The Child Should Be Made Familiar with Natural Objects

The Child Should Be Made Familiar with Natural Objects 
by Charlotte Mason
Excerpted from The Outdoor Life of Children

517pDeJHtkLAn Observant Child Should be Put in the Way of Things Worth Observing

But what is the use of being a ‘very observant child,’ if you are not put in the way of things worth observing? And here is the difference between the streets of a town and the sights and sounds of the country. There is plenty to be seen in a town and children accustomed to the ways of the streets become nimble-witted enough. But the scraps of information to be picked up in a town are isolated fragments; they do not hang on to anything else, nor come to anything more; the information may be convenient, but no one is the wiser for knowing which side of the street is Smith’s, and which turning leads to Thompson’s shop.

Every Natural Object a Member of a Series

Now take up a natural object, it does not matter what, and you are studying one of a group, a member of a series; whatever knowledge you get about it is so much towards the science which includes all of its kind. Break off an elder twig in the spring; you notice a ring of wood round a centre of pith, and there you have at a glance a distinguishing character of a great division of the vegetable world. You pick up a pebble. Its edges are perfectly smooth and rounded: why? You ask. It is water-worn, weather-worn. And that little pebble brings you face to face with disintegration, the force to which, more than to any other, we owe the aspects of the world which we call picturesque––glen, ravine, valley, hill. It is not necessary that the child should be told anything about disintegration or dicotyledon, only that he should observe the wood and pith in the hazel twig, the pleasant roundness of the pebble; by-and-by he will learn the bearing of the facts with which he is already familiar––a very different thing from learning the reason why of facts which have never come under his notice.

Power Will Pass, More and More, into the Hands of Scientific Men

It is infinitely well worth of the mother’s while to take some pains every day to secure, in the first place, that her children spend hours daily amongst rural and natural objects; and, in the second place, to infuse into them, or rather to cherish in them, the love of investigation. “I say it deliberately,” says Kingsley, “as a student of society and of history: power will pass more and more into the hands of scientific men. They will rule, and they will act––cautiously, we may hope, and modestly, and charitably––because in learning true knowledge they will have learnt also their own ignorance, and the vastness, the complexity, the mystery of Nature. But they will also be able to rule, they will be able to act, because they have taken the trouble to learn the facts and the laws of Nature.”

Intimacy with Nature Makes for Personal Well-being

But to enable them to swim with the stream is the least of the benefits this early training should confer on the children; a love of Nature, implanted so early that it will seem to them hereafter to have been born in them, will enrich their lives with pure interests, absorbing pursuits, health, and good humour. “I have seen,” says the same writer, “the young man of fierce passions and uncontrollable daring expend healthily that energy which threatened daily to plunge him into recklessness, if not into sin, upon hunting out and collecting, through rock and bog, snow and tempest, every bird and egg of the neighbouring forest . . . I have seen the young London beauty, amid all the excitement and temptation of luxury and flattery, with her heart pure, and her mind occupied in a boudoir full of shells and fossils, flowers and seaweeds, keeping herself unspotted from the world, by considering the lilies of the fields of the field, how they grow.”

To learn more about what Charlotte Mason had to say about children, nature, and science, read The Outdoor Life of Children: The Importance of Nature Study and Outside Activities.

A Twaddle-Free Education – price reduced!

51BlGAcUHnLThe price is currently reduced on the paperback edition of my new book, A Twaddle-Free Education.

The book was originally $10.99 … but has been reduced temporarily to $8.79!  If you purchase a paperback copy, you can also get a free Kindle ebook version (regularly $1.99).

So if you buy the paperback and also order the Kindle ebook,  you’ll essentially save $4+ off the original prices!  :)


Nature Study Poetic Idea

51N0LJzBviLWhile reading a required book in the MFA program this week, it struck me how —  for those of us living in urban environments — modern nature study and nature walks often involve city sights and sounds as well as the local flora and fauna. Harryette Mullen’s book of poetry, Urban Tumbleweed: Notes from a Tanka Diary, is the author’s poetic reflections on a year of walking outdoors in LA, in local parks, and places she visited throughout the year.  She often combines her observations of nature with her observations of city life, people, streets, etc.

Mullen chose the Japanese tanka form as her way of recording her walks.  A tanka is a 31 syllable poem often reflecting on the role of the human in relation to nature.  I had a brainstorm while reading this book, that perhaps a short daily (or weekly) tanka (or haiku) assignment for the kiddos might be an excellent addition to their nature journals or other journaling/notebooking ventures.

Special Mother’s Day Week eBook Give-Away!

