Monday, September 9, 2013

Finding a Balance for High Expectations

"Perfection" ~ the very word drains me. It makes me feel like a failure. It stresses me out. I love my Charlotte Mason, but the part about perfect execution causes me to pause.

I recently read Dr. Kevin Leman's Birth Order book. He talked quite a bit about perfectionism and he didn't seem to think it was a healthy thing. He mentioned an example of a child fixing his own bed. The mother walks in and says, "Oh, honey, you did a great job!" while she reaches to straighten out the wrinkles. Leman says this is a No, No. It creates perfectionist children who will grow up to carry that burden.

He also says that you want excellence instead of perfection. From his description I think that means that you do a job well enough for what it is meant for ~ it doesn't have to be perfect. For instance, the notes you take in class don't have to be perfectly formed letters with correct punctuation and sentence structure because they are for your eyes and brain only. But the resume you turn in for a job interview should look and read professional-like.

Charlotte Mason would say never to give a child a job that they can't execute perfectly and that children are capable of more than we think they are. I can see the wisdom of both sides. Maybe these "sides" aren't opposed to each other.

I've heard others use the term "best effort" referring to perfect letters or handiwork. So instead of perfect letters, you would look for a child's best effort. I usually look for correct formation of letters. They are sometimes squiggly or different heights, but I want the kids to be forming their letters the way they were taught. But then I see the near-perfect work that some kids do and wonder if I should be expecting more?

It's a struggle for me. I get stressed out if I feel I must have high perfectionist expectations and that can put a lot of pressure on the kids. I don't want a stressed out home school for us, so I'm trying to find some principles I can handle:

1 - The job should be within the child's ability. My 3 year old cannot form his letters. My 11 year old should be able to form all correctly and do it pretty dang well when required (such as for dictation). Handicrafts should also fall under this principle. (Although you should see some of our projects! They are far from perfect.) When you choose a craft too high for a child's ability, you end up doing a lot of the work. But...... 
2 - Sometimes a job takes practice even if the child is able. I'm not great at drawing. But I've been practicing during Nature Study, and my cicada this week was much better than my cricket last week. 
3 - Work on one or two things at a time. For chores, our kids help with all household duties, but we are concentrating on teaching them how to clean the bathrooms. So their room may be a bit dusty from my lack of supervision, but those bathrooms are sparkling! We'll move onto laundry and rooms and such after bathrooms are conquered. 
4 - Secure the ground under their feet. Show them what you expect out of copy work, crafts, habits, etc. Model it for them. Then watch and instruct as they do it. As they get it down, slowly back away and let them own it. Patience is key. And this instructing time will not last forever. 
5 - We all tend toward laziness, right? Kids will get tired of doing the job the way you taught them and will start cutting corners. Call them back. Make them redo (not you) and keep an eye on them for a while until they are back to doing their best. 
6 - Grace. God gives grace. We parents should give grace. God doesn't expect us to be perfect. He knows we won't be. That's why Jesus is our perfection. Our kids are little humans and will have bad days and get overwhelmed with our high expectations and will just want a break. Grace. Love. Hugs, snuggles, wisdom, and cookies.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

On Starting a Mason Education

Many people are overwhelmed when first beginning to homeschool using Charlotte Mason methods. Her ways are so different from our usual educative mindset. At first glance some may think they seem overly easy. But when it comes down to doing it...... It gets puzzling and overwhelming. So many times the advice is for the newbie to start slow with only a few subjects and then add in new pieces as they get a handle on the practiced ones. Pretty good advice.

But that got me thinking: Why is a Mason education so much harder to grasp? With some curriculums you can just sit down and start reading textbooks and answering questions and taking tests. That's not so hard. Our minds grasp this concept. Why is this not so with CM?

The answer is in the change of thought and perspective that Charlotte Mason brings. It doesn't come all at once. We've been implementing CM for 6 years and I'm still grasping some of the concepts. That also shows the living nature of her ideas though. You can begin implementing right away and get a lot of good out of it, but then continue to grow and glean and learn for many years down the road.

