Classical at Home

The education related ponderings of a homeschool mom and armchair philosopher.

How to review irregular verb conjugations with hand motions — October 4, 2017
— May 17, 2017
Classical Conversations Reflection — March 27, 2017

Classical Conversations Reflection

We just completed our 4th year in Classical Conversations, now at our third campus. There is a great amount of variety in atmosphere and “personality” between the different campuses we’ve attended. I feel very fortunate to have had the chance to observe so many wonderful tutors teaching the same material, each with their own tricks for making it fun and clear for the students. While I don’t agree with 100% of the material chosen (like, why don’t the maps have BLUE water?) or even 100% of the philosophy behind the development, it has been a very good fit, and I can adapt things for my own children where I see fit.

In the years since attending with my children, I have learned more about the process of learning itself than I learned in high school, college, and then graduate school. I have learned how to break things down and teach the grammar of subjects. I have learned how to teach, and how to learn. Being a co-student with my children has helped me become a better teacher. This was my first year tutoring Foundations, and I learned as much if not more than my students.

In addition we’ve made some wonderful friends, both my children and I. The ladies (and a couple of gentlemen) that homeschool with us are interesting, intelligent, thoughtful people. They care about their children and mine. I’ve needed help the past few weeks, dealing with a shoulder injury, and other moms have watched my kids, washed my dishes, and brought me dinner. The outpouring of support and love has been very encouraging. Fellow tutors have written my boards for me, students have carried my heavy bins, and in general, I need only to ask to receive help from friends.

We will continue with Classical Conversations next year. My eldest has moved into the Essentials program, which I will be tutoring. I’m looking forward to continuing to grow as an educator, student, and person.


Forever is Composed of Nows — November 19, 2015

Forever is Composed of Nows

I’ve had the quote, “Forever is composed of nows” on my fridge for a while, and look at it several times a day, wondering what on earth it means. It resonated with me and was beautiful, so I wrote it down and have been mediating on it during short periods in my day. I finally looked up the full poem by Emily Dickinson, and here it is:

Forever – is composed of Nows – (690)


Forever – is composed of Nows –
‘Tis not a different time –
Except for Infiniteness –
And Latitude of Home –
From this – experienced Here –
Remove the Dates – to These –
Let Months dissolve in further Months –
And Years – exhale in Years –
Without Debate – or Pause –
Or Celebrated Days –
No different Our Years would be
From Anno Dominies –
I think that with our big move impending, the line about the “latitude of home” strikes a chord with me. Also the idea that past, present, and future are all only real and experienced in the now. The past is remembered, and rewritten, and the future is only imagined. The only reality that can be experienced is the now, and now, and now. Forever is a string of nows all tied together. If we sacrifice experiencing our “now” in favor of nostalgia for the past or anticipation of the future, we are sacrificing a piece of forever. I am particularly guilty of “killing time” or “zoning out” and not experiencing my nows, especially at the end of a long day or week, by playing on the internet, watching crap tv, etc.

As if you could kill time without injuring eternity.

Henry David Thoreau

As a mom and a homeschooler, it is practically impossible not to fantasize about the future, when I imagine life will be easier. First, I looked eagerly forward to potty training being complete. Now, I look forward to Teddy Bear learning how to read, so that he can be more independent in his learning. It is very hard for me not to look forward.

But, I look out the window and see the seasons chaining…not in a rush but in their own, perfect time. What would it be like if the beautiful fall colors lasted only a moment and rushed headlong into stark and sparkling winter? I hear myself reminding Sophia, as she practices piano, “It’s not a race!” Her impulse is to practice pieces at the fastest possible rate. When she asks me to sing along, I sound like an auctioneer and run out of breath. The beauty of the piece she is playing is not only in the correct order of notes, but in the speed she plays it…now languorous, now harried…but never just to be done with it as quickly as possible.
I remember hearing someone say once how they had their children close together to “get it over with.” I remember thinking that was tragic. Although, there are days where I wish this tantrum throwing, demanding stage was all over.
The next few months will be trying for us as a family, as we coordinate a large move, buy a house, and all the projects big and small that need to happen. It can be tempting to wish these months away and us at the end of the journey. But we’d be wishing away our nows.
There are still dinners to be had with friends here. More walks around the reservoir. Another Christmas in Boston. Tears as we say goodbye. Fights about how best to accomplish everything. Learning to manage ourselves and our emotions. For now, I am going to try to be in the now. Cleaning the carpets, packing the pictures…the now. It’s all any of us are every guaranteed.
Broken Places — October 19, 2015

