Thursday, July 17, 2014

Charlotte Mason and Learning Styles (article length)

Charlotte Mason and Learning Styles
(article length)

     I’ve been writing and tweaking this article for weeks – one reason my posts are rather spaced. Here I present a facet of the Gentle Art of Learning (TM)  that might be new to you. You can tell from my pictures that I’ve been perusing papers and photographs down memory lane.

1890's one room schoolhouse, Landis Valley, PA
    During my years of home teaching I was confronted with the interesting subject of Learning Styles. Now and again a conference speaker or informative magazine article would challenge me to figure out which style engendered the most learning in my student. The teacher might have several students who each learn best by means of a different style, was the suggestion. I understood what each style involved but was still left scratching my head about what to do about it.
     I was advised to observe my students closely. According to the styles a “visual learner” is very attracted to pictures and animation. An “auditory learner” is attentive to sounds and can listen to a recording for hours. The “kinesthetic learner” is enthused about making things in 3-D and moving around.


Which One?
     The speaker or writer communicated that a student could be hindered if his style is ignored. The recommendation was to adjust lessons so that a subject provides opportunities in a student’s particular leanings. This made sense. But I honestly never figured out which category each of my children fell into. They all liked pictures and were riveted to anything I showed them on video.

After seeing P&P in 7th grade, Yolanda created paper dolls of E and Mr D.

      They all liked to draw and were in the habit of drawing for lessons as well as in their leisure. They were attentive listeners – trained to be – from all our reading aloud and also the audio they heard in the car or in the late afternoons in place of television. ( I believe this empowered them to hear a Sunday sermon.)

   Making things - and messes - was always a pleasure. And by my direction, my young son was jumping on our small trampoline between lessons to appease his boyish restlessness. 

     I wondered. How does a teacher go about measuring the knowledge the student is gaining through one particular learning style compared to another? Hmmm.

A Comforting Reminder
     A bibliography of references was absent from the articles. This barred me from following up the matter. Perhaps I was taking Styles too seriously.
     Then, one day I was uplifted. I reminded myself that Charlotte Mason had us covered. What a relief! There was no reason to stress over Styles. By following Miss Mason’s method of education I was automatically giving each student opportunities to learn (at their various speeds) and learn well, through a variety of avenues. I could rest easy. Before long, the challenge to fine-tune my methods faded from memory. With The Gentle Art of Learning, the Styles take care of themselves. And according to Miss Mason’s wisdom and experience, they are appropriately proportioned for gaining knowledge.  Great.

     She starts with this presupposition. 

“All school work should be conducted in such a manner that children are aware of the responsibility of learning; it is their business to know what is being taught.” *1

     When we regard children as being intelligent – not inferior to an adult’s intelligence, just lacking experience – we resist spoon-feeding in all its forms. Rather we step back a little. We allow the children to develop a quickness of apprehension that comes from the literary language of their living books. This is at the heart of The Gentle Art of Learning.


     There is another misapprehension. Teachers believe it is their duty to make children attentive.

Thus students are “coddled and wooed by persuasion, by dramatic presentation, by pictures, and illustrative objects: in fact, the teacher, the success of whose work depends upon his personality, is an actor of no mean power whose performance would adorn any stage.” *2

     Miss Mason says that our business is to feed a young student’s lively curiosity and safeguard his curious mind’s aptitude for paying attention, with the best we have to offer in books and experiences. Children are the ones doing the learning. We can’t do the learning for them. When we attempt to “learn them” boredom sets in. *3

     What of Styles? How does Charlotte Mason have us covered? Here is an outline.

Impression - Expression
An early nature journal page
     As the child gains impressions, he provides the expression. By written or oral narration, by artwork and even through play, sooner or later by essay, and perhaps drama, he learns by eye, ear, hands, reason and imagination - without being spoon-fed by watered-down material, many explanations, much questioning, over-moralizing, or depending on the workbook to work the mind. The thinking is left to him. Thus his mind grows.

