Saturday, November 15, 2014

Gratitude - Be on the Watch and Make a Full Return

Idealized painting by Jennie Augusta Brownscombe, The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth, 1914
A kindness is like a flower that has bloomed upon you unawares, and to be on the watch for such flowers adds very much to our joy in other people, as well as to the happy sense of being loved and cared for. - Charlotte Mason, Vol. 4 p. 108
It is interesting to see that Mason was instructing students along the lines of an attitude of gratitude over 100 years ago. If you look at Ourselves, one of her sections is called "Love's Lords In Waiting: Gratitude." And since it is the season for Thanksgiving, I thought I would share some more book recommendations, paintings, and some of CM's own words.
Whatever the season, Mason wisely tells us that:
Gratitude spreads his feast of joy and thanksgiving for gifts that come to him without any special thought of him on the part of the giver, who indeed may himself have gone from the world hundreds of years ago.  Thus he says his grace for a delightful or helpful book, for a great picture, for a glorious day, for the face of a little child, for happy work, for pleasant places.(p. 110)
Never mind the students, are we practicing this? It can be awfully hard sometimes. It's a proactive choice to be on the watch for kindness and beauty where ever we may be and in whatever circumstances.

I have recommended this book in the past for Thanksgiving reading and here are three more gems from our collection. 

The first is Pilgrim Thanksgiving by Wilma Pitchford Hays, a favorite writer of holiday books.
Here is an excerpt:
Then across from her she saw Richard Moore. His head was bowed. His hands were folded properly.  There was a thankful look on his face. Damaris knew that Richard was an orphan who lived with Elder Brewster and helped with the work in return for his living. His two sisters and his little brother had died in the sickness of the first long winter.  Yet he was grateful, now, for food and good crops and friends.
Another good one is Naughty Little Pilgrim about "the most troublesome family", the Billingtons, who came over on the Mayflower.

Finally, Edna Miller gives us Mousekin's Thanksgiving which is simple and sweet with her beautiful pictures.

And here is a picture by an artist I look forward to getting to know better, Henry Ossawa Tanner.  It's called The Thankful Poor and is from 1894. 

Life would be dull and bare of flowers if we were not continually getting more than we can pay for either by money or our own good offices; but a grateful heart makes a full return, because it rejoices not only in the gift but in the giver. - Charlotte Mason, Vol. 4, p. 109

With Affection and Regard,

Ephesians 5:30
"Giving thanks always for all things unto God."

Friday, November 7, 2014

The Silver Answer - Another Reason

For us,… whatever ’s undergone,
Thou knowest, willest what is done.
Grief may be joy misunderstood:
Only the Good discerns the good.
    I trust Thee while my days go on. - from "De Profundis" by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Elizabeth Barrett Browning 1806-1881

A friend sent a request a while ago.  Could I please address schooling using Mason's methods when life happens? I forwarded the request to a friend because I didn't think I could adequately answer it.  Aside from a half dozen babies, things have remained fairly calm over the years.  Then came the emergency room visits and surgeries for 2 of my children followed by the loss of someone so close.

Now I have dozens of thoughts about all of this and my friend, Bobby Jo, is working on some very personal, helpful, and introspective thoughts to perhaps share with others at the upcoming LER.  But what I wanted to mention here is this; as a philosophy of education, Charlotte Mason is so intertwined with the whole person, including the spiritual, that there is an unbelievable, distinct comfort and joy in continuing - even when life hurts and comes undone.

I just wanted to talk about one aspect in this post - poetry.  This term we are reading Elizabeth Barrett Browning's poetry.  Her words have felt like someone has taken the top of my head off at times, then placed a buttery-soft blanket around my heart. The kind of blanket she would just pick up for us whenever she went shopping.

And I don't think it was coincidence that the week before things unraveled,  our TBG Community stood and each person read a stanza from De Profundis aloud.  I had read it twice at home, but when we gathered and did this community reading - the lightbulb was illuminated. I gasped and said, "Now I understand."  I had no idea how much this would mean to me in the weeks to come.

Last year, Richele gave my dd this fragile copy of Sonnets from the Portuguese for her sweet sixteen.  Now it's falling apart.  Here is one of my commonplace entries from Sonnets:

"Guess now who holds thee?" - "Death," I said, But, there,
The silver answer rang, -- "Not Death, but Love."

If you decide to read EBB's poetry, you must read this living book.  It is delightful.

The Silver Answer by Constance Buel Burnett

So, yes, this living education has taught me so much, including how to cope when life comes undone. Teacher's manuals and textbooks won't help much in this area.   There is so much more to this, of course, but I thought I'd just share a slice today.



