Geography Begins At Home

Geography is the study of places, so we begin by helping the child to observe his own places and learn how they relate to him and to each other and to begin to see how they shape what he does in each place.  Geography is an important study because in it we learn that the physical shapes of places changes what we are able to do in them and we learn that some physical places can be changed to better suit us. By first studying the geographical features of the Middle East we are easily able to see that Ancient Egypt flourished as it did because there was no great struggle for physical survival thanks to the renewal of the Nile and that the Ancient Greeks were a seafaring people because the sea was easier to navigate for trade than their rugged mountains.

It is easy in our modern age to discount the wrestling that took place between our ancestors and the land in which they lived. Recently, I was reading Little House in the Big Woods and Little House on the Prairie aloud to my littles and I noticed how much the Ingalls’ family migrations were tied to Pa’s desire to farm in a geography where he did not have to fight the land in order to survive. In the woods of Wisconsin, he had to first to cut down trees, then plow and plant around the stumps, removing what stones he could. All through the growing season he had to not only tend the crops themselves but also chops down the sprouts coming up from the stumps until they rotted enough that they could be pulled up and dragged out of the field.  His pleasure when he began to plow the sod in Kansas is such that Laura still remembered it decades later.

We tend to skip over the importance of that experience of geography because we don’t have the same struggles. In town especially we are isolated from the effects of climate and soil, as we are able to retreat into our homes and flip a switch to heat or cool them to our liking.  The study of geography helps to make us aware of the effects of physical features of the land in historic times and assists us to be more observant of our own physical surroundings.

Since we begin this study in the youngest years of formal schooling, it seems reasonable to begin with what the child knows best- his or her own place in the world- slowly expanding outwards as the child’s own horizon and understanding expands and at the same time adding skills and vocabulary with which to accurately describe what the child sees.

We begin with the home; asking the child to draw a picture of his own house and to tell something about it. If necessary to help him begin to tell we might ask a question like – “what color is your house?” but we are not looking for an accurate description here (how many rooms, what is each for and so on) but rather for what the child has allowed to make an impression on his mind or his imagination. What is important to the child and how does he make that importance known?  In these early years, we are learning the child as the child is learning to learn and we must be careful not to shape what the child is impressed by or loves by what we think a child of six should love or be impressed by.  “Children are born persons” and it is our task to recognize that essential personhood and gently guide the child to mold it through lessons, habit training, and home life so that when the child is grown he may indeed care deeply about the large room in which he has been set!

The child is studying the physical geography of his life and we are studying the spiritual geography of the child so that we can help him to “make the rough places a plain.” and we begin gently with a little lesson of ten or fifteen minutes. First a drawing in his notebook of his own home and then a little narration of his picture.  Later in the week we look at the picture again and he may add to it or do another picture to show other features that have been awakened in his mind by the first lesson. Or we might ask him to tell us about his home while we draw to his direction, which will probably produce much hilarity but also will begin his learning to describe accurately what he wishes others to understand. Again it is a short lesson but it stirs up the sediment of the brain to begin to look and to see and to tell.

“Education is the Science of Relations.”

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An April “Vacation”

I often take time over the Christmas Holidays to evaluate our current year and put some ideas on paper for the next twelve months for school and for summer activities and travel plans. This year, I decided that I was not going to make my annual trip to Virginia for the homeschool convention in June, but that instead we would plan to have lessons for twelve weeks from January to the end of March, take April off to do yard work and plant the garden and then have a summer term in May, June, and July for twelve weeks. August would again be  a holiday month and we would resume lessons in September before the Advent holiday that we have taken for the past several years.

My original plan was to do at least some of our summer term on Cape Cod. My family owns a cottage on a pond there that various cousins and relatives use as it suits them and I thought that June on the Cape might be very nice. Not yet crowded with holiday tourists and as we mostly hang out on our pond anyway there isn’t much need for events or other attractions to be open. Of course, with all of this virus stuff that part of the plan is off of the list for the moment although if things ease up we may still go.

