Sunday, August 28, 2016

Quick Tips on the Gentle Art of Learning

Quick Tips on the Gentle Art of Learning
At the beginning of this school-year I'd like to offer you encouragement. I've shared this list with some of you who've written me. To most, these tips will not be new. But perhaps one or two will particularly speak to your present need.

First, here's an illustration that helped me during my years of home teaching. Still today it helps me put "first-things-first."

Baby E. wearing what Grandma knit (spring photo)
For arranging lessons. Place an empty jelly jar on the table, an imaginative one. Then gather a couple whole walnuts. And a handful of little shelled peanuts. The walnuts and peanuts represent subjects and activities of your day or week. Now, place these nuts into the jar. You will discover that the only way they'll all fit is to put the walnuts in first, with the little peanuts filling in the spaces around them. If you place the nuts the other way 'round, you won't be able to fasten the lid. Those things you find most important in your schedule (the walnuts) put into your time-table first. Arrange the other subjects (the peanuts) around them. On different days you might have different subjects be the walnuts.

1. Children are on loan to us from God. Hannah of First Samuel is our beautiful example. We really do have them in our care for a short time.

2. Beware of comparing. With Facebook and blogs we have an open door to knowing what our friends, or extended family, are doing daily. They might be touring Europe in designer clothes while you're potty training between math and phonics, and haven't been out of an apron since daybreak. It doesn't help to continually compare our situation or teaching choices with that of others. Follow the path of your personal conviction. All education is divine. That is, the Holy Spirit comes along side us in all subjects, to guide, and enlighten. Focus on your particular blessings. Home teaching is kingdom work. Never give up.

Study Hour by John George Brown

3. Use books - don't let books (or curriculum) use you. A good book isn't boring. It has the literary power to open the door of a child's mind. It may be full of facts - the same facts found in a standard classroom textbook - but they are presented in a palatable and memorable way. If you decided to try a new book, lay a lifeless one aside without any qualms.

4. Children will chatter. Like tapping a sugar maple for its sap, the home teacher can take advantage of this talking resource. Ask your student to tell in his own words (narrate) what he has observed or read. If a quiet child says little ask “what else” and “what else” again. This is laying the foundation of composition, naturally and without tears.

5. Learning is not limited to sitting immovable at a desk. Get outdoors. Observe nature, keeping a record of your “finds” in a Nature Notebook, where science, composition, and art join hands.

Landis Valley

6. Cultivate an appreciation for what is beautiful in art and in music simply. Now and again display a picture from a famous painter, play a CD of a noteworthy composer.

Our zinnia in the front garden.
7. Look for heroes. The Bible, biography and historical fiction can supply inspiring heroes whose virtues and character qualities your child may choose to esteem and emulate. Children will catch the "scientific spirit" through biography, too. Tracing the paths of discovery, experiment and invention they will follow (what Miss Mason called) "the rise and progress of an idea."

8. Build good habits one at a time. Lay them brick by brick. It is remarkable what the quiet discipline of routine and the practice of good manners do for the home atmosphere. Prioritize and strive to be consistent. Life brings its interruptions. You will get back on track when you can. In the meantime Providence may be offering us an unexpected soul-lesson.

Moss in the shaded part of our driveway. I like moss. 
9. Keep lessons short in the beginning years. Ten to 15 minutes of math seems ridiculously short if you come from a public school background of one-hour lessons. But tutoring one-on-one is wonderfully efficient. Lessons can gradually be lengthened. The more mature the student is the more independent learning he will accomplish - during which time you can be tutoring a little one.

Friendship Star quilt made for the wall of the family room.
10. Homeschool pioneers have fought to win us legal freedom. Therefore, let's use our Mother's Prerogative. What is it that you'd like to teach? What do you want your children to know? My high school students would join me for "prerogative studies" after lunch. As long as there were children in the house - even adult children - I chose to read aloud to one - or all, somewhere in the schedule.

