Since making the decision to home school my children, currently ages one and three, I have been researching various methods of home schooling.  Over the next few weeks, I’d like to share with you some of the benefits I’ve seen in each of those methods.  If you are considering home schooling, this may help you decide where to start.  If you are already home schooling, this may provide you with some ideas to enhance what’s working well for you or re-work something that’s been a struggle.  To see all posts in this series, please click the tag “home schooling methods.”

The philosophy and methods of turn-of-the-century British educator Charlotte Mason have experienced an enormous resurgence in the last couple of decades, particularly in home schooling communities.  While her methods are not strictly designed for home schooling, Mason received most of her own education at home and in her writing often speaks as much to parents as she does to educators.  I strongly recommend her first volume, “Home Education,” for any parent, whether you are formally home schooling your children or simply looking for some sound insights on child-rearing.

Among the most important tenants of Mason’s educational philosophy is the firm belief that the chief business of early childhood should be exploring the natural world.  She encourages parents to get their children into the fresh air daily, including eating meals outside at every opportunity.  She goes so far as to say that windows of the house, particularly in the children’s rooms, should be open whenever possible so that even the air indoors is fresh and wholesome.

Charlotte Mason home schoolers take regular nature walks during which they explore their environment.  They learn about native plants, birds, and animals.  They become familiar with the cardinal directions and how to orient themselves in the area around their home.  They keep journals of drawings, notes, pressed flowers, paintings, and so forth.  Through regular practice and their parents’ encouragement, they learn to attend closely to detail and to observe and describe the world around them.

This aspect of Charlotte Mason’s method resonates deeply with me.  I spent many summer hours of my own childhood meandering through the fields, woods, and swamps around my grandparents’ cottage, usually in the company of my grandma and  younger sister, watching and listening.  Those were days packed with wonder and joy.  Just last week I had a similarly heart-bursting experience in our local park when my three-year-old son stopped short, pointed up in a tree, and said, “Look!  A cardinal!”

This is something my children need: time to be outside, to watch and listen and breathe the fresh air.

What do you do with your kids outside?  How do you provide them the time they need to explore the natural wonders around them?

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