Charlotte Mason on the teaching of geography, from volume 6 of her 6 volume series on education (used with permission). She quotes Traherne:
“When I heard of any new kingdom beyond the seas the light and glory of it entered into me. It rose up within me and I was enlarged by the whole. I entered into it, I saw its commodities, springs, meadows, inhabitants and became possessor of that new room as if it had been prepared for me so much was I magnified and delighted in it. When the Bible was read my spirit was present in other ages. I saw the light and splendour of them, the land of Canaan, the Israelites entering into it, the ancient glory of the Amorites, their peace and riches, their cities, houses, vines and fig trees . . . I saw and felt all in such a lively manner as if there had been no other way to those places but in spirit only. Without changing place in myself I could behold and enjoy all those. Anything when it was proposed though it was a thousand years ago being always present before me.”
I venture again to quote Traherne because I know of no writer who retains so clear a memory of his infancy; but Goethe gives as full and convincing an account of his experience of the Bible [See Some Studies in the Formation of Character, by the Writer, i.e. Charlotte Mason]; I say ‘experience’ advisedly, for the word denotes the process by which children get to know. They experienceall the things they hear and read of; these enter into them and are their life; and thus it is that ideas feed the mind in the most literal sense of the word ‘feed.’
Do our Geography lessons take the children there?(emphases mind- DHM). Do, they experience, live in, our story of the call of Abraham?––or of the healing of the blind man on the way to Jericho?…
How many teachers know that children require no pictures excepting the pictures of great artists, which have quite another function than that of illustration? They see for themselves in their own minds a far more glorious, and indeed more accurate, presentation than we can afford in our miserable daubs. They read between the lines and put in all the author has left out….
This is how any child’s mind works, and our concern is not to starve these fertile intelligences. They must have food in great abundance and variety….
Do we wish every child in a class to say,––or, if he does not say, to feel,––”I was enlarged wonderfully” by a Geography lesson? Let him see the place with the eyes of those who have seen or conceived it (emphasis mine, DHM); your barographs, thermographs, contour lines, relief models, sections, profiles and the like, will not do it. A map of the world must be a panorama to a child of pictures so entrancing that he would rather ponder them than go out to play; and nothing is more easy than to give him this joie de vivre.
Let him see the world as we ourselves choose to see it when we travel; its cities and peoples, its mountains and rivers, and he will go away from his lesson with the piece of the world he has read about, be it county or country, sea or shore, as that of “a new room prepared for him, so much will he be magnified and delighted in it.” (emphasis added, DHM)
All the world is in truth the child’s possession, prepared for him, and if we keep him out of his rights by our technical, commercial, even historical, geography, any sort of geography, in fact, made to illustrate our theories, we are guilty of fraudulent practices. What he wants is the world and every bit, piece by piece, each bit a key to the rest. He reads of the [tidal] Bore of the Severn [River] and is on speaking terms with a ‘Bore’ wherever it occurs. He need not see a mountain to know a mountain. He sees all that is described to him with a vividness of which we know nothing just as if there had been “no other way to those places but in spirit only.” Who can take the measure of a child? The Genie of the Arabian tale is nothing to him. He, too, may be let out of his bottle and fill the world. But woe to us if we keep him corked up.
I just read a few pages, but it looks like an enchanting read, and a very interesting travel narrative. Such books are often lovely for geography studies, as they give the reader that piece by piece glimpse at a bit of the world, that is like a ‘new room prepared for him,’ which will magnify and delight his soul.
You can also read some here, as well as here (and there is an audio version at the second link). Note that it is an older book, so not everything the author has to say about the native peoples is graced with the sort of speech that makes for comfortable reading today, but this is not always the case, and it is quite interesting reading. Here’s an excerpt:
A great Russian moved under inspiration when he sent Vitus Behring out to discover and explore the continent lying to the eastward; two great Americans—Seward and Sumner—were inspired when, nearly a century and a half later, they saved for us, in the face of the bitterest opposition, scorn, and ridicule, the country that Behring discovered and which is now coming to be recognized as the most glorious possession of any people; but, first of all, were the gentle, dark-eyed Aleuts inspired when they bestowed upon this same country—with the simplicity and dignified repression for which their character is noted—the beautiful and poetic name which means “the great country.”
