3 Jan 2014

On the beach

The rockpools at Point Lonsdale are as clear as the water in your bathtub.  They're filled with sea stars, and anenomes, and little flitting fish.  There are broad carpets made of the beads of Neptune's Necklace, Hormosira banksii, to squelch between your toes, the brilliant green Sea Lettuce, and other treasures to collect in buckets for further examination under the umbrella on the shore.  There are rockpools to paddle in to cool down a little, and others where your snorkel will be put to fine use.

The beach is a part of the Port Philip Heads Marine National Park, and it is home to one of Australia's only manned lighthouses, keeping guard over the treacherous waters of the Rip.  Even better, it's just 20 minutes from my mum's home in Geelong.  It's also just a hop skip and jump from one of my favourite bookstores, Barwon Books, which just happens to be right next door to a great fish and chips shop for lunch.  We try to get there every year.  The beach, I mean.  Right.

Ah. The long hot days of summer at the seaside.  Sand castles, and swimming, and rockpools and ballgames and fish and chips for lunch.  It's what nostalgic childhood memories are made of, isn't it?  Bliss.

If you do a Google search of homeschooling and beach, you'll come up with dozens of ways to add learning opportunities to your beach visit.  Nature journalling, art, beachy creative writing, geology, zoology, even maths! Somehow, though, this idea doesn't inspire me much at all.  While there are certainly lots of beneficial learning experiences to be had at the seaside, you are much more likely to see me practicing the Charlotte Masonish art of Masterly Inactivity, and reading a good book or a few pages of a favourite magazine.

Parents should trust themselves more. Everything is not done by restless endeavour. The mere blessed fact of the parental relationship and of that authority which belongs to it, by right and by nature, acts upon the children as do sunshine and shower on a seed in good soil. But the fussy parent, the anxious parent, the parent who explains overmuch, who commands overmuch, who excuses overmuch, who restrains overmuch, who interferes overmuch, even the parent who is with the children overmuch, does away with dignity and simplicity of that relationship which, like all the best and most delicate things in life, suffer by being asserted or defended.

Charlotte Mason School Education p29

Masterly Inactivity is a purposeful letting alone.  Here, it means letting the rockpools teach my daughter, not me.  I still have a role to play - it is my job to select the best beach, check the tides, ensure that Jemimah is aware of basic rockpool safety, protect her from sunburn and dehydration, and encourage her to walk on the seaweed without fear. I provide the lunch.

Then I need to get out of the way.  The rest of the day is up to her.

Charlotte Mason urges us to use the best books and resources and to let the authors speak for themselves without interfering between the books and the child. She believed that once a child receives an idea, that it will work itself out without interference from us.  In this way, our kids make their own connections, and become responsible for what they learn.  It's the same at the beach.  Masterly Inactivity means that sometimes our kids will learn more than others.  Some beach visits will be more about play than learning.  And that's okay.  You learn by playing as well.  You need to take that risk, and trust.

Miss Mason in the quote above asserts that a parent who interferes too much - that is with her children too much  - does away with the dignity and simplicity of her relationship with them.  It's a scary thought, I think - especially for the mother of an only child, who is with her for most of her waking hours.  Sometimes, like when you go to the beach, it is good to let your children alone, to let them learn by themselves and make their own connections.  You may be surprised what they find.

And you may just finish your book at the same time.


  1. What great photos, looks beautiful and what a great way to learn about nature by being in nature. If only the seaside was a little closer to me and not 2.5 hours away!

  2. What wonderful photos. I love how you have incorporated CM into a day at the beach. :)

  3. Love your point! We spent our New Years at the beach (not in bathing suits! Too cold) and just absorbed.

  4. What a beautiful illustration and description of masterly inactivity!

  5. Love those pics! I just did a guided rockpool walk as part of my Discovery Ranger job - 12 kids, all jostling for my attention, falling over, not being able to see. Your experience looks like much more fun!

    Love the sea stars - ours are a mucky green colour.

    Love that you share the scientific name for Neptunes Necklace (sooo much of it there!), but in the interests of being a pendant, I'll share with you that the second word (the species name) is not captalised eg: Hormosira banksii. Good work other the italics, though ;-)

  6. Gorgeous day! Wish we could have shared it with you. Can't say enough about masterly inactivity and nature to this day and age! Loved this post!!

  7. Thought about you, Naomi. You taught me everything I know.


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