Let's talk about your need for holy leisure, interior freedom, poetic education, creative expression and cultural engagement. Authentic, joyful, humorous...many talks to choose from...custom crafted presentations...workshops, retreats, group facilitation...let me help you!
Link to the whole talk on YouTube, here.
FREE Parent Education Opportunity for Homeschoolers!!
I’m getting ready for the 2017 Conference: Homeschooling to Rock the World and The Intellectual Life. This offer I made for you last year still stands!
I am available to give FREE Parent Education presentations for small groups. Get the pdf here.
(Please just contact me if you’re interested and you don’t see the full details of this offer. Speaker ‘at’ CharlotteOstermann ‘dot’ com)
From every corner of the world of home education, I pulled images of how ‘our school’ might be – most of them in conflict with each other, and none a perfect picture of how ‘our school’ actually was.
I could see our classical school – kids neatly dressed, friends over for chess and dialectic – turning out scholars like C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkein. I dreamed of “Lifestyle Learning,” with education tucked into every moment of the day – museum-like collections on every flat surface, illustrated notebooks for each subject, a microscope at hand in the kitchen, backpacks always ready with nature journals and good pencils.
Unit Study seemed so appealing. We could be immersed in the Middle Ages via salt dough, period costumes, Usborne books and stew in stale-bread trenchers. The Fast Track had its appeal, too. I pictured my kids pointed to The End via a series of neatly ordered lessons. The only limit to their release into freedom would be their personally chosen speed of attack. They might say things like, “If I get my Phd, will you buy me a new bike?” Their own incentives would move them forward almost effortlessly and we’d have a stack of tests and certificates to prove what they had accomplished.
Unschooling was a lot like a “learning lifestyle,” but easier yet, because it would be “delight-directed” and require no record-keeping. We’d practically live at the library. At home, I’d happen upon children engrossed in projects of their own choosing. I’d try not to point out the educational value, and keep them supplied with high-quality tools and materials in timely fashion. We’d bake…we’d travel…we’d garden…or, not.
The way it actually turned out was a strange and changing mix I called “Eclectic” to make it sound more like “Education.” New babies kept throwing us ‘off our groove,’ but in a good way. Just as I hit my stride, they all grew up and went on into college…or, not. The thing I miss most – oh, ouch…. – is reading aloud to them. I know I could have done a lot better at many aspects of homeschooling, but overall, I’ve enjoyed these years and been happy with the results. Meanwhile, I got an education along the way that is a priceless treasure.
It’s hard being a boy these days, in a sanitized, feminized environment where it’s so unsafe to run around on your own.
I just finished a list of ideas to help a mom help her boys, and thought it might be helpful for others. For what it’s worth:
A book our boys enjoyed with their dad: Backyard Ballistics…backyard explosive, potato canons and such…a real hit!
The Dangerous Book for Boys – ’nuff said!
Visits to manufacturing places…what’s available near where you are?? We have a marble factory that allows tours, and boys have historically enjoyed shooting marbles
For older boys: helping with Special Olympics…sports even for the relatively non-athletic, and such a beautiful way of serving
Chess – a game of war, strategy, and taking-territory
Martial arts, sports, gymnastics (boys-only teams, if possible)
Camping, hiking, building and playing with fires – time in nature to roam and build and go crazy and get dirty (and, yes, to get hurt) are essential
Orienteering and Geocaching with Dad and pals
Garden work, especially raising family food
Raising earthworms for castings to sell (great for houseplants) and worms to sell fishermen
Fishing, snorkeling, scuba lessons, sailing (especially if reading Swallows and Amazons!)
Shooting sports, indoors or out – target shooting, archery is even more physical
Cooking – top chefs have always been men…creative, service, demanding, skill with knives
Taking apart things – find at garage sales or buy cheapo power tools, alarm clocks, toasters, motors…
Science experiments – just don’t make it ‘school’
Woodworking projects, his own set of tools, maybe a small workbench in garage
Dog training…first, watch The Dog Whisperer videos with Cesar Milan, plus somewhere is a monastery that specializes in training dogs – would be an interesting adjunct, and somewhere hardened prisoners are being brought back to humanity by raising dogs…must research this
Plan an imaginary trip across the country by rail, trail, bike, hike, air, car…map to mark up, write off for tourist info from states, figure out budget, gas mileage, etc..
Non-electric push mower – get to work!
Work: move this pile of woodchips over there using shovel and wheelbarrow; scrub the floor with this brush; whitewash this fence, Tom! (Tom Sawyer can be a difficult read, with the dialect indicated phonetically…might be better as a read aloud…a good one for boys); tape off and help paint an actual room (start with the garage!)
Dissection! All critters and equipment easily available from science supply places…yukky, and so, awesome!
