Paper Sloyd

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I’m preparing a talk on paper sloyd that I am giving in June, and I can’t help but think about the fact that each time I mention it I get one of two reactions: a blank stare, which is most common, and a sheepishness.  The sheepishness usually comes from CM moms who have heard of sloyd, but are either too confused or intimidated to try it.  I thought I’d type out a bit about what sloyd is and how to start in order to ease the confusion and intimidation.  It is really quite simple, but at the same time so foundational for geometry, measurement, and precision in math as well as the intellectual habits of accuracy, honesty, and diligence.

Now, I’ve written a bit about this before, and you’re welcome to check that out as well. At the time, I was teaching sloyd in a classroom environment at a Charlotte Mason school, but doing it at home with my kids isn’t much different.

What is sloyd?  It is a Swedish word meaning the rough equivalent of handiwork.  It is also a system developed by Otto Salomon that incorporated the use of paper, then wood, and metals.  It was a staple in Nordic schools, and is still taught in that area of the world. Yes, all those articles about how schools in Finland are the best? The kids do sloyd.

Let’s not get put off by the idea of woodwork and metalwork quite yet.  At first, it is as easy as finding paper that is a bit thicker than printer paper (though, printer paper will work in a pinch) and some other basic supplies – scissors, pencil, and perhaps some stickers or a hole punch if you want to decorate or hang up your creation.  See, this is easy already.

Next, there is a book in the public domain that is worth printing called Paper Sloyd for Primary Grades by Ednah Anne Rich.  I say print it, even though you could buy it printed for a reasonable price only because the one you would print at home is not compressed or stretched and so the examples print in the proper size.  The copy I purchased has compressed the writing to half size to use fewer pages and so all the diagrams are now half as wide as they should be… which makes it a bit confusing.  However, if your printer is broken and you know you’ll start in two days if Amazon Prime does the work for you, by all means just do that.  Well begun is half done, after all and so it is better to start than to procrastinate because you need ink or you keep forgetting to print it.

Now, the beauty of this book is that it works for all beginners and it is fully scripted.  The two keys to success I have found lie in these two important points:

  1. Don’t skip the intro.  The intro holds all of the information you need as teacher.  If you skip it, you will mostly likely not understand enough about the method to actually be doing sloyd and you’ll just be folding paper.  Techniques are outlined well in the introduction.
  2. Take your time.  10-15 minutes is probably enough and it may take 6 sessions to get through the first project.  That is ok.  Learning to create straight lines, tiny pencil dots, and safe cuts is key to the process.  Don’t rush through.  All of this work now lays the foundation for future projects.

Now, try the first project out on your own using the instructions.  See where you find the language confusing (if at all), and work through it on your own.  The questions you have are often the ones your students will have too, so find the answers now.

It’s time.  Bring in the kids.  If you have kids middle school aged and up, your pace will be faster than with the 4th grade and under crowd.  I find kids in 1st and 2nd grade need a lot of time.  If you have a wide age range in your home, this is a great time to do one project with the older kids and allow one of them to teach the younger ones.  They will learn it even better when they teach it.

Your first project will be delightful – it is an envelope.  There is a scrap of paper left over that is perfect for making a note to fit in the envelope.  It is not only a lovely creation, but a lovely gift and Charlotte encouraged handicrafts to be given away whenever possible so this fits the bill nicely.  Kids will naturally practice on their own time as they want to send these envelopes to more siblings, friends, and family members.  Let them play with the materials – different thicknesses and glossiness of paper, stickers to seal the envelope, and artwork on top if they’d like.  This should be a delight to them and fully their own creation.

That seems like a good way for you to start, though I’ll be back with more on this topic soon.  Would a video be helpful to walk you through the first project?

The Charlotte Mason Approach to Composition

We are back after our Lenten break (it wasn’t as restful as it sounds!).

Don’t forget we are offering a two-part webinar on Composition which begins this Wednesday.

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My Form 3 Child’s Notebooks

Writing is one of those areas, like science and math, where parents are afraid to depart from traditional schools’ methods. Sadly, parents hold on to these old practices, even while admitting they didn’t learn how to write well themselves and had such negative experiences that they dread teaching composition to their own children. These fears drive them to adopt a curriculum or hire a tutor, and the shinier and more expensive the more it allays their fears (they think).

Charlotte Mason offers us another way, just like she does for the study of history and art and nature.

We can lead our children in paths of delight, where writing becomes second-nature, something that must burst forth from the inside out. A student who is passionate about an idea, and has followed Mason’s course of study, can express their thoughts with precision and care.

Join us for this Two-Session Webinar Bundle for just $20.

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From Oral Narration to Composition with Amy Snell.

Session One. Preparing for Written Narration in the Mason Method.

April 19. 7:00-8:30pm.

What steps should you be taking from the earliest years to help your student develop good communication? Is just “Oral Narration” enough? How can you make the most of transcription, notebooks, and dictation to scaffold your child for written narration. And what about the kids in my neighborhood who are writing “the Five-Paragraph Essay” in 5th grade?

