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Mondays with Miss Mason–On Perception

February 14, 2011

Note: this post is part of an ongoing series. For more information on Charlotte Mason and Mondays with Miss Mason, please read the first post.

One of my favorite scenes in the movie The Bourne Identity is when Jason Bourne is in a coffeeshop or restaurant or something and he somehow knows all these details about the people there. Small clues that he has been trained to read although at the time he doesn’t know it.

Charlotte Mason actually shares a brief story about a similar group of agents called the Camorra. The ends of their training weren’t so great–they are basically a mafia–however the means of their training were “well worth recording.”

Quick Perception.––Closely connected with that alertness is the habit of quick perception as to all that is to be seen, heard, felt, tasted, smelt in a world gives illimitable information through our five gateways of knowledge. Mr. Grant, in his most interesting studies of Neapolitan character, describes the training of a young Camorrist (the Camorra is dangerous political faction; and, ill as we may of the ends of such training, the means are worth recording). “The great object of this of his training was to teach him to observe habitually with minuteness and accuracy, and it was conducted in something like the following manner. When walking through the city the Camorrist would suddenly pause and ask, ‘How was the woman dressed who sat at the door of the fourth house in last street?’ or, ‘What were the two men talking about whom we met at the corner of the last street but three?’ or, ‘Where was cab 234 ordered to drive to?’ or perhaps it would be, ‘What is the height of that house and the breadth of its upper window?’ or ‘Where does that man live?”‘ This habit, again largely a physical habit, of quick perception has been dwelt upon in other aspects. All that now need be urged is that the quickness of observation natural to a child should not be relied upon; in time, and especially as school studies press upon him, his early quickness deserts the boy, but the trained habit of seeing all that is to be seen, hearing all that is to be heard, remains through life. (from School Education, Part X)

This habit of “quick perception” can be formed in many everyday things from places where you travel, items you find in nature, or art you study. It’s interesting that she lists this among the physical habits as opposed to intellectual habits because it involves using the senses.

Since reading this part of her work, I’ve been thinking of ways to incorporate more perception training into our days. There are great card games like Blink or Spit that require quick perception.

You can also use picture games like spot-the-difference or find the hidden image. Here are some visual perception games.

Can you think of other games to build quick perception in other senses?  Maybe Mad Gab
for auditory perception?

One Comment leave one →
  1. Nancy from Sage Parnassus permalink
    February 15, 2011 4:43 pm

    So much of a Mason education develops perception. Picture study heightens this visually, composer study heightens this in the auditory area, nature study does visually and narration does this in a sense, too – and you mentioned this in your post. We could list just about every area of study that she talks about. It really does become a way of seeing and living and stays with the student into adulthood.

    Very interesting quote!

    Sursum Corda,


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