{A Glimpse into an Intentional Life}

Being intentional is easier said than done.  It’s easier imagined than executed.  So here’s where we inspire you every week with a simple picture and a few words.  Think of this as a chance to help you realize the simplicity of intentional. 

Delighting in observation.  Taking a moment to just sit and watch.  Finding joy in the awe of a moment.  This is living with every intention.

Be inspired.  Allow gratitude and joy and beauty to sneak in with every intention.  And then won’t you come back and share your moment with us?  Or leave a link in the comments to your blog where you celebrate {A Glimpse into an Intentional Life}. 







Plutarch via The Charlotte Mason Plenary and Why It's My Preferred Guide


A few months ago I introduced you to  A Charlotte Mason Plenary and I told you about their lovely annotated version of Charlotte Mason’s Volume 1.  You, of course, took my advice and headed over there and are now walking around with Volume 1 under your belt, right?  Not to worry if you didn’t…you’ll be able to pick up a copy of their annotated volume from their website soon.  Or you can jump in on the Plenary Session for Volume 6 beginning later this summer.

In my original post about the Plenary, I also voiced my excitement over all the projects they have in the works.  Just today I saw the announcement that they’ve now released their first artist study on Vermeer.  But that’s not what’s got me excited!  I’m excited to announce that they have just released one of my now favorite CM help guides.  It is their first Plutarch guide (with another soon to follow).  This first Plutarch guide covers the Life of Publicola.

I hear the wheels grinding in your head.  You’re frantically searching your memory base for Plutarch, wondering which class you learned about him in during your schooling.  (You’re wishing this blog post was annotated like The Plenary did with Volume 1, aren’t you?)

There’s a good chance you’re coming up short in your memory bank because Plutarch isn’t someone studied regularly these days.  While Plutarch used to be considered a source which fell into “everybody’s reading” (everyone from Shakepeare to Lincoln read his works), you’ll now find his works are favored by (and sometimes only known by!) scholars and academia…and also by Charlotte Mason educators.  The study of Plutarch was scheduled into CM’s schools beginning in Form 2A (our 5th grade) and that is where most of us following CM begin our Plutarch study.

So who exactly was Plutarch?

Plutarch was a Greek biographer who is famous for writing about the lives of the ancient Greeks and Romans.  His most famous work was entitled Parallel Lives of Greeks and Romans (now known simply as Plutarch’s Lives) and it contrasted the life of one Greek with the life of one Roman.  Typically his biographies were written about statesmen, generals and public figures such as Alexander the Great and Marc Antony.   If you were to read all of his Lives, you’d find yourself well versed in the basic history of all of Greece and Rome up until Plutarch’s life (despite the fact that his book was written as a biography not a history).

So why should we include Plutarch in our studies?

Charlotte Mason was all about introducing our children to the people of history and giving our students the chance to witness character formation.  Plutarch allows that.  Plutarch wrote his Lives to include both a character’s strengths as well as his weaknesses.  Plutarch doesn’t spell it out for us…he chronicles the lives of these famous men and then allows us, as readers, to make our own character assessments.  We see how the small decisions shape the future and form our character because it is often from the tiny details of life that our character emerges.  “…a man’s most brilliant actions prove nothing as to his true character, while some trifling incident, some casual remark or jest, will throw more light upon what manner of man he was than the bloodiest battle, the greatest array or armies, or the most important siege.” (from Life of Alexander)  So essentially, Plutarch is a character guide, a training in moral development.

So why a guide?  And more specifically, why the CM Plenary guide?

Charlotte Mason encouraged us as educators not to get between the child and the book.  We are meant to prepare the lessons for our children and discuss with them after their narration, but we are not meant to limit what our children learn by making connections for them or pointing out every moral moment in a story.  That’s all fine and dandy when my kids are reading something a bit less, um, difficult.  But when it comes to Plutarch, I’m a fresh slate.  I didn’t study Plutarch in school and I never read any of his works until Joseph began Plutarch this past year.  And let me tell you, (regardless of which translation you choose!) Plutarch is a bit difficult to navigate as a newcomer.  A guide is just lovely.  Not for my students so much… but FOR ME.  I am ashamed to admit it (although I know I am not alone in saying this) but without a guide, I probably would have quit Plutarch in the beginning…I just don’t have the background or the experience or even the practice of reading works like this to guide a conversation with my child.  I needed help so I could succeed!

