Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 37.djvu/811

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MOTHERS AND NATURAL SCIENCE.

only to those miserable beings who have little capacity for amusement. There should be much delight in study, but there will be disagreeable drudgery as well, and any training is false which does not teach the child to do the drudgery promptly and faithfully. A mother who saves her child from disagreeable tasks does him the grave injury of sending him forth into adult life without the fixed habits which will enable him to meet its responsibilities with ease and dignity.

Now, for all this development of a child into a worthy man or woman natural-science studies have peculiar fitness. To secure and preserve health, considerable knowledge of these studies is a necessity; and their relations to preparation for self-support are obvious. In the proper pursuit of natural-science studies the capacities for accurate observation, for painstaking experiment, and for unbiased sincerity are developed; and without these capacities there can be no true progress in them. A slight prejudice introduced as a factor in estimating the results of a series of observations will vitiate the result, and may ruin the value of the whole work. Natural-science studies are as exact as mathematics in demanding obedience to their own laws. Reflection upon these considerations will show their value for intellectual development and training. The moral and spiritual influence of these studies is not less great. A child learns to be truthful in the presence of truth that never swerves; learns to be gentle when at work where one rude touch may destroy the labor of weeks; to be brave when he sees the struggle which everything in Nature makes for its own development; to be patient in waiting for Nature's slow processes; persevering when he sees that she gives up her secrets after repeated efforts only, often to be made under circumstances appalling to a spirit less mighty than her own; modest when he and his little come into daily comparison with her and her abundance; obedient when he sees that obedience to law brings beauty, pleasure, and life, and disobedience brings deformity, sorrow, and death; reverent before the majesty and power and glory of Him who is the life of Nature; generous, because she pours out her whole wealth to-day, never fearing that the morrow will not care for itself; joyous, because above all her struggle and pain rises a perpetual paean of triumph.

If convinced that natural-science studies have special fitness for the training of children, with what study shall a mother begin to work? Although Nature herself indicates an order which may be pursued with advantage, this order is not so important that it need be attempted where conditions do not favor it. This order takes, first, rocks and soils, with enough of chemistry and physics to explain some processes of soil and rock making; second, plants, as depending on soil, air, and sunlight; third, animal life; and