May we have a Home Education discussion?

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  • LindseyD

    One of my goals this year is to read as much of Charlotte’s writings as I can, to apply what I read, and to rid myself of some old, bad habits. I am currently reading Home Education.

    Can I just say that the reading of this invokes in me just as much desire to be ‘that mother’ Charlotte writes of as it invokes guilt that I have not been her thus far? Like the adults Charlotte spoke of, I get “most of [my] knowledge through the medium of words” (p. 67), and so I have not been good about getting the children out of doors. Furthermore, like most of you, we do not live near woods, ponds, marsh marigolds, cottages, bee hives, and the like. Further still, I do not enjoy being outside, but am shamefully, “the mother who sends [her] children out, weather permitting, for an hour in the winter and two hours a day in the summer months” (p. 43). When did that mother cook or wash clothes or dust her furniture?

    These writings are invoking me to throw all caution to the wind and move 20 miles out of town and away from all society, cars, roads, and man-made landscaping. I am feeling extremely guilty, as, according to Charlotte, I have done my children a disservice from their birth by not providing these “exploring expeditions” (p. 45) and games of “picture painting” (p. 49).

    When we have had nature walks, my children are more interested in counting the cars that pass by that they are in seeing how many different species of trees there are or what shapes the clouds have made in the sky. We have collected nature things–leaves, nutshells, and such–but then I lack the knowledge of how to display them in a way that fosters continued curiosity and wonder.

    I realize Charlotte did not write Home Education with the intent of making us mothers feel guilty. What she describes is what I desperately want for my children and myself; I just don’t know how to go about getting it in modern-day life.  My children are 6 1/2 and almost 8. I feel I have lost so much time in cultivating this excitement, this wonder, this fascination Charlotte speaks of.

    May we have a discussion on this subject?


    I sure hope others join in Lindsey! I love CM’s writings! I find them inspiring and a standard to reach for. Just the other day I was reading something of hers to my DH and I stopped to say, “Sometimes she just makes it sound too easy.”

    Yes, when did “that mother” clean her home!? I sometimes wonder if CM ever met anyone who actually fully lived up to her wise mother examples. She was never a mother herself, you know.

    Oh and nature study! How wonderful it all seems! To spend the day in a field of buttercups… I would love to provide that upbringing too and I keep saying that I will before my DS gets too old and lo and behold he’s turning 4! Yikes and darn. 🙁 I will be honest though that I hate being outside for the most part. I would like to get over that… How does one develop a love and appreciation for it? Maybe we put ourselves on the same level with the children instead of as the teacher. In other words we cultivate our curiosity of nature right along with them and research what we’re curious about instead of feeling bad about not having all the answers. Where to find the answers to “what is that” has always been my problem, especially bopping around overseas… I am kind of inspired by your post to check out that blasted Outdoor…Hour blog… I forgot the name of it but I’m sure you know the one. Man to love nature the way she does! It’s all so intimidating though really… We should start a little nature study support group. Haha.

    Well I do hope others join the discussion! I bet there is a ton we could glean from each other!



    I’m interestly reading this as I’ve never read any of Miss Mason’s books (yet).  The blog Dana is referring to is Handbook of Nature Study.  This is my first year trying to implement CM emphasis into my homeschool and our only second year homeschooling.  We did some nature study in the fall, however it’s very wet in the Pacific NW and on top of it, I too am not an outdoor person.  I’m trying to get over that tho.  I’ll be watching this thread with interest and join the discussion when I can.  I wish I could push “pause” on life so I could read all her book (and a lot others too), so I could implement them before my kids get any older.

    Sara B.

    I think part of the problem is that most home schoolers in CM’s day were upper middle class and above. I don’t know about anyone else, but I can’t afford a live-in maid or governess. The children have chores to do, not just sitting doing handicrafts. I have chores to do. I can’t just tell the maid to go do it, *I* am the one who must do it.

    I know CM says this method is for every child, not just the rich, but really, *how* pray tell, can a lower class mother do this?

    All this to say, I have felt very down lately (see my schedule post from earlier this week), and I am just thinking that unless and until I get this live-in help, I am doomed to muddle my way through and hope for the best. :-/ It *is* rather discouraging.

    I remember Linda (aka missingtheshire) saying that in England there are no ticks, snakes, mosquitos. LOL, if that’s true then no wonder Charlotte Mason said what she did about regularly walking in the fields. 🙂

    Linda, would you like to respond?

    We live in different times and most of us in totally different part of the world. I try to remember this when I feel pressured to be more “country-fied”. I have some close friends who run a successful organic farm in the country. After observing how hard their real farm life is,

    I’m thankful for my hubby’s 8 to 5 job. Everyone’s different though, and we all have different callings. And I KNOW I’m not a farm girl.

