either I'm crazy or I'm on to something

After a long stretch of physical, spiritual, and emotional unrest, things have been peaceful.

I’ve been practicing The Liturgy of the Hours. It’s a Monastic and Benedictine practice of pausing for prayer at seven appointed times during the day.

{Best Valley Girl accent} I’m, like, totally praying all day long.

I’m not a great pray-er. I get distracted approximately 3.5 seconds into bowing my head, my words are jumbled, and I just can’t think of what to pray about. Pretty pathetic.

To make matters worse, when my world comes crashing in around me, it never occurs to me to pray. Freaking heck.

Don’t get me wrong, praying seven times a day has not been magical or easy yet. I’ve only been doing it a few days with some sparse information I got online. And let’s be real, I’m at home with five kids all day. My prayers often go like this:

Lord, thank you for this day… stop licking the table… Uhhh, Lord…err…

Which is why I ordered a book with guided prayer topics and suggested scripture readings. Because prayer is a discipline. And carving out time to pray is something of a fast. Once you are done working out the logistics you find actual communion with God.

I’m already seeing results, even though I’m probably doing it “wrong”. Last night’s Property Virgins episode was in the Promised Land. In our price range. And instead of packing to move into one of the homes parading across the screen like I thought I would be, I’ve been unpacking. All the anger, disappointment, feelings like something had been promised and then stolen….it all started to rage.

Mercifully, my phone alarm clock chimed. It was time for The Great Silence, a time set aside for letting go. Gently evaluating the day and setting aside struggles to welcome rest and new mercies for tomorrow. I was forced to pause. Forced to acknowledge the Lord’s presence and hand in my life. Forced to commune with the Maker of the Universe as I was created to do. What a ridiculously wonderful blessing.

The first stuff we got out of storage was the school stuff. Our home is so complete with the massive black shelf with books and such weighing it down. Attitudes changed immediately and we haven’t even officially started yet.

They were like pirrhanas (I’m too lazy to spell check that.) attacking the books and demanding that I give them work to do.

We will start back to school when we get back from our 8 day beach vacation. You heard me. Since we ruined the last vacation, we are trying again.

Edited to Add: I had abruptly ended this because my kids were begging me for lunchI had nothing more to say. And later I checked in at Ann Voskamp’s blog. Her blog post today brought it full circle. Is it any wonder that two weeks into a vacation from Facebook that it occurred to me to pray more? She has such a way with words and said it better than I could have. I am being blessed by the ceremony of pausing to pray that is being squeezed into my schedule. I am being blessed by checking out of social media for a time and checking in to the moments happening in the present. Even the hard ones. 

another Charlotte Mason morning

It’s funny that a friend asked me to share what Charlotte Mason education looks like for us because I had (almost) the exact thing in mind to post today.

It’s also funny that this is the second time recently that someone has asked me for homeschool advice. Because I have no idea what I’m doing. However, because I’m totally comfortable with our schooling style and confident that I’ll learn as I go along, I think it makes it sound like I know more than I do.

Last night was our monthly homeschool support meeting at our church. I love love love love love love this group of ladies. I love their hearts, I love their blingin’ shirts, and I really appreciate the wisdom that is shared at these meetings. Two women shared on two different education styles that tend to overlap (some): Charlotte Mason Education and Classical Education. I wanted to squeeze the Charlotte Mason lady and sit through her talk both times, but to be fair, I did go to the Classical Education side too. I figure it’s good to be aware of all my options.

Both ladies did a great job talking about what is obviously a passion in their lives: educating children. I giggled in my head at the striking difference between the two that spoke volumes about each learning style, over and above anything either of them actually said. The Charlotte Mason Mamma? She just sat down and started talking. About whatever popped into her head to share, and she camped out on one thing and answered questions and just talked and talked and talked about it. This is very much what a Charlotte Mason “lesson” looks like in our school days and pretty much how I roll. (For instance, I’ve done at least 15 Salt Parties, never written a script and say something completely different at each one. I generally have no idea what I’m about to say when I do one of these things. Which can be dangerous.) The Classical Education Mamma? She had a handout. All organized with bullet points and stuff. And she had a binder that demonstrated her favorite curriculum, also with lots of bullet points. She covered all of her bases confidently, with a beautiful smile on her face the entire time.

