Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Truth Telling - A Delicate Part of a Child's Education - Karen Andreola

Truth Telling - A Delicate Part of a Child's Education
I was at my daughter Sophia's. She telephoned her husband. My grandson and I were close by. We couldn't help overhear something interesting Mom said to Dad. According to the neighborhood's online community group, two bear cubs were sighted in the vicinity. "That means a mother bear is somewhere nearby, too," Mom said.

I could tell my daughter secretly didn't like the idea of bears rummaging around. I didn't either. But to my 7-year-old grandson this news was exciting. Although the family are suburbanites the house feels like "country." It is backed by woods and borders an expansive Christmas tree farm. A large wooded park is not far away. "Let's keep a watch out for the bears today," my daughter said to me, "and stay close to the house."

My grandson jumped up to the picture window. "I see them! Back there in the trees! The baby bears!" he said.

I got up to have a look."Where?" I said, being mindful to not sound as pessimistic as I felt. I stood beside him at the window. "I don't see them," I said. My grandson was quiet. "You'd like to see them, wouldn't you? The truth is: they're not there," I had to add. This was spoken gently. The subject was closed. We turned our attentions elsewhere. Yet this was not the first time that during her stay, Grandma heard her grandson tell a lie. 

Saturday came and I was leaving. My son-in-law was loading my bags into the back of the van. Meanwhile, I was in the dinning room with my daughter's copy of Home Education in my hand, leafing through it. I was bookmarking some pages for her and leaving the book in a conspicuous place: on top of the buffet.

"What's this?" my daughter exclaimed.

Closing the book and giving it a friendly pat I said, "Oh, just a few helpful words. You might want to read them later."

"Mom. You don't have to beat around the bush with me. What's up?"

"Okay," I said, picking up my purse and turning to go. "I found a page on truth-telling. It's good to understand the different reasons why a child lies, not to be horrified by it and to know how to remedy it. Charlotte Mason's advice reflects a deep sympathy for children. At the same time she stands on high moral ground. I think it will put things in perspective for you."

To my own ears I sounded like a magazine article so I must have to hers. She smiled at her bookish mother. But heavy with unborn baby, and with the stress and anxiety of its complications, I thought she looked weary. I put her on the spot - but tenderly. "Will you read it?" I said. After all, she did ask for it. And I knew it would help - along with her usual method of searching online, with a finger on the tiny screen of the phone she carried around with her. 

"The training of the child in the habit of strict veracity is . . . one that requires delicate care and scrupulosity." *1  

More Tall Tales

The following week she telephoned me. Evidently, while the whole family were in the van, Dad said, as they were about to cross a railroad track, "Look, a train engine is parked on the line."

The seven-year-old loves trains, has an elaborate track set up on his bedroom floor, and is well-versed in Thomas Tank Engine. One glance down the track and he said excitedly, "The coal car's spilled over. The men are shoveling the coal back in the car."

Dad let him down easy. "I don't think so Bud."

Upon hearing this scenario I asked, "Did you read your Charlotte Mason?"

My grandson's cat is funny enough 
"Yes," she said. "And in the car I made my first attempt at correction. She told her son, "You have a wonderful imagination and that's a good - but - we must tell what we see - and nothing more. That's the way we tell the truth."

During the drive home she took advantage of an opportune moment and gave her boys a narration (from memory) of Aesop's fable, The Boy Who Cried Wolf," because it demonstrates the importance of honesty. The boys were unusually quiet. They listened intently. (Sophia was a dramatic narrator during our home school years. Therefore, I imagine she told the fable with suspense.)

My grandson continues to inflate the truth (boys like to blow things up bigger) adding immediately afterwards, "Just joking."

"Just joking" is a step in the right direction.
He still needs to learn that "it is possibly to be humorous without any sacrifice of truth." *2

One of 6 Causes of Lying

Miss Mason's book, Parents and Children has a larger supply of paragraphs on the duty of truthfulness than Home Education. In it she talks about what she gleaned from an article by an American, Professor Stanley Hall, published in 1891, She must have found his six causes of lying to be enlightening and immensely practical. 

