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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Click here to purchase a replay!

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

Beauty in the Kitchen

We all need beauty. It is simply how we are made.  Truth, beauty, and goodness give us a window into the Divine and so while it would seem to be enough for us to have a kitchen that is practical and uncluttered, it would never feel complete.  We need to bring in something beautiful.

What is beautiful?  Surely, there is some aspect of beauty to a space that functions well.  That lacks the excesses and allows the person using the room to enjoy its use.  Then, the space should be clean.  Cleanliness is next to Godliness they say.  Take the time, if not this week, then perhaps during the Lenten season or the springtime to do a deep clean of your kitchen.  You know the feeling when you are done – it is absolute joy.  There is nothing like a sparkling sink and clean floors and an oven with nothing burnt on it to make one feel like cooking a delicious meal for others.

So you have a space that is functional and clean, but what then should you add to it?  The answer is as personal as the person and the family.  I’ll give some ideas to spur your own creativity and then welcome your ideas as well.

Favorite cookware:  Is there a space to hang your dear cast iron pan, show off your wooden spoons, or somewhere to display those copper pots you love so much?  If you reach for it often and love how it looks as well, why not bring it out for others to see?

Favorite serving pieces: Perhaps you love to look at the platter from your wedding or your favorite Polish pottery rather than just storing them away.  Put some pieces on the wall if you have the space and you can enjoy them for their beauty as well as their use.

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Found on Etsy here.

 

Quotes or inspiration:  I personally love the quote I have over my sink from St. Teresa of Avila that says, “God walks amidst the pots and pans”.  It reminds me that when I am doing simple tasks for the love of others, that is often exactly where God wants me most – especially if it is my least favorite chore.  Maybe you could find something equally inspirational for you!

A rug:  Kitchen rugs are useful in spots where floors get chilly in winter or standing on tile can make legs weary.  Don’t feel limited to the selection you find in the designated “Kitchen Rug” section at the big box stores.  Sometimes a runner or area rug meant for another part of the house can have a beautiful pattern that brings a smile to your face each day.

Curtains: Does the room need a bit of simplicity in the way of beautiful, white panels over the sink or perhaps your neutrals in the rest of the space can be livened up with some color and pattern framing the window?

Upgrading just one thing: Is there a small appliance that is on the verge of dying or a utensil holder you just don’t like or some similar item that for you, is the opposite of beautiful?  You don’t need to update the kitchen to love it, sometimes it is just replacing the one thing that really bothers you.  It could be as simple as some beautiful new hooks, new knobs on the cabinets, or getting a new coffee maker.  Donate the old thing if you can and bring some joy into your kitchen with a small upgrade.

This is the time to really think about what brings you joy – what would make you smile each time you saw it?  Add that!

What is your favorite item in the kitchen?

Riverbend Press Giveaway

There are a few companies that just do things really well.  I’m talking about the type of companies started by people who pour their heart and soul into it because they love what they do.  Riverbend Press is that type of company.  Begun by a homeschooling mother of two darling girls who also happened to be the daughter of an old fashioned book binder, she couldn’t find what she wanted when it came to high quality notebooks – so she stepped out and partnered with her dad to start a whole new company.  Her creations are based on hours of poring over the Charlotte’s volumes, PR articles, and L’Umile Pianta articles to make sure her books were as authentic as they could be.  She then had the books printed on the best paper with sewn bindings so they lay flat and finished them with beautiful gold-stamped covers.  This is a company that cares about quality, produces their goods in the United States in a family-run business, and aims to offer the best service to all of the families who trust them with their patronage.  We couldn’t be prouder to partner with them for our very first giveaway!

Today, we are announcing a giveaway of two Books of Centuries in your choice of grey or wine cover.  We will give away one here on the blog and one over on Instagram, so head over there for another chance!

The Rules:  Leave a comment below stating the color you would prefer.  If you share this post on social media (your blog, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, etc), leave a separate comment with a link leading to where you shared it and you can earn an extra entry!  We will allow up to five entries per person.  The comments will be closed at 8pm on March 2, 2017 and the winner will be chosen at random and announced here on March 3.  Books can be shipped within the US only.

