It’s a frog’s life!

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“‘Is the spring coming?’ he said. ‘What is it like?’ …
‘It is the sun shining on the rain and the rain falling on the sunshine, and things pushing up and working under the earth.’”
—Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

The picture above was the scene that met us last week as we gathered with our friends for our weekly homeschool sports session; as my older children were lost in dodge ball I took a stroll over to the moat of the old castle ruins with my younger children and a few of their friends. The water is still and teaming with life; in a seemingly small, inner city park we’ve witnessed so much beauty through the changing seasons and this day was no different.

Before reaching the dense area of water we could hear the day time croaking and creaking from the army of frogs gathered; I can only imagine how loud and intense the evening sounds must be. The sheer amount of frogs congregated in one area was astonishing; they were moving amongst each other; climbing, nudging, tumbling, competing and yes, mounting – or as many of the children that day beautifully commented, they were ‘hugging’.

Collections of spawn were beginning to form and congeal around these incredible creatures; some drifted towards the bank but it also moved along as the frogs shifted in the water. As the children disappeared to play one by one I was left mesmerised by God’s awesome creative genius and knew I had to come back to photograph the amphibians in greater detail.

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The following day, around the same time my youngest daughter and I returned to the same spot to be met with more than double the amount of frog spawn – this army were hard at work.

We watched quietly, listened to the sounds and took photos with our eyes and camera of these sacred moments of life from the water below us.

We don’t just merely study ponds, water, movement and life; may these late winter observations bring refreshment to our souls and respect for God’s earth and creation. Let’s never think we’ve ‘seen it all before’, may we absorb our observations like a new day, a beautiful sunrise or a moment of reprise in our day to say ‘thank you’ and create a lasting memory.

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The frog by nature is both damp and cold,
Her mouth is large, her belly much will hold;
She sits somewhat ascending, loves to be
Croaking in gardens, though unpleasantly.

John Bunyan

We love these beautiful stories by Angela Sheehan, try to get your hands on a copy of ‘The Frog‘ – a wonderful living story of a frogs life!

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The Simple Feast

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We spread an abundant and delicate feast in the programmes and each small guest assimilates what he can – Charlotte Mason (Vol. 6, p. 183).

The delectable ‘feast’ is one of the appeals of a Charlotte Mason Education; the variety of stories and lives and lessons to fill our children’s hearts and minds excites me and brings joy as I plan for their learning days.

After a long summer of adventures, camping, conversations around back yard candles and firelight; after days of late nights and later mornings, unplanned food thrown together, memories from car to beach we’ve kicked off our ninth ‘formal’ learning year this week (because everything is learning right?). I leaned more towards a ‘soft launch’ allowing the children to adjust, orientate and for me to communicate our new course of travel over a few days; then it’s heads down, ears open, hearts ready to soak up what our year may bring.

Despite my slow approach to launching straight into all of our subjects and schedule, in spite of a splattering of summering still humming in the background like a busy worker bee; as I sat and reflected on our day I was overwhelmed by the impact of what I had served up.

So here’s our day, a very normal day but a day where I paid attention to conversation; I noticed voices and opinions, actions and reactions, methods and themes of play and I can heartily say there was no veneer – this was a feasting day!

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I yell the children downstairs as I finish preparing breakfast to the quiet soundtrack of our beloved British radio favourite ‘Classic FM’; Dave noticed one track was from the film ‘Love actually’ before he left for work.

We gathered around the table and I read ‘Kindness’ by Naomi Shihab Nye and discussed the contrast of sorrow and kindness, heartache and joy and how they are synonymous to each other. We talked about her starting to write poetry at 7. This caught Micah’s attention and he went on to talk about Roald Dahl’s writing hut. Micah later set up a writing table in our garden to write his books. He was inspired to not allow the fact that he is a child hinder him or hold him back from publishing a story…

We then looked at our first Murillo painting; each child narrated and Nyah was the only one to notice the dog in the bottom right hand corner of the painting. We discussed the angel up in the sky on the right hand side being there to signify a miracle, a true work of God. We discussed Roman architecture, disciples, how the angel looked like a unicorn and how there was a possibility of the guy on the balcony being a spy (smile).

