Daily Diary {School Daze}

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I pound down the stairs to the screams of multiple children, I enter the room dubbed “Lego Land” and find them wheeling a extra twin bed around with various appendages flying in all directions. Children on mattress joy rides. Can we call it Physical Education? Creative Expression Class? Anger Management? I calmly direct the mattress and WHOLE bed be put back, the LEGOS and other debris swept and children report the the table for lunch. Well, in my saintly dreams, anyway. I was frustrated and exasperated. It actually seemed like a perfect time for locking myself into my room with 14 bars of Hershey’s chocolate. Good thing I don’t have any. Good thing I’m self-disciplined and have good habits, Charlotte Mason, dear.

The morning started off slow, as I woke earlier than my alarm, mumbling about my traitor body that wouldn’t let me sleep another seven and half minutes. I turned it off and then went back to sleep. Disorientated about the light blinding me when it was suppose to be 5:00 am,  I stumbled out of bed, horrified at the late hour of 6:53 am, stared out my window, a deep, fog not unlike that of Barrow Downs hovered, one-eye half open, I started my life-giving brew, and sat down to check-in to the all-important internet world. My brain slowly unscrambled, a slight hum beginning to drift down from upstairs. Goodness. They’re awake. Those wild, crazy, lovely, delightful children of mine. My hubby bids me adieu and good luck. I barely turn from him when I feel the First-Tug-On-My-Sleeve of the day. It’s my three year old wanting me to read him a book. An hour later, I gulp a swig of cold coffee, put down the board books, boy, and realize that my oldest hasn’t stirred out of her room for KP duty. She is my Chief Oatmeal and Taco Maker.  Thank goodness gracious for her.

Well, with a morning that’s lagging a bit behind, one has to reevaluate. I’m outnumbered. Only one thing can be done to preserve whatever sanity one has left. You go slow, you hang laundry on the line to blow in the breeze, you turn on Rachmaninoff, you let boys build their battle fields, other kids draw, and you heat up your coffee, waving your white flag of Early-Start Surrender. I regrouped, and by regrouped I mean get dressed and brush one tooth. My oldest made delicious oatmeal, the table got cleared, and we were acting slightly more human-ish by now. A pile of apples and pears later (didn’t we just eat?), we attack copywork and maths. My daughter took one look at her towering stack of books, a slight shiver running down her back, and dug into it all. I’m the lucky one, really, I get to hear her narrations, have discussions, on all the interesting things she is reading. I get to hold the sticky, brown-sugar-y hands, get burdock out of curly hair, and clean up the little, darling toddler pants. They are urine drenched, but hey. I alternate sending children outside for fresh air (aka keep-mom-sane) and helping them each with their individual studies. I laugh with my middle son over the silly happenings in Twenty One Balloons by William Pène du Bois, talk Feudalism with another, and listen to piano being practiced.  My oldest son stabbed a few taters and threw them into the crock pot for lunch, Baked Potato Bar. This sounds more romantic than it is. Basically, hot potatoes with all the unwanted frig scraps on top. It feeds a crowd. Potatoes have kept whole country’s alive, surely they will do for seven people to survive a Thursday. After wrestling teens, toddlers, and table cleaners, (and finding out we cracked the poor old crock pot insert !), we settle down into our blissful messiness and enter other worlds together.

Flying, dipping, diving, we float through different stories, narrations, sharing, singing, and talking. Cain and Abel. “The Wreck of the Hesperus”. Abe Lincoln. “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot”. The murderous mayhem and mattresses are forgotten, the piles of toys, crumbled bits, discarded clothing, and half-eaten, browning apple cores a distant (for the moment) memory. Our voices raised together, we sing the “Doxology”, we listen to a bit of Tanglewood Tales, we learn a little about architecture, our Constitution, and finally, we sit around planning story-inspired art that we are working on. The afternoon sun glows cheerfully, I fold some more laundry, hide for a bit in the basement near the washer, laundry is helpful like that, always waiting, always there for you. We make pancakes for dinner, little sailboats made out of plastic ice cream dishes and morning glory leaves are floated in the puddles, a few tears are shed over a sharp knife ban, and I breathe an exhausted thanks Heavenward . Thanks for these children, for a home, thanks for this life, Lord. A swirling daze are these home schooling days, but I wouldn’t trade ’em for the world.

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Soup’s On

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The pungent odor, the juicy, crisp feel, onions sliced, dropped into the pot. The sizzling music plays as flavors meld together, spatula stirring and chopping ground turkey as it browns.

The pungent, slightly morbid poem “Adventures of Isabel” by Nash chuckled at over breakfast. Uncontrollable laughter over Carrie, the half talking cat in Lear’s Half Magic, dropped lightly into the mixture.

Plump, diced chunks of tomatoes. Thin, black beans, morsels of golden corn added with the onions and meat.

Dicey moments over proper way to make a basic dough. Guffaws breaking tension as full stick of butter falls on floor, face down, bits splattering. A quick clean up, stir of resolution and a pinch of lets-start-over thrown in.

Water running, water necessary for life, soup pot is filling. Spices to birth flavor, to compliment vegetables, meat, and bringing soul, depth to sustenance.

