Tuesday, August 30, 2016
Monday, August 29, 2016
“We get robbed of the glory of life because we aren't capable of remembering how we got here. When you are born, you wake slowly to everything... What I'm saying is I think life is staggering and we're just used to it. We are like spoiled children no longer impressed with the gifts we're given--it's just another sunset, just another rainstorm moving in over the mountain, just another child being born, just another funeral."
~Donald Miller, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years
"Nearly all the best and most precious things in the universe you can get for a halfpenny. I make an exception, of course, of the sun, the moon, the earth, people, stars, thunderstorms, and such trifles. You can get them for nothing." ~G. K. Chesterton, "The Shop of Ghosts"
"If I were called upon to state in a few words the essence of everything I was trying to say both as a novelist and as a preacher, it would be something like this: Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery that it is. In the boredom and pain of it no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace." ~Frederick Buechner
Sunday, August 28, 2016
[Scroll down if you want to skip this conversation and just see a few more pictures of our trip to Mount Angel Abbey, our local Benedictine Monastery. CC Friends, sing it with me: “Benedict and Monasticism…” Can you stop there?]
Metaphor is POWERFUL. It ignites the imagination. It allows us to form images, to “picture to oneself.” It allows us to hold an image in our heads that is simple and concrete but so profound and nuanced that we can contemplate its meaning for a long period of time.
Metaphors are VIVID.
One of the ways in which we create metaphors is to ask comparison questions.
How is _______ like _________.
Comparison is one of the 5 Common Topics. You do not have to compare two seemingly similar things. Metaphor, particularly, is the comparison of two unlike things. A pen is like a pencil is not a metaphor. A pen is like a sword is a metaphor.
One of my favorite experiences this summer was at the Homeschooling from Rest Retreat when Jennifer Dow led us in a discussion comparing The Nightingale to Classical education.
Recently Andrew Kern asked "If the model for a school isn't the home, what is it?" He's known for his ambiguous, open-ended questions, but I had been pondering this a bit after watching The Liturgical Classroom and Virtue Formation with Jenny Rallens, so I timidly answered "a monastery?" Dr. Christopher Perrin chimed in a bit later with "A garden, museum, table and church--which is to say a monastery." This is a much fuller and more beautiful (and certainly less timid) answer. (And he tagged me in his answer, so I know I've "arrived." [wink])
I've been avoiding organizing and planning for the coming school year (paralyzed, really), but those four words have been running though my mind and heart: a garden, museum, table, and church. What do these mean? How would you model a school after these four elements? How would they inform your day or the content of your lessons? Are they physical realities or metaphorical? Both? How?
As these questions were swirling in my brain, I asked them on my Facebook page. Many friends joined in the discussion, and I wanted to share a bit of it here so that I could return to it again and again. It’s a long discussion, and I’ve only shared a portion here, but I hope it speaks into your life as you learn and teach your children (whether you homeschool or not).
[After this Facebook conversation I attended a Lost Tools of Writing workshop with Matt Bianco. He began our day by asking each attendee to share a metaphor for education. There was no time for explanation or discussion, but just reading all the metaphors on the board (more than thirty) was a powerful beginning to our day. We were able to make our own images and thoughts from the words. Journey, garden, window, feast. Climbing a mountain.]
One of the questions that came up in discussion is whether the home is a better model for a school and whether a monastery is modeled after a home.
I realized that the reason “a monastery” feeds my imagination in ways that “home” does not is that it is outside of my own reality.
For me, the idea of home is maybe too close to home—it’s more difficult for me to be metaphorical and imaginative about something that is so much a part of my every waking moment that I can't see it from the outside. Harder to make a model out of home when I'm not currently "doing home" in the way that I should.
I do struggle with my own disobedience and the messiness of ordinary life. I feel like I need an image in my head to inspire and encourage me despite my failings. When I picture a home, it's either my home with its failings or a home that is not my home. When I picture a garden, a table, a museum, a church in the context of a monastery, they are not my home but can be applied to my home. It is a vivid metaphor for me.
My friend questioned whether those things are metaphors or real things.
