Mum To Mom

Musings of an Aussie Mother Living in the USA

Month: January 2017

A New Look for Artist Study

We have always done artist study during Morning Time in our home. Initially, I used the links for the pictures on the Ambleside Online artist study page and we’d look at them online. I then got an app for my iPad and used that for a while to view the images. (You can read about how we did Artist Study here). The app became frustrating though because it took so long to load the images, which made it more difficult and time-consuming to use than it did to just click a link on the AO website. Last year I was determined to be more intentional about our artist study. I also wanted to have the artwork on display to look at more often than at the scheduled artist study time. So I got organized and printed the selections at a local Staples. Crunchy Conservative over at A Generous Education has made downloadable PDFs of the current year’s pictures following the AO artist study schedule. Her PDFs made sending the pictures to the printers a breeze. This worked well. I put our current picture in a frame and hung it above our kitchen table. We had many discussions about our pictures over our meals. When we were finished with a picture I replaced it with our next selection and put the old one in a binder kept in our school room. My hope was that the children would use the binder to look back over and enjoy the old pictures. But having pictures in a school binder is like telling them never to look at this again.

Recently I was listening to an interview with Emily Kiser, author of the Picture Study Portfolios at Simply Charlotte Mason, on the Your Morning Basket podcast. She talked all about artist study and encouraged mom’s to provide each student a picture of their own to look at.

I have toyed many times with the idea of getting our artist study prints from Simply Charlotte Mason. But although they contain extra information about the artist and the pieces, I always talked myself out of it knowing it was much cheaper to get them printed myself. Especially when we will study 3 artists over the whole year and I wanted a print for each of my 3 children. So when a deal of buy 1 photo book, get 2 free came up on Snapfish, I had an idea. 3 girls, 3 books for the price of 1. I would make my own artist study photo book for the whole year. Altogether, including shipping, these 5×7 softcover photo books cost $20.96.

I love this picture on the front by Mary Cassatt, don’t you? It captures the gooeyness of motherhood. Cuddles and coffee in bed in the morning. I assume it’s the morning because that’s when I have cuddles in bed. True to life, Mama is looking a little weary. The girls and I have always been more drawn to impressionism of all the art styles. I think it might be because we see ourselves more readily in impressionism than we do in some of the other styles. They mostly painted ordinary people doing ordinary things—playing on a lake, in a boat, walking in the street, cuddling in bed with Mommy. Although we live in a different century we are still ordinary people doing ordinary things.

I’m so pleased with how the books turned out. Some minor alterations obviously need to be made in the next book to make the alignment of the images fit better on the left pages. But overall, I’m very pleased with how my first attempt turned out. I wasn’t sure how the size would work but after using it for a couple of weeks now I can tell you that the size is perfect for little hands to hold and enjoy. Emily was right. Each student having their own copy is much better. Putting our artist study selections in a photo book also means that the children can keep them forever and remember the pictures we enjoyed and wondered at throughout our school days.

Hopefully, as they grow older, they will go on looking at beautiful art and love it as much as I love Cassatt’s “Breakfast In Bed” painting. It wasn’t one of our 6 Cassatt selections to look at for the term, but the more I looked at it, the more I loved it, the more it had to be on the front cover of our books. That’s the thing about artist study, you don’t know what pictures will capture your imagination. It’s not always the first look that develops the relationship between you and that piece either. You often have to look more than once and look intentionally, to see the truth, the goodness, and the beauty in the piece. That’s when you fall in love.

Cooking With Children: Toddlers

From the time they could walk, my kids have helped me in the kitchen. My mum let me bake on my own from an early age, I think I must have been around 9, so it seemed natural to me to have the children in the kitchen with me. If they ask me can they help, my default answer is “yes.” There is always something they can help me do. If I’m baking something, I’ll usually ask one of them to help me. I know that cooking with children can make the task take longer than usual at first, but as they gain experience, skills, and confidence, I’ve found it becomes a help in the long run.

