Thursday, October 31, 2013

When Interest Fades

When Interest Fades

We gather simple pleasures like daisies along the way. 
                                                               Louisa May Alcott

     As soon as the air took on the chill of autumn a certain squirrel took on the habit of hopping passed the window. The Lady-of-the-House couldn’t distinguish what it carried in its mouth. Sometimes the food was an untraditional green. Anyway, she was entertained as she washed the dishes.

     Nutritious nuts are buried by squirrels. Enthusiasm gets buried, too. This is understandable. Busy homemakers and home teachers hoard ideas for another time because the day’s demands are varied. The hours seem short.

     All is not lost, however. Enthusiasm can be revived. You can uncover enthusiasm where you left it.  Dig it up. Take a few bites. You can be, once again, fed by the kind of thing that once struck your fancy. 

     Recently, the Lady-of-the-House enjoyed making and sending a card to her son’s nurse. It was on her mind for a week. It isn’t often that she takes out the basket of rubber stamps. Once in a while she has a craving to color. And she likes to make cheery things. Such seeds to color must have been sown way back in her coloring-book days - again, in the early days of home teaching.

     Creative stamping eludes the Lady-of-the-House. Perhaps she lacks confidence for arrangements and trimmings. Anyway, she is happy enough with:  stamp and color.

     The stamp she chose depicts an autumn illustration by Tasha Tudor. She bought what the seller had, ten years ago in a shop in Maine – a small collection, actually. She is glad she splurged then, as stamps are less available now.

“[Laura] was knitting [Manly] a whole long-sleeved undershirt of fine, soft, Shetland wool yarn for a Christmas surprise. It was difficult to keep it hidden from him and get it finished . . .” Laura Ingalls Wilder, The First Four Years

     A faded interest in knitting left every needle untouched for most of the summer. Until . . . the Lady-of-the-House felt a chill in the air . . . and . . . she spied some yarn at Landis Valley. She swooned over all the colors, secretly. After making the painstaking decision, she chose two. The wool is sheared, dyed and spun locally.

     She knit a raspberry cap, a pair of socks and mittens - each from a separate pattern. Because she was able to use the same yarn it ended up making a set – a gift for a two-year-old.

     Has your enthusiasm been sleepy?  Perhaps an idea from a coffee table book out of the library - or the simple pleasure of a leafy, leisure stroll outdoors - for instance - might clear the air and awaken a personal interest.


     Easy-to-read-at-night, the Lady-of-the-House fed her soul with The First Four Years by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Have you read it? When she got to page 85 she scribbled down the knitting quote. Hope, persistence, hard work, and love “runneth over” its pages. 

Post Script - Knitting Lingo

      I doubled the size of the pattern’s bumps on the raspberry hat. In the heel of the sock I changed all the K2TogTBL to SSK. I prefer a SSK decrease. It gives a smoother appearance. I also continued the ribbing along the top of the sock for a more elastic fit. Did I do any tweaking to my trusty plain and oft-referred-to mitten pattern? Yes. I improvised with “little shells” edging. I couldn’t wait to try it on something so why not a cuff? I had to rip out the “little shells” and start over a couple of times before I was happy with it. Now I wish I had put this edging on the socks, too.
     The roses are from my daughter Yolanda's garden.

Hope you had a cheery visit,
Karen Andreola 

Friday, October 25, 2013

A Dad Learns to Listen

     Here is something unusual for Moments with Mother Culture. The-Man-of-the-House has a message for dads. I thought you might like to read it. ---Karen A.

A Dad Learns to Listen 
 A Modern Take on James 1:19

     Hi, I’m Dean Andreola, a homeschool dad and regular guy. My wife Karen and I began our homeschool journey around 1985. Well, okay…I’m a homeschool dad and an old regular guy.

      As a regular guy it is hard for me to appreciate knitting. My wife reads knitting magazines. She is quite good at knitting. When we went to our county fair a few weeks ago, Karen headed for the needlework exhibit with me in tow. She said; “Dean, bring the camera over here. Please take a picture of this. Isn’t it cute? Isn’t it adorable?” There were little old ladies all around. I was getting impatient because I wanted to see the diesel generators and the 600 pound pumpkin at the other end of the fair. I cringe at words like “cute” and “adorable”.

