acquired by the usual schoolwork, nor can it be measured by the usual school test. It is education, nonetheless. It is education of the most personal kind - the kind that lasts.

To Walk the Paths of Wonder
    In my book, Pocketful of Pinecones Carol writes, “I know that not all of what they will learn about God’s creation will conveniently fit into my lessons. My students have a lifetime ahead of them in which to observe and discover – to become self-educated in their leisure, so to speak. My job is to allow their feet to walk the paths of wonder, to see that they form relations to various things, so that when the habit is formed, they will carry an appreciation for nature with them throughout their lives.”


     Observing nature with my children over the years has contributed to my Mother Culture. I have formed my own picture gallery and these memories are unspeakably precious to me.


  1. Oh Karen, I think this is going to be incorporated in our summer program...everything is blooming in the months of July & August :D

    Thank you for sharing, the drawings are just wonderful!


  2. Hi
    I am at the end of our hs journey - dd nearly 17 & ds nearly 14. I have just read Pocket full of Pinecones and enjoyed it soo very much!

    Great to find your blog.

    Love Leanne
    New Zealand.

  3. Leanne,
    The homeschool life does wizz by much faster than daily perceived. Welcome. Thank you for sharing that Pocketful of Pinecones was enjoyable. This gives me joy.

  4. Beautiful drawings! I love the idea of a nature notebook. I started this in our home school years ago, after having read "A Charlotte Mason Companion". The idea actually inspired me to start playing around with watercolors and painting some of nature myself! :)
    I love learning alongside my children the names of birds, flowers, and all that nature has to offer!