Tag Archives: education

The Inspiring Helen Keller

I truly enjoyed Helen Keller’s autobiography…right up to the end.  The last chapter is mostly a list of thank-yous to people who meant a lot to Ms. Keller up to that point in her life (she wrote her story while in or just after college), and included great praise for a bishop to whom Helen, quite young, posed the question, “Why are there so many religions?”  And the bishop replied with the cop-out all-religions-are-the-same and that the main point is to love.  Ms. Keller was quite taken by this notion and held to it.  But it is not true: Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection is the only Truth, the only means of salvation, and the greatest mark of love there can be.

Phew.  Can you tell that bothered me?  Now, onto the positives…

Helen Keller is fascinating, and she was a tremendously strong-willed child who was able to funnel her energy into learning, playing, and loving once given tools to communicate.  She tells stories that I never would have expected possible for a girl both deaf and blind, like when she and some friends had to scurry down and cling to the underside of a bridge as a train went over top!

I was surprised and pleased at how much Ms. Keller wrote about education, about what works and what doesn’t.  She sounded quite like Charlotte Mason: lots of nature time, lots of stories.  Sounds like a good start to me.

As usual, a few of my favorite bits:

“Those early compositions were mental gymnastics.  I was learning, as all young and inexperienced persons learn, by assimilation and imitation, to put ideas into words.  Everything I found in books that pleased me I retained in my memory…and adapted it.  The young writer…instinctively tries to copy whatever seems most admirable…It is onlyl after years of this sort of practice taht even great men have learned to marshal the legion of words which come thronging through every byway of the mind” (67).  So true: how many little ones come up with stories that look very much like something they’ve just read…unfortunately for Helen, she did so unknowingly, it was published, and the whole thing caused quite the scandal.

An interesting take on college–that it’s not quite what it’s cracked up to be (as many students realize at one point or another):

“But college is not the universal Athens I thought it was.  There one does not meet the great and the wise face to face; one does not even feel their living touch.  There are there, it is true; but they seem mummified.  We must extract them from the crannied wall of learning and dissect and analyze them…Many scholars for get, it seems to me, that our enjoyment of the great works of literature depends more upon the depth of our sympathy than upon our understanding” (88).
Here, here!  I have enjoyed books so much more outside of school than I did in school, and somehow my thoughts are deeper–and more mine–when I’m not worried about some exam.

Beautiful, beautiful language here about returning to the countryside:

“What a joy it is to feel the soft, springy earth under my feet once more, to follow grassy roads that lead to ferny brooks where I can bathe my fingers in a cataract of rippling notes, or to clamber over a stone wall into green fields that tumble and roll and climb in riotous gladness!” (104)




I shot off a post a few weeks ago while in the middle of Schoolgirls by Peggy Orenstein, a book I chose because I so enjoyed Cinderella Ate My Daughter and was curious about the author’s take on life as a junior high girl.

Some of the stories presented were so foreign to me, I didn’t know what to think; the first half of the book, detailing life at a suburban middle school somewhat like my own, was filled with girls so afraid of getting something wrong in class that they never spoke or volunteered answers.  The same girls were pinched, grabbed, and harassed in hallways while school officials simply said that “boys will be boys.”

Then I realized the book was written in 1994.  I was in junior high in 2000 and in a small, Midwestern town.  Maybe we’ve come a long way since then?  Maybe my itty bitty, small town experience was just a different planet compared to the coasties?  I’m not sure which is the case (I’m hoping the former and that schools can really pat themselves on the back for making gender equality better in the classroom), but either way, the book simply didn’t resonate with me.  I felt sorry for the girls, women now of about 30, and the various body image, familial, academic, and social problems they were facing…but I just couldn’t seem to invest myself in the book.

So, I guess I’m walking away from it saying “meh”.  I also think I’m walking away from reading about issues related to public school for a while: the Professor and I decided years ago, before we were even married, that we would be homeschooling our kids.  Now, while Pookie is still in diapers, is the time to be thinking about, researching about, and planning for that chapter in our lives…not arming myself for a fight that isn’t mine.

Education is the Science of Relations; that is, that a child has natural relations with a vast number of things and thoughts: so we must train him upon physical exercises, nature, handicrafts, science and art, and upon many living books; for we know that our business is, not to teach him all about anything, but to help him make valid, as many as may be of

‘Those first born affinities,

‘That fit our new existence to existing things.’

–Charlotte Mason