Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Near the Dark Side by Karen Andreola


Near the Dark Side
Advice for Junior High and High School

It was some years back. We were browsing the isles of a large bookstore slowly making our way to the coffee-bar-café. I was thirsty and noticed a line of people forming at the counter. But at Dean’s words I stopped in an isle of paperbacks. “What do you think of these covers?” he asked me.

My eyes swept up and down the shelves. “They’re all so dark. . . and sensational,” I said and added a moment later, “Dreadfully dark . . . sleazy . . . bloody.” 

“Exactly,” he said, “and this isle is for teens.” 
“What? All these? Really?” I exclaimed. He nodded soberly. A little shiver went up my spine.
In this public place Dean’s face showed no emotion. But I knew the depth of disgust beneath his words. “These are the kinds of books marketed to children that are keeping publishers in business, evidently,” he told me. I felt sick. I probably showed it. But my husband is used to the embarrassment of being married to someone who unlike Elinor of Sense and Sensibility, has never learned self-control in regards to facial expression when agitated. I retained the same sickened-look while standing in line at the congested coffee bar. 

Young people learn more about the world (each waking hour it seems.) And they crave a bit of society. For our children this meant taking part in small circles for ministry and extracurricular activities. We invited people into our home, both young and old. Outside activities widened horizons in ways that were edifying to themselves, their friendships, and the local community.

Photo courtesy of William Russell Photos
The humanities widen horizons, too. Human thought expressed in (history, biography, novels, plays, poetry, music, film) drop the reader into a kind of society in very intimate ways. For the Christian parent book choices for teens may seem difficult. Why? A closer look at the realities of life, than in previous years, is observed. More sophisticated themes are introduced. If literature reflects the truths of life, how far should our steps take us into the dark side? 

It helps to place reading in three categories. 
 
WW Irish Soda Bread with raisins, dried cranberries, and caraway seeds
One – Our Daily Bread *1
Good Stuff is available for seekers and sifters. The home school world was the biggest help to us. Choosy parents look for the good stuff in well-written biography, historical fiction, novels, and film. What of novels? A novel that trains the conscience has virtue or beauty in it somewhere, or something redeeming in the conflict resolution. Good novels, Miss Charlotte Mason tells young people in Ourselves, are homilies to the wise. Their pages deserve close reading, no skipping or peeking at the end. She says,


“One must read to learn the meaning of life . . . The characters in the books we know become our mentors or our warnings, our instructors always. . . . It would be a foolish waste of time to give this sort of careful reading to a novel that has neither literary or moral worth, and therefore it is well to confine ourselves to the best – to novels that we can read over many times, each time with increased pleasure.” *2


Two – For the Discerning*3
The maturing student faces hard truths. In his reading he meets tragedy, sorrow, poverty, greed, and worldviews of nations that have led to the slaughter of countless innocent men, women and children. Christians are being martyred and always will be until Jesus returns triumphantly. But as I’ve written before we can accompany hard truths with hope. How? We include the helpers. The helpers are those who uplift society uncompromised by those among us who drag society down. Although secularists think themselves justified in hiding the faith of helpers, healers, and heroes, quite often, and with a little further investigation, we find that these people turn out to be Christians.

As children mature they learn to reason. They have built a solid foundation in the Word of God and so can detect fallacies and falsehoods.*4 Do we need to address every blasphemy? No. Rather, we help students to principles, which should enable them to discern.*5 For there is a third category of knowledge that is best placed at a distance.

Bird Watching in winter - Sophia's nature notebook 1999

Three – The Joseph Approach (a name Dean has given it)
This category often includes best sellers – the talk-of-the-town online in books and film – the big moneymakers. But if a celebration of sin explicitly darkens the page, we use the Joseph Approach. We flee. Jesus sent out his disciples as sheep among wolves. He warned them to be shrewd in recognizing evil but to remain as innocent as doves.*6 In the Old and New Testament we are given lists of sins that seriously displease God because they go against His law. To “get the drift” of evil and perversions we do not need the gruesome details. We mustn’t let our curiosity be entertained by them. Those in the military and law-enforcement (the rescuers and protectors) in some instances must step into the perversions and violence of the dark side, but we must not.
  

