Thursday, April 24, 2008

Yes, learning is happening: A bit of a ramble...

Whew! Long time, no entry. I have no idea if anyone reads this, but if you do, my apologies for a lengthy silence. We haven't fallen off the planet. I just have not had much time to write and quite honestly, have not had much to say. We're going along apace, nothing out of the ordinary, a little spring fever here and there, lots of good reading and pressing on to the end of our school year.

I suppose the biggest "school" news is college related. Andrew's coming down to the wire on his college decision and his decision is narrowed down to two schools, Gordon College in Wenham, Massachusetts where two older siblings have gone, and Furman University in Greenville, SC, where, incidentally, two other family members, an aunt and an uncle, attended. Andrew had the honor of being selected as an A.J. Gordon Scholar at Gordon which means a nice scholarship and lots of perks along the way including one-on-one mentoring, opportunities for extensive interaction with visiting speakers, and more. But Furman is very appealing as well. Andrew's visit there this week for an Accepted Students Day went very well and he enjoyed his overnight on campus and French class the next morning. So, he's got two very good options. That's what makes the decision hard. We are praying with him for wisdom in the process and peace in the final decision. And we are trusting God's sovereignty.

Anyway, in our homeschooling, Matthew, Joel and I are enjoying three read-alouds together. We are making our way through What Everyone Should Know About the 20th Century, World War II for Kids, and Anne Frank: A Diary of a Young Girl. I've been perusing Ambleside Year 11 and want to read some of the speeches and original documents listed there as supplementals.

I love it when we make connections in the natural course of a day between something we've read and another event or even a radio piece. Yesterday, we read in What Everyone Should Know... about the tumultuous events of 1968 - the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy, the continuing protests against the Viet Nam war and more. And then when Matthew and I were in the car on our way to his play practice we heard this piece on NPR. Matthew looked over at me and said, "Hey, that's just what we read about. 1968 sure was a difficult year." I think he will remember these events so much better after hearing both our reading in the morning and the radio essay in the afternoon. Hearing, thinking, attending, hearing again, connecting, processing.

That's been happening quite a bit lately for Joel, too. His personal history reading and our reading together are dovetailing in wonderful, but unplanned ways. Lots of reinforcement!

Turning a corner, here's a quote from Anne Frank from this morning. If you have little ones that balk at eating or teens that have a hard time getting out of bed - or if you struggle in these areas or any others where self-control is needed, consider her "method":

...if I have to eat something that I simply can't stand...I put my plate in front of me, pretend that it is something delicious, look at it as little as possible, and before I know where I am, it is gone. When I get up in the morning, also a very unpleasant process, I jump out of bed thinking to myself: "You'll be back in a second," go to the window, take down the blackout, sniff at the crack of the window until I feel a bit of fresh air, and I'm awake. The bed is turned down as quickly as possible and the the temptation is removed. Do you know what Mummy calls this sort of thing? "The Art of Living"
The art of living, indeed. Charlotte Mason would call it habit training. Not giving in to our whims and laziness, to our selfish coddling and desire for personal comfort. Lately, I've been thinking that we need a bit of work on our habits around here. Not major issues, just some tweaking and bolstering where we've become a bit lax. I expect I'll use Anne Frank's words to remind us that we can practice self-control and we can do things that are unpleasant. Again, CM's motto, "I am, I can, I ought, I will" is good to remember. And these words from Shakespeare, "Things won are done; joy's soul lies in the doing."

Things are being won around here as we do and learn and grow. Sometimes I see that in big leaps of understanding but mostly I see it in the small flashes of insight, the nods of recognition, the realization of connection, and the smiles of remembrance of a thing heard or thought about. We just press on consistently day by day. Or not...yes, we do get off track at times, but there is a track to get back on and that makes all the difference. And you know what? Amazingly, at the culmination of years of schooling like this, our young man is awarded a leadership scholarship and wooed by an academic award. And we went along, I wondered, "Are we doing enough?" As wonderful and gratifying as the awards may be, however, I am far more delighted that this young man has a strong foundation for life, He is a thinker and has specific goals and passions and he is eager to learn more. How did our schooling contribute?

I will be thinking and reading and writing more about some of these issues as I prepare for the annual Charlotte Mason conference at Gardner Webb University in June. I am going to speak this year (you can't see my knees knocking, thank goodness!). My talk is entitled, "Learning to Fledge: Masterly Inactivity in the High School Years." It's going to be a lot about relationships and how as a family we have lived out many of CM's ideas through the high school years, preparing at this point four young people to fledge. I feel a little intimidated by all the more "educational" topics. My talk will be quite personal. But I think it will fit well with the theme of the conference, "From Rewards to Relationship."

And on that note, since I have an evening before me with no one else at home and since my goal for the evening was to read a bit and work on my talk, it's time to stop blogging. Thanks for reading the ramble. I'd love to know who reads this so if you'd care to leave a comment, I'd be grateful.