Out-Of-Door Life – An Outline

Charlotte Mason’s first volume focuses on the child up to 9 years old, but we must remember the time period in which it was written. Children went off to school after this, so this was the time a mother had her child at home with her. Once the PNEU schools were formed, outdoor time was scheduled every day, starting between 11:30 and 1:00, (depending on the level of the student,) until about 3:45.

Shortly after the section on Out-of-door Life in volume one, Charlotte Mason says that, “The consideration of out-of-door life, in developing a method of education, comes second in order; because my object is to show that the chief function of the child––his business in the world during the first six or seven years of his life––is to find out all he can, about whatever comes under his notice, by means of his five senses; that he has an insatiable appetite for knowledge got in this way; and that, therefore, the endeavour of his parents should be to put him in the way of making acquaintance freely with Nature and natural objects; that, in fact, the intellectual education of the young child should lie in the free exercise of perceptive power, because the first stages of mental effort are marked by the extreme activity of this power; and the wisdom of the educator is to follow the lead of Nature in the evolution of the complete human being.” (pg 96-97)

Here Mason specifies that outdoor life is second in order in the means of a child’s education, but it becomes the FIRST thing that we parents can DO to facilitate their education. That is weighty.

However, in reading Out-Of-Door Life For The Children I found it frustrating that Mason jumps around so much. I understand the importance of embracing the philosophy and resisting making this a curriculum of check lists, but I still wanted the idea organized in my mind. Even she says, “Supposing we have got them, what is to be done with these golden hours, so that every one shall be delightful? They must be spent with some method, or the mother will be taxed and the children bored.” (pg 44) That is why I put together this outline of what a day outside should look like based on Mason’s ideas.

Volume I, Part II, Out-Of-Door Life For The Children

When

  1. Never be indoors when you can be without (pg 42)
  2. 4-6 hours on every tolerably find day, from April till October (pg 44)
  3. 2-3 hours every day in the open air all through winter, say an hour and a half in the morning and as long in the afternoon. (pg 85)
  4. All that has been said about ‘sight-seeing’ and ‘picture painting,’ the little French talk, and observations to be noted in the (pg 86) family diary, belongs just as much to winter weather as to summer.

How

  1. A journey of twenty minutes by rail or omnibus, and a luncheon basket, will make a day in the country possible…and if one day, why not many, even every suitable day? (pg 44)
  2. Children should be dressed for their little excursions (pg 84)

Method

  1. First send the children to let off their spirits in a wild scamper (pg 45) → 1-2 hours (pg 45)
  2. Sight-seeing: send them off on an exploring expedition (pg 45) → 15 minutes or so (pg 78) OR
  3. Picture-Painting: taking mental photographs, exact images, of the beauties of Nature; landscapes (pg 48)→ should only be employed now and then (pg 49)
  4. Nature Study/Object Lessons: (pg 51) → an occasional ‘Look!’ an attentive examination of the object on the mother’s own part, a name given, a remark––a dozen words long…and not more than one or two such presentations should occur in a single day (pg 78-79)
    • Field crops
    • Field flowers and the life history of plants (flower pressing, collection, classification)
    • The study of trees
    • Seasons should be followed
    • Calendars (book of firsts)
    • Nature Diaries/Journal (brush drawing) also recording observations in a family diary is noted (pg 85-86)
    • Living Creatures
  5. Geography: → teach geography “by the way” (pg 72)
    • Physical geography
    • Position of sun
    • Weather
    • Distance
    • Direction, inc East and West
    • Compass
    • Boundaries
    • Draw plans
  6. French Lesson (or other foreign language) → a little lesson, ten minutes long (pg 80)
  7. Games → after lunch (pg 81) an hour or two (pg 80)
    • Rondes
    • Skipping-rope and Shuttlecock
    • Climbing
  8. Babies can sleep in the sweet air (pg 81)

Do

  1. Do not send them; if it is at all possible, take them; (pg 43)
  2. They must be kept in a joyous temper all the time (pg 44)
  3. They must be let alone (pg 44)
  4. Mother reads her book or knits her sock, checking all attempts to make talk (pg 79)
  5. Once a week or once a month, with look and gesture of delight point out to the child some touch of especial loveliness in colouring or grouping in the landscape or the heavens (pg 79)
  6. Very rarely, and with tender filial reverence point to some lovely flower or gracious tree, not only as a beautiful but a beautiful thought of God (pg 80)

Don’t

  1. It is not mom’s business to entertain the little people (pg 45)
  2. During the first six or eight years of life, I would not teach them any botany which should necessitate the pulling of flowers to bits (pg 62)
  3. The Mother must refrain from too much talk (pg 78)

It would be well if we all persons in authority, parents and all who act for parents, could make up our minds that there is no sort of knowledge to be got in these early years so valuable to children as that which they get for themselves of the world they live in. Let them once get touch with Nature, and a habit is formed which will be a source of delight through life. We were all meant to be naturalists, each in his degree, and it is inexcusable to live in a world so full of the marvels of plant and animal life and to care for none of these things.” (pg 61)

19 thoughts on “Out-Of-Door Life – An Outline

  1. Lisa Cadora

    This is so good! I fear that our children will grow up in front of screens, not knowing much about the 3-D world at all! It's scary, really, to consider how little time children spend using their five senses or their whole bodies.

    Reply
  2. Lisa Cadora

    This is so good! I fear that our children will grow up in front of screens, not knowing much about the 3-D world at all! It's scary, really, to consider how little time children spend using their five senses or their whole bodies.

