Monday, September 15, 2014

"Yes, Mommy," by Karen Andreola

Yes, Mommy
At present, I’m teaching a Sunday school class for moms. My topic is motherhood and child training. I've titled it, "There's No Place Like Home." Moms of all ages are welcome to take part. On this post I share my notes from the second class – yesterday. The first class was on love and “The Majesty of Motherhood.” I’m finding preparation to be formidable but I am enjoying the passing on of ideas that had helped me most during the years of bringing up my children.

karen andreola
Karen-Yours Truly, 1961, Watering the Violets 

Today I have something very practical to talk about. It’s nitty-gritty. And it will take some grit to apply it.

In the Italian Renaissance, Michelangelo used tools skillfully. He is probably best known for using a paintbrush to create his magnificent fresco on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. But he was also a maker of statues. With hammer and chisel he created people and cherubs out of rough, chunks of marble.

He said, “I saw an angel in the marble and carved until I set him free. 

Children are born with possibilities.

A mother unlocks the possibilities. Like Michelangelo who used tools to set the angel free, a mother needs tools to build character in her child; to set him free to walk in the spirit for an abundant life.*1

"Watering the Foxgloves" Jessie Wilcox Smith

3 Tools
Three tools help a mother turn out the design she has already conceived in her mind for good, happy, healthy children.

Atmosphere of Home
Discipline of Habit
Presentation of Ideas

I’ll be straightforward with you. Nagging, scolding, a booming voice, empty threats, and empty promises, are broken tools. Habit is a fit tool. “Atmosphere” and “Ideas” are helpful tools too, but I am jumping in the middle today. 

foxglove - yellow

Admonish One Another
The 5th commandment tells us to honor our father and mother. God put parents in authority over children. The business of children is to obey.

In 1984, while living in Florida, an older mother in the church couldn’t help noticing that my two-and-a-half-year-old wasn’t so obedient. She gave me a little talk and handed me a child-training book. This ruffled my feathers a bit. I didn’t care for the book, either. Humph. But I looked up to her and admired her lovely family. The next day, in my quiet time, I softened. I humbly took her message to heart and was grateful. The book, although disappointingly bereft of practical ideas, did at least hold out the call. Practical ideas soon suggested themselves to me and I set out to correct and train my little one. From then on, she and I did drills over and over for fun every day until she got “Come to Mommy” down pat. Her first lesson was to obey and obey promptly. 

Yours Truly, talking with the gardener, at Robert Fulton's birthplace

In America we are over-familiar with democracy. During the 1970s I remember the children of hippies addressing parents by their first names. It was a sort of progressive-socialistic in-thing. Americans are supposed to be on equal footing. But we don’t all have equal roles. The New Testament states that we are to respect authority and that, like it or not, God puts people in positions of authority over us.*2  

Focus onto a mother’s little kingdom of the home. If God is there, we should find, not a democracy, but an absolute monarchy. In a Christian home, mother is queen. She serves with love, sympathy and dedication; while she expects from her children: honor, loyalty and obedience. Children do not have equal say. It doesn’t mean they can never share an opinion, share their feelings, make a decision, or even negotiate, but it is generally accepted that Dad and Mom set the rules and uphold them.  

Robert Fulton

Habits Reduce Friction
Lay down the rules in your house. Then, lay down the rails of habit. Every locomotive runs along rails. The railroad track allows this enormously heavy engine to glide along, pulling its cars, without friction. But someone (with much muscle) someone with slow and steady effort, laid down the rails – often in the sweltering heat of the day. Miss Charlotte Mason, said, “The mother who takes pains to endow her children with good habits secures for herself smooth and easy days: while she who lets their habits take care of themselves has a weary life of endless friction with children.”*3

Two Weeks
Anything you or your child do for at least two weeks – and do consistently – is becoming a habit. If the rule in your house if for your child to put his clothes in his laundry hamper, but he forgets and throws his clothes on the floor by the hamper on most days, he has been allowed to form a different habit. Using her habit-tool a mother trains herself, so that she can train her child.

Formation is easier than reformation – so start early and nip things in the bud. But don’t fret. You can weed out a bad habit by replacing it with a good one. “One custom overcometh another” the old saying goes. It just takes repetitive watchful diligence. It isn’t surprising that on some days, you might feel the formation-of-habit-stage to be a tiresome job. Keep at it, in due time, you will reap the fruit of the seeds you sow, and weeds you replace.  