The evening was really fantastic. I walked away with good ideas from both ladies.

So, the questions at hand are:

  • What does a school day look like for your family, doing Charlotte Mason?
  • How do you have paper work to present to grandparents (etc) when you don’t use work books or text books?

(Please do not neglect to notice that I put some bullet points in, k? Thanks.)

Before I start to share about our regular day, please note that I am not pregnant (yes, I said it again!), we are not experiencing illness, and we are in a “down time” for our family business right now. Schooling and training my children is Priority #1 when we aren’t trying to keep everyone alive, gestating a human being, or trying to keep up with holiday/summer time soap demands. In other words, there are seasons, so please accept whatever season you are in right now and don’t compare yourself to me.

{After breakfast} We do Bible time first every day. Always. Bible time is done according to the Family Worship schedule our church does and includes a daily Bible reading, commentary, Scripture memory for the week, daily prayer focuses, and some songs and hymns to learn. This takes about 30 minutes. In the interest of generating “proof of school” I like to use the Calvary Chapel site (linked to the right, under “Our Charlotte Mason”). About once or twice a week I print out the color sheet, T/F questions and word find that go with our daily reading. I save it for times when I need everyone to sit at the table and leave me alone. 

Then we have a time of doing chores, as I’ve said before- whatever is dirtiest gets clean.

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We stop at 10 am for school.

Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays we do math. I use Saxon Math. This generates quite a bit of paperwork, and I reserve some of their best work and mail it to grandparents about once a month. (None of my children’s grandparents seem to question their education, I just do it to let them know we are thinking about them, and it makes the kids really proud of their work.) I also save all math tests and some of their more interesting math sheets in my Homemaking Notebook, or whatever it’s called.  Against Charlotte Mason principles, we spend quite a bit of time on our math. (Charlotte Mason promoted short lesson times, like 15-20 min per lesson). This is partially because I’m schooling two kids on two separate levels at one time; partly because Evie is a terrorist; and partly acceptable because we shift gears quite a bit during one lesson (calendar work, counting work, manipulatives work, worksheet work). Only Arwen and Charis do this. Ezra hangs out and learns by osmosis, and Evie is heavily restrained.

Like this.

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Since Brent was home this morning, he did one of the readings with the kids in our Trial and Triumph book. Also in the interest of “proof of schooling” and well within the scope of Charlotte Mason principles, the subject of today’s chapter, Constantine, will be added to our Book of Centuries. As soon as I make one. (I’ve been meaning to research this, but the Charlotte Mason Mamma had one last night and I saw it real live in person. All it is is a timeline, fit into a three-ring binder. Each page would be an “entry” into the timeline and put in chronological order. So, for our Constantine page, I will print out a small picture of him and let the kids glue it onto the page, and they will hand write in his name and the time period- each page has a line drawn across it, so you can lay them out end to end on the floor or on a wall to see the big picture. Easy peasy.)

While he read to them, I made lunch. After lunch is nap time, and Arwen stays up. Some days I do additional school stuff with her, other days she has quiet time doing handiwork (also a big point in Charlotte Mason- pointless crafts are not necessary but doing real life handiwork skills is very much encouraged. This week Arwen used a loom to make a pot holder. We’re sending it to a grandparent for a gift- more proof of schooling!) Today, she did penmanship.

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“Constantine broke from Roman tradition by refusing to offer a sacrifice to Jupiter at the Capitol.”

Ambleside has several yahoo groups that you can join to get free printables/resources that other parents have shared to help you implement Charlotte Mason in your home. One of them that I’ve been using is for penmanship, but you can easily make your own. A few selections have been taken from each week’s reading (I’m following the reading schedule that Ambleside provides. For free.) , and Arwen has to do copy work. I will pick just one selection and I demand that she write it as perfectly as she can. By the end of the week, I will dictate the selection to her (which at this age level is only one sentence), and she will write it. This would be considered “Spelling” and “Penmanship”. She has to spell the words perfectly and she must write as neatly as possible. Following CM, instead of a textbook of endless lists of spelling words, you are

  1. Presenting the child with a noble idea to think about.
  2. Having them spell words in context vs having them spell words they have no relationship with.
  3. Practicing penmanship, which is recommended to be done daily for CM education.
  4. Oh, and you have some proof of schooling on paper. 

