AmblesideOnline Conference Notes

Sheri's and Katie's detailed notes from speakers at the conference

LOTS of NOTES! There are gaps, but I wrote feverishly - it all helps me process!! I know there are likely errors and omissions, but until the tapes come, hope this helps someone.

7/31/05 conference

Lynn Bruce: This was first time they'd all met each other in person!

Leslie Noelani: Went through detailed history of Wanted to do the best of Books from Books Children Love, For Children's Sake, 100 Great Books List, For Children's Sake, Catherine Levison, Andreola, Penny Gardner, perhaps more. Wanted a cream of the crop lists.

Wanted stiff, high quality curriculum - all for free No matter what your means, a quality education available for all, no matter where you live Wanted rigorous, classical education balanced with - fully accessible to all.

Started to put on-line with others' help - got a few questions/critiques from Anne White, Leslie Smith,

Never envisioned this to be a work of God, and that God was working through us

Amazingly found the first e-mail that said "Hey Karen, I have an idea."

Charlotte Mason/AKA Donna-Jean Beckenridge

Wordsworth quote - Our birth is a sleep and a forgetting. "...Trailing clouds of glory do we come from God... of such is kingdom of heaven ... and he is called a little child."

Education in the gospels - summed up with 3 commandments Do no injury to the children: offend not, despise not, hinder not. Covers all the help we can give.

Three Laws are prohibitive. What we may not do shows what we must do. Our sins of commission and omission. Despise when leave undone, what we ought not to have done. Clear obstacles - so baby may not stumble. There are causes of obstacles that cannot be moved.

Display of feeling/conscious before human teachings can have taken place.

Some parents say I want, I don't want, I like, I don't like.

Curse of lawless heart. Here a little. There a little. That which is naughty may be done with impunity. Child realizes that whether it can be done depends on if mother chooses to overlook or not. Thus then child sees if mom can do, I can do.

Mother began with no sufficient sense of duty as if child were "hers" to do as she likes. Mother must not allow to do what is not right. Parents can't allow to do what is not ok to do. Right and wrong - parents must not be budged.

May cause Stumbling blocks. Unventilated rooms. Intellectual life ruined. Dawdling. Girls - an aversion to mental work.

Don't put off the evil day. Do when he is very little. Rather keep watch at the opening of the waters. Not too young - deal with the child on the first offense - to let him go on - the cure is a slow one, because then then it is a contrary habit.

Most fatal way to despise is 3rd law - to overlook and make light of the natural relation with God. The thing they do when not hindered by adults. Hearts of children turn to God with unconscious delight. Present the idea of God to the soul of a child. Discussed about how the bee goes but the pollen remains and about the apple tree. The ovule has no power to get the pollen. The parent deposits within the reach of a child. The living word reaches down and touches the soul. Parent must not make blundering efforts - as this is the highest duty imposed on him. He will have infinite need. No unreal, dead words. Artificial tone, to make up for lack of meaning in words. Teachings are to be rare and special. Regular and progressive. A holy moment felt by mother and child. Words deeply spoken - a few words sent from the soul of the parent to the soul of a child.

Don't bury the text under comments. The word is a vital force - it will take root.

We should implant a love of the word. Most delightful moments - should be reading of the word. Don't read at a child. Thank God for making my little girl so happy. How can God put so much love in the heart of the little bird? What a happy birthday God has given my little one.

Not service with a pointed sword, but so that they run to obey.

Personal loyalty.

Moments of misery following wrongdoing then mother tells child - Jesus saves us from our sins - gentle, sweet, happy. Christ is within. The King is there.

Donna-Jean said this was all taken directly from Charlotte Mason's writings. 6 volumes - largely from CM's lectures. Donna Jean has 3 children.

Wendi - Living Books

Pride and Prejudice: Lucy Steele appears to be a friend - tiny hints and clues to know that she is not what she seems to be - using you.

Wendi appreciates using a book rather than real life to teach come lessons.

Minds kindled by living books - reach out to others with what we have learned. Give children sparks to build on, grow from - impart ideas that enlargen minds. Can't be watered down. Not belittling. Not simplified and diluted - as if we think they can't understand. They need to spend more time with the material - think about it. If it's too easy, they don't take it in - work it through. Must be well written. Must ponder.