You can start today. If you are a Christian you have a holy advantage. The Holy Spirit will guide you. Call on Him every morning. He will be by your side. 
4 Steps Toward Forming a Habit

Command:  chose an age-appropriate “must.”
Explain:  demonstrate, be an example, provide an inspiring idea 
Expect:  show confidence in your child’s God-given ability
Inspect:  inspect the “must” daily until it becomes a habit

I stood there with my arms crossed as if crossing my arms would root my determination. “The queen has spoken,” I said, reminding my children, and fortifying myself that I wasn’t going to change my mind about something I had previously commanded. I stopped short of adding, “And I mean it.” The apostle James tells us to let our yes be yes, and our no be no. Mothers need to stand on their word. To win our children’s trust our words must carry weight.

A mother speaks please and thank-you if she would like her child to do likewise. She will also demonstrate how to make a bed, hang a towel, sweep the floor, wash the dishes, speak the truth, be punctual, be thorough, if she’d like a child to do so. Along with explaining – she might also offer her child an inspiring moral idea or story. Aesop’s Fables work well.

Whatever you normally like to give your child as a privilege - can become an incentive during the habit-forming stage. You might tell your son, “After the floor is swept everyday this week, on Saturday we’ll go out and buy a new fish for the aquarium, or invite your friend Bobby to join us on the nature trail.” etc. My son was our floor boy. Earning privileges are incentives that reduce the need for punishment and reward.

With teens be diplomatic. Teens do well with stipulation; a tactful “first things first.” For instance, expect dishes to be washed immediately following lunch or supper, reserving leisure for after dishes are done – the counter-top clean and de-cluttered, sink and drain shinny, – faucet sparkling, and tea towel hung neatly on the rack to dry. Be as specific as you like with your expectations.

The godly homemaker “watches over the ways of her household.”*4 Form one habit at a time, keeping watch over those already formed. If your child hangs up his bath towel the first, second, and third time in a row, don’t stop your inspection there. Follow through. If he forgets on Thursday, the habit will take longer to form. Avoid lapses. Consistency is the key for both mother and child.

What new habit would you like to initiate?

Is there a bad habit you would like to weed out and replace?      

Habits Keep Children
There are habits of right thinking as well as right living. The habit of truth-telling and not fibbing out of cowardice comes by training the conscience. Habits keep children. If my verb sounds strange it’s because the sentence begs particulars. The only useful habits children keep are the ones we train in them.

“Keep” is also a noun. In 1987 we walked through the grounds of Windsor Castle not far from London. It was a mild February day. Surrounded by a mound of green grass and hundreds of yellow daffodils, was the castle-keep. This cylindrical building with its thick walls of stone was once a retreat for the royal family in times of political danger.

Good habits are like castle-keeps. They protect and preserve. Teaching courtesy, punctuality, attentiveness, thoroughness, neatness, purity, industry, integrity, teaching please and thank-you, demonstrating affectionate hellos and goodbyes, keep a child respectful, grateful and diligent. Who does this honor and please most?*5 

End Notes
*1  Galatians 5:16
*2  Romans 13:1, 2
*3  Charlotte Mason, Home Education, page 136
*4  Proverbs 31:27
*5  Colossians 3:20

A Program for Sure and Steady Habit Training
Habits of obedience are what the Accountable Kids program, age 3 to 14, is all about. I’ve introduced this book to my class and handed out copies to those interested. The tangible reminder cards and tickets are a big help for little ones. 

Children with attention deficiencies have greatly benefited from this program. Any way you look at it, the practice of earning privileges, and of receiving the natural consequence of our actions and attitudes, are preparation for life. My daughter uses this program. It is making a difference with her two busy, boisterous little boys. The six-year-old no longer needs a reminder card to make his bed, sit still long enough to finish his breakfast, feed the cat, and take care of the guinea pig cage each morning. What a relief. What joy. This season, as home teaching has begun, he is embarking upon a new set of habits. His little brother is learning to answer, “Yes, Mommy.”  

May something shared here be useful in your life.

To visit my post; an introduction to “The Majesty of Motherhood.” Click title.
The mailbox for sharing "Comments" on "What is Mother Culture?" is now open. 

Karen Andreola

Monday, September 1, 2014

A Peek at Charlotte Mason's Principles of Education, by Karen Andreola

A Peek at Charlotte Mason’s 
Principles of Education 
Are you relatively new to home teaching? Perhaps it’s the new school year that leaves you feeling a bit daunted. May I simplify some thoughts for you?  

Charlotte Mason & living books

Recently the publisher of The Old Schoolhouse magazine sent me an invitation to describe Miss Mason’s principles in 400 words. Yikes, a 400 word piece - really? Apparently, a handful of methods will be presented to give new teachers an introduction to each. My first reaction was to cringe. A twitch of an eyelid, followed. I’d never written anything so abbreviated on Miss Mason before, having resisted the task of reducing my heroine into a nutshell. Nevertheless, I felt it an honor to be chosen to write it. And, happy to include Miss Mason into the company of other modern-day sound bites, I complied. It was an exercise of adding and subtracting words fastidiously for five afternoons.  On this post I share it with you.  

