Thursday, November 1, 2012

More Lessons from Plumfield

' The natural refinement which nothing but home influence can teach gave him sweet and simple manners; his mother had cherished an innocent and loving heart in him, his father had watched over the physical growth of his boy and kept the little body straight and strong on wholesome food and exercise and sleep, while Grandpa March cultivated the little mind with wisdom - not tasking it with long, hard lessons, parrot-learned, but helping it to unfold as naturally and beautifully as sun and dew help roses bloom.'

From 'Little Men' by Louisa May Alcott

This is one of the passages from Little Men that I just had to write down on the 'inspiration' page of my homeschool journal. So much wisdom in one short passage, especially for parents of boys! After many years on this homeschool journey I am in absolute agreement with Miss Alcott on the influence of the home. I have seen this outworked in the lives of all my children. The boy in this picture has an innocent and loving heart. He is gentle, generous and kind to all he comes into contact with and people take notice and tell me that he is the type of boy they want their sons to be friends with. I have found that the approach that Jo and her Professor used with their boys at Plumfield also works well with my boys and this son in particular.

He needs wholesome food - and we do our best to provide this by growing our own fruit and vegetables, making meals at home from scratch and limiting the amount of sweet, refined or takeaway foods.

Exercise -  There was a time when we were involved in too many sports and extra-curricular activities. Realizing the pressure and unwanted stress this was bringing into our lives we pulled out of a number of activities, and found a sport that all of the children could be involved in on the same day at the same time which happens to be ice skating. It is a family and age integrated lesson (anyone of any age is welcome to join the class) and works in well with our schedule. My sporty boy also plays tennis but the rest of their exercise takes part in 'God's gymnasium' - the great outdoors which brings the added benefit of fresh air and no subscription or insurance fees!

He has always been a tree climber.
We nicknamed him 'gecko boy' when he was younger!

A gentle approach to learning. How I wish I had read 'Little Men' earlier on. I was rather inpatient for my first son to 'get it'. I relied on text books and 'busywork' and just wanted him to read fluently. Some lessons ended in tears and frustration. He just wasn't ready and needed more hands on activities and less work which required him to sit still and write out answers. Thankfully, I worked this out, gained the confidence to set aside the regimented, non-flexible curriculum and implemented my own 'delight directed' home learning programme using all kinds of resources. That same boy who did not enjoy putting pen to paper will finish his degree next year without the burden of a student loan to pay back. He writes assignments and exam papers and often receives marks of distinction and high distinction.

I am far more patient and relaxed these days. I understand that children learn at different rates. I allow my home to be a Plumfield of sorts at times. If you have read the book you will know what I mean. We don't have a carriage house to turn into a museum but there are often 'specimens' lying around (usually rocks as we have so much quartz on our property). Sometimes, it feels more like a zoo or rather the reptile enclosure. We know our frogs and we know our snakes.

 When it comes to the latter, we operate with caution and commonsense but have learned to set aside fear which is counter-productive. Can't resist showing you the snake that visited us last week. It came through a window into our master bedroom one warm evening and my husband did not see it on the floor but felt it brush past his feet. First time obedience paid off as the toddler who was following behind, immediately responded to his daddy's command and left the room. The snake was very obliging - it did not rear up or respond with aggression but slithered up and over into the nearby metal rubbish bin! I stood at the door and watched this with fascination. Once upon a time I would have run a mile!

 Much consultation of field guides and googling of images led us to conclude that it was a brown tree snake and it was released back into the bush after lots of debating and close up study -  possible because it was contained in a metal mesh bin with a very heavy book placed on top and could not escape. It sure makes life exciting for a boy when you get to study snakes for real! My children are now familiar with the facts about the brown tree snake. That it is venomous but difficult for it to inject its venom as its fangs are located in the back of its mouth. We were very glad that it wasn't a highly venomous tiger snake but found out that the brown tree snake because of its stripes and nocturnal habits is sometimes referred to as the 'night tiger'.

I hope you enjoyed this lesson from Plumfield. I'm not so sure you enjoyed the lesson from Eden about snakes though but they are a fact of life here and something you must learn to live with. If you move to Australia and the real estate description of a property says 'abundant wildlife' you can be be assured that sooner or later you will encounter a snake. Maybe not inside the house (this is the 3rd snake to come inside in 10 years) but there again we have more than our fair share - over 8 different species observed over the years!

I have at least one more lesson from Plumfield to share but cannot promise an exact date for that post. My daughter (the little girl in this picture who is now 17) is in New Zealand at the moment and we are planning her 18TH birthday party for when she returns. I don't have to make her a cake, she wants to make her own! Her brothers have always appreciated her baking. Her younger sister has stepped into her shoes and has been enjoying having full reign in the kitchen! The photo above was taken when we lived in New Zealand. Notice the family resemblance - my boys were always blonder than my girls! I have lots of markets in the lead up to Christmas for my cake stand business. Right now I have to go and read another chapter of 'The Hobbit' to the boy who features in the photos for this post. We have just finished what he called the 'best book ever' 'Brandon Chase' by an author known as BB first published in 1944 which is about 3 boys who run off and live in the forest for almost a year who survive by hunting and fishing. Even my toddler would ask for this book to be read to him and when asked if he knew what it was about told me that the boys in the story climbed a big tree. Wow, how much they absorb when you read living books to them!

Until next time.


the happy sparrow said...

Thank you Ann. So encouraging to me - a mum of 3 boys :)
x Martine

Pam said...

I enjoyed this post so much Ann. It was as if I were reading a "modern day Little Men". I thought right off that your son looks just like all the things you described, and it warmed my heart. I love the description of your doings. I can relate to the snake in the house incident... we have had snakes get in the house a couple of times. I hate to admit it, but even a mouse in the house causes as much dismay as a snake... and I am not sure why, because I like mice, and I think they are very sweet; except in the house of course, I don't like things to be in the house that are not expected to be; I am sure you know what I mean. I do love the museum idea. We collected many of the same things when the kids were growing up. There were bugs pinned to boards, and shells and rocks and leaves, and various animals at various times through out all those years. Your post put such sweet memories in my mind.
The girls and I dream about all of us living near each other again and building a little school house for them to share, and me to come and partake in. We
even made a board for it on pinterest.

I have never read "Brandon Chase". It sounds very good, and I will put it on my list for all my grandsons. Thanks for sharing, I enjoyed it all.


Camille said...

What a fun post Ann! Thank you for the update and the *Lesson from Plumfield*! Yes, the *Lesson from Eden* could have gone by the wayside as far as I am concerned...but, I can see how a boy would be fascinated. :) Have a happy weekend!

With Love,

living from glory to glory said...

Dear Ann, I was happy to see your boy in the tree, they so long to be outside and in nature. I also think a natural way to get sports in is so much more fun.
I think a snake lesson is a needed info, but rally I deal with enough rattlesnakes.
Blessings, Roxy

American Home said...

Such an exciting event! So glad that your little one obeyed and left the room. The Lesson from Plumbfield is quite a lesson.

God bless you..

Camille said...

Just stopping in again to say *hi* and wish you a happy weekend!


Kimberly said...

I love LM Alcott. I almost named our farm Plumfield, but went with another Alcott name instead. :)
My 6 YO read The Hobbit recently an loved it. So fun!
Classic tales are so wonderful.


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