30 November 2011

Preliminary Review: Visual Latin

Someone emailed me asking what I thought about Visual Latin, and then the very next day it came up in the comments. Since I had already written a review in my email, I thought I'd gussy it up a little and post it here.

But first...

Disclaimer #1
I do not have much experience with other curricula to compare it with. I used Song School Latin with my younger students for years {sort of dropped that as we got busier...oops...}, and my two oldest children also use Rosetta Stone Latin when they are at their grandparents' house.

Disclaimer #2
We are only on Lesson Five. This means there is a definite possibility that I don't know what I'm talking about!

Short Review
We like it. Five stars. Hurrah.

Long Review
Here are my initial thoughts, including information on why I chose this curriculum in the first place.

  • I wanted something manageable while I'm adding new students. I am not naturally a good juggler, and my three younger children were all born in 3.5 years, which means they will all be starting school in that amount of time as well. I didn't want to start something that required too much of ME, because I was afraid I couldn't keep up the momentum over the years. In my mind, it is better to choose something that I can make work over the long haul, whether than choosing something that seems really perfect, but that I can't maintain over time.
  • I have been highly influenced by a book called Poetic Knowledge by James Taylor. Taylor suggests that the best way to teach Latin in the younger years is conversationally, with a Latin tutor. That shook me up because I was planning on learning alongside my first student, so who was supposed to be the tutor? Visual Latin feels a lot like having a tutor in our house. It is a very conversational style of teaching.
  • Poetic Knowledge also emphasizes the importance of humor as an aspect of the poetic mode of learning--humor is part of taking delight in something. This curriculum is quite funny, with the tutor/teacher making lots of jokes and generally keeping things light {but not silly}. I think the combination of Rosetta Stone and Visual Latin serve {for us} as the best substitute for a Latin tutor.
  • I still think I want to eventually use some of Classical Academic Press's Latin programs--though we may be beyond Latin for Children by the time we begin with a book-based curriculum.
  • With that said, we may also return to Visual Latin in high school, as it is said to fit nicely with Lingua Latina in the upper grades {I believe Lingua Latina is ALL in Latin--no English}.
  • By the third lesson, we were able to do almost all of our translation without referencing a dictionary, so in that regard I'd say it is effective. I am taking it slow because we haven't done much grammar, and so too much in a week can get overwhelming. We are using KISS Grammar daily, and this is reinforcing the Latin, and vice versa, conveniently enough.
  • I haven't noticed a change yet in my son's writing, but for myself I have noticed that this little bit of Latin study is already helping me pay better attention to my own writing in English. For instance, I find myself mentally self-editing {which I have always done, to some extent} using new tools I have learned from Latin lessons.
  • At the end of the day, this makes my children love Latin {my six-year-old often sits and watches the videos with us}, and at the end of the day I am satisfied with that because it is the love of Latin which will keep us going when the study gets hard.
When we finish all of the first set, I will try and write another review.

Oh. And yes, I would recommend Visual Latin even without Rosetta Stone, though the reverse is not true. I just wanted to give a complete picture of what we are doing.

29 November 2011

Merry Early Christmas: 100+ Free Kindle Books

So...you want to know what I loaded on the Kindle for E-Age-Nine? I'm pretty excited about it. I tried to get a nice variety of books--all things I would consider buying, but wouldn't have the ability to procure before he is too old for them. I'll try and divide the list up a little so you can get an idea of what I was thinking when I was doing this for hours upon crazy hours.

For years I've kept an extensive list of books I'm looking for. I like to try my luck at used book stores when I can. The books below were carefully picked, even if I didn't preread them all. First and foremost, each and every one was checked against the official Ambleside list, that I might not accidentally have him read a book before its time. My second criteria was {obviously} that the books be free of charge. This doesn't mean I won't eventually pay to put books on his Kindle, but as a general rule I like to pay money for physical books not electronic copies.

