Friday, June 30, 2017

Margin

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

Landis Valley
A mother dropped me 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



Monday, May 29, 2017

Finding Your Feet - Part One

Finding Your Feet Part One
"Can I do this?" I asked myself. I was a young mother. Children's books were not part of my childhood. I was a recent Christian. I had no teacher's training. But I was determined to home-teach.

Catbirds take a bath in our garden teacup daily. 

I felt like a dunderhead. I was, however, a motivated dunderhead. The more I dug, the more enthused I became. Charlotte Mason supplied me with the "how-to" and the "why-to." I recognized that her books in my hands were a gift from God, a generous answer of prayer. Slowly and gradually I grew in understanding. Did I understand everything I read? No. Ideas take time to germinate, time to be contemplated, to be worked-out, to be lived-out. Ideas can't be rushed. Eventually, we find our feet by walking in them. The ideas become a way-of-life. It's the educational life.

Knitting this yoke pattern for Eloise was a dream. It has 8 stitches to weave under the arms and no other seams. 

I've noticed something. Charlotte Mason's principles fit different circumstances beautifully. The people applying them are of different financial means. They have different backgrounds, different personalities, gifts, talents. They even live in different parts of the globe. Some with English their second language.

Miss Mason's principles are not just for the well-to-do or the well-prepared. They aren't solely for the intellectual. My husband Dean told me Miss Mason's principles are basic enough for even simple people (like us) to understand. She reached out to the poorer (less-literate) classes as far back as when she gave her lectures in London in the 1880s, and thereafter. I can relate. I was Less-literate with a capital "L".

Johnny-jump-ups with pansies. Potted herbs behind. Outside the kitchen door. 
Margin
Miss Mason's ideals are high. I craned my neck looking up. But it is a road worth walking no matter what situation you are in at the start. However others carry-out the method today, however well-accomplished the PNEU was in its hey-day of the 1930s, you are left to personally to find your feet. Please give yourself margin my friend. With respect to the person God is making you to be, respect your personal application.

Weigelia and Dianthus along our garage-shed.


On page 38 of School Education Miss Mason invites teachers to recede. Teachers are to make room for students to "feel their feet" with what they are learning.

We inspire. We set-in-motion habits and skills. Then we recede. This way we do not continue to indefinitely "carrying them through their schoolwork." Rather, we give them margin while we set their feet in a land-of-opportunity. Self-education is the result.

The same can be said of mothers.  Home teachers are learners, too. Are you giving yourself margin? Let's be courteous. Let's give each other margin.

Dean says, "The Charlotte Mason Method shines brightest when we allow ourselves the freedom to adapt Miss Mason's philosophy to our own individual domestic circumstance. We are, then, free to be ourselves before God and our children."


Some seek exact recipes. By focusing on the letter-of-the-law, however, we can miss living by the spirit-of-the-law. A mother misses the joy of learning with her children when choosing exact recipe over personal application. Miss Mason's principles are living principles meant to be a blessing.

A Mixed Bunch 
Weigelia and Dianthus along the garage-shed, close up.
We are a mixed bunch of Charlotte Mason followers. I know because I've had the pleasure of meeting some of you through the mail.

One family fills a handful of notebooks on various subjects. You're impressed. Your family started one or two. These notebooks are half-filled by the end of the school year. But they are handsomely half-filled. This will do. Each notebook represents happy days of curious and focused learning.

One mother reads Plutarch annually. Another mom prefers to read a little Plutarch if any, especially as she has shelves of carefully collected juvenile biographies filled with "lives." Such a quantity of lives for children was unavailable in Miss Mason's day. Go for it.






My new little quilt of scrappy "Broken Dishes" beside the Dianthus.
A pastor friend of yours, who lives an hour away, had his children memorize Shakespeare. He sends you an invitation to the performance. You take the drive to "hear" and see his students perform The Tempest. It's thoroughly enjoyable. Your family has appreciated Shakespeare. But directing a full-length play isn't an undertaking for you.

All 5 of a family's children play a string instrument. Even the 4-year-old takes lessons. Private lessons aren't in your budget. But since your eldest babysits she can help pay for hers. The younger children must wait their turn to start. They like hearing Big Sister play and look forward to when they will start their lessons.

One mother's student receives a lesson in Latin from his father daily. You tried Latin but it tipped the scales for you when your 6th child was born. And someone has to get a healthy supper on the table. Your husband isn't likely to teach his children Latin. Even if you ask him. He bought his boys catcher's mitts and enjoys playing ball with them out back. "Just what they need," you're thinking as you watch their energy through the kitchen window, "a good work-out." You offer a prayer of thanks while peeling the carrots.


