Friday, June 30, 2017


(Part Two of "Are You Finding Your Feet?")

Landis Valley
A mother dropped me a note.

She shared her happiness with all that the Lord has enabled her family to learn through living books and narration.

She said, "In my early years of home teaching I tried boxed curricula and various memorization/game approaches. We switched, and switched gears again. Then I applied the Charlotte Mason Method. I was home at last. It made the best fit for our family."

I appreciated her sharing her joy-of-discovery with me. Knowing her discovery wasn't accidental, I wrote back, "This is because you made it fit." Someone had to apply it. You had to have given it a "good go" with some enthusiasm, with your personality, prerogative, and prayer."

Home learning is a growing experience for the whole family. Oh, the joy of the shoe that fits. It comes while finding your feet.

Principles are cross-cultural.
This example might surprise you.

As the result of an article I wrote for The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, introducing Charlotte Mason to a general audience, a little pink envelope landed in my P.O.Box. The note was polite. It was short. And it was desperate-sounding. I noticed the return address was nearby. Interesting. I telephoned the number provided, and left a message. In a few days my telephone rang. By the caller's dialect I instantly knew her to be Amish.

Paradise, PA, taken through the car windshield on our drive home from church. They drive home from theirs.
She asked me questions about the article. Narration and living books intrigued her. She liked the Nature Study and the Nature Notebook idea, too. We talked for a while on the subject of history. Then she told me about her curious active boys. They didn't like filling in the blanks of their work-texts. Mornings dragged. The box of work-texts that came in a shrink-wrapped-pack at the beginning of the school-year, had quickly become monotonous. Her boys were obedient. And the work was dutifully done. But the texts didn't spark curiosity. Nor did they satisfy it.

I told her, gently, that her suspicions were correct. This is the very opposite of what education ought to be and do for a child. I was validating her mother's intuition.

Surely, amidst the intricacies of God's world, there has be a better way of putting children in touch with it than a never-ending pile of identical-looking work-texts. A little conversation was all it took for this mother to catch the "living-book-bug."

Neighbors. Taken with permission. The little pony is 11 years-old, they said.
"Now may I ask you a couple questions?" I was so bold. She giggled. Rightly guessed, she is horse-and-buggy, old order Amish. I asked in a tone of surprise, "But . . . isn't it against church rules to homeschool?"

"Normally, but our bishop approves of it," she said calmly. "Our whole church is home-teaching." (A church is usually 10 families.)

Buggies parked while a church meets above the brown barn. Horses wait out back. 

Sun Dial, Landis Valley, 
I heard a rooster crow. She was standing in her barn talking. Telephones have to be separate from the house. She was so pleasant that I felt comfortable enough to ask another question.

I knew that she spoke Pennsylvania Dutch as her first language but I asked if she was reading the Bible in English rather than Luther's German translation (a strict Amish tradition.) She said yes, English. I was happy to hear this, knowing her children wouldn't have to learn a third language to be in God's Word. Next, she shared her testimony, her understanding of the Gospel, of redemption and regeneration, mentioning that she was "born again." Knowing that Amish are not typically evangelical, I had to ask if she knew the family featured in the documentary, "Trouble in Amish Paradise." (On YouTube). Yes, she knows them well. (Paradise is a township of small farms beside us and where we attend church.)

When I met this sweet mother and her friend in person, she was dressed as conservatively as I expected. Her dress was plain, her apron black. But the solid color of her dress was a beautiful shade of cherry red (a rarity). Her cheeks were rosy, too. She was bubbling over with anticipation to apply what she could of Miss Mason's ideas. A better education for her children than the one she'd had, was her aim. I understood implicitly.

 As this emboldened mother and her friends find their feet, a generation of Amish children are being brought up with narration, living books and Nature Notebooks here in Lancaster County. We haven't been in touch for awhile but I'm guessing there's been a change in their educational life.

For Charlotte Mason to cross this boundary of cultural tradition is remarkable to me.

