Balance II – Faithfully Obedient

It has been one week since I arrived home from the Living Education Retreat.  I have wondered a few times over the last week, what I would answer if someone were to ask me my big take away from the retreat. I find I have no easy, short answer.  What I gained touched my soul deeply, and I find I simply cannot find the words to express it.  But it is there just the same – just as strong as a week ago.

So instead, I will share a page from my journal written last Saturday afternoon right before our last session with Jason Fiedler.  If you have not yet listened to Jason’s An Unpublished Trail Guide, I highly recommend you do.  Listen, then listen again. And then listen one more time.  No, I am not kidding.  It is really that good.

I had enjoyed the retreat, the sessions, and the atmosphere of camaraderie among friends old and new, but it was almost over.  I decided to use that short half hour before our last plenary to jot down a few ideas, thoughts, and principles on gaining balance that had started to come together in my mind.  I had already accepted the fact that the pursuit of balance would likely require changes that would have to start with me.

 

LER journal

 

I had finally found my moment of quiet.

These are my thoughts, quickly jotted down, while sitting at the picnic table on the hill directly above the chapel.  I can still remember the gentle but steady breeze coming up off the lake that seemed to stir not only the air around me but my very soul.  This is what I wrote.

 

 

  • Develop a Rhythm/Pattern/Liturgy to the Day.  My days cannot look all the same but there should still be some sense of ebb and flow, a pattern of consistency that weaves itself into the fabric of my life, almost like a repeated prayer. When examined up close nothing may be evident, but when taken as a whole a beautiful picture enfolds.
  • First Things First – Quiet time, what is truly most important?
  • What things can be cut? online time, time wasted on procrastination, outside activities
  • Develop the Habit of Gladness & Gentleness of Words. 
  • Keep the thing the thing & the time allotted to the task to that time only and no more but no less as well.  I find I often do something I should be doing but either I do it much longer than the time I have allotted or not long enough.
  • Sabbath and Margin MUST be built into every day. 
  • Trust that the Holy Spirit will indeed equip where He has called.
  • My oil will not run dry. 

 

The story of Elijah and the Widow of Zarepheth came to mind, and I read the story from 1 Kings 17:7-16.  It was a familiar story – one my dad read to us girls many times as children.   

Elijah and the Widow at Zarephath

Some time later the brook dried up because there had been no rain in the land. Then the word of the Lord came to him: “Go at once to Zarephath in the region of Sidon and stay there. I have directed a widow there to supply you with food.” 10 So he went to Zarephath. When he came to the town gate, a widow was there gathering sticks. He called to her and asked, “Would you bring me a little water in a jar so I may have a drink?” 11 As she was going to get it, he called, “And bring me, please, a piece of bread.”

12 “As surely as the Lord your God lives,” she replied, “I don’t have any bread—only a handful of flour in a jar and a little olive oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it—and die.”

13 Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small loaf of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. 14 For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord sends rain on the land.’”

15 She went away and did as Elijah had told her. So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family. 16 For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the Lord spoken by Elijah.

As I read through the story of the Widow of Zarepheth again, I was struck that this woman was busy doing what she could with what she had.  Her circumstances were dire, but she calmly carried on.  Despite her bleak future, she obeyed.  She was faithful.  And she kept being obedient, trusting that God would continue to provide.  She was faithfully obedient.

I often feel like I am pulled in so many directions.  Many times I am simply just so very, very tired and plain old down-right weary.  It seems like someone always needs more of me and that there cannot possibly be enough to go around. I find myself wishing my circumstances would change, that I would have either more or less of this or that.  What I am coming to understand is that I am called to do what has already been set before me, as best I can, with what I have already been given or in some cases not given.

I am called to be content.

I am called to obey faithfully, and He will be faithful to supply enough oil for each day.

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Balance I

This one’s for you, Silvia. Thanks for the nudge. 🙂

So, I have been thinking lately about balance. Those beautiful women, who went through Brandy’s Start Here discussing Charlotte Mason’s 20 Principles, have heard me mention balance over and over again. So, I suppose it is no surprise it is on my mind again.

