Monday, April 4, 2016

Works-in-Progress by Karen Andreola

From Pocketful of Pinecones

Yolanda's Nature Notebook. The Downy Woodpecker fits the following excerpt from "Pinecones"

During morning lessons the children listened to me read aloud about the woodpecker. I'd like them to learn to recognize the drumming of its beak and have a chance to observe its unique hopping slide up a tree trunk. But I know that not all of what they will learn about God's creation will conveniently fit into my lessons. My students have a life time ahead of them in which to observe and discover - to become self-educated in their leisure, so-to-speak. My job is to allow their feet to walk the paths of wonder, to see that they form relations to various things, so that when the habit is formed, they will carry and appreciation for nature with them throughout their lives. pg 75

View from the kitchen window in springtime's soft morning sun. Yes, that is recent snow - not unusual for us in the woods. 
How nice it feels to rest within a schedule of lessons that is working well. But it isn't surprising that home teachers tweak. Changes are inevitable in the ebb and flow of the seasons of learning. See how fast the children grow?

As new patterns of daily activity emerge, each year a mother's job description is revised. That's okay. Each year Mom is older and wiser than she was. God is growing her mind and heart when she works - even through some difficulty - to bring order in her day.

Grandson Joseph requested a new vest of many colors. He outgrew the first one.
Keeping a string of lessons going each morning was always my goal. The children fell into a pattern. They moved from one subject to the next - off at their own desks after a group lesson around the kitchen table with me.
Front and back of garter-stitch vest awaits ribbing around arms and neck.
One child had my personal attention while the others worked independently.

I'd keep this going child-by-child on a rotating basis, listening to a young child read aloud, listening to an oral narration, reading through an older child's written narration, etc.

I recommend the three-needle-bind-off for shoulder seaming. It's so smooth. 

At times Nature Study, Music Appreciation, and Picture Study were haphazard - especially right before or right after, a household move.

As much as we followed a pattern for learning I remember a time of feeling perturbed. I stood in the hallway not knowing whether to turn right or left.

Using a rotary cutter with safety glove to make my granddaughter's quilt.
With hands-on-hips, I said to myself, "Why is it that no two weeks are exactly the same? Is this a mar on my efficiency?" In my government school experience, my classroom days were a blur of all-sameness. How monotonous. But sameness was what I was used to.

One thing was for certain. Our days of home learning were not monotonous.

"True Grips" attached to the quilt ruler help keep it securely in place while cutting.

Some of you are not on Facebook so I'll share this here.

In the home, no matter how consistently you work to instill good habits of quiet discipline. And aim for smooth and even days. No matter how well you prioritize and plan. Just when your schedule of lessons is working well. Life ushers its interruptions. They are part of life. And this is one way home teaching is much more like real life than an insulated-automated classroom.

The water heater dies. The basement is flooded. The washing machine is on the blink. A thunderstorm knocks out the electricity. The children have fevers and bad colds. Your best friend just had a Cesarean and you are watching her energetic two-year-old. It could be that Mom has another miscarriage. Dad losses his job. The family is uprooted as they relocate out-of-state in the middle of the school year. They miss old friends and must start over again to make new ones.

Piecing colorful "Hour Glass" blocks for Eloise's toddler quilt. The blocks await "squaring up." 
Children learn valuable life lessons (not in spite of) but (through) the interruptions of Providence. Mom and Dad learn, too. We’ve experienced all these bumps, detours, and more.

When the bumps in the road tumble you off your feet and you feel heavy, over-worked, anxious or discouraged -- remember this. The quickest (and best) way to get back on your feet is to get on your knees.

Never, never, give up my friend. God’s stream of living water is ever flowing. It can never run dry. You may be exhausted. But His wellspring is infinite, eternal and therefore, inexhaustible. It is there for thirsty hearts.   - John 4:10

Sketch out a pattern that welcomes learning, a pattern where each child has his needs met - even if this means trimming or combining when other re-arranging has proved unworkable. The most beautiful things in life are of design. Your family's patchwork pattern can be all its own. This is the art of home teaching.

My latest used find - a creamer to fit the mini daffodils from the garden.

And remember, too - even as we are nearing the end of a school-year - we are all Works-in-Progress.

Learning is for life.

I agree with Carol of Pocketful of Pinecones - don't you? 

Pinecones  is a teacher's guide to nature study disguised as a story to sooth and refresh for your Mother Culture. I linked it to Amazon.

