Wednesday, April 27, 2016

CM West :: Retreat at the Beach Impressions

I recently wrote a post about the CM West :: Retreat at the Beach over at Charlotte Mason West where I shared some pictures and discussed our schedule and talks.  However, I wanted to also write a post here to share a little more about what the retreat meant to me.

One of the real highlights of the retreat was the wonderful group of women who got together for it.  Women who talked about books and ideas, who are interested in lifelong learning, and who are passionate about educating their children using life giving methods.  It was such a delight to be around such enjoyable people!

During the retreat, we spent a fair amount of time on our nature journals.  Ever since the Seattle conference, I've been diligently working away at my nature journal, and it has become a fairly established part of my life.  I'm averaging an entry a week, which is right where I want to be.  However, as I looked at other women's journals, I realized how text heavy my journals are.  The writing is a good thing, and the cataloguing and descriptions are certainly useful endeavors.  My observation skills are growing and I am learning more about what I am seeing around me.  However, I realized I would be encouraged to look even more closely and carefully if I was also challenging myself to draw more often.

It isn't that I didn't already know that my nature journaling would be enriched by more drawing.  After all, I own The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady, The Laws Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling, a couple books by Clare Walker Leslie, and a few others that I've reviewed and then passed along.  I've even spent some time paging through them and reading them.  But it always seemed a little too challenging, a little too daunting.  

However, as I watched some of the women I had come to know work with their journals, I was challenged in a new way.  And this time the challenge seemed within reach.  Because I knew these women a little bit, and because I could see how their journals had progressed over time, I had a sense of what could happen if I made the effort to do a little more.  I had a sense that I could improve over time, and that the time spent practicing and drawing would be enjoyable and enriching.  

So I tried to stretch myself at this retreat.  I did a more involved sketch at the retreat, and with encouragement and some tips, tried some watercolor as well.  The result certainly wasn't amazing, but really, it isn't about the results.  It is about the process, the observations, the willingness to try, and the time spent in focused attention.  And I enjoyed the process, and as I drew I was encouraged to look at the object in front of me in a way that I wouldn't have if I was simply cataloguing it or writing about it.

This is the best I could do with a photo, so I knew I would have to make close observations if I was going to try and sketch them.

I had so much fun stalking these curlews - err... Marbled godwits (oops!) trying to observe them enough that I could sit and sketch them.

Oooh, watercolor!

Since the retreat I've finished reading and commonplacing through the first section of The Laws Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling, and rather than flipping through the various sections, getting overwhelmed, and putting it on the shelf, I opened to the wildflower section and started working on his first pages for drawing simple flowers. And then I went outside, found some basic five petaled wildflowers, and sketched them.  And you know what?  It was great fun.  I noticed so many new things by trying to sketch as well as catalogue.  And by pairing my sketching with some instruction, I was much more satisfied with the process and the results.  

Drawing practice in my drawing sketchbook
Practicing the techniques I learned in my nature journal

Even though I'm only one step ahead of my kids, I introduced these techniques to them as well.  First during one of our drawing instruction times I introduced the basic methods, then during our nature journaling time we worked on using those methods to draw buttercups.  I was so encouraged to see how much more they enjoyed their nature journaling and the greater confidence they had just from this little bit of knowledge passed along.  

Working with Nathan on sketching a buttercup and also introducing him to watercolor.
One further note:  If you're interested in going to a retreat like this, I would encourage you to seek one out.  Or consider planning one yourself and putting it out there.  There is a strong interest in retreats like this, and I think they are well worthwhile.  They also aren't all that hard to organize and arrange.  If you'd like to know more about how we did it, please contact me and I'd be happy to answer questions via email or a Skype call.  

Thursday, April 21, 2016

A Mother's Morning Walk, Redux

Yesterday, due to a cold my children so kindly gave me, I didn't take my morning walk.  It was the first school day where I didn't get my 20 minute morning respite from the noise and commotion of family life in weeks, and as I reflected on the day, I realized what a difference that little 20 minutes makes in my life, attitude, and the atmosphere of my home.

In January I wrote about a new part of my day, my morning walk.  It seems like such a little thing, these twenty minutes or so outside by myself.  I'm not covering any great distance, only walking down the road or perhaps to the creek and back, but it lightens my mood, gives me more patience, and vastly helps me to tackle the challenges of the day with good, or at least better, humor than I would have otherwise.  Even in the few months I've been doing this, it has created deep and beneficial change in myself and my children.

