Monday, October 5, 2015

Baby Bentley

 This past summer we had a little addition to our family.  His name is Bentley and he is an Imperial Shih Tzu and he has completely stolen our hearts.   He is the sweetest, cuddliest little love I have ever known.  He follows me around like a shadow.   He's only four pounds right now but should grow to be around eight pounds we think.

I think I may have officially become one of those crazy dog ladies. 

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

4th Grade Homeschool Curriculum - Classical and Charlotte Mason Inspired

We have begun another homeschooling year and so far this year has been my favorite year ever!

There have been years when I have basically gone with a 'curriculum in a box' type of approach, but as I became more comfortable with homeschooling, I was more brave to venture out and to be able to pick and choose for all different subjects.  So I wanted to share with you what is working really well for us!
Before I get into which curriculum we use I wanted to share with you this genius idea that I came across several times this summer.  It is so simple yet so effective.  Every evening I take five minutes and simply write out in a spiral notebook exactly what Boo is expected to do the next school day.  She is a kid who thrives on checklists and knowing exactly what to expect.  She just adores being able to check off each item as she completes them.  So simple, yet so effective.  Plus it's a great way to keep track of exactly what has been done each day when it comes time for the reviewer to visit us.

The very first thing on Boo's checklist each day is to check her responsibility card to be sure all of her morning chores have been completed before she starts school.  I don't have a picture here but its a simple card (that I copied out of my planner pictured above), where we fill in exactly what she needs to do each day before starting school work.  This includes things like make her bed, brush her teeth, feed the dogs, wipe the bathroom counter, etc.

This year our day starts early as Banana is attending our local public high school and leaves the house  at 7 am.  While I am showering, starting laundry, cleaning up breakfast dishes - Boo starts her day on her own using a Veritas Press Self-Paced history online course. This year she is studying Middle Ages, Renaissance and the Reformation.  I can't say enough how much we love this program! We used it last year as well and she has learned so much! Even I am learning along with her just by listening.  The program is very engaging with games, songs, and more.

As soon as she is done with History, which usually takes about 45 minutes, I am ready to sit down and begin our day with morning basket time.  I did a separate post on the morning basket that you can read right here.   The morning basket is basically an entire curriculum within itself! This has really changed the "feel" of our homeschool day.  When mom is excited and engaged and letting her child see that homeschool education is a very important and valuable part of our day, then it sets a very different tone. This hour we spend together really grounds our day and sets Boo on a path of more self-directed and independent learning.  Morning basket time is when we pray, do memory work (scriptures, poems, etc), art appreciation, music appreciation, character development, singing, devotions, read-alouds, and home-making skills.  We even touch on some Shakespeare during this time.  It's become the most treasured part of our day and I would encourage all homeschool moms to try and add something similar to this and see how much more you enjoy your homeschool times together.

Last year the most frustrating part of our day was math.  We all have our strengths and weaknesses, and math does not fall very high on Boo's list of things she enjoys.  After leaving our classical christian school after 2nd grade, we continued on with Saxon math at the same level the school would have done, which was a year ahead.  We struggled all through fourth grade math during third grade last year.  We did this with the intention of if she ever goes back to that school, we don't want her to be behind where they are.   I had to decide this year to either struggle forward, or take a step back and  help her learn to love (okay if not love, then at least appreciate) math once again.  My oldest child Punkin (who is a junior in college this year) always worked a year ahead in math and I don't think it was the best thing now that I look back.  By the time she was taking the ACT and SAT she was taking Calculus II or some crazy high math class and the more basic math that was on these tests she had simply forgotten because it had been so many years since she had regular practice with it.   So we decided to actually stick to fourth grade math during the fourth grade (what a novel idea!).  Remember that post when I wrote about a "rigorous" education? 

This year we are using Horizons 4th grade math .  It is such a better fit for Boo.  It is colorful and engaging, and is a spiral curriculum.  By spiral I mean that it constantly circles back around reviewing concepts that have already been learned and reinforced.  Boo has even said she actually looks forward to math now!   We also use the Life of Fred books as a fun math supplement. These books are brilliant and I highly recommend them - they are so much fun!

