Archive for May, 2007

Our Favorite World Travelers

May 31, 2007 @ 11:45 pm | Filed under:

As I mentioned on Lilting House the other day, Jane and I are reading Richard Halliburton’s travel narration, The Royal Road to Romance.

Halliburton is a funny guy, writing in a rather purple style to make
fun of his own overblown romantic notions of adventure—and yet, though
he mocks himself, he’s serious, too. For this young Princeton grad, the
lands across the sea beckon with a siren song full of promise and
mystery and adventure. His writing reminds me of L.M. Montgomery.
By the time he and his college roommate finally land jobs as
entry-level seamen (having first been forced to grow out their sharp
Ivy League haircuts and lay hold of some scruffy clothes, salting their
speech so as to pass for actual sailors—albeit with a "hire these kids"
letter from the president of the shipping co in their pockets, just in
case the disguise fails), the girls and I were hooked.

We are still only just getting started, but Richard and his roommate, Irvine, have made it across the Atlantic and, after a bicycle journey from Hamburg, have decided the first Big Adventure on their agenda is the scaling of the Matterhorn. Never mind that they have never climbed a mountain before, nor that the mountaineering season is over, nor that they have no equipment. The same confident air that allowed them to charm their way onto the sailing vessel described above lands them a couple of Swiss tour guides who don’t realize they’ve got total newbies on their hands until halfway up the mountain.

The wind caught me as I clutched the rope, blew me like a pendulum away from cliff wall and over the sheer five thousand foot precipice. My eyes went blind; my arms ceased to exist; my head swam in half-consciousness. Once more Adolph had to come to the rescue…

Amazingly, they make it to the summit. Halliburton, breathless from his exertions and near-death experiences, won’t let us catch our breath either. He paints us a picture of the magnificent view and we find ourselves longing to stand atop those heights ourselves, greeting the winds at the top of the world—and then the next moment he’s making us shriek with laughter.

The abyss beneath us, the bewildering panorama about us, cast a spell that awed me to silence. I began to believe it awed Irvine too, for I saw him clasp his hands and look out over the six thousand foot chasm with an expression that assured me he was in tune with the Infinite.

"Oh, Dick," he whispered in such unusually solemn tones that I awaited some great inspired utterance about the sublimity of nature and the glory of God.

Breathlessly, tremblingly, I listened.

"At last," he continued in a far-away voice, "after talking about it and dreaming about it all these years, at last, I can actually SPIT A MILE!"

Shortly thereafter, Richard proves he had the makings of an excellent blogger:

…I, clinging to the wooden cross that marks the Swiss-Italian border and scrounging into the snow to keep from being blown away, got out my inseparable note-book, and with frozen fingers laboriously inscribed a thought or two on the wind-whipped page.

"If you fell from here to Zermatt," he snapped impatiently, "you’d write scenic impressions in that confounded note-book on the way down."

Our friend Keri is traveling the world at present. As we read Halliburton’s narrative, Keri is constantly on my mind. Richard the recent college grad is (at this early stage of his memoir, at least) playing the starring role in his travels. Keri’s letters are ensemble pieces; she is a compassionate and shrewd people-watcher, a woman keenly interested in the customs and personalities of the people she encounters.

Her letters are a treat.

If I’m ever asked what traveling tip was the most useful to me, it
would be that I learned where the 5-star hotels are located. Usually
the staff can speak the basics of my language. After a few days feeling
totally adrift in China, I went to the lobby of a swanky hotel, and the
girl in the gift shop helped me with the map, taught me to say hello,
please, thank you the correct way. Sometimes it’s worth the cup of
expensive coffee for a place of understanding.
In India, they must use old British text books, as "kindly" is usually
substituted for "please." As in, "Would you kindly follow me." Also in
India, "thank you" is never said. A few people even asked me why I said
it so much. This at first struck me as rude, but the whole vibe of
India led me to see that gratitude isn’t expected by doing the right
thing, such as answering a person for directions, or a transaction at a
store. With that said, my gratitude was always appreciated.
The other night I was walking down a very busy street here in a
touristy section. A young Asian man stepped aside for me to pass, and I
thanked him in Thai. He shook his head. I tried it in Laos, Vietnamese,
and Khmer. Shook his head no. Said it in Chinese. No. Said it in
English. In an American Southern accent, he said, "You’re welcome,
ma’am." He’s from Texas. 

