Reflective Moments on Compassion: The Brave Writer Retreat

 

the squares

the squares

Ruckkehrunruhe. n. the feeling of returning home after an immersive trip only to find it fading rapidly from your awareness—to the extent you have to keep reminding yourself that it happened at all, even though it felt so vivid just days ago—which makes you wish you could smoothly cross-dissolve back into everyday life, or just hold the shutter open indefinitely and let one scene become superimposed on the next, so all your days would run together and you’d never have to call cut.      —The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows (John Koenig)

Julie greeting her people

Julie greeting her people

Eunoia is a noun and a word I very rarely use. The word means beautiful thinking or a well mind. Eunoia (yoo’-noy-ah) is the state I find myself in after the retreat with a slight fear of ruckkehrunruhe. Okay, I do know that The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows is totally made up but I have experienced many of these feelings and I think they should be adopted into our everyday usage. Just sayin’.

I arrived a scared bundle of nerves. Could I really just be myself amongst these women? I’ve felt rejected by other groups before. I 20160713_205413 (640x456)usually just do not fit; like a misplaced puzzle piece longing to find the box of home I belong to. As a family we have completely given up on homeschool groups. Many are just so clickish and refuse to accept others (I’m always an other) or we just do not love Jesus in the same manner as the group. By that, I mean my hair isn’t long enough, my skirts are not long enough (God forbid, I actually wear jeans!!!), I value 20160713_190013 (640x480)individuality over obedience, and I just refuse to be “evangelical”. I had a long conversation one night with Adam about that very subject. He worked the night shift at the hotel I stayed at for the retreat and was homeschooled through tenth grade. He shared his story with me and had some interesting insights into the emotional and social needs of homeschooled kids who do not 20160715_080458 (480x640)fit the surrounding social group. Chatting with him for a couple of evenings (or early-early in the morning) was just as eye-opening as the retreat conferences. I’ll likely never meet Adam again but I am glad we momentarily connected in life.

However, I must confess the Brave Writer Moms welcomed me with open arms and I totally love them all. I found my peeps, my tribe…the box of puzzle pieces I “fit” with comfortably. These ladies totally understood why I was proud of my Littlest when he

an evening of laughter and connection

an evening of laughter and connection

was removed from his homeschool co-op class! Nobody made me feel judged…just accepted. We all felt that same sense of freedom and connection with each other…well…that is my impression anyway. Julie built this Brave community and infused us with an atmosphere of trust and acceptance. Julie claims she is not an artist but I must disagree. Her medium is composed of hearts and 20160715_075610 (480x640)souls and she wove a beautiful, brave community of mothers (and their families) together. There is only one other place on this earth I have ever felt safer and that is in the comforting arms of my husband.

We all cried together and we laughed together. I have not laughed so unself-consciously in years. I wept bitter but cleansing tears. I’ve messed up as a mother sometimes…but I left the retreat with the knowledge that I can embrace my faults, share my fears, hug my kids and move on to better days. I have the tools and knowledge I need to be an 20160714_140031 (480x640)intentional mother and educator. I left the retreat content, calm…maybe slightly emotionally high, and ready…ready to fall in love with my family all over again. To observe my sweet children and be the mother they really need and not the image of motherhood I think is required.

I was so privileged to meet my hero Stephanie (Homeschool Alliance coach). If I can be half the awesomeness she is then I will be so happy! I just want to sit at her feet and soak up her wisdom…a wisdom that at times seemed to 20160714_092522 (480x640)be hard-earned. She could have let bitterness overtake her but she chose to remain open and honest- cultivating a peacemaker’s heart. That is my impression of her. She also taught me that I can home educate my kids through highschool…the idea isn’t so scary anymore. Alex taught me that we can just appreciate nature. I do not have to know the name of every plant and creature to do nature studies with my crew. Nature study isn’t as complicated as I’ve made it out to be…we can go on scavenger hunts, watch clouds 20160714_153133 (480x640)and draw in our journals and it is enough. Melissa taught me that I do not have to prescribe to any particular educational philosophy. I can borrow unapologetically what my family requires from each method and adapt as our needs ebb and flow. What matters the most is our relationships to one another.

Julie taught with her tears, laughter and open vulnerable heart. She explained how to bring the Charlotte Mason philosophy into our century. “Charlotte is awesome”, she said “but not more awesome than YOU!” She shared with us the importance and sacredness of home…and compassion. I think she could write a 20160715_120434 (480x640)book on the importance of compassion in everyday relationships…with our spouse, kids and even ourselves. Our home atmosphere matters far more than the curriculum we use. If our homes are safe places to be creative, take risks, receive compassion, communicate openly and respond with consistent intention then, we’ve created an atmosphere where learning takes place continuously. Letting all of this knowledge flow from my mind to my heart is gonna take a little time…maybe more than a little.