Using manipulatives such as multiplication wrap-ups, fraction tiles, fraction tower sets and lots of other things make math more interesting and reinforce what we are learning.

This is probably both mine and Boos favorite subject.  We both really enjoy it and appreciate that it very much rounds out a hearty liberal arts type of education.  We use quite a bit of different curriculum for this subject.   I've discovered a writing curriculum that I absolutely LOVE called Writing and Rhetoric by Classical Academic Press.  It is very classical in nature, yet also encompasses a Charlotte Mason type approach to writing.  It's very simple and natural to teach.  It exposes the student to excellent writing and teaches more of a learn by example approach. I love this way of teaching instead of the very systematic approaches of some other writing curriculums we have used recently.

We alternate our writing curriculum with Shurley English .  Boo THRIVES with this program.  I know its not for every kid but it works perfectly for her and she just loves doing it! She can classify a sentence (also known as diagramming) like a crazy grammar fool! I don't even know how to do this but it's very easy to teach and I'm learning right along with her. These two writing and grammar curriculums are times when I am teaching her directly.

She also has independent workbooks which are  Daily Grams  for grammar reinforcement as well as Reasoning and Reading which deals more with word reasoning, basic language and thinking skills, and reading comprehension.

For vocabulary development we very much enjoy Marie's Word Cards . It's a great visual vocabulary resource that is also a lot of fun.

We love to READ around here! We have daily read aloud time as well as independent reading time so our literature unit for the year is quite large, rich and robust!!  Boo is an avid reader and can rarely be found without some kind of book in her hand.  She cracks me up when she wants to be finished with her school work so she can hit the books! HA! She is just so much fun to homeschool.  I have quite the literature list for her for the year, but it grows and changes depending on what we come across. As of right now, our basic list for the year includes:  Mary Poppins, A Nest for Celeste, The Racketty-Packetty House, Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh, King Arthur, The Green Lantern, Tom Sawyer, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Faerie Gold, Leepike Ridge, The Book of Three, The Whipping Boy, The 21 Balloons, The Adventures of Robinhood, and so much more! (This may seem like a lot but this kid loves to read.)

Boo absolutely loves this workbook called Maps and Geography.  It's probably her favorite book we use.  I don't really know why - maybe she just loves Geography!

Something else we have started this year is using tiny little removable stickers on our wall maps.  We have different colors for our different subjects, and every time we come across any "place" in any of our curriculum, we stop and find it on the map and then mark it.  This has almost become a game for Boo! It's amazing how many places you come across throughout the day, whether a word problem in math, the places we study in history, the setting of our read-aloud, the oceans we study in science, or even an in depth study of certain locations - we mark it on the map! You can order these Mark-It dots here.  This is natural learning at its best and it helps to define where things are happening on a large scale in the student's mind.

 Of course, our Geopuzzles are always a favorite and have stood the test of time - each puzzle piece is shaped like the country.  Listening to our Geography songs while we do the puzzles is an added bonus in helping to commit them to memory. Big sisters have often commented on how they ace their high school and college geography tests because of these puzzles from their childhood.

A core component of a good classical education will incorporate Latin.  It is an awesome stepping stone into understanding all languages, but especially English (of course!).  This year I am soooo grateful to have our local Latin teacher from our classical school teach a homeschool class for us right here in our home.  Boo has discovered a new love for Latin that mom and a DVD set just couldn't do last year.  She uses the curriculum Latin for Children which is excellent! She is following in the footsteps of two big sisters before her that are both seven year Latin scholars.  Boo looks forward to Tuesday afternoons every week just because of Latin class!

