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It seems like What? is one of the main questions we homeschool mothers ask: What books? What math curriculum? What supplemental courses or classes? What outside activities?
We spend a lot of time pondering the What as we pore over catalogs, ask for reviews from our friends, and research on the Internet into the wee hours of the morning.
It’s easy to focus on the What, because it is tangible. The What we can see what our eyes, hold in our hands, and interact with every day.
But as we have been learning as we look into Charlotte Mason’s questions for mothers, it is equally important to ask Why? and How?
“She must ask herself seriously, Why must the children learn at all? What should they learn? And, How should they learn it? If she take the trouble to find a definite and thoughtful answer to each of these three queries, she will be in a position to direct her children’s studies” (Vol. 1, p. 171).
We looked at the Why last week. Why must the children learn at all? They learn in order to grow. Today let’s think about What?
What should they learn?
Last time we learned that the mind feeds on ideas; that is its proper food for growing. As the natural follow-up, then, we need to determine what ideas will nurture the best growth.
Once again, let’s compare it to the physical body. Our children’s bodies need food to grow. But not just any food will do. The best type of diet to nurture good growth is one with a variety of nutritious foods.
Notice the two key words: “variety” and “nutritious.” Both are important to growth.
We could feed our children the same food at all the meals every day, but they would soon lose their natural appetites. Variety sustains appetite.
We could feed our children junk food all day every day, but they wouldn’t grow as well as they would on nutritious food. Good nutrition brings balanced growth.
It’s the same with our children’s minds. We need to give them a wide variety of good and noble ideas. Charlotte called it a generous and varied curriculum.
“The mind feeds on ideas, and therefore children should have a generous curriculum” (Vol. 6, Preface).
“In the nature of things then the unspoken demand of children is for a wide and very varied curriculum” (Vol. 6, p. 14).
We could feed our children’s minds with the same few subjects every day every year, but they would soon lose their natural curiosity. Variety sustains the natural curiosity for knowledge.
We could feed our children’s minds twaddle all day every day, but their minds wouldn’t grow as well as they would on good, loving, and noble ideas. A variety of good ideas brings a wide range of personal knowledge.
So as you plan the What, be sure to give your children a wide range of subjects. Spread a feast before them that will sustain their natural curiosity and feed their mind on good, loving, and noble ideas. You might find this article on spreading the feast helpful.
If you would like some suggestions toward a generous curriculum, our free SCM Curriculum Guide will give you our recommendations for all the grades. As you click on each subject name, you will see lists of living books that will feed your children’s minds with good ideas for a wide basis of knowledge. We hope it will be encouraging as you think about the What.
Next week we will look at the third question: How?