A peaceful day

Phillipians 4:4-8

For with Thee is the fountain of life; in Thy light shall we see light. Psalm 36:9
2.3.15

Dis and dat

Posted by Jeanne

:: I am sitting in the kitchen sipping white wine while watching other people cook my dinner.  This is, as you can imagine, rather rare, so I am enjoying it very much.  My husband is hosting a young student at work, and he is head chef.  Hubby is acting in the role of sous chef and bottle washer.  We are having homemade pasties.  Yum.  The wine is very nice. It is called Upside Down Sauvignon Blanc from Malborough in New Zealand, in case you wondered.

:: Tomorrow my beloved and I are going to see The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel at our local cinema.



It is a fundraiser for the Rotary Club, and includes dinner first and supper afterwards, so I don't need to prepare meals then, either.  Perhaps I will forget how to cook. Hah!  Have you seen this film?  Is it good?

:: This weekend we are going camping to celebrate Jemimah's 13th birthday.  We are staying at a remote campsite where you have to pack everything - water, firewood, everything, so it is quite a process, especially since we are hosting four other young teens as well as our own.  We're beginning to wonder whether this might have been a bad idea.  Anyhow, we're going.  Think of us.  Mum, can you mind the dog?

::  I have begun a decluttering project with a few friends.  It is very liberating to get rid of junk.  I'm not planning to do anything too scary here, but it is amazing how much rubbish you accumulate over a decade.  Today I cleaned out my bedside drawers and found a couple of booklists that I thought I'd lost forever, so I am rather chuffed about that.

:: We are planning a holiday.  We don't have much time, so we're thinking Bali might be nice. We're looking at May.  No, we won't be camping.

 Are you planning a holiday, too?  Where are you looking at going?  Are you decluttering with me?  Are you having your dinner cooked for you?  What's going on in your life this week?

27.2.15

Pesto Mmmmmm

Posted by Jeanne

There is nothing that says summer to me better than pesto made from basil fresh picked from my garden. Here's my recipe:

First put some water on to boil ready to cook your pasta. If it's dry pasta, put it on to cook now. If it is fresh pasta, wait until you've prepared the pesto.

Strip the leaves from a two or three long stems of basil. About this many.

Wash them well, drain and wack them into the food processor.

Fry two tablespoons of pinenuts in a tablespoon of olive oil until they're browned like this.


Stick the pinenuts in the food processor along with two garlic cloves, salt and pepper.

Zap 'em for a bit.

While the food processor is still running, add 1/4 cup olive oil in a thin stream.

Move the pesto to a mixing bowl and add three tablespoons of Parmesan cheese.

Stir.

Add it to your pasta. Mine is potato gnocchi.

Then you're done, and you can eat. Only I like mine with fresh tomato and goats cheese.

Enjoy. And think of me. This is one of my very favourite summer dishes.

Are you a pesto lover? What is your favourite pasta sauce?

 

25.2.15

AO is a free lunch

Posted by Jeanne


If you've read Richard Maybury's Whatever Happened to Penny Candy, you'll be familiar with the acronym TANSTAAFL. It stands for There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch, and it basically means that it is impossible to get something for nothing. Which is true, right? The free lunch part of the saying, according to Wikipedia, refers to the nineteenth century practise in American bars of offering a free lunch to patrons who had consumed at least one drink. The plan was to lure you into the bar, and to feed you salty food so that you'd keep drinking their overpriced drinks. So you see, in reality, the lunch wasn't free at all - you just paid for the drinks instead. Most things are like this, aren't they? Maybury in his book uses the term to explain the economic concept, opportunity cost, but it relates to everything. Everything costs, doesn't it?

Well no, actually, it doesn't. Back when Jemimah was three years old (she turned 13 yesterday, so I guess that was ten years ago), I stumbled across AmblesideOnline during an Internet search. The website described AO as a free Charlotte Mason style homeshooling curriculum, and so I was immediately on my guard. "TANSTAAFL," I muttered to myself. "There ain't no free lunches. What's the catch? There has to be a catch. Nothing is free." Only, ten years on I'm still looking for that catch, because there isn't one. AO is the exception that proves the rule. There Is Such A Thing As A Free Lunch. Or a Free Curriculum, at any rate.

AmblesideOnline was started back in 1999 by a group of amazing Christian homeschool mamas. These mamas have names too, and today they're known as a group as the AmblesideOnline Advisory. Their names are Wendi, Karen, Anne, Leslie, Leslie, Donna-Jean and Lynne. They have husbands, and children, and some of them even have grandchildren. In fact, apart from their amazingness, they're actually pretty normal ladies. Anyhow, these (amazing) ladies researched and compiled a whole CM curriculum for families to use. It consists of a booklist, schedule, poetry, folksongs, hymns, a nature study rotation and suggestions for curricula for maths and foreign languages. In short, it has everything you need to teach your children from Year 1-12. And then, get this, they decided to put it online for free. Free. FREE.

