Thursday, March 7, 2013

On Voyages of Discovery

On Voyages of Discovery    
     Spring is just around the corner. I will put my winter plate away – the one that pictures a cozy fireside scene from The Four Seasons of BramblyHedge by Jill Barklem

The Four Seasons plate

     It is the last of my set of four to show you.   

Brambly Hedge plate

     Our copy of Little Fur Family by Margaret Wise Brown has characters that are not afraid of yet another week of snow. The littlest fur creature benefits by being out of hibernation. He exercises his inquisitive nature as well as his limbs.   

     I like to see the root children in joyous procession come out of the ground holding each a spring flower, dressed in their flower’s color. There is a dance in their step as they anticipate the sunbeams again with beetles and ladybugs joining in. Sibylle van Olfer’s The Story of the Root Children is a childhood favorite of one of my readers – and I can see why.   

A neighbor's mailbox

      By long-distance letter, a friend in the south told me her daffodils are blooming. “I wish our daffodils would stop dilly-dallying?” I said to Dean in a moment of impatience. Some afternoons the temperature has been above freezing. But I should know better. Daffodils don’t dilly-dally. They bloom only when favored with a string of 50 degree days. No other temperature will coax them.    

 To soothe my cabin fever I felt it time to take out my faux daffodils for the kitchen windowsill.   

     It is good to know that spring is around the corner. Young children indoors for long cloudy months can become irksome. Mother, too. Older children can be strangely moody.

Dean's photograph of a barn in Strasburg, PA on a soon-to-be-spring day.

     When I read the following passage by Miss Charlotte Mason, I couldn’t help chuckle. It is a piece of writing that is as entertaining as it is meant to be instructional as Susie looks for tid-bits close at hand to satisfy her inquiring mind. (I can’t help wondering just how many servants Susie’s mother has.) Miss Mason writes:

     Susie is an inquisitive little girl. Her mother is surprised and not always delighted to find that the little maid is constantly on voyages of discovery, of which the servants speak to each other as prying and poking. Is her mother engaged in talk with a visitor or the nurse? Behold, Susie is at her side, sprung from nobody knows where. Is a confidential letter being read aloud? Susie is within earshot. Does the mother think she has put away a certain book where the children cannot find it? Susie volunteers to produce it. Does she tell her husband that cook has asked for two day’s leave of absence? Up jumps Susie, with all the ins and outs of the case. ‘I really don’t know what to do with the child. It is difficult to put down one’s foot and say you ought not to know this or that or the other. Each thing in itself is harmless enough; but it is a little distressing to have a child who is always peering about for gossipy information.’      Yes, it is tiresome, but it is not a case for despair, nor for thinking hard things of Susie, certainly not for accepting the inevitable. . . . What ails the child is an inordinate desire for knowledge, run to seed, and allowed to spend itself of unworthy objects. *1

     What do you think is Miss Mason’s remedy? First she recommends getting Susie outdoors to pry into nature. I fancy the girl in the painting to be a girl like Susie. Doesn’t the sunshine look inviting? 

     Next, Miss Mason conveys the importance of setting Susie’s mind on larger matters. This works wonders for people of all ages. Are we learning anything new? Or, do all our hours seem “old hat.” A good question to ask a student is this: “What new thing did you learn from today’s (Bible, history, science) lesson?” A report at the dinner table spreads the new knowledge around and may even tickle the younger students’ interested ears. If the reply is too often a gloomy “nothing” adjustments may need to be made, somewhere. The freedom to make adjustments is a blessing of home teaching. Challenge and blessing frequently coincide.

     On a lighter note, when my children were young, during a month when we were cooped up, I’d keep a book of riddles handy. At lunchtime I’d read a riddle – just one. (I could have read more riddles but I chose to ration them). While they ate they took their time thinking about how to answer the riddle. We’d smile at the guesses, and sometimes giggle when enlightened by the answer.

red cabbage, apples, and raisons


   Something new to think about – like springtime - is a refreshing change that helps us rise above the mundane and replaces trite curiosities.

     May you always be learning something new – for your Mother Culture - even if it is simply a recipe for red cabbage – baked with apples and spice it’s nice.  

Comments are welcome,
Karen Andreola

End Notes
*1  Charlotte Mason, Parents and Children, page 176. 


  1. We are anxiously awaiting the return of spring as well. Seven children cooped up in the house in winter has led to many creative pursuits though. Imaginative plays, learning new handicrafts, and much baking of treats.