11. Information and knowledge are two different things. Rote-memory is only an exercise for memorizing data. Children are persons not parrots. Give children, too, all kinds of odd and interesting books and experiences and with narration they will gain the kind of wisdom-knowledge that goes into making a person.
Garden behind a picket-fence, Landis Valley

12. Curiosity is to education what a wick is to a candle. Children are born with God-given curiosity – until it is schooled out of them by constant testing, working for the grade, and peer-pressure. Asking, “What is it my child would delight in knowing more about?” safeguards curiosity. There is no better place to accomplish this than in the home school.

13. You are a person, too, who needs to keep growing. To prevent burn-out, read your Bible, dabble in domestic arts, take a nature walk, and/or any number of interests. To refresh the soul, blossom with fruits of the spirit, and polish character, we need our daily bread - the bread of life – Jesus. Taking a little time for Mother Culture, to grow yourself, is not a self-fish thing to do. The advantage does not end with yourself. When our cup overflows it spills over into the family circle – which importantly includes our husbands.

Ice-cream with glass bead "sprinkles" -gift of a friend. My rag doll likes it. 
14. Little things do make a difference. Little steps taken with daily faithfulness take us far. The home teacher strives to sow seeds of ideas in the hearts and minds of her children – rather than fill in holes. Children seemingly learn and grow in spurts and lags. Though, not evenly matched to the teacher's planner, seeds are sprouting, children are learning. Given the right food and atmosphere, “mighty oaks from little acorns grow.” (Gal.6:9) What is done out of love is lasting.

Thanks for visiting.

Karen Andreola

If you are reading this on your telephone you will have to check a full-size computer screen to see my email address in the side margin. I place it there to help eliminate spam mail. You can also contact me through Facebook message. Write anytime.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Summer Adventure by Karen Andreola

Summer Adventure

I do think that families are the most beautiful things in all the world. Jo Marsh in Little Women

During our home-educating years my children gobbled-down books --- each at their own rate but I would still call it gobbling.

One of the stories was E. Nesbit's, The Railway Children, gobbled silently.

"Did you like it," I would ask when the story was finished.

"Yes," would be the reply, coexisting with a smile and a sparkle of an eye. That was that.

Years later we rented the Masterpiece Theatre version of the story. The film is a beautiful adaptation staring Jenny Agutter and Jemima Rooper.  I own the CD (for myself) and so I can share it with my grandchildren, next visit. "Trains" are my eldest grandson's hobby.

The film was my only exposure to The Railway Children, until I read it for the first time, just recently. Had I read it in my youth I would have chosen it as a read-aloud. And chosen it for narration, too. The Railway Children nourished my soul.

The courage and kindness of the characters is what I found so nourishing.

We meet Father in the beginning. He too-soon mysteriously disappears. Mother (a character I quickly became fond of) keeps the secret from her children that Father is falsely accused and imprisoned. She is shaken (secretly.) I could feel her tremble. But Mother musters up courage for the sake of her family.

To cope with living with reduced means, she and her children, Roberta (12), Peter (10), and Phyllis (7), "play at being poor for a bit." They move out of the well-off working-class suburbs of London to live in a little white cottage in the countryside.

The children really don't mind fixing breakfast or tea, doing chores they hadn't done before, because they love and admire their mother.

My fireside kettle like the one above. 
Over Roberta's head, however, during quiet moments, hangs a dark cloud of apprehension concerning Father.

In a bare upstairs room with a candle, Mother strives to write fiction for their bread-n-butter (bread that is now rarely bakery-bought.)

What makes the summer of these Edwardian railway-children so enjoyable? It is a summer of childhood innocence. The children meander around their village unsupervised. This is what children were free to do in the summers of yesteryear, when mothers worked at home, when neighborhoods were safe, entertainment scarce, and a child's activity wasn't rigidly scheduled.

Finding-things-to-do for the railway-children, becomes getting to know the adults who work for the railway. They poke their noses in other people's business, with a sincere desire to be friendly and helpful - and a wish not to be annoying - although this combination isn't always possible. The village station is just down a hill and across the meadow from their cottage - an easy traipse.

