Monday, September 28, 2009

Our First Autumn '09 Park Day & Some Thoughts on Masterly Inactivity

Ahhh... today was brisk. I love brisk days. It was windy, too, and one of those days that just seemed to announce the arrival of autumn. Everyone slept in very late this morning (we had storms last night - let's just say not many of us slept well). So, with morning lessons basically shot anyway, I decided to wake the children up by telling them we were going on a park day.

All of the normal hustle and bustle followed and, before too long, they were running out to the van. The cool breeze had them seriously giddy. They just kept spinning around in the driveway exclaiming about how much they loved fall. "Isn't fall your favorite season, Mama? Oh, it's mine! It's such a beautiful day. Don't you love it?". It was a twenty minute drive to the arboretum and they prattled the entire way there.

I took my camera along...

The children with the arborteum's resident collie

Shug just after arriving at the park

Little Dude and clover

Snuggled with Punkin

SweetP picking clover

Mama and Little Dude

We just had a sweet time lying on a blanket in the sun, collecting acorns, enjoying the mild weather. The children played house with rocks, dirt, and sticks as their props. They jumped off of benches, climbed boulders, tried to catch grasshoppers. Lovely :)

I'm wondering if someone is going to comment on Little Dude being so near the water (he's two and a half). Charlotte Mason frequently mentions leaving children "be" when outdoors - letting them play, and pretend, and imagine on their own without constant prodding or directing from Mother. It can be difficult to keep quiet, as a mother, at first. Eventually, I think you start to find your own feet and figure out how much to "leave alone" and how much to step in. However, there do have to be some parameters. If for no other reason than just to keep the little guys out of harm's way. The children are largely allowed to play as they will on our outings, but they have already learned what the boundaries are beforehand. It's not a lawless, wild time where they get to rule the roost. Authority is always right there, lovingly watching through her sunglasses as she sits on the blanket. Ready to speak up if the need arises.

I let Punkin lie with me on the blanket for a while this morning, chit-chatting and snuggling. After a bit, though, I gently encouraged her to go enjoy the day and play with the others. We had our nice time together, but she engages in a different kind of learning without me right beside her. I wanted her to have some growing time without me, too. I'm never far away, of course :) She brings her little bouquets of flowers and interesting rocks and all that. But it's good for her to spend a while just filling acorn caps with mud and then scraping it all out again with a stick... on her own.

Punkin and Acorn

Miss Mason refers to this letting children alone as "Masterly Inactivity". When coupled with well-trained habits, it makes up a sort of educational double whammy. Each makes the other stronger and neither can be safely left out of the picture. This post is already too long to get into that more tonight, though, so I'll save further thoughts on Masterly Inactivity for later. To help you think through the subject some until then, I'll just leave you with this :)

By the way, in the video I'm calling Little Dude "Brother". I guess that's what you wind up being called when you're the only boy :)

Enjoy the last few days of September! My favorite month is right around the corner!!!

Friday, September 25, 2009

So, What Exactly *Have* We Been Up To?

I took quite a long break from Understanding Charlotte. Although, it's good to be blogging again some, I'm still not able to post as frequently as before. Among other things, lessons are taking more time now with SweetP getting a little older and with Punkin asking all the time for more "school". Don't worry - she still does very, very little in the way of lessons :) But, one of the main reasons I've been so scarce in the past year has been that we've moved. And the new house isn't anything at all like our old one. It needs some love. That's okay. With all of the work, there have been ten times as many blessings. And, in its own way, the work itself has been a blessing, too. So, that's what we've been doing. Loving up a "new" house :) Would you like to see?








Have a great day!!!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Parents' Review Article: "Mother Culture"

Note: The following is a narration of sorts - a kind of "telling back" to myself all of the principles I've just read. I'm not an expert on Mother Culture, I'm learning and narrating the thoughts of someone who knows far more than I do about the subject :) I in no way come close to this ideal - I struggle to find balance everyday. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts, too!

