When I was 21, I spent five weeks in a little eastern German town named Wernigerode. It had only been four years since the wall came down and the people there were free to learn English, but as you can imagine, they knew little. As I knew no German, my host family and I were in a pickle. We walked around with translation dictionaries for a while, but, within a few weeks I was following conversations (to some degree,) and getting along fine. Then, on one of my last few days there, a woman ran up to me and began asking me a series of questions. I answered her and was quite astonished! It felt like I was beside myself saying, “Look at her! She’s speaking German!”
I mention this story because recently it occurred to me that nature is a foreign language to some of you. To be honest, I’m still somewhat illiterate in the language! In all seriousness though, will you consider what I’m suggesting?
Are you comfortable teaching your child about nature? When you go on a nature walk, do you know most of the plants and animals you and your children encounter? Can you use the proper scientific terms to describe the color of a flower or the parts of a bird? Do you know the common characteristics of the main plant families?
Please do not hear any judgment in my voice. I do not want you to feel bad about how much you don’t know, but I do want you to consider how that might affect you and your children as you learn about nature on walks or through books. Continue reading
Charlotte Mason tells us that the young child is “full of vivid interest. He has a thousand questions to ask, he wants to know about everything; he has, in fact, an inordinate appetite for knowledge.” Unfortunately, we soon cure him of all of that by “occupying him with books instead of things…and we succeed in bringing up the unobservant man (and more unobservant woman) who discerns no difference between an elm, a poplar and a lime tree, and misses very much of the joy of living.” (Parents and Children, p. 181-182)
If we are determined to follow Mason’s lead down a better path, we must remember that while books are an essential part of a Mason education, things can be very instructive as well, and the more we find a balance between the two, the more intelligent and observant our children will become.
Object lessons are a wonderful way to gently guide a child to carefully examine a given object (a thing) in order to find out all he can about it through the use of his five senses. In fact, when the child’s senses have been exercised and his interest aroused, he can most effectively retain what he is discovering. Continue reading
Over at A Delectable Education we are in the middle of a series of podcasts on nature study and science. You know it’s my favorite subject, so I’m thrilled that we are exploring it on the podcast. So far we have talked about Nature Study, Nature Lore books and this coming Friday we will air an interview I did with Cheri Struble, an inspiring nature study enthusiast. Next week we will move onto elementary science, and then middle school and high school science will round out the series. I hope it is really helpful to each of you. You can always ask a question on the episode blog post, or on our ADE facebook page, or here.