Boo is very interested recently in anything and all things Ocean related.  This past summer, Boo, Banana and I took a rather spontaneous two-week long summer road trip and we made it into one amazing field trip all about oceans!  We first drove to the incredible Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta and spent a few days there.  Then we continued on to Florida to stay with family and enjoy the Florida Aquarium in Tampa.  We even had the incredible opportunity to enjoy kayaking in the Tampa Bay with some wonderful friends - one of whom majored in Marine Biology and gave Boo a great lesson on everything we found stuck to the side of the boat dock.  The dolphins were swimming all around us - moms and babies too! They would surface and blow so close to us we could hear them breathing.  It was a wonderful experience and a great launching point to our ocean studies for the year.  We are using Apologia's Swimming Creatures of the Fifth Day. along with the accompanying note booking journal.

We are enjoying using the music resources in our Morning Basket, but in addition to that we have a wonderful piano teacher that comes to our home every week.  Boo is making great progress!

Every day after we finish our morning basket time, our three dogs KNOW it is time for their morning walk.  They are so funny how they never forget.  Sometimes we try to trick them out of it and they just KNOW! Boo enjoys riding her bike, her scooter, jogging, cartwheeling or just being BOO during our morning walks.  It's always good to get moving that time of day then we can settle in again for our serious morning work time.  Boo also takes three dance classes a week including ballet, jazz and contemporary.

We have taken a very natural CM style approach to spelling this year.  Boo is a natural speller so any spelling workbook just becomes a mindless checklist type activity for her.  Instead we use our rich literature and curriculum as our spelling practice.  We keep a list of words we come across that are new to her and/or tricky to spell.  I love the idea of copy work as a way to learn spelling also - which incorporates cursive handwriting and attention to perfect execution.  We have copy work incorporated in our writing, our science and several other curriculum as well.

The curriculum we are using this year is Artistic Pursuits.  Since we only do art twice per week, it's a little hard to tell how we are going to like this.  It seems like a great program but we've only dabbled in the first few lessons so far!  We get plenty of art experience while sketching in our nature journals during morning basket time also! 

We make a point to visit the library every week, but if it were up to Boo it would be everyday.  Our Maryland public library is a wealth of resources for homeschoolers! I am constantly checking out DVD's about the ocean, wonderful literature classics on audio, and of course more books than we can carry!

So that is our 4th grade curriculum for the year! With that said however, there is no such thing as the perfect curriculum.  Every child is different and their needs are constantly changing and growing.

Homeschooling classically is not about perfection, or being successful, but continuing day in and day out in faithfulness and in love.  I am as much of a student as Boo is.  As the teacher and parent, I must always remember that my child mirrors and reflects my own worst failings.  It is much more of a tutoring and discipleship that goes on in our little school.  The most important things I am teaching her are in the day to day actions she sees in me.  This is true of any parent - homeschooling or not.  How I treat her and speak to her teach her far more than any curriculum will.  How I handle myself in stressful situations is the true lesson she sees.  How I choose to live my own life - for Christ or for myself - is the lesson of her childhood - and she will mimic what she sees.  Have I become lazy, am I complaining too much? If I'm seeing that in my children, then most likely it began with me.  Am I setting a double standard? Am I asking something of my children that I don't follow through with myself?   I must adjust my own thoughts and habits so that I can lead by example.  The example we set as parents speaks so much louder than anything else we can try to teach them.

I shared with you the curriculum we use - but it is just that. Curriculum.  They are simply resources.  Let your life and your love be the true lesson you teach your children.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

The Morning Basket

One thing that I have done quite differently this year in our homeschool is the addition of the morning basket.   I attended the homeschool convention in Orlando, FL this year and went to every Charlotte Mason seminar I could.  I also attended an on-line summer class this year through Classical Academic Press called "Bringing schole´ to your School and Homeschool" with Dr. Christopher Perrin.  It really shifted my perspective on the kind of education I want my children to have (or child in my case since I only have one left in homeschool!)   Dr. Perrin challenged us all to share and teach others what we have learned so I'm doing that via my blog!