We then read from the Bible; we read the beginning of the story of Joshua attempting to enter the Promised Land, going in as spies and Rahab helping them – one child commented on Rahab telling the king that they weren’t there anymore but knowing she had hidden them. Why would she lie?

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As I read to the children Micah drew his version of Murillo’s painting (unprompted) in pencil.

We read together John 3:16 and committed to memorising it this week.

They bickered – I addressed it; I spoke to them about peace and how to make good choices of when to speak, stay silent, and why not to react to their siblings.

We prayed; everyone prayed.

We then got on with work in the house; folding laundry, wiping down the bathroom, making beds, brushing teeth, emptying and refilling the dishwasher.

Then it was heads down for listening and learning independently (if old enough); I talked through with Nyah and Joel their schedules, books and expectations – they then got on with grammar, copying out poetry and fables, map study, foreign language, reading Shakespeare – the maths launch is tomorrow for the older children.

I orientate Micah with his new schedule and eight year old expectations; he goes on to copy out a quote about nature, begins to study his list of spellings, starts to study a map of Europe and watches an online maths lesson.

Our youngest learner Sienna starts ‘life of fred’ (‘living’ maths) and learns that x always equals x and y always equals y. No matter which way round 5 + 2 is (i.e. 2+5), it will always equals 7.

We read A A Milne poetry together and she chose some ‘beautiful’ words to copy out and add to her homemade flash cards. We read a nature story and looked for more interesting words.

After a group effort of hashing lunch and a pot of tea together we fell straight into our quiet reading half hour; between us we had the pages of Pride and Prejudice, Five children and It (audio), Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, a biography about Louis Pasteur and Krista Tippett’s ‘Becoming Wise’ open and being lapped up.

We also realised we hadn’t quite finished ‘Miracles on Maple Hill’ before the summer break so I read aloud one of the two chapters we have to finish the book.

My younger children interspersed their reading and listening with games, songs, dancing around the garden, playing ‘Hulk’, making potions and being ‘scientists’, Lego and lots and lots of drawing.

Micah scribed a ‘book’ at his writing table and also had a bit of time playing a game on his Kindle fire.

We observed an Orb Weaver spider on a huge web wrapping up a fly, we found honey fungus growing under a tree, we noticed the life cycle of a ladybug was happening on a bush right in our backyard after one of the children spotted a pupae on a leaf.

The September sun was warm enough to play long and hard outside.

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The day turned into early evening and dinner was prepared; the table was set, Dave came home and together we all breath and eat and connect and converse about our very normal day.

It is the duty of parents to sustain a child’s inner life with ideas as they sustain its body with food – Charlotte Mason

No Shame

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“The parent’s chief care is, that that which they supply shall be wholesome and nourishing whether in the way of picture books, lessons, playmates, bread and milk, or mother’s love.”  Charlotte Mason

I was speaking this morning to a small group of employees and volunteers at a local Christian charity; they’d asked me to come in and share for thirty minutes or so at their weekly day time church gathering.

As part of my introduction I mentioned that I spend my days home educating my four children; I went on to take the session and enjoyed spending those moments sharing life with this lovely group of people.

At the end of my session we prayed, I was applauded and thanked but from the corner of the room I spotted three pairs of wise eyes wanting to grab my attention. Sat around a table near to where I was stood were two retired teachers and a husband of one who also was intrigued by my passing introduction as a ‘home schooling mum’.

For the next twenty minutes or so as kind workers cleared our table of coffee cups and plates with remaining uneaten bits of bacon sandwich they threw question after question at me about ‘how that works’. By my estimation these beautiful souls were born in the 1940’s, they reflected on how they handled a classroom of forty plus disciplined students singlehandedly in their teaching days who knew the consequence of a slipper or cane if they fell out of line.