This particular child of mine can easily read a book in a day while still doing his regular lessons, playing outside for hours, and doing his chores. I really thought he must be skipping words {or worse}, but he can have elaborate conversations about what he has read, so apparently he is just fast. He has patiently read and re-read every age-appropriate book in our family library. I think he is ready to read broadly, and that is one my goals in allowing him to have a Kindle. {Many of you know I am not a gadget person and often doubt technology's appropriateness.}

What else? Well, if you are going to look for free Kindle books, I'd suggest knowing what you are looking for. Having a booklist is helpful, to start. But knowing your favorite authors helps, too. You can search for a book you know and love, and see "what else" other customers bought, and sometimes that leads you on a fun little rabbit trail. I hesitate to use those rabbit trails for children, though, unless I'm prereading. This here is a collection of trusted authors, or titles I gleaned from trusted sources. I cannot claim that I will not have any regrets with these choices, but I think I've done as best I can considering the circumstances.

My only fear is that it is a little heavy on Victorian writers because that is what is readily available. Sigh.

I was hoping for a KJV Bible {he really wants one} and a full Vulgate, but I couldn't find either for free. Also, Charlotte Mason mentions a living astronomy text that she uses with very young students--I think in volume 1. I wish I knew the title. If you already have a Kindle library for a boy around nine years of age, I'd love to know some of your favorite titles {or, even better, get a link to your titles}. Even though this looks like a long list, I'm sure I'll be back at the drawing board a year from now.

It should go without saying that, within each category, these books are in no particular order--books from a series are probably not in correct order. Also, because these are free, they are probably literally cheap--meaning the tables of contents may not be linked, they may be difficult to navigate, etc. Finally, if you are not into the Kindle thing, any book can be clicked, and then you can choose "other formats" to see hardback and paperback copies {if available, which they usually are}. So have fun!

Historical Fiction
Spiritual/Biblical Resources
Mythology/Legend and Greek/Roman Tales
Fiction/Literature and Short Stories
Fiction: Geography/World Civilizations
Science/Nature Study
Non-fiction: History and Geography
Books for the Holidays

27 November 2011

Miscellaneous Musings on Monday

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving! I, unfortunately, was under the weather and missed most of mine, but I hear that it was practically perfect and the children were little angels. Or something. Today is the first day of DecemberTerm, and even though I'm still sick, I'm trying to make a good showing. I always love the start of something new. {It's that whole perseverance thing that trips me up sometimes. Ahem.}

In other news...

  • You may be wondering where Christmas Spirit went. Or, at least, if you read my previous Musings, and also my DecemberTerm plans, you may be wondering that. Indeed, I assure you I am wondering the same thing. If I knew which preschooler ran off with it, I would be interrogating him or her this very minute, but as it is, I am bemoaning my loss while trying to be mature about it. I suppose if I recover it before the end of Advent, I will use it for lunchtime reading. How disappointing! And it reminds me of the time my copy of Hannah Coulter ran off for six months and I still don't know where she was--she just appeared one day.
  • What is your opinion of antibiotics? Do you think they are overused and over-prescribed? Do you think that often there are better alternatives? Myself, I try to avoid antibiotics as much as possible. When Si was in the hospital a few years ago, obviously he was given antibiotics during that time {though it is debatable if he needed them...}. But other than that, no one in our family has taken them for...oh...at least four or five years. My two youngest have never taken them. I like to think of them as a last resort, rather than a first line of defense. With that said, I've enjoyed reading a series called The Problem with Antibiotics over at Mark's Daily Apple: They Kill the Good Guys and Make You FatMore Fallout from Killing Your Flora, Antibiotic Resistance, and Possible Alternatives and Damage Control.
  • I found a Kindle {third generation!} on CraigsList for super cheap. I won't say how cheap, because I don't want to cause you to stumble into envy. I spent part of the weekend pre-loading it with 100 free books. I think I'm done, and ready to give it to my oldest for Christmas. One of my posts this week will be to link you to all {if possible--that might turn out to be too much work} of the free books I chose. This is me, making up for the lack of a library system.
  • Speaking of free ebooks...I had thought that it'd be so perfect, stopping at 100 books. But then I found the links over at Visual Latin: a New Testament Vulgate {I was hoping for the whole thing--any ideas, anybody?} and some free Latin readers! This perspective on Latin study is also worth reading.
  • Ever thought about adoption? I thought the DHM's post {as well as the post she linked} called After the Airport was very insightful. I've noticed that adoption is the new Cool Thing to Do in Christian culture. I think this is wonderful, by the way. But I do think that, like every other fad, there will be some who did it because it was Cool, and they'll be disenchanted by the end.
  • Want to learn to make real sourdough bread? GNOWFGLINS is hosting a free sourdough webinar! The full course is where I learned to make bread, so I can tell you from personal experience that this lady is an excellent teacher.
  • I am always on the lookout for simple, inexpensive ways to improve our soil. Have you ever heard of a hugelkultur bed? I was reading about it today...while imagining the look on my husband's face if I said I thought it was a neat idea.
  • Someone {who didn't know much about homeschooling} once asked me how I expected to give my children a good education since we don't do standardized testing. My defense, of course, is that no person comes to master a subject because someone tests them on it. Testing is incidental to learning. I also believe that, more often than not, testing corrupts learning. This is especially true of the way in which most testing is done these days. It focuses the schools, the teachers, and the students on...the test. This necessarily means it takes our attention off of the subject at hand. Anyhow after reading an article sent to me by Friend M., I now think I can turn this question around and ask someone how they expect to give their students a good education when they are doing standardized testing. Read it for yourself: SAT scandal shows tyranny of standardized testing.
And that's all for today. As usual, if you have some links to share, the comments are the place to do it.