Here is a peek at my morning basket!! You know that feeling that you get after you have been homeschooling for a while and you start wondering if your kids are really getting everything you imagined they would get when you decided to homeschool?  You start to just really focus on the basic subjects to make sure you are covering all your bases as far as reading, writing and arithmetic.  All those dreamy enrichment activities that you had fantasized about how your homeschooling would look start to fall through the cracks due to just trying to survive the homeschool day.  You know, the subjects like memory work, art appreciation, music appreciation, the study of musical composers, etc. etc. etc....

Let me introduce you to the Morning Basket.  We are only three weeks into school now and it has quickly become the highlight of our day.   I have learned about this time tested homeschool method from several wonderful homeschoolers who have gone before me!  Some wonderful websites to visit to learn more about them include one of my favorite bloggers - Wildflowers and Marbles.  (If you have multiple children at many ages - her blog is the one to visit to find out how to do the morning basket well!)  Have a listen to this wonderful podcast about Morning Baskets here at this blog of one of my fellow classmates!  Another wonderful resource is the Circe Institute - they have so many wonderful things in their free audio library that I would recommend every single one! But the one titled The Long Haul: On Morning Time is the one that made me decide to begin our own special Morning Basket time.

So what exactly is a morning basket time?  For us - it is our time each morning where we spend about an hour together that grounds our day with what I would call enrichment activities.  Being a classical educator I have long been a huge fan of memory work.  Now we have a place to put it.   It is also the time we focus on picture study, narration, nature journaling, the study of famous artists, art appreciation, music appreciation, introduction to Shakespeare, hymn study, character building, read alouds, and more.   This little chair in a corner of our homeschool room is where it happens - see the basket right on the floor?

For the first time in my homeschooling years I finally feel like I am truly giving my child a rich, full, well rounded classical education.  I always knew I had the important bases covered, but now I know that I am feeding her mind.   One of Charlotte Mason's more famous quotes is "To use the mind is by no means the same thing as to feed it".    Filling our homeschool days with things that simply "use" the mind is not a rich and fulfilling education.  Instead we need to be giving them a homeschool diet rich in materials that "feed" the mind.  We do this by giving them rich living books instead of dry text books, reading to them and memorizing poetry with good noble thoughts, spending time in God's creation, carefully studying great works of art, literature and poetry, listening intently to beautiful pieces of music, committing to memory scripture and catechisms, excellent poetry, and life-giving truths, working on developing character habits, providing short stories with role models with good morals and noble character, and introducing great principles instead of spoon-fed ideas.   Instead of these mind feeding activities, we sometimes tend to simply "use" their minds by filling their days with workbooks, spelling drills, fill-in-the-blanks - those things which we tend to want to "check the box - we finished it" type of activities.  These things don't feed their growing insatiable quest for true wisdom and knowledge.

We are careful to choose the majority of our curriculum that incorporates much of these rich mind-feeding ideas into them, but being intentional and training these ideas during morning basket time is the focus of our morning time together.

I spent so much time this summer researching and gathering supplies to be used for MB time.  I was surprised at how much I already had, because I had all those wonderful ideas to do these things but never figured out a workable structured way to introduce them all.   I mentioned in a prior post about Schole´ how there is always so much wonderful rich curriculum I want to add in to our homeschool day, however I wanted to be careful not to add too much.  This is an excellent way to enrich but not to overwhelm.   I have a basic weekly schedule that we follow each day for MB time (this is an entirely separate schedule from our main curriculum which I will be sharing soon).

This is just a skeleton of the schedule I follow because I want to be sure to cover all the excellent tools we have but not to overload on any certain day.  We even close our morning basket time together each day by singing The Doxology to lend a bit of a liturgical aspect to our time together.  (Then our three dogs know that means it's time for their morning walk!).    There is just something so soothing about a structured routine and order to our days, isn't there? 

