Archive for the ‘Charlotte Mason’ Category

Maybe it’s just me, but sometimes I get out of the “habit” of some of my good habits.

We’ve recently moved (not just into a new house, but moving onto land that had to be cleared and into a new house that is being readied for a Home Visit next month also).

Some of our routines have gotten all outta whack.

We don’t function well that way.

However, many things are finding their way back into the proper places of our lives as things start to become more of a steadied pace rather than the nearly hysterical frenzy they were for a while.

As I’ve finally gotten some time to survey and do some planning for the year, as always, I’ve come across things that were very timely and encouraging.

“The care of her own health is another responsibility which should be made over to the young maiden. She cannot learn too soon that good health is not only a blessing, but a duty…”
(Vol 5, p.246, CM )

My oldest son is on a gluten-free, casein free, dye free “diet”, so this is always an issue in our home. It is not so much because of me, but more because my child would either “sink or swim”, if you will, that nutrition has been a daily topic around here.  We’re at a place where we’re seeing additional changes need to be made to improve things for him. Honestly, it’s a great time to sweep out some bad habits that we have let creep in for all of us during this time of transition. Really and truly, healthy eating is something we cycle in and out of, I’m sorry to say. Our kiddos are always kept on a good track, but we neglect ourselves and therefore neglect the example we are to our children ~ as Miss Mason refers to it = our “duty”.

But, not to despair! Even though we have allowed “the move” and the Home Study preparations to affect how we’ve been eating and taking care of ourselves, I’m reminded that I can do all things through Him who gives me the ability to do so. He really is the best resource for helping instill good habits. I would even say that any good habits in our family are there because He enabled us to create them! I’m also confident that we can get back into some healthier routines around here regarding what we eat. Just yesterday we were experimenting with some fun stuff:

Welch’s 100% Grape Juice + Seltzer = a fun bubbly drink

(without any of the icky stuff)

and eating this on Saturday:

Healthy Peanut Butter Fudge!

I also found this encouraging to read just this morning:

When it comes to unhealthy temptations, don’t give into the “I deserve it” – “it’s a special occasion” or “just this once”, voice inside your head.  Truth is, it’s never “just once” and there are “special occasions” almost every week. What you deserve is to give yourself the best health you can. You do more for your health by eating high-quality, real food than you do by giving in to processed unhealthy food cravings. Think about that today as you walk past the bowl of M&Ms on your coworkers desk or you get invited to the break room to celebrate yet another birthday. YOU CAN DO IT! (from Vanessa @Healthy Living How To)

Charlotte Mason asked this in Formation of Character:

“How many know that health is a duty, and not merely an advantage; that a serviceable body, strong and capable, is a debt we owe to ourselves, our kin, and our kind?” (Vol. 5, p. 386)

She always asks the best questions!


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Thankfully, I pulled an old volume of Miss Mason’s from my bookshelf just in time for her to impart much needed snippets of wisdom into my days…

People who live in the country know the value of fresh air very well,

and their children live out of doors,

with intervals within for sleeping and eating.

~Charlotte Mason, Home Education, Vol 1, p.42

We have enjoyed an especially Spring-like winter here in the South. It was quite a joy for us to avoid the usual lull of being cooped up indoors during cold temps. I realize that all of the seasons have something special to offer and that many people enjoy the cozy-ness of winter. However, in our house, it only takes a couple of rainy days or a week or two of winter weather to leave us feeling quite cooped up! I love it when things allow for ‘living out of doors’ again…

Charlotte goes on to say…

In the first place, do not send them;

if it is any way possible, take them…

Despite the delightful, sunny days, I had found myself in a rut.

A pattern had developed of the children heading outside after our lessons were over to play for hours…most days until supper time (or until a passionate, brotherly disagreement disrupted things!). I found myself inside working on this or that. I would do some laundry or dust or look over bills or other paperwork. Our doors and windows were wide open so I could keep a close eye on the boys while I toiled away. They are 9 and 10 now, and they are not at a loss to find things to do together whether I am out or not. Still, I quickly found myself struggling between longing to be out with them and needing to tend to things indoors. While certain things do require my attention and are necessary to be done, I had forgotten about how necessary the habit of being out of doors was to my well-being and to my relationship with my boys.

