Saturday, July 23, 2016

Old is new again: a video lesson with Mr. Fixit

Most of Mr. Fixit's You-tube videos are demos for specific pieces he is selling. But he created one today to talk about a new trend in old stereo equipment. I can't embed it, but it's here if you'd like to watch.

Friday, July 22, 2016

John Ortberg talks about Frederick Buechner (video)

In honour of Frederick Buechner's 90th birthday this year, a number of congratulatory and reminiscing interviews are being posted on You-tube. There are some benefits to living in this technological age! The latest one is a conversation with John Ortberg, which I enjoyed and wanted to pass on here.

What's for supper, when you can't read the package? (Friday)

We bought a package of Knorr Fix Hungarian Goulash mix at the Euro grocery. Unfortunately, the package directions are in Polish.

Not to worry. A video is worth a thousand labels.
 

What's for supper? Toaster oven pizza again (Thursday)

When I made the Chicken Fajita Pizza a few days ago, I froze the other half of the pizza dough to use for something else. Yesterday I took the bag of dough out of the freezer and let it thaw in a bowl. About an hour before we wanted to eat, I preheated the toaster oven to 400 degrees; spread the dough as thinly as I could in a the same greased casserole dish I used last time, covered it with a little can of pizza sauce, and sprinkled it with a few sliced mushrooms and some chopped peppers. The only cheese we had around was a not-too-generous chunk of Cheddar, so I grated that up and put it on top.

I baked the pizza for about forty minutes, until the sides seemed quite firm, and we ate it with a spinach salad. It reminded me of the panzerotti we used to get from a neighbourhood pizza place, especially because of the sauce and the thick crust. You really do need a generous amount of sauce, either baked on or served on the side, because otherwise the crust will be too dry.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

On swimming with books while being shot at by Egyptians (quote from Plutarch)

"The third danger was in the battle by sea, that was fought by the tower of Phar: where meaning to helpe his men that fought by sea, he lept from the peere, into a boate. Then the Egyptians made towardes him vith their owers, on everie side: but he leaping into the sea, with great hazard saved himself by swimming. It is sayd, that then holding divers bookes in his hand, he did never let them go, but kept them alwayes upon his head above water, and swamme with the other hand, notwithstanding that they shot marvelously at him, and was driven somtime to ducke into the water: howbeit the boate was drowned presently."

from Plutarch's Life of Julius Caesar, translated by Thomas North

Childhood T.V. memories: "Film is Magic"

I've been looking for "Fly backwards, bird! Stop!" for awhile, but I couldn't remember any more about it than that until today. The banjo music brought it all back. Enjoy remembering, if you're old enough.
 

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Wednesday Hodgepodge: Collected Thoughts

Notes from our Hodgepodge Hostess:  "Here we go again...answer on your own blog then jump back here tomorrow to add your link to the mix. See you there!"

1. Pokemon Go...your thoughts? Are you playing? Do you even know what it is?

No, but I heard the Premier of Ontario was playing it.

2. What was something you collected as a child? Do you still have that collection? If you're a parent what's something your own children collected? Have you ever camped out, stood in a crazy long queue, or paid a ridiculous sum for a 'collectible'?

I'm married to someone who specializes in restoring collectibles. I think one of our first dates was to go yard saling.  We live with a lot of vintage things, but most of them are just what we use every day.
Childhood collections: postage stamps, dolls (earned me my Collector's Badge), dollhouse miniatures, recipes, souvenir spoons, lace hankies, pop bottle caps, postcards, hockey cards, pin-on buttons, and a large number of random things and space-taker-uppers. Old books too, although I never so much collected those as just wanted to read them. I still have the box of stamps (they're old but not worth much, dealers don't want them), family dolls, and a few other odd things. I have a small collection of vintage china kitchen knick-knacks. The only things I really add to are the books and, occasionally, the china if I see something I like. Or I bring home a few more pink pebbles from the beach, if you call those a collection.

