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.

Sep 11, 2014

My Name is Asher Lev

If you want to know more about art, and what it means to create, the joy and pain it all implies, read My Name is Asher Lev.

If you are interested about other cultures, other religions, read it.

If you are in for a poignant story about family relations, read it.

If you want to see inside the mind and heart of an artist, of a boy with a gift and the world around him, read this book.

I always think the last book I am reading is the best book ever, but I know this book will stay in my memory through many years to come.

My name is Asher Lev has impacted me. What is expressed in the book has come to highlight that which is missing, and it has thus given me such a new and wonderful perspective of my own faith and my own thoughts as a mother and a wife.

Read it. That's all I can say.

Sep 4, 2014

Horarios ~ Schedules (Bilingual Post ~ Post Bilingüe)

Hablemos de horarios. Próximamente, el 24 y 31 de Octubre, Maria José y yo en colaboración, haremos un taller sobre cómo organizarse el día. Últimamente veo muchísimos post en inglés sobre cómo organizarse, y deseo compartir cómo me organizo yo desde hace un tiempo, y cómo crezco en esto de integrar el homeschooling a nuestra vida de familia de manera que se van borrando los límites y aparecen unas rutinas, unos ritmos, y unos patrones que nos hacen la vida más agradable y unida.

Let's talk about schedules. Coming soon, October 24th and 31st, in collaboration with Maria José, we will offer a workshop about how to organize your days. Lately I see many talking about this topic, and I want to share how I organize my days and how I am always growing and integrating this homeschooling thing into our daily life, this resulting in the blurring of the limits between "lessons and life", and the coming of habits, rhythms, and patterns that make our life joyful and harmonious. 

Con el paso del tiempo, los niños van desarrollando sus gustos, y mis hijas tienen predilección por las manualidades. Volvieron a hacerse casitas de muñecas de cartón, y me sorprenden con los detalles que construyen, desde el mobiliario hasta el jardín. Hoy redecoraron sus habitaciones, y me pidieron que sacara la máquina de coser, y ahí están, aprendiendo a cortar y pedalear, y coser ropa para sus ositos y muñecas.

In time, children develop their taste for handicrafts, and my girls love doll crafts. They made themselves another set of cardboard houses, and they surprise me with the details they add, from furniture to garden items. Today they redecorated their rooms, and they asked me for the sewing machine, and they are learning to cut fabric, and hit that pedal to sew clothes for their soft toys and dolls.

Sobre los libros de Ambleside Online. Una pequeña confesión. Resulta que no puedo, por más que lo intento, abandonar ninguno. Este año no estaba leyendo el libro de animales de Burgess, pero volví a verlo en el estante, y me dio nostalgia. Terminé leyendo el capítulo de esta semana. Curioso. Un libro que hace dos años no lo soportábamos, hoy por hoy me parece mucho más sencillo, pasó de pariente lejano, a vecino de enfrente. Pero lo leo a mi manera. No digo los motes de los animales, sino el nombre, me salto algunas cosas que me cansan, y me limito a las descripciones de los animales. Y... mucho mejor. No creo que hubiera sido nefasto seguir con el libro de Handbook of Nature Study, pero mi amiga Lisa y su batalla con lo que creía que era una comadreja, y que resultó ser un lince, que estaba comiéndose y degollando sus gallinas, me hizo recordar qué tan completo en cuanto a animales este libro es, y hemos vuelto a él como hijo pródigo.

About the Ambleside Online books. A small confession. I cannot, for more than I try, abandon any title. This year we were not reading The Burgess Animal Book, but I saw it on the shelf, and I felt so nostalgic. I ended up reading this week chapter. Funny. A book that two years ago we couldn't stomach, today it seems to me simple, it went from being a distant relative to my next door neighbor. But I read it my way. I do not say the animals nicknames, I skip some sentences that do not add to the animal descriptions and that bore me... Much better! I don't think it would have been such a mistake to continue with the Handbook of Nature Study, but my dear friend Lisa, and her battle with what she thought was a weasel, and that ended up being a bobcat, that was eating and slaughtering her hens, reminded me how complete in regards to animals this book is, and I am back to it like a prodigal son.

La historia de mis puntos medios. En espera de un mejor libro de los siglos, este libro de tapas duras, con hojas en blanco, y el siglo arriba en las dos hojas, izquierda para dibujos, y derecha para datos y nombres, se ha convertido en nuestro libro de los siglos compartido. Lo empecé yo, y ahora me lo quitan de las manos. Y mi hija mayor, está haciendo cábalas de si recibe una tarjeta para una tienda de manualidades, comprar entre otras cosas su propio libro para tener si libro de los siglos.

