Heartbroken prayers for all of us, specifically thinking of what transpired in our state yesterday. Lord, have mercy on us all.
For almost the first quarter century of my life I was a student. I am two years shy of completing my second quarter of a century and those (almost) twenty-five years have been spent in education in some shape or form. For the past three years I have been a home-schooling mother. For more than two decades prior to the decision to stay home I was a classroom teacher.
I have taught preschool and elementary. I have taught college. I spent my first year as a teacher in an ESL classroom in a high risk middle school. To give you an idea of my surroundings, I received almost daily death threats from a troubled student who told me he knew where I lived and his plans to do harm to me and my unborn baby as I was pregnant with my firstborn. Definitely a trial by fire for a young teacher.
But I did not leave education as a result of that horrible first year, I stayed in it for another twenty years. As with most things there were many wonderful experiences and some less than stellar.
I debated in the early years between "traditional" teaching and what was to me at that time a very alternative method, Montessori. I will not tell the story here about how I was led to the Montessori method(which is in itself miraculous) but I will say that once I discovered it I was a convert. I do admit that I have added and subtracted elements over the years but it has remained the backbone of my pedagogy. I have a Montessori primary teaching certificate and a Master's degree in Reading and Literacy.
Even so, I do not consider myself an expert on anything. But it is possible that I know a little something about the way folks learn.
I'll be honest. Some of what is transpiring in schools reminds me of a bad science fiction movie. Although I know there are wonderful teachers and specialists out there(my sister included) the growing disconnect between holistic education and practice scares me to death.
As I dropped Jessie off at her first ballet class last week I overheard a mother proudly telling another mom about the fact that her first or second grade daughter only had to read 10 minutes per day while an hour was spent in a daily ipad class. What??
Handwriting is no longer required in most schools and called obsolete by some as though there were no connection between brain and body whatsoever.
Am I advocating living in caves and never using technology? Of course not. It can be an incredible tool. But neither am I in favor of prizing technology above all else in spite of our knowledge that its overuse is detrimental.
But EVERYTHING I know through research and experience tells me that children learn with their bodies using all of their senses. There is a large amount of research that does not support early use of technology for brain growth, but in fact indicates just the opposite. Here is a link to one very informative article on the subject.
My graduate work was focused on reading and literacy. One of the most surprising discoveries in my research was that the brain reads electronic text and actual text differently. Maryanne Wolf, a leading expert in how the brain learns to read, advocates a balanced approach in digital media and what she calls "deep reading." Even our 18 year old who is a digital "native," says that he notices he reads more carefully when holding an actual book or magazine. I know this is true for me.
Aside from reading actual text, I feel strongly that children should have lots and lots of experiences in real life unplugged. Perhaps it is my age, but somehow I doubt it.
Jessie and I got very little formal "school" done today save her piano practice. Instead we (and I do mean we) spent the morning removing texture from an old water damaged ceiling in our downstairs bathroom. It involved lots of dust, safety goggles, and sweeping and vacuuming afterward. She loved every minute of it.
Almost all of the learning we do has a hands-on Montessori inspired component to it. For our little girl with sensory processing issues it's the most critical piece.
Sam did not have the same sensory issues that Jessie has, but my eldest, Gabriel, did. I did not know what to call it then, but Montessori preschool was such a blessing for both of our educations.
I will never understand a "one size fits all" approach to education because I know that it just does not work. Even in using an approach such as Montessori I am not a purist because not all aspects work for each child.
I guess this post is just a reminder to myself of what fosters a holistic education and why we have made the decisions we have regarding our children's learning opportunities. I am grateful for all of the experiences and what they have taught us. And no methodology or even the choice to home-school will fully prepare our children for every eventuality. Life has shattered that illusion for me, thankfully.
But hopefully when they do go out into the world it will be with a strong sense of self, rooted and grounded in love.
My baby is growing up. I am so proud of the man he is becoming. I love his concern for others, his attention to detail, his desire to learn and his sense of humor.
We went to eat his favorite food, Thai, for his birthday supper and then back home for his requested chocolate cake with peanut butter ganache birthday cake.
It was also the day of Exaltation of the Holy Cross on the church calendar so a very blessed day indeed.
Precious middle son, Sam. Happy Birthday!
The last few months have found me reading actual books more than I have in a long time. And in this time of political upheaval I would like to recommend a book that I have found incredibly helpful, encouraging, and educational.
Eric Metaxas is well known to many as a talk show host. But he is also the writer of bestselling books on Dietrich Bonhoffer and William Wilberforce.