Phyllis McGinley - wrote 50 years after CM - Sixpence in her Hand. She wrote tastes are forming - need accomplished style, honest motivation, characters sufficiently drawn. Not limp, mediocre, humdrum with mechanical plots.

There is only one test for a book - can it be read without pain by an adult?

Children hunger after knowledge that can only be found in good literature. Plot is a vehicle to carry out all the rest. It is like a tourist who goes overseas and eats at McDonalds. (I missed - what is? Non-living books?)

Karen Glass - What to do with living books: Narration - not exotic - Natural - part of everyday life. But need to make more disciplined. Structured - like having a balanced diet.

Requires attention - you must plan for it and they must give their attention to it.

Hit and miss is not worthless, but it won't give you the results that it could give you. Charlotte Mason read Quintillian and Erasmus, and drew from them. Quintillian was a Roman orator - was a bible for how schools were conducted during Renaissance time - rhetoric - "At this age be bold, prone to delight" - it is easy to correct exuberance - barrenness, no toil can overcome." Erasmus - substance must be presented in pupil's own way.

Narration is oral composition. Practicing writing. Regularly. Part of every week. A CM lesson without narration is wasted. Building habit of putting thoughts into words.

Must teach to type. Mavis Beacon - 3 times a week.

At age 10 - written narration - it will be shorter -there will be punctuation and spelling errors. (once a week a term or 2, then 2 times a week, then 3 times. It's working, even though it may seem not to be. Matters not the quantity, but the quality of thinking. Don't start written, until done orally several years. At age 10, maybe a couple lines. At age 12, maybe a half a page.

Around age 12 or 13, become more aware of writing styles.

It then becomes a craft than can be refined.

A 15 year old boy or a 12 year old girl - may have the same level - it is a maturity thing. Formal composition should not start until then (until the maturity level is there) where you ask them to compare/contrast - write about the meaning of life, etc. Maybe at age 11, 12, 13 editing can begin. Maybe a pater ever couple of weeks.

At very young age - nothing abstract, nothing concrete. It is harnessing a tool - Discipline self to make a part of their educational process.

Strongest grammar could have - central foundation. Take the CM vision and bring to reality. Without it, a lot of pictures, music, great books will slide by.

They must think. They must put into words. Advise to look for substances - nouns - specific concrete items - and count them - An exam after 10-12 weeks of study with say 100 "things" that had meaning to them - they learned an incredible amount.

It's ok with multiple kids, to ask another child to narrate, too. Narrate yourself sometimes, especially for younger.

The first times, students may not know what is expected. Use the word "narration" - make it part of the family vocabulary.

Length of the narration is not important.

Trust the process.

It is the BEST language arts curriculum - use it all the way through. And it is Free and Natural and it will astonish you with the kind of writers that it will produce.

All notes from Question and Answer time - very informal and wonderful:

Standardized testing? There seemed to be consensus that everyone is different. No one recommended source, if used. Kids that were tested all do well on CM/AmblesideOnline curriculum.

When to begin formal grammar? Through the 4th grade - learn the 8 parts of speech easily - thru Mad LIbs maybe, through Ruth Heller books, etc. Grammar is a finite subject. Then at 8th grade, could do one solid year and then after that use a handbook to refer to.

CM Education is publishing a new Charlotte Mason magazine. Wendi is going to have an upcoming article in it.

Benefits of Tripod series? Themes in 7th year (which are better for child to discover by self, not to be told) of liberty and freedom and that freedom is worth fighting for. Not giving up control of self over to another.

Donna-Jean Beckenridge Narration - keep with the discipline. No book or lessons goes completely unnarrated in some form for her family - act out, ask her questions, etc - all varies - sometimes if it is a speech, daughters could do oral narration - notes narration - round robin letter, etc.

Make become a habit from something small - some passion.

Narration is just telling about. For her son, she types what he said and reads it back to him. She writes "Narration by the work of _____________"

Let it come from the child. Encourage without correcting.

Wendi has 7 children. If some of the children weren't reading alone, one would not read aloud various years.

Can you teach all in the same year? YES - do what you want to do. Advisory are not CM police. Do what works.

AO is a group of 2,000 people - can't discuss alternate suggestions on the list. There are infinite substitutions. The main elements of which year is that it challenges the older, and does not scare the younger. There is no one perfect answer.

