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Emma Hart Willard, Christian Woman

Posted By Connie Moody, Thursday, March 14, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, March 12, 2013

March is designated National Women’s History Month. Now, we know that every month—every moment—is Christ, His-story, but we’ll use this opportunity to share a bit about a woman who contributed to the telling of His-story, Emma Hart Willard.

Emma Hart inherited from her parents a passion for learning, a broad Christian benevolence, and a deep sense of patriotism. As a young girl in Connecticut she used her "vigorous mind” and "her opportunities well, and in her desire and ability to acquire knowledge she far exceeded her years.” (Emma Willard and Her Pupils, Mrs. Russell Sage, publisher, New York, 1898, 10) Emma early applied her passion for learning to teaching and eventually founded the Troy Female Seminary in New York. Her original designs were to increase the learning of women and, in turn, to increase their influence as wives and mothers—as the superintendents of the home and hearth, the nursery of Christian character and self-government—and thus to secure the footings of the new Republic.

Applying her character as a diligent and self-directed scholar, "It is easy to evolve the fair picture of the enthusiastic young wife [of Dr. John Willard] studying to qualify herself to be the companion of the wise and good man who had enthroned her in his affections. She delves into his medical library, she unravels the mysteries of Physiology, she takes up the study of Geometry, and comes by successive steps to Locke’s "Essay Concerning Human Understanding.” (Emma, 12)

Having opened a boarding school in her home to help with family finances, Emma is described as an individual of "persevering industry.” "A model wife and mother, she still finds opportunity to supplement her routine of school duties by her own researches in science and literature, that she may unfold their mysteries to her classes.” (Emma, 13)

Absent during Willard’s early career are Webster’s Dictionary, grammars, readers, and his essential blue-backed Speller. His histories complete with catechisms on constitutional republicanism are yet unpublished. "She had no models from which to copy.” (Emma, 15) She had only the fruit of her own studies, her plans, and her reflective observations on learning to guide her instruction. Emma Willard was a pioneer in education in the young American Republic. "Finding herself still restricted by adequate text-books, she resolved to make her own.” (Emma, 16) Among her contributions are History of the United States or Republic of America (1828) and Universal History (1835). In addition, being a teacher of teachers, Emma Willard designed and documented guides, graphics, and map series so that the "student will then view the plan of universal history, with ‘its two eyes, chronology and geography.’” Daniel Webster wrote of her History of the…Republic…, "I keep it near me as a book of reference, accurate in facts and dates.”

The prefaces to her books contain exhortations and instructions to the teacher illuminating methods and applying principles of teaching and learning. In her History of the United States she points out, "Moral improvement is the true end of intellectual. Hence, the propriety of sometimes turning aside in the relations of history, to make such moral reflections as they may suggest; and if it is proper for the historian to make them, it is proper for the student to notice them.” (History of the United States or the Republic of America, Emma Willard, N. J. White: New York, 1835, ix)

In a later abridged edition of the History, she adds, "We have, indeed, been desirous to cultivate the memory, the intellect, and the taste. But much more anxious have we been to sow the seeds of virtue, by showing the good in such amiable lights, that the youthful heart shall kindle into desires of imitation….There are those, who rashly speak, as if in despair of the fortunes of our republic; because, say they, political virtue has declined. If so, then there the more need to infuse patriotism into the breasts of the coming generation. And what is so likely to effect this national self-preservation, as to give our children, for their daily reading and study, such a record of the sublime virtues of the worthies of our earliest day… what our country, and our liberties have cost? And what but the History of our peculiar, and complicated fabric of government, by which, it may be examined, as piece by piece the structure was built up, can impart such knowledge of the powers it gives, and the duties it enjoins, as shall enable our future citizens, to become its enlightened and judicious supporters?” (History, abridged, 1850, V-VI) The appendix of the unabridged History includes the Declaration of Independence, Washington’s Farewell Address, and the Constitution of the United States. Willard insisted that these "should be studied by the youth of our country, as their political scriptures.” (History, ix)

JOIN US in celebrating Christ, His-story through the life of a Christian woman, wife, mother, teacher, and lifelong student: Emma Hart Willard.