Here’ Goes

The teaching method of Christian British educator, Miss Charlotte Mason, makes a good fit in today’s homeschool.

In her writings Miss Mason insists upon using “living books,” as schoolbooks. These enliven the mind and secure interest. Classroom textbooks, compiled by a committee, tend to be crammed with dry facts and information. Living books, by contrast, are often written by one author who enthusiastically shares his favorite subject with us.  

With living books children gain knowledge through their own effort. They dig out the facts and information clothed in literary language, expressing what they’ve learned by narrating it in their own words (composing orally or in writing). Their thinking is personal, follows a train of thought, and isn’t stunted by a page of multiple-choice.

Teachers needn’t be trained in giving lectures. Children educate themselves by narrating from the well-chosen words of authors. Too much explaining by a teacher elicits boredom. True education is self-education.

No bells announce the end of hour-long class periods. Children are free to move promptly onto the next lesson. When drills and skills are kept short children develop the power of attention. Dawdling is discouraged. Students are encouraged to give their best effort. Education is a discipline. This means establishing good and helpful habits, built one action at a time, one day at a time.

Education is an atmosphere. With living books children are motivated by a love of knowledge rather than artificial stimulants such as prizes (stickers, candy, money), competition, and grades. They retained their inborn curiosity. Cramming for tests is avoided. Examinations require the child to narrate what was read during the semester.

Charlotte Mason & Nature Study

Inspiring the love of knowledge in children depends of the presentation of ideas. Ideas are what the mind feeds on. Miss Mason served children a wide curriculum of subjects. She says, “Varied human reading as well as the appreciation of the humanities is not a luxury, a tid-bit, to be given to children now and then, but their very bread of life.” Education is a life.

homework withheld

Miss Mason places an emphasis on being outdoors to observe nature. Students keep a Nature Notebook. They record their “finds” in drawings, adding poems and mottoes.

After-hours homework is withheld. Children apply their minds at the time of morning lessons. Afternoons provide recreation. For children this means running, climbing, yelling, all out of doors. Handicrafts, chores, life skills, practicing an instrument, and play, are their homework.

Charlotte Mason & Nature Notebooks
Nature Notebook of Yolanda Andreola - 1990s

End of Piece 

Although high school has lessons that overflow into the afternoon, the above is quite doable with elementary age students. Not all at once - at least to start, but as a goal that will be reached as the days and weeks unfold. 

Warming Up to a New School Year

In our house we’d warm-up to a new school year. After breakfast, after shared chores, (usually dishes into the sink, laundry into the machine, guinea pigs fed, etc.) we’d gather around the table for a group reading – the Bible, sometimes a song, a devotional theme, a poem, or a seasonal nature-minute reading. Then, I’d introduce a new book per child and they'd go off on their own. I might display a new painting, assign the drawing of a picture for the cover-page of a notebook, or review multiplication with cuisenaire rods. Light daily lessons made our first week. 

feeding pet rabbits

While our warm-up-week brought forth a series of new things in small steps, it enabled me, the teacher, to gradually gain a firm footing on the schedule. For the student, harder tasks were soon up-and-coming, but the first week (or two) of lessons were intriguing and suspenseful. And, opening the first pages of a fresh supply of living books at the start of a school year felt a little like Christmas.  

schoolbooks - living books

Post Script
My photograph above shows a small sampling of what Miss Mason would call schoolbooks. Pulling them off our shelves, they fit into a particular time period but are not meant to create a curriculum here. They are to be an affirmation to my readers that books of various kinds will enliven and enhance history in a more memorable, more detailed, more expansive, more interesting, and more enjoyable way, than any one textbook can possibly accomplish. The freedom to use living books, and the freedom to home teach in America, is a freedom won and held by activists and is nothing short of a blessing from our Heavenly Father.

Happy new school year to you.

Thoughts off the top of your head (on any part of this post), fond memories, and sentiments are invited.
As Always,
Karen Andreola 

Monday, August 18, 2014

Sunbeams and Sunflowers

Sunbeams and Sunflowers
“The friendship between Emily and Dolly deepened with time. They shared a passion for flowers, reading and little children, and were lucky enough to find plenty of each to keep them happy.” Miss Clare Remembers 
The Lady-of-the-House is in the middle of reading Miss Clare Remembers by Miss Read. It is the fictional biography of Dolly Clare, the older teacher in the two-room schoolhouse of the Fairacre series, whose childhood memories begin in the 1880s. This is the Lady-of-the-House’s second or third reading of it. Have you noticed, that in a subsequent reading something pops up that was less striking before? Beginning chapter 9 the Lady-of-the-House paused. What a sweet set of girlhood delights, she thought; friendship, flowers, books and little children.

