Tuesday, September 29, 2015

a new season to admire

I stepped outside this afternoon for a quick break. It was dripping wet, but the air was almost summery and the breeze refreshing. I walked carefully and looked closely. There is always something to notice and admire which does the soul good.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

teaching prep

I first worked on this post several weeks ago. I'm only getting back to it now. 

Last week as I dug deep into book schedules and chapter counts for both my Year 7 student and my Year 1 student, I had a passing memory of myself at that this same time of year, in almost another lifetime now, frantically cutting out laminated bulletin board pieces and other classroom decor. I grimaced at this memory and felt regret that I spent so much time on the window dressing and very little on thinking about the ideas I was to teach. Now this morning, I take time to read a recent Circe article by David Kern comparing teaching to preparing a meal.

 "There's no substitute for a teacher's quality preparation. Without preparation a teacher can't teach with purpose. This obviously refers to photocopies and supplies and crafting lesson plans, all of which are important. But it also refers to the kind of preparation that involves contemplation. A good teacher reflects on both the subject he is teaching and his role as a cultivator of wisdom and virtue; he doesn't lose sight of (or ignore) the purpose of his calling. That is, he doesn't allow contemplation of the lesson plans to keep him from preparing his own mind and soul for the act of seed-planting." ~David Kern

 In all my classroom preparation, I delegated hardly any time to contemplating the ideas and the virtues that I wanted to instill in my students. Yes, I knew what subjects I was supposed to be teaching and what books we were to be using, but I was woefully ignorant of how to lead and develop life-giving ideas from the materials that I was given to use. I simply over-relied on the workbooks and worksheets to convey any skills or meaning to my students. How deadening this all sounds. To me and to them.

"The child must learn, in the second place, in order that ideas be freely sown in the fruitful soil of his mind. 'Idea, the image or picture formed by the mind of anything external, whether sensible or spiritual,' --so, the dictionary; therefore, if the business of teaching be to furnish the child with ideas, any teaching which does not leave him possessed of a new mental image has, by so far, missed its mark. Now, just think of the listless way in which the children too often drag through reading and tables, geography and sums, and you will see that it is a rare thing for a ny part of any lesson to flash upon them with the vividness which leaves a mental picture behind. It is not too much to say that a morning in which a child receives no new idea is a morning wasted, however closely the little student has been kept at his books." ~ Charlotte Mason, Home Education, p.173

The amount of seed planting that needs to be done in both the minds of the teacher/parent and the student/child requires time set aside for content and contemplation. Both require that you build up an inventory of stuff to think about, which requires that you must stock the shelves of your mind with this said inventory. And stocking the shelves of your mind means cultivating a taste for reading, listening and doing that which is filled with goodness, truth and beauty. And because we live in a world created by a great and glorious God who is all of those things, we have inexhaustible storehouses of books, poetry, fellowship, stories, music, art, gatherings, nature, architecture, relationships, history, etc to dig into. So much to enjoy and think about, it makes all my classroom decor seem so tacky and pointless now. Who cares about the room, when it's the mind that needs furnishing.

Monday, September 14, 2015

these posts don't write themselves

Instead of talking about all the things I haven't posted yet and wanted to, like finishing our summer photos and summer book lists, I'm staying in the present and telling you about now. Or at least what is close to now. As I write, we have a sunny, windy, big blue sky kind of Monday after having two straight days of rain. Unheard of for us, well almost. And by this morning, early this morning, five:thirty this morning, when I was up running to help Laura get to the bathroom to make another stomach bug deposit, I could hear rain still. The forecast last night showed more rain for today. But it looks like the blustery winds came in and swept the rain clouds out the back door just about time I was getting into the shower this morning.

It is our first full week of lessons and this past weekend, I was burning the midnight oil (purely a figure of speech, I don't do anything truly productive usually past eight) of another Ikea JANSJO light bought last week. I have had one on my bedside table for months and enjoyed it's cheering presence, so I wanted one for where I do my planning work. Of course, Seth and Laura both needed one in their rooms for various reasons, so now we can burn the midnight oil together, until eight.
We only had two days of lessons last week between Labor Day, field trip day and dentist appointment-turned-errand day. I knew it was going to be like that, so I kept our plans light as we transitioned back into our Morning Time and lesson routines.

Last week, we noticed a tree growing these enormous green pods out by our parking lot, so we headed out before lunch break one day to investigate and bring back some samples of leaves and pods to examine more closely. After searching through two tree books, Seth found it in the old vintage one. It is called Common Catalpa or Indian Bean. The green pods dry to the dark brown as seen and then split open, allowing a bark-like cylinder inside to be exposed which flakes of seeds are loosely hanging on to. It is all very strange and tropical island like. The leaves are massive, dinner-plate size which only add to the mystique of this tree. Somehow I tricked the kids into drawing it in their nature journals which of course made me feel like the best homeschooling Charlotte Mason mother ever for about two seconds until they asked if I was ever going to make them lunch. How is it that lunch comes every day? I would just love to feed them lunch on Monday and not have to think about that one again until sometime on Saturday, preferably after lunchtime.

In other news, we harvested some of the rainbow carrots this afternoon before naptime, taking advantage of the rain-softened dirt to loosen a few from their underground dwellings. This is technically our second harvest, since I pulled some several weeks ago to roast as a test run.

These are my 'carrot girls', I didn't know I had any until Laura told me. How convenient for me.

It has not been an easy day, a certain middle child spent most of her time this morning going from one disobedient and dangerous activity to another.  I will conceal the actual faults, but it has been emotionally and mentally exhausting. But by God's grace, time spent together after lunch with a puzzle and a must-hold-my-hand walk out to the river bank to throw in sticks and collect acorns periodically whizzing past our ears, I felt my heart soften towards this wayward daughter of mine.
I do not think it will get any easier as she gets older, I believe the easy days were years ago when the girls were both in the toddler stage. That didn't seem easy then, but the compliance issues were virtually nil. If you care to, I would appreciate prayers. I don't have any answers and a few of my ideas have not been able to come to fruition. I know He cares for us and that keeps me going.
I hate to end on a serious note, but supper prep doesn't prep itself.  I assume you knew.