    Nature study is great, but some moms will just be better at this than me. I’ve learned to accept it and be happy. My passion is art, so my kids do more museums than nature walks. 🙂


    We spend all summer outside and larges amount of time outside in all other seasons as well. We live in the country with forests, ponds and rivers on our property. I’m really into nature and we spend hours a day canoing and swimming. I rarely clean, and laundry is always behind. My hubby helps keep the chores going so I can school the kids and take them outside.

    I was just writing a PM to Lindsey about something else, and I wrote the following in response to what she was wondering about.

    I went to a CM primary school, the teacher took us out every afternoon to see the nature in our village rain or shine – she let us ramble about the village and see what we could find, she did not teach us, just told us to look for nature and then when we got back in class after a couple of hours we narrated to her what we had seen and pehaps did a drawing. She did not tell us what to look for and did not direct out study – we were allowed to learn for ourselves. She did tell us the proper botanical name of the flowers and weeds we found – but that was later in the classroom. We brought samples back to look at and show, and then she would name the item if we did not know. I still have the little wildflower dictionary she gave me so that I could identify these things myself – all the children got one. Most of the nature study my own girls did was in our garden or in the neighborhood and again, I let them learn to observe things for themselves. Nicci started keeping caterpillers that she found and raised them into butterflies – she just asked me for a habitat one day – I gladly got one, but left her to it, and she did a fantastic job growing parsley to feed them and then letting them loose when they hatched. She kept a journal and all that was by herself. I believe that children learn best when they learn and are motivated themselves, especially in nature study. Our CM teacher was adament that we were allowed to explore without interference or interjection, and it worked for me, because I have loved nature and gardening and all that every since. Not everyone wants or can be outside, so don’t worry about it. Oh one funny story, my daughters found a couple of snails when they were little, and they asked me for some string, later when I went out they had made little snail harnesses and the snails were pulling leaves in a race – leave them be and they will come up with far better things than I could have. Back then (eons ago) we were not bothered with mosquitos, ticks and things of that nature, though there were plenty of stinging nettles and brambles to get into….got bitten by the odd noseeum as well. We do have the adder snake and grass snake but nothing like you have here and they don’t do much damage. England is fortunate to have very little in the way of unpleasant bugs, ticks are on the rise there and we get more mosquitos now than we did when I was young it seems. I think if you love the outdoors great and if you live in an area where the wee beasties are not so evil as to harm you then that is great too…but this country is a little different, and we have to adapt to what we have nearby and the conditions we find ourselves in. The US is certainly not the place that Charlotte Mason had in mind when she wrote her books, she was writing from a place of great natural beauty, where you could freely walk for miles and come to no harm and see a myriad of things. We are not in that time or place, and so we must do what we can without worrying that we are doing it wrong. My whole attitude to nature study has always been, freedom to do what the child find fascinating, leaving them to discover (in a safe way of course) and above all teaching them a respect for all of God’s creation from the most beautiful creature, flower to the most humble of weeds, some of which are very healthy for us – to me that is the main thing and what I learned all those years ago. Even though the girls spent their first 13 years in Europe and England they could not enjoy quite the same experiences as I had, times had changed, you could not let your child just go wandering off into the countryside, and things were a lot more built up where we lived, but they still managed to grow up with a real love of nature, that is still with them today.

    Ladies please don’t be discouraged – I have had a messy house and things not done as I would have liked, I have not done anything in what I would consider the right way, but it has turned out well. I have been purging years of our school things, and sorting out writing the girls did for them to keep. These writings are from years ago as well as more recent – when I sat and read some of their early work I must say I was amazed at the maturity of and wisdom in their writing, and their drawing – looking at samples from throughout all these years made me finally realise that – wow even with me as their mother – imperfect, occasionally bad tempered, a little ADD, and being somewhat disorganised a lot of the time, they have done really, really well. I don’t believe we can ruin them, I think we are allowing them to fly and to learn and to learn with joy…keep your chins up, carry on and don’t worry – if I have managed, then all of you certainly can…and remember you are in the year 2012 in the USA and not in the Lake District in England many moons ago – times and things are different, but can be equally as good, there is no one way….

    Sorry for the ramble…I am wordy too, another Linda



       That was wonderfully worded! We can’t be everything, everyday, everytime, everywhere.  I try sometimes, someday, somethings, somewhere and hope I hit the mark at anytime. I try my best as I am sure everyone on here does. Like you said we don’t live there in that era. We don’t have servants to help us. 