Tags:  education  Emma Willard  history  self-education 

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Go and Enjoy: Read Aloud to Yourself

Posted By Connie Moody, Tuesday, April 24, 2012

"Ezra read [the Law] aloud. . . and all the people [men and women—adults—who were able to understand] listened attentively. . . The priests read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people understood what was being read. . . ‘Go and enjoy. . . This day is holy to our Lord.  Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.'”      Nehemiah 8:3-10

 

A supposed "triumph” in modern education is the early and complete transition from being read to to reading silently to oneself.  Once established as the preferred mode, silent reading is used all too frequently at the detriment of other aspects of developing the mind and character for which the gift of voice and the art of listening were designed.  As a result, many adults so trained by their own elementary educations have excellent reading fluency but are unable to understand and apply challenging (and sometimes even simple) texts because they automatically default to silent reading and try to read with understanding without having cultivated "ears to hear.”  Suffering thus, they recoil from the sounds of silence and cease to venture into the world of history, literature, and even the Holy Scriptures—the world of ideas, principles, and purposes—for the fruitless exercise of reading without understanding. 

Those who also have added difficulties due to processing disabilities or visual impairments often shy away from words on a page in a sense of self-preservation.  In addition to being early sequestered within their own minds by silent reading, many young readers are discouraged from using aids to follow the text.  Forced to remove their fingers from the lines of text and their bookmarks from the page too soon, many never develop the acuity to visually track the typeset further compounding their frustration with reading.  If it helps to add the kinetic support of gliding your finger along the lines of print, then by all means, do so.

Those familiar with the volumes of the Christian History Library published by FACE (Christian History of the Constitution, Teaching & Learning America’s Christian History, The Christian History of the American Revolution, Webster’s 1828 Dictionary, etc.) know that these are not texts readily digested by a casual read—even by the best of readers.  Likewise, the classic novels and epics suggested in the Noah Plan Literature Curriculum Guide are often shunned as texts too long and difficult for students (and teachers), so abridged editions or other titles are proposed.  Our current political climate and sad economic condition have many pondering the need to revisit the texts that informed the minds of our Founders and to read what they wrote in defense of the republic, as well as other great records of history and liberty.  These do not come readily to the modern reader; The Federalist Papers, for instance, can pose a daunting task to read and understand.

How do we approach the lofty ideas, principles, and purposes inspired by the heart of God and crafted into words by so many writers throughout the centuries?  Why, Reading Aloud—to Yourself!

"As Horace Scudder writes, Reading Aloud is ‘stronger than iron in welding souls together.’”1 Reading Aloud not only binds individual souls together in a unity of ideas and character, it binds ideas of consequence to our hearts and equips us with internal understanding on which to act.  It builds our character, cultivates our conscience, and trains our mental faculties.  Reading Aloud employs all the senses to rouse the mental faculties causing them to work together to grasp the ideas and secure understanding.  Reading Aloud also develops us as storytellers able to excite emotions while conveying truths that will be cherished, remembered, and perpetuated in each generation.  These are reasons why we insist on reading literature aloud to students even in high school.

Bringing a text to life and its meaning to the forefront is also aided by knowing the author—his providential setting, spheres of influence, character, and contributions.  Who is he to tell this story, to make this declaration, to pen these words?  Reading an overview of the story or text is also helpful to help gain a general understanding of the "big picture” into which you will put the particulars of the details you read.  This prepares you to center your thoughts and focus on the purposeful targets of the text.  Books on the topic written for children or youth can supply this preview.  The summations of gifted commentators and modern translations also serve well.  Don’t think it cheating to read the end of chapter notes and summaries before reading the chapter.  And, Cliff’s Notes do have a place in preparing to read with understanding but should never become a substitute for reading the REAL story.

So as you are prompted by the Spirit to be restored to the truths revealed in His Word, to His principles manifest in documents of His-story, to His character portrayed in the lives of literary characters, and to His love conveyed in the lines of poetry, do not deny yourself these wonders—Go and enjoy!  Do not grieve but feed on the meat of the original sources, the full text, the unmodified language.  As a priest, like Ezra, mount the platform and Read Aloud to Yourself—for the joy of the Lord is your strength!

 

1 Slater, Rosalie J. A Family Program for Reading Aloud. Chesapeake, VA: FACE. 6.

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Tags:  history  literature  reading aloud 

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