Between Light and Half Light

Between Light and Half Light, Chris Natrop, 2016
Between Light and Half Light, Chris Natrop, 2016

I took the kids to a small art exhibit in Fond du Lac, WI today. Mostly, I needed to get out of the house. Out of the house and into the intricate, fragile world of hanging knife-cut paper art. The artist, Chris Natrop, is originally from Wisconsin and now works from LA. The picture above gives some idea of what it looks like, but when you’re walking around in it, you get the feeling of ponds and jungles, fairy worlds, webs. My youngest daughter thought one part was about outer space. I kept circling and moving in and out of the hanging installations. The children were very good about not touching. It did look very fragile. And as the title suggests, there is a feeling of halfness. We were there during daylight, which faded the white more into the light, and I think made the strings and hanging apparatus more visible. Half magic, half complicated artwork. Half effortless imagination, half painstaking construction. Half paper hanging in a room, half other world suspended in a Saturday. We were there only a few minutes, but it was enough to lift our day out of what it had been.

Some Pressing Thoughts on the Charlotte Mason Homeschooling Method

As my title suggests, I have pressing thoughts, so I’m impressing them upon you. Even if no one reads it, at least I’ve struggled through my ideas. My Charlotte Mason book study meeting last week got me thinking about my role as teacher. Here’s what I think I learned: I am to be see-through. I serve the children faithfully by putting them in the way of good literature. I also ensure that they are hearing the gospel as presented by the Bible itself. I am a sounding board to their ideas. I serve up a smorgasbord of education, lots of good stuff on a regular basis. And I allow them time to digest it all, too. I pray for their minds, bodies and souls. I remain see-through so they can see God through me, and the Holy Spirit can reach through me to work in them.

When I offer up personal opinions, I am being cloudy and not serving their best interests. Moreover, why should I need to speak? My actions ought to show what I believe. I ought to be someone the children can imitate. And isn’t that part of the sanctification process–showing yourself less and letting Jesus shine through more?

Now that I’ve learned all that, I need to mention the things that confuse me about this method. I haven’t figured it all out yet. For instance, there’s a lot of good literature that we read. And not all of it agrees with each other. I can’t even ensure that it all agrees with what I believe. Do I talk about it? Or do I let their little minds puzzle out their confusions themselves?

And also, concerning Bible studies, I find the Ambleside Online schedule (at least for Years 1 and 2), too easy and short. There are Scripture readings assigned for each week, but if we schedule Bible five days a week, that leaves me struggling to keep it alive. I get bored, too, with not enough to read.

And concerning the narratives. Yes, I am to be a sounding board for their ideas. And yes, they are supposed to narrate everything to get those ideas out in the open. But I am often a questioning board instead of a sounding board because my kids don’t like to narrate. “I can’t remember anything.” “Can I just say my favorite part?” Sure. “It was the end.” Oh.

I think Charlotte Mason told us that kids all enjoy narrating. Sigh. I wonder when mine will start believing her.

Maybe the better question is, when will I start trusting her? I get nervous about the stuff I don’t understand. And I think that’s when I stand in the way between a good education and my kids. I need to just trust that if I get out of the way, offer up the good stuff, and keep going at it faithfully, they will be nourished.

Let the feast continue.

Wisdom from Little Town on the Prairie

Least said, soonest mended.

If wisdom’s ways you wisely seek,
Five things observe with care,
To whom you speak,
Of whom you speak,
And how, and when, and where.

— from Little Town on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1941

Reading through the Little House series with my kids makes me think such things as, “What would Pa and Ma think if they just heard what my children said?” Now, I know with my mind that this is an idealized book, and Pa and Ma Ingalls had their own problems, but my heart tells me they were good parents. My kids like Pa, but I like Ma for her quiet steadfastness. And because she was more of a stickler for propriety than Pa.

I am certain Ma would not have written a blog. “Least said, soonest mended.” That phrase was quoted by Laura when she was dealing with her schoolteacher, Miss Wilder, who didn’t like her, but those four words speak volumes to me right now even though I don’t have a quarrel going with anyone.

So, I’m going to try life without blogging for awhile. I will say less. It seems wise. Goodbye for now.

Kid Art

As much as I’d like to write something really important, some sharp thinking of mine, something that cuts deep when you read it, I’m in a bit of brain-muddle at the moment. A little too lazy to go upstairs and fetch the book I want to quote sometime. A little too busy with normal life to philosophize on something abstract. So I’m going to talk about kid art and how it’s hanging all over my house.

