Welcome to Week 6, Conditions of Healthy Brain Activity, of the Charlotte Mason Home Education Read-Along Series. We are reading in Ms. Mason’s book, Home Education, volume 1. Let’s Go!
Conditions of Healthy Brain Activity
This week we are reading pages 20-37, Conditions of Healthy Brain Activity. If you would like to see the rest of these posts all in one place you may view them HERE. And don’t forget to download your free worksheets to go with each reading! If you are interested in a Charlotte mason “curriculum”, our favorite resource is Ambleside Online.
All mind labor means wear of brain
Charlotte begins by schooling us on the knowledge that the brain requires labor in order to grow and be healthy and that this is not a matter to only be considered by medical professionals, but also that the mother and father should be involved in the caring of the child’s brain. She states, “…because that wonderful brain, by means of which we do our thinking, 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 am struck by Ms/ mason’s common sense and true advocacy for the care of children. She is leaving no stone UN-turned to ensure that children receive the very best care in order to thrive in every possible way.
The brain must be exercised daily. Unless it is stimulated with appropriate moral and mental work with regular and sustained efforts of thought and will, it will become flabby and weak. How true this is!
I have seen this in my own life- it is so very easy to allow the mind to become “lazy” and weak by not giving it an appropriate moral and mental exercise. She shares:
Do not let the children pass a day without distinct efforts, intellectual, moral and volitional (the use of one’s will); 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: …that the mere physical organ of mind and will may grow vigorous with work.
Equally important, a child’s brain must be allowed sufficient rest in between it’s “working”. Of the science that Charlotte mentions concerning digestion, I am not certain, but I can see the seedling ideas in this section for her famous “short lessons” and we also see the mention of the need for different types of work in a child’s day: mental work, outdoor recreation, and mechanical tasks (handicrafts and art) and pleasant social hours.
She also stresses that the times of day to do these different types of work must be carefully chosen.
Change of Occupation
In this section, she suggests that if a child has been doing some type of work for a long period of time, such as math, and is becoming weary, then we must help refresh the child by switching gears onto something else and allowing their mind to become refreshed again. I use this principle a lot in our own homeschool and can tell you that it is very effective.
The vigor and health of the brain depend upon the quality and quantity of its blood supply.
Certain causes affect the quality of the blood
Charlotte teaches that we must look after the quality of our child’s blood in order to ensure a healthy brain. I wonder what she would think of the generations today who play video games for hours and stuff themselves with processed food?? I have two boys right now who make me work very hard at ensuring that they are properly nourished!
She talks about how a child’s body is in constant demand of itself and how important nutrients are to the wellness of the blood and brain.
The main thing she stresses in this section is proper nutrition and the digesting of food. She touches briefly of the poor not being able to afford the right kind of foods that children need to grow and develop properly but says for the masses that it is common sense to properly nourish our children.
Talk at meals
Charlotte ties the enjoyment of a meal to actual digestion and argues that children should enjoy their meals and eat them with gladness. I love this quote:
No pains should be spared to make the hours 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, an to accustom the children to habits…”
Though much of the writing is dated by her period of history in which she resided, this is timeless wisdom from Ms. Mason that all of us can apply. The family table has much value if only we will embrace its possibilities.
Variety in meals
I doubt that many of us struggle with variety these days with all that is available form our local stores. However, we know from the latest science, that a rainbow of fresh and nutritious foods are of most benefit to our families.
Air as important as food/The children walk daily/Oxygen has its limitations
Charlotte switches gears from food to the necessity of fresh air and exercise to fully oxygenate the blood. Many children in Charlotte’s time lived in cramped cities with low air quality and who were often kept indoors. She saw the difference between the children of cities and the country children who breathed good air daily and got a proper amount of exercise.
Unchanged Air/Indoor Airings/Ventilation
Charlotte knows that it isn’t practical for many parents to travel to the country daily for fresh air, but she argues that even street children look more healthy than those who are kept inside all the time.
Children who are indoors a lot, therefore, must be given “indoor airings” to avoid ‘stuffy’ air. The rooms must be well-ventilated- other health issues that many homes had in her time.
Night Air Wholesome/Sunshine/Free Perspiration/Insensible Perspiration
Again, she is stressing the importance of breathing in good air, getting sufficient sunshine, and exercise daily to nourish the body and brain.
Daily baths and porous garments
Finally, she discusses the importance of daily baths, skin rubbing (exfoliation) and loose, breathable clothing for the health of the skin, body, and brain.
My takeaway of Conditions of Healthy Brain Activity
We can never say that Ms. Mason is not thorough! I really viewed this week as a great reminder to revisit common sense in the care of our children for the health of their brains. Just yesterday, we had finished up our math lessons and we were getting ready to dive into reading, but I sensed that the children were anxious and not paying good attention to their work. So, we packed a lunch and headed over to the state park nearby to take a short hike and play and enjoy nature. The difference in their demeanor instantly shifted and we had a wonderful afternoon outdoors observing small wildlife, running, and playing.
One thing that I did appreciate from this week’s reading was her emphasis on the importance of the family table. It’s an area I would like to work on making more pleasant for all of us. So, I think I am going to set some goals for our dinner time in the near future here.
What was your takeaway this week? Share in the comments below!