  • UPDATE:  This special Mother’s Day ebook give-away has ended but there are reduced prices available on several of the titles.

The ebook versions of three of my recently released (or re-released) books are FREE this week!  Tell your friends! :)

51BlGAcUHnLA Twaddle-Free Education

An introduction to Charlotte Mason’s timeless educational ideas.  Are you disappointed with dumbed-down reading material (“twaddle”) written for children? Do you wish for your children to feast their hearts and minds on noble ideas, fine art, and great literature? Are you hoping your children gain an appreciation of nature and a deep understanding of natural sciences? Most importantly, do you want your children to develop a lifetime love of learning? If you answered “yes,” you may discover a Charlotte Mason-inspired twaddle-free education is just what you’ve been looking for. In the mid-1990’s, I set up one of the first Charlotte Mason homeschooling websites and edited The Charlotte Mason Monthly ezine. I currently edit The Charlotte Mason eMagazine.

41rIlTMZdiLThe Original Simple Mom’s Idea Book

Hints and hacks for home and family.  The Original Simple Mom’s Idea Book contains tips and suggestions for everything from cooking, saving money, celebrating the holidays, and just generally raising a family. If you’ve been looking for some simple ideas for life and homemaking … from someone who’s been around the block more than once or twice … look no further. Have no fear, the Original Simple Mom is here!

BookCoverImageMix-n-Match Recipes

Creative ideas for today’s busy kitchens.  Do you remember that old children’s story, Stone Soup? Everyone came along and threw a little of this and a little of that into the pot with the stone, and before their eyes, the first unofficial Mix and Match soup was born! And remember how much they all loved it? Contributing something to the finished product goes a long way toward increasing a child’s enjoyment of their meal.

Just think of Mix-n-Match cooking as an art form all its own. This book will give you the general guidelines and starting points—you take it from there and see what tasty concoctions your kitchen has hiding in the dark recesses of its shelves and drawers. To get started using this book, you won’t need to run out to the store to stock up on hard to find ingredients. Just pick from what you already have on hand.  Save time, save money, and save your sanity!

Hurry!  These special Mother’s Day offers are only good through Thursday, May 14th.  After that the ebooks return to their regular price of $2.99.  Feel free to pass this information onto your friends.

Happy Mother’s Day!  :)

NEW BOOK! A Twaddle-Free Education

51BlGAcUHnLDrum roll, please …

It’s finally here! The day I’ve been waiting for all year … as of today, my brand new book, A Twaddle-free Education: An Introduction to Charlotte Mason’s TImeless Educational Ideas, just went live on Amazon!

I’m so excited!  To order a copy, simply click on the book cover’s image or click here.


Are you disappointed with dumbed-down reading material (“twaddle”) written for children? Do you wish for your children to feast their hearts and minds on noble ideas, fine art, and great literature? Are you hoping your children gain an appreciation of nature and a deep understanding of natural sciences? Most importantly, do you want your children to develop a lifetime love of learning? If you answered “yes,” you may discover a Charlotte Mason-inspired twaddle-free education is just what you’ve been looking for.

Charlotte Mason was British educator from the last century whose ideas are currently experiencing a renewal among home schools and private schools throughout the world.  This book is one mother’s experiences and thoughts on applying a Charlotte Mason-style education in a modern American home school setting.


In the mid-1990’s, Deborah Taylor-Hough set up one of the first Charlotte Mason homeschooling websites and edited The Charlotte Mason Monthly newsletter. Debi currently edits The Charlotte Mason eMagazine and blogs at


  • My Introduction to Charlotte Mason
  • Charlotte Mason in a Nutshell
  • Narration Tips
  • Natural Nature Learning
  • Homeschooling with a Rock Bottom Budget
  • Scheduling a Charlotte Mason-style Homeschooling Day
  • Twaddle-Free Literature by Grade Level
  • Frugal Family Field Trips
  • Twaddle-Free Holidays
  • Interview with the Author
  • Are All Homeschooling Methods Created Equal?
  • … and more!

The new book, A Twaddle-Free Education: An Introduction to Charlotte Mason’s Timeless Educational Ideas, is available in both paperback and Kindle ebook formats.

If you don’t own an actual Kindle, no worries.  You can download a free Kindle app at Amazon to use on your computer.

Nature’s Teaching

by Charlotte Mason

517pDeJHtkLWatch a child standing at gaze at some sight new to him––a plough at work, for instance––and you will see he is as naturally occupied as is a babe at the breast; he is, in fact, taking in the intellectual food which the working faculty of his brain at this period requires. In his early years the child is all eyes; he observes, or, more truly, he perceives, calling sight, touch, taste, smell, and hearing to his aid, that he may learn all that is discoverable by him about every new thing that comes under his notice.

