Monday, February 29, 2016

Getting Started with Ambleside Online Year One: You Don't Have To Get Everything Right the First Time

Welcome back for another coffee chat, friend.
 
 
So, have you been diving a little deeper in Charlotte Mason's ideas since we chatted last?  I hope you have, and I hope you've been inspired and encouraged by the ideas you are encountering.  There's a lot to take in though, isn't there?  It can feel a little daunting.  What you start to realize is that Charlotte Mason education, regardless of if you follow the Ambleside Online curriculum or not, is more than just an-open-and-go curriculum.  It's a whole paradigm shift that's likely to change your life and the way you look at the world.  It can be easy to freak out a little bit and want to get it right all at once and then get discouraged when you can't or don't.
 
Guess what: you won't.  Get it all right the first time that is.
 
And guess what else: That's OK.  I don't think anyone gets it all exactly right. 
 
Charlotte Mason's ideals are a worthy goal to shoot for.   But the fact of the matter is that we are all limited by our understanding and our circumstances.    We are all – from the very beginning beginner to the seasoned veteran who has been doing this for 20+ years – on a continuum.  We are all learning and growing in our understanding and implementation of CM's ideas. And we all have those seasons in which certain things need to get laid aside.  So if you are one of those very new newbies…don't compare yourself too much with those who have been at this for a while.  Start where you are and commit yourself to learning and growing as you go. 
 
I'll tell you straight up that we haven't "arrived" yet.  My poor oldest student has been quite the little guinea pig as we've gone along.  My lack of understanding of and trust in Charlotte Mason's methods in the beginning led me to try multiple different supplementary curricula.  She's been inflicted with spelling programs and writing programs and science textbooks with demonstrations and experiments.  None of these things are really in line with CM's vision for these subjects, especially for younger students. And after a while, I discovered that we really didn't need them after all. Copywork and dictation – oral and written narration – nature study – these are really enough.  Did any of this bumbling around on my part really hurt her though?  No, not really.  (Hurt my pocketbook some, but that was the only real harm done!)   We still don't do foreign languages all that well, and don't even aspire to learn multiple foreign languages as was Charlotte's practice in her school.   I'm very haphazard about habit training too.  That's not to say we don't do it, it just doesn't look all neat and packaged as it appears to be in CM's writings.  And I'm not comfortable with watercolor paints, so we use colored pencils or watercolor pencils in our nature journals - I figure its better that we keep them with pencils rather than waiting until I can figure out the dry brush watercolor technique that Charlotte Mason's students used in their journals.  That's not to say that we can't learn eventually, but in the meantime...that's what it is. 
 
I don't tell you these things to give you an excuse to do things poorly.  I do tell you these things because I want you not to be afraid to jump in, even if you only know a little right now.  You will learn and grow over time right alongside your children.
 
Just do it, my friends. You'll be glad you did.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

From My Commonplace: Thoughts from Elizabeth Goudge

"The conservatory door was open and they passed out into the garden, breathless for a moment while the scents and sounds of spring broke over their  heads like a wave.  Jean was visited by one of her rare moments of happiness, one of those moments when the goodness of God was so real to her that it was like taste and scent; the rough strong taste of honey in the comb and the scent of water."  (p.65)
 
" 'My dear,' he said, 'love, your God, is a trinity.  There are three necessary prayers and they have three words each.  They are these, 'Lord, have mercy.  Thee I adore.  Into thy hands.' Not difficult to remember.  If in times of distress you hold to these, you will do well.''  (p.94-95)
 
"I had not known before that love is obedience.  You want to love, and you can't, and you hate yourself because you can't, and all the time love is not some marvelous things that you feel but some hard thing that you do. And this in a way is easier because with God's help you can command your will when you can't command your feelings." (p. 140)
 
~Elizabeth Goudge, The Scent of Water
 
This, my friends, is why I love Elizabeth Goudge. 
 
