#4: Reason, part 2


My morning started with light saber repair.  Gideon couldn’t figure out why the button that makes it light up and make noise was stuck, so we took it apart while he told me all about the problem. He said that the button was stuck down and had been for some time, so therefore the batteries must now be dead. Reasonable reasoning for a boy who is nine.

When we solve a problem, we apply reason and logic to the information we have in order to exclude non-solutions until we can put a finger on the solution. We weed through facts and lies and arguments until we find Truth. That’s what we do when we repair a broken toy. It is also how we unravel logical fallacies in articles in the paper or on the internet.  That is how we decide which statements made by presidential candidates are true and which are not. We have to work through the words we hear and compare them to the plumb line of mechanics and physics or Scripture or the Constitution in order to decide what is Truth and what is not.

Sometimes we have to take apart a sentence to understand the truth in it. This is why we need an understanding of grammar. Charlotte didn’t address this subject until students were at least ten. That makes a lot of sense because most students are reading and writing fairly easily by the time they are ten. Why would you make a student deconstruct a sentence before he can read one or write one? Thinking through the job of each word in a  sentence and how the words work together makes us better writers, readers, and listeners.

Oh – and the light saber: The final diagnosis was a stewardship problem. It turns out that if you leave your light saber out in the rain, it probably won’t work well anymore. Once the wiring is nasty, there is no amount of new batteries that will be helpful. I bet Yoda didn’t need to teach Luke to keep his light saber with him so that it didn’t get soaked.

#4: Reason, part 1


Charlotte Mason lists Reason as one of her Twenty Principles: “We teach children, too, not to ‘lean (too confidently) to their own understanding’; because the function of reason is to give logical demonstration (a) of mathematical truth, (b) of an initial idea, accepted by the will. In the former case, reason is, practically, an infallible guide, but in the latter, it is not always a safe one; for, whether that idea be right or wrong, reason will confirm it by irrefragable proofs” (Charlotte Mason, Towards a Philosophy of Education xxxi).

Reason is an all-encompassing topic. It addresses all manner of truths of our natural world, those things that can be learned by observation or deduction. It involves looking for patterns and considering the way ideas work together. We all reason all day long all the time. Sometimes we do science experiments without thinking about it. We pour a little red wine in the stew to add acidity and deepen the flavor of the onions and beef. Other times, we carefully plan out an experiment just to have it work too well, and leave us cleaning something off of the popcorn ceiling over the kitchen table. (Ahem.)

Mathematics clearly falls under this heading. As we grow familiar with numbers and learn to manipulate them, we combine them in different ways. We use some math curricula for this, but if I were a more creative mother, we could conquer this stage with games and toys and whiteboards. I am, however, declared “un-fun” by my children, so we follow our MathUSee consistently and wander through Life of Fred intermittently. Neither of which are un-fun, and both of which require outside of the box thinking on a regular basis. Have you met Sir Cumference? He isn’t un-fun either.

The study of Mathematics forces you to think about things entirely from their logical roots and relationships, providing substantial practice at the art of reason.  There are other subjects that also require a lot of reasoning, but we’ll get to those tomorrow.


Rule #3: Remember


In our home, we have two particular habits that help us remember what we have learned and where we have been. Those two habits are memory work and narration.

Every school morning after chores and breakfast, we cozy up on fluffy couches with books and memory work notebooks and my second cup of coffee. Everyone is in favor of me having a second cup of coffee, but I don’t make them all special hot drinks at this point in the day.

I set a timer for twenty-five minutes, and we work our way through the day’s sections in our memory work notebook. We aim to finish what is in each section before the time beeps. If we don’t goof off too much, we can just make it.  If I allow myself to be distracted, we don’t make it.

Our memory work notebook includes Bible verses. We hide chunks of scripture in our hearts. It also contains hymns from the hymnal our tiny church uses. We learn at least one poem from each poet we study (about four each year), and we learn the poems from IEW’s Linguistic Development through Poetry series. There are folk songs from my childhood that my kids otherwise wouldn’t know, like “Oh, Susanna!” that are culturally or historically relevant, and patriotic songs, such as “America the Beautiful.” Because we are a part of Classical Conversations, my younger boys’ Foundations memory work is in the binder also.

That sounds like a lot to memorize, doesn’t it? There are several things to keep in mind as you read this.  First of all, we didn’t just start out with this amount of memory work overnight. We’ve been adding to this particular binder for two years, and before that, I was keeping track of what we memorized more haphazardly. Secondly, each month, there are only three or four new things to learn.  Everything else is review. Finally, when the timer beeps, we quit. Occasionally, we are really close to being done with the day’s review when we are interrupted, and in that case, we might go ahead and finish. But, the rule is to stop and close the notebook when the time is up.

Narration is much simpler. It is really just developing a habit of telling a story of something that you read or experienced. We tell a lot of stories around here.

Some stories we find in books.  When we read aloud, someone always has to tell back the story we read. Since we tend to read from several books in the same thirty or forty minutes, I pick up a book and ask, “Now where were we in this story?” and a boy sets the scene while I find the page, and we all settle in to hear what happens next.

Some stories are tales of our own adventures. These usually start with “Remember when…?”. Occasionally, we flip though a family photo album and talk about the boys when they were younger. We’ll remember together the day a brother fell in the pond at the pack and the day another brother sunk a winning basket in a great game. We’ll remember when Daddy got his seminary degree and when the baby was here for only a few months. We tell our own stories, and some of those are tied to the calendar. We talk about births on birthdays and deaths on Glory Days and our wedding on our anniversary.

Some are family stories. We tell cautionary tales about the time Grandma almost lost her hand to a gar while fishing in an Oklahoma lake. We tell stories of familial entrepreneurial success and failure, of remodeling success and of appliances breaking, of beautiful old cars and of automobile accidents that may have been preventable. Where there are people, there are stories, and those stories beg to be told and retold. Beautiful words in hymns and poetry beg to be remembered and imitated, sometimes unknowingly. If all things are to be compared with the plumb line that is Christ, then we must tuck the truth of scripture away in our minds so that we can find it easily when we need it. We are formed by our memories, and so we must choose to remember.