Stones and sand, water flowing over our mock little river bed, four boy eyes gazing at geology experiment. The flowing, flowing of life giving words from The Holy Bible, Charlotte Mason’s Ourselves, rushing, tumbling, swirling, compassion and interest about a boy in Malawi. Folk tales about Paul Bunyan and Babe, straighting out a road in Minnesota. Spice for the heart, soaking for the imagination.

The simmering. Hot heat on my hand as I gently stir. The patience and a light shake, bit o’ pepper and salt into it all.

Listening, answering, sowing, words, numbers, the scorching of being “on” all the time. Inner patience, cultivation of a restful heart silence even through the shaky hop, skip, and jump of relationships. Throwing in an extra measure of grace, knowing full well how truly much I’ve been given.

A smell so delicious sifts through the air. A simple table cloth, candles flickering, mismatched bowls catch the light. Hearty soup, bread, fresh stick of butter, the meal has been prepared. The mixing and simmering are in the background, the relationships are here all around.

Gather in closer, sip, lather your slice with creaminess, taste and see. A daily dance of living ingredients, slowness, humility, and astonished gratefulness.

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Be It Ever So Humble

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There is no place like our little home of learning. Yes, we are returning to the book shelves, returning to an invitation to enter in. The rustles of paper, woodsy pencil smell mixed with burnt electrical odor drifting up from our faithful sharpener, and the back acres’ beckoning call. Embroidering little gifts for Grandparent’s Day and Christmas, enjoying a hilariously performed narration of Saint George of Merrie England, inhaling loaves of fresh bread, digging into their maths with happiness (how I have children that enjoy Mathematics is nothing short of miraculous, they are actually teaching me the fun of it), watching our Monarch caterpillar build its gorgeous chrysalis, and measuring, crisp ruler lines emerging, seeing little paper envelopes unfold.  Journals cracked open, new sketches join the old. Belly laughs over Edward Lear’s Half Magic, thoughtful discussions on silkworms, and diving back into the beauty, magic, and intrigue of history. Loreena McKennitt playing softly while morning breakfast is served.  Milk, walnuts, and brown sugar poured over hot oatmeal, salty popcorn for elevenses, tapers are out, for autumn is slowly approaching. Soup and chili are back on the dinner menu, thank goodness.

The ecstasy, the sheer delight of this privileged life I’m blessed with is true and it is here. I choose to see, I have to see it. I closely notice the green vine of it peeking up through the cracks. Because as the big picture flickers by, playing out a tense-feeling mother who is fumbling along, trying to help us all get back into a regular rhythm, the habits of what we ought to do versus what we would like to be doing. Or in reality, the tension of what I like to be doing versus what I ought to be doing. This is ministry at its finest. A ministry of listening, the ministry of time, a ministry of stories, a ministry of delicious meals, a ministry of love, compassion. It is the ministry of relationships, possibly the hardest thing of all. It’s the piles of overflowing laundry, the grocery shopping, the garbage, the lawn to be mowed, the appointments to make, the filthy floors, the beauty and beast of it all. 

In a few weeks, the flow, and the newness will even out, the three chocolate bar afternoons will end, and the semi-sanity will return. I will get gradually use to the indoor noise level again, the four-persons-asking-me questions at once, and the proverbial split milk, but now on top of someone’s copywork. The glorious thing is that as we soak all of this messy beauty in together, it begins to seep out in our stories,  our art, our conversations, it becomes part of us, it forms our relationships, it enriches us. It changes our path, informs our decisions, turns our hearts, hands Heavenward and outward. An unseen beautiful vine of love twining its way through our home. And that is worth every minute of it all.

 

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August Reads

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Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf in the Forest by Carl Larsson – 1881

What is on your reading stack?

Lab Girl by Hope Jahren (*****) –  4.5 stars. I was extremely intrigued by the beautiful, minute, yet deep observations on nature and life. They were subtle, and I almost want to go back through this book and try to jot them all down for rainy day reviewing. The story was one of the exhausting, messy life it really is to make it as a scientist- weird, quirky, and a bit nuts. Besides the excessive use of the “F” word, this crazy, beautifully written memoir, was so interesting and inspiring no matter what line of work you are in. The vague, strange undefined friendship with Bill, her lab partner, was a bit hard to read and maddeningly endearing at the same time. The author ranted a bit too much about how bad she was treated as a woman in a science field, other than those few things, I really enjoyed it and now want to go plant a tree.

Pied Piper by Nevil Shute (*****)-  This beautiful story follows John Howard, a grieving 70 year old man, who escapes to a fishing vacation in France, after the death of his son in the RAF. It’s summer 1940 and he craves quiet, avoiding all the talk of war and death in England. Little does he know what he is headed for! This was a BEAUTIFUL, heart-wrenching tale that blessed the socks off of me. It was written in a plain, straight-forward style, and yet I was right there with Mr.Howard through every step of this extraordinary journey. The love and grace shown by him and others was an example to me of God’s unconditional love. I loved the children in this book and Mr. Howard’s treating them as people. One of my favorite books of the year so far!