Enough said. 
 



 
My Bookbag This Week:
Devotional: The Daily Office Lectionary Readings and Prayers from The Trinity Mission, The Cloud of Witness (Gell), A Sacrifice of Praise (poetry anthology, edited by Trott), The Rising: Living the Mysteries of Lent, Easter, and Pentecost (Wright)
Theological: Screwtape Letters (Lewis)
AO Book Discussion Group: Paradise Lost (Milton)
Personal Choice: The Clockwork Universe (Dolnick)
With my Hubby: Pride and Prejudice (Austen)
Family Read-Aloud Literature: The Wouldbegoods (Nesbit)
 
*I am also reading Scouting the Divine (Feinburg) with a women's group at church and Charlotte Mason's Volume 6 for a local CM book club, but these meetings are infrequent and so I just read the brief section assigned as our meetings come up.  They aren't really part of my regular reading rotation as the rest of these are.
 
** Yes.  My hubby is actually reading Pride and Prejudice with me.  And enjoying it....
 



 
 
 
 
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Monday, February 22, 2016

Getting Started with AO Year 1: Getting to Know Charlotte Mason

So, friend, are you ready to get started?  If you haven't already read the Introduction to this series, you can click over and read it here.  And then come back for today's coffee-chat: Getting to Know Charlotte Mason.
 
 
So first things first.  If you click over to the Ambleside Online Year One page and open up the booklist.  The very first thing you see is this:
 
Note: These booklists and curriculum suggestions are incomplete without a thorough understanding of Charlotte Mason's ideas and methods. We cannot emphasize enough that you take time to familiarize yourself with her philosophy by reading her books.
 
And then you might freak out a little when you realize that Charlotte Mason wrote 6 rather thick books.  And she wrote them 100 years ago.  And you are still suffering from baby brain.
 
Please don't slam your computer lid and run away now.  The fact of the matter is: they are right - you do need to know something about Charlotte Mason's ideas and methods.  Consider the curriculum offered on the AO site your syllabus and CM's works the teacher's manual.  You will not be able to successfully use the one without understanding the other.
 
But: that doesn't mean that you have to read all 6 of those volumes before you can even get started.  Guess what….we've been doing this for four years now at our house and I still haven't read all six.  I'm working towards that, but I haven't reached the goal yet.  And I hadn't read *any* of them when we started AO, although I had read a lot about her.   It is okay to start small, act on what you DO understand, and make it a goal to learn more as you go and build on what you already know.  This is what I have done, and I assure you that you can start giving your children a rich education TODAY, even if your understanding of CM is small and incomplete.
 
My recommendations for starting small:
 
If you are brand new to Charlotte Mason, I suggest Susan Schaeffer MacCaulay's For the Children's Sake.  This is a short and very accessible overview of Charlotte Mason's ideas.  This book was the introduction to CM's ideas for many, many people.  Just be forewarned: once you've read it, you may never look back. J
 
If you've read that already, or you are otherwise a little familiar with CM's ideas, than you may be ready to dive in to Charlotte Mason's actual works.   You can go a couple of different ways with this.  Volume 1, Home Education, is her book that particularly pertains to children under the age of 9.  If you have all little ones, this is a good starting place.   Or you can start with Volume 6, A Philosophy of Education.  This was published just before her death, and is a good summary of her ideas as tested and worked out over her lifetime.   You can't go wrong with either of those.  I read Volume 1 first, and then 6, and then 1 again, and then 6 again, and then started filling in with the others.  
 
You have a couple of different choices for how to read these, once you've decided which you want to start with.  There are various versions available for free on Ambleside Online's website, including the original text or a modern language paraphrase.   You can also purchase the physical books.  They are unfortunately out of print at the moment, but can be found used reasonably priced.  Look for the books with the pink checked covers (like these or these.)  If you decide to go with Volume 6, there is also Karen Glass' very helpful annotated abridgement, Mind to Mind.  She has taken out some of the dated references and rabbit trails while leaving in the essential 'meat', making it another good starting place for the slightly intimidated.
 
