Monday, September 29, 2014

Feed My Lambs by Karen Andreola

Feed My Lambs
Scrolling, you’ll see I have a contemplative message to share with you today. But before I do, may I take a minute to show you what’s been on my needles? 

This month I got around to sewing up the summer skirt I had cut out of a pale blue-green calico months prior. There were just enough warm afternoons left for a week of wear.  

karen andreola

I added a ruffle of a coordinating print. Then, because this left a slightly puckered seam, I hid the seam with a pleat, and then another pleat to make the whole hem appear intentional. It turned out to my liking, imperfections, length, and all. 

Blue-green is a color that is difficult to match in a T. A lighter version of the color would have matched more satisfactory to my tastes but I knew I had a darker shade of blue-green in my clothes closet before I purchased the calico.  

Red yarn rested snug in my stash for too long. This summer I set my sites on using it up. Content with my stand-by cable pattern (that’s proved itself time and again) and happy with how the size 2 Donegal Tweed fit a two-year-old grandson in 2010 (cute-y here pictured) I am now making another.

This time a size 6 is on my needles for his brother – but in a washable wool blend. My, how fast little boys grow! Anyway, the pattern has just enough diversity-of-rows to make it interesting while being uncomplicated enough to allow ease of conversation with whoever is in the room. My aim is to have it presentable by Christmas.

Donegal Tweed cable knit cardigan

I closed the last page of Miss Clare Remembers with a sentimental farewell, then whizzed through Miss Potter because its author Richard Maltby Jr. carries the reader along almost as swiftly as the film – which makes sense since he wrote the script for it. (Due to comments of a private nature made by Miss Warne in the art gallery, and other details excluded from the film, this book is not for children.) I recommend the film over the book, in this case. I borrow the DVD from our church library, now and again, for the story but also to savor the closing scenes of the Lake District.

Miss Potter by Richard Maltby Jr.

The Chief Business of a Mother
Here is another tool for bringing up children.

What is the chief business of a mother? Is it to be a taxi driver for her children, a law-giver, a laundry-maid, a cook, a home decorator, a fashion assistant, a photographer, a birthday and holiday organizer?

The chief business of a mother is to be an inspirer.

Before His ascension our Lord Jesus told the apostle Peter to “Feed My lambs.” *1 God has chosen loving mothers and fathers for this important work. We are not empty-handed. We have a tool. It’s “a life of ideas.” Miss Charlotte Mason trusted the mother at home to sustain the inner life of a child with ideas as she sustains the child’s body with food. This is how children grow in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man.

“What’s an idea?” you might ask. Well, here’s one way to look at it. An idea is like a watermelon pit. A little boy bites into a thick slice of watermelon. It is so juice-y that he gulps it down instantly and then realizes that he swallowed a watermelon pit. With large, round eyes and a tinge of anxiety, he looks up into his father’s face and asks, “Dad, I swallowed a pit! What’s gonna happen to me?”

Dad teases. “A big watermelon is going to grow and grow in your stomach until it gets this big,” he says with arms wide.

An inspiring idea isn’t stagnant. It may start as small as a seed. But then it grows. If it’s a good idea it nourishes and vitalizes. Ideas and their naturally occurring associations, come to children through various means;

through observing nature,
recognizing beauty,
appreciating art and melody;
through the rhythmic movement of their games,
through handicrafts,
good conversation,
a Sunday sermon, etc. 

When people asked pastor’s wife, Edith Schaeffer, “What’s your advice about bringing up children? What did you do?" she said, “If there is any one thing I would stress . . . it would be this: I read aloud to the children, both individually and together.” Mrs. Schaeffer believed that sharing ideas in the family circle is one of the most beneficial and close “togetherness-things” we can do.*2

pumpkin patch in Pennsylvania
Landis Valley pumpkin patch

Ideas are found in books, most importantly. Of these, children need quality and quantity. Through books, written by enthusiastic authors, we give children what the apostle Paul in Philippians recommends.*3 Books supply us with something pure, lovely, noble and just, to think about. They do the teaching for us.

Speak the Truth with Hope
The maturing child sees that this fallen world is not all sweetness. Therefore, we must reach for books that accompany life’s hard truths with hope. During the confusing and scary week of 911, Fred Rogers of Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood appeared on public television with a message. He said to children, “Look at the helpers.” This is what his own mother taught him. In life and in books, we look at the helpers. 