Visual Learning
     With Picture Study a child is a “visual learner.” Picture Study invites him in to take in every detail of a painting or other works of art. 
     Nature Study is observation. We may use our binoculars, yes, but we also notice the sounds of the natural world, breath in its smells and touch its textures. A child records his “finds” accurately with sketches. And he learns to see beauty.

From Yolanda's 7th grade portfolio

Auditory Learning
     The child is an “auditory learner.” Music Appreciation brings him into a familiarity with melody, phrasing, harmony, dynamics, rhythm, and emotion.
     Poetry may be memorized and recited, but it also creates pictures in the mind’s eye. It evokes sentiment.
     A parent’s reading aloud sets in motion the mental muscles of the listener because listening is active not passive. A child will listen closely to the promise of what happens next. And in knowing it is his turn to give a narration he catches detail. He hears his own voice, too. In his narration he assembles select words in sequence, yes, but also, from what impresses him most, he gives personal emphasis.
     The child learns to sing folk songs, hymns, etc. He lifts his voice in worship.    
     At some point he embarks upon a foreign language, which is a less bookish subject these days.  

Reading is Eclectic 
     With the Gentle Art of Learning the child becomes a reader. By reading, his true education begins, says Charlotte Mason, because this is a kind of self-education.*4 With his living books he is seeing, hearing, and feeling in his developing imagination. His curiosity is well fed. Knowledge is nourishing. His mind is feeding upon ideas, which invite him to reason, discern, and form opinions.
     We educate not by means of visual, auditory, and tactile influences alone. The child is a person. Educating is not applied like we apply sun tan lotion to the skin. It goes deeper. Education takes place within. The Holy Spirit enlightens our soul. Education is a spiritual matter, and Miss Mason tells us it is chiefly through the humanities that we are enlightened.
     History is read carefully but the student needn’t be conscious that he “must” attend carefully by lure or fear of the next test scores. With a living history he is swept into the time period, the adventure, conflict, struggle and problem solving of its people. 

     A living science provides interesting facts that explain the world the child lives in, while it takes him on tour of determined men and women and how they came upon their discoveries and inventions. 

     The Bible is a living book. Hard and puzzling in places, but also marvelous, miraculous, tragic, triumphant . . . the true story of a personable, patient, loving, and all-mighty God. Since a Christian is in kinship with God’s remnant through the ages, the Bible is actually an important source of his identify and spiritual heritage.*5

     Virtue is also exemplified through biography and a wide array of children’s literature. Sometimes fiction is just for fun, a celebration of life and the joy of childhood. But good books can also help the student with the sober aspect of building character, and heeding the call to a responsible life. Education's aim is maturity.  

Kinesthetic Learning
     The child is a “hands-on learner.” His first math lessons are founded upon measurable and movable objects, which eventually pave the way to manipulating numbers mentally.    
     One of the simplest of hands-on activities, not to be overlooked, is drawing. It is an excellent way, and a legitimate way, for a child to narrate what he is learning. A student who is developmentally delayed, who has difficulty talking, can draw his narration.
     Handicrafts, in wool, wood or leather, train hands to a skill, to be resourceful and of service.
     As an alternative to screen time, a child may learn (still, in this 21st century) to swim, ride a bicycle, dance, skate, catch a ball, build a safe campfire, mix and flip pancakes, wash dishes, and yes, maybe even baby-sit and change the diaper of an energetic and elusive toddler who has recently added the word “no” to his vocabulary.   

     Did this last line make you smile? I wasn’t planning to end the article this way. Let’s just call it one practical outcome of Miss Mason’s high thinking and lowly living. We home teachers can be a serious bunch, can’t we?

     No need to stress over Learning Styles. Charlotte Mason has you covered.

     Isn’t this grand?

Comments are invited,
Karen Andreola 

End Notes
1.  Charlotte Mason, A Philosophy of Education, pg. 74
2.  Ibid, pg .75
3.  Ibid, pg. 76
4.  A Charlotte Mason Companion chap. 5 explains self-education.
5.  Psalm 33:12, Romans 9:7,8,27

Tea on the windowsill of Landis Valley's primitive kitchen

The sweater (or “jumper” as it is called in England) that little Nigel is wearing has Thomas Tank Engine on the front and was knit by my British friend’s mother. At age 3 and 4 Nigel was in his “train stage.” I believe Yolanda drew the picture of Thomas for him. You can tell I sought to be frugal and be my son’s barber. Oh, my. 

