Peace and Quiet.
Those words have taken on a new meaning of late. More on that at the end, though.
For the Nelson family, Peace and Quiet Time originally referred to that time from noon to about 2:30 or 3:00 PM, when everyone had to be quiet because Mom and the youngest siblings were taking a nap on the second floor. House chores were scheduled for two o’clock, and were creatively named “Two O’clock Chores”.
To understand the importance of this time, we shall have to quickly review the structure of the Nelson Homeschool Curriculum which was, for the most part, self-guided. There were a variety of subjects to be completed each day, such as Saxon Math, Robinson Reading, Physical Education, Science, and more. But as soon as these were completed, you had the rest of the day free, barring chores and other housework. Given that Mom was asleep from noon to three o’clock, and chores didn’t start until two o’clock, that meant that there were two precious hours in which just about anything could be done, as long as it wasn’t loud enough to wake Mom up. Thus, there was a huge incentive to complete all of our school by the time the clock struck twelve.
The Prime Time
There were a variety of ways that this time was spent throughout the years. Computer games were very popular. Early on, games like Museum Madness, The Logical Journey of the Zoombinis, and The Oregon Trail II were popular. Later, once the computers were updated, we played games like Age of Empires II, Freelancer, and Robin Hood: The Legend of Sherwood. Each person was allotted 30 minutes to play on the computer, measured by a ticking mechanical kitchen timer. Though the 30-minute time limit was sometimes ignored, it was generally adhered to due to the line of children waiting to use their time on the computer. If you went too far over your time, you would probably get told on by the younger kids and could lose your computer privileges for the next week.
The rest of those two hours would be spent in a variety of different ways, depending on the child. Some would find a sunspot and lay there with a book until the clock struck two. Others would spend most of their time outside, sword fighting and playing make-believe. Still others would work on projects of different types. Sam, for example, often tore part machines in the shed or built computers in the basement. Hosanna and Gabe might trade off on using Em’s old laptop to write books. The seats by the firepit outside were great for petting the cat while reading outside. But all good things must come to and end, and the best part of the afternoon was no exception.
Two O’clock Chores
Now, two o’clock chores were entirely necessary. Vital, even, for the sake of an organized household. Before these daily chores were instituted, laundry would pile up for days or weeks, covering a third of the dining room until Mom or Dad got frustrated enough to order that they be accomplished. Even with half-a-dozen pairs of hands working, it could take a long time. Not only that, but the basement, a popular play area, would get covered in LEGO blocks. The baby play area in the living room was a constant disaster. Seeing this (and having stepped on many toys in the dark), the authorities instituted two o’clock chores in an attempt to bring order to chaos. And for the most part, it worked.
Each child was assigned an area to clean and organize. The particular child assigned to an area would change over the years due to people moving out, children getting old enough to help out, and so on. Every floor from top to bottom was organized and vacuumed every day. Every piece of wood was dusted. Books were put back on the bookshelf, and mugs put away. Once each person accomplished their particular chore, they would go to the dining room and help with the laundry, which was much more manageable when it was done every day.
By the time Mom descended from above, things were generally in order. Fresh coffee was made, and the laundry was in the process of being put away. There were exceptions, of course. Sometimes one of the floors might not be clean, or a job would be done poorly. A popular way for the older children to check if the younger ones were telling the truth about cleaning something was to ask them, “If Mom checked it for two o’clock chores, would she be happy?”. Often, this sent the young one scurrying away to take care of what had been only half-done, knowing the inevitable wrath that was coming if they did not do their job to an acceptable level.
For Mom, this time from noon until two-thirty was Self-Care 101. It might begin with reading a book like Little House on the Prairie or the Bible for a little while. It was restful and refreshing, giving her the energy and wherewithal to deal with the challenges of raising a family of diverse ages and needs over the course of several decades.
I think that we ended up learning a lot from this daily practice. Peace and Quiet Time was a daily rest (or Sabbath) juxtaposed with a call to action. As I write this, we are in the midst of perhaps the longest “Peace and Quiet Time” that any of us can remember. Without the external structures we have come to rely on so heavily, it is easy to spin into a cycle of indulgence and guilt. Yet, I think we can learn something from this early experience of corporate work. Rest and work, far from invalidating each other, make each one sweeter. In the words of C.S. Lewis, “The highest does not stand without the lowest”. Who we become in this extended Peace and Quiet is who we shall be when it ends. What your work looks like may be different from what the Nelson children accomplished each day. Perhaps it is actual work (from home). Maybe it is taking a walk outside, or cleaning the windows, or making a good meal. This, accompanied by wholesome rest, will do wonders for your soul.