20160714_082145 (480x640)The place for the retreat was lovely. I tried to arrive early each morning to walk the Franciscan community’s grounds. The flowers and sculptures were beautiful. The place felt sacred even though it was in the middle of a large city. I spent part of one of my morning strolls chatting with Sister Karen. I met her returning from the outdoor Way of the Cross Stations and walked her to the chapel for prayers. She explained the history of their community, grounds and gardens. Later, I walked up to the sister’s cemetery and read 20160714_081959 (480x640)some of the names and dates on the stones. Every stone represented the life and dedicated service of a precious person. Women who consciously set out to make the world a better place. I thought about my own time in the monastery and what those years mean to me. I realized just how much strength I’ve drawn from my time in the cloister. I thought about my young and naïve thoughts on being a “bride of Christ” and realizing the truth is actually being a bride of humanity. A calling that I still feel sometimes and that manifests itself in compassion. My life made some sort of connecting loop in the sister’s cemetery (Oh, the tears!)). I am still called to a life of compassion…

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

—Wendell Berry

Look what he learned while I was away

Look what he learned while I was away

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Sunday Journal: Interrupted with Laughter, Agony and Gifts

first day pictures

first day pictures

Last week I was all excited over our first official week of the school year…God laughed at my well thought out plans. Just a couple of years ago I would have stressed out to the point of tears and rage over the spoiling of my perfect plans.

Umm…I simply chose to laugh along this year…and just accept the unexpected path. For the record, our first week back went just fine and we accomplished more than I initially realized. Everyday this week my well laid plans were obliterated by our lovely four-year old, visitors, schedule changes, a door-to-door salesman who couldn’t take a nicely stated hint, some personal stress, trip to the post office, nearly avoiding a vehicle accident, a math fiasco and a

Sparkles and friend

Sparkles and friend

one-thousand word plus paper on Eleanor of Aquitaine (I only requested a five paragraph paper!).  Oldest hit a mathematical wall with fractions and I decided to set our normal curriculum aside for a few weeks and explore fractions. Middle Boy is struggling in math as well. I love our math curriculum but we need to slow it down for a little while…some curriculums just go to fast.  For the next few weeks the crew will work on solidifying math facts. My shoulders are actually sore from all the tension this week.

Math did not go as planned this week…my crew’s needs are far more important than that beautiful color-coded schedule I already had planned out for the first school term. I spent

Littlest went to church as Batman today

Littlest went to church as Batman today

Saturday evening erasing all of my lovely color-coded math plans. Then I got a little crazy and erased all of my Bible lesson plans too. I loved the idea of studying the Old Testament with my children but as we’ve read I’ve had to explain dark and horrible aspects of history. Two of my children cried over some of the stories. They are just not ready for much of the Old Testament. I wanted to cry myself. We did not study the Bible at all this week. I needed guidance and simply chose to wait for enlightenment. On Saturday we chose to go for a drive and while looking at cypress trees in a creek I knew what we should do. We will spend the week preparing for Sunday. The Methodist church has a three-year cycle lectionary . During the week we will read and study the Old Testament reading, the Psalm, New Testament and Gospel reading on Monday through Thursday. Not only will the kids be prepared for Sunday but so will I! I’m keeping the plans simple for now. I haven’t been able to find a Bible curriculum that we love. So we’ll just read the Sunday passages and I’ll try not to stress over not having a teacher’s guide with all the answers…

I knew as I was writing my curriculum plans into place over the past few weeks that these were only temporary. This year is turning out to be a time of transition so I feel a bit adrift at the

Minecraft fun

Minecraft fun

moment as I continue to study the techniques behind the Charlotte Mason method. I’ve noticed that all of my children no matter their individual learning styles all respond positively and with better retention with Charlotte Mason inspired curriculum or teaching techniques. This year I will gradually remodel our homeschool to better fit their needs and my own vision. Our school room needs a physical change too…so tired of this color. I’m not sure if these walls are green or brown…sort of a diaper surprise greenish-brown. I need a color I love in here…something lively and bright. I need to find an inspiration piece to base the room on…

Lovely books!!

Lovely books!!

Anyway, I started to doubt myself over this changing approach to schooling. I expressed my doubts and anxiety to Jesus. The very day I began to doubt I received a note from Deborah Taylor-Hough who writes at The Original Simple Mom and Simple Pleasures Press blogs. She wanted to send me her book A Twaddle-Free Education: An Introduction to Charlotte Mason’s Timeless Educational Ideas. I’m still just blown over by her kindness! (Thank you!!!!!!) One moment I am doubting my inspiration and with the next breath I am given a book to guide me along! All I could do was thank Jesus for his incredibly clear directions…I’m still a bit dazed really. She also gave me another book called Min-n-Match Recipes. I haven’t had a chance to look through it yet but Oldest has already read it and picked out some recipes he wants to try. I’ll share more about these books in a week or two.

Praying for a calmer week. Please?

