Monday, August 8, 2016

Coming Home After CMI West 2016

I was so overjoyed with the success of our first CMI Western Conference.  It was great to see old friends, make new friends and especially, to finally, meet forever old online friends! The speakers were wonderful!  I have to admit there is always much to ponder and process after this event.

American Jewish Universtiy, CA
I got home Saturday afternoon and after some unwinding I made my way to the kitchen to find a book on the island counter.  It surprised me to see it there and eventually learned that my 12 yr old daughter  had been reading it earlier in the day.  "That's nice, " I thought and continued with the afternoon. 

Sunday we got up early for mass, and when we got home, we needed to make "something" to bring over to friends that had invited us to their pool.  My 12 yr old immediately insisted that she wanted to bake some cookies using "candy covered chocolate drops in an array of beautiful rainbow colors!"  Her wanting to bake did not  surprise me as she is the official family baker around here.  What did delight me tons was when she started baking and asked if she could tell me about the book...and how wonderful it was...and how she "now knows" about Theodoric, a friar, and his work with rainbows.  Her excitement and precise telling of rainbows; her newly developed relationship with a humble monk in the middle ages was very refreshing.  It wasn't an assignment given to her; it was just a book with a story she chose to read the day before.  Now, that knowledge of rainbows and Theodoric Dietrich has become hers.

Theodoric's Rainbow by Stephen Kramer
This small encounter lead me back to our last session at CMI, given by Dr. Carroll Smith, precisely on the "Story as Narrative".  A discussion on the use of story and living books.  The ability of a story to transport you to other places.  In our children, good literary stories allow them to use their imagination. Mere facts won't give them a visual or a relationship with the idea.  Ultimately, how the power of telling leads to knowing.  I couldn't have been more delighted to come home to my family, of course, but after the conference (specifically Dr. Smith's talk) I admit there was an added sweetness to seeing Charlotte Mason's methods working in my children.

*The book by the way is Theodoric's Rainbow by Stephen Kramer

Friday, March 14, 2014

March Hike: Oh, So Green

We went on two wonderful hikes this week.  One was new to me, but the other we hiked about two years ago.  I couldn't help but notice how much greener our trek was this time.  Perhaps hiking in March rather than very hot summer months or the nice few days of rain we had a few weeks ago.  Hmm... Either one: it was oh, so green! Just getting ready for St. Patrick's day around here ; )


Thursday, March 6, 2014

Lent 2014: Reconcile and Share

We're not doing much that is different from our past Lenten seasons around here.  I have transformed our nature study area into our Lenten season table.

Our wonderful Lent/Easter book basket is out.  What a treat to enjoy these books once a year.  As a family, I chose to read out loud the Michael Hague Easter Treasury.

Our Lent Box with the Stations of the cross is out.  This is such a wonderful activity that my kids enjoy every year.  We have our Stations of the Cross Fridays.

Every year I also hope to inspire the kids with our Lenten countdown calendar.  Every day we nail a cross to the board.  This year I chose to decorate the board with a path made of 40 stones.  Every time we nail a cross, I try to talk about our focus for the season: Reconciling and Sharing is our theme this year.  I do this by choosing a prayer or a poem or simply reminding them about specific situations/times we need to remember these values in our lives.

Here are my past Lent and Easter posts:
Lent 2012
Easter 2012
Lent 2013

Friday, February 21, 2014

Impromptu Flower Dissection

My nature loving 10yr old daughter had a great time earning her 'Flowers' pin with her Keepers of the Faith group last spring that she requested to do some more botany this year; so, mama complied.  I found a great book: Look At A Flower by Anne Ophelia Dowden.  She's gently reading through this title and has a few others by the same author waiting (if she fancies more botany).  The book is about 100 pages and Dowden is known for her Botany illustrations. 

Science can be very much driven by interest around here.  I've designated a 'Nature Study', 'Natural History' and a 'Science' day on the schedule.  Really this gives them quiet a few days during the week to indulge on topics and books that they've chosen for the year.  Many times these become intertwined.  The books are available and science notebooks handy and, well, of they go to enjoy.  Narrations are always wonderful; my nature girl is always eager to tell me what she's learned.  Connections with her Co-Op Nature Study/Science reader on insects is icing on her delight.

