Okay, you take your kids outside and they have a blast rolling down a hill, exploring a creek, and making mud pies. You love that the hours flew so quickly and everyone had so much fun until…you get home.
You have a pile of muddy shoes, muddy jeans, and muddy kids!
It’s enough to make you stay home next time. Or should it?
Did you know that dirt is good for your children’s health? Studies show that dirt builds your child’s immune system. *
Did you know that dirt is good for your child’s emotional well-being? Studies now show that direct contact with soil improves mood and reduce anxiety. Another study showed that there is good bacteria in dirt which activate neurons in the brain to release serotonin, much in the same manner as anti-depressants and exercise. *
Did you know that this kind of play builds children who are “vital and vigorous, full of living interests, available and serviceable? ” How does Mason suggest we do this? Facilitating our children’s relationship with nature.
“There are, what I may call, dynamic relations to be established. He must stand and walk and run and jump with ease and grace. He must skate and swim and ride and drive, dance and row and sail a boat. He should be able to make free with his mother earth and to do whatever the principle of gravitation will allow. This is an elemental relationship for the lack of which nothing compensates.” Volume 3 p. 80
Did you know that this kind of play builds confidence and mastery?
“Another elemental relationship, which every child should be taught and encouraged to set up, is that of power over material. Every child makes sand castles, mud-pies, paper boats, and he or she should go on to work in clay, wood, brass, iron, leather, dress-stuffs, food-stuffs, furnishing-stuffs. He should be able to make with his hands and should take delight in making.” Volume 3 p. 80.
What we need are clothes and shoes we don’t mind getting dirty and a plan for when we get home.
This week we are beginning a new series to encourage us in our pursuit of an “outdoor life.” I thought there was no better place to start then on motivating us as mothers to go outside! In the future, we hope to cover a range of topics on why we should spend time in nature, what to do when we are there and solutions to some of the things that keep us inside. So to begin, 6 reasons for Moms to go outside.
“I make a point, says a judicious mother, of sending my children out, weather permitting, for an hour in the winter, and two hours a day in the summer months. That is well; but it is not enough. In the first place, do not send them; if it is anyway possible, take them; for, although the children should be left much to themselves, there is a great deal to be done and a great deal to be prevented during these long hours in the open air. And long hours they should be; not two, but four, five, or six hours they should have on every tolerably fine day, from April till October. Impossible! Says an overwrought mother who sees her way to no more for her children than a daily hour or so on the pavements of the neighbouring London squares. Let me repeat, that I venture to suggest, not what is practicable in any household, but what seems to me absolutely best for the children; and that, in the faith that mothers work wonders once they are convinced that wonders are demanded of them.” P. 43-44
Do you struggle to get outside with your children? We want them to grow in fortitude but we ourselves complain of the heat, the cold, the bugs! There are also so many other things we could be doing: laundry, catching up on email, cleaning, napping, making dinner…we might even drum up work rather than get outside—“I know that drawer has been messy since we moved into the house, but now is the moment to tackle it!”
Why should we do it?
1. My children love it when I do. They are happy if I just park myself nearby in a chair with a book or my bullet journal. They stop by to show me discoveries and there are lots of “Hey mom, watch this!”
2. Getting outside for a small chunk of time daily and for big chunk of time weekly forces (or inspires!) me to work diligently and efficiently. As Mason says, “mothers work wonders once they are convinced that wonders are demanded of them.” So to get outside, I may have to prep dinner during lunch or get it in the crockpot in the morning. I might need to get up early to answer emails before the day gets going. I know I can’t spend time dawdling on facebook and pinterest. I must remember to get the laundry going and change it over right away, (rather than letting it sit in the washing machine for hours!), so it is done before our afternoon out-of-doors. Nicole Williams at Sabbath Mood Homeschool has a very inspiring post along these lines.
3. We must remember how good it is for us. Yes, we have a million things to do, but moms are people too and the fresh air and the natural world are good for us, body and soul. I often complain that I am stressed or tired, but then don’t take the time to rest, when given the opportunity. Being outside gives my body a chance to relax and my brain a chance to sort itself out. Just be sure to keep your phone in your bag, so you’re not tempted to check email or the app that temps you most! The more we do it, the more we see the fruit of it.
4. It’s important for mom to play too. There has been a lot of research and attention given to the need for adults to play: we stay younger, healthier when we do!
5. On the other hand, there is more to outside time then play, as Mason says in the quote above, “for, although the children should be left much to themselves, there is a great deal to be done and a great deal to be prevented during these long hours in the open air.”
And what is it we are to accomplish?