    Reply
  3. Susan

    Bring on the 4-6 hours a day of summer! Yum! I just love lapping up the outdoors in the beautiful summer months…and now I know it is totally encouraged to bring along a book for me 🙂

    Reply
  4. Michelle

    Hi Nicole! Thanks so much for gathering this information. I've come to a few of the meetings with Robin and am on the email list! (The email list is how I landed here.) Hopefully I will rejoin the group soon as I'm getting deeper into CM methods.

    Your blog is so lovely! I'm sure I will learn so much as I search around here. Blessing to you today.

    Reply
  5. Nicole Williams

    It's like the converse of the soggy English countryside! She said, "A mere time and distance tramp is sufficiently joyous for a wet day, for, taken good-humouredly, the beating rain itself is exhilarating." But what would she have thought about high heat and high humidity?! Maybe, "A mere time and distance tramp is sufficiently joyous for a 95 degree day, for, taken good-humouredly, the sweltering humidity itself is exhilarating." Of course, I'm, just being silly!

    Reply
  6. Nicole Williams

    Thank you Lisa. I sometimes worry that I'm too analytical, but I think a person can consider the nuts and bolts of a CM education, while not losing sight of the philosophy.

    Reply
  7. Pingback: Object Lessons | Sabbath Mood Homeschool

  8. Tina Paul

    ..an occasional ‘Look!’ an attentive examination of the object on the mother’s own part, a name given, a remark––a dozen words long…and not more than one or two such presentations should occur in a single day

    I think it is this part that I feel overwhelmed by. I do not know when and what to say ‘look’ to. I do not know any names to share. I feel that I am not very knowledgeable to give any information to make this first acquaintance for my children.
    I feel that my lack of ability in this area will result in the mere random observations from the below quote..
    “Or suppose that he is let run loose in the country where there is plenty to see, it is nearly as bad to let this great faculty of the child’s dissipate itself in random observations for want of method and direction. ” (Vol.1, p.68)

    Can you share any suggestions for me to fully implement this point in our out-of-door life?

    Reply
    1. Nicole

      Two things come to mind. 1) Charlotte Mason said somewhere that a mother could do no better than to improve her knowledge of nature. She thought we moms should study it. I think that is why Handbook of Nature Study is so useful. It’s not to be read to the student, but it helps you learn and even gives you specific questions to ask your student to help them discover for themselves. 2) The name of the thing is not the thing. The example you quote above is more about teaching them attention. They must learn to stop and notice, but when they play in the fields with their friends and siblings, they can be too distracted to ever notice the lovely things around them. It’s your job to bring their attention to focus. Mason says we should do this no more that 2-3 times a day, and hopefully at some point a child’s interest in discovery will lead them on. John Muir Laws even points out that frequently when people figure out the name of a thing, they don’t observe it anymore. It’s like they check it off their list and go look for something else. Mason would like us to learn some names, but the main thing is that we learn to notice, look closely, and appreciate.

      I hope this helps clarify and encourage.
      ~Nicole

      Reply
      1. Tina Paul

        That is helpful and encouraging. Thanks so much for clarifying! Also, that is so interesting about what John Muir Laws shared. I appreciate your wisdom!

        Reply
  9. Jenny Schreiner

    I was just sitting down to type of my notes on all of this from her first volume on the out-of-door life. What a joy to happen upon this. Thank you! I was originally coming to your website because I am wanting to do a special studies (I think that’s the right term – still new to CM) on trees to go along with choosing trees to watch throughout the year. You mention “The True Book of Buds” in your article of Natural History on CMI. Are there others you would recommend as well? My kids are form 1A and form 1B. Thank you!

    Also, do you recommend journaling sunset/sunrise, location of the sun, weather, etc? If so, with what frequency? Once a week for the issues related to the sun? Note the temperature everyday at the same time? Would you then graph these to help children learn weather pattern? Even if this should wait until Form 2, how would you approach this?

    Thanks for being so generous with your time by providing your research for all of us.

    Reply
  10. Jenny Schreiner

    I was just sitting down to type of my notes on all of this from her first volume on the out-of-door life. What a joy to happen upon this outline. Thank you! I was originally coming to your website because I am wanting to do a special studies (I think that’s the right term – still new to CM) on trees to go along with choosing trees to watch throughout the year. You mention “The True Book of Buds” in your article of Natural History on CMI. Are there others you would recommend as well? My kids are form 1A and form 1B. Thank you!

    Also, do you recommend journaling sunset/sunrise, location of the sun, weather, etc? If so, with what frequency? Once a week for the issues related to the sun? Note the temperature everyday at the same time? Would you then graph these to help children learn weather pattern? Even if this should wait until Form 2, how would you approach this?

    Thanks for being so generous with your time by providing your research for all of us.

    Reply
  11. Tina Paul

    Nicole, I have come back to this post time and time again because it outlines things so perfectly for me and I often feel I need some hand holding in this area. I am trying to implement these things and wonder how I carry this out at home in our backyard and neighborhood as we do not have another vehicle for our use during the day. My understanding is that we could go outside and the kids could play around in the backyard freely, then after some time I could guide a sight-seeing or picture-painting lesson. My questions are.. Is the games after lunch part of this time of scampering and wild play before we focus on observing nature? Also, what part of this outline would a nature walk fall into?…Is a nature walk after a sight-seeing lesson to note the different items listed under 4. Nature Study/Object Lesson? Thanks for your practical help in this area!
    Blessings,
    Tina

    Reply

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