Friday, February 25, 2011

Not a Moment to Spare

Not a Moment to Spare

“Not a moment to spare” sounds like a phrase from a fast-paced novel of suspense and close calls.  It also describes the way we live our lives.

The Lady-of-the-House, knowing she was to accompany someone she loves to outpatient surgery, supplied her basket for the wait. A jar of water, an apple, her knitting, a tablet of writing paper and a book would occupy her nicely.  

The couple drove passed a snowy Amish landscape thankful the roads were clear. The scenery was calming to the nerves on a day when nerves could use steadying.

Following the patient’s check-in the Lady-of-the-House left the crowded inner waiting room to sit in the outer waiting room. Only two persons were seated there at either ends of the furniture. Each was doubly supplied with electronics. The man had a laptop open but was urgently text messaging on his cell phone. The woman had a kindle in view but was fully absorbed in her hand held thingy, too.  

You can imagine how old fashioned the Lady-of-the House felt – with her basket. She was suddenly struck with the thought that it is the way she’s been living for years. Time apart from her regular duties is sometimes spent doing a few rounds of knitting, reading a page of a book, or starting a handwritten letter. She may not get very far but likes to have a basket prepared for any brief opportunity.   

“Making a mitten or a sampler sounds lovely but I haven’t the time,” bemoans the dedicated, hardworking home teacher. The Lady-of-the-House is always sorry to hear this. With this post she wishes to offer help.

How can a home teacher, with her multi-faceted responsibilities, find time to dabble in something she longs to try? If you welcome practical advice read on. Otherwise, scroll to “Tickled Pink.”

Putting Lessons in Apple Pie Order 

When a home teacher follows Miss Charlotte Mason’s “gentle art of learning” she is more apt to find time to revive personal interests. She has moments to spare. Here’s why. Many of Miss Mason’s educational principles consequently make good use of time. Let’s look at two. 

Trust in Shorter Lessons.

Miss Mason insisted upon keeping lessons on all subjects short so that optimum attention was achieved, especially with what she called the disciplinary subjects, such as math and spelling. Alternate these with poetry, history, art, or nature study to keep minds bright. It isn’t the number of subjects but their duration that tires the mind.

Curriculum designers think their particular subject is of supreme importance. We are happy to have materials born out of such enthusiasm. Yet, in their enthusiasm they tend to “over-state their case.” Thus, a first-grader might be faced with a weighty math lesson one hour in length. To shorten math lessons the Lady-of-the-House reduced the number of word problems that her young child was required to complete. She also did a quick drill of concentrated effort every morning and another just before supper. A better memory of math facts was the result. (Lessons lengthen as the student matures).

Inch by inch, it's a cinch
Mile by mile, it's a trial

Trust in Habit.

Habit draws us forward to do the “next thing.” Children will readily do what is customary. When lessons last 15, 20 or 30 minutes a young student can have a handful of subjects completed in a morning.

“I can see how useful good habits are,” one mother shares. “With math completed the children look forward to a late-morning snack, then to an episode of history with one child taking his turn at narrating it. After this refreshment, spelling is tackled automatically. Drawing or Nature Study is anticipated on certain afternoons. Part of my children’s afternoons, however, is now free time. And I relish my spare moments.” 

During the first months of home school this mother made every effort to keep to a regular schedule of short lessons. Now, with less effort, habit carries her children smoothly and pleasantly through their morning schoolwork - more smoothly than at the start of the year.

Tickled Pink

The Lady-of-House is happy to announce that after months of stitching, the girlhood sampler of Charlotte Bronte is framed. At first it rested on a windowsill while the Lady-of-the-House considered where to place it. “It will be a pretty-little-thing wherever it ends up,” she thought.

Following a week of indecisiveness it is finally at home near the 18th century silhouettes.

When she gazes at it the Lady-of-the-House tries to envision the author of such an intense story as Jane Eyre at six years of age, head bent embroidering her alphabet – a little girl younger than the girl in the painting of the last post who was knitting her own stocking – out necessity.

The Lady-of-the-House also finished Jane Eyre (the novel started in autumn.) She finds it interesting that the inscription young Charlotte stitched into her sampler was, so many years later, a Christian belief held strongly and lived out admirably by her main character.

After all the chapters of hard circumstance with Miss Eyre striving to live rightly. After struggling to reach sound judgments in spite of the sway of her feminine emotions. Finally, the Lady-of-the-House was able to rejoice over Jane’s happiness, her sense of belonging and opportunity to love and be loved in the end.

