Sunday, March 25, 2007

Weaving the fabric of life

One of the best homeschooling articles I've read in a long time...

When I was in college, my friend Jimmy pointed out the design flaw in the campus sidewalks. The sidewalks went all the way around the grassy quadrangle behind the chapel, but the students had worn footpaths diagonally across the grass, taking the most direct routes to their classes. "They should have waited to see which way people would walk, " reasoned Jimmy, "and then laid out the sidewalks."

When we moved into our present home 8 months ago, I thought I knew just what I wanted...a schoolroom. A whole room to keep all our books and materials and plenty of workspace. I staked out the front sitting room as the boxes were being carried in. Having sacrificed an entire room of the house for educational purposes, my husband was constantly chagrined to drop in during the day to find us sprawled all over the living room sofa reading aloud, or spread out across the bar in the kitchen doing math or handwriting.

Finally I realized that I had laid my sidewalks around the quadrangle. Confining lessons to the schoolroom prevented me from working in the kitchen, switching the laundry, or keeping Abby busy with playdoh or pouring water while supervising the older two as they worked So last week, we disassembled the schoolroom, turning it into a sitting room. Now, instead of being a house with a schoolroom, our physical surroundings really reflect the reality of homeschooling...the lines between academic learning and "everything else" are blurred, even cease to exist.

Christians say, "Lex orandi, lex credendi" -- "The rule of prayer is the rule of faith". It means that what we do (in this case, in liturgical worship) reveals what we believe, and what we believe (our doctrine) shapes what we do. The same is true for all of life, including homeschooling. The fact that we homeschool, in itself, reveals something about what we believe -- about life, family, children, and education. The physical arrangement of our home, our daily schedule, and our priorities must be shaped by that same belief --or, as we discovered, life gets bumpy.

my Virtual DNA

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Istanbul (Not Constantinople)

Today's blog entry is dedicated to Higher Up and Further In, homeschoolers living and learning in Turkey, because today I put into to practice this tip about Charlotte Mason's principle of perfect execution during our handwriting lesson. Far from being drudgery, the children were delighted with their success, and Erin commented, "Mom, the lady who wrote that blog is right. We can do a lot more than you think!" We also caught up on last week's history lesson about the Ottoman Turks and the conquest of Constantinople, so just had to introduce my kiddos to Istanbul (Not Constantinople) by They Might Be Giants. I first heard this song performed live at Imo's Pizza in Springfield MO. I wanted to get up and belly dance. I still do. Maybe I will.
Istanbul was Constantinople
Now it's Istanbul, not Constantinople
Been a long time gone, Constantinople
Now it's Turkish delight on a moonlit night

Every gal in Constantinople
Lives in Istanbul, not Constantinople
So if you've a date in Constantinople
She'll be waiting in Istanbul

Even old New York was once New Amsterdam
Why they changed it I can't say
People just liked it better that way

So take me back to Constantinople
No, you can't go back to Constantinople
Been a long time gone, Constantinople
Why did Constantinople get the works?
That's nobody's business but the Turks

Istanbul (Istanbul)
Istanbul (Istanbul)

Even old New York was once New Amsterdam
Why they changed it I can't say
People just liked it better that way

Istanbul was Constantinople
Now it's Istanbul, not Constantinople
Been a long time gone, Constantinople
Why did Constantinople get the works?
That's nobody's business but the Turks

So take me back to Constantinople
No, you can't go back to Constantinople
Been a long time gone, Constantinople
Why did Constantinople get the works?
That's nobody's business but the Turks


Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Home-grown Faith

Rebellious Pastor's Wife is standing on her favorite soapbox again. I add my hearty amen.

Last Sunday, I was teaching my preschool Sunday school class and realizing again how precious few little minutes of real, focused attention I have from them during our class time. And, I have no real means of knowing how much of the lesson they really take home with them. Most of them don't remember last week's Bible story the following week. I cannot repeat things as often as they need to be repeated. I cannot tailor each lesson to meet each child where he is. A Montessori approach like Catechesis of the Good Shepherd would do rather better in those areas, but even so, the truth is, I simply cannot accomplish in an hour a week what a parent can accomplish at home by simply taking a few minutes here and there each day to talk with their children about Christ, answer their questions, tell them stories, pray with them, sing with them, teach them the catechism, lead by example, point out life's lessons as they arise, and follow the child's interest. A thousand and one teachable moments arise during a child's week; as a Sunday school teacher, I get about two or three of them. Sunday school is an excellent supplement, but a poor substitute, for parent-led discipleschip.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

The Wearin' O' the Green

This week I enjoyed a big St. Patrick's Day treat...going to see Riverdance perform live with my SIL! (Maybe I'll blog about that later.)