End Notes
I hope to show you the finished vest-of-many-colors upcoming, as well as the toddler quilt. They are birthday presents in the making. Do you like the colors I picked out for the quilt? For your interest and convenience (and because I am asked) I am linking the Fons and Porter Safety Glove here.

If you are feeling a spark of enthusiasm to start quilting, I am also linking the Fiskar's Rotary Cutter with the handle shape I like, the True Grips that I stick onto my Omnigrid 6/12 Ruler and the Olfa 18/24 Cutting Board.

Comments are Invited.
Karen Andreola

Thursday, March 3, 2016

To All Unorthodox Teachers

Since the days of my homespun Parents' Review I've been talking about Mother Culture -since the 1993 issue pictured here. I liked the term Mother Culture so much I eventually made it one of my company brand names. Anyway, it is good to stimulate our minds in various directions, to keep something meaty, something sweet, a biography, a history, a novel, a devotional, etc, nearby, and pick up the one we feel fit for.

One week this winter I picked up something light, A Year with Miss Agnes. 

I have a pretty-good-guess that you will like it as much as I do. It's a children's book. Yet, because of its positive-vibes on the subject of education I recommend it for the home teacher.

Upon closing the book (oops, I speak out of habit - I read it on Kindle) I thought, This is a good example of a teacher who shares Miss Charlotte Mason's supposition that "the child is a person."  

Ten-year-old Frederika (Fred for short) describes her people - natives of Alaska - and the events in their lives - with fondness. She shares casually with the occasional native vocabulary and the tacked-on phrase "and all that stuff."
Nigel's map work at age 10, while reading Seabird.

In 1948 the Athabascan people follow the rhythm of the seasons with their extended fishing and hunting trips. In between this necessary wilderness survival the Athabascan children attend a one-room schoolhouse. It was a regular occurrence that teachers would come and go at the schoolhouse.

Photographed in 2111 while visiting my parents at the Jersey Shore. 

Frustrated, they rarely stay a whole year. One, teacher, however, is sane-enough, nerve-enough, clever-enough and generous-enough to pull it off. That teacher is Miss Agnes. Seeing that her students learn something and  catch a spark of a love-of-knowledge is a higher goal to her than forcing them through any rigid scope-and-sequence.

Tea Anyone?

Frederika's life is suddenly full of pleasant surprises. Miss Agnes arranges the desks in a circle. When the boys act up that first day this teacher doesn't holler or even act ruffled.

Fred explains,"Everything was different. But good different."

The differences are not surprising to the Charlotte-Mason-minded reader who will notice, on close inspection, that Miss Agnes's classroom runs on a certain atmosphere, discipline, and a kaleidoscope of new and interesting ideas.

(Married daughterSophia - now age 33 - made rolls from a recipe in The Tasha Tudor Cookbook this winter, then sent this photograph to me of what I had inscribed to her when she was a teen. I'd forgotten. My, the years fly.)

The teacher even talks funny. That's because Miss Agnes was brought up and educated in England. She drinks a strange brew at lunchtime - called "tea." I don't recall her drinking anything else. She must have been familiar with what was in the miserable textbooks of the day but she has other methods up her sleeves.

On her first day she has the children pull out all the ugly grimy hand-me-down textbooks from their desks. They are told to pack them away in cardboard boxes while she mentions that she pays no attention to grades or grade-levels. Fred is relieved to hear it. From her own box Miss Agnes pulls out colored pencils, paints, paintbrushes, and paper. Fred is agog.The first drawing assignment is to draw what they liked - but fill in all the white space. The walls of the school needed brightening up, Miss Agnes, says.

She plays opera on her record player. The singer speaks a strange language. Italian. On the big map she attached to the wall, she points out Italy. After lunch, while the children do penmanship Miss Agnes walks around the room reading aloud from a book the children never heard of: Robin Hood. This stimulates their imagination. (Fred tries to imagine all those shady tall trees), It brings them to a new land and time, like in a dream. It makes them, too, ask questions. (They want to know stuff.) Literature, for the-time-being, puts them in company with good English grammar (which Miss Agnes corrects in their speech).

The teacher is learning, too. She gets to know her students which enables her to challenge individual potential. More joys of learning are in store. But I'll let you meet them afresh. I will add another observation, though. Miss Agnes has a way of awakening a quality of self-education in her students. The only true education is self-education - Charlotte Mason reminds us.

The author, Kirkpatrick Hill is herself a teacher in Alaska. I took note of her dedication in the front of the book. It is inclusive of "all unorthodox teachers." Isn't this what we are? And our children are unorthodox learners to manage to come through years of education with their curiosity intact - a blessing Miss Charlotte Mason hoped every child (and teacher) would possess.

