Friday, September 30, 2011

Interview with Karen Andreola!

 The Gentle Art of Learning

Please give a short explanation Charlotte Mason Homeschooling.

Living Books

What first attracted me to the writings of the 19th century British educator Miss Charlotte Mason (1842-1922) was what she called “living books.” She confidently replaced the Victorian textbook-workbook-grind (its emphasis on tests and grades) with living books and narration. The standard textbooks used throughout my own schooldays were dull. They left no impression on me. I got by. In my homeschool I aimed to satisfy and safeguard my children’s natural, God-given curiosity. Living books, books alive with ideas, kept our homeschool interesting. It kept my children curious. Boredom and tedium close the mind. Curiosity keeps it open like a flower in sunshine.


Charlotte Mason believed that the best way to gain knowledge from all these lovely vivifying books was with narration. When a child narrates he tells back in his own words what was just read aloud to him. What he narrates, he knows and remembers. Narration takes the place of multiple-choice quizzes or worksheets. To narrate exercises the whole mind. In the late 1980s I hadn’t met anyone else who did school with narration. At first I wasn’t exactly sure what I was doing. But I am so glad I placed my trust in this method. I soon saw that its benefits were many.

There is much more I could say about how wondrous school can be when Charlotte Mason’s principles for learning are tried. But I’ve set these other ingredients aside for my column. I hope you will join me as we explore together what I call, “The Gentle Art of Learning.”

Is Charlotte Mason Homeschooling something you recommend for any homeschooling family? Will it work for all types of families – for example, those with children who have special needs, children who hate reading, or families with lots of children?

Charlotte Mason’s principles will work well for all teachers who see education as something to understand as well as something to do, for all teachers who see the child as person to understand as well as to teach.

Particular Advantages

In her day Miss Mason’s saw her method being worked out with thousands of children. It enlightened the dull child as well the bright. I’ve been in touch with mothers who have children with special needs and I’ve been told that “The Gentle Art of Learning,” is particularly advantageous. Even a blind child can do Nature Study by learning to identify a tree by the feel of its bark, a bird by its song, or an herb by its fragrance. He can write by narrating orally from the books read aloud to him, etc.

Batches For Big Families

The mother of a large family learns to cook in “batches.” The principle of batches can apply to some of Charlotte Mason’s lessons, too. Together children can observe the same art prints, take nature walks and record observations in their nature notebooks, become familiar with beautiful music of the great composers, memorize the words to a hymn; listen to poetry read aloud, or to a story on audio while folding a batch of clean laundry, for instance.

Reading Worth the Effort

All my children looked forward to their reading lessons. Here is the key. Giving a student review of juicy “sight words” among all his “sounding out” practice (and adding a few new sight words weekly) helps him progress more swiftly and in a more interesting manner. Reading is not all about “sounding out.” Reading is recognizing words as the symbols of interesting things, ideas, and actions. The more interesting the things, ideas, and actions - the more appealing reading will be for the child. I learned this from Miss Charlotte Mason’s book, Home Education.

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Saturday, September 24, 2011

TOS Interview with Amelia Harper!

Hi Friends!

Today I have an interview with Amelia Harper to share with you. Amelia will be one of the new writers for The Old Schoolhouse Magazine when we begin publishing our interactive digital monthly magaznine in January 2012!  I'm so excited about going monthly and all the new columnists who will be joining us!  I'm happy to say that we will still have our "regular" TOS writers too, so don't worry that you won't be hearing from your favorites any more--because you will! 

Instead of explaining who Amelia is and what she'll be writing about, I'll post her interview here.  Keep reading all the way to the end of the post to find out how you could win a free one-year subscription to our "new" interactive digital magazine!

QUESTION: Tell us a little about what readers will find in your upcoming column, The Inspired Homeschooler.

The Inspired Homeschooler will be a column that focuses on improving writing skills and inspiring homeschoolers to create written masterpieces of their own. Each column will have suggested writing assignments drawn from that month’s column material. However, the column will not primarily focus on writing instruction for children. I find that there are a growing number of homeschooled teens—and even parents—who are inspired to pursue writing for themselves. And we hope to help them on their journey.

I will be cohosting the column with Susan Spann. Susan and I met through our mutual work for The Old Schoolhouse Magazine and found within one other a kindred spirit. We both love to read and write and both have a passion for inspiring others to writing excellence. However, we have different backgrounds and focus.