Recently Dean photographed a flock of black and white birds congregating around our neighbor’s icy pond. “Oh, these must be snow geese,” I said.
“How do you know? We’ve never seen them before.”
“Paul Gallico.” I said. I explained and added, “I thought I heard honking.” Soon after, I splurged and put Paul Gallico’s short story, The Snow Goose on my kindle. It's a 66-page-gem.

In the mid-20th century, people generally held the conservative opinion on reading. According to author and scriptwriter Paul Gallico, they did. He wrote the humorous Mrs. 'Arris Goes to Paris, which I read some years back. The Snow Goose was published in The Saturday Evening Post in 1941. It won the O. Henry Award. But a critic proclaimed it “the most sentimental story that ever has achieved the dignity of a Borzoi imprint.” How did Mr. Gallico respond? He said, 


“. . . in the contest between sentiment and slime, sentiment remains so far out in front, as it always has and always will among ordinary humans, that the calamity-howlers and p-rn merchants have to increase the decibels of their lamentations, the hideousness of their violence, and the mountainous piles of their filth to keep in the race at all.’" *7


If you are familiar with my writing you will be surprised to find such a strong statement here. But let the truth be told.

Spread Your Wings
We amassed such a collection of books during our years of home teaching that we were never without something good to read. Starting with delightful picture books children can develop good taste in reading. What happens when we are equipped with books in category one and two? We spread our wings. We have caught the impulse to live beyond self-satisfaction. We understand God’s love.*8  It is about serving God by serving others. It is about being one of the helpers. We sheep among wolves go about our business uplifting society. However lowly, unsung, or ordinary our part in it might be, we are on the Lord’s side. 





Post Script

Blog friend, Amy who lives in sunny Florida (nice!), finished her Lavender Strawberries. Of her large family of children she has one girl. Amy is always looking for sweet feminine activities to share with her growing daughter. Thank you for sending your photograph, Amy. May your daughter continue to enjoy a Beautiful Girlhood.


I like the photograph of the Amish taken by our friend, Mr. Bill Russell. Mr. Russell is a professional portrait photographer here in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and a very good one. To see more views of Lancaster County visit his website.

The Snow Goose by Paul Gallico is appropriate Good Stuff for junior high and high school. I enjoyed it for Mother Culture. It helps to know a little about England's efforts at Dunkirk during WWII.
End Notes
*1  Philippians 4:8
*2  Charlotte Mason, Ourselves, pgs 72,73
*3  Proverbs 8:12
*4  Proverbs 1
*5  Charlotte Mason, A Philosophy of Education, pg 148
*6  Mathew 10:16
*7  Wikipedia, Paul Gallico
*8  Romans 13:9-10
We worry about holes. But take heart. Education isn’t about filling inevitable holes. It’s about expanding horizons. See A Charlotte Mason Companion, chapter 4 & 5. 

Comments are invited,
Karen Andreola 

Monday, February 2, 2015

Free Cross Stitch Chart desgin by Karen Andreola

 Free Cross Stitch Chart

Needlework - the Joy of Accomplishment

What do you do indoors when Jack Frost is nipping at your door? You take advantage of the fireplace.


You keep your hands busy. One grandson asked be be taught how to knit. He has taken to it with gusto. His cat wants to get into the act.


And you read a book that warms the heart.

I asked Sophia (the mother of the above boys) what she remembers to be the most enjoyable book of her childhood. "Caddie Woodlawn," she said. Years ago all my children read it - silently - so I was out-of-the-loop. Recently, I picked it up. Immediately afterward I read its sequel. Now I know why Carol Ryrie Brink's writing is so well-loved and won a Newbery Award. It is so pleasant to read a story where you like the characters and the author obviously does, too. We can guess the source of this mutual affection. Caddie Woodlawn is the author's grandmother. The incidents are based on what Grandma remembered about her girlhood days in the Wisconsin of the 1860s. The stories are true.

Carol Ryrie Brink writes with uplifting humor. Each chapter is a mini story in itself -  is moving, adventurous or sweet - sure to chase away the winter blues - for girls, boys and adults. Christianity and patriotism crop up naturally here and there within the life of this American pioneer family.    

