Do you see those 200 words up in that wordle? How many of those names, places and things do you recognize? Charlotte Mason, the late British educator, published this list in order to make a point about her method of education. I'll get back to that in a minute.
Long, long ago, before my oldest two skipped off to their respective halls of academia, they remarked about how their dad seemed to be able to talk with just about anyone. I mean, not just exchange niceties, but ask questions and discuss whatever it was the stranger was familiar with or accomplished at - from exotic animal experts to paper mill executives. (This really did happen at a B & B in Missouri - it was a bit bizarre.) Dh told the boys that if they read a lot and read widely - and he is a good example of this - they will always be able to hold an engaging conversation with just about anyone on any topic. You don't necessarily need to be an expert, you just need familiarity and a working knowledge of many things. Besides, he said, it will make your life more interesting and less self-absorbed.
Along those same lines, read this little vignette about Sir Walter Scott:
Okay, now back to the wordle at the top of the page. These words were all used by an eleven-year-old with 'ease and fitness' on an examination. The child had heard the material one time during the term and had no review before the exam. I don't think that anyone will have a problem finding this child's 'bent leather' when he is older, nor do I think he will have a difficult time finding others'! This ability to be familiar with so many things - and we are not talking about "general knowledge" here - is one of the reasons I was drawn to Mason in the first place. I've seen what a broad education as she describes can do for a person and so I am delighting in offering it to my four still at home, in addition to our CM co-op, Truth , Beauty, Goodness. However, there is more . Mason was very specific in how to go about this. I will talk about that in my next post, "Bent Leather, Part 2".Perhaps there is no better way of measuring a person of liberal education than by the number of substantives he is able to use with familiarity and discrimination. We remember how Scott tried a score of openings with the man on the coach and got no further until he hit upon 'bent leather'; then the talk went merrily for the man was a saddler. We have all had such experiences and know to our shame that we ourselves have victimised interlocutors who have not been able to find our particular 'bent leather.' Vol. 6 p. 260.