Friday, October 3, 2014

Humanity Unfolds Itself: Handcrafts and the Boy

First, just this quote from George MacDonald:

To become able to make something is, I think, necessary to thorough development.  I would rather have a son of mine a carpenter, a watchmaker, a woodcarver, a shoemaker, a jeweler, a blacksmith, a bookbinder, than I would have him earn his bread as a clerk in a counting house.  Not merely is the cultivation of operant faculty a better education in faculty, but it brings the man nearer to everything operant; humanity unfolds itself to him the readier; its ways and thoughts and modes of being grow the clearer to both intellect and heart...what advantage the carpenter of Nazareth gathered from his bench, is the inheritance of every workman, in proportion as he does divine, that is, honest work.
-from There and Back

Our handcraft maven, Bobby Jo, was busy with a move so our TBG Community set the handcrafts section aside for a few weeks. My 15-year-old son had been making survival bracelets like crazy, experimenting with different weaves and wondering if he could fashion a device that might make it easier to tie. He overheard me talking about the situation with handcrafts and volunteered to teach handcrafts to the other students in our CM Community!

"Really?" I thought. "Okay," I said aloud,"but you have to really think this through and present it just like a teacher, you know."

"I got it, Mom." he said.

And he did.  He worked through the steps involved in carefully instructing 13 other students and for the most part, did a great job.  I don't know why these things surprise me, as taking charge of his education, being helpful, and being of use is all part of this relational philosophy.

I have been reading and thinking about Charlotte Mason's words on Vocation.  Here are a few gems:

"Boys and girls who would be ready for their chances in life must have well-trained, active bodies; alert, intelligent, and well-informed minds; and generous hearts, ready to dare and do all for any who may need their help." 4.206

"The intention to be of use is not enough. We must get the habit, the trick, of usefulness." 4.207

"The worth of any calling depends upon its being of use; and no day need go by without giving us practice in usefulness. Each one is wanted for the special bit of work he is fit for; and, of each, it is true that -

     "Thou cam'st not to thy place by accident:
      It is the very place God meant for thee." 4.210

Sigh. Lofty thoughts, yet true. Each of us can practice being of use every day. Keep encouraging your children along these lines, too.  This same son is reading slowly through Mason's Ourselves, Our Souls and Bodies and so takes time each week to really think hard about this sort of thing.  

As an aside, I asked him what his favorite books are this term and he told me that Eric Sloane's A Reverence for Wood and Mr. Midshipman Hornblower by C.S. Forester were the two he enjoys the most. Pretty good choices, I think, especially coming from a son I wouldn't call a voracious reader.

May all your goings be graces,

DS recommends the kits from Paracord Planet.  Each kit has enough to make 10 complete bracelets, including directions plus you can find a million variations on the internet.  All you need is a lighter and sharp scissors. They make great gifts for guys, too!

Also, he did make a holding device to help the process-


Thursday, September 25, 2014

Sacred Ministry

The Sower, 1850 - Millet
We began a new semester of our Charlotte Mason community, Truth, Beauty, Goodness.  You can see our schedule and a few new pics on the TBG page. So many good things! I hope to eventually share those things with you.  Meanwhile, here are some thoughts on Charlotte Mason's beloved Jean-Francois Millet.

Our first print to study was The Sower.  Heidi read this sublime passage to us: 
Millet produced a figure which had long occupied his thoughts. We know what a serious affair the sowing is to an agricultural people. Plowing, manuring, and harrowing are done with comparative indifference, at any rate without heroic passion; but when a man puts on the white grain-bag, rolls it around his left arm, fills it with seed, the hope of the coming year, that man exercises a sort of sacred ministry. He says nothing, looks straight before him, measures the furrow, and, with a movement cadenced like the rhythm of a mysterious song, throws the grain, which falls to the earth and will soon be covered by the harrow. The rhythmic walk of the sower and his action are superb. The importance of the deed is real, and he feels his responsibility. If he is a good laborer, he will know how much seed to throw with every fling of his hand, adjusting the amount sown to the nature of the soil.

-from Jean-Francois Millet, Peasant and Painter by Alfred Sensier

We learned that Van Gogh copied many great works by Millet.  Read about these fascinating copies here.

The Sower, 1889 - Van Gogh

Fred Yates' impromptu sketch of The Sower  - see The Millet Mystery

It's going to be a great term around here! 

For those who wish to continue reading on Millet, there is a nice lecture by Mr. Yates that can be found at the Charlotte Mason Digital Collection in the June, 1905 edition of L'Umile Pianta. If you simply search for "Millet" you will find it as well as another short article on Millet.

May all your goings be graces,