AmblesideOnline Conference: Colleen

These are impressions of the conference from Colleen in Wis. She originally posted them on her blog, but they were so good that I was thrilled when she said we could post them here. :)

Help with Narration and Grammar from Karen Glass

AmblesideOnline Conference

Held at Greenville Oaks Church of Christ, Allen, Texas
On July 30, 2005
Report by Colleen in Wis.

Karen Glass spoke on Narration as one of the Basics of a CM education. The most helpful bit of advice for me was her description of how to move from oral into written narration. She suggests that we teach typing at about age 9, then begin asking the student for regular (once a week or more) typed narrations around age 10. When the student comes to an awareness that writing is a craft (after at least 2 years of writing experience), it is time to begin honing that craft by focusing on essays and editing/composition skills. This makes sense to me and I hope to apply it with my children.

Karen also shared tips about grammar during the Question and Answer session at lunchtime.

"Grammar is a finite subject." This struck me as a principle that is not often acknowledged. Karen's recommendation is that we introduce the 8 parts of speech in a fun way during the elementary years (ages 6-12), then cover grammar one time during the junior high or high school years. I find this to be a commonsense approach that I can easily work into our curriculum here at home.

Scheduling Tips from the Advisory Members

AmblesideOnline Conference

Held at Greenville Oaks Church of Christ, Allen, Texas

On July 30, 2005
Report by Colleen in Wis.

Four Advisory Members, Lynn Bruce, Karen Glass, Donna-Jean Breckenridge, and Wendi Capehart, spoke about Schedules. Below are the statements (perhaps not verbatim) that stuck with me.

From Wendi: "Be the family God wants you to be." Wendi shared about how each family is different, therefore each family's schedule will be unique.

From Wendi: "Your schedule is Plan B. What God has planned for your day is Plan A..." A christian home schooling mom needs this perspective--so often I have to lay aside my plans of The Perfect School Day for Real Life Needs.

From Donna-Jean: "A passion, broken down into something small, done consistently, yields a harvest." For one example of a passion, Donna-Jean discussed how she spends a small amount of time (a few minutes at lunch) once a week studying a painting with her children. This yields the result that her students have a relationship with art and are interested in art--shown by her daughter's excitement when visiting the Louvre.

The Large Room of a Charlotte Mason Education

AmblesideOnline Conference

Held at Greenville Oaks Church of Christ, Allen, Texas
On July 30, 2005
Report by Colleen in Wis.

Both Donna-Jean Breckenridge and Lynn Bruce closed the Conference by speaking on the topic, "The Large Room."

Donna-Jean's talk was wonderfully encouraging, aimed at anyone who is struggling with life or with home education. I think she had the majority of the audience in tears as she shared from her own experiences.

Lynn's message focused on the benefits of the Charlotte Mason method of education. Miss Mason wrote of preparing a student for a full life, a life with an immense number of interests, a life in a large room rather than in a narrow, confined room. Lynn inspired us to give this to our children, then turned our attention to the most important relationships to pass on to our children, in other words, two of the most important things to teach: 1) Who God is; 2) Who you are. She ended by sharing some wonderful thoughts and ideas about building relationships within our families.

School Education, Volume 3 of the Home School Series by Charlotte Mason, contains this passage from which the idea of "The Large Room" is taken:

"Our aim in Education is to give a Full Life.--We begin to see what we want. Children make large demands upon us. We owe it to them to initiate an immense number of interests. Thou hast set my feet in a large room; should be the glad cry of every intelligent soul. Life should be all living, and not merely a tedious passing of time; not all doing or all feeling or all thinking--the strain would be too great--but, all living; that is to say, we should be in touch wherever we go, whatever we hear, whatever we see, with some manner of vital interest . . .

The question is not,--how much does the youth know? when he has finished his education--but how much does he care? and about how many orders of things does he care? In fact, how large is the room in which he finds his feet set? and, therefore, how full is the life he has before him?" pp. 170, 171.


AmblesideOnline Conference

Held at Greenville Oaks Church of Christ, Allen, Texas
On July 30, 2005
Report by Colleen in Wis.

Miss Charlotte Marie Mason (aka Mrs. Donna-Jean Breckenridge) presented an inspiring talk, complete with period costume and British accent. The words were direct from Home Education, Volume 1 of Miss Mason's Series. The ideas came alive, however, as they were filtered through Donna-Jean's heart and soul. I was greatly touched. These truths are the reasons I am drawn to Miss Mason's writings and philosophy. Thank you, Donna-Jean, for this beautiful presentation.

Below are some quotes from "Miss Mason's" talk. This is not, however, an outline or summary of the entire speech. These are simply the sections that spoke to me; in some cases, the section titles are my additions. Page references from Volume 1 are included for those wishing to study these topics further.