Post Script
     With orders for the Lavender Strawberry kit I am busy washing, ironing, and cutting pretty purple fabric. Thank you, so much. Where would we be without free enterprise and encouraging friends? The orders for Parents’ Review prove I have readers questing for knowledge this summer. And I hope those who have received the Mother Culture CD are also being nourished by its message.
     My Macintosh laptop (2004) on which I wrote Lessons of Blackberry Inn, has met its end. I now must check my old email “karenscrayons” the long way. Please use The “j” is for Joan. Thank-you, Ladies.

Monday, June 30, 2014

To Prevent Chores From Seeming Endless

To Prevent Chores From Seeming Endless

“. . . he could see the green grass paths between the lavender hedges, the purple masses of michaelmas daisies with the butterflies sunning their wings upon them . . . and smell the damp sweet scent of it . . . “ The Bird in the Tree  Elizabeth Goudge

     A decade ago, maybe more, as we’ve been writing for twenty, my pen friend sent me a sachet filled with lavender flowers. It is sewn into the shape of a strawberry. Charming. Though its sweet-woodsy fragrance has grown faint, the Lavender Strawberry resides in my dresser to this day.

My Friend is to Blame
     Keeping house and home teaching a sizable number of children, has been a full-time job for my friend. She willingly works with her hands and head. Cooking and laundry are continual. And high school students must do their algebra. She has embraced her position as wife, mother, and home teacher. There is nothing else in life she would rather do. But to prevent chores from seeming endless she sets aside time for precious moments of Mother Culture. She has learned to do her chores promptly and efficiently because she values a little time to create. She also passes along the domestic arts to her daughters. Sewing is a summer project along with bottling fruit. Anyway, my friend is to blame for my Lavender Strawberry craze with her handmade gift to me all those years ago.

Plump Strawberries   

     In late spring, Dean and I are sure to stop at an Amish farm to buy homegrown strawberries. The fruit has a rich flavor. And the soft succulent texture surpasses that of supermarket offerings. I try to remember to return my pint boxes to the roadside stand. But I save some to recycle in another way. The pints make cute-and-clever containers for Lavender Strawberry Sachets. Four plump Strawberries fill a pint. Place the pint in a 5 X 11 plastic candy bag, tie with ribbon and you have a feminine gift unlike anything found in a department store. Recently, I started using a bit of purple paper-crinkle inside the box to make a nest for the Strawberries.

     To preserve the freshness of the lavender flowers until gift giving, I like to store my Strawberries in an empty pickle jar with some fabric tied on top.

Nature’s Fragrance
     There are few feminine crafts I enjoy more than Lavender Strawberries for practicality. They gently sweeten up a dresser drawer, a closet, or suitcase, the natural, old-fashioned way. Tossed into the clothes dryer, a sachet will last three drying cycles. I tried this. For subsequent cycles refresh with a drop of lavender essential oil at the top of the sachet. It is a lovely way of incorporating essential oils in the day-to-day routine. 

Short Creative Sittings
     A busy mother has brief spaces of time in which to sit comfortably and pick up a needle. Therefore, I’ve learned to carry the steps of Strawberry-making over a series of days. “Short sittings” is the method I use. I look forward to moments of leisure that are unhurried, and where supper is not at risk of boiling over on the stove.

     Fabric can be sewn into a cone and stuffed to make a simple ornament. But what I call, deluxe Strawberries go a step further. They are lined and ruffled with complimentary fabric.

     A separate piece – the sachet of flowers - is nestled inside the fabric envelope. Tied with ribbon it forms a ruffle instantly. Although the entire project can be done by hand, I recommend a sewing machine.

     The sachet is hand-finished – as easily as sewing a fabric yo-yo. I sit by a sunlit window to spoon the lavender flowers into the sachet. The room fills with fragrance.

