#4: Reason, part 1

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.