Balance. A very, needed thing in my life – on many fronts. This time I am pondering balance as I consider our school plans for fall. I know it is important, not to overfill our days, even with good things. I have strived to allow time to ponder, time to be, for awhile now. That is not a new goal.

In early summer, I discovered the archives. I found the programmes and couldn’t help myself comparing what Charlotte scheduled in the different forms to what I schedule for my own children. Was I scheduling too many books? I have strived hard not to do so, and have sometimes painfully nipped and tucked at the planned books for the year. What I discovered is that my list did not look bigger than hers. If anything, it was smaller and did not cover as well the vast an array of subjects such as all the varied languages. In fact, there are things I could add, but all in all, I was satisfied that it was really pretty close.

So, if what I am scheduling is similar to what she did, then why do I feel we are out of balance? Why is this on my mind so much again? As I continued looking at her programmes and reading, I was struck anew that Charlotte used the entire day.   Not everything scheduled on the programmes was done during the morning time tables. No wonder it doesn’t all fit! Some activities were specifically done in the afternoons, some left to evenings or free time, and some to Sunday reading. So I suppose it would be more accurate to say not only did Charlotte use the whole day she used the whole week. And when I go there naturally what follows is the realization that of course she used the whole of life.

Life should be all living. Vol. 3, p. 170 – emphasis mine.

None of this is actually new information to me, all except the knowledge that I am not actually trying to do more than she did. Then why do I feel out of balance? Well, I don’t think I use my whole day, my whole week, dare I say my whole life as Charlotte did. I have tried, but there is apparently more progress needed. I have tried to not speak as if there is a start and stop time for learning, for growing, and for living. But somehow this perception still creeps into my words, into my home, and into my life. I know a Charlotte Mason education is a life. For some time I have strived with Lister to implement Charlotte’s principles not “more or less” but “exactly.”

“I knew all this before and have always acted more or less on these principles”; and I can only point to the unusual results we obtain through adhering not ‘more or less,’ but strictly to the principles and practices I have indicated. I suppose the difficulties are of the sort that Lister had to contend with; every surgeon knew that his instruments and appurtenances should be kept clean, but the saving of millions of lives has resulted from the adoption of the great surgeon’s antiseptic treatment; that is from the substitution of exact principles scrupulously applied for the rather casual ‘more or less’ methods of earlier days.

Whether the way I have sketched out is the right and the only way remains to be tested still more widely than in the thousands of cases in which it has been successful; but assuredly education is slack and uncertain for the lack of sound principles exactly applied. Vol. 6, pgs.19-20 – emphasis mine.

I would like to think part of my struggle comes from living in a different place and time than did Charlotte. I’d like to think I have more distractions, more responsibilities, and that life moves at a faster pace. Surely, my life is busier. But is it really? I have had a chuckle several times while reading either the volumes or a Parent Review article and you would think it was written by someone living in today’s day and age with today’s struggles.

But regardless, I do have a need for more balance. I can feel it. My guess is my children can also feel it. What do I need to change? What is realistic? Schooling six days a week is not going to happen. Neither will read-alouds every night of the week. Nor will all electronics vacate the house, however much I sometimes wish they could. And I will soon have two teen-age drivers. But what can I do? What can I change?

While on this Charlotte Mason journey, I have learned that often it starts with me – my habits, my attitudes, my own learning and growth. So likely, my guess is that once again it will start with me. (And here I thought I was simply educating my children). 🙂

Tomorrow, I start out for the annual Living Education Retreat where I will meet with many like-minded educators and friends. I look forward to being encouraged, inspired, and refreshed. I also look forward to some time for reflection and quiet. I am ready for the waters to be stirred. I am so glad I am not in this educational journey alone! Instead, I have the Great Helper, the Great Teacher, who wants to come along side of me.