I also just used bullet points again. Numbered ones.

More proof of schooling that goes along the lines of CM: Hymn and poem memorization and recitation. Great doctrine is found in hymns and we should give that opportunity to take root in our children’s minds and hearts. You can record their performance or even Skype it to family members.

We don’t do school in the afternoon after nap time unless everyone is running amuck and needs to be reigned in. Afternoons are spent working in the soap room or doing freeplay, and Ezra does Starfall.com. I don’t do preschool. This was one of my favorite things to discover about CM. That early on, all they need is something to think about, and the world around them provides plenty, provided you are exposing them to good books, some form of nature, and limiting twaddle.

Along this same thread, if you provide only good literature for your children and discard the twaddle, you don’t have to try so hard. We tossed all of the stupid children’s books that did not promote noble ideas, creative use of words, or have thought provoking illustrations. I do not have any of the newer Pooh books sitting around here. You know, the ones that have three words per page and say things like “Pooh is hungry”. “Pooh saw a tree.” “Pooh got honey” “Now his tummy is full.” Seriously? Talk about dumbing our children down? And we still have tons of books. So, when I tell everyone to go sit on the couch and look at a book, I can know that our education lifestyle is still continuing, even in “non school” time. We also try to be thoughtful about television and movies. We pretty much halted all Dora and Diego type stuff. On Saturday or very rarely, we might do some Backyardigans (because we’re suckers for some good singin’ and dancin’). Instead, we’ve replaced it all with documentaries of nature type stuff- Sea Creatures, history topics, etc.We’re currently working our way through The Sound of Music. I turn on Thomas when I get desperate for a bath bomb sometimes, but not often these days.

And I don’t say this in judgement of anyone else, but you can spend hours giving your kids worksheets to do and not teach them anything. CM promotes forming a relationship with the idea that is presented to them, not just keeping them busy. So, children are given noble thoughts through really great literature. This sounds like they are just sitting around reading all day, but I find ways to create proof (see here for our “geography” lesson) I really love the book selection given by Ambleside. We can be reading a book on the ancient history of Great Britain and learning about Greek Mythology, our own ancestry, adding to our timeline, discovering things about early Rome, and learning about the gospel. This happened last week out of just one chapter. We read the chapter, which happened to be about Rome evacuating GB and going home. In talking about the impression Rome left on GB, we googled around and studied about how Rome built roads and buildings, etc. And we talked about how the people of ancient GB had not had anyone present the gospel of the love of Jesus Christ to them before, so they tended to be savage and uncivilized. The books are just so RICH that a plethora of rabbit trails could be taken from just one lesson. And we take them. We sit down and read and then we go from there. Sometimes the kids want to draw an illustration of what we read about, sometimes we find a youtube video that gives more clear understanding of the subject. I, personally, would feel stifled by a boxed curriculum, but I do not doubt that plenty of children get a fine education that way.

However, with lots of littles, doing a curriculum based on reading works really well for me. It’s not a lot to keep up with and the littlest ones can sit with us or nurse while I read on the couch. Very comfy. 

I also love the Nature Study that is encouraged. When the weather isn’t so horrible, we spend a great deal of time outside just romping around. It’s difficult to let go of the idea that you have to direct their every moment and point everything out to them. But you see the truth when you watch a busy toddler pause to consider the ant and watch it. They take in so much about the world just by observation. We will never be able to fully grasp the growth that is going on in our children’s minds when we simply give them something to think about, something to love, and something to do.

Charlotte Mason is so simple that it’s baffling. And I love the simplicity of it! We’re busy people, and enjoy walking with our children at our side. At church, at work, at play- always learning.

a bunch of random

I know I am treading on dangerous territory, as I have just sat down to write with nothing in particular on my mind.

But, I haven’t blogged in a while and I know my tens of readers are dying to know what we’ve been up to all this time. 

