The summer solstice is behind us and a peek on Instagram tells me that many of you are enjoying your summer break. While this will certainly involve plenty of time relaxing by the pool reading good books, I have noticed that several families utilize the summer months to emphasize habit training that often falls to the wayside during the school year. Have you considered the possibility that Swedish Drill can be a habit training tool?
As you know, Swedish Drill fosters the habits of observation, attention, and perfect execution that are frequently referenced in Charlotte Mason’s volumes. We can all benefit from additional opportunities to practice these habits, can’t we? What about our physical habits? Have you ever considered that posture (a.k.a., alignment) is a habit, too? Good “posture” is a good habit; likewise, bad “posture” is a bad habit.
Are you aware of your own posture? What about the posture of your children? As a physical therapist, I, for better or worse, pay attention to this all. the. time. In myself and in others. I literally cringe with discomfort when I notice particularly poor examples of posture, because in my head I am seeing all the strain and stress it imposes on the structures that lie beneath the skin and the resulting pain that lies ahead for the individual as a result.
And now none of you ever want to meet me in person lest I judge your posture. Sigh.
Please do not imagine that my own is posture perfect, though, or that my children are poster-children for good posture. Like the rest of you, we are works in progress. But it is definitely something we constantly work on in our home, and we intentionally emphasize good postural habits over poor ones. I seem to remember someone wise once saying that if we choose not to instill a good habit then a bad one will form in it’s place… Oh, yes! It was Charlotte Mason! In Towards a Philosophy of Education she writes:
Habit is inevitable. If we fail to ease life by laying down habits of right thinking and right acting, habits of wrong thinking and wrong acting fix themselves of their own accord. (p. 101)
It’s not a stretch to see how this applies to our physical posture, is it?
In School Education, Charlotte Mason acknowledges the disciplinary value of physical education when she writes:
Use of Habit in Physical Training. — It is well that a child should be taught to keep under his body and bring it into subjection, first, to the authority of his parents and, later, to the authority of his own will; and always, because no less than this is due, to the divine Authority in whom he has his being.” (p. 104)
After all, our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, are they not? We are called to glorify our physical bodies, which are on loan to us from our Heavenly Father. Developing good physical habits is one way that we can bring honor to our Lord.
In a Parents’ Review article from 1904 entitled Physical Education for Girls, Miss C. Thomas addresses the need for improved discipline of body and mind. With respect to the value of Swedish Drill as a discipline, she writes:
Precision is to be aimed at… Simple unquestioning obedience is rarely to be met with now. Everywhere the lack of it is felt. Disobedience and carelessness in attending to all directions is the great trouble encountered by all who have to train others. Movements performed to words of command should, and certainly do help to form habits of obedience and promptness. Accuracy of detail inculcates a sense of truth and this will finally lead on to courage.” (p. 696)
Later in this article Thomas returns to the theme of discipline:
A drill lesson is almost entirely made up of controlled movements; games allow a good deal of spontaneous movement on the part of the player. Spontaneity forms the charm and much of the value of games — discipline, strange as it may seem, forms the charm and value of a good drilling lesson. (p. 701)
One more aspect of Swedish Drill that I wish to highlight is that it promotes physical activity without a subsequent rise in adrenaline levels that frequently leads to a decreased ability to focus on lessons. Where calisthenics and boisterous games often result in a child becoming too stimulated to return to his lessons, Swedish Drill seems to enhance a child’s ability to focus on mental work after a session is complete.
And … this is where I will be self-promoting for a bit, if you’ll forgive me. Swedish Drill Revisited is an excellent means by which to address physical habits as well as mental ones. It is designed to be a tonic for the postural faults that so often plague us, to promote increased body awareness, and to develop strength and endurance in musculature that is critical to optimal alignment (a.k.a, “good posture”). If you’re not already incorporating Swedish Drill into your homeschool, may I suggest that this summer may be an excellent time to start?
And for those of you who have already been implementing Swedish Drill in your homeschools … Level II of Swedish Drill Revisited will be available in mid-July. Stay tuned!