The Ideal Nature Group

Social media has captured the hearts and minds of mamas, especially when it comes to nature study. Who doesn't want to have friend groups frolicking in the outdoors with children exploring, learning together while mamas talk and share their days together? It really is a lovely and idealistic image that has trended big time, particularly in SoCal. So much so that I keep hearing from those mamas who haven't been able to find the right group, who feel like their CM homeschool or child's CM education just won't be right without it. It's a valid concern and a genuine longing in each of our hearts - God created us for deep and meaningful relationship.

The truth of the matter, though, is that anytime you have a group of sinful humans that get together - which makes all of us - there will be issues. Issues of someone needing to make a plan, and whether everyone agrees with those plans, or comes on time, or is too particular about time, or whether one person ends up having to do more than the other, or the other is too controlling, or too CM, or not CM enough, or the kids are not disciplined, or this or that parent expects too much, or whether that child was nice enough to this one, or the other hit that one... the list could go on. All those things require communication and grace in order to make it all work. And the reality is, they don't always work out.

Groups can get too big and unwieldy, they split, feelings get hurt, some grow exclusive and superior in attitude, others grow bitter and resentful, some limp along, and yes some thrive, but at a great cost - like all human relations, they don’t just happen. It takes work and effort and humility and serving and growing and - work! All the human condition outlined by CM in Ourselves (which we're reading through right now and I highly recommend!) is present and potential in each of us.

If you desire a group and find one that works for you - great! If you don't - don't fall into the trap of thinking your homeschool is a fail. It's not. Groups take a lot of effort and managing people can even become another job for a busy mom. Or you might become the job that stresses some other mom out. God has a plan for you and your family. If it's a group you desire, move in that direction and seek it. The Lord may or may not open that door for you. Anytime doors close, know that ultimately God is the first cause and it's good for us to reflect on that. He loves us and cares to conform us to His will.

For me, it often means he's directing me toward Himself; the source of all deep and meaningful relationship. Matthew 6:33 - "But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." Maybe this is a good time to think about inviting the new mom nursing a baby and lonely at home for a refreshing day out. Or maybe an empty-nester whose children are now all off to college, or the lonely neighbor. Sometimes taking a walk with just your kids and exploring together bears greater fruit than a large group can. Be open to what God is teaching you in this and every season and be willing to acknowledge that some of those "needs" we imagine are really something only God can ultimately fulfill. When we do, we often find something even more beautiful than the ideal nature group we imagined.

The Beauty Sense adds so much to the joy of life that it is not easy to see what danger attends it. But, perhaps, Exclusiveness is the Dæmon that waits on a too keen sense of the joy of Beauty, whether in music, painting, one's own surroundings, or even in natural scenery. Exclusiveness gets the ear of the Prime Minister and convinces him that the joys of Beauty are so full and satisfying that nothing else is necessary to complete the happiness of life. In vain does Intellect invite to new fields of research; in vain does good and necessary work present itself; in vain are duties clamorous. The person who is given up to the intoxication of Beauty conceives that Beauty and Goodness are one and the same thing, and that Duty is no more than seeking one's own pleasure in the ways one best likes. People, too, become excluded. ~Charlotte Mason, Ourselves, Book I, Part II, Ch.5, p.54