If an older child is just starting AO, then should have 2 years under belt doing oral narrations before written. Written narration will never replace oral.

When they start listening to readings with a glaze - ask for a narration. Stop reading at the right time - leave them hungry.

Have listeners all "think" they could be called on to do narration - maybe draw from names - maybe go from child to child.

Make sure you do not see children 2 years apart for example as equals. Giving narrations at the same time, all the time, may make their self-esteem suffer. Be sensitive to child's needs. Don't want them to have to endure listening to olders all the time - and think, why should I bother - they're always better than me?

Keep finger on pulse of child.

Ok to hear older - good learning experience - but not everyday.

Lynn Bruce - on Scheduling Now that you put feet on it and live your life -

Education is a life - it is not about getting through all the squares (schedule) - you are designing your child's life - Your schedule is your child's world.

Don't have 3 subjects in a row of writing, then reading for 2 hours (unless child wants it this way). Have alternate types of energy.

You want your child to form a habit of living with grace. Create a space to have grace in life. Schedule should build character habits. For her, they get hard things out of the way first, so they can wallow in the fun. They do Bible first thing, and then Math next. (like she recommends not reading CM, Volume 1 first).

First thing in morning, they open all the windows - blow it all out - they need to breathe - even if it is 10 degrees out (???IN Texas???) She gives children a big glass of water each - their brains are dried out - get water back in those cells.

Remember your child's brain lives in your child's body.

See schedule as glorified life - must glorify God.

Make time for parents to pray individually with child.

Honor the child - her 6 year old has living room trampoline time and laps around the sofa in between learning times.

It's not about what MOM expects out of child's life.

Pay perfect attention. When mind beings to wander, do the right thing at the right time. Facilitate the joy of learning. God thought up Math. Learning is a way of loving Lord more.

Habit makes or breaks schedule.

Start slow, then layer in more. Lay down habit early for smooth and easy days.

Lynn started with having kids make cookies - paying perfect attention - Lynn did not get out of her chair. School must be like that. She felt they needed to know that they needed to listen to her. Discuss with children why it is important. Used Bible Truths for School Subjects - why math is important, why handwriting is important, etc.

Make them think about how to do work quickly and efficiently. Establish bigger pictures for them.

Have Velcro Days to fix bad habits. Have a child "stuck" to you - get habits fixed - eh - socks off the floor - by the end of the week, they are pretty motivated to improve.

Don't allow younger ones to "wander off." "Tell your brain to get back with me."

Schedule time for kids to ponder - time to mediate - time to wander and wonder.

It is a world full of shallow people because our culture never gets off the treadmill to meditate.

Scheduling is a means to a goal and not the goal itself.

The Goal is RELATIONSHIPS! Education is the science of relationships. Relationships with you, people, the material, God, wisdom, knowledge.

Preserve it!

Go through your scheduling with the goal of forming relationships with the material. IF you want to pass on your values to your children, this is where it happens. Make time to say the magic words: I love you. I think you're wonderful. I'm so glad you're mine.

Karen Glass: Scheduling is really about order.

Gave excellent example of glass jar with trying to put in big rocks, when you've already put in sand, pebbles, small rocks, etc. Need to put the big things in life in first - otherwise, time will not be there to put them in as the little things are quick to fill up the jar first.

Schoolwork is not to be done around the edges of the "important" things like laundry and lunch.

Most important is what am I going to do. Set goals for yourself - Have a plan. In ordering your world - plan for you. Important books for you, scriptures for you.

Bring order.

She leaves times off children's schedule. About 9 or 10 years old, she doesn't do for them.

Start where you are.

A mind stretched by a new idea never returns to its prior dimension.

Volume 6 - "The teacher who allows scholars the freedom of .... book ... is at liberty to be their spiritual guide .... Forcible education feeding." (this quote needs to be looked up and corrected!)

We're doing same thing (her children and her) we're on the same path - she is just a little ahead of them.

God gave our life - noone else has particulars like ours.

Karen has no library there in Poland. She and we must use what we have available to us.

Order life to our own circumstances. We can't worry about how others are able to do it - Focus on where we are - what Lord has given us -

Donna Jean Take baby steps. She is good at making schedules, because she has made so many of them! Don't despise the small things. Her belief has always been, why do something moderately, when you can do it to excess?

