The Pleasures of Winter-Charlotte Mason When it is Cold


“When there’s frost or snow on the ground, children have fun sliding, throwing snowballs and building from snow. But even when the snow is slushy and dirty, or the sky is gray, they should have interesting things to do outside so that their hearts are cheerful even when the day is cold and dreary.”
Charlotte Mason (in modern English) volume 1 page 85

Updated January 2018

Okay, so we don’t have 2 to 3 hours of outdoor time as suggested by Charlotte Mason in the winter. But with a little perseverance, we can provide *some* time outdoors each day or week.
winter gear and snowball
It snowed here yesterday and I was thinking as my boys pulled on their snow gear that it really is essential to have the proper clothing available for our children to enjoy being outdoors in the bitter cold. Boots with thick socks, waterproof gloves, woolen hats, coats and even snow pants may be necessary for them to really get the most out of being outdoors. If they get cold, they will want to come right back in.
If they are properly dressed, they may still need some direction as they head outside. I try to just be available during our outdoor time. I don’t necessarily do much to entertain the boys but I am always hovering around taking photos, puttering in the garden cleaning up, sweeping the steps, filling the birdfeeders, collecting interesting things to bring into the house for our nature corner, or just sitting and looking at the sky or the trees or whatever.
clearning snow
Giving them tasks to do will help if they seem to be aimlessly wandering around the yard. In the winter it can be something like gathering twigs and fallen branches from off the lawn to put in the compost pile or I have them put out different things for the birds to eat like peanuts or seeds and that always turns into a period of time to observe how long it takes the birds to find the treats.

I don’t want you to think that we have extended time each day outdoors because that wouldn’t be the truth. Some days it as much as we can do to go out and walk to the mailbox and back. But, every week we make an effort to be outdoors and be looking at things that we can find even in the winter cold. Every month we take a whole school day to devote to nature study. At first I was hesitate to take a whole day off just for nature study but in the grand scheme of things it has been a positive and important decision even with my boys who are older at ages 12 and 14. They need time to connect and enjoy nature.

Just a side note: Last week I was walking around at a ski resort and I saw a young mother with her little baby all snuggled down in a front pack. She had the baby in a snowsuit, in the pack, and an extra blanket draped over her shoulder. The baby had his little nose and eyes poking out from under the blanket and they were very happy eyes. I thought to myself that this was the answer for those with really little ones that want to spend time outdoors in the freezing temperatures. A few minutes snuggled with mom out in the fresh air can only help with everyone’s moods and dispositions.

So have I encouraged you? Have I shown you that this is something you can plan for even if you have to exchange one math period for one nature walk? It is worth the effort. Don’t forget when you come in all frosty cold, it is *cocoa* time!!
winter gear and hot cooca
It is okay if that is the best part for you…..just don’t let your kids know!


Handbook of Nature Study Logo
If you would like some more inspiration for your time outside this winter, please see my Handbook of Nature Study blog.

Click over to see nature study ideas all organized by topic and season. Use the tabs at the top of the blog to navigate the many ideas I have shared over the last decade.

If you are interested in an Ultimate Naturalist Library Membership, you can use the discount code NATURE5 to get $5 off a membership.

Winter Ebook Cover

Here is one of the winter ebooks that you can find in the Ultimate Naturalist Library membership. You can download a sample here: Winter Nature Study ebook sample.


Every Small Miracle-Charlotte Mason Education

walking on a sequoia

“Every small miracle that ceases to amaze us is like a new discovery to our children, as exciting as the discovery of gravity to Newton.”
Charlotte Mason, Home Education, volume 1, page 54

“…We have been seeing flowers for years–but our children haven’t. Flowers are still new and wonderful to them and it’s the fault of grown-ups if every new flower they see ceases to delight them.”
Charlotte Mason, Home Education, volume 1, page 53

I am sharing these quotes with you because they really have impacted how I treat learning with my own children. Often we need to be reminded of things and those reminders sometimes come as a breath of fresh air. My heart reads these ideas in Charlotte Mason’s writings and it encourages me to be a better mom and teacher.

Currently I am homeschooling my fourth child so that means this is the fourth time I have covered basically the same information in the 8th grade……four times. I could just be going through the motions at this point. Putting my feelings aside, I realize that this is the *first* time this particular son has been in the eighth grade and I need to try to be as up-beat about it as I can. It is all new to him.

