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

 

The Struggle Is Real – Sunday Morning Mothering!

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Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker! Psalm 95:6 

One from the 2015 archives; I was reminded of the importance of it again during worship this morning.

I’m calling out to every Sunday morning mother who has thought ‘why do I bother coming?’

Roughly calculated I reckon I’ve been in around 1,925 Sunday morning church meetings in my lifetime! Different experiences, all unique, imperfect and incredible. From living rooms in Coventry to lavish orthodox gatherings in Athenian buildings, I’ve met with my Father, been loved on, welcomed and caught another glimmer of the many faceted God through each unique pocket of people.

I believe in the gathering of God’s people; whether large or small, coffee shop or school hall, community is important. There’s something so real, so vibrant, so holy when we embrace the potential of God’s company of lovers lavishing praise, honour and affection upon Him, together.

This passion for the Church has grown in me, been nurtured and drawn out of me by those near and far. This ‘I.can.not.keep.silent.’ cry from my heart lingers in the air through each season of my life, and it looks different year to year. Forming, changing and emerging like the magnificent monarch leaving its cocoon.

And this passion wasn’t left in the delivery room when God brought my children into His world. The call and ‘spoken out’ adventure over my life didn’t expel like a final breath as Dave cut the umbilical cord separating each of our four children from their 9 month life source. If anything it became greater.

So I’m calling out to every Sunday morning mother who has thought ‘why do I bother coming?’

I need you to see the worth and the power in connection; whether finger tips touching or group hugging affection. Life source to power force we’re ultimately entwined; spirit binding, commonality finding, to you I am assigned.

I know that Sunday after Sunday is an epic tale of ‘get up and out’ and success is marked by your children wearing matching socks. You get home and realise you didn’t speak to one person, your three year old was hanging from your leg and getting tangled up in your stretchy wrap encasing the baby who has been feeding constantly since 10.30am. Missing naps and endless snacks mark your day of rest but mama I know you’re doing your best.

I know how ‘worship’ can be an endless cacophony of  ‘shhhh’s’ and rushes to the nearest convenient spot to place the potty because life doesn’t stop on a Sunday. As you lift your arm to ‘surrender all’ you’re hit by a crayon and the loose lidded sippy cup takes another fall.

And I also see your little one snuggle in close as you sing and sway, arms aching – heart swelling. I see you pull in your distracted eight year old and ruffle his hair as he mumbles the words from the screen. I see your tears as God reaches into the depths of your longing soul and continues to make you whole.

I need you to know that motherhood shapes a generation, it breathes life into our changing culture and form beyond this local congregation.This is not just a passing season and a quest to stay alive; this is our day and our moment to thrive.

I want to shout loud like a cheerleader declaring victory, ‘you’re doing amazing’. I need to tell you it’s all ok and we’re all walking this together; the stress, the mess and this seeming test; you’re not alone. I want to look into your face and tell you we need you. The Church needs your ache, your tired eyes, your listening heart, your warm smile, your incredible strength and tenacity, the Words He whispered to you at 3am, the song in the shower and what you’ve been bursting to share for the last hour.

So the next Sunday you spend sipping on cold tea and clearing up the polystyrene cup your five year old just shredded, look around at those who love and celebrate you…oh and make sure your coffee is fully leaded!

Truth Around The Table – More On The Morning Gathering

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“Every morning was a cheerful invitation to make my life of equal simplicity, and I may say innocence, with Nature herself.”
― Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Yesterday on The Charlotte Mason Show I shared about the power of short lessons as well as the our morning home school routine otherwise known as ‘Boden’s assemble’, ‘morning basket’ or ‘morning time’!

Periscope is wonderful and crazy all at the same time (especially when there’s a 5-year-old climbing all over you and trying to drink your tea whilst you’re broadcasting) and as I jumped off I realised I hadn’t said some of the most poignant thoughts I had about this daily ritual!

So, go ahead and watch the (long) replay but here are a few thoughts about beautiful life around the table…

Despite our every day morning intentions to gather before anything else starts, life happens right? I’ve found the habit of table time is a great way to reset the day if all is not going to plan; if meltdowns are occurring, motivation is low, fights are breaking out – I stick the kettle on, make a pot of tea, grab a snack and gather my children around the scribbled on, much-loved dining room table and say/read/(shout)/pray something!