Leave it to Charlotte to gently remind me…

In recent days, you can find me out with them for half hour increments or so pushing them on the tire swing…slipping away for an hour to walk down to the creek and hide in the woods…simply sitting at the picnic table with a book or notebook…or maybe just digging leaves out of flower beds…some of my most beloved things with two of my favorite people!

With the help of Miss Mason’s timely reminders, I’m back to not just ‘sending’ my sweet boys out, but ‘taking’ them out. It’s important. It has always been a priority…when they were babies, toddlers, preschoolers, as well as now…and really, it always will be for us.

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“Literature has a great natural power. Through it, we receive the gifted communication of other persons. In literature, perhaps more than through any other art form, we are able to get into the other man’s shoes…”
~Susan Schaeffer Macaulay

I read this today.
It’s true, you know.

“In literature, we have the opportunity of developing a series of relationships with other persons, places, and historical times in a direct way. Perhaps this is the best place for mind to meet mind.” ~SSM

Again, true.

“Literature has a great natural power.” ~SSM

Let us not forget these things are true for our children

as well as for ourselves.

So, if it’s all true, how does that play out in practical terms for this busy-in-the process-of-adjusting-beginning-of-the-school-year-momma-whose-husband-just-started-a-new-job-and-also-starts-working-on-his-Master’s degree-this-month? Good question, huh? Also, just today in an email from a friend, she mentioned fitting in some things for herself amidst the heavy schedule of “getting it all done” at home with her children.

Ahhhh, a dilemma many of us face.

With this quandary in mind, mixed with the thoughts on literature I had read, I thought of  a couple of rather practical solutions…at least for me, anyway!

First, websites like this one and this one, offer a huge variety of ‘living books for the ears’. Yes, audio books for Mom, too! Now, those who know me, know that my phone is archaic. But even that old thing can hold a whole audio book! You can also download them to your computer or burn them onto cds. However you go about it, once you have the audio book and some cheap headphones, you can steal a few chapters at a time as you rake leaves, fold clothes, go for a walk, cook dinner, drive to the grocery store, and so on.

Secondly, you can read while the kids read. Remember D.E.A.R. time from when you were in school? You know, Drop Everything And Read!?!? If you make this part of the day for the kids and include yourself, you could easily get half an hour or so of reading a couple of days a week or more!

I love few things more than a really, really wonderful piece of literature. I find it true that “literature has a great natural power.”

Now, I’m off to do some downloading…and attempt to do a better job of ‘spreading the feast’ of literature by reading something not written by my beloved Jane Austen!

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and the Mother who learns to dry brush…

by Marcia

from I wonder why

As we began to incorporate more Charlotte Mason techniques into this homeschool, I introduced nature journals to the students.  This mother has begun to keep one too.   I’ve tried my hand at pencil drawing and charcoal, watercolor palettes and liquid watercolors,  and new colored pencils that change into watercolors.   It can be hard to decide what medium to take on a nature hike.  But above all it’s been a discipline to keep a nature journal going.

In the area where I live, a growing number of mothers meet on a monthly basis to talk about using Charlotte Mason techniques in the home.  In July of 2010 we decided try some Mother Culture of drybrush painting.  We began by watching a DVD by Eve Anderson.  She teaches the children how to observe in nature and then returns them to the classroom to demonstrate the  “dry brush technique” of watercoloring.