“…. here is the mother’s opportunity to train the seeing eye, the hearing ear, and to drop seeds of truth into the open soul of the child, which shall germinate, blossom, and bear fruit ….” Volume 1 p. 44-45
This is our chance to learn all about nature for those nature lessons later in the week or down the road! I’ve had many moms tell me they can’t do nature study with their children because they don’t know nature themselves. While our children play, we can draw in our nature journals, work on identifying birds, trees, and plants, and bring along a nature lore book for ourselves.
So let’s do it this week! Schedule what time each day you’ll be going out for a short time and pick one day to dedicate a few hours for outdoor play. Come back and tell us how it went!
Also, we want to know what keeps you from getting outside? Are their any topics you’d like us to cover in this new series?
This week our “Space to Think” Quote comes from the beginning of Volume 1:
“Mothers owe a ‘thinking love’ to their Children.––‘The mother is qualified,” says Pestalozzi, “and qualified by the Creator Himself, to become the principal agent in the development of her child; … and what is demanded of her is––a thinking love … God has given to the child all the faculties of our nature, but the grand point remains undecided––how shall this heart, this head, these hands be employed? to whose service shall they be dedicated? A question the answer to which involves a futurity of happiness or misery to a life so dear to thee. Maternal love is the first agent in education.’
We are waking up to our duties and in proportion as mothers become more highly educated and efficient, they will doubtless feel the more strongly that the education of their children during the first six years of life is an undertaking hardly to be entrusted to any hands but their own. And they will take it up as their profession––that is, with the diligence, regularity, and punctuality which [we] bestow on [our] professional labours.
That the mother may know what she is about, may come thoroughly furnished to her work, she should have something more than a hearsay acquaintance with the theory of education, and with those conditions of the child’s nature upon which such theory rests” (p. 2-3).
In your “space to think” consider the following:
What area of your family life is most in need of “a thinking love” right now?
Is there a time of day that is troublesome for your children?
A routine that’s not working? Morning habits, bedtime habits, cleaning up after a meal, returning home from an outing, emptying sports bags, book bags, etc
A physical space that creates issues: an overstuffed closet, a pile of toys in a playroom, the lack of a place for mother or children to be alone to think, pray, read?
A conflict between siblings? Between parent and child?
Are hearts, heads, and hands duly employed each day?
How could you deal with this issue with diligence, regularity and punctuality that you would use to tackle a “professional” problem?
Are you furnished with the training you would need to handle the issue?
What would make your action or resolve “a thinking love” for your child, rather than just a thinking action or just a loving one?
When I had my first baby, I would often call my husband at work, upset about some issue I was having with my little one. I was overwhelmed and tired and lonely and wanted to do it ALL the RIGHT way! I would call and go on and on and on..! And finally one day, he kindly stopped me and said,
“Amy, you are a creative and intelligent woman, I think you can solve this problem.”
I was stunned!
But he was right, I had just left a teaching position where I dealt with over 100 students a day and faced many difficult issues. When a problem would arise, I would tackle it with creativity and intelligence. Why hadn’t I thought to do that with my little one?
Our families don’t need our fretting and complaining–they need our “thinking love”!
To read more about “Space to Think,” check out the first post in the series:
As we studied Charlotte Mason’s principles, time and time again we weren’t just given tools for classroom practices, but also the means to develop a rich and full life. We realized that Mason’s principle that Children are Persons, applies equally to Mothers. Mothers are persons too! Mason’s ideas began to effect Moms’ habits in all sorts of areas outside their “school-time.”
We fed our families different food with a different atmosphere—meals were often taken al fresco, more simply and wholesome, more thought to its presentation.
Our leisure time was spent differently: we took up new handicrafts for ourselves, started common-place books, and started a wide range of reading.
We fell in love with Vintage Children’s books and also for searching for the best new publications that fit the definition of a living book.
We realized we needed “spaces to think” and so we simplified our schedules, our meal plans, our wardrobes, cutting back and scaling down to create margin.
Our eyes were opened to beauty and we began to see it in art, music, and poetry, yes. But also in math, a caterpillar, a dandelion, and our children as persons.
We all love the anecdote shared in The Story of Charlotte Mason by Essex Cholmondley. She tells of the young teacher newly arrived at Ambleside: “…I was interviewed by Miss Mason who asked me for what purpose I had come. I replied: ‘I have come to learn to teach.’ Then Miss Mason said: ‘My Dear, you have come to learn how to live.’”
This is what we want to share with you! Through the profound writing of Charlotte Mason, day-by-day, we are “Learning How to Live.” We hope that Mason’s ideas will be as life-giving to your family as it has been to ours.
We’d love to hear from you!
For those of you who know Charlotte Mason, how has she taught you how to live?
For those of you who are new to Mason, what are you most interested in learning more about?