Albert - Five in a Row Volume 4

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

I haven't been posting a ton of our homeschooling stuff this year.  The main reason is that it takes a really (really) long time to upload all the images and describe every detail of our studies.  Also, I often forget to take photos as we are doing activities, and then forget what activities we even did or where I found them online or elsewhere...  so I'm not the best at blogging for homeschool, to be honest!

So, this year, I hope to share bits and pieces of our homeschooling in an easier way.  These will be snapshots of our studies or days and small captions with the photos.  Hope this works to still give a glimpse into homeschool life as well as provide some ideas/inspiration!

Be blessed and I hope you enjoy a peek at our first 'row' in Volume 4 of Five in a Row, Albert, by Jim LaMarche.

Main areas of study for Albert:

  • nests and nesting birds
  • Cardinals
  • embracing and enjoying nature
  • gentleness of heart
  • facing fears
  • whimsical tales
  • city living
  • maple trees and maple syrup
  • language arts: adjectives, descriptive sentences, list making, letter writing, symbolism
  • art: working with water colors and pencil crayons, sketching nature, sculpture
  • music: Vivaldi, the Four Seasons
  • drama: pantomime and miming
  • science: noise and decibels, the human body - joints

On a hunt for nests in the woods.

Bark rubbings.

Comparing leaves in our neighborhood.

On a hike, looking for cardinals and birds of all kinds.

Feeding the Chickadees.

Art project: using self-drying clay to make a cardinal and her eggs.

For our study of 'city living' we created a house out of two shoe boxes.

Some of the resources we used.

Our Lapbooks:

Thanks for reading!

A Charlotte Mason Education - Part 1: Foundations

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

It's an unusually warm autumn afternoon when we mount bikes and venture to the nearby stream for afternoon art and nature study lessons.  I breathe deep and feel freedom run through my bones. Alex rides on the tandem bike behind me, a true 'bicycle built for two', and whoops as we breeze down hills.  We bump over grass and find a deserted picnic table (all the picnic tables are deserted on weekday afternoons) and we lean together and unload art supplies.  We talk about what we see and what to sketch and all this beauty around us.  We discuss what God makes to blossom this time of year.  We are surrounded by tall trees and open air.  We are together.  This is our 'school'.  Not every day.  But many days.  Beautiful days.  Freedom days.  This is the longing for the fresh and wonderful feeling of a happy, meaningful, and fruitful home education.  

It was the freedom of trusting God, my children, and my instincts that drew me to Charlotte Mason's philosophies.

When I discovered the Charlotte Mason philosophy of education, I realized her ideals and methods were what I had hoped and dreamed for our homeschool.  Charlotte was and is an incredibly respected philosopher and educator.  She has profoundly impacted the world of home and school and her students, no matter from what walk of life or ability, excelled.  I was filled with joy, and longing to learn more about these philosophies that have shaped lives in such positive ways.  So, over the past many years, I've tried to learn more, and  I've worked hard to implement Charlotte's ideas into our home and learning.

I am in no way an expert on Charlotte Mason or her philosophies.  I want to remain really humble here and express, we are still in progress and I'm learning more every day about what works best in our home and how to use these wonderful methods to bring out the best in all of us!  So many Moms were asking me to share some posts about Charlotte Mason, so after praying and thinking about it - here I am.  I just want to be authentic and share our heart and experiences with this life-giving way of education our children.  My prayer is that other Moms and families can experience the freedom we have found in our homeschool.  So...

Charlotte's philosophies are in the same breath completely logical and divinely whimsical.

It's true.  Whimsical because so much of it seems too good to be true.  Too simple to be affective.  No tests.  No fill in the blanks.  No 'busy work'.  Hours of reading classics and good quality living books and then discussing what we've read.  Going about our daily business of life intentionally and joyfully.  Now this was a 'curriculum' I can follow!

