Between global warming, holes in the ozone, and the pollution of our seas and rivers, maybe it is best to keep kids indoors and pacified in front of the television....but probably not. If these aren't real threats then there's nothing to protect our children (or ourselves) from, and if they are real threats—all the more reason to instill a love of nature in the younger generations.
Kids have an inclination toward exploration and learning. Allowing them to do so encourages not only active bodies and active minds, it fosters a healthy imagination and love of beauty. Charlotte Mason understood this over a century ago, and developed a system of education in which nature study played a prominent role. It is in nature, more than in the classroom or the rec room or even the library, that children best learn by observation, and this habit once formed will never disappear.
The often-referenced "childlike wonder" inherent in all of us from a young age (though modern society seems to be stamping it out quicker and more efficiently) isn't just some esoteric feeling of awe. It's literal wonder—kids wonder how birds fly, why their pet dog's fur falls out in summer, where ants go in the winter, why it gets colder and harder to breathe the higher you get. The less contact they have with the natural world, the less wonder they'll have; but the reverse is also true, and kids allowed to roam and explore the outdoors will develop a sense of inquisitiveness that can only help them in the so-called "real world."
Preparation for the Real World of modern myth often takes on peculiar guises. Children are snatched from the fields and streams and placed in front of computer screens or television sets. They are crowded into classrooms and made to feel good about the fact that they are learning nothing at the same rate as everyone around them. They are given plastic toys with supposed educational properties and made to "play" with them under close adult supervision.
Meanwhile, the real real world waits outside the walls and doors and windows with its fresh smells, its colors brighter and more unique than anything on HDTV or Blu-Ray, its real wind, and its endless mysteries. If you don't like answering questions, don't want your kids to grow or exercise, prefer fat and lazy to fit and intelligent offspring, by all means somberly prepare them for a life without questions, and consequently without answers. If you want children who will grown into thoughtful adults with a sense of the loveliness of Earth and their place in it, keeping them inside is possibly the most dangerous choice you can make on their behalf.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.
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