February 

February is not typically an easy month for schooling.  I would say homeschooling, but I’ve heard from enough teachers that this is a universal struggle.  I can’t help but think it goes beyond schooling at all.  Winter is dragging on, there is little or no green growth, but we are so close.  So close.  Spring officially comes in March, the days are growing longer, and hope is on the horizon for warm days, ice cream cones, and beach trips.  How can we best manage our days through this very long shortest month of the year?

One way I have found is to get outside more.  We’ve been lucky this year in that the weather is mild.  We went to the park today to get some sunshine and it was lovely.  Because of that decision, not all the schoolwork will get done today and that’s ok.  It isn’t ok every day, but here and there in February, it can make all the other days so much more bearable.

Mother culture time.  Moms need to recharge too.  I have mother culture activities in progress the same way I have books in progress – easy, medium, and hard all ready for me to pick up wherever I left off whenever the time is available.  I just finished an embroidery of a worker bee (part nature study, part handicraft) and I’ve been enjoying doing some hand lettering in the evenings.  It is only enjoyable when I am surrounded by a clean kitchen and sitting at a clean table, so I am always sure to get those things done early when I remind myself I can have some time to enjoy writing later.

Coffee.  An occasional donut.  Enough said.

Field trips.  I find February to be a great time for field trips.  If the day is dreary or cabin fever is running high, have a list ready of places you’d like to go with the kids.  If you are well prepared, you can take this time to see the term artist at the local art museum, go to a history museum that supplements your readings that term, or find hear your composer being played by a symphony.  We found that we live right by the National Underground Railroad Museum and that seemed like a great way to supplement our study of Lincoln and Douglass and the Civil War.  We were lucky enough to then come upon the John A. Roebling bridge that spans the Ohio River.  It was completed in 1867, only two years after the war was over.  The same river that separated north and south during the war and was an impediment to those who yearned for freedom in the slave states, was spanned by this beautiful bridge so quickly after the war ended and the bridge still stands as a symbol of unity.  It was also the practice bridge for it’s more famous counterpart, the Brooklyn Bridge.  We learned more by getting out of the house than we would have staying home, I daresay.


Lastly, this is the time of year I start planning ahead. Planning for summer and for next year.  For things like camps and weekend trips as well as books, budgets, and goals for the next grade.  It is a joy to do, and prevents overwhelm come May and June when there are so many end-of-year items of my to do list.  It helps me to enjoy the summer months with less stress, while being a stress reliever in the here and now as well. A win-win if ever there was one.

If you are stuck in the mire of February, and not sure how to plan your year better or how to fix some of the issues plaguing your homeschool, we’d love to help you out.  We have consulting available, and we’d love to help you sort out what isn’t working so that you can get back to thriving in your role as teacher and mother.  Sometimes, it is just the February slump, but other times you just need someone to help you with the task of planning the day, making time for the feast, choosing books appropriate to the students in your home, or some other specific task that you could just use a bit of outside advice on.  We have a limited schedule, but we make all the time we can for mothers who ask for help.  We are booking March now and would love to be of service to you!

Simplify the Kitchen

Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. – Leonardo da Vinci

Simplicity.  It will look different to each of us, but I am asking you to consider it in your home.  It is one of those quiet ideas that can really open up your ability to have time for all the things we want to do.  Why?  Because everything you own takes up your time.  It may be that you have to move it over in order to wipe the counter, or dust it, or take it out and put it away for certain seasons – whatever the upkeep for that item is, it costs you time. It may be just a few seconds or minutes each day, but that time adds up quickly. Now, if that is a delightful activity for you, then by all means continue; but if you would rather spend your time doing something like reading, hiking, painting, or some other activity, it might be time to consider simplifying your space.  Today, we start in the kitchen.