I passionately spoke of our home educating journey, our days, our rhythm and our philosophy; they almost tried to bedazzle me with the ‘socialisation’ issue but I was armed with years of wisdom (and quick answers) that left them smiling.

One of the gentlemen asked how I taught my children about music and art of which I’m sure he didn’t expect me to answer “yes, we study a different composer and artist every six weeks”; he revelled in our dwelling on habits, character and memorisation and went on to recommend various lesser know but impressive galleries in a nearby city.

About 10 years ago I was sat amongst a gathering of women, I guess a kind of discipleship group with women at a similar age and stage of life as I was. One of the ladies in the room had started her home school journey and was being challenged on her decision; I felt for her as she fumbled through an explanation of where they were at but ended with “I realise my children are missing out in certain areas”. I didn’t know much back then but that answer just didn’t seem  quite right. The UK has come a long way since then, in most area’s in the country it doesn’t have to be such a lonely journey. Despite my recent audience not being very aware of the growth within home education, most people have either heard of someone or know someone who educates their children at home.

As I smiled my way through my answers, drew my wise new friends in with my joy I realised the deep work God had done in my life over these past eight years of homeschooling my children. I was confident in my convictions, reassured in the pedagogy and philosophy of our learning days and encouraged by the fruit I see in my children every day.

There is no shame in choosing the road less travelled; there’s something quite therapeutic about relaying our journey to new listeners, I don’t get involved in debate or argument about whether we made or are continuing to make the right choice but I’m happy to share our story.

It’s a story of adventure, intrigue, surprise, hard work and I most definitely anticipate a happy ending!

Maybe this summer is a good time to refresh and remind yourself of where your home schooling story began.

My Living Books Life – Celeste Cruz

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Read the best books first, or you may not have a chance to read them at all.

–Henry David Thoreau

Like many homeschooling moms, I have always been a lover of books.  I’m embarrassed to admit how many Baby-Sitters Club books lined my shelves, but I also gobbled the good stuff: I re-read my Little House books until the covers fell off and rejoiced over the vintage hardcovers passed down to me from my mom’s childhood.  In high school, I earnestly dipped into the classics and developed an intense appreciation for poetry. From there, I jumped into my college studies with enthusiasm: I double-majored in English and Humanities, minored in Art History, and earned a graduate degree in Literature.  I spent those years gulping Milton, Eliot, Dante, Austen, and Shakespeare (especially Shakespeare!).  I poured it all right back out into the students I was teaching and into writing—and all the while I was gulping more. I hit a healthy balance of the poetic and the analytic: I knew how to love a book and the ideas it contained, and I also knew how to pull it apart to marvel at its inner workings; sounds like a Living Books Life, right?
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But actually, my true Living Books Life started after that.  I was pregnant with my oldest daughter and spent my first trimester sick in bed, where I read all the books Lucy Maud Montgomery and Louisa May Alcott ever wrote.  I also started reading another female writer, Charlotte Mason.  In the months and years following, in the midst of the daily chaos with a brood of young children, I undertook a new kind of reading life, one that looked more like Miss Mason suggested.

If we encounter a man of rare intellect, we should ask him what books he reads.

–Ralph Waldo Emerson

The difference? I delved into the beautiful habit of slow reading multiple books across genres and subjects.  Living books are meant to be savored; slowing down allowed me time to process to commonplace alongside, to discuss with others, to ponder, to wonder, to connect with the author and his ideas, to notice how the readings connect with one another in that wondrous web governed by the Holy Ghost.  Those connections are best understood by reading liberally—and that moving beyond literature and grabbing books about math, cultural commentary, theology, and the sciences.
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And something else was different too: that slow, broad, relational reading changed my perception of success. No longer did I measure my reading life by how many books I finished or how many pages I wrote on them. In those gulping years in an academic environment, I perpetually felt a combination of buzzed and burned out.  I still get that buzz sometimes—a lot of the time, actually. This is an exciting life of learning! But rather than bouncing between two extremes, I am continuously fed, soothed, invigorated, challenged, encouraged, and blessed.  My new goals are to cultivate virtue, to notice details and delight in them, to meet great minds, and to build knowledge of man, nature, and God.

