Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Mother Culture

I missed the Charlotte Mason blog carnival this time around but wanted to highlight a few things. The topic is mother culture and I hope you'll click on the button on the right side of my blog to read some of the entries. But if you don't please at least read this post on living, learning and...loving. This is a new blog to me but I will be back. This post is one of the post explanations I have ever heard of what "mother culture" is in Charlotte Mason's terms. I found it so encouraging, positive and inspirational. Reading it is itself mother culture!

And if your wondering my mother culture is derived from reading the blogs you see in my blogrolls as well as handicrafts and time out doors. I'm so thankful God has provided me with these ways to grow and learn.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

First in the Hearts of His Countrymen

According to the Federal Government this day is really Washington's Birthday observance. Many people traditionally view this as a day to remember both Washington and Lincoln whose birthday also falls in February. And still others choose to remember all Presidents of the United States on this day. No matter how you choose to celebrate this day here are some resources.

Face of Lincoln is a very interesting informational film that older children might enjoy...parent's too! Here is some information from archive.org where the 21 minute film can be downloaded.

Presents Professor Merrell Gage, retired head of the Department of Sculpture at the University of Southern California, describing the life and career of Abraham Lincoln as he sculpts a lifelike bust of the 16th President, making physical changes in the subject's hair, beard and expression to correspond to events in Lincoln's life.

Biographies of all the presidents are on the White House website.

A REALLY fun book is George Washington's Cows. You'll never believe what all those cows get up to.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Great Backyard Bird Count

Birdwatching is very popular in our house. Especially in the winter months when it's hard to go outside sometimes because of temperatures that are too low or high winds. So this year we are going to use one of our favorite activites to help scientists in gaining an overview of birds in our area. The Great Backyard Bird Watch starts on Friday February 15 and continues through the 18th. It takes as little as 15 minutes to participate. During that time you write down the birds you see and then turn them in here.

At the main site you'll find a page devoted to kids activities. There are also lots of online guides and tools here. The whole site has lots of interesting information so I urge you to check it out.

If birdwatching and study interests you and you'd like to continue there are lots of resources on line to help you. We have a bird book for our area and some binoculars next to the window we look out most. Some days my kids will draw pictures of a bird they saw in their nature notebook with the date and bird's name. If you want to get fancy, Notebookingpages.com is currently giving away a really nice Bird Study set with great pages for kids to fill in information about birds in general as well as the specific birds they see. Just go to their site and join their newsletter and you can receive the link for free.

Whether or not you take part in the GBBC I hope you will encourage your children to learn more about the birds in your area. It's a great winter time activity!

Valentine's Day

The Collectible Valentine Index at About.com is a treasure trove of images and information for collectible Valentine's. Also on About.com find activites for babies and toddlers (and older children too) for Valentine's Day here.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Tasty Valentines!

Last year my daughter made these peppermint heart Valentines. I believe I got the idea from Martha Stewart but I'm not sure. But they are simple to make. Take your leftover candy canes and arrange them on a baking sheet with a silpat mat or another nonstick surface. Place them in a 350 degree oven until they start to melt and run together. Don't let them spread out too much. IMMEDIATELY pull them out and stick a lollipop stick (you can get them at craft or candy supply stores) at the bottom. Let them cool and then they come right off the mat.

My daughter made her own little tags as you can see and slipped them on the sticks and then placed each one in a ziploc baggie. I will warn you that they are VERY brittle and will shatter easily so carry them carefully. Great way to use up old candy canes, do a craft with your kids AND have unique, handmade valentine suckers!!

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Preparing for Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day is such a fun holiday. A day for celebrating love. I've collected together some links to help you celebrate Valentines day.

First, my favorite Valentine's Day Book is Love Is... by Wendy Halperin. The text is from the King James Bible and the illustrations are stunning. I love Wendy Halperin's books and I recommended them highly. This one I should read every morning no matter what day it is.

Tentwo studios is hosting her annual Valentine's Day Countdown. Each day you can download a different paper ephemera.

