Monday, May 29, 2017

Finding Your Feet - Part One

Finding Your Feet Part One
"Can I do this?" I asked myself. I was a young mother. Children's books were not part of my childhood. I was a recent Christian. I had no teacher's training. But I was determined to home-teach.

Catbirds take a bath in our garden teacup daily. 

I felt like a dunderhead. I was, however, a motivated dunderhead. The more I dug, the more enthused I became. Charlotte Mason supplied me with the "how-to" and the "why-to." I recognized that her books in my hands were a gift from God, a generous answer of prayer. Slowly and gradually I grew in understanding. Did I understand everything I read? No. Ideas take time to germinate, time to be contemplated, to be worked-out, to be lived-out. Ideas can't be rushed. Eventually, we find our feet by walking in them. The ideas become a way-of-life. It's the educational life.

Knitting this yoke pattern for Eloise was a dream. It has 8 stitches to weave under the arms and no other seams. 

I've noticed something. Charlotte Mason's principles fit different circumstances beautifully. The people applying them are of different financial means. They have different backgrounds, different personalities, gifts, talents. They even live in different parts of the globe. Some with English their second language.

Miss Mason's principles are not just for the well-to-do or the well-prepared. They aren't solely for the intellectual. My husband Dean told me Miss Mason's principles are basic enough for even simple people (like us) to understand. She reached out to the poorer (less-literate) classes as far back as when she gave her lectures in London in the 1880s, and thereafter. I can relate. I was Less-literate with a capital "L".

Johnny-jump-ups with pansies. Potted herbs behind. Outside the kitchen door. 
Miss Mason's ideals are high. I craned my neck looking up. But it is a road worth walking no matter what situation you are in at the start. However others carry-out the method today, however well-accomplished the PNEU was in its hey-day of the 1930s, you are left to personally to find your feet. Please give yourself margin my friend. With respect to the person God is making you to be, respect your personal application.

Weigelia and Dianthus along our garage-shed.

On page 38 of School Education Miss Mason invites teachers to recede. Teachers are to make room for students to "feel their feet" with what they are learning.

We inspire. We set-in-motion habits and skills. Then we recede. This way we do not continue to indefinitely "carrying them through their schoolwork." Rather, we give them margin while we set their feet in a land-of-opportunity. Self-education is the result.

The same can be said of mothers.  Home teachers are learners, too. Are you giving yourself margin? Let's be courteous. Let's give each other margin.

Dean says, "The Charlotte Mason Method shines brightest when we allow ourselves the freedom to adapt Miss Mason's philosophy to our own individual domestic circumstance. We are, then, free to be ourselves before God and our children."

Some seek exact recipes. By focusing on the letter-of-the-law, however, we can miss living by the spirit-of-the-law. A mother misses the joy of learning with her children when choosing exact recipe over personal application. Miss Mason's principles are living principles meant to be a blessing.

A Mixed Bunch 
Weigelia and Dianthus along the garage-shed, close up.
We are a mixed bunch of Charlotte Mason followers. I know because I've had the pleasure of meeting some of you through the mail.

One family fills a handful of notebooks on various subjects. You're impressed. Your family started one or two. These notebooks are half-filled by the end of the school year. But they are handsomely half-filled. This will do. Each notebook represents happy days of curious and focused learning.

One mother reads Plutarch annually. Another mom prefers to read a little Plutarch if any, especially as she has shelves of carefully collected juvenile biographies filled with "lives." Such a quantity of lives for children was unavailable in Miss Mason's day. Go for it.

My new little quilt of scrappy "Broken Dishes" beside the Dianthus.
A pastor friend of yours, who lives an hour away, had his children memorize Shakespeare. He sends you an invitation to the performance. You take the drive to "hear" and see his students perform The Tempest. It's thoroughly enjoyable. Your family has appreciated Shakespeare. But directing a full-length play isn't an undertaking for you.

All 5 of a family's children play a string instrument. Even the 4-year-old takes lessons. Private lessons aren't in your budget. But since your eldest babysits she can help pay for hers. The younger children must wait their turn to start. They like hearing Big Sister play and look forward to when they will start their lessons.

One mother's student receives a lesson in Latin from his father daily. You tried Latin but it tipped the scales for you when your 6th child was born. And someone has to get a healthy supper on the table. Your husband isn't likely to teach his children Latin. Even if you ask him. He bought his boys catcher's mitts and enjoys playing ball with them out back. "Just what they need," you're thinking as you watch their energy through the kitchen window, "a good work-out." You offer a prayer of thanks while peeling the carrots.

I enjoyed lining one garden with seashells I beach-combed  years back. 

One mother teaches her little ones Sol-fa. It is important to her that they are brought up to sing well.  An elderly man in church is stricken with A.L.S. Mom, Dad, and the children visit him one or two Saturdays a month. The little ones sing for the man they affectionately call "Grandpa." The tears in his eyes show how touched he is by this gift of friendship. He has no grandchildren of his own to visit him. Your children can carry a tune. It's a joyful noise.

