Her Freshest, Brightest Hours
|Painting by Carlton Alfred Smith 1853-1946|
Knowing what our Januaries are like I finished the mitts back in autumn.
I knit them in a yarn that is baby-soft. It's a luxurious yarn from blog friend, Mary Lou, who raises the fluffiest angora rabbits for Angora Gardens. Angora yarn is my top choice for itch-less mitts.
And since I've made a minute for knitting, here's the beret I made.
An Unconventional MotherI like the young mother knitting in the above painting. And I like the following painting, "A Willing Helper" by Mihaly Munkacsy (1844-1909).
You can understand why the scene would be so appealing to me this time of year. The figures look warm. What a beautiful conservatory filled with flowers. Sunshine is streaming through the window glass bringing a brightness to the room that matches the brightness of the mother's face.
She looks content and bright in her femininity, too. Her gown, with its cascades of soft ruffles, appears to be un-corseted - unconventional for the 19th century. Her decision to dress comfortably (at home at least) was the daring that preceded Edwardian fashion.
Pausing in her needlework she keeps (with casually acquired skill) one eye on her embroidery and one eye on her daughter. This little girl carries a watering can satisfyingly heavy enough to give her a feeling of really helping. You can see it in her smile.
Something else is unconventional here. Mother and daughter are together. You would think a well-to-do family in a house large enough for a conservatory, would have a nanny. Most did. Perhaps the nanny is keeping an eye on a baby somewhere in the big house. But I'm day-dreaming.
Such day-dreaming comes from contemplating Charlotte Mason's book, Home Education, page 18, under the heading;
"Children should have the best of their mothers."
The words in this post's title I took from the following paragraph. Miss Mason writes,
". . . however-much we may delight in them, we grown-up people have far too low an opinion of children. If the mother did not undervalue her child, would she leave him to the society of an ignorant [nanny] during the early years when his whole nature is, like the photographer's sensitive plate, receiving . . . indelible impressions? . . . Very likely it would not answer for educated people to always have their children about them. The constant society of his parents might be too stimulating for the child; and frequent change of thought and society of other people, make the mother all the fresher for her children. But they should have the best of their mother, her freshest, brightest hours; while at the same time she is careful to choose her [nanny] carefully, and keep a vigilant eye upon all that goes on in the nursery."
Miss Mason speaks from experience. Further along the page we find she has the inside scoop on nannies. She knows what happens to children left for long hours with an ignorant nanny, one who resorts to trickery to get a child to behave. These frail child-training-devises encourage children to take on a code of trickery themselves to get what they want.
|My mother-in-law Esther and her little sister Johanna - 1941|
|Johanna - 1941|
While upholding the supreme value of mothering Miss Mason admits that mother and child need a refreshing change of scenery, too. At intervals a child should turn his attention onto his play (outdoors is ideal) for instance, while the mother turns her attention (one eye) on her own occupations. A child indoors under constant commanding of his mother would make them both peevish. What's to be done?
A Bubble of Privacy
Some wise letting alone is the answer. As a young mother I left my children to rely upon their imagination and to exercise their budding ingenuity. I left them to occupy themselves.
Like thousands of unconventional mothers - my fellow home teachers - each morning I gave my freshest, brightest hours to my children in our time-table of lessons. At lunchtime I initiated conversation with cheerful smiles and a sense of humor (the ideal). But for a space of time in the afternoon we all needed a change of pace and a change of scenery. Therefore we lived in our own bubbles. Through a thin layer of privacy we could see and hear one another. We were together but attending to our separate occupations inside our bubbles.
|Esther (on right) and friends - 1940|
Safe neighborhood play - what I (and past generations of Americans) experienced when young - did not exist for my children. But they had each other.
Children Need FeedingImagination and budding ingenuity stirs in the mind of a child only with proper feeding. His schoolbooks must be the source of much wholesome raw material. Charlotte Mason watched what happens when students are given "living books" as their twaddle-free daily diet. She says:
"Let a child have the meat he requires in his history readings, and in the literature that naturally gathers round his history, and imagination will bestir itself without any help of ours, the child will live out in detail a thousand scenes of which he only gets the merest hint." Home Ed pg 294 & 295
During a week of rainy days, or when one (or all) had a cold, or we were becoming moody with cabin-fever, I called upon the help of a nanny. Out came our box of audio cassettes. They were our nanny. Often, the children drew pictures at the dinning room table while they listened.
|My children in Oregon - 1992|
Blog friend, Kristyn enjoyed sitting down to a little Mother Culture. She finished her Lavender Strawberry Sachets. Rather than simply tying them with the satin ribbon in the kit, she embellished two with teeny yoyos made from fabric scraps. Aren't they darling? Little buttons secure the yoyos. She told me that she has lots of little-girl-style buttons but her girls have outgrown the need for them.
We'd like to see your Strawberry Sachets. If you like, send me a photograph when you've finished filling them with lavender flowers. email@example.com
Keep up your Mother Culture,