Thursday, October 27, 2011

Poems to the Virgin Mary

Ah, Great Mother, there
you are, climbing the rose bush
Reddest of roses

She comes to the garden
Dropping dew on the flowers
Dancing like fire
The Morning Star

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Cookie Jar

Today is burnt out sunshine,
leaking chimney--
familiar as familial disapproval

I am not my golden sister-girl
in her waveless seafoam,
counting calories, being counted

Eating cookies all day is all I can do:
Wild oats folded in sweet domestic batter,

a chocolate chip resting on the

by dancingmommio

Monday, October 17, 2011

Relaxed Homeschool Series, Day 12

It is the time of year for going inward. Re-evaluating what is working in life and what isn't. Paring down to the essentials in order to decide what is truly important, especially before the flurry of the Holidays hits. In this spirit I have decided, just this morning, to take a break from this series. Writers need time to fill the well in order to have something fresh to offer. There needs to be time for adequate sleep, for taking care of oneself and those you love. Busyness is not the same as being productive. It is not a status symbol for success. Even "getting things done" is over-rated. In the still center of Being is where Wisdom lies.

Surely I will keep blogging, but for now I am on hiatus from writing about relaxed homeschooling. I have experienced a difference in the way I am doing things since beginning this series, and the results have been good and positive. An even dozen seems a good place to pause and reflect. So don't go away. Check back weekly and I'm sure to have something to say!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

R.H. Series, Day 11 (Wabi Sabi)

Last Saturday was a perfect Indian Summer day. I clipped 3 immaculate hydrangeas from the bush in my front yard and placed them in an elegant, clear green glass vase and set them in the entryway on a vintage serving cart where they could be seen by anyone from the open front door. I was having guests on my porch, so I thought the flowers would be a nice touch. I prefer to allow blossoms to live, so I rarely cut them.

In just a week it has turned much cooler, although today you could still feel the warmth of the sun if you paid very careful attention between strong gusts of wind. Yesterday the lawn was uniformly covered with a blanket of orange leaves, and I thought to take a picture but didn't. Today all of the leaves were blown to one side and heaped onto the porch steps, leaving the lawn asymetrical, imperfect. This is the time of Wabi-Sabi, the Japanese aesthetic and philosophy of imperfect Beauty. Because nothing lasts, there is bittersweet perfection in the fading of the flower.

I love hydrangeas. They were the primary flowers in my wedding bouquet. A tangled web of vines had grown over my bush, and I had intended to cut it back, but I guess I was just lazy. Today I had to admit that though all of the rain we got a few weeks ago extended their glorious blossoming, they were just beginning to fade, and I suddenly found myself with a pair of scissors in hand, cutting away at the vines, which were on their way out anyway. The largest hydrangea remaining, once freed from the weight of the vine, rebounded majestically. Except for the slightest beginnings of browning, it is still in the fullness of its bloom, and I did not cut it.

I felt in awe of these flowers, which despite the oppression of greedy vines had held their own, used to bowing their heads naturally, daring to peek out in their lushness of awesome shades of pink and pale green, unconquerable. Their beauty was too profound to be hidden. Like that children's church song, "This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine... Hide it under a bush--oh no! I'm gonna let it shine." I cut several of the browning blossoms but left a few to tough it out to the end. I may bring that big one in soon and dry it, keeping it as a memento of what I learned today.

What or who is weighing you down? What has you all tangled up inside? Are you hiding your beauty underneath, afraid to cut out everything in your life, and yourself, except for what you know to be beautiful, useful, good, or necessary? I am the hydrangea. You are the hydrangea. Remember. Never forget.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

R.H. Series, Day 10 (What's in a Name?)

This past Saturday my friend Renee from Keystone Co-op came to my house to share information on homeschooling with my chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), one of whose primary functions is to support education. Renee noted that she prefers the term "home education" to "homeschooling," which is a topic on which I have recently been reflecting.

