[The brain], if it is to act healthily and in harmony with the healthful action of the members, should act only under such conditions of exercise, rest, and nutrition as secure health in every other part of the body.I must admit that I have given the child as a whole very little attention during my years as a homeschooling mother. Miss Mason has awakened in me the realization that the physical care of the children is as much a part of their education as any other efforts I may make.
I suppose that may make it sound as though I had no regard for their physical well-being and of course that isn't the case. I try to feed my children as well as I am able and am constantly educating myself and searching for areas in which I could make improvement. I'm always sure that they get an adequate amount of sleep and we are a very unplugged family which I hope will free them to think (for themselves ;D). But otherwise, I've never thought of what else may be done in order to improve their intellectual potential.
Let's take a look at some inspiring and challenging verses:
If they were allowed to dawdle through youth without regular and sustained efforts of thought or will, the result would be the same, and the brain which should have been invigorated by daily exercise has become flabby and feeble as a healthy arm would be after being carried for years in a sling.
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 workI was also motivated to understand how our days ought to be ordered for the best times for learning and that there should discernible periods of varying activity and rest.
The hours for lesson should be... after periods of mental rest- sleep or play, for instance- and when there is no excessive activity in any other part of the system.... Morning after breakfast... is much the best time for lessons and every sort of mental work... Afternoon for out of door recreation... or for mechanical tasks such as needlework, drawing, practicing... The drawback to evening work is that the brain, once excited, is inclined to carry on its labors beyond bed-time, and dreams, wakefulness, and uneasy sleep attend the poor child who has been at work until the last minute.
And that rather than continuing to push, push, push, driving my lazy student, I ought to know when to say enough is enough.
The brain, or some portion of the brain, becomes exhausted when any given function has been exercised too long.I've always viewed it as a battle of our wills. Mine vs. the child and I was determined to "win." My motivating factor was improving their character, but perhaps I was reinforcing it instead by not allowing the work to stop until it was finished far past the time when their brains were capable of doing any meaningful work.
Miss Mason goes on to show that in order for a child's body to be at a peak of health one must of course consider their nourishment since "the brain cannot do its work well unless it be abundantly and suitably nourished."
It is... a matter of health, of due nutrition, that the children should enjoy their food, and that their meals should be eaten in gladness; though, by the way, joyful excitement is as mischievous as its opposite in destroying that even, cheerful tenor of mind favourable to the processes of digestion. No pains should be spared to make the house of meeting round the family table the brightest hours of the day.... Here is the parents' opportunity to train them in manners and in morals, to cement family love, and to accustom the children to habits.
Also we should give attention to air and must expose our children daily to fresh air, even in winter, especially at night. Miss Mason recommends that-
Later she specifies an hour and a half in the morning and an equal time later in the day. I know that for half the year that would be quite a challenge for our family! She recommends cracking the tops of windows to improve indoor air quality, something we don't think of these days where furnaces run in winter and air conditioners in the summer. Our homes must have the most stale air in all of history! She extols the benefits of children sleeping in well-ventilated rooms and for exposing them to lots of sunshine during the day. We now know all of the nutritional benefits derived from sitting in the sun as our children are increasingly being found to have Vitamin D deficiencies. Skin should perspire freely to allow toxins to escape our bodies and baths given daily to wash the toxins off, garments should be constructed of breathable material (she recommends wool!) are just a few other points that she gives for our consideration.The children walk every day; they are never out less than an hour when the weather is suitable.
[Parents] have no right, for instance to pray that their children may be made truthful, diligent, upright, and at the same time neglect to acquaint themselves with those principles of moral science the observance of which will guide into truthfulness, diligence, and uprightness of character. For this, also, is the law of God.
Charlotte Mason's Original Homeschooling Series