Enter the CM Plenary’s Plutarch Study Guide.  Help at its finest.  {Insert a sigh of relief here}

**Please note, we did one round of Publicola using Anne White’s guide which was nice, but then we went through Publicola’s life again using the Plenary guide and Joseph and I both agreed that the Plenary’s guide is definitely our preferred guide!  My goal here isn’t to compare and contrast…rather, I’d like to explain why I’m a Plenary Plutarch customer from here on out**

The Plenary has included all kinds of useful tools…from vocabulary definitions to discussion questions to annotated notes.  I appreciate that the vocabulary, notes and discussion questions are all in a sidebar, alongside the Plutarch text…no flipping back and forth to look up words or find side notes.  At the beginning of the guide, there’s a Who’s Who page…very convenient for reference.  The guide includes pronunciations of some of the names which is super handy so I don’t either a) butcher the name or b) have to grab my phone to look up the pronunciation. And the discussion questions proved to be discussion worthy; they didn’t simply ask for information recall, but rather gave Joseph and I thoughts to ponder and discuss.  There’s also an appendix with relevant information included.

The first lesson in the guide does an incredible job of giving us background information on Publicola, something we definitely lacked using the other guide.  There was quite a bit going on that Plutarch assumed his reader knew (which naturally, I did not).  The Plenary’s introduction lesson was vital in helping Joseph and I understand and appreciate Publicola’s story.

The Plenary has also offered an incredible wealth of information on their Publicola help page which Joseph likes to browse through in his free time…some of the links they’ve included have really given us some insight into life during Publicola’s time giving us a more complete picture and while they certainly don’t replace the lesson (we don’t even use our lesson time to browse through the links), they definitely augment what we read during our lesson.

One thing that sets the Plenary’s guide apart from most other Plutarch helps is that they chose to use the translation by George Long and Aubrey Stewart.  This may not seem like a big deal to those of us who barely know Plutarch to begin with, but it is important in our studies.  Long and Stewart translated it directly from Greek whereas the popular North translation was first translated into French by Amyot and then later North translated it into English so it’s a translation of a translation.  Personally, I always like a first translation…it keeps what I’m reading closer to the original.  North is a popular translation because Shakespeare himself used North’s translation in some of his plays.  The Plenary plans to annotate the passages and quotes Shakespeare used with North’s translation so you won’t lose out on Shakespeare’s references.

There’s a reason I personally really like Long and Stewart’s translation over North’s.  It’s easier.  Yep, I said it.  We went through Publicola using Anne White’s guide first (she uses mostly North’s translation with a little of Dryden’s translation) and there was a lot of me reading and then retelling it to Joseph to give him a clear picture.  He was getting lost in the language and he wasn’t retaining nearly as much as I would have liked between lessons.  With Long and Stewart’s translation, I can read it to him directly from the text, and while it’s challenging and complex, Joseph gets it and he retains it.  I find North’s translation more difficult to read than Shakespeare (and that’s saying something, right?!)…I relied heavily on Anne White’s guide and her summaries to explain what I was reading; with the Plenary’s guide, they are literally guiding me to get the most out of the text.  Anne White even had to include “introductions” to each lesson where she recapped the last lesson…those summaries were important in helping Joseph and I journey through the text…we don’t need an introduction or a recap of the last lesson with the Plenary’s guide because Joseph understands the text so much more and he’s able to recap on his own.  While I value reading complex language and challenging texts, I’d much rather read and understand a different translation than choose a translation that we spend our time struggling with and gain nothing from.

