Monday, November 23, 2015

Nothing New Under the Sun?

I thought of the idea of homeschooling one bleak day in November 34 years ago, then dismissed it as a silly dream. Who ever heard of such a thing, except perhaps pioneers or missionaries too remote to attend a school?

Two years later I was startled to learn that my idea was not unique. After that, I began purposefully moving toward the home education goal, but even though the practice was not unheard of, it was uncommon, against the law, and resources for home teachers scant.

Not so today. Attend any homeschool convention, or, easier yet, attend a virtual one online, and the array of resources and materials is astounding. If you relish novelty, there is surely something for you out there. The options for curricula, devices, audio books, instruction manuals, seminars, gadgets, videos, games, equipment, school supplies, educational accessories and sheer paraphernalia is mind-boggling.

What's a new homeschooling mother to do, or an old one, for that matter?

For starters, remember, there's nothing new under the sun. Children have been being born with the instinctive desire for knowledge since they began being born. It's easy in an inventive and creative culture, where technology reigns supreme and obsolescence is only moments away, to believe that tools are essential to life. They are undeniably useful, but the most enduring and trustworthy means to getting a child educated is found in, well, in the child.

Charlotte Mason observed the child and recognized the obvious. They learn, and by the simplest means possible, notably, themselves: their five senses, mind, heart, soul body encompassing persons that no scientist can yet explain even vaguely. The child is the learner; the teacher is not the education giver.
"Now, here is the danger that besets us in education. We seize upon ambidexterity, upon figures drawn with the compasses without intention, upon 'child study' as applied to mind, upon terrible agglutinations which we call 'apperception masses,' upon intellectual futilities in a hundred directions, each of which will, we hope, give us the key to education. We may perceive the futility of such notions by applying the test of progress. Are they the way to anything, and, if so, to what? Let us, out of reverence for the children, be modest; let us not stake their interests on the hope that this or that new way would lead to great results if people had only the courage to follow it. It is exciting to become a pioneer; but, for the children's sake, it may be well to constrain ourselves to follow those roads only by which we know that persons have arrived, or those newer roads which offer evident and assured means of progress towards a desired end. Self-will is not permitted to the educationalist; and he may not take up fads. (School Education, pp. 244-245)
As a new mother, watching the incredible curiosity and inventiveness of my five-month-old daughter that November day, I knew a child must be able to learn at home, though my own experience in the "modern" educational system had blinded me to the simple truth. A decade later, I was introduced to the older ideas of a much more sensible woman and began putting into practice her principles for supplying the child with educational nourishment. Our utilitarian approach to everything, including education, stamps out thousands of morsels of information and thousands of morsel-fed schoolchildren. All too often, homeschoolers have followed suit. That's not what I and many other homeschool pioneers were after.

I am thankful, this Thanksgiving, for the delectable education Mason has passed on to me, and for the six unique persons I have been privileged to teach in the wide room of nature, real things, and living books.

For the joy of reading,


Friday, November 20, 2015

New Audio Download Available!

Mothering is an enormously demanding job with innumerable challenges. 

It is the work that is critical to the way the world goes and the Gospel is spread. Do you get  overwhelmed, discouraged, think this mothering and teaching work is difficult--even impossible? 

Liz recently spoke at the opening session of the Grace to Build Retreat in North Carolina to homeschooling mothers about a perspective on our role as mothers and teachers from the wisdom of mothers she has learned from in literature, Charlotte Mason, and the Bible. Listen as she tells a story that will help you live your own story with grace, joy, and hope. Perhaps this simple message is the key to lifting the load of a friend and you can purchase this download for someone else to enjoy.


Monday, November 16, 2015

The Silent Storm

Children act out what they read. When I was in elementary school, my friends and I played "Helen Keller." Since I was littlest in my class I took her part, rambunctiously relishing the opportunity to unleash all self-restraint to mimic the wild and willful tantrums of young, untrained Helen.

We had all read The Silent Storm by Marion Marsh Brown. Though Helen was phenomenal, it was Annie who was our heroine. She was the throw-away girl of an Irish family who sent her to the alms house after her mother's death, who suffered unspeakable degradations there, and whose persistent pleading to "learn to read," finally won her a place at the famous Perkins School for the Blind. She was uneducated, unsocialized, and untamed, but her passion to learn to read prevailed over all obstacles, and her hard fought battle to overcome her miserable disadvantages gained her not only the opportunity to read, but friendship, admiration, and honors by teachers and students alike.

But silently, inside her tough Irish exterior, raged a storm of longing to have a life with purpose. She didn't want to "be" somebody, she wanted to serve somebody. Every benefit she had received, from the special education to the free operations on her deformed eyes, left her yearning to give to others. "My life would have meaning if only I could serve."

Her chance came with an invitation to try to penetrate the formidable barriers of blindness and deafness of a seven-year-old child, a feat no expert in the nation had accomplished. Helen was considered an unreachable misfit, which perfectly suited her to the fierce stubbornness of Annie Sullivan. Annie was no stranger to fighting to beat the odds.

The Silent Storm is the tale of their battle together and one of the strongest friendships ever forged. The uneducated, untrained "Teacher," turned the key that unlocked Helen's prison and returned a child to the bosom of her family, and released an intellect and personality that grew up to bless the world.

In my class of handicapped children, Helen was unremarkable. We were heartlessly uncompassionate and unsympathetic to her plight, but, Annie was an American hero equal in stature in our eyes to George Washington or John Glenn. Probably we were envious of Helen. To have someone as loyal and faithful as Annie devote her entire life to rescuing a hopeless child from ignorance to successfully completing a Radcliffe education was inspiring. If only we had appreciated the equal sacrifices that were being made to help us accomplish more than our friends and neighbors could imagine possible for us at the time.

Still, though Annie died before we were born, she bestowed some of her gifts to us, something of her tenacity and toughness unconsciously shaped our spirits, subtly stiffened our backbones for the same harsh realities we would face as we entered a sighted world. Something of Annie had mysteriously crept out of the pages of that gripping biography I read as a child to influence my understanding that I was going to have to fight to gain acceptance too.

Her same grit and determination was necessary for me in my college entrance and job interviews, where I felt her chin-lifting defiance of all the same objections she had to face herself and taught Helen to stand up against lending me courage to persuade the doubters to give me a chance. Annie Sullivan had gone before me and took every "no," as her permission to find a way to do the impossible. I'm sure I followed her example as I reversed the situation as a Braille reading mother teaching her sighted children to make sense of the symbols on their printed pages. We both knew the longing to read, and the incomparable wonder of opening that door to language for a child.

After years of fruitless searching, I recently managed to obtain a Braille copy of this childhood favorite, and just finished reading it to my youngest son. After 50 years, I remembered every incident, every struggle, every victory perfectly as if I had read the story just last week.

There is no telling what life lessons a nine-year-old can carry away from a book and into the world they will encounter. Children indeed act out what they read.

For the joy of reading,