Deep-Rooted Things
If your student is using some form of narration regularly from interesting, well-written books that uncover truth, beauty, and goodness - give yourself a pat on the back. This is an enormous advantage to home learning. It contributes to the growth of his "person"while it puts him in touch with fine minds.

I'm guessing your home-taught child is probably being given unhurried hours to develop close relationships.

Is your child familiar with the life and words of our Lord Jesus?

Landis Valley kitchen garden looks dreamy
Have you a hero in history? If your student is developing a moral imagination through the Bible, is gazing at uplifting artwork, listening to musical masterpieces, or simply enjoying some fun folk tunes or Christian hymns - great.

Are you and your child noticing the intricacies of the living things in your neighborhood?

My guess is your child is beginning to learn how to worship God and honor parents, that he is learning about self-control, service, gratitude, purity, accountability. I'd make a guess, too, that socially he or she is learning to be courteous with people of all ages in the community.

Wow, wonderful. What a refreshing abnormality this is in the culture we live in, today.

Purchased a "jelly-roll" of reproduction fabric strips "Rachel Remembered" to be a table runner.
These are deep-rooted things, my friends. They are sown with love in the soft soil of a child's trusting mind and heart. They are sown within a margin of cross-cultural personal application.

Finished hand-quilting my flag. I like watching 1960s "Wagon Train" - refreshing good old-fashioned morals.
Dean took the outdoor photos. I took the indoor ones.

(Western expansion would never have been successful, without responsible God-fearing self-governed families and the 2nd amendment to the Constitution.)

Your blog friend,
Karen Andreola


  1. Karen, it makes me so excited to her that some of our Amish neighbors are born again and also homeschooling! We know a family that was excommunicated for such a thing! I pray that these things will soon carry over to all Amish districts!

    Lovely photos and thoughts as always, friend!

  2. It does not surprise me that the CM way would easily cross over cultural lines. It is such a natural way to learn and live. I am glad you took the time to talk with that mother and her friend. You made a difference not for one family, but for a community.

    Karen, do you know if Dora Jessie Saint ("Miss Read") was educated in a PNEU school or taught by a protege of Miss Mason? The reason I ask is because the Fairacre children seem to be receiving a CM education to a certain extent in the stories. In fact, one day as I was reading one of the earlier Fairacre books, I was reminded of Carol's temporary classroom in 'Lessons at Blackberry Inn.' I am sorry to jump subjects but I have been meaning to ask about it.

    Have a happy holiday weekend. I like your flag quilt very much. I finished my 1776 afghan and have begun an 1812 (15 stars and 15 stripes). I find I don't get as much done during the summer without the boys' schoolwork to keep me focused on a project. I use my crocheting to keep my hands busy during school hours or I tend to rush everyone along. :-)

    Peace, Kristyn

  3. Deanna, excommunication is a sorrowful experience so I've heard especially in such tight-knit families. It is possible that the church that this sweet mother belongs to might a group of excommunicated families who started their own church.

    Kristyn, I remember knitting during spelling lessons so that I could keep my patience. Wow 15 stars and stripes in one afghan. Red, white, and blue make good family room colors I've decided. Our family room is turning out to have a patriotic theme. The original flag quilt pattern had twice as many stripes that were twice as narrow. But I made the stripes wider, less teeny-tiny.
    I like how Miss Read took Nature Walks on a beautiful day. I know that keeping a Nature Diary was a traditional pastime for the British. Miss Read refers to an early diary kept by an Anglican minister somewhere in her stories. The diary spoke of the meals he ate and the nature he noticed. I have some memories in my mind of a British childhood (a move made to the country) but its been so long but I think they belong to Dora Saint. But I didn't meet up with P.N.E.U. I'd like to think the character Miss Read (if not Dora Saint) would have come across a copy of Parents' Review at sometime. Or, Miss Clare.

  4. Hello Karen, I'm featuring this post in July 3rd's Happy Homemaker Monday post.
    I like the fabrics in your new jelly roll. I haven't quilted in quite some time. I'd like to get back to that one day. I adore the hat. You'll see it in Monday's post, too!

