Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 37.djvu/812

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fourth, man's structure. After this order has been observed through an elementary course—just enough to give a hint of the cycle of change from the rock world through the soil, plant, and animal, back to soil and rock again, to show the intimate dependence of Nature's kingdoms and processes—these studies may be carried on together, a few weeks of each year being devoted to each one. This may be done until the student has reached the years when he may wisely devote himself to one branch as a specialty. Attention to the whole cycle of Nature is not inconsistent with thoroughness, since the little that is selected from each part may be thoroughly studied. A little work well done is of more value than to run over the whole field superficially, not only to the contents of the child's mind, but to his growth in character.

It matters little where one begins, so that the study be honest and thorough. Any beginning will lead everywhere else, for, though there are straight roads for the specialists to follow, the whole field is covered by a most intricate network of roads. A mother may begin where her present knowledge is least liable to blunder. If she had a fondness for physics in her school days, let her take that. Let her teach her child the laws of mechanics as illustrated in his daily life and observations. Let her teach him to drive a nail properly, and she teaches him to avoid the working of the law of the wedge; teach him how the windows are hung, and she introduces him to weights and pulleys; show him a man unloading a barrel of flour at the door, and she shows him the inclined plane; in teaching him to use a pair of scales, a can-opener, a claw-hammer, a nut-cracker, she teaches him the use of levers. The wheel and axle may be taught from the well or the clock.

The properties of bodies and the laws of expansion and contraction find abundant illustration in the daily life. Let the child fill an old jug with water, cork it tightly, and set it out of doors some cold night. The break found the next morning will not be forgotten. Then take him to a neighboring ledge of rock, show him its cracks filled with ice, and he will not be slow to draw the lesson of how the strong rocks are broken asunder. Then show the child the tiny snow-flake with its six crystal arms, so delicate that you hold your breath lest they vanish while you look; and lead him to see that the jug and the mighty ledge of rocks are broken by these fairy creatures. What tale in mythology or folk-lore is more wonderful than this? In every drop of water is the fairy crystal spirit, but it can not embody itself where heat is. Cold is its good genius; and when cold comes, the fairy spirit works., throwing out one dainty spar after another and interlacing them with threads more delicate than those in our finest