You never know what treasures you will uncover until you take a little time for Mother Culture.
Karen Andreola 


  1. Little bites of lessons are so much easier to digest. I've followed this idea through all of our homeschooling journey, and it's always worked.

    The sampler is so pretty! It looks lovely up on the wall. :)

  2. Beautiful, beautiful post! I love all the scenes including the Amish scenes...we see the same thing here only with Mennonite peaceful! Love your basket of goodies!Love the lovely!
    I rented Enchanted April thanks to you and really enjoyed it...great costume and stunning scenery!
    Love your Mother Culture Concepts!
    Thanks for sharing,

  3. What a wonderful post. Yes, mother culture is what refreshes mothers and gives that sence of peace and calm in the home. Mothers truly do set the tone for the home.

    I am so thankful the my friend Amanda told me about your blog. We both discuss your book The Charlotte Mason Companion at length. This book has truly changed the way I homeschool! It has also affected other areas of my life as well.
    I also love your book Pocketful of Pinecones. I recommend your books to every homeschool mom I meet.

  4. Lovely photos and lots of food for thought, especially at this season of our homeschool year (Feb. and March can drag on!) Thanks for a much-needed dose of tranquility.

  5. Karen, your sampler is exquisite! I confess to having to get a bit of knitting in daily to keep my sanity:-)

  6. Karen, Thank-you for this most lovely posting.The sampler is beautiful,your placement of it, so at home.Love your basket of needful items, I too have taken to bringing my basket along with me on my journeys. Do hope all is well with your loved ones. Sometimes just having along the things of comfort from our homes, somehow lends a certain kind of peace, even at stress filled moments.Hubby and I along with our married daughter who was visiting this week with our dear grandson, watched Enchanted April.It was a real find. Thanks for suggesting it .Just got Charlotte Masons Companion book so that I may try my hand at that shawl, and the Victorian Lace pattern as well. Many blessings to you and yours, Dawn E. Brown

  7. Yes, yes, yes!

    The short lessons, are a delight to the children, and allow them to not feel their lessons are a drudgery. Keeps them interested.

    My heart is always so sad when I talk to mothers of young children who are having them do 45 minutes to 1 hour for lessons...they are all going to burn out!

  8. A beautifully written post along with some lovely photos.

    This is such a comforting reminder as a young mother just beginning on this journey.

    Your words continue to inspire me once again.

  9. Karen,

    I just read Jane Eyre for the first time a few months ago (with four little ones at home it took me a few months to get through it). I LOVED it!! It is now my favorite book ever and I have read quite a few books in my time. Your sampler is fabulous and such a great reminder of the truths Miss Eyre lived by in the book.

  10. Wow, Mrs. Karen, just wow.
    I came to your blog by way of a friend, and I am so glad I did. One word stuck out at me in this post: Trust.
    I have read some on Miss Mason and her ideas. I have followed blogs. I have made lists and lists of lists. I have read books, several by your own pen. I have talked, questioned, listened. And yet. Oh, and yet. I continued to go my own way, make my own path, with cobblestones marked as Overwhelm, Confusion, Frustration, and Defeat. It all comes down to trust, doesn't it?
    I came here, not sure what to expect, and received a blessing. thank you, Mrs. Karen, thank you!

  11. Lovely, peace filled posting, as always, thanks again Karen,you give us much inspiration to continue in the things that are most important to us Mothers. Dawn E. Brown

  12. Ladies,
    Thank you for stopping by. I'm always happy to hear that you appreciate the ideas I share here or that you are reading my books.

    Your sewing blog is darling. I was touched that you, too, just finished reading Jane Eyre. Aren't there gems in Jane Eyre? "A little at a time" is how I also read it - like getting through a box of chocolates.

    We blog to know we are not alone. This is my twist on what C. S. Lewis said about reading. Thank you for sharing that you also liked the film Enchanted April.

    I remember the anxiety I experienced in home teaching. It seemed that with each passing year I was walking on new ground as my children grew. Fresh readings of Miss Mason's practical wisdom helped me take positive steps that brought me down a path with trust. She had great insight into how children learn while considering the teacher's feelings and limited energy in the mix.

    Karen A.

  13. Like you, I also do inch by inch when it comes to knitting or embroidering. Sewing is something I try to do in large blocks of time.

    My boys have been learning the CM way for over 4 years now. They are older, so their responsibilities are less for me. They basically teach themselves at this stage. So I am able to do a bit more of my crafts and take care of my home without too much fuzz.

    Thank you for this post...I am enjoying reading all your past ones. :-D

    Mrs. M.