Instead - do it small, doe it consistently.

Picture study - she does on Tuesday at lunch - show the picture - then hide it - and tell me about it. Then hang it on the wall for a week. That's it. No biography, no workbook.

Her daughter Bethany has been to the National Council of Arts, Metro. Museum of Art, Art Inst. of Chicago, Louvre, Sistine Chapel.

All looks good on her life transcript. (ask about this)

Nature Study - Monday at lunch - usually a walk - in the yard, on the street. Look for signs of spring, listen for birds, do the Great American Bird

Count. Sometimes notebooks, sometimes not.

Composer study - don't use cassettes - use cd's. If you don't know the piece, how do you know where it starts?

Does bible at breakfast. During chore, she does hymn, patriotic song, or composer.

A passion small, done consistently, yields a harvest.

After midmorning snack, she reads 1 poem every day. She reads Flanders Fields around Memorial Day every year.

Narration is passion to her. LISTENING is the other side of narration. She has child read to her, rather than her read written narrations. Doesn't see the errors that way. That way she hears her child's "voice."

A pattern brick here, there. Break it down into small, simple doable steps and reap the harvest. Sometimes the harvest is hidden.

Wendi: Aim high, but not a burden.

Each Advisory member has brought different elements to AO.

Notice who your family is and work with YOUR life.

CM schedule - heres is written - she sat and read at the Library of Congress - what woman wrote 100 years ago is still applicable today.

CM went 6 days at school, though the 6th day was generally a half day. Something like 9 to 1 then lunch then afternoon free time.

Whatever your special circumstances are - it will change. Families will change - rhythm will change.

Your schedule is your Plan B.

Tips - what works at one stage, may not work the next. Sometimes she's had olders read to youngers (scheduled) She has olders do something with her each day. Sometimes she has read to children at lunch and eats later herself. Poetry at lunch is good. Do what works for your family. Read separately or together - whatever works. Habit gives them tools for self-control. Lay down lines of habit when you don't want to do it. Make good behavior habitual. Doing nothing is also forming that habit. Influence their habits for good. "Education is the formation of habits." Teach to own up to what you've done - you clean up your messes. Train the early shoots.

Donna-Jean It takes courage. It is really hard (parenting, homeschooling) Pain, worry, fear cannot coexist with gratitude. Thank God for blessings and the difficult times. Homeschooling is an exciting challenge. Sometimes you just ask "How can I get through this day?" Joy of the Lord is my strength. Joy is just not GIVEN to you. It takes courage. (I cannot do justice to all that she said here - I was busy with my tissues!)

Lynn Bruce Has been homeshcooling for 12 years. One of her favorite quotes (incomplete) - "The question is not how much ... knows but how much does he care, .... how many orders ... and how large is the room that he has his feet set in and how .... the world is before him."

That room is lots bigger than she ever thought it would be.

An aim in education is to give a full life. Immense number of interests. Life should be all living and feeling. All thinking. All living.

Whatever we see, hear, ... is of vital interest. Not bumping through life bored.

Education is the science of relationships.

Books will broaden their reality - kids will have a relationship to those times they have read of. You will set your child's feet in a large room. You will feed them richly in great ideas - make them think it through - their thinking will be agile, complex, and fascinating. You will love being an old lady around them!

You will raise a person that does not require entertaining.

P. 331 - Volume 6 - "Only as he has been and is nourished upon books is a man able to 'live his life.' A great deal of mechanical labour is necessarily performed in solitude; the miner, the farm-labourer, cannot think all the time of the block he is hewing, the furrow he is ploughing ; how good that he should be figuring to himself the trial scene in the Heart of Midlothian, the 'high-jinks' in Guy Mannering, that his imagination should be playing with 'Ann Page' or 'Mrs. Quickly,' or that his labour goes the better 'because his secret soul a holy strain repeats.' People, working people, do these things. Many a one can say out of a rich experience, 'My mind to me a kingdom is.'"

 No matter what life calls them, tedious, etc. they don't need to be bored.

It will make a difference in the way your children play.

Just have fun. It is going to work.

You will connect with your kids. It may look like an endless journey, but you are going to have fun. You will raise fascinating people. Their vicarious experiences will prepare them for life.

