Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Who Cares?

"The question is not,––how much does the youth know? when he has finished his education––but how much does he care? and about how many orders of things does he care? In fact, how large is the room in which he finds his feet set? and, therefore, how full is the life he has before him?" (Charlotte Mason, Vol. 3, pgs. 170-171)

Everywhere we look today we see people wandering aimlessly, seeing nothing, caring about nothing except where the next thrill or "thing" will come from.  Life is simply about moving on to the next event on the calendar.  Relationships are confined to digital screens.  Minds are simply dumping grounds for meaningless, random facts.  This is exactly the opposite of what Charlotte Mason was expressing in the quote above.  It is the exact opposite of the abundant life Christ spoke of.

How can we raise a new generation of caring people?  We must demonstrate caring in our own lives first and foremost.  Do we see the needy around us?  Do we look at the changing seasons with awe for the Creator?  And, of course, the books we read should cultivate caring in our children.  When we give them nothing but dry, dull, bland, factoid-laden books and call it education, it's no wonder they leave school without purpose.

I thought it would be helpful to show some examples of living, caring books...and those that are not.

Here is an excerpt from Streams of Civilization, Vol. 2, a Christian textbook, about the German invasion of Holland and other countries during WWII.

"On May 10, the Nazis  unleashed the awesome power of their blitzkrieg  on Holland, Belgium, and France.  Nothing could stand agaist the German bombers and armored panzer divisions.  A devastating air attack leveled Rotterdam, and the tank divisions raced across the flat countryside.  Within five days, Holland surrendered."  (pg. 280)

Now from The Winged Watchman by Hilda van Stockum...

"The stars were fading and a milky light oozed over the landscape.  Mists rose from the fields to meet it, and for a while Dirk Jan walked in a kind of veil.  This was rent and scattered by the first rays of the sun, which burst across the horizon in all the glare and pomp of royalty, a royalty even the Nazis could not banish.  Its light spilled over and flooded the shivering landscape with gold, echoing in glittering windows or gleaming patches of ice.  Now people came creeping out of hiding places, out of barns and haylofts or the homes of kind farmers where they had found a night's shelter.  These were foragers, inhabitants of hungry cities where food could not be had even on the inadequate ration coupons, where light and fuel had been cut off and people had to live on watery soup distributed from central kitchens.   The most able-bodied members of the families (mostly female, on account of the manhunt) ventured forth in the cold, to find something to eat.  It was because of this heroic activity that many Dutch people managed to survive.

Dirk Jan had heard about these trips, but he had never witnessed any.  The sight shocked him deeply.  He seemed to be in the company of an army of tattered beggars who had offered their clothes for barter.  A few lucky ones had rusty bikes without tires.  Few had decent shoes.  Many had shoes that did not match, or clogs that were split and nailed together again...  Hunger, and love for those at home, drove them on."  (pg. 126-127, 128)

How much do the youth know? 

How much do they care?

In Wild Africa:  Giraffes by Melissa Cole we read, among the stunning full-color photographs,

"Giraffes are the tallest of all land animals.  Male giraffes, called bulls, are usually larger than female giraffes, called cows.  Adult males can weigh up to 3,000 pounds (1,360.8 kg).  They usually stand between 15 and 17 (4.6-5.2 m) feet tall.  The biggest bull ever measured was 19 feet high (5.8 m)!  Female giraffes usually stand about 14 feet tall (4.3 m).  They can weigh as much as 2,500 pounds (1,134 kg).  (pg. 6)

In 1971, Gladys Conklin wrote Giraffe Lives in Africa.  We read...

"The African sun was hot.

It beat down on the great open plain, turning the yellow grass to gold.  Wildebeests, zebras, and antelopes were scattered across the plain the vast numbers.  In the cloudless sky overhead. black vultures circled endlessly, hunting for dead animals.

In the foreground a small herd of giraffes moved in single file across the dusty plain.  Their feet were hidden in a cloud of powdery dust.

At the end of the line trotted Giraffe, a young calf about a week old.  She was steady on her legs and feeling frisky.  She was able to keep up with the group, but her growing curiosity often led her aside.  This new world was fresh and exciting."  (pg. 10-11)

By the end of these books, how much will they know?  How much will they care?  How full will his their lives be?

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

In a Library Emily Dickinson

A precious mouldering pleasure 't is
To meet an antique book,
In just the dress his century wore,
A privilege, I think,

His venerable hand to take,
And warming in our own,
A passage back, or two, to make
To times when he was young.