Everybody knows how a baby fumbles over with soft little fingers, and carries to his mouth, and bangs that it may produce what sound there is in it, the spoon or doll which supercilious grown-up people give him to ‘keep him quiet.’ The child is at his lessons, and is learning all about it at a rate utterly surprising to the physiologist, who considers how much is implied in the act of ‘seeing,’ for instance: that to the infant, as to the blind adult restored to sight, there is at first no difference between a flat picture and a solid body,––that the ideas of form and solidity are not obtained by sight at all, but are the judgments of experience.

Then, think of the vague passes in the air the little fist makes before it lays hold of the object of desire, and you see how he learns the whereabouts of things, having as yet no idea of direction. And why does he cry for the moon? Why does he crave equally, a horse or a house-fly as an appropriate plaything? Because far and near, large and small, are ideas he has yet to grasp. The child has truly a great deal to do before he is in a condition to ‘believe his own eyes'; but Nature teaches so gently, so gradually, so persistently, that he is never overdone, but goes on gathering little stores of knowledge about whatever comes before him.

And this is the process the child should continue for the first few years of his life. Now is the storing time which should be spent in laying up images of things familiar. By-and-by he will have to conceive of things he has never seen: how can he do it except by comparison with things he has seen and knows? By-and-by he will be called upon to reflect, understand, reason; what material will he have, unless he has a magazine of facts to go upon?

The child who has been made to observe how high in the heavens the sun is at noon on a summer’s day, how low at noon on a day in mid-winter, is able to conceive of the great heat of the tropics under a vertical sun, and to understand the climate of a place depends greatly upon the mean height the sun reaches above the horizon.

Excerpted from The Outdoor Life of Children

Teaser Announcement: New book coming soon!

I’ve put together many of my personal thoughts and writings on Charlotte Mason-related topics into a book. Stay tuned!

If all goes according to plan, my new book should be available before the end of April 2015.

I’m getting excited!

Fine Art Board Books for Toddlers

I really wish these Mini-Masters board books had been available when my kids were little.  I would’ve owned every book in the series (and they probably would’ve had nothing but these books for their early board books!).  Plus, it would’ve given the kiddos an opportunity to spend as much time exploring the reproductions as they might want (rather than having Mommy standing careful continual guard over the expensive family art books).

Personally, I’m not sure I would actually read the accompanying text to my kids (it seems a little childish), but I would sit with the kids and talk about (“narrate”) what is in the reproductions, themselves.


Every reproduction of Mary Cassatt’s work in this book contains either a child, or a child with a parent.  Young children will be particularly drawn to the images in this board book.


Children can enter Edgar Degas’s magical world of toe shoes, tutus, and elegant ballerinas.


The artist’s Tahitian paintings transport mini art lovers to a lush, colorful island where they can join in the celebration of island life.


The little ones will love spending A Magical Day with Matisse in a world full of music, color, bobbing sailboats, and tickled toes.


Claude Monet’s light-filled paintings take children on an enchanted picnic in the countryside.



“Picasso for kids?  Yes, it can be done!  This book includes several of his earlier works as well as some later works appropriate for young ones.”


Set against the backdrop of well-known works by the artist, Auguste Renoir, rhyming text tells a story of activities that can be shared by two people from the artwork.


In Dreaming with Rousseau, the artist’s vibrant paintings invite readers on a journey to dreamlike jungles packed with playful monkeys, a racing tiger, and other surprises.


“The colors are beautiful and each work has a ton of detail to hold a child’s attention for a long while.”

Van Gogh

The sleepy trees, golden haystacks, and juicy fruits of In the Garden with Van Gogh will delight little ones.


Announcement: New Nature Study Resource

This brand new book (just released this morning!) is a compilation of Charlotte Mason’s writings on the topics of Nature Study, teaching natural philosophy, and the importance of children being out-of-doors. I read (and reread!) Mason’s six-volume set of educational books and gleaned her teachings specifically on the outdoors and children.

Now all of Charlotte Mason’s writings on Nature Study and the outdoors (from the six-volume set) are located in this one, easy-to-use volume.

Contents include:

  • Knowledge Through Senses
  • Out-of-Door Geography
  • Flowers and Trees
  • ‘Living Creatures’
  • Field-Lore and Naturalists’ Books
  • Walks in Bad Weather
  • Teaching Natural Philosophy
  • … and more!