News of the World by Paulette Jiles (****) – My sister recommended this to me and it was a sweet, yet sad story of a little girl who was captured by a Kiowa Indian tribe and it now being returned to her relatives many years later. Old Caption Kidd is commissioned with this task, and he funds their long journey by reading the news for .10 cents a person as they slowly trek across frontier Texas. This is a sobering read and brings to light the brutality of our country in those wild west days. Gun battles, primitive living, dangerous elements, and fiery political arguments following them as they fight to stay alive. The care and love that grow between the little girl and Kidd, who she begins to fondly refer to as Opa, is so heartwarming and I found this to be such a rewarding historical fiction, as I believe it’s based on some true facts.

Waking the Gods by Sylvian Neuvel – (***) 3.5 – fun, sci-fi with a creepy side to it. Written in an unique way through interviews, media reports, etc. This is a sequel to Sleeping Giants, which I read at the beginning of this year. If you are into alien invasion stories, these books are for you. I think there might be a third in the series coming as well.

Gilead by Marilynne Robinson – (****) I love the humanity of this book, Robinson’s writing humming with reality and depth of soul, these are real people to me. I found the questions of Reverend John Ames, his doubts, fears, and thoughts to be universal in their simplicity and complexity. I loved how the love for his wife and child were strongly FELT, even as he told. I enjoyed the town of Gilead, it’s smallness, again the feeling that it could have been me living here at that time in history.I enjoyed the generational lines to this book, the looking back and forward, deeply into the lives of these people, particularly the three ministers, grandfather, father, and son. Robinson definitely has strong views of her own, I feel like those come through in her writing, even though she tries to put “always questioning” spin on them. Her writing is just exquisite and the beauty is in it’s plain, straight-forward way of flowing. It took me awhile to read this, I hesitate to say this, since so many love it, and the Pulitzer Prize and all, but occasionally, I felt like it was trying to be beautiful, especially in the beginning, I struggled to fully get into it…, but when I hit 1/2 way, maybe even 3/4 of the way, I really started to appreciate it and see its richness. Lovely and I look forward to reading more of this author.

Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury (*****) –  this book follows the story of 12 yo Douglas’ summer vacation in a small town during the late 1920’s. This book is so strangely weird and deeply beautifully, bordering on creepy at times. Bradbury does a wonderful job looking at life through the eyes of this extraordinary boy’s imagination and spin on things. The language and turns of phrase are unforgettable. I believe some of this might be inspired by Bradbury’s own childhood.

A Gathering of Larks: Letters to Saint Francis from a Modern-Day Pilgrim by Abigail Carroll (*****) – I found this delightful poet in an anthology, and I’m so glad I did. I’ve been searching out her works and this is a lovely juxtaposition of the life of Saint Francis with Carroll’s modern life. I love the introduction she gives us to St. Francis and I love her jarring, beautiful, simple poetry. Go here to read some beautiful poetry.   

The Weight of Ink by Rachel Kadish (****) – Slight spoiler here, just FYI! This is a beautifully written story, touching a point in history (immigration of Spanish/Portuguese Jews to London due to the Inquisition, following through to the ravages of the plague on London) and historical characters that I knew nothing about. I’m still in awe over Kadish’s writing. Antique documents found in an old house, dusty caches of inked treasures drew me in. I don’t always love stories that jump from the past to the future and back again, but this was done well. So much rich detail, characters, and well-developed sense of place. Ester’s deep internal ramblings, along with Helen’s regret, and Aaron’s search all tie together well, occasionally some of their inner musings got a little muddled, but over all, interwoven so well. This felt slightly dark, chilly, and sad in so many ways, just all these people living in terrible fear, and the horror of persecution for beliefs. Little shafts of light shone through the darkness though and I appreciated those, because otherwise this would have been pretty heavy. The tension over the documents of antiquity found and studied by competing departments of the university was intriguing and kept me on my toes, I actually felt my fist clenching a bit as I read.

The ending was pretty predictable in regards to Helen, Aaron’s was not as clear, and Ester’s was a surprise. I felt saddened by the choices, viewpoints, and conclusions that the author comes to. I disliked the heavy immorality. Overall, this was an deep, fascinating read and one I will be thinking about for awhile.

Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm by Kate Douglas Wiggin  (*****)- I loved this charming story of young Rebecca going to live with two spinster aunts who help her get an education. So sweet and I was enchanted by her and how she blessed the whole town.  I found the end of the potential romantic interest a bit jarring, weird, and unsatisfying for some reason. I saw a lot a reviews online saying that this obviously inspired Anne of Green Gables and I didn’t see that much at all! I was surprised because it seemed even to the point that people where alluding to Montgomery using a little too much inspiration, if you know what I mean. I can see similarities to Wiggin and Montgomery’s writing style and the story line of a young girl wanting to be a writer. Emily of New Moon is more similar in plot, than Anne! Anyway, this was just a pleasure to read.

Poetry of Lucy Maud Montgomery by L.M. Montgomery (***) – This is a small collection of her poetry, she was actually a very prolific poet. By her own admission, she did write poetry for the market, paying the bills, and you can see that in some of these. However, there are quite a few that were so lovely and blessed me so much. I could just breath the very things she was talking of in her poetry, while I was in P.E.I., since many are on nature.