Narrating - you will discuss with each other - You will teach the 2 most important things - who God is, and who you are.

It is a process - you reveal yourself to them - they feel respected and cared for - they reveal back to you. As the two of you understand, you begin to grow. It is all about connecting to them. This is one of the fruits.

Kinship of common knowledge.

Taking them on vicarious journey of the world.

CM - volume 3 - in proportion to the range of living relationships we put in his way - fullness of joy in living - Can learn laws and joys of work.

She wants us to leave inspired to have fun with our families.

Don't be too busy, with the business of having children. At times when everything gets escalated, go to the den or whatever, and just sit down on the floor and wait. Just sit without your math book and wait. Wait for what is to come to come. Hold them till they let go. Sit with family.

Don't let that wedding china sit and collect the dust of idolatry.

Make traditions. The things we do.

She has pizza and games on Fridays. Simple things like Grilled cheese and pickles and apples on Sunday. Something simple - then read poetry.

Commonality of connections. You have to care to have traditions.

Have a Ceilidh - a party in Scotland - you cannot come unless you are prepared to contribute in some way. It is silly and fun.

Feast with families - do it regularly.

Enjoy the good things in life.

What matters? Find joy in the wife of your youth. Joy in the work of your hands. Food and drink. Ecclesiastes

Fullness of life.

Respect - mutual respect - shared ideas - shared hearts. Nothing more beautiful than a family that respects each other and has conversations.

"The mind is a spiritual octopus ..."

Sheri Bowland

The AmblesideOnline Conference in Allen, Texas yesterday was wonderful! It was so neat to get to see what the Advisory and the other ladies who post on the lists look like, and to hear the beautiful messages given to us by the Advisory ladies.

After Lynn introduced the Advisory members, Leslie L told us the story of how AmblesideOnline got started. It began with her and an idea she shared with Karen. She detailed the journey from simple booklist, to the PUO, to the gathering of additional Advisory members, and finally to AmblesideOnline. What a wonderful thing has been created because of her idea and the blessings of the Lord! I'm so glad she decided to pursue it. There is no way our family could obtain a CM education for our kids if we had to look for the books ourselves. There would be no time to study the CM philosophy! (I would truly be a mess.) This program is such a blessing to us.

After Leslie was done, we had a very special guest. It was "Charlotte Mason!" (Donna-Jean in full costume and character--I hope they sell video tapes of the conference, because I've got to have this one!) She spoke on the Bible's educational mandates, which are: Take heed that ye OFFEND not----DESPISE not----HINDER not----one of these little ones. She made the words of Volume 1 come alive for us. I will never again read them without hearing her voice in my mind. What a dramatic talent she has. The presentation she made enabled us to envision what the parents and teachers of the Parents' Union Schools would have seen at the lectures Miss Mason gave before she wrote her books, which were largely based on her lectures.

We took a break, at which time I wandered over to look at the pictures and resources that members had brought for others to see. I was able to meet a lot of ladies I have visited with online. (Colleen M stayed in our home and we have had such a good visit. It was really a blessing!) There were a lot of people there who have never used AO and are considering it for fall. That surprised me.

People brought pictures, schedules, nature and other notebooks, a century chart, copywork, exams... it was wonderful to see, and sometimes a little discouraging to me to look at all the detailed things other people spent their time doing. I was beginning to get a little overwhelmed when I wandered over to the Advisory table, and there was Wendi's notebook. It is a simple thing, handwritten looseleaf pages put into a binder. Sometimes she had a poem or idea on a page with just a "M, W, F" down at the bottom. Her schedule has no times or days, it is just an order in which to do subjects. It doesn't have to be fancy. Whew!

After our break, Wendi spoke to us on Living Books. This is a great subject for me, because I still cannot identify a living book unless I am at least halfway through reading it, which really isn't so efficient. She stated that a living book imparts ideas that enlarge our minds; that it isn't watered down; that a living book for children is well-written for children, but not written down to children; and that it's more than a good plot--it is how the plot is presented. (I still wasn't satisfied so after the conference I went to Wendi and confessed that I do not know how to spot a living book. She said the way to do it is to open the book to the first page and read a bit; then open the book to the middle and read a bit; then open it to the end and read a bit; and if you are interested in what is in the book at that point, it is probably a living book.  I still don't think I get it, because I'm pretty sure I would overlook great books even with that test--Robinson Crusoe for instance. I really can't get into that book and there it is, a classic. I guess I'll have to continue pondering the question, "How does one identify a living book?" Once again, I am so glad we have AO, because that means it's not up to me as much to find the living books!)

