In reading some advice that Charlotte Mason gave to her student teachers, three little gems stood out to me. Interestingly, they all start with “Do not.”
But don’t let the negative wording intimidate you. These Do Not’s are not designed to impose a hardship on you—quite the opposite, in fact. I think that as you implement Charlotte’s counsel, you will find a great freedom that you may not have experienced in a long time.
Curious? Let’s dive in to the first practical Do Not.
Do Not Sit Up Late
Do Not #1:
“Do not sit up late preparing lessons; what you seem to gain in preparation you lose by tiredness next day.”
We’ve all been there at some time or other. The day has been crammed to overflowing with housework, schoolwork, errands, meal preparation, phone calls, and a couple of last-minute appointments thrown in for good measure. When you finally get the last child tucked into bed and drag your weary body to the sofa, it hits you like a bolt of lightning: you don’t have your schoolwork planned for tomorrow!
Here is the crucial moment. What will you do?
Charlotte recommended that you go to bed. Well, at least that you not sit up late working on plans. If you think about it, two opposing factors are involved in this decision: a list of assignments or your energy level. Which factor is more important to having a good day tomorrow?
We can have impressive lists of assignments and still have a horrendous day because we’re so tired that our thoughts are fuzzy and our attitudes are terrible. Yet, when our energy level (and accompanying attitude) is refreshed, we can meet the challenges that come at us with grace and creativity.
Charlotte emphasized, “The children need your utmost freshness of mind and energy.”
Of course, Charlotte was not advocating that we consistently put off school planning and just “make it up as we go along” for schoolwork every day. She highly esteemed a good school plan, reminding us that well-planned work can make our lives easier and our days smoother. But she also realized that we are human and that life happens.
Perhaps on those evenings when the thought of tomorrow sneaks up on you, some of these ideas might help:
- Set a time limit and work on your plans only until that time. Call it “good enough” and give yourself permission to get some sleep.
- Set your alarm to waken you an hour earlier in the morning. You’ll probably get more planning done in less time when you’re rested.
- Select three “must keep going” subjects for each student and make plans only for those three. Use the extra time tomorrow to catch up on your planning.
- Declare tomorrow to be a nature study day. Take your nature notebooks, field guides, and a picnic lunch to a local park. Throw in your family read-aloud book too, if you want to.
- Dust off your mental list of local field trips that you haven’t gotten around to recently and choose one for tomorrow.
- Declare tomorrow to be a community service day. Visit a local nursing home. Do yard work for a widow in your church.
- Declare tomorrow to be a game day. Play educational games and read books together.
- Use tomorrow to teach a new life skill or handicraft to the children. Give them lots of time to practice.
- Or just give the children an unexpected holiday. Take time to play, to rest, to plan, to live.
Have any of you experienced the truth of Charlotte’s wisdom in this first Do Not? Leave a comment and share your thoughts.
“The children need your utmost freshness of mind and energy, so do not sit up late preparing lessons; what you seem to gain in preparation you lose by tiredness next day” (The Story of Charlotte Mason, p. 150).
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