Another thing that The Plenary’s guide offers that Joseph and I loved was the Epilogue.  For Publicola, they wove Publicola into American History by connecting the Federalist Papers and the pen name Alexander Hamilton used to Publicola.  I just can’t tell you anymore because the history is fascinating and you absolutely must read the epilogue yourself.  It was a satisfying ending to our study on our first Plutarch life.

And finally, I haven’t seen them in person yet but it looks like they’re going to release a picture study to go with the Publicola study soon.  (Hang on, I’ve got to go add that to my wish list for the fall.)

All that being said, I’m surprised you’re still here and not over there checking it out.

Here’s hoping your Plutarch studies are character building and full of virtue training and that you allow yourself the gift of The Plenary’s guide…you’ll be glad they’re holding your hand as you venture forth.


The Tale of a Little Ballerina

Once upon a time there was a little girl who was surrounded by a world of blue and toy guns and boys.  All day long she dreamed of pink and tutus and dancing.  She watched ballerinas with wonder in her eyes and dreamed of the day she could dance across a stage just like them.

Then one day she turned 4 and her mommy asked her if she wanted to go to dance class.  The little girl remembered all the stories that inspired her: Angelina Ballerina and Fancy Nancy and Anna Pavlova’s book I Dreamed I was a Ballerina and the little girl was delighted that her day had finally come.

She picked out her pink tights and her pink ballet shoes and her black leotard and that little girl practiced and practiced…long before she even set foot in a classroom.

Then classes began.  And the little girl marveled at the idea that there were other little girls….just.like.her.  Little girls that loved fancy and pink and tulle.

The little girl fell in love with her teachers.  She watched with awe as they danced with grace and poise and the little girl wished to be just like them.  She hung on their every word and basked in their praise.

The little girl practiced her ballet often.  She enticed her brothers into practicing with her with the promise of stickers and praise.  She went to class twice a week, with enthusiasm and excitement that never wavered.

She sat rooted in place, her heart full and her imagination fueled, when she went to the ballet productions put on in the city.  She cheered and clapped when one of her teachers took the starring role in Giselle.  She dreamed that one day she would dance across that big stage under the bright lights.

She continued to practice.  She dressed up her plain black leotard for class with as much fluff as she could…leg warmers and tulle skirts, bun covers and sparkly hairpins.  Then her costumes for the recital arrived and the little girl oohed and ahhed over the beautiful fabric and the yards of tulle.  Her costumes were hung on a fan in the school room to allow the layers of tulle to settle and every day she waltzed under those costumes, dreaming of her day.

Finally, her day arrived.  The day she would dance on the big stage, under the bright lights.  Of course, her first experience would be a rehearsal but it all felt so real because everything had to be exactly as it would be on the night of the official performance.

The little girl sat still while her mommy put on make-up.  Just a little to offset the harsh lights on the stage.  A little blush, a little mascara, some eye shadow and lipstick.  Concealer was applied to the scrape below her nose where just a few days before she had taken a nose dive off of her bike.  Her hair was swept up into a bun.  She looked adorably perfect.

She arrived early to the theater, surprised that she got to enter through the door for performers.  It was real.  Soon she would be performing!  She went upstairs into the dressing room and joined the other girls, big and small, as they all put on their costumes.  New pink tights, worn ballet shoes and her beautiful new costume.  She was ready.

Soon it was her turn.  She joined her classmates and walked up on the stage.  It was dark and each little girl tiptoed their way to their starting mark.  The lights flashed on and the music began and that little girl danced her sweet little heart out.

The little girl had to wait for her turn to come again so she could dance with her second class.  While she waited, she found her friends (the ones who also loved fancy and tulle and sparkles) and posed for photos. 

She returned to the dressing room ready to dance again.  While she prepared, she watched the big girls get ready.  They put on their costumes and applied their makeup and when the little girl worked up the courage to tell them how beautiful they were, they adorned her with compliments of their own and the little girl basked in their attention.