Landmarks by Robert MacFarlane (****) – This is such a hard book to describe in a good way. I loved this book. About sense of place, about people who’ve connected with their immediate surroundings and specific far-off places, and the history of place words. The importance of recognizing and keeping places in nature alive for family, the lore, legends, and special connections the words bring to these intimate geographical parts of our world. I’d say this is part travel log, part reading log, part naturalist memoir, part logophile’s dream. This mainly focuses on England/UK, but it is worth reading no matter where you live. I definitely plan on reading more of this author’s work.

The Alpine Path: The Story of my Career by L.M. Montgomery (****) – this is a short, simple biography touching on the main points of Montgomery’s career. I found this inspiring and lovely for anyone who loves writing and words, or who is just a fan of her beautiful stories.

Jurassic Park and Lost World by Michael Crichton (***) 3.5 – I found these entertaining and just ok for a light read. Definitely violent and a bit creepy. The huge sections on evolution felt clunky and out of place in the high action plot. I felt the first was TOO fast paced, the second was a better balance of action and dialogue.

The Holy Bible (*****) – 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, James, 1 Peter

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July Reads

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The Yellow Books by Vincent Van Gogh

So, how was your reading month? One of my favorite things about summer is more free time to be between the pages of a good book! Please share a favorite title you’ve read recently in the comments.

Here’s what I read or at least finished this month:

Emily’s Quest by L.M.Montgomery (****) –  the conclusion to this lovely trilogy about Emily Starr, an orphaned girl, now a young woman, pursuing her dream to become a writer. My favorite was definitely the second in the series, and this one felt a little slow and repetitive to me, talking a lot about her current beaus and the ups/downs of friendship, rejections on her writing, and loneliness. Overall, a satisfying ending to Emily’s story and I will definitely be rereading these at some point. They are probably close to some of my favorite Montgomery titles after the Anne Series.  My oldest daughter is now enjoying them.

Images of Rose by Anna Gilbert (***) – 3.5 – I felt a bit like Catherine Norland as I read this and constantly kept thinking of Northanger Abbey. About half way through this title, I realized that it was indeed a gothic romance. I picked this book up at a used book sale because the cover drew my eye. Unfamiliar with the author, I dove in, and wow, Gilbert is a BEAUTIFUL writer. The sense of place (England!), nature, the characters, are just so lovely. The plot was a bit cheesy and far-fetched, however, although, I didn’t catch the biggest clue to the mysterious, psychological things going on till the last part, which also commends the author. Overall, I loved reading this just for the cadence, flow, and loveliness of the writing, but the plot was definitely creepy and hard to swallow. Another plus, the romance was done SO well, something you felt, rather than were told, and the attraction between characters was shown through little things, thoughts, expressions, versus so many modern takes on romance were it is written purely as an uncontrolled physical attraction. I *might* check out another of this author’s titles just to see if there are better plots.

The Major of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy (****) –  Wow. Hardy is definitely not cheery reading, but somehow you forgive him because of beauty of his writing. I love the title, it means more than what’s on the surface, of course. Mr. Henchard is a character you find yourself alternating between frustration, dislike and pity. I found it fascinating that someone who seemed to have good morals at the core, often went astray by not controlling his explosive emotions and rash, head-long decisions. A sobering lesson. I was surprised by how much I was rooting for Elizabeth-Jane and Mr. Farfrae early on, but as Donald rose in prominence in the town, I began to dislike him for some reason, although he certainly didn’t do anything really to deserve that. Maybe I just felt rather like rooting for the underdog, whoever that may be at the moment. I never could like Lucetta, though, she seemed devious and manipulative to me, right from the get go. Overall, the beauty of the Hardy’s natural descriptions, sense of really being there in, Casterbridge, and how I came to care for the characters made this a wonderful read, one I will be thinking on for awhile. The thoughts of second-chances, forgiveness, and regrets are worth things to meditate upon.

PS – a book nerd note, I found this at a used book sale in a plain, sort of ugly teal-ish colored PB, Rinehart Edition. It had a LOVELY feel to the cover…this is in rough shape, but it was so smooth, pliable, and the pages thick and full of character. It was part of the joy of reading this…I know, I’m weird.

Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie (***) – 3.5 stars because Christie is has a beautiful style as a writer. This Hecule Poirot mystery wasn’t my favorite, seemed a bit predictable. 

Why I Wake Early by Mary Oliver (****) – Beautiful nature poetry done in the stark, jarring, gorgeous way that only Oliver can do.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: His Life by Catherine O. Peare (*****) – A middle-school level biography written in a lovely, engaging style. I will be using some of the stories for my poetry lessons in our Charlotte Mason community. A lovely gal at the Living Education Retreat, that I attended this summer, recommended this. I hope to check out more of Peare’s titles in the future.

Charlotte Mason and the Great Recognition edited by Nicole Handfield (*****) – I so enjoyed this collection of essays that further helped illuminate and illustrate Charlotte Mason’s Great Recognition. I especially enjoyed the color prints of the fresco and Ruskin’s thoughts on them in such a nice convenient form.