It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.

–Oscar Wilde

A Living Books Life promises that we might have life—and might have it more abundantly. One can only approach such a promise with a posture of humility and gratefulness. I cannot adequately express my deep thankfulness for the lessons learned on this road of self-education, with Miss Mason as my guide. And the best part of it all? I get to live this with my kids. Abundance indeed.
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Living books are meant to be savored; slowing down allowed me time to process to commonplace alongside, to discuss with others, to ponder, to wonder, to connect with the author and his ideas, to notice how the readings connect with one another
20140824_180303-001Celeste Cruz is mommy to eight children under age ten. Once upon a time she was training to be an English professor; now, she can often be found chasing her little ones while schooling her elementary kids. (Some days are more successful than others.) When she has her hands free, she enjoys distance running, nature journaling, traditional Catholicism, exploring her native Northern California, and beach-combing with her husband of thirteen years. She moderates for the AmblesideOnline Forums, fits her life into small squares on Instagram, and shares the joys of a Catholic Charlotte Mason home education at Joyous Lessons.

To Walk And To Wonder – Words & Pictures

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Every hour spent in the open is a clear gain, tending to the increase of brain power and bodily vigour, and to the lengthening of life itself – Charlotte Mason

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In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt ― Margaret Atwood

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“There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society, where none intrudes,
By the deep sea, and music in its roar:
I love not man the less, but Nature more”
― George Gordon Byron

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“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

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“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature – the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.”  ― Rachel Carson

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“…and then, I have nature and art and poetry, and if that is not enough, what is enough?” ― Vincent van Gogh

Why We Nature Journal

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As soon as he is able to keep it himself, a nature-diary is a source of delight to a child. Every day’s walk gives him something to enter: three squirrels in a larch tree, a jay flying across such a field, a caterpillar climbing up a nettle, a snail eating a cabbage leaf, a spider dropping suddenly to the ground, where he found ground ivy, how it was growing and what plants were growing with it, how bindweed or ivy manages to climb – Charlotte Mason (Vol. 1, p. 54)

Nature study is such a central part of the Charlotte Mason philosophy, allowing our children to be free to experience the great outdoors on a regular basis, to breathe in God’s creation and makes connections of their own is foundational to the methods we use.

Keeping a nature journal or diary is a wonderful way to help our children (and ourselves) deepen the connection with what they have seen and experienced out-of-doors. Nature journaling doesn’t require us to have a degree in fine art, a perfect knowledge of all things in nature or the most expensive tools and paints; nature journaling requires a little bit of time, attention and a lot of heart.

The Four R’s Of Nature Journaling 

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We journal to:

REFLECT

Reflecting is a form of asking questions of what we’ve seen and the connections we’ve made; we can make lists of what we’ve observed, copy out sections of poetry or prose that relate to our observations or a short entry on how our time out-of-doors made us feel. Nature study is not a mere page in a science book describing the facts of another living being, nature study is a beautiful opportunity for us to make a connection for life with part of God’s creation.

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RECORD

Nature study, especially for our younger children is a wonderful foundation for all scientific study and research. Our journaling process can be the beginnings of learning about the parts of a flower, the life cycle of a frog or the fascinating phases of the moon. Allow your children to develop their own style, fill their pages with wonder and not get too perfectionist about it!

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RESPOND

Our connections with God’s creation can cause a physical, emotional or spiritual reaction (or all three); my heart leaps with joy when I see a baby lamb skip, a spring crocus pushing up through the hard winter ground or the sight of Mr. and Mrs. Blackbird busy in my yard building their nest. Our journal can mark our emotions through the seasons, bring joy and spark gratitude.

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REMEMBER

Sketching, tracing, copying, writing or even sticking magazine pictures in our journals mark a seasonal journey of what we’ve observed through the year. What a wonderful, memorable collection of words and images to look back on through the years of our precious lives and our children’s education at home.

