For we are an overwrought generation, running to nerves as a cabbage runs to seed; and every hour spent in the open is a clear gain, tending to the increase of brain power and bodily vigour, and to the lengthening of life itself. They who know what it is to have fevered skin and throbbing brain deliciously soothed by the cool touch of the air are inclined to make a new rule of life, Never be within doors when you can rightly be without.Just lately we've been running to seed like the cabbage. Sometimes life gets too busy - too overwrought - and unlike those mums who at least have the reprieve of the hours between 9 and 3.30 in which to get things done, even homeschool has been shoved in around the edges of the other...um...stuff. Somehow we struggle though. Maths, tick. Reading, tick. Copywork, tick. Memory verses, tick. Science, tick. Phew! That's the important stuff done!!
Besides, the gain of an hour or two in the open air, there is this to be considered: meals taken al fresco are usually joyous, and there is nothing like gladness for converting meat and drink into healthy blood and tissue. All the time, too, the children are storing up memories of a happy childhood. Fifty years hence they will see the shadows of the boughs making patterns on the white tablecloth; and sunshine, children's laughter, hum of bees, and scent of flowers are being bottled up for after refreshment.
Charlotte Mason Home Education p 42
Or is it?
I suppose you know the proverb, All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. It has been around since James Howell wrote it down in his Proverbs in English, Italian, French and Spanish back in 1659, after all, so you've probably heard it once or twice. The Egyptian sage Ptahhotep said it too, back in 2400 BC, only his version was more wordy and not as much fun as it were:
One that reckons accounts all the day passes not a happy moment. One that gladdens his heart all the day provides not for his house. The bowman hits the mark, as the steersman reaches land, by diversity of aim. He that obeys his heart shall command.Our school days recently have been more the work than the play bit. And that's not on, because a Charlotte Mason education without the fun is totally missing the point of it all really.
I didn't have time for a picnic on Tuesday morning, but the weather dawned fine and sunny and 26°C after weeks of temperatures in the 30s and 40s. When there was a day like that in Miss Mason's time a bell used to ring declaring a suspension of regular lessons in lieu a nature walk. If she could do it so could we.
We went for a picnic.
Now I'd love to say we cancelled lessons, but that would not have brought peace - it would have increased our stress levels considerably in fact - but I don't think we felt like we were doing school.
We inspected the amazing deposits of amber sap that gathered along the branches of the trees and glistening congealing in the sun. We looked at the scars in the bark. Nature study, tick.
We lay around reading our books. Reading, tick.
We sketched the long pendulous gum leaves surrounding our picnic area. Nature notebook/art, tick.
We talked about the explorer, Major Thomas Mitchell who had passed by on the 7th July 1836 as he filled in the map of the south-east of Australia for the first time. History, tick.
We identified birds and bird calls. Natural history, tick.
We walked and walked and climbed and walked and scrambled our way to the top. Physical education, tick.
We discussed the old dead redgums and brighter green regrowth. Ecology/botany, tick.
Mostly though, we worked on storing up memories of a happy childhood. Fifty years hence I hope Jemimah will see the shadows of the boughs making patterns on the fallen tree trunk table. I hope she will see the sunlight glowing through the amber jewels. I hope she will remember the close time with mummy, the joyous al fresco meal, the hum of bees, and the scent of eucalyptus. I hope that she will remember that her school days were peaceful and happy.
We did maths when we arrived home. Nothing else. It can all wait for another day.
As Ptahhotep said,
He that obeys his heart shall command.