Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Learning the Art of Mother Culture

Learning the Art of Mother Culture
- a message from my daughter Sophia

Sophia, Andrew, and baby William, 2007
Greetings to Mom's blog friends.

I am Karen Andreola’s firstborn child. On the pages of my mother’s new book, Mother Culture – For a Happy Homeschool,* sometimes she refers to me as Baby One, Big Sister, or Sophia.

Despite our family’s many household moves and frequent challenges, the memories of my childhood are happy and magical ones. Some of my favorite memories are of playing make-believe, going barefoot in the creek, our family’s many nature walks, and being absorbed in a good book.

I remember reading this aloud 25 years ago and bought a copy recently. 



Fast forward to adulthood and the exciting anticipation of my own firstborn. As my husband and I planned for our baby’s arrival, I dreamed of creating those same happy memories for him.

My mother made it look easy, but I quickly found motherhood was not as dreamy as I had planned. With his birth came a screaming baby, sleepless nights, exhaustion, and loneliness. Life with my baby was really, really hard. The grace of God and many long distance phone calls to my mother saw me through those early years of adjustment.

Green time for William, Joseph, Eloise.
Now I have three children. As they grow, so do my mothering and home teaching skills. I am learning to apply the art of Mother Culture. These wise principles are the tools I have needed to keep growing into the mother I had dreamed of being—not perfect, but equipped to face the daily challenges of a home teacher.

Chocolate molds make interesting Christmas ornaments in the Keeping Room.
Perhaps those many hours of phone chats with a frazzled daughter convinced my mother of the need for a book on Mother Culture. I can remember one especially trying wet winter’s day several years ago. “Mom, after chores everyone’s been in a sour mood,” I said. “They’re crying and so am I. It’s been a horrible morning.”

Free-motion quilting is a fun way to doodle. The church reminds me of Maine.
“Put on some sunshiny music* and dance with the children,” my mother advised. “When you're good and tired, sit on the floor. The children will gather around you, the littlest one on your lap, to hear you read aloud from a cute picture book. It will calm your frazzled nerves and theirs, too. Then you can return to lessons.” So I did. It worked. Later, when Daddy got home, Mommy took a peaceful walk by herself and read a chapter from an edifying novel. It is amazing how refreshing a 30-minute break can be. Similar words of advice have rescued many a day for my mother’s grandchildren.

Our grandchildren like the steam engines at Strasburg's train museum. 
My firstborn baby turns 11 this month. Today, he and I, along with his younger brother and sister, made some of those childhood memories that I always dreamed about.


By applying the principles preserved in Mom's book, you will not only be encouraging yourself but be inspired to encourage and uplift those you love. As you learn the skillful art of Mother Culture, your days at home with your children will increasingly be filled with joy and peace. - Sophia

Thank you Sophia.

The occasional odd moment of sitting on the hearth rug, is a fast way of getting the attention of young children, who will stop fussing and head straight for Mommy.

*New book: available January or sooner. It is printed and now scheduled to be "baked" the printers told us. 


5 Smile-Making Songs

Some peppy and positive smile-makers, for Mom and her young children, can be found on YouTube. I decided not to provide a link but to list them as titled there:

"Oliver - Goodmorning starshine."
"The Tokens - The Lion Sleeps Tonight."
"(HQ)Peter, Paul & Mary - Puff the Magic Dragon."
"Fifth Dimension - Up, Up & Away, My Beautiful Balloon."
"John Denver - Grandma's Feather Bed"

2 Quieting Songs

"John Denver Sunshine on my Shoulders"
Dad found this little-known quiet-song: "Eddy Arnold C-H-R-I-S-T-M-A-S."