I finished my little quilt of Spools using a William Morris charm pack. The edges of the spools form a tiny pinwheel.

Can you tell how much I liked reading A Year with Miss Agnes? It would make a good read aloud. And your children will always have a little picture in their heads of Alaska. I link it here for you.

Hanging in the corner of the parlor I originally made it for my office/sewing room in the attic.

Post Script
Have your children filled-in a map following what they are reading? The map on the blog today was material published in 1990s by Beautiful Feet Books for the Holling Clancy Holling Series. Their geography course, it seems, has been updated with writing assignments.

Keep up your Mother Culture,
Karen Andreola

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

By Hand

By Han

Slowly, with sure-footed steps, and a soft cloth, I work my way up the stairway, to smooth away the dust. The nifty-looking brush vacuum attachment can't do what the lowly piece of flannel can, in the hand of the homemaker, around the fancy cut cylindrical spooks. I try not to look down as I dust. It can be dizzying. Because the staircase is the only fancy part of our simple house I don't mind the maintenance required of the ornamental carpentry, now and then.

I'm in the middle of reading Little Women during these dark winter evenings. Isn't it a wonderful feeling to read a book and feel a kinship with its writer? It brightens up a dull winter. It might be a silly spot - but silly or not - I was sharing a cozy feeling with Miss Alcott when I read the part describing Meg's homemaking.  

   "I . . . doubt if any young matron ever began life with so rich a supply of dusters, holders, and piece-bags; for Beth made enough to last till the silver wedding came round, and invented three different kinds of dishcloths for the express service of the bridal china.
     People who hire all these things done for them never know what they lose; for the homeliest tasks get beautified if loving hands do them, and Meg found so many proofs of this, that everything in her small nest, from the kitchen roller to the silver vase on her parlor table, was eloquent of home love and tender forethought." 
Little Women, Louisa May Alcott, chap.24

White snow (and we've had more than our fair share this year) also beautifully brightens an otherwise dull winter. Color, too brings brightness. Dean brought home flowers. The center of the kitchen table is the most practical place for a bouquet in our house. It gives me the best and most-oft view of them. I was hand-basting a quilt at the kitchen table, taking advantage of the low rays of winter sunlight as it entered the French doors, when I noticed that the fabric of my little quilt matched those of the red bouquet. (In the plum border are vines of tiny red wild strawberries.)

I chose the Snowball quilt block, an appropriate pattern for this time of year. Inside each snowball I quilted a large heart by hand with lavender thread. Snowflake-like orbs seem to be floating on the light fabric in the manner of one of those water-filled globes that recreate a scenic snowfall.

On the subject of snow I came across this photograph of my children taken in 1998 in Rockland, Maine. They were happy with the result of their snowman-building, shaping it carefully by hand, in honor of Raymond Briggs magical fairy tale "The Snowman"a film produced in England that my children had enjoyed. The film's music is marvelous. Do older children bother to take part in the pleasure of building a snowman these days? I'm glad my children were squares.

While Dean was shoveling the deep snow away from the kitchen door, I baked his favorite treat - doughnuts. We prefer baked doughnuts over deep-fried. Greasing the doughnut baking pans with coconut oil gives them plenty of tasty "crisp."  Just out of the oven I give them a sprinkle of butterscotch sugar.

January saw the 90th birthday of a friend of mine and older-woman-in-the-Lord, Mrs. M. I remembered the winter in Appleton, Maine when she turned 75 and I made her a birthday card from a rubber stamp of a Tasha Tudor illustration. I made one again (partly as a forget-me-not) in appreciation for her loving-kindness to me during our years in Maine. I miss her.

During the big snow we had a house guest stranded here. Better to be stuck here during her travels than risk the highways on her way to Washington, D.C. She saw my green sewing roll-up, where I keep needles, thimble dots, etc. It's always laying around somewhere. She was tickled by it. "Would you like one?" I asked. She did. And so I made her a brown one from an unfinished roll-up being ignored in my sewing room. All I needed to do was hand-sew the binding and add a button. (The roll up is actually secured by a snap).

Dean and I hadn't any grandchildren when we last entertained this guest, so I showed her some photographs. Here is one I share with you. Baby is 6 months old already. This is a photo of her at 5 months wearing the cardigan I knit her. A skilled and thoughtful blog friend knit Baby the lacy bonnet, a pattern of her own design. Very pretty.

It's been a quiet winter.

Keeping in touch,
Karen Andreola