Education is something that happens neither exclusively at home nor in a school building, though homeschooling is surely based in the home. Education is an integral part of life, from birth to death. Understanding it in this way allows the homeschooling parent to relax into the process of educating her children. Renee affirmed that attitude and character must come into place first, and then the academics follow.  This idea brings to my mind section 18 of Charlotte Mason's synopsis of her educational theory:

"We should allow no separation to grow up between the intellectual and 'spiritual' life of children; but should teach them that the divine Spirit has constant access to their spirits, and is their continuous helper in all the interests, duties, and joys of life."

I have decided to try out my own term to reflect this philosophy, as I continue to explore the lifestyle of relaxed homeschooling, and refer for the rest of this series to "Home-Life Education." This term will encompass the broad curriculum of my educational goals for my child. As Maria Montessori instructed, we must educate a child for Life, and the edification of her spirit is the primary focus.

So that Beezy might come to understand such a broad view of education, I am no longer going to use the word "school time" to refer to our formal learning of the day, but rather call it "book learning time." For indeed, that is exactly what it is. The time spent learning from books, though perhaps a central element, is only one aspect of education. All of Life is the curriculum.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Relaxed Homeschool Series, Day 9

"Cautious, careful people, always casting about to preserve their reputation and social standing, never can bring about a reform."  - Susan B. Anthony

Today we had a reading breakthrough! Following Charlotte Mason's advice to incorporate "reading at sight," Beezy was able to read the first 10 words from Beatrix Potter's The Tale of Peter Rabbit, a real story rather than the twaddle of modern books designed for children learning to read. Up to now, when I incorporated sight words, they were written on note cards and learned using the Montessori "three period lesson." This is a valid technique as well. However, last week Beezy said with wistfulness, "I want to read." I knew what she meant. She had randomly been sounding words out that she came across but would become discouraged, for example, when she read "seen" for the word "sheen." Plodding along at sounding words out gets boring, and while learning to read phonetically is important, Charlotte Mason believed that "...his progress in the art of reading depends chiefly on the 'reading at sight' lessons."

According to Ms. Mason, once the child has a good handle on the sounds of the letters and the process of making words, he should begin to read literature, never books with only 3 or 4 letters in each word. The story or poem is to be taken only a couple lines at a time, 10 or a dozen words. The adult puts her finger under each word, going slowly and pronouncing clearly, and the child repeats along. The interest and intense focus this exercise of reading a real book inspired in Beezy was surprising and wonderful! She didn't yawn, like she often does reading BOB books. She was determined to master the lesson. Finally, reading was truly exciting! There were a few words she knew or could sound out; otherwise, she learned to read by sight, "Once upon a time there were four little Rabbits, and..." We worked on the whole sentence, which continues, "their names were--Flopsy, Mopsy, Cotton-tail, and Peter." The 1st 10 words Beezy could read fluently, not merely by memory. Thank you, Charlotte Mason!

We are continuing to work through Dr. Christman's Learn to Read manual, and Beezy loves the Starfall online reading program. Slowly and surely, we will work through the Peter Rabbit book a couple of lines at a time, also searching for those familiar words elsewhere in the text so that they can be recognized and read anywhere. It may seem a slow way to go, but Charlotte says, "Not so slow, after all: a child will thus learn, without appreciable labour, from two to three thousand words in the course of a year; in other words, he will learn to read, for the mastery of this number of words will carry him with comfort through most of the books that fall in his way."

The above quotes and entire outline of Ms. Mason's reading technique can be found in volume 1 of her series, Home Education.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Montpelier Belly Dance Classes Now Available!

Montpelier Belly Dance Classes

Rita Helena, Creative Director of the Parvana Moonfire Dance Collective, is offering belly dance instruction in the Egyptian style at her home studio, 321 Empire St., Montpelier, OH, available immediately.

“Create Your Own Class” sessions will allow students to take private lessons or bring up to 3 friends together in a fun, supportive environment. Belly dance is a feminine art and exercise form, enhancing the grace, rhythm, and beauty of women of all ages and body types. No prior dance experience is necessary. The benefits of these Montpelier classes include a higher level of individual attention and scheduling flexibility.

Please call 419-485-0524 to schedule your class. Two payment choices are being offered:

Pay As You Go: Each class is $15 per hour.

Economy Punch Card: Purchase a punch card for 5, one hour classes for $50, valid for up to 3 months from the purchase date (a $25 savings).

