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365 Picture Books

What happens when……….

………you realize chubby hands and fussing babies are being directed towards the toy box instead of snuggled on the couch?

………. you face reality and acknowledge your long-term love affair with picture books is not going away?

………..there is a Read-Aloud Revival podcast urging everyone to begin a reading streak?

……….. you finally sign up for Instagram and realize you have an excuse to share book pictures?

Well, a brilliant idea is born, of course! I’d like to invite you all to come along as we read through 365 picture books in 2015.  Taking place via social media as well as here on the blog, I’m going to indulge my passion for picture books, snuggles and writing all at once.

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What does all this mean?

You can expect to be bombarded with photos of picture books via Instagram. Each bok will have the title and author listed, as well a number indicating how close we are to reaching our goal.

Quaint commentary from equally quaint youngsters will be shared (if appropriate).

There will be a blog series that discusses absolutely nothing but picture books.  Alphabet books.  Recent releases.  Peter Spier.  Folk tales.  Fairy tales. Caldecott Medal authors. Really-rotten-books-I-wish-I-hadn’t-grabbed. The only limit I’m going to place on my enthusiasm  is a requirement that any book I review must be in my personal collection.

From time to time I’ll post some mystery pictures, and we’ll see who can identify the book. There won’t be a prize other than the soul-wrapping warmth of having properly identified a beloved illustrator.  Which is, obviously, the greatest prize of all.

I’d love for others to take up this challenge as well.  Grab the image from above for your blog, and/or post about your progress on the social media platform of your choice. Use the hashtag #365PictureBooks, and remember to include the number of books you’ve read so far.

Anyone who can make it through 365 different picture books, and has posted about their progress on a regular basis, will get their name on the 365 Picture Books honor roll.  Just because.

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1

Of Logs and Childhood

Last week a neighbor dropped off a load of logs to be cut for the winter, and they were piled on the north side of the house to await the chainsaw.  Normally I’d view them as an eyesore, but this week I have seen them through the eyes of children.

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In the last week those ugly logs have been a pirate ship, a castle, an island.  They have seen unprecedented dangers and seen miraculous rescues.  They have seen hubcaps transformed into shields, princesses saved from dragons, hordes of fish captured with stick and string.  They have been the base of spy operations, an island in the middle of shark infested waters, the hideout for dangerous bandits.  Dolls have been tucked to bed in hidden pockets, weapons have been stashed in handy places, and advancing foes have been met with flags waving defiantly.
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Like most joys in life, this one is fleeting.  Today the children helped to stack the wood their father cut and chopped, and there were a few tears as “favorite” logs were rolled away and beloved boundaries disappeared.  The pile they play on tomorrow will be significantly smaller than the one they played upon this week.

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I have no doubt their imaginations are up to the challenge.

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In the Cool of the Day

Genesis 3:8

And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden.

One of the sweetest things about creation is the way nature can connect what our eyes see to what our soul feels, and then our mind understands.  Such a moment occurred for me on our nature hike this past week.

There is a deep ravine that runs in a semicircle away from the pipe under the road: a long curve of clay and sand that stretches far overhead.  To the left there is sun-burnt vines and tangled weeds and harsh gravel that stretches out to meet the road.  I step down, half sliding and half tumbling to reach the sand below.  Suddenly the steep wall shrouds me in shadow and the day is cool and still.  I hear the faint voices of the children as they dash through the storm pipe and search for crawdads. I know that they are just around the bend a few yards away, but tucked into this sheltered nook I can barely hear their voices.

The Quiet place, beyond which the children frolic merrily.

The Quiet place, beyond which the children frolic merrily.

The wall reaches far overhead, dwarfing me beneath it. I feel an unfamiliar peace stealing over me, a restful coolness that starts in my soul and migrates outwards.  It has been so long since I felt this. His presence has been far from me for many months, my faith shaken to the core and my own actions often less than admirable.  I have studied the Bible but avoided prayer, not knowing how to approach Him in my current state of doubt.  I have been hiding from Him, and since I would not come to Him He has come to me. Here in the shadow of my great sand wall I am forced to face Him and admit to what I am: a fallen human who needs His help.  I feel the touch of His presence and weep.  How I have missed this, the feel of Him close by!  A child screeches in the distance.  I am unsure if it is with terror or delight, so I continue on around the bend to join in their play, knowing I will return for a picture so I can remember this moment.

This is the essence of Nature Study: being unable to escape the reality of God.

Eehhmm.  Emotional moment over.  Rosie is deeply fascinated by the various types of moss, and in the process of photographing her finds I discovered that my 4-year-old camera possesses a setting for “Taking close-up photos in bright light.”  Who knew?  So I played around with that a little.

Moss

Things are happening in the woods.  New growth is stretching from the soil and reaching towards the sky, grass is blooming and dogwoods are preparing to burst forth in all their glory.  It makes me wonder about miracles.  Is a miracle big or is it small? Is it out of the ordinary or everyday?  Can it be both?  Can a miracle be explained?  If it is explained, is it still a miracle?

Growing Things

Last but not least, the rocks that face west have developed this tough green growth during the winter.  Further investigation is called for.

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I love our rocky hillsides.  I wouldn’t ever trade them for pasture land.  Thankfully, the goats don’t mind.  🙂

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Embracing Opportunities

…….For I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.

