I’ve decided I’m going to make “Life Skills” (defined veeeeeerrry broadly) a more permanent category in our morning Circle Time. We’ve been doing our homeopathic first aid book and it’s gone really well — all the children have seemed very interested, and I’ve seen them practice some of what they have learned.
I started thinking about what we’d do after that, and I didn’t really want to do another health book. Then I thought that maybe this could be a more general category, and so our course in Life Skills was born.
I’ve got two books ordered and placed on deck for this. Will we read every page of those books? I don’t yet know; they haven’t arrived yet. I’ll decide once I get a chance to skim through and see what I think applies.
The second is Talk to Me by Dean Nelson. Yes, it’s a book about interviewing. But I listened to an interview with the author, and it turns out people find his information helps with social situations, too, because at the end of the day, good conversation starts with learning to ask good questions. Most kids could stand a jump start on good conversation, amiright?
You can listen in the post or, even better, you can subscribe in your favorite podcast player. ♥
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We awarded the Charlotte Mason Boot Camp scholarships earlier this week. Remember that we only contact recipients, so if you haven’t heard from us, this means you didn’t get one this time. But don’t worry. You can apply again next time!
Yes, we now have enough volunteers for the AmblesideOnline booth at GHC Texas next month. With that said, we still need a few for GHC California so if you use AO and you’re planning to be there and you want to volunteers (and get free admission), just let me know!
“[A]ny restoration of the nation must include the rebuilding of those groups, families and associations that make up the nation, create culture, and foster goodwill and unity. Without these dynamic elements, the notion of nation is reduced to vague sentiments of political and economic grandeur, often detached from reality.”
Exhibit A: “When a child came to a word she didn’t know, the teacher would tell her to look at the picture and guess.” Deceased good teachers everywhere are collectively rolling over in their graves. Guessing is almost always a problem.
I have heard this nonsense about how grasping meaning is “more important” than actually being able to read the words on the page and all I can say is that this is ridiculous. Unless, of course, you want an illiterate population.
Exhibit B: “Michelle Bosak, who teaches English as a second language in Bethlehem, said that when she was in college learning to be a teacher, she was taught almost nothing about how kids learn to read.”
We added something new to our morning Circle Time this week. It’s Our 24 Family Ways by Clay Clarkson. As I mentioned on Instagram, there are some things I taught directly to my older children that I felt like I had taught to my younger children, but really I was just expecting them to pick it up from the environment, and it sort of failed.
So we’re doing this.
I really like it, and if my children were younger I’d probably do it more closely to the way it is written. But my younger children are 10 and 12. There’s no way I’m spending a week on each way; there’s no way I’m spending twenty-four weeks on this total! (Actually it’d be more because we don’t do Circle Time five days per week.)
Anyhow, I’m stripping it way down. We’re reading some of the Scripture passages and using some of the discussion questions, and I’m adding or replacing with discussion questions of my own as I think of them. I hope to finish it up in 6-8 weeks if I can.
It’s good for homeschoolers to learn to use some things as guides more than scripted curriculum. I mean, this is basically scripted curriculum, but that doesn’t mean it has to be used that way. Something like this — well, it’s probably best, especially when you have older children, to just pick what you need and toss out the rest.
The “family ways” are divided into categories:
Authorities (i.e. God, Bible, parents)
What I was really looking for was some help in manners, so while I’ll briefly touch on the first and last sections, those are areas we’re already strong in. It’s in the middle four that I think we could use some work, and so that’s where I’ll slow down, spend an extra day, and really make sure they’re getting it.
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In case you missed it, there was a new AfterCast episode out yesterday. (You should subscribe in your podcast player, you know.) This was the season’s special conversation — I try to do one thing that is “special” in some way each season. I had Brittney McGann on again, who is someone you just can’t go wrong with. It was such a fun conversation and I think you’ll love it, too.
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This made me laugh:
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This month in 2016:
This is still how my binder is organized, but we do even less now than we did when this was written. These days we only do two things: one from daily, and one from one other category. I have it figured out where there is always one sung and one spoken.
This is important, since everyone keeps blaming PG&E. We really don’t want them going bankrupt. The worst would be the state coming in and taking over — I mean, they can’t even run the DMVs correctly. I know that is a stereotypical thing to say, but here in California the DMVs are an especially bad mess.
“Following the cyber-attack in June 2017, for the first time in a very long time, researchers have the ability to view in plain sight, a natural experiment whereby one vaccine was abruptly swapped out for another — replacing the very adjuvant many critics are concerned about, AAHS — with an aluminum hydroxide adjuvant contained in Engerix-B. Neither has a published independent safety profile but AAHS is suspected to be more problematic due to its immunogenicity profile.”