There is a Chinese word, it sounds like "laiwhoia", but is carried out
as a long word. This means, "Heads up, we have a white person here."
I’d hear this if I was in a crowd, waiting at a traffic light. People
there wouldn’t stare at me, but give quick sneaky glances. It was
polite, actually. After awhile, I’d hear it and could feel all the
little looks I was getting. A few times, I wouldn’t hear the word, so I’d play around and say it myself. It never failed to have everyone around me laugh. The best
thing, is when you can joke around without a shared language. There’s
something pure about it, in a way.

I would love to have been a fly on one of those streetcorners, watching the laugh ripple through the crowd. Keri also wrote about sharing jokes without language in an earlier letter, during her time in Hanoi. 

Two young girls approached me and in pretty bad English asked if they could stand with me. I said yes and they quickly hopped up the ledge next to me and started talking. They are both 20 and in university there. Both came from small villages. They were very happy to practice their English and I was happy to learn more about their world. So every night we’d meet for a few hours. We always sat in the same spot and they’d each keep one hand on my leg. I think they thought I’d unexpectedly run off! If other people came by to join our conversation, they’d each grab my hand and talk a bit faster. They said that not many tourists want to spend time talking to locals. I enjoyed talking to them much more then seeing the pagodas and museums of Vietnam.

It’s odd how even without a common language people will tease each other and make jokes. We laughed a lot. While they didn’t have a smooth flow of the language they could rip off a very sophisticated sentence.

It reminded me of a time when Michael and I came out to visit you in Long Island. I think Jane must have been 5 maybe 6. I know Rose was alive, but I don’t think Beanie had come around yet. Jane was holding a toy, a horse, with the horn and wings. Pegasus. Michael asked her what it was and she didn’t reply right away. So I said that it was a magic horse that can fly. Jane nodded and then went on to talk about the myth and story of Pegasus in great detail. Michael looked at me like I was a total idiot. I looked at Jane like she was totally brilliant. I realized then if I keep my mouth shut people are sometimes formulating some smart thoughts and pulling the words together and eventually will say something much more smart than, "It’s a magic horse!!!"

That’s how these girls were. They would stop and think for a few minutes, then ask a smart question, or explain a cultural difference in splendid detail. Thanks to Jane I was quiet enough to let it happen.

Keri plans to stop off here for a while when her trip is over. I intend to be quiet enough to hear the rest of her stories.

Assorted, in Haiku

May 31, 2007 @ 2:50 pm | Filed under:

Registration for
summer Bravewriter courses
begins tomorrow.


Ants in my keyboard:
Not that I would ever eat
cookies while blogging…


Do you know all these
? ‘Merican Heritage
thinks high school grads should.

Most of the words on
that list are entire lines of
haiku by themselves:

obsequious xenophobe


I’m nearly certain
I have counted wrong somewhere.
Are you checking me?

I can’t decide how
many syllables in the
word "entire." Two, three?

Perhaps it depends
on just how Southern you are.
En-tye-err? Ent-ire?

PaperBack Swap Says “Stop the Fires”

May 30, 2007 @ 6:48 am | Filed under:

The Missouri bookburning has become even more of a dog-and-pony show. Now the good folks at PaperBack Swap have gotten involved, mounting an effort to douse the fires:

Of course we were unhappy at the thought of all those books being
burned! So we contacted Tom to see if he would consider donating them
to our PBS [Note: that’s Paperback Swap, not Public Broadcasting Service] family. He said that he has had several contacts from
different groups asking for his books so that they don’t get burned and
has vowed to select one of the groups to receive them–he hasn’t
decided yet which one. Of course, we think that he should give all of
them to PBS!