     And I didn’t know what “it” was that I was supposed to be taking a picture of. It might have been some kind of pot holder. But I wasn’t certain. The day Karen knits me a holster for my Smith & Wesson Model 686 I may take an interest in knitting. Ah, that reminds me…

      I was puttering around an online gun review forum the other day and spotted this amusing but accurate saying, mixed in with reviews and the usual gun chit-chat: “Half of communication is listening, and you can't listen with your mouth.” That got me to thinking….hmmm…where have I heard this before?

     “Half of communication is listening, and you can't listen with your mouth”.  Sounds a bit like James 1:19-20. (NKJV) So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.

      Homeschool moms are arguably some of the hardest working, most patient people on the planet. They may not seem as patient when you get home from work. They have already spent the golden hours of the day educating, disciplining, encouraging, researching, cleaning, cooking and ministering in all sorts of ways.  Karen would often choose the time just before dinner, as pots were simmering on the stove, to fill me in on all the activities of her day. Why did she choose this time? Realistically speaking, what other time did she have?  Looking back, I can’t say that I was always the most patient listener at that particular hour. After all, I didn’t go to work to hide in a closet all day…I was busy too, and like the old cartoon character Elmer Fudd, I was looking forward to good food and “peace and quiet at waaast”.

Landis Valley

      It is not easy to be “quick to listen and slow to anger” especially during inconvenient times.  Homeschool moms understand inconvenient times, but that does not mean they thrive in them.  Moms can also feel isolated. They often don’t speak to another adult until you come home! Scary, isn’t it?  Patient listening to our wives and children before and after the dinner hour is a small price to pay for us dads for fulfilling the requirements of James 1:20; namely producing “the righteousness that God desires.”  It also gives our wives an opportunity to vent their emotions in a healthy way. Wait; do I hear some of you saying that wives shouldn’t have such emotions? If we regular guys were in the house all week doing our wife’s job, I’ll bet we would have a few emotions of our own.  This is our opportunity to put a smile on our wife’s face, or give her a shoulder to lean on. It may take a while to build our listening skills, but the reward is worth the effort. Homeschool dads are called upon to be leaders and educators. James 1:19 adds one more crucial item to the list: Encouragers through patient listening.


     Okay, I give up…I’m falling under conviction. The next time Karen asks if we might stop into that “sweet little yarn shop”, I won’t feign hard-of-hearing, I guess I’ll turn the wheel in that direction.  No really, I mean it! 
     Dean Andreola
The Holy Bible, New King James Version Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. 

Until next time, Karen Andreola

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Getting Children to Write

Getting Children to Write 

    Parents have asked me, “How do I get my child to write?”

     “With narration,” I reply. Then I briefly explain the method. Read aloud to your student, and then request that he tell, in his own words, what was just read to him. It’s that simple. “At the heart of good writing is the ability to narrate,” I share with them.

Whose Baby?

Narration From Books

“If we would believe it, composition is a natural as jumping and running to children who have been allowed due use of books.” – Miss Charlotte Mason

     Books of quality will be the main source of a young child’s composition. A good book (of fact or fiction) is one that feeds a child’s developing imagination. By putting what he has read (or what has been read to him) in his own words, a child, without even being conscious of it, is learning how to use words. For instance, in his retelling the child will naturally borrow an interesting “turn of phrase” from an author. The method of narration is a neat package. The student is developing his imagination and writing skills naturally with a talent for using words.

Creative Writing

     With all this reading and retelling going on, it isn’t difficult to switch gears, to make room for the occasional creative telling rather than retelling. While a child’s imagination develops by narrating his books, these and other intellectual powers (such as critical thinking) develop further as they are used in a more playful way with creative narration (creative writing).

What Happens Next?

     The best way to prompt a child to tell creatively is by giving him a story starter. Instead of expecting him to compose “from scratch” by supplying him with only a topic - a task even the average adult finds daunting - we can kindle in him a keenness to write by using a story starter. An unfinished story sets the stage. It will draw him into a colorful situation. He is plunged into a predicament that holds him in suspense. Upon the invitation, “What happens next?” the child then springs forth to enhance and embellish the story as much as he wants.

