by Melanie Bettinelli on July 12, 2006
The more I read about Charlotte Mason’s philosophy, the more I like it. I’m especially intrigued by the practice of “narration”, having the child tell back what they have absorbed of a passage that has been read to them; but most books I’ve read don’t really go into the nitty gritty details of how to do it. Higher Up and Further In links to an Ambleside online discussion” that really digs into the topic. It’s a very long post, so I want to return to chew and digest at my leisure.
by Melanie Bettinelli on July 11, 2006
From The Common Room an entry on large families and siblings:
Another question we ask each other (and others ask us) is ‘how do you make sure your children get some one on one time?’ Several years ago I was astonished when a mother of ten answered that question by saying that she didn’t think it was quite as big a deal as our culture made it. She went on to explain that while individual attention was important, she didn’t see why we acted like that was all that really counted, and it was only a poor second best to read a story to two children instead of one, or to sit down and play a game with five children instead of only one, or to shuck corn or pick blueberries one on one instead of with mom and all the siblings. She pointed out that while sometimes a child certainly needs some private time with mom and dad, more often family times are enhanced by each additional sibling, not diluted by them.
with links to a couple of good articles. One from SpunkyHome School. Excerpt:
A mother once complemented my 15 year old son on how polite and caring he seemed to be. She then asked me, “What do I have to do to have a son like that?” I grinned, “Have a baby at 40.” She quickly responded, “No thanks! I’ll keep my kid the way he is.”
She also links to an article in Time magazine about siblings and socialization.
and another from Holy Experience:
If we agree to the premise that an individual needs 12 hugs per day to thrive, this mother of six and wife to one must offer one hug every 10 minutes of every 14 waking hours to another body in this home.
(Math: 12 hugs multiplied over the 7 other people in this household is 84 hugs a day, and over a 14 hour period, that requires clocking in a hug every 10 minutes.)
Of course, a mother can create efficiencies ó and, while Iíve often thought it should be a natural outgrowth of motherhood, I donít mean sprout more arms. This Mama can encourage all of the arms in this home to be reaching out for each other.
The long and the short of it is, if you really want your kids to be well socialized, give them siblings. Though for now I don’t think giving Bella 12 hugs a day is going to be much of a problem.
by Melanie Bettinelli on July 11, 2006
We just returned from a family outing, Bella’s first experience of a movie in the theater. With some carefully planning and a strategic feeding just before we left we were able to watch the entire film, X-Men III with no interruptions, no fussing, no need to leave the theater. Thanks, Bella!
I enjoyed the movie, a fun action flick, just what I expected it to be. While we were in the theater we missed a huge thunderstorm. As we were buckling Bella into the carseat lightning flashed across the sky and thunder cracked. There must have been a big hit because a firetruck passed us going in the direction of the firestation. At least a two alarm fire, then.
When we pulled into the driveway at home I got an idea of just how big: hailstones in the planter roughly the size of quarters. That’s why there we so many leaves on the streets! Paul, who lives a couple of blocks away, just IMed Dom a picture of the hailstones right after they hit. Easily the size of golfballs!
There was a report not too long ago of a funnel cloud up in Topsfield, heading north, away from us. Now a nother storm cell moving in, it’s dark, heavy rain, dramatic lightning, more hail, the size of peas. Makes me feel like I’m in Texas. We don’t really get thunder storms very often in Massachusetts.
by Melanie Bettinelli on July 11, 2006
The baby inside me kicked and kicked; I felt her foot against her brother’s back and realized how much my answer to that old question has changed over the years. Of course I hope, for her sake, that she will be a healthy child. No mother hopes for her children to have to walk a difficult road; it is our nature to want their paths to be as pleasant as possible. But no longer could I say and mean (even if I didnít know the gender of the child): “I donít care what it is as long as itís healthy,” with its tacit suggestion that an unhealthy baby means only tragedy and sorrow. If that wish had come true last time, I wouldnít have my Wonderboy. If this child ó or any of my others, for that matter, for Jane is proof that being “born healthy” is no guarantee of perpetual good health ó should encounter serious medical difficulties, I know now that no matter how hard the road may be, even if it leads through the depths of Moria, it will carry us through Lothlorien, too. And even in Moria there can be humor and camaraderie and courage and hope among the band of travelers ó especially the smallest ones.
