Rene Descartes: Unschooler

Yesterday I learned — from The Writer’s Almanac, one of my best sources of knowledge — that the father of modern philosophy and modern mathematics, Rene Descartes, did most of his thinking in bed.

He started staying in bed all morning when he was young, because of poor health, but he kept the habit all his life. He came to believe that it improved his thinking skills. In fact, as Garrison Keillor puts it:

It was during one of his mornings in bed that Descartes invented coordinate geometry, while he watched a fly hovering in the air. He realized that the fly’s position at any moment could be described as its distance from three intersecting lines or axes.

So when your child is staring into space or idly manipulating tiny toys, please don’t worry that she’ll never amount to anything in this life. You just can’t know what’s going on inside the head of a lounger.

I’m not going to end this post with a clever variation on Descartes’ famous line, “I think, therefore I am.” You’ll have to do that yourself. Maybe if you take to your bed for awhile, you’ll come up with something really witty.


2 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Sunnymama said,

    That’s interesting. Staying in bed seems a pretty good place to do thinking.

  2. 2

    Karen said,

    When my mom-in-law, or some other concerned person asks about our penchant for idleness and daydreaming, I am going to send them right over here!
    Thank you for this post –

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