Here are some of our books and resources we use to study art appreciation.  I highly recommend the Picture Study Portfolios.  You can choose the artist you want to study and then you  have everything you need in one packet for a successful picture study!  These include a portrait of the artist, the timeline which shows where the artist fits in history, a biography, eight full color works, prompts to encourage narration, questions to ask your child as she studies the pictures and recommended additional books.  It just doesn't get much easier than that!  Of course adding in some living books about each artist you study is a wonderful way to enrich the experience with each artist. 

Memory time is our favorite.  Young children love to and have an incredible capacity to memorize.  I can still remember poems that I memorized as a child but I can't tell you what happened yesterday! Hiding that which is true, good and beautiful in the hearts of our children is something that they can depend on and draw from for the rest of their lives.  Fill their hearts and minds with rich and beautiful things.   There are some wonderful free resources on this website which is where I found our scripture memory cards. 

Studying (more like introducing) Shakespeare is new to us this year.  I have heard time and again how introducing Shakespeare at a young age can reap great rewards when children get to high school and college.   The book Stories from Shakespeare  is the perfect book to introduce each of Shakespeare's works to give a good overview of the story before investigating the actual work.  My Boo couldn't get enough of this book at the homeschool convention when I bought it, and already had it read cover to cover before we left the convention.  I think that is what comes from having two older sisters who already have developed a great love of the classics.  She wanted to find out what all the hype was about! HA!!  

When we read Bible passages together sometimes, Boo will express a frustration in not being able to understand the way scriptures are worded in the Bible.  Reading Shakespeare can give us that same bit of frustration - but what a great exercise in understanding rich vocabulary and stretching our minds to understand the rhetoric of the great thinkers that came before us.

Studying beautiful pieces of music and the composers who wrote them is delightful.  The Classical Kids Collection is a very fun way to learn the stories of the composers lives and how they went about creating their music.  It's fun and engaging and really helps you remember what you have learned!  I only have two of the CD's pictured here because I loan out the others often to friends - that's how well loved they are.   Music Study with the Masters is another CM product that makes music study so simple - very similar to the picture study portfolios, everything you need to cultivate your children's taste for good music in just a few minutes each week is included.   Again, you can choose which artist to study. 

Every Friday, the majority of our morning basket time is consumed with nature study.  We take plenty of restful time to be outside studying intently God's incredible creation.  We pack a bag with our books, art supplies and enjoy using our Journaling - A Year in Nature handbook to prompt us on what to look for, sketch, and write about.  I think these notebooks will become a treasure to us after we have an entire years collection in them.  We each have our own Nature Notebooks.  I can't believe how much we have already learned this year about nature - the names of plants, bushes and trees in our own yard even because we never took the time to intentionally study and enjoy them.

Our read-aloud time happens during morning basket too - though it often spills over into snack time because we just can't put a good book down!  Make sure your kids have something to do while they listen - it's easier for you (and them!) if they can happily engage in a painting, building legos, using play-dough or anything to engage their hands while their minds are actively listening.  Snacking ALWAYS works! 
Some of our read alouds for the year. 

After your child is old enough to start enjoying the rich chapter books, don't neglect to continue to read wonderful picture books as well!  I'm constantly checking out new pictures books from the library that may coincide with what we are learning, the time of year, or any thing that may pertain to our lives right now.  We enjoyed some fun "First Day of School" type of picture books this month. 

One of MY favorite parts of our MB time is our focus and study on Character Habits.  I say habits because any kind of character training must first become a habit if we want it to become a part of their personality and character.  Changing hearts and actions is very hard work - but isn't this just about the most important part of any child's education?  Laying Down the Rails is an excellent resource if you want to really dive deep into any moral or character training in a simple yet effective way. Charlotte Mason said, "Sow a habit, reap a character". 

Here is just a small sampling of the table of contents from Laying Down the Rails for Children.  It is a great resource that makes training children's character formation so fun! Each character includes several scriptures, great living classic stories, beautiful poems, inspiring quotes and fun activities to teach their hearts towards good character.  "Just as a train's direction is established by its track, good habits set the direction of our children's lives for smooth running, now and into adulthood." 

