Thursday, October 30, 2014

Food for the Soul

A few quotes that I culled from the school reading I did with Michelle (age 9/grade 3/nearing the end of AO Year 2) this past week:
" 'This is not a nice part of our pilgrimage,' sighed Mercy. 'I don't like it so well as staying at the Wicket Gate, or with the Interpreter, or at the Palace Beautiful.'  'Ah,' said Matthew, 'but think how much worse it would be to live here always, as we might have to do if we served the Wicked Prince!  Perhaps the King wishes us to pass through this dreadful place so that we may learn to care more about being with Him in the Celestial City.'"
~Helen Taylor, Little Pilgrim's Progress
"…God makes the very wilderness to burst forth and blossom like a rose: that there are no outcast ends of the earth, uncared for by Him; no desolate corners where His goodness is not shown forth."
"I have taught you something of God's doing in the natural world, which has given you comfort and hope.  What then, you believe of His works, believe also of His mercies.  If you cannot find a limit to one, suspect and hope that the other, too, may be infinite – far beyond our comprehension."
~Mrs. Gatty, "Red Snow, Parables from Nature  (Read the whole thing here if you have a few moments – beautiful!)
"A good death is better than a bad life."
"Remember, Christ suffered for the sake of His chosen.  If my death can glorify His name, than may He give me grace to endure with good courage whatever evil may befall me.  May the Lord watch over you and bring you into eternal peace and glory."
~John Huss in Trial and Triumph by Richard Hannula
I've waxed eloquent before about all the reasons that I love using Ambleside Online as the basis for our curriculum.  Today, I am grateful for these little nuggets that have spoken to me out of the books that I have read with my elementary-aged daughter.   Not only did we check off the boxes for all our required subjects this week, our souls were fed as well.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Books that have Shaped my Life