So here we are halfway through April and we have been busily digging new garden beds and renewing the old ones as well as getting trash out of the yard and shop and generally tidying up the place. The furnace man has come and serviced the furnace, I have an electrician lined up to improve the electrical service to Stuart’s shop and am hoping to get someone in to replace the rotten siding and paint the place.

I’ve been going through the basement and putting books into their right categories in the library and learning materials into the their right totes since everything had gotten rather muddled when we had our basement flood and foundation building project last spring!

I’m also deep in curriculum development for Discovering History With Notebooks. The full  scope and sequence for 12 grades of History and Geography studies is all laid out and I am working on weekly lesson plans and sources for the various pieces and parts as well as sample notebooks for each level. I am drawing heavily on Maria Montessori and Charlotte Mason for the order in which history is presented and the ways in which students and teachers interact with it so that Form One begins with themselves and their personal geography and history:

Form 1: Ages 6-8

  • Year 1: Geography of the Natural World
    • Term 1-My Home, Neighborhood, and Town
    • Term 2-My State and Region
    • Term 3-My Continent, Continents and Oceans, The Globe
  • Year 2: Land Forms, Maps, Seasons, Weather
    • Term 1-Land Forms, Map Making
    • Term 2-Maps, Compass, Distances, Scales
    • Term 3-Seasons, Weather
  • Year 3: World Geography
    • Term 1- North America – The United States 2 states per week beginning with the child’s state
    • Term 2- North America- The United States 2 states per week plus two weeks with three states
    • Term 3- Canada, Mexico, Central America

and by the end of Form Five (High School) students have a solid grasp of History in general as well Church History and the History of Philosophy and Theology:

Form 5: High School: The Making of the Modern World

  • Year 1: 1600-1800
    • Term 1-The 17th Century
    • Term 2- The 18th Century
    • Term 3- The 19th Century
  • Year 2: 1900-Present
    • Term 1- 1900-1950
    • Term 2-1950-2000
    • Term 3-2000-Present 
  • Year 3: The History of the Church
    • Term 1-Early Church to the Protestant Revolt
    • Term 2- Reformation, Counter-Reformation, Enlightenment
    • Term 3- The Church in the Modern Age, 1870-Present
  • Year 4: Philosophy and Theology Through the Ages
    • Term 1: Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, St. Paul
    • Term 2: Talmud, Church Fathers to Aquinas
    • Term 3: Enlightenment, Marx, Modern Criticism, Psychology

I am really happy about how the project is coming together- there are plenty of sources that are free to use or inexpensive so I hope that this program will be easy for people to use and bring a depth to study and discussion that will equip students for life.

I remind myself frequently of that wonderful word from Miss Mason:

“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?”

The study of human action and Divine Providence that we call the Study of History  is surely a significant part of that “large room” and I hope to help families to see the Beauty and Wonder and ultimately the Truth contained in this study.


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Saturday Morning Musing

What a week!

Last week we were mostly home but still seeing some friends occasionally and getting out to parking lot Adoration at our parish where we could kneel out of doors and see our friends from a safe distance.

This week we have been almost entirely at home aside from one designated person running the necessary errands. Several days the weather was really crummy and the little children in particular seem to be feeling that they have not seen their friends in a week or more. We did try a virtual playdate for Daisy and Jack and it helped but didn’t really satisfy.

Lessons continue and the order that they bring to our days is so helpful! Some of them are done via Zoom with the friends with whom we were meeting prior to this and that little bit of interaction is also helpful. Some of the local moms and myself had a virtual Mom’s Night Out one evening also via Zoom and it was nice although some glitch at my end meant that no one could hear anything I said!

Since S is working from home for the foreseeable future, Mouse and I cleaned the master bedroom and rearranged it yesterday to make a better office space. We still need to sort through all of the stuff that was removed and is now sitting in the living room, but it still feels like progress!

