Today I am going to be talking about something I feel strongly about, so strongly that I really wish I could start speaking at homeschooling events about it. The subject is nature study or just plain getting out of doors. Edith Schaeffer brings up the subject in this week’s chapter of The Hidden Art of Homemaking (which we are studying on my blog) but I have been thinking about this subject quite a bit the last couple of weeks and the last couple of years. The idea of getting a student, a family, a school, out of doors is hardly ever at the forefront of our talks on education and it is certainly not front and center of the classical education movement. Could the Trivium have anything at all to do with the outdoors? One reason I vastly prefer the Charlotte Mason form of classical education is her deep emphasis on nature study.
I will go so far as to say that without time spent outdoors our students cannot be classically educated or maybe I should say, they shouldn’t be. If education has anything at all to do with ordering, then nature must have a role. Obviously, this has a benefit for the sciences but that is not really what I am talking about. The quadrivium, of course, is ordered more to the sciences so we may, perhaps, see the connection between nature and the quadrivium but we must not ever lose sight that without nature we cannot have the trivium. Your grammar, your logic and your rhetoric must be ordered to something and that something is rooted in what ‘is’ and what ‘is’ is what God has created and we find that in nature.
What should I love? What does God love? How can I find out?
Edith Schaeffer feared that we were becoming more and more insulated from the Earth. In this chapter on Creative Recreation she sounds like Wendell Berry and why shouldn’t she? If we want to be creative we must understand Creation. If we want to understand what ‘is’ means then we must understand Creation. Meaning is rooted to nature. Metaphor is rooted to nature. Logic is rooted to nature. God created. The heavens declare. The Firmament showeth his handiwork.
C.S. Lewis scholar Clyde Kilby in a Mars Hill Audio session said Lewis rarely ended a day in his study without taking a long walk in the countryside–because it was the countryside that was reality, not his study. (Anecdote via Rick Saenz)
The ancients, for all their lack of industrial knowledge, were far closer to the way things are than we are today. Our children are being pushed further and further into a virtual world.
What is I AM there?
The more we get them into the outdoors, the more we will be helping them make use of their education.
Today I am writing to you from The Truman Show but a few feet away from my perch is a window. Out there birds are seeking their food from God. Out there the next piece of corn I will eat is still soaking up the sun on some stalk in some field. Out there a little boy is picking blackberries.
Alex is picking blackberries.
He got stung by a fly.
He is testing the different berries to see what shade of black is black enough to make a good pie.
He is in school.
I could just leave it there but I can’t because I don’t just mean he is in school as a cute way of talking about the outdoors and the fun lessons he is learning. I am not saying he is some sort of Emile.
I am saying that if he does not go to blackberry school today he will not really be able to learn logic tomorrow. Because I want him to learn logic, love logic- formal logic, he needs to pick blackberries.
I am saying if he is playing a video game instead of playing outside he is going to miss something about reality that may stunt his education forever. I am saying do not feel guilty about putting nature study first, ahead of Latin and logic. I am saying that the ship is going down and our kids need to know a about the sea around us. They need to know that their Creator does not live and move and have his being in Silicon Valley, that Facebook isn’t a place.
Rousseau got it wrong but Charlotte Mason did not!