I made 4 of these trees for family gifts - starting in July.
I wish you a cheery day.
Karen Andreola
A return to the quilt shop, this time, for some reproduction fabric.
Post Script
I spent a pretty penny for an out-of-print copy of Good King Wencelslas by Mildred Luckhardt for sentimental reasons (Abingdon Press, 1964). But also because it is a story I wish to pass onto my grandchildren. It is based on the Christian Duke of Bohemia (907-935). In 1853, hymn writer, John Mason Neale, wrote the lyrics for the Christmas Carol. Do you know "Good King Wencelsas" written to the music of a jig? Mildred Luckhardt also wrote The Story of Saint Nicholas - but I've not read it. I saw a variety of picture books on Wencelslas on this page on Amazon. It made me curious. 


Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Rising up from a Domestic Slump

Rising up from a Domestic Slump
Earlier this month I fell into a domestic slump. With my book out of my hands and scheduled for press, my eyes were opened to household details I had put off. Oh my. Where do I start?
Nigel, 2000, Maine. He hand-fed is chicken earthworms until it became plush. 
My first step was to hop onto The Legacy of Home. I hadn’t been in a while. Here, Mrs. White aligns Christian holiness with homemaking. Her devotion to God and family is uplifting. Next, I made haste with one need staring me in the face. We had burned-out light bulbs all over the place. I’m embarrassed to say how many. Summer thunderstorms will shorten their life I was told. With darker days upon us, good lighting is appreciated.
Keeping Room. 
Standing on the step ladder replacing bulbs on the chandeliers, I also dusted them – especially as I will garland some soon. My mood turns melancholy when days are gray and overcast, and when darkness falls early. To remedy this gloom, I put up three new mirrors. Mirrors multiply light. Our “new” mirrors are used. I like federal period mirrors. Their swirls are interesting, decorative, and a little fancy, without being gaudy.
This house, I newly discovered, is an antique shop that I'd like to visit.
Perhaps the style is of by-gone days and unpopular, because I’m always surprised at how inexpensive these used mirrors are when I spot one at an antique shop.
A Play Quilt (for tummy time) with flannel accent in border and a pieced binding.
Recently, I walked across the road to visit my new-ish Amish neighbor. I brought her the little play-quilt I made her baby (for his tummy time.) Normally she is all smiles. On that day she tucked a dilemma between her smiles. We’ve had a great many rainy, overcast days which probably led her to say, “When you English build houses you assume electricity will light them. We Amish, who purchase them, find the rooms dark.”


By free-motion quilting I put doodle-swirls in the squares. Goldilocks is peeping out.
What came to my mind privately, were all the many sky-lights I’ve seen built into the ceilings of non-electric Amish shops. I didn’t suggest these, however, knowing how drastic cutting a big hole in the roof would be. So, I suggested mirrors since mirrors were fresh on my mind. I saw none on her walls. She liked the idea.
Flannel Backing. Yellow Thread.
We knock on one another’s doors unannounced, to say hi now and again. She doesn’t see this as strange behavior for the 21st century, and I don’t tell her it is, because this is what Amish do. As they live without radio, telephone, music, or any screens, face-to-face relationships are priority. “It must be pretty quiet over there,” I’ve said more than once to the Man-of-the-House when I gaze out a front window and across the road. I did tell my neighbor which days of the week I’m more free to chat. What I need to remember to tell her, also, is how nice it is to have a stay-at-home mother nearby. Although our family has lived in many different neighborhoods, this stay-at-home mom is a “first.”
The Mud Room has a little window and a little mirror.
While deep cleaning and de-cluttering, some passages of Jane Eyre vaguely drifted to mind. I pulled my book off the shelf and quickly found the place I was looking for because I had left a tiny sticky-note in it, years ago. In chapter 34 Jane sets up housekeeping for herself and Diana and Mary. I read it over. I was happy that its attitude further motivated me to spruce-up.

