List of attainments: I ♥ my 'hood

My kids aren't growing up in a neighborhood that's anything like the neighborhood where I grew up in the upper midwest.

My father grew up less than a mile from where I grew up. I felt connected to the neighborhood, in large part because my father knew the people, the plants, the creek and lakes, the land, and history of the place. He shared what he knew with me. I also spent lots of time outdoors discovering the area on my own.

I didn't know anything about my Manhattan neighborhood when I moved here as an adult, but it seemed normal for me to learn about the place. I wanted a connection to the land, its plants, its river, and its history - and I made that connection over time.

After I decided to homeschool, I poked around the internet looking for information and found Charlotte Mason's Formidable List of Attainments for a Child of Six. The list immediately felt like home, especially these things a child should be able to do:

* To describe any lake, river, pond, island etc. within easy reach.
* To be able to describe three walks and three views.
* To mount in a scrapbook a dozen common wildflowers, with leaves (one every week); to name these, describe them in their own words, and say where they found them.
* To do the same with leaves and flowers of six forest trees.

Isn't that list more interesting and memorable than any preschool "circle time" activity or "getting ready for school" lessons? To me, the list felt normal, all the more so in this city of frantic parents scrambling to get their children into the "right" preschool. I felt comfortable leaving the stress of kindergarten admission tests to other people while I walked along the river with my preschooler looking for cool rocks to bring home. And, isn't the word "formidable" a glorious choice of words for a list that includes collecting leaves? Love it.

My kids are both past age six and last night I looked at the Formidable List of Attainments for a Child of Six to see how we did. I can't say we achieved every goal as written, but we did a dang good job. The point of the list, of course, isn't to check off the items but to build a foundation, to make memories, and to develop connections with the world around us. And the list helped me give to my children what I wanted to give them: a feeling of the ground where they live.

And now there's another formidable list of Charlotte's that I'm looking at: What a Child Should Know at Twelve. We're on the right track with that list, but I see a few areas where I need to put some attention.

Photo: Spray-painted mural by an admirer of the neighborhood.


  1. I need to show this pic to James. He doesn't believe there are neighborhoods in the city. I tried to explain to him about 'hoods.

  2. Yes, isn't it an amazing yet simple list? I'm "working" on it. It is not the same as the check mark type of thing you get in preschools and such. It is a list that speaks of intimate connections with your surroundings and people. It also fascinated me the contrast between this list and the kinder objectives that populate the schools.

  3. Kay - hope he likes the photo. ;)

    Silvia- you got it!