Saturday mornings are my thinking times:

Things I am wondering:

The thoughts I am hearing from the professional statisticians and medical people I know make me think that this pandemic situation is going to ebb and flow for the next 18 months. This means that we won’t have the opportunity to return to “normal” until the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year. I anticipate at the very least that we will be home quite a bit more in the next six months than we normally are and without the options for field trips, creek visits and so on.
 How do we structure our days? Should we take a spring break in April or May and double down on yard and garden projects before beginning a summer term of school? Should I stock up on projects and creative afternoon occupations.
How do we plan for structure in uncertain times?

I had begun mapping out a plan for schooling more year round earlier this year, with breaks between each twelve week term. Under that plan we would have a month long holiday in April – an Easter holiday to work on the yard and garden and enjoy the New England Spring! Then go back to lessons for a Summer Term in May, June, and July take August off, Autumn Term in September, October, November, December off for Advent as we typically do, and have a Winter Term in January, February, and March. With this pandemic business likely to drag on for a bit I am thinking that this is going to be a good plan to help us have structure and variety at the same time.

I feel as though I have been caught somewhat flat footed by all of this! But who has contingency  plans for a pandemic? I will take a good bit of my time over the weekend to plan and work out what we should do next and think about how to make us as comfortable as possible as we wait this out.

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Finding A Rhythm In A New Situation

In the midst of so much change and restriction it can be tempting to throw internal family structure to the four winds! After all, the children can’t go to their regular classes and activities, they aren’t getting the chance to play with friends and they will probably be happier if I just let them have an extended spring break!

Sadly, they will quickly grow bored and discontented without some structure to their days and we, parents, will also find ourselves frustrated as the whining and arguing tend to increase when the children don’t have a purpose for their hours and days.

The truth is that we all have a desire for order and purpose in our lives and uncertainty makes us anxious. As image bearers of an orderly God we imitate Him as we bring order to our lives and this is especially the case when outside circumstances are chaotic. So my Facebook and Instagram are full of decluttering challenges, people teaching classes on gardening or bread making, ideas for schedules for the children, chore charts… you can now find almost every kind of organizational scheme you can think of.

So how do we choose what is best for our own families and ourselves in this time? I think we try hard to stick to what we already had with some adjustments as needed.

For us that means that Monday, Wednesday, and Friday are our “long” school days. We begin at 9 am and have classes until nearly 2 pm with a break for lunch and handwork and some time spent out of doors. The littler children don’t go as long, and the bigger children do some of their classes by Zoom instead of in person.

Tuesdays and Thursday are “short” days- Math, Bible, and copywork always must happen but the other lessons are the homework from the previous day and school takes about 2 hours if an effort is put into diligence. Then time may be spent in creative pursuits, running around or digging enormous holes in the backyard and so on.

I am still adjusting things a bit day by day as the outside situation changes but the structure of knowing what comes next comforts the children and I as we pursue our callings as students/disciples and mother/teacher.

What are you finding that you need to tweak in your daily routine?

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Homeschooling In A Time Of Pandemic

What a whirlwind these last few weeks have been! I closed our co-op on March 12th with four weeks left in the term. At the time I assumed we would be able to open again in late April but I am feeling somewhat skeptical about that now.

We are staying very much closer to home than we normally  do and I am trying to move some of my co-op classes online so that we can finish out the year, and students can have some semblance of normalcy.

My little kids are feeling the pinch of not seeing their friends a couple of times a week, so we are trying out Google Hangouts as a way to have virtual playdates! Yesterday Daisy and a friend showed each other their Playmobil and Lego creations and today, Jack and a friend will try doing an art project “together” via the internet.

The bigger kids are going to have a virtual youth group meeting tonight. The freezer is stocked and Stuart just inventoried the canned goods so while the food may get weird at points I think we can go on for quite a while and not have to leave the house and yard.

These days I am mostly over on the Sticks, Stones, and Chicken Bones FB page and group, where I am doing live videos as well as links to Zoom meetings for virtual classes. I am hoping to also start a regular evening Zoom chat for moms as we need to socialize as well.

Today is the Feast of the Annunciation (9 months until Christmas!) so we will either have breakfast for supper (waffles are associated with the Virgin Mary?) or more likely a pizza to support our local pizza shop (owned by our neighbor a block over).

What are you doing to keep up morale and celebrate the joys in life?