What is a child? And first, let us consider where and what the little being is who is entrusted to the care of human parents. A tablet to be written upon? A twig to be bent? Wax to be moulded? Very likely; but he is much more--a being belonging to an altogether higher estate than ours; as it were, a prince committed to the fostering care of peasants (emphasis mine). Hear Wordsworth's estimate of the child's estate:--

"Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The soul that rises with us, our life's star,
Hath had elsewhere in its setting,
And cometh from afar;
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But in trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home:
Heaven lies about us in our infancy!...."

and so on, through the whole of that great ode, which next after the Bible, shows the deepest insight into what is peculiar to the children in their nature and estate. "Of such is the kingdom of heaven." "Except ye become as little children ye shall in no case enter the kingdom of heaven." "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" "And He called a little child, and set him in the midst." Here is the Divine estimate of the child's estate (See "The Child in the Midst," pp. 11, 12) . . .

How should a child be educated? It may surprise parents who have not given much attention to the subject to discover also a code of education in the Gospels, expressly laid down by Christ. It is summed up in three commandments, and all three have a negative character, as if the chief thing required of grown-up people is that they should do no sort of injury to the children: Take heed that ye OFFEND not--DESPISE not--HINDER not--one of these little ones . . .

How does one offend a child? The first and second of the Divine edicts appear to include our sins of commission and of omission against the children: we offend them, when we do by them that which we ought not to have done... An offence, we know, is literally a stumbling-block, that which trips up the walker and causes him to fall. Mothers know what it is to clear the floor of every obstacle when a baby takes his unsteady little runs from chair to chair, from one pair of loving arms to another. The table-leg, the child's toy on the floor, which has caused a fall and a pitiful cry, is a thing to be deplored; why did not somebody put it out of the way, so that the baby should not stumble? But the little child is going out into the world with uncertain tottering steps in many directions. There are causes of stumbling not so easy to remove as an offending footstool; and woe to him who causes the child to fall!....

The child has learned to believe that he has nothing to overcome but his mother's disinclination; if she choose to let him do this and that, there is no reason why she should not; he can make her choose to let him do the next thing forbidden, and then he may do it. The next step in the argument is not too great for childish wits: if his mother does what she chooses, of course he will do what he chooses, if he can; and henceforward the child's life becomes an endless struggle to get his own way; a struggle in which a parent is pretty sure to be worsted, having many things to think of, while the child sticks persistently to the thing which has his fancy for the moment.

The "must" behind the parent's actions.--Where is the beginning of this tangle, spoiling the lives of parent and child alike? In this: that the mother began with no sufficient sense of duty; she thought herself free to allow and disallow, to say and unsay, at pleasure, as if the child were hers to do what she liked with. The child has never discovered a background of must behind is mother's decisions; he does not know that she must not let him break his sister's playthings, gorge himself with cake, spoil the pleasure of other people, because these things are not right. Let the child perceive that his parents are law-compelled as well as he, that they simply cannot allow him to do the things which have been forbidden, and he submits with the sweet meekness which belongs to his age. To give reasons to a child is usually out of place, and is a sacrifice of parental dignity; but he is quick enough to read the 'must' and 'ought' which rule her, in his mother's face and manner, and in the fact that she is not to be moved from a resolution on any question of right and wrong . . .

How does one despise a child? We despise them, when we leave undone those things which, for their sakes, we ought to have done . . .

"Despise: to have a low opinion of, to undervalue"--thus the dictionary; and, as a matter of fact, however much we may delight in them, we grown-up people have far too low an opinion of children. If the mother did not undervalue her child, would she leave him to the society of an ignorant nursemaid during the early years when his whole nature is, like the photographer's sensitive plate, receiving momently indelible impressions?... But they should have the best of their mother, her freshest, brightest hours; while, at the same time, she is careful to choose her nurses wisely, train them carefully, and keep a vigilant eye upon all that goes on in the nursery . . .

How does one hinder a child? The most fatal way of despising the child falls under the third educational law of the Gospels; it is to overlook and make light of his natural relationship with Almighty God. "Suffer the little children to come unto Me," says the Saviour, as if that were the natural thing for the children to do, the thing they do when they are not hindered by their elders. And perhaps it is not too beautiful a thing to believe in this redeemed world, that, as the babe turns to his mother though he has no power to say her name, as the flowers turn to the sun, so the hearts of the children turn to their Saviour and God with unconscious delight and trust (See "Code of Education in the Gospels;" "Offending the Children;" "Despising the Children;" "Hindering the Children," pp. 12-20) . . .

This life of the soul, what is it? Communicated life, as when one lights a torch at the fire? Perhaps; but it is something more intimate, more unspeakable: "I am the Life"; "In Him was life, and the life was the light of men"; "Abide in Me and I in you." The truth is too ineffable to be uttered in any words but those given to us. But it means this, at least, that the living soul does not abide alone in its place; that place becomes the temple of the living God. "Surely the Lord is in this place, and I knew it not. How dreadful is this place!"

