Friday, June 24, 2011

Spontaneous Recitation

...is the best kind :)

We found these little Dees Hobbitses under a canopy of trees on nature day singing songses and asked them to recite them for us :)

Don't you just love how they adopt the accent and all? And little sister in the lap...

These boys listened to the audio version of the Hobbit and learned their songs from there. Maybe Jen can post which version in the comment section for anyone interested?

Thanks for sharing boys!

Wider, Humbler Cognisance of Self

We spent the day under a thick marine layer that never burned off at the beach for nature study today. The kids didn't seem to notice as they dove in, testing the current in the cold foamy ocean waves.

(Shaw's Cove, Laguna Beach - a not quite finished sketch!)

Their more sensible Mothers sat on the beach and sketched with one eye on the children while chatting away about this and that. Juliet had her copy of Charlotte Mason's Vol. 5 Formation of Character and read us part of this quote:

Formation of Character, Vol. 5, p.72-73

...the love of power, unless it be duly and carefully regulated and controlled, leads to arbitrary behaviour––that is, to lawless, injurious behaviour––towards those under our rule. Nay, we may be so carried away, intoxicated, by a fierce lust of power that we do some terrible, irrevocable deed of cruelty to a tender child––body or soul, and wake up to never-ending remorse. We meant no harm; we meant to teach obedience, and, good God! we have killed a child.

Within the last few years tales have been told in the newspapers of the savage abuse of power, free for the time being from external control; tales, which, be they true or not, should make us all commune with our hearts and be still. For, we may believe it, they who have done these things are no worse than we could be; they had opportunity to do ill deeds, and they did them. We have not been so far left to ourselves. But let us look ourselves in the face; let us recognise that the principle which has betrayed others into the madness of crime is inherent in us also, and that whether it shall lead us to heights of noble living or to criminal cruelty is not a matter to be left to the chapter of accidents. We have need of the divine grace to prevent and follow us, and we have need to seek consciously, and diligently use this grace to keep us who are in authority in the spirit of meekness, remembering always that the One who is entrusted with the rod of iron is meek and lowly of heart.

In proportion as we keep ourselves fully alive to our tendency in this matter of authority may we trust ourselves to administer the law to creatures so tender in body and soul as are the little children. We shall remember that a word may wound, that a look may strike as a blow. It may indeed be necessary to wound in order to heal, but we shall examine ourselves well before we use the knife. There will be no hasty dealing out of reproof and punishment, reward and praise, according to the manner of mood we are in. We shall not only be aware that our own authority is deputed, and to be used with the meekness of wisdom; but we shall be very careful indeed in our choice of the persons in whose charge we place our children. It is not enough that they be good Christian people. We all know good Christian persons of an arbitrary turn who venture to wield that rod of iron which is safe in the hands of One alone. Let them be good Christian persons of culture and self-knowledge; not the morbid self-knowledge that comes of introspection, but that wider, humbler cognisance of self that comes of a study of the guiding principles and springs of action common to us all as human beings, and which brings with it the certainty that––"I am just such an one as the rest, and might even be as the worst, were it not for the grace of God and careful walking."

First off, lets just agree that when she speaks of killing a child or using the knife - that's a metaphor. She's not suggesting anyone really use a knife. Good, now that we've got that out of the way...

Truth is so powerful when we see it isn't it?

'I am just such an one as the rest, and might even be as the worst, were it not for the grace of God and careful walking'

I wonder who she was quoting. If we were to truly believe and live by this always, how different we would be.

She goes on:
...we must rule with diligence. It is necessary for the children that we should; but we must keep ourselves continually in check, and see that our innate love of power finds lawful outlet in the building up of a child's character, and not in the rude rebuff, the jibe and sneer, the short answer and hasty slap which none of us older people could conceivably endure ourselves, and yet practise freely on the children "for their good."

God help us to see our children as persons and ourselves with that 'wider, humbler cognisance of self'!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Handcraft Fair

For sometimes when we wonder, we can make things begin to happen.
~Teacher in The Wheel on the School by Meindert DeJong
Once or twice a year our little nature study group gathers at a coffee shop in the evening without the children to talk and plan through nature study locations, field trips and events we'd like to incorporate into our schedule.