To show Club support for the idea, we have started a
petition from our members asking Tom to let PBS find new readers and
new homes for these books, instead of destroying them.

Here is the proposed plan:

Robert and/or Richard fly
to Kansas City and rent a big truck. Then we drive it back, heading
towards PBS headquarters in Atlanta, with numerous stops along the way.
At each city we visit, we would invite our members to come meet us and
take as many books as you want. All for FREE!

It’ll be interesting to see Tom Wayne’s response to this. Is his primary objective to inspire people to read more books, to boost sales, or to garner media attention? And I wonder what other organizations will jump into the ring?

Ongoing San Diego Visit List

May 29, 2007 @ 11:12 pm | Filed under:

(A work perpetually in progress)


The San Diego Zoo

Needs no explanation. My parents bought us an annual membership so we could drop in for an hour or two as often as we like. Biggest hits so far: the snakes, the snakes, the monkeys, the koalas, and the snakes.


Mariam Mother of Life Shrine


This beautiful statue of Mary is over twenty feet tall and can be glimpsed from the nearby freeway. It sits behind St. Ephrem Maronite Catholic Church. Around the base of the statue, the Hail Mary is written in English and Aramaic. Mary stands at the top of a curving staircase; under her base is a domed alcove upon whose wall is painted a picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Simply breathtaking.


Balboa Park: Japanese Tea House, Spreckles Organ Pavilion

Our first pilgrimage to San Diego’s famous Balboa Park (not counting zoo trips—the zoo is part of the enormous downtown park complex) was the occasion of a happy meeting among friends: our pal Stefoodie and her lovely family carved out an afternoon of their San Diego vacation to spend time with my gang and our friends the Sanchezes. We met for lunch at the Japanese Tea House (mmm, teriyaki bowl…) and then wandered over to the Organ Pavilion, a large outdoor amphitheatre, the perfect place for moms to sit and chat while the kids ran up and down the aisles.


Here’s a new post with lots more pictures of the Japanese Garden and other Balboa Park sights.

And here’s one about our visit to the San Diego Museum of Art in Balboa Park.


Point Loma Lighthouse / Cabrillo National Monument

I wrote about our visit to beautiful Point Loma, with its views of San Diego Bay and the Pacific, here.



La Jolla Coveharbor seals!



Coronado Bridge

Silver Strand

Birch Aquarium




The kids (with grandparents):

Del Mar beach

Comments are off

Burning Books to Make a Point

May 29, 2007 @ 8:01 am | Filed under:

A bookstore owner in Missouri is burning his book collection to "protest what he sees as society’s diminishing support for the printed word."

"This is the funeral pyre for thought in America today," Wayne told
spectators outside his bookstore as he lit the first batch of books.

Strikes me as a little like cutting off your nose to spite your face, but I suppose I see his point.

Kansas City has seen the number of used bookstores decline in recent
years and there are few independent bookstores left in town, said Will
Leathem, a co-owner of Prospero’s Books.

"There are segments of this city where you go to an estate sale and find five TVs and three books," Leathem said.

of customers took advantage of the Sunday’s book-burning, searching
through those waiting to go into the fire for last-minute bargains.

Bechtel paid $10 for a stack of books, including an antique collection
of children’s literature, which he said he’d save for his 4-year-old

"I think given the fact it is a protest of people not
reading books, it’s the best way to do it," Bechtel said. "(Wayne has)
made the point that not reading a book is as good as burning it."

Ah, so it’s not just a protest, it’s a fire sale.

Do you think Tom Wayne’s bookburning will make people think about how much (or little) time they spend reading actual books? Will any passersby be moved to go home and curl up with a classic instead of reaching for the remote control? Or will they all be looking to see if they made the evening news?

Carnival of Homeschooling Week 74

May 29, 2007 @ 7:27 am | Filed under:

This week’s CoH is up at About Homeschooling. It’s like visiting Alaska, sort of.

