Rahima Baldwin, who wrote You Are Your Child’s First Teacher, says that the two habits of mind that are most powerful in a child’s spiritual development are reverence and gratitude. just recently i returned to a resource that i think can shed light on some ways we might begin to nourish such habits. it’s called Small Ceremonials And Everyday Altars by Lesley Austin. you can sign up to receive a free copy of her ebook at her website.
Lesley talks about surrounding the everyday tasks that we do with small reminders + bits of beauty that can transform the mundane into the holy. she made pill boxes out of matchboxes, adding a bit of beauty + whimsy to the sometimes onerous chore of taking medicine. likewise, the altars grew out of the nature table displays she created with her children in their homeschool. candles, fabric, shiny glass, leaves + feathers–these have all found a home in the simple altars i’ve created.
last night Mabel + i were watching an episode of Nature about crows. the birds were preening each other and she observed that so many animals preen to show affection + care. i said that’s why i help brush her hair. i also help because there are still places in the back where she has a hard time reaching + rats multiply! but it reminded me that i want the physical interactions i have with my children to be a true laying on of hands. our touch can carry our love in real ways.
these small practices can open doors. they can bring a sense of peace to our days. they can remind us of our important work. they can make straight paths for our feet. as our children watch + participate, their own facility for reverence + gratitude will grow + bear fruit.
make sure to enter the small things with great love giveaway!
we’ve been thinking about the the ways writing + drawing can shape our days. but what about song? music can powerfully change the the feel of our homeschools–brightening or quieting as needed. when is the last time you sang with your children? is it something that comes naturally or is it something that you leave to experts?
i think i fall somewhere in the middle. i have no formal training, but a girlhood spent at hymn sings + camp meetings firmly planted a desire to sing inside me! Andy often plays guitar for us, and i sing hymns with the children at bedtime. we also learn seasonal hymns–“We Gather Together” at Thanksgiving, carols at Christmas. i gathered together some of our favorite hymns into a booklet you can print called Family Hymns. it comes with Gertrud Mueller Nelson illustrations, so even the youngest child can find + request their favorites!
The Listening Book: Discovering Your Own Music by W.A. Mathieu helped open the world of music to me. it tuned my ear to hear the everyday music around us. in the back of the book there are approachable practices that can add depth to your music practice.
we also have a handful of tin whistles around for people to pick up and work with. they are a perfect beginning instrument–simple, inexpensive, but true instruments none the less. there’s even a Jesuit to teach you how to play! i’d love to hear how you make your life sing…
a homeschool mama who also writes children’s books…what’s not to love?
to sweeten the deal, she lives in my home town. and Melissa Wiley’s two youngest children are almost the exact same age as my oldest two. this means that book reviews–and there are many!–are often right on target. but many of my favorite posts are simple descriptions of what worked that day: the park was hot, so they retreated to the shade and built Roxaboxen.
indeed, it was in her posts on Tidal Homeschooling (especially Radical Unschooling, Unschooling, Tidal Homeschooling, and the Wearing of Shoes That Fit) that i first encountered the term classical unschooling. that one had me scratching my head at first, but Melissa described it like this: classical refers to the what, the content + unschooling is the how or the method. i almost called this series “the classical unschooler.” but i liked connecting these ideas to the more Ignatian idea of the motion of the spirit in our hunches + longings. you can read more about the idea on the intuitive homeschool pin board.
Melissa meets the bumps in the road with the kind of grace i aspire to. she’s open + smart + interested…and she’s often on twitter in the afternoons when things here are naptime-quiet.
we really like Melissa’s recent early readers. Inch and Roly Make a Wish is full of magic and wonder even though it’s built on a limited vocabulary. Fox and Crow Are Not Friends is surprising + funny + the mama bear outsmarts them both! do check out Melissa’s writing–both on her blog and in her books! you won’t be disappointed.
make sure to head over to the giveaway page…i’ll be picking a winner on Sunday, so i can get the package out to the winner by the end of the month!
yesterday i talked about writing in journals…but what about drawing? i have been drawing + doodling in my journals for many, many moons. but it’s only been this past summer that i’ve started drawing things i really like. the tulip on the intuitive homeschool button for instance: very simple line drawings, no shadows, no cross hatching!
so what’s changed? first, i found the book 20 Ways to Draw a Tree by Eloise Renouf. then i drew every day during June + July for the Index Card a Day Challenge…well, not every day, but many! most of my drawings were influenced by the book. then i took the line drawing class with Lisa Congdon over at Creativebug (free with a 2 week trial). the class helped me to dissect the drawings in 20 Ways, to understand which ones i liked and why. it also gave me ideas–like adding color on the computer–that i never would have thought of myself.
drawing together with our children is a terrific way to spend time together. it’s a great way to build a family culture around making instead of only consuming. things quiet down, space for conversation appears, time opens up. of course, right about then the baby starts to choke on the crayon he’s been eating, but it’s sweet while it lasts! here are a few other resources to get you started:
- Tammy at Daisy Yellow Art hosts ICAD every year…but she shares her art + ideas all year long.
- Jude Siegel has written a book called A Pacific Northwest Nature Sketchbook where she talks about a kind of blind contour drawing she calls spirit drawing. fascinating!
