Monday, October 22, 2018

From the archives: What CM teachers really need

First posted October 2013; part of a series.
We have principles, tools, and a whole world to explore.
It means that we can stop worrying what the lady at church thinks.
It also means that we have a greater understanding and purpose when we do choose learning materials.

So what does one need for teaching?  (Also here)

One or more persons, also known as children (also here)

The principle of authority, used wisely

The principle of obedience, taught well

The respect due to the personality of children

Three educational instruments--the atmosphere of environmentthe discipline of habit (also here), and the 

presentation of living ideas (also here)

All the knowledge that is proper to children, communicated in well-chosen language

A vast number of things and thoughts: so we train him upon physical exercises, nature lore, handicrafts, science and art, and upon many living books (also here), for we know that our business is not to teach him all about anything, but to help him to make valid as many as may be of "those first-born affinities that fit our new existence to existing things."

The way of the will

The way of reason (also here)

The Divine Spirit who has constant access to their spirits; their Continual Helper in all the interests, duties and joys of life.

~~ Charlotte Mason, "20 Principles," found in Towards a Philosophy of Education and elsewhere

Friday, October 19, 2018

The Intentional Thrifter: When you find what you need

I have been looking for a white shirt for awhile. I was being picky: it couldn't be too menswear-looking, but it couldn't be frilly either. This cotton shirt fit the requirements: hidden buttons, no pockets, mostly cotton. One easy fix required: a loose button.
Same shirt with a pullover. 
Same shirt with a jacket.
The other thing I needed and found: a coat. This one has a zip-out lining, and it's a nice colour. It won't work for long hikes in freezing weather, but it should be okay for everyday ins and outs. Fix required: it needs cleaning. 
One book to use for a class project.
Thrifting: what would I do without it?

Monday, October 15, 2018

A hundred uses for that

Did you ever have to do one of those tests of creativity, like "Can you list ten uses for a flowerpot besides growing flowers?" Or paper clips, or rubber bands. Being Squirrels, with a bit of packrat wired in, we like to store things up. Being more minimalistic Squirrels in a small nest, we like things that are multifunctional. And if things don't come with extra functions, we find them some.

Fall hall decorations:
Fake flower arrangement, bought on clearance at Michael's five years ago. Wire basket, thrifted last spring. Pinecone things, from a dollar store two years ago. Paper-covered can, decorated by a Squirreling many years ago. Wooden cottage (behind the pot), from Mr. Fixit's childhood.

I thrifted a new-with-tags-but-several-years-old scarf, which came with a detachable chain necklace. There's a You-tube video still online that shows all the things you can do with it: wear the whole thing together, pop the chain off and just wear the scarf, turn the scarf into a belt, or wear the chain as a necklace or a bracelet. All that for two dollars. Fashion critic Mr. Fixit gave a "meh" to the whole-works look, but he liked the necklace by itself. (He also fixed one of the strands of chain that had somehow gotten broken.) 
And that's the point: you may own a whole-thing item you don't like, or can't use, or that doesn't work in the way you used to use it; but maybe you can use half of it, or turn it backwards or inside-out. One person's junk...but what about your own "junk?" Is there a way to re-use what you already have? Do you have to go buy an extra new whatsit, or do you already have one and just not notice? (Try searching "things to make with Lego," if you want to see real creativity.)

I sewed several of these weighted device-holders four years ago, as Christmas gifts. They are also handy to hold greeting cards, postcards, or small books. 
Recently I wanted to display a small plate, but couldn't think how to make it stand up. Device-propper to the rescue, disguised with a doily.
Side view:

Basket with wooden base, thrifted a year ago 
What we used it for last Christmas
What we used it for this month, for Thanksgiving (I lined the bottom with waxed paper and then coloured paper)

So...what are ten new ways to use a flowerpot?

Friday, October 05, 2018

From the archives: "The Planet of Bad Thinkers"

First posted October 2012. Lydia was in Grade Six, and this was one day's work.


Basic Bible Studies, by Francis Schaeffer: God’s Grace, part 2 (page 23)

After the man (Adam sinned), he tried to cover himself with the works of his own hands (how?). God took this away and gave him a covering of what? So this shows that people could not come to God by their own good works, but by what? (page 24) Look up Genesis 4:3-5. How does God ask Adam and Eve (and their children) to worship him? What picture does this give us of the promised Messiah?

