Aug 22, 2014

The Beast that Reading Is!

Every time I hear someone asking about reading, I get mixed up feelings. I do not know if to shut up, or speak up.

I spoke.

I think all this struggling readers issue, and reading problems, are part of our new impatient and reading obsessed culture. It is our culture what is complicated, not our children.

But before you throw things at me, let me say that reading difficulties are real. But I know first hand that many times, if our attitude changes, these difficulties will stop worrying us, frustrating them, and they will much improve and not hinder their learning in the very least.

Even after diagnosis is made, what are we left with?... much "work" on something our child already struggles with. A diagnosis is not followed by a magic formula to change a child with some difficulties into an instant avid and independent reader. Plus, is avid and independent reader the ultimate goal of our teaching? Not really. At least my goal is broader, even if it encompasses, not the quantity or speed of their reading, but the process of reading as a tool. I also want them to experience the love and joy of listening to the minds and their ideas that print conveys.

When reading comes a bit slower or harder, we need extra patience and to  regain our joy. Children can feel our worry and they start not liking their lessons because everything is focused on changing who they are, or on  accelerating something that time takes care of itself, without our frantic insistence on trying this and that.

I know there are those relatively new "eye" problems, and the long known "dyslexia", and I do not want to undermine the gravity of those. But the more fragile our children in reading, the less anxious we should be, and the more appreciative we could feel that we can read aloud so much and for so long. Any of these reading conditions gets better with time. And just because you know about it, and what is good for it, abstain from inundating your child with those things as if you were treating a cold and you expected that, after the treatment, your child will be so healthy as to run a marathon.

Reading for learning, for self educating, should be our life time goal. There is no need to suffocate our children and ourselves all throughout their school years that early because they are slow, have "problems", choose not to read in their free time, do not read lots of quantity for their lessons, do not show reading independence the year other children their age seem to be reading all by themselves...

I wish I had spent the amount of time I did worrying and finding this and that, trying this and that, simply reading. To them, or BY MYSELF.

Reading comes. Math love comes. Nature study comes. And the best thing is not to put the burden on them, but to enjoy it ourselves, have a positive attitude, model, model, model, and not expect them to do this or that, but enjoy and value their progress, and nurture their love for all learning.

After you feel fresh and refreshed, and stop the worries, etc; then try gently some of the Charlotte Mason style lessons for reading spelling. They are great in the right measure!

Unless the child is severely dyslexic, from 8 to 10 years of age, there is lots of growth in reading. But again, warning!!! Children with a slow start will never turn overnight into the child on the other side of the grass who devoured all the Ambleside Online free reads, and remembers every.single.thing he or she reads from books. But, again, that it's a quality of some children, not the goal of education either!

Life is so short! We spend 4 or 5 years wanting them to read independently, and miss enjoying our immense opportunity to read aloud and learn along with them... then we start lamenting how little time to pre read we have, when we could have spent time reading from the AO/HEO selections and join the conversation that will come once they are older, and reading hefty books. We worry because they read so little, but we miss all the books we should be getting to know ourselves, and discuss with other friends, spouses, and later with them... then there are parents whose children seem to read so much and so fast, and they at times seem so "happy" they fear "interrupting" the child in his gluttony, and explain that some books are to savor and read slowly, - sigh. Not to mention the many areas that round us as learners and persons that we should "worry" a bit more, and we do not even care about.

THIS IS WRITTEN TO ME in particular. I was that mother myself, and I am still very affected by all this new times reading malady! Please, do not get offended, and if this does not describe you, I apologize if I have projected myself a bit in what I wrote, and been harsh in the process.

Aug 20, 2014

Con niños pequeños

Una madre de niños pequeños, 3 años y 20 meses, me pide un poco de orientación, y a la vez que la contesto, he pensado en poner la respuesta aquí por si otras personas están en su situación.

Querida amiga,

A estas edades yo no hice nada académico con mis hijas, sólo leer, leer, leer, informarme aquí y allá como estás haciendo. No pierdas tiempo con actividades ni horarios, más bien disfruta de su compañía, y vive la vida a su lado, cocinando, saliendo afuera, viviendo las estaciones y las fiestas. Yo las llevaba a la biblioteca, a jugar con otras familias, al parque...