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What We’re Learning: Form 2A and 2B Part 2


Mouse is 10 this year and primarily doing 6th and 7th grade level work. She loves  anatomy, drawing,  and anything crafty or artistic. She still wants to be a orthopedic doctor and has gotten some first hand experience this year as she has had a couple of episodes of patella subluxation (the knee cap sliding out of its groove and back again). She still struggles with sustained attention particularly with her less loved subjects, so we are concentrating on building that habit of attention as well as completing the academic work for this year.
This year I decided to separate her from Buggle  as much as possible. They are close in age, but very different in temperament and interests and those differences began to make difficulties for them towards the end of last year. She is not as  ready to work independently in any area as Buggle so she “fell behind” him (that attention thing again). Separating them makes more work for me, as I have to do an additional set of individual lessons and checking ,but has been much better for their relationship as they have fewer opportunities to for one upmanship and silly rivalries.

I have matched her with Bull in some areas which makes her  the “big kid” and builds her confidence. She has even taken to helping him with his math from time to time if I am busy – which is quite an unexpected move given how hard she has worked to convince herself that she isn’t good at math and dislikes it (this is totally untrue but math requires sustained attention). Developmentally she is still in a a fact gathering place more than an analytical one; so keeping her in classes where she is fact gathering and just beginning to analyse with guidance is more appropriate.


Anatomy– Having exhausted all of the elementary and middle school level anatomy that I can find we’ve moved on to a  high school course this year.  Mapping The Body With Art from The Basement Workshop is a wonderful course that taps into Mouse’s love of drawing by having her draw her way through human physiology from the water molecule to the structures of the cell to the bones and organs.  It is online but self- scheduled so she works on it twice a week for about thirty minutes with great attention.

MEP Book 4 and 5– continuing with MEP as it works well and gives a solid foundation. We do two pages per day and she maintains a steady pace.

Latin- we are about halfway through Latin For Children B and I expect to begin C mid- spring.

Drawing- this year year we have a drawing specific class at co-op as well as a photography club that meets once a month and Mouse is thriving in these areas.

Creative Writing- at co-op

Handwork- at co-op plus 15 minutes at home daily. She recently took up crocheting and loves to design and make dresses with her sewing machine and whatever fabric I have around and am willing to part with!

Recorder/Music – I am teaching her recorder and she is also singing in the church choir and our co-op choir.

History- she would rather read novels and dislikes having to narrate what she has read but with persistence her ability to read things requiring attention and narrate them back is improving. We have begun keeping notebooks together in the afternoons and she finds that needing to have something to add to the notebook helps her read with an eye to what she wants to record.

Memory is a favorite and she is flying through the poetry I selected for this year. The list is available for download here:  Sixth-Grade-Memory-Work.pdf (1171 downloads)

Catechism- is the Baltimore Catechism and is mostly self done. There are lessons to read and questions to answer which generate discussions from time to time.

English From the Roots Up- is not a favorite but I let her draw the meaning of one of the new words and I am seeing an improvement in spelling.

She is making good progress most days on the habits that make a good student and life long learner and I expect the mechanics of learning to be much easier by the end of the school year.

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What Are We Learning? Form 2A and 2B

When Mouse and Buggle were younger, I schooled them as if they were twins for the most part. Last year it became clear that they needed to move away from each other in pursuits and expectations both in academics and in life in general!  Boys and girls just mature differently and when you throw in their particular learning quirks and differences in interests they really need a year or two to do things on their own!

Since I don’t really want to teach five separate versions of everything every day- I’ve combined Mouse and Bull in some subjects and Bull and Buggle in others so that each has about an hour of work that they are the only student for and the rest is done with someone else (sometimes with the older child teaching the younger as they learn together).

Form 2A- Bull

Bull is 8.5 this year, and is moving into more and more independent learning with me just providing a framework and help as needed. He is capable of incredible focus and diligence but is somewhat lacking in confidence, so we are working on being willing to try something before wailing about it.  He still has some trouble with speech and articulation but Memory work and recitation is helping with that quite a bit.