I think they are both metaphorical and physical realities. The metaphorical meaning of garden might be a right relationship with all of creation, but certainly we could also have a physical garden at our own home and that may be the best way to practice interacting with nature rightly.
I think that the metaphors are correct because when the esoteric or imaginative value is applied properly, we get a physical result that resembles the original idea.
Say a garden, for example. When I am taking care of my garden, I am doing physical work with living organisms. I am stewarding all of the life that is in my care. That is a physical act of obedience for a spiritual or metaphysical principle. So part of why I garden, because I do, is because that physical work puts me in touch with the metaphysical truth, in both physical and spiritual ways.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that it is a spiral. By physically caring for the garden, I am honing the spiritual principle which then further enables me to be a better caretaker of the physical obligations.
What I am not communicating effectively is that I loved it when he mentioned monastery because I think that's what monasteries do. They seek to pair the physical realities with the metaphysical realities in a way that is deeply obedient.
I think you just hit the nail on the head, Sara Masarik. A monastery takes the physical model and realities of home and connects them to the metaphysical realities. In that way, I think a monastery is a perfect model for a school (particularly a classical school) with a student moving from the concrete to the abstract, his studies culminating in philosophy and theology.
Yes! That! A monastery is a garden. And a home. And a school. And a hospital. But all for the soul as well as the body. A monastery strives to serve with feet on earth and hearts and heads in heaven. And that, I think, is what our homes can be as well.
I've noticed in my faith that the monasteries seem to represent a place between Heaven and Earth. The monks and nuns are like intercessors, praying all the time. They do some light work to keep things going but their main focus is prayer. In a home we can imitate that ideal by praying the hours and everyone pitching in to make the work light on everyone, and we can follow the same calendar and fasting/feasting rhythm but there will be more of a focus on worldly things like working outside the home and activities that accompany family life. The home is a perfect place to imitate some of the aspects of a monastery for peaceful godly living and a perfect place for school and learning I think.
I don't think of a monastery as involving light work. Maybe I'm wrong, but I see it as very much about the discipline of hard work in the important aspects of life—in personal habits and labor, in relationships and seeking godly ways to be with your fellow community members, and in spiritual study and prayer. That is exactly like a family, or it can be. I like the idea of imagining it in that setting too because it helps me to abstract it from my very messy home monastery.
Our Home: A garden, museum, table and church.
I feel comfortable leaving school out completely with those five words connected. Home, garden, museum, table, church. That's what we're doing. We're not homeschooling, we're lifeliving. And what is that? "A garden, museum, table and church."
I admit I'd not naturally have ever come to the idea of museum, had I thought about this for my whole life, but I do see it fits. Or I want it to fit. We are concerned with treasuring the best of civilization and curating the beautiful, true, and good. That's museuming.
Rudy and I are discussing this in the car on our way to star watching. He says he thinks garden, museum, table, and church make him think of categories of learning: learn with your hands, from labor and observation, nurturing and growth in a garden; Learn from the past, and particularly beautiful things from the past as in a museum; learn from each other, from community and relationship being nourished at a table; and learn from God, from sacred history and tradition and scripture as in a church.
The garden...Creation that points to a creator. The table....fellowship, communion. A museum...history..standing on the shoulders of those who came before us, traditions. The Church..living the liturgy in our homes.
[Regarding resistance] And then I think, creating the vision amongst my little people (or students in a school) maybe starts with these images? Invitation to the table; invitation into the garden to cultivate beauty and order; invitation into worship; invitation to look into the past?
A monastery is PERFECT, just as a home from a previous era, as both were expected to be self-sufficient from income, to food, to education, to worship, etc.
Surrounding the kids with beauty from nature, giving them guidance to the Father, giving them good things for life (table - food, stories, knowledge rooted in Truth, friendship), and being, & providing for them, spiritual mentorship...
Cultivate, contemplate, nourish and glorify. Cultivate wisdom, contemplate beauty, nourish the soul and glorify God through it all.
