Tuesday, August 30, 2016

From the Commonplace

Judge not! the workings of his brain
And of his heart thou canst not see;
What looks to thy dim eyes a stain,
In God's pure light may only be
A scar, brought from some well-won field—
Where thou wouldst only faint and yield.

The look, the air that frets thy sight,
May be a token, that below
The soul has closed in deadly fight
With some infernal fiery foe,
Whose glance would scorch thy smiling grace,
And cast thee shuddering on thy face!

The fall thou darest to despise,—
May-be the Angel's slackened hand
Has suffered it, that he may rise
And take a firmer, surer stand;
Or, trusting less to earthly things,
May henceforth learn to use his wings.

And judge none lost! but wait and see,
With hopefull pity, not disdain!
The depths of the abyss may be
The measure of the height of pain,
And love and glory that may raise
This soul to God in after days.

~Adelaide Procter
(A fascinating woman—practical, generous, a supporter of women and children, the favorite poet of Queen Victoria—who was immensely popular in her own time and who co-wrote with Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins, and Elizabeth Gaskell!)

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Giotto di Bondone: Renaissance Man

Ahhh, Giotto. I've heard his name, but I've never actually seen his work before. He is known as the first great painter of the Renaissance. His figures were renown for their life.  In his Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects, Giorgio Vasari told the story of Giotto as a mischievous apprentice painter who took advantage of his master's absence to paint a fly onto one of the master's paintings. The story claims that when his master returned and saw the fly, it was so life-like that he tried to brush it away.

For two hundred years before Giotto, images in Western art had been flat and stylized. His life-like figures were something new and exciting. Beyond just making his people look "real," he also infuses personality and emotion into them. I love the words of the art critic, John Ruskin. "He painted the Madonna and St. Joseph and the Christ, yes, by all means... but essentially Mamma, Papa and Baby."

Nativity from the Scrovegni Chapel, c. 1305
Isn't this fresco breathtaking? The way that Mary is looking at her new son... do you remember what those first glimpses of your babies felt like? He painted it so tenderly.

Although he was a painter, sculptor, and architect, Giotto is best-known for his frescoes. Perhaps his most famous work is on the Scrovegni Chapel. This small, unassuming, pink-brick building houses a glorious riot of color. 37 separate scenes chronicle the life of Mary, the life and death of Jesus, and personifications of Vices and Virtues. They culminate a wall-spanning image of the Last Judgement and are linked by a ceiling of stars. Just looking at photographs of the interior is stunning. I cannot imagine what it would be like to stand in the middle of it. Someday...

Giotto is scheduled during our second term. Normally I would take a break from the official fine arts schedule so that we could focus on Christmas in December. However, the scheduled images fit right into that theme. I found a beautiful book called The Glorious Impossible, written by Madeline L'Engle (yes, the same L'Engle who wrote the Wrinkle in Time series) and illustrated with frescoes from the Scrovegni Chapel. L'Engle's text tells the gospel story while the frescoes are reproduced on large, glossy, full-color pages. My own plan is to read through the book during our morning time and to study our prints as they match up to the story. I included a link to the book we're using, but proceed at your own risk. I have only flipped through the book—the images are gorgeous, but I haven't read the text yet, so I can't speak for the quality of the storytelling.

As always, we will follow the art recommendations from AmblesideOnline. Although our focus will be on the book, The Glorious Impossible, we will still post our regular prints in the dining room and the kids will still get their own art cards to add to their Books of Masterpieces.

Click here to download 8x10" prints
Click here to download 4x6" art cards

Normally I would include an image of the artist as part of our print set, but Giotto is a little different. With more than seven centuries between his life and ours, and no confirmed self-portraits, we don't exactly know what he looked like. We do, however, have some clues. One modern artist has tackled the mystery, and he has been kind enough to give me permission to share his work with you. Stay tuned...

Sunday, August 14, 2016

From the Commonplace

 "Indeed, by loving myself amiss, I lost myself, 
and by seeking Thee alone, 
I have found both myself and Thee."
~Thomas À Kempis

Good Sunday, my friends. Today's quote comes from last week's reading in The Cloud of Witness, EM Gell. Each week has an idea to focus on, then includes daily readings of poetry, prose, and Bible verses to meditate on. I have been reading this little book every morning over the last two months. It's a jewel.

May this day of rest be blessed for you.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Part I - Finding the Given Times

Every now and then, one of those life-changing experiences sneaks up and catches you completely unaware. Last July I went to Nancy Kelly’s Living Education Retreat out in Iowa, and I was blindsided by a realization. The area was lovely, and there were some helpful speakers, but it wasn’t the content that caused the heavens to part for me. It's true that I didn't have to cook, do laundry, or tend to my kids, but that wasn't any of those things that made me feel so at peace. At some point in the weekend, I realized that the whole thing was so restful because it was all scheduled out for me. I knew exactly how much time I had to get showered and dressed in the morning before breakfast started. I had to eat breakfast in the hour it was served or I didn't eat until lunch.  If I wanted to take a walk or a swim, look through my new books, or check my email, I knew when free time was scheduled. If I wanted to hear a speaker, I had to be in the room at a particular time. Not once did I have to argue with myself about what to do next. Once I picked my workshops, I had no decisions to make—I only had to show up and do the next thing.

Up until that weekend, I had always resented schedules a bit. I knew they were necessary, but they always felt restrictive. That may or may have been me standing in my dining room informing the spreadsheet on my school cupboard, "You can't tell me what to do!" Ahem. It was silly and immature; I fully acknowledge that. While I knew in my head that I needed to organize my time, for some reason over the course of that weekend retreat, I finally started to believe that a schedule isn't a slave driver to push me—it is a tool that I can use to free myself up.

The beauty of a schedule—or a routine, or a daily rhythm—is that you don't have to make decisions when you are rushed or tired or hangry. You have already made the decisions; all that's left is to do the next thing. When my alarm goes off, I don’t have debate whether to hit the snooze button or not, because I know that if I do I won't get to have my coffee alone before my kids get up. (Believe me when I say, no one wants to be around me before I have my coffee.) When I'm heading to the shower I don’t have to get sidetracked by a mess, because I know that it will be dealt with during our chore hour. I don't have to argue with myself about when I feel like starting our school day, because I know that at 9am (or close to it), we are going to gather in the living room and get going. When I'm tempted to hide out with a new book instead of making lunch, I can remind myself that my free hour is coming and I can read then... with a clear conscience. For the first time in my life, I have really embraced Miss Mason’s assertion:

"This idea of definite work to be finished in a given time is valuable to the child, not only as training him in habits of order, but in diligence; he learns that one time is not 'as good as another'; that there is no right time left for what is not done in its own time..." (Vol 1, p.142)

At this point, I’m playing with possibilities, trying to find the right combination for my days. It seems like I should say, “Now the hard work begins,” but that's not really true. The experimentation, successes and failures, and reassessment isn’t really that hard. The hardest part was humbling my own heart and realizing that I needed the structure I’ve fought against for so long. I guess I will say instead, now the fun part begins!

In the next post, I'll share some of the details behind how I'm planning out my days. Maybe it will spark an idea that will help you out. In the meantime, I would love to hear from you. Are you a natural scheduler? How has your time management worked for (or hindered) your homeschooling efforts?