The nicest story I have about collecting is that when I was five and got chicken pox on the first day of kindergarten, the older kids in the neighbourhood went around and gathered up a whole bagful of pop bottle caps as a get-well present.
Our girls grew up with their own collections, mostly different kinds of dolls and stuffed things. Plastic trolls, for awhile. Our adult daughters both have turntables and small LP collections.
More recently I've found a way to collect my own nostalgia, for free and without having to store or dust anything. I have a Pinterest board full of the '60's and '70's: candy bars, hair ties, paper dolls, playground slides, my Snoopy toothbrush; and another board just for picture books I read when I was little. I don't need to have the actual things (not sure where I'd put a playground slide anyway): the pictures are enough.

3. "Collect moments, not things"...tell us about a moment you've added to your collection this summer.

Our wedding anniversary dinner at an Italian restaurant.

4.  What's something collecting dust in your home right now? Any plans to do something about it?


Dust as in not getting used, or as in I just forgot to dust it? There's probably some of each. The dining table gathers dust both ways, because we mostly eat in the kitchen, and our way of remedying that is usually to have a party.
5. A favorite song relating to time?



6. What's been your most frightening or your most interesting encounter with wildlife?


Definitely the time I had to chase a baby squirrel around the house,

7.  On July 20, 1969 Apollo 11 Commander Neil Armstrong set his foot down on the moon. If you could travel to the moon would you go? Why or why not?

No, I'll stay an earth-bound-homebody.

8. Insert your own random thought here.

It's interesting that the theme this week is collections, because I've already been posting this week about collections and "stuff." I keep coming back to the idea of enjoying but not obsessing, either in acquiring or in holding onto things. Even Mr. Fixit sticks to reasonable limits (he doesn't "camp out" for things).
Linked from The Hodgepodge Collection at From This Side of the Pond.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

From the not-so-long-ago archives: Be a Mensch

This was first posted in January 2015, hardly long enough ago to be called "archives." But I'm re-posting it because I like it.
"If it be not goodness, the will is virtue, in the etymological sense of that word; it is manliness." -- Charlotte Mason, Ourselves (Volume 4)
In other words: Menschliness.
Mini poster and further explanations found on Life Without Pants; please note that blog (outside of that post) contains adult language.

The post at Life Without Pants refers to a book by Bruna (not Brenda) Martinuzzi, The Leader as a Mensch: Become the Kind of Person Others Want to FollowFrom her website:"Martinuzzi takes the reader on a transformative journey to a way of living, self-discovery, and personal strength that translates into becoming a person who authentically inspires with empathy and confidence—and successfully motivates others to follow by example, a mensch-leader."  I also liked one of the reviews posted there: “Bruna Martinuzzi has distilled the essence of what it takes to influence and motivate others, not by the exercise of authority, but through the example of ethical and admirable character. She doesn’t just tell us how—she helps us understand.”  Mark D. LangeChristian Science Monitor

So what does that have to do with homeschooling parents? The attributes listed in the above poster, which are summarized from Martinuzzi's book on leadership, can be taken as characteristics of good teachers, and also of good parents. I won't paste the explanations as given on Life Without Pants, but here are my own (homeschooling) takes on the list.

1. Give people gifts other than those that you buy.  LWP mentions the gift of "A reason to care," among other things. In November I wrote a series of posts here about the gift of disciplineincluding this one.. We invite, we offer, we give; we don't invade or impose.

2. Become a talent hunter. See #5.

3. Share ideas and information that can enrich. Don't keep all your good ideas to 
yourself. Homeschooling parents seem to understand this naturally...hence the existence of support groups and the publication of many "how we did it" books and magazines, not to mention the Carnival of Homeschooling. And of course it applies as well to what we actually teach. One way we frequently start our day here is with our homeschool "principal" (Mr Fixit), who tunes in closely to current events of all kinds and who is usually good for a "weekday update."

4. Spend more time in the “beginner’s mind.”  Put yourself in the student's place. What would you want to know about a topic? What would be a good way to communicate a particular idea? What points should you explain first, and which ones does your student need to discover for him or herself?

5. Don’t tell people what they can’t (aren't able to) do.  Marva Collins is a prime example of ignoring "can'ts," and so are John Holt and John Mighton.


