Sep 28, 2014

Wonderful Tenth Birthday Celebration

My oldest daughter is TEN. She had a beautiful birthday day. That morning, I found the okra flower opened.

As I was getting things ready for her party, I went to look at our lemons, and was surprised to see we have lots, and they will soon be ready. We enjoy our home made lemonade, with barely any sugar, cold and lemony, as it is supposed to taste.

 I saw this orb weaver spider, very protective of her food.

My girl did not want cake for her birthday, but apple pie. She has good taste! 

While I was baking the pie, she and her friend Kami were doing a chubby bunny challenge, putting marshmallows in their mouths, one at a time, and saying chubby bunny until they could not stuff one more. It was hilarious!

And although I will share the pictures privately, she loved the visit of a special friend who moved far from us, and whom we do not get to see often, and they had a wonderful time playing games of their own invention, and eating and chatting. She loved all the thoughtful presents she was given.

When she got to our presents, she surely found 4 books in it, Charlotte Sometimes by Penelope Farmer, The Children of Green Knowe by LM Boston, Linnets and Valerians by Elizabeth Goudge, and Mistress Masham's Repose by T H White. (I gave her sister A Traveller in Time by Alison Uttley).She told me she specially likes two of those titles, Charlotte Sometimes by Penelope Farmer, and Linnets and Valerians by Elizabeth Goudge. When she opened those, her best friend said, "I'm reading that one!", and "I have that one", and they both were so excited, telling others that Linnets and Valerians was by the author of The Little White Horse, and that was their first book club title. All those titles are Jeanne's recommendations (thanks, friend), and her best friend, who is becoming quite the reader, got those books too, so now they are in sync, and savoring their recently initiated book club, and the endless book possibilities, plus the food to be served, or decorations for that particular book. I think foam or felt Hobbit feet will make their appearance on our next date, October 31st, for the book club at our home. Reading has become a shared experience among our daughters, and Heather's son. That boy also, know what's good, and even if it's only a bunch of girls, he does not want to miss a beat, and attends the book club too. I know he is going to be well equipped to chose a bride, :), he is been around so many girls, he knows good food, good books, and what makes the girls tickle!

And she opened more presents. A beautiful dress that the mom of her dear friend Kami, sew for her, a Vera Bradley bag, and, thanks to the generosity of some of her grown up friends, now both my girls sport those beautifully made purses, "hipsters" they are called, :), that have such fun and beautiful prints. She got a camera from us, and from others, a doll she wanted, hairbands, notebooks, some cash from her soon to marry cousin, a scrap book album, gift cards to crafting stores, or accessories store... So much love, so many presents!

Today in the car, while she was reading Charlotte Sometimes, she told me, "mom, this book is like Matilda, it has lots of pages, and long chapters, but you get absorbed in it". (However, this girl reads slowlyyyyy, lol, and there is no way I will be able to make her be faster, even if I wanted, ha ha ha).

Sep 25, 2014

Lo malo del homeschooling

Mi querida amiga Zinnia nos convoca a un carnaval en el que aportar desde nuestros blogs, o mediante email, nuestros pensamientos sobre lo malo del homeschooling. Primero decir que ya echaba de menos a mis amigas de España y América a las que nos une el idioma, y esto del homeschooling. Pues a por el tema. ¿Qué es lo malo del homeschooling? Puedo escribir pensando el qué dirán los demás cuando lean esto, pensando en qué será algo que quieran escuchar, o puedo reflexionar y con sinceridad y respeto, ver cómo quiere el Señor que responda a esta pregunta.

En casa somos creyentes, creemos en Dios todopoderoso, creador del cielo y de la tierra, de todo lo finito y lo infinito... así como lo aprendí en mis años jóvenes. Hoy por hoy, he pasado de recitar esas palabras, a leer La Palabra, y a comprometerme día a día por vivirla. Leo en la Biblia que esas oraciones que recitamos de memoria son ciertas, que Jesús es el hijo de Dios, que bajó del cielo y murió por nuestros pecados, para ofrecer a todo el que decida seguirle, esperanza de vida eterna. Dios nos da la vida, y Dios nos manda el regalo de los hijos. Nuestros hijos son personas, seres con un alma inmortal, humanos libres, que en su edad adulta, tendrán opciones y decisiones que tomar así como las tuvimos y tenemos nosotros, sus padres. Nosotros decidimos vivir por Él y para Él, amándole y sirviendo al prójimo y amando a amigos y enemigos. Esa es nuestra meta final como cristianos. Pero hay obligaciones y metas más concretas, como la de criar y educar a nuestros hijos. Nosotros, hace ya diez años, con la bendición de un país en el que la opción de no llevar a los niños al colegio para su educación es algo legal, tomamos este camino, y desde entonces, nunca hemos mirado atrás. No quiere decirse que no tengamos rachas difíciles, pero no es nuestra manera de abordar la vida el pensar que las dificultades serían menos o más si las niñas estuvieran en una escuela. Cuando tomamos opciones, normalmente las sopesamos según necesiten ser evaluadas. Hay decisiones que no requieren demasiadas vueltas, otras como esta, hay que tomarlas con oración y deliberación. De momento no hemos tenido dudas de querer cambiar de rumbo. Más al contrario, cada día estamos más enamorados de esta forma de vivir, y nos sentimos muy agradecidos con nuestro Señor de poder seguir adelante.