25 November 2011

DecemberTerm 2011

I have been simultaneously struggling with a severe cold...and planning DecemberTerm. Nothing is ever as simple as we anticipate, is it? Anyhow, plans must be finalized regardless of how we feel, no? So here I am. I hope these are still acceptable to me when I'm feeling more energetic!

For those of you who are new around here, we call the days between Thanksgiving and Christmas DecemberTerm. It might be important to know that as context for this post.

The Circle Time Plans

DecemberTerm 2011

The Resources
New Songs
Jesse Tree Ornaments
Well, I almost put my Word doc into .pdf format on Scribd, but then I doubted myself. Is Word clip art copyrighted? Would it be wrong of me to share it? I'm assuming it is, so I'm just telling you what I did. I found Word clip art to match each day's reading--one ornament per day. If I couldn't find it in black and white, I edited it so that it became black and white. I printed it on cardstock and had the children color them. We "laminated" them with packing tape and punched a hole in the top, tying string through the hole to serve as a "hook." These became our ornaments and we've been using them for at least a year now. We'll probably make new ones next year, just to update them. A certain child was sort of stuck on brown during the first go-round.


Other Plans
I try to make DecemberTerm very relaxed and basic so that there is more time for baking and reading aloud and helping others and field trips. Because of the way the dates fall this year, we'll be doing most of our baking during the week before Christmas rather than during DecemberTerm.

With that said, my Year Four student will be doing one reading and narration per day, plus math pages. He never fails to do lots of reading in his free time, so I'm going to give him the time. We'll also complete some unfinished business, which is to say one or two lessons of Plutarch and also Lesson 5 of Visual Latin. I also postponed our Shakespeare night until DecemberTerm because I had mentally reserved Thanksgiving week, and Si's mom came to visit instead.

My Year One student will also do one reading per day, plus half a page of math, and also a reading lesson. And if I know my older preschooler well enough, she'll insist on reading lessons, too.

What About You?
Have you posted your DecemberTerm {or whatever your family calls it} on your blog? If so, link it in the comments so we can all come glean ideas!

23 November 2011


Taking a break now...Until Monday...

22 November 2011

A Mother's Rule of Life {Post 3}

Why do we sometimes want to put off our duties? Why does culture send us the message that what we are doing is mundane and fit for dullards? Can we find holiness, beauty, sanctification, and reward in our calling?

