When I first noticed my little baby girl needed more than to sleep and eat, it dawned on me that her non eating and non sleeping time must be filled with something. I had no idea what that something should be.
What does God say about this? Is there anything in his Word that would point me toward areas I could develop and steer my little daughter? I found amazing answers; useful for planning my moments, days, and weeks with my children.
Here is the nugget I stumbled upon:
"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things." -Philippians 4:8
Such a beautiful statement; I saw here the content that must fill our lives.
Out went the television. Yes, we got rid of a brand new LCD television someone had given us. Years later, my mother bought us a television so she could watch her morning news while she stayed with us, but it remains in the attic for her, and now, is outdated with no digital capacity.
Out went the newspaper with it's forboding ponderings. Out went magazines, good ones and juicy ones (by this I mean my addiction to voyeuristic interest in famous people's lives, also known as "Celebrity Gossip" magazines). Out went using the radio in the car. I even cut myself down to checking email once a week. No other internet access.
It silenced the house. We woke to the sounds of neighbors heading off to work, wind rustling in the trees, dogs barking, birds chirping, and the children's pitter pattering little feet. My mind was not immediately swept into someone else's world or someone else's worldview. I sat in my own home and it became so very still, and peaceful. I could hear again sounds I had long ago chosen to overwhelm with the distractions. I could see again the beauty around me.
I started having my daily quiet time again. Especially since there was not a lot else to do. I read the Bible to my children.
So far, so good.
Three amazing books started me in the right direction.
The Last Child in the Woods showed me how much outdoor time was missing in my children's lives. We started eating twice a day outdoors. It was a simple space, one shared with our duplex and rear duplex neighbors, but it had a tree, and a blanket made it such a nice respite. I threw out plastic, battery operated, and non-creative toys. We simplified life to sticks, balls, dolls, dirt, leaves, trees, blocks, and other open ended toys.
Endangered Minds showed me how much it mattered that my children's early years (and majority of the rest of their lives) were spent engaging substance. I was encouraged to give my children early bedtimes, with lots of naps, and regular down time to process stimulating activities. For this reason, we still live very simply regarding play dates, museums, sports, and enrichment activities. We try to always allow plenty of prep time before any activity and plenty of down time afterwards. This book helped me get rid of my television. Still to this day, the children do not have video games, computer games/computer clubs, or television/movies in their lives. The limitation of these things, helped me to have more free time with them outdoors, playing creatively indoors, and reading.
The Read Aloud Handbook was a life saver. Now that I had gotten rid of all sorts of dumbing down devices, I need to know what to fill up that space in my children I had created. Jim Trelease was a God send. We went straight to the library once a week, got quality books, and read and read and read. At one point, I was reading aloud three to four hours a day. I still read aloud to my 9 and 8 year old, as well as my 4 and 2 year old. We read high level chapter books daily.
At breakfast, it is the Child's Story Bible or our church's daily Bible reading. At lunch, I read a chapter book for an hour (we just finished Little Men by Louisa May Alcott), at nap/rest time I read three picture books to the little ones (my 4 year old is enchanted with knights and dragons, so we read books about the Knights of the Round Table and a picture book of Pilgrim's Progress, called The Dangerous Journey) and then an hour of another chapter book to the older children (we are currently in Emmy-Lou by Mrs. George Madden Martin). During chores, we listen to librivox, an online audio recording of books in the public domain (we are currently listening to Elizabeth Prentiss' journal Stepping Heavenward, an amazing journey of a girl growing into a woman and trying to honor God at every step). And then, before bed (currently we are reading through Thorton Burgess stories).
We read books, to fill the time. We play outdoors, climbing trees and picking daisies. We listen and watch the world around us.
Are there ways you can fill your mind with truth? Are there ways you can occupy your time with moments of excellence? Are there areas you can surround yourself with places that are lovely?