       This mornings Bible reading with my family was on the Proverbs 31 woman. We had a wonderful discussion on it. I said most women are intimidated by this woman. I said, ” she has to be a queen”  Back in that day women didn’t by a field. That was a man’s job. We looked and discussed how she used her earnings to buy grape vines for the feild not the field itself.She had money! We looked at how she got up early and went to bed late. I am sure we all do this. 🙂 We have children. 🙂 She has maid-servants. Sure could use a few of those. I could get alot more done.  CM had those also. We don’t have all the luxuries of some of the people we try to imulate. My husband said, “That isn’t to unattainable!”  Tehe he! I am still wondering what part is not “to unattainable” to him.  Do we batter ourselves up? Do we strive for something “unattainable”? When we miss the mark then beat ourselves up for it? Do we beat others up mentally to make ourselves feel better for sort of hitting the mark? 

      I think I miss the mark. I know I miss the mark. I have to look at why I miss it and try to attain a balance. Like the other day I was wondering why I can’t always finish the laundry. Then, as I was doing it I realized. I have no where else to put the clean clothes when they are done.  I told this to my husband. Here all this time he thought I just hated to do laundry. He only had it part right… I hate to put it away! 🙂 especially when the place I have is full. So I have taken this year to analyze why I do the things I do. Now, I am realizing that I do things because I have a reason. LOL  🙂

    Well said Linda, thanks for chiming in!

    Lindsey, I do want to add that I have done some little things of nature that have made a BIG difference to my kids. Just be encouraged to do what works for YOU. One thing we have loved is a bird feeder in our back yard that is observable from our kitchen table. The kids have grown very fond of the different birds we have, and even recognize their unique songs and chirps. Very fun, and EASY. 🙂

    Another thing is just having a small garden of flowers and such. We can change out the plants according to season and it’s enjoyable and beautiful.

    I also let my kids run free in cold months in our backyard creek. Too many snakes in the warm weather, but they enjoy it in the colder months just as much. We recently discovered a beaver dam there.

    Other than that, I don’t worry too much about it. Often times the kids will find a “treasure” to save from outside, and I try to just go with the flow on such things. Sometimes I look up scientific names, but most times I let them look it up on their own in little reference books.


    Lindsay, thank you for putting into words what I have been struggling with for some time now. For me, the distractions are different — two part-time jobs outside the home, one which DD comes with me, and one which she stays home with DH — and the same: laundry, cooking, cleaning, etc. Add to this that DH doesn’t do much DD when she is home with him, and often puts in kid movies for her to watch to pass the time, and I feel like that atmosphere Charlotte writes of is a distant dream most days.

    Linda, your post offered so much encouragement! Thank you! 🙂

    My goal for 1st grade is to really delve into nature study. For us, this isn’t going to look like more than an hour outside most days, given the nature of my schedule, but it will involve longer trips to the nature center with a blanket and a picnic lunch one day a week. 🙂



    @Lindsey, I certainly do not think that you have lost much time cultivating excitement in nature for your kids.  They are still young, compared to mine anyway, and mine are still pretty young compared to some on this forum.  And, I think that you are very fortunate (and your kiddos) for having found CM as early as you did, especially for the areas that you do excel in.  I found CM much later (but early enough for my 2 younger boys) and have some serious regrets for my oldest boy.  Oh, the memories of our early hs days are just miserable.  We have made much progress, thanks to this forum/site.

    What I had been giving my kids, per their education, was textbooks/workbooks, and then more of the same.  I had no patience and could not see what I had before me, my precious kids.  We were not having read alouds, any nature study (at all), field trips (unless with our co-op), hymn, picture, composer, poetry, good, wholesome books, character study, narration, etc. CM has given me so much to then give my kids, even if I don’t accomplish everything, in every way, that she prescribed.  If you are even trying (like most of us are) to expose your kids to these wonderful things, then you are doing a much better job than what they would’ve received in ps (well, that’s a given, lol) or what you might have been doing if you had not been exposed to CM.  Trust me, I know.  And, I’m not trying to bash other methods, but what I was doing was not good, let’s just leave it at that. My dc have learned to LOVE literature, audio books (from Lamplighter, Jonathan Park, Librivox), the Millers, which would’ve never come into play (at least not like it is now) if I had not stumbled upon this site.  The amount of books we have (and their quality) would never have been readily available to them, and for that, I am so thankful.  The good that my kids are able to think on, because of their exposure, has been such a blessing, especially since there is plenty of bad for their young minds in this world. 

