Sunday, March 23, 2014

True Confessions of a Modern Day Internet Junkie

A simple ornament. Handmade. Delicate. I slid it onto the doorknob of my back door and watched it swing back and forth each time my son slipped into the back yard. It was a gift from a dear friend who lives far from me.

She thought of me and sent it.

I think about doing such things but the busyness of each day forces those thoughts inward. They sink like stones deep inside my heart, that heart which, once soft and gentle, gets a little more heavy with each passing day.

Then I got sick.

I spent the first two days of bed rest watching movies and talking over serious issues on Facebook. I felt like one of those characters from the movie Wall-E. The ones who enjoyed the laid back life, resting in their easy chairs, sliding around sipping sodas and shooting the breeze.

Then I remembered all the things I had intended to do for my family at Christmastime. It came flooding in -- the pressures of shopping, the baking, cooking, decorating, caroling, church going -- it swirled in my head. I was dizzy with regret.

I got up and tried to bake the simplest something but ended up back in bed.

I told my daughter. Here's what she said: "I would be happy to bake for you!" The burden was lifted. But something was still wrong. I faced several questions about the depth of my own soul and life.

What is filling my days instead of the things I believe in?

As I had time to take stock, I looked around. I have shelves upon shelves of books. You might call me a bibliophile or a book collector or maybe just a hoarder, I don't know. I read a lot. And I am online a lot. In fact, my son confronted me head on with this ugly fact a few days ago when I told him I missed him because he was always heading upstairs to his room.

"You're always sitting there with your laptop anyway. I might as well be upstairs."

I could almost hear the zing of the remark as he flung it with arrow-like precision at my heart. It stung. Not because he intended to hurt me but because it was so accurate.

It's not that I'm addicted to Facebook and blogging so much as that I miss my friends who live in other states. That's what I told myself all day, anyway. And I'm a writer, so I have to be online for a significant amount of time each day. That one made perfect sense. But my son is almost 17 years old. When did I intend to spend quality time with him? And worse, this Charlotte Mason education I believe so wholeheartedly in was crashing down around me.

Nature Study?
Viewing great art?
Studying composers?

I spent much time reading about all these things and very little time actually doing them. I can tell you exactly HOW to teach using the Charlotte Mason method. I really can.

But I don't often DO it.

I am watching life. Writing about life. Reading living books about life.

But I am not living.

Some say introversion is to blame. We philosophical intellectuals enjoy sipping tea and thinking things through. That takes time. We need time to sit around and contemplate the meaning of the universe.

That is true!

But we are called as Christians to live in community. To serve others less fortunate, not merely by making donations to charity but by touching the lives of other people. Literally touching them -- a hand grasped in prayer, a shaking hand held while a child is in surgery, an encouraging hug. We are the hands and feet of our Lord.

As I recover from this bout of sickness, I make this promise to my family, friends, neighbors, and to God. I choose to live fully, love deeply, walk humbly, and learn and grow along with my fellow sojourners.

That is all.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival, Irena Sendler, Bronislaw Huberman, and the Beauty of Moral Training

I'm so excited about the Carnival this time around because we get to talk about Moral Education. This is an area that sort of trumps all others, really, second only to Spiritual Training. Here are some fantastic blog posts from experienced, seasoned educators that offer a lot of food for thought as we learn and grow in this area of our journey. And we also have a few great posts that are off the main topic. I love what you all had to say!

Here's a beautiful post about how to instill a love for God in the hearts of our children from Penney.

And from Amy, a thought-provoking post on Moral Training.

And here's a great post about lying and moral training among those on the autism spectrum from Tammy. She shares more about math in this post from her new "rarefied" blog, which I love because I am particularly math-challenged!

A post from Carol with lots of food for thought. And a bonus -- a lovely post on the power of poetry.

What a gift -- a wonderful look at Conscience from Nebby in this post.

