A stream of consciousness from a few Charlotte Mason homeschoolers in California.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

The flip side of habit training

Our youngest son is now four and as I revisit Charlotte Mason's ideas on habit training, or maybe some collectively gathered ideas on training and educating, I've come to realize the importance of the flip side of habit training - the side that maybe we don't consider often enough.

I think for the most part, we think of habit training along the lines of our homeschooling pursuits. Things like obeying mommy, being quiet while reading, no drawing or ripping books, no bickering, no whining or fussing, no touching breakables, sitting still, etc.. And then there are the intellectual habits - living books and no twaddle, an ear for classical music, accurate observation in nature, etc.

These are really important habits when you're a homeschooling mom. Without some of them, chaos ensues affecting everything and everyone. It is good for us to take the time to train our children in right behavior and to make it a priority in the early years, as it most certainly does make way for smooth and easy days down the road. What is equally important, and sometimes, I think,  neglected, is the flip side of habit training - treating them as a person. 

Let me explain.

So many of the struggles around the very early years come from a little person, who is quite stumbly and uncoordinated, who wants to do what everyone else is doing and have what everyone else has..

They want the knife, the big boy bike, the sharp stick, the glass, the toy. They want to climb the rock, walk the ledge, close the door themselves, run across the busy street, help cook next to a burning stove, open the fridge and fetch themselves a drink, plug the vacuum in the socket, etc.

They are already 'persons' these little people. They may not have the coordination, but the desire to know and understand, and the ability to think and process as they send their little tendrils out into the curious world is already fiercely within them. As their parent, we are presented daily with fearful and wonderful opportunities to guide them in those "first-born affinities" that fit their newborn existence to existing things, as penned by Ruskin in The Prelude, which Charlotte Mason quotes so often.

What I often see are mothers, who, from sheer frustration in handling the child's daily desires and curiosities, arrive at the end of their rope resorting to bribes like candy, a new toy, play with my cell phone/ipad, watch TV, or anything else that will buy just. a. few. minutes. of. peace. I completely sympathize. I can assure you with four kids I've had my share of days.

But what if we stop for a moment and try to consider the child, even the six-month-old, the one-year-old, the two-year-old, as a person, as CM says?

Next time, when the child whines or fusses, stop and ask yourself, before jumping to exasperation - What is all this fussing about? What is it they want and are unable to do?

Ask them, "What do you want?" "Stop your fussing and talk to me in your regular voice. Tell me what you want." And then listen.

Some things, obviously, are out of the question. And sometimes they really do need discipline, but sometimes there's a little person with a valid desire that may be easier to accommodate than we may think.

They want to get into the drawer for a spoon?
You: "No! Get out of the drawer, I'll get it for you!"
Child: "Whaaaaaaaaa! Fuss, fuss, fuss." 
OR, what if instead we tell them to stop fussing and ask for what they want nicely and then bring them a step stool and show them how to open the drawer safely? What if we set aside a spot for their special utensils and show them where that is and how to get them? "This side is yours, this side is no touch." What if we took the time to teach them how to avoid getting their fingers pinched when closing the drawer?

They want to get into the fridge? "No! Get out of the fridge! Dinner is in ten minutes!"
Child: "Whaaaaaaaaa! Fuss, fuss, fuss." 
OR, what if instead we put something on the bottom rack of the fridge, accessible for them to drink or snack on, like a cold sippy cup of water and some carrots?

They want to cut vegetables like mommy with a knife? "No! It's too sharp!"
Child: "Whaaaaaaaaa! Fuss, fuss, fuss."
OR, what if we set up a step stool, a cutting board next to ours, and a blunt cheese knife with some cheese for the child to "cut"? Or have them wash the vegetables for us in the sink or even in a bowl of water on a towel on the floor?

They want to walk the dog?
Mommy: "No! The dog is too big, he will pull you!"
Child: "Whaaaaaaaaa! Fuss, fuss, fuss."
OR, what if instead we hold the leash and they can hold the loose end of it? Or maybe tie another string to the leash for the child to hold?

