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

My Living Books Life – Emily Kiser

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To introduce children to literature is to instal them in a very rich and glorious kingdom, to bring a continual holiday to their doors, to lay before them a feast exquisitely served – Charlotte Mason

I’m so delighted to introduce you to my guest on the blog today, Emily Kiser. Emily and I met over the wonders of social media and it’s my pleasure to have her share a little of her living books story here today, enjoy!

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I come from a family of readers. My mother, Liz Cottrill, (who has written and spoken about her own reading background quite a bit) was diligent to read extensively to me and my siblings as we were growing up. Being blind, she read to us from Braille books, the ones she read as a girl. So my early reading life was drenched in classics like Heidi and Little Women, The Wind in the Willows and The Yearling. I loved to read and began reading for myself quite early, but still, my mother continued to read aloud to me, and I am eternally grateful that she did.

Despite the solid foundation I had in reading good books, my personal reading culture grew stagnant once I discovered Nancy Drew. I devoured mystery after mystery, not caring that the plots were all very similar. The problem wasn’t the books themselves (I still credit my reasoning skills to the hours spent solving crimes with Nancy), the problem was that I stopped reading anything else. Slowly, bit by bit, I backed out of this dead end and expanded my reading taste once again in my late teens. I discovered beauty in the sensitive writing of Madeleine L’Engle whose books led me to discover others.

After I finished college, I moved back home. My younger siblings were still being home educated, so I used to take my mom to used book sales at the public libraries in the surrounding areas combing the stacks for treasures. I didn’t really know what I was looking for beyond a few trusted authors, and the term “living book” didn’t mean very much to me at all yet. It wasn’t until I found a copy of Who Shall We Then Read by Jan Bloom (a collection of 155 excellent authors and lists of their books) on the homeschooling shelf that I stumbled into the pages of the best books I’ve ever read. Often tears would come to my eyes as my heart was overwhelmed with truth and beauty glimpsed in the pages of these books. Here I was, a twenty-something adult crying over books intended for children. While reading Miracles on Maple Hill by Virginia Sorensen, I actually said aloud, “Does someone have to die in every good story?” I had an epiphany at that moment. I realized that yes, someone does have to die, because someONE did die to save the world. Living books, I learned, reflect the True story that God has already written. These stories I was coming to love were not only enjoyable, they were teaching me more about myself, and also the true nature of the world. They taught me to empathize with others whose experiences are so different than my own. These books were living books and they have enhanced my own life beyond measure.

Living books, I learned, reflect the True story that God has already written

From that time on, I have been collecting books from “The Golden Age of Children’s Literature.” As my collection grew, my mom began urging me to consider helping her open a lending library for homeschooling families in our area. In the spring of 2006 we opened Living Books Library to 12 local families with our meager collection of about 3,000 volumes. We now have about 17,000 volumes and about 45 families currently check out books to use in their education. Though I am now married and have children of my own, the library is still a large part of my life. It is a great honor and responsibility to help put the right book into the right hands at the right time. Looking back, I think it was my shyness that kept me from asking for new book recommendations. I hope to be the kind of librarian that invites children to explore new horizons, to seek out unexplored lands, to walk in a different person’s shoes–the kinds of things that happen in the pages of really good books.

EmBioPicEmily Kiser lives with her husband and two sons on their small, family-owned Organic farm in southwest Virginia. She is the author of Simply Charlotte Mason’s Picture Study Portfolios and librarian at Living Books Library. She and her mother, Liz, along with Nicole Williams host the weekly Charlotte Mason podcast, A Delectable Education.

Giveaway Time!

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Indeed, the gospel story offers the epic of the ages for the poet who shall arise in the future, strong in faith, and meek enough to hold his creative gift in reverent subjection. –  Charlotte Mason (The Saviour of the world)

So, as I promised, it’s giveaway time; I’m offering a copy of Charlotte Mason’s ‘The Saviour of the world’ (volume 1), another surprise living book and a selection of Neal’s Yard tea – I will send this anywhere in the world and you can enter twice, if you’d like!


