It didn't begin as a new habit, really. Instead, it was a bit of serendipity. A wave of hot, sticky days--too hot and sticky to play out of doors. A mother who was ready to add more exercise to her day and was eager, too, to be outside, instead of only pedaling away on a bike that goes nowhere. I needed to bike alone, but I needed, also, to breathe in fresh air and laughter of children. And, so, early one morning, while looking at the forecast, I made a decision: if the temperature was going to soar into the 90s and above for ten days (and beyond?), we'd have to get out early or none of us would ever get out at all.
Right after breakfast, I made the announcement. Everyone was to get walking shoes; everyone was required to come along; everyone was to be cheerful. Karoline and Sarah Annie each had a stroller. Off we went!
We traveled a neighborhood trail, roughly two miles along wooded areas, grassy areas and a lake. We talked the whole way and watched for wildlife. When we returned home, we settled into the living room, lit a candle and had some morning prayer time. The day was off to a great beginning. The time? 9:00.
It occurred to me, after the third day of this "routine," that I rather liked beginning the day with my children this way. The rhythm is well-established: exercise, prayer, shower, dress, tea, Bible. All before 7:30. Even if the day unravels from there, I can still take comfort in the fact that I got to those things. When I considered my personal routine in light of the new habit that was unfolding, it dawned on me that the acquisition of habits could be a layering. Habit upon habit, I could build into each segment of the day the rhythm I desired. This morning walk was the next layer.
The walk suited all of us.
I loved that we were all together. it was just the right amount of physical exertion to wake us, help us focus, and energize the day. The out-of-doors time gave birth to all sorts of conversations and observations. Nature study happened, well, naturally:-). There were questions to ask and answer. There were rocks to throw, flowers to sniff, and ducks who begged us to quack back--all in our own backyard. This was the world waiting to be explored. These were the plants and animals my children should be able to name.
This habit found us and we are eager to embrace it. Our nature study time is set now. A walk to get things started, home for Morning Prayer, and then nature notebooks to record what we saw along the way (cameras tend to come with us on walks:-). This will be the way we begin our days--from now on, well into the school year, and until it's absolutely too cold to venture forth even if bundled. And why not?
Our first thought with regard to Nature-knowledge is that the child should have a living acquaintance with the things he sees.
Let them once get touch with Nature, and a habit is formed which will be a source of delight through life.
She will point to some lovely flower or gracious tree, not only as a beautiful work, but a beautiful thought of God, in which we may believe He finds continual pleasure, and which He is pleased to see his human children rejoice in.
Let us, before all things, be Nature-lovers; intimate acquaintance with every natural object within his reach is the first, and, possibly, the best, part of a child's education.
Beauty is everywhere--in white clouds against the blue, in the gray bole of the beech, the play of a kitten, the lovely flight and beautiful colouring of birds, in the hills and the valleys and the streams, in the wind-flower and the blossom of the broom.
What circumstances strike you in a walk in summer?
By-and-by he passes from acquaintance, the pleasant recognition of friendly faces, to knowledge, the sort of knowledge we call science.
He must be accustomed to ask "why?"--Why does the wind blow? Why does the river flow? Why is the leaf bud sticky?
Every child has a natural interest in the living things about him which it is the business of his parents to encourage.
It is infinitely well worth the mother's while to take some pains every day to secure, in the first place, that her children spend hours daily amongst the rural and natural objects; and, in the second place, to infuse them, or rather to cherish in them, the love of investigation.
The boy who is in the habit of doing sensory daily gymnastics will learn a great deal more about the beetle than he who is not so trained.
We are awaking to the use of nature-knowledge, but how we spoil things by teaching them!
The child who learns his science from a text-book, though he go to Nature for illustrations, and he who gets his information from object lessons, has no chance of forming relations with things as they are, because his kindly obtrusive teacher makes him believe that to know about things is the same as knowing them personally.
All quotes are Charlotte Mason, taken from the excellent book Hours in the Out-of-Doors: A Charlotte Mason Nature Study Handbook, available at Simply Charlotte Mason.
~repost from the archives