Now, many of us bemoan our kitchens.  They don’t have enough cabinet space, or counter space, or room to move about.  That may be true, but I invite you to consider that you may be trying to store too many things.  This struck me right between the eyes when I began reading great books to my kids and I realized that most of the mothers had no cabinets at all.  Often, it seemed they had just a table, an armoire, or a hoosier in addition to a pantry, a cellar, and a stove.  Most of these books also told the story of families much larger than my own, and so I wondered what I had stuffed into my cabinets that perhaps I didn’t really need.

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Well, it turned out that many modern conveniences are tools that do only one job, and that often didn’t cut it for mothers of previous ages.  I began to look at my kitchen differently and I purged a lot of things.  Then, I realized that many of the items I was hesitant to part with were things I used for special occasions.  They were absolutely useful to me when I held a dinner for many, but on the average day they were just taking up space.  Those items I decided to move to a shelf in the basement so I didn’t have to constantly move them out of my way in my cabinets.

Here is how my cabinet clean out went:

 

 

I am thrilled with the results.  Everything is easy to see and easier to reach.  Things were donated, but more things were simply moved out of the way until they are needed.  Those things now live in what I affectionately call The Butler’s Pantry in my basement.  It is far from what many would consider true minimalism, but it suits our family perfectly.

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If you are looking for some more kitchen inspiration as you simplify, check out this article. I love the use of space and the fact that it is a family of eight makes it all the more inspiring!

For another example that is much less minimalist and a kitchen that serves a family of 10, check this out. Auntie Leila has some good ideas for a hard working kitchen.

Lastly, tackle that junk drawer if you have one.  I always feel so much better knowing that everything in there is useful and has a home.  I used a kitchen utensil organizer and some boxes from IKEA that I had on hand. Labels are helpful in keeping this organized so everyone knows where things should go.

When you simplify, take a photo and tag it #delightfulhome2017 and maybe we’ll post them here with a fun photo round up!  We’d love to see your progress!

Bullet Journal Resources

Some questions have come in from our readers about what you need in order to create a bullet journal system for yourself.  We thought it would be helpful if you took the four minutes to watch the video from the creator of the system itself.

As you can see, his book has a nearly blank page.  It actually has a system of dots on it and this is the type of paper that Amy prefers in her book.  She has previously used the Leuchtturm1917 dotted but has now switched to the larger Moleskine dotted journal. I prefer paper with grid lines on it, so I choose the Leuchtturm1917 squared.  Each of these is in the $20 range.  If you aren’t sure quite yet if you want to invest that much, any blank or lined notebook will do to try it out.  Keep in mind though, that your journal will be going with you everywhere and if this system works for you, you’ll eventually want a nice durable cover, as well as a size that will fit into your purse or diaper bag with ease.

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You don’t need special pens for a bullet journal, but you do need to always have a pen with you.  If you prefer all your lists and notes to have some uniformity, you may want to always have the same pen with you at all times.  It should be one that doesn’t bleed through your paper, and one that has a good stream of ink that is neither running low nor leaving too much on the paper in the form of unsightly blobs.  I have found that when my pens have their own case, they are less likely to get lost and my kids know they aren’t allowed to use the pens in mom’s case.  For those reasons, I choose Staedlter fineliners.  I buy replacement black pens, since that is the only color I have really run through over and over again.

Now, you’re ready to start.  If you’re joining us at our Bullet Journal webinar next week, it might be helpful to have your book and pen at the ready.  If you were thinking about it, we have a few spots left and you can click the button below to register and pay.  It might just be the best $10 you spend this year.

Buy Now Button

CM and Community

Amy is on the Delectable Education Podcast today talking all about her vast experience with starting Charlotte Mason communities.  Amy and I met largely because of the book club she held in her living room full of women eager to learn more of Mason, her methods, and how to better implement them in our homes.  She also began a co-op out of her home which grew and grew until it became, and still is, a school for children K-12.  After moving, she has begun a new co-op and still sits on the board at the school she began, though the running of the day to day operations is now in the hands of another amazing mother and teacher of Charlotte’s method.  In addition to books clubs, co-ops, and a school, Amy has also begun a Nature Club or two, muti-day summer intensives for mothers, field trips, and so many other ways that have helped moms and their children thrive not only in their homes, but within a community of learning.