6. Minimize the space you take up. LWP interprets this as referring to focus and lack of clutter, but I actually see another meaning in it: what Charlotte Mason calls Masterly Inactivity. That is, the focus is put on the student, rather than on the teacher. The student gets to ask the questions instead of just answer them.

7. Become a relationship anthropologist.  Maybe like this? "Justice can best be grasped through the prism of three generations. If I want you to treat me justly, I must imagine you and your parents and your grandparents in context. If we want to treat each other justly, we must imagine each other in context - you and your parents and grandparents; and me with mine. I must battle as hard for me to “get” your story as I battle for you to “get” my story." (Trustcounts.orghttp://www.trustcounts.org/just3.html)

8. Be happy for others. At the L'Harmas retreat last fall, Tammy Glaser told the story of a boy in their community school with a particular set of special needs, who was also hypersensitive to noise. On one occasion, when he demonstrated how far he had come by doing some kind of classroom presentation, the rest of the students all clapped for him...quietly.

9. Get rid of grudges. Allow second, third, fourth chances. Don't let past tensions spoil a good learning opportunity.

10. "Help others caress the rainbow," which means "Inspire hopefulness." One way to do this: include books that inspire in your homeschool curriculum: poetry, fiction, biography.

11. Make people feel better about themselves. No matter where they come from, no matter what's happened before. Give them opportunities to succeed, and let them know they're smart.

12. View promises as unpaid debt.  And don't promise what you can't follow through on."How do you become the kind of person others want to follow? By being a person that people trust." (LWP)

Monday, July 18, 2016

Things you can learn online about purple cows

Something I found out today about the author of "I Never Saw a Purple Cow":
Number 24 of The Lark (April 1897) was declared to be the last, but a final issue, number 25 entitled The Epi-Lark, was published May 1, 1897.

By this point, Burgess had become thoroughly sick of "The Purple Cow," and wrote the following "Confession: and a Portrait Too, Upon a Background that I Rue" in The Lark, number 24 (April 1, 1897).
Ah, yes, I wrote the "Purple Cow"—
I'm Sorry, now, I wrote it;
But I can tell you Anyhow
I'll Kill you if you Quote it!
So now you know too.

Quote for the day: "Pick out some of the best of your circumstances"

" ...we should do well to heed the advice of Marcus Aurelius: 'Do not let your head run upon that which is none of your own, but pick out some of the best of your circumstances, and consider how eagerly you would wish for them were they not in your possession."

~~ Charlotte Mason, Ourselves Book I (p. 134)

From the archives: Edith Schaeffer on environment and message

First posted July 2013. Cindy Rollins' Ordo Amoris blog (now closed) was running a weekly study of The Hidden Art of Homemaking, and this was my post about the last chapter.
I haven't read other people's posts on the last chapter of HAoH yet, but I predict their reactions will be much like they were to the previous one:  "not what I was expecting."  The last two chapters of the book don't really draw the whole picture of Hidden Art together as fully as we might desire.  Was that on purpose, or did Edith just peter out?  The last chapter in particular is surprisingly short.  It's like getting to the end of a mystery book a little too suddenly...say one of the nutty ones by Ellen Raskin...and wanting to go back and comb through the final chapter for any clues that you missed.
So are there any?

First, there's one of the recurring threads:  "There is no place where one cannot plant ivy over the mud hut and put a flower on the stump....I am sure that there is no place in the world where your message would not be enhanced by your making the place (whether tiny or large, a hut or a place) orderly, artistic and beautiful with some form of creativity, some form of 'art.'"

And then the idea that "we [ourselves] are an environment for the other people with whom we work, the people with whom we communicate.  And in this sense we do not choose an art form and create something in that form; we are an art form...an art form God can use in this area of environment."

As others have pointed out, Edith always comes back to communication, a message.
Is the message we are living clear, or is it a lot of "glub-blubs?"

Are we hiding our real identities and gifts?  Leaving clues on bits of paper towel, or doing something more?

"We should be artists in...doing something practical to show that expectancy [that God can intervene]...affects the attitudes other people are going to have to their troubles." 
Mr. Banks carved the turkey; the plates were passed and filled high to overflowing; and Mrs. Carillon asked Augie Kunkel to say grace.