His quaint opinions to inspect,
His knowledge to unfold
On what concerns our mutual mind,
The literature of old;

What interested scholars most,
What competitions ran
When Plato was a certainty,
And Sophocles a man;

When Sappho was a living girl,
And Beatrice wore
The gown that Dante deified
Facts, centuries before,

He traverses familiar,
As one should come to town.
And tell you all your dreams were true;
He lived where dreams were sown.

His presence is enchantment,
You beg him not to go;
Old volumes shake their vellum heads
And tantalize, just so.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Can We Talk?

Have you ever been reading along, minding your own business, when suddenly a quote jumps off the page and you know you have to do something about it?  As I was reading Volume 6 of Charlotte Mason's writings, I came across this:

Perhaps there is no better way of measuring a person of liberal education than by the number of substantives he is able to use with familiarity and discrimination. We remember how Scott tried a score of openings with the man on the coach and got no further until he hit upon 'bent leather'; then the talk went merrily for the man was a saddler. We have all had such experiences and know to our shame that we ourselves have victimised interlocutors who have not been able to find our particular 'bent leather.' Vol. 6 pg. 261

This quote filled me with conviction.  You see, my husband and I had just been talking about my frustration in trying to engage others in conversation.  Inevitably we end up talking about all that goes on in my life, namely boys, books and bovines.  Now I love talking about all these things because that's where I invest my time and energy.  But I would love to talk with others about what is important to meet someone where they are and learn from them.  After reading this quote I realized that, although I have 16,000 books on my shelves and spend a good deal of time reading those books, I often choose books that are within my own interests.  So I've determined to broaden my horizons!  I have chosen three books to begin learning about topics I know very little about.

The Romance of Physics by Keith Gordon Irwin - I chose this for two reasons.  My oldest son is an engineering major with a love of physics.  I, on the other hand, am completely ignorant in the fields of math and science.  

Flower Pressing by Marge Eaton - This looks fun and might be a good topic to engage a flower lover.

Spice Ho!  by Agnes Danforth Hewes - I admit this book is probably a little less practical but our conversation turned to the subject of the importance and impact of the spice trade after our Bible reading of the Queen of Sheba bringing spices to Solomon.  I'd like to know more.

Think of the benefits of reading widely.  Ministering to others by taking a knowledgable interest in what interests them cannot be underestimated.  In a culture where people are merely disposable commodities, we can make a tangible difference in the lives of others through conversation.  It might even be possible that some of us may discover an interest or talent with which to supplement the family income.  At the very least we can marvel at the diversity of gifts God has given.  And it's no shame to say, "I know nothing about that.  Tell me more."

Read a book and start a conversation.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

My Commonplace Book

One of my favorite habits of my adult life has been to keep a commonplace book.  In this lovely spiral notebook, I write down quotes and snippets that speak to me.  This is a beautiful way to record favorite passages from Scripture, THE Living Book, as well as meaningful portions from other life-changing books I've read.  I thought I would share a few of those with you.

Possibly Aunt Frances was right, after all, and Elizabeth Ann was a very impressionable child.  I wonder, by the way, if anybody ever saw a child who wasn't.
~Dorothy Canfield Fisher~

Give a child a single valuable idea, and you have done more for his education than if you had laid upon his mind the burden of bushels of information.
~Charlotte Mason~

One life knows many judgements, she said.  They are like the chapters in a book.  What if every chapter but the last is one of defeat?  The last can redeem it all.  And God knows the heart that in its weakness longs for Him.  Patient still, He adds another chapter, and then another, and then in the hour of victory closes the book. 
~Elizabeth Goudge~

Children should be brought up, too, to perceive that a miracle is not less a miracle because it occurs so constantly and regularly that we call it a law; that sap rises in a tree, that a boy is born with his uncle's eyes, that an answer that we can perceive comes to our serious prayers; these things are not less miracles because they happen frequently or invariably, and because we have ceased to wonder about them.
~Charlotte Mason~


What worlds of wonder are our books!
As one opens them and looks,
New ideas and people rise
In our fancies and our eyes.

The room we sit in melts away,
And we find ourselves at play
With some one who before the end,
May become our chosen friend.

Or we sail along the page
To some other land or age.
Here's our body in the chair,
But our mind is over there.

Each book is a magic box
Which with touch a child unlocks.
In between their outside covers
Books hold all things for their lovers.
~Eleanor Farjeon~