“Injuries have also halved since Engerix-B was introduced, from on average 1,400 reported annually from 2003 to 2017, to 756 cases in 2018 with one month’s reporting yet to be recorded.”
Today, I’m interrupting our Charlotte Mason series to bring you this season’s special conversation. Brittany McGann is back with me today; I hope you recognize her from last season. Brittney has been studying Charlotte Mason for over seven years. Mason’s philosophy embodies all the things Brittany loved about her own upbringing and everything she would have wished for in her education, had she known it was possible. Brittney hosted the Grace to Build Retreat in Black Mountain, North Carolina for three years and has presented workshops at multiple Charlotte Mason conferences. These days she is teaching her three children, leading two Charlotte Mason groups and working with her husband to restore native plants to their 3.5 acres.
Today, Brittany and I discuss the “Mother’s Compass”. We talk about Charlotte Mason and working within limitations — for both ourselves and our children. It’s a great discussion you won’t want to miss!
Look, Scholé Sisters gets a lot of flack about the laughing, but we’ve got nothing on these two, so if you want more laughing while we’re on break, go here and get wise and jolly all at once.
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Second recommendation: get 5,000 steps by noon. I already said this on Instagram, so maybe you’ve already heard this obvious wisdom of mine. The day, you see, has two halves. If I don’t get 5,000 steps the first half of the day, it’s almost impossible to get 10,000 by the end of the day, especially since I don’t want to spend hours of my afternoon walking when I have Things To Do.
The photo, by the way, was taken a little after 10:00 PM on Wednesday night. I didn’t quite hit 10,000, but I was close enough to pat myself on the back. This is a mechanical pedometer. I had a FitBit for years, and it was very nice, but when mine died, I chose a non-EMF device because my husband said my arm was going to fall off from all that Bluetooth.
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Third recommendation: get steps while homeschooling. This sounds like the same advice as my second recommendation, but it’s a little different. When the weather is fine, I will read aloud to my youngest and then we will walk together around the backyard while he narrates. Yesterday, I would give math instructions to my daughter, do a lap in the house, and return to see how she was doing. I got hundreds of steps doing this, and returning to her again and again meant she felt like I was still available if she needed me.
I have been known to hop on the treadmill to receive narrations when I’m feeling especially desperate.
How do you stay active during the homeschool day?
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Fourth recommendation: subscribe to AfterCast! Ha. A new episode came out yesterday, so it’s on my mind. But seriously: next week we’re interrupting the series with a great one-hour discussion I had with Brittney McGann. Subscribe in your favorite podcast player so you don’t miss it!
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This month in 2018:
This approach is still working well for us (grade 11). This year, our focus is on learning to write an essay, so we’re slowly working our way through The Lively Art of Writing, applying the ideas as we go. The book has been so handy. When my oldest had an 8-10 page paper due for a class he was taking, we used it to help him write the paper, yes, but also to go back through and help him edit as well.
We’ve talked about something similar to this on Scholé Sisters — what happens when minimalism transfers from the material realm into the realm of ideas? One bit of pushback we gave came in our Just Add Joy episode.
“Imagine that you wanted to train a facial recognition algorithm on age-related characteristics and, more specifically, on age progression (e.g., how people are likely to look as they get older). Ideally, you’d want a broad and rigorous dataset with lots of people’s pictures. It would help if you knew they were taken a fixed number of years apart—say, 10 years.”
Yep. It’s like when your security question answers are being harvested through memes asking you to share your first pet’s name and your hometown.
The law is liberal, taking in whatsoever things are true, honest, and of good report, and offering no limitation or hindrance save where excess should injure. – Charlotte Mason
Not all gifted children are early readers; it’s true. However, comma, from my extremely small sample size, I have deduced that the earlier a child reads, the more tempted they are to excess in this area — to spend their time only on reading.
We call this Book Gluttony, which is amusing. So amusing, in fact, that we wonder if it should be taken seriously.
Early reading is a secret vanity in parents of the gifted. It’s remarkable, really, to see a three-year-old flying through a book with which some six-year-olds would struggle. When we see a three-year-old growing into an older preschooler or kindergarten who doesn’t want to do much other than read, we say, “Well, of course. All children would do the same if they had access to such things at this age.”
While reading is wonderful, is reading all the time really a virtue? Or is it a a vice?
Temperance is one of those virtues our modern world ignores; half the time we’re not even sure what it means. Let’s see what Charlotte Mason wrote about it:
Temperance avoids every Excess. — Of the three rules of life by which our bodies should be ordered, perhaps temperance is least understood by young people. We think of Burne-Jones’s stately figure of Temperantia pouring pure water out of her pitcher to quench the flames, of temperance societies, and so on; and thus we come to associate temperance with abstinence from drink. That certainly is one kind of temperance; but the boy who is greedy, the girl who is slothful, are also intemperate, as you may tell by watching them walk down the street. They have not the springing step, the alert look, which belong to Temperance. (Vol. 4, p. 192)
Book Gluttony is a giving in to the temptation to excess — it’s as excessive as the other examples Charlotte Mason gives:
One may even be intemperate in the matter of restlessness. We may carry games, cramming for an examination, novel-reading, bridge, any interest which absorbs us, to excess; and all excess is intemperance.