On His Shelf:

I organized the children’s books on individual shelves this year, with the older children being able to read anything on the younger children’s shelves as “free reads” and no one reading above their own shelf.

Bull’s shelves have a mix of history, natural history, and free reads:


Looking at Ancient History – R. J. Unstead

Ancient Construction- Michael and Mary Woods

Famous Men of Greece

Famous Men of Rome- Both from Greenleaf Press

A Picture History of Ancient Rome- Richard Erdoes

In Foreign Lands- Beth Hughson and Oda Gostick

Life in the Ancient World- Bart Winer

Nature and Science:

The Secret Life of the Forest- Richard M. Ketchum

A Picture Book of Nature- Samuel Nisenson

Rocks and Dirt – Ellen McHenry

The Story of Soil- Dorothy Holmes Allen

Free Reads-

The House of Sixty Fathers- Meindert DeJong

The Hittite Warrior- Joanne Williamson

The Aeneid for Boys and Girls- Alfred Church

The Adventures of Odysseus and The Tale of Troy

The Golden Fleece- both by Padraic Collum

Theras and His Town- Caroline Dale Snedecker

Herodotus and the Road to History- Jeanne Bendick

Catechism and Religious Education

Baltimore Catechism No 1- He is doing about 1 chapter every 2 weeks, so there is plenty of time to memorize as well as read and answer the study questions.

Two Lives of Saints:

Saint Anthanasius- F. A. Forbes

Augustine- The Farmer’s Boy of Tagaste- P. De Zeeuw

and in order to help him understand the Mass more fully:

The Saints Who Pray With Us in The Mass- Archbishop Amleto Cicognani

Math is MEP Book 3 which I expect him to finish around Christmas time, and then move into Book 4 .

Latin is the last third or so of Song School Latin 2. He should finish that around Christmas as well and will begin Latin for Children Book A.

Music is covered by a piano lesson at co-op and singing during Morning Time. That is a very hard subject for him, since his ear is not terribly developed, but he enjoys singing and is gradually becoming more tuneful!

Memory is done for 15 minutes every day. This year I have given him a collection of poems like Jabberwocky which appeal to his sense of humor and fun and are fairly short as he does better with a quick payoff for the effort.

Fourth-Grade-Memory-Work.pdf (1364 downloads)


At this point in his school career, he does most of his lessons on his own, with the exception of math where he needs some encouragement in confidence and occasionally an actual explanation of a concept. Latin also requires a fair bit of input from me as he hasn’t quite gotten his mind around the how of learning a language and gets frustrated quickly. I spend about 30 minutes with him on those two subjects and then another 15-20 during the history block to listen to his narrations and give dictations.

Finally, he is taking Geology at co-op (I’m teaching using Ellen McHenry’s Rocks and Dirt which I highly recommend). He’s also taking a geography class based on the Holling C. Holling book, Seabird.

Altogether his learning this year is full of interests and creativity as well as the foundational work that will set him up for new interests and creative endeavors in future years.

Mouse is my Form 2B student but as this post is already quite long, I think I’ll have to publish a Part B!


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What Are We Learning?: Preschool and Form 1

Two weeks into this term of school and I wanted to share a bit about what the three and six year old are learning and will be learning.

Our terms run for twelve weeks so this is what I have planned for the fall- since Advent is a holiday season for us as we prepare for the coming of the Christ Child.

Practical Life:

Daisy is now 3 and Jack is 6 which means that they can both participate in some of the same lessons. Three to six is a common age range in a Montessori classroom and I’m trying to implement many of the same lessons in practical life.

A big one is having them learn to cooperatively make their own snack about mid-morning. The big kids have lessons from 8:45-12:30 most days which makes lunch much too late for the little guys without a substantial snack. Last year I was able to stop teaching for a bit and make something for them- but this year I don’t have that luxury and with a little bit of work done before lessons start, they really can do it themselves.

During my kitchen work in the morning I prepare a tray:

I usually try to focus on one set of fine motor skills each week. In September they are working on cutting up cucumbers and other vegetables for dipping one week, and spreading the next. This was a spreading tray. They had lukewarm tea for their drink which I did have to pour as I need to get a teapot of the right size for them.  Yes, most of the sugar was eaten with a spoon!