It's a little like eating healthy. You know fruit and vegetables are good for you and you really want to begin a healthier meal plan for your family. But it's different from what you're used to. It will take time and effort and experimentation to figure out dishes that are healthy and yummy. Taste buds will need to adjust. Parents will need to lead the way. But in a year you'll be further along than you are now and your family will be grateful for the effort.

Similarly (slightly), a Mason education takes some time to understand. Often the appreciation is already there ~ that's the reason it was chosen as the homeschool method ~ but a deeper appreciation will certainly develop. The concept about education being a lifelong process instead of something to check off a list and forget about will grow. The concept of loving knowledge and wanting more is hard to pass on to kids when we've grown up with the practical view. Allowing kids to thrive at their own pace instead of sticking to imposed grades is hard when you feel outside eyes upon you. Seeing accumulated meaningful knowledge emanate from the child instead of being spit out in list of memorization or written on stacks of papers is joyous for parents but a little nail-biting when portfolio review time comes. There are many more such concepts that are easily written down but hard to shift our thinking on.

So that's one reason families might start out a Charlotte Mason education slowly. It is a paradigm shift not expounded by surrounding academia. Most subjects take practice because they are done so differently. But with good practice, the wisdom behind the method shines through and your family will learn to love to learn again.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Saying Goodbye to Friends

We're in the midst of finishing up some of our literature readings. As I'm reading to my third kindergartner Phoebe, I can't help feeling a twinge of sadness mixed with gladness. Glad that I have one more child to read these books to when Harrison enters Kindergarten. Sad that I only have one more child to read these books to!! You really can't stop time. 

Last week was a tough one. We said goodbye to Pooh and Christopher Robin: 
Then, suddenly again, Christopher Robin, who was still looking at the world, with his chin in his hands called out, "Pooh!"
"Yes?" said Pooh.
"When I'm - when - Pooh!"
"Yes, Christopher Robin?"
"I'm not going to do Nothing any more."
"Never again?"
"Well, not so much. They don't let you."
"Pooh, when I'm - you know - when I'm not doing Nothing, will you come up here sometimes?"
"Just Me?"
"Yes, Pooh."
"Will you be here too?"
"Yes, Pooh, I will be, really. I promise I will be, Pooh."
"That's good," said Pooh.
"Pooh, promise you won't forget about me, ever. Not even when I'm a hundred."
"Pooh," said Christopher Robin earnestly, "if I - if I'm not quite -" he stopped and tried again - "Pooh, whatever happens, you will understand, won't you?"
"Understand what?"
"Oh, nothing." He laughed and jumped to his feet. "Come on!"
"Where?" said Pooh.
"Anywhere," said Christopher Robin. *

Whew. That is tough to read out loud. I can't do it without the tears flowing. And of course your voice changes when you're crying so it all sounds kind of strained and high. But I do love those books.

We also said goodbye to Robin Hood:
"Little John," said he, "Little John, mine own dear friend, and him I love better than all others in the world, mark, I prythee, where this arrow lodges, and there let my grave be digged. Lay me with my face toward the east, Little John, and see that my resting-place be kept green, and that my weary bones be not disturbed." 
As he finished speaking, he raised himself of a sudden and sat upright. His old strength seemed to come back to him, and, drawing the bowstring to his ear, he sped the arrow out of the open casement. As the shaft flew, his hand sank slowly with the bow till it lay across his knees, and his body likewise sank back again into Little John's loving arms; but something had sped from that body, even as the winged arrow sped from the bow. **

There are about two pages at the end of that book that I can't get through without crying also. It surprised me when I read it for the first time to my oldest. I didn't know Robin Hood would die. I didn't expect it.

