Never be indoors when you can rightly be without.
Today Charlotte admonishes us to activity in an area that is hardly an issue this time of year! Do any of us need to be told to go outside when the the earth smells so fresh, the sunshine feels so penetrating and warm, and all of creation is pregnant with new growth and life just waiting to burst forth in all of it's brilliant green splendor!
I'm often guilty though of using this time to send the children outside so that I may sweep through the house tidying it up as fast as possible before they return and the inevitable mess making continues, get caught up on my daily chores or laundry, do a quick task on the internet, or, worst of all, simply enjoy a little quiet time. Now some of those things aren't necessarily bad, although some are. However, we are here urged not to "send them, if it anyway possible, take them."
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 the child, which shall germinate, blossom, and bear fruit, without further help or knowledge of hers.We make the most of our time outdoors with our children when we have a method in view. This will prevent children from becoming bored. We are all too familiar with the children coming to us after a short while outdoors with the cry of "I'm boooorrred." (Although I find that keeping them occupied with farm duties helps tremendously with this attitude problem. If I don't have them busy enough that they find the time to become bored, I'll simply set them to work. They know that well enough not to come complaining to me!) However, bored children should not be given books while they are outdoors otherwise they will expect to be entertained. I can't help but think of a commercial I recently came across somewhere on the internet where the whole family can watch their movie from anywhere... including the little boy who is outside viewing it on his iPod. We've entertained our children to the point where the excitement of just being outside has been squelched. I hope that isn't the case for those of us who grew up prior to such a connected age and that our enthusiasm for the outdoors is still palpable enough to become infectious.
If they are made and kept happy, all of the benefits they reap from being outside will be maximized. Two methods that we could adopt while outside are "sight-seeing" and "picture-painting".
Sight-seeing is simply accomplished by directing the conversation of the children through a careful questioning that is reminiscent more of casual interest rather than grilling. The children come to you divulging what they've seen. We inquire an educate where necessary through the conversation until "by degrees a complete description" has been made. Sight-seeing will train the children to carefully observe and communicate, increase their vocabulary and expand their world by giving names to their observations, and will train them to be truthful. Exaggeration will rarely lead to an accurate identification. Their keen observations will cause them to have complete memories since what they saw was fully seen.
The miserable thing about the childish recollections of most persons is that they are blurred, distorted, incomplete, no more pleasant to look upon than a fractured cup or a torn garment; and the reason is, not that the old scenes are forgotten, but that they were never fully seen.
This point really struck a nerve with me as my powers of observation and memory are notoriously poor and I often feel as though I'm walking through like wearing horse blinders, I'm so focused on doing what needs to be done.
Picture-painting is not at all as one might think, but is done when you so fully capture an image in your mind that you can close your eyes and clearly see the what was before you and can then verbally paint a picture of the scene. Think Laura seeing for her blind sister, Mary, in the Little House on the Prairie series. You will play the part of Mary and the child will be Laura. Or reverse the roles and give the children a treat by painting a picture for them. Through this, they will learn what is expected of them and they will eagerly copy-cat you. This exercise will not only improve their memory and attention to detail, but perhaps their writing skills as well as we see was the case with Laura. We are cautioned that this is a taxing exercise to the children's mind and should only be occasionally undertaken.
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 in 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.
Charlotte Mason Original Homeschooling Series
And may I take this opportunity to thank those of you who have commented on these Charlotte Mason posts? I've appreciated each and every one of them and the different perspective of many has challenged me to think of her words in a fresh way. Thank you!