Una cosa es que el homeschooling sea difícil o tenga momentos duros de encajar, bien sea por presión externa, o circunstancias internas, y otra es que sea malo. Para nosotros el homeschooling no es malo. ¿La escuela es mala?, pues la verdad que a nosotros no nos gusta, para nosotros supondría un golpe duro, una recorte muy radical de nuestra libertad y una forma menos dinámica de cumplir con nuestras responsabilidades, mucho más alienante y cohercitiva. Si tuviéramos a la fuerza que pasar por escuelas, nos pondríamos en Sus Manos y haríamos lo mejor que pudiéramos para nuestras hijas. No sería la muerte, ni el fin del mundo tampoco, :) Pero, dado que tenemos esta gran oportunidad y esta enorme bendición, la vivimos en toda su plenitud, con toda la intensidad y reto que supone, pero sobre todo, con muchísima felicidad, muchísima dicha, y con todas las ganas y fuerzas de las que somos capaces. Damos gracias a Dios cada día por poder ser lo que somos, y vivir lo que vivimos, y en consecuencia, tomamos la responsabilidad con gran seriedad y compromiso.

Una cosa es que pensemos que el homeschooling es bueno, y otra es que digamos que es fácil, o que carezca de dificultades y obstáculos. Pero el que tenga sus puntos débiles no lo hace malo. Nosotros vemos el homescholing como algo muy beneficioso, una bendición.

Salmo 118:24, Este es el día que hizo Jehová; Nos gozaremos y alegraremos en él.

Why Do I Blog?

I did not noticed this okra flower closes during the day, until I set up to photograph it. Early in the morning is open, and beautiful. We have been eating okra for over a month. But I do not tire of it. I cut it very thin, and saute it in olive oil, with garlic powder, and some seasoning. It's crunchy, and tasty.

I embellished my common notebook for books, sorta. And pages are being filled with my latest readings. In this book, only titles and my thoughts, or quotes from the books.

I am reading the last book, Son, of the Giver Quartet. It has been a great series. Thought provoking, well thought, interesting.

I decided to give a second try to The Road, and though it is dark, rough, not easy, I am glad to be reading it. I know Peace Like a River awaits after this title. Under Peace Like a River, there is my copy of Frankenstein. We are having a vibrant and stimulating discussion at our book club.

On the right hand side, I am also half way with Pilgrims Regress and savoring it. The other three on top of Lewis are 'devotional', or daily reads for me. Circle of the Seasons is in an entry per day for a year format, and so it's My Utmost for his Highest. Christopher Columbus, Mariner, I am a bit over half way, and also enjoying this read. It is so sad to realize how little about Spanish and world wide history I learned during my school years... but AO takes care of that. As we study a different period per year, whenever your country, continent, state, etc., comes up, you can surely give it your personal touch, but I am greatly amazed at how much world history my girls know in four years, and geography, and biographies... Ambleside Online is surely a blessing.

Girls pile. I am absolutely enamored with Anne of Green Gables. Thimble Summer is another lovely read. The girls read the Hobbit for their October book club, and they were trying to read a bit of Despereaux and Charlie in Spanish. They can read some, but they need some more road to travel before they get there. They will.

Last night it was a bit cooler. We have four types of heat in Texas, so my husband lit a fire to relax a bit. He is truly stress. We are looking forward to our upcoming vacation. You can disagree as much as you want, but the best skies and clouds belong to us, in Houston!

We just finished our week 16. This picture is my oldest drawing and writing on our shared Book of Centuries, from Madam How and Lady Why. That day was not an easy day. And this is the reason why I blog. Because blogging helps me keep perspective, it helps me look at the big picture. And I then rest in the thought we are doing fine.