Y los tres recursos que me mencionas, (me preguntaba sobre mis libros y cursos) es aun pronto, pero en uno o dos años más, me plantearía el curso de CM de manera fácil, el curso ayuda precisamente a eso, a la organización y cómo afrontar las lecciones desde el principio, y de modo más acogedor y personal que esta Internet.

En Octubre voy a dar un seminario con Maria José (ya os hablaremos más de ello en Septiembre), donde hablaré de temas que te pueden interesar porque es suficientemente amplio para cada etapa del homeschooling. Quiero abordar qué es la atmósfera, y qué es la Sra. Cultura, son dos conceptos de Charlotte Mason muy necesarios para las madres que educamos en casa, pues componen nuestro día a día y el cómo formarnos nosotras primero lleva a saber cómo enseñar y qué enseñar en cada etapa.

Un abrazo y relájate. Sólo son niños por unos años, y necesitan una mami tranquila, feliz, y mucho tiempo de juego y tiempo libre, y un poquito de canciones, cuentos, y lecturas para continuar desarrollando su lenguaje. No pierdas tiempo ni dinero comprando material prescolar, es un invento de nuestra época porque hoy en día, para poder trabajar, las madres tienen que dejar a los niños en centros, y vende mucho y parece super avanzado, tenerlos en cosas escolares o intelectuales... mira, mis hijas aprendieron rapidísimo a leer alrededor o pasados los 6, y leen estupendamente. Leer no es difícil, y empezar con letras y números aisladamente no tiene beneficio ninguno. Todos los niños que están en casa, aprenden todo lo de las guarderías y más, porque tienen tiempo y atención de los adultos, y la vida de una familia normal es mucho más bella y completa que las horas en una guardería o colegio.

Un abrazo y buena suerte,

Aug 15, 2014

Growing a Tree

I look around, at other moms who homeschool, at their blogs, at some Facebook comments or posts, at some materials, curriculum, schedules, programs, and even many who follow Ambleside Online are at times so different in approach than us, that I conclude we must be doing something else, since I do not find much in common, other than not taking our children to a building every school day.

Yesterday this analogy came to my mind. Think of your family as a tree. Each of us bloom different flowers and fruit, but we are all a growing tree. If you follow Ambleside Online, they are your help to grow the branches, and trim (that will be the useless busy work) for healthy growth. Charlotte Mason's principles must be at the root, otherwise, instead of a living tree, we run the risk of using Ambleside Online to add not fruit coming from within, but external details and accessories to a dead tree. No wonder it looks bad, it does not surprise us with the joy of a new flower, a new fruit, lustrous branches! We are trying to follow details and intricacies, and the tree gets very difficult to hold in place. We need to go to the root, start simple. It is important we nurture our own tree, our own family. We should not look at that beautiful apple tree with lots of apples, when we have a smaller tree of a different kind. We should not assume that, because our tree has many blossoms to pay attention to, that smaller tree over the fence is easier to take care of.

At Ambleside Online there are many details and particulars about care for the tree that is our children education, they tell you how to be the best gardener (one that does not shelter too much, or neglect too much, one always learning about her job, but one that first and foremost, delights in that role, and who is a tree herself, always in need of the same nourishment and care than her family).

So, please do not observe other trees that much, and do not try to grow it from the branches. Go to the root and start small. Sooner than later you will find yourself enjoying the intricacies of the process. You don't have to reinvent the wheel, no, but if the wheels of your wheelbarrow are not turning, put it away, and go back to your caring hands for a moment, until you get a good grasp, and are ready for more.

As for what I see around with other methods or ways of education, they seem to me plastic trees with glitter, and blinking garlands, or perfectly manicured bonsais in pots. Do I say that all who do not follow Charlotte Mason or Ambleside are mediocre or inferior? No. Many arrive at some education truths, and find out their way. But I know many who could save lots of time, money, and pain, if they could simply stop buying unnecessary and useless workbooks, boxed materials, abandon castrating lists and schedules, and woke up to the beauty, truth, and joy that each new day brings!

Stop looking, lamenting, comparing, over-thinking, and DO!

And, before she says her final goodbye, visit Cindy, and write her last words in your commonplace book, or your notebook, or in your heart.

Aug 12, 2014


Gifts can be of very different nature, and they certainly produce different reactions in us. It is a topic that merited our attention at the park last time some moms and I met for a nature study.

