Monday, January 31, 2011

California Woes

The Mudflats is one of our favorite spots. Just look at all that wonderful mud! Not only that, it's one of the rare places where fresh water meets salt water creating a very unique place for our kids to get in touch with things unique to this kind of ecosystem.

And I do mean get in touch!

But notice that boat in the top left side of the picture? They came to tell us to leave :(
They said it is an estuary and that we couldn't be there.

This is the greatest challenge we are up against with nature study here in Southern California - our children are not allowed to be there.

Or perhaps they are, but only under strict observation within a structured class utilizing teaching methods we believe are often counterproductive. And there is always a primary focus on endangerment, protection and conservation - lengthy discussions and displays on how our wildlife will disappear and making a difference and preserving and maintaining these 'fragile' places.

It's true, estuaries are incredibly scarce in California and are suffering degradation due to pollution and sediment that washes into it from the watershed as a result of development or erosion from natural causes.

And the endangered California least tern also fishes and nests in this area.

But is it children with curiosity who played and explored there who really caused any of it? And is lecturing them really going to stir their passions to care for what they aren't even permitted to explore and enjoy? That's like lecturing them on the problems with the gears of a bike before they've ever enjoyed or learned how to ride one. All they'll remember is that it's fragile, better not to mess with it, and that their last experience with it was sad, complicated, and problematic. It would be the rare exception that a child would still look forward to riding a bike or caring for one after that.

If we choose to protect an area for the sake of these wild animals and plants, why not designate an area just for children to explore naturally? Isn't protecting their desire to be in nature, to experience nature, and to know nature just as important to future conservation efforts?

It's what we get for choosing to live here.

So we moved on to a different spot.

Here's the latest addition to the group. Remember the very pregnant Mommy on the tidepool rocks? He's hers :)

And here's a nice little house being built.

And a pretty view of Newport Back Bay with California Encelia (aka Brittlebush, Coast Sunflower) in bloom. Oh California!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Lest I Lose Perspective

As I've been focusing this past week on reading, spelling and writing and feeling a bit of the sting from comparing my kids' progress in these areas to others their age (I should know better!!), I was glad to find the following section in Vol. 6 today. It reminded me to 'major on the majors'. In this quote, CM is quoting Alexander Paterson who is condemning "the schools for the rapidity with which their best boys run to seed."

The syllabus was designed to leave a boy at fourteen with a thoroughly sound and practical knowledge of reading, writing and arithmetic and with such grounding in English, geography and history, as may enable him to read a newspaper or give a vote with some idea of what he is doing. But these are all subsidiary to teaching the three 'R's' which between them occupy more than half the twenty-four hours of teaching in the week. It is certain that the present object in view is dispiriting to master and boy alike for a knowledge of reading, writing and arithmetic is no education and no training but merely the elementary condition of further knowledge. In many schools the boy is labouring on with these mere rudiments for two or more years after all reasonable requirements have been satisfied.

The intelligent visitor looking at the note-books of an average class will be amazed at the high standard of the neatness and accuracy but he will find the excellence of a very visible order. The handwriting is admirable, sixteen boys out of thirty can write compositions without a flaw in grammar or spelling. Yet it will occur to him that the powers of voluntary thought and reason, of spontaneous enquiry and imagination; have not been stirred. This very perfection of form makes him suspicious as to the fundamental principles of our State curriculum.

In Public Schools boys are not trained to be lawyers, or parsons, or doctors, but to be men. If they have learned to work systematically and think independently they are then fit to be trained for such life and profession as taste or necessity may dictate. But at our Elementary Schools we seem to aim at producing a nation of clerks for it is only to a clerk that this perfection of writing and spelling is a necessary training.

Is he talking about schools in London in the early 1900s or is he talking about our Public schools today?!

This reminded me of a story I'd read years ago in John Maxwell's book Developing the Leader Within: (For those of you who may not know, my husband and I were hot and heavy in the Amway business for years and read several of Maxwell's books during that time.)

