Monday, April 24, 2017

Moms Need Wonder Too

"Wonder" is a word that is part of my foundational philosophy of education. When I think about the ideal childhood, it is one that allows lots of room for wonder.

Charlotte Mason herself used the term when she describes the outdoor life of children. It is something she believed was essential in the child's development generally, and more specifically in their encounters with the the natural world.

On page 44 of Volume 1, she speaks of the need for children to be let alone for much of their time outside, in order,

"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 pace, wherein to wonder - and grow." 

I think that wonder is a foundational posture for education. For me, wonder encompasses receptivity, humility, and curiosity.

In a sense, it is a child's natural, God-given disposition to the world. It can be crushed, or it can be cultivated. It is part of the atmosphere of education, and it is a powerful tool indeed. Wonder opens us up to new observations, new encounters, and new ideas.

A case study for wonder can be found on pages 53-54. Mason quotes Leigh Hunt when speaking about the child's study of flowers, and I think the section is worth re-quoting here:

'"Suppose," says Leigh Hunt, "suppose flowers themselves were new! Suppose they had just come into the world, a sweet reward for some new goodness . . . Imagine what we should feel when we saw the first lateral stem bearing off from the main one, and putting forth a leaf. How we should watch the leaf gradually unfolding its little graceful hand; then another, then another; then the main stalk rising and producing more; then one of them giving indications of the astonishing novelty - a bud! then this mysterious bud gradually unfolding like the leaf, amazing us, enchanting us, almost alarming us with delight, as if we knew not what enchantment were to ensue, till at length, in all its fairy beauty, and odorous voluptuousness, and mysterious elaboration of tender and living sculpture, shines forth the blushing flower."'

"The flowers, it is true, are not new; but the children are; and it is the fault of their elders if every new flower they come upon is not to them a ... mystery of beauty to be watched from day to day with unspeakable awe and delight.' [...] All this is stale knowledge to older people, but 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 make of him for the moment another Newton."

Ah, here is a secret of educators - to wonder alongside the child. To encounter the thing together, as though for the first time. Not to dampen the experience with our own superiority or over-familiarity. Our approach is catching. If we have grown cold to these common miracles, our children may shrug them off as unworthy of their attention and affection.

But if we are willing to stoop down just a little, to make ourselves just a little smaller, perhaps we can again be captured by the grandness of God's world. We are His creatures, after all. Perhaps we can pray for our own spirit of wonder to be renewed. I don't think we ever grow out of this need for receptivity, humility, and curiosity. Moms need wonder too.

I can't think of any better way to share a sense of wonder with our children than to explore and enjoy nature together. And with this shared wonder, there's a good chance a shared joy will spring up as well. If we're missing that sense of delight in our lives, perhaps a trip to the woods or the river or even just the backyard is in order. Go with an open heart. Go and marvel at the softness of emerging buds, the music of the water, or the colours of the sky. Step back. Take it all in with the children. Wonder - and grow.

~ Lindsey

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