Saturday, August 23, 2014

John Mighton Quote for the Day

"By insisting that children must be taught according to their developmental level and that everything they learn must be framed in a rather mundane, 'relevant' context, educators risk removing any sense of enchantment from learning.  Children would undoubtedly find mathematics and science more interesting if they were introduced to the deepest and most beautiful ideas in those subjects at an early age."  ~~ John Mighton, The End of Ignorance (2007)

Photo found here.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Best education book I've read this month

In the too-short-to-be-a-book-review department: the best education book I've read this month is The End of Ignorance, by John Mighton. It's about math, but it's also about brains and learning and schools and human potential.   Definitely recommended.

Dollygirl's Grade Eight Road Map

Just a look inside this year's school plan.

Dewey says hi

Dewey wanted to say hello to everyone--it's been awhile!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

What's for supper? What's in the fridge?

Tonight's dinner menu, using what we had and working around what we didn't:

Macaroni skillet with cheese, celery and green peppers
Broccoli Slaw, made with a bag of "broccoli slaw" from the store plus oil and vinegar dressing

Chocolate microwave cake
Strawberry sauce made with part of a jar of "hot strawberry jam" we got at the vegetable stand (whoo!).

Quote for the day: Wendell Berry

       ....It is not "human genius"
that makes us human, but an old love,
an old intelligence of the heart
we gather to us from the world,
from the creatures, from the angles
of inspiration, from the dead--
an intelligence merely nonexistent
to those who do not have it, but
to those who have it more dear than life.

--from "Some Further Words," by Wendell Berry, from Given (2005),  in his New Collected Poems.

Photo found here.

From last year's archives: Handicrafts and sewing

First posted August 2013.

It's two weeks to school, and if I were continuing the posts here "on schedule," I'd be up to "knowledge of man" by now.  But I'm still thinking about art lessons, and handicrafts, mostly for the middle school age, and how 1923 (or so) meets up with 2013.

A quick look at Charlotte Mason's outlines would give us the idea that Art was one subject, and Work (including handicrafts) was another; one "artistic," one technical.  Picture Study was sometimes separated from Drawing (which often meant watercolours), or sometimes they were lumped together.  Watercolouring was also included under nature study, and writing "beautiful mottoes" and drawing in one's Book of the Centuries went under both Sunday Occupations and General history.  Although it's not mentioned in the Programmes, I have heard that the PUS students used to act out Shakespeare plays, so things like painting scenery and designing costumes might have fallen under Literature, as would have making illustrations of scenes from books.  And, strangest of all, architectural knowledge (which is a bit of a blurry area between art and technology) is filed under General Science.

However, when it comes down to it, the lines between art and crafts were somewhat blurred, as they are in real life.  For instance, would using the inspiration of leaves and flowers to design an embroidered book cover, and then doing the work on it, count as art (the design) or craft?  Well, life is messy (somewhat like craft projects).  You either ignore the problem (it's both) or just pick one or the other.  In real life, designers who get their gorgeous needlepoint florals photographed for Victoria are, deservedly, referred to as artists.  So are artists who use quilting as a medium; they're coming at it from a different place than those who labour over thousand-dollar traditionally-patterned quilts for an MCC relief sale, but there's a blurry area in the middle where creativity meets just-stitching, where the quilters are all designing and all sewing.

You might say that Charlotte Mason's "Work" subject is what might have gone under Home Ec and Tech classes, and "Drawing" and "Picture Study" and the rest could be in the domain of the art teacher.  Again, that isn't to say that the art class can't be doing something in textiles, or that the sewing class has to make only hot-water-bottle holders, but if there needs to be a division, there it is.  You might well say, who cares?, and you could be right; those who might like to interfere with homeschool curriculum are not likely to be quibbling over art and crafts.  But if you really want to know where Charlotte was coming from on this, and why, again, physical education and handicrafts got stuck under "knowledge of the universe" rather than "knowledge of man," it's something to consider.

