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Welcome to week 2 of our Home Education book club! This week we’re discussing pages 20-41. Below you can find journaling pages, a video discussion, and a summary of the pages read.
The following journaling pages contain a few questions to ponder as you read the pages for this week. Downloading and answering these is not a requirement to participate, they are simply for your convenience. Many of these questions were discussed in my live Instagram video, which I’ve uploaded here. If you didn’t read the pages this week, my short synopsis will get you caught up. You can find that below as well!
Resources Mentioned in this Week’s Video:
The following is a short synopsis of our week 2 readings. It’s simply a summary in my own words.
This week’s readings were all about healthy brain activity. Since Charlotte Mason wrote this volume over 100 years ago, there have obviously been leaps and bounds made in the scientific understanding of our brains and our health. But it’s always a good idea to take these things into consideration based on the information we have today and implement them in our homes.
Part 1: Some Preliminary Considerations, Continued…
VI. Conditions of Healthy Brain Activity
After covering all of the things we should not do to our children last week, we’ve cleared the ground to discuss those things which we should do.
All Mind Labor Means Wear of the Brain:
We are all aware that our bodies need physical exercise but we may not be as keen to accept that our brains need exercise too. These brains of ours are muscles in need of training and it is important to understand how to nourish them!
When we fail to use and exercise our brains, it loses its strength and sharpness, just like any other muscle in our bodies. I got a giggle from this section because Charlotte ultimately warns against not using our brains because it may cause us to become like those “eccentric” folks who don’t seem to use their noggins like the rest of us. In other words, you don’t want your kids to become weirdos because they’re not putting their brains to work! (Ha! Homeschoolers are already assumed to be weirdos, so let’s not add to that dilemma!... Kidding, guys!) Children need to use their mental muscles daily, even on days that they don’t feel like it.
“Do not let the children pass a day without distinct efforts, intellectual, moral, volitional; let them brace themselves to understand; let them compel themselves to do and to bear; and let them do right at the sacrifice of ease and pleasure; and this for many higher reasons, but, in the first and lowest place, that the mere physical organ of mind and will may grow vigorous with work.” (pg. 22)
Just as important as brain work is brain rest. We don’t want to over stimulate our brain or any other part of our body for that matter. Rest is of equal importance in the balancing act of growth and nourishment.
Rest After Meals:
It’s important to be aware of what our children need after meals. I believe this will really vary from child to child, but because we homeschool we have the advantage of being one on one with our children and the luxury of adjusting based on their needs.
Strenuous activity immediately following a meal may put undue stress on their little bodies and cause digestion issues or upset tummies. Straight to lessons after a meal may leave them feeling tired and restless. The time after meals may be the best time to offer less strenuous activities for both body and brain. Handicrafts are a great option! We should also take into account that too much stimulation (either for body or brain) before bedtime may lead to a horrible night’s sleep.
Change of Occupation:
In addition, our brain will also tire out when it’s used for too long on one function. Have you ever experienced your child’s “blank math stare”? The one where they just can not perform another math problem no matter how you prod them? (I have!) This would be an excellent indicator that it is time to shift gears!
If you move from math facts to the stories of history you may find your child refreshed and capable of focusing again. This is because the imagination comes into play during history stories, something that is not present when you’re dealing with math facts. The spark is lit once more!
We all know that the brain can’t function properly without proper nourishment. And most of us are blessed to live in first world countries, in a time where an abundance of healthy food is available at our fingertips. Probably more in abundance than at any other time in history. There is still a lot of conflicting information out there in regards to which diet is “best”. But we know that whole and natural foods are the best place to start. Our children deserve to learn the good habits of right eating! We’re setting them up for a lifetime!
Certain Causes Affect the Quality of Blood:
Much has been learned since Charlotte penned these sections, but discussing these topics are still important today. Just as we strive to be healthy so we can live longer for our children, our children should eat healthy to fuel their growing bodies!
