"Thought breeds thought; children familiar with great thoughts take as naturally to thinking for themselves as the well-nourished body takes to growing; and we must bear in mind that growth, physical, intellectual, moral, spiritual, is the sole end of education." ~ Charlotte Mason

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Nature's Treasures

We are Charlotte Mason Educators.  To say this, is an honour, a blessing. For with it opens a whole world of fresh approaches and earnest learning.  Out of it grows a love and affection for good literature, nature, attention to detail and habit formation. 

This year, we have turned our attention to the Charlotte Mason habit of nature notebooking.  We've done notebooking before but not in the way we have pursued it this year.  This year, we've  recorded weather patterns, stages of the moon, cloud formation, details of plants and animals, and even poetry into our books. The kids are starting to develop an affinity for it, that I am certain, in time, will blossom into something more meaningful for them.  What surprised me was how much much I am enjoying it.  So this post is mainly about my experience with nature notebooks. 

I started out with the idea of leading by example.  I decided I would come alongside my children and enjoy the experience with them.  What I discovered both surprised and delighted me!   I am not an amazing artist. But that doesn't matter because the world of recording nature has opened up a sweet relief from stress and a return to the appreciation of this spectacular world in which we live.  I found, just as Charlotte Mason describes, that my attention to detail has become attuned to the world in which I live.  I am starting to see, rather then merely look.  As I sketch that flower or that bird I am amazed by the rich detail of each.  The markings, the individual simplicity that makes it so complex and utterly breath taking.  The colours of nature have come alive, so vibrant and fresh!   Not only am I seeing but my other senses have joined my sight.  What I am hearing and smelling bring more pleasure to the bigger picture.  

As I sat in the quiet of the morning today I heard the gentle lap of the waves on the sand, took in the smell of the water mixed with the foliage, appreciated the blue/grey of the sky, the deep blue of the lake, heard the crows, the call of chickadee, the squawk of the gulls, the buzzing of the cicada and the chatter of the chipmunk.  I felt I was living in that moment, enjoying creation the original artist made for me to take in.  I believe nature notebooking has increased my ability to better see the world outside of my 'formal' notebooking hours.  Not only to see it but be apart of it, to join in the excitement of what is around me.  If it's doing that for me, I believe very strongly, it will be so for my children too.

I sat on the back deck this morning drinking my coffee, enjoying the sounds, sights and smells of a fresh new day.  Off in the distance I heard the soft peck of what I believed to be a wood pecker.   It was such a soft tapping that I was second guessing myself.  I sighted a bird on a tree branch who seemed to be tapping away with all its might.  I called out quietly to my eldest to fetch our camera.  She did so and I was able to get a closer look.  I couldn't get a good picture so I availed myself of the camera to my husbands capable hands. He took a trek through the brush to get a better picture and was able to get some wonderful photos of her.  All of us went inside to have a better look at the photo and look up the details of this particular woodpecker.  It was a Downy Woodpecker known for its soft tapping rather then the large jack hammer pounding of other wood peckers.  Upon further investigation my son proclaimed it a female for the lack of red patch on its head.  I am amazed he knew that.  This led to some conversation about wood peckers in general and in particular the differences between the markings of female/male birds and other creatures.  This whole exchange made me think about how an appreciation for nature and attention to detail including all the senses, made for such enjoyable conversation and connection to nature as well as with each other.  In that moment I knew we had it!  What we were doing just what Charlotte Mason has encouraged in her writings.  This is exactly what I want for our family; a love of learning and entering into this vast world of ours to observe the complex and to understand that we need to take the time to be apart of it. So simple, so enlightening, so amazing.

I've included my art work for The Downy Woodpecker.  Anyone can do it from the very young to the old.  As a parent, and an educator I am so pleased I am taking the time to keep a nature journal.  It has enriched my life in so many ways.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Surrendering to the Year Ahead

Here I sit on holiday and I was struck with how difficult it was for me to relax this time around.  I am accustomed to this place, my old haunt, the place where I feel relaxed as soon as my foot hits that first patch of sand out the van door.  But this coming school year is weighing on me; I have felt it stretching out before me as the summer has waned.

As I add one more child to a more formal schedule; I have had to determine what I can do, what my children can do and what we can handle as a family: with our time, with our costs, with our resources and with our energy. I have done this, successfully, I might add. I know what we're doing and why we're doing it, yet the anticipation of starting it has my stomach in knots.  

Let me preface this with saying: I love this journey we are on of home education.  It has been full of joy, full of learning and full of challenges.  It's an ever evolving process of discovery.  I jokingly expressed to a friend the other day: "By the last child, I'll have this down!"    Amidst the jest there is a grain of truth but mostly there is US, all of us, learning what works and what doesn't - for each child, for our family for: ALL of us.  The challenges of learning styles, addressing those individual struggles of character building, the son who has eye tracking issues, the business of that 6 year old (who seriously makes me wonder if she has ADHD), keeping up with the 12 year old who is speeding ahead to high school quicker then I can plan, getting them off to piano, violin, teaching French, running book club, getting off to swimming, youth group, girls club, Bible Study, speech workshops, recitals: well, there is much to do!  In amongst these things I have adopted a style of education that is rich, rewarding and full.  Charlotte Mason's philosophies have opened the world of learning for us.  And even though I have done a number of her suggestions since the beginning we are still adding to our repertoire of CM approaches and fine tuning what we have been doing.  I am truly pleased with how we are doing things.  So what is it that has me feeling the angst?  
These last few days I have had long walks, sat on the beach gazing off into the lake.  I have taken it all in and quieted myself.  It occurred to me this morning that it's surrender I am missing.  Surrender to this year and all its activities, challenges, and to what it holds.  So I wrote down how I will surrender.  And when I feel the angst rising I will go over my list to make sure I am surrendering.

#1.  I will find strength in my personal relationship with Jesus.

#2.  I will NOT feel guilty about what we can not do.

#3.  I will take time to breath; to go for that run, read that book, crochet that item, go for that tea, sit in the quiet of the morning with that steaming hot cup of coffee, tweet that update, load that beautiful picture.

#4.  I will accept help - the encouraging word from a friend, that offer of help....

#5.   I will find joy in the moment, thanksgiving in the praise.

#6.  I will accept when I've failed, ask for forgiveness and forgive myself.

#7.  I will remind myself of this list when I feel like I am loosing my surrender.  

Self - remember. 😃