One of the most beautiful things about simple living is how child-friendly it is. Closeness to nature, a slow pace of life and an abundance of simple, practical activities are just the thing for children of all ages (and adults, too). Young and old alike enjoy digging in the dirt, playing with baby chicks or shaping dough into loaves of bread.
I don’t think education, however inspiring and individually adapted, should turn into running in circles around the child and making sure there’s no boring moment. I see many parents driven by the famous “Mom, I’m bored!” especially during summer vacations – so much that they feel compelled to entertain their children 24/7. As soon as the child says he or she is bored, they will be immediately taken to the mall, the zoo, the swimming pool, or signed up to any number of extra-curricular activities.
Boredom, while often seen as unproductive, can in fact be of infinite use. A bored mind is a clear, unoccupied mind, which can, when provided with the right tools, produce great things. Inventions, books, scrapbooks, crafts, paintings, new recipes, creative role-playing games, and even various household projects have been known to grow out of a seemingly nonconstructive, “bored” state of mind.
Learn like Pollyanna
Remember Aunt Polly?
‘… At nine o’clock every morning you will read aloud one half-hour to me. Wednesday and Saturday forenoons, after half-past nine, you will spend with Nancy in the kitchen, learning to cook. Other mornings you will sew with me. That will leave the afternoons for your music.’
Some home economics is still taught in kindergartens and schools, though it went out of fashion – but even if there were a lot of home economics classes, the best place to learn things like that would still be at home, where cooking, sweeping the floors, sewing, mending, knitting and working in the garden occur as part of our day-to-day lives. A little child learns a lot simply by observing an apron-clad mother, and later by participating in simple tasks.
After the aforementioned speech from Aunt Polly, Pollyanna exclaims, ‘Oh, but Aunt Polly, Aunt Polly, you haven’t left me any time at all just to – to live… I mean living – doing the things you want to do: playing outdoors, reading (to myself, of course), climbing hills… and finding out all about the houses and the people and everything everywhere…’
I heartily agree, perhaps because I’m such a dreamer and always loved unstructured time as a child myself. It was not laziness or boredom – it was necessary, at least for me, to encourage creativity. The most unusual projects sprang up from that “doing nothing” time.
In the past, and I’m saying this without idealizing or waxing nostalgic, it was easier for children to participate in the daily doings of a household. People grew and raised their own food, made their clothes, walked over to visit friends. Today, life may be materially easy, but it is more complicated. Now children spend their days in schools, cars, after-school activities, and in front of the screen. All of these are artificial environments, producing nothing real in the way of a genuinely useful, satisfying project that is so beneficial for the little child. And I don’t know about you, but here in Israel people are constantly clamoring to have government-funding for ever longer school days, to solve the problem of what to do with their children in the afternoon.
We strive to live gently, slowly and simply. The crazy pace of our world often doesn’t allow parents to get their children to participate in day-to-day life, because they are so bent on doing everything as quickly and efficiently as possible – and little children do slow you down. Also, children are often shuttled off to too many activities to leave them any time for participating in simple life and simple chores.
My children, from a very young age, were taught to pick up their toys, gather eggs, help out in the kitchen, help sweep the front porch, do simple cleaning tasks (wipe the windows, etc) and hang up small items of laundry. Work is not a punishment – being allowed to participate in the adult life is a treat, an honorable badge of being a big kid and Mommy’s helper. I’m not saying they do all the above with a 100%-success rate, but I do try to keep them involved on a consistent basis.
When your children are very young, it’s perhaps more effective to do all the work yourself. But I know that some years down the road, I will be very glad for allowing my daughters to hang up their own underwear, taking about five minutes for each item.
Anna Twitto’s academic background in nutrition made her care deeply about real food and seek ways to teach others about it. Anna and her husband live on a plot of land in Israel. Anna’s books can be found on Amazon.com.