Andreola children 1991

Reminiscing during these summer days she recalls the sunflowers she and her children started from seed (in 1991) and planted up against the house – the sunniest part of our suburban front garden.

Their sunflower experiment made it into The Parents’ Review, later into A Charlotte Mason Companion - yet again into Pocketful of Pinecones. When sunflowers turn up, they turn the heads of passers-by. How can they fail to impress children with their towering stalks that emerge from little seeds?

Fast-forward ten summers. The Lady-of-the-House remembers her daughters playing a sunny song on their string instruments for the little children of VBS.

“I’ll be a Sunbeam” is a happy sounding children’s hymn. Opening the old hymnbook, the violinist improvised with the right-hand piano part, while the cellist played the “oom pah-pahs of the left. It brought a cheery atmosphere to the little country church in Appleton and was a good reminder to share the light we’ve received with a sort of radiant living.

Hymn I'll Be A Sunbeam

“Jesus wants me for a sunbeam, to shine for Him each day” is simply put, with child-like friendliness. But perhaps too easily dismissed as “quaint.” For Christians of all ages, it is a high and worthy ideal. Apostle Peter explains how we can live in the sunshine with “joy inexpressible” through this world’s trials - by keeping our “believing” eyes on Jesus. (1 Peter 1:3-9)

It is August on the early pages of Lessons at Blackberry Inn. During her weeks of recuperation Carol had memorized every crack in the walls and the way the afternoon sun cast polka-dot shadows through the eyelet curtains. It was the sunshine through the window glass that made her patience run out. Leaving her bed one day sooner than doctor’s orders, she couldn’t wait to sit under a tree with her husband Michael and feel the warm breeze and dabbled sunlight on her face.

Squinting at the blue sky above her, the lines of a children’s poem came to mind, from R. L. Stevenson’s “Summer Sun.”

Above the hills, along the blue,
Round the bright air with footing true,
To please the child, to paint the rose,
The gardener of the World, he goes. 

Wood Lily  Lilium Philadelphicum

The gardener of the world has been kept busy in this part of it. On a walk to the mailbox the Man-of-the-House was first to spot something red in the woods. He pointed it out to the Lady-of-the-House who had to look up his “find” in her Audubon field guide. In all her years of Nature Study she hadn’t yet stumbled upon these beautiful wildflowers. Wood Lily (Lilium philadelphicum) likes thickets. Its roots were once gathered and eaten by Indians.

The woodland border is a refuge for wildflowers and weeds. You can hardly see the house from the street through the brambles. Behind the mailbox is the tall mauve-colored Joe-Pye Weed (Eupatorium purpureum) in the sunflower family. It attracts a silent party of swallowtail butterflies high above the camera lens of Lady-of-the-House. Folklore tells us that an Indian Joe Pye used the plant to cure fevers.

Joe--Pye Weed Eupatorium purpureum

 The coneflowers the Lady-of-the-House planted around the lamppost are bright and bushy. They are abuzz with honeybees, with stems speckled with aphids that seem to be doing the plants no harm.

Equal in sun-hunger are the purple Echinacea. The little clump on the south side of the house, thrive. Those the Lady-of-the-House unwittingly planted on the north side died of starvation she concluded. They are hardy perennials usually, but only when fed large servings of sunbeams.

Sun-ripened fruit bend the bows. The daughter of the Lady-of-the-House went berry-pickin’ with her little guys. They were keen at the task.

At home she preserved the bounty of blackberries into jars. When she gifted a large jar of jam to her parents, Mom couldn’t resist blurting out, “Someday, when you read your mother’s home-teach-y Charlotte-Mason-inspired-story, Lessons at Blackberry Inn, I think you’ll find that you have things in common with Carol.”

“Oh?” her daughter smiled, caught off-guard by her mother’s too-forward-to-be-just-a-hint remark.

Her mother held her purple jar with admiration She softened the jest with, “This jam looks wonderful. Thank you. And seedless did you say? – Oh goodie, just the way we like it. And with blackberries picked by my little grandsons. Perfect.”

Post Script
“Summer’s lease hath all too short a date.” William Shakespeare

We’ve enjoyed the most mild, most pleasant, summer that we can ever remember. Are you sensing the brevity of it, too?

cross stitch Lessons at Blackberry Inn

I was invited to contribute a guest article for the Simply Charlotte Mason Blog. Sonya Shafer has been hosting a workshop on the method of narration. Her readers are finding questions answered along with practical tips and direction.

By-the-way, the hooked rug of sunflowers isn’t normally kept at the front door. I placed it there to photograph it in brighter light than it receives indoors.

Wishing you and I radiant living,
Karen Andreola