Today we visited a friend and she has a guinea pig…a really big, hairy guinea pig. My boys have never seen one up close before and they were thrilled. I am not so thrilled with small furry things so I had to put on my “teacher” hat and think of ways to be as thrilled as they are. What is the point I am trying to make? Just that I could have easily been put off by this creature but instead I realized that my boys were excited to see something new so my job was to be encouraging and let them enjoy the experience.

roots of a sequoia
Ever climb through the roots of a fallen giant sequoia tree and out through the hollow center? My boys wanted to…so we did.

So much of what Charlotte Mason taught was about providing time and space for our children to learn new things….meaningful things from their real life. Our nature study is a window into the world for them and we miss out if we limit what we offer because we are worn-out or tired of looking at the same old things. Yes, a pine cone is just a pine cone to us but to our children it has a color, a shape, a texture, and a fragrance…all new and exciting.

Funny thing is that if we allow ourselves to experience these times with our children, we end up enjoying them too. Their enthusiasm rubs off on us and we see things through their eyes….just like it was new to us all over again. It doesn’t matter whether it is looking through a microscope at a leaf, planting a seed in the garden, knitting a scarf, making cookies, or laying down in the grass and looking at the sky. It is the everyday experiences that delight our children and we need to slow down and enjoy it with them. It makes us truly rich.

Try it and you will see,
Barb-Harmony Art Mom

Tips for a Family Visit to the Art Museum

I had a request for information on how to plan a trip to an art museum with children. I can’t believe I haven’t blogged about this before, it is a great topic. (Thanks Laura.)

There are several things that you can do to prepare for a successful day at the museum.

  • I usually start by going to the museum’s website and looking for a button that will take me to their permanent collections. You can search on Google for the museum’s name, or I like to search on Wikipedia for the museum’s name.
  • My next advice is to scan through the museum’s collection to see if there are any paintings you have already studied or artists that you are familiar with.
  • You could pick an artist that has paintings at the museum to focus on and use resources you have or those from the library to share with your children before the trip. It always helps build enthusiasm if they are looking forward to seeing an artist they have learned about beforehand.
  • You can print out a few of the paintings (postcard size) that you will see and let the children carry them with them as they walk through the museum, using the cards for a sort of “scavenger hunt”. I would suggest three paintings per child would be a good number to start with. It makes it more interesting when they actually have some reason to be at the museum other than just wandering around and not knowing much about the painters.
  • Check the museum’s website for any lesson plans or activities they offer for children that relate to exhibits they have at the museum.
  • You could even print out a map of the museum from most websites and this could help you plan your visit. It always helps to know where the restroom is for those little emergencies.

Another aspect that you need to prepare you children for is the “manners” part of visiting an art museum. There are certainly no hard and fast rules but just common sense and common courtesy. Most people come to the museum to relax and enjoy the artwork so it is best to use your best “library” voices when you are talking in the galleries. In the past, my husband and I tried to hold the children’s hands as we walked along and this not only helped to keep them from running in the museum, it made it easier to point things out or discuss what we were looking at.

The Met

Plan to spend no more than 90 minutes actually looking at paintings. You will not be able to bring snacks into the galleries but most museums have some sort of cafe or outdoor eating area where you can take a break if you notice the children are getting weary. I usually plan to arrive as early as possible in the morning so my children are fresh. Make a trip to the restroom before heading to view the artwork. It is usually warm inside so leave the coats at the coat-check if the museum has one.

Met Egyptian Gallery

Another activity you can do while at the museum is to have a “theme” for the day. You could decide you are going to look for artwork that has hats in it or you could look for artwork that has circles or trees or horses or whatever you decide. This makes it fun for the children to really look at the paintings and then share with you what they see. If your children are older and have studied a little art history, you could challenge them to look for artwork from a certain art period.

Last but not least, plan for a few minutes in the museum gift shop. These little shops are like a treasure chest of art related books and resources. I always let the children pick out a postcard-size reproduction of some painiting we saw during our visit. We use these to follow-up our trip to the museum. A really fun idea is to take the postcard home and then have the child write some comments about the painting on the back of it to remember the experience with.

Here are some additional websites for you to scan for more ideas about visiting art museums:
Making the Most of the Museum Visit
Making a Museum Visit Fun for Toddlers, Teens, and In-Betweens

I really hope that you all attempt an art museum trip this year. Once you try it, you will look forward to your next visit. We visit the Crocker Art Museum every year and we never tire of looking at the paintings. We have our favorites and we always find something new and interesting to look at.

The Met NYC

Edit to add: You may be interested to read about our trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City: Harmony Art Mom’s Visit.

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