Susan is an intellectual property attorney who also writes and speaks on topics such as copyright law and writing contracts. She has made radio appearances and also spoken at writers' conferences. However, she is also an author in her own right and has worked hard to develop her craft. During the coming year, her columns will focus on the steps needed to take an inspired idea and bring it to the point of submission for publication—sort of a mini writing handbook written in a serial style.

My background is more journalistic and educational in focus. I have written for my local newspaper for over fifteen years and for The Old Schoolhouse Magazine roughly seven years, so I have a great deal of research and interview experience. I also teach English classes for homeschooled teens (including my own) and have written a literature curriculum for the homeschool market. In addition, I take occasional forays into poetry and creative fiction—especially fantasy. My columns will alternate with Susan’s and focus more on the wide variety of writing genres in the hopes that others can find their own writing style. So Susan and I complement each other’s skills quite nicely. She is really the brains, however.  :)

QUESTION: Amelia, you created the literature-based curriculum Literary Lessons From the Lord of the Rings. What prompted you to write this study? Has Lord of the Rings been a favorite book of yours for a long time?

I have loved The Lord of the Rings since I first read it as a teenager. It was the work that first showed me the true power of literature and inspired me to want to become a writer. Over the years, especially since I have produced this work, I have found that I am not alone. I have met dozens of homeschooled teens who have come to me and told me how this intense study of The Lord of the Rings has inspired them to pursue writing, or history or even Old English. I love that sense of setting a new scholastic passion aflame in a young person and Tolkien is just the author to do that. Asking me this question is quite dangerous, because I tend to go about it for hours (reportedly with a mad gleam in my eye). But for now, I would just encourage those who want to learn more about this one-year literature curriculum to go to my website at

QUESTION: Parents often fear the high school years. What encouragement can you offer for parents preparing to homeschool their teens?

Are you kidding? These are the best years! You’re young person practically teaches themselves and you are simply a guide and mentor. Actually, the scholastic independence they start to gain is a great way to prepare for college—and life—where learning is largely self-taught. Also, you start to see an adult bloom before your eyes and you set the stage for a new relationship with your child—hopefully one that will last the rest of your life. You start to have amazing conversations about life and love and faith and philosophy. I have three now that have already graduated from college (quite successfully, I might add) and yet I still have two at home, so I am sort of caught in the middle of this whole experience. The worst part about the experience is that your child finally becomes this amazing human being—and then they move away! But that is really the way it is supposed to be—the most beautiful butterflies have to take flight. The teen years are simply the final preparation for that wonderful person you will unleash upon the unsuspecting world. Enjoy these days and keep your sense of humor. You will treasure the good moments and can always store the bad experiences to use as blackmail when they have kids of their own. :)

If you would like a chance to win a free one-year interactive digital subscription to The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, please leave a comment below.  If you sign up to follow my blog on Google Friend Connect, you will get a second entry.  (Please leave separate comments for each entry.)  I would love to hear from you!

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Thursday, September 22, 2011

TOS Blog Hop Interview with Sheila Campbell!

I am so excited to be hosting an interview with Sheila Campbell for The Old Schoolhouse Magazine's blog hop!  Sheila will be writing the sidebar in the new monthly column The Joyful Homeschooler.  I have so much respect for Sheila because she continued to homeschool her children even after the death of her husband in 2001.  And to make it even more challenging, one of her children had special needs! 

I hope you enjoy getting to know Sheila a little bit better! 

How can parents balance academics with character-building? Of course, academics must be done, but how do we keep that from overshadowing the need to have a relationship with our children and to teach them to be men and women of character?

As homeschool parents we often feel pressure from others to prove that our choice of home education is a good choice for our children by producing students that are academically superior to their peers. I think that if we are honest with ourselves, this especially true of those whose approval we wish to gain, like grandparents, other family members, members of the community, or non-homeschool friends. However, we have to be careful that our push for academic excellence does not take our attention away from our first responsibility to build a relationship with our children and to build character in them.

Although we may set aside time each day for character training, character is something that must be worked on continually throughout the day. I think the scripture in Deut 6: 7 best teaches us how to do this, “And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.

We must be careful that the need to finish a math lesson or academic subject does not become so important that we are unwilling to set it aside to deal with a poor attitude or capture teachable moment. Remember our children will learn from our actions what we value most – academics or character.