A New Level of Vibrancy   

     After reading a 1960’s article about how teacher Raymond Ward used exciting and suspenseful story starters in his classroom, I couldn’t resist experimenting with my own children. His claims seemed incredible. But I gave it a try. The first story starter I used was a bit scary. It was a description of a wild and angry dog. The dog was sick and hungry. It was loose, roaming the neighborhood and needed capturing. We spotted the dog out a window at dusk while supper was simmering on the stove. It sniffed the air, ran up to the sliding glass door and started pawing at it to come inside. No pencil biting, no head scratching, no wiggling in their seats. My children focused on finishing the story while the wheels of their imaginations turned. They wrote with descriptive phrases and vocabulary unlike anything that they had written before. My experiment worked and I was quite pleased.

Writing with Feeling

     The advantage of an exciting story starter is that it emboldens children to write with feeling. Let the first draft be as rough as necessary as the children express their ideas and impressions. Once their interest is sparked they will write with zest. They will write boldly and with far less restraint than they may be used to.

A Truly Rough, Rough Draft

     All writers go over their writing again. To make it better they write a second or third draft, rewrite and polish. Not only did I encourage my student’s first draft to be rough, I insisted upon it. I told them to pay little attention to spelling, grammar, punctuation, or even forming complete sentences. They could take care of these later. At this stage the student needs to make the splash of spontaneity. Therefore, let the storms in the story blow, the waters rush, the bears growl, the rhinoceroses charge, the horses gallop, the kittens purr, the ships sail, the rowers row, the babies coo, the crows caw to their hearts’ content. The story is the thing. And with a story starter your student is raring to go.

Why Fiction?

A person’s worldview almost always shows through in his creative output.” Francis Schaeffer

     Facts in home school are important. Fiction teaches, too. Good fiction shows us what virtue looks like. It is a mix of kind gestures and heroic deeds. It may be a small act of bravery such as visiting someone in the hospital or a larger act in serving the war effort. Characters in the story act out: friendship, forgiveness, patience, gratitude, resourcefulness and responsibility, admiration and respect, love. Fiction enlightens us by helping us develop a moral imagination.

A Positive Experience - A Positive Attitude

     Using story starters can foster a positive attitude toward writing in general. As a student’s newfound confidence grows it will carry over to other writing aspects of schoolwork – the more factual kind.

     I believe your student can write boldly. I created a variety of curious characters and involved situations in my big book, Story Starters. Each is illustrated from my personal collection of antique pictures. My desire was to give students, age 8 to adult, an opportunity to rescue those in danger, comfort the sick, cheer the lonely, laugh with the ridiculous, tame the wild, and do battle for good.

     Coming soon:  a message written by Dean Andreola, the Man-of-the-House.

Thanks for visiting,
Karen Andreola 

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Can Brothers and Sisters be Best Friends?

Can Brothers and Sisters be Best Friends?
     When I began having babies I stored up in my heart, an ideal. Many would consider it too high an ideal. Why harbor false hopes?

     But I would not let my hopes be dashed. Over the course of years, I would spend daily effort reaching for the ideal. For, my heart’s desire was that my children would grow up to be the best of friends.

     I learned that the way to a happy home life was in understanding how a child’s soul grows. It isn’t enough to wash, clothe, and feed a child, and even punish him when he is naughty. His soul must grow.

     The tiny word with seemingly insatiable yearnings is: “me.” Me-first is inherited from the sin of Adam. Self-importance begins in the cradle. The toddler, who cries, screams, whines or whimpers for his own way (and continually gets it) after his needs are met, can turn into a loud, angry youth or angry adult.

My Thumbelina doll - vintage 1960s

There was a little girl who had a little curl           
Right in the middle of her forehead.
When she was good she was very very good.
When she was bad she was horrid.

“The realized self of each of us is a distressfully poor thing,” says Charlotte Mason. And yet she also has a far-sighted view of self “whose limitations no man has discovered.” *1
Her head used to roll. The wind-up is broken.