There are the intangible gifts of friendship, of shared meals, and teas, and chatter. Giving and sharing among loved ones and friends who know who we are, and whom we know well, are such a joy. We receive gifts all the time from others: clothes, books, food, tokens of appreciation. My in laws, for example, when they have visited us, have left several things built in the house and patio, my mother in law has cooked us meals, cleaned places I did not know they existed, and whatever does not stand visible, a reminder of their love for us, stays in our hearts as memories to treasure for life.

And then, there are those special occasions and seasons when it is our cultural or family custom to exchange gifts. I know those who, for reasons we should all respect and never ridicule, do not celebrate birthdays, or Christmas, or -insert holiday of your choosing-, and yet when those around them do, they end up with uncalled for presents, or gifts they value. Who knows? What I do know is that when we gift others, we usually give something we believe they should have, or will like, or better, we give that which we like. Thus the better others know you, the higher the chance they will know what to give you; they know who you are, what you value.

Back to square one. What should we give to others who have such different life styles than us, and most importantly, how should we receive gifts from those kind of people -whether family, friends, or simply acquaintances-?. I can tell you what I do, after I have gone through different seasons in my life of vexation and frustration.

For those of you who love a story or two, we have done a birthday in which we asked others to donate to a children's home. We thought our girls have way too many toys and material possessions (which is true), and we assumed (sigh. wrooong expectation!) others will "get the point". Some guests came with a check for the place, which, come to think about it, it was a bit imposing on our side, since I have bought birthday presents for $5 dollars of things on sale, and it may have been embarrassing for others to write a low amount check.  We could have asked them to do (or not), the donation privately, but it was still awkward now I think about it. Other guests came with a check and a present. Yet a third group came with just a present for my then 3 year old daughter. I remember my daughter's radiant face when she opened her presents, yet inside I was not totally reconciled with the thought they did not do what we ask them to do. But I believe some of our friends wanted to see my little girl open presents. There is some joy in seeing a little child opening a wrapped present.

Ever since, I have had friends ask for say, a used book exchange, or no presents... It is clear we all give a thought to this whole enchilada! lol. Then we have the actual presents and the day after. It is then when the recipient goes through the treasures, and admires and loves some of those, and criticizes other choices. This happens all the time, we prefer some people's company to others, some foods to others... nothing abnormal there. We can always re gift, -at our own risk, ha ha ha-, donate, or toss.

At any given time we get presents from friends of neighbors, we are at risk of gifting or receiving something we reject because of beliefs, dietary restrictions, preferences, etc. Have you been gifted a monumental cheese cake when your family does not eat dairy, or gluten? Have your child received a spanking new collection of Captain Underpants books when you cringe at the thought of twaddle?

Let's move on to weddings and Christmas, to say two big time gift abiding occasions. What to give to a newly wed couple? As with a new to be mom, there are the popular registries. They are convenient, and sure, many will opt to buy from those. I now value the presents others gave us for our wedding, that were not previously chosen by us, the most. We also have the ultra famous gift card. Convenient, right? I give you that. They are convenient, sure, why not. In some cases they will be the best option. The fact that they are impersonal, makes them thus perfect for those with whom we don't share a personal relationship. And no sarcasm, they can be great for those we know need money to have some freedom and space to choose how to spend it.

After trying to convince and affect other people's choices for gifts to my girls, -and sometimes they listened, as in our visits abroad when I requested others not to give us things too bulky or heavy-, nowadays I am more relaxed, -or try, tee hee-, when others give us gifts. I smile and say thank you, and I try to see pass what I am getting and into the person and his motives. There will always be those who "don't get it", who don't know we don't want another cheap and noisy toy, or any electronic, or costly clothing, sigh. There will also be those who expect we correspond whenever they spend more than we see sensible, and those who will criticize our gifts to them. As in life, we will not be able to please everybody, so, whatever you do, do it from your heart and don't look back.

I don't want to come across as writing poor religion, but remember than Jesus gave us all the gift of eternal life, and many refuse it.

Aug 9, 2014

This and That, -or another week in August-

These past days I was considering what else to bring to this blogging corner.  Should I talk more about our studies or lessons?, or should I write again about how our life is truly wonderful?... well, at least if and when I look at it in perspective. I could also talk about how despairing some days are. Hmmm... I prefer to stay with the main picture. So, today, you will get a potpourri of goodness I need myself, and it may, incidentally, help you remember your blessings too.

Opening this post is my quick drawing of a zinnia at my dear friend Heather's home. I love her garden, front and back, her flowers, her home, and her friendship.