Broken Places

Photo and repair by David Pike

I’ve recently been reading about a fascinating philosophy called “wabi-sabi.” I love it’s idea of embracing imperfection. You can read more about it here. Although I’m sure I’m bastardizing it, I have read it and interpret it to mean a kind of humble respect for those things that are imperfect and worn though a natural aging. The asymetrical flower bed, the rough hewn table, the thread-bare sweater that you love…those are wabi-sabi.

However, as I run and walk and meditate my way around my very precious time alone…I begin to think about the things that wabi-sabi is not…those things which are very real and very important to me. Those broken, imperfect, and not artistically interesting things.

Most people have broken places, parts of their soul and mind that are not whole. How do we mend these parts, and prepare them for public showing?

In Kintsugi, another philosophy, breakage and repair  are viewed as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise. Broken pottery may be mended with gold, to indicate that the broken-ness makes the item more valuable…the break itself the most interesting part of the piece.

This is the very perfection of a man, to find out his own imperfections.

Saint Augustine

If you want new… go to Target. If you want an interesting, complex, real person….with layers and a lifetime full of stories and experience, find  a person with gold in the place of their broken places. Maybe they won’t be stronger…because they haven’t been mended with steel. But more precious, more fragile, more worthy of your time and interest and effort.

It is by going down into the abyss that we recover the treasures of life. Where you stumble, there lies your treasure.

Joseph Campbell

I let my kids watch crap, and so should you! (Battling perfectionism in homeschooling, mothering, and living) — August 31, 2015

I let my kids watch crap, and so should you! (Battling perfectionism in homeschooling, mothering, and living)

I used to be inspired by humanity’s pursuit of perfection. Transcendentalism, minimalism, clean eating, paleo, local, hand-made…etc.

Now I am continually horrified at the pressure we put on ourselves and others to be perfect. Heres a funny video about this issue in parenting:

Major takeaway- someday you too will dump a salad in your purse!

Maybe not- but I would like to share my experience with battling perfectionism in homeschooling, mothering, and living. Before Princess Sophia, our first, was born, we swore to never let her near screens of any sort. We swore she’d never use a pacifier. We thought that we were better parents than that…We thought….well….we were wrong.

One day soon after becoming parents, we realized our may failings with a heavy burden of shame. Sophia loved her pacifier. We were too exhausted to do anything in the evenings other than watch televisions, and our lives revolved around our children. It was very unglamorous. It was not what we had aspired too. Imagine attending an artist reception for your best friend after having traveled for hours only to excuse yourself to breast pump. Parenting was not meeting my expectations.

And for that matter, I was not meeting my exception.

I didn’t make all the baby food. We didn’t sit down at the table for dinner and practice our use of specialised silverware and napkins. They weren’t learning ettiquette from our dinners. We weren’t modeling police discussions. Instead, we disagreed about grocery lists and other minutiae. I had failed to be perfect and it weighted heavily on me.

So I quit.

I embraced imperfection.

I let the kids eat instant macaroni and cheese while watching television. Not educational, enriching programs…total junk

And I felt…relieved. Safe. Okay. I had given up the idea that I could eve be perfect. No one can ever be perfect. My body is not perfect. My home is not perfect. My marriage is not perfect. My children are not perfect. And this is all okay. Liberating, in fact. I am allowed to be me. Beautifully, authentically, imperfectly, me. And so are you. Give yourself permission to live, love, make mistakes, be human, be lazy, and be real. You may actually do your children good by demonstrating that no one is perfect. Your children may learn that perfection is not necessary to deserve love. You are gauranteed to do good for your children by doing these things for yourself.

When I need a break, I let the kids watch TV. I let them make messes. If they bother me, I order them away or task them. It works with husbands, too. I hide in the kitchen with an iPad or computer and pretend to be busy wiping the counters when interrupted…(shhh! Don’t ruin my cover!)