The next speaker was Karen. She spoke to us about narration, and the first thing she said was that narration isn't some kind of mysterious difficult thing. It is a natural activity people do all the time--when they see a good movie or something funny happens at the store, for instance, people will go home and tell about it.  That's narration. The narration CM encourages in her books is just a more disciplined form of a natural action.

One thing she said that stuck with me is that it requires attention and planning on the part of the teacher! (I've been so intent on having my students pay attention that I have forgotten my own job at times! Every so often a child will come to the end of a narration--"oral composition" is another phrase for it, Karen said-- and I will realize I have not heard a word of it, and cannot even say if I thought it was a good effort or not. It is at these times that I hope my eyes didn't glaze over, because how discouraging it is for someone to be telling something and realize the "audience" isn't listening! I'm going to have to wake up!!)

Karen mentioned some early teachers who used narration in their lessons way before Miss Mason was born. Quintillian commented that his students retellings were bold, inventive, exuberant, and perhaps not always accurate. (Accuracy is important. I want to correct my child if she says Benjamin Franklin was born in Virginia! How should we go about doing that? I am correcting inaccuracies after the telling is over. It just doesn't make sense to allow a child to continue in error.) Erasmus also advocated the reproduction of the lesson by pupils.

Karen also emphasized that narration done on a regular basis would give much better results than narrations done occasionally. (ie. If you are going to have the child narrate only once a week, do it once every week. Choose an amount of narration your family can work with and stick with it! Don't leave out narration for a couple of weeks, and then guiltily stick in a few the next week, none the next, a whole lot the week after that, etc. Be consistent. Develop a habit of narration!) Ideally, narration should take place after every lesson. CM considered a lesson without narration a lesson wasted. But if you can't do that, do what you can consistently. Don't try to have your kids narrate every book and then realize you are doing no narration because narrating everything is just too overwhelming to start with.

Written narrations should be something eased into gradually, using books with concrete events rather than a lot of abstract concepts. The first written narrations will be short and not so satisfying, but within a couple of years they will be writing more. The most important thing to look for is the quality of the thinking going on, rather than the quantity of writing. After a couple of years, as they become more aware of writing styles, begin formal composition.

As for evaluating narrations, Karen pointed to CM's way of counting "substantives" or nouns in her students' narrations. She found around 100 nouns per student exam. (I have to go to my kids' spring exams and count nouns now. I'm so glad I was able to type them out!)

I was ready for lunch when Karen was finished. We had sandwiches from Jason's Deli and visited, and then the Advisory came back with a lot of questions we had written down for them before lunch and began answering them. They only answered a few. One that I was thankful to hear the answer to was, "Since we are supposed to only allow one reading before narration, what do I do if my child asks me to please read a sentence again?" Karen laughed and said, "That poor child is paying so much attention--read him the question again!" Then the Advisory began to let us know that just because we want the child's attention doesn't mean that if the child sneezes and misses something we are to insist on not repeating a sentence. We know when our kids are beginning to have the "I don't have to listen to you" attitude, or are out the window staring at birdies. That is the attitude the single reading is supposed to address.  One of the ladies said the best cure for that is to watch your child while you are reading, and the moment they begin to give that attitude, put the book down and ask for a narration. That way they tell what they were listening to. Then you can read the rest of the selection until the eyes glaze over again, and ask for another. (I don't think this means read until their eyes glaze over--for instance, for an hour or so. I think it means plan a lesson of appropriate length for the age of your child, and if the child loses interest after the first two minutes, ask for a narration at that point. Then continue the lesson in small increments like that if necessary.  At another time during the conference, Lynn was talking about her sweet, energetic 6yo boy and how she will read a couple minutes, have him narrate, then ask him to run around the sofa a few times, then call him back and read and have him narrate, then ask him to jump on the trampoline a few times, etc.)