They want to play with their siblings in the middle of a Monopoly game. "No! You mess everything up!"
Child: "Whaaaaaaaaa! Fuss, fuss, fuss." 
OR, what if instead we let them roll the dice for us every turn and pull a card when needed, or pass money from the bank to the players?

They want to get wet in the mud or shallow creek?
Mommy: "No! It's too messy!"
Child: "Whaaaaaaaaa! Fuss, fuss, fuss."
OR, what if instead we let them and bring a garbage bag, a hand towel, and a change of clothes?

They stopped in the way and want you to look at a bug in the street.
Mommy: "No! Let's go, we're late!!"
Child: "Whaaaaaaaaa! Fuss, fuss, fuss."
OR, what if instead we take one minute to stop and look and wonder with them at the crack in the sidewalk? 

These are just examples, but you get the idea.

Speaking about the qualities proper to a ruler, Charlotte Mason, in Vol. 3, p.18, says of Queen Elizabeth:
Her adroitness in getting over many a dangerous crisis has been much praised by historians; but, possibly, this saving grace was not adroitness so much as the tact born of qualities proper to all who are set in authority––the meekness of one who has been given an appointed work, the readiness to take counsel with herself and with others, the perception that she herself was not the be-all and the end-all of her functions as a queen, but that she existed for her people, and the quick and tender open-minded sympathy which enabled her to see their side of every question as well as her own––indeed, in preference to her own. These are the qualities proper to every ruler of a household, a school, or a kingdom.
To expect a child of young age to always simply obey while shutting out any and all opportunities to grow and learn is downright dehumanizing. And we don't have to look far to realize it is a symptom of our society that says children don't belong in the real world, they are incapable of doing real things and are merely to be tolerated and set in front of a TV or an ipad.

Don't buy in to it. Electronics can never truly substitute for the kind of learning a young child of this age needs any more than a stuffed animal can substitute for a real pet dog. And they are capable of so much more than we give them credit for. They are persons.

When we treat them as persons and reasonably help them instead of always shutting them down, frustration is lessened and we find our relationship in a better place to then work on those important habits. Treating them as persons from the beginning also helps pave the way for habits of attention, curiosity, and self-education that will aid them in their CM education. They are encouraged to wonder, try, investigate, and think. What a difference from the child who is continually told "No" except when the parent initiates an activity.

As a person, even a little person, we want to be treated as valid and valuable. We want to touch things, know things, try things, experience things, and be seen as an important part of the family, not just a nuisance. The young child wants to grow in independence. If we take just a moment to consider them as a person rather than always throwing out a knee jerk "No!" we may be surprised at what joy and discovery ensues between you and your little person.

Come Out with Me 
by A.A. Milne

There's sun on the river and sun on the hill...
You can hear the sea if you stand quite still!
There's eight new puppies at Roundabout Farm-
And I saw an old sailor with only one arm!

But everyone says, "Run along!"
(Run along, run along!)
All of them say, "Run along! I'm busy as can be."
Every one says, "Run along,
There's a little darling!"
If I'm a little darling, why won't them come and see?
There's wind on the river and wind on the hill...
There's a dark dead water-wheel under the mill!
I saw a fly which had just been drowned-
And I know where a rabbit goes into the ground!

But everyone says, "Run along!"
(Run along, run along!)
All of them say, "Yes, dear," and never notice me.
Every one says, "Run along,
There's a little darling!"
If I'm a little darling, why won't them come and see?

Saturday, June 20, 2015

First AmblesideOnline Conference in 10 Years

Did you know? AmblesideOnline is having a conference next month, July 24-25 in Remington, IN!

Someone once said wisdom comes from two places - our mistakes, and the mistakes of others. Wouldn't it be nice to save years of making our own mistakes by learning from others who have walked further down this path who can steer us clear of the pitfalls and guide us to the scenic places we might otherwise miss?