Our dining room table gatherings are a place of education, rejuvenation and reconciliation

Education

Great books, poetry, theology, ideas, conversation, debate and heart-felt prayer are all thrown around during our morning gathering. Give a wiggly child a notebook, a pot of pencils and a snack and you’ve got their attention…for at least 10 minutes (wink)!

Don’t underestimate meal conversations and narrations about their day – so much of our children’s learning comes from their experiences around the table with family, make it count!

Rejuvenation

I find the table a great place for anxious children to breathe, over achieving children to take a break (!) and an overwhelmed mama to draw the children close and take stock of their work that day. As well as feeding their tummies, we’re feeding their precious souls.

Bring JOY to the table mama and make sure it’s a place of refreshing for everyone, not stress!

Choose your battles –  your three year old will try broccoli eventually, just maybe not today, and that’s ok!

Reconciliation

Our children need to see repentance and forgiveness in action to really grasp that it really is more than muttering ‘sorry’ through gritted teeth! The gospel is raw and real and we ALL need a saviour; let’s show and tell our children this reality.

I find if I’ve had a breakdown with a child or kids have been fighting I can gather them around the table, speak peace into the situation and reconcile our family before we move on; there’s a table between us, possibly a warm drink and we can breathe, talk and create space to see what we did/said and fully forgive.

So the next time you’re sweeping the food littered floor for the third time that day or doing another pile of dishes; remember the chatter and satisfied tums, remember that smile between siblings, remember that amazing question and discussion that followed and take heart – your table is a place of transformation and truth, keep up the good work mama!

Your table is a place of transformation and truth

English Apple Scones – Perfect For a Poetry Tea!

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“You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.”
― C.S. Lewis

These beautiful scones were a perfect project for Sienna and I on a frosty Saturday afternoon and we just so happened to have ‘afternoon tea’ visitors to feed them to – the verdict was “mmm, these are lovely”, good enough for me!
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Ingredients

3 cups self-raising flour

(or 3 cups of all-purpose flour + 5 tsp baking powder)

1/2 cup sugar

3/4 cup butter (chopped into small pieces)

1 egg, beaten

1 cup milk

3 – 4 small apples peeled, cored and chopped into small pieces

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Method

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C or gas mark 6). Lightly grease a baking sheet
  • Peel, core and chop the apples, squirt a bit of lemon over them if you wish to prevent them from going brown (I didn’t!) and set to the side

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  • In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar,  and salt
  • Add cubes of butter and rub into the mix so it ends up looking like bread crumbs

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  • Mix the egg and milk in a small bowl, and stir enough into flour mixture until moistened *You may not need it all* – use enough to form a dough
  • Put the dough onto a lightly floured surface, and knead slightly.
  • Add in the apple pieces whilst kneading until it is all mixed into the dough

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  • Put a blob of dough into a 1/4 cup as a rough measurement, turn it out and mould in your hand into somewhat of a circle and place on the baking tray

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  • Brush (or use your finger) a little milk on the top of each circle of dough on the tray

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  • Pop them in the pre-heated oven for 15 – 20 minutes until golden brown (keep an eye on them)
  • When they are ready put them on a cooling tray and DO NOT try to eat them until they are totally cool!

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“There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.”
― Henry James

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Poetry Teatime – Creating A Language Rich Environment

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When you pair poetry with tea, your children create a connection between contemplation and rest – Julia Bogart

Yes, we are a tea drinking nation so this was a pretty natural move for me (smile); our home education has been established over pots of tea around our dining room table but there’s something quite special about an intentional ‘stop’ to pretty up the table, plate up treats, brew a combination of Earl grey and English breakfast tea in our large white pot and sit around piles of poetry books, ready and waiting to be thumbed, flicked and read aloud.

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After setting the table and gathering the children I quickly phoned my Mum and invited her over; she’s one of the main reasons why I’m passionate about literature and nature study so she downed tools (in the kitchen, wink), grabbed a favourite poetry compilation book and we set another place as she drove the 10 minutes from her house to mine!

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Profound thought is conveyed in language of very great simplicity and purity. – Charlotte Mason

As my children sipped tea and nibbled on cake they each in turn chose a poem to either read aloud or be read for them; the atmosphere was filled with Hardy, Dickinson, Cicely Mary Barker and Shakespeare to name a few. We lingered over the language and were wowed by the words passing over our dining room table, filling our hearts and quietly making connections we’ll draw from in days, weeks and years to come.