Next is a picture of a tea blend I looked for at the supermarket. I am trying to copy cat Jeanne, currently in Scotland. Hers is glorious Twinnings tea, Intense Lime and Ginger. This, I know, is not the same, but it is a very soothing and spunky flavor.

More pictures of the girls journals. They are really taking to their nature journals this year. I believe being committed to walk one day every week, or, if not, to surely draw at home, makes the difference.

Our round table after one productive day this week. On Monday, week 11 starts! I have to mark down the weeks for next term George Washington's World, and print the next life of Plutarch notes, and get ready for the next Shakespeare, a comedy this time, his famous Midsummer Nights Dream. The girls will connect with it more than with Hamlet, though I can say, much of Hamlet's drama has stayed with them.

I have to say that preparing and reading for the girls lessons is not a burden but a joy. I don't get all that ramble and complains from those who say they have no time for reading all to them -as if they resented being involved in what their children read for their studies. Or all the preoccupation in others to read

OK. Homeschooling, -and for that matter, raising children, and life in general-, is not easy, but it should and it can be SIMPLE. More than that, it should be JOYOUS. If it is not, the fault is not in the curriculum, method, books, independence -or lack thereof- of your children, but in YOUR APPROACH to it.  I don't know when I stopped worrying about planning and making elaborate plans in paper, and started living in constant motion towards learning. I do always observe the girls, and work so that the few things I know happen. Then I add on those practices according to what I see they are ready for, and what I read and learn should happen in their next stage in their studies as well as in life.

If you wonder about us, yes, we still have meltdowns and crisis, regarding their behavior with friends, or related to their studies... but joy prevails. It is not I who tells you, it is Him.

I cannot believe the connections children make, and how much they remember. As I was reading the Crassus selection for this week to my 9 year old daughter, she remembered from two years ago, that Joan of Arc won a battle in which only 6 men died. (Crassus, from Plutarch's Lives, in week 10 of our studies, has a very gore description of the battle they fought against the Parthians).

Year 4 is, no surprise, infinitely well thought and weaved by the amazing ladies at Ambleside Online. All the books have so many confluences and overlaps, and ideas and connections among them, flow all the time in our minds.

Some of my new reads:

That Hideous Strength. This is an enigmatic book - to me. I do not want to read reviews or anything like it. I had never read any of his fiction for grown ups, only his non fiction, and Narnia. My daughter asked me, "C.S Lewis?", "What is the book about, mom?". I told her I am only in the 4th chapter, and so far it is about an organization with dubious interests, and a man who works at a college or university, and his wife, and their new marriage which is going through some struggles, since the man is very obsessed with his work at the university and his role in this committee that is also offering him to be part of a new enterprise. His wife is having strange dreams or nightmares, and they seem premonitions.

It reminds me of the Firm, and the wife reminds me of Caesar's wife before he was assassinated by Brutus. It is by no means, a bit strange to hear Lewis writing fiction for grown ups.

This is a self portrait. I had the remote in my right hand. This picture tells you to read. Read in your kitchen while food is cooking, while you clean up a bit.

As I was reading a book that I waited for expectantly, Circle of the Seasons, by Edwin Way Teale, and I am instantly loving it. It is a journal of sorts, with an entry by the author each day of the year, where he talks about what he observes in nature around him, in his garage, by the woods, and some of his thoughts.

On January 14th, he wrote about the sounds of winter, and why it seems that sounds carry further on cold air. He talks about a farmer in Indiana who can tell the temperature by listening. He writes this:

The squeaking of the snow is produced by sharp edges of frozen crystals rubbing against each other. In mild weather, when the mercury stands just a little below freezing, the edges are less hard, more easily blunted. But as the mercury descends, the crystals become correspondingly harder, friction mounts and the high-pitched complaint of the rubbing corners and edges increases.

The drop of the mercury is also accompanied by the condensing of the atmosphere. When air is warmed, it expands and the molecules separate; when it is cooled, it contracts and the molecules draw closer together. This is the secret of far-carrying sounds on the winter air. The denser the medium, the better it transmits sound waves.

That is why, I paraphrase, sounds are louder under water, since water is denser, and hardly noticeable the higher up in the air we go.

I am so indebted to the ladies at Ambleside Online. Without them, I would not know there are so many genres worth reading, such as geography books with Halliburton, biographies, history, natural science. And without them, I will never have known that science starts with observation, and with observation of nature. Naturalists like Teale know much about science, and I dare say that scientists in what we regard as more sophisticated branches of science, know first and foremost the world around them, starting with the skies, animals, plants, insects, earth, fishes...