The Maytrees by Annie Dillard (***) – This was written BEAUTIFULLY, which I would expect from Dillard. The beginning part about the Maytree’s romance and marriage was lovely, but unfortunately, the jarring twist in the middle left a bad taste in my mouth. The ending was just strange, and I was sorry that such descriptive, honest writing had to be used with a sad, weird story.

Serafina and the Black Cloak by Robert Beatty (***) –  a middle -grade fantasy. My oldest and I both read this and discussed it. It was very creepy, despite that we liked it, and we’re glad for the redemptive ending. Still shuddering and shivering a bit, though.

The Memoir Project: A Thoroughly Non-Standardized Test for Writing & Life by Marion Roach Smith (*****) – I loved this kind of shocking, and brutally honest look at writing. She really rips to shreds a lot of stereotypical ideas floating around about memoir, specifically.

Pen on Fire: A Busy Woman’s Guide to Igniting the Writer Within by Barbara DeMarco-Barrett (****) – Helpful and informative! I really loved the conversational, relational style of this. I didn’t use any of the exercises, those seem a little contrived to me, but she really was encouraging and this is one I’d like to own.

Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt (*****) – I absolutely loved this book, I cried at times. This follows the life of Ally, a sixth-grader, who has dyslexia, and doesn’t know it. The author clearly shares some of her own life experiences through the thoughts and feelings of this young girl who believes she is stupid. It shares how one person valuing another as a person can change the course of their whole life.

The Gray House by Mariam Petrosyan (****) – Wow! This book was crazy, upside down, and inside out, but totally tugged at my heart strings. I came to care about many of the characters living in the Gray House even the hard-to-love ones. That is the prevailing feeling I have walking away from this book, a deep sense of compassion, and a feeling of seeing myself in many of the feelings, thoughts, and frustrations of these very real feeling people. Without this fabulous book club: Silvia Cachia, I would have been lost much of the time, ha! This book was very challenging for me, I think one of the first of it’s sort for me to read. I’m not even sure what to classify this as? Maybe dystopian magical realism? Is that even a thing? I just made that up. This was a BEAUTIFUL translation, flowed so well, and the depth of each person you got to know was wonderful. Overall, I’m glad I read this, I probably will never understand all that I just read, but I was fascinated by this world and these people Petrosyan shared with us.

You are What You Love: The Spiritual Power of Habit by James K.A. Smith (**) – review here.

The Holy Bible (*****) – I Chronicles, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, Philippians, Colossians, 1 & 2 Thessalonians, 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, and Hebrews

 

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‘Late and Soon’ {Living Education Retreat 2017, Part 2}

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{Beautiful gift given to us by our LER friends – “Keep cutting back until there is peace in your home.” – Nancy Kelly.  Design by – Charlotte Mason Living}

Part 1

Breakfast is being made, cheesy scrambled eggs, and I’m still feeding on the Living Education Retreat*. I’m a simmering soup after the weekend of sharing Charlotte Mason’s philosophy and practices with my fellow learners. My husband is getting an earful and my children are like, “Yes, mom, we know. Charlotte Mason, blah, blah, blah.” All in good humor, of course.  A thread, a main phrase seems to be emerging in my mind. It is the line ‘late and soon’.  I’m trying to wrap my mind around how that and other ideas tie together in a beautiful whole, taking it deep into my heart. I remembered in our Charlotte Mason book study having read it in the volumes, discussing it with my dear friends, and then stumbling again on it in a Wordsworth poem. What’s with Wordsworth lately popping up? Anyhow, here is the poem,

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;—
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not. Great God! I’d rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.

 

I went searching for when Miss Mason uses this Wordsworth line in her writings and I found it in her School Education, p. 27.

“We ought to do so much for our children, and are able to do so much for them, that we begin to think everything rests with us and that we should never intermit for a moment our conscious action on the young minds and hearts about us. Our endeavours become fussy and restless. We are too much with our children, ‘late and soon.’ We try to dominate them too much, even when we fail to govern, and we are unable to perceive that wise and purposeful letting alone is the best part of education. But this form of error arises from a defect of our qualities. We may take heart. We have the qualities, and all that is wanted is adjustment; to this we must give our time and attention.” – Charlotte Mason (emphasis mine)

As I thought on the retreat’s theme of Simplicity, the beautiful times of sharing on math with Marcia, a poetry immersion with Karla, contemplating truths from Charlotte’s volume Ourselves with Joy, the beautiful why’s behind handicrafts with Amy, and all the main sessions with Nancy, Art, and Jeannette, ‘late and soon’ and “keep cutting back until there is peace” started to come alive to me.  What Wordsworth, Mason, and all my lovely friends at this retreat are saying to me is that I can be at rest, narrowing and aiming my focus, not getting too grand, too distracted. I often become inwardly “fussy and restless”, inwardly focused on my inadequacies, inwardly focused, instead of an upward focus on God, and an outward focus on others. I become too grand in my own eyes and of course, weary if I start to drift into thinking that everything rest with myself!  Nancy’s quote ringing all the more true here, “Inner reality that effects our outward lifestyle.” I often let the “cares of this world” to choke out the simplicity found in a Christ-centered focus, in life and in the education of my children.