So we, too, went out to collect specimens

I found a birch tree similar to the one in my front yard.
A small portion of a branch was collected.
Then I spent about 10 minutes looking at my branch.
Determining the colors of green and brown.
Considering the leaf shape and the vein directions.
Then I layed my specimen next to my empty sheet of watercolor paper.
I used a basic set of 8 watercolors.  Basic watercolor brushes.
Upon Eve’s suggestion, I spent some time mixing the colors
to find the correct shade of greens.
She said that the one green color that comes
in the set is not a natural green and should not be used.
 I took some yellow and some blue to make these greens.
To mix the colors, I filled one medium brush with water.
Choosing yellow or blue, I collected a lot of color on the brush.
I moved the color to the side palate of the watercolor container.
 I also added some white and brown.
Each time a color was added I cleaned my brush with water.
With the basic colors created, I dried my brush on a paper towel
and collected the color onto the brush…
just a little at a time almost as if they brush was completely dry.
Using small amounts, I put color down onto my dry paper.
After quite a bit of time I found it much easier to make
the colors and shapes that seemed similar to the tree branch.
You can see at close up that I used some yellow, greens, and
some darker greens to create a shading effect as well as some empty spaces.
We mothers were very pleased that the discipline
of learning dry brush painting came as easy as it did.
Now to the discipline of keeping up the practice….

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It’s not really sticky-beaking if you are invited in, right?!

” ‘…I daresay she is too ill to move or speak, and to-morrow, perhaps, she’ll be our jolly mother again…’
‘That’s because your dear mother has no self, Charlie, boy; no sooner does she feel a bit better than she does more than she can for us all,’ ” (Charlotte Mason, Formation of Character, p. 98).

Such were the whisperings in the home of Poor Mrs. Jumeau, the woman in CM’s The Formation of Character, who constantly does herself in by doing too much. Mrs. Jumeau loved her family, she was smart and well organized but her strengths became her weakness. She failed to take for herself that necessary time of refreshing and revitalization often overlooked by mothers.

Having the privilege of sharing space at Educating Mother you would think I would know better than to become overdone as Mrs. Jumeau. Yet, with end-of-term exams, portfolios, chicken coop construction, spring cleaning, laundry and sundry that is right where I found myself or, to put it more aptly, lost myself.
Believe it or not, the mudroom is where I found my self. Amongst shoes, bb guns, recycle bins and all the mayhem of a family running in and out…and in and out…I heard the echo of a hope voiced three years ago when the realtor first showed us this house not yet our home. This could be my space to read, write and meditate.

I cleared an afternoon and cleared everything out, even washing the walls and ceiling in order to start my project with an entirely blank canvas to fill.
Mudroom after. An antique vanity functions as a desk, Hiroshige prints are from our Term 1 Picture Study and a slipper chair adds an additional touch of femininity. The room still welcomes everyone into the house so an indoor/outdoor rug was also added. Beginning each day here with cafe’ au lait and a time of morning revival equips me to better attend to that which has been entrusted to my care.

Mudroom before – south view. Visible in the background is the first birdhouse our boys built.

After. A large drawer-style trunk which began life housing a wooden train set and most recently held blankets was repurposed for shoe storage. The bushel basket keeps work gloves and hats handy, while our nature journals and watercolors are stored in the hanging wire basket for easy access.

Outdoor treasures are on display, while insect repellant and sunscreens are tucked away in a tin.

And what of Poor Mrs. Jumeau whose illness gained her the attention she had hoped her self-sacrifice would? A wise doctor was summoned who revealed to her husband,

“She must, even the cherished wife and mother of a family, be in touch with the world’s needs, and must minister of the gifts she ha; and that, because it is no dream that we are all brethren, and must therefore suffer from any seclusion from the common life” (Charlotte Mason, Formation of Character, pp. 106-107).

Happily, Mrs. Jumeau, upon having the above words relayed to her, took measures for self-preservation and came away victorious.

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As soon as he is able to keep it himself, a nature-diary is a source of delight to a child.

~Charlotte Mason (Vol 1, II,  p.54 )

My nature journal has actually become much more of a delight to me in the past 9 months.

After I read through “Keeping A Nature Journal” by Clare Walker Leslie, I found (without sounding too dramatic) a new “freedom” regarding my nature journaling. I am also becoming a better observer and lingering longer over the things that capture my interest. My pages are now adorned with a rudimentary sketch, questions, observations, and even some personal thoughts or “poetic” words. All in all, I think the most profound thing, is that my nature journal has actually become my own.

For some time, I had trouble defining the purpose of nature journaling. I sort of crave the need to identify and/or know the purpose behind many of the things I’m doing or pursuing (don’t judge me :)). One day while reading, this set off the tuning fork within in me as it put into words what I hadn’t been able to do for myself….