I believe the idea began when we were discussing Almanzo's milk fed pumpkin and how fun it would be to do something like that and have some sort of a fair where we could show it or win a prize for it.

From there we began to plan and discuss; we set a date, then reset the date. We thought about prizes, etc., but in the end it we kept it as simple as - make or grow something by hand to sell and bring your own mat to lay out your wares.

It's late so I'm just going to let the pictures do the rest here, but I will say that everyone thoroughly enjoyed the event and it was so fun going from mat to mat to see everyone's unique creations! We all agreed this needs to be an annual event and have already started thinking about a Holiday Handcraft Fair sometime around Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Ordering our Home

Alicia, one of our nature study group mothers, who moved away to New Mexico about a year ago came to visit recently. It was so nice to see her and her four adorable girls, it was just like she had never left. She joined us for our annual blackberry picking nature day and by the time she left, all four girls were painted all over with the beautiful crimson juice of the berries :)

All of our girls discovered they could rub berries on their lips and look oh, so grown up!

Before she left, Alicia handed me a card congratulating us on the arrival of our 4th child, and in it was a Barnes & Noble gift card :) Thank you Alicia!!

With it, I scanned through the stockpile of books I'd thrown into my Amazon Wishlist and came across A Mother's Rule of Life: How to Bring Order to Your Home and Peace to Your Soul by Holly Pierlot. I had read about it some time ago on The Common Room and have been interested to read it ever since.

In case you don't know, I'm a very spontaneous person who considers rules, schedules and structure a rather heinous restriction to my liberty. "We'll wing it!" is one of my favorite battle cries and for the most part, I somehow managed thus far. But now with four children, homeschooling, homemaking, reading, blogging, crafting, etc., etc., that way of life is losing its luster and I've found myself more and more seeking a way to bring order to our home. So this book was top on the list along with Doodle Stitching (my next handcraft horizon) and a couple others.

I've only just started reading and it's already made a difference in my home. Don't you find that sometimes all you need is the excitement of knowing that an eminent solution is at hand to move you in a positive direction? Well, that's been the case for me here.

Holly is Catholic, so her views come from that perspective and there is much in the book I don't understand because I'm not Catholic, but there's a lot else that is of practical use whether you are Catholic or not. She starts by looking at Mother Teresa's schedule for the Missionaries of Charity and says this about it...

The Rule brings order: 'a happy disposition of things ... a multitude reduced in some wise to unity.' That was just what I wanted: a 'happy disposition,' and to reduce all the overwhelming tasks of motherhood into a nice, single unit of work I could handle. And in my mind, I couldn't see any extreme difference between a religious community and a family community...

A rule is an organization of everything that has to do with your vocation, based on a hierarchy of the priorities that define the vocation and done with the intent to please God. It deals with the essential responsibilities of your state of life, organized to ensure their fulfillment...

We all share the same need for sleep and rest, meals, prayers, and work every day...

While I can't just now find the exact quote that explained this for me, what hit me more than anything in the first couple of chapters is the idea or perspective of seeing my family as a community of people, working together to meet the needs of that community with the intent to please God by maintaining peace and order in the home.

I think I've always seen our home as a place for me to manage, to somehow get it all done, find ways to get more done in less time, maximize efficiency, delegate chores, etc., etc.

...but this idea of all of us working together to make it work, to glorify God in our home, to bring order and peace, ensuring our family's needs are met, isn't about me and all that I can do, it's about us answering God's call in our home.

Because I'm an "I'll do it! Don't worry, I'll take care of it!" kind of person, I take on everything, thinking that I'm serving my family. Of course things go undone, I grow frustrated, lash out at the kids for the mess they're leaving behind, when I never really took the time to institute order or a reasonable way for them to manage their mess.

Oh sure, I'd poke around at it here and there, but it was sporadic and incidental. Then on days when the mess is everywhere and the kids are playing and giggling oblivious to it all, as I, once again, sacrifice what I want to do to tackle it all, I'd start playing that martyr tape in my mind again - you know the one: "Look at this mess! Do I have to do everything around here?! Crumbs on the counter, socks on the floor - don't they see how much I do for them!!? And they don't even notice or appreciate it!"

Dangerous chatter in our minds ladies.

Then I'm left grumpy and too tired to play. Way to serve my family!