If I did not blog, I will not get the camera out, and try to look for beauty and joy around my home. I will not sit down and reflect, and think about the blessings, the nice moments. And I will be in a higher risk of having the hard moments cover me with a cloud of gloom and desperation. Because, at some moments, I do feel that the sky is falling, lol. Really. You should see and listen to our life some days. Sigh. But all is well that ends well.

My 7 year old is hitting it right with Wind in the Willows. You who know me, know my life, know my story. But I am going to repeat that two years ago, this book and ALL the other books, etc. were extremely hard for all of us.

Time and perseverance make you conquer, and the small victories are very sweet.

Just for you to know, second children are, sometimes, incredibly driven -for some things-. Sometimes it's not your second but your third... In any case, she who is only seven, and who has no obligation to produce any written narration, does it just because. And from what book? From Tree in the Trail! I spent two years disliking -ok, more like loathing-, the Hollings books, and today, I find myself admiring and appreciating them like crazy.

Minn in the Mississippi, has so much earth science, and we even found learning about the cycle of water in the last Parable from Nature called, The Circle of Blessings.

I copied Brandy's inspiring quote. I believe I am a reformed graffiti artist.

 I am proudly sharing another of my common place book pages.

Girlies bake every day, for no reason. These Japanese crescents, -or something-, look good, but oh boy, I, who don't like very sweet desert, found them bland. It was another notch on their culinary skills, they had to put foil to bake them with a hole, and they thickened the chocolate in the stove... I was washing dishes like crazy!

 This cannot be. My precious baby will be ten soon. I don't have words.

We don't have lots of flowers, but she has this lovely summer rose flower, lantana, and we  cut some to bring that beauty to our table. Looking at the picture, I cannot but think that we look vintage because this is already a vintage picture taken with a Polaroid we bought for our first born. Our backyard looked like Mars.

I went through our fall-October-Thanksgiving books, realizing we will not be here to enjoy our christmas books. I like to read about mice at this time of the year, our Szeker books, and Suzy, and Hi, Ho, Cakes, and The Little Red Hen, The Gigantic Squash...

I am glad my girls are still at the age of picture books. My almost ten, in our drive to the library, read Bonny Legs, and Cranberry Thanksgiving.

Our last weeks before we get to week 20, are a bit condensed. I am more focused on the readings and math than usual, though we have been good at drawing in our nature journals, etc. But I am squeezing a bit more than normal only because for several weeks, we will have more frequent nature walks, visits to museums, places, practicing languages, etc. And the readings for year 4 and year 2, start getting longer, so I am always spilling them in our daily activities, instead of cramming everything in our lesson hours, otherwise it gets impossible and so tiring.

I have to say that, after being very consistent with MEP 3 with my y4 daughter, she picked up her pace, and we are now in y4a. Children may surprise you and advance faster once they get familiar with their math program. Thanks, Jeanne, from the bottom of my heart. Though it may be the case you are in a different year than the AO year, and education it is not about levels, don't linger too much on a math level if you genuinely see they get it! Be careful also, if you see they have slowed down.  A shorter math time but more steady, it's better than sporadic binges. Children don't learn in a steady line, they plateau and jump, just be observant and teach accordingly.

So, this is why I blog. To put order in my head, to stir my thoughts to love and appreciation, to share with others and show that "we are, we can, we ought, and we will".

Sep 16, 2014

Children and their Drawings

I have already posted these drawings on FB, but not everyone is there, and I wanted to talk about children and their drawings.

 These two pictures above are by my 7 year old daughter.
 I love these two in ruled paper :(, I like my almost 10 yo daughter's humor. Once we grow up, we loose that sparkle, and those desires to be birds, or humans -if you happen to be a crow, lol-.

My girls have always loved drawing, which does not translate in an instant love for drawing NATURE. Drawing nature from observation, is far more complex and demanding than just doing our own drawings of dolls, friends, or that which we love drawing. Because when we draw just for fun, it is different as when we draw for learning. But that careful attention and observation in nature, and drawing afterwards, surely strengthens their drawing skills, as classes can surely teach children to use a medium, and to grow in their drawing as well.

For them to draw nature after our nature walks, or around the house, other things had to happen. That was, number one, MODELING. I have never been any good -or bad-, at drawing anything. I never drew much before, and for 3 years, I had been drawing some here and there, and sure enough, my girls and I have folders with many drawings. It was not until this year, when a good friend in our area from our recently formed group of Ambleside Online moms suggested that we went out once a week for a nature walk, and that I got serious about getting the three of us journals, and drawing myself each and every time, that we three have been more constant in our nature drawing. They have come to expect it, and to love it. But it never fails the time when they claim they have "nothing" to draw, or the day they experience frustration with their drawing. Drawing, narration, math, piano... all of that, when you do it constantly, it is meant to cause some natural friction. Our minds and body are being exerted, even when we love our studies, our lessons, our calculations, those activities demand our attention, push us to grow, and that is not always welcome. Then it is when the DISCIPLINE part of a Charlotte Mason education comes in place. Good news, after the discipline, comes LIFE. Soon, those practices become our life, and we enjoy the pleasure of being engaged in such rich ways of living and learning.