Here's how Maxwell tells the story:

One of my favorite stories is about a newly hired traveling salesman who sent his first sales report to the home office. It stunned the brass in the sales department because it was obvious that the new salesman was ignorant! This is what he wrote: "I seen this outfit which they ain't never bot a dim's worth of nothin from us and I sole them some goods. I'm now goin to Chicawgo."

Before the man could be given the heave-ho by the sales manager, along came this letter from Chicago: "I cum hear and sole them haff a millyon."

Fearful if he did, and afraid if he didn't fire the ignorant salesman, the sales manager dumped the problem in the lap of the president. The following morning, the ivory-towered sales department members were amazed to see posted on the bulletin board above the two letters written by the ignorant salesman this memo from the president: "We ben spendin two much time trying to spel instead of trying to sel. Let's watch those sails. I want everybody should read these letters from Gooch who is on the rode doin a grate job for us and you should go out and do like he done."

Maxwell goes on to say that surely they would have preferred someone who could sell and spell, but in any case, it's a silly story to remind us to keep things in perspective. And like Door in the Wall (YR2 free read) it also reminds us that our limitations are not necessarily closed doors.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Transitioning My 9yo to Reading Her Own School Books

As I mentioned in a post earlier this week, I'm transitioning my 9yo YR3 daughter to reading her own school books.

She just finished reading Little House on the Prairie on her own and is already 8 chapters into On The Banks of Plum Creek. So she's able to read, reading her schoolbooks though, that's another story.

So far, I wasn't pre-reading the books so she was just given the chapter to read and understandably, she did not like it. She would have to stop her reading multiple times and ask me what a word meant.

So just this past week I decided to start skimming the chapter to define the difficult words for her.

Here are the words I found yesterday which might stumble her in Children of the New Forest, Chapter XV...

...the first 2 pages.

Enough to discourage a Mother working on transitioning her child to reading her own books who is looking at next year with a more difficult YR4 (why else would they have a year 3.5?) and a YR2 and a preschooler and a new baby on the way.

But starting anything new seems that way; more difficult than it really is. And that belief alone makes it more difficult until you diligently plod ahead and by God's grace, eventually get over the hump. I am, I can, I ought, I will - right?!

So I stopped at 2 pages because I was running out of room and didn't want to overwhelm her. I asked her to read each word and defined the words she didn't know and then used them in context of her reading. It took approximately 20 minutes in all.

Not surprisingly, I learned a couple new words myself and also clarified the meaning of a couple words I only had a general idea of - most likely because I learned them in context and not by actually looking them up.

She knew the meaning of 'appeared', 'flint', 'ascertain', 'retreat', 'supplies', 'downright', 'agreeable', 'chinks', 'canvas', and 'obliged' - which was encouraging considering we've never worked on vocabulary aside from my telling her what a word means when she asks for it in our readings.

With that, she read 3 pages - 2 pages more than she read earlier this week. She did ask me to repeat the meaning of a couple of the words I had already defined for her because she didn't remember them. I ended up reading the rest of the chapter to her because it was 10 more pages and I felt we'd done enough for the day and I want to encourage the transition, not kill it in the first week!

My hope is that as we progress, her vocabulary will increase and fewer and fewer words will have to be written out and defined.

I'm also currently looking into copywork, transcription and dictation right now and how I can get focused on improving her spelling. Also how learning cursive works into the mix. I've been less than intentional about it all and am now thinking it's time to get myself in gear.

I'll keep you posted!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Pippi Longstockings

Having just finished The Little White Horse,

we've concluded that Parables from Nature was in fact written by Marmaduke Scarlet, the dwarf-like cook who makes up for his want of height through his use of big words, Margaret Gatty is just his secret pen name.

It was a wonderful jaunt through a magical place filled with wonder. It kept us guessing the whole way through, and while it wasn't one of my personal favorites, I found it rich with language and beauty and courage and cause.

And as if we were looking to find something diametrically opposed to it, we've now picked up Pippi Longstocking which is taking us in a completely different direction. That's what is so wonderful about books, they take you on these journeys to such different places to meet with such a wonderful mix of curious people.

We're only into the first 2 chapters of Pippi and it has been laugh out loud silly. She is completely curious and outright ridiculous.