     Stressful days are all too common. Therefore, a craft with lavender flowers is an added reprieve. It is said that the scent of lavender has a calming effect. I am inclined to believe this. Queen Victoria had lavender flowers strewn all around the castle and liked to have them replenished daily. It must have kept her gardener busy. 

     I love fabric and like to mix-and-match traditional calicos of purple and green for my Strawberries. But this year I couldn’t resist making one set in red. (Click any image to enlarge.)

     Strawberries are quite cute in themselves. But now and again I sew on tiny glass beads as seeds. For a wedding shower or get-well gift I may add lace.

A Mother Culture Craft
For Mothers and Daughters
     Some crafts are so cute they’re “catching.” This crossed my mind when I made a new batch of Strawberries this spring and so I carefully recorded the steps as I went along. Wishing to make it very convenient for mothers and daughters to get started, I went further. I did a good amount of preparation. I gathered materials. Then, I assembled a kit for my readers.

     Only basic sewing skills are needed. My friend granted me permission to use her design but the instructions are entirely mine. I couldn’t resist picking out pictures from the pages of my antique books to lavishly illustrate the instructions. I got carried away and even illustrated the patterns, which you can see here in green on the chair. The fabric in kit is handpicked by me, pre-washed, and purchased here in Amish Country.

     Use the kit as a birthday gift or to enhance any home economics course – and contribute to a beautiful girlhood.  Age 12 up.

What’s in the Kit?
An assortment of 6 color-complimentary purple and green fabric, satin ribbon, plenty of lavender flowers to fill 4 plump Strawberries, easy-to-follow instructions, patterns printed and illustrated, color photograph. Nigel did the graphic arts for me. We work well together. Made in the USA.

$18.00 plus $5 shipping. Cash or check to Charlotte Mason R & S., PO Box 296, Quarryville, PA 17566. Or PayPal with note to my account:

     Even if making sachets is not your thing perhaps this post will spark an idea of what you’d like to do for a little creative Mother Culture this summer. May, you too, get carried-away.

Until next time,
Karen Andreola 

Monday, June 23, 2014

Sunshine and Shadow

Sunshine and Shadow

     Are you new here? Welcome. Feel free to click about. An array of articles awaits you. I hope you glean something helpful from them. Today, rather than an article, I share a piece of my present life. For my long-standing readers I offer an apology for not reporting the results of my medical treatment sooner. Thank you most sincerely for your prayers and kind notes. Perhaps the reason for my delay is that I have resisted coming face to face with the truth in print. The extended weeks of treatments for neuropathy and Complex Regional Pain Syndrome were unsuccessful.

     Some of you know that I started this blog in 2010 partly as a diversion from chronic pain. It’s been a pleasure to connect with people. Since writing the story, Lessons at Blackberry Inn, writing articles has enabled me to minister with an outward focus. This blog is a place where I can be hospitable with ideas. I hope I have made it a pleasant and ponderous place for you to visit. 

     I’ve been away from blogging for a bit. First, Sonja Schafer honored me by interviewing me on her insightful blog. Then, I spent the week at my eldest daughter’s house. Sophia’s family lives two hours from us. The photos are mostly from her camera. I was given the room over the garage. The futon was perfectly comfortable with the thick mattress topper Dean insisted I bring along.


       At 5:30 a.m. the sun was rising. Oh, the birds. Their notes revealed their numbers although they were invisible. Such carefree carols made my heart sing along. This was my unquiet quiet time before the two little boys were up and about feeding their pets. Each morning I would sit perched on the edge of the futon with a pen and spiral notebook open, reading and jotting down thoughts in the morning light. I intentionally left my laptop (and all electronics) at home. The view out my window was surreal: acres of Christmas trees. 


     The change of scenery was appreciated. But I came primarily to play with my grandsons. On one of the rainy days, for it was a rainy week, the 3 year-old was a cowboy. He wildly rode his stick horse chasing his brother from room to room. This same little boy had had stitches in his forehead twice the week prior. What enormous energy little boys have when they play together. I put myself to bed ten minutes after reading their bedtime stories.