    I love your temporary daffodils to tide you over until fresh blooms peek their heads out. I think I need to get the children to create a paper flower garden this weekend for our walls while we await the real thing. Thank you for the inspiration!

  2. One is never to old to learn something thanks to you and Miss Mason for this days do seem more and more "old hat" :)...blessings

  3. You know, I always had Legos handy for those too long winter days that seemed to be lingering way tooo long :)

    My daffodils are also taking their sweet time...


  4. One thing that has always been hard about living in AZ is our stuck indoors time is for most of the summer. It seems so wrong that when the sky is such a lovely shade of blue and completely cloudless that it is our time to be stuck indoors. We hit 80 yesterday and yet they are calling for snow on Saturday. This has been a very weird winter for us.

    I have many things that I want to learn. I always liked the quote from Ma Ingalls in the movie when Laura asked her how long it would take her to learn. And Ma answered her that we started learning when we were born and if we were wise we wouldn't stop until the good Lord took us home. ;o)

    Blessings on your day!

    Love, Heather

  5. My college aged children are set to begin Spring Break tomorrow. It snowed in their town yesterday, so much so that the local schools were closed. My daughter was looking forward to playing at the waterfall over her break....hmmm... If she goes through with it, my husband and I will be asking for a tuition refund, since she would clearly not have learned anything of real value so far this semester!

    We have enjoyed a stereotypical March here: grey clouds, beautiful puffy snow that traced the tree limbs, wild winds, blowing rain, a warm sunny day, and back to grey clouds again. And today is only the 7th of the month. It's like having teenagers again.


  6. Love the decorative plate. Doesn't it make you want to sit next to that cozy fire and enjoy the little mice company?

  7. We had the biggest snowfall of the season this week but it is all to melt by the end of the weekend.

    I do know spring is on the way but all I can see at the moment is white and brown and just a glimpse of muddy looking clouds.

    There is one little area of behind my house where the daffodils first bloom. I think it is because they are next to the brick house where they get morning sun and it reflects on the brick, making it warmer there than other parts of the yard.

    I can hardly wait to cut big bunches of yellow sunshine!

  8. Thanks so much for posting about Brambly Hedge. I used to work for Royal Doulton and I loved that collection. I have a few pieces, and it is so nice to run into another collector.

  9. Did you know that the Root Children have been made into an amazing quilt? Here it is used as illustrations in probably the same book: Wow.

    My son is just chomping at the bit for Spring. The kids go outside and root in the mud, I mean play in the back yard, every day, but it's just not the same. My daffodils can't make up their minds, as we have had such see-saw weather. Thank you for your lovely thoughts.

  10. I have enjoyed this reminder to delve into something new. Even I (whose favorite seasons are autumn and winter) have been looking ahead to spring, feeling a bit restless with the sameness of gray days.

    I love your Brambly Hedge plates! When my youngest child was born, Target was featuring a line of Brambly Hedge products. Someone had given me a set of the BH baby wash and lotion, and these (almost) twelve years later, I can still smell and see my sweet newborn baby at the mention of Brambly Hedge. (I know that was a rabbit trail...) ;)

  11. What a sweet post, Karen.
    I liked the story of Susie - and recognized myself as a young girl in the description.
    Your decorative plate is so homey - and the daffodils brighten all.
    I especially love it when you share simple recipes with us - I am definitely going to try that red cabbage dish! It looks wonderful.

  12. Root Children and riddles! Thanks for the ideas to widdle away at the edges of winter. If the day is dreary I can always find some inspiration and sunshine here.

  13. We've attempted forcing some tulips but alas I think we keep our home a touch too chilly for them...I need to pick up some new potting soil and we will try again and I will set them on the stove or something. :) I will have you know that I open up another browser to my library and just copy and paste all your book suggestions straight from your text! :) We've always been blissfully happy with your choices. Blessings and praying for spring to be just around the's pretty gray here as well!

  14. "The Root Children" is one of my favourite books. Every time I see the tiny, lovely spring flowers again in the garden, I have this image of them having been carried to the light by tiny root children in my mind...
    Here in frosty Germany, snow drops, crocuses and tiny iris reticulata made their way to the surface - only to be covered again by lots of snow in the last two days. Like last year, winter weather stays too long with us. The root children will have to sleep a little longer...
    Hoping for daffodils soon and wishing you the same, Martina

  15. I adore those plates! Many people forget that plates are good for decorations. I have a few in my apartment that I sometimes change out per season without clutter.

    Thank you for your posts! So inspiring!