May we have a Home Education discussion?

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  • LindseyD

    So encouraging to know I’m not the only one who struggles with trying to attain the unattainable. Sometimes I truly think I was born in the wrong century. LOL!

    We tried a garden last year, and the drought and wind killed it within weeks. We will try again this year. I enjoy planting flowers, and since we just moved into a new home, our beds will need A LOT of work come spring. The children and I went for an hour long walk yesterday afternoon in some undeveloped lots across from our house. The further back we got, the more we found worth looking at. We even found a creek! When the weather gets consistently warmer, I think I can make great use of that little area…until summer time when the rattlesnakes will be out. In fact, we saw many snakeholes yesterday. Ugh.

    I think it’s funny that Charlotte points out the fear children get of bugs is something they pick up from adults. This is certainly true for us! Our children are so allergic to mosquitos that bites puss up and crack open after a day. It’s horrible. Also, I was stung by a scorpion in my sleep a couple of months ago, and we have had three poisonous centipedes in our house! EEK! I hate to drive fear into them, but I also cringe at how they could be hurt just by the critters in our own house. We just live in part of the country where there are just as many harmful creatures as there are lovely ones: black widow spiders, brown recluse, rattlesnakes, scorpions,coyotes, raccoons, opossums. 

    What can you do for a bird feeder if you have no trees in your yard? Hang it on a pole? Our children love to watch birds out the window during breakfast. Our old house had a lovely mulberry tree in the backyard where we observed many bluejays and a pair of cardinals, but we have no place in our new home that would attract birds.

    On the subject of flowers, what are some good perenials to plant for dry areas? I hate spending the money on plants that will only flower once, then die. We got less than an inch of rain this past spring/summer, and forecasters are predicting the drought to continue this year. I hope they’re wrong.

    Anyway, thanks for this discussion. I will most likely be posting more as I continue to read CM’s writings. I guess I was really discouraged yesterday and forgot to focus on what I’m doing RIGHT instead of what I THINK is wrong.



    We have bird feeders that suction to the window, so we get an up close view of the birds.  Right now we have some chickadees that join us most days for lunch.  They come to eat theirs while we sit and eat ours.  We have three different types of food so hopefully more birds will find our window in the spring.

    This is what we have, although there are probably other places to find them:,10719,33068&ap=1   There is also this version:,10719,33068&ap=1  You can also mount a bird feeder or birdhouse on a pole or the side of a shed, or building.  I don’t know enough about different types to know what will attract different kind of birds, but it shouldn’t be to hard to learn.

    I always find it interesting to read of the challenges of the different places we all live in.  We don’t have to worry about any of the critters that Lindsey described, but winters are especially challenging for outdoor time.  There is only so much to see and observe in the snowbanks in the backyard, and many of the trails that we like to explore in the summer become slick and challenging in the winter.  Then there are weeks like this one coming up when the highest temperature forecast all week is -23 degrees celsius (about -10 degrees F).  My theory is that we can only do the best we can do.  In the summer, we are often out basically all day.  In the winter, we may have weeks like this where we simply don’t go out at all.  That averages out to CM’s suggested 4-6 hours doesn’t it?  LOL

    I do love to read CM’s own works and try to glean something new each time to try to implement in my own home.  I can’t do it all at once, though, so I don’t even try.  Even Charlotte Mason herself took time to develop her ideas and implement them!  There are many years of experience between volume one and volume six, so even her ideas were a work in progress.   

    As you said, Lindsey, focus on the good things that you are or can be doing, and then don’t fret about everything else. 



    “A perfectly kept house is the sign of a misspent life.” I came across this quote yesterday. It made me smile, and I hope it will do the same for someone else.


    My daughter and I were just reading this post with great interest! Thank you Lindsey for an engaging post!  I’ll share what it brought up in my mind …