Simply put, nature journaling is the regular recording of observations, perceptions, and feelings about the natural world (God’s vast creation) around you.

~CWL, parenthesis mine

Another thing I had to overcome was my negativity toward my own inability to sketch or draw things well. Really, it’s quite the deficit I have! However, now I have this written in my journal to keep me from being discouraged on the topic….

Don’t judge your drawing. You are not an artist. You are a scientist, simply recording what you see, in this moment in time.


Ahhh, sweet liberty! I can’t read those words often enough.

One last thing that has really brought about the a fore mentioned “freedom” is in regard to how to record in a nature journal I have come to realize…

…the recording can be done in a wide variety of ways…some people prefer to record in written prose or poetry…some do it through drawing or painting, others with photographs or tape recordings, and still others through musical notation…


Charlotte Mason suggests that we are all “born naturalists” (Vol 1, II,  p.58). I am inclined to heartily agree. I hope the naturalist in you finds delight in keeping a nature journal of your very own!

Oh! To be a child again

With wonder in my eyes,

To pick the golden buttercups

And chase the butterflies.

Oh! To be a child again

Climbing a gently sloping hill,

To watch the world awaken

And hear the whipporwill.

Oh! To be a child again

Running in the sun-warm breeze,

To kiss alive the blossoms

And watch unfolding leaves.

~Nora Norton

Check here for a chance to win your own copy of the wonderful, practical,

and all-around-amazing-book “Keeping  A Nature Journal” by Clare Walker Leslie

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“Let the mother go out to play!” -Charlotte Mason

One of my favorite creative outlets is photography. My husband and I have a wedding and portrait photography business, so sometimes photography is “work” — but I still love it! Getting an amazing shot for a client gets me so excited I could squeal! (And sometimes I do!) But outside of work, I still pick up my camera nearly every day just for fun.

Photography enables me tell stories with something other than words.
It allows me to remember exactly what my daughter’s freckles look like in the summer time; the silly way my dog’s ear sometimes sticks up; or the look in my husband’s eyes when he is amused with me. It causes me to look for beauty even in ordinary people and objects, like this stack of books:
Books on Prayer

I have loved photography since I got my first “real” camera back in high school. My first home was decorated with large prints of photos I had taken of old barns, my dogs, scenes from vacations I’d been on — but it was becoming a mother that kicked my passion for photography up a notch. After all, THE cutest photographic subject in the world was with me all the time! 😉 With motherhood came a new hobby of scrapbooking, and that made me desire even more to have great photographs to include in those scrapbook layouts I spent so much time designing. I think applies for all of us bloggers as well!

Friends and blog readers often ask what camera or lenses I use. I’m happy to answer that, but the wallet-friendly secret is this: really good photographs do not require a really good camera. Yes, it’s a plus, but really only necessary for certain situations. For instance, high speed capability is required for fast-action shots; low light capability helps in indoor locations that don’t allow flash. But until you’ve learned to create great images on an average camera, there really is no point in buying an expensive DSLR.

The very best way to improve your photography skills is to take lots of pictures! Pick up your camera EVERY day and take at least one photo. Try something like a Project 365 challenge for inspiration. My husband Ken did this for two full years, and he can attest to how much he learned from it! (He blogged those two years of photos here.)

A few specific tips:
1) Watch your background. A lampshade coming out of someone’s head can ruin a photo. Take just a second to check your background; if you see anything weird or distracting, either move your subject or try shooting from a different angle.

2) Look for natural light. It’s very difficult to make flash not look artificial. If indoors, try to utilize window light whenever possible. Outdoors, cloudy days are wonderful for picture-taking!

3) When you do get the super-awesome camera you’ve been drooling over, be brave and take it off of full-automatic settings (what we lovingly call “the green monster”). When I finally conquered manual mode, I felt such a sense of accomplishment!

** Do you have specific questions I could answer in another post? Leave them in the comments section. Or just tell me: what is your favorite way to “play”?

JamieJamie is a blessed wife and homeschooling mama with three kids in a delightfully blended family. Visit her at See Jamie blog, or catch up with her on twitter.

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