     Miss Mason sees the child’s soul to be fertile soil. It is wild in places, for sure, but if cultivated, an entire orchard of fruit can flourish. The ground is not hard-pack. Not yet. It is soft enough for  woman’s work, for it a Mother's love that does so much of the cultivating.

     All kinds of wonderful possibilities are hidden within the child. What he lacks is experience. It is Mother who directs hour by hour. This can be a tiring process. For a young mother surrounded by little inexperienced children, it can be exhausting. Little Me-firsts will rub and and rub against the grain. It may seem that she doles out penalties and natural consequences all-the-live-long-day. But when we punish a child for being selfish, jealous, for bickering, or for picking on a brother or sister this will only “awaken resentment and arouse greater spite against the person on whose account it is incurred. It will never diminish selfishness. Penalties will suffice for the moment, but another kind of correction is needed. *2

"Virtues, like flowers, grow in the sunshine. You can cultivate them or draw them out with love and reason, but you can neither force nor whip them into existence.” *3

     The only way to make virtues grow is to train a child’s conscience.

Place before him ideas and motivations for self-government.

Instill in him a love for others.

Model kindness, fairness, and self-control. 

     To grow character in the sunshine is up to you. Never correct in anger. Our natural response is to control a child’s temper by overpowering it with a stronger one of our own. But this short-term remedy is short-sited. A soft answer turns away wrath. A few words spoken calmly about taking turns, or sharing, about kindness etc. is what is needed for the time being. Meanwhile train a child’s conscious by feeding him ideas of kindness, fairness, and friendship through stories. A little child picks up strong impressions from picture books. He eventually gathers ideas of virtue exemplified through longer works.

     I think I was unconsciously drawn to picture books that depicted children, especially family members, playing or working, happily together. I was especially fond of the siblings drawn by Eloise Wilkin and Tasha Tudor. Sometimes our picture books were of busy animals getting along. My young children were attentive to the friendly activity inside Richard Scarry’s Best Storybook Ever. Today, so are my grandsons.

     If there is one thing more than any other, that is to be reverently cherished, it is the life of the family. A chapter book I read aloud near the start of our homeschooling years was, Little House in the Big Woods. Laura Ingalls Wilder places a high value on family togetherness. As her biographical series of stories unfold, mother, father, and sisters weather the storms of pioneer life with courage. From a storybook perspective we might glance back in time at the deprivation and endless toil, and call it "simple living." Although it was simple it was not easy. And yet how patient they were and appreciative of each other, and of small pleasures indoors and out-of-doors. This life was captured beautifully in the illustrations by Garth Williams.

   Readers age 9-12 will find examples of sibling friendship in the chapter books by Eleanor Estes. It amazes me with what clarity she sees life through a child’s way of thinking. I’m guessing that a good memory and nostalgia have something to do with it. I also like how she disregards any list of “grade-level appropriate" vocabulary. The words she calls upon to describe her people and circumstances are rich, varied and interesting.

     When my children were old enough to catch its subtle sense of humor, I read aloud Ginger Pye. Ginger is the dog who is lost in this mystery. Next, my girls read The Moffats along with a sequel or two, free of any cumbersome, classroom-y worksheets. The stories of Eleanor Estes pass along a subtle sweet flavor of the early 1950s from whence they were written. My links will take you to Amazon. 

     Training the conscious comes by direct teaching, too. 

     In all my years of recommending books I've not been as compelled to share a more delightful help than Making Brothers and Sisters Best FriendsHow to Fight the Good Fight at Home. Three homeschooled siblings contributed: Sarah, Stephen and Grace Mally. The Mally’s are personable. Their anecdotes and perspectives make the book bright. “Friendship” is not the subject matter to be dull, workbook-ish or guilt-laden. The Mally’s take turns explaining the benefits of being a good brother or sister while not ignoring “the real.” Their dad drew the humorous cartoons of “the real” which will not fail to bring a smile to your face.
     A little silly, yes, but it is only icing on the sober. The chapter, “How to be a Blessing” contrasts this with ways to be a pest. The book is full of concrete suggestions. One list offers ways siblings can show appreciation for each other in word and deed. It begins with meekness. In “What Should I do When my Brother is Bugging Me?” we are shown how to respond with fruits of the spirit. Biblical examples, principles, and verses, are the compass for righteousness. “Get Your Stuff Out of Here,” is a chapter that admonishes us to not let conflict continue unresolved. The chapter on forgiveness is important in healing hurts.