Augie Kunkel didn't know how to say grace.  He just named the dishes and let the delicious smells inspire the proper reverence:


Patate douce, dindonneau truffée, airelles en couronne, petits oignons, pointes d'asperges au beurre, purée de marrons.

"Amen," said Mr. Banks, who didn't understand French; and the eating and the chatting and the celebrating began.  ~~ Ellen Raskin, The Mysterious Disappearance of Leon (I mean Noel)

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Quote for the day: Charlotte Mason on collections and stuff

“These will be nice on the road,” she said. “We are going just where you are going — to Girgenti. I must tell you all about it. you know that my husband is making a collection of match-boxes. We bought thirteen hundred match-boxes at Marseilles. But we heard there was a factory of them at Girgenti. According to what we were told, it is a very small factory, and its products — which are very ugly — never go outside the city and its suburbs. So we are going to Girgenti just to buy match-boxes. Dimitri has been a collector of all sorts of things; but the only kind of collection which can now interest him is a collection of match-boxes. He has already got five thousand two hundred and fourteen different kinds. Some of them gave us frightful trouble to find. For instance, we knew that at Naples boxes were once made with the portraits of Mazzini and Garibaldi on them; and that the police had seized the plates from which the portraits were printed, and put the manufacturer in gaol. Well, by dint of searching and inquiring for ever so long a while, we found one of those boxes at last for sale at one hundred francs, instead of two sous. It was not really too dear at that price; but we were denounced for buying it. We were taken for conspirators. All our baggage was searched; they could not find the box, because I had hidden it so well; but they found my jewels, and carried them off. They have them still. The incident made quite a sensation, and we were going to get arrested. But the king was displeased about it, and he ordered them to leave us alone. Up to that time, I used to think it was very stupid to collect match-boxes; but when I found that there were risks of losing liberty, and perhaps even life, by doing it, I began to feel a taste for it. Now I am an absolute fanatic on the subject. We are going to Sweden next summer to complete our series. . . . Are we not, Dimitri?” ~~ Anatole France, The Crime of Sylvestre Bonnard
"[Anatole France] is laughing at the craze people have for collections of any sort, worthy  or unworthy; and this craze comes of the natural Desire of possessions implanted in Mansoul. But it rests with us that our possessions shall be worthy. Let us begin soon to collect a good library of books that we shall always value, of photographs of the works of the great masters; even of postage stamps, if we take the trouble to interest ourselves in the stamps...No collection which has not an interest for the mind is worth possessing. Take this rule, and when you grow up you will not think that silver plate, for instance, is worth owning for its own sake, but for its antiquity, its associations, or for the beauty of its designs." ~~ Charlotte Mason, Ourselves

Friday, July 15, 2016

What's for supper? Chicken Fajita Pizza

Chicken Fajita Pizza, partly done baking

How to make Chicken Fajita Pizza:

In the biggest (greased) pan you have that will fit the toaster oven, stretch half a recipe of pizza dough; that is, the amount you get if you use two cups of flour. I used a big casserole dish.

Spread with tomato sauce and leftover chicken fajita filling, chopped. I added another chopped pepper. Push the filling down so that the crust goes up the sides of the pan.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F, and start baking the pizza. Somewhere along the line, take it out and add grated cheese on top.

Keep baking until the crust is done and everything is heated through. You'll probably have to eat it with forks, but that's okay.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Wednesday Hodgepodge, on Thursday

From our Hodgepodge Hostess: "Here are the questions to this week's Wednesday Hodgepodge. Answer on your own blog, then hop back here tomorrow to share answers with the universe. See you there!"


1. Do you find yourself influencing your world, or is it more the other way around? 

Somewhere in between, and it depends on how big a world we're talking about. People have told me that I've influenced them to homeschool their children, or to read certain books, or that I've encouraged them (strangely enough) in the way they teach math. But it comes back just as much the other way. Sometimes I've thought I would actually like to be more influenced by the world, but I couldn't find anyone to tell me how to do whatever it was, so I ended up doing it my own way by default.

2. July 14th is National Tape Measure Day...the device was patented on this date in 1868. When did you last use a tape measure? Do you always know where to find one in your house? Tell us one way in which you feel blessed 'beyond measure'. 