And so we come to the end and say goodbye to our newfound friends. These kinds of books my kids come back to again and again. I don't know if I'll ever pick up Winnie the Pooh to read all on my own, so I hope there will always be children in my life for me to read them to. My kids aren't the only ones who miss these friendships.

*"The House at Pooh Corner" by AA Milne
**"The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood" by Howard Pyle

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

"The Remarkable Ronald Reagan"

  "Wait! He was a cowboy?! (*swoon*) I LOVE this president!"

We've always spoken highly of President Reagan in our household, but little Phoebe learned some new things about Dutch from Susan Allen's book "The Remarkable Ronald Reagan" (illustrations by Leslie Harrington).

Susan takes children through the life of Ronald Wilson Reagan touching on the highlights of his life and presidency. The book is about 20 pages long with a timeline, sample letters, and quotes included at the end. I found the ending part very interesting (especially the quotes), but the kids found the story more engaging. Jonathan said after I read a funny quote, "I can't laugh at that because I don't know what it means." :-) I love reading the "Important Things Ronald Reagan Said" though ~ he had such a way with words. One of my favorite quotes:

 "The American dream is not that every man must be level with every other man. The American dream is that every man must be free to become whatever God intends he should be." 

Reagan is admired and respected in our home, so it was easy for us to get into the story to learn about his life. He had such a colorful life too! Movie star, cowboy, athlete, speaker, politics, president. What an interesting person. The book doesn't take long to read, but we did a lot of stopping for discussion, so it may have been more memorable if we read it over several days, especially if used as a school book. Each set of pages covers a new topic which opened up lots of questions from my kids: Was Papa alive then? Wow, so World War II wasn't that long ago. What does divorce mean? Where is California? Is a governor like the president of a state? Did you actually watch it blow up? Why is that boy sitting on top of that wall? And so on and so on......

The toddler of the family enjoyed the pictures. He crawled into my lap to get a good look and join in the family reading time. I would definitely use "The Remarkable Ronald Reagan" as an extra in our home schoolroom. My thoughts on Living Books can be found here, and I would say this book qualifies. It was engaging, written by an author who obviously loves her subject, and didn't talk down to the kids.

This review is a part of a TLC Book Tour where many bloggers give their opinion of the same book.  You can find more reviews of this book here at TLC Book Tours.

*I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

PS I can hear my kids playing in the room saying, "He's a little chubby; we'll call him Dutch!" Funny kids. They picked something up from the book at least.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

It Feeds

Enjoying some river time ~ and it counts as school!

That's one of the things I love most about a Charlotte Mason education. It feeds me. It feeds my children. There are seasons of life that are more stressful than others, and I've found that I increasingly look forward to the schooling part of the day during those times. The poetry, Bible reading, songs, paintings, history and science and biography readings, even mathematics and copy work all provide calm yet meaningful nourishment for my mind. There is always something that takes my mind off of stressful worries of life and gives me good in its place to contemplate. The quality of the chosen books is probably the part that feeds my mind and soul so well. The books are not dry. They are not merely facts drained of life. They aren't read hurriedly so that the child can spend most of his time writing out answers to the questions that are asked at the end of the chapter. They contain ideas that we discuss which engages my brain as well as the child's. They are books I look forward to reading. I'm just finishing up reading Winnie the Pooh to one child, and I'm chomping at the bit to read it again to the next child, even though he's at least 2 years away from being ready for it. I'm excited to do school with the kids. It fills up my soul. It feeds.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

A Prayer and a Poem for Memorial Day

"Dear God we thank you for our founders who recognized that you created us as free men - that no man or government has a right to take that freedom from us. We thank you for the men and women who, throughout our history, have fought and died to protect and defend our freedom. From Lexington and Concord to the battlefields of Gettysburg from the beaches of Normandy to the citizen soldiers of Flight 93 we thank you for their sacrifice. Amen." (Phillip prayed in church today.)

