Saturday, August 17, 2013

A Wise 'Letting Alone'

I have recently been reading Karen Andreola's, 'A Pocketful of Pinecones' - AGAIN! Honestly, this book is a treasure and I never seem to tire of it. Each time I read it something new strikes me. This time was no different.


While reading this lovely story where Karen has cleverly woven in very practical 'How-To's' in starting and sustaining Nature Study in your homeschooling, I felt my heart yearning for our early days of Nature Study, days that looked very similar to how her character, Carol, did Nature Study with her children. It was so gentle!

I have felt of late that our own Nature Study time has been a bit 'teachy', and little too 'schoolish' - 'lessony' if you will. It seems as though a bit of the joy had left us. I noticed that the girls - not so much Miss V, but more little Miss J, just was not quite engaging in this time anymore. She would almost drag her heels around our nature walk and then try and get done with her journal at the earliest possible moment. Frustrating for a mama!

As I slowly savoured the pages of 'Pocketful of Pinecones', I felt it right and determined in my heart that we are going to get back to the heart of our nature time. Gentle time, relaxed and enjoyable time. Not all time being a lesson!

 In Karen's story, Carol wisely knows when to 'let alone'. Not every wonder brought to her by her children is recorded in their journals. Often her children choose to,  and at least once a week she gently and encouragingly insists on an entry, but there are times when she simply allows her children to discover and share with her. She does take special care to engage in their discovery and is interested and excited with them.

Charlotte Mason shared a concept called 'Masterly Inactivity'. It is a combination of 'letting alone', yet balancing it with an equal weight of guiding authority.

This week I was inspired to give it a go. After sitting in the conservatory with the girls watching all the butterflies, I suggested that perhaps we go on a butterfly hunt {as I shared with you earlier on in the week}. Before they could say anything I offered my camera to Miss J and asked her if she thought she would be able to 'capture' butterflies this way.

She was so excited and the girls immediately went to put on their shoes for our walk. I casually brought along our field guide so that we could identify our finds. During our walk I did plenty of 'letting alone'. No lesson's, no teachy murmurings, I let them find the 'captured' butterflies in the field guide.

We kept up an excited chatter about where we found the butterflies, how tricky they were to catch on camera, how delicate they were etc...

As the sky clouded over we notice that the butterflies seemed to all go into hiding, and we headed off home. 

The next day I asked if anyone wanted to draw some of the butterflies in their journals, I said that if Miss J wanted, we could print out her pictures and she could stick them into her journal instead. 'No, I really want to try and paint one.' She said.

At this point my heart is jumping up and down inside screaming, 'Yes!!!'. But outside I casually sit down next to her and work on my own journal. I have shared the results with you in my last post.

Now - how exciting is this?! - Thursday night, my youngest, Miss J, called me to come and have a look outside. There were bats flying about. We watched them for a while before she asked if I would read to her out of 'The Handbook of Nature Study' about bats. She wanted to know more!

Miss Mason was indeed wise! So often I have found that when I have put her methods into practice that we see huge results. As mum and teacher, and in our enthusiasm to do right by our children, we can often slip into a traditional teaching role. We need to guard against that and remember that children are naturally inquisitive and love to discover. We must guard against swinging to far to one side or the other - too much 'letting alone' is as harmful as too much 'controlling authority'. Each must be balanced to be of benefit to our children.

As we approach the new academic year, perhaps this is something that you would like to consider. I know that I will certainly be practicing a bit more 'letting alone' in certain areas this new academic year :o)


  1. I so agree, Shirley. I squished all the natural joy of our first years of nature studies with my intensity and over-involvement. Simply sitting and sketching in my own nature journal and being "there" in the moment, my youngest has enjoyed her nature walks so much more than the other children,even years later. And I enjoy it much more too! In fact "letting go" has made our nature study times the most refreshing and inspiring part of our week!

    1. Thanks for the comment Nadene and for sharing your own experience in this area - I do wish that I wouldn't go all 'teachy' LOL - I am grateful for gentle insights so that I can get back on track!


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