‘God doth Instruct.’ … Let this be the mother’s key to the whole of the education of each boy and each girl; not of her children; the divine Spirit does not work with nouns of multitude, but with each single child. Because He is infinite, the whole world is not too great a school for the indefatigable Teacher, and because He is infinite, He is able to give the whole of his infinite attention for the whole time to each one of his multitudinous pupils.   We do not sufficiently rejoice in the wealth that the infinite nature of our God brings to each of us. Vol. 2, p.273

Far From the Madding Crowd by Hardy – Books in Review 2016

 

I have decided to log the books finished in 2016 giving a few thoughts without giving away too much of the story line.  My goal is to read a variety of books and genres throughout the year.   Recently, I discovered I was reading nothing but what I must and was no longer reading just for pleasure.  Something changes about books you love but must read, somehow they are not as enjoyable as before.  I still want to love reading the books I love, so I am adding books that are just because.  We will see if it works.

 

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The first book I have finished is Far From the Madding Crowd by Hardy.  At first I loved this book, the long descriptive passages that painted a picture across my mind’s eye were refreshing while at the same time warming to my soul.  But then, the heroine Bathsheba, I should have gotten a warning from that name, just made one terrible mistake after another.  I was reminded of the feeling I had while reading Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and the desire to reach through the pages to shake some sense into the main character.  Eventually, I felt like I was reading a soap opera.  I did hang with it, and the ending was ok.  At least I didn’t want to throw it across the room like I did after finishing Frankenstein.  🙂

Maybe the book was better than I first thought, because it was thought provoking – in a disturbing sort of way.  I agonized that Bathsheba was making a poor decision in a husband and hoped against hope that she would be wiser than her years suggested.  Now I find I am still wondering if we appreciate good more after having experienced the bad.  If we are given good without any struggle or trial, will we really be able to treasure the good for what it is?  Are you better off to have never experienced the pain of trial, or to have passed through the trial to the other side?  There is joy found in both places, but it is different, is it not?  I suspect the latter may be deeper and fuller but not complete this side of heaven.

Whirlwinds and Calming Breezes

Life gets busy at times, doesn’t it?  The last few months have felt like a whirlwind.  My attempts at cutting back and creating margin have felt like words spoken amidst a strong breeze and carried away off into the horizon.  And so it goes.

I am reminded that small steps and forward movement do indeed progress make.  Hopefully, I will be soon sharing some of what I have been up to.  Some exciting things have been going on.

One of the things I have been working on intermittently over the last few months is Not Just for the Children, a short blog post for the Charlotte Mason Institute (CMI).  I am honored and humbled to have my thoughts shared with a larger Charlotte Mason community.   Carroll and Andy Smith are such wonderful people and share so much of themselves.  I have found much encouragement at the annual conferences and from the CMI blog.  It feels odd to find myself there amongst the articles I enjoy reading for deeper understanding and inspiration.  My desire is that others may gain some encouragement now from my own words as well.

We are still wrapping up end of year work at our home.  I need to create exams and tackle some household projects, but I see a calm drifting my way.   My face is to the sun, eyes shut, as I anticipate breathing deeply of the gentle, calming breeze.  It is coming.  I smile.

When peace like a river attendeth my way,
when sorrows like sea billows roll;
whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say,
“It is well, it is well with my soul.”

 It is well with my soul;
it is well, it is well with my soul.

Taking the Plunge into Living Science

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We started out just getting our toes wet; I suppose every Charlotte Mason homeschooler usually does at least that with Nature Study and Natural History.  In recent years, we went wading and it did feel good, but this year we took the plunge into Living Science.  We are not just getting our toes wet, no wading alongside textbooks, but all out swimming with Living Science.  Let me tell you the water is fine!

It has been fairly simple really, once the decision was made.  The hardest part was deciding exactly which living books to read, but I gained much wisdom and good advice from the new AO Living Science, Kelli at Grace for the Day, Kathy from Northwest by North, and Jeanne from A Peaceful Day.  The Shrimp is simply doing the Living Science already listed on AO year4.  The older two are working together on another handful of integrated science books.  The mix is sort of odd since The Beauty had already done a full year of biology and Legoman has not, but it will even out over the next few years.