She says:

"Lying arises from secondary causes. . . It is no longer a case of - the child has lied, punish him; but where is the weak place of his character."*3

I found that Cause 5 - "Deceptions of Imagination and Play" particularly suited to my grandson's needs.

A Child's Gesture to Make Life More Interesting

Nothing less than a close observation, and a sympathetic understanding of children could have guided Charlotte Mason's words here:

Let us believe of the children that 'trailing clouds of glory do they come' from the place where all things are possible, where any delightful thing may happen. Let us believe that our miserable limitations of time and space and the laws of matter irk them inconceivably, imprison the free soul as a wild bird in a cage. If we refuse to give the child outlets into the realms of fancy, where everything is possible, the delicate Ariel of his imagination will still work within our narrow limits upon our poor tasks, and every bit of our narrow living is played over with a thousand variations, apt to be more vivid and interesting than the poor facts, and, therefore, more likely to remain with the child as the facts which he will produce when required to speak the truth. *4 

What is the Cure?

The tendency might be to believe that these fanciful children live in a world of too much fiction. And therefore, it would be best to restrict them. Yet, Miss Mason recommends the opposite. Broaden their knowledge with facts, yes. But do not bar them from make-believe, day-dreaming and adventure. Why?

Free Entrance to the Land of Make-believe

How beautifully sensitive I find Miss Mason's discernment to be here:

Give the child free entrance into, abundant joyous living in, the kingdom of make-believe. Let him people every glen with fairies, every island with Crusoes. . . . Let us be glad and rejoice that all things are possible to the children, recognizing . . . their fitness to . . . believe . . . as alas! we cannot do, the things of the kingdom of God. The age of faith is a sowing time, . . .  designed in the Divine scheme of things, especially that parents may make their children at home in the things of the Spirit before contact with the world shall have materialized them.*5 

Narrating Exact Truthfulness

. . . [T]he more imaginative the child, the more essential is it that the boundaries of the kingdom of make believe should be clearly defined, and exact truthfulness insisted upon in all that concerns the narrower world where the grown-ups live. . . . Daily lessons in exact statement without any righteous indignation about misstatements, but warm, loving encouragement to the child who gives a long message quite accurately, who tells you just what Miss Brown said and no more, just what happened at Harry's party without any garnish. Every day affords scope for a dozen little lessons at least, and gradually, the more sever beauty of truth will dawn upon the child whose soul is already possessed by the grace of fiction. *6
Yolanda 1987, New Jersey

In A Charlotte Mason Companion I mention how I needed to provide my little girls the practice of narrating exactly what they observed (outdoors) and nothing more. I mention "girls" plural (on page 137) but I remember it was Yolanda (age 4-5) who especially could use some truth-telling practice.

Her chance-experience of watching a hungry squirrel (not a fox) - (that we had fed with our cookies) run up a tree with a gingerbread man in its mouth helped teach her that truth can be interesting all on its own - and something to smile about.

"You can tell Daddy about it when he gets home," was the invitation.

End Notes
*1  Charlotte Mason, Home Education, page 164
*2  Ibid, pg 166
*3  Charlotte Mason, Parents and Children, page 207
*4  Ibid, pg 210
*5 & *6  Ibid, pg 211

To see the whole picture of the mother and child in the banner click:  wood burning. It is a freehand design by Sophia - shown on this blog in May 2010 - based on the logo of Charlotte Mason Research.

Paintings: Morning in a Pine Wood by Ivan Ivandvich Shishkin, Hide & Seek by Fredrick Eduard Meyerheim, Red Riding Hood and Day Dreaming by Joseph Guy Seymour.

Dean helps tidy up and size all the images for my posts. This time I couldn't resist adding another photograph of Yolanda - one from her wedding day. She hold lilacs in her bouquet. Our children are really with us for such a short time.
Yolanda 2007, Pennsylvania
Post Script
Could your student use practice in narrating exact truthfulness?

I know my readers are gathering ideas. Mindful of this, I prepared this post with chunky quotes, to point out an aspect of character training. I'd like to think that, in some way, this blog is a helpful shoulder to lean on. The desire to disciple our children is what gives many of us the greatest courage to home teach. For further reading see Chapter 16 of A Charlotte Mason Companion, Chapter 19 of Parents and Children. Also "Mrs. Sedley's Tale" page 77 of Formation of Character. 