The Hobbit chp 8: Flies and Spiders (continue)

FRENCH: Continue Le voyage de Monsieur Perrichon

Minds on Math 8, page 76 and 77.   Application problems for fractions

Science biography: Albert Einstein, chapter 4.

Write Source 2000:  Last week we read about the "Planet of Bad Thinkers," a place where the inhabitants never set goals, never ask questions, ignore evidence, believe whatever they read, and so on.  We tried to turn those ideas around to list ways of "Becoming a Better Thinker."  Section 309 describes how your mind circles around from simple to more complex tasks while you work on a project.  Section 310 shows a chart of thinking "moves" from simple (observing, gathering) through more complex (rethinking, evaluating).  Choose a real or imaginary problem similar to the examples in section 308 (How can I...Should I...Is doing this activity worthwhile...I've got to convince my parents that...), and try to come up with a solution by tracing your way through the chart.  OR choose a picture book or children's story from our shelf, and show how the main character tries to solve a problem by using this kind of thinking process.

Put the books down and go for a walk.

Folk songs
Canadian history, using Story of Canada: World War II

Poems:  Robert Frost, You Come Too

Tuesday, October 02, 2018

October Project 333 update, with numbers this time

Project 333, October-December 2018: Tiny Warm Version

As the days get colder, the clothes basics change. September staples bring October shivers.
Plus, I'm aware that my current "happy wardrobe" is not exactly a tiny wardrobe. Courtney Carver is the first to say that her numbers may not be your numbers, but still there's a difference between "33, everything" and "60+, not counting anything except clothes." I can't imagine counting sunglasses as an item (although Courtney does),  and I also don't find that scarves and belts cause decision fatigue; but it doesn't seem fair to say you're playing the game if you ignore all the rules.
So if I had to map out a core of autumn basics, I'd probably choose these, as the most multi-purpose and multi-weather things I own. 

Monday, October 01, 2018

There is nothing new about decluttering

Our local paper has a story today about the latest celebrity declutterer. She's said to be different from (list of other clutter experts) because she doesn't turn it into a spiritual exercise. Two paragraphs later, she's extolled as a "guru" who promotes "healing." Sigh. You can't have it both ways.

(This same expert boasts that she's so paper-free, she owns only two pieces of paper, both official documents.)

Do we use our stuff, or does it use us? It's not a new question (Ecclesiastes 5:13, for one). Does what we want, or what we spend on getting it, or how we store it, cause stress, create hazards, or strain relationships? If this didn't seem like a bigger problem than the occasional Mount Laundry, the newspapers wouldn't be running decluttering stories.

Let's invoke some reality. There are life situations that, by their nature, involve some clutter.  It may not be pathological at all, more just about having a hard time keeping on top of the material stuff when there are other demands. Clutter-free counters are less important than making sure everyone can get at what they need. Small people who can't reach up, or any people who can't reach down, or who need visual reminders to take their vitamins or whatever, take priority over empty spaces.

The bigger problems seem to be the amount of stuff (expensive or cheap, new or thrifted, keepable or trashable) that comes into our homes; making the best use of it while we allow it space in our lives; and then letting go when its value is gone. That last is more of a problem than you'd think. I read an article recently with low-clutter gift suggestions for children, many of them paper (ironically). One was a cardboard playhouse that could easily be recycled when its time was over. Great idea, but at our house a few years ago, give-it-up time would have been never. When everything receives equal emotional investment, decluttering is not an option. (I had a cardboard house as a small child, and remember hours of neighbourhood tea parties and other goings-on inside it; but I wasn't consulted about its ultimate disposal. That may be the difference between parents in 1970 and 2010.)

So maybe the tritest slogan is also the truest: don't spend your energy loving things that can't love you back, or that may even be imprisoning you. (Textbook case: Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, "The Won't-Pick-Up-Toys Cure." Bible case: camels and needles' eyes.) If your stuff is working for you, even if it's a mess, just clean it up when you get time. But if it's moved into neutral or negative, look at it with a sterner eye. You don't owe your things a thing,

Friday, September 28, 2018

The Intentional Thrifter: Neglected skirt to new scarf, and two books

I noticed the floral-textured skirt earlier this month. A pretty colour, I thought, but no way I'm wearing a size 24.

