Sunday, October 26, 2008

Autumn Wild Days, part 1

Artist fungi

full of wonder

Black Eyed Susans/Rudbeckia hirta

Cardinal Flower/Labelia Cardinalis

I consider Charlotte Mason, a British educator of the past, a woman of wisdom and way before her time. I try to incorporate some of her methods into our learning here, and while I cannot get outdoors every day I strive to do so as much as possible. Charlotte strongly urged that children must observe nature first hand and I can't agree more. Secretly, if anything drives me, nature does and I will make that attempt to a near by pond, field or woods when I can. I grew up playing in the fields and spending days outdoors and so am comforted by it, the freedom and fulfillment of curiosity that it brings me even now as an adult.

We keep a bag packed full of our journals, pencils, watercolors and field guides with a bit of non-perishable food ready to go out at a moments notice if I get the urge. My old thick quilt is folded neatly in the back of my van to use along the way. It is often there that we sit or lay down and enjoy nature, observe and draw and renew ourselves in the learning process, and like Karen Skidmore Rackliffe's book, I refer to our days of escape from routine as "Wild Days."

One of my favorite quotes on nature study comes from Charlotte's Vol. I, (p.61) :
"It would be well if all we persons in authority..could make up our minds that there is no sort of knowledge to be got in these early years so valuable to children as that which they live in. Let them once get touch with Nature, and a habit is formed which will be a source of delight through life. We were all meant to be naturalists, each in his degree, and it is inexcusable to live in a world so full of the marvels of plant and animal life and to care for none of these things."

When I cannot make it out, we spend time in our own yard or at least the girls do and plenty of it in the afternoons stretching into dusk many days. We do so often regardless of weather conditions and the girls play, take care of the animals and explore the back fields. So for both guide and students, we've found a form of sauntering that we yearn for and connect in together; it heightens our awareness and reverence for life, a wonderful gift.

As my children are growing older, I collect these memories and catalogue them in my mind. When my son still studied with us, we observed a creek at our previous home in every season of the year. It taught us so much about nature and creation, but also it taught us to be still, how to appreciate the simple things like how to get along and love and respect one another. To this day, my son says what he misses now by attending public school are days like this and the teaching of common sense which does not seem to exist amongst his academic world now.

So, I'm glad we have these memories and as we cycle through all areas of science now that the girls are getting older as well, we do not leave our nature study completely behind but cherish some simultaneously. I also must admit that although no one sees my own dated sketches with observations, classifications and occasional quotes and poetry added, they are a source of enjoyment, perhaps that "Motherese" that Charlotte believed would renew a mother. So, unlike other blogs, you will not see my drawings here. They are for very few eyes only. However, our adventures confirm to me that the power of observation is beyond the pages of our books.

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