Habitat for Humanity project with Dad
Offer help weeding, harvesting, helping around a working farm/garden
Canoe trip with Dad, or guided rapids tour – water parks just aren’t the same!
Bike riding with Dad along one of the longer rails-to-trails routes, with packed-in food and water, maybe camping along the way
We all loved the K-nex Bridge Building set…great teaching material about various kinds of bridge construction
David Macaulay books, especially The Way Things Work and Building Big (BB great with the bridge building, above)
Rocket stuff…tons of kits and books available – and do watch the movie October Sky, and maybe the movie Apollo 13
Models, model trains if grandpa has a barn or somewhere a space can be dedicated
Paths – laying out pathways with rope, leveling, filling with sand/gravel/paving stones
New flower beds….lay out with rope or garden hose, then dig up, amend, plant…install borders
Get a simple bookcase from IKEA and ask him to follow the instructions and let you know when it’s done….then leave him alone to deal with it…inexpensive, might be handy somewhere
Remember that boys tend to grow ‘in tension,’ I’ve noticed 2 years physical/2 years mental…and when in one phase, the other suffers until they are more fully integrated.
Work on a life timeline together so he can see that you intend to release him into the world, that you fully believe he’ll be able to drive himself around (in 6 years…brace yourself!!!), could perhaps drive a tractor at Grandpa’s even earlier (best possible training for driving), could take a friend all around a town like Lawrence on the bus at 12, needs a class in car repair at about 15, might start his own collection of home repair tools at 13, will need to take the ACT at 16 or 17, might go ahead and take some classes he finds interesting at JCCC at 15 or 16, could sign up for the entire Adobe suite to teach himself for $20 a month if interested at around 14, would cook the family dinner once a week at 14, would take on responsibility for all the mowing at 14 and be able to offer mowing for money in the neighborhood at 15, should be doing his own laundry at 12, might get on a plane by himself for a visit to somebody at 13, could be at the next world youth day in 2020, etc…, etc…, etc… . Boys need to see that mom is excited about their growing up even though it means growing away…otherwise, they may break with mom by being awful and having her kick ‘em out!
Camera – equipment, buttons to push, creative, online gallery – professional photographer hands his kid an expensive digital camera at 5 years old: I took his advice and was so glad!
And, one of my favorites: go to the zoo (best: Omaha) and let him loose with a map, a camera, a watch, and a backpack of food or whatever he might need (and, maybe, a phone that would just be for emergency and practice answering when you call to check in, or calling you at specific times). Let the leash be short at first – see you in an hour right here, and then longer with practice…see you for a picnic lunch in three hours…can’t wait to see your day in photos, stay on main paths …maybe even, here’s some money in case you want to get something at the food place….the zoo is a great place for this!!! Much better contained than a city, or mall. I would feel entirely safe allowing your ten-year-old to do this, and it would be great training in “more freedom comes, the more confident I am you can follow directions and stay within the limits I’ve set”.
The movie It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World; the movie Glory (never understood why it was rated R – violence, yes, not much cussing, no women or sexuality or nudity…less violent that Iron Man and the like…about the first black regiment in the Civil War – one beautiful scene among men just before battle)
Books on my list of favs for 8-12 year old boys (some have sequels, not listed, and many of these authors have other good books):
Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons series
Smoky, the Cowhorse – Will James
The White Stag – Kate Seredy
Call it Courage – Armstrong Sperry
The Matchlock Gun – Walter Edmonds
Adam of the Road – Elizabeth Gray
Johnny Tremain – Esther Forbes
Twenty-One Balloons – William Pene-dubois
King of the Wind – Marguerite Henry
A Door in the Wall – Marguerite D’Angeli
Amos Fortune, Free Man – Elizabeth Yates
The Wheel on the School – Meindert Dejong
The Story of the Treasure Seekers – Edith Nesbit
Owls in the Family – Farley Mowat
Warrior Scarlett – Rosemary Sutcliff
Snow Treasure – Marie McSwigan
The Yearling – Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
Rifle for Walter – Harold Keith
Carry on Mr. Bowditch – Jean Lee Latham
He Went With Marco Polo – Louise Kent
Little Britches – Ralph Moody
Chronicles of Narnia – C.S. Lewis
Einstein Anderson – Seymour Simon
The Swiss Family Robinson (unabridged, please) Johan Wyss
Encyclopedia Brown – Sobol
Asterix series – Goscinny
Tintin series – Herge
The Black Arrow – Robert Louis Stevenson
The Perilous Road – William Steele
The Wonder Clock – Howard Pyle
The Marvelous Misadventures of Sebastian – Lloyd Alexander
The Indian in the Cupboard – Lynne Reid Banks
The Bronze Bow – Elizabeth Speare
The Sign of the Beaver – Elizabeth Speare
The Boxcar Children – Warner
Everything by Willard Price!