Volume 3, no. 2, 1892/93

Mother Culture (click to read the article)

The main goal of Mother Culture is that the mother continue growing as an individual. It is that she continue learning, gaining experiences, developing as a woman. What do you think of that notion? That message could sound just like a feminist reaction to "stifling" activities like cleaning bathrooms and other forms of senseless drudgery (aka home life). Is Mother Culture all about nursing discontentment at home by running away whenever possible? A cup of tea and a trip to the art gallery and now I'm a whole woman? It can sound as though we are encouraged to demand our rights. Certainly not. We are not our own, we were bought at a price. What, then, is to set our growth apart from this restless pursuit of "me time"?
"though she may do much for her children, she cannot do all she might,
if she, as they, were growing!" (emphasis mine)

There is a little prepositional phrase that clears things up for us. For her children. Our growth and continuing education as Christian mothers is to be for others. At its heart, Mother Culture must be others oriented. Although the author never says as much, I think it's critical to stress that wives and mothers who feel the need for a little time to themselves to think, to create, to grow must be able to say that it is for the glory of God that they do so. He is the Big Other - Christ Jesus first and foremost.

When I first began reading about Mother Culture, I just couldn't honestly say that taking time for myself on a regular basis would be glorifying to God. The Lord has given me this home, this wonderful man, these blessed children to care for and work for and spend myself for. Wouldn't time for myself be nothing but selfish escapism? How is that glorifying God?

"So many mothers say, 'I simply have no time for myself!' 'I never read a book!'
Or else, 'I don't think it is right to think of myself!' They not only starve
their minds, but they do it deliberately, and with a sense of self-sacrifice
which seems to supply ample justification...She must see which is the most
important--the time spent in luxuriously gloating over the charms of her
fascinating baby, or what she may do with that time to keep herself 'growing'
for the sake of that baby 'some day,' when it will want her even more than it
does now." (emphasis mine, again)

Ouch. That last part made me chuckle and wince all at one time. Our children are still quite young. We think the occasional tricky doctrinal question is tough stuff right now, but how well equipped am I for what lies ahead? Spiritually steering young men and women through the trials and pains of life? Am I growing enough to help them grow, too? At the very least, Mother Culture - and the intended personal growth - should include time studying and memorizing the Scriptures. It should include time to pray and meditate and worship and be still before the Lord. That's not so easy to do with little children, is it sisters? Yet, I don't think any of us would say that it isn't important. Surely, if we are to be godly women who would raise our children to the glory of God, we should have regular time really alone with Him. Seeking spiritual growth.

Such planned time isn't selfish - it's needful. Mothers have a need to continue to grow spiritually. The author of this PR article is basically taking a broader view and including all areas of a mother's individuality. We talk about educating the "whole child", and Mother Culture seeks growth in the "whole Mother" :) Mothers need to continue to grow, not in blatantly spiritual areas only, but in many different facets of their person. Mentally, physically, socially. The message of Mother Culture is really all very simple...

Mothers need to be continually bettering themselves so
that they can be better for others.

("Others" meaning better mothers and, I might add, better wives and more faithful stewards of our gifts, too. We don't want to focus too much on just the children as motivation!). With this perspective, it begins to make more sense. Is it glorifying to my Father when I work to become a better mother? When I work to become a better wife? When I take personal stewardship seriously and make use of the gifts He has given me? Wow. Yes. Yes.

Now, a word of caution. Time intended for the glory of God and the blessing of others will all too easily morph into full-blown selfishness. God is not honored when, in the name of Mother Culture, we happily type away on some blog while our 2 year old cries and throws his lunch. Wisdom is needed, ladies, and we must pray for both the wisdom to know what we should do with our time and the grace to do it.

