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Posts tagged ‘Charlotte Mason’

Bear’s Garden Series

“All this is stale knowledge to older people, but one of the secrets of the educator is to present nothing as stale knowledge, but to put himself in the position of the child, and wonder and admire with him; for every common miracle which the child sees with his own eyes makes of him for the moment another Newton.”
~ Charlotte Mason, Out-Of-Door Life For The Children

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“An Observant Child should be put in the way of Things worth Observing.”
~ Charlotte Mason, Out-Of-Door Life For The Children

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Mars’ Garden Series

They must be let alone, left to themselves a great deal, to take in what they can of the beauty of earth and heavens.
~ Charlotte Mason, Out-Of-Door Life For The Children

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Children should be made early intimate with the trees, too; should pick out half a dozen trees, oak, elm, ash, beech, in their winter nakedness, and take these to be their year-long friends.
~ Charlotte Mason, Out-Of-Door Life For The Children

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Little Stitches

I have amassed a mother lode of embroidery patterns and am missing the feel of needle, thread and calico between my fingers. Peep’s been quite the little rascal though, so I haven’t able to get back to stitching. The girls, on the other hand, have been quite productive, ma shaa Allah.

Mars went through a bit of a confidence crisis and was convinced that she would never amount to much in the crafty department. After much discussion, we agreed that creativity can be cultivated and that everyone has a bit of artistry in some form or another. We just need to be supremely patient and determined to hone the skills. With renewed enthusiasm, Mars has made a bigger effort to be more precise and exacting. Effort and creative process are just as important as the final product, so she is learning to find joy in the journey as well.

Mars made a quilted mug rug. She chose two of her favourite fabrics from our stash and hand-pieced them together before sandwiching the batting in between and hand-quilting the whole thing. She hopes to use the sewing machine the next time in shaa Allah for a neater finish, but I think this was a terrific effort ma shaa Allah. The mug rug has since been gifted to a a friend of hers — a mum new to homeschooling.

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Bear made a little heart-shaped cushion for an aunt who is expecting a baby girl. This was her first major project. She was so thrilled when she completed it. “I can’t believe I finished it!” She is so in love with it that she is almost tempted to keep it for herself ;)

Peep wants to play even though he has the sniffles; Bear is pressing me to draw a heart-shape for her cushion (“It will be bigger, in shaa Allah!”) and Mars seems to be hinting that she wants me to cook bhunna ghosht … I guess embroidery will have to wait…

Redwork and other crafty thoughts

Again we know that the human hand hand is a wonderful and exquisite instrument to be used in a hundred movements exacting delicacy, direction and force; every such movement is a cause of joy as it leads to the pleasure of execution and the triumph of success. We begin to understand this and make some efforts to train the young in the deft handling of tools and the practice of handicrafts. Some day perhaps, we shall see apprenticeship to trades revived and good and beautiful work enforced. In so far, we are laying ourselves out to secure that each shall “live his life”; and that, not at his neighbor’s expense; because, so wonderful is the economy of the world that when a man really lives his life he benefits his neighbor as wll as himself; we all thrive in the well being of each.
~ Charlotte Mason, Volume 6, Philosophy of Education p. 328

I’ve just treated myself to some lovely redwork patterns … an `Eid prezzie so to speak :)

As I look at my needles and threads, I am reminded of the art lessons I had when I was in my second year of primary school, at age 8. Looking back on that time, I realise that my schooling that year had many Charlotte Mason elements! We spent a great deal of time on penmanship, reading and useful handicrafts. The crafts we learnt were not dime-a-dozen projects… rather, we made things that were very worthwhile. We did weaving, raffia stitching and even needlework.

I remember when we spent a few months working on our cross stitch samplers. The entire class had to work on this, even the boys! We were each given a piece of Aida fabric and assorted embroidery flosses. We would form a queue in front of the teacher’s desk and hand her our cloth, whereupon she would help us individually. She demonstrated how to stitch a pattern and sent us back to our seats to repeat the pattern. Once we successfully completed a row, we rejoined the queue to get a new row of patterns to work on. When we had filled the entire fabric, we got them stitched into a rectangular pencil case. (Our mums helped to sew up the zippers and hems.)

It was very painstaking work obviously, but one that gave me a lot of satisfaction. My teacher, who was NOT known for her patience, admirably curbed her temper during art and craft hour and persevered in guiding us through our projects. That was the only time I believe, that I received any useful training in art.

