Friday, September 30, 2016

A Generation of Charlotte Mason Kids

A Generation of Charlotte Mason Kids
My daughter's family is between churches. They moved an hour from were they used to live. Visiting new churches carries with it a certain apprehension.

One Sunday, this summer, Sophia was standing at the back of the sanctuary holding her one-year-old Eloise, trying to keep her quiet while listening to the sermon. The baby was fussy. It was normally nap time. But she wouldn't fall asleep in my daughter's arms and began to feel very heavy.

Therefore, Sophia walked down the hall to the little nursery. There she chatted with the nursery worker - a grandmother. "I have two boys who are in the sanctuary with my husband," my daughter said to answer a question. Then she ventured to add that she was home teaching both boys this year.

"I homeschooled my children," the grandmother said, "using the Charlotte Mason method."

Sophia couldn't help herself. She had to say, "My mother wrote a book on the Charlotte Mason method."

"Oh really? What's her name?"

"Karen Andreola."

"I can't believe it. You're her daughter? I heard her and her husband speak at Sandy Cove, Maryland way back in the nineties. That weekend my husband and I sat with your mother and father at the same dinner table. I have your mother's Charlotte Mason Companion." My daughter smiled.
The label I placed at the back of the quilt using "Little House" fabric.
After a few Sundays of visiting another church Sophia, her husband Andrew, and their three children, were invited to supper, by a young mother of four. They were cheered by the hospitality. Observing how happily the children of both families played together in the expansive backyard, Sophia was pleased (and relieved) because she has boisterous boys.
A first Nature Notebook entry for the schoolyear - poisonous frog.

During the meal the host/husband brought up a wide range of topics. "He has so many interests," Sophia told me, impressed.

Afterward their host showed my son-in-law, Andrew, around the house. He pointed out his various projects. Apparently both dads are good with a computer and in their free time like building things with their hands. 

A family photo displayed on the dinning room buffet caught Sophia's eye. "Is this your mother?" she asked the pretty hostess.

But it was the husband who spoke up. He said, "That's my mother. Do you know her?" Sophia explained that they met earlier in the summer at a church across town.

"Your mother met my mother at a conference. She also told me she brought up her children by the Charlotte Mason method."

"Yup. That's me. I guess you can call me a Charlotte Mason kid." He laughed. Sophia laughed, too. How often does one meet up with another Charlotte Mason kid who is in his 30s with children of his own.
Landis Valley - This September

"God places people in our path, or places us in the path of people," I told my daughter when the story was related to me over the telephone. When I hung up the phone I silently thanked God for His Providence.   

The Early Years
We grandmothers remember. There was so little to go on in those early years of home teaching.

Since Dean and I published The Original Homeschooling Series I’ve been in touch with folks. For those who wished instinctively to avoid the "grammar school grind" we had lots of questions. We searched for answers.

However awkward Charlotte Mason's writing style may have seemed at first, this old series of books proved to be a treasure-trove, a source of guidance, wisdom born out of decades of experience.
Sophia, Yolanda, and I, 1987 (My Laura Ashley Edwardian with lace collar).
We stepped forward in faith in those days. (My young readers are doing this today.) Each nugget of an idea had to be cracked open one by one. Not knowing exactly what we were doing with these nuggets of gold, and not knowing (in person) anyone else who was home teaching this way, we felt like odd balls. Extended family members were concerned for us. Some were more than puzzled at our behavior. They were embarrassed or speechless.

Cobbler, leather worker, Landis Valley
Following our conscience, wanting to bring up strong Christian children, we kept our eyes on the goal. Feeling a little wobbly in the confidence-department in the beginning, we placed our trust in the main points of Miss Mason's philosophy. We carried the nuggets of gold around in our apron pockets. We half-understood the details really, until we saw how they worked-out in the lives of our children. Little by little we gleaned practical aspects of Miss Mason's ideas. Day by day, we applied them.