My three kids like to paint and draw and create. They often do this just for the fun of it. My son likes to make things look real, and my daughters like to play with colors and textures and ways to apply paint. All three of them like seeing their artwork on the walls. In fact, they don’t like to see their work go on the fridge because “then Mom will throw it away.” Very true. A magnet slips, a drawing of a cat slides to the ground, I stealthily pick it up and recycle it. So we have kid art on the walls. At first, I didn’t like the idea. I love art on the walls. But I love to pick what art goes on the walls. I like creating an atmosphere, or something like that. When my daughter hung her red house with blue smudges all around it, cut into some sort of strange polygon shape, directly over my husband’s side of the bed, I didn’t like it. I resolved to remove it within a few days. A month or two later, it’s still there. And I kind of like it. It’s cheerful, direct, naive. It reminds me of the artist. There’s definitely stranger things hanging on museum walls.

Maybe I’m sharp enough for a cutting thought after all. Here it is: I’m learning things about art from my kids. They are the next generation of artists (and indeed my youngest wants to be an artist when she grows up). Their art might not be worth much money, but that’s not what art should be about anyway. It’s about exploration, growing in your own process, creating something you want to share with the world. Or at least with Mom and Dad. In the prime wall space above their bed, which is reflected in the mirror across the room. She really has a good sense for location:)

The Ball

The Ball, Victor Gabriel Gilbert (1847-1933)
The Ball, Victor Gabriel Gilbert (1847-1933)

I am reading Emma by Jane Austen (not my first time through), and I am currently on the ball scene. Of course, it is a much smaller ball than this one, in a room of a village hotel, not this glimmering golden ballroom, but there are elements of all fancy get-togethers that are universal, don’t you think? I recall my school’s equivalent of prom (we called it the Junior-Senior banquet), and I remember certain impressions, which I imagine are present in both this scene and in Emma. I remember an element of unusually high spirits–tipsy on life, not drink. The way we all dressed made it seem like we were all playing dress-up. I guess we were, but I don’t think I was supposed to actually think that thought. I believe there are quite a few people who can dress fancy and feel natural in those clothes. The decorations felt fake, no matter how elegant they really were. The conversation tended toward the ridiculous, or else small-talk, which I don’t do well.

I’m finding out that I am not portraying balls and the like with fairness. I am only portraying my own inability to enjoy them to the fullest. I don’t think I can ever accept them for what they are. I like them far better in books and pictures. And myself in flannel shirt and jeans. I am certain if I were at a ball like this I’d be seated, playing with the fan in my lap, wondering how long I had to stay. Mr. Knightley might come up and politely offer to dance, but I’m afraid he would admit later to Emma that I was quite difficult to converse with. I haven’t an open nature, and he found himself wishing he was listening instead to talkative Miss Bates discuss her mother’s shawl and eyeglasses.:) I do like Mr. Knightley, but I can’t imagine him liking me! I suppose that’s why I’m married to a man who talks a lot. I don’t have to.

The Wind in the Willows

Restlessly the Rat wandered off once more, climbed the slope that rose gently from the north bank of the river, and lay looking out towards the great ring of Downs that barred his vision further southwards–his simple horizon hitherto, his Mountains of the Moon, his limit behind which lay nothing he had cared to see or to know. Today, to him gazing south with new-born need stirring in his heart, the clear sky over their long low outline seemed to pulsate with promise; today, the unseen was everything, the unknown the only real fact of life. On this side of the hills was now the real blank, on the other lay the crowded and coloured panorama that his inner eye was seeing so clearly.

— from The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame, 1908

It comforts me to know that Rat, simple and steadfast Water Rat, has this moment of restlessness. Even Rat, who loves his river home and is a most practical animal in this book, can have days where the unseen is everything and the present situation is blank.

Today was a day for sitting around and reading books to make the time go faster. We were homebound with the snow falling sideways outdoors. I certainly wasn’t wanting to be out in the weather, but I was wanting out. Somewhere in the future, I suppose, or to some alternate life. Perhaps a life where we sometimes go on vacations. It wasn’t a real clear vision. It was more a stirring of the heart. This could be discontent. I’ve been rather down on myself today, so it probably is discontent, one more sin added on to everything else bad I’ve thought. Or it could be the way God leads us forward. With those desires and wishes. Why is it so difficult to figure out what is good and what is wrong?

Nocturnes

I’m not going to pull a quote from this book because my quotes would all be too long and really you ought to read the whole thing, not just a small part of it. It’s called Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall by Kazuo Ishiguro, 2009. Characterization, and not the music involved, plays the beautiful notes in this book. Famous singers, wives of famous singers, fans of famous singers pretending they don’t listen to their favorite music anymore, musicians playing where they can get a job, traveling musicians, jobless song-writers, a virtuoso or two, an ugly saxophone player who gets plastic surgery to boost his career: these are the characters in these stories. The dialogue shines, the plots run on hilarious lines, and the endings stop in tasteful places. I thank the librarian who put this book on the display this month. I look forward to reading more by this author.