    Be blessed!
    Laura of Harvest Lane Cottage

  5. Hello! Very exciting story about the amish. We live in Ohio and have a few amish friends;)
    My question is, how can we do CM and still meet the requirements of the state? Our children naturally do CM.
    My concern is that we must give an outline with every book each year to the school district AND end of the year testing.
    I have been wanting to ask this for quite some time!!
    Any input from you or your lovely readers would be SO appreciated!!
    God bless

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Hi Mrs. O.

      Your question is a good one.

      Firstly, the intellegent conversation in your home, reading of good books, narration, keeping of a notebook, and your other Charlotte Mason related activities have immense value. Tutoring and independent study (self-education) do more for learning than a crowded classroom. An efficient, focused, and natural way to learn, they reap wonderful benefits.

      That said, these strong and enduring things will not be over-shadowed by a little outlining and some familiarity with test-taking. I remember preparing my girls for the Year-End C.A.T. while living in Oregon. I purchased some booklets that provide similar kinds of multiple-choice (pencil in the dot) comprehension-paragraph questions and math problems, etc. The girls became familiar with test-taking by working through their booklets 15 minutes a day for a month or so before the testing date. This test preparation was so unlike what we did the rest of the year/day. Anyway, they tested well.

  6. Oh thank you! "..these strong and enduring things will not be overshadowed by a little outlining and some familiarity with test taking"--- this sentence puts things into perspective. It also helps to ease my anxiety.
    Thank you so very much and have a blessed 4th of July!

  7. I love this! It takes a lot of courage to stand by your convictions in any community but I can't imagine what it takes in a small community or very small town. Your writing helped me continue when people tried to get me to stop homeschooling our son.

  8. I love reading your blog, one of my few favorites. So full of stories and beautiful pictures. Simple writing with deep-rooted truths. Thank you Karen.

  9. Happy Fourth of July, Karen!

    I am delighted to hear about these dear ones.


  10. What a thrill it must be to know that you are inspiring others to "find their feet"! There is such joy in this lifestyle of learning! (And yes, a "refreshing abnormality.")

  11. We have visited Landis Valley once and so I love seeing your photos of that beautiful place. Can't wait to see what your table runner will look like with all of those beautiful fabric pieces. I was not familiar with the designer so I Googled her and oh my are they so like Williamsburg! Thank you for sharing about your Amish neighbor, nice to hear that they are willing to change their rules a little.

  12. I am so inspired by Karen. God has connected the dots in my life and my mind through her. We always wanted to homeschool our children, and we are starting this fall, coming out of public at ages 8 and 6 (and baby Madelyn too!) However, while I am inspired and excited, I am also dwarfed by her perfection!

    1. Hi Stacey, I am so happy to hear that you are starting home learning. It is a journey of learning for the whole family. You will come across marvelous ideas, books and things. You'd chuckle if you knew how imperfect I am.

  13. You are an inspiration to many homeschool families.
    God Bless

  14. My eyes brimmed with tears reading of your Amish neighbor's testimony! Thank you for sharing this, it encourages my heart! - Amy B.

  15. My eyes brimmed with tears in reading the testimony of your Amish neighbor. Thank you for sharing this, it encourages my heart! -

  16. I missed this post! I was delighted to pop over here and see some new encouragement from you, Karen. Thank you. I love how simply you lay out the feast, so beautiful and true. The story from your Amish neighbor was so intriguing and refreshing. Amy

  17. What an incredible story! Like many, I have always had a great regard for the Amish, particularly their God-centred way if living. As such, it doesn't surprise me at all they some are choosing to follow the recommendations of Miss Mason; but it does make me very happy to hear it! I thoroughly enjoyed reading this blog post. Uplifting as always! Gemma

  18. Hi, I just wanted to say that I really love your posts. They make me think about ideas that I haven't yet thought about and it's also very nice to hear your thoughts and see your photos. Thank you for sharing!