A Year with Charlotte Mason as an Adult: Week 1 Year 1

Week 1 of Ambleside Online's Year 1 Curriculum has been a joy for me. It's given me structure which I have found helpful, but it also lends itself easily to supplementation as an adult. Many of my goals and interests fit nicely under the Charlotte Mason umbrella of education. It means that by working on the large goal of completing the curriculum, I'm also working on a number of skills and goals that are important to me. One large goal is easier for me to remember to do than half a dozen small ones, but even better, this way my large goal is already divided up into smaller steps that only take a few minutes each, which makes things easy to complete and, checking them off, satisfying and increasingly motivating for me.

One thing I did learn this past week that should make things easier for me going forward: I need the daily work listed first. I fell down on the every day parts because they were listed on the second page. I rewrote my tasks for the week with the daily ones at the top and, voilà,  problem solved. Small and simple solutions are usually the best for me.

So what is daily work? Math, handwriting/copywork, phonics/reading, and foreign language. For math I'm using Ray's New Primary Arithmetic for Young Learners that was published in 1877. I chose this book for several reasons; primarily because I had heard great things about how practical it was, but also because it fit nicely in the family history project I am currently doing. I don't have a lot of information on my great- and great-great-grandmothers so I decided to read magazines and books from the years they lived and, for some of them, went to school, so that I could understand their lives better through context. Many of them had been desperate to learn, but limited in their opportunities, so this felt like a fantastic fit. It was also a very popular method, so one that at least one of them likely used.

I wrote briefly about trying to recover from some seizures that caused a lot of damage to me in my previous post. One of the things I have had to relearn and retrain has been using my hands. Last year I was needing to relearn how to write so I thought I would make it less frustrating for myself by learning how to write in Spencerian script (the handwriting my great-grandmothers would know) that I found neat and elegant and pretty. I bought the workbooks for the Spencerian System of Practical Penmanship by P. R. Spencer. They begin with pages of slanted lines. It is too easy to compare myself unfairly with what I used to be able to do, and because both of my hands were affected, I decided to do the workbooks with both hands and try to do them so well that no one would be able to tell if I had written in them with my left hand or my right. The first page was writing a series of / / / / /. I wrote them in pencil, erased them, and did the first page again and again until I could make that line in either hand, neatly. That took me weeks. Now I am working on individual letters. This is my daily handwriting practice. For those recovering from a brain injury, I have found that doing a task switching back and forth between hands, while incredibly challenging, seems to rewire my brain differently and helps me with skills and dexterity that do not involve my hands as well. I also compare my hands with each other instead of what I used to be able to do. That helps combat perfectionism in me. It also helps with discouragement because as I am diligent with this, what has sometimes felt like a curse will ultimately be the foundation of a blessing- a parlor trick at the very least, stronger skills and a firm foundation to build on at the very best.

Phonics/reading and foreign language practice I combine with another project I have already been working on: reading the scriptures in multiple languages. This is something I had done once before my seizures in 5 languages. This time I am doing it in 7 and allowing audiobooks to count, though I do try to read along with or separately as I can. Reading and comprehension is still difficult for me, but I find some of what I have lost coming back to me as I am willing to brave being uncomfortable or just plain lousy at it and do it anyway. I have never been fluent in another language, but reading and being read to is my favorite way to learn and use language because it is more private and less stressful for me. I don't do well even in English if I am put on the spot. I do try to improve my weaknesses, but I also believe in playing to my strengths. Reading was one of my first loves. I prefer learning with and through love.

What was the surprise highlight of this week's studies for me?  A Lesson of Faith in Parables of Nature by Margaret Gatty. It didn't grip me at the beginning, but it made it so I will never think of myself the same way ever again in the end. It's a quick read. I highly recommend it. 

I'll write more about what I am learning and the materials I am using in a different post, but for now, I'll end with this: I borrowed a book of Aesop's Fables from my local library that had beautiful illustrations but I enjoyed this version of them on the Library of Congress's site so much more. Aside from the little bells and whistles they've added to the illustrations, the writing in this edition is substantially more descriptive and engaging. Have fun!          

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