    We actually have the opposite problem with our CM … too much time outdoors!  The kids are always running for the door with some manner of game, critter catching jar, or project in mind.  Try getting them to sit still indoors and you have to be very, very engaging and any non-living book is quickly tossed to the side for sure!  They are older – 9 and 11 – and we do live in a rural area and on a good amount of land.  Maybe that explains it?  I grew up outdoors and for the most part was left to my own devices on a large farm so this freedom doesn’t seem threatening or scary or unusual to me.  However I can understand how it might if you weren’t raised with it.  My husband is a city boy and several times a day over weekends when he’s off I can count on him saying “Honey, do you know where the kids are?!”  There are a lot of dangers right in our back yard – pond, poisonous snakes, yellow jacket burrows, and who knows what else.  And I do worry about them (but I try to never let them know it) when it’s been a while without much noise … at which point I open the window and holler out “Wave your hands so Mama can see you, ok?”  Not mothering that is likely to win me any awards but I have learned and continue to place high value on my children’s freedom in the natural world.  I realize I usually muddy up the waters when I “stage nature” or put too much thought in to their time out of doors.  What I read in Charlotte’s writings is her intent for children to find their own relationship to the wonders of nature.

    I have never been able to enjoy the Handbook of Nature Study as so many have.  I consider it a huge failing on my part.  But there is just something too *something* about it and I can’t yet do it.  That blog that is so beautiful and all the others that show these amazing NS books and notebooks …. oh I dream of my children creating those.  I have tried over the past 2 years of CM to do all sorts of NS and a lot of it has worked very nicely but a lot has felt canned and actually taken away from the experience I was hoping to enjoy. 

    Go simple is my thought.  It’s about enjoying yourselves and nature.  A hose running in the fenced back yard, a sand pile, and various recycled jars with holes in the lids …. that’s where the magic happens.  All the mess and exploration that a child can have alone with nature.  If you have more than a fenced back yard great but if not great.  I think NS and Charlotte’s emphasis on it is for the incredible restorative power of nature.  The ability of Nature more than anything else to give us the wonder, vastness and power of God’s creation.

    And I say emphasize where your passion is too … I liked that post that commented that she loved art and focused more on that than NS.  We can’t do it all.  We can’t do it all at the same moment in life.  I like to think of phases instead.  Now, we are in an art emphasis phase then maybe it will be a hiking phase then maybe it will be a building phase or an animal phase. 

    Oh who really cares if your house is perfect?  Honestly, why does it matter?  I hugged and kissed the Jones goodbye six years ago and I don’t miss them at all!  I used to have a real serious problem with being an OCD home maker/keeping up with others/getting ahead, until it hit me like a ton of bricks just how off base my actions were.  Although we enjoyed our home and it was welcoming to guests …  it was too much work for me.  I wasn’t enjoying the blessing of a beautiful home but instead I was going berserk cleaning it, organizing it, etc.  How fun can that be?  Is that really honoring my husband’s hard work to give us this beautiful, safe home to live in?  Nope.  Not in my mind.  Same goes for acquiring more and more.  I love beautiful things – art, vintage anything, etc. – but how much is too much?  When is something enough? I still battle this one.  I want to fill this house to the brim with beautiful things but geez … it’s a waste of our money and I just stopped letting myself do it.  I might now sell something in order to buy something.  I don’t know it’s still a hard one for me.

    Now, I keep our home neat by having less and less and less stuff (give it to someone with nothing) and sharing the load of chores with everyone in the household.  Where before I was sure I was the only one who could put away the dishes perfectly, I now realize that showing my children appreciation for their best efforts and giving loving feedback is just the better way to go.  I’ve relaxed my cooking controls and am teaching them both how to cook now daily so that my load is reduced but life skills are also gained.  Nothing in our home is perfect …. this morning I saw crumbs in the kitchen under that little area between the cabinet and the baseboard that could feed a family of mice for a week!  I almost had a hissy fit (that’s what Southern women do sometimes) but I stopped and used a little habit training on myself and said “Claire, what is most important to you right now?  That you make a good, nutritious breakfast for your family or that you grab a broom and disrupt the day by going on a cleaning frenzy?” 

    I don’t dismiss Charlotte’s writings.  I want to make that clear.  In fact I think she was on to something very big that we’ve really lost sight of in our lives.  I don’t read her as a mandate exactly either.  And there are a great many other writers from more simple perspectives that give the same types of advice too.  But I find it helps me to ask myself -why exactly can’t I do what she is suggesting?  If it is something of my own doing that keeps me from it then that is something I can change.  If I have so many things that I have to spend an inordinate amount of time cleaning, dusting and caring for them instead of Charlotte’s suggestion then maybe I need to think about which is more important to me right now.  The same could be true with obligations too.  If I am so busy and rushed and engaged in activities other than what Charlotte is suggesting then maybe I need to decide which is more important to me right now.