And we look for the heroes. 

Heroes are the basis of our religious life. The heroes of the Bible – those faithful ones -  are a cloud of witnesses to inspire us.

In literature we find adventure, sorrow and sin – and perhaps those who take pleasure in sin - but we should also meet large-hearted characters that comfort, protect, correct, bring joy and reconcile.
In history we meet those who destroy and oppress. Therefore, the history books we give children should also include those brave souls who build, defend, and minister the gospel. Who are these brave people? What were they like?

Science seeks to discover how the world works. If it is not only self-seeking it will rise to meet the challenge of relieving hardship and sickness. It is inspiring to meet the inventors and healers. Who are these curious, perseverant people? What did they accomplish?

Pass the Torch
Inspiration comes by way of those who uncover truth and pass on the flaming torch of ideas (especially needed in dark places). Someday our children may be one of the torchbearers, the helpers and the heroes of the next generation. Whatever is noble, true and pure should be considered and appreciated because it all comes from God, whether it is delivered to us by a believer or an unbeliever.

It's a pity when a child has no one to look up to. This child suffers a great loss. He becomes dull, complacent, and thinks, “Why bother?” Any amount of hero-admiration is good for us. Not only does it pull us up out of the dull-drums with its little sparks of enthusiasm, but it changes a “why bother?” into a “let's go for it.”

We can get caught up in ourselves. But it only takes a little hero-admiration to alleviate concept. Teens can get caught up in themselves. But if they care about others to the point of admiring them, then they will waste less time admiring themselves.

Landis Valley

What happens when we feed our lambs? Inspiration can be a personal and quiet thing. When a child admires someone, he will notice things about this special person that he, himself, is lacking. He may become conscious of his frailties or inexperience, yet – at the same time – his admiration stimulates a desire in him to become more like his hero. 

Set the Table
Children are a mixed bunch. Just like we spread the table with a variety of healthy foods, let’s spread the table with differing ideas, because we do not know which our child will choose to care about. In Ecclesiastes we read, “In the morning sow your seed [or watermelon pits]. And in the evening do not withhold your hand; For you do not know which will prosper.” *4

Astronaut Jim Irwin
Jim Irwin's autograph

A Hero Face-to-Face
My husband, Dean Andreola, worked at the Christian Bookseller Conventions back in the hay-day of publishing. As a perk, he got to meet Christian authors and singers. One year a long line of people waited to meet a popular, flamboyant vocalist, to get her autograph. There was no line for astronaut Jim Irwin. In fact, there was no one there at all. Born in 1956, astronauts were Dean’s heroes. The television seems to have been invented and widely in use (in his boyhood) just in time for America to watch (live) the moon landings. Therefore, Dean was excited to walk up Jim Irwin to meet a man, face-to-face, who flew in a rocket ship to the moon. Mr. Irwin penned his name on a photograph and handed it to Dean. It reads, “Dean, Jesus walking on the earth is more important than man walking on the moon.”

A true hero lives for, and points to, the greatest hero of all (of Whom one day we will meet face-to-face.)

End Notes
*1  John 21:15
*2  Edith Schaeffer, The Hidden Art of Homemaking, Tyndale House Pubs., pg 152
*3  Philippians 4:8-9
*4  Ecclesiastes 11:6
Some of the paragraphs in this post were adapted from earlier posts here on Moments with Mother Culture.

Thank you for your visit. Write anytime.
Karen Andreola

Monday, September 1, 2014

A Peek at Charlotte Mason's Principles of Education, by Karen Andreola

A Peek at Charlotte Mason’s 
Principles of Education 
Are you relatively new to home teaching? Perhaps it’s the new school year that leaves you feeling a bit daunted. May I simplify some thoughts for you?  

Charlotte Mason & living books

Recently the publisher of The Old Schoolhouse magazine sent me an invitation to describe Miss Mason’s principles in 400 words. Yikes, a 400 word piece - really? Apparently, a handful of methods will be presented to give new teachers an introduction to each. My first reaction was to cringe. A twitch of an eyelid, followed. I’d never written anything so abbreviated on Miss Mason before, having resisted the task of reducing my heroine into a nutshell. Nevertheless, I felt it an honor to be chosen to write it. And, happy to include Miss Mason into the company of other modern-day sound bites, I complied. It was an exercise of adding and subtracting words fastidiously for five afternoons.  On this post I share it with you.  