Story Nory has a delightful story on the origins of Valentine's Day.

Betsy McCall Paper Dolls are fun no matter what holiday it is.

Try out these finger knitted Valentine flowers. This site also has video instructions for finger knitting and several other nice tutorials.
Valentine Notebooking pages are nice for doing school work on, journaling or sending a letter.

Origami Valentine Hearts are a unique way of presenting an expensive but show stopping valentine.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

A Giveaway!!!

Tanisha at The Homemaker's Journal is celebrating her 100th post with a giveaway. And what a giveaway it is!! She really has some wonderful items. Go check them out and give her a comment and see if you can win something! And even if you don't her blog is a gift in itself.

Monday, February 04, 2008

In Case You Were Going to IHOP

They have decided to postpone their free pancake day until NEXT Tuesday, February 12. According to their website:

In 2008, Fat Tuesday falls on February 5, which also happens to be Super Tuesday, on which a record number of states will hold their Presidential primaries. In the interest of embracing the democratic process, IHOP has postponed its celebration of National Pancake Day by one week, and will give away free pancakes on February 12.

Just wanted you to know.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Valerie's Living Books!

Eileen at 8 - George Soper

I have blogged on Valerie's Living Books in the past but I just learned that Valerie has recently updated her site. Valerie's Living Books is a fantastic resource not only to buy quality children's books but also to become more informed about them. Valerie graciously provides information on quality books gleaned from her years of homeschooling her 11 children in her information pages. These pages contain recommendations to many praiseworthy books and book series for children. I highly recommend you check them out. And if you find something you like do take the time to see if Valerie has it. I've purchased from her before and the product is always excellent. AND you get to support her homeschool. Go check it out!

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Love of Nature

An important part of the Charlotte Mason educational philosophy is Nature Study. Here are some quotes about Nature Study from Miss Mason's own writings taken from this page.

Let [children] once get touch (sic) with nature, and a habit is formed which will be a source of delight through his life.” --Home Education, pg. 61

“We must assist the child to educate himself on Nature’s lines, and we must take care not to supplant and crowd out Nature and her methods with that which we call education. Object-lessons should be incidental; and this is where the family enjoys a great advantage over the school. The child who finds that wonderful and beautiful object, a “paper” wasp’s nest…has his lesson on the spot from father or mother.” –Parents and Children, pg. 182

“…It is unnecessary in the family to give an exhaustive examination to every object…” --Parents and Children, pg. 183

Now, my parents had never heard of Charlotte Mason and I was not homeschooled, but they definitely were in sync with her idea of Nature Study. It really started with my beloved Grandpa. My Grandpa grew up in the hills of Southern MO. The kind of place where it is beyond dark when there is no moon because of the shadow of the hills. As a boy he ran all over those hills, sometimes for fun and often out of necessity. For him understanding nature was not only a way of life, but necessary for survival. As a parent he imparted a great deal of this knowledge to my father and my father to me. And the most fun was walking in the woods with both of them! This is how it would go. We walk along a trail and just as a part of conversation I'd hear, "there's a Sassafras tree...look at that red squirrel...there goes a rabbit must have a nest nearby...." It was all just a part of the conversation, something interesting to look at and talk about. Not a stilted lesson on nature but the passing of knowledge nonetheless.

When my husband and I were discussing having children he said, "I want you to teach them all about plants." I was surprised as I had never thought of myself as knowing all about plants. And truthfully I don't know all about them, but as my children grew and we went on the walks that I loved to go on I found myself pointing out things just as my Grandfather and father had. It had become a part of who I was. As Miss Mason says "a habit" had been formed. And I'm so thankful that God blessed me with people in my life who gave me the habit because it has been a source of endless delight.