Upcoming Belly Dance Schedule

Fall Belly Dance Schedule—Bryan, OH

Learn to belly dance with Rita Helena, Directress of the Parvana Moonfire Dance Collective. This art form and feminine way to exercise enhances the grace, beauty, body image, and rhythm of women of all ages and body types. The focus of classes this fall is on the Egyptian style, particularly the Baladi, known as the mother of belly dance. Students should wear a scarf or belt tied around the hips and comfortable clothing that is not too loose. You may dance barefoot, in socks, or in ballet slippers. Ages 15 and up. Classes are held at the Community Center on Buffalo Rd., upstairs. Please call the Parks and Recreation Department at 419-633-6030 to pre-register. Pre-payment is highly recommended to reserve your space, as classes fill up quickly, and will ensure that the instructor has enough students to run the class and that the limit of 15 is not exceeded. Please have your payment in via the mail or drop it off at the Parks and Recreation  office by Monday, Oct. 31.  Classes will run for 5 weeks on Thursdays, and the cost is $40.

Basic Belly Dance—This class is open to both new and continuing students and will provide a solid foundation in posture, isolations, and basic steps, putting it all together in a series of combinations. History, theory, music, and costuming will also be covered.
Thursdays, 6:00-7:00 p.m. – begins November 3

Technique Intensive—This class is open to students with at least 3 prior sessions of experience. Solo technique as well as a unique form of group improvisation will be explored, including playing the zills and using the veil, as well as an in depth emphasis on responding to the music, personal styling, theory, and creative use of combinations.
Thursdays, 7:10 to 8:10 – begins November 3

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

R.H. Series, Day 8

Charlotte Mason's six-volume series, written in Victorian English, is more than a bit daunting to approach. If you were to wait to begin homeschooling until you had read the whole series, you would most likely quit before you started. I do think that reading Charlotte's philosophy and method in her own words is very important, but gratefully others have already read the books and written their own in a pared-down, more accessible format. I highly recommend For the Children's Sake by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay and A Charlotte Mason Companion by Karen Andreola to get you on your way. A friend told me that the series is also available in modern English. Mason's original books can be read as you proceed, giving you spiritual nourishment, encouragement, support, and a thorough explanation of the ideas, as from a trusted friend.

Since I don't use a pre-packaged curriculum, I can't say whether it would lend itself as well to a relaxed homeschooling style as the CM method. I hear homeschooling mothers who use such curriculum lament about "falling behind." For me, having a curriculum dictate to me what exactly I have to cover each day in order to complete the material that school year would be pressure I don't want or need. It seems as though the danger would exist of handing my authority over to the creators of the curriculum, manifesting as a duplication in some ways of public school at home. I imagine that for the mother of multiple children, who may also have babies and preschoolers to care for, having those decisions made for her would be a godsend, so I understand the appeal. If you do use a pre-packed curriculum, utilizing it as a guide and resource for materials rather than as a dictator to your homeschooling program would still allow for a relaxed atmosphere.You could certainly use the CM method in tandem with your curriculum, too.

I have vacuumed and mopped two of my downstairs rooms and vacuumed another so far. My wonderful husband actually cleared the clutter in most of the downstairs and caught up on the dishes when the dishwasher was not working, so it was a huge relief that I could easily begin the heavy duty cleaning. That brings up another good point. Ask for help! Last year I hired a teenage mother's helper to play with Beezy, and sometimes do some of her school with her, while I worked on the time intensive housework that goes beyond the daily chores. Since she was a person who loved to organize, I even had her rearrange Beezy's room and help her go through her toys. Other family members need to get into the habit of picking up after themselves and sharing housework. Chore charts work well for some families.