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If you are a reader who is clicking over after listening to the podcast, we welcome you to our little corner of the internet.  We are homeschooling mothers who have used the CM method for many years and in many different situations – at home, in school, overseas, and in multiple regions within the USA.  To hear more of our stories, click here.  We like to write about how using the CM method has changed our whole lives, and not just our homeschools, so while we certainly write about nature, and books, and habits, you’ll also see us chatting about homemaking, mother culture, and organizing our days.

If you are a long time reader, we invite you to head over to hear Amy speaking today on the podcast!  We’d love to hear about communities you’ve started or questions you have about starting communities in the comments or via email.

The Kitchen

Welcome to the first room in our series, the Kitchen.  Let’s start here, as this is both the heart of the home and where much work of the mother occurs. Before we dive into cleaning, simplifying, and making our kitchen beautiful, it would make sense to think about what we need our kitchens to be. If we think of our rooms as servants to the people who use them, how can your kitchen better serve your family?

Think through the annoying spots.  That counter that is just NEVER clear, that drawer that doesn’t even open all the way and you have no idea what is back there, the cabinet where all the storage containers are in a jumble or the pots are jammed in… You all know what your least favorite spots are.  Write them down.  If you use one, this would be a great page in your bullet journal.  Write down all the things that make your kitchen inefficient or unpleasant right now.  Some of these we can work on this month and it will be so nice to look at this list after the problems are solved!

Related to this is also the idea of where do your processes have a bottleneck?  Is one part of the kitchen where people are bumping into one another as they cook while no one ever seems to be in another spot?  Maybe some rearranging is in order.  We’ll discuss work zones later in the series, but it might be a good time to start thinking about yours and how you can arrange the things in your kitchen to accommodate the people who use them.  In my home, I’d like my kids to unload the dishwasher with less help from me, but that means it would be nice if all the bowls and glassware weren’t on shelves they cannot reach.  Perhaps moving the coffee maker and mugs away from the main cooking area to prevent morning traffic jams would help you, or creating a space where kids can help prep veggies without being too close to a hot oven is your need.  Write down all your thoughts and possible solutions.  Brainstorm here for a while because sometimes a very small change can have a big impact.

When the cooking is through, is it easy to clean?  Do you have a system for getting the dishes cleaned quickly after each meal and the counter cleared as well?  Is the floor swept and the table wiped so that if a guest were to drop in, you could bring them gladly into your kitchen for a cup of tea or coffee?  Do you have a schedule for cleaning out those things that are not everyday tasks – the oven, the microwave, the refrigerator?  Cutting time off of your cleaning means you can use it elsewhere so we’ll focus on this aspect of the kitchen too.  Until then, write down a list of things that don’t get done as often as you like, and another list of all the people in the home who are able to do those tasks.  Caring for the home is a family affair, not yours alone.

Switching gears, what do you love about your kitchen?  Maybe you appreciate the ample cabinet space, or you love an apron that was passed down from your grandmother.  Big or small, make a list of things that are great about your space.  Good light? Charming woodwork? A lovely piece of art hanging on the wall?  We’ll figure out a way to highlight these later and hopefully make the list even longer.

Lastly, I like to remember that when we make our space the best it can be, then it is up to us to improve our attitudes toward the space as well.  I like to think of the fact that there are women who blog daily recipes and write cookbooks out of tiny kitchens.  Ma Ingalls had no cabinets or refrigerator and she raised five children and cooked delicious meals. You need not live in or pine for some imaginary dream kitchen when the one you have now is where your life is being lived day by day. Amazing meals happen in awkward spaces and amazing memories are made in humble kitchens.  Celebrate the space you have now, and let’s make it as pleasant as possible.