Insignificant bit of trivia: I just realized that I hosted both the 73rd Carnival of Homeschooling (last week) and the 73rd Carnival of Education (last July). This was a coincidence. But I am officially signing up to host the 73rd Carnival of Children’s Literature right now. Since those are monthly, not weekly, and we’re only on number 14 so far, I guess I’ll be seing you in about five years. Wow, five years. Do you think we’ll still be blogging?

Comments are off

“Some Breezy Open Wherein It Seemeth Always Afternoon”

May 28, 2007 @ 10:24 am | Filed under: , , ,

I’ve been looking for the passage I know is in one of Charlotte Mason’s books about making sure children have one or two favorite nature-spots to visit on a regular basis: a park, a garden, a particular wood, a shore, that is visited over and over in all seasons, so that the children may grow familiar with the plants, birds, and beasts that live there, and see how things change throughout the course of a year.

I can’t find the quote, but I know it’s there somewhere: in Home Education, most likely. Miss Mason’s recommendation impressed itself strongly upon me as a young mother in New York, and I dutifully (a delightful duty it was) looked about for a suitable spot or two. I wound up with three, and with bitsy Jane and baby Rose I made pilgrimages to at least one of them every week for years, so that bitsy Jane became bigger Jane and baby Rose was bitsy, and Beanie became the baby.

One of our haunts was the beautiful garden you might have seen recently in the background of Alice’s Midsummer Night’s Dream pictures. And yes, on those outings Alice and her bonny clan were usually by our side—Alice, naturally, having been the person to introduce me to the garden in the first place. A weathered journal filled with Jane’s primitive sketches of flowers from that garden remains one of my most cherished mementos of those green-golden days.

This place was our other favorite spot: five minutes from home, with woods to tramp in and a long stretch of rocky, sandy shore on the Long Island Sound. Sands Point was our year-round nature spot, the place we went to crunch over snow through leafless woods, or to hunt for horseshoe crabs and bury our feet in wet sand.


In Virginia, we were so blessed as to have nature trails around the undeveloped perimeter of our neighborhood, the trailhead lying at the bottom of our very own street. On those leafy paths we learned "the green ways of growing." We met a woodchuck, several snakes, some woodpeckers, a bevy of chickadees, and, once, a terrifying dog. There was a fallen tree all the kids called a fort, and a creek for floating fairy-leaves down, and stones for skipping, and a long hike through a marshy meadow to a lake where the Canada geese congregated on October evenings. A bald eagle was rumored to live there, though we never saw him.

We also frequented Ivy Creek Natural Area, the site of Jane’s best butterfly encounters. It was there we became acquainted with the beech and the sassafras, the wingstem and the woolly aphid. I always meant to spend more time at Ivy Creek than just the once-a-month summer butterfly walks (and the annual native plant sale); but the years we lived there were dominated by Wonderboy’s medical adventures, and we didn’t make it out as often as I’d have liked.

Now here we are in San Diego. Our first six tumultuous months of settling in are behind us. We have only just begun to explore all that is new and delicious in this part of the country; before we arrived, a sweet friend sent us a two-inch-thick book of Fun Places to Go with Kids in Southern California, and though we’ve had a busy and adventure-packed six months, we’ve only made our way through the tiniest sliver of that book. (Blame the Zoo: we keep going back and back for more.) But I find myself drawing a breath and knowing it’s time to find "our spots"—a Sands Point, an Ivy Creek, a place or two we can be more than just acquainted with: a place or two to know intimately.

The quest itself is one of the great delights of moving someplace new. In New York, there was a third "our spot": a lovely garden tucked in the midst of suburbia, a quiet oasis of pond and flowered path. There, too, we often rendezvoused with Alice and her girls (we moved just weeks after Patrick’s birth), and Alice and I would sit in the shade while our little lasses counted turtles in the pond. You could drive right by this garden and have no idea it was there; I think I did drive by probably hundreds of times before I ever set foot through the gates into that little Eden.

Sometimes, as I drive around this western city, I wonder what Edens lie hidden beyond the highway.

