Thursday, May 28, 2009

Out-of-Door Life

A love of Nature, implanted so early that it will seem to them hereafter to have been born in them, will enrich their lives with pure interests, absorbing pursuits, health, and good humor. ~Charlotte Mason, Victorian British educator

In the spirit of Charlotte Mason, I have been striving to wander through the woods with my boys at least once a week, if not more. We spend time outside daily, but these weekly wanderings are something I've tried to build up in Gabriel's mind. We bring water bottles and “provisions” for the trail, we sometimes wear hiking boots, and we try to visit a different park each week. We leave ourselves a full morning for wandering through the forest, observing. I have been doing this instinctively for a while, but it has become a decided project after delving into Charlotte Mason's original writings. Her own time was over 100 years ago, but I believe her insights into the needs of a child's early education are wise and transcend the time in which they were written. She says, “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 among influences which incline them to be good.” The receptivity to, and wonder about, all that nature holds, as well as the simple power of observation, are some things I hope to be cultivating in Gabriel on our little walks through the Virginia forests.

One of the secrets of the educator is to present nothing as stale knowledge, but to put himself in the position of the child, and wonder and admire with him. ~ Charlotte Mason

That being said, I just have to take the chance to pat myself on the back and tell the virtual world out there that today, baby in the backpack and all, I bent over and scooped up a little tadpole so that Gabriel could hold one, wondering at the little legs that were sprouting on either side of the tadpole's little wiggling tail. Certainly I have done my fair share of running through woods and creeks, being out of doors, and camping, but never once have I been inspired to plunge my hand into a creek and fish out anything. I guess it's not much, compared to other motherly acts of love and self-sacrifice, but I felt it was quite a triumph. All for the love of nature and education, and my little guy, of course. Hopefully Charlotte Mason would be proud.

Gabriel stops for a break and some "provisions" along the trail.

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