Charlotte Mason says that there are three branches of knowledge: knowledge of man, creation, and God. Philosophy is split into three branches: moral, natural, and divine. Maybe a museum, a garden, a church correspond respectively. And a table represents community, communion, and celebration. All of these are practiced in obedience and worship.
“In my literature classes we look at books through these philosophical lenses here--man versus self, man versus society, and man versus God.”
“If school is a garden, a museum, a table and a church, then learning is to grow, to observe, to partake and to worship. How often do we neglect one or more of those components when attempting to teach?”
We often we find great truth in what *isn't* as well as what *is*. So...wee brainstorm...what does a monastery NOT have? I think the similarity is a good start to begin intentionally adding those things to our home and home education but I'm thoughtful about what intentionally needs to go.
In TLAT it says "The musical (coming from the same root word as "museum") education was an education in wonder. It formed the heart and the moral imagination of the youth... They taught passions more than skills and content. They sowed the seeds which would grow into a lifelong love of learning." "It is a total education including the heart—the memory and passions and imagination" and it is "an education in wonder through engagement with reality as a delightful living museum—engagement with...the songs, stories, and art of human culture."
The word museum comes from the "muses," right? And the muses deal with human endeavor/creativity. This video names 9 muses: history, poetry, epic poetry, astronomy, song, dance, tragedy, comedy, history, and hymns.
:: Imagery of a table by Marc Hays [I adore this one! Click on the link and read it all.]:
Imagine a table lacking no good thing: beautiful in its own right.
But man shall not live by bread alone. As indispensable as physical nourishment is, we need more. Our appetites yearn for more than meat and drink, for more than bread and cheese. Our natures yearn for knowledge and understanding, for something to learn and something to say.
In his Rule, St Benedict says that the one who is abbot of the monastery must listen with the ears of the heart.
:: Stratford Caldecott has a few quotes that may apply here.
“At the heart of any culture worthy of the name is not work but leisure, schole in Greek, a word that lies at the root of the English word ‘school.’ At its highest, leisure is contemplation. It is an activity that is its own justification, the pure expression of what it is to be human. It is what we do. The ‘purpose’ of the quadrivium was to prepare us to contemplate God in an ordered fashion, to take delight in the source of all truth, beauty, and goodness, while the purpose of the trivium was to prepare us for the quadrivium. The ‘purpose’ of the Liberal Arts is therefore to purify the soul, to discipline the attention so that it becomes capable of devotion to God; that is, prayer.”
"Liturgy therefore starts with remembrance. We do not make ourselves from nothing. To be here at all is a gift... The liturgy...is the ultimate school of thanks. In the circle of giving, receiving, and being given, the one divine essence is revealed as an eternal threefold liturgy of love, prayer, and praise. When we come to Mass--or to the nearest equivalent of that liturgy our faith permits--we should be able to experience a sense that here, at last, all the threads of our education are being brought together. If we don't, something is wrong with our education or our liturgy. Science and art, mathematics and ethics, history and psychology, the worlds of nature and the spirit, are all present in a liturgy that gives them a home and a meaning."
“Education begins in the Trinity. Praise (of beauty), service (of goodness), and contemplation (of truth) are essential to the full expression of our humanity. The cosmos is liturgical by its very nature.”
On my book stack
Sunday, August 21, 2016
Feel free to laugh along with me.
Way back in May, I posted our general plans for this coming school year. I’ve been procrastinating and avoiding school planning since then. We are only a week away from the start of our community’s Classical Conversations Challenge program, so I figured I couldn’t avoid it any longer.
I truly am having a difficult time wrapping my brain around what our days might look like. All four of my children need almost constant help or supervision (hello, distractible, writing-averse, verbal-processor children), and they are all doing different work this year. We had an extremely relaxed year last year (and months and months of “summer”), so this is going to be a bit of a shock to our systems.
Levi is in Challenge 1 (9th grade). Luke is in Challenge A (7th grade). Leif is in Foundations and Essentials (5th grade). Lola is in early Foundations (K). They will be doing very little of the same work, and they can’t be in the same room together or they are completely distracted. But they need my help and supervision at all times. Hahahaha!!!