Photo from

 The Stone Soldier

He stands his watch in the wind and the rain
Watching people come to release their pain
He guards those who lie beneath the stones
All those who made that final march home
Some come as old men with memories and scars.
Some fly home in coffins covered in stars. 
(See the rest of the poem by Silas Champion at FinbarsFiddle.)

Friday, April 26, 2013

Simple Lessons Work

Harrison making a motorcycle out of a computer part.

Do you like to put together little lessons where everything matches a theme and then use them to teach your kids? As pinterest and copious blogs can attest, many moms and teachers do enjoy this, including myself. At least I enjoyed it at first. I put together these exciting lessons for my toddler/preschooler when I was dipping my toe into homeschooling, and as I wrote them up, I just knew my daughter would delight in them! But, alas, she did not appreciate or notice the theme that was presented. It haphazardly taught ideas and skills. And I did A LOT of tedious prep work that was unnecessary to her learning. Many times I would do most of the work on the art projects because she was not interested or capable. The songs I found were silly and she did not want to sing them. (I sang them by myself.) It wasn't all for waste ~ we spent time together, she loved any cooking projects, and the books I found at the library were worthy reading.  I simply came to realize that:

"Such a doctrine as the Herbartian, that the mind is a receptacle, lays the stress of education, the preparation of food in enticing morsels, duly ordered, upon the teacher. Children taught on this principle are in danger of receiving much teaching but little knowledge; the teacher's axiom being 'what a child learns matters less than how he learns it.'" ~ (CM Vol 6, page 112. emphasis mine.)

When we write lessons that make all the connections for the child, he does not have to do his own work of connecting. We throw the information and theme at him and it easily slides right out of his head. The theme can be entertaining, at least parts of it. But it's more like a meal that we've pre-chewed for the child and then give it back to him expecting him to swallow it without doing any of the work of chewing and ruminating himself. That analogy is a little gross (sorry!) and doesn't quite work because the child would at least be getting some nourishment even while not chewing his own food. If a child's mind does not have to work to gain knowledge, he will not easily remember or internalize the ideas.

The teacher was probably at her best in getting by sheer force much out of little: she was, in fact, acting a part and the children were entertained as at a show, cinema or other; but of one thing we may be sure, an utter distaste, a loathing, on the part of the children ever after, not only for 'Robinson Crusoe' but for every one of the subjects lugged in to illustrate his adventures. We read elsewhere of an apple affording a text for a hundred lessons, including the making of a ladder, (in paper), to gather the apples; but, alas, the eating of the worn-out apple is not suggested.  ~ (CM, Vol 6 page 116)

More learning can take place with less prep work from the teacher if we simply allow the apple to be tasted and appreciated. Exam it when needed ~ there is a place for in-depth study of a text or object ~ but always present the ideas themselves and let the child's mind do the actual work of assimilating. The teacher is there to provide worthy ideas, chiefly by way of good books, answer questions (or put the question back to the child and let him think of possible answers), and prompt discussion and further thought.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

It's Here!

My latest project has finally come to fruition. Simply Charlotte Mason presents "Laying Down the Rails for Children," a companion book to "Laying Down the Rails." These books help the family with habit training, an important part of a Charlotte Mason education (or any education). "Laying Down the Rails for Children" will lead the parent in helping their children develop 60-plus good habits such as kindness, cleanliness, and thanksgiving. It uses stories, Bible passages, poems, quotations, activities, and discussion to 

Feed Minds ~ Inspire Hearts ~ Encourage Action

May it bless your journey as you give your family tools to help them live a full life of character. 

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Teaching Reading: I Happened Upon Some Tricks

Jonathan is in Year 2 for school and is reading a variety of readers for reading practice. His favorites to read are stories like Frog and Toad and Mouse Soup. He also reads a little out of one schoolbook each day, the line he will write for his copywork (as well as the rest of the sentence in which the line is contained), and any math instructions.