So far our Bella’s been perfectly healthy and we haven’t had to walk the road parents must walk when a child is sick; but I know that she herself is a gift and her health another gift on top of that. I hope that if one day we have to walk that road, Dom and I will be able to walk it with the same grace and courage.
by Melanie Bettinelli on July 11, 2006
Danielle Bean has a great discussion going on her blog today about why women feel defensive:
Why is that some of us get so darned defensive upon merely hearing about others who make choices for their families that are different from our own? Particularly when it comes to parenting and schooling?
This topic really hit a chord with me. I’ve not only encountered the phenomenon frequently—especially in internet comboxes—but I’ve also felt defensive myself around other moms.
by Melanie Bettinelli on July 10, 2006
I finished reading A Charlotte Mason Companion: Personal Reflections on the Gentle Art of Learning by Karen Andreola last weekend but have not yet had the chance to write about it.
At first I didn’t think I was going to like this book. It seemed like there was too much Charlotte Mason and not enough Karen Andreola. And while I respect CM for her educational philosophies, one of the things that initially turned me off was the way in which CM homeschoolers seem to adulate her a bit too much.
But as I got into the book I really began to enjoy it. Even though much of it felt like review because I’ve read other CM books, this book is much more thorough. A nice thick book that seems to cover everything—and in great detail.
I especially loved the chapters in which she answered reader’s questions. Some of the very questions I’d been asking which no one had addressed, some of the nitty gritty how to implement these great ideas.
There were some sections I skimmed and many that I want to go back and reread at my leisure. I think this would be a good book to have on the shelf to pull down and reference. I can see why it is on so many of the bibliographies I’ve seen.
I know I had more to say initially, but this is all that comes to mind right now.
by Melanie Bettinelli on July 08, 2006
Here we go again. Insomnia. Tossing and turning at 1 in the morning. What? The time stamp says 4? Well, yeah; but I’ve been up since 1ish. My baby girl? Sound asleep. She fell asleep soon after Dom brought her in at 1, sucking sweetly on my finger. I tossed and turned for almost an hour until she woke up crying. Then fed her. Now she’s sweetly sleeping once again. But I can’t sleep. Come to think of it when was the last time I actually slept next to my husband? I keep falling asleep in the recliner but for some reason after my first sleep of the night, when he’s still up with Bella, I can’t get back to sleep in our bed. I’m getting very, very tired of this. Why do I have the sneaking suspicion that if I crept into the bedroom I’d toss and turn but if I curled up in the recliner sleep would come swift and sure?
by Melanie Bettinelli on July 07, 2006
Perhaps some of the confusion comes from the fact that ultimately, a Charlotte Mason education is self-education. Somebody else said that there is no education but self-education. Miss Mason quotes ‘a philosophical friend’ as saying ” “The mind can know nothing save what it can produce in the form of an answer to a question put to the mind by itself.” (volume 6, page 16)
And while it is true that in a CM education the children are responsible for doing their own work and learning, that work is to come from reading well-written books. The authors of the those books become the teachers as well. Charlotte is not claiming the child already has all it takes without any outside influence or input, if she was, he wouldn’t need to read so many books to be put in touch with ‘great minds that he may get at great thoughts.’
It’s quite long, but very good. Thought provoking. It certainly answers some of my doubts about the CM approach. I’m definitely against child-led education. But self education is truly the only road to real learning.
by Melanie Bettinelli on July 06, 2006
This is a continuation of the previous post on A Landscape with Dragons. My comment grew to be too long so I decided to make it a new entry.
O’Brien does acknowledge the oriental use of dragons, but like Dom says his focus is on Western culture. And that being the case I think he would agree that context is important. He wants to argue that in context of western culture, the dragon has a particular symbolic value that cannot be changed. He points specifically to the fact that in the Book of Revelation the dragon is the symbol of the arch enemy, Satan himself. (Likewise in Genesis the serpent is symbol for Satan.)
Because of that the dragon is not just any symbol, but a most potent one. I do find this argument persuasive to some degree. In our culture now it is all the rage to diminish evil, to brush it away as if it were nothing or even to glamorize it and befriend it. That can be spiritually dangerous.
...the loss of our world of symbols is the result of an attack upon truth, and this loss is occurring with astonishing rapidity. On practically every level of culture, good is no longer presented as good but rather as a perjudice held by a limited religious system (Christianity). Neither is evil any longer perceived as evil in the way we once understood it. Evil is increasingly being depicted as a means to achieve good.