     The Mally children point out that, “your life’s work starts with your family” and by taking on the characteristics of a servant. To add to this I’ve recently heard that people who grow up with strong sibling relationships make happy marriages.

     Although it appears to be written to the student age 9 to18, if these chapters were read aloud by Dad to all family ears, it would generate discussion and laughter. The young mother, surrounded by little Me-firsts, who reads it at nap-time will be armed with moral support. She can use all the help she can get.  

Charity Begins at Home
     Forming friendships (face to face) outside the family circle can be rewarding. But over the course of our children’s lives these friendships will ebb and flow, due to relocation, etc. I am thankful that although we’ve had our share of “the real” my adult children are close. They keep in touch by telephone just to chat, look forward to spending holidays together, and will visit and serve one another in times of mounting stress. I recognize this to be the grace of God made possible by the redemptive power of the second Adam. Romans 5:19

Boys will be boys and compete but can also learn to cooperate.

     Yes. Brothers and sisters can be best friends. Is this an ideal you store up in your heart? It is very worth striving for. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Don’t let anything or anyone dash your hopes. It may feel like a rocky road. Keep plodding. Because it may be one of the most important things you ever do.   

Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in harmony! This begins with the family.

     Thank you for visiting,
        Karen Andreola

To me, she is a small Baby Dear by Eloise Wilkin
End Notes
*1 Charlotte Mason wrote a collection of Sunday talks in for young people age 9-18 so that they would be enlisted in building their own character. Ourselves is quite a thorough work. My quotations are located in the introduction.
*2, *3 Borrowed from the chapter, “Bickerings” in A Charlotte Mason Companion.

This American made a discovery one day. When, just for fun, she spoke the above old English nursery rhyme with a London Cockney accent that dropped the “h” in forehead to make it “for-ed” - it rhymed sensibly.  

Friday, October 11, 2013

Mother Culture in Snips and Snatches

Mother Culture in Snips and Snatches
     Over the summer the Lady-of-the-House enjoyed adding new bunches of dried flowers to the beams of the keeping room – the room open to the kitchen.

herbs on beams

     It would be quaint to say that she picked bunches of flowers and herbs from the plants in her garden or along the wayside. She had her eye on the tansy (Tanacetum vulgae) growing in the vacant lot, next-door.

     The brambles, however, were filled with plump yellow spiders. They were just as plump as the orange spiders out her back door, except the yellow spider webs were wispy. They draped across steams and twigs everywhere she turned. It was scenic from a nature lover’s point of view - a good subject for a naturalist’s paintbrush. The field guide the Lady-of-the-House opened told her tansy is poisonous. Perhaps it is just a well they stayed in the brambles.  

orb web

     Therefore, she has to admit to something less quaint. At her local flower shop she spied some bunches for sale for a few dollars each. They hung on the shop’s barn beams – available for those who have a flair for arranging dried flowers. Having no flair, and feeling wary about it, the Lady-of-the-House hung them as-is. She likes to pretend she grew them or picked them herself to adorn her house with an autumn harvest of earlier times.

     The rose hips were a gift from a friend last year. As per her friend’s instruction, when the rose hips got dusty she simply took them over to the sink, along with her dusty baskets, and sprayed them clean. Then she let them dry in the sunshine.

dry rose hips

     Little projects of adornment are one of the niceties that get left out of her days, mostly. A conscientious cleaning of the house and getting meals on the table is the priority. But once in awhile some project idea that has made its appeal in odd moments, comes to fruition.