Right now in the rotation of main reading selections, he is in the Delightful Reader . He's reading the extra practice sentences which contain word-family words that come from the main words he learned during lesson time the previous two years when he mastered Rain, The Dogs and the Fox, etc. He finds the disjointedness of the practice sentences unsatisfactory since the contents of the sentences are often separate from one another instead of making story. To solve this problem, I began to give him a short background story before he read each sentence, explaining any words along the way that might be unfamiliar to him. So for a sentence like

"Use this to hook the squid." 

I ask him if he's ever seen a picture of a squid and to describe it for me. Then I might tell him that a father is out in a big boat teaching his teenage son how to catch deepwater fish (I have no idea if squid is a deep water animal or if you can catch it with a hook, but Jonathan will be sure to ask such questions and we can look up really interesting q's later if he wants to). Then I say, "As the father is teaching his son, he gives him these words of instruction....." 

And then Jonathan happily reads the sentence. This does not take as much time as you might think, since the background info can be as silly or involved as I want to make it, and it makes the time enjoyable for both of us. 

Phoebe is doing Kindergarten work this year. She's been an interesting child, she has. She can be fairly hyper, and if she happens to decide she doesn't want to do school that day, she's a tiny bit of struggle to work with. There are several ways we work with her attitude (which I won't get into here), but for reading, I happened upon a way to help her pay attention to the sounds in the word and put them together. She struggles with wanting to look at me to see what I will say or look around and just guess. 

Right now we're working through the section in Delightful Reading with short vowel words, long vowel words, and a few blends. She also sounds out her copywork words before copying them. What I discovered to be helpful was using a pointer (a pencil suffices or we might make a special pretty one so as to be fancy). I have her point to each sound while I say the sound. Then I take the pointer and point to each sound while she says the sound. Then she can take the pointer and slide it across the word to blend the sounds together. I think the action and using an extra device makes her have to look at the word and also gives her hands something to do while looking. 

As teachers and parents, you all realize how tough some problems can be to figure out. Your child is stuck, and you can't find a way to help them get past the issue. Sometimes you happen upon a solution seemingly out of the blue. At these times I thank God. He made our brains to figure out stuff like this, and I think He also cares enough to send us ideas if we need them. No worries. If He takes care of the birds of the air, our teaching issues can be unraveled with His help as well. 

Sunday, February 24, 2013

What Are We Prepping Them For?

A friend who blogs at Cafe of Grace wrote an article called I Need Jesus. Her thoughts and the poem she shared spoke to my heart. I've had these same thoughts: Why am I rushing through our school agenda? Why am I stressing about them learning? What am I preparing my kids for exactly? High test scores? Those are fine, but is that the ultimate goal for our life? In our homeschooling journey, I do care that my kids get an education. That will not be neglected. But I choose not to make academics or sports or one overarching interest the main focus of my children's life.

This poem helps me to step back and reconsider what is most important.

THE WINNER (by Jennie Belzer…..2004?)
I thought I would teach my child to be a winner
Think and plan, remember all the rules
be strong and conquer
play the game and win.
But the winner was not kind
and he cared not for the one he trampled upon.
I thought I would teach my child all the right answers.
Read and read and don’t forget
score high, and higher still
and impress the ones I need to impress.
But the one with knowledge was puffed up with pride
and when the time came to give the only answer
that mattered, he was lost.
And so we set out together to learn how to love.
I stood with him at the end of the line,
we served quietly while others were giving out
all the right answers,
we lost some games and learned how to look into the
eyes of our opponent,
we beat our breast and cried out for mercy because we saw
the we were sinners,
We wrapped a towel around our waists and learned
how to wash feet,
and no one noticed us;
we became nothing
and we realized
we were winners.
*Thank you, Anastasia, for allowing me to share your post and Jennie's poem.*

Monday, February 18, 2013

Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival Feb 19, 2013

Welcome to the festival of ideas surrounding a Charlotte Mason life! Chapter 4 of Volume 6 was the focus of thought, so you'll read some quotes from that chapter interspersed throughout as well as the wonderful posts shared by like-minded friends. Thank you for reading, commenting and sharing in these ideas that inspire our education and life!