Anyway, here's what really interested me as an example of Charlotte's choices for handicrafts:  The Little Girl's Sewing Book, by Flora Klickmann, editor of the Girl's Own Paper. Online in full at that link; browse through it, it's not that long.  I thought that was going to be another of those step-by-painful-step educational sewing manuals that the PUS did sometimes include; but this one is different.  It's not as cutesy as the Mary Frances books; there are no talking thimbles here.  But it is written in a chatty way, and the audience is, almost exclusively, a Girl With a Doll.  It's a very well-thought-out presentation:  wouldn't Dolly like a this or a that?, here's how you can make her a bedspread, embroider her some curtains, and so on.  Dollygirl would have devoured this book if she'd been twelve years old in CM's time.  There are a few non-doll projects (like a needlepoint mat to go under Grandmother's hot-water jug--I am not making that up), but the majority are doll clothes and doll bedding.  It's not all plain sewing, either; there is a fair amount of cross-stitching, some needlepoint, and even a few miscellaneous things like hairpin lace (a kind of loose crochet).

How relevant is this to 2013, when we are not very likely to have Mother take us down to the shop to buy pink embroidery silk for our Hardanger project, and when the hot-water jug is long gone?  The twelve-year-olds like Dollygirl who are both old enough to handle these projects, and "young" enough to still like dolls, are also a vanishing species. Are we reduced to looking up "teenage crafts" online, and settling for friendship-bracelet earbud strings?

No, I don't think so.  The principles, the ideas are still relevant.  You might be able to cull some actual projects out of The Little Girl's Sewing Book, but even if you can't, I think the interest for CMers is in seeing what kind of a book was chosen, how the ideas were presented, and what sort of skill (creative and technical) was developed.  It's worthwhile to browse through the crafts shelf--juvenile and adult--at the library, and compare any really well-written, well-done books you can find with the more mediocre ones.  My girls have liked the Kids Can Press series of crafts books, including their Jumbo Book of Crafts; in fact, I think it was that book that got the Apprentice started on a longtime hobby of beadwork. Some of the Klutz books (especially the ones that come with supplies) are also very good--the Apprentice had a Klutz embroidery book, but I think it's out of print now.  You can tell that this list is still oriented towards girls, and that's mostly just because I don't have boys--but there's stuff out there for them too.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

What's up at the Treehouse?

Ponytails has been working (scooping ice cream) and parking-lot driving with Mr. Fixit.

The Apprentice has been working out of town and we haven't seen her much lately, but she's coming for a visit today.

Dollygirl has been working on trying to replace a worn-out swimsuit.  Which isn't easy.  Even in the summer. But she did finally find one so that she can go swimming with The Apprentice.

Mama Squirrel has been working on school stuff, both for the Treehouse and for online projects.  Today Mr. Fixit has promised to get the Fruit of Her Labours printed out (that means the school plan for the year).
Mr. Fixt, as usual, has been working on the things he works on.  Recently that's included doing colour developing in the kitchen sink.  Really, you can, or at least he can.  Technology is wonderful.

 (Phone photo found here.)  (Car photo found here.)  (Camera photo found here.)

From the Archives: Thirty Thousand Tunes?

First posted August 2005.
Mama Squirrel is constantly amazed by the effects of technology on our culture.

Someone Mr. Fixit knows showed him her iPod this week, complaining that it wasn't working anymore. She wondered if maybe he could take a look at it, since he is good at electronics. Mr. Fixit looked at it briefly and said no, they aren't fixable. But you couldn't maybe take it apart and replace something? No, they're meant to be disposable. But there were thirty thousand songs on it! Sorry, nothing that we can do.

Thirty thousand songs. Mama Squirrel marvelled at that. How would you choose what to listen to? Mr. Fixit said that you'd just set the iPod to play them randomly. Mama Squirrel naively asked if that wasn't the same as just turning on the radio, then? Mr. Fixit said no, radio stations don't have that many songs on their play lists.