- we often simply color as a spiritual practice as part of our saint day celebrations.
in her wonderful book Honey for a Child’s Heart, Gladys Hunt says that if you have to decide every time that you are going to read aloud, you probably won’t do it very often. like so many bits of wisdom from her book, this idea has been singing to me, making its home with me. during this next week together i want to talk about ways to build more of what we want into our days. these are simple shifts, habits of mind, paths made in the light.
i’ve already written about journaling, the first–and strongest–habit for me. keeping a journal is a foundational habit. it’s one that will sustain you as you continue to build. i use my journal to collect quotes as i read, to make endless lists, to draw, to record our school work, to plan, and to think!
i don’t have a particular book that i always write in…but whatever book i choose, it can not have lines. blank pages with black ink. you will find your own way. don’t let the search for the perfect tool get in the way of just starting with where you are with what you have…but do keep your eyes open for a perfectly weighted pen + crisp, thick paper. here are a few resources to show you the way:
for I will pour water upon him that is thirsty
and flood upon the dry ground
I will pour my spirit on your seed + my blessing upon your offspring
and they shall spring up
as among the grass, as willows by the water courses.
one of the most nourishing, happy-making practices i know is including a little bit of wiggle room in the schedule. building in time + space–to catch up, be sick, spend at the park or with a dear friend–creates a sense of possibility + spaciousness in your homeschool. there is breathing room. space opens to draw + sing + linger + bake…all the things that mark our life at home learning together as something different. we aren’t machines that never get tired. we aren’t only, always focused on achievement + getting ahead. sometimes homeschooling flows best when you’re at home, when you’re at rest.
this is where the intuitive part of “intuitive homeschooling” comes into play. seeing just where to ease up and where to push ahead. sensing when a child needs a firm response and when a funny one might be more appropriate. watching for signs of boredom, frustration, or upset–in you or your child–and knowing what might help.
as we begin to use the bits of quiet, we can get better at following the steps in this lovely dance.
this weekend we celebrated living in the owl house for three years. we’ve lived in this place longer than anywhere else. this is where Joseph was born, Mabel learned to read, and Nicolas began to draw. this is our home.
it’s also the biggest place we’ve ever lived–a whopping 1100 sq ft if you include the sunporch. when we moved here i joked that the best way to organize your house was to move to a bigger one! we had been trying to put too much living into a house that was too small.
but decluttering is on-going, and i’m still learning! if you want to be able to put things away, they need to have a place to live. not the nearest flat surface, not a pile on the floor. my hardest area was transitional things. these were things didn’t need a permanent home, like library books or the bag that’s going to Goodwill or clothes that the 5 year old has outgrown that need to be saved for the baby. i need to designate a place for everything, so that everything can be in its place. otherwise the piles start to take over.
any organizational tips to share? i’m all ears!
at our house at around 1 in the afternoon everything slows way down. we read a storybook, go to the bathroom, gather a few books…or a journal…or some handwork…and quietly head to our rooms. i take the baby and nurse him to sleep. then i lay down to sleep myself. usually i only lay down for a half hour or so, then i’m up again to enjoy the quiet and maybe a cup of tea. i can work in my journal, catch up on my poetry class, or read blogs or books.
getting this extra bit of sleep has been a key to the smooth postpartum transition i experienced with Joseph. when Nicolas was born i had a 2 1/2 year old who often needed help falling asleep at naptime. i would spend my afternoon going from one sad, sleepy child to the next. that was anything but restful for me! this time around, i have bigger kids who sleep or play quietly in their rooms or read. that means that i can count on a little sleep in the middle of the day that will help me make it till Papa gets home.
Joseph still wakes up a few times at night, so it’s been 2 years since i had uninterrupted sleep. taking a short nap adds a little bit of rest into my long days. it re-energizes my introvert self and helps me to do my job better.
Lori Pickert makes the internet a better place! she happily shares her time, experience, and encouragement. she is the author of Project Based Homeschooling: Mentoring Self-Directed Learners. she also runs the PBH website + forums–a rich place to read + learn + try new things. my favorite collection of posts is called 10 Steps to Getting Started in PBH. she’s also a twitter maven! Lori actually models how to be a mentor in her interactions with homeschooling parents, and her example is illuminating.
i’ve had the privilege of taking a few classes from Lori. her journaling class was truly amazing. i have always journaled, but she showed me how to use my journal as a tool for transformation. each day for a week a new email with examples, inspirational quotes, and lots of encouragement arrived in my email. i keep on returning to her words:
Create an environment that helps you focus. Advertise to yourself. Create visual reminders that call you back to your highest priorities. Make sure your space is constantly bombarding you with messages about what you care about: your family, your work, your values, your priorities, your goals. Use your space to promote your most authentic life.
To be active, engaged mentors we focus on our own practice. We aren’t simply reflecting back our children’s ideas like a mirror; we are weighing significance, attempting to understand, thoughtfully curating. The more we understand ourselves as learners, the better we can mentor our children to direct and manage their own learning. The better we understand ourselves, the better we can accomplish whatever we want to do in life.
A journal isn’t only for helping us remember — it’s also a place for helping us THINK….Journaling encourages us to engage more with our own lives as they’re happening.It’s a tool for curation.
A learner mindset is in opposition to prediction and perfectionism. If you’re learning, you can’t predict what’s going to happen….If you’re learning, you can’t hold onto perfectionism. To do things perfectly means always setting your sights lower — aiming at the sure thing. And learning happens when we move past the sure thing.