Authority is Proper 
"Every king and commander, every mother, elder sister, school prefect, every foreman of works and captain of games, finds that within himself which secures faithful obedience, not for the sake of his merits but because authority is proper to his office. Without this principle, society would cease to cohere."

Blossom at North Laurel Home and School gives her thoughts on Proper Use of Authority including rebellion toward schoolwork.

Obedience Delightful and Reposeful 
"No doubt it is pleasing that children should behave naturally, should get up and wander about, should sit still or frolic as they have a mind to, but they too, must 'learn obedience'; and it is no small element in their happiness and ours that obedience is both delightful and reposeful." 

Bobby Jo at Where the Blacktop Ends shows us how she gets her little ones out in the snow to be nature detectives in Winter Tracks.

Megan at The Winding Ascent gives her thoughts on Government through the Desires: Unhealthy Competition and Other Ruinous Things We Learned on the Playground.

Adults are also Under Rule 
"The higher the authority, the greater distinction in obedience, and children are quick to discriminate between the mere will and pleasure of the arbitrary teacher or parent and the chastened authority of him who is himself under rule." (emphasis mine) 

Tammy at Aught-2B-Home in Carolina shares a needed post on Awe called Feeling Pressed for Time. *This post was on-topic for the last CMBC and was unwittingly overlooked by our friendly blog carnival administrator. (But we love and appreciate our Amy at Fisher Academy!)*

Hungry Minds Absorb 
"Hungry minds sit down to such a diet with the charming greediness of little children; they absorb it, assimilate it and grow thereby in a manner astonishing to those accustomed to the dull profitless ruminating so often practised in schools. When the teacher avoids hortatory methods, his scholars change position when they have a mind to; but their mind is commonly to sit still during a lesson time because they are so intent on their work that they have no desire for small divagations;"

Carol at Journey-and-destination gives us her personal Reading Challenge. You'll enjoy her synopsis of each book she's currently reading.

Lynn at How the Sun Rose shares a delightful way that simple math leads to a beautiful design with Skip Counting Number Wheel

I Just Like This View of "Too Much Athletics" :-) 
"...athleticism, on the other hand, if unduly pursued, by no means promotes mental activity." 

Nebby at Letters from Nebby shares her thoughts on Authority and Attention.

Many Relations, Large Room 
"...but [children] come into the world with many relations waiting to be established; relations with places far and near, with the wide universe, with the past of history, with the the social economics of the present, with the earth they live on and all its delightful progeny of beast and bird, plant and tree; with the sweet human affinities they entered into at birth; with their own country and other countries, and, above all, with that most sublime of human relationships––their relation to God."  

Jessica at Under the Willow Oak gives a bit of simple but important advice: Begin As You Mean To Go On.

Celeste at Joyous Lessons shares beautiful pictures of her families nature time with Valentines and Vacation.

Generous Curriculum 
"With such a programme before his pupils only the uninstructed teacher will put undue emphasis upon and give undue time to arithmetic and handicrafts, singing, acting, or any of the hundred specifics which are passed off as education in its entirety." 

Brandy at Afterthoughts shares An Antidote for Theological Naïveté which gives much to ponder concerning where our theology comes from.

God is Our Ultimate Authority 
"The conditions are,––the teacher, or other head may not be arbitrary but must act so evidently as one under authority that the children, quick to discern, see that he too must do the things he ought; and therefore that regulations are not made for his convenience. (I am assuming that everyone entrusted with the bringing up of children recognises the supreme Authority to Whom we are subject; without this recognition I do not see how it is possible to establish the nice relation which should exist between teacher and taught.) The other condition is that children should have a fine sense of the freedom which comes of knowledge which they are allowed to appropriate as they choose, freely given with little intervention from the teacher. They do choose and are happy in their work, so there is little opportunity for coercion or for deadening, hortatory talk." 