Here’s an Amazon review:
Samuel Hall Young here is writing about his adventures with John Muir and Hall’s Dog Stickeen,
not that Stickeen belonged to anyone according to the book. So if you’ve read Muir’s
book “Stickeen”, this is where it started.
The stories about Muir are beautiful for lack of a better word. Samuel Hall Young was a missionary
and John Muir was doing what he always did. They were going to the same places so they went together
and continued writing to each other until Muir’s death. Samuel Hall Young lost all those letters when
the “steamer went to the bottom of the Yukon”.
It’s too bad those letters didn’t survive.
Anyway, if you know who John Muir is, and you appreciate what all he did (Sierra Club etc..) this is a
great book that is a first hand account of what he was like.The part where Muir rescues Hall Young after a fall while climbing is worth a book in itself.
Truly awesome book,, this is what Kindle is all about..
Eothen, or, Traces of Travel Brought Home from the East
by Alexander Kingslake. I read this and loved it. Do you know that scene in Sense and Sensibility (the movie with Alan Rickman and Emma Thompson), where the youngest girl asks the Colonel what it was like in the East Indies, and he says, “The air is full of spices”? That’s what I thought of when I read this book. Maybe you will feel differently, but it had that sense of the exotic, a whiff of foreign odors.
In her fourth travelogue, Susie and her husband take to their bikes to explore the Marne valley, following in the carriage tracks of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI in their abortive escape attempt from the French revolution.
Susie is not a born cyclist, as she discovers within the first five minutes of a journey that will last three weeks. Neither does she look her best in Lycra cycling gear. While her husband whirls along effortlessly, she frequently grinds to a halt and has to be rescued. But the pair keep pedalling. From the glitz of Versailles to the hilly Champagne vineyards, via a hair-raising ride through Paris.Through quaint provincial towns and sombre World War II battlefields.
Like the bestselling “Best Foot Forward – a 500-mile Walk Through Hidden France”, and “Travels with Tinkerbelle – 6,000 miles Around France in a Mechanical Wreck”, “The Valley of Heaven and Hell – Cycling In The Shadow Of Marie Antoinette” is an enjoyable mixture of travel and history, told in Susie’s characteristically light-hearted and self-depreciating style. One for armchair travellers to enjoy, or a good holiday read – fans of France, fans of travel writing, fans of Bill Bryson and Peter Mayle will love this book.
Born land-locked six hundred miles from the nearest ocean, this is an autobiography of an ordinary man with an extraordinary dream of building a sea going yacht and sailing the world.
Opening on the threshold of wild transition in South Africa in the 1970s, the author and his American wife struggle to build a sailing vessel on the outskirts of Johannesburg, whose skyline soon erupts in black clouds of fire and revolution.
Through all the struggles of personal relationships, exodus, poverty, sorrow, and loss, the dream of the sail remains constant. As that dream becomes reality, the story tells of an inexperienced crew battling rough seas, mind numbing calms, near death experiences, solo sailing for thousands of miles, land adventures with distant south sea tribes, and through it all, a constant wonder and appreciation of the amazing world we live in.
There are lessons to be learned from the author’s homespun philosophy, honesty, and mistakes, as well as a wealth of sailing facts and accounts of the fascinating places the author and crew visit, all woven together in an amazingly vivid account of this decade long adventure through the oceans of the world.
Also, this author says: I will do free Google+ Hangouts for any readers or book clubs that are interested in purchasing and reading my book – look me up on Google+ and we can schedule a time to talk about sailing, travel, and anything else in the book!
Not all Lonely Planet guides are equal, and often they are distinctly NOT family friendly, but this might be useful.
Not precisely travel, but this will give you a sense of the culture and drama of medieval Iceland:
The Saga Hoard Volume 1 (Temple Libary Collection – The Saga Hoard)
The Icelandic Sagas are histories written in prose, describing life and events that took place during the Icelandic Commonweath period, around the 10th and 11th centuries. They are stories of families, adventures, feuding, deal-making, political maneuvers, wars, treasure amassed, great journeys, geneology, tribute given, kings, freemen, history, and myth. They are stories of the Norse and Celtic settlers and their descendants in Iceland during what is sometimes called the Saga Age.