The little girl soon joined her second class and they watched a group of the big girls dance.  The little girl watched in awe as they twirled and spun and her eyes lit up with the idea that she could be just like them. 

It was her turn again and she went up on that big stage under the bright lights and she danced with a joyful heart.  She felt special and important and most of all, she felt she was really a dancer.  Just like the big girls.  

After her rehearsals were over, the little girl returned home to anxiously await the night of her official recital.  She hummed and danced wherever she went.  She counted down the minutes until she would dance on the big stage again.

The night of her recital arrived.  The little girl was proud to show her family how much progress she had made.  Finally, they too would know that she was a dancer. 

She gathered with her friends (the ones that love fancy and fluffy and sparkles) and when their turn came, they danced a beautiful dance.  

And when she was finished dancing, the audience clapped and cheered and the little girl knew that she had done well.  She was proud of her hard work.  Her daddy brought her flowers and she knew she was special.  She was a dancer.  

{And this is only the beginning of her story…more dancing is yet to come}

*please note that the videos are taken by an amateur…clearly they don’t do justice to the beauty that took place on the big stage under the bright lights

Spring Daybook

In my backyard…we have had some beautiful visitors…

I am remembering…how lovely the boys played at the Performing Arts Center in March and then a month later in their year-end final recital.  We are so very thankful for such a beautiful year of growth.

I am grateful for...kids who love nature.  

I am in love…with nature this spring.  So many wildflowers.  So many birds.  So many things I have never noticed.  I am so thankful for our Charlotte Mason way of life.  

I am watchingHomeland, Season 2 and getting a little freaked out by the whole idea that an unknown terrorist could somehow deceive the people and find himself elected and in a position to kill ideas.

I am listening… to Velva Jean Learns to Drive.

I am laughing…at this.  And I am thankful that a box, some wood and some old wheels make these kids this happy.  

I am reflecting…on this from a fortune cookie, thinking of how often I doubt myself, how often I lack trust in my decisions.  Maybe this is the Universe’s way of reminding me that I have an internal barometer that I should tune into more often.

In the schoolroom…we’re wrapping up our year.  Just another few weeks to go and then we’ll take a few weeks off to gather our thoughts and prepare for a new year of adventure.

I am a little sad…to think that this kid is growing up.  He’ll turn 11 next month.  This past week he went with his Youth Odyssey group on a kayaking trip.  The seven kids that showed up for the trip are my new heroes…the winds that day were on average 22 mph with gusts up to 34 mph.  That kind of wind requires serious rowing.  I would have been worn out…they came back still smiling and delighted with their accomplishment.  

Around the house…the laundry is waiting.  Lunch needs to be made.  But I am stealing this moment for this blog.  Because I wish I could bottle up all these moments to remember them later on…blogging is the closest I can get.

In the kitchen…fresh blueberries are washed and patiently waiting to be baked into a pie courtesy of Andrew.

I am wearing…an amazing new bracelet.  (How did I get so lucky to have such an awesome friend who not only teaches me so much about natural living but also makes some pretty darn cool things!)

We are preparing for…Katie’s ballet recital.  {sigh}

Someday I am going to miss…this look.  It’s a pretty standard face to make when Pappy measures them on his wall of measurements.  It’s the “if I suck it in and make my eyes super big then I’ll gain height”…a flawed but cute theory.  I love that there is an entire wall that documents the growth of all of these babies over the year.  

One of my favorite things…this kid.

A peek into my day…an utter failure at a family self-portrait…one kid walked out of the frame, the dog was distracted by a fly and not realizing I had set the camera for 10 quick shots, I began to panic wondering if the camera secretly had a plan of its own.  10 shots and not a single good one.  

Please visit The Simple Woman’s Daybook for more daybook entries.





{this moment}

{this moment} – A Friday ritual.   A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week.  A simple, special, extraordinary moment.  A moment I want to pause, savor and remember.  If you’re inspired to do the same, visit Soulemama to leave a link to your ‘moment’ in the comments for all to find and see.