Nobody else bought it either, and today was its last 75% off call, putting the price down to a dollar. I looked at it one last time and thought "circle scarf."

I brought the skirt home and cut off the top third (including the zipper). That's it. It's not a fabric that's apt to fray, but I might hem the cut edge just to keep things nice. The photo makes it look very purple, but it's really more burgundy-toned.
I also found a couple of books. Everyone should have a copy of On Writing Well around, really! This is a replacement: our previous one was water-warped and didn't come with us when we moved.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

The Intentional Thrifter: classic to frivolous

I have a so-so relationship with button-up shirts. I think it's a hangover from Girl Guide uniforms of the 1970's. They never seem to fit right (too tight, too long, or both), or they're too crisp and menswear for me.
Image result for canada girl guide 1970's
Image found online. Oh man, do you notice how short those skirts are? That's probably because they had a growth spurt but still had to wear the uniform they got when they enrolled. Ask me how I know.
I found this blue and white pinstriped shirt yesterday, and brought it home in spite of my no-shop rule. My rationale: if you do find a classic that doesn't give you flashbacks, it's worth breaking the rules for.
I forgot to post about this top that I found a couple of weeks ago. It's fast fashion. It's synthetic. It's shiny. It's not made to last. But it is fun for dressing up.
It reminds me of one of my favourite Tom Thomson paintings.
Image result for tom thomson nocturne
Tom Thomson, "Nocturne, Algonquin Park, 1915"

It also goes quite well with this scarf.
So, both tops are hanging out in my closet for this fall.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Bad dwarves, card games, and Sunday thoughts

The Apprentice is here for the weekend, and she brought a card game that she thrifted (that's my girl). If you've played Mille Bornes, it's a bit like that: you're either a good dwarf miner, or a bad dwarf saboteur, and only you know which type of card you've gotten. The object is to build a path of cards towards three other mystery cards, two rocks and one gold (again you don't know which is which, although there are opportunities to find out). If you can guess who's acting like a friendly dwarf or a saboteur, you can either try to help them or stymie them; but they might be bluffing. If the good dwarves get to the gold, they share it; if the saboteurs keep them away, they keep it themselves. Simple, right? Kids could play this; you don't even have to be able to read.

Here's the thought: sometimes making good choices is about discernment, trying to figure out what the saboteurs are in our lives and squashing them.  (I said what, not who.) What are the positive and negative factors? You can waste a lot of time trying to tell one from the other, and sometimes the saboteurs are going to win even if you slow them down with broken-pickaxe cards. 

The other approach is to keep going with our own tasks (building the road to the goal/gold). You take the good with the bad, extend grace whenever possible, and realize that, in real life, good and evil can switch places. Or what began as evil, God can turn You might be better using your turn to put down a path card instead of strewing broken-pickaxes around.

It won't help anyone win the card game, but it might help with the bigger story.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Frugal finds and fixes, and some letting go

Fixing: Besides fixing the jean buttons yesterday, I'm trying to cure a bad case of salt stains that afflicted my old-but-otherwise-okay winter boots. I gave them a spa morning on the balcony, with repeated vinegar-water spraying and wiping, and it did help quite a lot. I may give them a return appointment if tomorrow's sunny again.

Fun find: Another mostly-there craft pad of punchouts and boxes.
I like printed bits and pieces for gift tags and card making.
Money well spent: A doorbell for the apartment, ordered online. Beats listening for people politely tapping. You can even change the ringer from ding-dong to tunes, if you're in the mood.

Still blessedly free, more or less: Radio stations. Watching monarch butterflies migrate past the balcony on September evenings. Wearing fall clothes you already have but that it's been too hot to wear since May.

Letting things go: I do make thrifting mistakes, or end up with too much the same, or trade up to something I like better or that's a better fit. So I'm filling a bag with clothes and books to re-donate.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

The Intentional Thrifter buys some un-mom jeans

I finally decided that my thrifted-two-years-ago lone pair of blue jeans were getting too baggy and worn, so today I took a look through the thrift-store jeans rack. Two pairs looked like possibilities, and only one of those fit. Happily, that pair had this week's coloured discount tag, so the final price was a dollar fifty.
One of the two waist buttons came off in the fitting room. The other button, bizarrely, appeared to have been resewn, but backwards. I fixed them both when I got home. The jeans are in good shape otherwise. They're a skinny cut, ankle length, not baggy. Yay.