This old building once sat in Lancaster City, to house a tailor/seamstress.
Since the early days of my Parents' Review, 28 years ago, I've kept in touch with long distance friends, then by paper letter, today by email. Our children are mature adults. Some are married and home teaching their own brood of children like the "Charlotte Mason kids" above. Through my correspondence I’ve been hearing about a generation of students. What has come to my notice is so encouraging I should have told you about this sooner. 
The other side of the seamstress room as it might have been.
More Recently
Those who attend college do well. Some live at home and commute to a local university. Others attend a Christian college, away. Still others, do distance-learning at home toward a degree. Their competence is no surprise. In his formative years, the student learned how to deal directly with books. He developed the habits to digest them. As a mature student, when faced with the dry material of a conventional textbook he can pick out key facts and principles. Nurtured by years of narration, narrating books of fact and fiction, he became a critical thinker and essayist. If he is going to learn something he wants to learn it thoroughly and perform it well.   

Dean's grandfather (right) in 1925, Elizabeth N.J. He was a "hair dresser" is whole life. 25cents is on the till. 
Look at this wide range of studies and vocations, some volunteer, most professional. Here are college majors and/or occupations personally brought to my notice.

Our door and pent-roof professionally painted.
business major working for a national construction company,
children's program director at church,
church receptionist/secretary,
creative writing grad student,
diesel mechanic,
farm manager,
financial planner,
homeschooling mother,
horse handler,
hospital doctor,
La Leche Leader,
mathematics support,
musical theater actress,
musical composer,
music teacher,
nature photographer,
orthopedic doctor,
owner of a landscaping business,
pastor's wife,
Pilates instructor,
professional blogger,
restaurant manager,
speech therapist
theater lighting technician,
veterinary school,
website designer,

I admired the work and talent of those who created these two pieces of clothing I spied at the country fair. All the needlework at the fair is displayed behind plastic.
First place sewing at our country fair - cute/handsome.

First place sewing at our country fair - cute/pretty.

Well done my friends.

Thanks for keeping in touch all these years.

Karen Andreola
Can you tell my active grandsons came for a visit?

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Quick Tips on the Gentle Art of Learning

Quick Tips on the Gentle Art of Learning
At the beginning of this school-year I'd like to offer you encouragement. I've shared this list with some of you who've written me. To most, these tips will not be new. But perhaps one or two will particularly speak to your present need.

First, here's an illustration that helped me during my years of home teaching. Still today it helps me put "first-things-first."

Baby E. wearing what Grandma knit (spring photo)
For arranging lessons. Place an empty jelly jar on the table, an imaginative one. Then gather a couple whole walnuts. And a handful of little shelled peanuts. The walnuts and peanuts represent subjects and activities of your day or week. Now, place these nuts into the jar. You will discover that the only way they'll all fit is to put the walnuts in first, with the little peanuts filling in the spaces around them. If you place the nuts the other way 'round, you won't be able to fasten the lid. Those things you find most important in your schedule (the walnuts) put into your time-table first. Arrange the other subjects (the peanuts) around them. On different days you might have different subjects be the walnuts.

1. Children are on loan to us from God. Hannah of First Samuel is our beautiful example. We really do have them in our care for a short time.

2. Beware of comparing. With Facebook and blogs we have an open door to knowing what our friends, or extended family, are doing daily. They might be touring Europe in designer clothes while you're potty training between math and phonics, and haven't been out of an apron since daybreak. It doesn't help to continually compare our situation or teaching choices with that of others. Follow the path of your personal conviction. All education is divine. That is, the Holy Spirit comes along side us in all subjects, to guide, and enlighten. Focus on your particular blessings. Home teaching is kingdom work. Never give up.

Study Hour by John George Brown

3. Use books - don't let books (or curriculum) use you. A good book isn't boring. It has the literary power to open the door of a child's mind. It may be full of facts - the same facts found in a standard classroom textbook - but they are presented in a palatable and memorable way. If you decided to try a new book, lay a lifeless one aside without any qualms.

4. Children will chatter. Like tapping a sugar maple for its sap, the home teacher can take advantage of this talking resource. Ask your student to tell in his own words (narrate) what he has observed or read. If a quiet child says little ask “what else” and “what else” again. This is laying the foundation of composition, naturally and without tears.

