Recently, I have had the pleasure of reading Pollyanna, a gift from a dear friend (thank you, Judith!). My English-speaking readers are, of course, familiar with the book, but for me, it's new. Right in the beginning, one scene captured my attention - the one where Aunt Polly is talking about Pollyanna's education.
'... 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.'
At that time, Pollyanna is eleven years old, which makes me think what a long way we have gone regarding girls' education - and not in the right direction. Many teenagers today hardly read at all, and as for domestic skills - oh, how I wish I had learned the basics of cooking and sewing (not to mention cleaning) at an earlier age. It would have saved so much trouble afterwards.
Of course I'm happy about what I have learned so far, and it's never too late to learn more, but it sure goes more slowly when you are already married and have children. Basic life skills are so vital to children - of both genders, but especially to girls, who are future wives and mothers. Basic healthful meals and knowing, at least, how to mend a loose button or a split seam are important in every household.
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.
Shira goes into the kitchen every day, picks up the broom and begins sweeping the floor, in imitation of what is done by adults. Of course, for now her sweeping has limited productivity, but with some encouragement and persistence, this will change in a couple of years. It's the process that counts, and her being able and encouraged to work with real tools.
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 and not boredom - it was necessary, for me, to encourage creativity. The most unusual projects sprang up from that "doing nothing" time. If time allowed, I could tell a lot about it. However I must just say I think children's time is occupied these days in too structured a way, and not necessarily with all the right things. Children have long hours at school and plenty of extracurricular activities, but not much time to live and learn about life. Keeping children occupied like this is perhaps convenient, but I do really and truly think it comes with a heavy price.
When it comes to educating children, I'm only at the beginning of the way, being the mother of an almost two-year-old and a newborn. Our day-to-day journey of living and learning at home is most interesting, and I expect it to get only and ever more exciting as time goes by.