So they read from their Living Science book and then depict something about what they read into their science journals.  Science journals are the best part of embracing Living Science in my opinion.  They usually read from two or three different books each day and make an entry in their journal from each reading.  They are suppose to spend about 45 minutes….we are working on using our time well and not rushing just to be done.  We are also working on neatness.

Then they tell me about their entry.  It’s almost like double narration.  I love it.  All of my children know mom’s mantra, “A reading without a narration is a reading wasted.”  They first have to process what they read enough to decide what to depict in their journal, and then they have to explain it to me.  I am not 100% sure we are “doing it right,” but it seems to be working for us.

Since the older two are reading the same books, it is very interesting to see the difference in their entries.  The gist is usually the same, but sometimes the focus is different….which is ok because they are persons.

Legoman likes to use a lot of words, which is sort of odd because he generally avoids writing when possible.  We have had to talk about neatness and that science journals are to show a depiction which can include words but should often include a picture, graph, or illustration.  (Excuse the poor pictures.  Apparently I need a new camera. 🙂 )

The Beauty on the other hand seems to like color, and like the rule follower she is, she will spend the last minutes of her forty-five touching up her page and adding a bit of color and flair.

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They seem to remember well what they are learning and refer back to concepts and ideas as we simply live life.  That is what I want.  This year as we swim in the waters of Living Science they seem to be forming closer relationships and caring more.  I am so glad we took the plunge.

The question is not,––how much does the youth know? when he has finished his education––but how much does he care? and about how many orders of things does he care? In fact, how large is the room in which he finds his feet set? and, therefore, how full is the life he has before him?  Charlotte Mason, Vol. 3, p. 171.

Nature- It is good for the soul.

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I didn’t realize how badly I needed to bask in the beauty of nature.  Today unexpectedly I found myself in an old city park surrounded by those giants of nature that have seen such longer life than I.  It was one of our “adventures” as the kids like to call them.

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We had already frequented a free tourist attraction available on MLK and were planning to proceed next to the local children’s museum, but the sun was shining and calling to us to stay outside and play.  In Indiana, you savor a forty-four degree, sunny day in January.  They are precious and few.

Everyone agreed to skip the children’s museum and to find an adventure, which turned out to be this old park.   It was beautiful.  It was an older park and frankly a bit run down, but I found the lack of man’s recent fiddling refreshing.  We eventually found our way to the playground and the boys found other young lads with which to run and chase.  The Beauty gravitated to the swings also as usual.  We swung together for a bit and the words of Stevenson’s The Swing flitted through my mind.

003The Swing

How do you like to go up in a swing,

Up in the air so blue?

Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing

Ever a child can do!

Up in the air and over the wall,

Till I can see so wide

Rivers and trees and cattle and all

Over the countryside-

Till I look down on the garden green,

           Down on the roof so brown-

         Up in the air I go flying again,

             Up in the air and down!

Eventually, I found my way to an old wooden bench actually much more comfortable than the new ones that somehow are much more hard and rigid.  I closed my eyes, felt the warmth on my face, breathed in the fresh air, and thanked God for it all.  Oh, how I have missed just being outdoors, relishing in the delight of nature!  Today, there was no hustle and bustle, I just sat there and breathed and took it all in.  Ah, it was truly wonderful!

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Just recently, I heard the bare trees of winter described as tree skeletons.  This phrase for some reason just brings a smile to my face.  So today, I looked all around me and savored the view of the majestic tree skeletons that surrounded me.  They were beautiful.  An interesting thing occurred, as I sat so small amongst these winter giants, somehow my soul was refreshed.

Our hearts are inclined to love and worship; and we become prepared by the quiet schooling of Nature to walk softly and do our duty towards man and towards God. CM Vol. 4, Book 2, p. 98.

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Embracing the Way of the Will Chart

Well, today we worked on our Way of the Will (WOW) chart again. I was encouraged once more. My youngest this time wanted to fill out his page himself.  The first time I did it for him, per his request. They would have continued working on their WOW charts all morning, and I again had to bring the time to a close.   We do aim for short lessons after all, even when they are fabulous.  This time I did suggest they could add to their charts at any time through the week and share them with us next week.