  • First of all, we’ve been sick. Call-for-your-mamma-and-cry-like-a-baby kinda sick. Yuck. It’s almost over with. Of course, I was the last one to go, so I’m still trying to recover. We also had a house guest in the middle of it. I put on my game face and tried not to look like I was dying. I think I did alright.  Thankfully, it was a bona fide Doula staying with us. Doulas, in case you don’t know, are magical little fairies that do things like wash your dishes after you go to bed, read your kids a story for you, and shrink wrap and label hundreds of bars of soap for you. Oh, and they attend births to offer labor support and all that good stuff too. Worth their weight in gold, those Doulas! Sigh. 
  • Our garden is growing in leaps and bounds. We have lots and lots of foliage and flowers…. and just a little fruit. I haven’t seen very many bees this year, so I’m wondering if my plants are not getting pollinated very well. We are about to have some cucumbers (finally), 1 (one) red bell pepper, and our pole beans are about 10 feet tall, so I’m assuming any day now they will be bursting with beans. We’ve been getting plenty of grape tomatoes and strawberries, but the kids pick them and eat them before they ever make it into the house. And okra. Plenty of okra. At least I know I’m good at growing one thing. 
  • Soap room is finished. I’m going to video it soon and share, I promise. It’s a wonderful, inspiring space to work in and I L O V E it!
  • I’m pretty sure that Charis has such a low pain tolerance that she will have medicated child birth. I’m a little worried about this, but I think that if I start brushing her tangles out a little harder, she’ll start to develop and by the time she’s old enough to have babies she be strong- “like bull.” 
  • Arwen is ready for kindergarten (”tender-garden” as Charis calls it) and I’m trying not to freak out at the idea of adding “social studies” into our jam packed days.
  • I am really finding out that I have no tolerance for drama. My entire world seems to operate as a “drama free zone” and I find it deeply offensive when someone tries to interfere with that space. I wonder why? 
  • I’ve also realized that there is one thing I do that greatly simplifies my life with little people, and I’m surprised to find that lots of Mammas have not discovered this truth, so I’ll enlighten you all: YOU ARE NOT A SHORT ORDER COOK. Cook one thing and make everyone eat it right then. If they don’t want it they can be hungry until the next time you offer them something. When we have breakfast we ALL have eggs, or we ALL have pancakes, or we ALL have oatmeal. No one gets to choose. I might let them choose what I put on their bagels on a really good day when I’ve had a lot of rest, but usually they just eat what I put in front of them. If they complain, I take it away. Period. End of story. At snack time we have… trail mix. They don’t get to pick which nuts they get more of, or just eat the raisins. If they don’t like it, they don’t have to eat it, but they aren’t getting anything else until we eat again. This is fundamental to having a peaceful and sane home.  
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  • {Due to recent events I have to include a disclaimer with this one: I’m totally not speaking to anyone that I know here, I’m just throwing this out there. Please don’t hear what I’m not saying} Really, what is the point of having a natural birth in the hospital? Isn’t the whole point of being in the hospital to be checked, monitored, interfered with, and medicated? If you don’t want/need any of those things, why be there? I feel so badly for Mammas who just have to lay there and be poked and checked and struggle through it. That must be really tremendously uncomfortable. Anyone who has had an unmedicated hospital birth of any sort is a hero in my book. 
  • Oh yeah, I’m pregnant still. 28 weeks currently, and I’ve outgrown all of my clothes. In my head, I have secretly nick named myself “Behemoth”. It’s okay, I know you are laughing. =D Normally, I find the last 10 weeks to be the most difficult, but it seems to have set in early this time. I cry very easily, I’m tired, I’m hungry, I’m uncomfortable, and somehow usually manage to mumble “It’s totally worth it” at the end of every day. I just love having babies. There is nothing better than a baby, as my Mimi says. We are all getting very excited about meeting this new little person. Who, I’m sure by the way is totally not cooperating with a good fetal position. It’s okay. I’m certain that my hips are wide enough that I could have a baby sideways and live to tell about it. Really, I’d prefer head first, but I’m not worried. Thankfully, my midwife is one of the few who are capable and skilled at breech births. Those midwives- worth their weight in gold AND silver, they are. Sigh.
  • Luckily for you, it’s time for my {second} dinner. I promise that next time I sit to write it will be with purpose and clarity.
  • Yeah right. Umm. I promise that next time I sit to write I will turn off the chatter in my mind and have one cohesive thought. Okay. No promises, but I will try.