Tuesday, December 6, 2016

A Christmas Book for 2016

The mother sighed. "So he sits with half-shut eyes, dreaming, dreaming, not one word has he heard!"

Hans Christian opened his eyes. "Truly, my mother, every word has gone deep into my heart. I but closed my eyes that I might see more clearly - see that small town of Bethlehem on a night of stars and cold."  
                                       -The Young Hans Christian Andersen by Elizabeth Yates

It has become a tradition on this blog to share with you some of our favorite Christmas books.  This year I am recommending It's Time for Christmas by Elizabeth Hough Sechrist and Janette Woolsey. It is similar in format to another book by this duo, It's Time for Thanksgiving. And now I'm curious about Elizabeth and Janette but can't seem to find any personal information on them, other than the fact that they collaborated on quite a few books.

The book begins with The Nativity, moves on to Legends and Traditional Stories, Customs, Carols and Their Composers, Poems, and Stories. There's a brilliant story sequence that I like to read. It begins with "The Young Hans Christian Andersen" by Elizabeth Yates which shows us that we might not know what God's will is for our life and then goes right into "The Fir Tree" by Andersen himself. That is followed by "The Tree That Didn't Get Trimmed" by the delightful Christopher Morley.

I hope you have found a special rhythm in your homes and schools this month and of course I hope that includes lots of snuggling on the couch and reading good books, no matter what the age of your children. And just a quick reminder that I will be leading a Season 1 and a Season 3 for Living Education Lessons starting January 5th, just in case you are looking for some Charlotte Mason, Mother Culture and Full Living in the New Year!


Here are my previous posts on Advent and Christmas books:

What to Read For Christmas
Full Hearts
On Christmas Traditions and Books
Good King Wenceslas
The Canticle of the Bees
Longing and Waiting 
Christmas Books!
Christmas Books 2014 
Simple and Holy: Favorite Advent Readings
A Christmas Read-Aloud 

Friday, November 18, 2016

Simple and Holy: Six Favorite Advent Resources 2016

The Annunciation by Dante Gabriel Rossetti 1850 (Christina posed for Mary)
Here are my favorite Advent resources that I have used over and over again. There are few things I haven't shared before and a few that you've heard me talk about already. Please don't try to do more than one or two things - keep it simple and just pick up on the appropriate day if you miss a few. You are always welcome to enter in.  Always.

Our Advent readings over the years have varied greatly.  When there were lots of diapers to change, I tried following different programs and crafty ways to go about readings for Advent.  What worked best for us?  When I simply read a few verses from the Advent readings and we narrated. Simple.  Holy. A lot like school.

But when I could take the time and space to read more deeply for myself, the children benefited too.  Eventually, what I liked to do was to have my own quiet reading and then I could share a simple part of that with everyone - whether it was a piece of art, Scripture, hymn, or a prayer. Simple. Holy. A lot like school.

The following books are my favorites.  They go deep into the heart and reason for Advent.

1. The Cloud of Witness
The Cloud of Witness begins with Advent readings.  Since each new week and theme begins on Saturday, November 26th would begin the Advent readings for 2016 on pages 3-4.  Read along with us and anticipate His coming.  Amazon (be sure to order the copy sold by SageParnassus2) and Riverbend Press are where it is sold. The LER fb page community is always sharing commonplace entries from The Cloud and there is also a COW fb page. Art Middlekauff keeps us all on the right page with an updated calendar, too.

2. God With Us
God With Us: Rediscovering the Meaning of Christmas
Edited by Pennoyer and Wolfe
Sumptuous, illuminating, and redemptive.  Be still and be quiet with fine art, thoughtful essays, and Scripture to meditate on.  Make sure you find the illustrated version. Also available from Paraclete Press.

 3. Light upon Light
3. Light Upon Light: A Literary Guide to Prayer for Advent, Christmas, and Epiphany
Sarah Arthur
Sarah signed my copy with "Here's to holy dreaming!" How could I NOT love it?! I am a big fan of At the Still Point and am anticipating Between Midnight and Dawn.  Her books remind me of an expanded version of The Cloud of Witness with more contemporary authors added.

4. Waiting on the Word
Malcolm Guite
This is such a deep, rich way to enjoy poetry for Advent.  Reading Malcolm's commentary on each poem is like listening to your favorite professor wax eloquent about his favorite things.

5.  The Advent Project - Biola University
It's an online Advent calendar for your soul. An annual family favorite with song, Scripture, art, poetry.

6. Pilgrim Year
So convenient to just pull out my phone when I'm in line somewhere and experience the beauty and waiting shared on this online Advent devotional. "Pilgrim Year is a media-rich, devotional experience, using prose, art, song, poetry and story to journey meditatively through the Christian calendar year with its positive riot of fasts, festivals, saints’ days and rich traditions."

