Thursday, September 29, 2011

Napoleon and his tub tantrum (History lesson)

I don't know if this is an apocryphal story, but it appears in Edith Deyell's textbook Canada: the New Nation.
"Great men like Napoleon sometimes change their minds.  When they do, they often make it known with a thud.  Out of a clear sky, the emperor called his finance minister to him on April 11th, 1803, and said: 'I renounce Louisiana...with the greatest regret.  To attempt to retain it would be folly.'

"When his advisers tried to reason with him, he would not listen.  Two of his brothers rushed to argue with him while he was in the bath tub; but he ended the quarrel by splashing water on them.  He was the emperor and he had decided to sell Lousiana."  --Chapter 2, "The United States Doubles in Size"

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Books from the thrift store

Today's book sorting and pricing included three large plastic baskets of Christmas books (saved up over the year--and there are more to go).  Yes, even thrift stores have to jump the gun, and this store will be putting out Christmas stuff starting this weekend. 

But there were lots of regular books coming through as well.  I brought home three today for the grownups:

A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail, by Bill Bryson.  We get a lot of Bryson's books at the thrift store, and I finally brought one home.  (I ended up sending it back--there was some very strong language.)


Not Even Wrong: The Failure of String Theory & the Continuing Challenge to Unify the Laws of Physics, by Peter Woit (that one's for the Apprentice)

Searching for God Knows What, by Donald Miller.  This one got mixed reviews on Amazon.  But it interested me enough to bring it home.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

You just never know what will stick

Today in history we read about the Louisiana Purchase, and how Lewis and Clark were then sent out to explore the West. 

"I know about them," said Crayons.  "From Beezus and Ramona."

And she was right.
"'I am too a Merry Sunshine,' insisted Ramona, but she got down from the table and ran out of the room.

"Everyone was silent for a moment. 'Beezus, what was it you were trying to tell me?' Aunt Beatrice asked.
"And finally Beezus got to tell about leading Lewis and Clark to Oregon, with a doll tied to Mother's breadboard for a papoose, and how her teacher told her what a clever girl she was to think of using a breadboard for a papoose board. Somehow she did not feel the same about telling the story after all Ramona's interruptions."
--Beverly Cleary, Beezus and Ramona

Wangari Maathai has passed away


"Archbishop Desmond Tutu praised Maathai as a true "visionary African woman" and called her a "leading voice on the continent."

He said: "Professor Maathai introduced the idea of women planting trees in Kenya to reduce poverty and conserve the environment," in a statement released via his office.
"At last count, the Green Belt Movement she helped to found had assisted women to plant more than 40 million trees. She understood and acted on the inextricable links between poverty, rights and environmental sustainability. One can but marvel at her foresight and the scope of her success. She was a true African heroine," the statement continued."--CNN post

Quote for the Day: The Glory of the Universe

I know that there are different views on the theology of Madeleine L'Engle's books; I'm still on the fence. But that's not an apology for posting this quote; I think it's worth pondering anyway.
"It was the scientists, with their questions, their awed rapture at the glory of the created universe, who helped to convert me. In a sense, A Wrinkle in Time was my rebuttal to the German theologians. It was also my affirmation of a universe in which I could take note of all the eveil and unfairness and horror and yet believe in a loving Creator. I thought of it, at that time, as probably a very heretical book, theologically speaking, which is a delightful little joke at my expense, because it is, I have been told, theologically a completely orthdox book. The Holy Spirit has a definite sense of humour."--Madeleine L'Engle, Walking on Water

Monday, September 26, 2011

There are more and more and more and more of us...

in the world. It's estimated that by the end of October, there will be 7 billion human beings on this planet.

According to the same Toronto Star article, and Wikipedia, we hit the 6 billion mark in 1999. Twelve years seems like a very short time to add a billion people.

When are we expected to hit 8 billion? 2027.
"“The world is currently in the midst of the greatest demographic upheaval in human history,” says David Bloom, professor of economics and demography at the Harvard School of Public Health."--Antonia Zerbisias, Toronto Star
Crayons and Mama Squirrel noticed something strange about population as well. In the Mission Monde French workbook, Crayons was asked to find the population of Burundi. She clicked on a couple of websites, and this is what she found: a 2009 estimate of 8,303,000 2009; and a July, 2011 count of 10,216,190.

The teacher's manual for the course, published in 2006 and re-edited in 2008, gives the population as 6,370,609.

Either someone miscounted, or the population of tiny little Burundi, one of the ten poorest countries in the world, is growing exponentially. WikiAnswers seems to agree with that fact, but we still don't have a clear answer as to why. We guessed that it might be an influx of refugees from famine-stricken areas, but that didn't seem logical either. Second guess: that it's just what the Toronto Star article is talking about, more babies born in the poorest parts of the world.

I don't pretend to have answers. I just read the papers. And the teacher's manual.

Playing the Mennonite Game...ca. 1800

In Chapter 5 of The Trail of the Conestoga, the Brickers arrive in Canada and meet up with another Mennonite family, the Moyers, who have settled in the Niagara area. After a welcome and a meal, they begin discussing the really important things.**
At this juncture, Sam found it convenient to change the subject of conversation by inquiring if Rachel, too, might be an Eby.

"No," replied Levi, "Rachel is a born Cressman, and her mom was a Shantz. Her mom's oldest sister was married with a man that had a brother, and he was a hired man once to Christian Eby. Ain't that right, Rachel, how it goes?"