Linking up with: Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers

What I’m reading:

I’ve never read Jane Austen from Beautiful Feet Books. I’ll have to remedy that very soon!

So glad I abandoned Attila-the-Mum  during my first year of homeschooling…I held out a bit too long but glad to be laughing about it now!

Take a walk away from the busy roads…Charlotte Mason lifestyle keeps calling to me.

Lessons from the “ghost of public school past” I should be careful not to pass on.

This year I will be learning and translating the Charlotte Mason learning-lifestyle into our home and learning spaces…starting here.

I love reading about church history…any denomination.

I love this and a big “Amen!” to the wine part…sadly…I’m all out.

Beautiful Feet Books: Introducing the Intermediate Medieval Study

Intermediate Medieval books and guide from Beautiful Feet Books

Intermediate Medieval books and guide from Beautiful Feet Books

I’m so excited about this review series that I can hardly contain myself! If you read my blog (or know me in “real life”) you already know how much I love Beautiful Feet Books! I tell everyone that the philosophy behind this curriculum saved my homeschool. I began my homeschool career as a die-hard neo classical educator and am now a Charlotte Mason-er (can I say that descriptively?) until the end. We fell in love with home education as a family with the discovery of Beautiful Feet Books and through them…the Charlotte Mason life-style.

Charlemagne paper and a peek at the guide

Charlemagne paper and a peek at the guide

I love the set up of the study guide (written by Rebecca Manor) for the course. Instead of numbered lessons the guide is set up by weeks for a total of thirty-five weeks. There are usually four to six assignments each week. The guide is beautifully illustrated and full of internet links and hands-on activities. For this study the curriculum suggests that students keep a notebook for noting discussion questions and vocabulary exercises and a separate portfolio for essays and other exemplary works by the student. The vocabulary lists are drawn from the books in the course to help the child better understand the reading material. The guide clearly points out which assignments belong in the portfolio. There is also a suggested list of books to check out from the library related to the current week’s study. I’ve manage to borrow some of these books from friends and find others cheaply at library sales. I’ll share our favorites throughout this review.

Box Day!! Always a happy day in a book loving homeschool!

Box Day!! Always a happy day in a book loving homeschool!

We are now in our second week with the Intermediate Medieval study. My oldest and I (I firmly believe in reading aloud even to my oldest) are nearly finished with Beowulf. We are enjoying this book together. I loved studying Beowulf in my university literature course (many, many years ago!) I kinda wondered how this story was going to work with a sixth grader but I am delighted with the version BFB chose for their study. I’ve truly enjoyed reading it to my oldest. This book is so poetic and the illustrations are lovely. Tomorrow we will finish the book and he will write his second paper for his portfolio. The spine book for the study is The European World: 400-1450. We’ve already read through chapter two. I’ve accepted the fact that spine books are an evil necessity in literature based history studies. However, this book is excellent and when I sat down to explore the book a bit I read the first five chapters without realizing it. The book isn’t dry and textbookish at all. Several times I’ve had to confiscate the book from Oldest when I’ve caught him reading ahead of schedule! That is the sign of an excellent book.

map-work

map-work

Oldest’s first assignment was a bit of map-work. He didn’t want to wait any longer to begin the study waiting for a blank map to be ordered by mail. He also really likes to draw maps. After discussing a few options, Oldest decided to use tracing paper to make his map. He pulled the large world map off the wall and traced most of Europe and parts of north Africa. Once he is finished with this map he will mount it onto a large piece of poster paper. He was unhappy with his Ancient map from the last academic year because he felt it was too crowded with information. When he feels that his current map is full enough he will attach it to the poster and then trace another map. He plans to mount the traced maps “lift-the-flap style” onto the poster paper as he completes them. I’ll post pictures of his map as he builds it. He also wanted to draw a map himself instead of just mark a pre-made one. I didn’t mind because it was one less thing for me to purchase and I have the map-making supplies he needs on hand.

our reading material for the next thirty-five weeks or so...

our reading material for the next thirty-five weeks or so…

After making his first map for the study, Oldest read about Charlemagne and wrote a small one page paper for his portfolio. I was pleased with his paper even thought it is a bit short. He hates writing and if given a choice, he would prefer to spend his time conjugating Latin and working long division! We also watched these videos from the History Channel. After learning about Charlemagne he then spent a couple of days on vocabulary studies preparing for Beowulf. Next weeks studies lead us to King Arthur!!! All of my Beautiful Feet Books reviews are posted to this Pintrest board. You can also read Beautiful Feet Books’ interview with me on their blog. I answered their interview questions while my youngest pelted me with Angry Bird stuffed animals… Legal requirements: The government demands that I tell you I received this study free with no guarantee of a positive review according to FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”. All opinions are my own and the materials provided are for a frank and honest review and your experiences may differ… Linking up with All Things Beautiful’s History and Geography Meme She also has a lovely Pinterest Board on history and geography.