Home Education: Wonder and beauty before taxonomy and dissection

“if you go back to Greek, there is a word that does not exist in the English language, the word kalon, which means both “good” and “beautiful” at the same time, and it’s specified by another word, kaiagathon, or k’agathon, which is a contraction of to kalon kai to agathon, “the good and the beautiful”. Great marriage.” Peter Kreeft

P1020526The children love to go to the park or walk in the woods and one their favourite activities (especially for Heleyna) is to “look for nature” wherever they go. I want them to have a sense of wonder when they look at nature and to see it as beautiful and amazing. So far I think they do. I am not big on poetry and romance (in the old sense, well, and the new) but I do like the philosophical view of beauty as necessary for us to grow.

Charlotte Mason was very keen that children keep a nature journal in which they drew and stuck pressed flowers and such like. In this way they learn to see both the beauty and the “science” of nature. Part of this was based in her respect for the personhood of the child.

It’s the same with music and art. I think it’s very important that the children learn to listen to beautiful music and see lovely art works before I start explaining the methods involved. In learning to draw or play music it should be on a foundation of having had time to simply listen and look.

If the ancient philosophers are right and beauty is not so much in the eye of the beholder, but something inherent in itself, I want the children to have the time to see and hear and be, long enough to appreciate it. I think in giving them time to be with something beautiful they can acquire an appreciation of it, and can learn about it, taking it apart, later, if necessary, later. I think it’s a bit like the way a child learns language through first acquiring it in his relationship with those around him, especially his mother. A child can acquire a love of beauty through a relationship with a natural environment. Isn’t there some research out there about depression being linked to lack of greenery in housing estates?

With the Montessori approach to nature there’s a more scientific bent, which is good, but I want the children to appreciate creation as a whole, as well.

This is something that’s been floating about in what’s left of my foggy brain for some time. It began with an online conversation I saw between a home ed mother and a primary school teacher. She spoke of taking her children out to the woodlands and countryside so they could be outside and enjoy the place. She talked of stone walls and lichen and mosses. It all sounded lovely.

The teacher took exception to this. He said he took his group of children out and  by the time they trooped back to school they had identified and marked off various forms of lichen. I assume he armed them with worksheets, for this.

Perhaps he didn’t mean to come across the way he did, but I remember thinking how cold and meaningless his “lesson” seemed compared to hers. It also made me wonder (again) about the impact of closing children up inside institutional buildings with little exposure to the outside world. And then only exposing them in very restricted adult controlled ways.

One major advantage that home ed has over most other forms is time. We can take a summer day and let the children be out and about in it, without any time constraints  There are plenty of cold wet days to do workbook work; and the bright days are not so frequent we should squander them. Anyway, as a good science teacher should know, kids need sunlight to process vitamin D.

I can’t help thinking that many of the great Victorian and Edwardian naturalists that opened so much new scientific discovery to us, would never have been as observant or as in love with their subject of study had they only ever been exposed to the outside world in small time segments with a worksheet on a clipboard.

I think Charlotte Mason had it right. Children need time to be with nature before they need to analyse it. There is enjoyment and interest in learning the names of different mosses and lichens, but if a child is made to spend too much time peering at a stone in a wall and then writing on a worksheet, they are not getting the bigger picture they would have if they had time to stand and stare.

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4 responses to “Home Education: Wonder and beauty before taxonomy and dissection

  1. Love it. And fully agree. And as our mutual friend GK Chesterton remarked, “Astonishment at the universe is not mysticism but a transcendental common sense.” Here’s to fostering more astonishment in our children’s minds!

  2. hello!
    This is Antonia! (from Antonia’s world blog..although I dont blog there anymore). I have not checked blogs for…hm, at least a year! Glad to see you are still blogging! So sorry to hear how many terrible health problems you have had recently.

    My Joseph will be due to start Reception in Sept and we are still going ahead with home educating!

    GOD BLESS
    antonia

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