The author recommends half an hour each day, set aside for mother to have quiet moments to herself. To read, think, journal maybe? If you have been having a difficult time consistently meeting with the Lord in private, this is the perfect area in which to begin setting aside time away from the children and demands of daily life. Purposed time. Alone.
If you already have regular time to read, pray, worship, and memorize God's Word, maybe a few minutes in the afternoon for reading would be useful for your growth. Blogs are fine, some are very good. Ask yourself if you are really growing from reading them. Ditch the ones that aren't profitable (even if it's my own!). The internet is okay, too. But, this might be a better time for something a little more highminded. Maybe you have never really learned to appreciate poetry or art. Read through a few pages of children's poems or thumb through a Van Gogh coffee table book. Maybe you've never read Shakespeare or one of the classic books on next year's AO free reading list. Pick one up. Maybe you've been wanting to read a book about gardening or part of Miss Mason's original volumes. Well, here's your chance. You could paint in watercolors or knit something, for that matter. Pray through World magazine. You get the idea :)
I liked this last quote. I might put it up in my kitchen.
"What we need is a habit of taking our minds out of what one is
tempted to call 'the domestic rag-bag' of perplexities, and giving it a good
airing in something which keeps it 'growing.' "
You know, the rag bag looks a lot less raggedy if you've stepped away from it for a little while. If nothing else, time to be quiet and think tends to give some much needed perspective. It helps me to think of Mother Culture as growing for God and growing for others. For God in the sense that I am seeking to glorify Him in the exercise of my gifts, talents, and abilities. For Him, also, in any way that I might be made better for service to His kingdom - both within and beyond my home and family. For others in the sense that my growing makes me a better lover and help to my husband. For others, also, as my growing is a blessing and source of encouragement, wisdom, strength, and instruction for my children and - hopefully - those around me. It is, like all good things, completely by the grace of God. It is His Hand that has given us minds, enlightened thoughts, talents, gifts. There is no room for boasting and no room for seeking selfish gain. There is room, though - needful room - for a mother's personal growth. Here's a catchy little phrase you can take with you in your thoughts today, if you'd like:

Mother Culture - daily growing in order to glorify God and be a blessing to others.

May the Lord help us all to use our time wisely and seek His face.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Mother Culture

If you've been reading here and there about Charlotte Mason and her philosophy of education, you may have come across the phrase "mother culture". I admit that when I first began researching CM methods, I thought it sounded awfully odd and... well... self-absorbed. There is such a strong voice coming from the world these days, telling mothers that they need to "put themselves first" and claim their rights to "me time" and all that. I was leary. Mother Culture? Hmm... next page, please.

Fast forward several years (and a few extremely stressful seasons) and I've become more educated about Miss Mason's ideas of mother culture as well as more appreciative of her insights. I'm going to blog more on this topic and share my own thoughts with you, but first - some homework for those who might be interested :)

This is what I'm reading through tonight, narrating as I go (in the form of the next blog post!). Would you like to read it too so we can talk about it in a few days?

Sunday, September 13, 2009

What Was the Parents' Review?

Did you know that Charlotte Mason founded schools across Victorian England? If you thought she was solely related to home education, that fact might come as a surprise to you. After all, in recent years she's been crowned the "founder of the homeschool movement". It is true that many mothers taught their children at home using Miss Mason's methods, but, yes, she founded out-of-the-home schools as well. To give you the super quick run down, her schools were originally formed as Parents' Review Schools (PRS), while later the titles evolved into what became known as Parents' Union Schools (PUS). Got those acronyms down? Good, because there are a few more :)

Before the inception of the first Parents' Union School, however, Miss Mason formed a club of sorts with parents and likeminded educators. This club sprang out of a series of lectures Miss Mason presented, detailing her educational philosophy and calling for change in England's educational system. The club was called the Parents' Education Union - later, the Parents' National Education Union. That's right! The PNEU :) Sound familiar?

We all know how deeply Miss Mason believed in the absolute necessity of ongoing education and she fervently wished to equip parents and educators to teach thoughtfully "for the children's sake". Before long, a magazine (with articles written by PNEU members and edited by Miss Mason) was published regularly in effort to keep the PNEU unified and focused. Can you guess what it was called? That's right - The Parents' Review (PR).


Can you narrate all of that back to yourself after a single reading? ;)

I mention all of this because I plan to take a close look over the next few weeks at several PR articles available through Ambleside Online. Before all that, I wanted to make certain everyone was clear on what the PR even was. AO's advisory has graciously permitted me to link directly to these pages. If you would like to do the same, I encourage you to ask their permission as well.

For those of you interested in a more in depth look at the Parents' Review, you might enjoy reading the synopsis AO offers or consider taking a look at the reproduced issues Karen Andreola has available for purchase. Or, for a more general overview of Miss Mason's work, the Wikipedia article is actually pretty thorough. Shhh... don't tell, but I used it to double check my chronology :)

More to come.

Have a wonderful day!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Still here and realizing...

... that I don't take nearly enough pictures of my children when I'm not blogging :)



We began lessons on Monday! Regular posting is in the near future.