Every day, I challenge myself to notice something in particular. It might be an observation about something I've been watching for awhile, like finally spotting the spider responsible for the web over the little roadside puddle.  Or it might be something entirely new, like a wildflower that has suddenly come into bloom or catching a glimpse of a bird I hadn't seen before.  I also challenge myself to remember things I've seen before and to check them on them periodically.  Is the crab apple in bloom yet?  Are the Pileated Woodpeckers in any of the dead pines above the road?  How are the oaks progressing in their leafing out?  Do I see any new dying pines?  Can I remember the names of the different wildflowers I've been trying to learn and identify?

These walks remind me that that very little is learned quickly.  It takes time to see how many batches of frog eggs will be laid in that roadside puddle, how long it will take before the tadpoles will finally get legs (months, in the case of these leisurely tadpoles).  It takes time and days of watching to finally catch the spider in action or finally get a good look at a bird I've seen and heard many times.  And in this I grow, slowly, in my patience with my children, as they struggle to master the mechanics of long division or the pronunciation of a word.

My observations spill into my family as I bring home news of my sightings.  Sometimes my children will say, "oh, Mom, we noticed the western buttercups blooming below the house days ago!" and sometimes I'm able to share something they haven't yet noticed.  Because of my sharing, they have been much more observant when they are playing outside, as well as more forthcoming in sharing their finds with me and with each other.

I also find that my walks help me to be in a better frame of mind for our morning time.  Rather than rushing through the breakfast clean-up and dressing the young ones or waiting impatiently for my older children to finish up so we can get going on our morning, I come back in invigorated, cheerful, and filled with a peaceful readiness to take on what the day holds.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Goals: Interval 11 - Many Things Come to a Head

I decided to change how I'm writing my goals post, and instead I'm going to share with you my interval plan in brief.  It is the same information, but I think it will be less as repetitive than what I've been posting.  I will also be posting this at the end of each six week interval rather than monthly.

I learned this concept of Interval Planning from Mystie Winkler and her absolutely wonderful Simplified Organization course.  This course was so incredibly valuable for me and I cannot recommend it highly enough.  (I should note that according to her recommendations, I have one too many projects listed below, and probably too many tasks too.  And I think in this interval my tasks are probably larger than they should be.  But such things happen sometimes, and I'm going to try and rein myself in a little bit in the next interval.)

I start each interval write-up with a habit I want to focus on for this six week period.  I'm tracking the habits I've chosen so far this year in the Way of Life app.  So far my morning walk habit is quite well established, my serving dinner at 5:30 habit needs a lot of work, and my new habit, everything turned off by 9:45 habit is doing pretty well. (Except, well, tonight.  Oops.)

Habit:  Everything turned off by 9:45


- CM West :: Retreat at the Beach
This is in just a few days, and Celeste and I are doing really well with our talks and planning and everything.  I have a bunch of tasks dealing with food prep and shopping to do in the next few days, but other than that, this project is looking really good.  Hooray for incremental progress and advance planning!

- Video Chat Start Here: 20 Principles Study
Hmm, yes, need to get going on this one.  But after the retreat.

- Bay Area CM Retreat
I think we have a date, but I need to double check it with the location and start working on a contract this interval.  Hooray!

- SoCal trip & Wedding prep
We have a wedding coming up at the end of the month and we'll be doing a little traveling too.  I'm still working on getting all the wedding clothes together, but I'm making progress.  And then there's packing lists to make and other such details...  Perhaps this doesn't seem like much of a progress, but anything that involves buying specific types of clothes for five children is definitely a project for me! 


* Teaching from Rest prep
We have our last meeting this month, and while I'm glad I did this and I think this idea has a lot of promise, I need to figure out how I can encourage more people to join in on the discussions.  After a recent conversation, I'm wondering if a downside to these video chats is that they feel too much like online webinars, where you can sign up and then get a replay later with little diminishment to the experience.  But since these are supposed to be real discussions rather than webinars, it really matters if people don't show up, and there isn't a replay you can listen to later while folding laundry.

* CMI Western Conference
I've been helping a little with the planning for the CMI Western Conference which will be in the LA area from Aug 3-6 this summer.  I will most likely need to be taking a more active role sometime soon, once registration opens (hopefully this month!) and things really get rolling.

* Shakespeare Play prep & Potluck
We'll have our performance this weekend, and I think it is going to turn out really well.  I'd like to write a post about how we've done Shakespeare in a group this year, but that'll probably not happen until early May.

* Continue to work on books
Ahem.  Yes.  Still not done.  But I've donated some 10+ paper bags of books to the Friends of the Library, sold a few, and sent more off via PaperbackSwap.  I still have a few boxes from storage to sort, and several more to go through to decide if they are worth selling or swapping.