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The fact seems to be that children are like ourselves, not because they have become so, but because they are born so; that is, with tendencies, dispositions, towards good and evil, and also with a curious intuitive knowledge as to which is good and evil.  Here we have the work of education indicated.  There are good and evil tendencies in body and mind, heart and soul; and the hope set before us is that we can foster the good so as to attenuate the evil; that is, on condition that we put education in her true place as the handmaid of Religion.

I found this quote in the book, For The Children's Sake (chapter three on Authority and Freedom), taken from Towards a Philosophy of Education (p. 46) which is volume 6 of the Charlotte Mason's homeschool series.  I have not ventured so far as to read many pages of the Charlotte Mason 6 volume set yet.  I found it very overwhelming at first (I bought it well over a year ago) but am now eager to begin again as soon as I am through with For The Children's Sake. I 'think' it's serving as a good prelude to Mason's own works.2015-04-01 15.36.44-2

I have reread the above quote over and over.  It resonates with me.  As the author, Susan Schaefer Macaulay, points out , "the first task of education is a moral one".  I wholeheartedly agree.  I can't possibly say I have educated my child if I ignore morals and the teaching of our faith and  don't spend time to foster the good heart that my child was born with as well as attempting to weaken the tendency to do wrong. So while I strive to offer my child all that I can in the way of reading skills, math skills, knowledge of history and science and the other academic areas, my ultimate goal is to weave our Orthodox Christian faith in God along with good habits and morals into those lessons and all parts of our day.

Bible, Religious Studies and Habit Training
Bible, Religious Studies and Habit Training

We do not start our day without morning prayer and our bible story.  It simply isn't done.  I feel I failed my older kids on this current determination of mine.  We often did our morning prayers as a family and occasionally did some bible reading, especially during Lent; however, too often we also skipped this important part of our day in our rush to an outside activity or the chaos of the morning.   My priorities are set right now.  Bible and prayer comes before any academics.  If I get nothing else done in a day, it must be that.

Right after bible stories with my younger son, we go over our habits list.  I printed out a list of habits that I want to currently instill in my son.  While Charlotte Mason followers believe in working on one habit at a time, I realize there are smaller habits that must be worked on continually.  So my list may be a little long, but it's the goals we are specifically targeting right now (my son is 5).

  • Say “Excuse Me, Please” when interrupting
  • Say “Please” and “Thank you” when asking for something
  • Do morning and evening chores daily
  • Always Hang Up Your Coat
  • Always put shoes in closet basket
  • Always put dirty clothes in laundry in hamper;
  • Pay Attention -  Always listen and only ask ‘what’ one time IF NEEDED. (Adults avoid repeated directions; say “Alexander, pay attention to what I’m about to say…)
  • Place tissues, wrappers and other trash in the garbage.
  • Use a fork or spoon when eating a meal.
  • Use a napkin to wipe your face and hands when eating.
  • Always be honest.
  • Be kind to others and our pets.
  • Always do the right thing even when you don’t want to do it.

As you can see, some of them are pretty basic while some are a bit vague.  Where is God in this?  Good Manners.  Kindness.  Honesty.  Always Do the Right Thing.  These are things taught in the bible.  When we talk about them, we talk about bible stories and what God wants for us.  We were made in His image.  What does that mean?  It means we are to be loving, kind, honest people who always strive to do the right thing.

Will my son always do the right thing?

No.

Do I?

No.

My son is a person.  Just like me.  And we are all sinners.

So what do I do when he falters?  Shall I chastise?  Shall I send him off to a corner? Tell him he's lazy or bad?

No.

Children can be helped to acquire habits of Godly beings.  The habits of being respectful, being honest, doing the right thing? They need to be modeled.  So when he lapses in his own display of these moral habits, I must use the habits I'm tryining to instill in my approach of correction.  I must be kind.  I must respect and care for my child in a way that not only teaches, but fosters the love I want him to display.

It's not always easy.  I sometimes falter too.  And then what?

Apologize.

Always, Always, ALWAYS apologize to your kids when you have wronged them or fallen short of the habits you are trying to instill in them.  What good is it to tell someone what they must do if you do not display that habit yourself or to arrogant to admit your failures?

And now to my main point of this post:   Foster the Good!

When I notice my son has done something in accordance to these habits- I bestow praise.  I take notice.  "You put away the silverware so nicely today- it makes it so much easier for us to find a spoon when we need one."  "You were so kind to your friend at church today.  I'm sure you made him very happy."  "I like the way you said your prayers without jumping around today."  "THANK YOU for using good manners!"