My daughter told my husband at the dinner table how Pippi tells the two neighbor children "Suppose you go home now, so that you can come back tomorrow. Because if you don't go home you can't come back, and that would be a shame."

Aside from her quirkiness, Pippi is somewhat of a far fetched liar. And when she is called on it, she says "You're right, I am lying."

Annika, the child next door tells her "It's wicked to lie." And Pippi responds:

Yes, it's very wicked to lie, but I forget it now and then. And how can you expect a child whose mother is an angel and whose father is king of a cannibal island and who herself has sailed on the ocean all her life - how can you expect her to tell the truth always? And for that matter, let me tell you that in the Belgian Congo there is not a single person who tells the truth. They lie all day long. Begin at seven in the morning and keep on until sundown. So if I should happen to lie now and then, you must try to excuse me and to remember that it is only because I stayed in the Belgian Congo a little too long. We can be friends anyway, can't we?

As I pondered in my own thoughts back to our discussion on what is good or not for our children, my son continued the discussion at the dinner table with my husband saying, "She lies. It's not good to lie." To which my daughter replied, "It's a book."

I couldn't help but chuckle as I read the story at Annika and Tommy's reaction to Pippi, because that's just how my kids would be - in disbelief, both curious and cautious. Difference being that I wouldn't be letting them out all day unsupervised.

How about you? Are you planning on reading Pippi with your kids?

Teaching Reading

I confess, I don't teach reading the CM way. When we were first getting started with homeschooling, a friend recommended the book The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading to me. I bought it without having a clue as to how to teach reading and used it with my oldest daughter and now with my 7yo son.

It has all the lessons in there to get you through; starting with the sounds of the vowels, consonants, short words that can be sounded out phonetically, then moving into consonant blends, digraphs, vowel combinations, etc. through all the lessons to learn reading.

My just-turned-9yo daughter in YR3 did well with it and is reading well now. She's read Little House on the Prairie by herself, but she's not quite at the point of being able to read her school books. I think they're intimidating to her, and understandably so, we read incredibly well written books.

Just today, in Chapter XVI of This Country of Ours, which I asked her to read, she came across: seafaring, loathsome, thereof, Stygian, and Counterblaste - on the first page alone. Now, if I had been doing this 'correctly', I would have skimmed the chapter, written the difficult words on the board, pointed them out to her and defined them for her so that they wouldn't hinder her in her readings. And even as I'm writing this, I'm realizing this is extra step, which might take me 10 minutes, is really going to be worth the effort to get her over the hump to reading her own books.

But back to the Teaching Reading book. It's hardly 'living'. The paragraph we read today, for example was:

Mom, my tie will choke my neck and make me cry.
I do not lie!
Why must I keep this tie on?
It is just lunch with Dad and Sis.
I will be shy in a tie.

What I like about it is that it goes through all the 'rules' like, 'y' at the end of a word says the long-I sound as in my, by, why, etc. and they provide bits of reading containing the words using those rules that they need to learn so they get the practice they need to learn it.

What I don't like is the dullness of the reading itself, so to compensate I've been having him read from the McGuffy and Elson readers as well as Frog and Toad, Little Bear, Mouse Soup, Owl at Home, Grizzwold and others.

Another thing that bothers me is how many exceptions there are to the rules. For example, no sooner do we have a lesson on the vowel combination 'ea' making the long-E sound like in read, stream and please than we run into the words heart, dead and ahead.

Phonics alone just won't get you very far in the English language and so I think there's great truth in teaching children to read the 'CM way', or what I understand to be the CM way. It just seems a daunting task for me to have to craft daily lessons from scratch. And truth be told, I do find some comfort in learning the rules also - because it gives them some direction when they run into a word they're not sure about.

With 2 more little ones up and coming who I will need to teach to read, I am interested to know what's working for others. I had a friend who taught her daughters to read just by sitting down with them and having them read daily from a Berenstein Bears book. Every time they got through a whole book, she would take them to buy a new one. They were reading The Hobbit by the time they were 7 years old!

Another aspect of teaching reading that has been a challenge at times is the fact that I have delayed teaching reading much later than the public and private schooled children who my kids sit with at church. Reading is such the measure and bar for achievement at this age and it takes great confidence in what I'm doing and my philosophy of education not to get deterred by that.