Later in the week, as we read from Madam How and Lady Why about earthquakes, we are also reading How did we find out about earthquakes, by Asimov. Not because we have to "complement", or "do more science", but just because we happen to like his books, and my daughter is a science-nature lover. And boom, we learned that because of measuring the waves to know more about earthquakes, scientists discover much about the underground composition of the earth. And they inferred crucial information by the way seismic waves traveled, faster or slower depending on the density of what they encountered.  I was so excited to have read about sound waves and density two days before this!

Last two pictures. 

On top, my oldest reading to my neighbor's lovely girl. A Rosemary Well's book. This one is from the library. My youngest still checks her books out, the titles we don't owe, lol. 

Below is Daisy, my dear friend's new puppy dog. I took pictures of my friend, her family, -Daisy included-. She was awarded best teacher of the year in her school at the end of the school year, and during this upcoming year she will be recognized as such, and she needed current pictures for one of the bulletin boards. She is a wonderful first grade two immersion program teacher, and a very inspiring person.

Thanks for reading my ramblings, and I hope you have a great weekend.

Aug 1, 2014

Come on in!, Mr. August

August has come, and it marks the end of our 9th week of school. Yes. Nine weeks already. We are knee deep into American History with Miss N., in AOy4, and into the Age of Chivalry with Miss V., in AOy2.

As part of year 4, we are recommended to attempt a Shakespeare's play per term. The ones for this year are:

* Hamlet Prince of Denmark (repeat 2010)
** Midsummer Nights Dream (repeat 2009)
*** Richard II

One can do whatever plays and at whatever pace seems fit, but I thought it best for us, to jump into the wonderful AO wagon for this as well as for Plutarch. And I am giddy that the second term we will use North's translation for Timoleon! 

2014-2015 school year
Term 1: Plutarch's Life of Crassus (Anne White's Study Guide)
Term 2: Plutarch's Life of Timoleon (Anne White's Study Guide with Thomas North's text)
Term 3: Plutarch's Life of Aemilius Paulus (Anne White's Study Guide)

Now, what does it mean I read Hamlet with my daughters, ages 7 and 9? It means we got our first encounter with Hamlet. It means they were at some moments, highly interested, and at others, scarily disconnected. It means "I" had times of savoring the words I read, and at others, I simply read by inertia and commitment, and with faith that the next readings of Hamlet and other plays will be enhanced and more meaningful each time.

I also started to watch Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet, and I remember having seen it years ago. It is masterfully produced and acted out, and yet I gathered more meaning and made deeper connections (even if scarce) by reading it. Watching Shakespeare movies, and life productions, as well as reading his plays (and sonnets), add to our knowledge and enjoyment of the Shakespearean universe. We can then compare, discuss, and own his prototypes, decide on our favorite plays and characters, make connections, cry, laugh, be moved, and sure, be deeply puzzled and feel sorta "not getting all this", LOL. It is like moving to a different world, nothing will make lots of sense instantly. All I can say it's that I felt truly sad, I cannot explain how lonely and empty I felt there, when I read the last pages, with Horatio and Fortinbras.

Once again, I am at the last 50 pages of a book, and I don't want to finish it. Only that I am now committed to finish 3 books before starting a new one, and it has to happen. (I already cracked open the next title, The Talisman by Walter Scott, and oh, dear me, this will surely be the first Walter Scott I am enjoying immensely, -since there is not Scottish vernacular to confuse me to death as it was the case with his super famous Waverly novel,  lol-. I am no Daphne du Maurier's expert, but this may be her best novel. She wrote it at Menabilly, in 1945, around 100 years after the time of the book. She was also married to a general, more discreet, she hopes, than Richard. Her military knowledge, and her love for the places she describes in the book, add to her ability to twist and turn plots. It has suspense and much more, since it gives a fictional account of the English civil war.