Charlotte Mason believed a philosophy of education must be made up of far more than simply academics - that education comprised of body, soul, and spirit.  She expressed often the importance of acknowledging children as 'born persons' who come out of the womb with their own set of unique gifts, talents, desires, abilities, challenges, and callings.  She believed children had an incredible amount of value in the eyes of God and so should they also in the eyes of man (and Mom)!  This was a unique view for her era in the late 1800s when children were believed best to be seen and not heard. 

This idea of children being 'born persons' resonates so deeply with me as a Mom.  I'm sure most of us can relate to the strong desire to embrace and celebrate our children as people, made by God, on purpose, for a purpose.  This is why I feel a boxed education just can't work.  It can't bring out the very best in a young child because it ignores the foundational truth of their existence - they are completely unique and have very unique needs in order to flourish.  I believe my job as a Mom is to help them grow to know God and find joy in serving the Lord and others in the specific ways they are gifted and have been called.  

These precious beings we raise are whole people.  And whole people are about so much more than just their academic knowledge.

When we are 'homeschoolers', it is the same as saying we are taking on the full responsibility to educate our children.  There is no outside source, we are the source.  When I committed to homeschooling, I knew this.  I was wholly responsible for the education of our children.  And so, naturally, I desired to define just what educating a child actually means

I prefer to use Charlotte Mason's term of 'raising up' a child when seeking this answer.  It's also a biblical ideal, this raising up business.  So many of Mason's philosophies and ideas stem from biblical truth as she was a follower of Jesus and believed heavily in the power of God and the Holy Spirit in the home and 'school'.  Yes!

So, we are raising up children.  Whole children.  Children who have incredible value and eternal worth.  We are not merely filling a brain bucket with knowledge.  We are raising up a whole entire human being who will grow into adulthood right before our very eyes.  It is an enormous and wonderful and completely overwhelming responsibility.  Any parent will admit that truth - homeschooler or any walk of life.

What I love so much about Charlotte Mason's philosophy of education is that it focuses on developing the child from the inside out.  We recognize we are facilitating the growth and development of a future adult and we respect and lovingly direct their unique path.   We are putting our trust in them and building a strong relationship with the child.  We are investing in their spiritual health and we are inspiring them to be thinkers, inspirers, and to embrace who they are as unique beings.  We are challenging them to grow and at the same time challenging ourselves with these very same ideals.

"Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life."

This is Charlotte Mason's motto that so neatly expresses the soul of her philosophies.  If we can wrap our minds and hearts around this simple sentence, it can completely revolutionize our home and family life right along with our homeschooling experience.  I know this, because I've lived it.   I've seen the beauty of living out the truth in these eight words - let me briefly give an overview of the fulness of them.

In Charlotte's world, true academics take up only one third of the whole education of the child.  That's right - one third. 

 This basic idea of education is life means we walk daily, wide-eyed and open-eared waiting to see something beautiful, something interesting, something worth discussing.  We present our children with 'things worth seeing' and, as Charlotte said, "all the thought we offer to our children shall be living thought; no mere dry summaries of facts will do".   Ideas we present to our children are living ideas that inspire them to think.  Our children also grow to understand that learning never stops and is not contained in a building or a room.  

Their academic schedule is full and rich.  Because Charlotte Mason's philosophies are often known for being gentle, some people mistake her philosophies as being the same as 'unschooling' or even a lazy learning approach.   Nothing could be further from the truth!  Charlotte expected much from her students.  The young child homeschooled using this method is studying classical music, art and art history (including picture study), ancient history, languages (often Latin), memorizing poetry and scripture, engaging in and enjoying advanced classical literature, keeping nature journals, notebooks, and historical timelines, and learning about wide variety of interesting topics that are never watered down or 'brought to his level'.  This is no 'whatever' mentality for learning!

The other two thirds of the education are atmosphere and discipline.  Atmosphere, simply put, is what surrounds the child on a daily basis.  What is family life like?  What kinds of beliefs and values are the parents instilling in the child through home life and daily living?  What are the conscious and subconscious messages being delivered to the child about life, learning, family, home life, and our purpose as human beings?  Charlotte said this about atmosphere: "the child breathes the atmosphere emanating from his parents; that of the ideas which rule their own lives".  This means - they are watching and listening, and we are responsible for what they see and hear.  And what they see and hear will shape who they become.  This also means, if our children are in school rather than with us, they are breathing in the atmosphere emanating from their teachers and their peers and the ideas which rule their lives.  One of the huge reasons we have our children under our own roof.