 These mamas ( did I mention they are amazing) have worked for fifteen years for no remuneration. They receive no fees or dues, and they make utilising the curriculum as free as they can make it. They have worked to put Charlotte Mason's own writings online for free. They provide an online community for AO users called the AO Forum. They have created a library of additional materials, and they have done it for love. They have done it because they have seen how Charlotte Mason's methods have helped their own families, and they want other families to see this benefit too. (Okay, just to be completely transparent, they receive a very small amount of money from people who chose to purchase books through their affiliate link at Amazon. They use these proceeds to keep the website and the online support forum up and running. They do not make a profit from this money. There, I said it.) These ladies have given us an amazing, no strings attached, free lunch.

As I see it, there are two groups of people who choose to make great use of the Advisory's free gift. The first group use elements of AO. Some of these would call their homeschool a Charlotte Mason homeschool, but not all. Some might call themselves Charlotte Mason inspired. Some are Neoclassical, or unschoolers or eclectic. Some might wish to supplement their traditionally schooled children's education. These people are of all types. They may use the booklist as a source of excellent living books on history or geography or economics or science. They may use just the literature. This is wonderful. The AO booklists contain much of what could be called the Canon of Children's Literature - those classic books every child should read, and if that's what you choose to use AO for, the Advisory will be delighted. Others may choose to print off the poetry selections, or the hymns or the folksongs. Great idea! You may choose to use Anne's sublime Plutarch study guides, or print off a study guide of a particular book your kids are struggling with. That's fine. They're free. You may choose to load Charlotte Mason's volumes onto your kindle for free, or read through old editions of the Parents' Review journal. You may do any or all of these. You can do any of these things provided that you remember that while AmblesideOnline is free, it still belongs to those amazing ladies - to Karen, Wendi, Leslie, Leslie, Anne, Lynne and Donna-Jean. Use it, but don't forget that it's copyright, and don't put parts of it online pretending it is yours.

There is another group who choose to make use of AO, and those are people like me, people who use the AmblesideOnline curriculum in its entirety. The AO curriculum was created to match Charlotte Mason's high standards, and is designed to be as close as possible to what the Advisory believe Charlotte Mason's students would have used were she alive in 2015. It is a work in progress, and is continually being refined and improved as knowledge about Miss Mason and her methods has grown, but I think it is pretty amazing (did I say it was free?), and I have used it with confidence for the education of my daughter. There are thousands of others like me, and you'll find many of us congregated at the AO forum, where we discuss all sorts of things relevant to our children's education. The people like me who use AO in its entirety mostly regard ourselves as Charlotte Mason purists. We aim to make our children's education as close to the ideals Miss Mason laid out in her 6 volume series of books as we can, with adaptions for time and family and religious differences. We discuss her writings. We talk through issues we are facing in our own schools, and brainstorm solutions. We gain support from those who have gone before. Most of all, we develop and maintain close friendships with kindred spirits. We feel warm and cozy and safe.

Which is why a couple of weeks ago I had a rude shock. I was visiting another online homeschooling site that is open to casual browsing. I'd come across the site during a google search, and was somewhat surprised to discover a discussion about Ambleside Online and its forum. Only the forum they were describing didn't align with my experience of my lovely online home at all. These people were disparaging of AO. They described AO and its curriculum and its forum as elitist and snobby and unfriendly. They looked down on CM's methods and they maligned AO. It was really harsh. Especially because I recognised the names of some of the people from my own beloved AO forum. Why were they saying these things? I was really hurt.

I've pondered the reason for this alone for the last couple of weeks, and I think the answer is that, as I've just said, AO means different things to those two different groups of people. To some it's just a booklist, or a nature study plan, or a list of songs, whereas to the others it is something to be adhered to and followed as closely as we can. If you fail to recognise this distinction you're in trouble. See, AO's Forum and Facebook group exist primarily for the second group.  There are many Charlotte Mason generalist sites; these two are AO specific. Now you can visit AO's forum or AO's Facebook group no matter which group of AO users you fall into. You can be a dabbler or a purist, but if you do, please remember that AO's volunteer moderators and Auxiliary workers (of which I am one), are going to assume that you're using the curriculum as written - or that you want to. We're going to encourage you to read Miss Mason's books and to educate your children the CM way because that's what we believe works so well for our children. If you post to the AO Facebook group about something that's not related to AO, then it will probably be deleted because the AO Facebook group is primarily for AOers, and if people visit AO's page, they need to be able to learn about CM and AO without being confused. When a mama on the AO FB group or on the forum corrects your understanding of CM, they are not meaning to be rude. They may not phrase it as well as they could, but they are taking time out of their busy day to try to help you. Do try and take their reply that way.