Thankfully, my kids aren't bothered by it because we've talked about it and I've let them know that we just think it's better for them to take their time to learn to read, and in the meantime, they're not missing out because I read a ton to them.

It is my intention to get them to read on their own as quickly as possible because the benefits of seeing the words and sentence structure, etc. is so beneficial to spelling and other aspects of their learning, I just don't want it to be at the expense of their desire to read and to know what they read.

While my son dislikes the Ordinary Teacher's Guide reading lessons, he asks to read his Bible to us, and even though others are reading so much better than him, he still asks to read it in his church class - at a painfully slow rate in comparison. I hate to admit that I feel myself getting embarrassed for him, particularly when the boy next to him continually corrects him, but he himself is very positive about his own progress and ability so that's what I keep in the forefront.

When others note that's he's slow reading, rather than get into a big discussion on better later than sooner and the importance of preserving the child's love and desire of learning, etc., I just brush it over and remind myself that this is the path I've chosen, and very thoughtfully at that. And when the reading, and beyond that the writing, catches up, all the other things that matter to us will show themselves true - attentiveness, the desire to learn, thoughtfulness about what is read, understanding, etc.

Hearing about how boys, and consequently men, are falling adrift because they are being pushed too fast, too soon, academically also reminds me that it's the big picture that I need to keep focused on and reassures me that I'm doing the right thing for my kids.

Sometimes it takes a lot of faith to educate your child differently! That's why it's such a blessing to be able to connect with and support one another along this journey. I am grateful for you!!

Saturday, January 22, 2011


For anyone interested, here is a playlist for the Ambleside Online Term II composer Vivaldi over at Grooveshark: http://listen.grooveshark.com/#/playlist/Ao+Term+2+Vivaldi/42604578

I think we've all heard the most popular of the Four Seasons, but have you ever heard his beautiful chorale Gloria or any of his other concertos? They are just beautiful.

In our home, we haven't learned any music theory, haven't read much in the way of composer biographies, we haven't learned how to read music or what letters the keys on the piano are yet - these are all things I would love to delve into in the years to come.

For now, they are just listening. They hum and sing along, they dance and march, they ask me to play specific songs they like, they describe what the music sounds like to them - a chase, a body movement, a scene. They say it's beautiful or "this sounds sad".

I think when it comes time that they do learn more about music, they are going to have a store of recollections that are like old friends to them. Familiar in a way that brings a smile or an emotion, a memory or an experience, and most importantly, an appreciation and some intimate knowledge because of their unhindered relation to it.

I wish I could say the same for how they're going to feel about chores! Unfortunately, I think I've pretty much hindered them in that area already!! Maybe if I combine the two... hmmmm...

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Without sin

My 9yo daughter and I read Chapter 76 of Our Island Story today. The Chapter talks about King James, successor to Queen Elizabeth, who wanted to be a despot and claimed 'The King can do no wrong. What he does must be right and the people must obey and ask no questions.'

Portrait of James by Paul van Somer, c. 1620.

When he died, he was succeeded by his son Charles who had been taught by his father to believe the same, that the King could do no wrong.

At this my daughter said, "That's just like Mr. s0-and-so, he said Caleb (his son) had no sin."

She was talking about an old neighbor of ours who was big on the idea of "The Secret" and the "Law of Attraction", greatly publicized by Oprah. It taught that whatever you can imagine, you can achieve by sending out positive thoughts and feelings into the universe.

She had seen Caleb many times throw fits, hit, lie, etc., yet in his Father's mind, he was sinless and was being taught as much. And this parent was not unlearned by any means, he had been to seminary and was raised in the Christian faith.

Is it a secret really, or an age-old story; one even a little girl can clearly see in the pages of her History books?

...because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools ... who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. ~Romans 1:21-22, 25

There is a great book review that gives some much needed perspective on The Secret for anyone interested: http://www.challies.com/book-reviews/book-review-the-secret

Monday, January 17, 2011

Why Nature?