5. Learning is not limited to sitting immovable at a desk. Get outdoors. Observe nature, keeping a record of your “finds” in a Nature Notebook, where science, composition, and art join hands.

Landis Valley

6. Cultivate an appreciation for what is beautiful in art and in music simply. Now and again display a picture from a famous painter, play a CD of a noteworthy composer.

Our zinnia in the front garden.
7. Look for heroes. The Bible, biography and historical fiction can supply inspiring heroes whose virtues and character qualities your child may choose to esteem and emulate. Children will catch the "scientific spirit" through biography, too. Tracing the paths of discovery, experiment and invention they will follow (what Miss Mason called) "the rise and progress of an idea."

8. Build good habits one at a time. Lay them brick by brick. It is remarkable what the quiet discipline of routine and the practice of good manners do for the home atmosphere. Prioritize and strive to be consistent. Life brings its interruptions. You will get back on track when you can. In the meantime Providence may be offering us an unexpected soul-lesson.

Moss in the shaded part of our driveway. I like moss. 
9. Keep lessons short in the beginning years. Ten to 15 minutes of math seems ridiculously short if you come from a public school background of one-hour lessons. But tutoring one-on-one is wonderfully efficient. Lessons can gradually be lengthened. The more mature the student is the more independent learning he will accomplish - during which time you can be tutoring a little one.

Friendship Star quilt made for the wall of the family room.
10. Homeschool pioneers have fought to win us legal freedom. Therefore, let's use our Mother's Prerogative. What is it that you'd like to teach? What do you want your children to know? My high school students would join me for "prerogative studies" after lunch. As long as there were children in the house - even adult children - I chose to read aloud to one - or all, somewhere in the schedule.

11. Information and knowledge are two different things. Rote-memory is only an exercise for memorizing data. Children are persons not parrots. Give children, too, all kinds of odd and interesting books and experiences and with narration they will gain the kind of wisdom-knowledge that goes into making a person.
Garden behind a picket-fence, Landis Valley

12. Curiosity is to education what a wick is to a candle. Children are born with God-given curiosity – until it is schooled out of them by constant testing, working for the grade, and peer-pressure. Asking, “What is it my child would delight in knowing more about?” safeguards curiosity. There is no better place to accomplish this than in the home school.

13. You are a person, too, who needs to keep growing. To prevent burn-out, read your Bible, dabble in domestic arts, take a nature walk, and/or any number of interests. To refresh the soul, blossom with fruits of the spirit, and polish character, we need our daily bread - the bread of life – Jesus. Taking a little time for Mother Culture, to grow yourself, is not a self-fish thing to do. The advantage does not end with yourself. When our cup overflows it spills over into the family circle – which importantly includes our husbands.

Ice-cream with glass bead "sprinkles" -gift of a friend. My rag doll likes it. 
14. Little things do make a difference. Little steps taken with daily faithfulness take us far. The home teacher strives to sow seeds of ideas in the hearts and minds of her children – rather than fill in holes. Children seemingly learn and grow in spurts and lags. Though, not evenly matched to the teacher's planner, seeds are sprouting, children are learning. Given the right food and atmosphere, “mighty oaks from little acorns grow.” (Gal.6:9) What is done out of love is lasting.

Thanks for visiting.

Karen Andreola

If you are reading this on your telephone you will have to check a full-size computer screen to see my email address in the side margin. I place it there to help eliminate spam mail. You can also contact me through Facebook message. Write anytime.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Summer Adventure by Karen Andreola

Summer Adventure

I do think that families are the most beautiful things in all the world. Jo Marsh in Little Women

During our home-educating years my children gobbled-down books --- each at their own rate but I would still call it gobbling.

One of the stories was E. Nesbit's, The Railway Children, gobbled silently.

"Did you like it," I would ask when the story was finished.

"Yes," would be the reply, coexisting with a smile and a sparkle of an eye. That was that.

Years later we rented the Masterpiece Theatre version of the story. The film is a beautiful adaptation staring Jenny Agutter and Jemima Rooper.  I own the CD (for myself) and so I can share it with my grandchildren, next visit. "Trains" are my eldest grandson's hobby.