We help a child the most when we notice and focus on their strong points and demonstrate a real liking and loving of his personhood. My son has an avid imagination. And he loves, loves, LOVES to draw and write!  There are signs and drawings posted all over our house.  That's one way I try to demonstrate a liking of his personhood.  I can do this by listening avidly to his wild crazy stories and by respecting his love of making all these signs and drawings.  As much as the clutter on the walls and fridge drive me insane (I'd much rather the fridge be bare!), I realize this allowance is honoring him for who he is. Eventually, they do get taken down, but there are ALWAYS MORE.

Appreciation of the person they are  helps them to learn self-respect and self-confidence.  We must love the person they ARE. The person they ARE was made in the image of God.  There IS good there and it must be recognized and tended to.  If I focus on all the times (and there's been plenty) he's drawn on the table, floor or wall, then I am not focusing on the good.  Rather I focus on the times he's done right and drawn and written marvelous things on paper- paper I must provide often so that he's not tempted to draw in the wrong places!

2015-03-27 21.11.36My son loves to be read to and he loves to play games and he loves to be a part of what I am doing and he LOVES me to be a part of what he's doing.  So I need to make sure these things are happening.  I need to make sure he is read to often (rarely a problem) and I need to make sure I sit down and play a game with him from time to time (a bigger problem I need to tackle) and I need to figure out more ways to let him be a part of helping me out through the day so that it doesn't kill my nerves. 😉  And I need to take a few minutes here and there to watch him and join him in his free play time.  All of these things are ways to show him love, respect and opportunities to practice the habits and moral attributes we are trying to teach.

As Susan Shaeffer Macaulay states, "...everything seems to come back to love and moral framework".   When we demonstrate the morals and values we want our children to have, when we treat them as persons and love them for who they ARE, they will shine.  Macaulay contends, and I agree, the curriculum is all that goes on outside of school hours as well as what we do in school.  It is the balance that counts as education takes place during all of the waking hours and in all of our waking actions- not just the math lesson, science lesson and bible reading.

We absolutely must foster the good in our child every day in every possible moment.

What are some ways you foster the good in your child?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2

 

I wasn't sure really what to call this post.... Chapter One?  No, because I  doubt that I'll go in order reading this book:

I'll probably skip around and maybe I'll just post commentaries from time to time that aren't really about a chapter at all and, after all.... this won't be the only book or source I'll use in my challenge to reduce stress and its negative effects on me.

So what to name it/them?  Well, I decided with just simply #3 since it's the third post on this topic (The other two are here and here in case you're just reading this and didn't see them...) and will hopefully be a series - more hope for more posts and more hope that I stick with it!!

So.....  onto the topic.

I read chapter one.  A lot of it was review for me.  I took psychology in high school and college.  I knew all about sources of stress, the fact that there really positive stresses, not just negative and about the fight-or-flight response, etc.  I also knew about the life events that make stress higher and how it can affect your health overall, etc., including that MOVING is certainly a big one along with several others I've been experiencing over the last year.  The first chapter did offer a chart, however, which I used to determine which chapters were probably going to help me the most as it addressed which chapters were most beneficial for particular stress symptoms.... obviously I need to read the ones that address the majority of my symptoms first.

But now onto chapter two...(The introduction recommends that I read the first two chapters before choosing on my own what to read next).  Chapter two was and has the potential to be pretty beneficial.  It was on body awareness.  Frankly, I don't have it.  Not until I am hunched over in pain from back spasms or have a major headache...though my headaches are normally from dehydration - yet another reason for developing body awareness.  Perhaps I should notice that I need liquid BEFORE reaching dehydration?? You get my point.  Our bodies register stress loooooonnnngggggg before our conscious minds do.  Muscle tension is probably the biggest way it does this.  Those of us who have particular beliefs or attitudes tend to be the ones with chronic muscular tension.  Yep, that's me.  Not the greatest self-esteem, always worried about what other's might think, always doubting myself, etc.... yeah, that leads to beliefs/attitudes that work themselves into chronic muscular tension. Anyone with me on that?

The chapter offers several 'exercises' to help increase body awareness.  I've tried them.  They seem awkward at first but I can see that if one got into the habit of doing them, it would be easier to be aware of what's going on internally.... but that will be key!  THE BUILDING OF THE HABIT! - This is the same person that sets a timer throughout the day (when I think of it) to remind myself to drink water.  Yes. I really do have to do that.  🙁  But I've taken the timer to be a reminder for something else now too.  It's sort of a body check/relax check.  It goes off, I drink my 4 ounces....and then I force myself to take a moment to breathe.  Deep breathing....at least a few and to just close my eyes and ask myself:  What's going on right now?  Am I relaxed?  Do I feel tension? Aches? What's going on around me and how is it affecting me?