How long would it take you to listen to thirty thousand songs? If you listened to music ten hours a day and heard maybe twenty songs an hour, that would be two hundred songs a day, right? If you never had any repeats, it would take you 150 days to listen to all of them. Using the word "listen" in kind of a vague, background music sense, unless you were doing nothing else for those ten hours a day but listening to your thirty thousand songs.

We used to be satisfied with a small stack of albums or stash of tapes, bought one at a time in the basement at Woolco or whatever the comparable place was. When Mr. Fixit was much younger, he and his brother occasionally brought albums to their grandparents' house. The grandparents would scoff: "What you need to bring those here for? We have a record." (For some reason the boys weren't wildly excited by Lawrence Welk.) Times have changed...thirty thousand tunes. Actually thirty thousand tunes down the flusher because the iPod can't be fixed.

And that's life in 2005.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Teacher training this week (two weeks until school starts here)


Don Quixote (done!)

Charlotte Mason's Formation of Character

The End of Ignorance, by John Mighton


Tesla: Master of Lightning (with Mr. Fixit)

Becoming Human Dialogues: Jean Vanier (2012)

Thursday, August 14, 2014

To come together

Megan Hoyt posted recently about Prov.en.der's Clockwise Retreat at Harvest Community School.  So did Tammy Glaser.  It sounds like a wonderful time--but really, when have you heard of a Charlotte Mason retreat or conference recently that wasn't amazing?  There seems to be a spirit of both humility and generosity that shines out at these events, alongside the practical and theoretical stuff.  Classical education in action, if you like. Maybe it's because we didn't have anything like this for so many years; maybe it's because CMers spend so much time talking about respecting individuals, working on this with our families, that we come alongside each other in the same way; maybe it's because we talk about atmosphere, and it spreads into the plans and details for group events.  Not that I'm trying to over-idealize cottage schoolers, homeschoolers, CMers, or CM--nothing is perfect.  But there is a strong sense of "look what we're doing--and it works!" in these settings, rather than people trying to out-expert each other.

And when we go back in time...I was reminded of this Parents' Review article by Helen E. Wix, which was given as a "paper" (what we'd probably call a seminar now) to a group of Sunday School teachers in 1917. How boring?  No!  Miss Wix gives a wonderful step-by-step description of how she prepared (and rehearsed!) a typical lesson.  I can imagine something very similar to this being shared at a meeting of Charlotte Mason friends today:
It is nothing less than wonderful how lessons given in this way are remembered from week to week. Children that I have taught often remember, far better than I do, the lesson they had from me—I should say with me—a week ago. This is natural, for they did the work; I listened and cheered on; they had to concentrate their whole minds on the story; in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, it would only be read once, and then, in the narration, what concentration is needed! Try for yourselves; read a page or two of an interesting book, and then narrate it to yourself. It is not memory; it is concentrated attention, and if you did it constantly you would be amazed how your powers of concentration would increase. But you read only once, remember!...
No more set answers to set questions, no more jerky monosyllables, but a good, flowing account of what was read in good English—you remember they narrate "in the Bible words as much as possible"—and what finer English is there? ~~ Helen E. Wix, "The P.N.E.U. Method in Sunday Schools"
Isn't it amazing that if, say, Helen E. Wix showed up at one of today's CM gatherings, we'd probably find we had more in common with her than not?

(Just to mention, Miss Wix remained involved with the P.N.E.U. for many years: the Ambleside Online website has another article written by her and published in a 1957 Parents' Review.   So she's really not so far back there with the dinosaurs.)

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Charlotte Mason quote for the day

 "Shall we live this aimless, drifting life, or shall we take upon us the responsibility of our lives, and will as we go?" ~~ Charlotte Mason, Ourselves Book II.
Photo found here.

Monday, August 11, 2014

In memory of Robin Williams

Henrietta's House (Book Review)

Henrietta's House (also titled The Blue Hills), by Elizabeth Goudge.  1945, Hodder & Stoughton (later Duckworth).  Third book in the Torminster Saga, to follow A City of Bells and The Sister of the Angels.  Thoughts and description on the Elizabeth Goudge website.

