The Living Page

It is now spring. The sun is out. The air is warm. The birds are singing.
it is time to plan for the next school year.

It seems that for the past three springs when school planning rose up on the horizon, a book, a video, a forum thread or a podcast popped up and inspired me. Two years ago, it was the mega Circe thread on the WTM forums. That was a watershed moment for me. That was when everything started to change for me. Last year, the inspiration came a little bit later in the year in the form of an audio by Jenny Rallens (scan down the page till you get to C20 rallens-incorporating lit) on the teaching of liturgy and that flowed into the book, Desiring the Kingdom by James K.A.Smith. That kept me going for awhile.

We are now into the next year and the next phase of this homeschooling journey. The inspiration and the nuggets of thought have come ten-fold already. It keeps coming wave after wave. First was the blog series by Sarah on teaching from a state of rest (the link takes you to Sarah’s page, just click on the icon entitled Rest,) then came the video series by Andrew Kern talking about teaching from rest as well as assessment that blesses. I haven’t watched the entire series but what I have seen so far has made me sit back and ponder deep. Next, I came upon Jenny Rallens’ video from last year’s Alcuin retreat. It is on teaching virtue. This video has caused me to stop in my tracks and just, again, ponder deep. It was a ‘wow’ moment for me.

And that isn’t even talking about the books that I have read this year. The one book that has rung true to me is The Living Page by Laurie Bestvater. I have mentioned this book a few times in the past and I will be talking about it quite a few times in the future. It has made quite an impression on me. I have followed a Charlotte Mason philosophy since Emma was 6 years old but there have been some areas in a CM method that just didn’t make sense to me. Notebooking a la Charlotte Mason is one of those areas.

I am not a big notebooking kind of girl but after reading The Living Page I have come away with a new understanding and appreciation of the various kinds of notebooks that Miss Mason used. In reading this book, I have realized that some of our problems in learning might be corrected by notebooking. Notebooking requires focus and attention, traits that are, at times, lacking in my children.

Bestvater lists and discusses the many kinds of notebooks that were used in a CM education. For a beginner, this was all too intimidating so I decided to implement just a few of the notebooks described in the book. I am also not one to wait for change so, after raiding the sale basket at Coles Book Store, we now have the various notebooks we will use to bring the true, good and beautiful into our lives.

In a future blog post, I will discuss in detail the books that we will be using doing our learning time. For now, though, I just want to share a few quotes from this book.

…there is little doubt in even a perfunctory look that some of the most amazing of the world’s treasured artifacts and ideas have come from notebook Keepers. Yet, from Bach and Beethoven to Bob Dylan, from Gerard Manley Hopkins to Annie Dillard and Billy Collins, is it not the Keeper’s full human life that Mason esteems? What if the emphasis is meant to be on the formative process–the growing person who feasts upon and then shares the Great Ideas in creating the art, rather than the artifact or achievement itself?

I am proposing that it is with the forms of vitality that Mason makes an appeal even more explicit and revolutionary. Deep within the Great Books, inside the Great Conversation, she sees what I am calling ‘the Grand Invitation.’ With no qualms, no holds barred, Charlotte Mason through her Great Recognition and ensuing pledge to ‘masterly inactivity’ allows the quiet persistence of the forms of vitality to invite children to notice and discuss the Perennial Questions, to be delvers into existential matters for themselves…
The question, then…is not so much did any other Victorian teacher use these notebooks? But who of us dares do it even now…?

Endnote: this post is teeming with links and we all know how well I do with posting links. Just let me know if they don’t work.

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