Thursday, December 27, 2012


"My mother regularly chased her children outdoors. I think we were outdoors more than we were indoors when school was let out for the year. (This was one way she kept her house clean and tidy, I think) ... We ran from backyard to backyard. There were no fences to separate us - only a few shrubs and trees. We sang and swung on each others squeaky swing sets.... How different it has been for my children in the neighbourhoods where we have lived ... Why did the neighbourhoods our family lived in seem so lifeless, the children so unimaginative and rude - or worse, profane? ... Sorrowful thoughts come to my mind when I think about how easily bored, and preoccupied with promiscuity, so many American children are today."
Here in New Zealand the year's routine of school, sport and cultural activities has ended until early February next year. For many children and teenagers, there are weeks ahead with not a lot to do. For some the computer or screen will be their closest companion. Others will virtually live at the mall. Bored young children will moan, whine and whinge. 
To you, this may be normal - just how 'it is'! Maybe you think this is crazy, a wasted opportunity to enjoy summer or do something worthwhile. Maybe you think the solution is to fill each day of the holidays with activities to keep everyone busy.
In my family, some summers have flowed easily and well, while others have not.
Recently I read "The children are respected and accepted as valid persons. But they are not left on the island of their own limited resources. Through careful choice, they are nourished with the best we human beings have to offer : mind is introduced to mind, child to nature and activities." For the Children's Sake: Susan Schaeffer Macaulay.
From another book, I read, "Amusements may be, and ought to be, such as will aid in developing and upbuilding a child's manliness or womanliness." The author went on to say that what little children play with and play at can train their eye, ear, hand, voice and movement skills. "And a child may be helped for life by the character which was developed in him in his boyhood's games of skill. It was an illustration of this principle, when the Duke of Wellington pointed to the playground of Eton, and said, 'It was there that the battle of Waterloo was won.' .... The amusements of children will tend to the gain or to the loss of the children." Hints on Child Training: H Clay Trumbull.
These quotes point to the fact that summer holidays  are part of the year-round growing and development of character, in a child and teenager's life. This is an opportunity for them to learn, not just how to have a great summer, but to learn lessons or skills which will benefit them in the future.
The possibilities of how you bring these ideal into summer holidays, are limitless.
Here are 3 suggestions ~
I wrote about kids of all ages needing to grow up with great ideas in "HOW GREAT ARE YOUR IDEAS" WEEK 91 QUOTE 91.
"An idea is more than an image or a picture ... implant an idea in the child's mind, and it will secrete its own food, grow and bear fruit in the form of a succession of kindred ideas." Home Education: Charlotte Mason. Depending on the ideas our children and teenagers feed on or come in contact with, they will grow minds which will be similarly directed.
The minds of children can easily be fed great ideas through reading 'living' books. Charlotte Mason coined the term 'living' books by saying they are books which open a window onto the world. They can be fictional or historical stories of people which give a view into human nature and experiences. Or books about "places, events, processes, causes and effects" Books Children Love: Elizabeth Wilson.
Use the local library to find such books. Read just 30 minutes a day to little children over the summer and feed their minds with great ideas.
Older children can read the books themselves, or you can choose to read to them as well. 
Through the holidays you can watch movies that fall into this category of 'living'. This is especially appropriate with teenagers. Some movies you could start with are -
"The Ultimate Gift", "The Help", "Abraham Lincoln", "The Lady", "Lions for Lambs", "Chariots of Fire". 
"All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
  All play and no work makes Jack a mere toy."
Giving help or giving service to other people is a theme found today in many books and movies for all ages. We have super heroes risking all to save and help others, the wealthy philanthropists of the world giving huge amounts of money to needy situations. But sadly it has not translated into the average person in our societies, practicing this trait of giving help to people around them on a regular, normal basis.
Bob Schultz in Practical Happiness, says we can start by looking at what we have an abundance of, e.g., an over productive vegetable garden or fruit tree. Give some away to neighbours in need. He also makes the connection between giving and happiness. "I'm writing this chapter because I've watched many unhappy men. They've spent years trying to gain money, possessions and fame for themselves, never realising that happiness walks with givers, not getters. Therefore, I challenge you. Look around at your abundance. What do you have that's more than you need?"
As well as happiness there are other traits that develop in our kids when they give help to others. Selflessness, thinking of others before themselves, and maturity which comes as a result of personally going without to the benefit of another.
To give help to another involves forgetting or denying yourself. So there's a struggle, which involves both a child's will and the training of a habit. A will can't be controlled but a child's conscience, which is trained by the ideas their mind feeds on, can spur on the will.  The training of a habit to help or serve people, needs "the support of constant supervision, but by degrees, he is left to do the thing he ought of his own accord." This habit. like others to do with kindness and courtesy, are in the area of self-discipline, so each person must take charge of it eventually for themselves. As Charlotte Mason says a habit is not fully formed if supervision is necessary. School Education:  Charlotte Mason.
The habit of giving help to others can be trained with simple actions such as opening the door of the fridge or car when another has full arms. Helping unload the shopping from the car. 
Older children and teenagers can be asked to help with household jobs - mowing, taking out the garbage, washing, cleaning... If needs be, parents may have to happily continue assisting all aged children with their helping task, until their self discipline takes control of it for themselves.
I believe learning to give help MUST start and be trained at home, in the common, everyday happenings of life, not at school or work where they receive pay or commendation for it.
"A soul occupied with great ideas best performs small duties." H Martineau.
"Do you wish to be great? Then begin by being little. Do you desire to construct a vast lofty fabric? Think first about the foundations of humility. The higher your structure is to be, the deeper must be its foundations. Modesty humility is beauty's crown." Augustine.
By practicing giving a helping hand daily through the holidays, children are trained to be alert to how they can give help to people all year-round.
I wrote about parents needing to set challenges for themselves, in the last post. LIVING WELL THROUGH THE SUMMER : FOR PARENTS - point 2.
It is similar for children and teenagers, they need stretching into areas which are difficult or uncomfortable to them, all through their growing years. Maturity, an accurate self esteem and contentment, are some of the attributes which come to a person who allows himself to work through challenges. Again, look at my post on Jessica Watson Week 9 Quote 9
Your job as a parent is to listen out and watch your kids to help them find what would be a challenge for them, then encourage them to pursue it. This is better than a parent thinking up 'projects' for their kids. Again read the post I wrote on Arianna Stasinopoulos Week 8 Quote 8 to get some ideas on how a parent can do this. Challenges are not optional, like choosing to send your child on an Outward Bound extreme camp. Your children and teenagers must regularly deal with challenges, otherwise they will end up being "a mere toy" as the rhyme above describes it. A movie to watch in this area is "The Ultimate Gift".
THISWEEKWITHTHEKIDS ~ have a GREAT summer with your kids. Enjoy your kids and love them by investing time in training them in these 3 simple ways.

1 comment:

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