I wish you steadfastness in love and duty, with rest and Mother Culture mingled in.

'Til We Meet Again.

Opinions are Invited,
Karen Andreola

Monday, June 29, 2015

The Winding Road (a personal chat - Karen Andreola)

"The long and winding road
That leads to your door
Will never disappear" - The Beatles, 1970

It's been awhile since we've visited. I've managed to make it upstairs in the attic to sit in front of my computer and write what has been on my mind.

I was out-of-state helping my daughter with her difficult pregnancy. I was only a little help, really.

I sat around like an old-fashioned granny watching two boisterous little boys. This is because I'd been convalescing with my foot up on chairs - and keeping downstairs.

Not long ago Dean and I were visiting a church. Just as we were taking our places, I missed an unforeseen step. Twisting an ankle, I fell headlong to the floor, hitting my face on the oak pew across the isle. To my dismay, that beautiful spring morning was spent in the ER.. No broken bones, no lost teeth -thankfully. Stitches and bruises are healed by now. But I'm humbled by a small scare where my lip was supper-glued together. Never-mind. It feels good to be able to smile again.

As you can see I'm taking a moment for a personal chat. If you've come looking for informative articles, welcome. I invite you to click around. I hope the articles will encourage you.

Lancaster County farm

May I tell you why the above lyrics came to mind? It will explain why Dean and I took a drive together through the back roads of our neighborhood to take pictures for you today. 

We'd been reading the book of Ruth and hearing sermons on this moving story. It shows that the life of the believer is not a straight highway to heaven. Our journey is more like a winding road, more like the country roads around here, where we live in Pennsylvania.

Here the roads are old ones, roads made in the days when William Penn granted land to settlers looking for religious freedom, Quaker or otherwise. The roads wind around small farms, curve along creeks, go up and down rolling hills. They are obscured by woods or lined with weedy hedgerows.

This time of year the landscape is green and lush. The small farms are full of flowers and mini garden retreats.

Where Are We?
It isn't surprising that tourists to Lancaster County (and even we) who venture onto the "scenic routes" soon find we've lost a sense of direction. The life of the believer can be like this. We can feel lost. But using the lyrics above for my own purposes, the door to heaven will never disappear. In our hearts we believe the promise that it is truly and wonderfully there.

In the book of Ruth we see that life has set-backs. But set-backs are part of God's gracious road to glory. We move forward up and down the road, by faith, even when we cannot see around the bend.

I am trying to accept the set backs in my life and in the life of those I love. I believe that they are part of God's plan. I will admit to asking God, during times of discouragement, how He can expect me to be a faithful Christian with all the, pain, loss and set backs life holds? His answer to St.Paul's repeated prayers to remove the chronic, painful thorn in his flesh was, "My grace is sufficient for you for my power is made perfect in weakness."(2 Corinthians 12:10).

A Turn in the Road
Last year we asked for prayer for our son, Nigel, who was injured. The top treatment for RSD that he had undergone in Philadelphia, failed. Due to the pain of RSD in his hands, Nigel is very limited in what he can do. It is my sorrow to see him unable to use his hands in ways he once enjoyed. Playing piano, driving a car, cooking a meal, riding his mountain bike, fencing, etc. I am reminded of a verse I wove into my story, Lessons at Blackberry Inn (before this injury took place.) "A man's heart plans his way but the Lord directs his steps." (Proverbs 16:9)

Happily, when he was a boy, Nigel gave his life to Jesus his Savior. He's kept his faith. This is the most important thing, isn't it? What he can do is use a computer mouse and Wacom tablet with rests in between. He was schooled and received honors in graphic arts and web design, and stays current with the odd college course.

Presently, he is preparing my two stories, Pocketful of Pinecones and its sequel Lessons at Blackberry Inn, for Kindle. It is slow and steady work - but work he does well and gratefully.

When our current stock of Lessons of Blackberry Inn runs out we will no longer be printing a paper edition. If you've been meaning to purchase this story - a summer retreat for the home teacher - in paper, click here.

