"...these long hours in the open air...must be spent with some method, or the mother will be taxed and the children bored. There is a great deal to be accomplished in this large fraction of the children's day. They must be kept in a joyous temper all the time, or they will miss some of the strengthening and refreshing held in charge for them by the blessed air. They must be let alone, left to themselves a great deal, to take in what they can of the beauty of earth and heavens; for of the evils of modern education few are worse than this––that the perpetual cackle of his elders leaves the poor child not a moment of time, nor an inch of space, wherein to wonder––and grow. At the same time, here is the mother's opportunity to train the seeing eye, the hearing ear, and to drop seeds of truth into the open soul of the child, which shall germinate, blossom, and bear fruit, without further help or knowledge of hers (p. 44, Section I)."
"By-and-by the others come back to their mother, and, while wits are fresh and eyes are keen, she sends them off on an exploring expedition––Who can see the most, and tell the most, about yonder hillock or brook, hedge, or copse. This is an exercise that delights children, and may be endlessly varied, carried on in the spirit of a game, and yet with the exactness and carefulness of a lesson (pp. 44-45, Section I: A Growing Time)."
"This is all play to the children, but the mother is doing invaluable work; she is training their powers of observation and expression, increasing their vocabulary and their range of ideas by giving them the name and the uses of an object at the right moment,––when they ask, 'What is it?' and 'What is it for?' And she is training her children in truthful habits, by making them careful to see the fact and to state it exactly, without omission or exaggeration (pp.46-47, Section II: Sight-Seeing).
Well and fully said: Making a game of observation and yet requiring a keenness of eye and distinctiveness of expression, before rewarding a child with full identification, all while reflecting his joy in the process of discovery, is just plan lovely and inspired methodology.
"Get the children to look well at some patch of landscape, and then to shut their eyes and call up the picture before them, if any bit of it is blurred, they had better look again. When they have a perfect image before their eyes, let them say what they see. This, too, is an exercise children delight in, but, as it involves some strain on the attention, it is fatiguing, and should only be employed now and then (p. 48-49, Part III: Picture Painting)."
Practicality speaks: One of the items which struck me was that Ms. Mason firmly argued the mother who shares with others, in front of the child, what the child effectively described, or has her son repeat himself for the pleasure of the father,
"spoils the simplicity, the objective character of the child's enjoyment...though the child should show himself a born poet (p. 50-51)."
As a blogger-nut, I stand ever so guilty of this, capturing moments with either camera, video and/or keyboard. Who am I kidding?! Always with keyboard!! Since there's no way in the world I'll stop blogging 'bout those li'l ones I love so much and the wonderful things which pour from their mouths, I better take it underground and be sure that they don't know about that which I share, instituting the "not in front of the child" safety net.
As for studying intimately local field crops, flowers, plants, and trees through the seasons..."one of the secrets of the educator is to present nothing as stale knowledge, but to put himself in the position of the child, and wonder and admire with him; for every common miracle which the child sees with his own eyes makes of him for the moment another Newton (p. 54, Section IV: Flowers & Trees).
Practicality speaks: This is key! Long ago, I heard that our own faces should best reflect the sheer joy with which a child approaches us with some new discovery. Soon after, I was challenged to put my money where my mouth is, so to speak. My dearest Fiona, who was perhaps three at the time, came running to me with her whole enthusiastic heart on her sleeve, carrying a double handful of earthworms. Apparently, she dug them up from the rich Spring earth and was so pleased with her collection that she just had to share them with her beloved momma.
My eyes bulged and darted far below, where one had slipped away and onto our kitchen floor, and then back to her face, which beamed with childish joy, and said, "How wonderful--look all those wigglies! Aren't you so pleased to have found so many friends? Now don't lose that li'l fellow on the floor; he may miss his brothers and sisters." With this, she swept him up and ran out the door with such a sense of delight, I have been a solid believer and our home has been the lab of unbridled discovery ever since.
Imagine, or don't, what our home school may look like today if I had screeched or hollered about that yucky worm on my floor---my kitchen floor! I cannot stomach the thought, because without every slithering, slimy, creeping, crawling creature perpetually in the hands of my wondering and marveling dear Fiona, she would just not be Fiona. And I can imagine her as no other but a lover of all things gifted to us by the Creator.
Some things I'm considering this week:
1. Taking more of our meals out-of-doors, now that Spring is decidedly here.
2. Practicing the Picture Painting game at least once each week.
3. Setting up an Ant Farm indoors for observation fun.
Thanks for chugging along with me!! I hope you found this week's reading as delightful as I, and I look forward to reading all the juicy bits you gleaned. For next week, we'll finish Part II, reading Sections VIII-XIV.