As I began my homeschooling journey, I researched. I read everything our library had on the topic. The first book to really hit home with me was A Charlotte Mason Education by Catherine Levison. I loved so many of Mason’s ideas! I started reading the original writings of Charlotte Mason as well.
As we really got started homeschooling, I realized that the idea of nature walks, nature studies, and so much time outside were not possibilities for our family. We spent time outside, but we were not identifying plants and animals. We were not making nature notebooks!
I felt like I was failing. I wanted to do exactly what Mason recommended. We, however, do not live out in the country with plenty of space to explore. We don’t live in the middle of downtown either, but nature walks in a busy neighborhood full of speeding vehicles are just stressful. I don’t think Mason intended for nature walks to be stressful. Her descriptions are so peaceful and relaxing. That is what I wanted for our homeschool: peace and rest.
I dropped the idea of daily nature walks and found other ways to incorporate nature into our studies. We keep a zoo membership and a science museum pass. This gives us plenty of nature and exploration of the laws of nature.
We have pets; we go outside to play with the dog. We also have a very large garden. Lilly loves to walk in the garden and pick fresh tomatoes and basil to eat. All of the kids have helped their dad dig for potatoes – it’s like digging for buried treasure! We have numerous ponds, creeks, and rivers around us. We have gone fishing as a family, and Lilly loves to go with her dad – just the two of them.
We do dream of moving to the country and having a small farm someday, but we have also found great things in town that can replace the physical activity, nature studies, and other things that Mason describes in her books.
Occasionally we do school outside. Really, this is not as fun as it sounds! We have to move our books and supplies, we either have to put the dog in her crate or fight her off the blanket, the kids get distracted, and then there are bugs – lots and lots of bugs!
We try to take advantage of the many educational opportunities we have all around us. We live minutes from the YMCA, where my kids can swim year round as well as participate in various sports.
We live close to many art and cultural opportunities. The kids participate in dance and musical theater; they also attend many theatrical performances.
We are less than 2 miles from TWO libraries! That is a homeschool mother’s dream! They have activities year-round, and we attend what we can. We also usually have more videos and books checked out than we know what to do with. Sometimes we go twice a week. We have even gone to both libraries in one day.
We can take a nature walk to the 7-Eleven store around the corner and then walk back with Icees!
The kids have great friends right over the fence. We really do have some amazing neighbors all around us.
I have many things on our to-do list for this year. Most of them have been on my list for a while, but there is just not enough time for everything! This year I hope to make it to an orchard or berry farm, I want to make regular trips to the farmer’s market, and I want to take the kids to a couple of the many art museums nearby.
Sometimes you have to let go of what you think is ideal in order to see what is right in front of you. We stayed home a lot our first year because I could not make our lives conform to the Charlotte Mason idea. When I stopped trying to fit our lives to a method and let our lives determine our methods, everything started to work better.
Cheryl–Cheryl is a singing, dancing, baking, homeschooling mom of three. She has danced her whole life and taught ballet and theatre for most of her adult life. Her favorite pastime has always been cooking and baking, and as a Pampered Chef Independent Consultant she gets to share that love with others. Home educating her three children has been and continues to be one of her greatest learning experiences! It is an adventure she is ready to continue.