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Saturday, March 21, 2020

What thoughts are you holding on to?

Two monks were walking along the bank of a swift river. There they met a young woman who could not cross alone. One of the monks picked up the young woman and carried her across the river to the other side.
     Sometime much later, the other monk said to his companion, “Did you forget that it is against the rules to touch a woman? Have you forgotten the vows you have taken?”
     The other monk answered, “Brother, I left the young woman on the bank of the river once we crossed. Why are you still carrying her in your mind?”

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

When will they learn about...

Charlotte Mason says something along the lines of the point of it all being not that the children can correctly pinpoint who wrote/did what in the age of whom, but to give them a sort of pageantry of the mind, rich in ideas and relationships.

 It's not that the facts don't matter, it's that if the children don't have curiosity, love, interest, if they don't even care, none of the facts really sink in anyway. There are things missing from every history book that are worth of attention, but history is a wide and deep topic and there isn't time to give all topics all the attention they might merit in the school hours alone.

So flesh things out with biographies, visits to local historical sites, include museums and historical marker visits in your itinerary if/when you travel, notice those other opportunities for connections in your reading, and in your living  ( a little goes a long way, don't eat up the hours they should have of free time to explore their own interests).

In my own life, I remember learning most about Balboa when my family visited Balboa park in San Diego as a child perhaps 10 years old. If I had ever heard of him before I did not remember it, but visiting the park gave me a wide eyed discovery of the idea about exploration including botany, and curiosity about the man himself.

 My own kids made their first 'discovery' of Cortez when they read Keats' poem: On First Looking into Chapman's Homer

Much have I travell'd in the realms of gold,
    And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;
    Round many western islands have I been
Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold.
Oft of one wide expanse had I been told
    That deep-brow'd Homer ruled as his demesne;
    Yet did I never breathe its pure serene
Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold:
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
    When a new planet swims into his ken;
Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes
    He stared at the Pacific—and all his men
Look'd at each other with a wild surmise—
    Silent, upon a peak in Darien.

This last stanza was quoted in one of the Swallows and Amazons books by Arthur Ransome (AO did not then exist, but it is now one of our free reads)- it caught my kids' attention and we looked it up to learn about the poem, the poet, and the people and places he is referring to. Education is not a catalog, it is a discipline, an atmosphere, and a life, and this is how it continues- like circles on a pond or a game of association, a new thing suggests another new thing, and children who have learned to keep their native curiosity go on learning forever. ( I just sidetracked myself looking up multiple references to Ponce de Leon because he was once governor of Darien and may in fact be who Keats should have named instead of Cortez, but perhaps it would have altered his rhyme scheme?)

The atmosphere Mason speaks of is the one we have, the people we are, the home and culture we create when we bring a family together and grow together- so be sure to incorporate that into your days and lives as well, as you discover your own realms of gold in which to travel.

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Relations and Affinities


We dabbled in various types of homeschooling for a few years, but there were things that were always part of what I did, and they were there because of reading For the Children's Sake- these were the things that I recall particularly resonated with me:
Poetry (Winnie the Pooh, reciting for grandparents, fourth grade poetry book given to me for Christmas when I in the hospital)
Hymns: acapella tradition, sang hymns at homes and on long car trips.
Classical music- we didn't listen to the radio, but my dad had a number of records (yes, I am so analog), all of them classic. We also had a handful of folk songs in our family repetoire.
Well written books/literature was a constant.
Nature study: My grandmother majored in Botany in the 1920s, when not that many women went to college.  She always showed us the plants and wildflowers on our walks and told us their names.
Education is the science of relations.
Those things appealed to me because they were things I had grown up with- they were, in fact, most the best parts of a childhood that actually wasn't very good, a childhood that, in fact, resulted in two of the three of us emerging into adulthood already loaded by the burden of PTSD from the abuse we endured. And yet those things were there, glimmering beacons of peace and safety in an otherwise extremely painful childhood.
Assuming you are interested in homeschooling and Charlotte Mason, since you are reading this post- why?  Consider that a moment and see if you can trace the causes.
All those things I mentioned, the poetry, the books, the nature study, they resonated with me because I had a relationship, a connection, what Mason calls an 'affinity' for those things- an affinity is a natural connection, a relationship, a sympathetic interest. My interest in homeschooling to begin with was because of a relationship- the relationship I had with my daughter. Then there was the relationship I had with my friend who loaned me For the Children's Sake, and the relationships I built online with other Charlotte Mason homeschoolers,
I am guessing that for most of you, your interest in homeschooling and CM has something to do with some connections and relationships as well, probably both people and subjects. I had a relationship, with poetry and folk songs because somebody took the time to introduce them to me- that's not usually the sort of thing children discover on their own. In my case, and probably yours, these things happened in a somewhat haphazard way. A lot of worthwhile things happen that way, and that's fine. But a Charlotte Mason education is also about having a planned, organized way to help children discover a wide range of topics, activities, subjects, ideas, and skills that they can form a connection, a relationship with, in away that isn't limited only by what we, their parents, already know and like.
You never know what is that will be just the thing a child needs or will connect to, and how he will form those connections.  A child cannot be interested in or pursue relationships with topics and ideas he has never heard of.  That's why there are adults in his life to help him learn about those things.  That's why a CM education is both disciplined and organized and never, ever based on the limitations of what interests you.  But it's also why a CM education incorporates plenty of free time, so the spontaneous connections can also happen.

