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 

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