Mum To Mom

Musings of an Aussie Mother Living in the USA

Month: May 2015

On Our Night Stand (Summer 2015)

He ate and drank the precious words,
His spirit grew robust;
He knew no more that he was poor,
Nor that his frame was dust.
He danced along the dingy days,
And this bequest of wings
Was but a book. What liberty
A loosened spirit brings!

—Emily Dickinson, A Book

I was a voracious reader when I was a kid. Once I left school though, I stopped reading for the most part. There were certain Christian living books that I read from time to time, but not a lot and not consistently. Since becoming a part of the homeschooling community online, I have enjoyed seeing what other mums are reading when they post updates on their blogs. This has inspired me to read again and to read more widely. These mums introduced me to the classics and encouraged me to cultivate an atmosphere of reading in our home. So, I made it my goal to read a chapter of something each day.

In the hope that it might encourage you, here are the books on our nightstand this summer.

What Mum Is Reading

Mum's Books

Mum’s Books

Devotional

Fellowship with God by Martin Lloyd Jones

These are Jones’ sermons from 1 John, to compliment my own personal reading of 1 John

Historical

Selected Letters of Jane Austen

I find the everyday life of Jane Austen’s world fascinating. I’m a big Austen fan. I read one or two letters a week just for fun.

Special Interest

Grammar Book For You And I (Oops Me) By C. Edward Good

Can I tell you my deep dark secret? My knowledge of grammar is appalling. It’s shameful, I know. I’m hoping this book will help me with this oversight.

Education

The Living Page by Laurie Bestvater

Loving this book about the power of Charlotte Mason notebooking. It has inspired me to keep my own commonplace book and encouraged me to be more intentional with our nature study notebooking.

School Education by Charlotte Mason (Online)

Gaining a more thorough understanding of the philosophy of education that I love, and how it works out practically as my eldest moves into 4th grade next year.

Novel

Emily of New Moon by Lucy Maud Montgomery (Kindle)

I started reading this to see if it would be appropriate to read aloud to my 5,7, and 8 year olds and found that I’d fallen in love with it for myself. I’m only in chapter 3 and it’s wonderful so far.

Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, narrated by Stephen Fry (Audible)

Funny science fiction. What’s not to love. And Stephen Fry is brilliant to listen to. Hubby and I are enjoying this one together.

Read-Alouds with the Children

The Faraway Tree series by Enid Blyton

These were my very favorite when I was a kid. I’m glad to be able to share them with my children.

Read-Alouds

Read-Alouds

Family Devotions

Grandpa’s Box by Starr Meade

Dad is reading this to us. Retelling the biblical story of redemption.

What the Kids Are Reading

Beginner Reader

Our 7-year-old has just started with the Little Bear books. They are so sweet.

Beginner Reader

Beginner Reader

Library Finds

I let the kids pick their own books but they have to bring them to me to approve. There were a hundred Halloween selections for some reason. I picked the nicest looking ones.

Library Books

Library Books

Our 8-year-old is a huge Marguerite Henry fan.

Library Books

Library Books

8-Year-Old’s Bookshelf

My eldest daughter reads so fast and so much that I cannot keep up with her. Because of this she rereads the books on her shelves over and over and over again.

8-Year-Old's Bookshelf

8-Year-Old’s Bookshelf

8-Year-Old's Bookshelf

8-Year-Old’s Bookshelf

Did I mention my daughter loves horse books?

I’d love to know what’s on your nightstand.

The Simple Effectiveness of Artist Study

The six-year-old child should begin both to express himself and to appreciate, and his appreciation should be well in advance of his power to express what he sees or imagines. Therefore it is a lamentable thing when the appreciation of children is exercised only upon the coloured lithographs of their picture-books or of the ‘Christmas number.’

…the minds of children and of their elders alike accommodate themselves to what is put in their way; and if children appreciate the vulgar and sentimental in art, it is because that is the manner of art to which they become habituated.

…We cannot measure the influence that one or another artist has upon the child’s sense of beauty, upon his power of seeing, as in a picture, the common sights of life; he is enriched more than we know in having really looked at even a single picture.