Tape measure: we used it when we shifted the dining room furniture around. Generally I would be using it to sew with, but the sewing machine was temporarily packed away and I've been letting the small jobs pile up rather than drag it out and work at the kitchen table.

3.The Plaza Hotel (Eloise), The Land of Oz (The Wizard of Oz), Narnia (The Chronicles of Narnia), The Hundred Acre Wood (Winnie the Pooh), Wonderland (Alice's Adventures in Wonderland), or Never Never Land (Peter Pan)...which storybook land (on this list!) would you most like to visit and why? 

Definitely Narnia, but maybe one of the safe spots (like the Beavers' house). Narnia can be a dangerous place. 

The Hundred Acre Wood would be second.

4. Where and when do you get your best ideas? 

Whoah, that's kind of a lifetime question, isn't it?

And sometimes you don't know which ones are the best ideas until much later, when you see which ones worked out and which ones didn't.

I think the really best ideas tend to grab onto you more than the other way around. Something you can't stop thinking about, a problem, a possible solution. Bang, out of the heavens.

But Pinterest is helpful too.

5.  So what have you been watching on TV this summer? Anything good? 

We're working through the Poirot episodes on Netflix. 

6. 'Don't swim for an hour after you eat', 'Dog days of summer', 'Knee high by the Fourth of July'...choose a summer saying from the list or share one of your own, then tell us what image or memory comes to mind when you hear it spoken.

"Put that book down and go out and play."

Probably good advice, but not what I wanted to hear when I was deep in the Hundred Acre Wood or off in Neverland.

7. In a single sentence, sum up one life lesson you've learned. 

You can probably find one at the thrift store.

8. Insert your own random thought here. 

One of my favourite minimalist bloggers posted about deliberately keeping books she's reading to a minimum. I don't mind minimizing clothes, and our fridge is much less crowded than it once was, but hands off my books. Not that I don't thin them down on the shelves--I have definitely done some of that. But the reading process, for me, is not very sequential. I have a lot of starts and pauses, then suddenly I do finish something. I'm only about a third of the way through this year's GoodReads goal, but I aim to get there.

Linked from The Fresh from the Garden Hodgepodge at From This Side of the Pond.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

From the archives: a good quote from "Q"

First posted June 2012
"We are all on pilgrimage here: and though to beguile the road I have sung a song or two, and told perhaps too many stories, there has also been time to make a notebook of a few good thoughts I met on the way and pondered and sometimes took to rest with me.
"Perhaps the best of all, for all weathers and for every business, is the following of Fenelon's, which I have kept for my preface:—

 'Do everything without excitement, simply in the spirit
of grace. So soon as you perceive natural activity gliding in, recall yourself quietly into the presence of God...'
"You will find yourself infinitely more quiet, your words will be fewer and more effectual, and, while doing less, what you do will be more profitable. It is not a question of a hopeless mental activity, but a question of acquiring a quietude and peace in which you readily advise with your beloved as to all you have to do."
--Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch, Preface to The Pilgrims' Way

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Lucky at the thrift store, again

On my wish list for fall: short boots. We dropped off a load of stuff at the thrift store this morning, and I found a pair in my size.

But since it's over 30 degrees here this week (about ninety if you're American), I probably won't be wearing them for awhile yet.

From the archives: Lydia's reading game

First posted September 2005. Lydia ("Crayons") was four at the time.

Today I invented a new reading game for Crayons. On the computer, I made a page with twelve boxes (using a table) and in each box I typed a reading word, in big letters. About half of them were new words. I printed out two copies, and on one of the copies I cut the words out, in squares that were a little smaller than the boxes.

The first thing we did was some matching. I put the individual words on the floor beside the sheet with the boxes, and asked Crayons to match the words with the ones on the sheet. I asked her which words she knew for sure, and she took those off and read them. I went over the new words with her, showing her which ones rhymed with a word she knew, and which one was the same as an old word plus an "s" (mat, mats). Then I took all the words in my hand, and asked Crayons to "pick a card, any card." Each word she picked, she read and then put in its matching box. 