Here’ Goes

The teaching method of Christian British educator, Miss Charlotte Mason, makes a good fit in today’s homeschool.

In her writings Miss Mason insists upon using “living books,” as schoolbooks. These enliven the mind and secure interest. Classroom textbooks, compiled by a committee, tend to be crammed with dry facts and information. Living books, by contrast, are often written by one author who enthusiastically shares his favorite subject with us.  

With living books children gain knowledge through their own effort. They dig out the facts and information clothed in literary language, expressing what they’ve learned by narrating it in their own words (composing orally or in writing). Their thinking is personal, follows a train of thought, and isn’t stunted by a page of multiple-choice.

Teachers needn’t be trained in giving lectures. Children educate themselves by narrating from the well-chosen words of authors. Too much explaining by a teacher elicits boredom. True education is self-education.

No bells announce the end of hour-long class periods. Children are free to move promptly onto the next lesson. When drills and skills are kept short children develop the power of attention. Dawdling is discouraged. Students are encouraged to give their best effort. Education is a discipline. This means establishing good and helpful habits, built one action at a time, one day at a time.

Education is an atmosphere. With living books children are motivated by a love of knowledge rather than artificial stimulants such as prizes (stickers, candy, money), competition, and grades. They retained their inborn curiosity. Cramming for tests is avoided. Examinations require the child to narrate what was read during the semester.

Charlotte Mason & Nature Study

Inspiring the love of knowledge in children depends of the presentation of ideas. Ideas are what the mind feeds on. Miss Mason served children a wide curriculum of subjects. She says, “Varied human reading as well as the appreciation of the humanities is not a luxury, a tid-bit, to be given to children now and then, but their very bread of life.” Education is a life.

homework withheld

Miss Mason places an emphasis on being outdoors to observe nature. Students keep a Nature Notebook. They record their “finds” in drawings, adding poems and mottoes.

After-hours homework is withheld. Children apply their minds at the time of morning lessons. Afternoons provide recreation. For children this means running, climbing, yelling, all out of doors. Handicrafts, chores, life skills, practicing an instrument, and play, are their homework.

Charlotte Mason & Nature Notebooks
Nature Notebook of Yolanda Andreola - 1990s

End of Piece 

Although high school has lessons that overflow into the afternoon, the above is quite doable with elementary age students. Not all at once - at least to start, but as a goal that will be reached as the days and weeks unfold. 

Warming Up to a New School Year

In our house we’d warm-up to a new school year. After breakfast, after shared chores, (usually dishes into the sink, laundry into the machine, guinea pigs fed, etc.) we’d gather around the table for a group reading – the Bible, sometimes a song, a devotional theme, a poem, or a seasonal nature-minute reading. Then, I’d introduce a new book per child and they'd go off on their own. I might display a new painting, assign the drawing of a picture for the cover-page of a notebook, or review multiplication with cuisenaire rods. Light daily lessons made our first week. 

feeding pet rabbits

While our warm-up-week brought forth a series of new things in small steps, it enabled me, the teacher, to gradually gain a firm footing on the schedule. For the student, harder tasks were soon up-and-coming, but the first week (or two) of lessons were intriguing and suspenseful. And, opening the first pages of a fresh supply of living books at the start of a school year felt a little like Christmas.  

schoolbooks - living books

Post Script
My photograph above shows a small sampling of what Miss Mason would call schoolbooks. Pulling them off our shelves, they fit into a particular time period but are not meant to create a curriculum here. They are to be an affirmation to my readers that books of various kinds will enliven and enhance history in a more memorable, more detailed, more expansive, more interesting, and more enjoyable way, than any one textbook can possibly accomplish. The freedom to use living books, and the freedom to home teach in America, is a freedom won and held by activists and is nothing short of a blessing from our Heavenly Father.

Happy new school year to you.

Thoughts off the top of your head (on any part of this post), fond memories, and sentiments are invited.
As Always,
Karen Andreola