I wish I would have started this after first hearing about it…. but since I did not, I will waste no more time on regrets and instead look forward.  So what have I learned about this process so far?

I need my own WOW chart! Today, I felt myself missing something and guess what – I was.  I discovered I want my own WOW chart.  My kids are not the only ones learning to embrace the fullness of life that comes with a Charlotte Mason education; I am too.  This may be what touches me most personally and intimately about schooling with Charlotte Mason.  And what a wonderful thing I am discovering it to be!  Not only do I need to have my own WOW chart for my benefit, but my kids will benefit from seeing me model the behavior. Modeling is huge in so many ways, but that is another post.  So here is my very own WOW chart ready to go for next time.

My very own WOW ready for next week.

My very own WOW ready for next week.

He learns to distribute the characters he comes across in his reading on either side of a line, those who are wilful and those who are governed by will; and this line by no means separates between the bad and the good. It does divide, however, between the impulsive, self-pleasing, self-seeking, and the persons who have an aim beyond and outside of themselves, even though it be an aim appalling as that of Milton’s Satan. It follows for him that he must not only will, but will with a view to an object outside himself.  Charlotte Mason, Vol. 6, p. 132.

When first explaining the WOW to my kiddos there was only one rule – they are not allowed to share examples of their siblings being willful.  I cannot tell you how glad I am we have this rule.  It truly helps keep the peace.  They can give examples of being governed by will for their siblings but not the other way around. Of course, they can give examples about themselves.

So who does go on our WOW charts?  Well, the options are almost limitless.  We have used examples from books read both past and present, from movies and from real life.  At our house we have done Plutarch, Shakespeare, the Bible, Pilgrim’s Progress, and more.  You should have seen their delight when they realized they could use examples from The Lord of the Rings.  The examples came fast and furious, and there was almost no stopping them.  They are also learning patience while waiting for their turn to share the next possible entry.

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It seems to have been most helpful to focus on individual choices, not individual people. Let’s face it, each of us can be both willful and governed by will even within the space of an hour. Yikes!  And we have ended up examining the motives behind the decision.  Sometimes this is hard to know and we make our best guess, but it effects whether or not the decision is deemed worthy or unworthy.

We will learn more as we continue in this process and will very likely change things as we go along…we always do.  For now, I am thrilled that we have a tangible way to get us thinking deeper about the will, our choices, and what we ought vs. what we want as we work to develop character.

But the one achievement possible and necessary for every man is character; and character is as finely wrought metal beaten into shape and beauty by the repeated and accustomed action of will. We who teach should make it clear to ourselves that our aim in education is less conduct than character; conduct may be arrived at, as we have seen, by indirect routes, but it is of value to the world only as it has its source in character.  Charlotte Mason, Vol. 6, p. 129.

It is wonderful to hear a discussion about choices, that is almost completely child driven.  And they are loving it.  In addition, they are starting to examine behavior and choices outside of these WOW lessons….to what they are reading or choices being  made through the day.   Words and phrases such as willfull, governed by will, I ought, I want, I will, character, and virtue vs. vice are becoming a part of our vocabulary, our friends in an odd sort of way.  Will we always keep a WOW chart?  I don’t know, probably not, but for now it is increasing our awareness that our thoughts are important, our will can and should be strengthened, our reason is oh so fallible, and our character matters.

If keeping a WOW is new to you, I suggest reading the sections in Charlotte Mason’s Vol. 6 about the Way of the Will and the Way of Reason.  I have particularly appreciated Nancy Kelly’s blog post and Christy Hissong’s explanation on the AO forum.  Honestly, wrapping my head around the two categories of Willful vs. Governed by Will took me a little bit.  Looking forward to beginning my very own WOW chart next week.

Here are a few more pictures for your viewing pleasure…especially since I finally figured out how to include them in a post. Yeah!

Legoman's WOW chart

Legoman’s WOW chart

The Beauty's WOW

The Beauty’s WOW

The Shrimp's WOW

The Shrimp’s WOW