      She has more ideas than she ever gets to. She has learned to live this way. It’s fine, really. It’s fine to entertain relaxing notions about what you might do with any spare time to do it. A little daydreaming is how the domestic artist uses her tired-time wisely. And when an idea grows larger and stays with her awhile, revisiting her while she washes dishes, folds towels, sweeps the steps; she will somehow make a little time for it.

fairy garden herbs

     Some of her friends welcome cooler days. The Lady-of-the-House does, too. Wrapped in a cardigan and cozy feelings of the season, she took a last visit to the grower’s market before they closed for the year. She liked seeing the tiny leafed plants there.

sunflower heads     “They could be used to make a fairy garden,” the grower said. Oh, the strength of an idea. A picture of her girls (when young) popped into her mind, when make-believe was a bigger part of their lives than it is today as married women (creative elements still rise to the surface). They would have had fun with a fairy garden-in-the-making.

     The Man-of-the-House noticed the sunflower heads filled with seeds. His wife’s first thought was: “if I place a couple of these on the big rock beside the house our cardinal couple would have a feast.” But on further thought, she passed. Realistically, the squirrels would walk off with them. The obnoxious blue jays would bully the cardinals out of their wits for them. And the mice, she was reminded, would make a hearty breakfast of the crumbs left by the messy eaters. Speaking first-hand, country mice are cute and round with stubby little noses. House mice – well, they are too nosey. They have the pointy facial features to prove it, nosing their way in where they’re not wanted.

     The cats Lady-of-the-House kept, were mousers. They earned their keep over their lifetime. But she no longer has cats on guard. And having had experienced years (without mousers) with mice and a nest of squirrels in the walls, she can affirm that: an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure – when it comes to misplaced critters. And so, with this convoluted train of thought, she put off a purchase of fairy garden plants and sunflowers, choosing instead, the pip-squeak pumpkins.

     During the hour that a setting sun lit up a western window, the Lady-of-the-House worked on another project of adornment. Out of her little collection of calico fat-forths she cut out circles in snips and snatches. On summer evenings she made her yo-yos.

     The piles got higher as the sun got lower. She hopes to have the yo-yos sewn together for an autumn centerpiece on the keeping room table. A special supper is planned.

fabric yo yos for fall

Post Script

     I wrote this piece during preparations for our son’s medical treatment in Philadelphia. Nigel has been handicapped with pain in both hands for more than a year. Dean and I are grateful to God that our workplace is our home. Here we can take turns being Nigel’s hands throughout the day. Nigel longs to do website designing work again.

dried flowers on beams

     While reading Luke 5 in my quiet time something dawned on me. With all the rig-a-ma-roll his dad has gone through this long year to find a doctor who could make an accurate diagnoses – (medical hoops come in all shapes and sizes) – Dean is like the faithful men who would not give up on their handicapped friend. They would not be put off or discouraged by the crowd. They carried their friend ‘round back of the house (I assume), climbed up onto the roof in the hot sun, removed the heavy tiles and slowly lowered their friend, through the ceiling, right to the feet of Jesus.

     For those who know Nigel and would like to offer a prayer for the success and safety for these two-weeks of initial infusions for RSD, I thank you . . . from the bottom of my heart.  

Until next time,
Karen Andreola

Friday, October 4, 2013

Smart Children Are Free to Imagine

Smart Children Are Free to Imagine

fall pin cushion
     When our home was trafficked with lively children I could stand in the kitchen, my back to whoever was coming down the oak staircase, and guess, by the sound of the gait, who it was. It might be a skippity trot; a tumbledown drum roll, or the gentle even tread of the daydreamer. A moment later, “Hi Ma . . .what’s for supper?” proved my guess correct.

pumpkin colored pin cushion
I made a pumpkin colored pin cushion this month.

     Isn’t it funny how children of the same parents grow up with different personalities, different gaits, different temperaments, etc. We acquire our own set of idiosyncrasies, likes and dislikes. Everyone in the family might have brown hair but under the hair is a brain and personality that has gone its separate way – without necessarily straying from family loyalty.

     Children, brought up by good parents, are loved under an umbrella of authority. Obedience is one of the first lessons a young child learns. But we also recognize that the child is a person. There is uniqueness to his personality. We can even say that personality is a sacred, God-given thing of which we think little. British educator Miss Charlotte Mason respected personality and believed it “must not be encroach upon.”*1

     Her principles of education preserve personality and nourish it along.