Dewey's Treehouse gives us Illegal Moves: "If we are in a position of authority and expect obedience from those under us, while still recognizing that this position is not ours because of our personal superiority, then we'll treat those under us, even children, especially children, with the respect due to them as persons." (You'll love the cartoons!)

Angela at Joyous Lessons gives us good advice about Reading for Older Children: "Give them solid lessons in reading, build habits as regards books, and you will have a child who loves to learn, regardless of what life throws their way."

Help Establish Attention by Not Repeating 
"To this end the subject matter should not be repeated. We ourselves do not attend to the matters in our daily paper which we know we shall meet with again in a weekly review, nor to that if there is a monthly review in prospect; these repeated aids result in our being persons of wandering attention and feeble memory. To allow repetition of a lesson is to shift the responsibility for it from the shoulders of the pupil to those of the teacher who says, in effect,––"I'll see that you know it," so his pupils make no effort of attention. Thus the same stale stuff is repeated again and again and the children get bored and restive, ready for pranks by way of a change." 

Barb at Harmony Fine Arts at Home gives a helpful tutorial on using Google Art Project Part 2 Museum View.

Children Truly Can Understand 
"We depreciate children in another way. We are convinced that they cannot understand a literary vocabulary so we explain and paraphrase to our own heart's content but not to theirs. Educated mothers know that their children can read anything and do not offer explanations unless they are asked for them..." 

Silvia at Silvia Cachia shares her view of Problems and Solutions: "When I see my life as a set of problems to which I have yet to find the right solution for it to be perfect, I not only leave God out of it, but I also decline my authorship (submitted to Him), or my responsibility, and I go to others for advice."

Amy at Fisher Academy International shares her Nature Study Monday.... Rocks! and Thoughts on Authority and Docility.

Self Education Regarding Museums and Such (See page 77 to read more of this story)
"It will be noticed that the child is educating herself; her friends merely take her to see the things she knows about and she tells what she has read, a quite different matter from the act of pouring information down the throats of the unhappy children who are taken to visit our national treasure houses." 

Tammy shares her unique perspective on getting kids to find solutions for themselves at Aught 2-B-Home in Carolina with When Life Hands You Lemons, Make Lemon Batteries!

Good Education Gives Many Interests 
"But many of our young men and women go about more seriously maimed than these. They are devoid of intellectual interests, history and poetry are without charm for them, the scientific work of the day is only slightly interesting, their 'job' and the social amenities they can secure are all that their life has for them. The maimed existence in which a man goes on from day to day without either nourishing or using his intellect, is causing anxiety to those interested in education, who know that after religion it is our chief concern, is, indeed, the necessary handmaid of religion." 

Michelle at The Holistic Homeschooler gives thoughts on habit training at 4 Habits to Teach Your Child.

Laura at Windy Hill Home School shares her son's experience with school this year with AO Year 2, Term 2 Review.

The next Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival will be:
March 5 
on the Sacredness of Personality (Ch5)
at Living CM in California
Submit posts to: charlottemasonblogs at gmail dot com.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

A Plethora of Pots

Once the clay creations were formed, we set them up on a high shelf in our kitchen. They are pretty breakable before they get fired. We took 3 or 4 weeks to use up all our clay and let it dry. Then we packed our pottery into a box with extra padding around each piece and drove about 25 minutes to Wild Ginger Studios. The studio itself is a neat place in a small town. The lady who owns it enthusiastically answers any questions we have. The kids and I browse the displayed pieces for sale while we wait to speak to her. She charged $5 for each firing. The one downside to this handicraft was all the driving. We had to drop off pottery, pick it up the next week to paint, drop off pieces for another firing, and go back the next week to pick up the finished pieces. It's a pretty drive, but tank fill-ups can get a little high.