By the time I was in secondary school in my teens, education had changed a great deal. It was all about textbooks, exams and grades. Art lessons were reduced to only drawing and painting. We did campaign posters, still life, tiles and such and used different paints and pencils, but it was really essentially just drawing and painting. No real coaching was actually given – you either had the talent or you endured the lessons and horrid grades you received.

I would have loved it if we had art appreciation and art history woven into our lessons and learnt the techniques that the artists employed. I wish we had also been taught other forms of art and craft like knitting, crochet, collage making, stitchery among others as well. (I was terrible at drawing and sketching so I would have liked to have been given the opportunity to try other art forms and media.) I guess that would have taken too much time and been too difficult to grade for exams.

It wasn’t until I had children that I had the desire to get involved in handicrafts. Prior to that, I’d never thought that I could. After all, my grades in art were dismal, weren’t they? I loved the idea of passing on something made with love, by hand, to my children.

So, I tried overcoming my fear of failure and my tendency to overthink things and plunged into craftdom by embarking on a few simple embroidery projects. I’m not what you would call competent and I don’t have the time to be more committed, but I find joy in trying and I think that is what matters.

I want my children to have skills which would serve them well in their adult lives, skills that would bless not only their lives, but also that of others. There is a quote by Charlotte Mason that struck me:

The points to be borne in children’s handicrafts are: (a) that they should not be employed in making futilities such a pea and stick work, paper mats, and the like; (b) that they should be taught slowly and carefully what they are to do; (c) that slipshod work should not be allowed; (d) and that, therefore, the children’s work should be kept well within their compass.
~ Charlotte Mason, Volume 1, Home Education pp 315, 316.

I’ve been thinking of appropriate handicraft ideas for my children… projects that they can easily manage and which they can further develop. I’ve been so inspired by sisters like Fruitful Fusion, Kate and Umme Yusuf. In shaa Allah no more waste and creating of futilities! Here are some I’ve come up with:

  • Baking and cooking – We’ve been cooking together almost everyday and as a special `Eid celebration, I’ve taught them a simple baked pasta recipe today!
  • Cross stitch – Mars has done a few and can read the patterns well. Bear is working on a sampler.
  • Long stitch – Bear is slowly working on a small project
  • Sashiko – this would be particularly good for beginning embroiderers I think as the stitches are easily executed.
  • Embroidery – there are primitive/country designs that are easy for young ones to tackle. I made a simple pattern for Bear to tack.
  • Braiding and macrame – Mars has made a few friendship bracelets… things get a little messy and tangled though!
  • Knitting – Mars has learnt this from her grandmothers! I’m still talking about learning how to knit :P For shame!
  • Crochet
  • Woodwork – I would love to bring in a carpenter to teach my kids!
  • Beading
  • Felt projects
  • Mending, repurposing and refurbishing clothes and other things – I think as Muslims, we would do well not to waste

What handicrafts have you taught your kids?

Rejuvenation

We’ve recently received the good news that since we don’t live in Singapore anymore, Mars does NOT have to sit for the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) in 2013 when she turns 12. We still have to submit annual reports to the Ministry of Education and if we do return to take up residence in Singapore before she turns 15, she will have to sit for the said examination. I’m relieved – not because I am afraid of the PSLE, but because I feel that I now have even more freedom to devote more time to other topics and subjects. I had, prior to this, been concerned about our learning days being devoted to merely preparing for the PSLE. Education in Singapore has changed a lot since I was a child. I don’t like what it has become … it is a blessing that I can now in shaa Allah spend even more time on Islamic studies, Arabic and being true to my Charlotte Mason aspirations. I feel like we can once again breathe life into our learning days alhamdulillah.

The girls and I have discussed our goals at length and we’ve decided to strive for the following:

  • Diligence and fortitude without supervision, seeking reward only from Allah.
  • Obedience with cheer and grace and truthfulness
  • Complete attention during readings.
  • Narrate clearly by dictating or writing after one listening without prompts or clues.
  • Perfection is Allah’s domain, but we will strive to develop the habit of striving for excellence in execution.
  • Handwriting should be neat, spelling must be correct and words must be enunciated clearly and properly.
  • Memorise and understand the Qur’an. Learn stories of all the prophets, companions and scholars. Apply all these lessons to our daily life.
  • Learn and recite ahadeeth and athar.
  • Develop the habit of reading the Qur’an and keeping our tongues moist with the remembrance of Allah.
  • Learn and recite famous speeches, poems and exerpts from great literature.
  • Read whole chapter, great living books.

