Friday, February 29, 2008

She's here!

This is our precious little girl that we have been anxiously waiting to meet. We adore Annaliese (her online nom de plume). Every morning Owen comes into our room and wants to hold "my baby." Both boys frequently come up to give her a big smooch on top of her head. Although they obviously love her we're definately seeing evidence of a "Very Big Change" in our house, as I'm sure we will for a while.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

A proud mother moment

This morning at church a mother came up to me and said, "You must read the Bible every day to your kids."

"Oh no, I do read Bible stories to the kids, but I can't say we do it that frequently."

"Well, Owen was able to answer all the questions about the story of the woman at the well." I had been in Jonas' class so I wasn't there to witness this.

"Really?" I replied, searching my memory if we had read this story recently, or even at all.

"He just pipped right up and answered every question."

"Did he get them right?" Owen is such an extravert it's no surprise to hear he spoke out, but to answer the questions correctly, I wasn't sure.

"He did."


Later, as I marvelled about this with Jack, who had been in class with Owen, I said, "I'm not sure I've read that story to him yet. How did he know the answers?"

"They read the story and he just listened well."

Good enough for me!

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Nature journals for the 5 and under set

Following my last post, my friend Elizabeth Joy wrote about nature journals in the comments section. I thought it would be great to open up this topic to others.

What books do you recommend about nature journals?

What kind of success have any of you had with doing nature journals with children age 5 and under?

How do you make them work with pre-writing/pre-drawing kids?

I would love to hear from any readers that have some tips. Thanks so much!

A perfect afternoon

The boys and I did a couple of errands right after lunch and it was such a beautiful day--sunny and warm, in the low 70s here (I know, I know, it's rough)--I just didn't want to go home. So, I impulsively decided to visit a botantical garden I recently heard about at a nearby university. How had I missed this place! Truly an oasis in a sea of cities, highways and congestion.

With 40 acres, four miles of trails and more than 3,500 species of plants, the boys and I enjoyed traipsing through the garden and walking up the winding switch-back trails to the top of a hill overlooking the city. When we arrived at the top, Owen exclaimed, "We're almost as tall as the trees!" Then he ran back to me and flinging his arms around my bulging nine-month pregnant belly said, "Thanks, Mom!"

That certainly made my huffing and puffing to get up the hill worth it.

I LOVE that my kids enjoy the simple, beautiful and profound things of life like our afternoon spent in nature. I didn't grow up that way. I admit, I spent way too many hours indoors in front of the TV. But somehow I still loved to read and to learn, and still do. I've only been learning a love for nature as an adult.

It's funny, when I compare this idealic afternoon with an outing to Chuck E Cheese with a friend the other day, today seemed more special. The boys were just as excited, or even more so. Owen didn't run exuberantly to me to say thanks and give me a hug at Chuck E Cheese. I was certainly more relaxed and at peace today since I was not worried that they would find a game that was too mature or violent for them or worried that they would get lost in the crowd. At the botantical garden they were able to run and explore and observe and just be. The park provided a bingo sheet with pictures of plants, insects and such for young kids to find. The boys had great fun looking for things like a cactus, a bird, a spider's web, and an acorn to cross off their list.

Charlotte Mason recommends visiting one or two specific nature spots that you get to know intimately. A place that you go to in all seasons to observe the changes. I think I've found our spot.

Later, while we, or rather I, was resting on a bench in the garden where no sight or sounds remind you that you are in fact in the middle of a huge metropolis, Owen climbed on some low-lying branches of a tree. He made up a song on the spot that I just have to share:

Trees, trees, trees
Treetops are taller than we

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Charlotte Mason carnival

Check out this carnival full of interesting articles related to all things Charlotte Mason.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Why I like Charlotte Mason

In my research on education, I have discovered a kindred spirit in Charlotte Mason. She was an innovative educator in England in the 1800s. Of all the philosophies of education I've read, her's fits the best with my ideas of how I want to raise my children.

Key points that I like:
  • Love and nurture your children as individuals. This doesn't seem radical to us, but at the time of her writing children were to be seen and not heard.
  • Have your kids play outside as much as possible where they'll learn about nature, science, observation, creativity, independence, joy and God. All that good stuff.
  • Read, read, read good books, which are those that are well-written with excellent language and imagery, great stories and themes. She advised to avoid what she called "twaddle," books that are dumbed down and insult children's intelligence. You know, those silly, poorly written children's books you find at the grocery store that are a bore to read and completely unimaginative. They're like feeding your kids a diet full of sugar with no protein or vegetables.
  • Read "living" books as opposed to textbooks to learn about practically all subjects--history, philosophy, science, social studies, art, music, etc. Living books are history books, biographies, novels, nonfiction books about the subject written by the primary source or learned researchers. Textbooks are shortened synopsis compiled by committees and aren't able to provide the whole picture. When I think about this, the best book I ever read that taught me about the Civil War was "Across Five Aprils," a historical novel for kids. That book made the horrors and complications and issues of the Civil War real and vivid for me, much more than any textbook I had to read for school.
  • Avoid busy work, such as worksheets, and rely on real-life applications instead.
  • Short lessons, like 15-20 minutes per subject, for the early years. Whets the kids appetites for the subject without boring them or overdoing it. It should provide them with enough interest that they'll want to study more the next day.
  • Alternate hard and easy subjects. For instance, do math then nature study outside then reading then art, etc.
  • Do habit-training with very young children as a way of discipline. When you start when they are very young and make things into a habit, it will be easier for them to behave as they get older. She advocated gentle redirection and redirection until they got it; give them attention when they do it well and ignore them when they don't. Actually, it's a lot like Parenting with Love and Logic, a modern discipline approach that I like.
To learn more about Charlotte Mason and her ideas on education, read the following books:
Of course, read the original Philosophy of Education, by Charlotte Mason to get the info straight from the horse's mouth, so to speak. Since she wrote in the 1800s, her writing style is dictated by the times and is a bit difficult to read by our modern standards. Ambleside,, is a wonderful resource for information about Charlotte Mason, how to implement her ideas, and a free, online curriculum. They have a modern paraphrase of Mason's writing for free online, which is what I've been reading. I can't say I agree with everything she taught (some of the practicalities are difficult in this day and age), but her overriding philosophy of education and parenting is excellent.

Baby fears

"When the baby comes, you won't have time for me anymore," said Owen.

"Sure I will. I'll still be able to play with you, read stories and do lots of other things with you." I promptly replied.

"But I won't be as special as the baby."

Ouch! That your older children may feel that is what every parent fears about having another child, second only to the baby's health. Of course, I reassured Owen that I would still have time for him and that he is very special. But I admit, it caught me off guard.

All our previous conversation about the pending arrival of a new baby had me convinced he was OK with the whole thing. He seemed understanding and realistic. When people ask him if he's excited about having a little sister, he replies, "I don't know, I haven't met her yet." Knowing how this child thinks, I took that as quite a logical answer. He honestly did fine when Jonas was born, and as long as I continue to give both of the boys individual attention, I pray, it will be fine again.