In response to my previous post Dawns asks, "[W]hat are some things parents do to help children observe, enjoy, and think?" I started writing about some of the things that my parents did that I've tried to imitate with my own children, and the reply got so long I decided to make a new post.
My daddy loved the night sky and he shared that love with us. Watching the Perseids in August was an annual event and was so much fun. Also, I knew the story of Perseus rescuing Andromeda and I knew that Cassiopeia was her mother and could easily recognize that constellation. I think I knew these stories before I began reading mythology -- I got my first copy of Edith Hamilton's book when I was in fifth or sixth grade, and I was already familiar with some of the stories, so I'm thinking Daddy must have told them to me.
There were at least three things going on here:
1) Daddy loved the stars and shared his excitement with us.
2) He told us some facts about what we were seeing.
3) He told us beautiful stories that both connected to what we were seeing and to people who lived long ago and far away
Charlotte Mason talks about education being the science of relations, and we know how important it is to let children make their own connections, but I think it's also important for parents to make a few connections for their children, to cut the trail, so to speak -- to give them an example of how things are connected. Now, I don’t believe I was “thinking big thoughts” during the Perseids -- we were too busy trying to be the first to see the next shooting star. But on other evenings it would all come together, and it was awe-inspiring to be lying in the grass in the 1970s thinking about people who had lived thousands of years before, and how we have the same sky they had and the same stars and the same stories.
Notice there wasn't a religious lesson, even though the feelings inspired are the kind we associate with religion -- awe, wonder -- and I know Dawn wasn’t asking about religious education, but when you’ve had that experience, repeatedly, and then you read, “The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament showeth his handiwork,” you know exactly what that means, and all that you’ve felt in response to the sublime comes back to you and that emotional connection is made there in response to the God who made heaven and earth, and you worship him, and give him the glory due unto his name. And for us Christians, that’s the whole point.
So, in a nutshell, share your loves with your children, make a few judicious, ennobling connections for them, and try to avoid, as Cindy mentions a lot, making everything into a Bible lesson.