Last week the toddler was all hands on deck.

Cooking with toddlers might sound crazy, but it really is as simple as having them put the chopped or measured ingredients into the pot or bowl; or mash the bananas for the chocolate banana oatmeal; or help you hold the hand beaters as you beat together cookie batter. It might take a little patience from you, but they feel so accomplished. And when you praise their efforts to their siblings, the young toddler, being so proud to have cooked a meal worthy of eating, may even be persuaded to eat the meal himself.

We had extra Kale in our organic box this week. My kids don’t love kale. They don’t like the texture. So I try to find ways of giving it to them without them knowing. Last week I decided to make a kind-of pesto out of it and throw it over some pasta. A proper pesto has pine nuts and parmesan cheese in it, but I didn’t have either so I had to work with what I had, with help from the little man of course.

It was delicious! The kids even liked it and had no idea that they were eating kale.

Recipe

Ingredients:

1 bunch kale, leaves removed
1 medium onion, peeled, roughly chopped
2-3 cloves garlic
1/4 cup of oil
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt
Pepper
1 box penne pasta
2 chicken breasts, chopped 1-inch cubed
1/4-1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
2 carrots, roasted
2 sweet dumpling squash, halved, roasted (any pumpkin squash will do)

Method:

1. Cook pasta per directions on the packet.

2. While pasta is cooking, combine kale, onion, garlic, and lemon juice into food processor. Blend until a finely chopped consistency. Add oil, salt, and pepper and blend for 5 seconds. If the consistency of the pesto is too dry, add more oil, a tbsp at a time, until it has the consistency of a dip.

3. Heat a tablespoon of oil in fry pan. Once hot add chicken and cook through.

4. Once pasta is cooked and drained, put pasta back into the saucepan and pour the kale mixture over the pasta. Add cooked chicken, chopped roast carrots, roast squash and mix well. Sprinkle grated cheese over the pasta. If you are a cheese lover, add extra cheese to taste. Stir. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Note: I stirred through roasted carrot and sweet dumpling squash because that was what I had. The squash added a sweet creaminess to the dish that helped balance the slight bitterness of the kale, but when I cook this again I think I’ll swap the roasted carrot with grilled cherry tomatoes. They will look so much prettier and be a better match for the dish.

The 2 older girls were also in the kitchen last week.

E-Age-8 made bread (in a bread machine) all by herself. There is nothing like the smell of fresh homemade bread. Especially when it’s made by your 8-year-old.

A-Age-10 prepared and browned the chicken for the chicken goulash. A staple mid-week meal in our home.

She also made my birthday cake on her own from scratch. This chocolate cake is so good! I forgot to take a picture of the cake before we hoed into it, but here is a pic of what remained of it after the birthday celebration.

What have your children been cooking recently?

I’m thinking of making “cooking with children” a regular segment on the blog. If you want to see more recipes and cooking with children posts, let me know in the comments.

Homeschool Without Workbooks: Our Vacation to Australia

Last October, we had the pleasure of spending 5 weeks in our native country, Australia, for our family vacation. Upon returning to the U.S. I was asked several times if we did any school while over there. I immediately answered no. I wasn’t going to pack our math books in our suitcases and make the kids do copywork in between meeting cousins and reconnecting with grandparents. But as I reflected more on this question, I began to think that this might not be true. Out of interest, I decided to break down our experiences into their various fields of study. It is quite enlightening to break life down like this and see how much learning is going on incidently. Here’s my list along with some pretty photos of my home country.