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Keeping a nature journal has been part of the rhythm of our home educating for the past 8 years but more recently it has become a part of my own personal life; my creative expression as a mother and educator but most importantly as a lover and appreciator of God’s creation.

You can follow my photo journal here on Instagram

 

 

 

 

My Living Books Life – Catherine Shelton

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…reading a wide selection of living books has not only increased our children’s vocabulary and knowledge of the world around them but has also given them a thirst for more living books and a general love of learning.

I’ve always loved books, and started reading fairly early. As a young girl I devoured the Famous Five series and pretty much anything by Enid Blyton. I remember being discovered by my parents, more than once, reading under the bedcovers with my torch, long after lights were supposed to be out. My favourite book was ‘Wuthering Heights’ by Emily Bronte, perhaps because I shared a name with the heroine.

Fast forward many years and I found myself at Oxford University studying Maths and Philosophy, reading Descartes, Aristotle and Aquinas. Around that time I felt God was calling me to overseas mission, and so I lapped up all the missionary biographies about heroes such as Hudson Taylor, Amy Carmichael and Elizabeth Elliot. I loved reading about their amazing adventures and their passion to know God and to make Him known. It wasn’t long before I was at Bible college, meeting my future husband and then heading off to Russia to work in Bible translation – the ultimate ‘living book’!

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There’s something about living overseas that makes you filter out ‘twaddle’ like never before. With limited room in our suitcases and no access to libraries or Amazon (we didn’t discover the wonders of the Kindle until later), books became really precious and we only brought the best books into our home – ones we knew we’d read again and again and recommend to others. That applied to our children’s books too, especially once we started out on the wonderful journey of homeschooling. We had to plan well in advance what books we really needed, acquire them while we were back home on furlough, and make sure we had room in our suitcases. When we had to return home for good, 11 years later, at least half of the 15 bags we were allowed by British Airways were filled with books we couldn’t bear to part with.

It’s a bit harder to fight against the twaddle now that the kids have access to their local library here in England, but we keep up our focus on living books as much as we can. One of my favourite childhood memories is of my mother reading ‘The Hobbit’ to my brother and me on holiday one year, so last summer I took that as our holiday read-aloud. The children were enraptured. My then 5 year old claimed it was his favourite part of the whole holiday! We’re now about a third of the way through ‘The Lord of the Rings’ and my son has been inspired to write his own book – ‘The Adventures of Bobo’ – which he works on diligently every day and illustrates too. My daughters are enjoying the likes of Anne of Green Gables and Caddie Woodlawn.

The children were enraptured

One of the things I love about home education is that it gives our children time just to read. All six of us are at our happiest curled up on the sofa with a good book – even the one-year-old pretends to be reading and knows how to lick her finger to turn the page! I’ve noticed that reading a wide selection of living books has not only increased our children’s vocabulary and knowledge of the world around them but has also given them a thirst for more living books and a general love of learning.

All six of us are at our happiest curled up on the sofa with a good book – even the one-year-old pretends to be reading and knows how to lick her finger to turn the page!

The writer of Ecclesiastes may well have said “Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body.…” (Ecc 12:12) but I like to think he wasn’t talking about living books!

 

 

Catherine Shelton (1)Catherine Shelton and her husband have been married for 15 years and they have four children, aged 11, 8, 6 and nearly 2. In a former life she worked as a secondary school maths teacher and then later as an exegetical advisor in a Bible translation project in Russia. After living overseas for 11 years the family had to return to the UK, and Catherine now continues to home educate her children full-time using the Charlotte Mason approach, specifically following the Ambleside Online curriculum. She also enjoys writing and can be found blogging over at www.catherineshelton.net. Catherine de-stresses from busy family life by training for half marathons and by spending time at the beach near where she now lives in the south of England.

Education Is An Atmosphere – Compost Not Topiary!

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The child breathes the atmosphere emanating from his parents; that of the ideas which rule their own lives – Charlotte Mason (Vol. 2, p. 247).

The Charlotte Mason philosophy hands us a guiding principle to fuel our homes and the education of our children; it was summed up in three words: Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life.

