I frequently use the following quote when pleading that people not subject their child to science instruction by way of a textbook:
“The mind is capable of dealing with only one kind of food; it lives, grows and is nourished upon ideas only; mere information is to it as a meal of sawdust to the body; there are no organs for the assimilation of the one more than of the other.” (Towards A Philosophy Of Education, p. 218)
Sawdust. That should close the book on this question, right? But you might think your child can handle a bit of sawdust in their meal, as long as it comes with a side of real food. I hear this is the case with packaged grated cheese these days, after all. But Mason tells us not to bother because our kids’ minds will reject it:
“Again, we have made a rather strange discovery, that the mind refuses to know anything except what reaches it in more or less literary form.“ (Towards A Philosophy Of Education, p. 256)
I suspect it’s the same with the cheese. The manufacturers know it will just pass right on through us, and they assure us that it won’t hurt us, so how can it be a big deal? I suspect it’s a very big deal – both the wood coated cheese and the textbook. Continue reading
I am delighted to announce that Living Books Library has republished my favorite living science book: Men, Microscopes, and Living Things by Katherine Shippen. As you probably know, these ladies are my co-hosts on A Delectable Education, but they also run a private lending library with over 17,000 living books, most of which were published before 1970. It has been a long time dream for them to republish some of their favorite old living books so more families can enjoy them, and I am elated that the first book republished through this new venture, Living Library Press, is a LIVING SCIENCE BOOK!
Get your copy of Men, Microscopes, and Living Things now at Living Books Press for $13.95 (plus $3.50 shipping,) and then come back and get a copy of the study guide I designed to introduce middle school and early high school students to biology through the pages of this lovely book.
Charlotte Mason commented that she had few living science books written in English to choose from. (vol. 6, p. 275) I sometimes reflect on this as I agonize over which book to use for a subject. We have so many to choose from! But recently I began to wonder if Mason would approve of using some of the books I like, because of their age. Would she say a science book that is over 50 years old is too old?
I have some good reasons to use books from the early half of the twentieth century. Primarily, that the quality of books for young people has dramatically declined since the 1960s when the government started federally funding libraries. As more money was available, the quality went down. Think of it like this, if you have a limited book budget in your house, you will be careful as to what books you spend money on. You’ll be far less likely to buy twaddle, if you know you won’t have enough leftover to buy what you need for your kids’ school year.
This question led me to do some research on the books Mason used. I looked at the 14 most commonly used science books from the P.U.S. Programmes between 1921 and 1933, for forms 3 through 6 (middle school through high school). Continue reading