Joy in the Midst of Trouble
While I was away I enjoyed attending a baby shower for our daughter Sophia at her house. It was hosted by Sophia's sister, Yolanda and Sophia's homeschool friend Shannon. They did a beautiful job. The raspberry filled lemon cake with raspberry frosting, Yolanda's recipe, tasted especially fresh and delicious. (Proof of my opinion is that when Yolanda handed me a leftover piece of cake at the close of the party- I hid it in the very back of Sophia's frig and treated myself with it by petite-fours-sized slices - after my grandchildren were in bed - for three consecutive evenings. Ahh.) I asked Shannon how long she and Sophia have been friends and she told me since they were 11 years-old. That was 22 years ago. Sisters and old friends are a blessing. (And daughters who know how to cook.)

My gift of a homemade quilt is one that had been resting in my Grandmother's Someday Box for some years, saved for whomever the next little girl would be to enter our lives.

I finished knitting the angora baby jacket I started this spring. It is soft and delicate.

All I need to do is attach a pink ribbon or a button to the collar. I can't decide which.

Anyway, we are looking forward to meeting the upcoming baby girl soon.

Living Along the Winding Road,
Karen Andreola

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Part Two - Even-Steven Expectations

Even-Steven Expectations - Part Two

Dear home teacher. Please give yourself credit. Don't be discouraged by the uneven path. If, by your guidance, your children possess knowledge-made-personal in this subject or that, (they don't have to like everything) you have done very very well. This is more precious than any perfect test score or Even-Steven grade level results.

Lilacs out the back door.

We Met a Snag

Baby One's high school Nature Notebook, May 1999.
I remember my first uneven learner. Sophia, Baby One, in first grade homeschool. We met a snag. She was having trouble recognizing her numerals in the teens. Why say thir-teen when the teen is pictured before the three (13)? This backwards order may have been what stumped her. Anyway, after several lessons she just couldn't get it. Being a new teacher I shared my anxiety with a friend who happened to be a school math teacher before she began home teaching. "Lay it aside for some weeks," she told me.

"Some weeks, really?" I asked. I had my doubts but followed her advice. After a month I returned to teens and tried again. My student got it. What went on during the down-time? I can't explain. Can anyone?  My student's mind needed a pause - as it needed again through-out our home education experience. But in later years I took it with a grain-of-salt.

Maple "helicopter" seeds near the front door.

Following a Child's Pace is Lessons at Their Finest

Once-in-a-while, with a twinge of disappointment, I'd replace a book I was reading aloud.*1 (A book change was infrequent but when it did occur I didn't mourn over the one that didn't lend itself toward a narration.) And, as uncomfortable as I felt, at first, to teach unevenly, inevitably, I did just that. I'd skip it, tweak it, review it, replace it, or return to it later. This is what happens when following a child's pace. When tested (the C.A.T. by law) years later, Baby One was grade levels "ahead" in reading comprehension and vocabulary, teetering on-average in math, pitifully "behind" in spelling. Fine. Being uneven people by nature, it was something I learned to pay little attention to. I kept pleasantly plodding along our journey, challenging her strengths, taking patience with her weaknesses. My readers could tell their own stories of uneven paths and uneven people, I know. 

Do I Hear A Sigh?

We want to live by faith not fear. As we've heard that faith is the evidence of things unseen we learn to live without the security of constant testing. Miss Charlotte Mason found the state of her country to be "an examination-ridden empire."*2 This state of things was born out of good intentions. More than one hundred years ago Even-Steven Expectations were born out of the large classroom. Population growth had to be managed somehow. But I can hear Miss Mason sigh between the lines of her books.

A rare Jack-in-the-Pulpit I found in our woods.
When grade level and passing tests become more important than knowledge-made-personal, over-testing and over-teaching (for the test) is the result. Sadly, this fear detracts from a peaceful and pleasant atmosphere of learning - an atmosphere where children best thrive. Today, an atmosphere of less-testing and less talky-talk from the teacher seems to be accepted among circles of the Charlotte Mason-minded. Fabulous. The nervous race to get-ahead, of constant quizzing and testing to prove progress to ourselves or to local authorities, is unheeded. We don't "run with the pack"- a phrase I borrow from my husband's boyhood school days. Rather, we preserve a child's curiosity.  His mind is made to grow with nourishment and exercise as his body grows with its nourishment and exercise. Trusting this we can test less, teach less. We can be more the mother, less the teacher.