I love knowing they’re there, waiting for us to discover them. Our places, our spots: they are waiting for us. What will they be? A ribbon of beach, where we’ll find tidepools and singing waves? A hidden garden, lush and tropical? A windy hilltop where lizards bejewel the warm stones? A place where we will learn the blue, the brown, the golden ways of growing?


A couple of weeks ago, we met some young women who are running a nature studies camp for children this summer. I got to chatting with them, and before I knew it, I had booked one of them to come out to our neighborhood for a guided nature walk sometime soon. One must be on a first name basis with the trees and shrubs one sees every day! This young woman is just our sort of person; she’s into "urban foraging," aka "picking weeds to eat on your salad"—aka "Jane’s kind of person." (My Virginia friends are reading this and laughing, recalling how Jane taught their children to nibble chickweed for iron and violets for vitamin C. Playing in our yard generally meant going home with green teeth.)

After this nice urban forager introduces us to our leafy green neighbors, I’m going to have her take us farther afield, perhaps to Mission Trails Park, where Father Serra, our family’s new patron saint, once trod.

I still can’t find the Charlotte Mason quote I want. Here, though, is what she has to say about "Out-of-Door Life for the Children":

Meals out of Doors.––People who live in the country know the value of fresh air very well, and their children live out of doors, with intervals within for sleeping and eating. As to the latter, even country people do not make full use of their opportunities. On fine days when it is warm enough to sit out with wraps, why should not tea and breakfast, everything but a hot dinner, be served out of doors? For we are an overwrought generation, running to nerves as a cabbage runs to seed; and every hour spent in the open is a clear gain, tending to the increase of brain power and bodily vigour, and to the lengthening of life itself. They who know what it is to have fevered skin and throbbing brain deliciously soothed by the cool touch of the air are inclined to make a new rule of life, Never be within doors when you can rightly be without.

Besides, the gain of an hour or two in the open air, there is this to be considered: meals taken al fresco are usually joyous, and there is nothing like gladness for converting meat and drink into healthy blood and tissue. All the time, too, the children are storing up memories of a happy childhood. Fifty years hence they will see the shadows of the boughs making patterns on the white tablecloth; and sunshine, children’s laughter, hum of bees, and scent of flowers are being bottled up for after refreshment.

For Dwellers in Towns and Suburbs.––But it is only the people who live, so to speak, in their own gardens who can make a practice of giving their children tea out of doors. For the rest of us, and the most of us, who live in towns or the suburbs of towns, that is included in the larger question––How much time daily in the open air should the children have? And how is it possible to secure this for them? In this time of extraordinary pressure, educational and social, perhaps a mothers first duty to her children is to secure for them a quiet growing time, a full six years of passive receptive life, the waking part of it spent for the most part out in the fresh air. And this, not for the gain in bodily health alone––body and soul, heart and mind, are nourished with food convenient for them when the children are let alone, let to live without friction and without stimulus amongst happy influences which incline them to be good.

Possibilities of a Day in the Open.––I make a point, says a judicious mother, of sending my children out, weather permitting, for an hour in the winter, and two hours a day in the summer months. That is well; but it is not enough. In the first place, do not send them; if it is anyway possible, take them; for, although the children should be left much to themselves, there is a great deal to be done and a great deal to be prevented during these long hours in the open air. And long hours they should be not two, but four, five, or six hours they should have on every tolerably fine day, from April till October. Impossible! Says an overwrought mother who sees her way to no more for her children than a daily hour or so on the pavements of the neighbouring London squares. Let me repeat, that I venture to suggest, not what is practicable in any household, but what seems to me absolutely best for the children; and that, in the faith that mothers work wonders once they are convinced that wonders are demanded of them. A journey of twenty minutes by rail or omnibus, and a luncheon basket, will make a day in the country possible to most town dwellers; and if one day, why not many, even every suitable day?

Oh, Charlotte, Charlotte, how I love you. You are, I suppose, assuming I have a cheery, red-cheeked housemaid to keep my home in order while I spend not two, but four, five, or six hours a day outside with my children…and of course in this particular book you are speaking of my youngest children only, the six-and-under crowd. What you do not realize, my dear, is that I’m a devotee of your later writings, and my days are therefore arranged so as to allow for lengthy reading sessions replete with narration.  But, please, do go on.