At this point Crayons decided to make the game more fun by bringing in an old rag doll who's acted as "assistant reading coach" for all the Squirrelings. Becky (the doll) is known both for her constant sneezing and for her fear of bees (both the flying kind and the alphabet kind, and she often can't keep the two straight). So that added a little suspense, since we knew that at any moment the word "bee" was going to come up, and that guaranteed a screech from Becky.

And that was the lesson. We'll use the same pieces again a couple of times (we don't do reading lessons every day). Then I'll probably take the individual words, print out a matching set (or cut up the master sheet) and paste them to half-index cards, to add to our card game (see below).

By the way, if you're curious, the old words were bee, mom, wee, dad, mat, and go. The new words were hat (she sort of knew that one), fat, meet, feet, mats, and tee (we did not define what kind of tee that is, the object here is to learn to sound words out and learn some sight words, rather than worrying about exceptions.)

Thursday, July 07, 2016

Hosta in a vase

Cuttings from our hosta plants.

What's for supper? How could we be out of pasta?

Well, we weren't entirely out of pasta. We did have elbow macaroni and a few lasagna noodles. I have been allowing certain stockpiled things to get way down there before buying more, and pasta was one of them.

So tonight's dinner was Chicken with Lasagna Noodles. And Peas, and Toaster-Oven Brownies.

Recipe: Brown some cut-up boneless chicken breasts in a large skillet. Add thinned pasta sauce, bring to a boil, and add broken-up lasagna noodles. Let simmer until almost done, stirring occasionally, then add some cheese (your choice what kind). You can turn it off a few minutes before serving, to let it all come together

That's all!

Quote for the day: Character, the mark stamped upon the coin

"Character is a Greek word, but it did not mean to the Greeks what it means to us. To them it stood first for the mark stamped upon the coin, and then for the impress of this or that quality upon a man, as Euripides speaks of the stamp--character--of valor upon Hercules, man the coin, valor the mark imprinted on him. To us a man's character is that which is peculiarly his own; it distinguishes each one from all the rest. To the Greeks it was a man's share in qualities all men partake of; it united each one to the rest." ~~ Edith Hamilton, The Greek Way

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Something to read today: hard, honest talk about minimalism, clothes, and stuff like that

Worth reading:  7 Things Building a Plus-Sized Capsule Wardrobe Taught Me.

From that article:
"When I gained weight in college, finding decent clothing on a budget became even more difficult. Although I still love the orderly cohesiveness of the capsule approach, I think it's important to be aware of the potentially problematic nature of contemporary 'magazine minimalism' that treats making do with less as the latest trend."
Way way back, I wrote a post here on the Treehouse about expensive (but nice) designer toys, Trendoids Spend Lots to Scale Back. I've had similar concerns and conversations about the luxury of being able to super-fine-tune one's diet, or about the trendiness of "tiny houses." These are, to some extent, problems unique to a culture that has enough goods and enough money for people to make those choices. We think of the creative and resilient pioneers and Depression-era survivors, those who made their potato-peel pies and whatnot; but they were as happy as anyone else when times got better. Laura Ingalls Wilder did not spend her later years wishing to eat only wild game and cornbread. Years ago I knew of an "intentional community" that was formed, with the highest of ideals, by a group of overall-wearing, long-haired couples in the 1970's. By the time I visited, ten or fifteen years later, most of them had moved back to the city with their children. Rural realities were not all that romantic.

What about those of us who live on a low budget because of choices we have made (such as staying home with children), who stretch food, make low-cost gifts, re-use, re-cycle; who really do depend on used clothing stores...but who still realize that "fast fashion" has become a problem and that excess, even extremely cheap excess, causes its own problems? (Is there any difference between our family's semi-retired lifestyle and that of, say, someone who was laid off, or a single parent who needs more work hours?)

I bought summer shoes new this year, and a better pair, from a better store, than I am accustomed to getting. For my ugly-bunion feet, they were totally worth it for a season of no blisters. I put an unusual amount of money (for me)  into the sustainably-made dress I bought for our anniversary. And I'm saving up for one more somewhat expensive item for the fall. Does that make me hypocritical, when I get most of my other clothes at the lowest possible thrift store prices? There have been times when it would have been all thrift store and discount store.

