"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

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Are you a Keeper? (of notebooks)

This past week I read through the first chapter in Laurie Bestvater's book, The Living Page:  Keeping Notebooks with Charlotte Mason.  The first chapter is entitled:  The Art of the Keeper.  Throughout the chapter she continues to bring in to sharp focus how truly important Keeping a Notebook, commonplace and otherwise is important.  As she wrote I found myself feeling revived by her words, a breath of fresh air in an otherwise commotion filled world.  She speaks about how her Grandma gently introduced her to the art of being a keeper.  How much my spirit resounded with this!  My own Grandma constantly wrote, she had journals but she also had paper, lots of it: everywhere and no matter where she was she wrote. Whether it was a random piece of paper from an envelope to precious writing paper to a journal, she was seldom without a pen in hand.  We often heard her say: "I can not think without my pen, where did I put it?", as she searched out that beloved tool of hers.  For with it, she wrote encouraging notes, prayer requests, thoughts about the Lord, her English courses she was taking and the list goes on and on.   She continued in this vein right up until her death.  My Aunt found tons of paper and journals all with precious words written down.  Perhaps it is from her that I also adopted this for myself.  As I read through Laurie's chapter I recalled how I had always kept some sort of commonplace book.  A little diary with a lock when I was younger, to beautiful planners as I grew into highschool and college.  I would not only write dates and events but little notes in the margin.  I continued this way on and off throughout my adulthood with prayer journals, study journals and the like.  I guess I never thought of it as being so significant but as I read through the chapter I realised just how amazing this skill is, and how much more I would like to be 'a keeper'.

I thought about last winter when my father passed me a commonplace journal my Great Aunt kept.  It contained all sorts of tid bits from the weather of the day, to activities to people and places.  There weren't long entries but rarely a day was missed and I found myself wrapped up in it, unable to put it down.  Through its pages I learned how to white wash a cellar, how they dusted and when they cleaned and canned and even saw glimpses of my Grandma I was never able to meet as she died long before I was born.  I will often ask for it while at my parents to have 'just another peek'.

I thought about how my other Great Aunt kept a commonplace notebook for recipes, flowers, little thoughts and such and how I had the pleasure of reading through that in my early teens.  She kept it on her counter and through it unravelled the mystery of time honoured recipes, flower gardens and the like.

I thought about my Aunt who keeps a notebook that she has guests write in when they come to visit.  She has pages of the written word from brothers, sisters, cousins, friends, nieces and nephews.  It is  truly incredible and a gift to read through when you need a lift to your day.

And I thought:  I want to be more of a keeper, be more like all these women who have gone before me, treasuring the skill of the written word, keeping it elevated in a society that is racing toward the paperless, what with all its devices.  I want to continue this gift to my children and those who come after me.  It reminds me to pick up my pen more, to sit in the silence of a single moment to write, to enjoy and connect pen with paper.

I have a few notebooks already: a prayer/Bible journal, a thanksgiving journal, a crochet project journal, a nature notebook and a commonplace journal.  They are all different and some are beautiful, other plain but it is in the pages where ideas, thoughts and prayers come to life, giving the gift of thought and reason, of pleasure and the simple life, all wrapped up together.  What a precious time to have, an earnest skill to attend to:  these notebooks.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Connecting with History

This isn't a long blog entry but I have been meaning to share this for while.  Our curriculum is full of rich, engaging literature.  It draws my children in and allows them to connect with events, particularly those historical in nature.  They think deeply about it, examine the events and converse intelligently over them.  I wanted to share a couple of times where I saw this active.  

My husband went to Boston on a business trip.  While he was there he realized how historical that particular port city was. He was face timing with the kids one night and began speaking about the Boston Common, historical churches and the USS Constitution.  The kids were so excited and proclaimed him as being so fortunate to see these places.  My husband was surprised that they knew exactly what he was referring too and my kids were beyond excited that he was able to see all these places.  It was truly amazing to watch it all unfold.  Made me realise that how we do things here makes a fundamental impact on them.

The second example came one day when we were reading a loud the book: A Circle of Silver.  The book was about a young English boy who came to Canada as it was being formed.  During the book reading a General received a letter about King George'a death.  My son immediately perked up and said: "Let's see, while this was going on in Canada, this ...........was going on in the United States." (He cited a few events).  Then he said to me: "The King who died must have been King George the Second."  He was indeed, correct.  As we chatted I was amazed at how much he recalled and how adept he was at fitting the information together, not only time wise but also how these events both in Canada and the United States related to one another.  We had not spoken about it in that manner before.  My son led the discussion and I joined in, asked questions and listening to his thoughts on these events.  

I truly love moments like this.  Teaching at home is not always easy, it can be tiring as a homeschooler seeks to impart their children with the idea that education is a life (as Charlotte Mason says).  It's not about spitting out facts, it's so much more then that.  And when these moments happen, you see it clearly, they are loving to learn.