“Intimacy with nature makes for personal well-being. – But to unable them to swim in the stream is the least of the benefits this early training should confer on the children; a love of Nature implanted so early that it will seem to them thereafter to have been born with them, will enrich their lives with pure interest , absorbing pursuits, health, and good humor . ” Charlotte Mason, Home Education p.71
Earlier this week I came across an article about the benefit of hiking has on your brain, it reminded me of what Mason wrote many years ago. We are better equipped to spend long period of time in the great outdoors then at the turn of the twentieth century, yet again we spend more time indoor then any of our previous generation. I won’t list all our own excuses of why we aren’t spending longer hours in the great outdoors, I said we because I know you are like me, right! We are could benefit from a day spend in fresh air, with less technology involvement.
” Out-Of-door life takes the child afield, and keeps him in the open air, which not only helps him physically and occupies his mind with sane subject, but keeps him out of mischief. It is not only during childhood that this is true, for love of nature counts much for sanity in later life. This is an age of nerve tension, and the relaxation which comes from the comforting companionship found in the wood and field is without a doubt, the best remedy for this condition. “ Anna Botsford Comstock “Handbook of Nature Study”
“Never be within doors when you can rightly be without.” CM
There is a lot of misconceptions about what outdoor time should look like for young kids and students. To some, they think that we send our kids outside all day and we never do some “real school”. To others, they think we “do school” outdoors, but what does spending time outdoor time for children, should look like?
I just want to highlight here the major point from Charlotte Mason’s “Out-Of- the-Door children” chapter found in her first book, Home education. (here is a link where you can read Home Education for free online and all of Mason’s other writing )
- Growing time “..Do not send them; if it is possible, take them; for, although the children should be left much to themselves, there is a great deal to be done and great deal to be prevented during these long hours in the open air…” p43. There is many opportunity that opens up for us mothers to spend more time outdoor with our little one. Picnic, long walk or a full day spend in fresh air has its benefit. Meals shared outside the kitchen table are often a source of memories that kids will cherish and running around all day will make nap-time and bedtime much easier.
- Sight Seeing: This is playtime for kids, their sense of observation is heighten and they simply love going on hunts to find hidden “treasures” in their surroundings. Encouraging little ones to pay attention to details of the world around them, the beauty and how it has been created.
- Picture painting:Learning to see fully and into details is a task that little one can overlook because of their exuberance. Taking time to slow down and really look is something that will take patience both of the parents and child. This is also a time when you can ponder about the Creator and the creations and how beautiful is it and how much marvelous it will be later.
- Flowers and trees: Upon doing nature walk, let kids collect flowers, leaves and other little tokens that can later be identified together. We also have great advantage of digital cameras to snaps pictures of flowers and trees, it is a tools that is fun to use for the amateur photographer no matter how young or old he/she might be.
- Living creatures : Give your kids opportunities to interact with the living creature in their environment or do activities like bird watching or visiting a farm.
While reading “The secret Garden” you read about Martha sending Mary outdoor for the day, telling her to go visit the gardens and be physically active. You may also have noticed that Mary’s health and mood did improved during her time spend in fresh air, and that she did learn about animal, plants, and how everything grows. The concept that your physical and mental health and has a relation with the time spend al fresco, isn’t new, it was true then and still ring true now.
I think that the out the door time should be a time where kids can run and use all their energy in a positive way. If you had young kids indoor for too long, you understand that if that energy isn’t spend on something positive if soon get destructive and that is when they get into trouble. What Mason talks about isn’t spending unstructured time in fresh air where kids just run around without guidance. Children are curious by nature but we should be there to help them along the way, encourage them to be more observant and to take time to slow down.
Do we need to bring all the books out and do school in the fresh open air, not exactly. We do have a role has a parent to encourage the the young mind to be attentive, observant, paying attention to details. We help them to be able to present to us what they learn by painting pictures (drawing, photography, nature journal) or words (poems about nature, stories etc), remember this is a life long learning road that they are on and we are with them each step of the way.
Now, how can we make this work in our busy school life? I can’t say how it should work for you family and little homeschool, but committing to set aside a time each day or week where your whole family go out, exploring, running, learning from the great outdoor. Be the mother that sees the nature around her with new eyes, with the eyes of a child that delight in the beauty of it and together take time to learn about it, hands in hands.
How about you, how do you spend your outdoor time? Is it unstructured time or more intentional about learning?