Reading stories like the Little House Series, Caddie Woodlawn, Heidi, and Children of the New Forest, it's difficult not to want to experience nature with our children. To be somewhere wild where there is adventure, beauty, spontaneity and freedom to explore.

Spending a few hours outdoors together as a family this past weekend, I couldn't help but notice what nature really does afford our kids.

For one, unpredictability. Every day is different and you never really know what you'll stumble upon; not even the adults know all in this realm of a child's world. How wonderfully exciting.

And a good romp about gets the body moving and the blood flowing which does all kinds of wonders not only for the body, but also for our state of mind. On this particular day, there was fresh air, a new carpet of greens from the recent soaking, blue skies and lots of warm sunshine...

We also found interesting clues suggesting there might be others in this space...

Clues left behind for those with wondering minds...

Clues as to who they are and what they eat...

Clues showing you where they've been and what they might look like...

And if we adults could but leave them to wonder, to search for and seek out answers instead of always telling, telling, telling... what a treasure is that truth a child discovers on his own! How much more will his curiosity grow when there are mysteries to be solved, wonders to be pondered, discoveries to be made.

...professional teachers, whether the writers of books or the givers of lessons are too apt to present a single grain of pure knowledge in a whole gallon of talk, imposing upon the child the labour of discerning the grain and of extracting it from the worthless flood. ~Charlotte Mason, (Vol. 1, p.175)

Everything is directed, expected, suggested. No other personality out of book, picture, or song, no, not even that of Nature herself, can get at the children without the mediation of the teacher. No room is left for spontaneity or personal initiation on their part. ~Charlotte Mason, (Vol. 1, p.188)

Nature (and sometimes the trash we find left behind) affords opportunities for makeshift inventions...

And places to test their viability...

And a chance to work out how to dock your new invention so it won't float away...

...or get pirated by critters who come to these shores also.

Nature affords a child useful tools...

and a chance to figure out how to hone them...

fill them...

determine which side holds more water...

how to carry things carefully over rough terrain without spilling...

how to maneuver awkwardly long pieces while keeping it vertical to avoid spillage...

and how hard work contributes to the greater good - in this case providing cooking water for their little chef in the kitchen :)

and how many hands makes light work.

Nature teaches balance, the potential consequence of inattention, and how simple tools can be used to our advantage.

and it can also remind us that while we are able to imagine and create a great many things, it is ultimately the Sovereign will of the Lord that prevails.

Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand. ~Proverbs 19:21

it teaches us about beauty, light and shadows...

color and contrast - the art of God.

It refreshes the soul.

and last but not least, it can give a good laugh...

Could I have planned all this in a lesson any better myself? I doubt it. Maybe a better question is, why would I want to when it is so readily available without the effort?

Out in this, God's beautiful world, there is everything waiting to heal lacerated nerves, to strengthen tired muscles, to please and content the soul that is torn to shreds with duty and care. To the teacher who turns to nature's healing, nature-study in the schoolroom is not a trouble; it is a sweet, fresh breath of air blown across the heat of radiators and the noisome odor of overcrowded small humanity. She who opens her eyes and her heart nature-ward even once a week finds nature-study in the schoolroom a delight and an abiding joy. What does such a one find in her schoolroom instead of the terrors of discipline, the eternal watching and eternal nagging to keep the pupils quiet and at work? She finds, first of all, companionship with her children; and second, she finds that without planning or going on a far voyage, she has found health and strength. ~Anna Botsford Comstock, Handbook of Nature Study

Saturday, January 15, 2011


Inspired by a recent blog post over at Ambleside Reflections, our topic of discussion at this month's meeting was JOY.

Regarding joy, Charlotte Mason wrote:

The happiness of the child is the condition of his progress; that his lessons should be joyous, and that occasions of friction in the schoolroom are greatly to be deprecated. ~Vol. 1, p.178

I think that most CM educators would agree that joyful lessons are much more palatable to a child. Hence shorter lessons, living books, time in nature, delayed grammar, a more natural approach to phonics and spelling, etc.

For those of us who have read CM's writings, we can easily see that the child's joy in learning is an essential element of CM's principle that The Child is a Person and woven throughout the fabric of her philosophy.

