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Hours in the Out-of-Doors Review by Heidi Shaw

By Sonya Shafer and Karen Smith
Simply Charlotte Mason
PO Box 892
Grayson, Georgia 30017-0892

The last of my treasures from Simply Charlotte Mason is by no means the least. Hours in the Out of Doors ties up all of Charlotte Mason's thoughts and beliefs about nature study while keeping the emphasis on how important CM really believed it to be. Sonya and Karen show us how nature study can be implemented. They have read and re-read Charlotte Mason's original Home Schooling series, which, though full of information and amazing nuggets of inspiration, is somewhat hard to read. Given that these works were written at the turn of the century, that is understandable; and this great compilation by Shafer and Smith has been needed for a very long time.

Whether you are a long-time follower of Charlotte Mason's educational philosophies or just a mom who wants to engage her kids in the hours they spend outdoors, you will find a treasure trove here. I live on the edge of nature in a very remote area, and still I was having a hard time enjoying nature studies. By compiling all of CM's thoughts and ideas into one place, Sonya and Karen have not only helped me to realize how vital nature studies are to my children but have also refreshed the desire for them that I had pushed to the back of my mind.

I needed the reminders of nature studies cultivate a love for investigation and how they make science interesting and encourage independent thought and writing (not to mention drawing) in our children. After reawakening your hunger for nature study in general, the rest of the book goes on to show you how to do it and to encourage you that it can be done. There are also supplemental helps in the appendix that are just too good to be missed--sample programs from CM schools, sample questions, formats for learning, and even samples of nature study tests.

Interspersed throughout the book are quotes from CM's writings (along with references citing the original location of each quote). You will also find comments, definitions, and even anecdotes from Karen and Sonya's nature studies with their children. At the end of each chapter, there are quotes that can be used for copywork or even added to your children's nature journals and drawings. Another great little gem in this book is a section at the end of each chapter that provides questions you can ask yourself as you go through the nature study process--check-ups, if you will. These will help reassure you that you are covering what you want to cover in any given area. I found this really helpful because, frankly, my kids and I were having so much fun just being outside and doing things together that I often forgot we were "learning." I also really enjoyed the chapter on Nature Projects, especially CM's comments on things like ant farms, bird "stalking," and many other projects I wouldn't have been brave enough to tackle on my own.

I love this book. I love the format, the writing style, the wide margins with room for notes--I just love it all. If you have been wanting to spend more "hours in the out of doors" with your kids, I highly encourage you to pick up this book. You won't be disappointed. In addition to the printed version, it is available in e-book, so you can choose what is best for you.

Product reviewed by Heidi Shaw, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, January 2009