Diligence. Patience. Perseverance. Every teacher and parent wants children to develop these qualities. Aside from urging students to complete their work, just how is it done?
Consider parent William Mitchell, a father of ten. He loved astronomy and expected his children to assist him—as part of their education—as he observed the sky at night. He showed them how to use a telescope to sweep the sky, observe, take notes, and record measurements. As a result, two of his children, Maria and Henry, developed interests in science. Henry went on to a career as a hydrographer and helped found the National Geographic Society.
And Maria? She discovered a comet at age twenty-nine, became the first American Professor of Astronomy at Vassar College, and is acknowledged as the first professional woman astronomer in the United States.
Maria Mitchell thrived in a home in which parents prized learning. It took years of diligent study of math and patient observation of the sky until she discovered Comet Mitchell. Later in life, she wrote that she never forgot the one-on-one time with her father on the roof walk as they observed the sky together.
Children thrive when their parents share their interests, spend time with them, and teach them. Parents don’t need to have all the answers, either; for example, when William Mitchell had taught Maria all the math that he could, he found her a more advanced teacher.
We don’t need to be experts in astronomy to learn from the sky, nor must we expect our children to make fantastic discoveries. But observing the night sky often is a terrific, family-friendly field trip. It teaches our children that there are infinite worlds for exploration and discovery.