The wonderful idea of “cutting back until there is peace” extends for me, not only out into the daily practicalities of my home and schedule, but an inner culling, a careful removal of all the dross of self doubt, condemnation, fretting over my children, and faithlessness. This isn’t really about me, it is about faith in Almighty God.

“Education, like faith, is the evidence of things not seen.” – A Philosophy of Education, Charlotte M. Mason, p. 29.

“This great recognition resolves that discord in our lives of which most of us are, more or less, aware. The things of sense we are willing to subordinate to the things of spirit; at any rate we are willing to endeavour ourselves in this direction.” Parents and Children, Charlotte M. Mason, p. 275. (emphasis mine)

Through the conversations, singing fireside with Bobby and Amy, the wonderful lunch discussions with Ami, Barbara, Shauna, and countless others, lingering after small groups, chatting, crying with one another, and the late night talks with Carla, the beauty of this mindset, this feast, shone forth even clearer. Spending time with my daughter and other young adults, enriched, and listening to their panel, looking back over their experiences in this life-giving educational path, all just swells in my heart and mind.

Pausing my typing, my three year old son approaches with Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? and says, “Book?” I wrestle my brain out of it’s lofty rumination 😉 , my heart melts, and we share this book together. The Supreme Educator, the Holy Spirit, the God of all Creation, of the “sea that bares her bosom to the moon” is for me and with me. He is my Source, He gently leads those who have young, in Him I live, move, and have my being.  The winds howl for hours, flowers gathered, we easily can get out of tune, but “…once the intimate relation, the relation of Teacher and taught in all things of the mind and spirit, be fully recognised, our feet are set in a large room; there is space for free development in all directions, and this free and joyous development, whether of intellect or heart, is recognised as a Godward movement.” Parents and Children, Charlotte M. Mason, p. 275.

 

 

*{Charlotte Mason was a British educator. We enjoy her philosophy and methods of  life-giving education in our home. The Living Education Retreat encourages parents on this journey.}

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Expansion of Heart {Living Education Retreat 2017}

 

The rustle of pages can be heard here, with an occasional mouse click breaking the stillness, or my imagined stillness with six dear children present. The notes and ideas that expanded my intellect and heart this past weekend breathe around me. Swirling, turning, and watering deep. Gathered together on the edges of a lake of shining waters, northern Iowa, kindred spirits drank from a fresh well of thought at the Living Education Retreat*. My thumb holds the edge of a page with William Wordsworth’s poem, “Ode to Intimations of Immortality”, thinking on the beauty and implications of an childhood rich with ideas. He penned,

“But for those first affections,
Those shadowy recollections,
Which, be they what they may
Are yet the fountain-light of all our day,
Are yet a master-light of all our seeing;
Uphold us, cherish, and have power to make
Our noisy years seem moments in the being
Of the eternal Silence: truths that wake,
To perish never;
Which neither listlessness, nor mad endeavour,
Nor Man nor Boy,
Nor all that is at enmity with joy,
Can utterly abolish or destroy!”

{poetryfoundation.org – in case you want to read the whole of this beautiful poem}

I turn to Matthew 6:22-23, The Holy Bible, rereading the verses shared and thought over, contemplating Charlotte Mason’s poetic form of this very section in The Saviour of the World, meditating on the line, “See to it that thou keep the single eye”, flipping to read alongside of this Miss Mason’s thought on Mansoul in her Ourselves, page nine. I look closer at the painting of Fortitude by Botticelli that we were given, thinking over our discussions and thoughts on this, reflecting on what does it mean to keep the single eye. How does this effect the education of our children, really the whole of our lives? It comes from the idea of a singular focus on God and others, Nancy Kelly sharing that as an, “Inner reality that effects our outward lifestyle.”  A single eye “looks on the thing to do, not on herself as the doer.”  My note pages flip, and I look up at the screen at an essay by Charlotte Mason titled, Simplicity. A pointed, sharp look at reorientation of ones heart focus. A doing the thing right in front of you, rather than trying “to reform oneself.” A freedom from anxiousness, as anxiousness is really a focus on oneself.

Further along in my notes, I glance with fondness at the snippets of beauty and wisdom, remembering especially the fond conversations with my fellow learners. I now turn to a little gift for myself, that I picked up at the retreat. A small, beautiful book, Charlotte Mason and The Great Recognition, edited by Nicole Handfield. As I soaked in the essays, I found myself astonished that in between the covers of this little book was the essence, the theme if you will for me, of this year’s retreat. Charlotte’s thoughts on the Great Recognition, along with others, all beautifully arranged for better illumination and encouragement. The Holy Spirit as the Giver and Supreme Educator becomes a freeing truth to all, to me, a single-eyed devotion centering on our Lord Jesus Christ releases us from our burdens. Even educational burdens. Mothering and relational burdens. He is on our side, He knows all that we need and all that our children need, without reservation, abundant, above all that we could ask or think. This touched me, “We rejoice in the expansion of intellect and the expansion of heart and the ease and freedom of him who is always in touch with the inspiring Teacher, with whom are infinite stores of learning, wisdom, and virtue, graciously placed at our disposal.” Parents and Children, Charlotte M. Mason, p.276 (emphasis mine).