  • Journal scientific studies and develop a thorough knowledge of the various branches.
  • Keep a detailed notebook of their study of History and Geography.
  • Learn meaningful and crafts and skills, including home making.
  • Keep a commonplace book.

More on life outdoors

Snails finding a meal after rain

Snails finding a meal after rain

With regard to the horror which some children show of beetle, spider, worm, that is usually a trick picked up from grown-up people.
~ Charlotte Mason, Out-Of-Door Life For The Children

Out-of-Door Life

Looking at the little labybug

Looking at the little labybug

Children should be encouraged to watch, patiently and quietly, until they learn something of the habits and history of bee, ant, wasp, spider, hairy caterpillar, dragon-fly, and whatever of larger growth comes in their way.
~ Charlotte Mason, Out-Of-Door Life For The Children

Emulation

As for emulation, a very potent means of exciting and holding the attention of children, it is often objected that a desire to excel, to do better than others, implies an unloving temper, which the educator should rather repress than cultivate. Good marks of some kind are usually the rewards of those who do best, and it is urged that these good marks are often the cause of ungenerous rivalry. Now, the fact is, the children are being trained to live in the world, and in the world we all do get good marks of one kind or another, prize, or praise, or both, according as we excel others, whether in football or tennis, or in picture painting or poem-making. There are envyings and heart burnings amongst those who come in second best; so it has been from beginning, and doubtless will be to the end. If the child is go out into an emulous world, why, it may be possibly be well that he should brought up in an emulous school. But here is where the mother’s work comes in. She can teach her child to be first without vanity, and to be last without bitterness; that is, she can bring him up in such a hearty outgoing of love and sympathy that joy in his brother’s success takes the sting out of his own failure, and regret for his brother’s failure leaves no room for self glorification. Again, if a system of marks be used as a stimulus to attention and effort, the good marks should be given for conduct rather than for cleverness – that is, they should be within everybody’s reach: every child may get his mark for punctuality, order, attention, diligence, obedience, gentleness; and therefore, marks of this kind may be given without danger of leaving a rankling sense of injustice in the breast of the child who fails. Emulation becomes suicidal when it is used as the incentive to intellectual effort, because the desire for knowledge subsides in proportion as the desire to excel becomes active. As a matter of fact, marks of any sort, even for conduct, distract the attention of children from their proper work, which is in itself interesting enough to secure good behaviour as well as attention.

~ Charlotte Mason, Charlotte Mason’s Original Homeschooling Series, Vol.1

Homeschooling the Charlotte Mason way

Charlotte Mason homeschooling books

Free reads from Simply Charlotte Mason

Is there such a thing as too many freebies? Not necessarily :)

I find these freebies from Simply Charlotte Mason too good to pass, especially “Smooth and Easy Days” by Sonya Shafer. Homeschooling days can become insanely hectic, especially for those who have numerous responsibilities and little help. Charlotte Mason said, “The mother who takes pains to endow her children with good habits secures for herself smooth and easy days.” Shafer’s work talks about how “habits produce character” and how to go about habit-training gradually but surely. She also reminds parents to look into their own habits and to address their shortcomings while at the same time making it a valuable learning experience for the children. I really needed this reminder! You can download the book here.

The other book available for download is “Getting Started in Homeschooling” also by Sonya Shafer. This book tells the difference between the five main homeschool approaches and will guide parents to find the approach that will help your children flourish, to create a rich, comprehensive, and engaging education for your children, to save time by teaching all your children together and to begin homeschooling with confidence. You can download this book here.

Still more on handwriting…

Mars has been downright depressed about her handwriting. She and a friend were designing a publication and her work was erased because, she was told, it was simply “not good enough”.

I have not pushed her in this area simply because I don’t think the problem is that dire. It isn’t like she needs to be rushed into therapy – her handwriting, while a little erratic, is quite legible. I know though that her thoughts are exactly what her friend verbalised – “not good enough”. She has a perfectionist streak but her motor skills simply don’t match up and this has caused her a great deal of frustration. She often makes her writing extremely small even though I have told her that small doesn’t necessarily mean neat. Perhaps she thinks that large handwriting only make the flaws more prominent.

Anyway, I’ve been making more notebooking and copywork materials for her, Charlotte Mason homeschooler that I am :P In shaa Allah I will make them available for download soon. I just need a good PDF converter that won’t mess up my lovely designs :P If you know a good one (preferably free!), please let me know.

Edit: OK I feel silly now… there is a Microsoft Save as PDF or XPS Add-In that allows you to export and save to the PDF and XPS formats in eight 2007 Microsoft Office programs. I used to KNOW these things :P