“A Basis of Facts.—Of the teaching of Natural Philosophy, I will only remind the reader of what was said in an earlier chapter—that there is no part of a child’s education more important than that he should lay, by his own observation, a wide basis of facts towards scientific knowledge in the future. He must live hours daily in the open air, and, as far as possible, in the country; must look and touch and listen; must be quick to note, consciously, every peculiarity of habit or structure, in beast, bird, or insect; the manner of growth and fructification of every plant. He must be accustomed to ask why—Why does the wind blow? Why does the river flow? Why is a leaf-bud sticky? And do not hurry to answer his questions for him…” – Charlotte Mason Home Education Volume 1 p. 264
Today my daughter14, son 10, and I were doing a lesson for earth science. It was a lesson looking at how rock particles are transported and sorted according to nature’s methods. We poured sand slowly into a glass tube, noting what happened… then added water, noting what happened. My daughter, became a little frustrated with the slowness of this process. “Yeeessss,….. I know…..” I wondered to myself how she knew. Although the process was quite simple, we hadn’t actually done this experiment before. She continued,
“ …it happens every day in the creek.”
Ah, of course. I should have known how she knew this. It does happen every day in the creek. She has already “studied” this. My telling her about the “friend” she’d already met, bored and frustrated her to some degree. You might have a similar feeling if I should tell you all about your mother’s hair and describe her eye color and give her date of birth and where she lives…blah, blah, blah. You already know these things and I’m in effect, wasting your time.
This knowledge, acquired by my daughter through observation and interaction with water, sand, and rocks, will serve as a basis for knowledge not only in the sciences, but also in geographical understanding. Our earth and its natural processes ebb and flow between both fields.
Although a seeming small remark, this demonstrates one of the key foundations to a Charlotte Mason Education in living color, the Science of Relations. It is for this that every Living Education strives. There is more to the method of science education in a Charlotte Mason Education, but the child building their own relationships is the first, most important step. There is also more to the method of geography education in a Charlotte Mason Education, but relationship building, again, is the first, most important step. Without forming relations there is nothing to build upon for scientific or geographical knowledge. Without it, all becomes dry, uninteresting, unremembered facts. First things, first. Relations. The rest comes later- easily.
And, so… it does happen every day.
Nature happens every day,
and it is best studied in situ, … playing in the creek.
“…when children are old enough to understand that science itself is in a sense sacred, and demands some sacrifice, all the common information they have been gathering until then, and the habits of observation they have acquired, will form an excellent ground work for a scientific education. In the meantime let them consider the lilies of the field and fowls of the air.” – PNEU article, published by Charlotte Mason
“Thus our first thought with regard to Nature-knowledge is that the child should have a living personal acquaintance with the things he sees. It concerns us more that he should know bistort from persicaria, hawkweed from dandelion, and where to find this and that, and how it looks, living and growing, than that he should talk about epigynous and hypogynous. All this is well in its place, but should come quite late, after the child has seen and studied the living growing thing in situ, and has copied colour and gesture as best he can.” – Charlotte Mason Parents and Children Volume 2 p.231
“Let us, before all things, be Nature-lovers; intimate acquaintance with every natural object within his reach is the first, and, possibly, the best part of a child’s education….And for science, he is in a position to do just the work which is most needed; he will be a close, living observer of Nature at first hand, storing facts, and free from all impatient greed for inferences.” – Charlotte Mason Parents and Children Volume 2 p. 261-2
“Nor need we fear that in endeavouring after some such doctrine of ideas as may help us in the work of education, we are running counter to science.” – Charlotte Mason School Education Volume 3 p.156
“The teachers are careful not to make these nature walks an opportunity for scientific instruction, as we wish the children’s attention to be given to observation with very little direction. In this way they lay up that store of ‘common information’ which Huxley considered should precede science teaching; and, what is much more important, they learn to know and delight in natural objects as in the familiar faces of friends.” – Charlotte Mason School Education Volume 3 p.237
“The oral lesson and the lecture, with their accompanying notes, give very little scope for the establishment of relations with great minds and various minds. The child who learns his science from a text-book, though he go to Nature for illustrations, and he who gets his information from object-lessons, has no chance of forming relations with things as they are, because his kindly obtrusive teacher makes him believe that to know about things is the same thing as knowing them personally; though every child knows that to know about Prince Edward is by no means the same thing as knowing the boy-prince.” – Charlotte Mason School Education Volume 3 p.66
“Thus encircled by the mystery of existence; under the deep heavenly firmament; waited on by the four golden Seasons, with their vicissitudes of contribution,—for even grim winter brought its skating matches and shooting matches, its snow-storms and Christmas carols,—did the Child sit and learn. These things were the Alphabet, whereby in after-time he was to syllable and partly read the grand volume of the World; what matters it whether such Alphabet be in large gilt letters or in small ungilt ones, so you have an eye to read it.” – Charlotte Mason Formation of Character Volume 5 p. 285-6
“There are certain ideas which children must get from within a walking radius of their own home if ever they are to have a real understanding of maps and of geographical terms.” – Charlotte Mason Home Education Volume 1 p.73
“Geography, geology, the course of the sun, the behavior of the clouds, weather signs, all that the ‘open’ has to offer, are made use of in these walks; but all is incidental, easy, and things are noticed as they occur.” – Charlotte Mason School Education Volume 3 p.237