I know both how to be abased, and how to abound; every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.

Philippians 4: 11-12

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I have never thought of myself as a discontented person by nature, but in my headlong rush to raise super-kids I began to focus on all the things I wasn’t able to do with them.  The museums I didn’t take them to, the educational activities I never did, the handmade toys I never made them, the workbook pages we never filled out, the dollhouse I never built, the trips we didn’t take.  My question each morning had become “How can I fit in more?”

 

A visit from a fellow AO mom  shook me out of my discontented focus.  I had listened with envy as she described their current life, in which extensive traveling and lots of museums featured prominently.  But as we watched our children examining  a mud-turtle in an aquarium stuffed under a tree, she made a brief comment about how I never needed to worry about fitting Nature Study into my day.  With that single innocuous comment she triggered a shift in my focus, and I am learning to embrace the opportunities our life presents rather than fret about the opportunities I don’t have.

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There’s a lot of things my children won’t do that I thought should be part of any childhood.

  • Visit art museums
  • Go shopping at actual stores (It’s all Walmart and Amazon here….)
  • Know what a dump truck is
  • Walk through Longwood Gardens
  • Watch The Scarlet Pimpernel with their aunts
  • Identify various types of cars, trucks and random machinery
  • Visit historic battlefields
  • Living History events
  • Picnics at Valley Forge Park
  • Bike Rides at Hagley Museum
  • Get excited about taking the “back roads”
  • Walk to the post office
  • Earn money by shoveling driveways and mowing lawns for the neighbors
  • Attend local concerts in the summer

 

But while it’s wise to be aware of these gaps in their life experience, it’s also wise to be aware of all the things they can do in spite of little effort on my part.

  • Watch animals give birth
  • See wild birds building nests
  • Identify every type of turtle found in our locale
  • Have a clear view of ever so many stars at night
  • Walk around the pond and tell what animals have been visiting
  • Spend lengthy amounts of time alone in the woods
  • Identify different types of plants, their edibility and medicinal uses
  • Acquire vast bug collections
  • Understand which bugs are beneficial and which are harmful
  • Track gopher trails through th woods
  • Run as far as they can, shout as loud as they like
  • Witness eggs hatching
  • Sleep in the tree house
  • Stuff themselves on garden veggies whenever lunch is late
  • Explore the world of nature to their hearts content

 

What unique learning opportunities does your life offer?  Have you learned to embrace them yet?

 

3

Introducing Life

Picture books.  The alphabet.  Mud.  Snuggles.  Sticky hands.  Reading aloud.  Crayon-covered walls.  The early years. The learning years.

This post was supposed to contain a detailed analysis of why I don’t “do preschool,” the great importance of play, and why I now avoid academic activities for my youngsters.  But today Zorro piled sand in the basket of clean laundry.  We washed, filled and hung all our bird feeders. Pumpkin had several wakeful hours.  Rosie danced and twirled and fell repeatedly instead of walking placidly about.  Boo shed three different outfits as she followed her brother and sister around the yard, returning for new clothing when she became chilled.  No one wanted to vacuum.  Now it is late at night and I want to get to bed.  *snore*

Once upon a time, I planned to use the “formative” years of my children to give them a strong foundation.  I planned games and researched educational toys.  I carefully taught them their letters and arranged sensory play activities.   I spent quite a bit of time trying to teach them to write their letters in cornmeal, and then cleaning up the ensuing mess.  Then I sent them off to their room to play while I cleaned and cooked and washed, because we were a little tired of each other’s company after our activity filled mornings.

Then Ambleside Online introduced me to Charlotte Mason, and I became convinced that all my well meant activities were not only unnecessary, they were far from ideal.  Charlotte Mason told me that

“Parents and Teachers must sow Opportunities.––The educational error of our day is that we believe too much in mediators. Now, Nature is her own mediator, undertakes, herself, to find work for eyes and ears, taste and touch; she will prick the brain with problems and the heart with feelings; and the part of the mother or teacher in the early years (indeed, all through life) is to sow opportunities, and then to keep in the background, ready with a guiding or restraining hand only when these are badly wanted. Mothers shirk their work and put it, as they would say, into better hands than their own, because they do not recognize that wise letting alone is the chief thing asked of them, seeing that every mother has in Nature an all-sufficient handmaid, who arranges for due work and due rest of mind, muscles, and senses.” Volume 1, page 193

Slowly, I began to see that the best use of the first 6 years of a child’s life was not to rush them through a series of planned activities, but to walk beside them as they discovered life.  My job was to make the introduction, not have the conversation for them.   But once I had decided that this “wise letting alone” was the path I wished to pursue, I wasn’t quite sure how to go about it. How does one let go when you have Pinterest of all the carefully laid plans?

I’m still not sure what I’m doing, but I have a better idea now than I did 2 years ago, and I’m starting to hear the voices of other mothers who long for a little guidance, a picture of what this unfamiliar life could look like.  Here is a glimpse of what it looks like for us, in all its ever changing glory.  I hope you glean many ideas for how to implement a “wise letting alone” in your own home.

This series will ramble all over, much like children exploring the world.  Small pictures of our life.  Lots of picture book reviews.  How I am introducing our little ones to God.  Critters of all kinds.  Music.  Storytelling.  Car rides.  Life.