Today, many homeschooling families live in the city and, despite the best hopes, struggle to get their children to spend time outdoors.
Charlotte Mason, famously said that young children should,
“Never be within doors when you can rightly be without.” (Vol. 1 p.42).
The Charlotte Mason educational philosophy places great importance on children spending as much time “out-of-doors” as a mother can afford. In Volume 1 of Home Education, she mentions that young children should spend up to six hours a day outside which, to a city-dweller especially, can seem overwhelming!
“…but four, five or six hours they should have in every tolerable fine day, from April till October.” (Vol. 1 p.44)
If I’m completely honest, we don’t spend anywhere near that amount of time outdoors everyday, but we do make outdoor time a priority for our children, despite living in a city. However, creating an “out-of-door” life can even be done indoors! Yes, you heard me right! Indoors!
There are many ways I have learnt to encourage city kids to spend more time outdoors, and ways to create an “out-of-door” life indoors, and I’m excited to share that with you today.
Depending on how much outdoor space you have, eating outdoors will look different for each household. If you have small garden or balcony, why not enjoy breakfast or snacks outside.
“…and every hour spent in the open is a clear gain, tending to the increase of brain power and bodily vigour.” (Vol 1. p.42)
Alternatively, taking your meals out to a nearby park, and having a picnic is a great way to spend more time in outside which your children will love!
“All the time the children are storing up memories of a happy childhood.” (Vol. 1 p.43)
2. Use The Space You Have
If you have been blessed with a small outdoor space, why not plant up some pots of wild-flowers and encourage insects to visit. Likewise, bird-feeders are a great way to see local wild birds from the comfort of your home. You can even get bird feeders that stick to your windows – perfect for those who do not have the garden space to hang one.
3. Living Books
Living books bring abstract concepts to life. If you live in the city, the idea of country-life and nature may be an abstract one for your children. Bring these ideas to life with good children’s literature.
Not only will this teach them more about the outdoor world, but it will spark an interest in them and make them more eager to get outside and explore themselves.
4. Visit Local Parks
We have a rule when we visit our local parks, “Stay off the paths!”
It is amazing how different a park, which you may have visited for years with your children, will look when you walk around it off the paths. The pathways give you only a very restricted, and usually highly manicured, view of the space. Instead, explore the hidden corners of your city park and you’ll find all manner of wildlife hidden away.
5. Join a Community Garden
City’s usually have community garden initiatives to encourage residents to take up gardening and spend more time outside. These community gardens can teach your children how to grow vegetables, herbs and fruits which will encourage them to eat more healthily in the long-term!
Another wonderful benefit of these initiatives is that your children will be able to meet people from all walks of life, from different backgrounds and ages, teaching them valuable life lessons.
6. Find Nature in the City
Although it may not be immediately obvious, the city has a natural-world of its own. Take your children on a scavenger hunt of the city. You might find wildflowers poking up between the paving or birds on rooftops. If you have a river running through your city, use it as an opportunity to talk about the physical geography of a river, how erosion works and maybe even the water-cycle.
Use whatever you have in your area to teach the principles of nature and Geography.
“But the mother, who knows better, will find a hundred opportunities to teach geography by the way: a duck-pond is a lake or an inland sea; any brooklet will serve to illustrate the great rivers of the world; a hillock grows into a mountain – an Alpine system; a hazel-copse suggests the mighty forests of the Amazon; a reedy swamp, the rice-fields of China; a meadow, the boundless prairies of the West; … indeed, the whole field of pictorial geography – maps may wait until by-and-by – may be covered in this way.” (Vol.1 p.72)
7. Watch Nature Documentaries
When you cannot get outdoors to witness nature first-hand, nature documentaries, although not a substitute, can inspire and inform children about the natural world.
There are many nature documentaries available, but we prefer those produced by the BBC which are available from Amazon Prime.
8. Travel Out
When all else fails, get in the car, or the train, and travel out to more rural areas as often as you can. Go for nature hikes, visit local farms, or pick-your-own fruit in the late summer. All these outings, even though they may not be frequent, will add to the out-of-door life your child is experiencing.
Living an out-of-door lifestyle, when you live in a city is a challenge. However, Charlotte Mason knew that if a dedicated mother knew of its importance, she would find a way to make it happen.
“…that mothers work wonders once they are convinced that wonders are demanded of them.” (Vol.1 p. 44)
Wherever you live, however much time you have (or don’t have), there are ways you can create an out-of-door lifestyle for your family. Do whatever you can in the situation you are in, and your children will cherish the happy memories that the time outdoors gave them.
“In this time of extraordinary pressure, educational and social, perhaps a mother’s first duty to her children is to secure for them a quiet growing time, a full six years of passive receptive life, the waking part of it spent for the most part in the fresh air.” (Vol. 1 p.43)
Do you live in a city? How do you create an out-of-door lifestyle in your homeschool? Share on the comments below, or join the conversation in the Facebook group.
Don’t miss the rest of the Charlotte Mason Homeschooling series.