Again, our children must be well fed in order for them to perform to their highest potential. Every family is different and should decide what is best for their particular circumstances. But we know that sugars should be limited and real, whole foods should be the foundation of any healthy diet. (But I do love that she says cocoa is the best drink for children! I’m down with that!) Promoting habits of eating well will set our children up for a lifetime of success in this department!
Talk at Meals:
This topic is an important one! Cheery conversation at meal times does so much for our mental health! And the fact that Charlotte Mason was teaching this in the late 1800s and early 1900s (when children were supposed to be seen and not heard) really speaks volumes about her insight regarding child development.
“No pains should be spared to make the hours of meeting round the family table the brightest hours of the day.” (pg. 27)
Meals around the table as a family are so important! “... the advantage to the little people is incalculable.” (pg. 27) (An excellent resource about this is The Life Giving Table by Sally Clarkson. I highly recommend it! Sally’s books have changed my life over the past 13 years!)
Variety in Meals:
Offering a variety of meals is also important to ensure that our children are receiving a well rounded diet. “But give them variety; do not let it be ‘everlasting tapioca.’” (I thought that line was funny!)
Charlotte recommends that mothers should strive to put a meal plan in rotation that varies and doesn’t offer the same meal twice in a span of two weeks. Offering a rotation of different meats, vegetables, fruits, etc. will ensure that our children are receiving the vitamins and minerals that they need.
Air as Important as Food:
Charlotte points out that the quality of the air we breathe is just as vital as the quality of the food we eat. And she’s right. The fact that in the span of a breath, our blood “enters the lungs spoiled, no longer capable of sustaining life,” but “it leaves them, a pure and vital fluid,” is really a miracle in itself! So of course good quality breathing air is paramount for this continual function going on in our bodies. Our children should have plenty of time outside to get fresh air. Now, for we urbanites, one could argue that “fresh” air is hard to come by. But we do the best we can where we are!
The Children Walk Every Day:
With great dramatics (this really is a great passage), Charlotte continues explaining why fresh air is good for us. I’m assuming that most of us live in climates where the weather is fair for at least part of the year, so it’s important for our children to spend ample time outside (she recommends at least an hour daily). And even on days when it’s muggy or drizzling, or even snowing, we should fit in a little outdoor play. Of course if there is a blizzard happening it may not be wise to step outside… use your best judgement.
Oxygen has its Limitations, Unchanged Air, and I Feed Alice on Beef Tea:
Charlotte reminds us in this section that the quality of the air in our homes is never as fresh and nourishing as the air we can find outside with nature. You can only breathe so many times within the walls of a home before the air becomes stale. And neither is the air within our cities as pure as the air we would find in the country. It’s vital that we seek out the freshest air possible as often as possible.
In fact, Charlotte says, the poor children who live on the streets receive a better supply of air than those children who stay cooped up inside all day! But no child wants street air… fresh country air is what they really need. And a child even more so than an adult because they still have so much growing to do.
We may fret over our child’s balanced meal, but what good is a nourishing meal if a child is starved of fresh air and nature? Children are naturally drawn to the curiosities of nature and any natural object is more fully appreciated and wondered at when seen in person.
Indoor Airings, Ventilation, and Night Air Wholesome:
Even those few daily outdoor expeditions aren’t enough to provide us with the fresh air we regularly need. And we can’t rely on our senses to tell us if the air is fresh enough in a room because we become accustomed to the stuffy air and can’t tell the difference. We have air conditioners now that help to keep the air within our homes fresher than they were 100 years ago, but opening the windows occasionally never hurts! And who doesn’t love the smell of the fresh night air on a softly breezing evening?
Sunshine, Free Perspiration, Insensible Perspiration and Daily Bath and Porous Garments:
Vitamin D is an important vitamin for all of us to absorb regularly. We are all familiar with the glow on the face of a child who has spent ample time in the sun. And why not throw open the windows and let the sun shine into our homes?