Here comes the "good reasons to thrift" part of this story. These jeans are from the same Canadian designer as the grey suit I posted about earlier this year. Jeans on her website are listed at about $150 Canadian (U.S.$115). That's a little bit scary, K-Mart Shoppers. I mean, these are pretty nice jeans, and I was happy to find them, but I don't know that you'd look at them and think they had been hand-sewn by elves or something. They are made in Canada, not overseas, so that may partly account for the high price. And some people just like to shop in boutiques and have the money to do so...and, apparently, to pass them on to the MCC thrift store when the buttons get loose.

Well, I send them my unbaggy and sincere thanks.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

From the archives: How Charlotte Mason might have taught a lesson on ecosystems and biogeography

First posted September 2014. Lydia was in Grade 8.
Subject: Ecosystems and Biogeography.

Group: Science. Class III. Time: 30 minutes. By Mama Squirrel.

Book used:  Exploring The World Around You, by Gary Parker.

I. To increase the student's knowledge of biotic and abiotic factors.
II. To show how all living things are connected to each other.
III. To give some account of the different biogeographic realms, using Australian marsupials as an example.

By way of introduction, I would ask the student to tell me the meaning of an ecosystem, and, for any ecosystem, name some of the things included; for instance, in an aquarium, we would have particular plants, animals, but also factors such as light and temperature. (Don't forget the tiny organisms that we can't see unaided.)  We can label any of these factors as either biotic or abiotic.  How do the different "factors" interact with each other? (Example: plants releasing oxygen for the animals to use.)

I would have her read orally from Exploring The World Around You, page 11, the paragraph about the interaction in an aquarium ecosystem.

Then, after narration, I would show a map of the six (original) major biogeographic realms: Palearctic, Nearctic, Neotropical, Ethiopian, Oriental, Australian.  Recently this map has been updated.  I would give the student a printout of the updated map, and read from the accompanying article.  "Our study is a long overdue update of one of the most fundamental maps in natural sciences," lead author of the new research in Science, Ben Holt, said in a press release. "For the first time since Wallace's attempt we are finally able to provide a broad description of the natural world based on incredibly detailed information for thousands of vertebrate species."  

After narration, we could talk about why scientists believe it to be important to divide the biogeographic realms more accurately, and what has allowed them to do that. Something hard to think about: would creationists and evolutionists think about biogeography somewhat differently?  As an example of a creationist approach, we would read the rest of the chapter, about Australian marsupials. 

Adapted from Class Notes, as printed in various Parents' Reviews.

From the comments on the original post:
"This is wonderful! And the question follows - how can the homeschooling mother find the information needed to teach these kinds of lessons to her students, and how is she able to do that in the minimal time she has available while also managing a bustling household. Is it wishful thinking for us?"

My response:
"I don't try to teach every lesson this way; I do try to beef up some chapters or lessons, like this one, that seem like they could benefit from a "CM touch." While I don't have a really bustling homeschool these days, I am (obviously) not a scientist or geographer, so I think that should be reassuring! Mostly I just read through the lesson carefully, look for narration points or places where you could include map work etc. In this case, the book (written a few years ago) included a small map of the biogeographic divisions. When I looked online for a better map, I came across the updated information and thought it should be included in the lesson."

Friday, September 14, 2018

Wear your closet: not purple today

A final entry in Encircled's #wearyourcloset challenge. The "blouse" is my Encircled Chrysalis Cardi, which I have to admit I do not wear often, so it fits the challenge! The suit came from a thrift store, and the necklace is a thrifted scarf clip.

Quote for the day: Frye on the power of practical decision

"It follows that such a cliche as 'teaching the student to think for himself' is not a simple conception either...In real thinking we first study a given subject long enough to enable its laws and categories to take possession of our minds, after which we may move around inside the subject with some freedom. There is no real thought outside such disciplines...Of course a thinker should be able to return to society with an enormously heightened power of practical decision, but by that time he has lost interest in thinking for himself." ~~ Northrop Frye, "The Critical Discipline," an address to the Fellows of Sections I and II of the Royal Society of Canada, June 1960, included in his book On Education