And why do I think you all need to read The Talisman? Hear about it. It opens with a crusader knight crossing paths with a Saracen emir,  a combat and a truce. While both are resuming their path across the desert together, the Saracen criticizes what he considers the useless steed the crusader has for his mount, to which the crusader takes high offense, but decides to overlook it on the grounds of the ignorance about the value of horses exhibited by the Saracen. He elaborates on how well his horse has served him to cross iced waters. The Saracen cannot believe waters will not give in to the weight of the animal and its mount.... How ingenious! It reminded me of the parable in Gatty's Parables from Nature, that one with the zoophyte and an anemone, entitled  Knowledge Not the Limit of Belief (the link is to a paraphrase by Leslie Noelani, at Ambleside). In it, the bookworm talks to those two, (zoophyte and anemone), and tells them about things beyond their knowledge, but they do not give those things out of their comprehension any credit.

And, once I finish my poetry book, which is almost there, I am indecisive upon which next title to pick. But I think it may be time for another Russian author. Since some friends are attempting War and Peace, I am considering to jump into the opportunity to read along with others. But The Idiot, by Dostoevsky is also calling me. I believe Russian authors, the titans (Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Solzhenitsyn), to be the best writers of their generation. They create full universes populated with real characters, descriptions of places, and the human soul, and they add philosophy, history, universal questions, flawlessly to their narrative.

Just because a recent friend I met through Jeanne asked me for it, here you see a picture of my common place book. I am glad Lisa posted a picture of her several journals and common place books, for that was a reminder to keep writing on mine.

This? Anne of Green Gables. My dear friend Heather's daughter has started a girls book club. (And if you click on Heather's link, you can see her new blog). And the first book to discuss will be The Little White Horse (utter delight), picked by her. Another friend has picked Anne of Green Gables, so we are reading it, and my daughter has picked The Hobbit, which she is reading. This will be lovely, I hope they keep it up for long.

On top of the image, a spiral notebook where she writes dictation. Below, her copy work, done sometimes in cursive, sometimes in print.

A close up of my y4 girl copy work in cursive from today.

And some words about how our school year is going. I am showing you some of year 4 girl's copy work, and dictation above, and year 2 girl's copy work below.

Y2 girl copying from The Adventures of Madalene and Louisa
While I am glad my girls like their studies more and more, that both are growing and doing better each week, month, and year, you all have to keep in mind we are still working on habits and discipline. Some mornings it is hard to bring ourselves into lesson mood. Yes, we integrate more and more learning into our daily routines, -we read in the car, listen to good music at any given time, cook and do handicrafts of our own accord, etc.-, but there are still a few hours a day to be devoted to their weekly and daily lessons. The lessons are varied, yes, and short, yes, but still there is some constancy during normal weeks that has to be accepted. Not every week there is that great anticipation of the first week of 'back to school', not every time we have something exciting in our future (such as a vacation, visit, celebration, even a new book...). Some days and weeks, our 'normal lessons' are in course, and once in them, once they submit to the fact that math involves some wrestling with problems, reading demands our focused attention, copy work requires our best execution, they enjoy them. There are, however, moments in which we all have to adjust our disposition and check our attitudes.

That is, to me, the hardest and most rewarding aspect of homeschooling. Positioning myself in the humble place of 'a little bit each day', no matter how imperfect, and grow from there. If I stay too long in the planning mode, my plans end up being way too unrealistic and grandiose, and I loose heart when I see nothing happens as expected.

It is possible we are not doing daily components of this Charlotte Mason education daily, and some weeks, it is possible some weekly things have not been present. It is most likely our years 4 and 2 look still similar to our past year 1 and 3, but we are adding the new components, even if they are not as proficient as they will be as time passes.

Every year we try again at failed things, and every year they grow, even if some of those failed things are still not conquered. I do not look at all that a Charlotte Mason education entitles, and despair at the thought of how short we come in some aspects. I try to keep a humble spirit, and I also aim for the best. I don't commiserate with others in our mediocrity but try to be of an encouragement for them, and let them be an inspiration for me. I do not compare with others to measure, only to motivate and gain motivation. If I compare, I know I will only  feel proud and better, or inadequate and inferior.

Charlotte Mason set the standards high, she told us what the best is, and how to get there. She never said she will be grading us in our personal quest to raise life long learners, people of character. She never told us to look around and compare. I don't see where she calls us to measure our success and feel self righteous, or point to others or our own failures, and thus, give up.

I share these pictures, and the product of our work, most specially for myself. This encourages me to keep a positive outlook. But if you have read this far, know that this is difficult. Nothing worthwhile comes easy. This is hard for me, but I choose to remember this is not a burden, but a blessing, and even in our worst day, there are many little details, comments, and such, that kindle our faith and replenish our energy tanks.