We should also take care of our children’s skin so that their little bodies perspire healthily. Good hygiene is important as well, and though the fabrics used in our clothes have improved considerably since Charlotte Mason’s day, it is important that we’re aware of any skin sensitivities our children may have to their clothes. (For example, I have to be careful what laundry detergent I use because some members of our family have very sensitive skin.)
As Charlotte concludes this section, she points out that she understands readers may feel like she’s discussing the “lowest round of the educational ladder.” (pg. 37) But she explains that these basics are important, regardless of how often we consider them. And I believe she was trying to cover all of her bases and leave no rock unturned.
VII. ‘The Reign of Law’ in Education
Common Sense and Good Intentions:
After discussing this “lowest round” Charlotte explains that these basic principles of orderly and regular processes are to be applied to all of education. When we can apply good habits to the most basic care of our children, then we can see how good habits form the foundation of a thorough and life giving education. We can’t just rely on common sense and good intentions. We should be well informed and acquainted with the natural laws that concern child development. And this is where Charlotte’s methodology comes into play.
Law Abiding Lives often More Blameless than Pious Lives:
This section is short but packs a wallop! What a shame that (even still) many folks who are not Christians are kinder, more loving, and compassionate than some of those who profess to be Christians. Our children are bound to notice this at some point in their lives, and as their parents we need to have some sort of explanation for them. Charlotte believes it is the parents who are best suited to handle these situations.
‘Mind’ and ‘Matter’ Equally Governed by Law:
Charlotte gives a great explanation of this phenomenon. Just as the physical world is governed by the unwritten laws of God that we give no second thought to (like gravity), so the mind is governed by unwritten laws of God that we don’t have to consider in order to obey.
“... all safety, progress, and success in life come of obedience to law, to the laws of mental, moral, or physical science, or of that spiritual science which the Bible unfolds; … it is possible to ascertain laws and keep laws without recognising the Lawgiver, and that those who do ascertain and keep any divine law inherit the blessing due to obedience, whatever be their attitude toward the Lawgiver; just as the man who goes out into blazing sunshine is warmed, though he may shut his eyes and decline to see the sun.”
Antagonism to Law Shown by Some Religious Persons:
Christians should be careful not to accept “religious” laws as the only laws of God. Sometimes believers view the study of the laws of the universe as somehow dishonoring God, as if he does not speak clearly through his creation and its natural ways of operating. Meanwhile, unbelieving folks savor the study of these fascinating things and our children wonder why they seem better off than we are. Is it any wonder? Just because a nonbeliever refuses to acknowledge the Creator doesn’t mean he misses out on the breathtaking glory of his creation. He is still blessed by the splendor of God’s creativity. As Christians, we would do well, and in fact be more amazed with God’s craftsmanship if we too took up the study and wonder of these things.
Parents Must Acquaint Themselves with the Principles of Physiology and Moral Science:
While Christian parents should expect their children to follow the moral laws of doing right, they should also take care to understand the principles and scientific details that go into teaching their children these things. While these principles of the natural world may not help us to understand God in the fullest capacity (like his spiritual laws would), they are still a reflection of His character because He created them. In neglecting the study and understanding of these things, we hinder our children in more ways than one.
Charlotte says that it is her aim in the Home Education series to lay out for parents what exactly these “divine natural laws” are, and how we can build and implement a method of education upon them. She admits that there will be imperfections in her method, after all, she was only human too. But she humbly offers to do her best in the hopes that parents will be put on the right track with regards to the education of their children.
“My endeavour in this and the following volumes of the series will be to sketch out roughly a method of education which, as resting upon a basis of natural law, may look, without presumption, to inherit the Divine blessing. Any sketch I can offer in this short compass must be very imperfect and very incomplete; but a hint here and there may be enough to put intelligent parents on profitable lines of thinking with regard to the education of their children.” (pg. 41)
And that’s the end of our week 2 readings summary! This section was great because is started us at the very foundations of education, I’m so excited to build up and learn from here! I hope you’ll tune in on Instagram today for our weekly discussion, or you will be able to access the video here on this blog post once I have saved and uploaded it.