When I shared with a friend how much I enjoyed the housekeeping chapter 34 she said with joy, “That place in the story catches my notice every time.”
Boston Harbor, Johnson Brothers, single plate found at a brick-a-brack shop.
Jane’s aim is to first “clean down” Moor House
from chamber to cellar; . . . to rub it up with beeswax, oil, and an indefinite number of cloths, till it glitters again . . .
She tells Mr. Rivers
Afterwards I shall go near to ruin you in coals and peat to keep up good fires in every room; and lastly, the two days preceding that on which your sisters are expected, will be devoted by Hannah and me to such a beating of eggs, sorting of currants, grating of spices, compounding of Christmas cakes, chopping up of materials for mince-pies . . . to have all things in an absolutely perfect state of readiness for Diana and Mary, and my ambition is to give them a beau-ideal of a welcome when they come.
Further on Jane writes,
The ordinary sitting-room and bedroom I left much as they were: for I knew Diana and Mary would derive more pleasure from seeing again the old homely tables, and chairs, and beds than from the spectacle of the smartest innovations. Still some novelty was necessary, to give to their return the piquancy with which I wished it to be invested.
Therefore, Jane refurnishes the other rooms of the house with curtains, carpets, some carefully selected antique ornaments, bed coverings, mirrors, etc. She seems to be delighted with the task, excited even. The end result was a “model of bright modest snugness.” It “looked fresh without being glaring.” It would be a lovely warm place to spend their winter together.
Don't you like this poem, "Thanksgiving Day" by Lydia Maria Child? 
Podcasts For Your Encouragement
Sonja Shafer has been presenting 15 minute video podcasts on the Simply Charlotte Mason blog. My link takes you to the beginning of the series. These bite-size segments on switching to Charlotte Mason are approachable. They give the home teacher ideas to contemplate along with some direct step-by-step how-to.

On Charlotte Mason Poetry, 15-yr-old Anesley Middlekauff shares a 12-minute piece she composed: Growing up with Charlotte Mason. This bright homeschool student tells personally about how the following 4 have impacted her life. I found it touching.
Go outside.
Read and narrate living books.
Teach living math.
Start a handicraft.
"Thanksgiving Day" is in my copy of "First Poems of Childhood" illustrated by Tasha Tudor.
Nancy Kelly’s Living Education Retreat featured a panel of experienced homeschool fathers over the summer titled “Building Their Houses.” As the session is longer than an hour, I listened to it in several segments while sewing, enjoying the honest and rare discussion of these dads. The best word to describe it is: “heartening.”

Looking forward to our next visit,
Karen Andreola

Friday, October 12, 2018

A Weighty Tip

A Weighty Tip
Today I’m sharing a tip. It’s more than helpful in bringing up children. It’s vital. You're probably already making good use of it in your house, in which case, my message will be affirmation for you.

Sophia's photo taken at Colonial Williamsburg. She knows I like yellow.
As a young mother I remember pondering the idea of a peaceful home atmosphere of authority. Whatever this was, I wanted it.

I asked myself, “How do I set the gears of authority to good working-order without harshness in the air, so that my authority is understood and gently felt by the children?” I knew that a booming voice, nagging, bribes, or bigger and bigger punishments were broken gears. I wanted to discipline my children by shepherding them in a spirit of gentleness? (1 Corinthians 4:21, Galatians 6:1)

Taken 1994 during our visit to Amish country. Yolanda, Nigel, Sophia
In the Kitchen
It had been a busy day of home-learning. I was in the middle of cooking double, so I could bring a meal to a family and simultaneously take care of our own supper. Most of the meal was completed. One thing more was left to do. But I stopped abruptly. Leaving steaming hot potatoes in the pot (awaiting salt, butter, cream cheese and mashing) I stood there with my arms crossed, as if crossing my arms would root my determination. I was fortifying myself that I wasn’t going to change my mind about something I had just calmly said “No” to. I kept myself from adding, “And I mean it.” The apostle James tells us to let our yes be yes, and our no be no.
I enjoyed hand-quilted these bow ties. Swirls in the border are by machine. I'm teaching myself free-motion quilting.
“And I mean it,” is superfluous. By being true to her word a mother is trustworthy. She earns a child’s trust by keeping her word.

