Do you reluctantly envision a summer spent indoors, in front of a screen, just to keep the dreaded, “I’m bored” at bay? You are not alone. We have researched a few ways, based on the Charlotte Mason method, to make your backyard bigger this summer.
Charlotte Mason (1842-1923) was a British educator who dedicated her life to providing a “liberal education for all.” In nineteenth-century England, children were educated according to class; the poor were taught a trade, and generally only the wealthy were exposed to the arts and humanities. She wrote prolifically on the issue of education, and taught her philosophy to teachers and governesses for decades. Within the classical Christian movement, her ideas are now referred to as the “Charlotte Mason Method.” Her philosophy can be summed up in her words, “Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life.”
Many of Mason’s recommendations for studying and experiencing nature are great for parents trying to create a fun, productive summer for their kids. Not only will your kids find a whole new world in their backyard, but they might have a new perspective to share with their classical classroom come September.
HERE ARE 8 WAYS TO MAKE YOUR BACKYARD BIGGER, ACCORDING TO CHARLOTTE MASON
❶ Start a nature observation notebook:
Give your kids a notebook, colored pencils, and a field guide. Send them out to observe, focusing on how objects feel, smell, and sound. Have them note where a plant or insect is found and what it is doing, and have them hypothesize why. Joyfully review their findings with them.
❷ Challenge your kids to find a (new to them) species of plant or insect every day:
By simply searching nature, your children can develop familiarity with the habitants of your backyard, and a sense of wonder when they continue to discover new species.
❸ Take a weekly nature walk:
This is a great time to bond with your child, and discover nature together.
❹ Have a picnic:
You can simply eat lunch on the grass in your backyard if you don’t have time to pack and drive. Your kids would probably rather eat in the yard than at the table any day.
❺ Create geography paintings:
Have your child draw maps of your backyard, including the position of the sun, boundaries, the four directions, and physical landmarks. Have them note shadows at various times of the day, or get a sundial!
❻ Plant a garden:
A great way for your child to observe plants growing! A few recommendations on what to plant:
STRAWBERRIES: These grow without much effort, and are fun when kids get to eat the true “fruits of their labors!”
CRESS HEADS: If you can find a cress head planter (sometimes known as a “chia pet”) the plant grows out of the planter’s “head” like “hair” or a “tail.”
BUTTERFLY SEED MIX: An assortment of flower seeds, selected to attract butterflies.
❼ Build a bird feeder:
Hummingbird feeders or basic bird feeders are great ways for your child to connect with nature. Find links to DIY and inexpensive hummingbird feeders at ClassicalDifference.com/backyard.
Encourage your kids to note feeding times and eating habits, and try their hand at drawing or photographing a hummingbird.
❽ Catch an insect:
This is an excellent means of observation. Also, a pet insect can help teach your child responsibility.