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If you’d like to know more about it go on over to A Delectable Education where you can hear Emily Kiser and Art Middlekauff discussing Charlotte Mason’s poetic reflections on the Life of Christ from this work.

I’ve started using it as part of my devotional routine; taking it slowly and thoughtfully, soaking in the deep and beautiful revelation from the gospels.

How do I win?

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Well, let me tell you! All you have to do is leave a comment on this blog post (it won’t appear straight away – I have to approve it, don’t worry!) recommending one living book and the author, that’s it – easy right?

Next Wednesday morning I will announce the winner and hopefully the books will be winging their way to YOU!

Don’t forget to pop back on Friday where we’re featuring a guest blog post from Emily Kiser herself!

 Hope it’s you…

What Is A Living Book?

 

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For the children? They must grow up upon the best .  There is never a time when they are unequal to worthy thoughts, well put; inspiring tales, well told.

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Whether you’re home educating using the Charlotte Mason method, classically schooling, unschooling or any of the other fabulous ways to educate your child you read books right? And you want ‘good’ books!

Charlotte Mason advocated using living books in every possible subject instead of dry, factual textbooks.

Living books will enliven your child’s imagination, wake up your love for reading aloud, help your whole family fall in love with literature and enrich your children’s education.

The use of living books around our dining rooms tables,  whilst snuggled up on the sofa and read under quilts with torch-light will fill our children’s minds with great thoughts and rich ideas which will benefit their heads and hearts for ever.

So how do we tell our truth from our twaddle?

Charlotte also used the word ‘twaddle’ to describe dry, factual, snooze worthy textbooks (which often have fabulous, colourful pictures on the front which means they’re the first ones our children pick up at the library ha!); so much of our leading them towards truth has to come from us; the educator and the mother. How are your storytelling tactics mama?

Do the two page test

A living book isn’t always obvious until we read the first one or two pages; I’ve even started using ‘living books’ that have been recommended by others or taken from a trusted list and we’ve fallen asleep over the first page – so we put it down! And that’s ok – what excites my children may not enthrall yours…just pop it on your shelf and try again another year!

Here are a few questions to ask during your two page test:

  1. Does it draw you in?
  2. Does it engage the emotions?
  3. Do you want to read on?
  4. Could you narrate from the section you’ve read?
  5. Is the writer passionate about what they are writing about?

You’ll pretty much know whether you’re holding a living beauty in your hand at this point!

If I’m committing to reading aloud a particular book to my children for the next few weeks then I need to be excited about its content too – I know I’ve found a winner if I’m excited to get into another chapter; it’s important (and permitted, wink) to find joy in your reading and educating.

A living book is full of beauty and truth, emotion and moral instruction; it engages the mind and the heart and begs us to read on, to read more and to go deeper than the words on the page.

A living book will guide, not force a child’s ability to learn to retain and to form a relationship with the ideas taken from its pages.

Living books are for life, lingering longingly on the shelves of your home and your heart.

The question is not, how much does the youth know when he has finished his education but how much does he care? –  Charlotte M. Mason

Coming Up Next Week!

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“The most common and the monstrous defect in the education of the day is that children fail to acquire the habit of reading.”
― Charlotte M. Mason

Happy Friday friends!

Just wanted to pop on tell you what’s coming up next week on the blog – I’m proudly naming it ‘Living Books Week’; there will be a blog post explaining what a living book is and how to ask them the right questions, a guest blog post from Emily Kiser of A Delectable Education, plus a fab give-away of the Charlotte Mason’s first volume of poetry ‘The Saviour of the world’.

Stay tuned!

Periscope

The ‘Charlotte Mason Show‘ has been broadcasting for a couple of weeks now and it has been fun getting to know some of you wonderful Mason mama’s from around the globe. If you’re not following me on Periscope go across and find me – the show goes live every Tuesday and Thursday at 1.30pm GMT (UK) and the whole focus is to encourage others and share my story of how I’ve implemented the Charlotte Mason methods and philosophy in my home educating over the past 8 years.

Don’t expect perfection, purism or expertise; I’m a champion of the method and an enthusiastic practitioner but I don’t claim to know it all –  so come over, relax and let’s do this journey together mama’s!