Discipline is where those habits Charlotte often spoke of come in.  Where a child is 'trained up' to follow in a positive direction with self-motivation and self-learning.  Many of these habits include things like courtesy, kindness, manners, diligence, patience, attention, memorization, observation, integrity, obedience, self-control... you know, the things we parents need to work on right along with our children!

See, in Charlotte Mason's philosophy, home education becomes a rich, multi-layered concept that begs far more thought than 'which curriculum should I choose?'.  This is what makes it so appealing to me.  Because it inspires me daily to remember that two thirds of what our children are learning, has nothing to do with whether or not they are excelling at math.  No, it's far deeper and far richer than that!  Do they love learning?  Are they thinkers?  Are they self-motivated?  Are they learning to be better people - more loving, caring, diligent?  Are they growing in their relationship with and knowledge of God?  Are they surrounded with a family atmosphere of love and acceptance?  Am I reflecting the kind of actions I would hope for them to imitate?

Ah, all of a sudden 'homeschooling' just got so much deeper.  Yes, far deeper and so, so rich.

"Education is a discipline - that is, the discipline of the good habits in which the child is trained.  Education is a life, nourished upon ideas; and education is an atmosphere - that is, the child breathes the atmosphere emanating from his parents; that of the ideas which rule their own lives."
-Charlotte Mason

This post is not meant in any way to be comprehensive.  I have not gone into great detail here because it is my prayer and plan to unpack many of Charlotte's philosophies in a personal way over the next several weeks.  We will be looking individually at the idea of education as an atmosphere, discipline, and life in three separate posts.  I am also planning (Lord willing) to cover many topics, such as nature study, language arts, living books, habits, journaling, children's mottos, and so on.  I am praying this Charlotte Mason series inspires and challenges myself and other home educators in our journey.  I'm also praying we can dig deeper and press harder into Christ Jesus, our Eternal Well.  He is the first step to 'raising up' our children with grace, love, and divine purpose.


Some Resources to visit online:

Ambleside Online's Charlotte Mason's 20 Principles

Whispers from our first Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot)

Saturday, October 18, 2014

If you aren't familiar with the Feast of Tabernacles, can I whisper a suggestion to consider reading my last post, written as we prepared to celebrate?

I stall miserably in taking down our Sukkah. I watched through the back window as my husband disassembled the last of our beautiful 'tabernacle' this evening. The back deck is eerily solemn and empty now without the curtains and lights and flowers and banners and all the beauty we created for our celebration of The Feast of Tabernacles. So many memories were made in that tent out the sliding door. But by day 9 our pumpkin lanterns were sagging and the table cloth was spattered with the remains of countless outdoor meals shared together.

The candles have burnt down to merely wick but all the glory and wonder of that hallowed place still beckons me to remember.

The Sumac here is bright red and our Black Walnut trees are raining down golding showers. Harvest season is the reaping and the thanksgiving, the feasting, and the praising. The knowing and embracing how every single solitary things comes from Heaven and every breath and every heartbeat is willed to take place by the One who holds the stars in space. Abba God, Yahweh, the Truth whose very name makes the sound of breathing.

 And He is my breath, my very life line.

 I gaze out at the sunflowers, still blazing yellow and blooming bright after our week of celebrations. I remember gathering around those flowers the eve of the Feast and I remember placing them carefully on the table as the wind howled all around us. Yes, the day we started with a bare back deck and saw it transformed into a breath-taking tabernacle that filled our children with awe.  It is blazed in my memory - us decorating our first outdoor Sukkah, and the kids all starry-eyed in wonder.

And if some one had of told me a year ago that I'd be building a Sukkah and embracing this biblical feast I would have looked at them funny and given my goofy nervous giggle/snort.  I mean, really?  That's kind of, um, weird.

