Aug 30, 2014

The Heart is a Lonely Hunter

I have not read anything like this.

I am one of those in love with her latest book, I know, but trust me on this one. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter is sad, beautiful, indescribable.

As I closed the last page, it is not that I do not like the end, it is a feeling that I want to keep living in that town, with the characters that I have met. I want to know more about them, to keep listening to them.

And to believe this woman was only twenty three when she wrote this book.

What to quote? Just this,

The car he chose was almost empty. When he was settled he opened the crate of strawberries and picked them over with finicky care. The berries were of a giant size, large as walnuts and in full-blown ripeness. The green leaves at the top of the rich-colored fruit were like tiny bouquets. Singer put a berry in his mouth and though the juice had a lush, wild sweetness there was already a subtle flavor of decay. He ate until his palate was dulled by the taste and then rewrapped the crate and placed it on the rack above him.

And the first sentence,

In the town there were two mutes, and they were always together.

I came to this book through the Ambleside Online Forum, and from Karen Glass who said she loved the book. I knew it will be sad, but there is sad and disturbing, and sad and beautiful. This is that last combination. It may stir different feelings in you, we all have different reservations and reactions when it comes to books. It has left me a sweet memory and I am glad I have met Mick and her family, most specially her dad, Portia, Doctor Copeland, Biff, Jake, Harry...

I am almost finished with That Hideous Strength too, which I am enjoying, but I feel like abandoning The Talisman by Scott, at 64% of the book. I was enchanted by the beginning, the conversation between Sir Kenneth and the Saracen, but now, frankly, I am not that excited to know what else happens, not that much into the characters and their talk either. Although this year is the first year I have left books unfinished without remorse, it is still hard to abandon a book, specially when you know it has value.

I have to make room, though, for our upcoming Book Club at Ambleside Online Forum, where we will be reading Frankenstein together.

Aug 25, 2014

I Need a Vacation!

Who doesn't, right?


But I know I need a vacation because:

a) I am taking things way too personal, way too unnecessarily. Gulp.

b) I am a bit saturated of our studies, reads, and the whole homeschooling enchildada.

c) I cannot stop talking about our studies, reads, and the whole homeschooling enchilada. Argh.

d) I get touchy feely by every single thing I read, why?

e) Because the world is not against me. Actually, many people in it LOVE me, so why am I restless?

Two explanations or reasons,

1. I need a vacation

2. For reasons beyond our control, my lovely friend and neighbor and I have not been able to RUN lately.

So, let's practice what I preach, and count my blessings to empty my head of negative thoughts that take me nowhere but deeper in my temporary pessimism.

I am thankful for,

* A husband who loves us all to the moon and back, who cooks, listens, works, and laughs and prays often.

* Friends who let me vent and love me even in my grumpiest days.

* Daughters who are amazing persons, and so much fun, and company.

* A God who is there to listen to my prayers and petitions of forgiveness when I am short of loving my neighbor, or treating others as I'd like them to treat me.

And that vacation is getting closer!

Aug 23, 2014

Of Books and Exams

I have realized that this year my list of authors I want to read, and books I want to read, has become not just my 2014 list, but my lifetime list.

That prompted me to have a simple spiral notebook to write about books, authors, recommendations, my thoughts.

Did I say I will not buy a new Lewis book until I finished That Hideous Strength?

Forget and forgive me.

My thoughts were on buying The Pilgrim's Regress, but I saw an online seller that had this volume with 3 of his titles for $5.38, when only The Pilgrim's Regress was $3.48. -and I am talking after shipping prices- Would you have bought it? We are spoiled in the States, I know. And now I come to see they sell a few for 1 cent at Amazon, that will be just $4.00, and one ships from Texas!

I still am enjoying That Hideous Strength, but oh, Lewis writing non fiction. Years ago I thought Lewis was a writer for elitist people, now I admire his attention and care for the common person who does not think of himself as vulgar, but as a willing to learn and debate with him.

I don't know if other editions of The Pilgrims's Regress have his Afterword to the Third Edition, but this one has it. Two and a half pages that do not spoil his allegorical tale, but that add much clarity to the why of the book. He is fabulous explaining the difficult to the simple reader. I appreciate his intellectual honesty, and his non condescending tone.

My nightstand. Add The Talisman I read from the kindle, and that is my reading stack. These four are not front to back reads:

My Utmost for his Highest
Daily Light Journal
The Imitation of Christ
The Circle of the Seasons

This one is just a coffee table book I look at at times,

La naturaleza y sus símbolos, Lucia Impelluso

The other two, my books:

The Heart is a Lonely Hunter
That Hideous Strength

Add The Pilgrim's Regress, and that completes my readings.

The ones in bold are the ones I am committing to finishing. And I will. The others will be read, but not in a short time, more through the rest of the year.

And exams.

This past week was our week 12, and that marks the end of the First Term of this new school year we started late in May.

But, we did not quite finished. We have a couple of readings lingering, which is no problem, since this coming week, we will do exams, finish wrapping some loose ends (those readings, geography, one day trip to the beach...)

Before I never liked doing exams. It made me uncomfortable. I did not like to see those things the girls will not be able to answer. But I read Amy, and her idea of taking the exams as a reflection to see what we did well, and where we need to work more. Exams humble you. But exams make us better. At least, Charlotte Mason exams.

A few tips.

At first glance, I do not know about many of the events they are supposed to narrate again. I now go to the book, read the title, and maybe browse it a bit, until it comes to them -I am not talking about reading the passage again, but sometimes one needs a simple clue to retract the narrated passage. At that point, they continue giving me their full narration. If the narration is not that long but they remember "something", count your blessings.

The children remember more than us many times, so ask, you will be surprised.

If there are one, two, or three areas where they cannot show forth any answer or progress, try to do better next term.

If there are things they have learned or done and the suggested questions don't reflect them, by no means, add them yourself. Remember the AO questions are suggestions based on their schedule. If you tweaked that a bit, you may want to tweak the questions as well. Be confident and honest while you prepare your exams. This is just a time to meditate all we were involved in for 12 weeks, and I am sure you will be surprised to know all the children know.

This year I plan to write my thoughts on the term, and keep it tucked for the future. I wish I had thought about this before but... I have thought about it now, :), and I have more years with them, Lord willing.

If for 2 or 3 years their answers to the exams are not as perfect or complete as you envisioned them, do not loose heart. Keep doing those exams. They are a valuable tool for you, and a great record for them. They will love looking back and seeing those couple of pages, -if you record them, the recorded answers-, etc.

Time to reflect on what you have done is very needed. Celebrate it, and take the weak areas as motivating goals for the future.

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, and 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.