The Need for Downtime

Dear Reader,

In my series “what I underlined in Charlotte Mason’s Home Education series” I am working through her second volume, Parents and Children (my edition was published by Seven Treasures in 2009).   Charlotte addresses not just the intellectual but the whole child. So her educational program includes also physical aspects (I am not sure quite what “Swedish drill” was, but I imagine the setting up exercises Babar the elephant does with the old lady in the first book about him).

In this volume she speaks of the need for four things, “nourishment, exercise, change, and rest” (p. 45). The nourishment she is referring to here seems to be intellectual. Ideas, in a Charlotte Mason education, are the food of the mind.

Then she goes on to speak of change. She says, “provide him with one delightful change of thought” (p. 46). Even those who have a particular talent or inclination in one area, she says, need a change. They need a new topic to work their minds on every once in a while lest they become too entrenched in only that one course of thinking.

But even a change in subject is not enough. Sometimes children also need a lack of subjects. They need to rest:

“At the same time, change of occupation is not rest: if a man ply a machine, now with his foot, and now with his hand, the foot or the hand rests, but the man does not. A game of romps, . . . nonsense talk, a fairy tale, or to lie on his back on the sunshine, should rest the child, and of such as these he should have his fill.”  (p.46)

Recent research tells us this, doesn’t it? That we need time to rest and process what we have learned. But the days of typical schoolchildren are filled with hours of work with little chance to rest. As homeschoolers, we have the freedom not to go this route.

I remember years ago an older homeschooling mom told me that she would have her son move a pile of bricks from one side of the yard to another. After this, he was able to come in and settle down well enough to do a half hour’s math. The tales I hear from other moms tell me that we are wearing our kids out with constant work when their bodies need the freedom to move instead. They need time and space. Free time is not time taken from schoolwork it is what enables our children to learn.


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