Yet this focus on joy which some might consider leads to a 'loosey goosey' education, is tempered by the knowledge that there are some things good and right for a child (and adults for that matter). Things like: good habits, a solid grasp of language, unfiltered ideas delivered mind-to-mind, living under authority and in relationship with others within a community with responsibility, just to mention a few.

It truly is amazing that such a challenging yet enjoyable educational method even exists! Even more amazing is that by God's goodness and immeasurable grace we've happened upon it!!

Mason talks much of the many areas which her educational philosophy acquaints us with that bring us great joy. Here are just a few...

Of Science: Here, the stars are measured, the ocean sounded, and the wind made the servant of man; here, every flower that blooms reveals the secret of its growth, and every grain of sand recounts its history. This is a vast and joyous realm; for the people who walk therein are always discovering new things, and each new thing is a delight, because the things are not a medley, but each is a part of the great whole. ~Vol. 4, p.35

Of History: Of all the pleasant places in the world of mind, I do not know that any are more delightful than those in the domain of History ... Think of all the centuries and of every country full of a great procession of living, moving people ... Once Intellect admits us into the realms of History, we live in a great and stirring world... ~Vol. 4, p.36 & 37

Of Philosophy: Philosophy offers fascinating and delightful travelling, and the wayfarer here learns many lessons of life ... To search, to endeavour, and to feel our way to a foothold from point to point is also exhilarating; and every step that is gained is a resting-place... ~Vol. 4, p.39

Of Literature: Perhaps the least difficult of approach, and certainly one of the most joyous and satisfying of all those realms in which Intellect is invited to travel, is the very rich and glorious Kingdom of Literature ... Poets and novelists paint pictures for him, while Imagination clears his eyes so that he is able to see those pictures: they fill the world, too, with deeply interesting and delightful people who live out their lives before his eyes. ~Vol. 4, p.39

Of Nature: Beauty is everywhere––in white clouds against the blue, in the gray bole of the beech, the play of a kitten, the lovely flight and beautiful colouring of birds, in the hills and the valleys and the streams, in the wind-flower and the blossom of the broom. What we call Nature is all Beauty and delight, and the person who watches Nature closely and knows her well, like the poet Wordsworth, for example, has his Beauty Sense always active, always bringing him joy. ~Vol. 4, p. 41 & 42

Still, just as a fantastic party hat on a sullen child does not equate to fun, these wonderful methods can no more produce their intended result when applied by a joyless teacher. And as homeschooling Mothers, we do have our share of pitfalls that stand in our way of joy don't we?

Here are just a couple Mason writes about that may be relevant here:

...it is very foolish to allow Imagination to make living pictures of horrors, dreadful accidents, falls down precipices, ghosts, and what not. Once make a picture, and there it is, and it may show itself at any moment to torment. I hear someone whose nature inclines her to such terrors say, 'But how can I help it?' That is really a foolish question about any of the evils we may fall into. Of course we can help them, and to do so is the battle of life. In this particular case the help lies in hurrying away from the thought to think of something else. If such terrors come at night, when you cannot do anything or read anything, you can always think of something else. The last story-book you have read, for instance,––go over the tale in your thoughts. ~Vol. 4, p.53

––There is another class of persons in whom Pity is strong and ever-active; but all their pity is given to one object, and neither sorrow, pain, nor any other distress outside of that object has power to move them. These are the people who pity themselves. Any cause of pity is sufficient and all-absorbing.

They are sorry for themselves because they have a headache, because they have a toothache, or because they have not golden hair; because they are lovely and unnoticed, or because they are lanky and unlovely; because they have to get up early, or because breakfast is not to their mind; because brother or sister has some pleasure which they have not, or because someone whose notice they crave does not speak to them, or, speaking, says, 'Make haste,' or 'Sit straight,' or some other form of 'Bo to a goose!'

Such things are not to be borne, and the self-pitiful creature goes about all day with sullen countenance. As he or she grows older you hear of many injuries from friends, much neglect, much want of love, and, above all, want of comprehension, because the person who pities himself is never 'understood' by others. Even if he is a tolerably strong person he may become a hypochondriac, with a pain here, and a sensation there, which he will detail to his doctor by the hour. The doctor is sorry for his unhappy patient, and knows that he suffers from a worse malady than he himself imagines; but he has no drugs for Self-pity, though he may give bottles of coloured water and bread pills to humour his patient.

