Thursday, June 12, 2014

hats off to warmth for babies

Mixed reviews are often interesting to me. Whether in response to our decision to homeschool, or to the welcoming of our FIVE beautiful children or to some of the smaller details of our life, I am often intrigued about the 'why' and 'where' people's questions come from.

In terms of the smaller details of life, one of the more frequent questions I am asked is why my baby is always (well, almost always) wearing hats.

Some, like my Nana, are beyond pleased by the fact that my infant Cecelia is perpetually donning her bonnet. She is 94 and must know from old-time wisdom that babies should be dressed in layers with bonnets and booties and the whole-nine-yard regardless of the season (hats aren't just for winter).

Others seem to ask why and wonder whether she is too hot with her head covered. These well-intentioned observers seem to ask with a mixture of intrigue and skepticism and are always met with a simple and confident answer.

Babies ought to be wearing hats.

One point that Susan Johnson, MD makes in regard to keeping our children warm is that-
Warmth is probably one of the greatest gifts we can give our children, not only the warmth of love, but the physical warmth of their bodies.  Children are developing their bodies especially during the first seven years of their lives.  An infant or a young child will always feel warm unless they are on the verge of hypothermia because they have an accelerated metabolic rate.  If we don’t provide them with the layers of cotton and wool to insulate their bodies, then they must use some of their potential “growth” energy to heat their bodies.  This same energy would be better utilized in further developing their brain, heart, liver, lungs and other organs.”
 And just think of a small baby with all of that body heat leaving them through their heads! I truly do attempt to live my life judge-free of others and often strive to give others the 'benefit of the doubt', but I have to admit to cringing a bit when I see small children and babies being brought into air-conditioned stores or out in breezy, cool weather with little more that a romper on and a bare head.

Of course I just had to share a few photos of Cecelia this spring in some of her many hats. We have wool, cotton, wool-silk and some blends for her to enjoy. Seeing her in these hats makes me feel warm inside knowing that her sense of warmth is being protected.






Tuesday, June 10, 2014

smothered by praise

Last fall for our artist study, we enjoyed the six paintings of Pierre-Auguste Renoir. They were lovely and hung happily on our 'schoolroom' wall for the term along with one of my most favorite quotes from the artist that had to do with the idea that the only real reward for work is the work itself.

Our beloved Charlotte Mason held a similar belief and felt that children should be motivated by a naturally preserved curiosity and a love for learning rather than rewards and grades. She knew then what many modern researchers are now just discovering- that external motivators affect only the exterior, the short-term. To put it bluntly, rewards simply don't work.

This article, Five Reasons to Stop Saying "Good Job!", only confirms what so many others have already discovered. It was with mixed emotions that I read this, feeling simultaneously convicted and confirmed in my own behaviors and tendencies towards praising my children.

The author asks the reader to stop, look and listen and to notice how often we hear the words "good job" spoken from parent to child at almost every turn. I did just that and not only did I sit up and notice how often others around me are blurting out these words (almost unconciously, or as what the author refers to as a 'verbal tic'), but also how often I was turning this phrase in my own home.

I have become more mindful over the years of attempting to hold the space in my home with my presence and gestures and modeling of behaviors instead of issuing commands, praising, and talking, talking, talking at my children. This has been life-changing.


We have been in certain educational settings where children have been rewarded with candy and the like for memorizing facts, Scripture and for simply sitting still. It has never sat well with me and I can honestly say that we do not use these methods in our own homeschool and family life.

Perhaps because I have become so closely knitted to Charlotte Mason's methods of education that I knew better. Perhaps because I grew up in similar environments and it has left me sour towards such behaviors. Or maybe simply because my motherly instinct have told me otherwise.

Nevertheless, the article is worth the read, especially for those with small children. It seems to be that it is with these littlest of littles that we smother the most praise.


Saturday, June 07, 2014

fairy houses

My favorite month, June, is upon us. My love for June has very little to do with that fact that it is my birthday month, and everything to do with what's happening out-of-doors. A quite reliable warmth begins to take over, the sunshine seems to beam just a bit stronger, the sounds of birds and children alike seem to echo in a new way and everywhere I look, flowers, trees and gardens are in bloom.

Since my two little ones, Luca who has just turned four and Cecelia who is six months old, are participants in the seven o'clock bedtime, there is a little time to exhale between dinner and bedtime. Lately, we have been enjoying that sweet morsel of time outside in our backyard.

The scene goes something like this- me laying out a soft, old quilt for baby to roll and play on, Luca filling pail-after-pail of water to mix with our garden dirt to make mud and dip his feet in, peaceful birds landing (and just as quickly flying away from) our fence, and the sun casting a warm shade of golden light onto 'our spot'.

And oh, there are fairy houses. Each night a new one is built. It doesn't take much in the way of materials for Luca to fashion a house to his liking- dried bark from the woodpile, grass clippings, a bit of clover and a golden dandelion for detail. He things they are fancy. He feels proud as he builds them, steps back, and then admires his handiwork. I sit quietly and smile. No praising, just happiness at my little boy's innocence and contentedness in the simple things.


Years ago, my older pair started building fairy houses. I am certain there are books (how-to perhaps) on the details of these magical little dwellings. We never needed them. We simply followed the rule- one can use anything to build the house that is of natural material.

It had been so long since we've been in the fairy house building stage that I had nearly forgotten about them. I'm so pleased that Luca has brought me back to that enchanted period of motherhood again.




Wednesday, February 05, 2014

An Educational Manifesto

We resumed our homeschooling just after the start of the new year after a l-e-n-g-t-h-y break celebrating the birth of our new baby (beautiful baby photos to follow soon!), Nativity and all of the wonderful, warmth that the holidays bring. It has been very humbling, to say the least, to start back with less planning, less time, less energy and less (this one is tough) patience that I had previously had before the enormous and joyful task of caring for a newborn whilst looking after the physical and academic needs of my other four children.