So as those wind gusts tormented us, so my own spirit gave in to torment.   I stood and smiled but deep inside, the question lingered... should we really be doing this?  We would hang a decoration and the wind would gust up and blow a table ten inches to the side. The curtains were flapping wildly as Simon desperately tried to tie them down- a nine-year-old boy on a mighty mission.  I laughed but I really wanted to cry.  All this struggle, and to the world - this is just plain odd.  Ok, Lord... is this your will, Lord?

Suddenly, three chairs crashed over onto the glass table. The children were frightened by the fierce wind and I was instantly reminded of God's glory and His power.  He is the very wind and these gusts don't even compare to His true power. Still, my heart was slowly sinking as I fought the blasts and tried desperately to continue preparations for our outdoor supper and celebration of the first day of the Feast of Tabernacles. Wind or no wind, we would build our Sukkah. 

Dear friends joined us late in the afternoon and embraced the fun and joy of preparations. As we chatted, laughed, and hung banners, ornaments, and lights, the wind still rippled around the outside of the tent.  At times, it was as if the walls were sails on a ship, billowing and bowing and rippling wild.

Any one who has ever tried to do anything outdoors in wild wind can understand why we would have felt disheartened.  Why this first time Mama might have been questioning and sinfully wondering if the Lord had truly asked of us to embrace this celebration.  I dared not speak it to anyone, but deep inside, I had twinges of doubt.

But, as we stood together under the tent's cover - we prayed. We prayed hard that the Lord would stop the wind. We prayed, 'Lord, you say to make your requests known - so we are asking, praying, that you would stop the wind Lord, please. We build this Sukkah and we embrace this holy day for your honor, so we place this before you... you have the power to do all things and surely, to calm the wind so we can celebrate Your feast day in peaceful weather..."

And we left it at His feet.  As so often we are called to do as followers of Christ.

We cooked and I watched as the Hallah was made and then I braided the dough and we laid out place settings and goblets and lit the candles.  All the while, the wind was dying down.  Slowly, so slowly that we didn't really notice.

Then, when all was prepared and we entered the tent for dinner together - the air was so still, not a single side of the tent so much as rippled.  There wasn't even a hint of a breeze.  The torrents of wild wind had been shushed to absolutely nothing. The children cheered, the Mamas teared up, and God was glorified.  

And me?  I was humbled.  Again and again I am humbled and I am reminded of who is God and how He works and how faithful He is.  How faithful and how true.  And complete peace overtook me in that sparkling little tent.

We shared and read and even blew the Shofar.  We broke bread and passed the 'wine' cup and remembered Christ broken for us.  Yes, Christ broken for broken me.  We feasted and praised and reflected on Christ Jesus - the very Emmanuel, God with us, who tabernacled among His people.  The very Christ child who grew up, died, rose, and sent His Spirit to dwell with us even now.  Even in this very moment.  We sat in awe at the softness of the evening, the crickets chirping, the moonlight, and the awesome presence of God Almighty right there in that little tent all warm and cozy and filled with light.

Praise God.  He is faithful and He answers prayers and He calms storms.

And He meets with us.  Even when we doubt He will.  Or we doubt His whispers.  Or we just plain doubt.  Maybe because something isn't conventional - we long to fit the mold but we know we're being asked to step right on out of it.  To embrace His truth and His wonder, not the world's.

The lights glitter and the candles dance at nearly midnight after our friends have long gone home and the kids are tucked into bed.  My stomach is full of soup and bread and too much pie - but my soul, my soul is so full it could burst.  Joy spills over as a I stand and gaze silently at the remaining pieces of a night of The Feast.  I'm overwhelmed with Christ Jesus' presence in that quiet place of worship.

The next morning, I sneak outside wrapped in blankets before sunrise.  Something, no - someOne beckons me to come and sit in that sacred tent.  I open the Word, the very breathing of God and sip hot spice tea in the dim light of candles.  This light.  This flickering light, right here in front of my sleepy eyes - the light.  And He is the light of the word.  And Christ Jesus, Yeshua Immanuel, spoke the words about being water and light during this very Feast when all the other people still waited for a Messiah.  They waited and yet, He walked among them.  But they did not know Him.

