Hi, I’m considering starting CM homeschool and am very much in th planning stages (my boys are currently 4, 2 and 1). I’ve read somewhere that CM recommended young children being outside for 4-6 hours a day. I feel everwelmed by this. Does anyone actually acheive this. I’d love to hear what other people’s preschool and kindergarten days/weeks look like in this regard. Thanks!
This is tough! My kids are ages 7, 5, and 3, plus an extra 5yo and two year old twins that I watch everyday.
From May to September, we are outside for many hours a day. We have a few favourite spots with a trail to walk on and a playground at the end. We can walk for an hour or more, eat a picnic lunch, then play in the playground for a while. Or we’ll find a place with a spray park or wading pool and play for hours. Then we’ll head home and do some school while the toddlers have a nap, and then head back outside to the backyard (sandbox, playhouse, trees to climb, etc.) until supper. My kitchen looks out over the backyard, so I can be inside and get some cleaning, etc. done while the kids play, or I join them outside and work on my garden or do yard work.
From October to April, we are lucky if we get 1/2 hour outside, because of our winter weather. Sometimes we can sneak in 1/2 an hour twice in a day if the weather isn’t too bad, but sometimes we don’t get out for weeks at a time. I try to find plenty of nature experiences to bring indoors, but I know it’s not the same as being outside. This is when we do the bulk of our school work (my oldest two are grade 2 and kindergarten), leaving a much lighter schedule when the weather is nice.
So, if you look at the whole year, we probably average 2-3 hours a day. <grin>
You have to work with your circumstances (climate, nap schedules, etc.) and just do your best. To me, the goal isn’t a specific number of hours, but just the concept that outdoors is where so much learning and developing can happen, that we want to be out as much as possible.
I think you have to consider the climate Charlotte lived in. The climate of Great Britain is very mild much of the year, with quite a bit of rain but also sunshine. Just reading books about spring in GB (Secret Garden) makes me want to move to the nearest Yorkshire moor and never come back to my drought-ridden, windy corner of Texas!
Anyway, for many of us in the states, that amount of outdoor time isn’t practical because of the extreme weather conditions of our various locations. Granted, Charlotte did go out in rain and snow; and many of us don’t prefer to be out unless it’s sunny but not too hot. Alas, we are not Charlotte Mason, are we?
I think you need to take your location into consideration, as well as the ages of your children. For children younger than 8-9, I don’t see why spending 3 or more hours a day out of doors should be a problem, weather permitting, of course. For the older children, they do need outside time but also more time allowed for their studies. When the weather is nice (like today), it is very easy for my children to be outside for several hours. I would guess they were out for a total of 3-4 hours today. BUT, I was not with them for all of that time, and all of our days are not as nice as today, unfortunately.
Not sure if this is accurate, but I may have read many of the moms of Charlotte Mason’s students had household or child helpers/nanny types so it wasn’t a choice between maintaining the home, taking care of the babies, fixing dinner, OR spending hours outdoors. I may be wrong about this. And I think I read, but also not exactly sure, that she was talking about on the better weather days, well for them to still go out in rain, but not going out in miserable weather. I am open to correction if I’m wrong about those two things. I would guess also that children in the time of her writing were set free in the great outdoors with siblings and friends to wander within the boundaries of their neighborhood or nearby woods vs. having to have a parent be out with them the whole time watching to be sure no harm came to them. I imagine it to have been like the children in Anne of Green Gables where the children entertained themselves throughout the town while the grown ups were busy at home or work. Thus, it would be easy today for our kids to be set outdoors most of the day if we didn’t feel the need to be watching after them for safety’s sake. Just a theory. For us, it has been easier to be outdoors now that the youngest is 4 and doesn’t nap.pangitParticipant
Many things can affect this . . . age of the child and siblings, neighborhood, fenced yard or not, weather, personality, etc.
When my kids are able, they always spend a lot of time outdoors. Today, they’ve probably been outdoors for 9ish hours. This winter there were days that 30 minutes was good because they just didn’t want to be in the cold anymore. When my girls were younger, my youngest just didn’t like being outdoors. She would play happily out there for 30min to an hour and then want to come in and look at books and do puzzles. Now, she’ll play outside forever, though still likes her books and things and sometimes takes her book outside to read.
