Out of Door Life: A Growing TIme

Home Education
Volume I, pp. 42-45
Her wisdom, my thoughts:
(...thinking aloud and trying to understand)

Never be within doors when you can rightly be without.

In this time of extraordinary pressure, educational and social, perhaps a mother's first duty to her children is to secure for them a quiet growing time, a full six years of passive receptive life, the waking part of it spent for the most part out in the fresh air.

And this, not for the gain of bodily health alone - body and soul, heart and mind, are nourished with food convenient for them when the children are let alone, let to live without friction and without stimulus, amongst happy influences which incline them to be good.

They must be let alone, left to themselves a great deal, to take in what they can of the beauty of earth and heavens; for of the evils of modern education few are worse than this - that the perpetual cackle of his elders leaves the poor child not a moment of time, nor an inch of space, wherein to wonder - and grow.

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 a child, which shall germinate, blossom, and bear fruit, without further help or knowledge of hers.

Our long hours outdoors made us more receptive to the beauty and complexity of nature. In becoming more receptive, we've come to develop an observing eye. There are a lot of things I wouldn't have bothered to look at, but now, with my children alongside, our attention to detail blossomed, with an appetite and an eagerness to discover more.


After exploring outdoors, my son and I went on to sketch the crayfish that was caught. I got one of our field guides and looked it up. My son was eager to simply observe and sketch while I unknowingly "cackled" about its body parts. Mentioning words like cephalothorax, carapace and maxillae. I was reminded by my husband (who, without even reading CM's books, is a natural Mason follower) to focus on the objective of being outdoors in his age. He reminded me not to kill the awe and wonder of my child.

My husband wrote this after our discussion:
One of the objectives of nature study is to let nature train the child the skill of observing and paying attention. As teacher parents, we already know of and therefore notice more details than the student child and instinctively, since we know of these details, these are what we want them to see. We tell the child, "Look at its wings. See the shape of its eyes? How many legs does it have?" with the intent of guiding the child's observation.  However, in this trail of thought, we are actually slowly losing sight of the objective. Rather than 'teaching' the skill of observation and attention, we need to remember to let nature train the child and we as parent teachers take nature's lead in facilitating.

I think we should ask questions like, "What do you see?" or "Why do you think it needs to be like this or like that?". We should try our best to be sensitive to the details the child sees rather than ask questions that lead to what "we want" them to see. When we try to "lead" the child's observation, we, although unintentionally, are saying that the child's observations are not important and as a result also stifle the opportunity for the child's awe and wonder. On the contrary, the details that the child did notice are actually what struck him the most at that given time. And it is from his own observations that we should jump in and make discussion rather than insist on what we see. If the child doesn't see what we want him to discover, he may not be ready to see it just yet. 

Just a few more notes:
* Charlotte Mason has been very consistent in her believe to not get in the way of learning. She believes that we are merely facilitators and not the source of knowledge. This is even applied to the way narration should be done.
* She mentions lack of stimulus as a good thing. Yet we live in an age where it is believed that stimulating a child in all possible ways would do them good. Again, note to self: let not these stimulating things get in the way of learning. Let learning be a joy in itself. No need for rewards or stickers for that matter.
* Being out in nature does incline them to be good. They are not restricted and they are free to explore in the open space. Less nagging from me = happier children :)
* They must be left alone, to take in what they can of the beauty around them. Let them wonder and be in awe.

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