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An observant child should be put in the way of things worth observing. – Charlotte Mason

Just as it got to my turn there was another knock on the door and in came my friend Serena (who often pops by for coffee on a Thursday on her way home from work) who just happens to be the most creative, theatre and literary genius I know! She was delighted to push her way onto our pew, be poured a cup of tea and then be offered a pile of poetry books. She refused the books and said she’d recite a couple from memory (I know, right?!); she delighted us with Tennyson and Shakespeare all whilst having my 5-year-old climbed upon her knee!

We lingered over the language and were wowed by the words passing over our dining room table, filling our hearts and quietly making connections we’ll draw from in days, weeks and years to come.

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We’ve wrapped up a wonderful half-term with this beautiful focussed gathering, which I’m sure will become a regular part of our homeschool rhythm.

To Create a language rich, literary environment in our homes, it often means pushing past the ‘formulaic study’ and making room for the flow and freedom of reading, doing life around piles of living books, celebrating the snuggling and gathering of children around a story and the delighting in the incredible gift of words.

Let them get at the books themselves, and do not let them be flooded with diluted talk from the lips of their teacher. The less the parents ‘talk-in’ and expound their rations of knowledge and thought to the children they are educating, the better for the children…Children must be allowed to ruminate, must be left alone with their own thoughts – Charlotte Mason

And The WINNER Is…

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There are many little ways to enlarge your child’s world. Love of books is the best of all.

–Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis

Thank you to all you wonderful living book lovers who entered this competition; I am planning on wading through all your amazing recommendations and forming a blog post out of them, what fabulous books you read!

So, without further ado (drum roll please), the winner is:

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Congratulations Katie – I have books and tea treats all ready to come to your home; email me via the contact form on the blog with your full name and address and I’ll get them in the post to you!

Here’s me on Periscope in case you were wondering what Katie is referring to, or you can catch up on my latest #Charlottemasonshow updates via Katch, here’s one from our nature walk yesterday:

 

They’re Watching You!

 

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Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you – Robert Fulgham

 

The following post is an excerpt from ‘Moments on mothering

Who we are and what we say, what we do and how we play out our lives is really important to our children. Every day we influence and greatly impact the little lives in our homes and hearts – but often without even realising the longevity of our loving leadership.

A big part of my life is spent facilitating my children’s learning. We’ve been home educating for almost 9 years and my greatest thrill is seeing my children thrive in their learning, especially when we’re ‘off the clock’. I’m a huge lover of nature study; I frequently point out beauty with authentic awe and wonder on any journey; from picking up milk from the corner shop to a family hike in the Warwickshire countryside.  One of my greatest learning influences is an 18th century educator called Charlotte Mason, she put great emphasis (as many have done since her) on children spending lots of time outside; observing God’s incredible creation and making their own connection with what they see.

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I can often teach and share life with my children but with very little immediate feedback, and then just like that your 18 month old wanders out into the garden and by using baby sign language tells you there’s a ‘bird’ whilst she watches the sparrows tap for worms on the lawn. And just last night I was out in the car with Nyah; she stopped me mid conversation and said “mum, look at the moon; it’s majestic”. It’s not merely that we suggest to our children what’s important to observe and commentate on, but we do it ourselves; we live it, we breathe it, we experience it and they see all.

And what if we saw all of life this way, what if we saw mothering as a plethora of perception, a nullah of noticing and a flowing river of recognition; how we live our life is how they will live theirs. Their lives may take on a different shape, but an oval is just a circle slightly squashed right? We can’t get away from the fact that our children will end up a lot like us.

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The hard thing is seeing the reality of our frailties and imperfection when we were hoping for momentary deflection. But hiding isn’t an option and neither is sitting on that pedestal. Our children need truth telling and wholehearted dwelling. They need to see conflict and wrong actions forgiven. They need blatant veracity and loving tenacity knowing that real is the raw deal but it’s within our capacity to feel and to heal.

I tell my children that I’m hopelessly flawed, very much human and I ask for forgiveness, regularly. The scandal of grace is in my face, every day and I drink it in. There’s no shame in taking the blame for what they do and say, but we have to be quick to forgive ourselves and remember tomorrow is another day.

Robert Fulghum said “Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you”; and as much as I endeavour to daily win my children’s hearts through what I say and what I do, they certainly don’t miss a thing.

Your life and choices are important to your children’s day dreams and life schemes, so you’d better watch your back mama, they’re watching you!

 

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Moments On Mothering – Reflective inspiration from one mother to another by Leah Boden