This workshop will cover the elements of strong writing and how they can become a natural and enjoyable part of your child’s life.

Session Two. The Nuts and Bolts of Written Narration.

April 26. 7:00-8:30pm.

With Mason’s philosophy and methods you don’t need a separate writing curriculum to achieve good writing and real learning! In fact, Mason believed Composition lessons should be avoided! This doesn’t mean, however, that she didn’t have definite ideas about how students should learn to write. This session will tackle the common questions and give you the practical information you need for good writing.

Amy’s background allows her to provide a unique perspective on the Charlotte Mason approach to Composition:

-As a former high school and college English Literature, public speaking and composition classes for students of many learning types and ability, including special needs and honors, Amy knows what good communication is all about and what is expected at the highest levels of writing.

-Implemented narration in a wide variety of classes and subjects, including artist study, Plutarch, and Shakespeare and so has led narrations in a wide variety of forms, varying according to the subject taught. Narration is narration and yet a science narration differs from one in literature or history or artist study.

-Worked with children who’ve just begun Charlotte Mason as well as those steeped in the method.

-Guided parents and mentored teachers at The Mason Academy (a K-12 blended model school in the Philadelphia area) in implementing narration at home and in the classroom.

-Uses Mason’s practices on a daily basis with her own five children in their home schoolroom.

Register today to reserve your spot!

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Happy Friday {SQT}

We don’t do link-ups often, but with a few busy weeks under our belts, it seems like we need some sort of catch-up post, so Seven Quick Takes with Kelly it is.

  1. There is a new Charlotte Mason Instagram account to add to your follow list @charlottemasonIRL.  A conglomeration of some of your favorite CMers showing what homeschooling looks like in their home.  We aren’t professional photographers with pristine homes – rather than aspirational, we are calling it practical inspiration.
  2. So… we are past the ides of March and still haven’t talked abut the next room in the Delightful Home.  Let’s just say the stomach bug has made our home less than delightful recently.  Then we had very delightful visitors, which meant living life rather than writing about it.  We haven’t forgotten though!
  3. img_1063Hair braiding.  That’s a handicraft, right?  I’ve only got one daughter (and Amy with her four daughters is too far away to give us in person tutorials) and we’ve been using YouTube to figure out how to make fun braids.
  4. Last term of school starts Monday!  We are officially on the downhill.  Does anyone want a post of what books we are using?  I always like seeing what other families use in their home schools and thought you might also.
  5. Happy St. Patrick’s day.  No corned beef around here because it is also Friday, which means we abstain from meat.  I am feeling rather more authentically Irish about the holiday though, since the Irish are great fisherman.  I mean, they invented the proper woolen sweater just for fishing. Fish and chips it is!Image result for irish fisherman's sweater
  6. The giveaway closes on Monday! Head over there to enter – you have three chances, so the odds are good one of those Riverbend Press prints could be on your wall soon!  Also, the webinar registration is still open for our tuesday webinar on that painting. I can’t wait!
  7. Lastly, would you say a prayer or two for Amy – she is part of a panel on Monday discussing character formation in schools and she is the representative of Home Schools.  The discussion is being moderated by David Brooks of the New York Times, so its pretty exciting.  If anyone wants to know more, maybe Amy will write up her experience here.  She will be presenting her research on CM and character formation at the National CMI Conference in Kentucky this June, if you’ll be there.

Have a wonderful weekend!

But is it practical?

As homeschooling mothers, we are often busy with those things the must be done: chores, schedules, driving, schooling.  We know there is benefit to reading good books, poetry, good music, and days of rest, but finding the time always seems difficult.  The practical things, the urgent things, beckon us.

Soon, school planning time comes around.  We look at our year and what wasn’t executed the way we had envisioned and we’ve heard much talk of new ideas and new ways of implementing different subjects; it can feel overwhelming. We must pick out math curricula, history books, science topics… How do we introduce writing?  Is narration being done correctly? What if the kids don’t spell well?  Many things seem to need our immediate attention.  They all seem so urgent.

I invite you to take a few steps back.  Perhaps now is a good time to take a bird’s eye view of your home school.  Or perhaps fly even a bit higher than the average bird…

The Great Regcognition

Let’s come together and talk about the philosophy of your homeschool.  We’ll do it by diving deeply into Charlotte Mason’s “creed picture“.  It was here that much of her greatest thoughts are visually expressed.

What will we talk about at the webinar?

  • The Florentine mind of the Middle Ages, and the “boldness of the scheme of education” presented in the painting.
  • The Holy Spirit as teacher.
  • How we can co-operate in the education of our children.
  • Who are the characters in the painting and why are they important?
  • What messages did the artist send through the structure of the painting?
  • How can the discord in our lives and school rooms brought into harmony through unity?
  • What role does virtue and wisdom play in education?  Should they be our aim?
  • How to understand this painting from the top down and the bottom up and how that affects your school room.