So the nature walks and the interest in nature were "natural" to me (hee, hee, couldn't help myself). But the second part of Miss Mason's philosophy on nature study was not. That being the nature notebook, a place for a child (or adults) to draw and write observations. A journal of their observations. So, I took the easy way out as I always do. I bought a blank page notebook and set it down in front of my daughter who loves to draw and said, "this is for you to draw pictures of things you see in nature." And when we are looking out the window in winter at birds as we love to do I'll say, "wow, you should draw that in your nature notebook," and she will. Then I'll say, "you should write the name and the date that you saw it so you don't forget," and she will. Now, I rarely have to prompt her (following Miss Mason's idea that the parent should be involved in this process only a little) as she loves to do it and she enjoys looking back and saying, "oh remember when we saw that turtle?" or "here's the groundhog we saw that day!" Simple really.

ummmm....yeah....even bagworms....

So it really is as simple as that. Give your children time out of doors. Share your own love of nature with them, but give them time and space to make that love their own. Provide them with paper and time to record the things they see. It's a very praiseworthy endeavor.

Look here to see how another mother implements Charlotte Mason's Nature Study

And just so you know...my mother is an exceptional gardener and lover of nature and passed on so much of her valuable knowledge to me as well. I'm so very blessed with parents who love nature!

Friday, February 01, 2008


The season of Lent begins this Wednesday and I have been invited to take part in the Anglican Family Lent Carnival hosted by Kerry at A Ten O'Clock Scholar with help from Jeanne of At A Hen's Pace. They have asked us to share the following on our blogs:

How do you observe Lent in your personal and family life?
What traditions do you find most meaningful?
What new spiritual disciplines might you undertake or which ones would you commend to others?
How do you bring young ones on the path with Jesus through the desert-season of Lent?

First let me tell you that I am not an Anglican. I was raised in the Episcopal church and attended with my parents for most of my life. Currently I attend a conservative, evangelical, non-denominational church and you can find out all about that here. A few years ago I developed a passion for returning holidays to the holy days they were intended to be. I began exploring the roots of these special days and started using them to teach my children about our faith. I have found this a wonderful tool for turning our hearts to God and continually reminding us what He has done for us. So that brings me back to Lent....

The ancient church developed a calendar of special days to relive the events of Jesus' life. Lent is a period of 40 days before Easter that are meant to represent the 40 days that Jesus spent in the wilderness. It is a time of reflection and preparation for the celebration of a risen Saviour. You can find more information about Lent here and here.

Since we will have a break in the weather this weekend, I'll be getting a few things ready in our house for helping us to observe this time. In my home I place a wreath with thorns in my kitchen with a purple candle. Last year my wreath was made with rose canes but this year I collected some thorns from Hawthorne tree that I will use. I was thinking today about this wreath and how strange it may seem to place it out. For me it is a reminder of how our Lord suffered for us. When I happened to look at it I found myself reflecting on that which helped me to keep my focus on Christ during that time.

I'll also take some time to clean up our Easter Garden that we made last year. My children particularly enjoyed this aspect of the season. I'll talk more about that in later posts.
As always there will be special foods! On Shrove Tuesday we will have pancakes and we will talk about how Christians used this day to get rid of the rich food products they wouldn't be eating during Lent. Which will lead us to a discussion of why some choose to fast during this time. We will make pretzels and hot cross buns on Good Friday.

My family really enjoys doing devotions centered around an advent wreath at Christmas and I would like to do weekly devotions during Lent as well. I like these devotions and we may read them while burning the candle in my wreath. Lighting a candle just seems to bring a formality and special warmth to devotions. Our devotions during advent ended with singing O Come Emmanuel and I'd like to find a hymn appropriate for Lent to end Lenten devotions. If you have suggestions please leave them in the comments!

And we will watch movies. Just like the church learned in the Middle Ages, people learn well through theatre. Our family will watch Jesus Christ Superstar , The Gospel of John, and The Ten Commandments. My husband and I will watch Mel Gibson's The Passion of The Christ. The Passion is difficult to watch but a masterful work of art.

So those are my plans. I'll let you know as we go along how we are doing and I welcome your comments about your activities as well.