Supposing we have got them, what is to be done with these golden hours, so that every one shall be delightful? They must be spent with some method, or the mother will be taxed and the children bored. There is a great deal to be accomplished in this large fraction of the children’s day. They must be kept in a joyous temper all the time, or they will miss some of the strengthening and refreshing held in charge for them by the blessed air. They must be let alone, left to themselves a great deal, to take in what they can of the beauty of earth and heavens; for of the evils of modern education few are worse than this––that the perpetual cackle of his elders leaves the poor child not a moment of time, nor an inch of space, wherein to wonder––and grow. At the same time, here is the mother’s opportunity to train the seeing eye, the hearing ear, and to drop seeds of truth into the open soul of the child, which shall germinate, blossom, and bear fruit, without further help or knowledge of hers. Then, there is much to be got by perching in a tree or nestling in heather, but muscular development comes of more active ways, and an hour or two should be spent in vigorous play; and last, and truly least, a lesson or two must be got in.

No Story-Books.––Let us suppose mother and children arrived at some breezy open wherein it seemeth always afternoon. In the first place, it is not her business to entertain the little people: there should be no story-books, no telling of tales, as little talk as possible, and that to some purpose. Who thinks to amuse children with tale or talk at a circus or pantomime? And here, is there not infinitely more displayed for their delectation? Our wise mother, arrived, first sends the children to let off their spirits in a wild scamper, with cry, hallo, and hullaballo, and any extravagance that comes into their young heads. There is no distinction between big and little; the latter love to follow in the wake of their elders, and, in lessons or play, to pick up and do according to their little might. As for the baby, he is in bliss: divested of his garments, he kicks and crawls, and clutches the grass, laughs soft baby laughter, and takes in his little knowledge of shapes and properties in his own wonderful fashion––clothed in a woollen gown, long and loose, which is none the worse for the worst usage it may get.


By-and-by the others come back to their mother, and, while wits are fresh and eyes are keen, she sends them off on an exploring expedition––Who can see the most, and tell the most, about yonder hillock or brook, hedge, or copse. This is an exercise that delights children, and may be endlessly varied, carried on in the spirit of a game, and yet with the exactness and carefulness of a lesson.

How to See.––Find out all you can about that cottage at the foot of the hill; but do not pry about too much. Soon they are back, and there is a crowd of excited faces, and a hubbub of tongues, and random observations are shot breathlessly into the mother’s ear. ‘There are bee-hives.’ ‘We saw a lot of bees going into one.’ ‘There is a long garden.’ ‘Yes, and there are sunflowers in it.’ ‘And hen-and-chicken daisies and pansies.’ ‘And there’s a great deal of pretty blue flowers with rough leaves, mother; what do you suppose it is?’ ‘Borage for the bees, most likely; they are very fond of it.’ ‘Oh, and there are apple and pear and plum trees on one side; there’s a little path up the middle, you know.’ ‘On which hand side are the fruit trees?’ ‘The right––no, the left; let me see, which is my thimble-hand? Yes, it is the right-hand side.’ ‘And there are potatoes and cabbages, and mint and things on the other side.’ ‘Where are the flowers, then?’ ‘Oh, they are just the borders, running down each side of the path.’ ‘But we have not told mother about the wonderful apple tree; I should think there are a million apples on it, all ripe and rosy!’ ‘A million, Fanny?’ ‘Well, a great many, mother; I don’t know how many.’ And so on, indefinitely; the mother getting by degrees a complete description of the cottage and its garden.