You have homeschooled for years as a single parent. What advice do you have for single moms who are homeschooling? Any advice for single moms who have to work outside the home yet still want to homeschool their children?

Live simply! I think the single biggest concern and obstacle for single parents is income. Some single parent families (like mine) may have a source of income (we were blessed to have some social security income) but it usually isn’t enough to maintain the “typical American lifestyle”. A few things we did to keep expenses down: we raised and canned a large percent of our food, we raised chickens for meat and eggs, we cut our own firewood and did without air-conditioning and a dryer. My children and I did everything together when they were young – we schooled together and after school we worked together. In the summer we did odd jobs and sold vegetables at the Farmers market together. We worked both for extra income and to keep expenses down. There is a big difference between wants and needs and I think we live in such a wealthy country that it is difficult to distinguish that difference at times.

When the youngest two were in high school I did work part time and this worked well for our family. It is very difficult, but it is possible to work and home school. I think this is much easier when children are old enough to study assigned work while Mom works. Again, I think the only way to make this possible is for everyone to work together as a team – so everyone helps with the daily household tasks and sometimes this may mean kids work on laundry or other chores while mom works or manages the household budget or pays bills. Our motto was we all work until we’re all though – including Mom. I often thank my kids for their help (even today) and remind them that their willingness to help allows me to spend more time with them- which we all enjoy.

I also feel it is very important to develop a spirit of gratitude within our children – especially for children in single parent families. We thank God for every little thing we have and I didn’t allow myself or my children to feel sorry for ourselves or feel as though we deserved special treatment from others. We were always thankful for help, but I didn’t want my children to expect people to help us because they didn’t have a dad. I wanted them to know the Lord was our source and sometimes He used other people to help meet our needs.

Thank you so much, Sheila, for taking the time to share this with us!  I hope this has encouraged everyone who has read it--whether you are a single homeschooling mom or not.  The job of homeschooling is not an easy one, but with God as our guide and support, we can do it!

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Thursday, September 8, 2011

Southern Living

For some reason earlier today, I was thinking about how much I love living here in the South.  I have friends who live in other parts of the country and even in other countries, and hopefully they love where they live too.   I am particularly happy to live right here, though.

I love hearing the check-out lady at the store say, "Y'all have a good day!" when we leave.  And she really means it.

I love that we get to wear shorts and short sleeves all year round.  And flip flops.  Or bare feet.  (Yes, we do own shoes.  We just prefer not to wear them.)

I love that people wave as we pass each other going opposite directions on the road.  Whether we know each other or not.  That's just what we do.

I love cornbread.  And black-eyed peas.  And turnip greens.  And good Southern-style dressing at Thanksgiving.  And grits with lots of butter.  And sweet tea.  Very sweet tea.

I love that we can begin planting our gardens in March or April.  And we have a long growing season.

I love that Southern men often nod their heads as a greeting when they see a Southern lady.  No, I don't know why.  I just think it's kind of respectful and sweet. 

I love that we say "fixin to."  As in, "I'm fixin to go to the store.  Wanna come?"  But I don't say ain't.  Never.  Ever.  See, we Southerners can use good grammar! 

Yes, I feel truly blessed to live right here in the South!  And I hope you feel the same way about where you live.  I'd love to hear what you love about your part of the country! 
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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Sharing Spaghetti O's

I wish my camera had been handy yesterday evening.  I found my 16-year-old daughter sitting at the table eating some spaghetti o's.  Sitting on the table on the other side of the bowl was our cat, happily helping Hannah eat them!  Yes, out of the same bowl.  No, I'm not kidding....

In case you don't know, Hannah is autistic and is non-verbal.  She is also very non-confrontational most of the time.  I guess she figured that she could eat as much as she wanted and let the cat have as much as she wanted and they'd both be happy.  :P

And the moment I had shooed the cat off of the table and away from Hannah's bowl, my first thought was, "Man!  I wish I'd taken a picture of that for my blog before I shooed the cat away!"  My second thought was, "What in the world is wrong with me!?" 

After shooing the cat, I told Hannah, "Please don't share your spaghetti o's with the cat any more!  At least not out of the same bowl....."  Isn't it crazy the things you hear yourself say when you're a mom!? 

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