Hollyhocks on the sunny side of the house.
Roberta, Peter and Phyllis are very much like real siblings. At times they fret, get scared, disagree, and rub sharp corners off one another. They candidly say just what they're thinking and stick-together with loving team-work when illness or accident arise in the village.

Dean's photo of a dragonfly in our back garden.
Both Mother and children are generous-of-heart. They do what is uncommon today. They look outside themselves. The feelings and needs of others are important to them - so important they take risks for it. Evidently, they've been brought up with a Christian-sense-of-duty. We can call this kindness - and going out-of-one's-way to be kind at that.

I liked seeing our tall hollyhocks through a first floor window.
Involved in some exciting scrapes and daring rescues, they cross the bounds of class without a second thought. Mother might "give pause" but she is prompt to assesses a situation and steps-forward with a confident decisiveness.

Although published in the Edwardian era (1906) E. Nesbit's writing is not overly sentimental - or, as Mark Twain said of women novelists, "sadful." I already knew the ending, but I'll admit the last chapter produced one tiny tear to my eye. That's all. Just one. I wiped it away, closed the book, turned off the light, and fell asleep soundly - glad there exists a story in the world, such as The Railway Children. But would there be if E. Nesbit's husband didn't suffer a similar tragedy and suddenly loose the means of supporting his family? Good can come out of adversity in real life as well as stories.

For both girls and boys, grades 3-7. For your convenience these links take you to Amazon.
Note: The short commentary before and after the film is unnecessary and unwholesome. I would skip it. Young children do not need to know that E. Nesbit was an active socialist and didn't live the morality she penned.

The Railway Children 

The Masterpiece Theatre Film 

A Writing Exercise
Inside the pages of my creative writing curriculum, Story Starters is Exercise #55 - At the Railway Station. What episodes could your student add to the story?

A doll quilt for my granddaughter pieced from scraps from the toddler quilt.
I extend my gratitude to those of you who purchased of Parents' Review for your summer reading. May it stimulate your interests in many directions. I'm always glad to hear from my readers.

Charlotte Mason's The Saviour of the World
If you relish reading about the fine points of Charlotte Mason's philosophy, Art Middlekauff's articles will satisfy. I esteem the height and depth of his contribution. I've recently discovered his blog. Here you will have access to the volumes of Miss Charlotte Mason's impressive poetic work: The Saviour of the World.

A four-patch, hand-quilted with comfortable stitches.
Happy for your visit.
Karen Andreola

Friday, July 1, 2016

Merging Warm Days with My Story Scenes

Merging Warm Days with My Story Scenes
Hi Ladies,

It seems like a long time between visits with you. I've been meeting with family and friends. Meanwhile,warm days and scenes from my stories merge in my mind. And, like vacation traffic merges onto the highway, I am merging photographs - with excerpts from my stories. I hope you find it entertaining. I highlighted the book excerpts in color. I left out some nouns - and - the excerpts are too short  to be "spoilers" for those of you who plan to read one of my "family-education" stories this summer.

I finished the toddler quilt. I enjoyed working with girly colors, piecing and then hand-quilting all 63 little hour-glass-blocks for my granddaughter. I waited until after it I gifted it before showing it here. Her mom reads my posts (on her phone). The placement of the blocks is random and playful.

A way to attach the binding entirely by machine is to make a flange. Sew a strip of binding onto the back, bring it around front to sew along the tiny strip (flange). You can see the white flange along the binding of my quilt. It is supposed to give the look of piping. I made mine wider than recommended - to make sure I could see what I was doing, this first try. I followed the tutorial on The Missouri Star Quilt Company's You-Tube - "Baby Quilt - Flange".

While quilting, Carol's sudden surge of creativity came to mind.