So, I think we each just need to do the best that we can and make sure that we are providing them with as much outdoors time as we are able.saritacampanitaParticipant
Thanks for you answers ao far. Really helpful and very much appreciate what you all said. Funnily enough LindsayD we live in the UK! I wouldn’t describe our climate as generally mild- I’d describe it as raining…. alot! Reading yours and others posts here remind me that I think of the States as being ideal in that in my head you always have sunny weather! Never think that it might be too hot to play outside sometimes!! I felt encouraged by what you all said. We do spend lots of time outside when we can and enjoy it so I guess that’s the main thing! Thanks again.ShannonParticipant
Joanne, I’d love to hear how you structure your whole day to allow so much time outside in the summer. I love being outside and my older children were out a lot, but for some reason now that my younger children are here, I find I have so much to do inside and it would guess I get out for less than an hour each day. One of my sons is outside a lot riding his bike, but the other is ‘naturally sedentary’. 🙂 We have started being out on trails and creeks once a week for about 3-4 hours now that spring is here but even that is so new I wouldn’t say it is regular. I’d love more practical tips on how to actually commit the time. When do you cook and clean the house? (Hmm, and what else do I spend the rest of my time doing to keep me so ‘busy’?!)pslivelyParticipant
saritacampanita, I am curious about something I read recently. Is it true that there are not bugs and snakes all over the place in the UK? I live in Texas and it’s quite frustrating with the bugs. Once it starts to cool off in the evening, the bugs are all out and we still have to stay indoors. I had to smile when I read that you think of the weather here as being ideal because I always think that about weather in the UK! We definitely do get a lot of sunshine here, along with very high temperatures, very high humidity, lots of bugs, and lots of dead grass. It’s amusing that we always think the other guy has got it better. 🙂missingtheshireMember
In the UK we have grass snakes and Adders both not really harmful, and we have no dangerous spiders or bugs like you have here…it is much easier to be out and about there and not worry – that is one reason why I am looking forward to going home in the Autumn, the bugs and snakes here are something else….and I don’t like them: ))) Plus I much prefer the English climate, I cannot handle the heat here….so Europe suits me much better. The grass is not greener, just sometimes seems that way – there is good and bad in both places, it is I think what you are used to, and having spent most of my life in the UK and Germany that is what I am used to….and even though I live here in the US right now, I cannot take the Brit out of myself: )) that is what I am and who I always will be…but you still have a very neat country here and so like everywhere else you have to take the good with the bad. When we get back to England, I am sure we will find things have changed some since we have been away…but I am excited: )))
When I first read your question about how I structure my day to get everything done, I literally laughed out loud. My first thought was “Who said I get it all done?” I definitely can’t claim to be on top of everything. We also don’t leave home to a playground EVERY day, but if not, we’ll be outside in the yard. After almost 5 years with a home daycare, though, I have learned to streamline things. So here are my thoughts, for what they are worth.
First, if there is no one in the house for most of the day, there is less cleaning to do! Eating outdoors means that the floor doesn’t need to be swept and mopped twice a day. Just shake out the picnic blanket, (and wash it periodically) and it’s done. Children who use porta-potties (and baby wipes and hand sanitizer) at the playground aren’t messing up my bathroom! Floors with no one walking on them don’t need to be vacuumed as often. Toys in the playroom don’t need to be picked up several times a day, and don’t need to be disinfected as often (a requirement of the home daycare). They play with toys outside, of course, but cleaning them up is part of outside time.
Laundry in the summer is easier. Shorts and t-shirts make fewer loads than bulky jeans and long sleeves and sweaters. We also don’t fold shorts and t-shirts. There are more towels to wash, but they just get hung back up or put back into the park bag. Folding is what takes the most time in laundry!
Picnic lunches and BBQ dinners take fewer pots and pans to prepare and often are eaten on paper towels instead of dishes. Prep time seems to be faster as well. Crock pots are nice too, since they don’t heat up the kitchen as much (or can even be used outside if your weather is really hot) and the work is done before all the chaos of the day.
