Education is the Science of Relations -- He should feel the thrill, not from mere contiguity, but because he has with the past the relationship of living pulsing thought; and, if blood be thicker than water, thought is more quickening than blood. He must have a living relationship with the present, its historic movement, its science, literature, art, social needs and aspirations. In fact, he must have a wide outlook, intimate relations all round. ~ Charlotte Mason
I've been helping a student struggling in a dry geometry class taught with an eye toward memorizing theorems and lacking in hands-on exploration and connections to history much less the real world. I chose Jacob's Geometry for our text because it puts students in touch “with the past" and develops “the relationship of living pulsing thought." In our conversations about big ideas in geometry, the student's eyes have opened to see connections she has never noticed before. She asks good questions. She told me the other day, “I'm starting to appreciate geometry for the first time in my life."
While studying vocabulary for polygons, we came up with words that begin with something like oct. In Spanish, ocho means eight. An octopus has eight legs, while an octave has eight notes. But, what about October? October used to be the eighth month until a reworking of the calendar added July, named for Julius Caesar, and August, named for his nephew and successor, Augustus.
I believe that vocabulary words are best learned in context of living ideas and through application, not from writing definitions to be memorized. My opinion was validated this week. My student said she shared the meaning of October with her mother who'd never made this connection before. She remembered the meaning of vocabulary words on her test.
One lesson from this living math textbook sparked a conversation about sundials. A teacher brought hers to school and we observed how sundials work firsthand. My student gushed,
“I'd never thought about how people told time before clocks were invented." Now, she is experiencing a wider outlook.
That lowly sundial lead to rapture for one of our autistic students. I promised to show him how people told time before clocks were invented. He is very observant, so I asked him what he noticed. “There's a shadow." “It's pointing to some letters." “I see a lot of letters." I briefly explained that people used sundials as clocks in the days when Jesus walked the earth.
“Yes, really!" I added, “Those letters are numbers. They are called Roman numerals." Then we started at VI, the first numeral, and worked our way around the sundial until VI in the evening. He seemed a tad bored.
Rather than hit him with comprehension questions, I took a circuitous route. I asked, “Have you ever seen numbers like these before?" Then, I paused and waited for him to think. He studied the sundial for a minute or two.
Suddenly, he gasped. The kind of gasp that told me he had just made a vital connection.
“MRS. TAMMY! THOSE ARE STAR WARS NUMBERS!" Rapture poured over him. “Can I get some paper? I need to write this down in date order."
This young lad who typically approaches copywork with reluctance and resists doing math sat down and wrote down the hallowed list of the Star Wars movies, in date order, with punctuation, with episode numbers recorded in Arabic numbers and Roman numerals.