However, I can honestly say that I'm not facing defeat or discouragement as I continue the task of home education. I truly feel hopeful each morning as I wake up knowing that providing a Charlotte Mason education for my children is not about preparing a perfect environment, cramming lessons, completing workbook pages or equipping my children with arbitrary facts so they can take an exam or preparing lectures to 'teach' them what they must know. CM is about educating the whole child and training the habit of attention. Above all, it is about helping them learn to choose what is right, true and just in this world and help them discover who they are in Christ.

I'm pleased to say that I have continued with my 'Mother Culture' over the last two months since our new baby arrived and have found bits of time to read and study Charlotte Mason's principles and many other wonderful, enriching things that I wish to share with my children (more to posts to follow on this topic!).

In reading one of my new, beloved books based on Charlotte Mason's Principles- When Children Love to Learn- I was reminded to read (or re-read) Charlotte Mason's An Educational Manifesto found in School Education on page 214.

Miss Mason believed that "studies serve for delight, for ornament and for ability" and that every child has a right to a broad, widely varied curriculum including living books and real things to nourish the soul on. She called these living books "mind stuff" or "mind food". Just as one pays careful attention to nourishing their child's body with proper food and rest, we should be equally aroused to the much quieter, but as important, needs of their minds and souls to be provided with excellent nourishment.

I will reprint An Educational Manifesto here and also provide a link to CM's School Education so more can be read if desired.

An Educational Manifesto

"Studies serve for Delight, for Ornament, and for Ability."

Every child has a right of entry to several fields of knowledge.
Every normal child has an appetite for such knowledge.
This appetite or desire for knowledge is a sufficient stimulus for all school work, if the knowledge be fitly given.

There are four means of destroying the desire for knowledge:––
(a) Too many oral lessons, which offer knowledge in a diluted form, and do not leave the child free to deal with it.
(b) Lectures, for which the teacher collects, arranges, and illustrates matter from various sources; these often offer knowledge in too condensed and ready prepared a form.
(c) Text-books compressed and recompressed from the big book of the big man.
(d) The use of emulation and ambition as incentives to learning in place of the adequate desire for, and delight in, knowledge.

Children can be most fitly educated on Things and Books. Things, e.g.––
i. Natural obstacles for physical contention, climbing, swimming, walking, etc.
ii. Material to work in––wood, leather, clay, etc.
iii. Natural objects in situ––birds, plants, streams, stones, etc,
iv. Objects of art.
v. Scientific apparatus, etc.


The value of this education by Things is receiving wide recognition, but intellectual education to be derived from Books is still for the most part to seek.
Every scholar of six years old and upwards should study with 'delight' his own, living, books on every subject in a pretty wide curriculum. children between six and eight must for the most part have their books read to them.
This plan has been tried with happy results for the last twelve years in many home schoolrooms, and some other schools.
By means of the free use of books the mechanical difficulties of education––reading, spelling, composition, etc.––disappear, and studies prove themselves to be 'for delight, for ornament, and for ability.'
There is reason to believe that these principles are workable in all schools, Elementary and Secondary; that they tend in the working to simplification, economy, and discipline.

Friday, August 30, 2013

summer chairs

My 'secret' project is complete. It's only taken me a full year to complete. The better part of that year was spent thinking about what I wanted to do with these vintage patio chairs and planning how I was going to get the job done. The actual work itself only took days to complete. I guess you could say I had trouble getting to the real project. No regrets though. I am exquisitely satisfied with my pair of chairs.

My Nana gave me these chairs last spring. I have always been quite infatuated with and drawn to anything vintage. Beautiful and useful items in life seem to be my thing, and these chairs certainly fit that description.

I knew all along the color I wanted for these chairs. And I knew I wanted the arms to be painted white, in contrast to the vibrant robin's egg blue of the seat. In the end, the project beyond surpassed my expectations. These chairs scream summer! They beg to be sat in, whether in the shade or sun, preferably with a nice iced tea in hand! They are perfect in my book!









Thursday, August 29, 2013

leftovers

I was reminded this morning as I sleepily started my pot of oatmeal how simply delicious these leftover oatmeal muffins are. I was prompted to add that extra 1/2 cup of rolled oats to my pot, an effortless first step towards preparing a mid-morning snack for my children, as I remembered this recipe.

I cannot take credit for these. The recipe was posted on SouleMama last spring and I am just getting to copying it to my recipe card today.

I baked one dozen this morning while the breakfast dishes were being cleared, and had a little batter to spare to make a few of these 'baby muffins'!






Wednesday, August 21, 2013

so much kale

Our little garden beds have been overflowing with kale for months now. It is pretty much no credit to myself. I have done nothing special or secret, but have simply planted my tiny little heirloom seeds in soil and watched them GROW!

I have preserved a bunch of kale by blanching, chopping and freezing it. This has been so simple and I  know I'll thank myself this fall and winter when I'm dreaming about dinner plans and craving our favorite sausage, kale and potato soup (yes, with lots of cream and spices too!).

But today I took a different approach to putting by our kale... kale chips.

I used this recipe, but there are dozens out there, and it all came together so very easily.

Kale, coconut oil, sea salt and a hot oven. Pretty basic and I even got to use my hands to mix it all together (a true mark of a tasty meal!).

From the garden.



To the mixing bowl.


 Drizzled with coconut oil. Sprinkled with sea salt.



To the baking sheet (I filled three large baking sheets this morning... for now!).


To the bowl.


That simple.