Charlotte Mason, Home Education, pg.307-309

Charlotte Mason reminds us that we cannot measure how our children will be influenced when they spend time really looking at works of art. Therefore, it is my endeavor to “put in [my children’s] way” artists whose works instill a sense of beauty and capture moments in time—works that enrich us.

What Does Artist Study Look like in Our Family?

In our homeschool, we follow Ambleside Online’s Artist Schedule. Each term (12 weeks) we consider one artist and six or seven representations of their work. This usually means looking at one piece every two weeks. For example, this term we are studying the Impressionist Edgar Degas. So far we have looked at the following paintings:

The Belleli Family

The Belleli Family

The Cotton Exchange, New Orleans

The Cotton Exchange, New Orleans

The Dance Class

The Dance Class

Once or twice a week, often while the kids eat lunch or snacks, I pull up the schedule on my iPad and click the link to the painting for that week. Together, we spend five or so minutes looking at it. There might be a brief discussion, often led by the children, about who is portrayed in the painting, what they are doing, where they are, the style of painting, and any other details that stand out to us. I then take the painting away and ask one of the children to narrate it, that is, to tell me about the painting from memory. And that’s it.

It seems so simple (and it is!) but you will be surprised at how much impact spending the time really looking and appreciating an artist’s work actually has on a young heart. The learning isn’t always tangible, but I promise you it is happening.

From the Mouth of an 8-Year-Old

Here is what my 8-year-old said about ‘The Dance Class’ a few days after looking at it:

“The dance rehearsal, I really like it. One of the reasons is because its got the mirror and the stairway with the window and the people on the stairway. When I first saw it I thought it was an actual door but then we realized that it was actually a window and that it was people that we could see. I like how he’s got all the details and how you can actually see the man’s handkerchief in his pocket and how he actually did the detail of it just being stuffed in there, not it being completely hidden. I really like it. And I like when you zoom in you can actually see the detail of the dancers feet how they’re slim and dancy, and the way that he’s got the shoe, the one where the ending is flat so that they could stand on their toes. It’s really cool.”

There’s an App for That

Organized mums will have visited Staples, printed the term’s pictures in color, added information about each piece, and presented them in a folder before the term begins. But organization is not my strong suit, so this never happens for me. This term, I discovered the Art Authority app for my iPad. It has thousands of artists, a library of their works, and links to additional information about each. Everything I need is in one app. No more Googling for me! That makes it well worth the $10 in my opinion. The children also enjoy using it to scroll through other artists’ work’s that we have studied in previous years, reacquainting themselves with old friends.

In addition to looking at Degas’ works we have been reading Mike Venezia’s book Edgar Degas from his series “Getting To Know The World’s Greatest Artists.” I read a few pages from the book during our Artist Study time and ask one child to narrate what we have read. The children always look forward to his humorous comic strip pages.

More Than an Add-On

When I first introduced Artist Study in our homeschool, I viewed it as a nice little add-on that we would get to “if we had time,” but if not, “it didn’t really matter.” After three years, we have come to treasure it and I see how much it has enriched my children’s lives as they learn to express their appreciation for the beautiful.

Treasured Memories

Mother & Daughter

Photo credit: Sjoerd Lammers

I can’t remember exactly how old I was, but one year, while still in primary school (elementary school), I went to stay with my grandparents for a couple of days. I loved staying at their house. Pa spent almost all day in his garage listening to his AM radio, reading the paper, and tinkering with his woodworking stuff.  Nan pottered around in the house and her garden. This particular year I had a special project I wanted to do for my mum’s birthday and I needed Nan and Pa’s help while I stayed with them. I wanted to make my mum a jewelry box decorated with the shells that I had collected from the beach. Pa helped me make the box. He showed me how to glue and nail the sides, and how to apply the stain once the box was assembled. Nan then helped me line the inside of the box with beautiful red velvet, and we then glued the shells around the outside. It looked fantastic. Mum loved it. She still has it all these years later and still speaks of how precious it is to her.

A couple of months ago, my mum came to visit us from Australia for the first time. It had been three years since I had seen her face to face. That is a long time between hugs.