I’ve used Luke’s Challenge A work as the primary unifying schedule and worked the others in and around him. I’ve bolded my priorities for teaching and assisting.
I really have no idea how much time these subjects and skills will take, and I’m sure there will be a great deal of adjusting. But if I don’t make a schedule, our days will be chaos, we won’t get started in a timely manner, boys will need my help when I cannot give it, and lessons will not happen.
Challenge begins two weeks before Foundations and Essentials, so that will give us extra time to figure out what sort of schedule will work for all the kids. We are also on break from swim team for a few more weeks, so that will help as well. (Levi has a broken foot, so that may make the “break” a little longer. He’s hoping to swim for the local high school, and I don’t know what their swim schedule will be.)
I’m not sure where piano lessons will fit into this mix. They haven’t been scheduled. And Levi and his friend McKinnon may be working together two days a week for certain subjects (one day with his mom, Char, and one day with me), so that will mix things up even more.
And I really have no idea where Lola fits into this day (other than distracting her brothers and disaster-izing the house and interrupting me—all day long). I’m not too worried about her academics.
[Our community day is Monday, so this is the general outline for the rest of the week.]
Tuesday- Friday School Schedule
6:00 Wake up/shower/quiet time
6:45 Wake up boys/put on music/make tea
7:00 Morning chores (everyone)
7:30 Breakfast/clean-up (everyone)
8:00 Symposium (everyone together)
Outside! (exercise on porch or walk down driveway, observe weather)
Prayer (loop schedule)
Song/hymn (loop schedule)
Memory work (loop schedule: poetry, speech, Bible)
Beauty (loop schedule: art, music, MCT poetry)
9:00 Latin [F/E: Independent work]
[10 minute exercise break]
10:00 Math (+snack)
[5 minute exercise break]
11:00 Science [F/E: Veritas history online, assigned reading]
12:30 Geography [Ch 1: Debate/American Documents]
1:30 Lost Tools of Writing [Ch 1: Debate/Drama/Music Theory; F/E: Independent work]
2:15 Rhetoric (reading and note-taking, memory work) [Ch 1: Lost Tools of Writing]
3:00 Piano Practice [F/E: IEW (writing)]
3:45 Swim Practice
[Me: exercise, errands, lesson planning, pre-reading, meal prep, house cleaning]
Evening: Whatever didn’t get done during the day
F/E Independent Work: IEW Fix It, Essentials grammar chart copy work, Foundations memory work review, piano practice, Song School Latin, typing practice, Duo Lingo Spanish, Veritas self-paced history, Sheppard Software geography games, map tracing, presentation preparation (might need some help with that one), assigned reading in all subjects, Khan Academy math. I need to squeeze in spelling somewhere, but that is not independent.
Now I need to set up work stations for each of the boys with easy access to all of their books and materials.
Wednesday, August 17, 2016
“Liturgy” has been on my mind all summer long. I have several long blog posts in the works, and The Quotidian Mysteries: Laundry, Liturgy and “Women’s Work”; The Monk Who Grew Prayer (picture book); and Wisdom from the Monastery: The Rule of St. Benedict for Everyday Life are on my night stand.
As I was watching (again) Jenny Rallens’ video lecture The Liturgical Classroom and Virtue Formation, I was reminded of the above passage from The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery—”leisure” also having been on my mind for the past couple years. The Little Prince has important words for children and adults alike on the subject of being human. Our culture is so focused on efficiency and entertainment, we forget that walking at our leisure toward a spring of fresh water is often the point.
The Little Prince has recently been made into a beautiful children’s movie. The original story is something of a book within a
book movie, as the movie does not follow the original plot (because it doesn’t have much of one—it’s more of a dreamy philosophical ramble). The movie keeps the theme and spirit of the story, however, and it is masterfully rendered.
Bonus: The Little Prince is on Netflix streaming.
And then today, in a discussion on Facebook (truly, one of my favorite places because of the friends I’ve made, the pages I follow, and the groups to which I belong), I discovered Shaun the Sheep Movie. I’ve loved the animated shorts, but I didn’t realize that a movie had been made.