My little Boo's favorite book in our MB is "Keepers at Home".  I have had this book for years and we are just now finally enjoying it because we finally found a place for it.   It is simply a handbook for young ladies and touches on everything from etiquette to soap making, from cooking to hospitality and everything in between! Guiding a young girl into a woman of Christ is the theme here.  I've been so surprised at how interested she is in learning about budgeting, ironing, patriotism and community service! This little guide touches on all of life in a very practical way.  It's a great tool for training in areas you may not have otherwise thought of. 

So that is a brief overview of our favorite part of our homeschool day.  I'm so so glad I finally figured out how to richen not only our homeschool education, but also our relationship as mother and daughter.  These have become precious precious times together discussing everything from free will versus predestination - to dog training and Latin declensions.  Being intentional about training hearts gives way to wonderful conversations that simply astound me.  Singing great hymns or praise songs together, just the two of us is so sweet it often brings tears to my eyes.  (Until the bird starts singing along and we crack up at how ridiculous we sound sometimes!)  As homeschool moms we often can feel so very inept, but if we hand over all of our efforts to the ONE who has called us to this noble and humbling position as homeschoolers - he blesses our efforts ten fold!  If you have ever considered something like a morning basket, or just want to enrich your homeschool - this is an excellent way to do it!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Teaching From A Place of Rest

Well, here we are - just about ready to dive into another school year.  We have had the most amazing wonderful summer and I'm really sad to see it end.  Punkin is heading back to Grove City College for her junior year, Banana is starting a new school this year as a sophomore in high school, and my little Boo is homeschooling again this year as a fourth grader.

One thing I did this summer was to take an online class for the first time ever.   The class was called "Bringing Schole´ to your School or Homeschool" through Classical Academic Press presented by Dr. Christopher Perrin.  The word Schole´ is a Greek word that means restful learning leaning towards contemplation, conversation and reflection.  How ironic is it that our English word "school" also is derived from this word schole´ yet when we think of most typical schools it is far from any kind of restful learning, contemplation or reflection?

When I first started doing the readings for this class I thought to myself, "Great - I'm going to be one of those on-line class drop-outs".  The readings were so hard and it took so much discipline to dig through the heady information to gather what God was trying to place in my heart.  I want to try to summarize here what I have learned because it is something I have become very passionate about - and also to try and further cement into my own head what it is I am trying to accomplish.  I know I will only be able to scratch the surface here for you, but this concept is my goal this year, and by explaining it to others I can better understand it myself.  One of the books we are reading is called The Liberal Arts Tradition: A Philosophy of Christian Classical Education.  This is NOT an easy read, but will breathe a new life into your views on education.  This book transcends the familiar three-stage pattern of grammar, logic and rhetoric.  It describes what is like a second big step toward recovering the tradition of a classical education.

Also, the book, Leisure the Basis of Culture by Josef Pieper has been instrumental in helping me understand the "common misconceptions about the idea of leisure and its relation to work.  Leisure is not idleness, but an attitude of the mind and a condition of the soul that fosters receptivity to both physical and spiritual realities. The author points out that sound philosophy and authentic religion can be born only in leisure - a leisure that allows time for the contemplation of things, including the nature of God.  Leisure has been, and always will be, the foundation of any culture."

If you have been a reader of my blog for any length of time (thank you to those devoted few who tolerate my sporadic blogging attempts!), then you know all about my passion for classical education.  My oldest daughter graduated as Salutatorian from a classical christian school three years ago, and my middle daughter has been there from Pre-K3 through 9th grade - more on her later.  Our youngest daughter attended our classical school since age 3 and is currently homeschooling.  We have also been a sporadic homeschooling family through the years.  We look at the needs of each child each year and prayerfully consider what is the best educational approach for them in their current stage of life.  Through it all however, we have always held fast to a classical approach when it comes to education.

