Wow. It’s going to be hard to capture the essence of the first quarter of Home Education in one post. Remember I’m not usually going to narrate here but marinate. Discuss. Ponder. In this first volume, which is written to encourage young mothers in bringing up their form one and younger children (under age 9), CM focuses much of her writing on nature and the children exploring the wonderful world around them through their five sense. She stresses that in any kind of weather, children should be outside for a minimum of 2-3 hours/per day in winter and 4-6 hours in the summer months. Have you picked your jaw up off the ground? That is a serious amount of time outside. And it was in England, where rain is usually in the picture more days than naught. Lest you think this is just a matter of sending your littles outside and you sitting on the sofa eating bonbons all day watching HGTV (because that’s what we homeschooling moms do, right?), she implores us to not just send them outside but to be outside with them. OUCH. I think she just stepped on my toes.
Now I’m not sitting on the sofa with bonbons or HGTV, though if we had HGTV it could be a problem… I do love Fixer Upper… but I am sitting on Facebook or this blog or doing housework etc. And sometimes that stuff needs to be done but …what is my priority? She tells us to let our kids engrossed in their own explorations but suggests that we are nearby doing our own thing–knitting, gardening, basically setting the example. “Never be within doors when you can rightly be without…” is commonly quoted within CM circles. And this is so true. Some things do need to be done indoors but we can all probably spend much more time outdoors than we do.
By way of example, last March we had a holiday a the beach for a week and we spent 6-7 hours a day outside. Can I just say that by 7 pm I could barely keep my eyes open? I was happily exhausted. Content. Blissful. It was so hard to leave…tears. And that was from me. The funny thing was we inadvertently left early… or started to. I had the dates mismarked on my calendar so we “checked-out” early but we had taken separate cars so I went home and my husband went to take care of business and settle the bill and such. Happy day when he called and told me we had one more night!! It was so glorious and the next day, I was ready to leave. But I miss those days at the beach… we need more of them. Not just the kids, we all do. Get outside more. In the islands we say, “Get Salty.”
CM also advises us not to get in the way of the child’s relationship with nature. As teachers, as parents, as adults we tend to talk too much. We impart our wisdom, we feel this to be our duty. But is it? Doesn’t nature speak for itself? Are we doing more harm than good? We are to send the children off to observe nature scenes and then come back and describe them to us in vivid detail before we wander off with them to witness their discoveries. But surely we can’t do this, it’s not safe these days! Proof that CM lived in times past and just didn’t understand how impossible this would be for the modern mother. Hey, no judgement here. I sent my 10 year old off to the park and then hovered nearby… making sure that no unsavory characters were lurking on the premises…He’s ten. The park is across the street. Do I really need to helicopter parent? Umm, maybe?
The struggle is real. Is it truly more dangerous to leave our children to engage in masterly inactivity than the past or do we jut know more than we used to? “Knowledge is power!” we say, but we also say “Too much knowledge is a dangerous thing…” Whether or not its permissible to have our children outside our line of sight is something we probably all wrestle with to some extent. Is it responsible parenting to send our children off even five minutes away from us? Remember that CM often advised taking them via rail or coach to “lonely places”… which implies that they were not often frequented by others. Also there is comfort in numbers. Sending a group of boisterous, laughing children off to observe seems safer to me than sending one off by himself. So do we do this in groups? A small natural history club? I don’t have the answers to these questions, but I’m trying to discover them…what are your thoughts? I do love how she insists that the children really do their work before they get the reward of you coming to see their treasures. No slacking allowed!
So by now you can tell, if it has even taken you this long, that I do not know everything. I do not have all the answers and I’m a pilgrim on this educational journey just like you. Not everything I say will be “CM Gospel” … it is just what is running through my mind. I welcome your thoughts, I welcome being challenged if you are doing so from an authentic CM stance and are studying her volumes for yourself and I openly invite discussion. Next time we will finish up this initial post with riveting discussions on CM’s “old-fashioned” ideas of nutrition, fashion, and air purification … or was she perhaps ahead of her time?? I do hope you’ll join me!