Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 37.djvu/815

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MOTHERS AND NATURAL SCIENCE.

ing disgust or fear of any natural object—even of toads, spiders, and snakes—lest she foster in the child the common superstitions which attach harm to innocent creatures. And if the child brings a handful of frogs' eggs, sticky and dripping, the mother had better not say, "Now go away and throw those horrid, dirty things out; I will not have the house filled up with them"; and proceed to chide him for soiling his clothes and dripping water on the carpet. Let her show the child she is pleased with what he has done; get a jar in which to put the eggs, call the child's attention to the tiny dark spot in each egg, awaken his interest by telling him how the eggs were deposited and why they are fastened together in such a gelatinous mass, and that if he keeps them and gives them fresh water, a little animal may come out of each one. This will keep alive the spirit of investigation; and, after all this has been done, she may show the child how he might have kept from soiling his clothes and the carpet. A mother should never make fun of a child or laugh at his preferences, but try to enter into the child's thought and feeling, and, having done this, she may lead him to what she wishes. She should be patient, too; for, while the child's perceptions are often more keen and true than hers, he will find it hard to follow her reasoning processes and to see relations which are very simple to her. A mother should teach kindness by her own treatment of helpless creatures. Let her not crush the insect in the house, nor pull the weed from the garden with anger or impatience, but teach her child respect and kindness for all life until he has reached years when he can clearly distinguish between necessity and cruelty.

Be glad when questions are asked; hail them, if they grow naturally from the lessons, as the dawn of a good day for the child. Never say—as many a mother and, alas! many a teacher does in answer to a child's question—"Oh, that is too hard for you; you must wait until you are older." Is it surprising that children so treated lose courage and go through life thinking of every new difficulty, "Oh, that is too hard for me." There is a simple side to every subject; and if a child comprehend not a tenth of what is said, he is helped and satisfied by the effort to treat him as an intelligent being. If the child can not answer the mother's questions or his own, he should, if possible, be sent to Nature herself to find the answer, the mother giving only so much help as to direct his attention and insure his finding the answer within a reasonable time.

The child himself should handle the objects, manipulate the materials in experiments, make and record observations, and so learn to give accurate attention, and to keep exact accounts of what is seen, to use his own hands and eyes, to do. He who can do as well as think is twice armed against poverty or misfortune.