I enjoyed lining one garden with seashells I beach-combed  years back. 

One mother teaches her little ones Sol-fa. It is important to her that they are brought up to sing well.  An elderly man in church is stricken with A.L.S. Mom, Dad, and the children visit him one or two Saturdays a month. The little ones sing for the man they affectionately call "Grandpa." The tears in his eyes show how touched he is by this gift of friendship. He has no grandchildren of his own to visit him. Your children can carry a tune. It's a joyful noise.


One family has traveled miles to the Creation Museum. The ark was spectacular. They've also taken physical-geography-walks. Their interest in rocks, fossils, dinosaurs, and land formations never seems to wane. They tell you about their experiences excitedly. You're glad for them. But you can't see your family traveling that far anytime soon with a van that needs frequent engine repair. The Nature Trail at the edge of town is a hike your family enjoys. And some books from the library-discard-sale are proving insightful.


Wooden Buttons The Yarn is Noro silk/cotton with slubs.

Keep Your Focus

While you are finding your feet you can't help see what others are doing. But you can open your eyes wider to what you are accomplishing. Look at what you can do. You are faithful to get up every morning to do it. And if it isn't done as seemingly radiantly, or as grandiose, as others. It doesn't matter. Your gifts, talents, interests are being used in your family. They are radiant. Because no effort, no love, no good work, is invisible to God.
My fieldguide says this is a Fleabane Daisy. I learned something new.

Part Two on this topic is upcoming.

Well done my friends.
Karen Andreola






Saturday, May 6, 2017

Welcome Home

Welcome Home
Spider Sparrow 
What are you doing for your Mother Culture? I hope you can snatch some moments to enrich yourself. At the end of the day, in just a few page-turning evenings, I read this sweet story. It pulled at my maternal heart strings. It ministered to my Mother Culture.

Perhaps you've seen the film, Water Horse, or Babe. Both are based on the children stories by British author, Dick King-Smith. I happened upon a lesser known story of his: Spider Sparrow. A used-bookshop sits a few doors from where Dean and I eat California Rolls on the occasional lunch date. I can't resist popping in. Of course.




Spider Sparrow has a James-Herriot-feel to it with its colloquial dialect and farm folk. It's lambing time in the 1930s. A tiny baby, wrapped in a shawl is deposited, under cover of darkness, at the door of a shepherd's hut. "What's this?" Tom, the shepherd, cradles the baby in his arms before a warm fire. With a beer bottle covered by a nipple, he feeds the scrawny, hungry baby the same milk he happens to be feeding to an orphan lamb that night.

He's smitten by this tiny one. Molly is smitten, too. Tom and Molly were married 15 years but hadn't been able to have a baby. They would have liked a son of their own. With help from the lord of the manor (and farm boss) Tom and Molly adopt the baby, who, village gossips believe, was abandoned by a young girl who had a fleeting love affair with an American soldier.





Tom and Molly eventually notice something strange about this baby. 

He doesn't crawl like other babies. At age 2 he gets around, keeping off his knees, on his hands-and-feet in the back garden; thus his nickname Spider. He eventually walks. But he walks funny. He talks funny, too, using a word rather than a sentence, by the time he is school age. Tom and Molly accept him as he is. Spider is docile, curious, and pleasant. And he is "slow." Unable to learn how to read, however, he isn't accepted into the village school. Molly is relieved, really, because most of the children make fun of him. Therefore, he's brought-up entirely at home.

Although unable to use language fully to express himself, he can mimic the sounds of nature. He imitates the birds and other creatures all around the farm, remarkably well. He doesn't mind being alone with nature. Animals are drawn to him. They are pacified by Spider's simpleness and gentleness.

When Spider reaches his teens England is at war. (The author was a soldier in WWII.) But Spider's world is the farm. Its workers (all older than he is) are kind to him. Eventually, he helps out on the farm in a way that is tailor-made for him.

Because of bits mentioned above, and the light swearing of a gruff farmhand ("bloody . . . ") you might prefer reading the story aloud with trifling omissions. Otherwise, it claims to be for age 10-up.

No matter what a child's abilities or disabilities, no matter how bright or slow he is, no matter what a child's strengths or weaknesses, a child is a person, created in the image of God. I know you will like Spider Sparrow for your Mother Culture, especially if someone you love and care for is "slow."