Will it be practical? Yes.  In the same way that having a map or GPS device is practical when driving across the country.  Can you make it to your destination without one? Maybe, but you’ll be glad to have it when you are on the road.  You trip will certainly be full of smooth and easy days if you can plan where to go and what to see.  Surely, you will need to worry about gasoline, food, and rest stops – but it is best to start with a map.  Consider this painting your roadmap!

Do you want your own copy of the painting? We are giving away three and there is still time to enter!

If you haven’t registered for the webinar yet, I’d love for you to join me this Tuesday, March 21 at 8pm.  We have some great folks signed up and the conversation is going to be great!

The Great Regcognition

The Great Recognition, for you. {A Giveaway}

We’ve told you how much we love Riverbend Press before, and so we were thrilled when they offered to give us three beautiful prints to give away to in conjunction with our upcoming webinar on this painting.

Great RecognitionPrint Giveaway!

This print is really beautiful – printed on a product that is more like canvas than paper, it is durable and can hang unframed, as I do.  It is a seamless combination of the upper vault and the wall of the Spanish chapel, which is a big deal!  Imagine photographing from the middle of the ceiling nearly down the floor and having minimal distortion.  It is an heirloom quality piece.

How can you get one?  Well, one way is to visit the shop.  Another way is to win one right here!  We have three to give away!

  1. One will be randomly drawn during our webinar and given to an attendee – so go register!
  2. Another will be given away to a commenter on this post.  Leave a comment to enter, it is that easy. If you share this giveaway on Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest – link it in the comments for an extra entry.
  3. The last print will be given away on our Instagram account.

Giveaway will close Monday, March 20 at 8pm and all winners will be chosen and announced on March 21.

The Great Recognition – A Magnificent Scheme of Unity

There are times in a person’s life where they are simply struck by the force of beauty in a way that is transformational.  In 1894, Charlotte Mason had one of these moments as she traveled to Florence with John Ruskin’s book in hand and found herself in front of a painting then already 530 years old depicting the ideas around which she had based her educational philosophy.  This piece of art would go on to hang prominently in her school for teachers, and as Essex Cholmondeley wrote:

Charlotte built this ‘great recognition’ deep into the foundations of the students’ life and training there. It formed the special teaching of Whitsunday afternoon. A reproduction of the frescoes had its place in a central position for all to live with. The students called it the ‘creed picture,’

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In 2013, I was introduced to this painting at the CMI National Conference where Dr. Deani Van Pelt spoke on it.  I think they allotted 2 hours for her talk, but no one in the room wanted to move as time ran out and we all could have chatted for many hours more.  I spoke to my dear friends and told them that other moms needed to hear this story!  At our 3-day summer intensive, I presented what I had learned and what I had found out since that day. Further study of the painting as well as further reading of Mason’s many references to it filled me with delight.  Since that day, I have visited the painting twice and presented on it myself at the CMI National Conference last year. In my four years of studying this painting, I have still not nearly exhausted its many insights, but I will share with you the one I treasure most: Unity.

Here we have the scheme of a magnificent unity. – Charlotte Mason

The things of God have long been understood as those that are Unum, Bonum, Verum, Pulchrum. Unity, Goodness, Truth, and Beauty. While we may often hear of Truth, Beauty, and Goodness spoken of in homeschooling circles, the transcendental of Unity is lesser known, yet encompasses so much of what God is (a Unity of one God in three Persons) and what he commands of us:

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called;one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.  -St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians 4:1-6

This is so much the case, that our word Devil comes from the Greek Diabolos, one meaning of which is “to scatter, disperse, separate”.  God unifies, sin divides.  God gathers, sin scatters.  Now, as a fallen people prone to sin, we step into this error all the time: we divide and subdivide ourselves over all sorts of things.  Though we see the warnings throughout Scripture and we are warned by St. Paul:

 Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment…  Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ.  Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?  -St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians 1:10, 13

This painting, as Charlotte noticed, shows a great scheme of unity.  The artist shows it as a unification of faith and reason, the sacred and the natural, Divine revelation and natural law.  Charlotte sees this as well and discusses this throughout the volumes – the fact that there is no division between the sacred and the secular,  between science and religion, piety and intellect.  The unity comes in when we realize that “every fruitful idea, every original conception, whether in Euclid, or grammar, or music, was a direct inspiration from the Holy Spirit”1.  Our God has a plan so large and His thoughts are so unlike ours that He can work though any soul, even those “whom we might be lightly inclined to consider as outside the pale of the divine inspiration.”2

That’s a lot to chew on.  I know it is for me.  “It is truly difficult to grasp the amazing boldness of this scheme of the education of the world which Florence accepted in simple faith.”3

Would you like to spend some time learning about who is depicted in this painting, the painter, the Florentines, and Charlotte’s writings on it?  I’d love to have you join me for a webinar on March 21 at 8pm.  It will be the presentation I gave last year, reworked to make some time for discussion and questions at the end.

Grab a glass of wine and enjoy some mother culture.

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  1. CM Vol. 2, p. 271
  2. CM Vol. 2, p. 271
  3. CM Vol. 2, p. 271