I've been patiently waiting for the day she'd get curious enough to want to see the parts of the flower that she has been eagerly telling me about.  I knew she was getting close to finishing the section on "Flower Parts".  This week was it.  She picked a Hibiscus flower off the ground from our back yard, brought it in, grabbed her magnifier and asked for my help in making a good cut down the middle of the flower.

Botany: flower dissection complete! 

Sunday, February 16, 2014

"The Living Page" Book Discussion Post 2: Nature Notebooks

Nature notebooks...what can I say...they have become dear friends in our education.  Those who are first introduced to Charlotte Mason always gravitate to her prescribed "Nature Study" and time outdoors.  Bestvater gently reminds us:
"Thus, it would seem that from the beginning, the Nature Notebook was not just about dry air brush technique or a sweet Victorian pastime, rather it was a symbol of much of Mason's pedagogy: her respect for children, her early leanings toward "scouting," and her commitment to the outdoor classroom and nature as teacher." pg 19
She fills this section with quotes from various sources, including Mason's own works.  I, myself, gravitated to nature study very quickly and have been so grateful to have found the worth in using the outdoors as classroom.  I loved reading Volume 1 Home Education and finding those bits of wisdom which validated the essence and abilities of the young child.  Specifically, as Bestvater notes (emphasis mine):
"The Nature Notebooks represent a way of life-a lifetime habit formed "as soon as he is able" but essentially an approach to Nature and consequently, to Science, indeed all of life, through the habit." pg 19
I've gone back and checked my post labels and discovered that one third of my post have something to do with "Nature."  It was a wonderful for me to see that because a lot of our learning happens outdoors.  Our nature walks/hikes always brings out the best curiosity in my children and this always translates into wanting to know more. 

These are some samples from my children's notebooks.  A few of my nature loving kids have already filled a few notebooks or have been so lovingly used that they've come apart.  So as you can tell from the top picture we continue to try new notebooks and so far these have held well.  I'm happy with the blue notebook because it is thread bound and has few pages.  I bought this as a three pack blank page notebook from Target.  I like it because it's sturdy for my 5 yr old and it is not overwhelming.  They are thin and as he grows up the notebook will change ; )

The idea of Nature Notebook Lists is not new as a concept to me but I'll shyly admit not one that I practice.  I was at the doctor's office with my nature loving 10 yr old daughter while I read to her this small section.  We were both happy to hear:
"The lists seem to vary slightly for plants and birds (and likely insects); perhaps they even varied among students, suggesting that there is more than one way to record what was wanted." pg 23
A list can be and become what we choose.  Hurray, takes some pressure off being just right.  Then it is with our nature notebooks.  The lists have just become one of those things that I've been afraid to commit too.  She was inspired and has been planning how to add her list of insects (since she is currently reading Memoria Press' Book of Insects Reader which includes Arabella Buckley's "Eyes and No Eyes: Book VI, Insect Life") to the end of her nature notebook. 

The next section talks about Scrapbooks/Collections.  I've never required that the kids collect or keep their finds.  Somehow this too just naturally comes about.  So, I began to have a nature study table where the kids can bring their collections from walks and let them "hang out" for the season.  If the treasures are able they will end up in a mason a collection of sorts...and a few have even began to hide their treasures in their notebooks...

The last point I want to mention is the idea of Nature and Outdoor Clubs.  Bestvater mentions the role they had CM schools/groups.  I do love this. 
"Collecting is less about amassing finds than ensuring this personal connection.  This is supported by bringing together likeminded friends and useful resources." pg 24
If you recall I wrote a small post of our attempts at such a group.  While our MeetUp group didn't last our CM-CoOp continued the spirit.  We meet once a month specifically for Nature Study/Science.  Our kids divide into two groups.  The moms leading are prepared with appropriate reading(s) and even presentations sometime.  At the end of our session both groups are working in their nature notebooks.  Our reading/talk sometimes inspires their nature finds other times it is just what moves them, but an entry is made before they are off to play in the outdoors.  I love this idea because I do have a few children who don't always race to their notebooks so this at least gives them the opportunity to consistently make an entry.