One thing I wish I had researched or gotten help on was the painting. The studio owner gave advice on technique, but color matching and patterns were mainly guesswork. Especially since the glaze colors in the jar are not what you will see once it gets fired in the kiln. My kids didn't see any problems and painted happily away. But I want more direction for myself next time.

We paid $27.55 for 5 bottles of glaze and the owner threw in 2 more for free. She told us to do a quick once over with glaze, and then go over the piece again with a careful coat. The bottom of each piece must be kept free of glaze.  If you get some on the bottom, you can wipe it off.

We spent $82.55 plus gas money on this handicraft. We own the tools, glazes, and instruction book now, and the experience of figuring it out ourselves has been a lot of fun. The cost for classes for all 4 of us would have been around $450 plus gas money, as I mentioned previously, and we would have been tied down to someone else's schedule. So I'm quite delighted with this family handicraft experiment.  We look forward to continuing pottery with the new school year.

A Plethora of Pots

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Handling Clay

Pottery has to be the most calming yet fulfilling handicraft I've dealt with.  We worked with clay once a week, completing one project at each sit-down session.  I first made a phone call to our local studio (Wild Ginger Studios) to ask questions about firing and handling finished clay.  I hadn't realized our clay would need to be fired in a kiln and not in our oven.  But the studio does outside firings and the owner gave great advice about how to make and transport our pieces.

The kids loved the squishing and molding.  Jonathan (7) and Phoebe (5) needed more help shaping their pieces.  Some of their pieces turned out better than their mother's though!  You have to work fast and keep clay covered with plastic or the clay will dry out (a few squirts from the water bottle returns moisture).  We learned three techniques: pinch pot, coil pot, and slab pots.  It felt so professional to use the tools.  Elizabeth had a special artsy outfit she would wear for each session. 

There is a definite mess to clean up at the end!  


But the clay wipes up easily.  The tools get washed and everything put back into a box.  The whole process makes me happy; I may have discovered a new fulfilling interest.  Maybe it takes me back to my childhood days of playing in the mud.  At any rate, this has been a pleasant experience for the whole family.  We plan to continue the projects in the kit with the upcoming school year.  I'm on the search for more clay nearby (shipping about doubles the price).   Painting and firing our pots come next.  

Handling Clay

Sunday, January 6, 2013

A Search for Pottery

Handicrafts are a fun party of a Charlotte Mason education.  I love needlework, wood and paper crafts, painting....  But children need help learning a useful skill, and teaching three school-aged kids separate crafts was getting to be too much.  So I went on a quest for a handicraft we could do together as a family.  

Pottery was on the forefront of my mind.  It's earthy and rustic and kids love playing with clay.  The price for classes for all of us was too steep (about $450, although I thought about asking if they could do a family class for less).  I'm definitely interested in wheel work for myself at some point.  The kids aren't old enough for that yet (I believe she said they needed to be 13 or older).  But I did find a place in Texas that sells pottery kits with clay and tools included: Heritage Ministries' Homesteading Crafts.  The kit cost $30 with enough clay for one person to do 9 projects.  Shipping came out to $30 also, but I was willing to pay $60 for this kit.

I figured we'd use less clay by making smaller projects and just make it through a few to see how we liked it.  If we wanted to continue, I could purchase more clay.  After a little confusion with the company (which a manager cleared up with a phone call), I found that shipping was only $15 and the other $15 was refunded to my credit card.  So total cost for this pottery kit was $45.

The tools are real and sharp ~ definitely for older kids with parental supervision.  My 5, 7, and 10 year olds handled them fine with my direction.  We only did pottery when the baby was napping.  There are a couple of other supplies we needed to gather: water bottle, plastic, rolling pin, etc.  And our dining table handled fine as a work surface.

So our search for a family handicraft that all (including Mom) would enjoy was successful.  More on creating our pots in the next two posts.

A Search for Pottery