When a little girl, Caddie was sickly. Therefore instead of sitting indoors cutting out quilt squares, Father convinced Mother to let Caddie run wild with her brothers.She gets into all kinds of scrapes. It does make her stronger. But when she reaches age 12 Mother is afraid Caddie will soon be passed learning how to be lady-like altogether. In a bit of a huff Mother says to Father,

"When I was her age, I could make bread and jell and six kinds of cakes, including plum, not to mention all the samplers I had stitched which anyone may see if they care to look in my marriage chest."

Father believes that it will just be a matter-of-time and Caddie will adopt womanly manners. But by chapter 21 some direct words are called for. After Caddie pulls a prank, Father sits down with his daughter in private. He gives her a serious talking-to. But Father is a gentleman. His talk is beautifully stated and worth the price of the book. Caddie receives it well. She trusts her Father. "It is the sisters and wives and mothers . . . who keep the world sweet and beautiful," he tells her. "What a rough world it would be if there were only men and boys in it . . . " A page more of practical and inspiring words round out this gem of a speech on the strengths of womanhood. It brought a tear to my eye.    

Girlhood and Cross Stitch
I wonder if the samplers made by Caddie Woodlawn's mother were kept in the family. Or if Caddie herself ever settled down to stitching one. Samplers were first made for recording alphabets used for marking dainty linens. They were kept in a sewing basket for reference. As the 18th century progressed samplers became picturesque. Elaborate scenes were created below the alphabets.  The needlework was adorned by a border of flowers or strawberries. Watching the BBC 1995 TV Series, "Pride and Prejudice" I noticed, in one scene, patient Jane sitting with needle and thread sewing what looks to be a sampler. How do I know? A tell-tale border of strawberries edges the linen in her hands. 

Needlework in School
During the 18th century the education of daughters of the middle class was most often carried out at home with a mother or governess. Or if money could be spared, at a female academy or finishing school. Women who were unmarried set up a small school in town to earn a living. Sometimes the teachers were widowed ladies needing to provide for any children they might have. Newspaper advertisements from the 18th century exist showing the subjects taught in these schools. English, French, geography, arithmetic, writing, music, drawing, dancing, and needlework. *1

Green dogs? What was Ann thinking?

Within a decade or two after the American Revolution town schools (although with some opposition) were allowing girls. Besides studying their books girls did "regular stints . . . of knitting and sewing." This was plain sewing for the household. But they also did fancy sewing. Each girl made a decorative sampler which was expected to be a household treasure ever after.*2 Proud parents would frame the sampler and place it on the wall of the parlor.

Charlotte Mason Recommends Samplers
By the late 19th century, sampler-making was becoming less popular. Curriculum was changing. But it was given a mention by Charlotte Mason. Among the useful handicrafts, knitting and rug-hooking, etc. she recommends "samplers on coarse canvas showing a variety of stitches."*3 Today girls might start with Aida cloth.


My newest project is "Ann Anthony - 1786" - (below). The original is in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. All I can show you is my slow but steady progress at the top. It is a challenge in size and detail. The strange threads you see along the top, etc. are my way of marking off the tens. Among the alphabets, birds, and flowers, there is (not shown here) a blue house to be stitched soon and what appears to be a large family dressed in period clothing. The little girl holding the hand of a big sister might be Ann herself. Here's a good tip for stitching large areas. Count alertly. Outline accurately. Then fill in comfortably.

Moral Verse
Quite often a moral verse was stitched into a sampler. Stitching helped to hide virtues in the heart. Needlework was not only a skill but a reminder of Christian humility, reference, and good works. What I am showing of the antique blueberry-raspberry sampler - 1847 - (with the green dogs), are from a reproduction that I finished - by a different Ann. I changed the verse to one that is more meaningful to me than the one charted - "The Old Rugged Cross" (above)

Ann Anthony - 1786 stitched lavender strawberry buds in her border. The bird is waiting for lavender silk thread.

Here is a verse stitched into the antique sampler of Martha Perry in 1800.

Are not the sparrows fed by thee,
And wilt though clothe the lilies and not me.
Begone distrust! I shall have clothes and bread,
While lilies flourish and birds are fed.*4

I'm taking my time with "Anne Anthony - 1786." I'm in no rush. I mustn't be. That isn't the way a sampler is created. For Ann it went slowly, too. It took a year to complete most likely. She worked on it dutifully, probably before she would be allowed to play. But the hours she worked on it couldn't have been all grim. The months it took to complete produced the satisfaction of work well done - the joy of accomplishment that is earned by self-discipline.

