Disclaimer: Information and research shared on this page and within CMI settings are available to the public either online or through the library system. Ideas presented on this website are never intended to represent or be construed or received as professional advice in matters of mental health. Charlotte Mason Institute encourages everyone with mental health needs to work closely with a mental health provider that fits their unique needs. Rather, ideas here are intended to assist community members as they integrate advice from their personal mental health providers into this educational paradigm. As such, the ideas here are copyrighted by Charlotte Mason Institute and may not be reproduced elsewhere in any format without the expressed written consent of the Institute.

Welcome to the Blue Orchard Bee

We may not despise them, or hinder them, (“suffer little children”), or offend them by our brutish clumsiness of action and want of serious thought; while the one positive precept afforded to us is “feed” (which should be rendered ‘pasture’) “my lambs,” place them in the midst of abundant food.

Charlotte Mason, An Essay Towards a Philosophy of Education

While honeybees are what everyone thinks of when they consider the “typical” bee, the rise of colony collapse has brought attention to the diversity of bees and the need to understand and nurture that diversity. The blue orchard or mason bee is a less well-known native bee. Scientists are just now learning to understand the place of this bee in the ecosystem. Rather than living in hives, blue orchard bees live in solitary cavities, forming cocoons to overwinter. They do not make honey, but are incredible pollinators and beautiful creatures in their own right.

It seems fitting to consider that some children are like blue orchard bees living in a world that values honeybees. These children may have a diagnosis or they may just seem to be a difficult puzzle. Nothing seems to work. Everyday activities are frustrating for reasons you can’t quite understand. Even when there is a diagnosis, the challenges can be difficult for professionals to accurately assess and treat. There are concerns even across professional circles about the most respectful and accurate way to describe these persons. “Neuroatypical” is an unofficial umbrella term that is used by many people with processing differences to self-identify as a community. The term is respectful in its reflexivity and it gives no pretense to accuracy. These processing differences often include various combinations of learning disabilities, ADHD, autism, and/or anxiety. These processing differences are often invisible and may be misunderstood as character flaws. However, these people were beautifully made exactly as God intended. They have gifts and challenges designed for His purpose. To properly steward these gifts and challenges, however, they must grow holistically in body, mind, and spirit. Therefore, the manner in which we guide their education must wholly consider any atypical needs of the body, mind, and spirit.

Mason said that in order to guide a child’s whole person, we must fully understand what it means to offend not, despise not, hinder not. Other aspects in the field of education might evolve over time, but this vocation is absolute. The Blue Orchard Bee is the location of CMI’s online support for those living out this vocation with neuroatypical children. Consistent with the model of the PNEU, CMI will build community, support the observation of the children, navigate current research, and reflect on our vocation. We are excited to share this journey with you, as we learn how to relate to our Blue Orchard bees.

Something to Buzz About

BLUE ORCHARD BEE

Latest Video

Video Archive

As we add videos to this page, we will archive them here for your convenience.  Click the plus sign to open access to the given title or video series.

Introducing the Blue Orchard Bee

Introducing the Pollinator

Freedom of Stewardship

Image Broken and Restored

Understanding Meltdowns

Threat and Shame Hinder Stewardship I

Threat and Shame Hinder Stewardship II

Assessing Mason’s Theory of Habit Formation

What About Rewards?

What About Rewards? II

What About Rewards? III

Recognizing Obstacles

Obstacles Originating in the Belly

Obstacles of Structure and Function

Developmental Differences as Obstacles

An Eye Toward Relationship

Ready to Observe

Responding to Observations Part I

Responding to Observations Part II

April 2020, Empathy

ONLINE COMMUNITY

The Pollinator

By requesting membership to the Pollinator through the following link, you agree that you:

  • are a caregiver of a neuroatypical child with or without a formal diagnosis.
  • will respect the privacy of other members by not sharing their names or experiences with people outside the group.
  • understand that this community cannot provide a diagnosis and will seek qualified medical support as appropriate.
  • understand that we are all here as thoughtful learners.  This means that you will listen to others with the intent to understand.  You will check your posture, so as to avoid a defensive stance or a flippant tone.  You will share your own perspective based on your knowledge and experience, respecting that others will have different perspectives based on theirs.
  • will respect the entire Mason community.  This means that you will not name other practitioners, organizations, or curricula, but will focus on ideas.  For example, “Curriculum XYZ is not good for my autistic child – what is the best curriculum for autistic children?” could be more thoughtfully worded, “My current curriculum does not support my child’s challenges with writing and composition.  It is both an issue of the physical act of writing and the organization of thoughts.  What strategies have you used or found to support a child with these challenges?”

