Make Sure Children Get Out!

“I am, I can, I ought, I will.”

Do you recognise the motto and who it relates to?

This is Charlotte Mason’s motto for students.


You might well ask. If you’ve passed through teaching training without coming across her then your teacher trainers need a word.

Charlotte Maria Shaw Mason was an English educator and reformer in England at the turn of the twentieth century. She proposed to base the education of children upon a wide and liberal curriculum.

Lots of educational pioneers have simply fallen off the radar and out of circulation and Charlotte Mason is one of them.

Yet, the pandemic is making us take another look at these incredible people because what they had to say then still resonates now and probably more so.

With lockdown learning making children all home-based learners then it’s worth exploring what Charlotte Mason’s philosophy is and why this is so relevant today.

She believed that education should involve the whole person and not just the mind and saw it as “an atmosphere, a discipline, a life. To her, education was “the science of relations.”

She believed that children should be fed upon the best ideas, which she called ‘mind-food.’

In terms of homeschooling, Charlotte Mason’s approach translates as:

  • The abundant use of narrative literature
  • Plenty of time spent outdoors exploring
  • The development of an appreciation for art, music, and nature
  • Journalling, narration, dictation, and copywork

The one thing I’d like to pick up here is what she says about being outdoors. She said “Never be within doors when you can rightly be without.”

Mason recommended that children should spend seven spend 4 – 6 hours outside every “tolerably fine day, from April till October.”

In the first place, do not send them; if it is anyway possible, take them; for although the children should be left much to themselves, there is a great deal to be done and a great deal to be prevented during these long hours in the open air. And 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.

How right she is.

Screen time wasn’t a thing when Charlotte was alive but it is now. Children and adults are glued to them.

Now, although screens can be a lifeline especially during self-isolation and lockdowns they are also making us prisoners of the indoors.

UK children aged 5‐16 years spend an average a total of 6.3 hours of screen time per day.

Ofcom’s research has shown for adults this is the same sort of average with a surge in screentime during lockdown.

Gulp! That’s huge and remember there are plenty that exceed that number.

The message is clear. We need to get out and stay out for a few hours not just a few minutes.

Now clearly there are astronomical benefits that accompany extended time in nature so let’s aim to get kids outside and adults too for at least 3 hours a day so they can ‘go wild’ and play. The outdoor life is essential for children’s development.  

Child development experts are calling on the government to support a “summer of play” to help pupils recover from the stress of lockdown and a year of Covid upheaval.

This has to be a priority.



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