I put the tray in the toy kitchen area of the kitchen.

After they are done with lessons and (usually) have gone outside for a bit, they come in and prepare their snack.

I do have to keep a little ear out for quarrels, but they generally do a decent job of setting things out, eating, and clearing the things back onto the tray.

The next step is to give a cleaning work of wiping the table and sweeping or mopping the floor. Daisy and I need to visit the local thrift store for a small bucket and I need to replace the child sized broom we had as the last one met an untimely demise!

There is a great sense of accomplishment in feeding themselves and cleaning up, and this is a better time for them to practice those skills than when one of the big kids is cooking breakfast or I am making supper and supervising my 4:30 Workers at the same time!

Other practical life work:

Jack has six regular chores every day:

  1. empty the trashcans
  2. empty the compost
  3. take out the recycling
  4. put away any shoes
  5. put away the prayer books and hymnals after Morning Prayer
  6. clean up his school things

Daisy generally jumps in and helps him or tries to beat him to some of the jobs. She is in a very orderly phase right now so we are trying to build good habits while they are still a pleasant desire of hers.

Additionally, I give her pouring practice or other practical life work while Jack is doing his more academic lessons.

Read Alouds

This year we are trying to get most of Jack’s lessons done before Morning Time at 8:45. The Form 2 kids (Bull in 2A and Mouse in 2B) need a bit more of my attention at the moment and Buggle (Form 3) has hit that stage of study in which we need to discuss what he is reading in some depth (so much fun by the way, this is why I teach the children to read!) so it really helps the flow if Jack is done by 9:30 or 9:45.

The little children and I gather at about 7:15 for Catechism, Memory, and Reading, first me to them and then Jack to us.

This shelf is full of the books we are reading this year. I generally read from a couple of different selections for 3-5 minutes apiece giving the children the opportunity to narrate back to me after each selection. Currently we are reading an Aesop Fable or two each day, a little chapter book called Three Boys and a Tugboat that I picked up at a book sale, The Book of Insects from Memoria Press, and then Jack reads to us from his Rod and Staff First Grade Reader and the little plaid storybooks that go along with that curriculum. They take turns narrating, Daisy first usually and the Jack fills in what she didn’t get or what he thinks was more important.

Table Work

Jack’s table work this term is mostly phonics, reading, and MEP (the math curriculum from the Math Enhancement Project)  He is flying through Book 1 in MEP and will start Book 2 in January. Two pages a day and he has a good grasp of how numbers interact with each other and can regroup by addition and subtraction with relative ease. We didn’t really practice much over the summer and while he is slightly slower than he was in the spring, he hasn’t really lost any of the concepts he learned.

Once or twice a week we also do some notebook work on Insects since that is his great love and science/nature study for the year. Daisy and he frequently go out looking for specimens to bring in a play with for a while before releasing them again. We are beginning to learn the songs for Song School Latin 1 then next term we will start to work in the book.

During Morning Time he finishes whatever writing he hasn’t done already- usually handwriting and some copying in phonics or reading, and works on coloring whatever picture he is working on for the week.

He also spends a little time each week updating his notebook for the Animals: Their Lives and Homes class he is taking at our co-op.

This is a MEP exercise in figuring out how many cubes are actually in a stack of blocks if you can’t see all of them in the drawing.

Daisy is doing MEP Reception this year, and is so pleased to be doing the book that she watched Jack finish last year. We only do it a couple of times a week (all that is planned for in the curriculum) but it is neat to watch her mind expanding.

Like most preschoolers with older siblings doing school she wants table work too, so we are slowly working our way through the Pathway and Rod and Staff Preschool books. No rush, and we don’t work every day. The other great thing is dot-to-dots at the moment, and I was very happy to find this book of simple ones from Dover Publications.