How I long to know Him.  I mean, really, really know Him.  To walk His path and hear His whispers and see flickers of His light in everything.  To know what it truly means to answer His beckoning of "Follow Me".  To find Him here in His dwelling place and also in every place because the whole wide world is His tabernacle, really.  He is everywhere at all times and no one can comprehend it - they can only grasp on in faith.  And in faith, be moved to the very core of who we are and how we worship.

For seven days we kept our Sukkah and we gathered under this tent for meals and quiet times.  It is life-shaking when we listen and obey the Lord, even when what He leads us to is something completely unexpected.  I never thought I would be decorating and creating a 'tabernacle' for the Lord, but I now can testify of the power of His ways and His festivals and His appointed times.  Friends, there is so much beauty and depth in His Feasts!

We do not put up these tent walls and decorate with lights and candles and all things beautiful because of a religious rule - we do this because we love God and strive to honor Him.  

We create this visual tabernacle as an outward symbol of what we long for on the inside.  

We long to be with the Lord.  To experience Him.  To know Him more.  To have Him truly dwell with us and among us and to feel His very breath and hear His very words.  We do this because He has whispered how to honor Him and we long to love Him the ways that truly magnify His name.

Because worship isn't about us.  It's about God and how He asks us to worship Him.  And how He puts the desires of His heart in our very hearts when we ask Him to do it.

And His feasts bring us to Him in powerful ways I could never have imagined.  Oh, the depth, the richness of His truths.  The whole of a Messianic Sukkot is to remind us God is our Shelter and our Refuge, Christ is Emmanuel - God with us, Christ is the light and the eternal fountain of life.  His Holy and Everlasting waters wash us white.  We remember this too, that we have a permanent home, and it isn't here on earth.  Our stay here is as temporary as that temporary tent on the back deck.

And yes, it is our time to celebrate the birth of Christ.  He who came, born in a simple Sukkah, a humble stable.  He who descended and tabernacled with His people.  It's like the precious old hymn says:

Veiled in flesh the Godhead see
Hail the incarnate deity
Pleased as man with man to dwell
Jesus, our Emmanuel...
Hail, the heaven born Prince of Peace
Hail, the Son of Righteousness
Light and life to all He brings
Risen with healing in His wings
Mild He lays His glory by
Born that man no more may die
Born to raise the sons of earth
Born to give them second birth...

Born so that we may live.  And I mean, truly, fully live.  "For I came that they may have life and life abundantly..."  And the only full life is the full-of-Christ-life.  Because He is the very One who fills the otherwise forever hole in every single human heart.  Sukkot beckons us to set aside the things of this world and embrace the set-apart, intentional worship of the King of Kings.  To enter in and dwell intentionally in His presence.  To still the world and Hear the Word.  To humble our hearts and listen.

Among the Autumn breeze, the crickets, the gentle clucks of the hens, the passing of a car, there - in a still small voice, He whispers.  But first, we must quiet ourselves and be desperate to hear.

His voice wasn't in the roaring of the wind - 

but in the stillness thereafter.

From Psalm 27 
"One thing I have desired of the Lord
That I will seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the Lord
All the days of my life,
To behold the beauty of the Lord,
And to inquire in His temple.
For in the time of trouble
He hall hide me in His pavilion;
In the secret place of His tabernacle
He shall hide me;
He shall set me high upon a rock...
I will offer sacrifices of joy in His tabernacle..."

John 7:37-38
"On the last day, that great day of the feast (of Tabernacles), Jesus stood and cried our, saying, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink.  He who believes in Me, as the scriptures have said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water."

John 8:12
"The Jesus spoke to them again saying, 'I am the light of the world.  He who follows me shall not walk in darkness but have the light of life.'"

"Jesus Christ is  the Tabernacle or dwelling place of God.  In Him dwelled the fulness of God and God dwells in our midst because of Jesus."

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