For even more book recommendations, here are all my posts about Advent and Christmas books:

A Christmas Read Aloud
What to Read For Christmas
Full Hearts
On Christmas Traditions and Books
Good King Wenceslas
The Canticle of the Bees
Longing and Waiting 
Christmas Books!
Christmas Books 2014 
Simple and Holy: Favorite Advent Readings


Monday, November 14, 2016

TBG Community: Q & A on the Work, Joy, and Feast

Festive handcraft for the attendees in Peoria!
The Truth, Beauty, Goodness Community teachers recently traveled to Peoria, IL to present an Awakening immersion at The Field Before Us.  This is an all-day session where we model an actual meeting of our Charlotte Mason community with the attendees participating as the students.  Then in the afternoon, we talk through each subject and answer any questions. Usually, we present these near our homes in Windom, MN, but it just happened to work out that each of us could take a little road trip.  We were all blessed by the entire weekend, especially the new relationships that were fostered.

During the course of the weekend, it became clear to me that there are a few misconceptions about our co-op model, which we have been practicing for nine wonderful years.  I thought I would address those here today.

students narrating during picture study

       1. Why would you do all the fine arts in a CM education on one day?

First, the question assumes that we are a fine arts co-op. We’re not. We do Geography, Plutarch, Shakespeare, Current Events, Nature Study and other subjects that aren’t in the fine arts category. Second, the “all on one day” is a puzzling phrase.  That makes it sound like all the subjects we do are done on that day and we don’t participate in them during the rest of the week. Our meetings are a support and scaffolding for the work that is done in the homes between meetings. 

For instance, I introduced Philopoemen as the new Plutarch biography for the term.  I shared some proper nouns and important geography, as well as a statue that I knew would pique the interest of the students.  I then read parts of the first reading and had the students narrate. Their assignment was to read and narrate the next lesson at home, as well as discuss certain thought questions as a family.  When we meet again, we would continue the conversation and I would scaffold the next lesson.

For Composer study,  Sally prepared a lesson in which she read some of The Arabian Nights and asked for narration, leaving us all breathless as to what would happen next.  This was the background for Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade Symphonic Suite for Orchestra.   She then suggested a few things to listen for and we enjoyed about 3 minutes of the 1st movement. The work to be done at home was to be still and listen carefully to the entire 1st movement a few times before we meet again.

 students working at a local greenhouse.

              2. Mason staggered the types of lessons. Doing a day of only inspirational subjects would not be true to her model, right?

Right!  Which is why we do Shakespeare and then sing.  It’s why we do Picture Study and then Geography.  We vary the lesson types as prescribed, the same as we do at home.  But this brings up another interesting point. While I acknowledge and vary the lesson types, we have never participated in this type of dualism that is showing up of late in Mason circles.  By that, I mean the teasing out of “extras” or “fine arts” or whatever you would like to call the more inspirational subjects. We have never viewed these things as separate, different, or less foundational than science, math, or literature. They have always been part and parcel of the whole scheme in a Mason paradigm.

The point of our group is learning in community and allowing the mother to spread the feast to her children without having to plan every single subject and lesson, which can lead to burnout.  I began this group years ago so that I would be able to really do some of these things with excellence, preparing only some of the lessons in detail and letting the gifts of other like-minded mothers shine brightly in other subjects areas, thereby multiplying the work, the joy, and the feast for the students. When approached carefully under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, it is a beautiful thing.

Grace and Peace,


P.S. - For further information on our community, see the TBG Co-op tab at the top of the page.

TBG Teens (The Hive) experiencing rotational inertia for Physics.
fun handcraft!

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Crits: We Must All Be Mary Robinsons

Today I am sharing with you an article that I have found tremendously helpful over the years!  It has helped me be a better teacher in my home, at church, in our co-op, and during immersion sessions.  I have shared it many times when meeting with others trying to teach in a Mason paradigm.  In fact, this was a very helpful article to use in one of our TBG planning meetings.

Crits is shorthand for criticism lessons. Mason would watch her student teachers give lessons and then she critiqued them. The notes shared here are chock full of wonderful tips.  I first read this article in Karen Andreola's Parents' Review magazine, Vol. 3, Winter, 1993-1994 and she has graciously given me permission to reprint it here. Do share with me your favorite nugget in the comments below!


Criticism Lessons:  Some Personal Memories of Charlotte Mason by Essex Cholmondeley, Parents' Review 1963

Much activity went on this fall.  The squirrels made ready their treasury of nuts, the mice their store of grain. To those who are passing the winter in sleep hunger will be their first experience when the early sunshine summons them from their nests. One mouse forgot its granary, hidden near a shrub in the garden, and when a sleepy winter has ended, up will spring a small crop of wheat. For nuts and seeds are full of vitality, they wait patiently for a long time before they spring to life.

