I am a firm believer that all children naturally express themselves through delight-directed study. My son, James, age 5, is crazy about space. He is particularly fond of the 1969 moon landing and his personal hero, Neil Armstrong's role in this historic event. His father and I have been trying, as of late, to convince him that, perhaps, he will need to know about more topics than space later in life. He merely looks confused when we suggest this and replies, "Why?"
Well, today, we found a big, ugly, black spider on their outdoor jungle gym. It featured a very scary, round, bulbous body. In true Charlotte Mason fashion I decided to grab this teachable moment. Quickly I got my "Handbook of Nature Study" and the "S" encyclopedia. This would be a great
chance to get his mind off of space and show him some interesting nature things!
James looked over the "spider" section of the encyclopedia as little brother, John, and I braved the play equipment once again to get another peek at our specimen. We needed to identify the type of spider we had found before we could proceed any further. The spider quickly sought refuge in his dark hole in the side of the play equipment.
All of a sudden I hear James exclaim, "Wow! Cool!"
"Great," I thought, "He has found a picture of the exact kind of spider we have!"
"Mom! Did you know that they have a picture of the lunar module in this encyclopedia?!" (It dawns on me quickly that "space" is also
in the "S" encyclopedia - next to "spider".) He then proceeds to pull out a large fold out center section. It is *covered* with full color pictures of Apollo 11, the Lunar Landing, and Armstrong. James is in heaven.
"Boys!" I exclaimed with excitement, "We are going to have to call the library and reserve some spider identification books!"
"Mom, could we go inside and do a space study first instead?" James interjects.
I convince him of the need to identify our front yard inhabitant. The librarian quickly locates two identification books. Within five minutes we are in the car and on our way to the nearest library branch.
After checking out the two spider books, James asks if perhaps we might see if the library has any more spider books. I am happy with his renewed enthusiasm for our nature project. The librarian helps us locate the "insect and spider" section. I pull a half a dozen books off of the shelf and we head over to a small table to decide which ones to take home with us. As I peruse the books, I turn to talk to James about which books will be great
to help us with our new study. But, he is not in the chair next to me anymore.
I spy him in the corner of the library. He is asking the librarian (in a most courteous way) if she could possibly show him where he might find some books about the moon landing and Neil Armstrong. He assures her that he already knows the location of the "robot" section and has previously checked out nearly every available book on robots.
I give up the fight! A half an hour later we left the library. I was toting some half dozen spider books … and an equal number of moon landing books. We even found a book entirely devoted to Neil Armstrong that (somehow) we had not found and checked out before. We are both happy.
As we approach the car, James is heard to ask, "Mom, could you hand me the "Armstrong" book? I'd like to look at it on the way home." As I assure him that "home" is just a short five minute drive, I console myself with the thought that perhaps I am raising an astronaut for the first manned flight to Mars! There won't be any spiders on Mars anyway!
We caught the big ugly spider the next morning. Well ... actually I sprayed
it with Raid until it was dead. I did
then put it in our little
"observation" container with a 2X and 4X magnifier lens on the top. I
told James, "Now we will be able to get our spider books out and use the
spider to identify stuff that is talked about in the books!" His
reply: "Okay, Mom. But, I will *never* lose my love for space!"
"Okay, how about if we read some more of your Neil Armstrong book after
looking at the spider books?"
Oh, forget the spiders! We will probably just go for the Armstrong
books. Maybe sometime he will care about the anatomy of a spider ...
but today just isn't the day!
Hope Ware is a regular contributor to our site and a member of our email encouragement list!