     It may not be evident at first glance. But looking closer we can see how the method of using living books and narration engage personality. In a Charlotte Mason education a student becomes self-educated. Education is not something that is applied like sunscreen to the skin. It happens “within.” When a student is put directly in touch with books of literary vitality and is required to put what was just read into his own words, his personality is engaged. His narration is personally crafted. Rather than a fill-in-the-blank work page or a disjointed multiple choice, with narration his mind does the work for itself. Attending, remembering, sorting, comparing, sequencing, reasoning and, quite delightfully imagining, are invisible powers that come together in a student’s narration. As simple as his narration may be in the beginning years, it is his and has come from his own mind. Just as people have unique fingerprints and telltale gaits, siblings reading (or hearing) the same book will craft their narration with a different twist. In A Charlotte Mason Companion I point out, “Yet each can be correct, valid, and true. Isn’t it interesting how the Word of God includes four Gospels accounts, each narrated from a special point of view? All are true, all minister to us, yet each is unique.” *2

apple butter pot hanging in the fireplace
Dried Flowers in an Apple Butter Pot

     Something else is needed for personality to develop. Down-time.

Make Room for Boredom

   We all (Moms, too) need down-time to let our minds wander and ruminate freely on what has been presented to it. We need time for imagining.

     There is a place we go when bored. That place is on-line. It is a world not without peril. But it is also a world of the beautiful, the funny, the informative, all awaiting us literally at the touch of a fingertip. As we choose to go on-line we also need the will power to choose to be off-line. This could mean saying “No” to ourselves and our children more times than make us feel comfortable - and - at regular intervals.

     Organized activities outside the home can also be limited.

     When we are bored and unplugged this gives opportunity for imagining.

     I took note of Cornelia Meigs’ insight into the life of Louisa May Alcott’s father in Invincible Louisa. In the early 1800s Bronson walked state to state peddling his teaching, stopping at plantations to talk. Any news and opinions were welcomed into the monotonous life of the country folk especially if the person were as good a talker as Bronson and had manners just as fine. If invited to stay he’d spend hours in the plantation libraries. Their shelves were often filled with “three generations of treasures.” He’d read history, philosophy, and poetry trying to absorb “all that was humanly possible before he shouldered his pack” to set off down the road again. “After this feast of learning, he had what is another priceless necessity - long quiet hours to think over and appraise what he had read.” During his lonesome tramping he reflected, he ruminated. He ate a bite of lunch under a tree, perhaps exchanging a few words with a passer by. The paragraph concludes, “Very few are the courses in education which allow time to think, but this education of Bronson’s was complete even to that final need.”*3 


     The muscles of imagination seem to like to work along with the muscles of the body.

     “So close is the connection between the mind and the muscular action in children that their ideas, as soon as conceived, must by some uncontrollable impulse be expressed in action, and this is in the main the raison d’etre of children’s play.”4 Play is the outward expression of imagination even if it just be the sheer joy of movement. To children educated on “books and things” - and room for boredom - this is the sustenance for make-believe.

     “There is a close relationship between the movements of children and development of their mind.” *5 

     If messes are allowed, if creative materials, building blocks, Lego, dress up clothes, dolls, art supplies, wheelbarrows and wagons are handy; children will create in their free time. This is where the term “recreation” arises. It is refreshing to re-create mind and body.

Just Imagine

     Just imagine . . . the story or parable begins. For those who can, the better he will be for it – because the more he will be able to bring to it. All through our lives, at every stage of maturity, the power of using our imagination comes in handy. It expands our minds. It softens our hearts. It enables us to put ourselves in the place of another by sympathizing, even if it is only the character of a story. Through the Bible and discussion over good books we build a moral imagination.