Awhile back over on the AO Forum, there was a really interesting thread in which we shared some of the books that have influenced us the most in our lives over the years, inspired by this list by Leo Tolstoy.  I thought I'd share my list here, given that I am a lover of book lists, after all.  :) What I list here are books that I feel have influenced me - changed the way I live or think in some way - and not necessarily a list of favorites or simply books that I like. Some of these books I wouldn't recommend now or re-read, but they had some kind of shaping influence at the time that I first read it. Other books I really like and would consider 'favorites', but they haven't necessarily been profound, game-changer kind of books and so didn't make this list. (You can see my list of 'favorite' books up there in the Books for Mama tab if you want to compare lists. J)  So…here ya go.
I'm not sure I can articulate HOW these books were influential, but they are the ones that I returned to over and over again as a child, so I think that it is safe to say that they touched me at some level deep down inside. Many of the heroines in these books aspired to be writers and/or teachers, which perhaps influenced my decisions to pursue those things as well.
  • Anne of Green Gables series (LM Montgomery)
  • Emily of New Moon series (LM Montgomery)
  • Little House on the Prairie series (Laura Ingalls Wilder)
  • The Saturdays series (Elizabeth Enright)
  • The Shoes series (Noel Streatfield)
  • The All of a Kind Family series (Sidney Taylor)
  • The Chronicles of Narnia  (CS Lewis)
  • Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)
Teens Through College
I didn't read much good literature AT ALL during these years - just lots of poorly written Christian romances and other drivel from the young adult section in the library (which thankfully wasn't as awful back then as it is now…but that's another topic entirely.) So that's why this list is a little thin. 
  • It was in my mid-teens that I started taking the Bible more seriously, but I can't think of any particular books that stand out as particularly meaningful. I remember John being particularly significant during a difficult time my senior year in college.
  • The Divine Conspiracy (Dallas Willard) - I have a feeling if I re-read this book NOW, I would disagree with some of the theology in it. Nevertheless, this was the first book that opened my heart to the idea that there was more to Christianity than just asking Jesus into your heart and having good morals.
  • Madeleine L'Engle's fiction - the Wrinkle in Time series and the series about the Austin family
  • Christy (Catherine Marshall) - inspired me to consider seriously teaching overseas – I probably wouldn't be where I am today without it. I could list this again under my 30's because it also has encouraged me to stay the course when the 'romance' of life overseas wore off and the going got tough.
Post-College 20's
  • Bible Books: Ezekiel, Philippians, Psalms all stand out
  • The Mitford series (Jan Karon): I know, that's kind of a silly one, isn't it? But I've found them comforting at times when I needed comforting, and a good example of an ordinary life well-lived. Could re-list under my 30's as well as I revisit the series every few years.
  • L'Abri (Edith Schaeffer) - answered prayer, the life of faith
  • The Mission of Motherhood (Sally Clarkson) and The Hidden Art of Homemaking (Edith Schaeffer) - I read both of these in the year after my oldest daughter was born. The transition from 'meaningful' outside-the-home work/ministry to stay-at-home motherhood was a huge struggle for me, and both of these books helped me understand that stay-at-home motherhood IS meaningful work/ministry in and of itself. I think Sally Clarkson's book was probably the one that planted the first seed of homeschooling in my heart too...
30's Thus Far
  • Bible Books: Hebrews, Romans
  • The Discipline of Grace (Jerry Bridges) - This is the book that helped me begin to understand that I didn't do God any favors when I got saved, but that it is really all about His grace in saving me when I didn't deserve it. Yes, I grew up in church and 'got saved' when I was a kid, but I never really understood what that really meant until I read this book. Huge catalyst for my spiritual growth (as well as re-evaluating some of the theological assumptions I was raised with) over the past few years.
  • What Did You Expect? (Paul David Tripp) - I'm not a big fan of marriage advice books, but this one contained some thoughts I really needed to hear at the time that I read it.  My marriage is the better for it.
  • Loving the Little Years (Rachel Jankovich) and Shepherding a Child's Heart (Tedd Tripp)- I'm not a big fan of parenting advice books either, but these encouraged me in parenting three littles 5 and under when I was ready to throw in the towel, helped me to shift my parenting paradigm away from a behavioristic parenting model and towards a more relational one.
  • Simply Charlotte Mason's Early Years book and For the Children's Sake  (Susan Schaeffer MacCauley) - It's funny because I don't particularly care for SCM resources now. At the time that I read it though, I was completely burned out trying to force kindergarten on my then 4.5 year old. I likely would have thrown in the homeschooling towel within the year if it hadn't been for reading that book when I did. This was followed up within the same time period by For the Children's Sake which is what started me down the Charlotte Mason path in earnest....
  • Charlotte Mason's Writings -  profound effect on my parenting, teaching, and view of life in general
  • North and South (Elizabeth Gaskell) - I live in a place not unlike Milton in some ways. This book helped (helps) me think through the grey areas in social issues, the nature of friendship, cultural adaptation...
  • Lord of the Rings trilogy (JRR Tolkein) - hard to articulate, but profound
  • Surprised by Oxford (Weber) - faith, importance of good literature, examples of thoughtful Christian womanhood
  • The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert (Butterfield) - faith, the impact of an ordinary life well-lived
  • Frankenstein (Mary Shelley) – sin and its consequences, gratitude for God's gracious hand at work in my life
What books have had the greatest impact on you?