I glance at the piles of books, the open computer folders, take a deep breath, closing my eyes. (Well, in theory. They are still open, for ease of typing. Maybe it’s my inner eyes.) I remember the glorious morning devotions at the cross. The simplicity, quiet, and gentle cadence of lovely thoughts being shared. My heart and mind are at rest, refreshed and expanded. May my lantern shine and reflect the Supreme Educator from this day forth. ~

 

*{Charlotte Mason was a British educator. We enjoy her philosophy and methods of  life-giving education in our home. The Living Education Retreat encourages parents on this journey.}

June Reads

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{Gulf of Mexico – February 2017 – Books, sand, sun, and little driftwood boat from my boy.}

What did you read for June? I’d love to hear.

 

The Dean’s Watch by Elizabeth Goudge (*****) –

“Could mere loving be a life’s work?”

I cannot tell you how much I loved this book…how much the “simple” act of loving, of reaching out beyond ourselves has far reaching consequences. A timely and beautiful challenge to me as a wife, mother, and friend. This book moved me to tears and Goudge’s characters mean SO much to me, her sense of place is WONDERFUL…I was transformed to this cathedral town. The nature descriptions were vivid and gorgeous. Sigh.

Emily Climbs by L.M. Montgomery (*****) – I adored this title. Even though I’m an avid L.M. Montgomery fan, this is the first time I’m going through this series. Oh my. This is the second in the series and we continue following Emily as she grows into a young woman and beautiful writer. I feel such a kinship to her thoughts and feelings on nature, people, and how so much beauty is running a constant thread through her mind and heart, just begging to get out and be shared with those around her. This one was my favorite between the first two and I’ve begun the third. I read somewhere that there are elements of autobiography in the Emily stories of Lucy Maud’s life.

Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen (*****) – This was a reread and if possible, I enjoyed it even more than the other times I’ve read it. It is SO quietly humorous and full of scathing criticisms that sneak up. I laughed so much while reading this, Miss Austen, you were brilliant.

Rising Ground: Search for the Spirit of Place by Philip Marsden (****) – I felt like the author and I were on a hike through Cornwall and south western part of Great Britain, chatting about the importance of home, of the religious significance of man-made rock formations, and the land, all connected with the people who lived and died here. I loved how this title opened up as Marsden was working on restoring an old home for his wife and children. This title was very specific to this area and I really loved the map in the front of the book and would refer to it often! Even though this was intellectually a bit heavy at times, Marsden is such a beautiful writer and I felt often transported to the various areas he was visiting by his love of the natural world and his close observations. He often chatted with various local connections and I felt like I was getting to know these people with him over tea and cake.

The only hard thing for me in this title was occasionally I got bogged down by all the terms of geological formations/landscape and place names. However, I really loved the definitions and translations that Marsden would give about Gaelic or Welsh words and the meanings behind them, overall he did a good job of sharing, stopping just at the point of getting a bit heavy/tedious. I’m very glad I stuck with this lovely travel, homey-ish memoir. I enjoyed it very much.

Gentian Hill by Elizabeth Goudge (*****) – English history, legends, sweet romance, mystery, deeply flawed, yet lovely characters, a quiet stone chapel, a lovely working farm, and a gorgeous, idyllic coastal English village make for another charming, beautiful, deeply moving story. I am just so blessed, inspired, and swept away after reading Goudge titles. I can’t tell you how much they make me hope again and want to love the people in my life deeper. She is so good at transporting you to the place and gently leading you into, through, and with the characters to profound spiritual truths. She isn’t afraid of stretching your imagination, following through generations, using visions, and sometimes bordering on spiritual mysticism. I love Goudge’s quirks and weird, magical bits for the most part though because the depth of everything all tied together creates such a sense of being right THERE.  Doctor Crane is my absolutely favorite character in this book! Old Sol is lovely too…and the main star of the book Stella Sprigg is so interesting too…sigh. Does it have to be over?

Boxers & Saints  by Gene Luen Yang (two separate titles)  (****) –  These graphic novels were recommended to me after I read Silence by Shusako Endo. These portrayed the Chinese Boxers and the Christian converts perspectives. My children and I found these so interesting, enlightening, and challenging. We liked the legends and myths of their Chinese heritage mixed in with the historical story. Violence and a little language.

Then There Was You by Kara Isaac (***) – 2.5 stars – The plot was interesting concept, the idea of seeing the internal workings of a mega church intrigued me. First, I feel a bit sick of stereotypical views of PK’s (preacher’s kids), so Josh’s secret was predictable, and the romance was meh – again mainly physical-attraction based vs. character, what was with him always loving seeing Paige disheveled? Maybe a subtle dig at pressure in church leadership to be “perfect”? Second, at times I felt breathless, like the writing was rushed? or just flowed without taking a breath? It made me tired.

 The Holy Bible (*****) – 1 & 2 Kings, Proverbs, Galatians, Ephesians.

 

St. Martin’s Church, Bowness-On-Windermere {English Memories}

Once Upon an England Trip

A favorite memory of our trip was visiting the beautiful, vast churches. I’ve been reading a bit more about them and I wrongly assumed that the bigger they are, that they are then called cathedrals.  This is another article I found fascinating about the construction of ancient churches and meaning behind some of the symbols. My children and I really enjoyed reading this book about cathedral construction, fascinating and quite astounding. I’d love to dig deeper into this study, anyone have any favorite books on the topic? I’d like to research old churches that are in America as well, although 241 years will never compare to Europe’s ancient structures.