Having such a lengthy absence from family is difficult. There is a sense of separation from our day to day lives. As helpful as Facebook and technology are in keeping loved ones involved and up to date with what is happening, they can’t perfectly replace actually being there in each other’s lives. The benefit of a lengthy absence, however, is that when you are together, you are more intentional about your time. So during this 6-week visit, we made the most of it.  We went to Disney World, a life long dream of my mother’s. We went to Kennedy Space Center, visited parks and springs, went to our favorite restaurants, and introduced her to our favorite people. She met her newest grandson for the first time and helped us celebrate his first birthday. She was here for Easter lunch, and I was able to spoil her for her birthday. These were very special moments—moments I will treasure.

Amazing as these outings and activities were, they are not the highlight of her visit for me. It was the time spent at home with her that I will treasure most. Mum spent many, many hours with my children. She taught them to make scones, she read them stories, and they baked hot cross buns for Easter. She made dolls with the girls out of wool. She taught my oldest to design and sew cushion covers on a sewing machine. She wrote songs on the piano with my musically inclined middle daughter. She baked cupcakes with and read stories to my youngest girl, and had lots and lots of cuddles and outside adventures with my toddler son.

Mum spent time enriching my children’s lives with the skills and knowledge that her grandmother had passed on to her. These are the moments I treasure in my heart, just as my mum cherishes that jewelry box I made with my grandmother all those years ago.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mum. Missing you already and I look forward our next visit together.

What are your treasured memories of your mum?

The Wonder of a Child

It’s been awhile since I’ve written here—a really long while. I got a bit lazy, and honestly, I didn’t really feel that I had much to add to the homeschooling/Charlotte Mason conversation that wasn’t already being said by others, and said much better than I could. I came to the conclusion that I really am terrible at writing. It is just so hard for me to get my thoughts out of my head and into anything resembling coherency. I lost the motivation to put effort and time into writing. So I stopped. But my passion for homeschooling and Charlotte Mason’s philosophy of education didn’t. In fact, it has only grown. One day I’ll write the blog post (maybe) about why we do Charlotte Mason that I’ve been meaning to write for the past three years, but for the moment you will just have to bear with this morning’s random musing.

I’ve had a baby since I was last here. A boy! Our first boy. He is such a joy and I can’t even begin to describe how much we all love having him in our family. He is 14 months old. Where has the time gone? It was actually my baby boy that inspired me to write today’s post. This morning, as I sat in my favorite spot in the house, drank a cup of coffee, read several homeschooling blogs, and occasionally looked out the window at the gorgeous trees in our yard, my beautiful son toddled up to me.

My Favorite Spot in the House

He stretched out his arms for me to pick him up. I obliged, and he snuggled into my lap as we looked out the window. He pointed to the trees and (presumably) to the sunrise whose golden rays reflected off the leaves. He exclaimed, “Woah!” This was followed by a procession of “oohs” and “ahhs” as he took in the beauty displayed through the window and marveled at it.

Sunrise Through the Trees

Children have a wonderful sense of wonder, don’t they? This is our biggest advantage as home educators. Charlotte Mason says that. Somewhere. Pretty much. Children are naturally curious. And they get excited about stuff.

“Wow, look Mummy, the flowers are blooming.”

“Look Mummy, the squirrels are chasing one another. They have such fluffy tails.”

“Look, Mum! Mr. Cardinal is in our tree. And there’s Mrs. Cardinal! They always visit together.”

And on it goes—endless observations of the world around them. We jaded adults can easily overlook this glorious sense of wonder. Our wonder has been dimmed by the drudgery of life. But what if it hadn’t? What if this wonder at God’s creation had been nurtured in our childhood? What observations and beauty would we see now that we so quickly overlook or dismiss as trivial? It is such a gift for our children to nurture this sense of wonder that already comes so naturally to them—to always be on the look out, to put them in the way of beauty, and to draw their attention to marvel at God’s goodness to us in providing this moment to share. May our children always look at God’s creation with wonder. And may we rediscover this wonder and praise God.

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