The Parent must present the idea of God to the Soul of the Child.--But this holy mystery, this union and communion of God and the soul, how may human parents presume to meddle with it? What can they do? How can they promote it? and is there not every risk that they may lay rude hands upon the ark? In the first place, it does not rest with the parent to choose whether he will or will not attempt to quicken and nourish this divine life in his child. To do so this is his bounden duty and service. If he neglect or fail in this, I am not sure how much it matters that he has fulfilled his duties in the physical, moral and mental culture of his child, except in so far as the child is the fitter for the divine service should the divine life be awakened in him. But what can the parent do? Just this, and no more: he can present the idea of God to the soul of the child. Here, as throughout his universe, Almighty God works by apparently inadequate means. Who would say that a bee can produce apple trees? Yet a bee flies from an apple tree laden with the pollen of its flowers: this it unwittingly deposits on the stigmas of the flowers of the next tree it comes to. The bee goes, but the pollen reamins, but with all the length of the style between it and the immature ovule below. That does not matter; the ovule has no power to reach the pollen grain, but the latter sends forth a slender tube, within the tube of the style; the ovule is reached; behold, then, the fruit, with its seed, and, if you like, future apple trees! Accept the parable: the parent is little better in this matter than the witless bee; it is his part to deposit, so to speak, within reach of the soul of the child some fruitful idea of God; the immature soul makes no effort towards that idea, but the living Word reaches down, touches the soul,--and there life; growth and beauty, flower and fruit . . .

The highest and most delicate duty. For here the similitude of the bee and the apple tree fails. The parent must not make blundering, witless efforts: as this is the highest duty imposed upon him, it is also the most delicate; and he will have infinite need of faith and prayer, tact and discretion, humility, gentleness, love, and sound judgement, if he would present his child to God, and the thought of God to the soul of his child . . .

We must Teach only what we Know.--How to select these few quickening thoughts of the infinite God? The selection is not so difficult to make as would appear at first sight. In the first place, we must teach that which we know, know by the life of the soul, not with any mere knowledge of the mind. Now, of the vast mass of the doctrines and the precepts of religion, we shall find that there are only a few vital truths that we have so taken into our being that we live upon them--this person, these; that person, those; some of us, not more than a single one. One or more, these are the truths we must teach the children, because these will come straight out of our hearts with the enthusiasm of conviction which rarely fails to carry its own idea into the spiritual life of another. There is no more fruitful source of what it is hardly too much to call infant infidelity than the unreal dead words which are poured upon children about the best things, with an artificial solemnity of tone and manner intended to make up for the want of living meaning in the words. Let the parent who only knows one thing from above teach his child that one; more will come to him by the time the child is ready for more . . .

Examples of quickening thoughts. Father and Giver.--"Our Father, who is in heaven," is perhaps the first idea of God which the mother will present to her child--Father and Giver, straight from whom comes all the gladness of every day. 'What a happy birthday our Father has given to my little boy!' 'The flowers are coming again; our Father has taken care of the life of the plants all through the winter cold!' 'Listen to the skylark! It is a wonder how our Father can put so much joy into the heart of one little bird.' 'Thank God for making my little girl so happy and merry!' Out of this thought comes prayer, the free utterance of the child's heart, more often in thanks for the little joys of the day counted up than in desire, just yet. The words do not matter; any simple form the child can understand will do; the rising Godward of the child-heart is the true prayer. Out of this thought , too, comes duty--the glad acknowledgement of the debt of service and obedience to a Parent so gracious and benign--not One who exacts service at the sword's point, as it were, but One whom His children run to obey.

The Essence of Christianity is Loyalty to a Person.--Christ, our King. Here is a thought to unseal the fountains of love and loyalty, the treasures of faith and imagination, bound up in the child. The very essence of Christianity is personal loyalty, passionate loyalty to our adorable Chief. We have laid other foundations--regeneration, sacraments, justification, works, faith, the Bible--any one of which, however necessary to salvation in its due place and proportion may become a religion about Christ and without Christ. And now a time of sifting has come upon us, and thoughtful people decline to know anything about our religious systems; they write down all our orthodox beliefs as things not knowable. Perhaps this may be because, in thinking much or our salvation, we have put out of sight our King, the divine fact which no soul of man to whom it is presented can ignore. In the idea of Christ is life; let the thought of Him once get touch of the soul, and it rises up, a living power, independent of all formularies of the brain. Let us save Christianity for our children by bringing them into allegiance to Christ, the King. How? How did the old Cavaliers bring up sons and daughters, in passionate loyalty and reverence for not too worthy princes? Their own hearts were full of it; their lips spake it; their acts proclaimed it; the style of their clothes, the ring of their voices, the carriage of their heads--all was one proclamation of boundless devotion to their king and his cause (Colleen's note: The Cavaliers are studied in AmblesideOnline Year 3!). That civil war, whatever else it did, or missed doing, left a parable for Christian people. If a Stuart prince could command such measure of loyalty, what shall we say of "the Chief amongst ten thousand, the altogether lovely"?...

The Indwelling of Christ is a thought particularly fit for the children, because their large faith does not stumble at the mystery, their imagination leaps readily to the marvel, that the King Himself should inhabit a little child's heart. 'How am I to know He is come, mother?' 'When you are quite gently, sweet, and happy, it is because Christ is within,--

"And when He comes, He makes your face so fair,
Your friends are glad, and say, 'The King is there."

I will not attempt to indicate any more of the vital truths which the Christian mother will present to her child; having patience until they blossom and bear, and his soul is