Holly goes on to say...
Each need in my vocation and my personal life was given its fair share of my time. Hence, I found a greater variety of pursuits in my daily life as well as the discovery of real free time. Life was not all work or all play, but a healthy interweaving of both.

there's much more that I'd love to read you. And I can't wait to read the rest to learn more from her.

Just in the past couple of days, instead of everyone dumping their plate in the sink and me doing all the dishes for 30 minutes while everyone ran off, we just talked about how if we all work together to clean up, it can be done in 5 minutes. And we did! Rather than me assigning individual chores and alternating them on different nights, we looked at what was left that needed to be done and did it.

In the past, my son would look at what was assigned to the others and would sometimes grump about how unfair it was that someone had an easier chore than him. Even though he'd end up getting that person's work on top of his own - because 'fair' isn't what we get in life and it's our job to teach him that - he still wasn't showing the right attitude towards his chores.

But this working together, all of us, is different in that we're all looking at what else needs to get done. They're seeing the whole picture and all of us working together to achieve it. So it's "What else needs to get done?" Not "Am I done?" Subtle, but significant.

How this will be applied in all areas of our home is yet to come, but I'm hopeful to find some sort of clarity about it in this book.

I think it's important for us to become a 'crafstman' of sorts in our vocation, just as in anything else we'd do. And it is so good when we're able to find wisdom along that path that helps us. It's a rare woman anymore that knows how to manage a full house joyfully, peacefully, orderly and yet it is so necessary, in so many ways, and it affects so many people, and so many things.

God tells us,

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. ~James 1:5

I think I'm seeing some answer to prayer!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Scheduling and How We Do Ambleside

One of the most common questions new homeschooling Moms have is "What does a day look like?"

I remember my stomach churning in knots the summer prior to my oldest starting Kindergarten. Everything I had read about the Charlotte Mason method resonated deeply with me - treating the child as a person, living books, not dumbing things down, time in nature, short lessons, art and composer study, DELAYING GRAMMAR!

But the Ambleside Online site, which was the curriculum I kept hearing about, didn't seem to 'map it all out' for me. All I saw was what seemed like lists of books and pages of reading I had to do before implementing. September drew nearer and I grew more and more exasperated until one day, my sweet friend Johnna who I had met on a homeschooling field trip through Exploring Homeschooling, invited me over and shared her daily schedule with me.

That day the clouds parted, the shadows dispersed and the sun shone bright as everything became clear.

Oh, so that's what you do!

In hopes of parting the clouds for others who may be feeling the same way, I'd like to post a couple of things here that may help.

First, I came across this depiction of what a CM day might look like in Susan Schaeffer MacAulay's highly recommended book, For the Children's Sake. This example was taken from her chapter "Children are Born Persons" (p.38) so it isn't intended to be a comprehensive outline for a schedule, but it gives us a glimpse for starters:

Let us apply this principle to the actual detailed practice in school or homes.

A seven-year-old happens to need a short period of phonic practice, followed by reading a story out loud to you haltingly every day. He then laboriously concentrates on learning the mechanics of writing for ten to fifteen minutes. This does not mean to say that his mind should be left "frozen" at the level of his skills. When the essential, regular practice has been completed, the child puts all his little books and papers away, and turns his full attention to the adult. She will now be the medium through which he can "read" real books (not second-rate books).

Perhaps she reads a short portion from Pilgrim's Progress. She must, of course, be a person who wants to understand and enjoy this herself. When she has finished, the children might tell back the story, or act out the episode in play. They could make a scroll, as our children did in their PNEU school. As the pilgrim proceeds through various experiences, the children draw pictures of what they remember of the story. They end with the knowledge that life is a pilgrimage. They hear about the River at the end. (By the way, this is the only book that the PNEU recommended to be slightly abridged.)

Pilgrim's Progress will be read perhaps twice a week. After this, the children's next lesson might be a chapter of a well-written biography of a historical figure. Again, the children listen with interest and build up knowledge. And so one proceeds. Science books will not be written in "second-grade language," Choose an interesting book that really explains things in lively language. Perhaps you will start with one on the animals and plants the child can see in his environment. Again, you read a short while. The children respond with a narration. You stop before they become restless.

The morning's program is intense, interesting, but fairly short. It finishes early, leaving the child free to relax and "be."

