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


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.

Sunday, August 04, 2013

need for more 'Mother Culture'?

Believe it or not, I've not really had a vacation from home schooling this summer. I have spent time each day diligently and deliberately planning the upcoming school year for my three school-aged children. It is something that brings me delight and putting together a well-intentioned plan inspired by the educational philosophies of Charlotte Mason is something that I view as a privilege.

And while planing my children's education and choosing how I will nourish their minds and souls, I have not forgotten (the most important part of homeschooling and mothering) to nourish myself as well.

Part of the Charlotte Mason method is something she referred to as Mother Culture, which is simply a habit which the mother-teacher puts into practice to ensure that her own mind and soul are being well nourished and kept to the best of their abilities.

Now this is not what the 'modern woman' might perceive it to be. It is not simply indulging in time spent away from one's children and spouse to splurge on something that may add a moment of pleasure's to one's day nor is Mother Culture simply a 'night out' to temporarily strip away the responsibilities that being a wife and mother bring with it. No.

It is instead quite the opposite. It is an embracing of one's current reality, that of being a wife and mother and teacher, and relishing in the sheer delight that one is participating in the highest calling on earth. And yes, it truly is the highest calling!

And just how can one mother who is pressed for time, scant on physical energy and often sapped of mental powers by the end of the day carve out time to feed her mind and soul? Well, books of course! Anyone who knows Miss Mason's work knows how highly she regarded good books (living books, real books, quality literature). She referred to them as food for the mind and even extraviganly compared offering a wide variety of living books to one's child as 'spreading the feast' before them.

Here are Charlotte's own words on Mother Culture:

"There is no sadder sight in life than a mother, who has so used herself up in her children's childhood, that she has nothing to give them in their youth. When babyhood is over and school begins, how often children take to proving that their mother is wrong. Do you as often see a child proving to its father that he is wrong? I think not. For the father is growing far more often than the mother. He is gaining experience year by year, but she is standing still. Then, when her children come to that most difficult time between childhood and full development she is nonplussed; and, though she may do much for her children, she cannot do all she might, if she, as they, were growing!...
Is there not some need for 'mother culture'? But how is the state of things to be altered? So many mothers say, 'I simply have no time for myself!' 'I never read a book!' Or else, 'I don't think it is right to think of myself!' They not only starve their minds, but they do it deliberately, and with a sense of self-sacrifice which seems to supply ample justification.

Mother must have time to herself. And we must not say 'I cannot.' Can any of us say till we have tried, not for one week, but for one whole year, day after day, that we 'cannot' get one half-hour out of the twenty-four for 'Mother Culture?'--one half-hour in which we can read, think, or 'remember.'

The habit of reading is so easily lost; not so much, perhaps, the power of enjoying books as the actual power of reading at all. It is incredible how, after not being able to use the eyes for a time, the habit of reading fast has to be painfully regained...

The wisest woman I ever knew--the best wife, the best mother, the best mistress, the best friend--told me once, when I asked her how, with her weak health and many calls upon her time, she managed to read so much, 'I always keep three books going--a stiff book, a moderately easy book, and a novel, and I always take up the one I feel fit for!' That is the secret; always have something 'going' to grow by. If we mothers were all 'growing' there would be less going astray among our boys, less separation in mind from our girls...

A brisk walk will help. But, if we would do our best for our children, grow we must; and on our power of growth surely depends, not only our future happiness, but our future usefulness.

Is there, then, not need for more 'Mother Culture'?"  Volume III, no. 2 The Parents' Review

Thursday, August 01, 2013

hello august

August. Typically sweltering and steamy. The last bit of summer enjoyed. Beach days. Lots of cold desserts.

At least at this point, August has come in quite mildly and unseasonably cool. Last night, after sitting at the ball field for a few hours, my skin felt cool to the touch and I was wishing I had tucked a sweater into my bag.

Today. Baking banana bread for dear friends who just brought a new baby home. Listening to the sounds of four (my three boys, plus a friend) contentedly playing Legos in the cellar. Sneaking out to the garage to work on a (secret) project in small bursts when I find a few minutes to step away. Hearing the laundry spin, spin, spin- the constant whirring of laundry is familiar background noise in this home.

Also thinking about sacred days. A name day for Elias tomorrow. A twelfth birthday for Sophia next week. Planning and plotting small secrets and sweets.

Our garden has been generous with its radishes, lettuce, kale and basil and somewhat stingy (as history has shown in our garden) with its carrots and peppers. Looking at the gorgeous tomatoes emerging and growing brings me joy though. Heirloom pinks, red and purples. I can hardly wait.

In the meantime, I've been looking at these photos for days, planning to post them. They can simply be summed up by saying garden 'squirting' before bedtime!!

Monday, July 15, 2013

A Morning Full of Cherries

Last night as I prepared for bed, I set my mind on getting up early before the heat of the day set in to visit my favorite orchard for some berry picking. In a perfect world, my children and I would visit the orchard on a weekly basis and pick the fruits that would be enjoyed that week. There would be no need for the 'middle man' (the grocery store) and my kitchen would be a throwback to something out of the 1930s, complete with berry pies cooling on the windowsill, a perfect pantry whose shelves were lined with canned fruits and a cupboard full of sweet homemade jams.

In my current world however, picking fresh fruit every few weeks is the ideal. This summer to date, we have enjoyed picking our way through a sticky sweet stawberry field in June and today we were blessed to have the opportunity to bask in the glory of the 'final pick' of cherries for the season.

Since my middle boys are enjoying some time with there grandparents up north this week, I am 'traveling light' with my bookends, Sophia and Luca, over the next few days. Despite nearly a decade separating these two children, both were cheerful and eager to venture out in the heat of the early day to help their determined and energetic mother pick cherries.

We were given advice from the farmer tending this particular orchard on where to find the trees with with the most abundant fruit and even invited to 'sample' the different varieties of cherries! It seemed we were the only harvesters in the orchard and we reveled in the solitude and privacy of this sweet, rosy world.

In the end we left the fragrant orchard with over six pounds of luscious Bing and Ranier cherries. I secretly felt guilty for having left with the last of the cherries for the summer from this peaceful, fertile little hill, but it didn't stop me from enjoying hand fulls along the ride home.