All civil societies work well only when its people speak truth, do not bear false witness, and keep their word. In early America, to shake hands on an agreement was binding. “I gave my word,” was a big deal then.

Because Jesus our Lord is true to His Word and His promises, His followers seek to be trustworthy, too.

Colonial Williamsburg. 
Tell the Truth
A young child will turn a deaf ear (or drowsily drag his feet) when he has gotten used to hearing another empty threat where Mommy and Daddy do not follow through with a consequence swiftly, or when a privilege or promised treat, never comes. When a mother’s words are weighty, when she can be trusted, when her yes is yes, and her no is no, the child is disciplined fairly. He knows it is fair and will accept the consequence and admit his shortcoming more readily than if discipline is haphazard.
A moment of correction will often come at an inconvenient time (such as in the middle of making mashed potatoes). It is best to stop, breathe, and discipline calmly, anyway.

Florence Nightingale
Florence Nightingale 
For my Mother Culture I’m reading Florence Nightingale by Jeannette Nolan (pub.1946). I like its bright writing style and that Jeannette Nolan unashamedly reveals what was born in Miss Nightingale’s young heart. Her motivation to be of service to others, sprang forth from a knowledge and love of the God of the Bible. This religious motivation (in this case, Anglican) would hardly be given a nod in a modern publication (if it were slotted for the school library shelf). But Miss Nightingale’s Christian faith is relevant. A person doesn't live a virtuous life at a whim.

On Christ the solid rock I stand, 
All other ground is sinking sand.       
                                                                            (lyrics, Edward Mote)

My copy has a thick, sturdy library binding that, in its heyday, had held up to repeated handling. Its well-worn its pages tell me it must have been read by hundreds of children long ago (who would be age 85-90 today.)

But I digress. The point I wish to make is this. Miss Nightingale knew she needed to be trusted for her authority to be respected. When she had become head of a group of nurses, having just arrived at the Barrack (transformed inadequately into a hospital) it was a scene of much suffering.

The story reads,

Soon, whenever she had an hour, she must write out some rules for the nurses. She intended that they must be strictly disciplined, for without discipline the best results could not be attained. The nurses must recognize and defer to her authority. She was their leader and she would be obeyed. But to enforce discipline, she would have to retain their affection and respect. They trusted her now; she must never do anything to lose their trust.

Isn’t this the position a young mother finds herself in when surrounded by little children needing her daily guidance and care?

Catching some rays on camera. Sunshine has been a rarity here for months.
On a Domestic Note
I’ve been roasting locally grown vegetables. One of my daughters made soup incorporating her leftover roasted veggies. She told me how happy she was with at how it turned out. “It’s delicious, if I do say so myself,” she said.

Harvest vegetable soup with roasted veggies. 
“What a good idea,” I told her. I took out the little plastic containers of several days of leftover roasted veggies and did some impromptu food combining with corn I sliced off the cob. The roasted eggplant gave the soup a savory flavor. The corn was crunchy. Yum.

To the Cider Mill by Danna York
Coloring with Grandma
One of the things my grandchildren know I’m happy to do side by side with them, is color with crayons. An uncommonly cute coloring book is one created by Danna York, a Christian home teacher and artist. To the Cider Mill reflects one of her favorite memories of an outing she took with her children during their home-teaching years. It is apropos to the season.

Uncommonly Cute
If you are interested in making this book a gift for a child, Danna York would be happy to hear from you. By typing out her email we prevent spam. Yorkdanna(at)gmail(dot)com.

Wool pumpkins (purchased) for a window sill need arranging somehow.
Photographs 
Sophia’s family visited Colonial Williamsburg over a week-end in September. She said it was quiet and that they were almost the only visitors.
Until next time, 
Karen Andreola