For the Family’s Sake: Ch 12

Children in a Garden by Mary Cassatt (1878)

Early Days, Vital Days…What exactly do children need?

If you’re familiar with Charlotte Mason’s writing, you’ll know that she believed that the first few years of life are very important and that children need a “quiet growing time.” She didn’t begin formal lessons until the child was six years age old. So, what did she think younger children should do up until then? What can we do as parents?

Spend LOTS of time outside in the fresh air.

Allow plenty of time for spontaneous play – i.e. not parent plotted and organised. This is a serious problem these days. I understand if you’re in a public park with young children you need to watch out for them but there is so much hovering that goes on that it’s almost suffocating.

‘When enough time is spent on home life, time-consuming activities can find a place.’

Don’t overschedule. The kids have set up their camp and re-arranged the family room in the process when Mum suddenly announces it’s time to go to…whatever/wherever and the kids all moan because it’s taken them ages to set this all up and now they can’t play in it. 

I listened to a TED talk this morning (The Price of Invulnerability: Brené Brown) as preparation for a book club a friend is hosting on the weekend. A few thoughts stood out to me, and I thought they were worth considering in relation to bringing up children:

‘An ordinary life has become synonymous with a meaningless life.’ 

‘We are missing what is truly important because we’re in a quest for the extraordinary. Ordinary moments are where we can find the most joy.’

Parents who care want the best for their children and investing in experiences, activities and learning opportunities seems to be the way to go. I’m not saying these things aren’t valuable, but when they constantly interrupt or interfere with the ordinary moments of life – moments when our children are building their imaginations, forming good habits and taking time to wonder – they may not be the best investment of time at this point.

When my eldest was four years old she asked me to teach her to read. I did, as she was obviously ready, but there was nothing ‘formal’ about it and it only took a few minutes each morning. There was still plenty of time for free play and outdoor time. 

I think home education allows a good balance in this. If a young child is busting to read, you can teach them. If they are nowhere near ready, it is no problem to wait until they are. I read once that one hour of education at home would take about three hours of learning in a school situation.

‘Children have an urgent desire to communicate. For all of these activities Charlotte thought that homes or homelike places were best.’

In the first three years of life every child learns more than at any other period of life…For the toddler much more is going on than what we would usually define as “learning.” The very being of the child is developing…All future relationships are being started in seed trays, so to speak, in this nursery of life. As any gardener knows, neglect the sprouting seed or young seedling, and you’ll have a stunted plant.

Routines are early disciplines in a child’s life which allows them to fit into family life and later into community life. They learn that they are not the centre of the universe; that other people matter. If a child starts out with a self-centred orientation it will be very difficult to train them out of it later!

Susan points out that in Britain babies used to be put outside to sleep for their naps, tucked up in their prams. When my Mum & Dad were first married, they lived in an attic up a few flights of stairs in Scotland. Every day my mum would bounce a huge pram down the stairs, put us in it and take us for a walk in all kinds of weather – where we lived on the West Coast it was either drizzle or sleet, but it didn’t stop her.

‘We need to give each other all the encouragement we can in the job of homemaking and bringing up children. Whether we work part time or not, whatever our circumstances, homes really are the heart and hearth of our lives…

Remember, Jesus said, “I prepare a place for you.”

The features of a good nursery school are also discussed in this chapter. We are privileged to be the parents of our young children for only a limited time, but this all too fleeting time is as important as any career we may have.

8 thoughts on “For the Family’s Sake: Ch 12

  1. Just a wonderful inspiring read, thanks so much! I was a child of the 1950s and one of the few who never went to day-care (non-existent then..) of kindergarten. I was just home with mom and my big sister. Remember nothing about it but I did manage to runaway once and cut my own bangs with the scissors. I guess I remember this b/c I was impressed how worried/mad my mother was at me! Reading….I have no idea what my parents did…but I read constantly. I have a good childhood friend who I still keep in contact with across the oceans…and she NEVER reads. We grew up in the same area….same schools even through high-school….and I’m convinced her reading was not nurtured at home. Oh, well time to get back to my books…and a good cup of coffee!


    • Thanks, Nancy. 🙂
      I don’t remember what I read – probably Enid Blyton, 🙂 but I know I’ve always loved reading. My mum & granny were readers and I think that having people around you who value reading is important.
      We also didn’t have much in the way of technology. If we complained we were bored we’d get sent to do jobs around the house.
      One of the problems with over scheduling kids’ lives is that there are fewer of them playing in the neighbourhood which makes a difference community-wise.


  2. The one idea that really jumped out at me from this chapter was the ‘urgent desire of little children to communicate’. I have seen this more with Iris but I am also older, wiser and more patient and willing to take the time to allow these conversations and times to occur naturally. In agreement with Charlotte Mason and the author, we have always spent a lot of time outdoors and so the wonder of the world for Iris has been shared by me – a gift in itself and worth my service to her. She was also out in a pram daily from birth so that I could get my walk in and as I am such a verbal person, we were communicating on those walks from the beginning. One thing I have started is involving Iris in neighbourly and church activities to help others. I did not do this with my own children but she is fitting in with my schedule and she seems to enjoy it. She even says we are doing chores, Grandma. A good, solid, sensible chapter.

    Liked by 1 person

    • My just turned 4 grandson likes to go for a walk beside the creek around the corner from our place. He chats the whole time there & back but when we get to the water he looks around and says something like, “It’s so peaceful here.”
      Last time I took him to what I called the ‘moss carpet,’ which was a spot near the creek that hadn’t dried out and the bank was covered in moss. He was really taken with that idea and sat on an old pipe and looked at it for ages. I’ve always loved this age!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I am always interested in what that age have to say when in nature and see how their thoughts are running. It can often surprise me, and I also love this age with the conversations and the questions. That’s why your comment about it not being the same in a group of children the same age with a care giver rings so true. It is not as good as one on one connection.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I forgot to add that the reason why I feel it is so important for mother/father to be home is that it gives children the opportunities to communicate with them versus a caregiver who is not as invested in the child, and their growing curiosity and wonder.

    Liked by 1 person

    • A child’s vocabulary is often a good indicator of how much communication is going on with those around them. When adults take the time to explain things & answer questions vs the type of conversations that tend to occur with a group of children and a caregiver – it’s obvious there’s a huge difference. 🙂


  4. Pingback: Who Needs a Home? | journey & destination

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