Then came the Scheduling portion of the conference, and I was so happy about that. None of the Advisory ladies really felt qualified to talk about scheduling and organization, but they gave it a shot, and I got a lot out of it. Karen said to remember that Mom is the first student in the home school, and to make sure each of us wrote a plan for our own study; she also recommended that the children begin to have a hand in the scheduling process beginning around age 9 or 10; and she said to remember that every family's circumstances are different, and we should order our lives according to our own circumstances and not do so much comparing.

Donna-Jean gave a wonderfully inspiring presentation on taking small steps. Her exact words were, "A passion broken down into something small, done consistently, yields a harvest." (I'm going to type out that quote and hang it over our piano. It is such a good one for the kids and I to look at while practicing.) She gave a lot of details from her personal life, especially about her oldest daughter, who has been blessed to travel and see a lot of the places and things Donna-Jean introduced her to through a CM education. I didn't take very many notes because I was so caught up in what she was saying. We all cried at the end when she told about her daughter being engaged to a young man, and asking her mom if the mother of the bride could also be the maid of honor. What a relationship they must have!

After Donna-Jean came Lynn, who reminded us that "Education is a Life." She emphasized connecting with your kids and encouraging your kids to connect with God. One way they do this in their home is that Lynn prays individually with her kids before their school day starts.

What stuck with me the most was her recommendation on what to do the first three days of school:

Day 1--Sit in a chair in the kitchen and announce that we are going to bake cookies for the first day of school. Stay in the chair the whole time and direct the project. The children get out ingredients and utensils, measure everything, mix and drop the cookie dough on the sheets, and put it in the oven. If they do not follow all of the directions there will not be cookies because they will be messed up. Have them fill the sink with soapy water and do clean up too. Then, over tea and cookies, discuss how everyone had to follow the directions or else there wouldn't have been cookies.

Day 2--Take out the schedule and discuss each subject and why it is important to the Lord. A useful book to have if you are doing this is _Bible Truths for School Subjects_.

Day 3--Walk through each child's day with them (talking, not actually doing the subjects) and use Socratic questioning to cause the child to think about the logistics of their schoolwork. (ie, "What is the best way to arrange your things if poetry comes right after math?" "If we are going outside to play for 15 minutes right in the middle of the school day, what do you think you need to do before the school day to make sure you get the most time playing outside for those 15 minutes?")

If your child has a bad habit that keeps cropping up, Lynn recommended what she called "Velcro days." This is simply a day when your child sticks right by your side and never leaves it, and you get her back on track every time she goes down the wrong path with whatever habit(s) she needs help with. (She said these are the days when you may need to call Daddy and ask him to bring home cheeseburgers, and not worry so much about the laundry.) You do this as many days as it takes to get the child back on track.

Another thing Lynn said was to allow time for the child to "ponder, wonder and wander" outside of lessons. This, she said, is insurance against shallow minds. And another favorite thing of mine is when she said that on those late afternoons when everything begins bubbling over into chaos, sometimes you just need to sit on the floor and wait for your kids to gravitate toward you with things to show or things to tell. And just listen and be their mom and their friend. And remember to tell them how much you love them, how wonderful you think they are, and how happy you are that they are yours.

More on scheduling.

Wendi advised us to aim high, but not to allow the schedule to become a burden, and, once again, Don't Compare Your Family With Others.

She also recommended that we be careful about comparing our schedule's with CM's, as the PNEU schools were in session six days per week, and even in the homeschools in those days, those Victorian mothers had housemaids, nursemaids, cooks, nursery maids and governesses.  (Now we go into the kitchen of a morning and converse with the Crockpot about what we should have for dinner--this reminds me of an interpretation I once had of Proverbs 31:15, which I later found out was a wrong interpretation, but it is still a true thought for us moms even if that is not what Proverbs 31:15 means: "She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household and a portion to her maidens." I thought the portion was work and in my house, the maidens would be my washing machine, dryer, dishwasher, crockpot-- any appliance that frees my hands up for more meaningful work about the house. For a time I greatly enjoyed getting up and starting the washing machine, dishwasher and crockpot.  I even considered giving them names. I had a hard time persuading My Honey that I was not taking a sabbatical from sanity, but hey, if it makes housework more fun, I'm all for it. .)