Reminds me of Fr. Corapi’s talk on spiritual warfare at the recent Boston Catholic Women’s Coferenece. He warned about the modern tendency to think we are too sophisticated, too educated, to believe in Satan as a real being, hell as a spiritual reality. This can leave us more open to being influenced by evil spirits, which the Church teaches do exist.
And I do discern the trend O’Brien is describing. Good vampires, good witches and good demons in Anne Rice and on shows like Buffy, Angel and Charmed. And I can see the real world outcomes of these trends especially clearly here in Salem. Last fall the local Salem crazies had signs out for a vampire’s ball (originally they had it booked in the local Knight’s of Columbus hall, if you can believe it!)
Theer is a woman I know from my parish who is a former witch. Dom says she has stories that will send chills up your spine. SAlem is littered with occult shops and fortune tellers and witch-themed tourist traps. How many people start to dabble in this stuff just for fun? One day I saw a girl buying a book of love potions in one of the tourist shops. It is possible her experience with the occult will begin and end there. But for a certain number of people those relatively innocent games are just the beginning.
So I can certainly see O’Brien’s point when it comes to these other traditional symbols of evil. Which is why I’m on the fence when it comes to dragons.
As I think about O’Brien’s position I think the story he opens the book with is illuminating. When he was six or seven he and his brother were afraid of a monster in their room. Their mother had them draw pictures of the dragon they were afraid of and then stab them with knives and skewers and then burn them. For O’Brien the dragon is a personal symbol of fear and his battle with evil.
He later contrasts his mother’s method of helping them conquor their fears by destroying them with modern books which have the child befriend the scary monster. O’Brien points out that in one story a demonic being becomes a friendly guardian for the child and he asks: “what has become of guardian angels”?
Such works seek to help children to integrate “the dark side” into their natures, to reconcile good and evil within and, as our friend expressed it, to “embrace their shadows”.
On one hand I find O’Brien alarmist and too extreme. On the other, a little voice asks if I’m perhaps not cautious enough.
Kate I agree that naming evil for what it is, to know it and reject it is a good thing. For example in our baptismal vows we reject Satan, the father of sin and prince of darkness, and all his works and all his empty promises, we reject sin and the glamour of evil and refuse to be mastered by sin. But looking over the passage O’Brien refers to I see it for the first time and am a bit disturbed:
“Echthroi! You are Named! My arms surround you. You are no longer nothing. You are. You are filled. You are me. You are Meg.”
Now this is one of my favorite books and I always read this passage as Meg filling Nothing with something, rejecting the unnamers by naming them. But I could see how to an uneasy soul that is tempted by the darkness, this passage could be read as her embracing the evil and befriending it. I know that within the framework set up by the book she has negated the evil ones by naming them. But O’Brien has a point. In our world it doesn’t quite work like that. True, when we recognize evil as evil it gives us power to reject it. And I think that is the reality L’Engle points to. But in our world spirits are sometimes not that easy to tame. If I told a spirit “You are Melanie” I’d be treading dangerous ground. And I could see how a desire for the kinds of psychic powers Meg and her brother have could make the occult appealing to some children who couldn’t clearly discern the difference between fantasy and reality.
Update: Dom has linked to this entry and the first one on his blog and some good conversation is going on there. (Some people are reluctant to register on my site.) Among other things, Dale Price has two good historic examples of dragons being baptized as Christian symbols.
by Melanie Bettinelli on July 04, 2006
Last night we watched one of Dom’s Netflix picks, View from the Top starring Gwenneth Paltrow as Donna Jensen, a small town girl from Nevada who dreams of becoming a glamorous stewardess. I wasn’t expecting much from this romantic comedy, and was pleasantly surprised at how sweet a movie it was.
There were many moments when I expected cynicism and instead was served sincerity. For example, when the character of Donna’s mentor, Sally Weston, was introduced I fully expected that at some point she would betray Donna or at the very least burst her bubble. Instead she gracefully supports Donna and corrects her when she goes astray on her quest for happiness.
Niave at first, Donna never becomes disillusioned as she matures. Rather, she maintains a childlike freshness and in the end restores the jaded instructor, played by Mike Myers. She is able to see through his hurt cynicism.
What a refreshing change this movie was! Not a deep movie; but fun and entertaining and free of Hollywood’s darker impulses. The film says that wordly success isn’t ultimately satisfying. Rather, it is family and friends that make one truly happy. In fact, if it weren’t for the skimpy clothing and a brief hint at off screen premarital relations with her boyfriend, this movie would be perfectly acceptable for family viewing.