Link to the Pollinator on Mighty Networks

Facilitators

Danielle Merritt-Sunseri

Danielle was first exposed to several of Mason’s principles through the guidance of many gifted science teachers and professors (even though they didn’t know who Mason was!).  Danielle graduated with a B.S. Chemistry from Saint Francis University in 2000 and an M.S. Chemistry from the Pennsylvania State University in 2003.  After doing pharmaceutical research for a number of years, she and her husband, Jay, began looking for an educational alternative for their children.  She stumbled upon Home Education!  The text immediately resonated and it was a natural switch from research chemist to Charlotte Mason educator.  She and Jay have established their school on a little homestead in North Carolina.  When she isn’t raising food or learning alongside the children, she can be found researching neuro-atypical development or family genealogy.

Andra Smith

Over the decades, Andy’s work outside the home has included teaching English as a Second Language to adults, training children and adults with vision problems to get around their communities, planning CM conferences, and helping with curriculum. Her work with visually impaired students from preschool to high school took her into regular and special ed classrooms in 20 or more school divisions in three states. Seeing so many kids disengaged and bored with worksheets, she would come home and groan to husband Carroll about how much an educational revolution was needed. She is so thankful the ideas and methods of Charlotte Mason are gaining wider acceptance and practice.During her children’s younger years, Andy tried to homeschool her two children with CM methods but, to her overwhelming disappointment, found that “air traffic controlling” all those layers were beyond her personal limits.  At the time, she did not understand her attention deficit issues, and she knows how dealing with executive function deficits can be mistakenly attributed to moral failure. When she started exploring attention issues, she did not fit the typical ADD profile generally understood at that time,  and she was told by a special education teacher, “You can’t be ADD because you have a master’s degree.”  So she began self-educating by reading everything she could find on ADD. In her forties, God brought her insightful, competent people who understood attention deficit disorder and helped her make radical, life-nourishing changes.  Introduced to a relationship with Christ in college, Andy is grateful to God for the tremendous stability and blessing that walking with Christ has brought to all of life. In learning to steward the neurochemistry she has been given, Andy is also grateful to God for the added blessings that understanding and applying executive function strategies bring.

Questions?

What is the expected publication schedule?  

The Blue Orchard Bee will have new posts for 10 months from September to June.  For July and August there will not be a new post provided.  Everybody needs a break.  There will be a new post on the first four Mondays of each month with the exception of December and January which will have two postings each: on the first two Mondays of December and the last two Mondays of January.

How can we find postings?   

Postings will be made on this page on the CMI website.  You will be able to find the link to each new post by coming to this page.  We will post on the CMI Facebook and Instagram pages for each new post.

How can we follow-up together?

Periodically, Andra and Danielle will ask for you to send in questions that you would like for them to address (not answer because frequently there may not be an answer). You will get sufficient notice to get your question in.  (In addition, you can join the discussion at the Pollinator, our online networking platform.  Andra and Danielle will also pop on periodically to follow-up with the group.)

Disclaimer: Information and research shared on this page and within CMI settings are available to the public either online or through the library system. Ideas presented on this website are never intended to represent or be construed or received as professional advice in matters of mental health. Charlotte Mason Institute encourages everyone with mental health needs to work closely with a mental health provider that fits their unique needs. Rather, ideas here are intended to assist community members as they integrate advice from their personal mental health providers into this educational paradigm. As such, the ideas here are copyrighted by Charlotte Mason Institute and may not be reproduced elsewhere in any format without the expressed written consent of the Institute.