It is believed that the Sagas were written down in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, and that at least some of them originated in the oral storytelling tradition. Their authors remain unknown, but the Sagas are recognized and respected as some of the best of world literature.
What is amazing about the Icelandic Sagas, is the weath of information included in them and the storytelling with which it is presented. Though written hundreds of years ago, they are still enormously compelling to the modern reader. Their style is crisp and quick, and there is action, emotion, and humor to keep one entertained.
The stories describe actions and conversations among the characters, but at no point are we told directly what a character is thinking. But while reading of their deeds and words, we develop a sense of their psychology and their thoughts.
It’s 1851 and the Crystal Palace Exhibition is on in England. English American the Reverend, Dr. Choules, leaves Newport, Rhode Island with three teenaged students – James Robinson, George Vanderbuilt, and Weld French, who are forced to leave the fourth member of their blue-blooded quartet at home – and all four travelers promise to write to “Dear Charley”, Charles Duston, of later fame. The boys meet the Duke of Wellington, travel down the Rhine, and meet many friends along the way. While the letters are filled with some prejudice against the Catholic religion, they are a product of their time – a sometimes ignorant, but often dazzling, period of our history. (Summary by Sibella Denton) Above description taken from here, where you can get an audio version.
Utterly Random Excerpt from Gutenberg:
On the 8th at five in the morning, the wind coming still more to the northward, we could no longer keep on the same tack, on account of the ice, but were obliged to stand to the westward. At this time our soundings had decreased to nineteen fathoms, from which, on comparing it with our observations on the depth of water last year, we concluded that we were not at a greater distance from the American shore than six or seven leagues; but our view was confined within a much shorter compass, by a violent fall of snow. At noon, the latitude, by account, was 69° 21′, longitude 192° 42′. At two in the afternoon the weather cleared up, and we found ourselves close to an expanse of what appeared from the deck solid ice; but, from the mast-head, it was discovered to be composed of huge compact bodies, close and united toward the outer edge, but in the interior parts several pieces were seen floating in vacant spaces of the water. It extended from N.E. by the N. to W.S.W. We bore away by the edge of it to the southward, that we might get into clearer water; for the strong northerly winds had drifted down such quantities of loose pieces, that we had been for some time surrounded by them, and could not avoid striking against several, notwithstanding we reefed the topsails, and stood under an easy sail.
On the 9th we had a fresh gale from the N.N.W., with heavy showers of snow and sleet. The thermometer was in the night time 28°, and at noon 30°. We continued to steer W.S.W., as before, keeping as near the large body of ice as we could, and had the misfortune to rub off some of the sheathing from the bows against the drift pieces, and to damage the cutwater. Indeed, the shocks we could not avoid receiving, were frequently so severe, as to be attended with considerable danger. At noon, the latitude, by account, was 69° 12′,. and longitude 188° 5′. The variation in the afternoon was found to be 29° 30′ E.
As we had now sailed near forty leagues to the westward, along the edge of the ice, without seeing any opening, or a clear sea to the northward beyond it, and had therefore no prospect of advancing farther N. for the present, Captain Clerke resolved to bear away to the S. by E. (the only quarter that was clear), and to wait till the season was more advanced, before he made any farther efforts to penetrate through the ice. The intermediate time he proposed to spend in examining the bay of Saint Laurence, and the coast to the southward of it; as a harbour so near, in case of future damage from the ice, would be very desirable. We also wished to pay another visit to our Tschutski friends; and particularly since the accounts we had heard of them from the commander of Kamtschatka.
Amazon reviewer writes:
…To some people who may not be interested in the history of Oxford, it may seem to be somewhat slightly dry reading but I am finding it to be enjoyable and interesting. The writer does describe quite well (with a sort of the old “It’s my college” love) the history of Oxford, which the earliest known teaching was in 1096 AD He describes in much detail the “scenery” of each land, town, castle within the Illustrations/chapters which each describes in detail the additions and subtractions of buildings, gardens, or castles and their changes (due to wars against Kings, again well illustrated with words, or buildings or castles falling down due to age) throughout the centuries up until our present day; describing nearly 1000 years of changes all the way until our time today. This book describes the sort of “love” one feels for Oxford while and after attending the College; or visiting and viewing in awe, the College whilst having a full knowledge of nearly a millenium of it’s history.