Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Taking Up Residence

When we moved into our current home several years ago, I was very unhappy.  It was a nice house on a lovely piece of property with a one-acre pond and 12 acres of lush grass.  However the home we left was built by us.  I chose the house plans, made changes in the floor plan to suit our family, chose paint, flooring (oh, how I miss my Brazilian cherry floors.)  This new house did not feel like home to me.  It was someone else's idea of what a home should be.  It wasn't until I brought in those unique touches that were meaningful to our lives that I could really say I belonged there.  Now I am part of this place.  I have taken up residence.

It is the same with the books we read.  These books were written by another person, probably living in another time or place.  We may have nothing in common with them except for their words.  But when we bring to the book our own unique touches, the experiences of our lives that set us apart, the ideas take up residence in us and become part of us.

Ideas are powerful things.  They are not, in and of themselves, tangible.  They are not something we can see, smell or taste.  But they can change lives and change the world far more than those tangible things we put so much stock in can do.  The volatile thing about ideas is that they are unique to each person.  Each time I read a book, I bring to the table my own life, experiences, presuppositions. Those ideas mix and mesh with those of the book and become my own in a way unlike those of anyone else who has ever read that book...my own personal culture.

The same is true for books shared with family.  My family has shared so many books together.  We each make our own connections in the reading because we are all distinct individuals.  But in living with the book together it becomes part of our family's identity.  It becomes casual discussions around the dinner table, knowing eye contact across the room, shared reminisces even years later...a family culture.

Ideas are so influential, however, that we don't even have to share the same book to be changed by them.  Often when my oldest son comes home to visit, we inevitably get into an informal discussion, usually spawned by world events or something much less lofty, about something he has read but we haven't.  As we discuss the ideas in a book that the other hasn't read we are stretched beyond our own personal experience.  That, again, becomes part of our personal and family culture and ripples its way into the culture at large.

There is so much to be gained by reading.  The ideas that take up residence in our hearts are the most life-changing reasons to pick up a book.

Friday, March 25, 2016

But I Don't DO Charlotte Mason!

Recently I had an inquiry regarding library membership.  This is the season when many families start making plans for the upcoming year so this is not unusual.  This particular inquiry took me off guard, however, and distressed me a little.  The mom wanted to know if she would be welcome in my library because, she said, "I don't DO Charlotte Mason.  I heard you have to DO Charlotte Mason to belong to these libraries."

No, no, a thousand times, NO!  I have been a Charlotte Mason homeschooler for 20 years now in some form or fashion.  In the early years when I was learning and homeschooling was not quite the phenomenon it is now, I did Charlotte Mason-y things...reading living books, narration, nature study, etc., without really understanding her philosophy.  I'm still learning after all this time.

And yet, I'd be willing to venture that the families in my library who DO Charlotte Mason have homeschools that look very different from mine.  Some are in a fabulous CM co-op.  We are not.  Some align their schedules to match as closely as possible Charlotte's own schedules while my planning philosophy is simply...turn the page.  Some meet together for a nature study club.  Often we are lucky to just take in what we can on our farm (which, I admit, is a lot.)  Some have daughters who quietly and thoroughly give their narrations.  My youngest son, who is my champion narrator, has been known to LEAP out of his chair and give a resounding (i.e. noisy) rendition of the exciting passage he just heard.

And it's all OK.

I have families who are active in Classical Conversations.  Others do unit studies.  I even have a few who rely solely on textbooks for school and use the library for wonderful literature or supplemental biographies.

And it's all OK.

We all need living ideas.  While my library is a ministry for Christian homeschool families, I would love to see each and every classroom in each and every public school spend a few minutes a day reading living ideas from living books.

So if you are hesitant to approach a living books library in your area because you do not DO Charlotte Mason (or ______________), please don't be afraid to contact them.  I'm sure they would say, like I do, "Welcome!!  Great adventures await you on your chosen path!"

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

New Living Science Curriculum!

Giving my children a living education through living books and ideas is so important to me.  I'm constantly scouring my shelves for the best of the best on any topic to ignite my sons' imaginations and fill their minds with wonder.  I'm pretty comfortable in most subject areas making engaging choices.  But as my boys get older, I feel the stress and pressure of the looming high school years in the sciences.  I see this same anxiety in the moms who come into my library.  If we ourselves are not strong in the sciences, how can we possibly prepare our children for college science classes, especially in this STEM-driven world?  Must we give up living ideas in favor of dry textbooks in order to adequately equip them for university?

I am so excited and pleased to let you know about an incredibly well done living science curriculum!  My friend, Nicole Williams of Sabbath Mood Homeschool, has produced Living Science Study Guides:  A Charlotte Mason Resource for Exploring Science, a Vast and Joyous Realm.  Her first guide deals with Biology for middle school.  She also plans to release guides for the elementary and high school years.

Nicole has such a wealth of knowledge in the field of science and the philosophy of Charlotte Mason.  She has combined her passions to create a science guide which utilizes Charlotte's assertion that "where science does not teach a child to wonder and admire it has perhaps no educative value."  The guide includes readings from the fascinating spine, Men, Microscopes and Living Things, by Katharine Shippen as well as other living books, activities and experiments and exam questions.

In case you have doubts that students can be properly equipped for college, especially in science, with this type of education, I encourage you to listen to this Read Aloud  Revival podcast.   This Harvard PhD attributes her success in college to her liberal arts education.  It is very encouraging and enlightening!

I hope you will head over to Nicole's blog and get this excellent resource.  While you're there, explore her site and find many treasures to help you in creating this wonder and admiration in science with your children.  Also take time to listen to the podcast, A Delectable Education, especially the last few episodes where Nicole, Liz and Emily have focused on science in Charlotte Mason's schools.  

Thank you, Nicole, for your contributions to the Charlotte Mason community!

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Celebrating World Book Day!

The world of books is the most remarkable creation of man.
Nothing else that he builds ever lasts.
Monuments fall; nations perish;
civilizations grow old and die out;
and, after an era of darkness, new races build others.
But in the world of books are volumes
that have seen this happen again and again,
and yet live on, still young,
still as fresh as the day they were written, 
still telling men's hearts
of men centuries dead.

~Clarence Shepard Day~