Today I want to unpick what Miss Mason meant by ‘an atmosphere’

The following are notes from my recent Periscope broadcast on ‘Education Is An Atmosphere’.

In our 21st century ‘mummy wars’ culture we can so often hear the word ‘atmosphere’ as a threat, we feel intimidated and we run and hide under our huge pile of laundry away from bickering children and unwashed dishes!

I want you (for a moment) to put those thoughts behind you and open your heart and mind to what you’re actually doing in your Charlotte Mason influenced home school – and I’m sure most of you are doing it already!

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When Miss Mason talked about atmosphere she wasn’t talking about candles, quiet and classical music (although that may add to the atmosphere of your learning environment) she was referring to three things:

  1. The ideas that rule our lives, these spill over to our children
  2. The thoughts that fill their days, what do they draw from consciously and subconsciously?
  3. The authentic environment that surrounds them, our life grows upon ideas – how is the soil? Not fake or watered down to ‘child’s level’ but understanding that they are capable of great thought growing responsibility. Let them grow in a natural, not fake environment

Education as an atmosphere starts in our heart – the overflow is from us the parent; the way we see view our children (born persons), how we value their learning and living and taking responsibility for the ideas our children breathe in and the seeds that are implanted in their fertile soil

The difference between using Mason’s philosophy as a guiding principle in our homes as opposed to a traditional educational pedagogy is that we’re not seeing our children as a topiary project, clipping away when the growth doesn’t look like it should and trying to shape them to fit our family garden. What we’re doing is mixing ingredients for compost, we’re preparing soil to plant in, we water faithfully and watch our seedlings germinate and grow – as wild as the flower may look!

We’re getting our hands messy, we’re on our hands and knees turning soil – not dressed up pretty clipping an end result!

Mason quotes Coleridge (Samuel Taylor Coleridge was an English poet, literary critic and philosopher who, with his friend William Wordsworth, was a founder of the Romantic Movement in England and a member of the Lake Poets) who said “from a seed successive ideas germinate”.

Mason said this “ideas may invest as an atmosphere rather than strike as a weapon”; fill their atmosphere with living ideas, put them in front of delightful things, surround their days with worthy work, wonder and God himself knows where those ideas will land, what they will connect with and what they will produce

God himself knows where those ideas will land, what they will connect with and what they will produce

Ingredients in your mind compost:

  • Prayer underpinning and hemming everything
  • Passion for life and educating your children, reading, studying, learning yourself (mother culture)
  • Purposeful and intentional living – consider the thoughts you are surrounding your children with
  • Pursing peace at all times – this will impact the laundry pile, the battles we choose and the sleep we get. Daily questions ‘does this make for peace’? Maybe that is candles, classical music and moments of quiet – maybe it’s throwing the kids in the car with the skateboards, going to the park and being loud (she talks about that too – organ exercise!) You know your children…

We all know the natural conditions under which a child should live; how he shares household ways with his mother, romps with his father, is teased by his brothers and petted by his sisters; is taught by his tumbles; learns self-denial by the baby’s needs, the delightfulness of furniture by playing at battle and siege with sofa and table; learns veneration for the old by the visits of his great-grandmother; how to live with his equals by the chums he gathers round him; learns intimacy with animals from his dog and cat; delight in the fields where the buttercups grow and greater delight in the blackberry hedges.”  – Charlotte Mason Vol. 6, p. 96

 

My Living Books Life – Nancy Kelly

 

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My life has been forever enriched by reading slowly, surely, and widely

When did my living books life begin? My mom tells a story of when I was hospitalized at age nine with spinal meningitis.  She says that when the nurse leaned over the bed and asked what I wanted to have – and I could have anything – I whispered, “My books, please.” I like that story, and always remember that I loved books, but I’m not sure what books I was reading at that age.  Some Little House on the Prairie with some Nancy Drew on the side, most likely. Pretty sure I didn’t do any reading that day after the spinal tap.