As a final note, I have decided that there needs to be an end to the housework for the day. Perhaps once dinner is eaten and the clean up afterward is accomplished, you can make a vow to do no more housework that evening. This way you will have an incentive to get as much done as possible before dinner, and your evening can be free to take a walk, read, watch a movie together, or listen to Pa play the fiddle. And you can get bedtime started early enough that it becomes a relaxing experience to wind down the day, putting the children in the habit of preparing for sleep. Getting the children to bed early enough that you have some time and energy left for your spouse is important, too. I still have to put the dog's cover, which I washed today, back on her bed. But after dinner the only housework I did was to vacuum the dining room, and then I told myself that was it. Tomorrow, the deadline will be set! After the dinner mess is cleared, I am off housekeeping duty!!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

R.H. Series, Day 7 (The Habit of Attention)

Yesterday we had Keystone Co-op, followed by a fire safety program. Then Beezy and I went to visit my aunt who babysits for Beezy's 2nd cousin, a boy 3 years younger than her. They play together so well! By the time I got home I had to make dinner, so it did not work out to write a post for this series yesterday. I think I will aim for 4 posts a week. This will allow me time to write on other topics, as well as have a couple of days off. After all, I am writing about relaxed homeschooling!

In my opinion, the Charlotte Mason (CM) method works remarkably well with a relaxed homeschooling style. A key component is establishing the habit of attention, which is accomplished in a couple of specific ways. The first is the idea of short lessons. The exact length will depend on the child's age, building up to longer periods spent on a particular subject. The time will also vary according to the child's interest. You may plan on a 10 to 15 minute math lesson, but your child may indeed wish to continue past that, which I think should be allowed in most cases. Keeping the lessons short (beginning with about 10 minutes in kindergarten) helps the child stay focused on the task at hand. Last year when Beezy was reading her BOB books, it could take her 20 minutes or more to read one book. I found that this was way too long. She would be yawning and getting tired, frustrated, and discouraged. The simple solution was to divide the book in half! We would do other subjects between readings.

Narration is another key tool to the CM method. This is the process by which you read something to your child, and then she tells it back in her own words. For example, today I read about two animals from a book about Mammals for our natural sciences study. There was only one page about each animal, so Beezy told back what she heard after each one. Since she knows she will be required to narrate, she pays close attention. This process allows you to find out what the child knows, which can take the place of testing. It also helps to avoid patronizing the child with boring questions which may also squash her enthusiasm. With narration, the child makes the information her own, and she will therefore more likely retain what she has learned. Beezy does not like to do narration when I am reading literature to her, as in a novel like those in the Little House on the Prairie series. It seems to interrupt the wonder and enjoyment of the story for her. And besides, if the book is richly written, paying attention to it is not likely to be an issue. When the child is older, she can read a chapter herself and then write a narration from it.

Distractions are sure to be a problem in any homeschooling situation. Today the weather was nice enough to do our school on the front porch, but we did have to contend with a lawnmower and some loud vehicles driving by. Inside, the phone rings sometimes annoyingly frequently. I try to remember to turn the volume down on the answering machine while we are doing school, and I don't answer the phone. I also have to make sure I am not getting distracted myself by emails, Facebook, housework, etc...

Today we began at 10:30 and did not finish until 2:15! I wanted to be done by 1:00, which was Charlotte Mason's tradition. This leaves the afternoon free for running errands, playing outside, visiting with friends and family, and the solitary time that all children desperately need to nurture their spirits and intellectual lives. However, I allowed Beezy to spend time with a neighbor's cat that frequently comes into our yard, and we walked our dog. We also ate lunch, which of course was necessary. I have to remind myself that just because a cat chooses to wander into our yard does not mean it is a convenient time to let it distract us from our purpose. Ultimately it is more relaxing to get school finished, without rushing, in as timely a manner as is possible so the rest of the day can be spent as one chooses, and for getting other necessary things done that may sometimes be sacrificed in the effort to "keep up" with the academics.

Today I wrote having Beezy clean her room into my lesson plans. I intend for this to be a regular part of our routine. It is also of the utmost necessity, as part of Beezy's ceiling fell to the floor as a result of a chimney leak, so her room must be dealt with in order for someone to be able to do the repairs. In Montessori terms, cleaning one's room would fall under the category of Practical Life, which shares a space in my lesson plan book with math. Well, the sunny day calls, and Beezy wants to play bat and ball. The neighborhood kids will be getting home from public school soon, so hopefully Beezy will have friends come over to play, and I can move onward in my housework project!