Henrietta's House is pure Elizabeth Goudge, all the way through. There's just no way you could mistake it for anything else.  It belongs squarely in her low fantasy-anything-could-happen realm along with The Little White Horse, seems to be written for about the same age group, and in fact it was published the year before LWH.  I wonder if she was working on both books at once, or if LWH grew out of the ideas in Henrietta. (There is some information on the writing of the book at the link above.)

In any case, Henrietta's House is a fairly short novel (about 150 pages), set at the end of horse-and-carriage days.  Henrietta is a sensitive young girl living with old, strict relatives because her poet father is almost never around.  Like little Susan in Miracle on 34th Street, she wants a house; not because she has nowhere to live, but because she dreams of a true "home," where (she assumes) her father will also stay put.

But she's not the only one around with dreams and wishes. Unusually, for a book that seems to be aimed at children, most of the other characters are adults, and some of them are quite old--too old, children might think, to be making wishes.  And this is the day that everybody's wishes, improbably enough, come true.  It's her "adopted brother's" birthday, and he invites a somewhat motley crew of oldsters to a picnic in "Foxglove Combe," along with a young aunt and uncle who shock everyone with their new motorcar.  But they all get separated along the way, and by the time they're reunited at the end, each one has had some kind of adventure and/or awakening.

They also meet up, one by one, with a large, cross old man who has a bad habit of sticking pins in wax figures (foreshadowing a similar theme in Linnets and Valerians?), but who also seems to be drawn from The Selfish Giant.  Who is he, and does he fit in somehow with the old local legends of robbers and hermits?  And who was that other old man who came into the bookshop and bought up the entire list of Henrietta's favourite books?  (If you want to see the list, you'll have to read the book.  There were a few I'd never heard of.)

Considering the themes that Goudge explores in her WWII/postwar novels, such as hunger (physical, emotional, spiritual) and feelings of displacement aggravated by war and shortages, books like LWH and this one seem like her version of comfort food.  The motorcar, for instance, somehow disappears at the end of the story: everyone agreed it didn't belong.  There are shops with all the books you want, kitchens with all the nicest kinds of food, and characters who...even the bad ones...can reform if they can just remember where they left their hearts.

Henrietta's House  is the third in a trilogy, but it can also stand just fine on its own. (But now I want to go back and read the first two.)

Cindy's "Retirement"

Run, do not walk, over to Ordo Amoris, and glean what you can, because Cindy is closing up shop, and the blog will be deleted at the end of the week.

Teacher training this week

Still reading:

Why Geology Matters
Charlotte Mason's Formation of Character (re-reading)
Old Mortality

Just started:

The One World School House: Education Reimagined, by Salman Khan

Hoping to get to:

Made by Hand: Searching for Meaning in a Throwaway World, by Mark Frauenfelder

Quote for the day: CM meets brain science

"Given that learning involves physical changes in each of our individual brains, and given that knowledge consists of some linear progression but rather the gradually deepening comprehension of a vast web of concepts and ideas, a surprising corollary presents itself: No two educations are the same." ~~ Salman Khan, The One World School House: Education Reimagined (2012).

"There is a very refreshing irony here. You can standardize curricula, but you can't standardize learning.  No two brains are the same; no two pathways through the infinitely subtle web of knowledge are the same. Even the most rigorous standardized tests demonstrate only an approximate grasp of a certain subset of ideas that each student understands in his or her own way (italics his).  Personal responsibility for learning goes hand in hand with a recognition of the uniqueness of each learner."  ~~ Salman Khan, ibid.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

What does a Year Eight week look like? (Dollygirl's Grade Eight)

In past years we have tried a LOT of school-organizing methods. Some of them were aimed at Mama Squirrel (keeping a binder of what was to be done next for each subject), and some were meant more for the Squirrelings (workboxing).  By the time the Apprentice and Ponytails reached Grade Eight, it was time for them to take on more responsibility, and to have more opportunity to schedule their own time.  That might seem to fly in the face of Charlotte Mason's strictly-timetabled daily work, but it didn't end up being as haphazard as it sounds; we did settle into a general routine, worked around independent / group / "With Mom" times.  For our older girls, giving them a checklist for the week turned out to be good preparation for managing their schoolwork in public high school.