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Just going around in circles, day after day...

Have you ever watched a chicken roam the yard? It wanders here and there, going in circles, darting off after a moth, now a mosquito, now a grasshopper, scratching the earth, rarely looking up.
She spends her days scratching, clucking, wandering in circles, hither and thither.

"Those seeking the life of the spirit should be cheerful and free, and not neglect recreation.

Married people must act in conformity with their vocation~
but their progress will of necessity be but the pace of a hen."

~~Teresa of Avila, who, while theologically we are not on the same page, here I think she's kind of got a point.

Josephine Moffet Benton, in her book The Pace of a Hen, points out that while the hen does not appear to go anywhere, has not have the satisfaction of migrating twice a year as do many of the songbirds, and appears old fashioned and a little ridiculous at times, yet she brings 'forth creation of daily usefulness.'

I like that phrase. Do I live up to it? Do I bring forth creation of daily usefulness? That might be something to ponder in the morning watches or late at night.

And why not go in circles? asks Mrs. Benton. She points out that God created the year in a circle of seasons, the longest trip we can take is to make a circuit around the world, and each day is itself a circle of hours. 
"The very course of blood through our veins and arteries is known as the circulatory system.... Why disparage going around in circles? Any other route suggests imbalance, a jumping-off-place, abyss. Perhaps the hen's pace is a wholesome one in rhythm with the universe."

Do you spend your days spinning your wheels, feeling like you're just going around and around without making progress?

DNA is a spiral- it goes around and around, yet it holds the mysteries of life. Spiral staircases also go around and around in a seemingly tightly circumscribed space. Yet at some point you find that you are moving up- or down.

Make sure your circles are bringing you closer to God and the center of His Will, yes, but don't worry about the fact that they are circles.


PIctured above: an 1896 wallpaper design by William Morris because I like it.

Monday, December 9, 2019

Daily work for the mind

–Do not let the children pass a day without distinct efforts, intellectual, moral, volitional; let them brace themselves to understand; let them compel themselves to do and to bear; and let them do right at the sacrifice of ease and pleasure: and this for many higher reasons, but, in the first and lowest place, that the mere physical organ of mind and will may grow vigorous with work. Charlotte Mason

Sunday, December 8, 2019

My Christmas Tree and TMI

We were supposed to be flying to Malaysia the day after Christmas to begin a two year period of mission work there. As of Nov. 4, when a bomb dropped on my 37 year marriage and shattered it into pieces, we not going to Malaysia. There is no longer a 'we' in that sense. I am still pulling out the shrapnel.

 I am currently living in my American home with my disabled daughter. It's a huge house, four bathrooms, 8 bedrooms plus a small study or office, two stories, a massive great-room upstairs.... It used to be a lot more crowded, but then the godsons moved away and the other six kids moved out, most of them married, and I spent the last year purging stuff I rather liked in preparation for the move to Malaysia (which wasn't my choice of places to go, and which I learned recently was to be the place where I and my daughter would be abandoned while my spouse moved to Taiwan with another woman). So here we are.

 We mainly keep to the master bedroom and bathroom because it's cold and it saves on the electric bill to just keep two rooms cozy enough to endure without wearing enough blankets to make up two beds. She has very small capillaries and doesn't endure cold well at all.  And I prefer some deep safe space at this time in my life.

 Although for decades Christmas was a huge event to me, as you can imagine, this year I am not feeling it. My Christmas things used to take up nearly a dozen of the very largest storage totes. I purged them down to two or three totes before we went to the Philippines. I haven't decorated for Christmas in three Christmases because I did not have access to my things, and now that I do, it's just too much to do, too heavy a weight, too hard. I thought about getting a tree and decorating it, but that was too much to do by myself. It's hard enough to get up and walk thru each day.

And then I saw a picture somebody posted online and then a friend reminded me that I did not choose this and I was ambushed, but God has always known and He is never surprised, my story will be different, but does continue, and that gave birth to an idea, and this is the result:



This is my Christmas tree this year.

Friday, November 29, 2019

Leaf by NiggleLeaf by Niggle by J.R.R. Tolkien
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

So much wisdom and insight packed into this sweet, short story.
Niggle is a painter, mostly of leaves, but other things, too. Only life is so full of interruptions he can't get down to work at his real task of painting. Before he can complete his life's work, he is called away on the long journey he has always known is coming, but he is unprepared. However unprepared, the carriage has been called for and he must go on his journey, leaving his work unfinished.

But what are the interruptions and what constitutes the real work and purpose of our lives?
Allegory, spiritual parable, masterfully, of course, done by Tolkien. I particularly loved the gentle little poke at people who consider themselves softhearted, by which they really mean other people's troubles make them feel uncomfortable, but not uncomfortable enough to do something about those troubles.

I listened via Audible, it's about forty minutes long which is about five minutes shorter than my drive to church so that's convenient.

View all my reviews