Well here's your chance. Speaking at this conference are homeschooling moms who have been reading, studying, and applying Charlotte Mason homeschooling in their own homes for 20+ years. These are not women who have book knowledge alone, they have experience and wisdom and much encouragement and insight to share with you!

Space is limited to only 100 attendees for this year's retreat so don't wait!



* Why our view of the child matters, how Charlotte Mason saw the child, and how that view lays a foundation for successfully educating them. Karen Glass - Advisory Member, missionary in Poland, and author of "Consider This: Charlotte Mason in the Classical Tradition" - shares from her experience as a homeschooling mom of over twenty years and avid researcher of educational philosophy.

* What is the heart and soul of AmblesideOnline: the people and the story behind the designing of the AO curriculum, the purpose and vision behind it, and ongoing encouragement for the parent/teacher who is taking this journey with us. Donna-Jean Breckenridge (Bible College graduate and 25 years homeschooling mom) and Lynn Bruce (Graduate of Education/Special Ed and homeschooling mom of 21 years), Advisory members both, will each share their unique perspectives from homeschooling AO through various trials and joys.

How a CM education is ideal for both college bound students and for students with other vocations, presented by Advisory member Wendi Capehart and her daughter Nicole. Wendi is the mother of seven children, grandmother of quite-a-lot, and has been homeschooling for 27 years. Nicole is a second generation homeschooling mom to 3 lively children under 4 with the 4th due in September.

 * What AO's new science changes bring to your homeschool. Jeanne Webb, Auxiliary member coming all the way from Australia, and Kathy Wickward lead AO's Science team.

* How CM language arts integrates to create the literate child, from pre-reading through high school writing. Auxiliary member Lani Siciliano of Connecticut, homeschool mother of 6, has children working in a variety of language arts levels.

* How to use CM's reading method to teach your child to read. Auxiliary member Amy Tuttle (missionary in Peru) has blogged extensively about how she teaches reading.

* How (and why!) to teach foreign language. Auxiliary member Phyllis Hunsucker, missionary in Ukraine, has a bilingual home.

* Why preschool and kindergarten shouldn't look like school. Auxiliary member Kathy Livingston of Texas will be accompanied by her current Year 0 child, her 21-month old.

* How to get a head start on next year's composer study. Megan Hoyt, a classical music lover from childhood, recently authored "Hildegard's Gift."

* All that, plus: ∙ Breakout sessions on Living Books (Auxiliary member Melisa Hills), Swedish Drill (AO forum moderator Dawn Duran), and Scheduling (AO forum moderator Christy Hissong) - the CM way

* Special Q&A session with the Advisory and Auxiliary (Including Advisory member and Canadian blogger Anne White)

* AmblesideOnline merchandise - pick up a coffee mug or totebag imprinted with the latest AO logo!

∙ and much, much more!

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Spring Handicraft Fair 2015

Years ago during a planning meeting for our old nature group, one mom talked about her reading about growing pumpkins for a county fair in Farmer Boy and one thing led to another and the result was a Handicraft Fair where our kids could bring the things they make during the year and display and sell them.

For four years since that meeting, local CM groups and individual families have participated in these biannual Handicraft Fairs by coming together at a large park and setting out their creations. It's become an exciting event for many and a wonderful coming together of the larger community.

It can also be challenging to get it all together in time and work with the kids to help them through the ups and downs of planning, creating, preparing, setting up, etc. My daughter forgot one of the things she spent a lot of time working on this year and that was a sad moment of realization. So it is also a learning experience for each family through their experiences with it.

You can browse posts from previous fairs here:





And here are the pictures from this past week's fair:

Delicious Almond Butter

They really work!

Lovely paintings ;)

My favorite booth at the fair - Yum!
Someone brought Free Cotton Candy run on a generator! A+ on the report card this year for this family :)

Boys organizing sparring matches with their newly purchased wooden swords.

Littles watching the mock battle about to start that ensued shortly after the sparring matches.