I’d say that my real journey with living books began when I moved from California to my husband’s small hometown in Minnesota in 1993. With only preschoolers in tow at the time, I really didn’t have much of a library.  But then came a call from a retiring school librarian which changed things.  That sweet lady had heard that I might be homeschooling and so wouldn’t I need books?  And would I like to come pick through the stacks and take what I think might be useful? They were pruning most books printed before 1975.  Truth is, I didn’t even know what to look for and there was no time (or internet!) for research. So I filled up a dozen boxes with what looked like they might make for good reading – Landmarks, Signatures, Messners, as well as books by McClung, Wheeler, Earle, Petersham, the D’aulaires and many more. Then I giddily threw myself into the author research, the library sales, the donations, 4 more children and a 3 story house that happily creaks with all those books today.

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In the early days of my living books life, I was reading all about Charlotte Mason and her ideas of what a living book actually is. I could see that it needed to be well-written, engaging, by a passionate author, and that it should stir the emotions.  But I think there is something else going on with living books, something spiritual between each individual child and certain books that makes them living.

But I think there is something else going on with living books, something spiritual between each individual child and certain books that makes them living

I found that out early on as I sat for hours reading The Chronicles of Narnia to my two  young sons. I watched and observed how those precious children responded with excitement and wonder, acting out scenes and describing episodes to their father at the end of the day. Whatever was going on with their strong reaction to the story is exactly what I wanted more of for them, for their education, and for their lives.

Whatever was going on with their strong reaction to the story is exactly what I wanted more of for them, for their education, and for their lives.

Because I’m never sure which book will move which child, variety is important.  Just because one daughter has read the 12 books from the Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons twice, doesn’t mean the next child will be interested in them.  Why one son wants every Jim Kjelgaard ever printed and the other prefers Leonard Wibberley, I can’t say. Why the quiet child consumes everything by Roald Dahl and the loud one prefers Ursula Le Guin is a mystery to me.

I love what Charlotte Mason says about the child and living books:

A book may be long or short, old or new, easy or hard, written by a great man or a lesser man, and yet be the living book which finds its way to the mind of a young reader. The expert is not the person to choose; the children themselves are the experts in this case (School Education,  p. 228)

For myself, Sir Gibbie by George MacDonald goes down as the first book to make me cry. Years later I read it aloud in school (unabridged)  and it took almost 2 years.  No one minded.  I cried that time, too.  As a family we have enjoyed dozens of titles out loud such as Roller Skates by Ruth Sawyer, Incident at Hawk’s Hill by Allan Eckert , the Silver Sword by Ian Serraillier, A Family of Foxes by Ellis Dillon, The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom, and Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens, to name just a few.

My life has been forever enriched by reading slowly, surely, and widely. Think the turtle, not the hare! I’ve enjoyed all the Miss Read titles, old books about my favorite president James A. Garfield, theology from N.T. Wright, Richard Foster, and John Piper and my current interest – beautiful vintage collections of devotions, prayers, and poetry that follow the church year (see my reprint of The Cloud of Witness). By establishing an atmosphere filled with books and an expectation of learning, every family member has been positively and eternally enriched. With a living book to look forward to every evening when I crawl into bed, alongside my morning devotions, and during the school day with my children, I invite and ensure that new ideas will be at the ready in my mind on a daily basis.  That, I have found, leads to a living a very full life.

 

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Nancy Kelly lives in a little town on the prairie called Windom, Minnesota. She and her husband Kent have home-educated their six children for over 20 years using the principles and practices of Charlotte Mason.  After listening to Susan Schaeffer Macaulay speak on education at the 1994 L’Abri Conference in Rochester, MN, she decided to wholeheartedly pursue this way of learning and living. Nancy has helped build a thriving educational community in southwest Minnesota that continues to learn and grow.  She administrates the Parents’ Midwest Educational Union (PMEU), a parents’ book discussion group; Truth, Beauty, Goodness (TBG), a student learning cooperative; the teacher-training Awakening sessions; and the Living Education Retreat, now in its 10th year of sharing and spreading the ideas of Charlotte Mason. Ten years ago she began sharing her knowledge and experience across the country speaking on Charlotte Mason’s philosophy at conventions and retreats. She is a sought-after educational consultant and mentor.  A trip with Kent and dear friends to Ambleside, England in 2014 forever changed her understanding of Mason’s teacher training and deepened her love for Mason’s relational philosophy. Nancy has a Bachelor of Science in Multidisciplinary Studies with cognates in English and Education from Liberty University. She is a current board member of the Charlotte Mason Institute and writes at her CM-inspired blog, Sage Parnassus.  She enjoys family, ‘bright eyes’, flower gardening, collecting vintage honeypots, exploring the flora and fauna of new places, and of course…books.