Pierlot thinks we can. Once, she found despair and chaos in her calling. Her world sounded, for lack of a better term, ugly. I'm sure there were bright spots--she loved her God and husband and children, after all. But she was crushed under the weight of her own lack of structure. That is what the Rule is all about, right? Bringing structure to the day, that the vocation might be lived out.

I found the post Idealized Domesticity to be a conundrum. On the theological level, I understand the concern. One of the big differences between Protestants and Catholics is that Protestants believe there are only two sacraments {baptism and communion} while Catholics believe there are...well, more. I forgot to ask my tutor how many there are.

But I don't see how that keeps a Protestant wife and mother from viewing her calling as a vocation and learning to love what she does, even when a lot of it is routine. I actually think that the Idealized Domesticity post has much in common with A Mother's Rule of Life in a lot of ways, but this paragraph got to me:
This new mommy literature ignores the fact that all of the toil and repetition and weariness and hurry that come with stay-at-home motherhood are normal. Getting out of bed early, changing a diaper, getting breakfast on the table and packing a lunch for your husband, day in and day out, is not sacramental. It’s not even ritual. It’s routine. It’s normal. If you look at the women in the Bible and church history who model godly womanhood, you will see that they did not see anything unusually holy or earth-changing in their humble service. In fact, hard work, multi-tasking, child-bearing in difficult circumstances, loneliness, giving while financially tight, slow spiritual growth, weariness, helping a busy husband, practicing inconvenient hospitality, while doing daily devotions and attending weekly prayer meetings and Lord’s Day worship (with the occasional date night) is all very normal for the Christian woman. There is nothing extraordinary in giving up a career to stay at home and educate your children; it should be normal. The Bible shows that ease and comfort are generally attributes of unbelievers’ lives. Self-sacrifice is normal for the believer. Our Saviour lived an earthly life of poverty and suffering—we mothers should expect a life of much difficult work for the Kingdom and pray for grace to do it cheerfully and quietly.
 I contrast this with one of G.K. Chesterton's famous quotes on motherhood:
But when people begin to talk about this domestic duty as not merely difficult but trivial and dreary, I simply give up the question. For I cannot with the utmost energy of imagination conceive what they mean. When domesticity, for instance, is called drudgery, all the difficulty arises from a double meaning in the word. If drudgery only means dreadfully hard work, I admit the woman drudges in the home, as a man might drudge at the Cathedral of Amiens or drudge behind a gun at Trafalgar. But if it means that the hard work is more heavy because it is trifling, colorless and of small import to the soul, then as I say, I give it up; I do not know what the words mean.
Being a wife and mother may be normal, yes, but it is also a calling--a vocation. And just like any calling, it is imperative that it be lived out as fully as possible. I cannot help but think that, in the Garden, Adam and Eve took great joy in their vocation as Tenders of the Garden--that they gloried in the work God had given them. When Adam picked an apple or dug a hole or whatever he needed to do, it is true that this was all very normal. But as his life was a gift, I am sure he was able to find great joy in it.

I think that one of the secrets of taking joy is knowing that the circumstance is a gift of God. My concern with the paragraph was that it seemed to preclude any sort of poetic understanding of life. Just because something is normal doesn't mean it isn't special or precious or important. Every single day a million glorious things happen because our God is glorious. We can learn to see the beauty in each day.

And in Pierlot's mind, finding the beauty in the day must start with order, because chaos is ugly and stressful and overwhelming.

I am still learning not to avoid the tasks I find distasteful. They are becoming more habitual over time, but except for mopping {I adore my mop}, I just do them. I can't say that I fight it as much as I used to, but I also can't say that I'm about to start a homemaking blog.

I have two thoughts on this.

First, whenever something is good and true and beautiful, and yet I find it distasteful, the problem lies with me. I have said this many times in relation to education, but it goes for all areas of life, does it not? God created motherhood and wifehood, and He Himself defined {and designed} many of its tasks. We know that all of God's creation is good. Therefore, when I don't like something He made, it is really because I am fallen. In that moment when I find myself out of agreement with Him, I have identified an area of my heart that is lacking--I am in need of something like repentance.

