Two weeks ago, I reflected on Miss Mason’s Preliminary Considerations in her first volume of the Original Home Schooling Series. Today, I want to record a few insights, encouragement, or instructions that stood out to me in Part II, An Out-of-Door Life for the Children.
1. “Never be within doors when you can rightly be without.” (p42) She encourages parents to make full use of their opportunities- to eat meals outside and spend as many glorious hours in the fresh air and sunshine as they can.
We don’t do this nearly as often as we should. I think that perhaps I am the one to blame in this area. I find it uncomfortable outside (when I am out there for extended periods), besides somehow always feeling too busy to just spend hours outside. Of course, if I would just go, I might have less picking up and cleaning to do, since the children would not be inside making a big mess. This is something to ponder and aim for, anyway. Maybe soon- when I have time (hah!), I can set the backyard up for being able to eat more meals and snacks out there.
2. Though she wrote over a hundred years ago, I find this passage particularly insightful for us today: “In this time of extraordinary pressure, educational and social, perhaps a mother’s 1st duty to her children is to secure for them a quiet growing time… the waking part of it spend for the most part out in the fresh air.” (p 43)
There seems to be a lot of pressure these days with regards to educating young children. It seems that preschool is just the norm now and Kindergarten is the new 1st grade. So this advice speaks to my heart. I have tried and will continue to work on securing for my children a quiet, peaceful time for growing, playing, and being kids. Getting them outside in nature helps with the advice to put “An Observant Child… in the way of Things worth Observing.” (p69)
3. “Suppose we have got them, what is to be done with these golden hours, so that every one shall be delightful?” (p44)
I am so glad she asks this question, because it is one that I asked when I first heard about her idea of spending hours and hours outside “every tolerably find day, from April till October.” (p44) Her answer:
“They must be let alone, left to themselves a great deal, to take in what they can of the beauty of earth and heavens…. At the same time, here is the mother’s opportunity to train the seeing eye, the hearing ear, and to drop seeds of truth into the open soul of the child, which shall germinate, blossom, and bear fruit…” (p44)
‘…while wits are fresh and eyes keen, she sends them off on an exploring expedition- Who can see the most, and tell the most, about yonder hillock or brook, hedge, or copse. This is an exercise that delights children, and may be endlessly varied, carried on in the spirit of a game, and yet with the exactness and carefulness of a lesson.” (p 45-46)
Through an exploration expedition, the children are learning to observe. When the return to mother to describe what they saw, they are learning how to express themselves and mother can increase their vocabulary and range of ideas as she discusses with them what they saw.
4. Charlotte Mason recommends children keep a nature journal and a calendar of “firsts”- where they record the first oak leaf, tadpole, flower, fruit, etc. Then over the years, they can look forward to their favorites as they arrive. These are to be a source of delight to them. (p 54)
We do keep enjoy entering things in our nature journals. My daughter’s favorite thing about “school” is drawing, so these nature journals are fun for her. The calendar, though, seems like a great idea… but I’m not sure how I would go about keeping one. I’d have to learn more about how to do that in our climate here.
5. “Let them once get touch with Nature, and a habit is formed which will be a source of delight through life.” (p61)
A love of nature and the outdoors is a source of delight. I really do love getting outside and taking a walk and breathing the fresh air. It is also a source of health and well-being. If I work hard at giving them the habit of going outside often and plant seeds of loving nature and the outdoors, they will hopefully find it easier to keep going outside. There have been so many studies and books about how great going outside is- for children and adults.
I need to model this love of nature and the outdoors for my children and to this point, Charlotte Mason speaks as well, of “Two Things permissible to the Mother…. There is one thing the mother will allow herself to do as interpreter between Nature and the child…with look and gesture of delight… she will point out to the child some touch of especial loveliness in colouring or grouping in the landscape or in the heavens. One other thing she will do, but very rarely, and with tender filial reverence…she will point to some lovely flower or gracious tree, not only as a beautiful work, but a beautiful thought of God, in which we may belive He finds continual pleasure, and which He is pleased to see his human children rejoice in.” (p79-80)