St. Martin’s was the very first we visited and holds a special in my heart because of its simple beauty. I wrote something on my old blog home about what these grand churches meant to me and I’m trying to wrap my mind around the loveliness of the history, tradition, and memories that these spaces evoke. Entering, I was immediately struck by a cool, damp, earthy smell. I was engulfed by a hush and reverence, the vastness was so inspiring, lifting my heart toward God. My footsteps echoed as I walked through these places, reading plaques, meditating and praying, thinking through the history of the people the built, lived, worked, and died surrounding these central places of village life. I thought on the unfortunate horrors done in the name of religion, the beliefs and doctrine that shaped countries and kingdoms, all of it swirling and building awe in my mind. I found the lives of the people buried in the crypts fascinating, one could spend hours reading and absorbing.

St. Martin’s was a beautiful beginning and I will share more of the historic churches we visited later on in my trip.

~

 

 

Drystone Walls {English Memories}

 

Once Upon a Trip to England –

I can’t remember when my love of England really took root in my heart. Unable to pinpoint it, I know that it’s grown and been watered by the amazing literature and many of my favorite authors being from Great Britain. Elizabeth Goudge, Jane Austen, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Charlotte Mason, Miss Read, to name just a precious few. The descriptions of the beauty, the history, and charm of the people continue to soak into my heart. As an American, we have a large connection to England, really much of Europe, from the foundation and birth of our country.

Needless to say, to visit, was a wild idea, one that I still can’t believe came true. My husband was so supportive, and I will never forget the amount of work he took on for me to be able to go. Being able to go in June of 2016 with my mother and sister was unforgettable.

One of my first memories, oddly enough, is of the drystone walls and buildings. I had read so much of hedgerows and am fascinated by them, but delightedly, the stone took me by surprise. Hedgerows tend to be more in the south of England and unfortunately, I didn’t get as close look at these, however, in the north we were surrounded by the drystone walls.  The ancient history represented in each stacked stone made me feel a connection with the people who toiled over them. As I’ve been reading about them, I have found myself learning about decline of feudalism, sheep farming, the “sheep-creep” holes in the bottoms of the walls, and the barren, wild landscape unscathed by human touch, except these stone enclosures. Once again, so many relationships, connections, and beauty all in one little feature of the land.

I was curious if this technique of wall building followed immigrants to America, and it does seem like there miles of drystone walls in New England, especially, and I’d like to dig further. I think there is something about using part of ones natural landscape that really speaks to me and why I find these walls so beautiful. There is nothing like fog lying heavily over the vale and fells, miles of these stones stacked silently throughout.

For further reading, I found these two articles especially interesting: Drystone in England and The Walls of New England. I’d love to hear anything you may know on these walls and their history. Books of interest or personal stories, feel free to share!

~

Haiku

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{precious moments}

 

Strands

willow bough unfurled

shifting riotous wild strands

daughter’s curly mane

 

Plain

clop, gleam, clack, hoof-beats

solemn, silent, saddened face

stooped figure, plain

 

Logophile

words afloat, dandy fluff

flitters through air lazily

mind and pen a swirl

 

Silly 

i’m hungry mom

nothing to eat in whole house

fridge and cupboard groan

 

(I recently met with some of my library writing ladies and we learned about and discussed haiku together. These above are my attempts. I really enjoyed trying to learn this form, the Americanized version usually following a juxtaposing of a nature element and other topic with a 5-7-5 syllable count.)

~

 

2016 Favorite Reads: Elementary/Preschool

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The Complete Brambly Hedge by Jill Barklem – We all love this book, really good for any age. My 7 yo and I will “ooo and ahh” over the gorgeous illustrations and gently told stories. Such scope for imagination in this delightful collection.

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My Naughty Little Sister Storybook by Dorothy Edwards – These are told from the perspective of an older sister and the adventures and trouble of her little sister. Delightfully British turns of phrase, darling illustrations by Shirley Hughes, and gentle, humorous reminders of life lessons. Highly recommend.

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Read-Aloud Rhymes For the Very Young Selected by Jack Prelutsky – This is absolutely charming. A collection of poems and sayings with delightful illustrations by Marc Brown. My 4 yo and I just love reading these together and can get lost in the illustrations. Highly recommend.

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Ten Little Babies by Gyo Fujikawa – Charming counting book with the wonderful Fujikawa illustrations. My 2 yo’s favorite board book right now!

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On Market Street by Arnold Lobel – This is an unique alphabet book with hours of interest logged in our home. The delightful pictures depict a person dressed with something corresponding with a letter of the alphabet. One of our best loved books!

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The Quilt Maker’s Gift by Jeff Brumbeau – Another well-loved favorite here. Hours of intricate illustrations to pour over. Magical, sweet story with lovely message.

These are just a few of the many books that I could have included here. I tried share the ones that are currently being loved.

{book covers from Goodreads}

Any favorites in this genre that you’d share? I’d love to hear.

~