My other thought {or, rather, set of connected thoughts} comes courtesy of Andrew Pudewa's 2011 CiRCE talk called Reflections on Redeeming Repetition. Here is a quick rundown of some ideas from his talk that I think can also be applied to our situation as homemakers and home educators:

  • Repetition is required for mastery, but it appears to be uncreative.
  • There is a saying in Japanese {Pudewa used to live in Japan}: "Ten thousand times, then begins understanding." We have no English equivalent.
  • Extraordinary skill requires an extraordinary capacity for repetition in order to finally break past the mundane.
  • "The hard must become habit. The habit must become easy. The easy must become beautiful."
The context for these quotes was education. Most of them dealt with musical education {specifically the Suzuki music training method}, but they were then applied to various topics, such as memory work.

But let's see if we can apply this to our jobs. There are a million repetitive aspects of what we do. Repetition can be said to be the nature of what we do. We do dishes. And then we do them again. And again. Same with laundry. Changing diapers {I changed diapers for over nine years straight}. Giving reading lessons. Scolding three-year-olds. Wiping noses. Making meals. Finding lost socks. Cleaning up. Whatever comes to mind.

I find it interesting that the Japanese believe that it is repetition which gives insight. Maybe that is why we are drawn to experienced moms, and why Titus is commanded to have the older women teach the younger. It is through years of repetition that they have gained understanding, right?

Moreover, this idea of a progression from hard, to habit, to easy, to beautiful is intriguing. As you know, Charlotte Mason was very firm in her mind when it came to habit. We must, she said, train our children in good habits. She herself said that in doing this, we take what is hard and make it easy for them. It was "laying down the rails," that they might run easily along the lines when they were grown. This was a help to them.

We all have areas of our lives where we are stuck on "hard." We make momentary efforts at habits, but we never push past far enough to get to easy.

To say nothing of beautiful.

And we are baffled when people say that homemaking can be beautiful, or when they find beauty in the ordinary.

Maybe, just maybe, it is because beauty is the reward we find at the end of the progression.

I can't say I learned to love my mop out of habit-training myself. That, my friends, was a gift of grace from God Almighty, for I hated cleaning my floors until recently. But I think I'll find a lot more beauty on the other side of habit, and so I'm working with a will to conquer, a little bit at a time.

Being a wife and mother is perfectly normal, yes. Laying down our lives, in a way that no one ever notices {as in The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree, I might add}, should be a usual course of events, it is true. But let us not forget that goodness and truth are beautiful, that real womanly beauty is found in living our lives unto the Lord--meaning living out the vocation that He Himself called us to. And I don't think we need to fear having an Edenic moment or two, when everything comes together just right, or when suddenly we see truth for what it is.

21 November 2011

Miscellaneous Musings on Monday

Happy Thanksgiving week! My mother-in-law is here visiting, so I'll be scarce, but I do have a couple things on auto-post, meaning it will not be completely boring around here. I hope you all are enjoying your preparations for Thanksgiving...and all that comes after!

In other news...