If you have the luxury of having a Charlotte Mason community in your local area, do whatever you can to connect with it.   If you don't have that luxury, though – I well understand.  It wasn't until this year that I did either. If that's your situation, the Ambleside Online Forum is an excellent online community.  I have made lasting real-life friendships through that community.  There is a wealth of knowledge and experience there, and no question is too dumb.  Start reading and come on over and join the conversation.
 
Another resource I highly recommend is the Afterthoughts blog.  Brandy has all kinds of helps for those new to Charlotte Mason.  Subscribe to her Newbie Tuesday newsletter – click over there right now and do it. You'll be glad you did.  I recently read the 2015 compendium, and even as a non-newbie found them a helpful refresher.  Her 31 Days of Charlotte Mason series is also a good starting place, and she has some great talks to download in her shop.  Start with the 20 Principles overview one.
 
When you've exhausted all this, you can check my Classical and Charlotte Mason Resources tab for more ideas….but I think I've given you enough to keep you busy for a while.
 
For newbies: where are you going to start?  And for non-newbies: what was your favorite introductory resource to CM?
 

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

From My Commonplace: On Ash Wednesday (a little late)

So…I know I'm a week late for Ash Wednesday.  But last week…well last week blogging just wasn't gonna happen.  However, since Lent is a season, I think these thoughts are still applicable…I know I'm still chewing on them!...so I'm still going to share them, even a week late.   
 
A little bit of context, for those who may never have attended an Ash Wednesday service (I hadn't until this year!): part of that service involves the pastor or priest marking a cross made of ashes on the forehead with these words "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return."  This is a good article on what Ash Wednesday is all about.   
 
A reflection on receiving the ashes:
 
"For the truth is that, considering the larger scheme of things, we live only a very short time.  And the reminder of that reality can serve to put our present situation into clear perspective.  It is not uncommon to read in the human interest section of the newspaper a story about a woman or man whose diagnosis of a terminal or life-threatening illness has brought about a radical change of heart. Suddenly, he or she examines priorities, sees superficial concerns for what they are, casts them aside, and determines to live each day with gratitude and fearlessness.  Ash Wednesday is such a diagnostic moment for all of us." (p.19)
 
~Wendy Wright, The Rising: Living the Mysteries of Lent, Easter, and Pentecost
 
 


My Bookbag This Week:
Devotional: The Daily Office Lectionary Readings and Prayers from The Trinity Mission
 The Cloud of Witness (Gell)
 A Sacrifice of Praise (poetry anthology, edited by Trott)
 The Rising: Living the Mysteries of Lent, Easter, and Pentecost (Wright)
Theological: The Screwtape Letters (Lewis)
AO Book Discussion Group: Paradise Lost (Milton)
Personal Choice: The Scent of Water (Goudge)
With my Hubby: Pride and Prejudice (Austen)
Family Read-Aloud Literature: The Wouldbegoods (Nesbit)
 
*I am also reading Scouting the Divine (Feinburg) with a women's group at church and Charlotte Mason's Volume 6 for a local CM book club, but these meetings are infrequent and so I just read the brief section assigned as our meetings come up.  They aren't really part of my regular reading rotation as the rest of these are.
 
** Yes.  My hubby is actually reading Pride and Prejudice with me.  And enjoying it....
 


 
 
 
 
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Monday, February 15, 2016

Getting Started with AO Year 1: Introduction

So, friend, let's sit down and have a coffee chat, shall we?  (Oh, how I wish we really could!)
 