My middle way story. Waiting for a better Book of Centuries, this Walmart hard cover book with white pages is our shared BoC. I started it, and now they steel it from me to write down dates and draw some. My oldest is thinking that, if she ever receives a store gift card, she will be buying, among other crafty things, her own book of centuries.

Lo que parece y la realidad. Según véis estas dos imágenes de mapas, pareciera que estudiamos mapas, y sabemos ya un montón de geografía... La realidad. La semana pasada, en los exámenes, mi hija mayor no tenía ni idea de la pregunta de dónde estaba tal lugar en el Mississippi, ni qué había alrededor. ¿Quiere esto decir que tampoco tenga ni idea de nada? No lo creo. Por esto imprimí otros dos mapas, y mañana, cuando leamos Minn, volveremos a la carga. El caso es no desesperar y continuar con mapas cuando encontremos un hueco, y cuando estemos en el ordenador, buscar y recordar imprimirlos.

Appearances and reality. These two images may make you think we study maps and we know lots about geography... Reality. Last week during exams, my oldest had no clue about the question about a place in the Mississippi River, and what was around it. Does this mean she knows nothing at all? I don't think so either. This is why I printed two other maps, and tomorrow, when we are reading Minn, we will try again. The point is not to despair, and to continue looking for maps whenever we are by the computer, and remember printing them as long as finding ways to squeeze in more and more geography every week.

El año pasado compré este libro por menos de 4 dólares, y lo usamos cada día más y más. Tiene muy diversos mapas, éste que véis es físico. Hoy, leyendo Trial and Triumph sobre Bernard of Clairvaux, y decía que su amigo, un monje llamado William, viajó por la región del Rhine hablando a la gente de Dios, y localizamos Alemania y el Rhine. También mencionaban los Apeninos, así que los coloreó mi hija y de paso los Andes.

Last year I bought this book for less than four dollars, and we use it more each day. It has many maps, this one you see it's a physical map of Europe. Today, reading about Bernard of Clairvaux in Trial and Triumph, it said his friend William travelled
along Rhineland talking to others about God, so we found the Rhine river. And it also mentioned The Apennines, so we color those and the Alps too.

Por último, quiero hablaros de cómo atamos cabos sueltos. Primero que nada, si usáis Ambleside Online, leed la página y toda la información del año de vuestros hijos. Incluso aunque ya lo hayáis hecho, puede que haya pequeños cambios, por ejemplo, algunos añadidos, como es este libro de Gregor Mendel. También este año debo recordar que hay unos conceptos geográficos que estudiar cada ciclo de doce semanas, mediante los libros de Charlotte Mason y Long.

¿Cómo nos da tiempo a todo? Yo no tengo bloques de tiempo destinados a cada disciplina, lo cual veo que hay a quienes les ayuda mucho. A nosotras no nos funciona esto porque cada día nos levantamos y acostamos a una hora diferente, y hacemos las lecciones a horas diferentes. Hay días en que destinamos poco tiempo a las lecciones, y sólo hacemos algo mínimo, otros, tenemos tiempo, y si bien mantenemos las lecciones variadas y cortas, trabajamos durante más de las dos o tres horas prescritas por Charlotte Mason para sus escuelas. Como resulta que yo soy la madre y maestra, sé qué se ha hecho y qué no en el tiempo de lecciones, y me aseguro de que lo que nos falta se cubra de la manera más balanceada posible, con disciplina y sobre todo con alegría. Sé que Ambleside Online se ha encargado en cada año, de distribuir las páginas de cada disciplina, y cada nueva práctica, al modo prescrito por Charlotte Mason. Así que sé que, si completamos las lecturas y hacemos todo lo que apoya esta educación, -sin importar cuándo-, terminaremos con un año estupendo y de gran crecimiento. Sé que semana por semana, mes por mes, vamos compensando y adquiriendo un ritmo. La verdad es que prefiero extender y relajar esto, y abordarlo como ondas que a veces se intensifican y otras se calman, y no dejar de navegar, que preparar una flota tipo Armada y terminar hundiéndonos por el temporal.

Last, I'd like to talk about how we tie those loose ends. First of all, if you use Ambleside Online, be sure to read the page for each year frequently, even if you have gone through that year. There may be small changes and additions, such as this lovely book about Gregor Mendel. Remember those added geography concepts to be taught from Elementary Geography, and Long.