When a Christian reads fiction she can't help wonder whether the main character has ever been imparted a saving knowledge of Christ. In this case Spider is depicted without sin-nature. Although the lord of the manor and his wife attend the parish church no other character in the story does.

Master Cornhill
All my children read, Master Cornhill by Eloise Jarvis McGraw during their home-learning years, and were impressed with it. They remember it with fondness. (I've recently verified this.) Although out-of-print for some years (I obtained ours 25 years ago) Sonlight is publishing it I am told. I hadn't read it. Until this year. When I spied our copy on my daughter's shelf (she is homeschooling now) and I borrowed it back.


Although this historical fiction is filled with authenticated details of London, the year 1666, and The Great Fire of London, it moves swiftly. The details of clothing, buildings, street names, and best-of-all, persons, draw the reader into "being there" like no history textbook can.

Our sympathies are stirred for Michael who the year before, at age 11, had to leave London and his foster family there, to escape the Great Plague. When he returns he can't seem to find them. Thousands had died or fled the city. Where will he go? What will he do to earn a living at his age?

Fire of London by painter Stanhope Alexander Forbes
Seeking to avoid the dreaded workhouse he agrees to join a minstrel/storyteller who sells scripts. The minstrel gives Michael a few coins a week and a place to sleep, for being part of the audience. All Michael has to do is listen to the storyteller, fascinated. Just like he did the first time he heard the minstrel. It's an easy job. One that gives Michael a roof over his head and food to eat. But not one he is guaranteed to keep long.

One very minor character drinks too much. This brief scene ushers in the natural consequence of hardship (as it should.) Overall, you and your children will like Michael and his circle of friends (all older than he is.) These friends are caregivers in his life that ease mounting anxiety. How does any civilization survive? When difficulties are met together while kindness is at work.
The print is small, making it probably best for ages 12-14-up.

The Chestry Oak
First published in 1948, The Chestry Oak by Kate Seredy is back in print. The story begins in a royal castle in Hungary at the onset of WWII. The old-way-of-life is described with a kind of dream-like-remembering. When the Nazis occupy the castle, young Michael, prince of the House of Chestry, is given strict orders by his Nanny and his father-the-King, how to conduct himself. These two grown-ups guide young Michael discretely through their new oppressive castle-life. To not frighten him they tell him they are playing a game of pretend.

Graduating from pony to horse on his birthday is an exciting step-up for Prince Michael. One beautiful black stallion plays an important role during an air raid (when the Americans intervene.) Then, the formal-feel of the first half of the book ends. The war is over. Michael's life changes dramatically.

I wouldn't be recommending the book if the second half of the story kept to the same strained-feel as the first. When we follow Michael to America a contrast between a life of oppression and one of freedom-from-oppression becomes evident. I read about Michael's new life with relief and rejoicing, grateful I was born in America. Your shoulders will relax, too, when you read about his new life. Therefore, keep reading and you'll be enriched. Age 12-up.

East,West - Home is Best
I've intentionally left out the best parts of these stories. You'll happily discover them for yourself.
All 3 happen to be about orphans who are welcomed into the homes of kind-hearted, seemingly God-fearing people. The caregivers are everyday heroes. A loving home is what is central to everyone's well-being. Adults who persevere through life's difficulties in making a home for their loved-ones, will find these stories as touching, or more touching, than the children who read them. They will relate to the care-givers. They will be encouraged to persevere in love, putting kindness to work in the common duties of life.


Giving Thanks for Home
I am a Bible-believing Christian. Although I am not Mennonite (my neighbors are Amish) I picked up a book of Mennonite children's prayers. It's been by my bedside this week. Here is one adapted from the Die Ernsthafte Christenpflicht 1739, that fits my theme today.

O God,
We give thanks for the goodhearted people
who love us and do good to us and who
show their mercy and kindness by providing
us with food and drink, house and shelter
when we are in trouble or in need.

End Notes:
Linked to Amazon:
Spider Sparrow, 

Master Cornhill, and available through Sonlight.

The Chesty Oak

This Antique Star Bed Quilt, I discovered on close inspection (through my bifocals) is a genealogy quilt. Inside each star is a faded name penned with a birth date such as "Jacob 1820". I'm partial to this star quilt block. I quilted the mug rug (above) for a long-distance friend. I call it "Midnight Garden."

Farm paintings are by Agnes Clausen

Keep up your Mother Culture, ladies.

Thanks for visiting,
Karen Andreola