“These are my favorite days,” I whispered to my daughter as we watched her siblings from the back porch, “—careening down the slide on cardboard boxcars, digging in the rocks with dinosaurs, reading a book under the umbrella. Don’t forget moments like these—they’re shaping you, whether you realize it or not.”
I’m convinced we need more of this: days without schedules, hours without plans, moments to simply be, respond, and imagine. The idea seems counterintuitive in a culture of productivity, yet it’s in moments of rest that we have enough mental space to reflect and think creatively. A seeming lack of productivity produces ideas worth enacting. So why don’t we order our lives in accordance with this truth?
Frankly, we’ve been deceived. We’ve bought the lies that more hours in the school day will make our kids smarter; more afternoons on the ball field will increase their overall success in life; more extracurricular activities will make our children well-rounded; participation in six different after-school clubs will enhance their resumés and make them more marketable. Sure, there is some truth to the fact that exposure to a variety of activities and experiences benefits children, and often we are motivated by the well-intentioned pursuit of perseverance and a good work ethic. However, boundaries are essential in order for thoughtfulness and innovation to flourish.
Classical education encourages children to think deeply. It offers literature with depths to mine, language with nuances to discover, and a pen to wield for the advancement of truth. Still I wonder if teachers and parents are offering their students enough time to digest the words and ideas they encounter. Surely this work cannot be done in the classroom alone. Parents must partner with teachers in joyful support of rest—and we ourselves must model it. We cannot expect our children to make sense of the world and creatively engage their culture without giving them time to think. Consider putting some rest on your calendar this week; you might be surprised at the productivity of the task.