Our walks in the park are lots of fun, even though I require drawing from my daughters, given they have the habit, can do it, and know it is part of their education. Fun because our group is full of boys who find everything everywhere, fun because we moms can talk some, walk together, look, observe, share, and discipline because we sit down after the walk, and set to draw something.

However, in our last nature walk, our girls were more into playing together, and rushed their drawings more than usual. So, we will have to think what to do next time, if to get to draw at home, or ask of them certain time to remain at the table, to, at least, outline, or work on the first part of the drawing to complete at home with the specimen or picture, or mom's drawing, lol. Maybe it was also the fact that my girl had a new watercolor set melt down, and could not see them getting dirty! lol.

Sep 15, 2014

And It Happens!

 We take them out to nature, they observe. We draw, they draw.

After several weeks being consistent with our group, and walking in nature, and drawing what we observe, my oldest was ready for her serious watercolor set. It is her own Windsor and Newman, London co., made in France! She is too excited. So much that she had a hard time letting others use it in the park... she wants to keep it new, but that is not possible.

My oldest daughter is turning 10! And this was one of her birthday presents, but I gave it to her in advance so that she could use it today at the park.

 Brussels sprouts roasted with some bacon. Do I need to add anything to that? lol.
 Mussels sauteed in olive oil with garlic and onion.

Some of my latest purchases. Isn't this cover and back cover of A Coffin for King Charles to die for?

I had loved To Say Nothing of the Dog so much, that I gifted it to a friend who came in the summer. Today, I lent it to another one, lol. It is THAT good.

Mystery solved. What I alleged it was smeared candy, it happens to be the eggs of a snail invading species.

Someone made friends with Mr. Squirrel today!

Heather and I stay chatting and drawing at the park after our walk. Our children, on the other hand, do rush their drawings to keep playing. They do better if they draw at home, so we may have to think about splitting early, and coming home to draw with a photo or a specimen. And, if they do not like us cutting it short, we can probably then tell them to stay drawing, or leave, and maybe they choose drawing carefully, lol.

Have you ever seen one of these beauties?, we do pretty often. It is possible we don't have eyes for the most common flora and fauna in our area. Trying to reclaim my childhood naturalist eyes and curiosity, I have to say that last week, while washing the dishes, from the kitchen window that looks to my backyard, I saw two beautiful mourning doves flying at unison at my window level, and blackbirds (similar to the male and female in this picture), nibbling our left over figs.

As for my readings, after finishing such a profound and beautiful book as My Name is Asher Lev, and given I am reading Frankenstein, and Pilgrims' Regress, and poetry, I thought I needed something a bit lighter emotionally and not very demanding, so I picked Samuel Eliot Morison's Christopher Columbus, Mariner, recommended at AO as one of the Geography options for year 8. It is very engaging. I wish I had study with any of these living books in my jr. and high school years, even in my college years! The Voyage of the Armada The Spanish Story, by David Howarth, another year 8 book under biographies, is in my pile too, and I am reading it next. As a Spaniard, these books are mandatory. To think we never learned this in any depth in my 12 years of education!

I have mentioned this before, the literature options at Ambleside Online are the best, but, what makes this a complete education, are the books under the other disciplines, such as:


Sep 12, 2014

Internalizing Rhythms and Schedules

At my last post on schedules, Karen and I were conversing about all this, and I wrote:

I try to balance education in the full scope of our life, not just thinking of lessons, and that

our family rhythm gets more internalized each year,

and she asked me if I could expand on this, which I'd love to.

What do I mean by internalizing our schedule more every year? 

Before my girls were born, I found Charlotte Mason and her ideas, and even though I started with a less clear notion of the method and curriculum we wanted to pursue, I always tried to devise a schedule based on this Charlotte Mason based education.

I also found Ambleside Online since before my girls were of school age. Through many trials and errors, we are coming, every day, to what my husband and I see as our valued way of, not only "teaching" subjects and content, but of living our life.