Nature Study/Science

Visit to Werribee Open Range Zoo
Lion's at Werribee Zoo
Koala
Bison
Rhinosaurus on Safari
Hippopotamus

Admired the gum trees and compared the difference in color palette to that of tropical Florida’s.
Gum Trees
Gum trees
Appreciated the canola fields. E-Age-8 was quite taken with the wide open spaces and wished to run in a field like this. canola-field

Visit to a farm where we watched sheep sheared.
Sheep Farm
This trip seemed to be all about transport, especially for the 2-year-old little man. Airplanes, cars, steamboats, steam trains, and electric trains were all part of the experience.
Steamboat 1
Steam Engine
Steamboat 2
Steamboat 3
Steam Engine

The iconic Puffing Billy
Puffing Billy 1
Puffing Billy 2

The steamboat and steam train directly related to our Year 5 science book Great Inventors And Their Inventions. A-Age-10 didn’t make the connection at the time she was experiencing these things, but once we got home and resumed our usual school schedule she came out absolutely beaming, having just read about the invention of the steam train. She could not believe that she had actually traveled on the very invention she was learning about.

Observations of clouds and many, many, many discussions about the ever changing weather of Melbourne, Victoria. Only in Melbourne can it be bucketing down hail one minute then clear to be beautiful and sunny the next.

Geography

We flew to the other side of the world!!!! To a whole other country!!! Need I say more? And yet I shall because I can’t help myself. We looked at the map before we left and talked about the direction the plane would travel. The first leg of our flight was a domestic flight from Orlando, Florida to Los Angeles, California. So we learned where Florida was in relation to California. The next leg was our international flight to Australia which crossed the Pacific Ocean. We all know where the Pacific Ocean is now because we flew over it, and how far it is from America to Australia!
America to Australia Map

We considered the Murray-Darling Basin as we traveled by steamboat along the Murray River.
IMG_2068

We looked on with wonder as we discussed and compared the differences in the landscape between the various parts of Victoria that we visited.

The Great Ocean Road.
Great Ocean Road

The 12 Apostles.
12 Apostles

Blow Hole
IMG_2547

IMG_2548

Grotto
Great Ocean Road: Grotto

Gum trees, farmland, and great open fields in country Victoria where E-Age-8 got her wish.
Field At Sunrise
field
Dandenong Ranges

Math

Lots of cooking which involved converting imperial to metric, and lots of time figuring out how many days until Christmas (this was a very important computation).

Language arts

A trip to the bookstore with their Grandma encouraged emerging readers to read out loud and enjoy it. Wendy Harper’s pink books about princesses and encouragement from Grandparents never failed to keep interest long enough to finish the book.

More reading practice as we read road signs and other interesting papers, pamphlets, and displays.

There were many discussions about the differences in definitions of words between the U.S. and Australia, and lots of discussions about books.

Literature/History

We read lots of books. Many of the Australian books were historical fiction or made references to parts of Australian history.

Some Australian favorites were A Fortunate Life by A.B. Facey, The Nellie Stories by Penny Matthews (both read by A-Age-10 only), and Desert Lake: The Story of Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre by Pamela Freeman and Liz Anelli.

Aussie Books

A-Age-10 read anything she could get her hands on including her grandmother’s beloved Biggles collection.

Artist Study

Visit to Melbourne and the National Gallery of Victoria
Gog and Magogpainting
Sheep Shearing

Foreign Language

“G’day mate!!” – That’s a foreign language, right?

Although we never packed any school books to take on our voyage across the sea, we never stopped learning because education is not about ticking off checklists at the front of workbooks or in our school binders. Don’t underestimate the learning that takes place even without a workbook in sight. As Charlotte Mason said, “Education is life.” We are educated in our living and seeing and experiencing the world around us. Although I have broken down aspects of our vacation into neat little classifiable subject areas that we can print off and say, “Yes. Education happened, see?” The big idea that I realized is that these experiences and lessons make up a larger whole experience where relationships were forged with our world and the people in it. And ultimately, with God our creator, to whom we give the glory.