One family has traveled miles to the Creation Museum. The ark was spectacular. They've also taken physical-geography-walks. Their interest in rocks, fossils, dinosaurs, and land formations never seems to wane. They tell you about their experiences excitedly. You're glad for them. But you can't see your family traveling that far anytime soon with a van that needs frequent engine repair. The Nature Trail at the edge of town is a hike your family enjoys. And some books from the library-discard-sale are proving insightful.

Wooden Buttons The Yarn is Noro silk/cotton with slubs.

Keep Your Focus

While you are finding your feet you can't help see what others are doing. But you can open your eyes wider to what you are accomplishing. Look at what you can do. You are faithful to get up every morning to do it. And if it isn't done as seemingly radiantly, or as grandiose, as others. It doesn't matter. Your gifts, talents, interests are being used in your family. They are radiant. Because no effort, no love, no good work, is invisible to God.
My fieldguide says this is a Fleabane Daisy. I learned something new.

Part Two on this topic is upcoming.

Well done my friends.
Karen Andreola


  1. Dear Karen,
    Every year feels like a new year, in some ways like the first year. And I have been homeschooling since 2002! I think it is the combination of the kids changing as they grow, life-changing events, and my own temperament. Thank you for sharing your wisdom and Dean's on this topic. I have had tunnel-vision lately and all I have been able to see is the can't-do's. It has been discouraging, to say the least. I wonder, is it okay to still be trying to "find my feet" after so many years?
    I hope you're well, Karen. The sweater is charming and I love the colors. Your "Broken Dishes" quilt is a nice combination of colors, too. I have been crocheting an American flag Afghan as a gift and I have felt rather like Betsy Ross. :-)
    Happy Memorial day!

    1. What a good point you've made, Kristyn. Looking back I see that each year of our homeschool was different from the one before it. It makes sense that a mother would be "finding her feet" anew each year. It certainly keeps us "on our toes." And on our knees.

      Your gift sounds special. I'm making a "Besty Ross" mini quilt right now. What a coincidence. Our familyroom is red, white & blue with George Washington on the wall. It's my room to feel patriotic in. Karen A.

    2. Oh, how this post, Karen, and this reply, Kristyn, have resonated in my heart this morning as I read these. I have been homeschooling since 1998 and have graduated 3 children who are now young adults. I have recently become a grandmother and at the same time I still have one young son, age 11, that I continue to homeschool. I just shared with my husband regarding my struggles either with "tunnel vision" and focusing on my "can't-dos" or my "wide-angle lens" focusing on what everyone else is doing. Thank you for the reminder of "finding our feet" even after all these years. This post and so many of the replies have been very encouraging.

    3. Karen's blog brings out the best, doesn't it? :-)

  2. Karen, this post is inspired . . . and inspiring! You have shared wonderful, powerful advice here. It is easy to feel overwhelmed with the possibilities and feel that we do not measure up. The Lord has often reminded me over the years that he put my children with me. It was His plan for them! Amazing! So if I am weak in science (I am) or spend too much time in a historical time period (I tend to do that) or have any number of shortcomings, He can use any of it to work for good in my children's lives. It is only important that I am faithful and do what I can.

    Thank you for these encouraging words!

  3. This reminds me of the apostle Paul's teaching about the various parts of the Body.


  4. Thank you for the cool drink of truth and a shift in focus.

  5. YES and AMEN, Karen. Thank you for this beautiful wisdom. I'm still learning this almost 10 years into our CM journey and most likely will continue for the rest of my days. There is a peace, like taking a deep breath of air after a rain, when one settles down into the philosophy as it works within ones family. We are delving riches far greater than I would have ever imagined possible. It is a gift of the Lord. Btw, I just recently finished rereading Pocketful of Pinecones and was delighted all over again.

  6. Beautiful words on how others can do when they have plenty or be resourceful when in need of a guiding hand. Lovely photos of your gardens and handwork. Thank you for sharing.

  7. Thank you, Karen, for this beautiful thought that every family is unique and is special in a different way. It is a gentle reminder that comparisons are odious.;0) I appreciated your charge to open our eyes wide to what we are doing, when we begin to see the bright and pretty things others are doing for their families! God bless you!

  8. Thank you and God bless..

  9. Karen, this is the perfect post for the end of a year of learning! It is so easy, even after so many years, to compare and think perhaps your children aren't doing enough, etc. We must each look to our own families, and to the Lord's leading for our particular family, or even where the family is at this point in our lives! We can trust Him to lead!

  10. Thank you Karen for your wonderful post. This is a good time to contemplate on all we have enjoyed and learned this year, instead of thinking about the things we didn't get to, or might of missed. The photos of your gardens and handiwork are lovely. The little sweater for Eloise is darling. Would you be able to share the pattern? I have two new granddaughters I would love to make that for.:) Thank you for your encouraging posts.

  11. Thank for sharing, Ladies. It does me good to know that I've been encouraging in some way. It's my intent. And I like to read your insights and opinions.