Free Cross Stitch Chart

A Mini Cross Stitch
Free Cross Stitch Chart I like small projects, too and in hopes of encouraging beginners I designed one for my blog friends and their daughters - "A Bleeding Heart Spring."






Free Chart

Click to download: 
A Bleeding Heart Spring.pdf
I include instructions (scroll below) for beginners.







One of my first - Aida cloth - with glass beads
End Notes

*1. Rebecca Scott, Samplers, Shire Pubs. pgs 43, 44, 45. (I enjoyed reading this well-written history of needlwork in England.)
*2. Clifton Johnson, Old Time Schools and Schoolbooks, pgs 141,142
*3. Charlotte Mason, Home Education, pg 315. (Her word "sampler" popped out at me as you may imagine.)
*4. Patricia Ryan & Allen D. Bragdon, Historic Samplers, Little Brown, pg 160
Caddie Woodlawn was written in 1935. (for grade 5 - up). After receiving so many letters from children urging her to write another book about Caddie, Carol Ryrie Brink finally did - ten years hence - Caddie Woodlawn's Family - formally Magical Melons



Happy Stitching,
Karen Andreola

Stitching in the sunny parlor.

Instructions
Four holes on Aida cloth will accommodate one cross. No hoop is needed if stitched gently while snugly. DMC floss has 6 strands. Separate the strands to use two in a size 24 tapestry needle.
Start with a 5-inch square (at least or larger) of 14-ct Aida. I used linen. My picture is less than 4 inches square. You can start with the flower a couples inches from the top of your cloth. Outline and fill-in. I started with the rabbits while I worked out the design. Use any color floss you like or those I listed on the chart.

Pincushion
Trace a 4-inch square around your finished picture. Sew a quarter-inch seam, leaving an opening for stuffing. Under my linen I used a fabric interfacing but Aida will not need this. Choose calico for the bottom. Stuff pincushion densely. Lace at the seam is optional. One of the Christmas gifts I received was tied in bright red chenille rick-rack. Wanting to use this darling stuff up is what gave me the idea to make my pincushion and up-the-brightness of the thread color of the bleeding heart to match it.    


Saturday, January 17, 2015

Her Freshest Brightest Hours by Karen Andreola


Her Freshest, Brightest Hours

Painting by Carlton Alfred Smith 1853-1946
It's freezing. But my hands are warm. They normally wouldn't be in January, in the chilly attic here where I type. I slip them into fingerless mitts before I write.


Knowing what our Januaries are like I finished the mitts back in autumn.


I knit them in a yarn that is baby-soft. It's a luxurious yarn from blog friend, Mary Lou, who raises the fluffiest angora rabbits for Angora Gardens. Angora yarn is my top choice for itch-less mitts.

And since I've made a minute for knitting, here's the beret I made.


An Unconventional Mother
I like the young mother knitting in the above painting. And I like the following painting, "A Willing Helper" by Mihaly Munkacsy (1844-1909).


You can understand why the scene would be so appealing to me this time of year. The figures look warm. What a beautiful conservatory filled with flowers. Sunshine is streaming through the window glass bringing a brightness to the room that matches the brightness of the mother's face.

She looks content and bright in her femininity, too. Her gown, with its cascades of soft ruffles, appears to be un-corseted - unconventional for the 19th century. Her decision to dress comfortably (at home at least) was the daring that preceded Edwardian fashion.

Pausing in her needlework she keeps (with casually acquired skill) one eye on her embroidery and one eye on her daughter. This little girl carries a watering can satisfyingly heavy enough to give her a feeling of really helping. You can see it in her smile.

Something else is unconventional here. Mother and daughter are together. You would think a well-to-do family in a house large enough for a conservatory, would have a nanny. Most did. Perhaps the nanny is keeping an eye on a baby somewhere in the big house. But I'm day-dreaming.

Such day-dreaming comes from contemplating Charlotte Mason's book, Home Education, page 18, under the heading;

"Children should have the best of their mothers."