If you ever miss the broadcasts or are just not into Periscope you can keep up to date with all my videos here on Katch.

And finally

Don’t forget to subscribe to my monthly newsletter on the right hand sidebar (or scroll to the bottom if you’re on your phone) if you want to keep up to date with what’s coming up and ‘off the record’ news (smile). No spam, I promise, just a little encouraging note from me in your inbox once a month. First one goes out on February 1st so sign up today!

Have a blessed weekend…

Staying The Course – Encouragement For The Weary Soul

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What a gift life is to those who stay the course! You’ve heard, of course, of Job’s staying power, and you know how God brought it all together for him at the end. That’s because God cares, cares right down to the last detail.

James 5:11 (MSG)

Whether we’re waiting for spring, enduring a ‘stage’ with one of your children, writing a book or working through a health challenge, there is always an opportunity in each season of life to ‘stay the course’. I find myself saying this repeatedly to young, sleep-deprived mothers and home educating mothers in their early years, I whisper for them to not grow weary in doing good because in due season they WILL reap a harvest of righteousness (Gal 6:9). And it is the habit of remember this and treasuring that truth in our hearts that keeps our feet firm, our naps long and our coffee cups full!

I want to encourage you on this January Monday morning that you CAN do this; the light is in sight and God has given you everything you need to seek out his face through the fog, to take the next step forward and to feel Him breathing hope back into your heart again.

Look straight ahead, and fix your eyes on what lies before you.Mark out a straight path for your feet; stay on the safe path. Don’t get sidetracked; keep your feet from following evil. Prov 4: 25 – 27

Whatever you’re facing today you can rest assured that God is bigger and is interested in the details of what you’re carrying. The Apostle Paul reminds us in his letter to the church in Philippi not to be anxious about anything but to pray about everything; and there lies your invitation for God to invade your soul with peace, a peace that blows our mind every time, a peace that guards our hearts and our heads. A peace that will never be fathomed, never be explained, never be understood but is just as real as the nose on our face.

A peace that doesn’t eliminate the ‘problem’, but injects hope into our path.

Here are three things that have helped me stay the course and given room for God to graciously guide me through the sticky and the messy and the hard.

Gratitude 

We can’t get enough of this can we? Everyone from Benedictine monks to businessmen are telling us that gratitude is a major key to success and happiness! God has been whispering this to us since the beginning of time, to always be thankful – but His idea of thankful was not about selfish endeavour and personal outcome, it was and is about worship. Turning our hearts to gratitude turns our hearts to Him, it takes our eyes off ourselves and fixes our face on His, and when we look full into His face the things of this world really do go strangely dim. What can you truly thank God for today?

Perspective

My friend often uses the phrase ‘first world problem, third world win’ when people complain about their TV breaking or a long queue in the coffee shop; but isn’t it true that so many things we get anxious or stressed about, when given a bit of perspective, lift and fade in importance! I’m not saying that what you’re facing today isn’t real or hurting you but I’ve found (and I guess it links to gratitude) that when I consider those ‘worse off’ my perspective changes, I pray for them, my focus changes and heart is lighter.

So when you’re exhausted and up in the night for the fifth time breastfeeding your hungry nursling remember the couples who are longing and praying for children; whose wombs, hearts and hands are longing for a baby of their own and turn your cries to calls of hope and breakthrough for them.

Community

And finally – don’t go at it alone. So often when we’re struggling and we’re deep in the murky mire of life we want to run and isolate ourselves. I know this for real, both personally and as  a church pastor, I see it all the time. But it never helps. Get around those who love and support you and allow God to use His church to help YOU stay the course. God designed us to walk together as a mighty force to be reckoned with. Vulnerability is hard and painful – the enemy loves us to hide in it and stay silent, but God has called us out of the corners and has given us each other, in all our messy mistake making ways, to be there, to hold up each other’s arms and to win this battle.

Give the church a chance – don’t be silent in your story.

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Phil 4:6

So, face up today mama, heart to Him – let’s do this!