 
So, you have a 5-turning-6 year old, and maybe a couple of littler ones running around.  You've decided to take the plunge and homeschool. Maybe you even did a little bit of gentle preschool or kindergarten work this past year.  You know you don't want to follow a standard textbook curriculum, and are intrigued by the idea of doing something more literature-based.  Maybe you Googled, or maybe you talked to a friend or two, and the name Charlotte Mason popped up in the conversation.  And your search for a Charlotte Mason style curriculum led you across Ambleside Online's website – and you are one part intrigued and one part part completely overwhelmed.
 
Is this you?  If so, I hope that the musings that I share in this space over the next few weeks might be of help to you.  I hope that I might be able to help you feel confident enough to take the plunge and dive in.  Ambleside Online has been a rich blessing in our family, and perhaps I can share a little from our experience so that it can be a blessing to yours.
 
I have been through Ambleside Online's Year One with two of my children, and am fixing to start it with the third (my last – sniff) later this spring.  I started out overconfident and frankly, pretty prideful.  I figured since I had classroom teaching experience, I knew what I was doing.   Turns out I didn't really…but that has been a blessing in disguise.  Pursuing a Charlotte Mason education with my children has been an education for me as well.  There is a lot I still don't know, but the wonder of it all is that it is never too late to learn and grow as you go along.  That's my goal here.  Not to speak to you as someone who has it all figured out, but to walk along the path towards a living education with you.
 
This is the basic plan that I have outlined for this series….but please let me hear from you too!  If there is a topic or question that you don't see addressed here or that comes up as we go along, let me know in the comments and I will make an effort to address it.  
 
Getting Started with Ambleside Online Year One Series Index:
Introduction (That's this post J)
 
Let's learn and grow together, shall we?

Saturday, February 13, 2016

What We've Been Up To

Out and About:
With the new year, we've been trying to get out for nature study a little more regularly than we managed last term.  We've been enjoying the winter weather, mild as it is here, as a nice break from the eternal summer of the tropics.
 
 
 
I know this isn't a serious snowfall for you Midwesterners and Northeasterners, but it was pretty darn exciting for us.

 
Hubby and I also had the opportunity to see a local showing of Many Beautiful Things, a documentary film about the life of Lilias Trotter. (We even got a babysitter!! And went out for the evening!!)  Her biography, A Passion for the Impossible was my favorite book last year.  Highly recommended.  It will be released to DVD soon if you missed out on a local showing.
 
In the Schoolroom:
After a longer-than-expected Christmas break, we have finally settled back into a good school routine with new Ambleside Years for each of my older two children.  We are now 5 weeks in and things are going very well.  Michelle is now in Year 4.  I remember being SO intimidated by Year 4 when we first started using Ambleside Online, but everyone said not to worry, because she would grow into it.  She really has.  Our transition has been smooth, and she is handling that challenging booklist and all the other Year 4 'extras' beautifully.  James and I are doing Year 2, and I am falling in love with Betsy and Little Duke Richard all over again. (And yet another of my children is completely disgusted with William the Conqueror for winning the Battle of Hastings….) Elizabeth is doing one more term of 'kindergarten', but will start Year 1 next term, since she turns 6 in March.  She's ready and has been asking regularly since she turned 5, so I see no reason to hesitate.
 
Phonics Lessons with this little one are never dull. 

 
Nature Journaling

 
Creatively:
I have been crocheting some simple…mats? I guess you would call them...to match the colors of the liturgical year.  I already finished a purple one for Advent and Lent and a green one for Ordinary Time and have plans for a White one for Christmas and Easter and a Red one for Pentecost. (I unfortunately have lost track of the pattern I used now. Sori tru.)  I also crocheted some simple winter hats all around (I used this pattern for mine, and a pattern from Kids Crochet for the kids'). Now, I guess I should get back to that scarf that I have been picking at since last summer…maybe next winter I'll be able to wear it?
 
Our current dining-room-table d├ęcor with a purple crocheted mat for the season of Lent

 
I also want to try my hand at making a couple of sewn booklets, like this lovely one that Silvia gave me last year.  I think I may do a simple one as a copybook for Elizabeth, who is ready to transition from a handwriting/letter formation workbook to simple copywork.  I'm telling you this because I've been thinking about it for two months. :P  Hold me accountable to show you the results next time, folks.
 