While I am still sold out on the idea of classical education, I feel like I have a completely different view of it than I used to have - my passion for classical education has taken a new twist.   While the classical education revival is strong and growing across our nation, part of the fundamental roots of what a true classical education IS seems to be getting lost in the process.  There seems to be much anxiety and even frenzy associated with the classical schools of today.  Many of these schools boast of their "rigorous" curriculum.   I've even talked/bragged about it myself here on the blog!  But do you know what that word truly means?  The word rigor comes from the Latin word rigoris which means "harsh, rigid, relentless, stern, inflexible, firm, rough".  This is where we get the word rigor mortis which means "the stiffness of death".  Do we REALLY want a rigorous education for our children?   I have seen first hand - through decades of classically educated children - my own, my friends, being a teacher of classical methods myself - the downfalls of not balancing a proper classical education with that of an education which stems from a place of rest, of contemplation, of leisure, of diligence.

The word diligence comes from the Latin diligere which means "to respect, esteem, take delight in, to love".   I believe THIS should be our goal in educating our children.  To point them in the direction of being able to wonder, to contemplate and to soak up from a place of leisure.   We have blurred the lines between a rigorous education and creating a diligent student.   We get the word "student" from the Latin word studium meaning "affection, zeal, eagerness".  What we want then is a diligent student who takes delight in - eagerly and with great zeal - what she is being taught.   Our job then is to put them in the way of learning, to place them in the way of objects, books, experiences and ideas - ideas that are the "right idea at the right time", and then step out of the way.  Classical educators educate for virtue.  Even Aristotle spoke often of virtue being the aim of wisdom and education.  To spoon feed our children the moral of the story is much like stealing away a great treasure. Instead introduce them to stories filled with great wonder, great virtue, deep thoughts and engaging truths.  The discovery of these things to them in their own time is the very root of enduring education.  Without virtue, education is empty and meaningless.  The heart of classical education is virtue - but this can't be taught, it must be caught.  How do we do this as educators? We live it.  How do we live it? By teaching from a place of rest.   Rest is the virtue between negligence and anxiety.

Laura Ingalls Wilder once said "The true way to live is to enjoy every moment as it passes, and surely it is in the everyday things around us that the beauty of life lies".  

It has taken me all summer to truly digest this concept of Schole´ and even to try and wrap my brain around what it means, what it looks like for a homeschooler, what it looks like in the classroom of a classical school - or even a traditional school.  I have met a fellow homeschool mom in the online class I have been taking named Sarah Mackenzie - she JUST published a book entitled "Teaching From Rest - A Homeschoolers Guide to Unshakable Peace".   It has been a gem in helping me to summarize all that I have learned.    Teaching from a state of rest or peace doesn't mean teaching calm children, in a calm manner on a calm morning (haha - if only!)  To teach from rest means to "enter into God's rest and then serve Him whole-heartedly, not out of anxiety, but out of love and trust".    She writes "The heart of this book is about remembering what our true task really is, and then throwing ourselves in completely.  Giving our all.  The raising of children, the teaching of truth, the sharing of life, the nourishing of imagination, and the cultivating of wisdom - these are all His anyway; we are merely His servants."

Plutarch once said "The mind is not a vessel that needs filling, but wood that needs igniting".  Think about that for a minute.  Think about times when you truly learned how to do something.  Were you simply "filled" with information, or were you inspired, motivated and really wanting to learn about that thing?  For me it was photography.  I have never taken any kind of photography class, yet I am filled to overflowing with information about photography.  I had a passion for capturing the beauty that I could see all around me and wanting to share it with others.  I dove in wholeheartedly when I bought my first camera and became desperate to know everything I could about the art of  photography.  The information was out there, it was just up to me to discover it.  I now regularly teach photography classes and have a successful established photography business.  For the generations of today, the learning of how to use a computer comes to mind.  Not many of us took a class on how to use a computer (well maybe one here or there), but look at how proficient we all are in the use of them?  For most of us, we learned that skill from a place of leisure and rest.  Rest and leisure, however, is not the absence of work.  It is simply approaching it from a direction other than what most of us have been taught.  Work and leisure can go hand in hand.