Girls doting on a friend's baby girl

Girls now putting their handmade headband on baby girl :)

Friday, May 1, 2015

Scaffolding Towers of Glory and Excellence

I read this article today and it struck a chord that has been ringing at me for some time now. It's not anything unique to the CM community, it happens wherever humans are, because we are just that. But the nature of CM homeschooling really seems to scaffold this tower of glory and excellence in a way that draws us well-intentioned moms to often stumble at its feet.

In our pursuit of the very best education for our children - what mother doesn't want that?! - we read the CM's series, books, articles, blogs, attend meetings, conferences, follow CMers on Facebook, see their perfect lives on Instagram, their creations on Pinterest, Join groups, forums - to learn it all, do it all, keep up on all.

We trek out for nature study, research the BOC, institute the common place book, and wonder about mnemonics knowing we haven't even scratched the scratch of the scratch in notebooking. Throw in science journal, composer study, music lessons, art, and don't forget Swedish Drill, handicrafts, math, and the list goes on and on. Every corner you turn presents hours of reading and researching, because there is just so much and so little out there, and of course trying to access the one bit of information that is going to answer your question in the CM archives... won't open! on your computer because of some browser extension pdf glitch.

Add to that every reading must be narrated, audiobooks are a crutch, and we must be done early enough so their afternoons are free. You turn back to CM for encouragement only to find her referencing "perfect" execution, "perfect" exams, and "perfect" narration. And just when you begin to wonder if any human can possibly learn, implement, and achieve all of this with as many kids as you have, we find they do, with double the number of kids - completely, simply, no problem, hands tied behind their backs - PLUS blog, facebook, keep up on latest news, make and drop off meals, run their church's sunday school program, speak at conferences, write books, and brew their own kombucha.

Can we ever get anywhere near the tower of glory? It seems to have no end. Will we ever be good enough? have time enough? be mom enough?

For the children's sake? ...for our sake?

Is it any wonder we see women, friends fall by the wayside - given up, too hard, not smart enough, not good enough, unmet expectations, discouraged, exhausted, shame, depression...

In the article, Michael Lawrence says this about people filled with shame...
They’re hiding, hoping that others won’t see them. They might hide in reclusiveness, but are just as likely to hide in perfectionism, success, activism, or even brazenness. But like Adam and Eve, who after the fall tried to hide their shame with fig leaves (Gen. 3:7), our strategies don’t work because the shame remains. No matter how well we cover it, we know it’s still there.
In Ourselves CM talks about our soul...
What is there that baffles the understanding of a man, or that is out of the range of his thoughts, the reach of his aspirations? He is, it is true, baffled on all hands by his ignorance, the illimitable ignorance of the wisest: but ignorance is not incapacity; and the wings of a man's Soul beat with impatience against the bars of this ignorance; he would out, out, into the universe of infinite thought and infinite possibilities. How is the Soul of a man to be satisfied?
What is it that baffles the understanding of us CM moms, or that is out of the range of our thoughts, the reach of our aspirations?

The theme of Augustine's life...

You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless, until they can find rest in you.
Only the sweet balm of truth can set us free to truly find peace in this CM journey and in life...
Where, but in our God, the Maker of heaven and earth, shall we find the key to all knowledge? Where, but in Him, whose is the power, the secret of dominion? And, our search and demand for goodness and beauty baffled here, disappointed there––it is only in our God we find the whole. The Soul is for God, and God is for the Soul, as light is for the eye, and the eye is for light.
Good news ladies - "Christ removes our shame and gives us His righteousness."

It is done.
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. ~Gal. 5:1
First, we need to be communities where the gospel is preached.
Even CM communities.

