Monday, April 3, 2017

A Basic Method for Time Outdoors

I've been sketching out my own notes as I go through Charlotte Mason's "Out-of-Door Life" section of Home Education. My temptation is to highlight or quote everything! But I'm trying to give myself a broad outline.

As it seems to me, there is a basic method introduced in the beginning of the section, into which the rest of the information fits.

After demonstrating the need for a robust outdoor life, and these MANY hours outdoors, Charlotte goes on to say that a method is needed.

The GOAL is that "every hour should be delightful." Sounds good to me!

WHY is a method needed? Why not just turn them loose? Well, without a method, the mother will be taxed and the children will get bored. She says "there is a great deal to be done and a great deal to be prevented." Again, there's the art of the mother's purposeful presence at work.

A few things to remember:

  • The children must be kept in a joyous temper all the time
  • The children must be let alone and left to themselves a great deal to make connections for themselves
  • This is also the mother's opportunity for training and "dropping seeds of truth"
  • An hour or two of vigorous play for muscular development
  • "Last, and truly least, a lesson or two must be got in."

With that in mind, she presents a framework for time outside together.

The Wild Scamper

Upon arrival at your destination (be it backyard or field trip), send the children “to let off their spirits in a wild scamper, with cry, halloo, and hullaballoo, and any extravagance that comes into their young heads” (p.45).

In other words, let the kids let off some steam and explore, and just "be kids" in the great outdoors.

Sight-Seeing or The Exploring Expedition

After a sufficient scamper, call the children back. Then, “while wits are fresh and eyes keen” send them on an “exploring expedition” (p. 45).

This should be done "in the spirit of a game, but with the carefulness of a lesson."

Basically, you send them off to find out everything they can about a particular spot or object, such as a hillside, stream, or tree. Then call the children the back and have them tell you their observations. With a few questions, you draw out all you can about what the children have observed. 

"By degrees children learn discriminatingly every feature of landscapes with which they are familiar." 

"This is all play to the children, but the mother is doing invaluable work" (p. 46).

Educational uses of Sight-Seeing:
1. It trains the powers of observation and expression 
2. It increases their vocabulary and range of ideas by giving them names and uses of things in nature
3. It trains them in truthful habits by making them careful to observe and then state exactly what they saw
4. It gives "a delightful possession for old age." Things really seen in the first place can be really remembered in years to come. 


In Picture-Painting we take mental photographs of a landscape. Have the children look at a landscape, then shut their eyes and see if they can picture it in their mind's eye. See if they can describe the picture before them, in as much detail as possible. If it's still blurry, have them look again, and try to describe again. 

This effort of recalling and reproducing can be mentally fatiguing, so this should be done "now and then." (What would this mean? A few times a week?)

The goal is "seeing fully and in detail." Mason says it's worthwhile for children to know a bit of landscape by heart. They will also be storing up a mental gallery of images which they can recall for later enjoyment.

This reminds me very much of Wordsworth's famous poem, "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud."

I gazed - and gazed - but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye 

Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

Charlotte goes on to say that in the course of Sight-Seeing and Picture-Painting, opportunities will occur to make the children familiar with a host of things, including
  • Field crops and farm life
  • Field flowers and the life history of plants
  • Trees
  • Seasons
  • Living Creatures

There's more to say about each of these areas, which I will come back to in later posts. 

 A Lesson or Two

I haven't read up to this point yet! More to come.

Vigorous Play

I'm not quite sure where the hour or two for vigorous play comes in Mason's outline. Perhaps this will become more clear as I read on. 

Putting It Into Practice:

This week, I'd like to try out some of these basics. First, to let us all loose for a little while, then have everyone come back for Sight-Seeing. I think "Exploring Expedition" sounds a little more lively, so that's what we'll call it! If that goes well, we'll try at least one round of Picture-Painting. 

We read Wordsworth's poem last week, and talked about how he "gazed and gazed," and was thus able to remember the scene in his "inward eye." So I will encourage them to "gaze and gaze" just like him, and see what we can see. :) 

Happy  Outdoorsing! 

~ Lindsey

1 comment:

  1. This is great. I think having outdoor play be the default, as you say, does take some training. I'm not a blogger but we also work hard to spend time outdoors as much as possible. I find it is helpful if I keep enough flexibility in the day's schedule that I can let an outdoor activity organically finish whenever possible instead of interrupting it for whatever has to come next. I'm really enjoying reading what you're doing!


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