Here's a lovely post that takes a closer look at the Mother's Course and the value of women as persons and their role in the lives of their children. Thank you, Nancy!

Liz takes us on a journey through a few inspiring living books and learns a little something herself in this post.

Cindy shares her thoughts on preparing your students to narrate in this post.

And from Celeste, a post about The Living Page, an exploration of the importance of being a keeper.

I could write a blog post about what Charlotte Mason said about Moral Training -- how she recommended reading biographies of heroes and fiction where a hero rises to the occasion, exhibiting courage, ingenuity, and strength of moral judgment.

Or I could just introduce you to Irena Sendler and Bronislaw Huberman.

Irena Sendler

Irena Sendler was a Polish social worker during the Holocaust. She personally rescued 2,500 children from the Warsaw ghetto -- children who would have faced certain death under the Nazi regime because they were Jewish. We've all heard of Oskar Schindler, who saved 1000 of his employees during the war. But who among us remembers Irena Sendler who saved more than twice that many people, all of them innocent children? She would inevitably have slipped into oblivion, her selfless work on behalf of these precious children dying along with her memory, but for four young girls in Kansas whose teacher asked them to write a ten minute play. They chose to write about Irena Sendler. I'm not even sure how they found out about her, but once they did, the world finally knew what we already knew -- strong moral character is caught, not taught.

Irena's father was a doctor. He refused to stop treating his Jewish patients, despite the laws being enacted against it. Young Irena was paying attention. She said later that it was her father's quiet, stubborn refusal to bow to this unjust law that led her to decide to risk her life to save Jewish children in Warsaw. She said her father always told her, "If you see someone who is drowning, you jump in and rescue them, even if you don't know how to swim."

Irene passed away in 2008 at the age of 98, and thanks to these four young girls in Kansas, she will be remembered always.

Bronislaw Huberman

Bronislaw Huberman was a brilliant violinist with a bright future ahead of him, but for one thing. He was Jewish. Banned from performing in Germany, despite his international acclaim, he struggled with what to do next. Sure, he could have escaped to America or England, but he was haunted by the faces of his fellow Jewish musicians. After a tour took him to Palestine, he knew what he must do -- help musicians escape from Eastern Europe and Germany to Palestine.

He created the Orchestra of Exiles and filled it with famous musicians who had been forced out of their symphonies because they were Jewish. He stopped touring, losing out on millions of dollars, and chose instead to rescue people with no hope of leaving otherwise. Even Arturo Toscanini was on his side. As he built this magnificent new orchestra in Palestine, he risked his life bringing others to freedom -- aunts, uncles, parents, and siblings of his fellow musicians. His new orchestra was filled with people who had left families behind and they were desperate to escape the Nazi regime and certain death, too.

Bronislaw Huberman was a hero who sacrificed his own success to save the lives of others.

But what distinguished Irena Sendler and Bronislaw Huberman from all the other people around them who did NOT choose to get involved in the resistance or rescue operations? That is the key to true moral training, it seems to me.

Huberman, unlike Sendler, did not have a happy family life. His father died when he was still quite young, and he suffered from depression and loneliness. This drove him to see the pain and anguish in other people's lives and feel it as keenly as he felt his own. He once said that upon touring in war-torn Europe during WWI, his heart was changed. He saw the devastation, heard the cries of young children, felt the suffering of his fellow man. He saw it firsthand and was forever changed.

I think there's something to that. Seeing hunger and deprivation firsthand is different than watching a brief commercial on tv about it. So maybe one way we can develop strong moral character within the hearts of our students is to actually show them what poverty and lack really are like.

Whether it's from reading a brilliant biography, real life experience, or watching and learning from parents who are strong examples of ethical behavior, I can see why Miss Mason finds moral training of the utmost importance. This is where the rubber meets the road. This is where you find out what's really inside you. Is it courage or cowardice? Until tested, we may never know. But we can learn from Irena Sendler and Bronislaw Huberman's shining examples what strength of character truly looks like.