    I think we all have to find the gold nuggets in CM writings and use what works best for each of our families.  I found this subject very interesting.  It does matter where you live in how much time you spend outdoors.  We love the outdoors but I don’t particularly get out as much in the winter time.  We live in the middle of 20 some acres of woods in a log cabin.  When my first two boys were younger I spent a lot of time out with them during good weather and did sleigh ride and make snowmen.  But with my third son I am a little more lazier about going outdoors.  I also have so much to do between lessons and housework, laundry and cleaning and just enjoy doing what I want indoors.  We don’t really call it “Nature Study”.  We just enjoy nature.  We really enjoyed the year the cicados came around a few summers back and studied on that.  We also have a garden from spring to fall and work in that.  We also raise blueberries, black and red raspberries.  We enjoy watching the squirrels in the trees and we once had foxes feeding nearby when we didn’t have a dog that winter.  I have to keep my middle son from the window so he will focus more on his studies.  He is my most outdoorsy son and goes out when he feels like it to be with his Black and tan coonhound pup.  My youngest I don’t let out with my son or myself as much unless I can see him in the clearing.  We have a lot of coyotes in this area and that does tend to worry me.  My husband has taught the boys to recognize poisonous and non-poisonous snakes in this area.  The oldest boys can shoot the poisoned ones and my youngest knows to come tell us as soon as he sees one.  My husband has also taught my middle son plant and tree identification.  He passes this on to my youngest son.  My middle boy wants to be a forest ranger so he is interested in all this and wants to know.  The boys also know their birds and my youngest is interested in insects so he has a list for study.  Yes, we have to go with what who we are as an individual/mother and what our child is interested in.  Enjoyed the insight to others’ lives.

    *  The ability of Nature more than anything else to give us the wonder, vastness and power of God’s creation.*

    I like that statement Claire. I think overall Charlotte was pointing out the importance of just simply planting seeds in our children’s lives so they can have opportunity to capture the beauty of God, whether it be in the songs of birds, or in a painting of Monet, or in a beautiful piece of music. It’s all related to God, and as homeschool moms we are blessed to daily share in this joy whenever it arises.

    Just this morning my kids were staring out the window watching the birds again. I was thinking how neat it will be for them to share this joy with their own kids someday. No, I don’t know all the scientific names of each bird but I do know how God has created them for us to enjoy. And when I’m old and gray that will be a sweet memory.


    Fantastic!  thanks for all the thoughts to chew on!  It IS very frustrating sometimes to try to marry CM’s way with today’s reality.  I’m so appreciative of this site and everything Sonya and her team put out, though.  Many times, I feel like they are the missing link!  🙂 

    I also loved the point that we can’t do everything, so just follow your passion.  (or following your DC’s passions could work too…)


    This is such an encouraging thread! Lately I have felt a lot of the same guilt some of you have mentioned. This thread has helped me remember to take a closer look around me and try to identify what we DO have.

    I’m starting to realize that nature just looks very different where we live now, compared to when I was growing up… and much different from CM’s region. But it’s still all around us. Not in our literal backyard (we rent a house in the city) but, nearby enough. Almost all of the playgrounds we go to have large areas of grass, trees, flowers. Some even have butterfly gardens! The local university has an amazing nature trail through the woods, which is only 5 minutes away. The BEACH is only a 20 minute drive, and the beaches here are so incredibly beautiful (snow white sand!), clean, and full of interesting and worthy things to discover. We rent a house in the city with practically no yard. I think I was imagining something like the title scenes of the Little House on the Prarie series when I read CM’s writings, and I was forgetting some of the incredible things we DO have access to. (How could I have forgotten our beaches?!?! They are their own little ecosystem!)


    As much fun as those Little House scenes look, I think of all the spiders, ticks and chiggers in them.  LOL  My girls want to visit a beach so bad.  We are moving to a new house soon and the yard is quite barren compared to mine.  So I am taking out some ground cover in the layered flower beds and planting bird and butterfly attracting plants to park my bird feeders in.  =)  

    I was also getting out of my car the other night and almost came nose to toe with a good size possum.  How come the kids always miss those?? =)  



    Speaking of Little House…just think of all the nature study they missed out on during The Long Winter! I guess I shouldn’t feel too badly. At least my kids go outside more than once every six or seven months!

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