Is Charlotte Mason’s geography book written in 1881 relevant for today?
1881! It’s soooooo OLD! Outdated! Surely there is a better book by now!
How could a book that old possibly have any value for our modern, fast paced, at-your-finger-tips world?
The answer is, this old book is absolutely relevant for today!
The most obvious, no-brainer answers are that our world still has the same physical features– oceans, rivers, mountains, and it is still spinning in space, still tilted on its axis… so the lessons on our world and seasons are relevant.
But what about the rest of the book? What about all the lessons on land measurement? Broken down, as it is in the Teacher’s Notes, there is a whole section titled Measurement and Maps- 10 lessons! Do we need that much lesson time – which could work out to a whole term – devoted to this topic with our modern technological advances like GPS and Siri telling us where things are and how to get to them?
Well it turns out that the old school earth measurement system and understanding how to use and apply it, does two things for the student. First, practically, this measurement system is quite applicable for many life pursuits. Secondly, it strengthens a students ability to move from an abstract idea to a concrete representation, and back again to the abstract.
On the application side, if your students ever decide to go into real estate, for example, they will find the section on legal descriptions for real property to be a piece of cake. Legal descriptions used today on the title to your home, for example, use the government rectangular survey for land description. This method dates back to 1787. It uses a measurement system which Charlotte presents multiple times throughout the lessons in her book. In the edition I revised, the original explanations are all there. In the Teacher’s Notes we practice using the concepts.
What might this concept be?
None other than — meridians and latitude lines!!
So there it is – a student’s understanding of these earth measurement tools will give your eventual realtor a head start on their realtors exam… not to mention many other professions…. attorneys dealing with property rights, surveyors, farm managers, county assessors and registers, appraisers, title insurance and abstract researchers, and… airline pilots….. They’ll breeze through this concept, because it harkens back to their old friends studied in elementary or high school in Charlotte Mason’s geography! As a bonus, any teachers and parents going through this curriculum who own property, might benefit from a refresher in earth measurement, so, with few more working details, they could assess and understand the the legal description of their own property. A comfort level working with latitude and longitude never hurts.
Additionally related to a CM Education, as part of the land measurement portion of the realtors exam, one has to know what a section is and how many acres it contains. If you follow the wide curriculum practice of a CM Education, your future real estate student probably read Laura Ingalls’ books. They’ll remember that Pa got 160 acres in South Dakota as part of the government Homestead Act. This is a quarter section. From that Living knowledge, one can easily compute that a full section is 640 acres. Sure, we could memorize these numbers. But it is all the more meaningful and pleasant to travel back in your mind to Pa and his prized quarter section with its low lying slough, tall blowing prairie grass, little dark sod house…
OK, back to the present – these are measurements one needs to know to pass the real estate test. And, the Homestead Act even gets a mention in the realtors course.
The conceptualization of abstract to concrete, also finds application in daily life. A while back while I was working on the draft of CM’s geography book at church (yes, those books traveled with me everywhere and I worked on them e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e), a friend and small business owner thumbed through the pages and said, “Boy, if the guys that work for me could go through a practical geography course like this, life would be easier. They can’t find their way around town. And Omaha is laid out in a grid form, squares, all based off the river. It is not complicated, but they get lost a lot,, even with their phones. If their phones don’t work, it is hopeless for them to get themselves to the job site.”
Taking an abstract idea like an address, using the spatially organized method of a grid system by picturing it in one’s mind (note: picturing it in your Minds Eye- a CM principle), and applying the concept to moving ones self on the real earth to a real point on the surface, is something that should be introduced to students and can take some practice. Just like any subject, some children pick this up intuitively, but many do not. As CM teachers we present this wide curriculum of good mind food to our students to round out their education, to provide them avenues of different types of thought and application. Education is not all reading. Pragmatically, we teach it or they, too, may be lost trying to find the job site!
Charlotte Mason gives us practical relevant geography! Here students are introduced to a grid form of measurement. Working through the Teacher’s Notes will help solidify it visually, in a hands on way, preparing them for a variety of things their future may hold.
As to Charlotte’s book being outdated — well, it is on one level- a surface level that is easily corrected (or, as it turns out, not as easily as I thought or intended- but I digress). The new edition is updated and expanded, both historically and with information. But the old version does the job too. Just explain that we have already found the north pole!
and…. because I love maps and think this is cool….. the physical features shown on this map of a Township (also part of realtor’s licensing) are practiced in the Teacher’s Notes corresponding with Living Geography Book I.