“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” (Vol. 1, p. 43).
Did you catch that? Even in Charlotte Mason’s day, a hundred years ago, mothers were feeling the pressure to push their preschool children in academics and social activities. But Charlotte advocated an opposite approach that still holds benefits for you today.
Give them a quiet growing time, most of it spent outdoors.
Here are some activities that Charlotte recommended for those hours outside with the children.
Eat your meals outside whenever possible, even if you prepare lunch in the kitchen and take your plates to a blanket in the backyard. Eating outside is enjoyable and good for your child.
Free play in a wide open place
Young children need a lot of time for unstructured play. The more they depend on adults to tell them what to play and how to play it, the less initiative they will develop. Give your child plenty of time to run and play in a wide open place outside. If you don’t have a backyard that will work, go to a nearby park or field.
Charlotte used the term “sight seeing” for exploring different areas in the child’s vicinity. Challenge your child to explore a certain area, being respectful of other people’s property, and come report back to you all that he discovered. It’s a great way to practice the habits of observation and truthfulness.
Every once in a while, draw your child’s attention to a beautiful outdoor scene that you can both see. Encourage him to look at it until he can close his eyes and see it in detail. If any portion is unclear, have him open his eyes and look again until that picture is painted on the art gallery in his mind. When he’s ready, have him describe the picture to you in detail without looking at the original scene.
Games like jumping rope, chase, follow the leader, climbing
Teach your child the old-fashioned high-energy games that children have been playing for centuries. Encourage him first to climb small heights to gain confidence (both his and yours!) and to learn his limitations with minimal danger. In other words, let him use up that limitless energy in the fresh air!
Foreign language “lessons”
If your child is learning a second language, you will find many natural opportunities outside to teach new words. Name a few objects in view. Give him the words for the activities he is doing outdoors. These “lessons” don’t need to be long or formal. Simply take advantage of outdoor time to enlarge your child’s vocabulary in that second language.
Personal acquaintance with nature
Use the hours outside to encourage within your child a love for nature. “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 humour” (Vol. 1, p. 71).
So take your child outside and enjoy some relaxed growing time in the fresh air. You’ll both be glad you did.