I was feeling creative. With the rest of the fabric I cut triangles. It occurred to me that, pieced with white, they would form a bright patchwork design. . . . A patchwork pillow would make a nice housewarming gift to cheer . . .(Blackberry Inn)

My youngest grandson's vest-of-many-colors was finished in time for his 5th birthday. It is a bit big on him.

He wore it on a cool day in spring during the week I stayed with my daughter's family.

I also gifted him "Frog and Toad Audio Collection" read by its author Arnold Lobel (deceased.)

In the first chapter of Lessons of Blackberry Inn Emma appreciates Carol's knitting.

"You have not been idle. You've been keeping the baby safe. And you've been diligent even in bed. Just look at all these books you've been reading in preparation for teaching the children. You know how to use your time wisely." She carefully lifted my knitting out of its basket. "And look at this pretty sweater. What a lovely rose color!" I had been knitting a cardigan for my daughter, Emily, and was particular about my pinks. Emma held it up to admire it in the sunbeams that streamed in through the windows. It did look pretty in the sunlight, or was it Emma's encouragement that made me appreciate it more? (Blackberry Inn)

In April my pain doctor prescribed physical therapy. I'd been to PT in a previous year with discouraging results. But I've bounced back and am trying a different practice. If I am presented with a contortion I feel I'm simple not ready for I tell my therapist. Otherwise, I trust her wisdom and am doing my homework daily with an orange band. I'm getting stronger, able to kneel on the floor and walk for ten minutes! Dean drove us to Landis Valley one sunny afternoon. We sauntered. He took out the camera. It occurred to me that some of what he photographed are those living things observed or mentioned in my stories.

The dinning room was full of hungry guests . . . One guest, in particular, a gregarious gentleman named Mrs. Fortesquieu, took Michael's mind off his backache. He is a portly man with an out-of-date handlebar moustache. His clothes, thought they look like they've come out of an attic trunk, make a perfect fit. A vigorous conversationalist, he has a deep jovial voice that dominated the others at the table. He was quite appreciative of my "tenderly prepared" fish, raving about the "palatability" of my "exquisite" green salad, impressed with the fact that is was entirely composed of greens we had harvested from the garden. I din't think the nasturtium petals I sprinkled into the salad would cause such a stir. (Pinecones)

Milkweed in bloom - with fluffy-seeds to come.

On another walk . . .  a breeze carried some fluff across our path. Emily jumped and caught a fluff between her cupped hands. She held it out to me saying, "Look, this is from a big dandelion!" I spotted a clump of weeds growing by the railroad tracks nearby and recognized among them, one of my favorite childhood plants: the milkweed. (Pinecones)

I once thought of the Johnny jump-up (wild pansy or heart's-ease) as a weed. They will take over the garden if they get the chance. In a book on Colonial herbs, however, I read that the seed of the Johnny jump-up was advertised in Boston in 1760, and Jefferson reported planting it in his garden in 1767. (Pinecones)

Beyond the geese is a spring house.

Nobody knew where Emma was. Soon after we had served our guests, she had vanished on her bicycle. I thought I had heard her say something about going to the Goslin sisters to bring back more goose down for . . . The Goslins had raised their pretty white geese since I was a girl. I remember hearing my mother talk about their notorious gander. Rumor had it that he would nip the ankles of any stranger who approached wearing trousers, but accepted the visits of all in skirts. This was told to me years back as a possible explanation for why the Goslin sisters never married. (Blackberry Inn)

Sunflower seeds are favorite snack of Dean's. 

Dean has too many food allergies to name. To fill a craving I made gluten-free apple butter muffins with grated carrot, raisins, flavored with molasses. It reminded me of the muffins Carol made for the apple-butter festival in Lessons at Blackberry Inn.

End Notes
Because I make muffins often I decided to order my un-bleached cupcake papers by the three-pack on Amazon.

You can find the Arnold Lobel's "Frog and Toad" Audio Collection there, too.

To learn more about my stories a click will take you to "Karen's Books" here on this blog.

Happy for Your Visit.
Are you getting out in a garden?

Karen Andreola