Wendi "encouraged" us by stating that once we get a schedule that works and everyone is used to, our family's needs will change. (I guess it is good to resign yourself to that going in.) And My Favorite Statement of the Conference was: Please remember the schedule is Plan B--what you do if nothing else happens to derail it. This means that what My Honey wants me to do that day is plan A; taking children to the ER is plan A; visiting with unexpected out of town company is plan A; taking the car yet again to the dealership for repairs is Plan A. (I know other people already know this, but for some reason I am so upset when My Schedule is ruined. My Honey often admonishes the children, saying things like, "Let's hurry and do this, so we don't ruin Mommy's Schedule." I am very much a planner and hate to be taken off my chosen track for the day. But there's the rub: it should be the Lord's track for our day, not my own, or even my husband's, and sometimes He doesn't reveal His track until it is upon us. But that means I'm not in control! )

Some other great ideas from Wendi were to schedule time for the older child(ren) to read aloud to the younger each day; stagger school subjects with playtime, which may make the schedule look longer, but will result in more content kids; helping the younger children with habit-forming, which yields great results in the area of self-control-- she pointed out that we are already forming habits in them even if we just let them alone. We might as well take a little extra effort and form good ones.

We took another break and wandered the room. I was impressed by Lisa E's and Susan B's kids' journals. Lisa's children had beautiful, artistic nature journals and had never taken an art lesson-- she just bought them art/drawing books whenever they saw one they liked. Susan's kids' journals were imaginative and sweet, a combination of copywork and nature study. I would like for my girls to get to know her girls, which really could happen since we are both living in the same area.

After the break, Lynn and Donna-Jean took turns encouraging us with what lies ahead in our journey toward independence and adult life for our kids.

First, Donna-Jean. She quoted scripture after scripture to encourage us to lean on the Lord. "He maketh me lie down in green pastures." That means it is not a suggestion! Rest and appreciate the beauty around you! "The joy of the Lord is my strength." "Paul... thanked God and took courage." "In everything give thanks." Be thankful in every situation and be brave. The end is already known! "Rejoice in the Lord."

She also detailed her morning prayer walks for us. I could actually do this most days. What a great idea! Fresh air, exercise, all by myself with the Lord in the early morning, which is a great time of day, full of possibilities. Donna-Jean said she sometimes starts out with tears streaming down her face in frustration, yet ends shouting praises to the Creator of heaven and earth (not out loud, but in her heart--she is not comfortable making a spectacle of herself.).

Then Lynn gave us a Vision of the Future. She said that education in more than just the three R's will set our children's feet in a large room--that room being the child's mind. "My mind to me a kingdom is." Poetry, art, music, great books, will make our children interesting people. We, as parents, ought to initiate contact for our kids with these things because who knows what will generate interest in the child's mind. Our job is to help them establish relationships with the many beautiful and noble aspects of life and creation, so that no matter where they go or what they do, they will have a joyfully abundant thought life. She recommended establishing feasts and traditions that our children will be able to hang onto when life is uncertain, pointing out that the Lord commanded the children of Israel to feast regularly in the Old Testament. Some of her family's traditions: the Ceilidh (pronounced "kay-lee"? Someone please correct me if I'm wrong, I was a little unclear on this.), which is a party where everyone at the party has to contribute something to the entertainment; having regular meals around the dining room table with the good china (she called wedding china that sits in the cupboard and is never used, "the china of idolatry" because most times the lady of the house loves it too much to sacrifice it for the good of her family. I have a "tea set of idolatry," but perhaps that will change.); and teatime, with poetry, good music and conversation. She gave us wonderful examples of the fruit she has seen in her children.

Afterward we had a reception and visited, then cleaned up and went to Andrea Rodarte's beautiful home for pizza and cheesecake. It was crowded, loud and wonderful.

One last thing I left out: after lunch, Karen gave an exercise in narration. We were to listen to her read aloud from a portion of scripture, and then narrate it to the person sitting next to us.  I thought I didn't need to participate because I do written narrations of things I read all the time and I thought I understood the possibility of anxiety in my children where narration was concerned. Not so. It is a very different thing to realize you only have one chance at listening to something, and then have to narrate aloud with Someone Watching You Expectantly. Okay, I now understand better the apprehension my kids experience at narration time! They sure are brave souls.

My thanks are extended to the wonderful Advisory, and especially Lynn, who did an exemplary job of coordinating and emceeing. You ladies are such a blessing to me and my family!

In Love,
Katie Barr