This, to me, explains the issues of the ladies on the other website. They were not first and foremost CMers, they were using the methods of the site I was visiting with a bit of AO thrown in, which is fine, but I think they were surprised when they discovered that the answers they were given on AO's forum encouraged the use of AO. They shouldn't have been. I think people are surprised when their suggestions to use alternative CM curricula are not taken too well on AO's FB group page. They shouldn't be. Why would you encourage people to use another curriculum on AO's site?

Whatever you think of AmblesideOnline, and I do hope those thoughts are nice ones, I want you to remember one thing. AO is a free lunch. It is a beautiful gift of love given to you free of charge by Lynne, Donna-Jean, Leslie, Anne, Leslie, Wendi and Karen. Use all of it or only some, but please do remember what you're being given, and just how rare it is to get anything at all with no strings attached.

AO is a free lunch. And that breaks all the rules in the book. Take it and use it with thanks.

25.2.15

A teeny tiny treasure

Posted by Jeanne





My family has recently started a big decluttering project, ridding drawers and shelves of superfluous stuff. It is very satisfying, and while it is still early days, we are already enjoying our newly cleared and organised spaces.

There is another advantage to decluttering too, one that I hadn't really thought of, and that is that because you're opening drawers and cupboards and boxes that you don't often open, you find things. Things that you didn't even know you'd lost. Today I found my 'precious box'. You can see a photo of it down the bottom of the post. It's just a cardboard box filled with things that are precious only to me, and every one is filled with precious memories.

One of the items inside is this teeny tiny Bible, and because you're all bibliotragics like me, I thought you might like to see inside. Isn't it beautiful? The words are legible if your eyesight is good enough, and it is illustrated with many line drawings. It was a gift to me from my mum and dad when I was still a teenager, I think.







Here's my precious box. Perhaps one day I'll show you what else is hidden inside. Would you like to see? Do you have a precious box from your youth? What do you keep in yours?


19.2.15

Happy Blogaversary

Posted by Jeanne

 

My very favourite blog turns 10 today. Wow. Pop on over to Dewey's Treehouse and wish Mama Squirrel a very happy anniversary. While you're there, have a bit of a look around. You'll be glad you did.

So very thankful for you, my friend. x

 

17.2.15

Charlotte Mason busywork

Posted by Jeanne


There was a time, not awfully long ago, when you could call yourself a Charlotte Mason homeschooler if you read living books, narrated occasionally, and went for a nature walk once a week or so. How things have changed.

Nowadays, in order to call myself a CM homeschooler, it seems my daughter must keep a Copybook, a Commonplace Book, a Nature Notebook, a Century Chart, a Book of Centuries, a Map of Centuries, a timeline, bird and flower lists, a Motto Book, a Scripture Book, a Maths Notebook and a Science Notebook. She should narrate creatively, sometimes in iambic pentameter, sometimes in the form of a dialogue between two great men of history, sometimes in the form of a letter home. She should read stories in French, Latin and Japanese and narrate, preferably in the same language. She should recite perfectly verses in French and English, as well as long passages of scripture and poetry. She should sing folksongs in French, Latin, Japanese and English. She should spend all of every afternoon outside, and complete a nature entry on most days. Are you feeling a little daunted yet? Shall I go on?

The reason I chose the examples I did in that last paragraph, is that my daughter has, in fact, done all of these things as some stage or another during the 8 years or so that she has been home educated using Charlotte Mason's methods and the AmblesideOnline curriculum. There is absolutely nothing wrong with children doing these things - they are all, individually, very worthwhile activities. But, and you knew it was coming, so I'll say it again for emphasis, BUT, you do not have to do all of these things at once to be a CMer. You do not need to do some of these things ever. Some will be great for a season, and then be left behind as something - or nothing - takes its place.

Laurie Bestvater, in her wonderful book, The Living Page, has introduced lots of us to the idea of keeping notebooks for the first time. Her writing is intoxicating - it leaves people unable to get enough of note booking, and many have been inspired to become, along with their children, Keepers for the first time. That is wonderful, but notice that even Laurie, crazy notebook-lover all her life, says the following:
In our eagerness for the beauty we see revealed in Mason's view of education, we can forget that many of these layers are built up over years, not weeks or months...they were almost certainly never used all at once.
Laurie Bestvater, The Living Page p 82
I am beginning to worry that there is a very great danger of all of these extra requirements, all valuable in and of themselves, becoming busywork. Charlotte Mason busywork. Did you notice that that's what I called this post - not Charlotte Mason and busywork but Charlotte Mason as an adjective describing the busywork itself? CM purists are all too ready to condemn those who choose unit studies or lap book activities for their precious students, but I wonder how many of these well-meaning ladies, me included, have failed to notice the busywork in our own school lives?