Dollygirl and I will be doing the core subjects together, or partly together, and reading some books out loud. I've written out plans based on what we've been able to get done in the past, oomphed a bit for Grade Eight but again taking into account that doing more independently (and having to do more written work) might actually cut down on the number of pages read.  But that's okay.

So here's a sample of the plans for Grade Eight.  The little circles are for checkmarks.

Dollygirl's plan for Week One (with annotations)

Commonplace Books, Copywork, and Recitations (Memory Work)
o Copy passages from poetry, plays, and the other books read
o Practice Scripture passage(s):
o Practice poem(s):
o Other memory work:

o Oral narrations of readings
o Reader's Journal: one page, twice a week, on any of your readings
o Keep Book of Centuries and/or other notebooks handy as you read or listen; make entries at the end
o Other kinds of narrations: dramatic, musical, artistic...

Bible and Church History 
Matthew 8; Psalm 112, 113; Proverbs 4:14-27  (Use Bible Reader's Companion as a commentary and study guide--you can write in the book.)
o   o   o   o   o

Read Beautiful Girlhood [last-minute change]
o 2 chapters/week

Read The Bible Through the Ages
o 10 pages/wk (starting on page 11): Introduction, The World of the Patriarchs

World History
Keep a Book of Centuries with all history studied (Bible, English, Canadian, etc.)

Read History of England by H.O. Arnold-Forster
o 35. Henry VII: (1) The Tudors, (2).The King's Title, (3)  Lambert Simnel; or, Carpenter, King, and Kitchen Boy; (4). Perkin Warbeck

Read The Golden Book of the Renaissance
o page 7-bottom of  21

Read Mythology by Edith Hamilton
o ten pages/week

Read Westward Ho!  (see online study notes)
o chapters 1, 2

o England in Literature,  Sir Thomas Wyatt, pages 132-133 [read together]

Read The Roar on the Other Side: a guide for student poets
o  Introduction

Plays: A Man for All Seasons
o spread over the term

Grammar and Composition
Read How to Read a Book, Coming to Terms With an Author [read together]
o page 96-half of 106. Words vs. Terms; Finding the Key Words; Technical Word and Special Vocabularies.  "In this chapter so far, there have been only a few important words: 'word,' 'term,' 'ambiguity,' 'communication,' and perhaps one or two more  Of these, 'term' is clearly the most important; all the others are important in relation to it."

Earth Science
Read Exploring Creation With Physical Science,  Module 1: The Basics (spread over 4 weeks)
o Read Student Notes on Pages i & ii
o Experiment 1.1 "Atoms and Molecules."
o Write up the experiment for your lab notebook.

Ecology and Nature Study
Read [Reader's Digest] How Nature Works
o  pages 30-31, Ecology.  This is a two-page version of what you will be studying throughout the year in [Gary Parker's] Exploring the World Around You.

Keeping a Nature Journal
o p. 33 Where to roam with your journal
o  Roam somewhere and make at least one entry

Read Kon Tiki: Edition for Young People
o Chapter 1: How it All Began.   Study questions at the end of these notes.
o Chapter 2: An Expedition is Born.   Study questions.

Keep a calendar of current events in the back of your BoC.

Read Ourselves Book II, Section III, The Function of Conscience.[read together]
o page 109-114, Chapter XVII, Conviction of Sin.  "Then, when conscience says nothing we are all right? you ask.  By no means, for the verdict of conscience depends upon what we know and what we habitually allow."

