Let the lessons be of the right sort and children will learn them with delight. –Charlotte Mason
During the long 2 week vacation that comes with Semana Santa (Holy Week), I started my 10-year-old son on an educational path that involved the book “The Most Dangerous Book for Boys” by Con and Hal Iggulden. With a title like that, you would have thought that he would have dove right in, but it took a little prompting and finally a stern mandate that he was to read one section of the book and complete the activity (if it had one) each and every day of the vacation period. However, I moderated that he could choose whatever topic he wished. So reluctantly he took the book to his room and thumbed through the table of contents, only to return a few minutes later to ask if he really could choose whatever topic. I responded affirmatively, and his excitement was evident. He went back to reading and came back again asking if he could do more than one section a day. Of course, he could.
As we have already urged, there is but one right way, that is, children must do the work for themselves. They must read the given pages and tell what they have read, they must perform, that is, what we may call the act of knowing. –Charlotte Mason
The first thing he read was about how to make paper airplanes. The house is now littered with the ones he learned from the book and several that he made his own adaptations to. Then he read about building a tree house, although I asked him what he thought he would do with that information since we do not have any trees large enough to support a tree house (cactus is not inherently stable enough to house a tree house.) But he wanted to read it, so he did. I came home from classes and found he had adapted the information to make a second dog house for Cocoa all on his own. (The first dog house, constructed with the help of his dad, has been taken over by 2 kittens and Hershey the new puppy.) Another day, he asked me to bring home vinegar and blotting paper for the newest experiment, a battery made with vinegar, quarters, copper wire, salt, and blotting paper. As blotting paper could not be found, he substituted thin cardboard and set to work. After a failed attempt (he had forgotten the salt) he tried again, his dad looking on. The second attempt also failed, (the light bulb was too large), so he tried again, doubling the number of quarters. He still wasn’t able to make the bulb light up, but he was able to create a spark, so the experiment was deemed a success.
The bad habit of the easy life is always pleasant and persuasive and to be resisted with pain and effort, but with hope and certainty of success, because in our very structure is the preparation for forming such habits of muscle and mind as we deliberately propose to ourselves.–Charlotte Mason
My son’s new found enthusiasm for experimentation has sparked my husband’s mind as well. My husband has retooled our moto (motorcycle) wagon and is now gathering materials for making an attempt at a windmill to provide us with electricity since it seems that the powers that be in this area are not interested in their civic duties. My husband has always been creative but slipped into complacency this past year. I hope that his new projects will reawaken what was once a sharp and agile mind.
Physical fitness, morals and manners, are very largely the outcome of habit; and not only so, but the habits of the religious life also become fixed and delightful and give us due support in the effort to live a godly, righteous and sober life. We need not be deterred by the fear that religious habits in a child are mechanical, uninformed by the ideas which should give them value. –Charlotte Mason
Having myself been raised in a religiously strict household, I have taken a more indirect approach to religion with my son. Instead of attending regular religious services, we look for God in the everyday. Instead of forced bible readings, I present tidbits that prompt his own investigations. “The most Dangerous Book for Boys” contains sections on the greatest battles ever fought since the beginning of recorded history. Of course, this included biblical figures such as Nebuchadnezzar. He read the section covering the conflict in the book, then went off with a bible to gather more details about Nebuchadnezzar’s life and times.
It is as we have seen disastrous when child or man learns to think in a groove, and shivers like an unaccustomed bather on the steps of a new notion. This danger is perhaps averted by giving children as their daily diet the wise thoughts of great minds, and of many great minds; so that they may gradually and unconsciously get the courage of their opinions. –Charlotte Mason
There are sections on scientists, explorers, inventors, poets, excerpts from Shakespeare, The Declaration of Independence, and the King James Version of the Bible. There are readings on overcoming adversity, scientific discovery and reaching out towards self-awareness. I was delighted to find some of my own childhood favorites included. After all, my own life is based on what Frost tried to say “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –I took the one less travelled by, and that has made all the difference” and it is my hope that my son will find his own path armed with all the knowledge and education that I lay before him.