It was a breath-taking August afternoon. The sun was hanging mid-sky and the breeze was warm with the remains of Summer’s last days. Our children were piled around me as we leaned up against our old fence. Under the shade of the Walnut tree, we read.
We giggled through classics and spent time with Homer Price and his thousand donuts and a giant ball of string. We were in a state of complete calm. I remember clearly, the kids asking if they could rest for a while. I remember nodding yes.
They grabbed sheets from the bathroom and set up a make-shift tent. They curled up on blankets and pillows and spent at least an hour just being still. Calm. Quiet. Recharging. Imagining. Thinking. And yes, even dozing.
I watched them closely and thanked God for our humble little life. The very thought that we can rest overwhelms me. Because I know those that can’t and I know some children around the world couldn’t dream of such a luxury as an afternoon nap in a grassy, shaded backyard.
As I gazed at my children, happy, comfortable curled together – I realized how deeply they need this rest. This peace. This togetherness and this time to wind down.
You know, it’s ironic – in a cultural where children could easily enjoy all the freedom in the world to REST, most don’t. Or simply can’t.
Because they don’t have enough time.
There are so many wonderful aspects to the Charlotte Mason philosophy of education. We were drawn to this style of homeschooling because we believed so firmly in her methods. In fact, for the most part, we were doing many of them before we had ever heard her name. Once I read through my first Mason book, I was hooked. This woman knew what she was talking about.
One of the most beautiful things about adopting the Mason style of learning is this – it promotes giving freedom for children to rest. We do all our ‘formal’ lessons, activities, etc. in the morning. The afternoons? They are for a time of nature study, exploring, individual learning, play, outings to the market or to see a friend, and yes – lots and lots of time to rest.
As I speak to so many parents both with children in school and out, I often notice a reoccurring theme. Parents are stressed to the limit with how busy their children are. I can’t believe the schedules of some kids! If I tried to maintain that schedule, I’d by exhausted. And I have a high level of energy!
I mean, swimming lessons, after-school tutoring, Basketball, Volleyball, Hockey (especially here in Canada), Soccer, art lessons, church activities, social group activities, you name it. So many children have school all day then head to an activity every single night of the week. We’re running around like crazy people trying to entertain our children with as many delights as their hearts desire. Or maybe sometimes – as many ‘experiences’ as we feel necessary to check off that list. The list of must-dos to ‘grow a great kid’.
My question is, when do children have a chance to rest?
When can children sit and reflect? Or curl up and quietly read. Or create something out of nothing? Or lay down and have a nap on a sunny afternoon? When can children have a long, relaxed conversation with Mom about anything and everything? How do they have enough time to truly develop into their own? To grow, to imagine, to lay in a fort in the backyard and feel the cool breeze on their toes? When do kids get the chance to be media-free, activity free, busy-work free, distraction free, PEER group free? Expectation free?
When can a child just be a child?
For children who are schooled, determined parents have to fight for their child’s ability to play, to rest. I know them, those Moms who stand firm in their beliefs that kids need to be kids. They have to wrestle for less homework and earlier dismissals and every possible avenue to allow for more freedom from the hectic schedule. We need to be fully aware of how the over-burdened child is affected by his adult-paced schedule.
I believe we’ve been lied to. We believe activities and events and kids’ groups and clubs and classes, and apps on the ipad, and brain movies will all help grow our children into responsible, active, intelligent, successful human beings. You know, the type of people who really achieve things.
Here’s my observation –
We’re so consumed with flooding our children with ‘opportunities’ that we are robbing them of the one, most fundamental childhood opportunity – to just be a kid.
I think in many ways, we’re missing the whole point.
Childhood is a glorious time when we can afford to run free and wild and explore an insect for hours. We are sheltered at home and develop our deepest bonds, values and giftings. It used to be common for children to play outdoors, imagine for hours on end, and spend days at the stream. Now – most children spend little to no time outside, have a full time “job” all day, and spend their evenings doing homework and taking part in endless extra-curricular activities. Where is the actual ‘childhood’ in all this crazy busy-ness?
Charlotte Mason did not suggest that children shouldn’t have full, rich lives. She preached quite the opposite, actually. But she was an advocate of allowing children the time to grow within themselves. That means less time being taught, being coached, being led, being entertained. More time walking independently, learning in a close-knit circle, experiencing a cornucopia of advanced ideas and concepts. Advanced Math, Phonics, and Language Arts. She believed children were capable of much and we ought to challenge them in every way possible. Oh yes, and plenty of time to draw, paint, pick flowers, discuss cultural topics, and experience real life.
And after this – rest. Play. Nature study. Laying under a tree, dreaming the afternoon away. Every afternoon. Every day. She believe in the power of childhood. And so do I.
We need to allow our children time to be children. It is vital to their development. I see so many children who are overwhelmed, over stimulated, angry, and exhausted. I pray we could gravitate back to the natural, the far more ‘sane’ as Charlotte Mason would have put it.
We need to fight for our children to remain children for as long as possible.
We need to believe God made childhood for a very special purpose and trust children with their own calling – to be what God created them to be. We need to allow time for children to rest in themselves and in the world around them. Time to be at ease and time to get bored. Time to snooze and time to breathe.
Time to just be a kid.