Graduation and Godliness: Cindy’s Homeschool

Mere Motherhood: Morning Times, Nursery Rhymes, & My Journey Toward Sanctification

This Christmas I was given the book Mere Motherhood: Morning Times, Nursery Rhymes, & My Journey Toward Sanctification by Cindy Rollins. Cindy is a mom of nine with over thirty years of homeschooling experience. For over ten years, she blogged her way through her efforts to homeschool under the principles of Charlotte Mason and classical education. Today, she is an occasional contributor at circeinstitute.org and is the co-host of The Mason Jar podcast on the CiRCE Institute Podcast Network.

I have been listening to her podcast for some time and having heard great things about this book I opened it with much anticipation. By the second page, the tears were welling up. She knew me and knew what this anxious mama needed to hear. I knew I had to share some of her wisdom with you.

“Perhaps the greater portion of you are in the middle years. You are just starting to panic a little bit. You are beginning to realize that tea parties don’t cure sin. You want some assurance that all will be well when you are starting to fear it might not be. Something may go wrong. You might miss stamping out a fire or two. I think this book will be a comfort to you. You are not alone. We who have gone before are still here. We will look you in the eye and say, ‘Motherhood hurts like hell’ but the old dragon skin does peel away. God is real. He is there. He doesn’t just love your children; he loves you. I have been young, and now I am old, and I have not seen the righteous forsaken.”

Throughout this book, Cindy gives insight into her 30-year homeschooling journey. She shares stories of her family, her successes and difficulties in homeschooling, and the trials and the triumphs of motherhood, all the while weaving through it drops of wisdom, drawing us to look to our Father in heaven.

“Motherhood is a place of dreamy hopes and crushed fantasies and the hard, hard work of sinners in relationship with one another day by day.”

“He is trustworthy and I can give my precious family to him.”

She shares how she used the practice of Morning Time, reading together Scripture, books, poetry, Shakespeare, and singing hymns to ground her family in the past as culture shifted around them.

“It is a habit that ties the past with the future – a liturgy of love. Morning Time is a way to collect grains of sand. It should not be a way to complicate life but rather simplify it.”

Because,

“For me the years did roll by, and they are rolling by for you, too. You are never going to have a lot of time, but you do have a little time here and a little time there, and those little times all add up to a life.”

She tells us how important our roles as mothers are.

“Motherhood is a high calling. Civilization depends upon motherhood. I do not believe you should lose yourself so thoroughly in your motherhood that that is all you are. That is not healthy for you or your family. But I do think women need to know that motherhood is a high-value commodity in the market of civilization.
Mama, you are the first pillar of education. You are a vital part of the infrastructure of culture, family, and even the body of Christ.
This is not about having the perfect family or the perfect school. Your success or failure doesn’t rest on your perfection, just your faithfulness.”

Yet she reminds us that ultimately, our children are God’s work. Not ours. He is in control.

“How could I go on creating beautiful pottery pieces if they weren’t going to turn out as I intended or hoped? … I had an epiphany. I was not the potter. A potter was shaping my children, but it was not me. I had forgotten what Charlotte Mason wrote: “Children are born persons.” Until that moment, I had not heard her with my heart nor truly understood with my mind. My son was not my product. He was the work of a great artist: the Creator of all.”

And she describes how God uses motherhood for our sanctification.

“Part of the sanctification of motherhood is learning to trust God with our children. One day we will come to the end of what we can do for our children. In those early days our children cannot live without us, but slowly they grow up and move away. This is almost always heart-wrenching, but the process also gives us a chance to lean on our Heavenly Father and to trust Him more. God has entrusted us with a great treasure. It is our life lesson to hand it back. To let it go. Our children must not become ‘Our Precious.’ In the end, we are merely mothers. Mothers who are also children of our Father. Let us run into His arms with great joy, knowing that when we see Him face to face we will not be standing alone.”

There was so much more to share but there isn’t space here. If you are a mom, especially a homeschooling mom, you just need to read this book. You will be glad you did. It is available to purchase here from The CiRCE Institute.

Other posts in this series

Graduation and Godliness: Sheryl’s Homeschool
Graduation and Godliness: Peggy’s Homeschool

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