I have not written about politics previously nor do I have plans to do so in future. I do highly recommend this book for anyone interested in the beginnings of our nation and some solid thinking as to how we got to where we are now. And miracle of miracles, it is devoid of the cynicism that we as a country are so accustomed to.
In the beginning of the book, Metaxas states: "I believe our situation in present-day America is grave, but this book is not meant to be discouraging."
And it is not. Although he pulls no punches in showing weaknesses on both sides of the political divide, this is one of the most hopeful political pieces I have read in a long time.
“Aprils have never meant much to me, autumns seem that season of beginning, spring.”
~ Truman Capote, Breakfast at Tiffany's
Like the quote above, I have always equated autumn more with beginnings than either January or spring.
This autumn seems particularly full of newness. It is Sam's last year at home, and so commences a season of letting go while trying to take each day slowly. I am always surprised to get to the end of the week and get ready to greet Hoodie, who usually arrives late Friday evenings.
We try not to overplan weekends, but they generally contain some kind of outing with Alan and the kids, so that I can stay home and sew. They have discovered a new place called AirU which has trampolines and all kinds of other adventures. They came home raving about the place and telling me I just had to go the next time.
Jessie and I are part of two wonderful homeschooling co-ops and I am teaching in both this year. She is taking ballet again and starting piano lessons with our neighbor.
On a wild thought, I sent out a note on our home school forum inviting any and all to come to the "Nature School" that I will be hosting once a month in our yard. I am expecting 14 children at our first meeting. Really, we are just providing the space. I will likely loosely guide a few activities such as painting with the homeade paint that we learned to make this week, or making paintbrushes from pine needles and other found items. We have a huge pile of scrap lumber left from our front and back porch remodel last year. I thought of giving the kids access to build forts and whatnot. After checking for loose nails, of course. Honestly, I don't have a detailed plan other than getting outside and joining with other families in doing so.
When my daughter was 3, she wanted to be Minnie Mouse although she had seen the Disney icon very rarely. She went through a long phase of dressing like Minnie and getting very angry when she was called by her actual name. Well, thankfully, the Minnie phase is over. She has been replaced by Ramona Quimby. We listen every. single. day. to the Beverly Cleary audiobooks.
When one of the stories described Ramona's new haircut as a pixie style, Jessie immediately wanted to know what that was. I showed her pictures and after looking at several examples, she decided that she too wanted a similar haircut. We waited several days as I wanted her to be certain. I think it fits her personality perfectly.
I made a set of napkins and napkin rings likely to be given to my sister for her upcoming fall birthday. They did not come out precisely right, but overall I am pleased with them.
And Jessie at the sink? She absolutely begs me to scrub the sink every day. She loves the feel of water and soap. That girl.
We will be celebrating Sam's 18th birthday this month. My middle baby, who was so premature and frail for the first three years of his life, is so excited about the adventure of growing up. Love that boy. So much.
Instead of writing a long drawn out post about summer coming to an end, I thought I would just do a bullet journal list with photos of our favorite activities over the past couple of months.
We read a good googly-oogly amount of books this summer. I am going to list the ones that stand out in my mind but it is possible that I will forget one or two. Many of them reflect our French inspired summer theme.
Emma: A Modern Retelling by Alexander McCall Smith. I love Jane Austen and Alexander McCall Smith. He did a wonderful job in his recreation of this classic. There were a few changes I winced at, but overall an enjoyable book. I also loved watching the Emma series on Amazon Prime with Romola Garai. So far my favorite adaptation.
Teaching from Rest: A Homeschooler's Guide to Unshakeable Peace by Sarah Mackenzie. Wise, wise advice from someone I have come to admire a good deal. A very helpful read and I look forward to finishing it.
A number of Amish inspired fiction novels. I absolutely love them for a light and peaceful read before bedtime.
Art, Art, and more Art filled most of our days this summer. I pulled a good deal of inspiration from The Artful Parent.
And I finally learned how to use a sewing machine. Hoodie purchased this model for me when amazon had it on sale. I am taking intermittent sewing lessons from another mother in our homeschooling co-op. So far I have learned to make napkins, pillows, and I made my first skirt for Jessie.
We started co-op yesterday and Sam started classes this morning so summer vacation is over for us. Sam is busily filling out college applications. We finally narrowed down his choices to ten:) I am excited for him in this phase of his life and praying for him to be guided to the right place.
Hoodie was home for the weekend and we went on our first movie date in a very long time. We went to see Florence Foster Jenkins. I absolutely adored it. Every minute.
I know I am not alone in wishing for the fall weather to start, this summer has been hotter than any I can remember since moving to North Carolina.
One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to inquire in his temple.