It is a fairly rich diet but only takes about an hour and a half or so. The rest of the morning is spent outdoors, in the sandbox, or hunting insects, or if the weather is really bad in the basement play area. They play very nicely together about 80% of the time, and I’m trying to work on having audiobooks or little craft projects available for the times when they need a bit of a break from the high intensity of their play.

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Are You Savouring Your “Tiny Moments”? Do You Know Where To Find Them?

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This past summer has been hard for so many of us! Long, hot, and filled with turmoil at home, in the political scene, and for us, Catholics, in our church as allegations and accusations fly. We are about to begin … Continue reading

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Creativity and Covenant- The Theme Of The Year

Over the summer I had the opportunity to spend some time reading and thinking about life in general and about how to approach what I think of as the “middle years”.  Here we are in many ways past the “household of small children keep your head above water” stage and entering into a time of slowly relaxing the reins and going beyond direct instruction to help the children develop what they have been taught into internal habits and principles of self-discipline.

That’s a major transition in thinking and interacting for all of us and at the same time the younger ones still need that direct instruction, consistent application of consequences (good and bad) and plenty of foundation laying.  The questions cycle in my mind: how to balance the needs of the younger and the needs of the older? How to develop an environment that is neither too childish nor too mature? Where are the checks and balances? How do we all walk towards Christ and holiness in a daily way?

I’ve been reading and reading and thinking and thinking and in that pursuit came to two books: one an old favorite and one a new discovery that I have been taking in in small doses with much pondering.

The old favorite is Edith Schaeffer’s What is a Family?  and the new book is Sofia Cavaletti’s Religious Potential of the Child (6-12 Years Old) . Both books speak about the importance of teaching and living an authentic religious life with children, of helping them preserve and expand on the wonder that they understand as young children as they grow into adults.

Edith Schaeffer talks in particular of the way that the family serves as a micropicture of God in His various attributes, a place where people can develop godliness together through work and play and a place where creativity is nurtured. She explains that as human beings made in God’s image we have an inborn desire for beauty and creativity and that as we function within God’s covenant of a family we are able to spark one another and encourage one another through great disappointments and great triumphs. What a wonderful picture and inspiration to family life!

Sofia Cavaletti expands on that theme to speak specifically of how the older child takes the wonder that they have discovered in being taught about and experiencing God’s love and seeks to categorize it and understand how it all fits together. Where the young child thrives upon such understandings as Christ as the Good Shepherd, or Mary as the Blessed Mother of the Church, the older child wants to understand how what they do and say interacts with what God does and says. The covenants of the Bible and the unfolding of God’s plan in the world at large and for them in particular help them to retain and expand on their own experience of faith and what they have been taught and observe.

So this theme of Creativity and Covenant- how we reflect God and make Him known (Creativity) and how we communicate with God and He with us (Covenant) seems to me to be a theme that all of us can relate to this year.

With that in mind I’ve put some specific plans in motion:

  • More direct instruction using the Baltimore Catechism for the 8, 10, and 11 year olds. This includes memorizing the questions and answers and doing the Scripture reading that goes along with it as well as discussion.
  • Simpler direct instruction for the 3 and 6 year olds using the Baltimore Catechism for First Communion, Kendra Tierney’s My Little Book About Confession, and Maria Montessori’s The Mass Explained For Children. This mostly takes the form of my reading aloud and the little two narrating back.
  • Some specific study of covenantal history during Advent and Lent using a Jesse Tree and some other resources.
  • Time built into our schedule for creative pursuits, both individually during quiet time and as a group during Friday lessons and Advent.
  • Taking time to do creative things myself so that there is a living example of adult creativity.
  • Stepping up our housekeeping game so that clutter and chaos don’t distract from other pursuits.

It’s not easy. In fact I expect, that there will be days when we all just want to throw the whole thing over. That’s part of life- the frustration when the project doesn’t work or others fail to see the beauty we see, or constantly interrupt our concentration. Life sanctifies us if we are willing to grasp that painful, purifying grace.

Will you join us?

Will you post your creative projects and your understandings of covenant using the hashtag #creativityandcovenant?  Fridays are our days for group creative pursuits and I’d love to see what we all can do with this theme.

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