Henry Reed series – Robertson
By Secret Railway – Enid Meadowcroft
On to Oregon – Honore Morrow
The Hoboken Chicken Emergency – Pinkwater
Gentle Ben – Walt Morey
Humbug Mountain – Sid Fleischman
The King’s Fifth – Scott O’Dell
The Hobbit – Tolkein
Twenty and Ten – Claire Hutchet Bishop
The Prince and the Pauper – Mark Twain
Escape from Warsaw – Ian Serralier
Jackaroo – Cynthia Voigt
The Voyage of Dr. Doolittle – Hugh Lofting
A Boy’s War – David Mitchell
Readers: Add your ideas in the comments box!
Since my middle name is Elise (German for Elizabeth), I asked God to help choose from the various Saints Elizabeth an appropriate patroness. As an adult convert, I hadn’t had one chosen for me by my parents, but trusted He would find a way to introduce me to just the right one. I met St. Elizabeth Seton in the pages of a biography and knew that I had discovered a woman who would help fit me for the challenges facing me as wife, mother, friend and disciple of Christ.
Elizabeth Bayley was born in 1774, into a young America. The fiesty and fun-loving daughter of an Episcopalian doctor and his wife, Elizabeth thoroughly enjoyed the fashions and New York social whirl of her day. She caught the eye of William Seton, son of a well-to-do merchant family, and shared with him a love of music, dance and theater. Their marriage was considered by friends and family an excellent match.
By 1802, she and William had five children. They made the wrenching decision to take only Anna Maria, the youngest daughter, with them to Italy where they planned a stay with friends for the good of William’s failing health. The ocean voyage was not the cure they had hoped for, and the Setons were forced from the ship into prison-like quarantine by Italian medical authorities. For six weeks, Elizabeth and Anna tended him with devotion and prayer as he lay dying. When the ordeal was over, his dear friends the Filicchis, opened their hearts and home to his widow and child.
The Filicchis marveled at the strength of Elizabeth’s faith, and willingness to accept the most difficult trial of her life as the will of God. She was deeply impressed by their strong Catholic faith – stirred by its depth and beauty and by a longing to possess their confidence in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. After three months she felt anxious to return to her bereaved children, and departed with every assurance of the Filicchis’ love, prayers and willingness to help her as they would have helped their beloved friend William in any way possible.
Long after her return to New York, she struggled with her doubts, and with the seemingly insurmountable difficulties of a conversion hotly opposed by family and friends. Ultimately, she could not resist the growing certainty of God’s will in the matter, and was received into the Church at St. Peter’s in March 1805. She considered her Catholic faith a great gift from God, and was willing to endure any loss for the sake of following where He led.
Disowned and shunned by many because of her scandalous conversion, the gregarious Elizabeth clung to her faith for strength to face a loneliness she could never have chosen for herself. She had been refined by fire during her husband’s last days, and now she grew in spiritual maturity bearing the loss of goodwill, friendship, social standing and financial help. The young widow patched a living together, gratefully accepting the charity of family and friends and tutoring a few young boarding students.
In 1808, Elizabeth accepted an offer to open a Catholic school for girls in Baltimore. The school’s stress on the integration of religious and spiritual instruction with academic pursuits was unique, giving rise to her reputation as ‘foundress of American parochial schools’. In the midst of the dawn to dusk duties of mother and schoolmistress, Elizabeth kept up a rich correspondence with loved ones. Her letters were full of heartfelt concern for others’ needs, spiritual encouragement, honest reflections on her own weaknesses, and humorous observations on the ups and downs of her busy new life.
During the year she spent in Baltimore, plans were made to start a religious order to teach girls and serve the poor, with Mother Elizabeth as its directress. Thus, the first American religious order, the Sisters of Charity, was born in 1809 in Emmitsburg, Maryland. Special provision was made to accommodate Elizabeth’s primary responsibilities to her children. Taking as their habit her own simple black mourning dress, cape, and white tie-on cap, seven sisters began life in community under a rule patterned on that of St. Vincent de Paul.
Over the next twelve years, Elizabeth endured the deaths of sisters and daughters, desperate concerns for the spiritual welfare of her sons, difficulties in disagreeing with and submitting to her superiors gracefully, recurrent physical problems, and all the trials of overseeing the life and work of the community. Her letters and journals open to view the spiritual wealth gained through these years of struggle to submit entirely to the will of God in all circumstances. During her final days, in 1821, she often repeated a prayer of Pius VII:
May the most just, the most high and the most amiable will of God be in all things fulfilled, praised and exalted above all forever.
The study of her life brings home to me the message that it is real people who become saints! Through earnest intention to receive all that God would give in the form of hardships and suffering, responsibility, spiritual direction, and the authority and sacraments of the Church, Elizabeth Ann Seton moved through doubt, discouragement, stumbling, frustration, failure, heartache, and pain to become the first native-born American saint.