The little hoard, laid before you in these pages, has waited forty years before coming to light.  It was buried in an old note-book, a store of ideas collected week by week during the two years’ training given at the House of Education, Ambleside (now the Charlotte Mason College). The student was discovering, during the period known as Criticism Lessons, an approach to knowledge direct, simple and within reach of all.

Criticism Lessons – how vividly they come to my mind with their moments of intense effort and endurance. They were held in the room at Scale How which had once been the drawing-room, complete with glass chandelier and French windows. Now it was a classroom: rows of students were seated at the back of the room, the members of the teaching staff forming a semicircle opposite them.  In the space by the windows there were desks, or a table and chairs, ready for the children who were even now walking up the drive from Fairfield School. When they had entered and taken their places with the student-teacher who was to give the first lesson, the door was left open. Presently Miss Mason entered, with a smile for children and students, and the session began.

The notebook records the remarks made by Miss Mason at the end of the morning when the lessons were criticized. First the students were asked to contribute, then the staff.  Finally Miss Mason said a few words of comment and these words, copied verbatim from the notebook, proved to be a veritable store of nuts, a life-long possession of ideas to the students.

The notes are grouped under subject for easier reading:

The Life of Nelson
A dull lesson because of the teacher’s lack of animation.  She was not interested in nor proud of Nelson.
Put more of yourselves into what you can do. But don’t think about yourselves.
Be on the qui vive. Listen to the narration enthusiastically.  Listen actively. The PNEU has discovered the power of attention and it is making a revolution in education.

Narration should not be accepted as perfect unless it really is so. ‘One, two, three, four things have been left out.  Who can give them?’ Imperfect narration means imperfect attention.  Perfect attention is easier to give than imperfect.

Put the ‘little minds’ of children out of your thoughts. Children have just as big minds as we have.

Power of attention shows an educated man.

Alert attention (animation) is the first duty of the  teacher.

Where and how are we to appeal to the imagination?  At the beginning of the lesson.

Teachers must teach less and scholars must learn more.

Miss X was panic-stricken because the lesson was not going well – that’s the moment to rally.

Emphasize proper names. Read always as if deeply interested yourself. Read at people and meet the eyes of those who read to us and to whom we read.

Lady Jane Grey
The Greek tragedies aroused the emotions of pity and fear. A historical drama should in the same way arouse emotions of pity and admiration.

Guard against inertia, be alert.

What little the teacher does must be done extremely well.

The subject was rendered commonplace.

If you do not think about the matter at hand, you think about yourself.

Conceive the whole thing. Do not interrupt narration either by questions or by any other means. This lesson was not sufficiently nutritive.

Nature Study. 
Narration can be helped by means of headings on the blackboard, by an interested manner, not by questions but by remarks.

There are two ways of approach: read and narrate first, then experiment; of, experiment first, then read and narrate.
You cannot tell what you don’t know.
Clear speaking is a sign of cultivation.

A clear general idea is what we want; we can always make our own additions and corrections, noting exceptions.

The British Museum.
Never wait too long for narration and wait expectantly.

Picture Study.
Let the children look again and again and again at the picture.

Dull passages – sufficient animation and interest should  carry the children through these and should learn at a single reading.

Indian History.
It is the teacher’s duty to show by her attitude that, though other religions have light, our religion has the supreme light.

English Literature.
We must pass on our feeling, but not our opinion…feeling kindles feeling.

Make the children see that the book is the thing. Let them get over their own stiles. (A stile is a step or set of steps for passing over a fence or wall such as they have throughout the countryside in the Lake District of England. – Ed.)

English Grammar.
People do not do any more than they are expected to do, or know more than they are expected to know.
Never lose sight of last term’s work.
Children should have ‘the grand elemental principle of pleasure’ in their work and the teacher must share in the pleasure.

Joan of Arc.
(The notebook describes an incident fully.)The children had given good narration of the book used during this lesson. During the criticism period, one student said that the class was ‘not given enough work to do.’ Miss Mason asked which of those who agreed with this criticism could narrate the lesson with all the dates, names, etc.? No one volunteered to try.

Miss Mason then showed us that the clear narration of things read or heard is true work of the mind. We must not think that because this work is done easily and invisibly that it is not true work. ‘Prove that it is work by doing it yourselves. It is not the question which Miss Jones asks Mary Robinson that makes Mary work, but the question which Mary asks Mary. You must all be Mary Robinsons.’

Miss Mason went on to say that the best work is not visible: it doesn’t not employ the reasoning here, the imagination there. It employs the whole mind, for the mind is a whole, not a parcel of faculties. One should not think that what is not seen does not exist: when the whole mind is at work, knowledge infallibly results.

Well, there is the sort of notebook-nuts.  Each one has its full kernel. Happy are the teachers who can crack them and use the contents; they will find a vital approach to knowledge.