Set the tower aside, start where you are, do your best to learn what you can, implement what you can, seek truth, knowledge, wisdom, good counsel, and trust that CM is for you, and me, and your kids, and for the wise, and unwise, the smart and the ignorant, the capable and the not-so capable.
It may be that the souls of all children are waiting for the call of knowledge to awaken them to delightful living.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Hidden Even to Ourselves (CM Vanity)

Note: This post was originally published on August 26, 2011 and is being re-posted - because I think we can all afford to hear it again and again. And because I haven't blogged in a very, very long time...
I resolved in my future conduct to redeem the past; and I can say with honesty that my resolve was fruitful of some good. You know how earnestly, in the last months of the last year, I labored to relieve suffering; you know that much was done for others.... [But as] I smiled, comparing myself with other men, comparing my active goodwill with the lazy cruelty of their neglect... at the very moment of that vain-glorious thought, a qualm came over me, a horrid nausea and the most dreadful shuddering.... I looked down.... I was once more Edward Hyde.
~Robert Louis Stevenson,
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Robert Louis Stevenson, John Singer Sargent

Timothy Keller quotes this excerpt in Chapter 11 of his book The Reason For God. And I find it one worth pondering.

Charlotte Mason homeschooling has such high ideals; ideals I embrace so passionately that I blog about it, read about it, meet monthly to talk about it, etc. The words she wrote over one hundred years ago have set our feet in a very large and beautiful room indeed.

And then sometimes... when I come across others, I find I turn my chin up a little, comparing my curriculum with theirs, comparing my active care in educating my children with their drop-and-go style...

and then I get up on my pedestal and I feel oh so good about myself...

...and then all of a sudden, I see the truth and feel utterly disgusted, ashamed.

Keller writes:
Edward Hyde is so named not just because he is hideous but because he is hidden. He thinks solely of his own desires; he doesn't care in the slightest who he hurts in order to gratify himself. He kills if someone gets in his way. Stevenson is saying that even the best of people hide from themselves what is within - an enormous capacity for egotism, self-absorption, and regard for your own interests over those of all others.

Hideous and hidden - even to himself.

Sin and evil are self-centeredness and pride that lead to oppression against others, but there are two forms of this. One form is being very bad and breaking all the rules, and the other form is being very good and keeping all the rules and becoming self-righteous.

If we do it all so amazingly well and our children turn out so wonderfully fantastic, then we will be so very, very good.

This is a deadly turn of events. For the first time Jekyll becomes Hyde involuntarily, without the potion, and this is the beginning of the end. Unable to control his transformations any longer, Jekyll kills himself. ... Why would Jekyll become Hyde without the potion? Like so many people, Jekyll knows he is a sinner, so he tries desperately to cover his sin with great piles of good works. Yet his efforts do not actually shrivel his pride and self-centeredness, they only aggravate it. They lead him to superiority, self-righteousness, pride and suddenly - look! Jekyll becomes Hyde, not in spite of his goodness, but because of his goodness.

The loveliness we think we see is often ugliness of the worst sort. I wonder how many may have seen the ugliness of Charlotte Mason Homeschoolers?

Women who have to work and cannot stay home with their children? Women who submit to pressure from family to send their kids to school? Women who lack the confidence to homeschool? Women who are unable to manage it all? Women who go through a secular Charter School? Women who blend Charlotte Mason with other methods? Women with special needs children? Women on Instagram... Facebook... Blogs... Forums?

What is ugliest of all is that it is only by the grace of God that any of us have come to know about Charlotte Mason's philosophy and methods, and yet it is His very goodness we set aside and forget, in order that we can step up to glory.

Hideous and hidden.

Charlotte herself, said this about 'her' methods:
One discovers a thing because it is there, and no sane person takes credit to himself for such discovery. On the contrary, he recognizes with King Arthur,––"These jewels, whereupon I chanced Divinely, are for public use."
And I believe this sound view of hers came from her clarity on the gospel truth.

Keller goes on in his chapter to describe this truth for us:
The Christian gospel is that I am so flawed that Jesus had to die for me, yet I am so loved and valued that Jesus was glad to die for me. This leads to deep humility and deep confidence at the same time. It undermines both swaggering and sniveling. I cannot feel superior to anyone, and yet I have nothing to prove to anyone. I do not think more of myself nor less of myself. Instead, I think of myself less.
There is beauty in truth and it is here that we will find it.