    I guess what I’m trying to say is, think on the things that you are doing (and possibly wouldn’t be) since you have embraced the CM method.  After that, trying to do one thing here and there that you may not spend as much time on (nature study if that’s what it is) is still better than not doing it at all.  I would love to have our Nature Study time/experience to be much like what I have read on here and Handbook of Nature Study site, but it’s just not, not now, and maybe not ever (and I’ll probably have some serious regrets about that).  But, I am trying.  We have a yearly pass at our local zoo and I have started a very small CM-inspired Nature Study group who meet 1-2 times per month.  Does it look like all of what I’ve seen/read, probably not, but we’re trying….just that fact alone (that we’re trying) has been more than our kids had had before.  Our kids do spend alot of time outside in the summer and we camp, swim, dad takes kids for bike rides/fishing, etc., and I’m happy with all of that, too.  Now, if I could just get their notebooks looking like I’d like them to look….we’re working on itLaughing.

    In a perfect world CM’s ideas would all just work out perfectly and I do think they are wonderful ideas worth pursuing, but, they are just ideas (wonderful as they are), not gospel. I think that if she knew that you were gleening anything from her writings and they sparked something in you, her goal has been met.  Didn’t she advocate that??  Reading some “living” idea and have it work itself out in the minds of our dc is what we try to do, and, I believe, that’s all we can ask of ourselves.  I think she’d be happy to know that we find her thoughts valuable, but to think on them too much (as if they were gospel) and to invoke guilt would not be helpful, to anyone. 

    BTW, I totally get your desire to create what she has written.  I see so many other examples of hsing kids’ creations (especially nature notebooks, among other things) and I want that so badly for my kids.  But instead of feeling guilty I need to actually encourage what I’d like to see and just make it happen, then be happy with what we’ve created, and try not to compare.  Also, I have noticed that the more time I spend outside, the more I love it.  That’s  just a side note.

    This is much longer than I had planned, so bless you if you made it through my ramblings.



    Oh, and I’m getting a bird feeder asap.  We already have several animals, but I think my kids would really enjoy a bird feeder.  You probably already have one, but we don’t and that’s just one more thing we wouldn’t have otherwise.


    One thing to keep in mind that while I think Charlotte’s overall educational philosophies are timeless, I’m sure that her actual day-to-day would look different today than it did in her time.   I fully want my children to love nature and we do strive to get outside each week away from everything else, but sometimes they are more fascinated by a motorcyle they see or the GPS the park ranger is showing us than the nature around them.   Other times, they are fascinated by moss and mushrooms growing on a tree. The key is they are still learning and taking in their surroundings.  I have noticed the further we get from civilization and the more time we spend immersed in the outdoors, the more they enjoy nature, if that makes sense.

    But I can’t let them go spend hours everyday outside unless I am with them and that’s no always feasible.  That is something that would’ve been more easily attained in Charlotte’s time and place.  We, instead, live on a very busy street and since we live in a parsonage, that’s not changing anytime soon.  You work with what you’ve got.  We’ve put in a bird feeder, we garden almost year-round, we go for bike rides, we walk to the park, we go camping a couple of times year, etc.  


    A bird feeder is a great idea, yet simple to execute! 🙂 We have two hooks on the posts on our back patio for planters. I bet one of those would be perfect for a bird feeder. Thanks for the idea! 🙂


    Bird feeders, bat houses, ladybug houses and parsley plants for caterpillars are all good options in the right gardens. Also a toad abode is a neat thing to have, the only problem with that is the local snake came to my garden and bit the toad and it died! Also don’t forget water for the birds, I have feeders and waterers in our garden and also hummingbird things for that time of year. We also have a couple of trees, and so the girls one year photographed and journaled the life cycle of the tree throughout the year. If you get caterpillars, pop them in a habitat and feed them parsley and carrot tops – give them sticks to climb and wait for them to cocoon – later in the year and in some cases the following year, you will have beautiful swallowtails to let loose in the garden. We also had a praying mantis one year that was so interesting to watch. I also plant for bees, so we get lots of bees as well to observe. All this in a normal suburban yard – nature is everywhere around us and easy to discover. The birds often nest in our nesting boxes and so then we have chicks to look at, and a hawk also visits, because he knows birds are in my yard, and he gets the odd snack, which is after all part of nature – and he sure is beautiful. Even popping a large rock somewhere in the dirt in your garden and then leaving it, will have interest – a few months in, pick up the rock and see what is underneath, all kinds of interesting creepies…..lots of things for the children to observe and do. Growing Zinnia’s is easy and so pretty, they flower for ages, and the more you pick the more you get, sunflowers as well – Linda

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