In this time of extraordinary pressure, educational and social, perhaps a mother’s first duty to her children is to secure for them a quiet growing time, a full six years of passive receptive life, the waking part of it spent for the most part out in the fresh air. Home Education, page 44
I was reminded of this quote from Charlotte Mason as I sat quietly on a bench overlooking thousands of evergreen trees covering a layer of foothills. No children at my feet, no phone in my hand, just a Bible on my lap. It struck me that this quiet time is growing time, even for an adult.
With all of the distractions that come with the day, quiet time, whether it is spent in devotions or just quiet reflection, is so hard to come by. Pencil marks fill in almost every white space in our calendars; noise fills in almost every corner in our homes; clutter fills in our shelves; and social media fills in whatever is left.
I think this lack of quiet, reflective time is directly related to an overall lack of maturity in our nation.
You probably don’t need me to prove that there’s a lack of maturity in our nation. (And I’m not claiming to be the perfect example either!)
But my point isn’t to focus on the negative. I want to focus on the beauty of this quiet growing time that Charlotte Mason suggests for children ages 0-6.
What is a Quiet Growing Time?
This is how Charlotte Mason referred to a child’s first six years. This time should be spent playing outside, observing, working on habits, and building relationships. Instead of starting lessons, filling out worksheets, or putting children in dozens of “enrichment classes”, this quiet time trusts that I child learns from observing, enjoying, and building relationships. (You can see my complete Charlotte Mason preschool guide for more information on what this looks like.)
After my reflections in the mountains, I realize that “quiet” is crucial to this growing time. In the quiet, Miss H can truly pay attention to the little ladybugs as they creep up the blade of grass. Without noise, she can think about the character in the story, and why he acted the way he did. Sitting in silence, she can meditate on a Bible verse that she’s memorizing.
We become prepared by the quiet schooling of Nature to walk softly and do our duty towards man and towards God.” Charlotte Mason, Ourselves
These quiet reflections bring growth.
Now contrast that to the child whose only chance for quiet reflection is in the time-out chair. Not a lot of life-changing reflection occurs there, sadly. The over pressure of school and life causes children to have unbelievable amounts of stress. The earlier the academic pressure begins, the younger children are when they experience this sad form of stress. I even found a secular program that exists to teach children how to be quiet- how to sit in quiet meditation in order to reduce stress and even violence. (You can read about the program here.)
Wouldn’t it be better to just teach this when our children are still very young?
(Related: Don’t Stress: How to Create a Peaceful Schedule)
As has been well said, ‘Sow an act, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny’ ” (Vol. 2, p. 124).
I’ve met several people in my life who can’t stand silence. They do whatever they can to ease their discomfort- they tap their pens on the table, hum a tune, or turn the TV on the second they get home. They often keep themselves extremely busy so that they don’t run the risk of being home in the quiet. I know that people are different and have different reasons for doing this, but I think that by establishing peaceful habits in the early years, my children will grow up without the desire for constant distractions.
Several of Charlotte Mason’s habits that she mentioned seem to beg for silence- either while acquiring them or using them in daily life.
Thought of God
Regularity of Devotions
(Related: See my habit training resource for the early years here. You can use the code SPRINGHABITS for $2 off. )
Practicing Quiet Day to Day
After the retreat ended, I expected to feel that deflated feeling that comes from being so uplifted, and then returning to daily life. Instead, I pursued the same quiet that I had in the mountains. I stopped checking my phone every hour. The computer remained turned off until it was time to write. I intentionally planned quiet times, not just for myself, but my children. And you know what? That peace followed me down the mountain. We don’t have to be slaves to these hectic times. We can pursue peace and quiet, and maybe the quiet growing time will apply to us our entire lives.
I view this wonderful season, this quiet growing time, as a beautiful preparation for their future. A future that will undoubtedly become busier and more complicated.