VI. -- Conditions of Healthy Brain-Activity

Home Education, Volume 1

Training and Educating Children Under Nine

Pg. 20-37

VI. -- Conditions of Healthy Brain-Activity

Having just glanced at the wide region of forbidden ground, we are prepared to consider what it is, definitely and positively, that the Mother owes to her child under the name of Education. 


1. All Mind Labour Means Wear of Brain. -- pg. 21

And first of all, the more educable powers of the child -- his intelligence, his will, his moral feelings -- have their seat in the brain; that is to say, as the eye is the organ of sight, so is the brain, or some part of it, the organ of thought and will, of love and worship. Authorities differ as to how far it is possible to localise the functions of the brain; but this at least seems pretty clear––that none of the functions of mind are performed without real activity in the mass of grey and white nervous matter named 'the brain.'

2. Exercise. -- pg. 21

The large active brain is not content with entire idleness; it strikes out lines for itself and works fitfully, and the man or woman becomes eccentric, because wholesome mental effort, like moral, must be carried on under the discipline of rules... Do not let the children pass a day without distinct efforts; intellectual, moral volitional; let them brace themselves to understand; let them compel themselves to do and to bear; and let them do right at the sacrifice of ease and pleasure and this for many higher reasons, but, in the first and lowest place, that the mere physical organ of mind and will may grow vigorous with work. 

3. Rest. -- pg. 22

Just as important is it that the brain should have due rest; that is, should rest and work alternately. And here two considerations come into play. In the first place, when the brain is actively at work it is treated as is every other organ of the body in the same circumstances; that is to say, a large additional supply of blood is attracted to the head for the nourishment of the organ which is spending it's substance in hard work. 

4. Change of Occupation. -- pg. 23 & 24

...But this much is certain, and is very important to the educator: the brain, or some portion of the brain, becomes exhausted when any given function has been exercised too long. The child has been doing sums for some time, and is getting unaccountably stupid: take away his slate and let him read history, and you find his wits fresh again. Imagination which has had no part in the sums, is called into play by the history lesson, and the child brings a lively unexhausted power to his new work. 

School time-tables are usually drawn up with a view to give the brain of the child variety of work; but the secret of the weariness children often show in the home schoolroom is, that no such judicious change of lessons is contrived. 

5. Nourishment. -- pg. 24

Again, the brain cannot do its work well unless it be abundantly and suitably nourished; ... and the vigour and health of the brain depend upon the quality and quantity of this blood-supply. 

Certain Causes affect the Quality of the Blood. -- Now, the quality of the blood is affected by three or four causes. In the first place, the blood is elaborated from the food: the more nutritious and easy of digestion the food, the more vital will be the properties of the blood. The food must be varied, too, a mixed diet, because various ingredients are required to make up for the various waste in the tissues. 

Concerning Meals. -- What is the obvious conclusion? That the child must be well fed. Half the people of low vitality we come across are the victims of low-feeding during their childhood; and that more often because their parents were not alive to their duty in this respect, than they were not in a position to afford their children the diet necessary to their full physical and mental development. 

6. Talk at Meals & Variety. -- pg. 26 & 27

All this and much of the same kind it is needless to urge; but again let me say, it is digested food that nourishes the system, and people are apt to forget how far mental and moral conditions affect the processes of digestion... No pains should be spared to make the hours of meeting round the family table the brightest hours of the day... Here is the parents' opportunity to train them in manners and in morals, to cement family love, and to accustom the children to habits, such as that of thorough mastication, for instance, as important on the score of health as on that of propriety. 

Variety. -- The mother should contrive a rotation for her children that will last at least a fortnight without the same dinner recurring twice... But give them variety; do not let it be 'everlasting tapioca.' Even for tea and breakfast the wise mother does not say, 'I always give my children' so and so. They should not have anything 'always'; every meal should have some little surprise. But is this the way, to make them think overmuch of what they shall eat and drink? On the contrary, it is the underfed children who are greedy, and unfit to be trusted with any unusual delicacy.

7. Air as Important as Food. -- pg. 28

The quality of the blood depends almost as much on the air we breathe as on the food we eat;... Hence the importance of giving the children daily airings and abundant exercise of limb and lung in un-vitiated, un-impoverished air. 

8. The Children Walk every Day. -- pg. 29

'The children walk every day; they are never out less than an hour when the weather is suitable.' That is better than nothing;... 

Oxygen has its Limitations. -- pg. 31 Man can enjoy the full measure of vigorous joyous existence possible to him only when his blood is fully aerated; and this takes place when the air he inhales contains its full complement of oxygen. Is it too much to say that vitality is reduced, other things being equal in proportion as persons are house dwellers rather than open-air dwellers?...True, we must needs have houses for shelter from the weather by day and for rest at night; but in proportion as we cease to make our houses 'comfortable,' as we regard them merely as necessary shelters when we cannot be out of doors, shall we enjoy to the full the vigorous vitality possible to us.

Unchanged Air. -- pg. 31 There is some circulation of air even in the slums of the city, and the child who spends its days in the streets is better supplied with oxygen than he who spends most of his hours in the unchanged air of a spacious apartment.

9. Sunshine. -- pg. 34

But it is not only air, and pure air, the children must have if their blood is to be of the 'finest quality,' as the advertisements have it....It is concluded that light and sunshine are favourable to the production of red corpuscles in the blood; and, therefore -- to this next 'therefore' is but a step for the mother ... Indeed, the whole house should be kept light and bright for their sakes; trees and outbuildings that obstruct the sunshine and make the children's rooms dull should be removed without hesitation. 

I have linked each section to the page in Home Education provided by Ambleside Online

So, obviously if you read Home Education you will see there are other small sections of each of these guidelines, but these I felt were the main ones that were emphasized. They give a very good clear idea of the things that we owe to our children in the name of education. 

I feel like Charlotte had high expectations of children, but also felt that if they were to succeed and fulfill those highest aspirations of their potential than we as parents had expectations as well. If we're to ask much of our children, we need to provide them the best possible atmosphere to achieve what is asked. These guidelines are kind of common sense in today's age, I feel, but never hurts to remind ourselves to reevaluate if we're first accommodating the right educational atmosphere for our children's brains to do their work?  

I'd love to hear your thoughts on it! 

God Bless,

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