Educational Uses of Sight-Seeing.––This is all play to the children, but the mother is doing invaluable work; she is training their powers of observation and expression, increasing their vocabulary and their range of ideas by giving them the name and the uses of an object at the right moment,––when they ask, ‘What is it?’ and ‘What is it for?’ And she is training her children in truthful habits, by making them careful to see the fact and to state it exactly, without omission or exaggeration. The child who describes, ‘A tall tree, going up into a point, with rather roundish leaves; not a pleasant tree for shade, because the branches all go up,’ deserves to learn the name of the tree, and anything her mother has to tell her about it. But the little bungler, who fails to make it clear whether he is describing an elm or a beech, should get no encouragement; not a foot should his mother move to see his tree, no coaxing should draw her into talk about it, until, in despair, he goes off, and comes back with some more certain note––rough or smooth bark, rough or smooth leaves,––then the mother considers, pronounces, and, full of glee, he carries her off to see for himself.

Discriminating Observation.––By degrees the children will learn discriminatingly every feature of the landscapes with which they are familiar; and think what a delightful possession for old age and middle life is a series of pictures imaged, feature by feature, in the sunny glow of the child’s mind! The miserable thing about the childish recollections of most persons is that they are blurred, distorted, incomplete, no more pleasant to look upon than a fractured cup or a torn garment; and the reason is, not that the old scenes are forgotten, but that they were never fully seen. At the time, there was no more than a hazy impression that such and such objects were present, and naturally, after a lapse of years those features can rarely be recalled of which the child was not cognisant when he saw them before him.


Method of.
––So exceedingly delightful is this faculty of taking mental photographs, exact images, of the beauties of Nature we go about the world for the refreshment of seeing, that it is worth while to exercise children in another way towards this end, bearing in mind, however, that they see the near and the minute, but can only be made with an effort to look at the wide and the distant. Get the children to look well at some patch of landscape, and then to shut their eyes and call up the picture before them, if any bit of it is blurred, they had better look again. When they have a perfect image before their eyes, let them say what they see. Thus: ‘I see a pond; it is shallow on this side, but deep on the other; trees come to the waters edge on that side, and you can see their green leaves and branches so plainly in the water that you would think there was a wood underneath. Almost touching the trees in the water is a bit of blue sky with a soft white cloud; and when you look up you see that same little cloud, but with a great deal of sky instead of a patch, because there are no trees up there. There are lovely little water-lilies round the far edge of the pond, and two or three of the big round leaves are turned up like sails. Near where I am standing three cows have come to drink, and one has got far into the water, nearly up to her neck,’ etc.

Strain on the Attention.––This, too, is an exercise children delight in, but, as it involves some strain on the attention, it is fatiguing, and should only be employed now and then. It is, however, well worth while to give children the habit of getting a bit of landscape by heart in this way, because it is the effort of recalling and reproducing that is fatiguing; while the altogether pleasurable act of seeing, fully and in detail, is likely to be repeated unconsciously until it becomes a habit by the child who is required now and then to reproduce what he sees.

Seeing Fully and in Detail.––At first the children will want a little help in the art of seeing. The mother will say, ‘Look at the reflection of the trees! There might be a wood under the water. What do those standing up leaves remind you of?’ And so on, until the children have noticed the salient points of the scene. She will even herself learn off two or three scenes, and describe them with closed eyes for the children’s amusement; and such little mimics are they, and at the same time so sympathetic, that any graceful fanciful touch which she throws into her descriptions will be reproduced with variations in theirs.

The children will delight in this game of picture-painting all the more if the mother introduce it by describing some great picture gallery she has seen––pictures of mountains, of moors, of stormy seas, of ploughed fields, of little children at play, of an old woman knitting,––and goes on to say, that though she does not paint her pictures on canvas and have them put in frames, she carries about with her just such a picture gallery; for whenever she sees anything lovely or interesting, she looks at it until she has the picture in her mind’s eye; and then she carries it away with her, her own for ever, a picture on view just when she wants it.

It’s good to revisit the books that formed you as a young mother. Eight years ago, Charlotte Mason was my Dr. Spock, and I carried out her recommendations as faithfully as our circumstances allowed. Now my little people are beginning to be bigger people, and it would be quite easy to forget this vision of what life can be like for little ones. I can’t promise four to six hours a day, of course! But one long afternoon a week? That I can aim for, and we’ll all be the better for it.

Now to find our "breezy opens"!

Images courtesy of