  • Have you ever wanted silhouette art? Leading Little Hearts Home posted a simple tutorial. Might this be the homemade Christmas gift you were looking for?
  • I'm having trouble finding a simple, casual winter dress for Daughter A. We'd like to give her one for Christmas. The problem? She wears a size 7. Those of you who have daughters know that 7 is when you cross the aisle...into junior high territory {generally a combination of hipster, groupie, and ugly punker}. She still wants a simple girlhood with dresses that twirl, but also holds up to romping in the backyard and at the park. Any ideas for me? Where do you shop for your older girls?
  • I have been reorganizing my other blog, Teaching Reading with Bob Books. I want it to be easy to use when I am done writing it. Unlike this blog, with TRwBB, I want to put up three full sets of reading lessons utilizing the Bob Books, and then be finished. My original scheme {which was a journal rather than a guide} didn't fly so well once I had more than 12 lessons or so. Anyhow, I posted the first new lesson in a long time, for those of you who have been waiting.
  • Having trouble affording your Christmas gifts? I just thought I would remind you that Craigslist is a good place for shopping this time of year. One of our children broke her bicycle, and a "new" one {it looks brand new} was procured for $30.
  • Did you hear that the EU decided that water does not hydrate? We could debate the merits about this, but what I found interesting is that they did research on this. That's right. They spent time and money and effort to find out whether or not water was hydrating. {The literal meaning of the term hydrating is combining with water, from the Greek root hydr which is water. Ahem.} So the EU is having serious money problems, and they thought studying water's ability to hydrate a good use of their funds? {HT: Drudge}
  • I've been pondering breakfast {again}. These french toast muffins look promising. Have I mentioned them before? I have been looking at them for a long while, waiting until I have some extra bread.
  • Is learning meant to be fun? Cindy has some interesting thoughts over on the CiRCE blog.
  • Speaking of recipes...Mama Squirrel posted a recipe for homemade vanilla pudding, and I'm considering making it for dessert this evening because I think my children will like me for it. O-Age-Three in particular gives me extra hugs whenever I serve something fun. I'll probably ruin it, though, when I experiment with stevia or xylitol instead of sugar and arrowroot powder instead of cornstarch.
  • And speaking of CiRCE {I was at one point, right?}: It's time for the annual fundraiser! Donate and receive a very generous "thank you" package--a jackpot of great talks from the many years of CiRCE conferences. I own most of the talks, but I still need to donate...because I'm dying to hear Martin Cothran's talk on reading pagan literature in a Christian school.
  • Si and I watch a movie just about every Friday night. It is our wind-down-from-the-week tradition. This week's movie was The Conspirator. I highly recommend it, as long as you understand it has violence {which I didn't watch--I'm a head-turner, myself} and isn't for children. It's a fascinating story about human rights in a time of war.
  • And finally, a little laughter for your Monday morning:

18 November 2011

Review: Bloco Wildcats Construction Set

Once again, Timberdoodle has sent me something really great to review. Technically, it is A.-Age-Six who is doing the review, because it was sent with her in mind.
Bloco Wildcat Construction Set
I wasn't sure what to expect from this set, so I'll tell you about so you will know. First of all, the big pieces are all foam--but not a flimsy foam. It's nice because it is lightweight and a bit flexible, making it easier to build with. The connectors and caps are all plastic. And that's it. It's very simple.

We built these when A. was home sick from church.
When it came, all the foam was in large pre-cut pieces, and we had to pop all of the pieces out. You can throw away the frames after that, but it really isn't much--almost every centimeter of space has been used. It's easy to assume you don't need all the little circles, but you do. {In other words, I'm warning you: don't throw stuff away unless you're sure you don't need it!}


Directions are included, and after building just two of them, we {okay, mostly me} were able to get a sense for the logic behind it and make something on our own {see strange looking monkey creature at right}.

Does She Like It?
Yep! She really does! The appeal for me in agreeing to this review is that Daughter A. does not build. At least, not very often. She occasionally pretends to play Legos with her brother, but mainly she is chattering away at him while he builds. In this instance, she wanted to see these cats enough that she was willing to build them. This is progress in an area of weakness, in my opinion.

Wildcat babydolls?
Her only complaint is that they are a little fragile once you build them. Not terribly so, but I figured out that she still didn't view this as a construction set. She wanted to build them once, and then play with them. She wanted to wrap them in blankets and coo at them. She wanted to push them in her stroller {which worked significantly better than the blankets!} In all, she wanted a build-a-doll set, not a construction set.

Well...let's just say that getting outside our comfort zone is good for us. Having a three-year-old in the house that sneaks up and disassembles them when no one is watching helps, too. She is building more frequently than ever. I hope that eventually she will see them more as a puzzle, to be put together and taken apart repeatedly, because I really think learning to follow directions, and then later to build creatively out of her understanding of how it works, will be good for her. This is my big chance because she'd never go for blocks or "engineering" sets.