The peculiar thing about this case is the small size of the child. It’s easy to say to an older child, “Look — you really shouldn’t have had so many treats off the plate that there weren’t any left for other people in attendance. That was gluttony and intemperance and you must have more consideration for others and more self-control.” The older child may or may not fight you on this, but they will know where you’re coming from, what all the words mean, and be able to have a discussion about what to do in the future.
The early reader, however, may or may not understand what you mean. Just because the child is gifted doesn’t necessarily mean you can or should reason with him about this.
As an aside, I think I should mention here that not all book gluttons are gifted. This is part of my gifted series, yes, but that doesn’t mean that your wonderfully average twelve-year-old won’t be tempted to lounge around all day reading a novel. Book gluttony is vice whether you are 3 or 33, but the solution I’m recommending below works better, I think, for younger children. With older children, you might still use it, but you’re going to have to also do some counseling and coaching, and less direct controlling.
Cultivating Virtue without Over Controlling
With small children, a combination of habit training and scheduling should be sufficient to solve the immediate problem, and the occasional passing comment of, “Oh, we shouldn’t overdo that. That would be excessive, and excessive means ‘too much’” is probably enough counsel.
By “habit training” I mean, first and foremost, the habit of obedience. That’s going to come in handy during the first week when little Susie is upset with you for coming into direct conflict with her uncontrolled passion for reading.
More than this, you can use your amazing mommy scheduling skills to build a habit or rhythm for your child’s day that allows reading, but not reading to excess. Take out a sheet of paper and list all the things you’d like to see your child doing. I don’t just mean activities like play with watercolors and clay; I mean things like meals, hygiene, naps, reading aloud, and chores. Please don’t forget outside time! Charlotte Mason was clear that it was imperative for preschoolers to spend many hours outside on fine days.
Get a blank weekly calendar template and map out a day and week for your child that includes all these things. Don’t designate “time for reading.” Instead, designate free time and in that free time the child must be truly free — if he wants to spend all of it reading, he may. You will have to decide how long is long enough when it comes to the amount of free time (and, by the way, you might want to break it up rather than giving it all at once).
Prevention is Superior to Cure
I had one child become a Book Glutton because I was on bed rest during a pregnancy. It was easier to let him read than to figure out what else to do. During that time, he forgot how to go outside and play! It was extremely difficult to retrain him to a more balanced life, so my advice to you is to avoid this situation if at all possible!
By training the young child to a habit of temperance — a daily or weekly schedule in which different activities have their place, and no one activity is allowed to, on a normal day, crowd out all the others — in which duty takes its place rather than self-indulgence — we actually provide the child with a virtuous norm to which we can appeal when she is older elementary or a teen and needs to be restrained and directed by her own Will rather than by Moms’ schedule.
In the case of my little Book Glutton, a definite schedule was precisely the tool I used to break his bad habit of intemperate reading. We gradually worked up to more outside time — it seemed compassionate to not throw him into the deep end of many hours per day. As he gained a wider variety of interests, I was able to back off and give him more free time. These days, I can trust him to give a wise consideration to his schedule, and guard himself the temptation to excess.
When my next early reader came along, I was prepared. I firmly believe we were able to avoid Book Gluttony with her by starting her off with a schedule that required more variety and less specialization. There were no battles over books, and that was quite a relief. This is why I say that prevention is superior to cure! It’s way easier.
Guarding Against Excess
This is a thing, and it’s not just a thing for our kids; it’s a thing for us. Our culture encourages excess in both good and bad things; I’ve even seen people be excessive in their minimalism, which is, perhaps, the height of irony.
Charlotte Mason has quite a bit to say about it, but I think most interesting is the principle she says underlies the virtue of Temperance:
Conscience is not, in fact, so much concerned with the manner of our intemperance as with the underlying principle which St. Paul sets forth when he condemns those who “worship and serve the creature more than the Creator.” (Vol. 2, p. 18)
That is, ultimately, what we need to guard ourselves and our children against: prioritizing our own passions and desires over all else. This is the heart of excess, and the real reason why all forms of gluttony are vice. At the end of the day, the call to the mother of a book glutton is the same call we mothers hear all the day long: let the little ones come to Me. Like law in the quote above, this mostly means we stay out of the way, but we can and must offer a hindrance in the places where excess would injure.