Thursday, August 20, 2015

A Well-Read Child

 "A child of any age should be a well-read person for his age." - Charlotte Mason

some books we enjoy
The air has taken a cooler turn as our our thoughts turn towards the upcoming school year. Everyone is talking about books, myself included. My mentoring sessions have increased as usual for this time of year and I find myself living vicariously through those who have these sweet 1st and 2nd grade years to plan.  I have a 6th, 9th, 10th, and 12th grader this year.  So much goodness in that, too!

There is something that, as the years go by, I find myself repeating over and over to others.  And that is this; I would much rather see families choose fewer books and live with them properly than an entire list from any curriculum that results in box- checking for having read the book.*

I occasionally  share my schedules with those I mentor.  That feels safe to me because I can qualify why I do what I do with the philosophical foundations intact.  Inevitability, the person looking  at is is rather stunned.  Why?  Because it appears to be a much lighter load than they were anticipating. Yet some have mentioned that my children are the best-read people they know. Indeed, Mason states that "A child of any age should be a well-read person for his age." (from The Story of Charlotte Mason, p. 116) So how do those two things exist at the same time - well-read children and a lighter schedule? I think it has to do with how those books are used.

In order for me to properly introduce a book to my child (scaffolding), attentively listen to narrations (administrating), appropriately engage in fruitful discussions (grand conversationing), I need to choose fewer excellent books.  My brain simply doesn't have the time, knowledge, or energy to properly engage with dozens of titles every single day.  The result of assigning too many books is either burnout or box checking. 

"You mean occasionally people have a problem with this even in a Mason paradigm?"

 No, I mean people often have a problem with this in a Mason paradigm.

So when I plan my school year, I write up an ambitious and glorious rough draft of the books and things I think would be great for that child that year. Then slowly, over the course a a few days, I pare things down, down, down, until the schedule breathes and flows with ... life.  Try it.  You'll know when you have it right for your family as there will most likely be peace in your heart.

freshly rearranged history section in library
*I recognize that yes, sometimes you can use huge book lists with certain children. (I have some of those.)  And yes, sometimes you should use about 1/2 of those lists with certain children. (I have some of those, too.) It's about how those books are used and the relationships that should ensue in the end.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Wonder Thoughts and a Winner

hollyhocks in Ontario, Canada from seeds given 2 years ago in Windom, MN

I just returned from a nourishing trip to St. Catharines, Ontario. The Wonder Together Retreat was  well done and encouraged  dialogue and community. It is so exciting to see these little pockets of interest in a CM education  slowly growing everywhere! I shared "wonder thoughts" throughout the day.

a few of the organizers

One of the things my hostess brought me to was the Stratford Festival!  I have heard about this town and the plays for so many years, it was a bit of a dream come true for me.  And Hamlet.  Oh, my.  That was good.

a walk along the river Avon

This little book was recommended to me by Sandy as an introduction to the Stratford Festival.  It is sweet and light and I am enjoying it.

book shopping

Frances was a secretary for the PNEU in London.  She married G.K. Chesterton!

But really, you want to know all about who won the six volumes, right?  The winner is...

Wendy Drakw!   

Thank you all for participating.



Friday, July 31, 2015

School Planning Post 2015 with Giveaway

Kate Greenaway!

Here are your favorite school planning posts:

I am off to Wonder Together 2015  in St. Catharine's, Ontario, Canada and then to spend a few days with some good, good friends.  I can't wait.

How many sets of the 6-volume series does a girl need?  I have, ummm, more than one.  So to celebrate the new school year, I'd like to give a set away.  After all, these books of Mason's would be the best teacher-training for the new school year.  I like what Henrietta Franklin, Honorary Organizing Secretary of the PNEU in Mason's day,  said:
"It is a truism to say that, in teaching, our chief attention should be given to methods rather than to subjects."
CM's 6 volume set in good++ condition

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Saturday, July 25, 2015

The Cloud of Witness Book - Part 1

A few years back, I wrote about the volume of devotional readings that Mason gave to her graduates titled The Cloud of Witness. It has been my heart’s desire to reprint this little gem. At the Living Education Retreat this past weekend, I gave the opening Conversazione in which I explained how this reprint came about. The problem was that the new books hadn’t arrived yet; they were still too fresh for the bindery to send!

Thankfully, they arrived the next day and were quickly snatched up. So the 2nd printing is under way and should be available by September 1st.  If you are interested in ordering, you can find out the latest news by watching the Cloud of Witness tab above or by liking the Facebook page (The Cloud of Witness).

This new copy is a reprint of the 1891 edition. The changes include replacing the black and white picture of Holman Hunt’s The Light of the World with a lovely color image. I will share more about this fascinating painting in a later post.  Another change is that a new forward has been added, written by me. It explains my journey and reasons for reprinting this book, as well as Mason’s association with it. Finally, there is the cover.

Do you have any idea how fun it is for a book lover to actually design a book cover?! I wanted it to be stunningly beautiful.  It was enlightening to work with Cynthia Oswald. I chose the graphics for the spine based on some of my vintage books.  And I love how she imitated the variety of fonts and sizes found on the original title page for the cover.  It definitely gives it an antique feel in my mind. The eggplant color of the cover is a favorite of mine and reminds me of royalty, richness, reverence. And the sweet yellow bookmarks are reminiscent of the bookmarks in the original editions.

I need to hold books in my hands. This is even more true with books that I cherish. Giving someone you love an e-book for a special occasion doesn’t have quite the same effect as giving them an heirloom hardcover. The finished book has exceeded my expectations and I will be giving it as a gift for years to come. I hope you feel the same.

Already it has been a peaceful joy to share quotes and encouragement with those from the LER who are reading along and meditating on the same thoughts and verses. Charlotte Mason knew exactly how it would bind her students together in meditative thought.

This diminutive  devotional, all 500+ pages, follows the Christian year, beginning with Advent.  Each week begins with a theme and prayer. Then each day starts with a verse followed by poems, quotes, and other scriptures related to that theme. The passages chosen are from such authors as George MacDonald, Matthew Arnold, Plato, Socrates, Keble, and Wesley.  Poets such as Wordsworth, Milton, Browning, and Tennyson are included.

one of my old copies

another old copy

 I am not Anglican, so I wasn’t certain how useful I would find the book when I received my first copy from England.  The compiler, Edith Gell, was a member of the Church of England and had this to say about that:

This little book has owed some of the noblest testimonies to Christian thought to writers of other Communions than my own. I should be glad if it could repay the debt by being found useful in its turn beyond the limits of the Church of England. Even to such as do not share our own lifelong associations with the progress of the Church’s year, a Golden Treasury of great thoughts and aspirations culled from ancient and modern, from religious and secular writers, may be helpful. (from the Preface)

Finally, thank you to Erin Daly at Riverbend Press.  Her tireless sacrifice to make my vision a reality and educate me on the art of book making has amazed and humbled me.

There is much more to share about The Cloud of Witness, but I will stop here for now.  Thank you for your enthusiastic response to this project. I hope to do a few others in the future!