A Tiny Word of Warning
This set {and others like it} includes small parts that are not appropriate for toddlers and babies. Also, if you have a child who likes to put foam in his mouth and chew it {hypothetically speaking, of course} he will ruin it. My preschoolers did not harm this set, but there is a Lauri puzzle in our house which has seen better days.

I'm just saying.

Timberdoodle for Christmas
Have you see Timberdoodle's 2011 Gift Guide yet? When relatives ask us for suggestions on what to get the children for Christmas, we often direct them to Timberdoodle. There are a lot of great gifts on their site, and one of the things I've learned over the years is that I can trust their quality. In browsing the selection from other companies carrying some of the same items, I learned that I can also trust their prices! For me, though, I like to buy from Christian families whenever possible, and that is another reason I like supporting Timberdoodle.

Legal Disclosure:

As a member of Timberdoodle's Blogger Review Team I received a free Bloco Wildcats Construction Set and 2011 Gift Guide in exchange for a frank and unbiased review.

16 November 2011

A Mother's Rule of Life {Post 2}

Those within the Catholic and Orthodox branches of Christendom may know what a "Rule of Life" is because of their background. But it seems to me that a perfectly obvious question for a Protestant to ask is, "What is a Rule anyhow?" Thankfully, the second chapter of A Mother's Rule of Life answers this question for us.
A Rule of Life is a traditional Christian tool for ordering one's vocation. Found most often in religious community life, a Rule can also be used by laypeople--whose state in life is no less a calling from God. It consists primarily in the examination of one's vocation and the duties it entails, and the development of a schedule for fulfilling these responsibilities in a consistent and orderly way.
Later, we are also informed that
A Rule of Life is not just a schedule, not just a collection of activities organized into a set pattern for efficient repetition. A Rule is an organization of everything that has to do with your vocation, based on a hierarchy of the priorities that define the vocation and done with the ettent to please God. It deals with the essential responsibilities of your state of life, organized to ensure their fulfillment.
So is a Rule of Life a schedule or not? Well, yes, actually. It is a schedule. But it is a specific kind because it is designed not for doing what we want to get done, or the tasks on our to-do lists, but for living out the life God has called us to. It attempts to capture our vocation in such a way that we stop losing little bits {or big chunks, if you are where I've been at certain points in my life} of it through the cracks of time.

There is another side of the Rule in that as we use it to fulfill our calling: it is supposed to make us holy.

This was interesting to me because before I started reading this book, a group of us discussed the post Idealized Domesticity over on Google +. I couldn't help but wonder if perhaps this post was missing something small and beautiful in the grind of everyday life. More than that--perhaps it was excusing missing something small and beautiful.

It was just a thought, and I'd actually like to get into this more in another post. For now, we'll stick to an explanation {to the best of my ability...ahem} of a Rule.

Making a Rule of Life begins not with a sheet of paper broken into hours, but a plain sheet, upon which we map out the details of our vocation. For instance, because I am the keeper of this home, there are certain things I need to do, such as laundry, cleaning, etc. As the educator of my children, there are lessons to plan and lessons to correct and don't forget lessons to give! As a wife to my husband, I might have emails to check, mail to send, or phone calls to make---not to mention setting aside time to nurture our relationship. As a Christian, I need to spend time in prayer and reading God's Word. And so on and so forth.

The challenge for me, however, is going to be separating the essentials from the nonessentials. Sometimes I have a hard time making distinctions between the two. I have nonessential pet projects that I often favor over essentials. I bet all of you know nothing about that sort of thing.

All of us will look similar to the extent that our vocations--the things we are called to--are similar. But even if you are like me and you are called to be a Christian, a woman, a wife, a mother, a teacher, a daughter, and so on and so forth, it'll still be different because the human element is never consistent.