My second tip is that I take things outside whenever possible. Any folding that does need to be done can be done on the porch. School planning, menu planning, making shopping lists, and many other things can be done outside, with a good tote to carry them out there with. I can read blogs or forums on my tablet. Once the toddlers go home, I can leave my older kids outside by themselves and get some work done in the house.
I also have my children help as much as possible. My 7yo and 5yo can both complete a load of laundry, clean a toilet, mop the floor, vacuum, wash the bathroom mirrors and counters, unload the dishwasher (and load with guidance), and many other tasks. They are also great about entertaining or helping the toddlers. This teaches them important skills, but also makes it possible for me to spend more time on other things.
I also have fairly well ingrained evening and morning routines. That’s when we get most things done. If the kitchen is clean before I sit down to relax for the evening, the next day with be so much easier. It takes almost no time in the morning to quickly move the laundry forward a step (wet into the dryer, dry clothes brought upstairs, start a new load), make sure the front room is ready to receive children, and get ready for breakfast. I do any prep for the day while the twins play and my kids are slowly waking up. After breakfast the kids each have assigned tasks that I oversee (and assist the 3yo as needed) and then I pack lunch if we are going out. We usually leave by about 10am, come back around 1pm for nap/school, and back out by 2:30 or 3pm.
We do a lighter school schedule during the warm weather. I still plan as usual, but we might only get 1/2 or 2/3 of each column of work in a day (in the winter or on nasty rainy days we normally do one column per day). So far we have done school basically year round, just taking breaks when we need them.
My house is far from spotless, but that’s okay with me. As long as the basics are covered, we can get out and take advantage of good weather while it’s here. Start where you are and start developing routines to get you where you want to be. It takes time and some thought/planning, but it’s worth it. There is time for deep cleaning when it’s 30 below!
For us, living in a climate with some extremes, we can only take advantage of the nicer weather during the very few months of the year when it is actually very pleasant. April and May are very nice months for us, so we spend copious amounts of time outdoors. Unfortunately, we live in a very unpredictable climate, and just last week it was sleeting and temps were below freezing. Today it’s breezy and cloudy, but a glorious 70 degrees. Our summers are extremely hot and dry. Having 20 or more consecutive days above 100 is not uncommon. And I’m starting to become a believer in global warming! I have lived here my whole life, and I don’t ever remember summers as hot as the past few we’ve had. It’s been miserable!
September and October are nice for us too. It’s not as windy as the spring, and fall is my favorite time of year anyway. All that to say that there are just times when we don’t really have a choice about being outside. I’m sure not going to make my children do a nature study or play outside for 4 hours on a day that’s as windy and hot as a blow dryer!BenitaParticipant
One thing to remember is that 3-4 hours or even 2 hours doesn’t have to be all at once. 20-30 minutes at a time 3 or 4 times a day can get you to two hours. Sometime mid morning, some time after lunch, sometime midafternoon, and maybe in the evenings for a bit with daddy. But those glorious long days of outside everything when the weather is perfect should be taken advantage of as well. Just saying that it doesn’t have to be hard and fast and rigid scheduling. Some of the best outside times are the unscheduled ones.Mysterious Lady in PinkParticipant
I am really enjoying this thread and all the ideas on the outdoor time as well as how that impacts the indoor time. I have to confess that this is my weakest (most dreaded??) CM thing. I was better about it years ago, but with my new crew it isn’t even on “the list” as they say. We live in an apartment, don’t have yard or a driveway, but we do have a park about 1/2 mile away and there are some trails past that. So you guys are inspiring me to try again…especially before the summer hits and it is miserable!
Of course, the cynical side of me is also reminding myself that the 4yo will be tired and grumpy if we walk 1/2 mile to the park & trails, stay/play for an hour, then walk home — he will be so tired and have a major attitude. <sigh> But I can do this, right? Right?
Keep thtose ideas and experiences coming!
@Lady in Pink, we were still utilizing a stroller when ours were 4, so that might be an idea to help him last without being cranky. He might even fall asleep in it! We finally got rid of our strollers when ours were 5 and 6! We used them that long!
I was going to suggest a stroller as well, or anything with wheels: a wagon, tricycle, scooter. You just need something to get him there without wearing out. If your trails aren’t paved, take along a chain to lock it to a bike rack or post or tree at the trail head, have him walk the trail, then ride home.
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