From the book’s foreword:

“Nature Study is the backbone of introductory natural sciences in Charlotte Mason style homes and school, but Mason also felt it was beneficial for children to spend a great deal of time out-of-doors for their physical, emotional, and spiritual health. In spite of often rainy, inclement weather, Charlotte Mason insisted on going out once-a-week for an official Nature Walk, allowing the children to experience and observe the natural environment firsthand. These excursions were nature walks, not nature talks. In addition to the weekly Nature Walks, Mason also recommended children spend large quantities of time outside each day, no matter what the weather. Take a daily walk for fun and fresh air.

“From the time children were old enough to keep one, Mason had her students keep a personal Nature Notebook. Nature Notebooks are essentially artist sketchbooks containing pictures the children have personally drawn/painted of plants, wildlife or any other natural object found in its natural setting. These journals can also include nature-related poetry, prose, detailed descriptions, weather notes, Latin names, etc.

“I can’t stress enough how valuable I’ve found the Nature Notebook idea to be. We tried to remember to take our Nature Notebooks (I keep one too) with us whenever we’d go on any sort of outdoor adventure. Our family was never blessed with acres of property off in the country for our children to frolic to their hearts’ content. But a small city lot and many local parks offered us tremendous opportunities for outdoor learning activities. To make up for the lack of open natural space in our neighborhood, we went to various local parks at least two to three times per week. We didn’t go to the parks for the play equipment, but for the exposure to a more natural setting.

“I want to encourage those of you who don’t have your own fields and forests, there are other readily available opportunities for outdoor play and learning activities. Basically, go outside with your kids as often as you can. You’ll all be healthier and happier, and you may even learn a thing or two in the process.”

Deborah Taylor-Hough
Seattle 2015

517pDeJHtkLThe Outdoor Life of Children is Book Number Two from the new Charlotte Mason Topics series.  (To order, click the link below, or on the book cover image.)

Habits book cover imageBook Number One in the Charlotte Mason Topics series is a compilation of Mason’s teachings on the formation of habits.  (To order, click the link below, or on the book cover image.)

This Week on Facebook – March 8th, 2015

In case you missed any postings, here are some of the past week’s highlights from the Charlotte Mason Home Education Facebook page:

Exciting news. I was asked to be a Special Guest Speaker at the 2016 Washington Homeschool Organization’s convention next year. It looks like it will work with my schedule. YAY!

When my kiddos were young, we always found fun activities and simple lessons on the Crayola website. They actually have a section for educators that has a lot of homeschool-friendly ideas.

Here’s a selection of some of Crayola’s offerings on the topic of:

Price lowered on the Habits Kindle e-book. Was $2.99. Now $1.99

Habits paperback has been lowered, too.  Was $6.99. Now $6.49

Some easy ideas for springtime Nature Study from Woodland Trust Nature Detectives:

Yes, spring will come! The snows won’t last forever.

Just in case anyone’s interested, I’ve started publishing a monthly roundup on my personal blog about what I’m personally into each month. Books, music, blogging, etc. The topics covered will probably change from month to month. No recipes this month due to being too busy to cook anything new or special.

Questions Asked This Week:

Carol asks: “Anyone know of really good sources for keeping a commonplace book?”

Answer:  I checked this book out from the library recently and actually decided to buy a copy for myself.

Marie asks:  “I have a bright 7 year old boy with mild Aspergers. We read Mary Poppins, The Phantom Tollbooth, books like that, and he enjoys them. He reads *well* above grade level. He will complete grade 2 at the public school and then be homeschooled. Would you start him in year 1?”

Mary asks: “I am new to the idea of actually teaching Charlotte Mason, but have been researching it for a while. This is our first year homeschooling and it has been amazing! However, I started with the traditional way that I knew to teach and am now wanting to switch to CM style. We’ve been managing fine with the traditional style, but I want more out of homeschooling. My kids are almost 8 and 9. Would starting at year 1 for both of them be setting them back since they should be heading into “3rd” and “4th” grades next year?”

Answer to both Marie and Mary’s questions:

Note from Debi:

I feel Ambleside Online is a truly great curriculum, but it’s important to remember that it’s not the only way to apply Charlotte Mason’s methods and ideas in today’s world. Just wanted to throw that out there for thought since a bit of AO-related discussion has cropped up lately on the Facebook page. I personally don’t use AO and never have, so I have no opinions or thoughts on levels to start, etc.

Remember, you can follow the Facebook discussion and updates for yourself by following/liking:

Charlotte Mason Home Education Facebook page

If you participate regularly in the discussion on the page (even just by “liking” the posts), it will help to keep the status updates appearing in your FB news feed.