I’d like to extend this forgiveness of imperfection to other things. Nail biting, an affinity for candy, celebrity gossip, and other mostly harmless but very real imperfections. What would happen if we accepted these flaws? Who would suffer? Could anyone ever suffer as much as we do, trying to make ourselves perfect for our families? So much of our perfectionist tendencies are in our minds. I see pictures of myself from years where I thought I was too fat, too thin, too…whatever. I see now that I was just right.

My daughter overheard me complaining about my body, although I try not to spread my body disapproval around. She told me that “for my job, my body was just right.” I asked her to clarify, and she explained that if I “was a supermodel” I would need to be more thin. But “for a mommy, you are just right.” She expressed concern that I would become too thin to cuddle! Because, “mommies should be soft.” Now, in my case, mommies are also ill-informed on world events, and often clumsy…maybe those are in the job description as well.

For today, I’ve decided to think that I’m  good enough. For today, you are good enough, too.

(This post isn’t everything I want it to be. I’ll share it, anyways.)

Let it Go, Let it Go…..(Serenity, NOW!) —

Let it Go, Let it Go…..(Serenity, NOW!)

Anyone with young children right now will have seen, or heard, or have sang numerous times the song “Let it Go” from Frozen. Essentially, the Princess finally stops holding her emotions in and is free. I have been using the song in a different way, to diffuse my negative reactions to the every day frustrations that I encounter. It’s probably more similar to the Seinfeld character that screams “Serentity NOW!” when aggravated.

I had a rough week. Hormones and general anxiety conspired to make me a rabid bitch, and life provided me with plenty of opportunities to exercise my bitchiness. During all this, I discovered something very valuable. When, I get angry at a customer service person, contractor, insurance company, my adrenaline and blood pressure stay up for hours, sometimes days. I don’t sleep well. My mental health basically suffers much more than any possible gain from the confrontation. I become the picture of a miserable person, wallowing in my anger and resentment, unable to move on. Yes, there are frustrations in modern life. The barber who butchers my son’s hair cut, the doctors office that bills incorrectly, the person who parks at the very bottom of your drive way….

But in the end, I didn’t have to wake up this morning and walk 8 miles to carry clean drinking water home on my head. I don’t have to put my children to bed hungry. Losing my cool over minor frustrations is not only bad for me physically and mentally, but fails to help me grow spiritually. The inability to forgive, exercise my patience and tolerance, and recognize the humanity in those who annoy me connotes a sort of spiritual poverty that many in the otherwise wealthy, industrialized world suffer from.

Possession of material riches, without inner peace, is like dying of thirst while bathing in a lake.

If material poverty is to be avoided, spiritual poverty is to be abhorred. For it is spiritual poverty, not material lack, that lies at the core of all human suffering.

~ Paramahansa Yogananda

When I have these frustrating interactions with people, it is helpful to imagine myself in their shoes. Failing that, I try to imagine a situation where I would feel compassion for them instead of anger. Now, these situations might be merely fantasy, but they are helpful to me. For example, the aggressive driver who cuts me off in traffic may be on the way to the hospital for an emergency. The child who is mean to my child at the playground may have a developmental delay, the lady cutting my son’s hair is learning a new professional after leaving an abusive relationship. Now, these things are probably not what is really going on, but certainly every person has trials and crosses to bear. I can’t possibly know what those are, but these imaginary scenarios help me feel compassionate. It backs me away from my anger.

In the end, if I can be a better version of myself, that might be the best thing I can do for the world. Yes, digging wells and working for peace and donating to good causes is all important, but if we can’t love one another, we’re all in for a much rougher ride than necessary. I can go to church every week, and still be an asshole to the waitress that serves me after Mass. Does that make me a good person? Don’t love humanity in general and be awful to individual people.

Our task must be to free ourselves by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty.

Albert Einstein

I think we can all use a little reminder of this every so often. I don’t need to fight every war that invites me. I don’t have to engage every person or issue that I come across. I know that some people will feel strongly about engaging those who make offensive remarks in person or on social media. For me, I need to stay out of the skirmishes in the comments sections. I honestly don’t think it does any good and certainly isn’t going to change anyone’s mind about another persons’ position. The only thing that will change someone’s mind is a relationship…but that’s another post for another day.

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