You can contact her at sageparnassus@gmail.com .

Ten Top Tips For Winning With Nature Study

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An environment-based education movement–at all levels of education–will help students realize that school isn’t supposed to be a polite form of incarceration, but a portal to the wider world ― Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods

There are no ‘rules’ when it comes to nature study so you can relax now mama! Charlotte Mason painted a picture through her philosophy, of freedom to learn, education for the heart, mind and soul as well as a wonderful foundation for a whole measure of academic connections that come from ‘merely’ being outside, observing and paying attention.

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If you haven’t seen it yet, go check out my Periscope broadcasts on nature study, you can watch the replays on Katch.me/leahvboden.

Although Miss Mason especially advised mothers with young children to be outside 4 -5 hours a day (I know…when does the laundry get done right?!), we have to bring her philosophy (a guiding principle) into our 21st century lives and learning. I like to frame the facilitation of nature study in our home around these three guidelines:

  1. Be convinced that being outdoors is vital to their education and character.
  2. Create a daily rhythm which includes it
  3. Instruct, let them BE in nature, then reflect when you get home…not too much talking! 

It is infinitely well worth the mother’s while to take some pains every day to secure, in the first place, that her children spend hours daily amongst rural and natural objects; and, in the second place, to infuse into them, or rather, to cherish in them, the love of investigation – Charlotte Mason

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Ten Top Tips

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  1. Put down the nature study books and just get outside!
  2. Start with your garden or backyard – can your children name the trees and flowers, bird and insects that appear in your space everyday?
  3. Be prepared – nothing worse than being 5 minutes into your walk when your 5-year-old starts complaining of cold feet and being hungry! Wear wool socks, wellies, bring a backpack with snacks, bring little bags so your children can collect ‘treasures’.
  4. Take LOTS of photos – you can reflect when you get home
  5. As you’re reflecting on your walk make a list of sensory experiences; ask your children (and write down) what they saw, heard, smelt, tasted (!) and felt.
  6. DON’T SWEAT THE SKETCH! For some children It takes time to develop a passion and skills to draw ‘what they saw’ – don’t cry over their wrong use of paints or their incessant desire to paint trees blue! Check out my friend Lynn’s post on nature journaling if you want to take steps towards bettering what you do…but take your time!
  7. You have my full permission to use tracing paper! Taking steps towards drawing from nature requires confidence and enjoyment. If you have children who breakdown over the thought of sketching, give them a beautiful nature book, a pencil and some tracing paper and let them go to town…and watch the smile appear back on their face (and yours)! I encourage my children to free-draw one of their traced pictures at the end of the week to help move them forward, go on – give it a go!
  8. Create a nature table, cupboard, tray or small space in your home or homeschool space to display the treasures from nature that your children bring home – remember, you’re creating an atmosphere!
  9. Be intentional. We walk our dog everyday and take a family walk on a Saturday afternoon, but once a week I take my children on an ‘intentional’ nature walk where I give instruction, then let them be in nature, then we reflect when we get home.
  10. Don’t be a slave to the nature study resources or books; make them work for you, your family and your part of the world. Have an array of choices which you can dip in and out of when you spot birds in your garden, trees on your walk or insects crawling along the wall in your yard!

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Let them once get in touch with nature and a habit is formed which will be a source of delight and habit through life – Charlotte Mason