You are inclined to laugh at
what seems to be a morbid, that is, diseased, state of mind; but, indeed, the Dæmon of Pity, Self-pity, is an insidious foe. Many people, apparently strong and good, have been induced by him to give up their whole lives to brooding over some real or fancied injury. No tenant of the heart has alienated more friends or done more to banish the joys of life.

Mothers... is this not us she is describing here!? Maybe it's a tight financial situation, a stiff word from our husband, a child's whining, a rude neighbor, nothing to wear, the extra weight, the never-ending dishes, the long line at the grocery store, the person who cut you off on the freeway, the ingratitude for all we do, the scattered toys, the lack of help, the persistent health challenge... need I go on?

Mason points out here that we have a choice in the matter. That being joyful is not a matter of circumstance, but one of choice. These are wise words indeed...

Our Defences.––Our defence is twofold. In the first place, we must never let our minds dwell upon any pain or bodily infirmity; we may be sick and pained in our bodies, but it rests with ourselves to be well and joyous in our minds; and, indeed, many great sufferers are the very hearth of their homes, so cheerful and comforting are they. Still more careful must we be never to go over in our minds for an instant any chance, hasty, or even intended word or look that might offend us. A spot no bigger than a halfpenny may blot out the sun of our friends' love and kindness, of the whole happiness of life, and shut us up in a cold and gloomy cell of shivering discontent. Never let us reflect upon small annoyances, and we shall be able to bear great ones sweetly. Never let us think over our small pains, and our great pains will be easily endurable.

The other and surer way of guarding ourselves from this evil possession is to think about others. Be quick to discern their pains and sufferings, and be ready to bring help. We cannot be absorbed in thinking of two things at the same time, and if our minds are occupied with others, far and near, at home and abroad, we shall have neither time nor inclination to be sorry for ourselves. ~Vol. 4, p.89-91

In thinking of our daily interactions with our children, we ought to ask ourselves, is there joy? Knowing that its absence is a great hindrance to their education, this is an important question to ask ourselves.

This is not to say that there should be non-stop joyfulness every moment of the day, but is it joy that characterizes our day, or a lack of?

If joy is indeed scarce, how can we cultivate it?

As Mason suggested above, we can avoid dwelling on our pains and distract our minds. We can think about others - the missionary, the martyr, the one who brings real perspective and read their writings and biographies.

We can look at the needs of others in our church, our community, our neighborhood and see how we can help. Maybe invite them for dinner, an outing, or make something by hand for them. Pray for them, encourage them.

Another thing we can do is - smile! When we look at our kids, we can smile. I've heard it said that sometimes we need to act our way into a feeling. A genuine smile, humming a cheerful tune or brightening up a room with some flowers or fragrance, a new apron, or a new picture on the wall can sometimes breed feelings of joy.

And what about play? What have they been asking us to do with them that we've been too busy to do? Run, swim, swing, jump, dance, play in the mud, play a game, build with toys, pretend with dolls, wrestle, tickle? It is good for us too - it builds joy and strengthens our relationship with them.

On a particularly difficult day - especially one we may have created ourselves by staying up too late or feeding them too much junk - we can take a break and get outside or change the pace with a distraction rather than always being rigidly insistent on pushing through.

Scripture tells us that joy is to characterize the true believer in Christ.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. ~Galatians 5:22-23

You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore. ~Psalm 16:11

Delight yourself also in the LORD, And He shall give you the desires of your heart. ~Psalm 37:4

And what God requires He graciously provides the means for.

What are some things that help you maintain your joy and joyfulness in your home?

Saturday, January 8, 2011

On Chores and Teaching Bible

Someone once said that wisdom comes from two places: your own experience, or the experience of others. While my own experience seems to be the best teacher, it isn't always the most painless. So when possible, I prefer to learn from the experience of others.

If you're anything like me, here are two discussions that you won't want to miss:

Four Moms on Children and Chores

Four Moms on Teaching Bible to Our Children