But here's what we did at home: We read about the life of St. Patrick (more here), and the kids each made a St. Patrick mini book, with The Breastplate of St. Patrick (below) as copywork. Then they learned to make shamrocks by tracing/drawing three hearts and adding a stem, and talked about why the shamrock is associated with St. Patrick. Later, we made these (very cute and easy) shamrock pins, and we've been busy learning to sing LSB #604, which is a musical setting of the Breastplate. (John Michael Talbot has also done one.)

For dinner it was corned beef and cabbage in the crock pot, chocolate Irish creme cheesecake, shamrock cookies (kid-made), and (for the adults) our favorite Irish beverages.
I came to the Irish people to preach the Gospel and endure the taunts of unbelievers, putting up with reproaches about my earthly pilgrimage, suffering many persecutions, even bondage, and losing my birthright of freedom for the benefit of others.

If I am worthy, I am ready also to give up my life, without hesitation and most willingly, for Christ's name. I want to spend myself for that country, even in death, if the Lord should grant me this favor.

It is among that people that I want to wait for the promise made by him, who assuredly never tells a lie. He makes this promise in the Gospel: "They shall come from the east and west and sit down with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob." This is our faith: believers are to come from the whole world.

from the Confession of Saint Patrick

Christ shield me this day:
Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every person who thinks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in the ear that hears me

Saint Patrick, from his breastplate

One Week in March

I meant to post these photos last month...but for what it's worth, here they are now, both taken in our backyard during the same week in March -- a photographic demonstration of the crazy weather we have been subject to this spring:

Thursday, March 8, 2007

My Friends Call Me Phlegm

The notion of the Four Humors (sanguine, phlegmatic, choleric, and melancholic) was conceived by the Greek physician Galen, who proposed that a predominance of one of four bodily fluids (blood, phlegm, black bile, or yellow bile) determined an individual's temperament or "humor".

I ran across this quote from an essay called The Role of Temperament in Child Development:

One Friday [during watercolor painting] there was an accident, and a huge bucket of water got kicked over. What did the melancholics do? They got up and stood in it. The sanguines were immediately standing on their chairs and shouting, 'Ooh -- what is that?' The cholerics rushed out after mops and buckets. What did the phlegmatics do? You may not believe it, but they sat in their chairs and lifted their legs above the water. I got the best lesson in my life.'

From this illustration alone, I know that I am definitely phlegmatic. The water spilled. Get over it, sanguines. And what the heck is the rationale behind standing in it? Put your feet up and carry on with your day. Absolutely. Now, I might conceivably go get a mop, but not because I particularly care about the mess, but to make nice with the cholerics.

Just to be certain, I took this temperament quiz (after all the Internet is your one-stop source for accurate scientific personality and psychological testing) -- and, yep, I'm phlegmatic:

You Have a Phlegmatic Temperament
Mild mannered and laid back, you take life at a slow pace.
You are very consistent - both in emotions and actions.
You tend to absorb set backs easily. You are cool and collected.

It is difficult to offend you. You can remain composed and unemotional.
You are a great friend and lover. You don't demand much of others.
While you are quiet, you have a subtle wit that your friends know well.

At your worst, you are lazy and unwilling to work at anything.
You often get stuck in a rut, without aspirations or dreams.
You can get too dependent on others, setting yourself up for abandonment.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Favorite Baby and Toddler Books-n-Stuff

I have three children and I've read lots of parenting books. I've tried and failed and tried again. These are my "tried-and-true" resources -- the things I've found that actually worked. I'll update as I find or think of others.

Your Amazing Newborn by Marshall H. Klaus
An astonishing book, focusing on the innate physical and social capabilities of the newly born child. Beautiful black and white photographs.