Some people are natural Keepers. Laurie is one; I am too. My friend, Heather, and her beautiful daughter are natural Keepers. I look at Heather, and her young lady, and I can't imagine a day that they would ever, ever choose to stop doing what, for them, brings such contentment to their lives. Keeping a nature notebook and a commonplace book could never be considered busywork in their days. For the rest of us, the time when valuable work becomes busywork may depend on how it is presented. A couple of weeks ago, I scheduled all of Jemimah's 'keeping' assignments together on a Friday afternoon. She was really irritated with me. She rolled her eyes and flounced around, and, yes, accused me of busywork. Me. She was right though. It is delightful adding to a commonplace book a quote that has just struck you as worth keeping; it is really hard trying to find one for the sake of finding one. Following a journey on a map is painful if it is contrived; it is wonderful when the book you are reading geographically lends itself to the exercise. Adding a drawing to your Chart of Centuries is fun when you decide you want to add something, it is a chore if you just have to do it because it is Fridays and Mum tells you you have to because it is Friday. Duh.

So what do we do about all this then? Often the most sensible idea is to look at why Miss Mason suggested an activity, rather than what she suggested. Books of Centuries, timelines, Century Charts and the like are intended to help you visualise the flow of time. Which one will best suit your child, and his studies right now? A Century Chart works really well in AO8 when you cover the 16th C for most of the year. It doesn't work so well in AO7 when the time period is from the arrival of Julius Caesar in Britain in 55 BC right up to the death of Richard III some 1400 years later. On the other hand, a timeline, or a Book of Centuries may illustrate this perfectly. How much map work should you do? Have you studied this area of the globe before? Are you perhaps reading two other books that would better lend themselves to map work? Are you coming on a visit to Australia later in the year, and would your child be better off learning about where you are going to visit? (I'm in the south east corner...) Map work has its logical uses, but you don't need to cover the whole world in AO4. Leave a little corner for later years as well.

May I encourage you to take a knowing look at the activities you're doing in your homeschool. Are they CM in nature? If not, what are they adding to your day? Are they just busywork? Is there something Miss Mason recommended that you're leaving out so you can fit it in? Do you want to change that? Next look at the activities that are CM - things I included in the list above, for example. Do you love them? Do your children? If so, chances are that you're going to keep doing them whether they're necessary or not. I don't think Heather would take any notice of me if I told her her nature notebook was taking too much time from her history books, do you? If, on the other hand, you don't like doing them much, or if your kids don't, consider carefully why you're doing them. If you're doing an intensive Latin programme five times a week, do you really need that grammar one as well? If you're keeping a commonplace book regularly, do you need to do daily copy work in addition? Do you really need to do every example on the MEP maths worksheet?

Sometimes it is good to go back to basics. Read living books. Narrate every reading. Do dictation and copywork and maths. Sing some folksongs.  Get outside and look at a beetle. Reappraise where you are at.  Then, when you're comfortable with the basics, look at the extras.  Which ones will add to your understanding of the subject?  Which will your kids enjoy?  Which can you manage without having a nervous breakdown?

It is a really exciting time in the Charlotte Mason world right now. The opening up of the archives has introduced us to layers of this wonderful method that we never knew existed.  Each of them has merit.  Each of them can make your children's education more complete, and yes, more Charlotte Masonish, but not all together, and not right now.  Save some of them for tomorrow, and plan on doing some of them never. You won't be missing out.  Neither will your kids.

12.2.15

Balinese banana smoothies

Posted by Jeanne

 

Banana smoothies are one of our favourite morning pick-me-ups during the hot summer months. They're quick, easy, healthy and delicious. What's not to love about that?

I first fell in love with ice cold smoothies in Bali, and we watched plenty of them being made behind the counter, so this is where the recipe comes from. I love that it contains yoghurt and water instead of milk. It still tastes great, but it's much better for you.

Anyhow, into your blender put a good handful of ice, a ripe banana, 160g or so of natural yoghurt (that's the amount in a small tub, and I'm just guessing here), a teaspoon of sugar or a drizzle of honey to taste, half a teaspoon of vanilla essence and some water. About a cup, I guess. Can you tell that it doesn't matter if you don't measure? Then blend for a bit, and voilà, it's done.

Enjoy!

 

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