    CottageCreationsPatterns is the Iowa company. "Scandinavian Cardigan" is the pattern that accommodates sizes for the whole family and for both boys and girls. I followed the smallest size - size 2. I used dp needles and circular. It's for worsted weight so it goes fast. I separated some red from skeins of the self-striping so that both sleeves, and the bottom of the cardigan, would start with the same color. I didn't follow the Scandinavian two-color pattern in the yoke for this cardigan. But several "Elizabeth Zimmerman" style yoke patterns are provided.

  12. Such an excellent and edifying read. It builds us up with sweet words of encouragement. How kind you are, to see the merit in every individual family's way of living out education. Very much needed. 'A word fitly spoken ..'

  13. Hi, Karen. Maybe I am the only one who cried while reading, but I felt I had to let you know how the Holy Spirit used your family stories to get my attention. Thank you (and Dean) for reminding me of the glorious freedom in Christ I have to be me, and to let Mason's methods shine through in our unique family dynamics. I have decided that when I miss "...the joy of learning with [my]children when choosing exact recipe over personal application." I miss everything. And I lose my strength too, because the joy of the Lord is my strength. Thank you for the beautiful images, nature and handmade. I always spend time studying each one!

  14. Tears of relief are streaming down my cheeks.

    My most heartfelt thanks Karen.

  15. This post was a burden lifter. Thank you so much for writing this. It was a sigh of RELIEF. I think most of us know this is how we should approach our motherhood but it's seems like we need reminding and God knows that. That is where other's who have gone before us are so needed for those of us still on the trail.

    1. Yes and Amen! Thank you Lord for those around us who decrease our burdens and help us find the joy.

  16. Mrs. A, I was moved and touched by this post. TRUTH! praise the Lord. And as long as we follow Miss Mason along her teachings and remember Christ our King, no matter where on the globe we are from the backwoods to the English countryside her teaching shall never get old! Looking forward to part 2. bless your heart.

  17. WOW.Much needed wisdom for all of us Mothers in the trenches.Thank you,God bless you.
    In gratitude,

  18. Karen, as the comments come in I can't help but add that I hope you realize what a blessing you are to so many of us. Thank you for taking the time to continue to invest in homeschooling moms. I know I am not alone when I say I appreciate your encouragement very much. ��

  19. What a beautiful and inspirational post. Thank You

  20. Thank you for this wonderful encouragement. You truly are a blessing for so many.

  21. What a calming and nurturing post today, Karen. Your pictures are beautiful! Thank you, 8-)

  22. Thank you for the encouragement at just the right time.

  23. So beautiful ❤, thank you. I enjoyed reading this with my morning coffee while the kids played in the backyard. Inspiring and true. Amber c.

  24. THIS! This post right here is why I love you Mrs. Andreola! Thank you for not wearying in well-doing in your gentle admonishments and encouragements to us all! This makes me think of one of my favorite quotations from Miss Mason, "Keep cutting back until there is peace in your home." I am going to apply this to all the many voices of CM application that are out there on the internet today. I've allowed too much advice/insight into how others believe CM should be applied in our homeschools to find a home in my heart and mind and it has overwhelmed me. No peace in my heart! So I'll be cutting back on those voices until there is peace. The most important voice in our home learning endeavors will be given room to flourish once more, the precious Holy Spirit! I'm actually excited about "finding my feet" again. Thank you! Hugs and love in Christ, Amy B.

  25. With the continual growth of CM resources, curricula, and blogs there is also the growing feeling of anxiety. "Is this curriculum better? Oh, perhaps this book is better than the one I'm using. Oh, now I need to learn how to do paper sloyd..." And I am thankful for all the help that is out there for me, but how we must guard against that striving that comes out of anxiety. Thank you Mrs. Andreola. Your posts have a way of drawing me back into His peace. I hear His voice in your words. ~ Jessica

  26. I am trying to hold back the tears. I have finally had a quiet moment to read this post. I needed to read this. My heart is full and I can feel peace. I've been homeschooling for three years now. It had been wonderful adventure, one I am so excited that I started. I find myself comparing myself to other more experienced mothers. It's wrong to compare and the Lord does not want us to compare ourselves to others. He wants us to lift each other up. You have lifted me up this evening. Thank you Mrs. Andreola. Thank you for encouraging me and all of us who visit here onward. May the Lord bless you.

  27. This was a beautiful and timely post. I'm waiting in anticipation for part two. Thank you for the encouragement. I needed it this very day.

  28. This is so insightful! I shared it on all the social media I'm on!

  29. What an encouraging post, much-needed, even after 13 years of homeschooling. Thank you for taking the time to write such insightful supportive words for those of us "in the trenches." You have a gift!

  30. I needed this word of encouragement! This past year has been a tough one. And the summer isn't going any better. I feel so lost in my mothering, our homeschooling, just about everything at this time in my life. I do know that HE is faithful. Thank you so much, Karen, for the gentle approach of your post. Your are such an encouragement, and your encouragement came at just the right time! Blessings to you and your husband.

  31. Excellent! Thank you for giving us the gift of the idea of "margin" and then showing how to embrace it. You are a blessing!