Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 37.djvu/809

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MOTHERS AND NATURAL SCIENCE.

no mind is so helplessly set that it can not be drawn forth and directed into other molds. What a mother can do to interest her children in natural science depends upon her power to direct herself and to master the conditions of her life. Suppose that power is sufficient, how shall she begin? A mother may think that she needs trained guides, lest she make mistakes and waste precious time and strength. She may wish to know what materials to collect, what books to buy, when and where to get the materials and books, how much time and money they will cost, and what she is to do with them when obtained. Every mother has a right to ask these questions of any one who urges her to undertake to awaken in her children a vital interest in Nature's phenomena; but all that the writer of this paper can hope to do is to give suggestions which may lead a mother to find elsewhere the definite answers required.

A mother may begin to study with her children the ever-changing phenomena that surround daily life. The house is full of lessons. Various departments of science have contributed to its building and furnishing. There is scarcely an industry that is not represented in some room; the kitchen is a laboratory in which the truths of chemistry and physics are illustrated, and the table is supplied with gifts from the three kingdoms of nature; and to produce these, to transport them, and to prepare them for use, numberless natural agents have worked tirelessly and long. And out of doors—Nature's phenomena—where are they not? The snow and rain bring them; the ice locks them across the pond and the south wind picks the lock, the breezes blow them, the birds sing them, the brooks murmur them; every tree and flower, every stone and clod wait to tell their story; the waves wash their treasures to the shore; the rainbow is their expression; the glories of morning and evening write them on the sky; the sunlight comes and goes, bringing the wonders of night and day, of storms and seasons; and all night the stars speak of times and spaces our mathematics can not yet compute, and of events before which our short earth-lives shrink into nothingness.

What shall a mother take from this vast store to give to her children? Before answering this question it is proper to consider what purpose natural-science studies may serve in the education of a child; and to do this, the objects of education itself must be known. The supreme object of education is, without doubt, the development of the individual to the utmost limits his consciousness can grasp in this earth-life; some of the lesser objects are a vocation and success in it, pleasant social relations, ability to help the unfortunate, interest in national affairs, and a love of the virtues; and all these may be included under the expression