How can we do all this? I do not have those helpful blocks of time for each discipline spread during the week and day, though I must say I see how this helps others much. We could not work like this because each day we wake up and go to bed at a different time, and we do lessons at different times each day. Some days we destined little time to lessons, and we do minimums -which are not necessarily the three R's, but it may be-, other days we have more time ahead, and even though we maintain variety and short lessons, we get to cover more, but we go over the 2 or 3 hours prescribed by Charlotte Mason. Since I am not only teacher but mom, I know what has been done in matter of lessons, and what has been missed, and I make sure that outside lesson time is covered in the most balanced way possible, with discipline and with joy. I know that Ambleside Online has made sure that each year has the different page count Charlotte Mason suggested, so, if we complete those readings and all that this education entails, -with flexibility about when all that happens-, we will have a year full of learning and growth. I know each week and month, we end up compensating and acquiring a rhythm. I prefer to extend and relax all this, and take it as waves that sometimes peek and others plateau a bit, but never ceasing to sail, than preparing a big Armada, and ending up sinking because of the inclement weather.

Sep 2, 2014

september... September?... September Randomness

Isn't this a beautiful dinnerware set?

I think so.

And thanks to our friend's love, it is now part of the Cachia family. It has belonged to a christian lady and her family with her two daughters, from there it went to another christian family with, at the time, two young girls too, and it is now in a third christian family and her two young girls, -that is us, :)-. It is a 12 people set, with salt and pepper shakers, gravy bowl and plate for it, creamer, tea pot, platter, soup bowl... truly beautiful. I feel like it's christmas, or my wedding shower!

Since we do not have our parents living in the States, we have none of this family heirlooms to receive or give away. But that has changed, now we have a set to enjoy and, whatever is left, pass on to our girls, :)


Last week was exam-vacation week. The exams went not so bad, nice surprises, some non remembered items, but all in all, a good reflection on 12 weeks of learning. Since last month, I have a girl intensely preparing her birthday. September is her best friend's birthday and her own. What I love is that she prepares it pretty much alone, -from the invitations to buying a few dollar store items on a budget-, and we will provide with food and cake; actually, she requested apple pie, so I will bake a big apple pie for her.

My friend Heather asked about books for her daughter's birthday, and I totally piggy back rode that post of hers on Facebook, and if you are not there and want to know, I pegged amazing Jeanne's recommendations, and bought some for the girls and their upcoming birthdays.

These were her recommended titles (of books outside the amazing books we always read from our Ambleside Online Curriculum).

Yesterday we had the Labor Day Holiday, but today we are back with week 13, and lovin' it. Though I truly needed a break, truth is that, after several days without math and our usual poetry, reads and the like, I was feeling a bit restless. On Sunday though, we started our new family reads, this time they are Abigail Adams and Wind in the Willows. Abigail Adams is ONLY -sniff-, a chapter per week, for 24 weeks. (I confess I had to go back to it to write some parts in my common place book, -that is a Charlotte Mason word for notebook of any kind where you write quote, verses, poems, etc.).

Why are we, Charlotte Mason chicks, so crazy about slowing down such amazing book we all want to keep reading? It has its foundation on Charlotte Mason's observations and conclusions, a woman who was the head of schools, and devoted her life to education, a proof in the pudding -or should I say junket?- Victorian lady that was this huge visionary. There are many reads which support our so called "school reads", and those the children can read however and whenever they want. But the school reads are never to be rushed, for they need to soak at a deep level, and stay with us for a Goldilocks sort of time frame (not too long, not too short, but just right).  My worse transgression to this principle has been finishing Robinson Crusoe in 12 instead of 14 weeks, ;)

Recently, I read my friend Kelly's blog, and kept thinking much about the importance of music in the life of children, and music lessons.  This year, when we travel to Europe, I want it to be the first year that I not only buy books, but music too. Let's see how that goes. And our next year plans are to, at the very least, buy our girls classic guitars and start ballet lessons that we wanted to have started this summer but that never happened. We only have 2 more months and then the craziness begins!

This new month of September has already started, and it already has some wonderful dates for us. Birthdays, a workshop in Spanish I will promote in September and that will take place in October the 3rd and 10th, with a date in between for discussion, the Ambleside Online Forum book club, where we will be reading Frankenstein, and a Busted: 31 Days of CM Myths series at Brandy's blog, Afterthoughts, for the month of October. Stay tuned. I am going to rename October, Mother Culture month, lol.

Eight more weeks, and we will enter celebration-travel-vacation mood and mode.

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.