Secrets of the Baby Whisperer by Tracy Hogg
I started out as a diehard AP mommy. Sorry, Dr. Sears, but a toddler and a baby down the road, I was a physical and emotional zombie. Sleeping through the night? What was that? It was supposed to just happen naturally when I met my baby's needs. Only a selfish parent wants their baby to sleep through the night. Weaning? That happens naturally too, right? I don't disagree with the basic tenets of AP -- connecting with your child by understanding and meeting their needs and lots of physical contact and play are the very foundation of a healthy human psyche -- but that is only one piece of the parenting puzzle. I found myself lost trying to "follow my instincts" and "learn to follow my baby's cues" as most AP authors advise -- it was just too vague. Tracy takes a balanced, middle-of-the-road, "family-centered" rather than "child-centered" or "parent-centered" approach. She actually spells out how to distinguish a baby's different cries and understand their body language (there are charts), and then shows you how to build a sensible routine around those needs. Her approach is based on observing and understanding your baby, then respectfully and responsively creating a flexible structure which will allow everyone's needs to be met. Her sensible sleep plan is gentle, responsive, and it works. Although she doesn't advocate sleep-sharing, extended nursing, or babywearing, her mantra is, if it's working for your family and you enjoy it, keep doing it -- but if it's not working, don't exhaust yourself thinking you are doing your baby a favor. Her other two books, The Baby Whisperer Solves All your Problems and Secrets of the Baby Whisperer for Toddlers, are also excellent.

Baby Talk by Dr. Sally Ward
This is a readable and practical book which takes you through speech development in the first five years and outlines simple activities for fostering language development and averting/correcting speech problems and delays. Emphasizes the relational aspect of language learning.

MamaToto Project
Babywearing was the best thing I learned as a new mom. One of my favorite memories of my first child's infancy was going to a market in Peru and buying a manta, which the ladies at the market then helped me use to tie my five month old daughter onto my back. I found the Peruvian manta hard on my back, so I moved on to circle slings, ring slings, and finally fell in love with the Mexican rebozo, which I have used ever since. This website has everything you ever wanted to know about babywearing, including visual step by step instructions on how to tie oodles of different baby wraps (front, back, side, for sleeping, for nursing, for different ages, for moms with back trouble), traditional wraps and carriers from cultures around the world, and how to make/sew your own wrap or carrier.

Signing Baby
I did a little baby sign language with my first child, but she learned two signs and then began to talk. Now, with my third, we've done lots of signing and had lots of fun. She learned about 25 different signs which she continued using as she learned to talk. This website is has great information for getting started with baby sign language.

Infant Potty Training, Early Potty Training, and Three Day Potty Training
"Just as babies signal when they are hungry and need to be fed, they signal when they are about to eliminate and need you to help them stay clean and dry. By tuning into your baby's signals and responding to prevent accidents, you strengthen attachment and provide the early learning experiences that ease potty training down the road."
-- Dr. Linda Sonna
After what I considered good success at potty training my daughter by age two and my son by 2 1/2, I thought I was a pro. I had heard of infant potty training with my firstborn (not called by that name, though) from a Peruvian friend who suggested I save myself a few diaper changes by holding my baby over the toilet to pee. "You just figure out when they are going to go, take off the diaper, and hold them over the toilet." I was intrigued, but found her instructions too vague -- how did you "figure it out"?
When my third child came along, I stumbled upon the book Infant Potty Basics: With or Without Diapers -- the Natural Way by Laurie Bourke , which finally gave me the specifics I needed: take your baby to the potty upon waking and twenty minutes after nursing or feeding. There's no pressure for her to go, but if she does go, clap and coo and carry on like she's done something wonderful. I started IPT with Abby at 5 or 6 months, and by 9 months she was going pretty consistently in the potty.
We sort of fell off the potty wagon in the midst of moving to a new house, but when she was 15 months old, I knew she had both control and comprehension -- and even a "potty" sign. So when a friend who has four children under age four came singing the praises of "one day potty training", I thought I'd give it a go. After reading up, I decided that one day was a bit overambitious, so I cleared my schedule for three days, filled a jar with Reese's Pieces and set it in the bathroom, took the diapers off my little girl, and gave potty learning my complete attention. It went beautifully -- by the end of the weekend she was fully trained and wearing her new underwear day, night, and on the go, and very proud. She still says "potty" every time she sees Reese's Pieces, though! I haven't read all these titles, but here are some books on the subject:

Ash Wednesday

I love Pastor Petersen's comments on Ash Wednesday because I love Ash Wednesday for the same reasons he does. On a lighter note, though, these talking church signs were hilarious and right on the money.

I've made it a habit the past few years to review/update my will on Ash Wednesday. I happened to write my will on Ash Wednesday, and it occurred to me that it was rather appropriate for the day...a reminder of my own mortality. And, since it's a good idea to look over your will once a year, doing it on Ash Wednesday makes it easy to remember to do.