catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 13, Num 8 :: 2014.04.18 — 2014.05.01


Learning’s heartbeat

Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.

Source Unkown

As I look back to the beginning of my excitement for learning, I recall my parents’ continual imparting of their own love for learning and reaching to discover energizing truths about life and creation. In my mind’s eye, I walk again behind my father, a professor in agronomy and horticulture, as he tests new vegetable hybrids he has designed to be developed at a prominent company’s trial grounds, tasting and recording the results. I taste them, too — all of them: his new “sugar and gold” corn and “butter and sugar” corn varieties, watermelon, beans, peas, all so sweet that, at dinnertime, I choose for the vegetables on my plate to be raw. He points out a killdeer nest and leads me closer to it, so I can experience the mother bird trying to lead us away from her eggs with her “broken wing” ploy. How my young heart beats for her fear! While he records his technical data, I wander into nearby woods. My eyes drink in the beauty of the delicateness of pink lady slippers, trilliums, Indian pipes, pipsissewa, all endangered plants, and I leave them intact, hoping for their posterity. My heart revels in the beauty surrounding me. My father brings home cocoons and we hatch out breathtakingly beautiful, six-inch, gray, red and white cecropia moths in an old wooden bird cage. We find baby crows that have fallen out of their high nest, and nurture them till they can fly. He teaches me how to stick food down their throats to feed them.

At the ocean each summer, I learn about the force of water as jetties are rearranged by hurricane-driven waves. We open a small case in a long string of egg cases of a whelk shell, to discover tiny shells one sixteenth of an inch long, each with a tiny animal inside. Each one will grow to be a large adult. The designs of skate egg cases, the spiral inside a conch shell, how the scalloped edges of a scallop shell fit together perfectly, and a jellyfish’s “grenades on strings” tentacles fascinate me. I ponder God’s creative design with awe. No wonder I am a lifelong beachcomber!

As I look back, I realize all the more the value and necessity of parents enriching children’s lives in the home, beyond everyday school lessons. My childhood home is where I first learned of fine literary works and great composers and their works from my concert violinist mother. And listened to her warm up her singing voice, singing Italian syllables. Both of my parents loved language, as I do now. My father spoke seven languages, and even if we didn’t know the exact words, we always knew their meaning. My mother taught us authentic pronunciations of foreign words and phrases. In adulthood, I learned that there is a small window of genius for language in a young child, and so, in my own preschool, where I taught children of professionals, we learned how to say short phrases in four foreign languages. As a writer and poet, I love language and delight in playing with words. 

Instead of my going to public high school with my friends, my father insisted that I was to go to a private girls’ school. There, my English teacher enriched life by leading us in rousing discussions about great authors’ unspoken intent in their works. Our French teacher was from France. Madame A.’s classes were practical and even fun, but precise. Our history teacher had been a spy for the United States. With just 14 students in each class, we were all drawn in together, in rich learning experiences and the development of critical thinking skills. It was our teachers’ excitement and love of communicating these to us that instilled a passion for pursuing more within us.

I am forever grateful for my parents’ and teachers’ love for enriching my life far beyond mere facts, tables and repetitions. Through their caring and involving my heart in my education, God has blessed me with a lifelong heartbeat for learning.

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