I'm not keeping the diary as it suggests but I am trying to at least get a sense of how the day's events and environment affect how my body feels.  It's not a great huge leap into the world of relaxation but it's a small step and that's better than not addressing it at all.  I have, by the way, also started  to read chapter 16 on time management.  No commentaries on that today as I'm not that far into it.  But this is where I'm at with my challenge so far:

1.  Reading about relaxation and stress

2.  Getting back into my daily prayer/devotion time.

3.  Making time for writing. (So far it's just the blog here but I have reached out to my critique partners and have goals of getting back to my children's writing within just a few days if all goes well....)

4.  Drinking my goal of 64 ounces of water a day This may not sound stress related but it is!  Part of my issues, I believe, is that I don't make time for me....taking care of myself physically, emotionally or spiritually...so I need to set these things as priority!  Let's face it.  Dehydration doesn't exactly HELP alleviate stress.  With that, I weave in some deep breathing and attempt body awareness.

What changes have you made recently to reduce stress in your life and achieve relaxation?

4

Week Two Recap:

The second week has gone by.... so we should be through the worse part they say... I don't know... chocolate is still calling my name. In fact, I think I hear it whimpering.....

But even with some major stressors happening, we have all kept up with the challenge.  We are grateful, though, that we picked the season of Lent to do this as I do feel without that spiritual aspect and commitment, we may have faltered at this level.  Sugar addictions are by far harder than most would like to admit.  Eating food products simply due to habits and emotional stress is also a bigger problem than most would like to admit.

Again, we stuck to the menu.  I wasn't sure we'd have as many leftovers on Sunday especially with my daughter coming home for Spring break but it turned out we had plenty and still some left over again!

I have not done well with my exercise goals... but am still attempting them.  That wasn't the biggest part of my personal goals...but still something I'm going to keep trying to form into a habit again.

Week 3 Menu:

Monday:

Breakfast:  Scrambled eggs, pork sausage, sautéed kale, warm coconut milk to drink

Lunch (EACH DAY):  Leftovers or Fried Eggs (my son has this special egg thing he likes o do for lunch and snacks - he fries up an egg and cooks it through....and leaves one soft so the yolk is still runny...mixes it together and fries up some compliant ham lunch meat and enjoys it all together)

Supper:  Paleo Chili, Mashed Cauliflower, Salad

Tuesday:

Breakfast:  Frittata with tomato and spinach, guacamole

Supper:  Slow Cooker Potroast, Mashed Cauliflower, Salad

Wednesday:

Breakfast:  Scrambled Eggs, Vegetable Hash (mixture of leftover vegetables), Ham Slices, guacamole

Supper:  Salmon Cakes wrapped in tomato and Lettuce,  Tomato Soup

Thursday:

Breakfast:  Fritatta with tomatoes and spinach, sweet potato hash, warm coconut milk to drink

Supper: Best Ever Chicken Legs/Wings,   Baked Sweet Potatoes, Steamed Broccoli

Friday:

Breakfast:  Scrambled Eggs, Sweet Potato Hash, ham, warm chicken broth to drink

Supper:  Cod with butter and herbs, Baked Sweet Potatoes, Green Beans, Salad

Saturday:

Breakfast:  My husband will mix up some sort of egg dish because he's that awesome!

Supper:  Whole Greek Chicken, Sweet Potatoes, Broccoli cauliflower mix, Salad

Dessert (with or soon after supper) - Blackberries

Sunday:

Breakfast:  Small amount of fruit with a few cashews and almonds, small amount of warm coconut milk  (for myself and my son - the rest of us fast completely before Sunday Liturgy.  I'm working on cutting back little by little to see if my body is able to tolerate this. I have a history of low blood sugar symptoms and passing out if I fast too much)

Lunch:  Wraps with lettuce and compliant lunchmeat, guacamole

Supper:  Leftovers

Easy Mashed Cauliflower

  • Servings: 4-5
  • Time: 20-25 minutes
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients:

  • 2 bags frozen cauliflower
  • 1/2 cup (or more depending on desired consistency)
  • 2 tbsp ghee (or butter)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Steam cauliflower by placing in pot with a small amount of water and heating until soft enough that a fork easily slips through.  Place steamed cauliflower in food processor with desired amount of coconut milk and ghee/butter.  Dash with salt and pepper.  Process until smooth or reaches desired consistency.

* I have tried mixing with an electric beater.  While it mixes, it does not process smoothly.  I much prefer the smoothness of a food processor.