But yeah. We see the ridiculousness of Marie Antoinette playing shepherdess in her spare time, but our own understanding of "simplicity" needs to be carefully considered as well. Does "less is more" help us to identify with those who have less, or insult them? Do we take on anything...food style, housing, homeschooling, church styles, because they are the latest thing that floats by, or because we believe those choices put our values into action?

Those are questions that we will just have to keep on asking.

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

From the Archives: Social Studies for little kids

First posted July 2008. Slightly edited. I was planning Lydia's Grade Two year.

My own second-grade Social Studies, in the experimental '70's, was called Environmental Studies, a word none of us had ever heard and which, I don't think, was ever fully explained. It took us forever to copy that off the blackboard and on to the covers of the new notebooks we were handed. I don't remember a lot about it, either, except for a trip to the sugar bush and some kind of a neighbourhood field trip where we walked around the block and pointed out various kids' apartment buildings. I think the baby chicks we hatched and any other science we did may have been lumped in there as well. For sure, though, it didn't include history.

Can second-graders do more than go to the sugar bush? Would we have "gotten" history in the second grade? No, not in the same way ten-to-twelve-year-olds do, or in the same way teenagers or adults do. Most seven-year-olds don't totally get maps, or dates. They don't get abstract ideas, cause and effect, or political things. But they do like stories, characters, heroes, villains. They do remember what happened and who did what, if not always why. It's the same in geography...I remember The Apprentice's map of the Mississippi, that started somewhere in Alaska. But she had the right idea at least.


Does it matter that we don't start right at the beginning of time, or that some of the history we do is out of sequence? (Bible stories are history too, but we don't confine them to an "ancient history" year! And then there are biographies that come up out of chronological order, and dates connected with artists and writers and the Guinness Book of World Records...) No, not at this age; all "long ago" tends to be a bit hazy anyway when you're still figuring out the difference between a hundred and a thousand; it's after that that children can start making better sense of timelines and other more sequential tools.

Sense of space and place is also a bit vague still at this age, as I remember well myself from when we once drove through Washington, Ontario (a tiny little place) and I asked my father when we'd left Canada. My Squirrelings have also shown confusion over the concept of living in Canada, living in British Columbia, and living in Vancouver, for example. How can you live in all those places at once? But we have to begin somewhere--so we start picking out the Great Lakes (especially Lake Huron, a familiar place), Hudson Bay, the oceans. This year's work will include the Rocky Mountains, the Far North, and why it took Marco Polo so long to get from Venice to China.

So we read the stories of kings and heroes, the brave and good, and the otherwise. Some of the stories may be what Josephine Tey calls Tonypandy; some may be disputed or offer currently unpopular viewpoints. Did King Alfred burn the biscuits?--probably not. Does it matter? Are we teaching untruths or trivialities? Would it make more sense just to wait until they're older and more discriminating?

No, because we are teaching more than facts and dates. We are teaching "norms and nobility," to quote David V. Hicks. "How to live," to quote Charlotte Mason. We are giving them heroes--feet of clay though they may have--to "people" their imaginations. And we are building a foundation for later history teaching--again to quote CM, an understanding that we are not the only people, and our time is not the only time; that people long ago may have known less about technology, may have had attitudes about churches and kings that we don't share, but that they weren't any less intelligent or less human.

I'm sorry, I really just have to put this up here after Canada Day eh (sorry)

Warnings in advance: although there's nothing really offensive in this (other than dumbness), there is a fair amount of alcohol consumption and some fairly loose language (and the poppy thing does go too far). But you will get to learn our new national anthem (the Sleep Country Canada commercial).

Quote for the day: tragedy and poetry

"There us, it seems to assure us, a region where beauty is truth, truth beauty. To it [the Greek] artists would lead us, illumining life's dark confusion by gleams fitful indeed and wavering compared with the fixed light of religious faith, but by some magic of their own...Of all the great poets this is true, but truest of the tragic poets, for the reason that in them the power of poetry confronts the inexplicable."  ~~ Edith Hamilton, The Greek Way