The film was my only exposure to The Railway Children, until I read it for the first time, just recently. Had I read it in my youth I would have chosen it as a read-aloud. And chosen it for narration, too. The Railway Children nourished my soul.

The courage and kindness of the characters is what I found so nourishing.

We meet Father in the beginning. He too-soon mysteriously disappears. Mother (a character I quickly became fond of) keeps the secret from her children that Father is falsely accused and imprisoned. She is shaken (secretly.) I could feel her tremble. But Mother musters up courage for the sake of her family.

To cope with living with reduced means, she and her children, Roberta (12), Peter (10), and Phyllis (7), "play at being poor for a bit." They move out of the well-off working-class suburbs of London to live in a little white cottage in the countryside.

The children really don't mind fixing breakfast or tea, doing chores they hadn't done before, because they love and admire their mother.

My fireside kettle like the one above. 
Over Roberta's head, however, during quiet moments, hangs a dark cloud of apprehension concerning Father.

In a bare upstairs room with a candle, Mother strives to write fiction for their bread-n-butter (bread that is now rarely bakery-bought.)

What makes the summer of these Edwardian railway-children so enjoyable? It is a summer of childhood innocence. The children meander around their village unsupervised. This is what children were free to do in the summers of yesteryear, when mothers worked at home, when neighborhoods were safe, entertainment scarce, and a child's activity wasn't rigidly scheduled.

Finding-things-to-do for the railway-children, becomes getting to know the adults who work for the railway. They poke their noses in other people's business, with a sincere desire to be friendly and helpful - and a wish not to be annoying - although this combination isn't always possible. The village station is just down a hill and across the meadow from their cottage - an easy traipse.

Hollyhocks on the sunny side of the house.
Roberta, Peter and Phyllis are very much like real siblings. At times they fret, get scared, disagree, and rub sharp corners off one another. They candidly say just what they're thinking and stick-together with loving team-work when illness or accident arise in the village.

Dean's photo of a dragonfly in our back garden.
Both Mother and children are generous-of-heart. They do what is uncommon today. They look outside themselves. The feelings and needs of others are important to them - so important they take risks for it. Evidently, they've been brought up with a Christian-sense-of-duty. We can call this kindness - and going out-of-one's-way to be kind at that.

I liked seeing our tall hollyhocks through a first floor window.
Involved in some exciting scrapes and daring rescues, they cross the bounds of class without a second thought. Mother might "give pause" but she is prompt to assesses a situation and steps-forward with a confident decisiveness.

Although published in the Edwardian era (1906) E. Nesbit's writing is not overly sentimental - or, as Mark Twain said of women novelists, "sadful." I already knew the ending, but I'll admit the last chapter produced one tiny tear to my eye. That's all. Just one. I wiped it away, closed the book, turned off the light, and fell asleep soundly - glad there exists a story in the world, such as The Railway Children. But would there be if E. Nesbit's husband didn't suffer a similar tragedy and suddenly loose the means of supporting his family? Good can come out of adversity in real life as well as stories.

For both girls and boys, grades 3-7. For your convenience these links take you to Amazon.
Note: The short commentary before and after the film is unnecessary and unwholesome. I would skip it. Young children do not need to know that E. Nesbit was an active socialist and didn't live the morality she penned.

The Railway Children 

The Masterpiece Theatre Film 

A Writing Exercise
Inside the pages of my creative writing curriculum, Story Starters is Exercise #55 - At the Railway Station. What episodes could your student add to the story?

A doll quilt for my granddaughter pieced from scraps from the toddler quilt.
I extend my gratitude to those of you who purchased of Parents' Review for your summer reading. May it stimulate your interests in many directions. I'm always glad to hear from my readers.

Charlotte Mason's The Saviour of the World
If you relish reading about the fine points of Charlotte Mason's philosophy, Art Middlekauff's articles will satisfy. I esteem the height and depth of his contribution. I've recently discovered his blog. Here you will have access to the volumes of Miss Charlotte Mason's impressive poetic work: The Saviour of the World.

A four-patch, hand-quilted with comfortable stitches.
Happy for your visit.
Karen Andreola