Going back to my oldest Kindergarten year, called year 0 at Ambleside Online, I remember my anticipation and self righteousness for that year. Far from revisiting Volume 1 of Charlotte Mason, I was more looking at year 1, because of the BOOKS. To me, it was all in the books. Yeah, I knew about composer/artist/nature study, I had heard about handicrafts, and masterly inactivity, and working on habits... but I was just blinded by the books.

As a result, my scheduled looked a cross between a very formal school cut Kindergarten with some CM flair, and a college syllabus. The grandiose dreams I had about "adding", and "complementing"! Sigh. Life brought me to my knees, and I met Stephanie and her Charlotte Mason Made Easy course, and not only did I take it, but I translated it. And I came to year 1. By this time, my oldest became a bit more familiar with some practices such as narration, working on math regularly, etc. But our days and lessons, though I always gathered the strength and courage to get at them once more, were not exactly smooth. But, my girl was making progress (reading, adding, etc.), and there were some moments of great joy while making connections, and I was starting to fall in love with some of the books, so, the year was alright. Winnie the Pooh healed many of our wounds that year, :)

Year two was also our year of traveling to Europe. Our schedule was still not very "our own", other than the readings and those known as "extras", which are not really extras, but the pillar of a liberal education (poetry, hymns, folk songs, music and art appreciation, NATURE STUDY...) This year was uneven. I was able to put check marks by the AO y2 scheduled readings, have nice family time moments, and call it a day. I had a critical moment, I felt a mix of disappointing on my non perfect or ideal student, and at other times I simply felt quite a monster myself for seeing things like this, and for maybe being more devoted to giving advice, than to taking it myself.

Then year 3 hit. And my amazing and generous oldest daughter, showed passion and interest for her studies (not to confuse with every day an easy and smooth day, lol). I also had her sister as a year 1 student, and what I thought a difficult to balance year, proved to be much easier and joyful I ever dreamed. From my pushy first 2 years with my oldest, MEP math had become impossible. In year 2 we used Life of Fred, and by mid year 3, I placed my daughters on MEP, years 1 and 2. It was so much better. We finally enjoyed Parables from Nature and Pilgrims Progress, and we started to treat those extras more seriously. Thanks to wonderful friends, we got closer to music, and I started an already begun gradual transformation. I was the first one internalizing components of their education that were now part of my own education as well. I became more diligent and reflective of my reading choices, and I gave more thought to that education is an atmosphere CM's motto or belief. It all soaked in me, I changed so that my home took some of my new self, and the girls inspired their own changes too. They came up with more pronounced interests, delights, favorite disciplines, and they did not resent their lesson hours, which, in some cases, started to blur into just our life. We listened to good music at any given time and place, if we had means to do so, we would sing the songs we listened to anywhere.

My girls now both knew the CM jargon, lol, narrating, copy work, history, biography, nature study... and my y1 student remembered much of her sister's year 1, my year 3 student looked with much more appreciation and respect to her sister's books... By then I already knew how to get the readings, and make up a weekly schedule that was for y3, very similar to y2, and y1, only with an increase in the number of pages and books, not exorbitant from y2 to y3 either. This year I tried to get better at whatever I knew I wanted for all of us, and at that which we had not been very successful before.

In the present, we have completed "week 14 of years 4 and 2", and this year our schedule is as engrained and engraved in our systems as ever before. We are far from doing everything at top notch mastery, but that is not the goal... the goal is to do the best year one can do, where my girls work at walking down the path through self education, a day at a time! And without having this written in any plans, they now know I will be reading in the car for an hour or more every Sunday, that in the evenings we study the Scriptures as a family, that we will read aloud every day, by themselves, and I to them, that every week we go to a nature study with a local group of like-minded families; they know we look at a painting every week, and we listen to good music; they know every normal day morning we read poetry and sometimes Shakespeare at breakfast, that they have certain books each term (this is a period of 12 weeks plus 1 week for exams), and my year 4 daughter soon understood what was added to her year since she is in the second form (years 4 thru 6). We have started our new components for year 4, meeting my daughter where she is, with the intention to take her as far as she can go. And, after all, those new components are normal extensions of former practices (such as written narration after oral narration, dictation after only copyright, Plutarch and real Shakespeare as the next hardy bones in her second form, or upper elementary, Latin and grammar -which we do orally and together-, and I don't think I left anything out.

I study Charlotte Mason myself, her principles, and how they apply to curriculum, and accordingly, I make them part of my life, and not just "content" to be thrown at during lessons. Oh, I almost forgot how, specially I, have added many note books such as a common place book, book of centuries, book to write about books, etc, thanks to The Living Page... see? My self education makes me more able to understand what it is to live with these goals in mind, and thus I learn to make things mine and inspire and guide my daughters.