Don't forget to follow the discussion here too:

Wildflowers and Marbles
Wildflowers and Marbles

Thursday, February 6, 2014

"The Living Page" Book Discussion Post 1

"Isn't that why some of us resonate so deeply with Mason? She can see the beauty?"  Pg xiv (preface).
My answer is a wonderful YES!   Laurie Bestvater begins the preface with a Wendell Berry  quote, in itself profound of meaning about his observation of seminary students and missing essence of God. She continues her analysis of the great question and includes this insight:
"Mason had shown me that notebooks can be forms of vitality, literally the shape and outline, the liturgy of the attentive life.  They nurture the science of relations and the art of mindfulness. They teach us to see the very brief beauty of now, to know the landscape of here, to be present in all our pleasures and pains.  Through them we, haltingly, dwell in a world of ideas and connections with an ever-higher opinion of God and his works and as truer students of Divinity." Pg xiv
I found the whole preface an appropriate greeting to the gateway.   I have always believed that you can't separate Mason from faith.   I can't speak for others but in our life living our faith and staying true to our beliefs are very important in home education.  When you see me express myself as living our education I am including to mean everything important in our lives and ultimately, hopefully, all required to make our children good stewards of God and all his creation.  So, YES,  there was always a natural calling from Mason for various reasons, but, her ability to "see the beauty," certainly one of the most important.

captured on our DC trip last year
Thus, the book sets us on a path to help us find the "aha's" for these wonderful notebooks many of us have had our children (and ourselves) use as part of a Charlotte Mason education.  Chapter 1: The Art of the Keeper gives us a list of extraordinary people in history whom kept these personal notebooks. The atmosphere is set....I'm convinced, there is a place in history for and from these  "Keepers" and in part could be owed to their "Art" the notebook.

Panel at last year's CM Institute Conference
I have to admit what grabbed me most about this chapter and, I, absolutely appreciated, was the idea that Mason, while a revolutionary in child centered education, did not re-invent the wheel. She didn't have to. Just as we don't either.  There is something freeing of the spirit to know there are others whom have gone before us with similar needs and interests.  Who have been successful or missed a few things.  Either way, we can learn and take what works in our lives.
"So, as Mason says of herself overall, she was not an innovator in this regard either.  The Keepers who were scholars, the movers and shakers in science, the arts, and exploration on whom she called regularly in her classroom she knew enough to imitate.  To that extent, Mason comes to the art of keeping notebooks naturally, not in a vacuum but within the rich context of the Western notion of Liberal Arts which fairly demands some of these academic disciplines." Pg 10
Most of us have come to appreciate Mason because her methods, her philosophy have felt natural in our lives.  I, for one, am grateful she took this notion of keeping notebooks and extended to include the child, the person, as Bestvater reminds us is at the center of a CM education.  Here, I give you my second favorite point in this chapter:
"Her method has arrived like a time capsule filled with ideas we seem to be in danger of losing track of in this fill-in-the-blank, megabyte world....Innovator or no, perhaps we simply have need of a studied, intelligent, common sense voice from the past asking us to hold up for a minute and examine the force of the culture shapers she insisted on as a curriculum for every child and the particular paper ways they had of pursuing their loves." Pg 11
Looking forward to Chapter 2: Gallery of Forms, a look at the Mason student and their notebooks.
Link to Wildflowers and Marbles

Monday, February 3, 2014

Joining A Book Discussion

I enjoy living our education! Just like my children, I've always tried to have reading material that will not only challenge and educate me, but encourage our home schooling journey.  I'm sure you can imagine the majority of my selections have been Charlotte Mason related.  I was so excited to see Laurie Bestvater write and publish The Living Page.   A book about "Keeping Notebooks with Charlotte Mason".

I'm equally as excited to join a book discussion among friends.  I'll be linking through Jen's blog at Wildflowers and Marbles for a few of my posts.  I hope you'll read along with us or if you've already had the pleasure, please still share your thoughts.  The first posts/discussion will go up starting this Thursday.
Link to Wildflowers and Marbles
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