Monday, August 15, 2011

Charlotte Mason on Outdoor Living

Beginning our nature walk.

This summer, I began reading Home Education by Charlotte Mason, kindle edition.
Speaking of how much time children should spend outdoors, Mason says "long hours they should be; not two, but four, five, or six hours they should have on every tolerably fine day, from April till October" (page 40, location 816). She encouraged playing outside, eating outside, napping and science and French lessons outside.

 Now, taken into the Victorian context it was written in, this was fairly sensible advice. We speak of pollution nowadays, but what was it like to live indoors in a little cabin filled with the second-hand smoke of cooking and heating, and father's pipe? Outdoor, country air would have been much better for little lungs, especially children who may have struggled with asthma or chronic pneumonia.
Also, the Victorians were just advanced enough to notice that people who were solely confined indoors were sickly. Among other things, they were apt to develop rickets (soft or weak bones). This is because bones need  calcium and vitamin D to grow. At the time, vitamin D was not added to milk, but of course, the body could make it from sunlight.
Perhaps if she'd known about skin cancer, her advice might have been moderated a little. Perhaps she would have said, "Have a picnic outdoors and keep your children outside until 10 or 11 am, then bring them in for lessons or handicrafts until 2 or 3 when the sunlight is less direct, and finish your day with an al fresco picnic and bathtime." Perhaps she would have suggested the use of sunscreen or sun hats. Yet, I'm sure she still would have said, "Take those children outside."

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