Children have a voracious appetite for knowing and experiencing. It is the strong, real world that interests them so much, where so much of the unexpected can happen and there is wonderful mystery all around them.  If we aren't careful - WE are the ones to squelch that God-given instinct in them.   When we focus on "mastering skills" instead of directing them toward wisdom and knowledge, we are doing them a great dis-service.  This is not to say that mastering skills is not important, and that rest and leisure can mean any kind of laziness - quite the opposite! Teaching from rest will take diligence, patience, attention, and a lot of hard work!  We MUST value academic work because to nurture the intellect is to be fully human, but we must not elevate it beyond its place.  In our homeschool we will still study Latin, the Bible, great works of literature, great composers and ancient art.  We will be diligent in our studies of math, grammar, science, writing, history and the world around us.  But we will be careful to pursue relationships, to dance in the rain, to bake together, to care for the elderly, to build a fort, to pay the bills, to do the laundry, and to love God and each other deeply.  If we simply offer up our very best and do it without fretting or being anxious, then God will bless that ten thousand fold.

There is something to be said of simply slowing down.  To dive deeper into the subjects at hand.  There is so much to be gained from true deep knowledge of a subject, rather than plowing through as much information as possible.  I remember at our very first class, Dr. Perrin gave the analogy of eating a pie - maybe a pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving.  We look forward to tasting the pie all day, we eagerly place that first bite into our mouth and then savor the mixing flavors of pumpkin and cinnamon, and we linger over the delicious sweet creaminess of each bite, and that perfect crispy pie crust just leaves you wanting more - right? Now compare that to a pie eating contest - where the goal is to simply shove as much pie into your mouth as quickly as you can and see how many pies you can get through, and you don't ever really taste it.   I have to admit I am guilty of taking a pie eating contest approach to my classical homeschooling.  There is so much good out there to be taught,  but if we don't take the time to slow down and restfully teach and learn...... then our education is a mile wide but only an inch deep.  Which would you rather have? I would rather savor, ponder, revel and linger over that which is true and good and beautiful.

I had the opportunity this summer to attend the huge homeschool convention in Orlando, FL.  I attended absolutely every Charlotte Mason seminar that I possibly could.   I feverishly took notes and was so inspired to bring more of the CM style of education into our little homeschool.  I have always been a big believer in her methods, but after studying schole´ this summer, I am even more so.  The educational movement of Charlotte Mason goes firmly hand in hand with a restful classical approach to learning.  She was a brilliant educator from the late 1800's who believed the child is a person and we must educate the whole person, not just the mind.  A Charlotte Mason education is three-pronged: in her words,

"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life".   

By atmosphere, CM meant the surroundings that make up a child's life.  A child absorbs a lot from her  home environment. The ideas that rule your life as a parent make up one third of your child's education.

By discipline, CM meant the discipline of good habits, specifically habits of character.  Cultivating good habits in your child's life make up another one third of her education.

Life applies to academics. CM believed we should give children "living" thoughts and ideas, not simply dry facts or textbooks.  All of her methods on teaching the various school subjects center around that concept.

As homeschooling moms, we can make the mistake of thinking that the success of our homeschool might lay in choosing the perfect curriculum, reading only the best books, never straying from the schedule or staying a year ahead in math. It becomes so easy to make it all about us.  God loves to do incredible things in the lives of our children.  It is not up to us to worry if we are doing enough, or doing too much,  we are only to be a willing vessel to be used by Him.  We are simply to show up, to be diligently ready and prepared, and not to be anxious and afraid that we are really going to mess this up.  Because guess what? God uses the mess ups just as well as he uses our successes.

I am hoping that this is the beginning of a series of blog posts which will be a journal of sorts into our journey of living out a more schole´ homeschool lifestyle.   Teaching from rest is a reminder that I am not in control, nor should I be.  I need to simply trust, and lean not on my own understanding, but in all my ways acknowledge Him, and he will direct my paths.