This week I have been re-reading Home Education by Charlotte Mason to my great delight. I am gearing up for the fast approaching school year.
Charlotte Mason encouraged mothers to take their children outside for walks and to observe the nature that is all around us. She believed it trained their power of observation and expression.
“This is all play to the children, but the mother is doing invaluable work; she is training their powers of observation and expression, increasing their vocabulary and their range of ideas by giving them the name and the uses of an object at the right moment,––when they ask, ‘What is it?’ and ‘What is it for?’ And she is training her children in truthful habits, by making them careful to see the fact and to state it exactly, without omission or exaggeration. ”
Charlotte Mason recommends that children should be taught:
The names of field crops in the area. We drive by a stretch of gorgeous untouched farmland each time I go to my mothers. I always enjoy seeing the rotations of seasons in the farmland. Farmer tilling the field, next time, planting, and the next, tall corn growing. The kids enjoy seeing the animals as well. And of course, my father is a cranberry grower so we enjoy watching the progress of the family crop as well. (cranberry unit study here)
The names of local field flowers: Learn the wildflowers and flowers by name in your own yard first, then expand.
The names of local trees: Learn the trees in your own yard first, then expand.
The names of local birds: I used to tape up pictures of birds in our back yard for the kids to learn (and for me to reference incase I forgot!)
Seasons should be followed: Comment on the seasons: the chill in the air, the salty taste of the ocean air, the burnt orange hue of the leaves. This is the easiest way to follow the seasons. Or, in your nature journal, sketch the same flower in your yard through its growing season. Record the date on each sketch.
Or set up a nature table. This is a small area in your home of the season’s treasures: shells, starfish, beach glass, for summer; leaves, acorns, pinecones, lovely art for fall. My friend Kara has a beautiful article on nature tables here.
Nature diaries should be kept: These can be a sturdy covered notebook with pages that will accommodate both watercolor and ink drawings. If you attempt these, too, mother, your children will gladly copy you. Whenever I pull out my paints with the kids up, they always want to paint with me. This video shows you how to watercolor your nature journal using only three colors.
When the children were younger, I would pack up a picnic lunch and head over to one of the family cranberry bogs to spend an afternoon. We’d eat lunch out doors and the kids would explore the woods looking for something interesting to share that they had not seen before. We’d sketch their find in a nature journal, then bring it home for further investigation. The time spent outside, eating in the fresh air and the memories of the kids playing in the sunshine are gifts to me. I am glad I was there with them.
Rebekah surprised me the other day, when she pulled out her journal and asked if I wanted to see her sketches from Germany. Apparently her camera broke one day and she recorded her memory in the form of a sketch.
This week we spent some time outdoors with the kids. Peter took us to a beach in Scituate and we spend the afternoon climbing the rocks and walking the shore. I took these photos with my phone, so I apologize for the grainy look.
I can feel myself getting re-energized for the upcoming school year. How about you?