By the time such educated children are nine or ten they will, of course, have been reading for themselves a long time. They will be ready to read a Shakespeare play. They will enjoy and understand a really rich diet of books, essays, letters, plays, and poetry. They will have thought, discussed, and shared these ideas along with their own personal ideas.

Is this idealistic? Does it work? The answer is, yes.

For the practical side of scheduling, here is what our day looks like; or more accurately, what I hope our days look like. I say 'hope' because we have a 2 month old as well as a newly potty trained 3 yo in the home (delayed due to constipation issues which is a whole other blog post for another time) as well as a husband who runs his business from home, who I am at times a sounding board/assistant for... needless to say, distractions are commonplace; flexibility is a non-negotiable.

Hence, you won't see any times on my schedule, it's really more of a list. Some days we start at 9am, others 2pm. It all depends on the day. Will my children suffer from lack of structure - perhaps. In any case, that's how we roll around here to meet our current needs and both parents are okay with it.

In no way am I suggesting this is how AO is meant to be structured, it is just how our day is structured so take it for what it's worth. Also, this isn't our first schedule, nor is it likely to be our last - scheduling for us has been a process, it takes time and tweaking to get it to what works for your family so don't get discouraged if things don't 'fit' right off the bat.

Most of our school is done on the couch, they do their writing at the dining table. Some days we'll head out doors for a change.

I have a 9yo daughter in YR3, a 7yo son in YR1, additionally I have a 3yo daughter and the 2 mo old son. This is our Daily Schedule we pop the weekly AO readings into. Since we meet for nature study every Thursday, we don't do any school that day except for nature study, recitation (monthly) and nature journaling (weekly).

My strategy is to clump together things both kids do together, then alternate their independent work with things that need my attention - so I'm with one while the other is doing their independent work.

I print this schedule, as well as a copy of their week's reading (a printed copy of the 36 week AO list of weekly readings for their year) and give it to each to encourage self-education. They take more of the reigns when they are able to see what needs to be done for them to finish school that day instead of constantly asking "What's next Mommy?"

Morning Chores (get dressed, make bed, wash face, brush hair)
Chores (I have a separate chore chart with their chores mapped out for the week)

Hymn (1 new hymn each month)
Read Scripture (Monday - Storybook Bible, Tuesday - Psalms/Proverbs, Wednesday-Old Testament, Thursday - New Testament, Friday - Catechism)
Scripture Memory Cards

Poetry ( 1 poem each)
Art Study (Mondays only)
Story for 3yo (this usually happens right before nap and is sometimes read to her by older sibling)

Phonics (7yo son reads to me for 15 minutes)
9yo daughter does copywork (M, T, W she does copywork followed by dictation, Friday she practices cursive)

I read to 7yo son his reading for the day & have him narrate (YR1 ends up being about one reading/book per day)
9yo daughter reads to herself one of her readings & narrates (YR3 ends up being about 3-4 readings/books per day, I split up longer readings to shorter sections being read 2/3 times a week)


Math - Right Start Math

7yo son copywork
I read to 9yo daughter the remaining 2 or 3 readings

Foreign Language - Japanese


Free time for play, handcrafts, etc.

Swim Team

Dinner (kids tidy up while I make dinner & set the table & help clean up)

Free reads before bedtime

* 9yo daughter is in transition between having all books read to her to reading some on her own so my hope is that the amount she reads on her own will increase as we go. I do hope to utilize more audio recordings like the ones found on librivox next year when the reading for both kids increases.

* composer study and folk songs are played at random times while I'm doing dishes, at dinner time, or when the kids are drawing/playing quietly, or on car rides.

* Free reads are read to them in the evenings before bedtime or my 9yo reads some to herself or we listen to them in the car.

* With multiples, children inevitably have to wait at times so I leave it to them to find something to do quietly. If they can't find something on their own or if they interrupt, I remind them to be quiet or I find something for them to do - chores, push ups, a nap if they're tired and cranky, etc. The same goes for if they complain when made to come back to do school after they were playing while waiting. These are the habits I try to be tight on because when they aren't, it affects everything.

I'm sure I've forgotten some things here so if this raises any unanswered questions, feel free to post them in the comments. Hope this helps!