     I was seeing the house for the first time. As a sort of hand-me-down, house warming gift, I passed along my (wool fabric) braided rug. Sophia says it adds warmth to the fireplace room. On another rainy day the 6-year-old set up a long wooden railroad track on the rug. When the sun managed to poke through the cracks in the clouds I watched him in the sandbox and on the tree house slide in the back yard. Sand is one of the best of toys.

     My daughter has fond memories of her storybooks. She finds pictures on-line, prints them out, and places them in frames. It is a frugal way to decorate, she says. This one, by Eliose Wilkin, stood beside me near the futon. 

     For the wall above her computer Sophia printed out botanical flowers she searched for on-line. Using dime store frames, she gave each a thin coat of paint, then scrubbed to reveal a bit of wood grain.

     Above the pie safe, that stores home school materials, is a broken clock. It was stitched by her mother-in-law who passed away during the school year. It doesn’t matter that the hands of the clock are missing and that it cannot keep time. It was made by someone special whom Sophia loved and misses and that is what matters most to her. This is how I can tell she values it. See how the dainty live basil trees accent the clock on either side? (Click any image to enlarge.)

     Sometimes sorrowful or scary circumstances surround us - or just plain exhausting ones. For the struggling Christian it may seem that joy is at the bottom of a well. It is never obtrusive, but there it waits, cool and clear, promising to refresh. We have to practice our faith, to send down the bucket on a reliable rope of faith . . . and draw up joy hand-over-hand. As I sat alone in the guest room with my supplications, staring out over the acres of Christmas trees, I tried not to be overly sorrowful about the life of limitations my son has to accept as a newly handicapped person, just on the brink of his career. I tried to be patient about my husband’s job hunting, and not anxious that my pain has been steadily increasing in spite of invasive medical treatments and all my veggie juicing.
     There are myriads of things out of our control. Circumstances were out of the apostle Paul’s control. He was knocked down and near death, but always got back up. I think he was lifted up. He learned through his trouble that a joyful heart is “anxious for nothing” and urges us to do likewise. I have a Heavenly Father who is in control. And how wonderful (what manner of love is this?) to be called one of His children.
 (1 John 3:1, 2)

     A far-away friend admonished me by letter when I reported our woes. “Karen, count your blessings like you count the stitches in your beautiful samplers,” she wrote. I was touched by her words put in the imperative, because they were not shared indelicately. (Phil 4:8)

     Speaking of samplers, I finished the one I had designed for Sophia and presented it to her. Do you remember she requested a house sampler months back? To make the top half I followed a chart of a girlhood sampler of the 19th century. Then I fit together spots from several samplers for the bottom half. “E” is the family initial. The trees are the Christmas trees adjoining their property. The sprig of blueberries is reminiscent of Maine.

     The single strawberry is just-because she loves strawberries, which ripen during the month of her birthday.

    At last, I chose the word “Joy” in teeny tiny one-over-one stitches. It is such a little word but its deep gratitude makes a “cup runneth over.”

     Sophia is the only female in her household and I in mine, so we treated ourselves with girl-talk. Later, on the front porch, when the sun was lowering in the sky, the breeze blew through the silver wind chimes. I commented on how clear and pretty the chimes sounded. “That’s because this one,” she pointed out, “chimes the first notes of Amazing Grace.”
     “Really?” I said brightly then listened some more. The beautiful chimes created a lull in our conversation, which few things can do once girl-talk gets on a roll.

Thank you for your visit,
Karen Andreola

More News
     Here is a link for Sonja Schafer’s blog interview. At the end of the interview you will see that Simply Charlotte Mason decided to sell all my books. Neat. Perhaps there is a description of one that sounds like it would uplift your life. If so, I hope you will consider purchasing it on their website. If you like your visits here you will feel very at home on the pages of my books.

     During my week away I used my daughter’s computer to read my emails one evening. What a surprise. The mice at Linnie’s Butt’ry and Book’ry chose my name for the prize of a handsome gardening book. Fun.