Independent Thinkers

     Independent thinkers are those who have learned how to use down-time. Bored stiff, one child asks another, “What-a you wanna do?”
     “I dunno. What-a you wanna do?” is the lackadaisical reply. The independent thinker comes up with something. The imaginative person does not necessarily have his head in the clouds. On the contrary he creates, invents, discovers, and builds, because he is an observant person. 

wooly bear caterpillar
A Grandson with a Woolly Bear Caterpillar

Observant People

     Observant people are those who have learned to appreciate their surroundings – preferably outdoors. In later years, in times of adversity our children may recall a peaceful scene of their youth. During a particularly stressful flight on a stuffy and turbulent airplane, I closed my eyes to recall how the seashore looks, feels, smells and sounds at low tide. In the cool of a summer evening its wavelets are edged in white froth like delicate silver-beaded lace glistening in the reflection of a setting sun. I was still anxious during the turbulence but I was a more calm anxious – if that makes sense. 

"All who wander are not lost.” 
                                            J. R. R. Tolkien

     One way a child’s personality develops is by unconsciously imitating grown-ups or older siblings. A little guy will slip his feet into his dad’s shoes and shuffle around the room. Children a bit older give a more sophisticated version of this a try. They walk in the shoes of the characters found on the pages of their books - those lovely books that influence their imagination.
     I spied, out our picture window in Maine, one afternoon, two girls in ponytails galloping across the yard. It was Yolanda and her friend. They shared a love of horses. I found out later that they were actors in a play going through the motions of an elaborate situation. The lawn was their stage, the pine trees their backdrop, the birds in the sky their audience. Oh, those hours of healthy imagining off-line. 

Dyeing Yarn at Landis Valley

     It seems some people never grow up. More accurately stated: They like using their imaginations. Adults enjoy getting-into-the-part, too. Look at a re-enactor (or interpreter) at an open-air history museum, or special event, with period costume, manners, handicraft skills, and even stylized conversation.

     A visit to Landis Valley brought us to the goldenrod colored studio of a tinsmith. She is soft-spoken but not shy and permitted Dean to take her photograph while we chatted.

     “Ooo, I like the tiny tin-kitchen,” I told her. “It’s a work of art and so cute.” Dean grimaced behind the camera at that word again. “I recognize it because I have seen an illustration in The Tasha Tudor Cookbook,” I explained. I had also seen, on video, Tasha’s doll size replica of the full size family heirloom (reflector oven) she used to roast poultry up against a blazing fire. 

tin-kitchen doll size

     The tinsmith’s eyes widened. She had visited Tasha’s house in Vermont, she told me, and modeled her tin-kitchen after Tasha’s – a tin-kitchen, which she says is now, importantly, housed in Colonial Williamsburg.

     She is someone with a keen interest. Imaginative people have interests. With her skilled hands she sets out to make what she observes and what she imagines. Admittedly her right hand shakes with signs of Parkinson’s. But with courage of heart she is thankful it hasn’t so far stopped her from soldering. My favorite cookie cutter of hers is the one you see here – a shape she derived from a picture of a vintage toy elephant. Brilliant.    

elephant cookie cutter

For the Practical-minded Teacher

     Imagination is a big boost to intelligence. It isn’t fluff or fiddle-dee-dee. A student will automatically call upon the powers of imagination in his schoolwork. When he answers a question set for geography for instance, “Describe a volcano” he, who has never stood on an active volcano, will call upon his knowledge of the facts, understood in part, by his imagination. Do you see, therefore, that a mediocre imagination would be less supportive than a vivid one - in the study of history, art, literature, science, and all the subjects across the board?

     A magnet on my refrigerator holds up a drawing my 5-yr-old grandson did of his cat, which his grandma thinks is so cute. I look at it everyday until I can see him again and get a new picture, I hope. The drawing apparently reflects how he sees his cat sitting head on in his imagination. The magnet reads,

             “Anyone who is successful dreamed something."

     I know this post is a mouthful. It took a couple weeks to compose because as an admirer of Charlotte Mason's style of writing, I aim to arrange the practical with the inspiring. It takes a bit of doing. 

As always, discussion is invited.

Karen Andreola
End Notes
*1  Charlotte Mason, Preface to the Home Education Series
*2  Karen Andreola, A Charlotte Mason Companion, page 114
*3 Corneila Meigs, Invincible Louisa, pages 9 and 10 
*4 H. Lloyd Parry, K. Andreola’s Parents’ Review - Summer ‘96, page 31
*5 Ibid