The events of the world have had me leaning toward despair the past few weeks.
I have found myself more and more fantasizing about running away and hiding, a classic "flight" response to anxiety. Hoodie and I sometimes watch a reality show about homesteading in extremely isolated environments and I have to admit that the idea has its appeal at times.
Not having regular Liturgy during the summer has not helped, so this Sunday we drove out of town to this beautiful church to worship.
Walking in to the glorious choral chanting and enveloped by truly heavenly iconography was a healing balm indeed.
Father Nicholas preached about how none of us are saved alone. We are truly a body and cannot function without one another and the Church.
That is one thing that has struck me over and over again since my conversion. Far from the " just me and Jesus" individualized religion that pervades much of the modern church, Orthodoxy has always taught that the fullness of the faith resides in individuals being immersed into the life of the church.
What a relief! We are not in this alone.
Rather we have the world wide body of Christ, the body and blood of Christ through communion, and the prayers of all the saints and angels. What glory is always surrounding us and holding us up!
With renewed faith, we were able to say goodbye to Hoodie this morning (until Friday) and begin the two week Dormition fast.
Holy Theotokos, save us!
We had a wonderful birthday party last weekend for Jessie.
Cliche', I know, but I truly cannot believe she is five. It seems such a short time since she was born. I love the pictures of her as a toddler with her curly hair:)
There were 10 children at our home and several adults. Hoodie led an Eiffel Tower painting activity and we played Pin the Tail on the Poodle!
I made a cream puff crust chocolate eclair cake, which was delectable, if I do say so myself. For the adults I made a mushroom and goat cheese galette and other french inspired hors' de oeuvres.
On her actual birthday which was Tuesday, we went bowling. All in all a lovely few days of birthday-ing.
We love our five year old girl.
So we are getting used to a new normal around here. Hoodie leaves on Monday mornings and returns Friday evening. If you do the math, it means that we get to see him an average of 10 days per month. Not a lot, but the time we do spend is precious. I try very hard to prepare all week so that I am at peace when he gets home and we don't waste any time arguing over silly stuff. And it's mostly silly stuff if you track the arguments we have had since we have been together.
We had a lovely weekend!My eldest called Saturday morning with the news that he had gotten a promotion at his job, we are so happy for him. I went to a sewing class and Hoodie and Jessie hung out at the splash pad. And then we went for ice cream.
Sunday night we made a good dinner and played a family game of charades. Sam has always been so much fun to play games with, he has such a great sense of humor.
Next weekend we will be celebrating our little girl's 5th birthday with a (surprise!) French theme. Our hearts are with those who lost loved ones or were injured in the recent attacks. The ugliness in the world makes the bright spots that much more precious.
Hoodie will be home for the party, thankfully. It has been so much fun to plan. I'll be back next week with pictures to share:)
Love and peace,
A flurry of activity has visited our home in the past couple of weeks and I am grateful that I was able to roll with it fairly well with lots of resting in between.
I had a "Mother's Blessing" for my good friend Amy who is expecting at the end of the month. Six wonderful women gathered to share happiness with our friend and enjoy being together. It was truly lovely and our home has not been so deeply cleaned in several months, and everything just feels better. I did not take pictures of the day, and I am very disappointed with myself!
Hoodie got to live a childhood dream and launch a model rocket. In my mind I was expecting something a little more than the Nerf rockets that my boys used to have. Ummmm, no. Each launch went anywhere from 500 ft- 1000 ft with the last one not being found. I wish I was knowledgeable enough to include the embarrassing and hilarious video I made of the first launch. Let's just say that I was a tad freaked out:)
Along with much of the country we have experienced an inordinate amount of rain this summer which makes for lovely rainbows.
And our good friend Dorothy celebrates her birthday on July the 4th so we always try to take her a dessert and help her celebrate. Jessie got it into her mind that we would make flags and have a marching band and she would not let it go. So we marched around Dorothy's home singing the Star Spangled Banner and then Happy Birthday. That girl has her own mind, for sure and for certain.
Hoodie has started the commuter life of being gone during the week and home on the weekends. So far it is going okay, and we are so glad to see him when he gets home!
He is renting an attic in a historic home in Maryland. It was the most affordable option we could come up with and I think it will work out just fine.
Sam has gotten mail from several colleges inviting him to apply so this fall we will be filling out applications and he will be writing college essays along with taking his classes at the community college. An exciting year for him, and bittersweet for me.
Today we had a break in the rain so Jessie and I went to pick some blueberries. I am not sure if we got enough for jam or not so I may have to get some more, or else just freeze these.
Hope all is well with you dear ones.