Breaking the addiction and habits:

This week has certainty tested our ability to say no to our cravings (addiction to sugar and habits of eating processed sugary chocolate and snacks when stressed or performing various activities).  I got an email from the Whole30 website (I signed up to receive them daily) that gave pointers on what to do when you are experiencing cravings.  I had to laugh at two of them... on a list of suggested activities that one does to do instead of giving into those cravings was 'take a warm bath' and 'read a book'.... two of the most common times I actually do sit down to enjoy my chocolate and the ever so occasional glass of wine!....  so while those activities may help others take their minds off of their cravings, it actually increases mine!  And I certainly can't give up reading....well, I could for a few weeks, but realistically I'm just not going to.  So what can I do?  Well, painting your nails was on the list.  I bought two bottles of polish yesterday.  I  make sure I have a small portion of healthy snacks (a container of almonds or pistachios) so I have something to munch on at the most obvious times I've given in to those cravings in the past.  Ideally, one shouldn't give in to food at all....but I think replacing what we are eating is part of the process and it's better to give in to something I've prepared that's healthy than be tempted into something unhealthy. I've also tried changing my location for some of my reading.  I think location of doing an activity adds to the habit, so changing the location makes it a little different and helps a bit. Having a specific prayer to say at that moment of temptation is certainly helpful as well.  St. Ephraim's prayer is excellent as is the Jesus Prayer.

What are some things  you do to resist cravings?

5

To form in his child right habits of thinking and behaving is a parent's chief duty  ~  Charlotte Mason

In my New Year's Resolutions, I included reading and studying my books and videos on the Charlotte Mason approach to homeschooling. I really want to gain a more thorough understanding of this approach and grasp how to go about implementing it.  So far the materials I have at my fingertips are the following:

  • The Early Years:  A Charlotte Mason Preschool Handbook by Karen Smith and Sonya Shafer
  • Laying Down the Rails:  A Charlotte Mason Habits Handbook by Sonya Shafer
  • All Day Charlotte Mason Seminar with Sonya Shafer (video and book)
  • The Books & Things Seminar with Sonya Shafer (video and book)

I bought all of these at the Simply Charlotte Mason booth at the CHAP Homeschool Convention last spring.  I'm disappointed to say I've only read part of the two books and have only completed about 3/4 of the first video!  I really need to catch up.  But I'm also trying to really digest the material.  Before I go on, let me mention that Simply Charlotte Mason has lots of materials that look absolutely wonderful!  It's a good think I try to be frugal as I really was tempted to buy so much more!  Be sure to check out their website if you are interested in this approach to homeschooling!

The book covering the early years begins by focusing on a parent's chief duty.  Charlotte believed that bringing up and educating your child is the most important job in society and that we must form in our children right habits of thinking and behaving. I totally agree with this!  Raising my children is one of the most important jobs I have that only takes 2nd place after Worshiping God and being a loving partner to my spouse! It is not anyone else's job to raise my child.  I need to be the most integral part of my child's education and teaching them right habits of thinking and behaving.  Charlotte said we must nourish our child's mind and that "the duty of parents is to sustain a child's inner life with ideas as they sustain his body with food".

Parents are to make sure everything they give their child is wholesome and nourishing - even the atmosphere that surrounds him! The atmosphere is just as important as the materials.  A child can be surrounded by nourishing materials but if the atmosphere is stale or stressful, those materials can only do so much.

We, as parents, should trust our personal insights into our child but we should also continue to educate ourselves as parents.  Reading about the Charlotte Mason Homeschool Method is one way I am continuing to educate myself. We must also remember that education of our unique children requires flexibility!  Even with a Charlotte Mason Approach, one must always realize there is more than one way to do things and each child is unique in their abilities - strengths and weaknesses!

Charlotte Mason actually suggests that formal lessons do not occur until age 6.  The Simply Charlotte Mason website has a page titled "Preschool Guide" .  This guide emphasizes that during the preschool years, before formal lessons, the child's education should have a focus on the foundations (habit-forming, outside play, read-alouds, and bible).  Crafts, Music, Art and Poetry should also be fun activities that are had on a regular basis. If the child appears ready, reading, math, and writing may be informally introduced but there is to be no pressure in doing so.  These activities should be fun and rewarding, especially at this age and never forced on an unwanting child.

I'm going to keep up with my studies of Charlotte Mason.  I am really fascinated by this method.  Do you use the Charlotte Mason method?  What are some of your favorite - or not so favorite - aspects of this homeschooling method?

To educate a man in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace to society.  ~  Theodore Roosevelt