Silvia's lovely notebook on the right - it's my current Commonplace book.

 
In the Kitchen:This is our latest development: Michelle (age 10) volunteered a few weeks ago to make dinner on Saturday nights.  All on her own!  And she's stuck with it, even though it hasn't always been easy.  She has been selecting recipes from How to Cook Everything Fast and Simplified Dinners for New Cooks.   She had some basic kitchen skills from helping out here and there already, but these books have been a good next step for her.  My husband was also recently inspired to make 'date nights at home' happen regularly…which means that he too scours How to Cook Everything Fast and makes dinner himself.  This means that I get at least one night off cooking every week…and sometimes two.  Works for me.
 
I'm loving this 'kid big enough to fix dinner' thing.

 
Around the House:
Not much other than basic maintenance these days.  And making lists.  Lots of lists.   But I can't tell you why *just* yet.  Stay tuned. J
 
I'm pretty obsessed with the silhouettes of the trees against winter skies.

 
What have you been up to lately?

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

From My Commonplace: Confusion Heard His Voice

"For wonderful indeed are all His works,
Pleasant to know, and worthiest to be all
Had in remembrance always with delight.
But what created mind can comprehend
Their number, or the wisdom infinite
That brought them forth, but hid their causes deep?
I saw, when at His word the formless mass,
This world's material mould, came to a heap.
Confusion heard His voice, and wild uproar
Stood ruled, stood vast infinitude confined;
Till at his second bidding darkness fled,
Light shone, and order from disorder sprung."
 
~John Milton, Paradise Lost, Book 3, Lines 702-713
 
Our current book discussion over on the Ambleside Online Forum  is John Milton's Paradise Lost.  I will admit that I was more than a little intimidated by this epic poem when we started, but I have been so richly rewarded.  Milton's use of language is glorious and paints such rich images that have penetrated deeply into my soul. (Also - he was completely blind when he wrote this - he dictated the whole thing without the benefit of being able to look back at what he wrote.  Thousands and thousands of lines of metered verse.  Can you imagine?)  The words above were spoken by one of the angels, Uriel, who was witness to God's creation of the world.  "Confusion heard His voice, and wild uproar stood ruled…" – I especially love that bit.  He is the Lord who spoke order into chaos in the beginning….He is the Lord who commanded the wind and the waves to be still and they were.  These glorious images of God's power and sovereignty are sprinkled all through these first few books, even though much of the action focuses on the schemes of Satan.  What comfort to know that no matter what kind of havoc and chaos Satan lets loose in this world, there is One who is greater and who rules over it, and ultimately has won and will win the battle!
 
"For He, to be sure,
In height or depth, still first and last will reign
Sole king, and of His kingdom lose no part
By our revolt…"
 
~John Milton, Paradise Lost, Book 2, Lines 323-326
 

 
My Bookbag This Week:
Devotional: The Daily Office Lectionary Readings and Prayers from The Trinity Mission, The Cloud of Witness (Gell), A Sacrifice of Praise (poetry anthology, edited by Trott)
Theological: Wisdom and Wonder (Kuyper)
AO Book Discussion Group: Paradise Lost (Milton)
Personal Choice: The Scent of Water (Goudge)
With my Hubby: Pride and Prejudice (Austen)
Family Read-Aloud Literature: The Wouldbegoods (Nesbit)
 
*I am also reading Scouting the Divine (Feinburg) with a women's group at church and Charlotte Mason's Volume 6 for a local CM book club, but these meetings are infrequent and so I just read the brief section assigned as our meetings come up.  They aren't really part of my regular reading rotation as the rest of these are.
 
** Yes.  My hubby is actually reading Pride and Prejudice with me.  And enjoying it....
 


 
 
 
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