The Liturgies of ‘Shaun the Sheep’ @ Christ and Pop Culture connects all the dots for me. Delightful synchronicity.
When we think of liturgical worship, our minds probably jump to its verbal components. If we do, drawing analogies between Shaun the Sheep Movie and church life might appear odd, given the film’s complete lack of comprehensible dialogue. Yet as Smith points out, liturgies are deeper than mere rational exercises, and they are meant to embody loves through habit. God’s Word itself reflects this fact.
Bonus: Shaun the Sheep Movie is free streaming for Amazon Prime members.
Stay tuned for more on Liturgy.
Saturday, August 13, 2016
We traveled to Coos Bay, Oregon, this past weekend for a swim meet. It was our first time attending this particular meet. It gave Russ and me an opportunity to visit the area where we lived when we were first married. Russ was coaching a swim team and teaching in Reedsport and house-sitting/renting a little beach house in Winchester Bay when we were married and I moved to join him twenty years ago. The above lighthouse and lake were within walking distance of our beach house (which had a gorgeous view of only vegetation and ocean!).
The lake is small and quiet and a one-mile trail loops around the water. It wasn’t our regular long hike, but it was a lovely and sentimental hike to do as a family on a beautiful Sunday afternoon.
A slight detour from the trail takes a hiker right out onto the dunes with a glimpse of the ocean.
We had a great weekend at the swim meet, though Thursday we went from 93 degrees in the valley to a misty and breezy 53 degrees on the coast. I was not prepared! But Friday and Saturday were sunny and beautiful (if chilly in the shade). Russ and all 3 boys competed. Lola played and played with friends. We camped in a tent. We spent quality time with two other families.
The pool facility is part of a large and beautiful park, which we enjoyed. It has a neat Japanese garden, where Lola and I spent some time. She recognized the bamboo right away and spent some time playing with a new little friend, pretending to be panda bears (when she wasn’t under the bridge reciting lines from The Billy Goats Gruff).
We traveled back up to Reedsport on Saturday evening to visit with dear friends, whom we had not seen in many years. They fed us a delicious dinner and housed us for the night. It was so great to catch up and just enjoy their company.
The boys are now taking an end of summer break from swimming (Levi timed his broken foot well), but Russ competes in the 2016 U.S. Masters Swimming Summer National Championship in Gresham, Oregon, next week.
We went on a little adventure this past weekend and I’ll post about that next, but I decided against a hiking adventure this week. Instead we went with Holly, Ivy, and Daphne to tour Thompson’s Flour Mill in Shedd, Oregon, yesterday. Levi stayed in the truck with a bum foot (I took him to the doctor later that evening and discovered that he has three fractured metatarsals. Fun stuff.)
Thompson’s Flour Mill is a wonderful place to visit. Easy to find. Easy parking. Gorgeous scenery. Great hours. Multiple guided tours a day. Not busy. And FREE.
Our tour guide (we had her all to ourselves) was a retired school teacher, and she was excellent with the kids. She asked their names once and then proceeded to call them by name correctly for the full tour (over an hour and a half). The tour includes hands-on activities for the kids. They each had a chance to make the gears move.
And a chance to clean, grind, and sift flour by hand.
The mill is under some construction at the moment, but our tour guide started up the mill under electricity so the kids could hear what it sounded like and see the grain elevators and cleaners moving.
The mill is the oldest water-powered mill in Oregon. The first mill was built in the early 1800s and then was destroyed by fire. Parts of this mill were rebuilt in the 1860s while Abe Lincoln was president. The silos were built in the early 1900s. It was a money making mill until 2002 (first milling flour, then animal feed, and lastly generating electricity).
Thursday, August 11, 2016
Thinking of our first school picture photo session for these kids (well, three of them) here at Mt. Hope Chronicles just makes me want to sob. They were 5, 3, and 1 that fall. Now they are 14, 12, 10, and 5—the oldest is a nearly 6 foot tall freshman and my baby doll is headed into kindergarten!
You can read our basic plan for the coming school year at this link.