It isn't surprising that teachers think learning is all in their hands. Yet, Miss Mason pops this bubble. She tells her conscientious teachers what to expect.

"In the great work of education parents and teachers have a subordinate part after all. You may bring your horse to water but can't make him drink: and you may present ideas of the fittest to the mind of the child; but you do not know in the least which he will take, and which he will reject. And very well for us it is that this safeguard to this individuality is implanted in every child's breast. Our part is to see that his educational plat [plot of ground] is constantly replenished with fit and inspiring ideas, and then . . . leave it to the child's own appetite to take which he will have, and as much as he requires. Of one thing we must beware. The least symptom of satiety, especially when the ideas we present are moral and religious, should be taken as a serious warning. Persistence on our part just then may end in the child's never willingly sitting down the that dish any more."*3

Just For Fun
Baby Two turned 30 this year.

My married daughter Yolanda (Baby Two) teaches cello to students who come to her home. She takes her teaching seriously. The Suzuki Cello Books she uses are good for progress in developing new skills. But she supplements theses with her own pieces, she told me with a smile, "just for fun." She composes Celtic style music or a hymn to fit each student's ability - arranging duets that she plays with her students. These they particularly enjoy. She also transcribes for the cello, a familiar pop song or two, perhaps one requested by a student, so that he or she can do some "side" playing, she calls it, - "exactly where they are.

The Side-Stroke

Isn't this what education is meant to do for us after all - at least in part? - that is - to enjoy being exactly where we are? Swimming the side-stroke is going somewhere. And when the yellow sunshine warms the air and the blue water is cool and refreshing, it is delightful to be right where we are for the moment. 

Resisting the "Not Enough Syndrome"

If self-education is to be fostered we would do well to remind ourselves that this is an education that also trusts in the enlightening work of the Holy Spirit (as talked about in earlier posts and comments). The Christian who rests in this needn't feel that she is never doing enough. Taking this yoke upon us the weight of our responsibility is light. The home teacher is diligent in overseeing daily lessons. But she resists packing information into a child like packing an already overstuffed suitcase - pressing down hard enough to zipper it closed (for the test) - my metaphor of Miss Mason's "satiety."

Yes, we provide - over the years of the journey - a feast of good books - on a sumptuous scale. We guide the student in forming skills and forming a relationship with pictures, music, outdoor experience, etc. But following the Charlotte Mason method, we do some stepping aside. The children step forward. They delve. They are given space to reflect, to observe, to consider. They form a relationship with what, they themselves, pack into their suitcase, piece by piece. They may be on a journey but they are also, for the present, enjoying being right where they are. If they are able to tell what impresses them. This is knowledge-made-personal - a blessing immeasurable.

End Notes

*1  I remember replacing a book (of bland and unmemorable mini-biographies) with the unabridged story Heidi by Johanna Spyri. Its setting widened my students world a bit further and the characters, her sympathies.

The 1937 film with nine-year-old, Shirley Temple, is sweet, is humorous around the edges, and exciting near its conclusion. I like happy endings, too, very much.  (Heidi DVD)

*2  Charlotte Mason, Parents and Children, page 224
*3  Ibid, page127

Related Topics
Are you new here? Welcome. Some of the ideas I've written above, I've introduced before in earlier posts. For your convenience I've linked to them. This May marks five years of my blogging. I've so enjoyed meeting those who have read my book, A Charlotte Mason Companion.

More The Mother, Less the Teacher
All Education is Divine   
Not Enough Syndrome

On Mother's Day  Libby's daughters presented her with a pint of Lavender Strawberry Sachets. Soon after, she thought of me kindly, and sent me a photograph. Thanks for sharing your strawberries with us, Libby. It looks like the girls used their own ribbon choices and that your gift was made by loving hands. Isn't a homemade gift a touching surprise?

Comments are Welcome
Karen Andreola