Read Whatever Happened to Justice 
o  Introduction
o chapter 1, The Cause is Law

Read Plutarch's Life of Marcus Crassus [read together]
o one lesson


o  Balance Benders Level 3: do two per week
Mathematics: A Human Endeavor.  Chapter One, Mathematical ways of thinking
Lesson One
o Introductory problems
o The path of a billard ball, Set I, Questions 1-8, on graph paper
o The path of a billard ball, Set I, Questions 9-15
o The path of a billard ball,  Set II, Questions 1-14
o  Optional: Set III (using a mirror)
Lesson Two
o Introductory problems
o  More billiard ball mathematics, Set I, Questions 1-11

French: French Smart 7 
o Story unit 1: A monkey fable
o  Folk song to learn: Ram'nez Vos Moutons, included in Canada: A New Land, page 130

Composer Study
o Wagner: Siegfried Idyll (orchestral)

Picture Study: Titian
o  The Descent of the Holy Ghost (c. 1545)

Be a Girl Guide Challenge
o Know how to make two different knots to join two ropes together.  (Guide Handbook page 202).
o Make notes in your Enquire Within notebook.

o [probably making fabric flowers]

Three weeks until school starts, and the Squirrelings grow up

Seems like just yesterday we were posting those countdown photos of the dolls...a whole year has gone by. It's kind of funny that there are three of them sitting on the couch, much like the three Squirrelings.

The Apprentice will be experiencing, for the first time in her memory, a September when she will NOT be starting school.  (Except for the year Ponytails was born and we delayed school until Canadian Thanksgiving.)

Ponytails, whose first blog posts here looked like this, has a part-time job and is going into her last year of high school.

And Dollygirl (a.k.a. Crayons)  is now a little bit taller than I am, and recently acquired an adult-sized bike. This week I gave away all the multiplication flash cards and our set of Monopoly Junior.  (She wants to keep the Pirate Snakes and Ladders game, though.)

Charlotte Mason quote for Sunday: is it blasphemous to think we can break bad habits?

"Don't think me superstitious and stupid; but somehow this scientific training, good as I see it is, seems to me to undervalue the help we get from above in time of difficulty and temptation."

"Let me say that it is you who undervalue the virtue, and limit the scope of the Divine action.  Whose are the laws Science labours to reveal?  Whose are the works, body or brain, or what you like, upon which these laws act?"

"How foolish of me!  But one gets into a way of thinking that God cares only for what we call spiritual things..."

"But the failing or the virtue which has become habitual to us is flesh of our flesh, and must be treated on that basis whether it is to be uprooted or fostered."

"I confess I don't follow: this line of argument should make the work of redemption gratuitous...."

" is we who lose the efficacy of the great Redemption by failing to see what it has accomplished."  ~~ Charlotte Mason, 'The Philosopher at Home," Formation of Character

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Charlotte Mason thought for the day: a change of habit

"Do not stop to ask questions, or soothe him, or make peace, or threaten.  Change his thoughts.  That is the one avert a threatened outbreak by a pleasant change of thought and to do so in order that, at least, the habit of these outbreaks may be broken." ~~ "The Philosopher at Home," Charlotte Mason, Formation of Character (Volume Five)

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Quote for the day: you can't memorize it if it doesn't sound right

"Narration is an important item in the lesson; it stimulates memory and encourages eloquence. There is no doubt we remember what is well put. I have noticed that my husband, always a reader, can repeat verbatim pages of 'What Katy Did,' 'Huckleberry Finn,' 'Pickwick Papers,' Sheridan's Plays, etc., books which he read as a small boy and yet he cannot commit to memory a few lines of a badly written play or book, because he says: 'it might just as well be written in any other way.'"
 ~~ Marjorie F. Ransom, "Art and Literature in the Parents' Union School," The Parents' Review Volume 34, 1923, pgs. 75-84.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Our deer Apprentice

The Apprentice has been busy this summer working at a golf course.  Part of her job is to drive a golf cart to the very far reaches of the course, to maintain an out-building.  She says that it's a nice natural place, when you're riding through the "wilds" of the course; she's even seen deer there.  So now she refers to her golf cart trips as Nature Rides.  (How you know you were taught with CM...)

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Weird Al takes on bureaucracy

If you haven't already seen this, you might enjoy it.  (Also check out his video Word Crimes.)

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