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

A Blogging Manifesto

When I stopped blogging last summer, I really did think it would only be for a few weeks.   But one thing followed another: my mom came to visit, I taught art during a three week co-op session in August, my Grandfather died and I ended up making a whirlwind trip back to the USA to be with family for his memorial service in September.  I'm only just now feeling like life has settled into something that resembles normal again.
All that extra time away gave me a lot of time to think, though.  To think about why I blog in the first place and what I really want to be writing about.   I've never had any aspirations to be a professional blogger, and yet I found myself falling into a comparison trap with those who are.  I was trying to 'produce content' three times a week and keep up with writing series' that I started.  This sucked a lot of joy and creativity out of my writing, and my reading too since I felt like I needed to keep up with the series I started.  (Sorry if you were hoping for more in the School Education series…).  It also was causing me to take time away from my local, real-life relationships.  I was spending my free moments hiding behind my computer screen trying to meet my crazy, self-imposed deadlines rather than engaging with my children, my husband, and my neighbors.  I tend towards being an introverted hermit already, and trying to keep up with the pros was driving that to an unhealthy extreme. 
Somewhere in the middle of all that, Cindy Rollins closed down her wonderful blog, Ordo Amoris.  (I'd link to it, but it's no longer there, sniff, sniff.)   While there are many other wonderful Charlotte Mason and Classical Education blogs that I like to follow for encouragement and inspiration, Cindy's was different.  In the weeks that followed her blog's closure, I thought a lot about why it felt like there was such a gap in my online world, despite all the other wonderful sources of inspiration out there.   I think the reason why is that Cindy was such a voice of experience.  I mean, she has homeschooled her children from day one, and 7 out of 9 of them have graduated and are now making their way in the world.   Her oldest is nearly as old as I am.  That's a lot of years to gain wisdom and experience, and yet she shared that wisdom and experience with a voice of humility and a sense of "I'm in this with you".  It struck me that I'm no Cindy Rollins, and I have a long way to go before I will even begin to approach the degree of wisdom and experience that she shared so humbly.  When I started this blog, I felt like I had something to offer the homeschooling community.  Never mind that my oldest was only in first grade and my younger two were still babies and I had yet to read anything Charlotte Mason had actually written.   I thought that the fact that I had a BA in education and a few years teaching experience in a classroom somehow exempted me from having to learn this stuff in the trenches.   I was cocky and prideful.   Please forgive me for that.
I recognize now that the only thing I really know is how much I still don't know.   The more I read and learn and walk this path of life, the more I realize that.   These past few years have brought me to the end of myself in many ways.  It is only as I recognize this and embrace it that I can, with God's help, start to rebuild on a stronger foundation.   Charlotte Mason and Classical Education have been hugely instrumental in this endeavor.  I never dreamed that homeschooling my children would be such an education for myself – my whole self: body, mind and soul - too.
I came very close to walking away from this blog completely.  And yet something keeps drawing me back.  If nothing else, it is a useful place to track the books that I'm reading. J  And it is my place for thinking out loud, and an avenue for connecting in some small way with others who may be travelling a similar journey.   With that in mind, here are a few commitments I am making as I take up my pen keyboard and start writing typing again.  Hold me to these, folks.
  • I will write when I'm inspired.   When I read something particularly striking, I'll write about it.  When we have a particularly wonderful nature study discovery, I'll post about it.  When we have a school moment that is particularly joyful or interesting or serendipitous, I'll write about it.  I will not try to hold myself to a series or posting schedule just for the sake of keeping up with other bloggers.  This might mean that sometimes I will write a lot, and other times I will write very little.  I will learn to be okay with that.
  • I will write in my 'margins'.  If I haven't yet connected with my kids or my husband or my neighbors that day, I will close the lid to my laptop and leave the post for another time, no matter how inspired I might be at that moment.   My local, real life relationships come first.
  • I will write from a place of humility.  Please know, friends, that I am right down in the trenches with you.  I don't have it all figured out.  If I have anything to offer you, it is because of God's grace and the wisdom and experience of those who have come before me.
I am reading Karen Glass' brand new book Consider This – which is fantastic by the way.  Do go snag yourself a copy if you haven't yet.   I'll close with her words:
"We remain in that state of teachableness just so long as we are able to remember that there are 'more things' that we do not yet know.  We must understand and never forget, like Socrates of long ago, that wisdom begins with the knowledge of our own ignorance.  The journey to wisdom is the journey of a lifetime, unlike a trip to Rome.  If we want to learn and grow – and if we want our pupils to learn and grow outside the schoolroom and beyond the years of formal schooling – we must all come to recognize humbly that the goal is yet before us and there will always be much to learn."
Come.  Journey with me.