The words in this post's title I took from the following paragraph. Miss Mason writes,

". . . however-much we may delight in them, we grown-up people have far too low an opinion of children. If the mother did not undervalue her child, would she leave him to the society of an ignorant [nanny] during the early years when his whole nature is, like the photographer's sensitive plate, receiving . . . indelible impressions? . . . Very likely it would not answer for educated people to always have their children about them. The constant society of his parents might be too stimulating for the child; and frequent change of thought and society of other people, make the mother all the fresher for her children. But they should have the best of their mother, her freshest, brightest hours; while at the same time she is careful to choose her [nanny] carefully, and keep a vigilant eye upon all that goes on in the nursery." 

Miss Mason speaks from experience. Further along the page we find she has the inside scoop on nannies. She knows what happens to children left for long hours with an ignorant nanny, one who resorts to trickery to get a child to behave. These frail child-training-devises encourage children to take on a code of trickery themselves to get what they want.

My mother-in-law Esther and her little sister Johanna - 1941
More of a mother's participation than was conventional, and of that, her freshest, brightest hours, is the plea. The majority of Miss Mason's readers relied heavily upon nannies. She knew she couldn't overthrow convention. She could only hope that nannies would be relied upon less - and be overseen more closely. In the houses of "educated people" - during the earliest years of Miss Mason's writing (1880s) - it was customary for young children to be confined to the nursery. Such was the childhood of Beatrix Potter. Children were accompanied by their nanny everywhere - at meals, when walking through the park, etc.

Johanna - 1941


While upholding the supreme value of mothering Miss Mason admits that mother and child need a refreshing change of scenery, too. At intervals a child should turn his attention onto his play (outdoors is ideal) for instance, while the mother turns her attention (one eye) on her own occupations. A child indoors under constant commanding of his mother would make them both peevish. What's to be done?


A Bubble of Privacy
Some wise letting alone is the answer. As a young mother I left my children to rely upon their imagination and to exercise their budding ingenuity. I left them to occupy themselves.

Like thousands of unconventional mothers - my fellow home teachers - each morning I gave my freshest, brightest hours to my children in our time-table of lessons. At lunchtime I initiated conversation with cheerful smiles and a sense of humor (the ideal). But for a space of time in the afternoon we all needed a change of pace and a change of scenery. Therefore we lived in our own bubbles. Through a thin layer of privacy we could see and hear one another. We were together but attending to our separate occupations inside our bubbles.


Esther (on right) and friends - 1940
I remember hearing my girls giggling, my son's wooden blocks tumbling to the floor, the dragging of stuff out the back door, etc. while I was preparing a meal in the kitchen, writing a letter at my desk, tidying an overstuffed closet, or mending a torn seam in an easy chair overlooking the back garden - where the stuff was being arranged. And sometimes . . . I would refresh myself with a little Mother Culture. Perhaps I would retreat into the society of book friends.

Safe neighborhood play - what I (and past generations of Americans) experienced when young - did not exist for my children. But they had each other.





Children Need Feeding
Imagination and budding ingenuity stirs in the mind of a child only with proper feeding. His schoolbooks must be the source of much wholesome raw material. Charlotte Mason watched what happens when students are given "living books" as their twaddle-free daily diet. She says:

"Let a child have the meat he requires in his history readings, and in the literature that naturally gathers round his history, and imagination will bestir itself without any help of ours, the child will live out in detail a thousand scenes of which he only gets the merest hint." Home Ed pg 294 & 295


Our Nanny
During a week of rainy days, or when one (or all) had a cold, or we were becoming moody with cabin-fever, I called upon the help of a nanny.  Out came our box of audio cassettes. They were our nanny. Often, the children drew pictures at the dinning room table while they listened.

My children in Oregon - 1992
Post Script


Blog friend, Kristyn enjoyed sitting down to a little Mother Culture. She finished her Lavender Strawberry Sachets. Rather than simply tying them with the satin ribbon in the kit, she embellished two with teeny yoyos made from fabric scraps. Aren't they darling? Little buttons secure the yoyos. She told me that she has lots of little-girl-style buttons but her girls have outgrown the need for them.

We'd like to see your Strawberry Sachets. If you like, send me a photograph when you've finished filling them with lavender flowers. karenjandreola@gmail.com






Keep up your Mother Culture,
Karen Andreola