“The monotony and solitude of a quiet life
stimulates the creative mind.”
~ Albert Einstein
Time to be Creative
I have certainly found truth in this quote – time at home, time for quiet reflection and experimentation breeds creativity in our home. These days education circles place a lot of emphasis on collaborative learning and I agree it is a valuable life skill (to be able to work with people). Creativity can certainly come from a think-tank environment but if that is the only creative environment we are in we eventually run dry. We have nothing to give. Solitude and reflection seem to revive that creativity.
Charlotte Mason talks of Masterly Inactivity: That the child, though under supervision, should be left much to himself – both that he may go to work in his own way on the ideas he receives, and also that he may be more open to natural influences. (Vol 1, p 177)
Creativity isn’t just the ability to make stuff or to paint; we are creative in our thought processes, our understandings and our ideas as well. Creative processes reflect what is going on in the spirit and soul – in the heart of a person, which is why so much art form is dark and angry these days. But it need not be so for our children – creative expression whether it is in music, dance, using words, painting, building, cooking, running and so forth, needs to reflect our love of God, needs to reflect the joy in our heart.
Time to Process
We ‘put in’ to our children so much during the day they need time to reflect and process it all. Sometimes it helps us to understand our children’s world when we find a parallel in our world and relate it back to theirs. Think of a conference you’ve been too – full on information, a great time, new friendships made or old ones renewed, more to learn, questions to ask. It is an amazing 4 days or so but by the end of it your head is just spinning. This could easily be our children’s life (not just four days, but their life). We fill their days and weeks much like conference organisers fill this short-term opportunity for us – chockers!
Remember the feeling of exhaustion at the end of a conference? I believe our children often feel like that at the end of a day. They have received instruction to change their heart, they have learnt knowledge and practiced new skills. They have asked questions and been involved in discussions. They have struggled with new ideas and maybe even felt like they failed at an experiment. They have interacted with people that may or may not understand them. There is a whole pile of emotions that our children will have processed during the day – they will be exhausted. Not only has it been go-go-go from activity to activity but it has been go-go-go in their little heads as they process it all.
We need to give them a break! I don’t know about you but I often feel like down time after a conference – time to process, time to reflect, time to find out how I’m going to put all I’ve learnt into action. This is masterly inactivity as Charlotte Mason calls it. It is a quiet life as Albert Einstein calls it.
Time for Masterly Inactivity
We may be afraid that our children will cry “I’m bored” if we don’t fill their days. We may be afraid that they are going to miss out in life if we don’t take them to every opportunity. And that is where we need to understand the alternative – masterly inactivity. It isn’t just letting a child drift aimlessly with nothing to do, hoping they’ll do something that doesn’t need your supervision. It is teaching them and then directing them to do something with what they know. I like that phrase in the Charlotte Mason quote “that he may go to work”.
Masterly inactivity isn’t doing nothing, it isn’t recreation, it isn’t just fun, it isn’t unproductive. It is just the opposite. Masterly inactivity is working with, processing and expressing what you have learnt without the expectations of another person’s understandings or agenda.
I believe our children need to know the ‘how’ to do things. How to sew, how to draw, how to cook, how to build, how to write, how to learn etc and then with the skills that they have been taught I let them go and experiment, have-a-go, put their twist to it – be creative.
A Quiet Life can be a Messy Life
For our children to have the space – both emotional and time-wise – to ponder and play with the things that they are learning we need to be home. When we go out and about we have a purpose for our time: we want our kids to focus on a lesson or engage with people. To some degree when we go to an activity we are directing our children’s thinking – to some degree.
But giving our kids free time where they are free to experiment with thought and deed is indeed messy. We never know what they’ll think of next, or what resources they’ll ask to use. When we give our children time to themselves, we aren’t directing them, we aren’t in control – which is what makes it messy! But when they have the time to ponder and explore their thinking, and their skills we can be assured learning is really taking place. Personal learning, relevant learning, consolidated learning.
P.S. By the way, I am not saying never to leave your home. Our children need to engage with the wide world and all it has to offer – but we need to find a balance between out of the home activities, activities where we are directly inputting, and the time for our children to ponder and explore. It is an issue of balance.
Over to you:
What is the biggest challenge to you when you think of staying home more?
The Lasting Benefit of Play in a Child’s Life: We need to recognise the benefits of play in our child’s life, and let it happen in their day – knowing that they will learn things.
Dealing with Boredom: Boredom is the inability to make wise decisions with how to spend our time.
Relationship Based Activities for Learning: We can fill our day with these relationship based activities and know that learning is happening because of our family life.
Avoid Burnout by Stopping with the Distractions: Distractions lead to burnout. Burnout happens when we don’t have balance in our life, and the biggest reason we don’t have balance is we focus on the wrong things for this season of our life.