As an example of a working rule which embodies a vocation, Pierlot chooses Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity. Here is the schedule she gives:
4:30-5:00Rise and get cleaned up
5:00-6:30Prayers and Mass
6:30-8:00Breakfast and clean-up
8:00-12:30Work for the poor
12:30-2:30Lunch and rest period
2:30-3:00Spiritual reading and meditation
3:00-3:15Tea break
4:30-7:30Work for the poor
7:30-9:00Dinner and clean-up
9:00-9:45Night prayers
What I found fascinating was Pierlot's explanation of this simple schedule:
The two primary goals of the Missionaries of Charity are love of God and love of neighbor, as found in the poorest of the poor. Their time is allotted to fulfill these two aims. Note how the schedule covers a full seven hours for work with the poor and four hours of prayer every day. In addition, all their meals, chores, study, recreation, and even rest are accounted for.
Other than being horrified that they slept less than seven hours per night {from experience I know that I would be ill in no time if I shortchanged my sleep like that on a regular basis--perhaps these are supernuns?}, I found it fascinating that the schedule was designed to fulfill their calling. They have two goals, and then practical needs, and all of that is factored into the Rule. This was amazing to me because I never looked at a schedule from this point of view. There is an extent to which my schedule naturally fulfills my vocation. But too often I have left things out, only to scramble to do them whenever I find the time, which sometimes means they are not done when they ought to be done.

I have always resisted what I call "over-planning." Whenever I have tried to make for myself a very specific schedule, I can never follow it. But I think this is because it never made room for the human element {known also as preschoolers}, not because the idea of planning to fulfill my duties was a bad one.

I'd like to hold up a different schedule, as a completely different example. I doubt that Charlotte Mason called her daily rhythm a "Rule," and yet I see how she organized her day in order to fulfill her calling. We wonder how this woman had so much wisdom and filled so many volumes with her precious words, serving as such a gift to those of us following in her footsteps a century later, and all I can say is that she planned it that way. I think she knew she was called, and her entire life was lived deliberately--intentionally.

According to Simply Charlotte Mason, this was Charlotte's schedule:
9:30Mail came; answer letters; organize household details; schools’ work
(Note: Sometimes at 11:00 she too tired to go on, if she had had a bad night. Then she would take a 20 minute rest and continue after that.)
12:15Stop work; ten minutes of a classic author
1:00Dinner with the students; read aloud a book of travel or biography
2:15—4:00Nature walk or ride
After TeaTeacher training work; reading or proof-correcting
6:00Old favorite novel (Charlotte Bronte, George Eliot, Thackeray, Meredith, Jane Austen) until supper
7:00Supper; read aloud newspaper, book of travel, literary essays, memoirs
8:45Retired to room; evening reading and a Scott novel
Again, we have an unmarried, childless woman, and yet we can see how her own "Rule" produced her self, how it was an embodiment of her calling. She made room for rest, because an exhausted teacher is not a very good one. She lived what she expected of her students {including the time spent out of doors}.

Obviously, our "Rules" are going to look very different. And yet I see how both of these Rules helped make these women acquire the level of excellence for which they are remembered.

It was interesting when I was listening yesterday to the 2011 CiRCE talk by Andrew Pudewa called Reflections on Redeeming Repetition. In his talk, Pudewa tells a story in which he has posed a question about dancers to his godchildren. Who has the most freedom? The one with the perfectly choreographed routine? Or the one who goes out and does whatever she wants to do? Pudewa tells us that the two older children thought that the one who did whatever she wanted to do was the most free. But the little five-year-old boy says that it is the one who was choreographed. Why? "Because she could be great."

We sometimes forget that it is most often choreography which brings about greatness, that those of us who fly by the seats of our pants {something I've done more than I care to admit--sometimes by ignoring my own perfectly good plans} are usually the ones wondering how these other women are so amazing. We marvel at excellence, but we are usually not willing to admit how much of it was planned in advance.

Oh, sure, there are gifted geniuses among us. But I'm talking about average people like you and like me. {Mainly me.} If I want to be great--excellent even--at this gig God gave me, maybe I should check out my plans and see if they even begin to cover all the bases.

In my next post, I want to go on a tangent and discuss the ideas of finding holiness, beauty, sanctification, and reward in our calling, using the post I linked to above as a jumping-off point for discussion.