But Rachel had a different version of the connection. According to her tell, it was her mother's youngest sister that had married a man, whose sister had married the hired man himself. But whichever it was, they were agreed upon the personnel of the hired man in question. He was a Baumann. Black Ephraim, they called him, for he was of a swarthy complexion.
"Baumann!" exclaimed Annie. "What for Baumann would that be now?" She knew so many by that name.
"His mom was a Bingeman, or a Sauder," replied Rachel, "or was it a Wissler? I can't think. But anyway he hears a little hard."
"Ach, him," cried John, discovering a flash of identity in the midst of diversity. "I mind him. He was at a funeral once—"

"That's him," interjected Levi, with an air of finality. "He chenerally always likes to see folks get buried."

And so the identity of the hired man was established and the bond of friendship strengthened between the Moyers and the Brickers. "It seems like we are long friends already," observed Levi, "knowing Ephraim Baumann together like we do."
**"Find-the-relatives" smalltalk among Mennonites is jokingly referred to as the Mennonite Game.

Crayons' French lesson for Monday

Today we used a combination of L'art de lire and Trend Numbers Match Me cards.  Those who have been reading the Treehouse for a very long time might recall that we used them four years ago for Crayons' first-grade math class.  Well, the best tools have multiple uses, and these cards are just as useful for second-language counting.

Our lesson went as follows:

I had Crayons re-read the silly "oi" story in the Level 2 workbook.  I'm not going to write it out in French, and that would probably be against copyright anyway, but the English meaning is as follows:  "The King.  Here is the king.  What does he see?  The car.  The mirror.  Three drawers.  The black pepper.  And you?"  All those words in French (miroir, noir etc.) contain the target sound.  Charlotte Mason may have preferred something more literary, but this is purely for phonics practice.  Crayons finds it very funny to mispronounce "le poivre" (pepper) as "le pauvre" (the poor man)...she knows she's doing it now, but she keeps doing it anyway.

Then there were six sentences in French and four in English to translate.  We did those orally.

And there was a page where you had to draw five things from the story, and write out five other vocabulary words.  Crayons...of course...drew both "le poivre" and "le pauvre."

In between all this, we added a small stuffed mouse to our class.  The recurring character in all the L'art books is Mimi the mouse.  Crayons found a toy mouse to represent Mimi, and Mimi helped with the last part of the class. 

Which was:  the number cards.  I picked out cards showing sets of objects from one to twelve, and had Crayons / Mimi  count along with the cards.   Then we scrambled them up and went through them again.  It's one thing to be able to rattle off French numbers, but another to say quickly how many cupcakes or ladybugs you see.

Next French class we'll probably do more with Mission Monde.  I don't mind mixing it up a bit, especially because the goals of the various programs are so similar at this level.  The first unit of our Mission Monde happens to work on a few phonics sounds too, including "oi."  Coincidence?  Whatever--I'm more interested in teaching the concepts than in which book(s) we use to cover them.  And if Mimi wants to help--so much the better.

Postscript:  When the Apprentice was in first grade--thirteen years ago--she was in a homeschool co-op that had a French class for the youngest kids, and they used J'étudie avec Mimi, the primary-level book.  So there's some nostalgia for us there too.

What's up for school this week?

I did a lot of pre-planning over the summer.  I went a bit overboard, in fact.  I don't plan every school year down to the day, but that's the way it worked out this time.  I do know that things change, people get sick, afternoons get busy--so there are lots of blank spaces in the schedule.  But, allowing for that, each week is laid out.

So all I should have to do each week is open the book and go for it, right?

Well, I still like to know ahead what we're doing.  Looking through the week's work also gives me a chance to search (online or otherwise) for maps, pictures, animations, French games, or other ways to help present or reinforce the work.

A hymn we're singing:  Eternal Father Strong to Save.  Folk songs:  Come to the Fair.

Bible chapters we're reading:  1 Samuel 2 through 4; some verses from Ephesians; Psalm 44.

For I will not trust in my bow, neither shall my sword save me.
But thou hast saved us from our enemies, and hast put them to shame that hated us. --Psalm 44:6,7

Memory work:  The first four commandments plus Luther's explanations; geography questions.  Choose a poem to work on.

Literature and shared books:  Continuing Great Expectations and Madam How and Lady Why, "The Coral Reef."  (The Ambleside Online site has study notes now for these MHLW chapters.)  Continue with Tennyson's poems.

Language arts:  Finishing a lesson on Carry On, Mr. Bowditch; starting a lesson on BambiSecond Look:  The Mr. Bowditch lesson ends with a writing assignment: write a brief report on the life of Nathaniel Bowditch.  This does not assume that you are reading the book; but Crayons is.  She says she would rather wait and finish the book first.  Suspicious moms might see that as just procrastinating on the assignment, but I agree it makes sense.  So I think I will give her another day or so to work on what she already has, and then start the Bambi lesson (most of the lessons start with dictation and grammar/mechanics).

French:  Keep working on what we have learned so far (numbers, -er verbs, greetings and personal questions, facts about Burundi, words containing the sound "oi"); continue with Mission Monde stories and workbook pages, and lessons from Usborne Beginner's French, because Crayons enjoys those.  We also have a new supplement:  two levels of  "L'art de lire" showed up, unused, at the thrift store, and I was very happy to pay what we figured was fair for them and bring them home.  (Because the thrift store wasn't quite sure what to do with them either.)

History:  Read lessons from Canada: A New Nation, about the Louisiana Purchase, Lewis and Clark, steamboats, Napoleon, and the War of 1812.  Second Look:  After reading through the chapter, I think we will skip the details about the settlement of Vermont, Kentucky and Tennessee (no offense).  I just want to cover the general idea of Americans going west, and then about Napoleon selling off Louisiana (the book tells that as an interesting story).  I'm  not sure how far we'll get into the war--maybe next week. UPDATE: We snuck in a few pages as well from The Trail of the Conestoga.

Math:  Finish the January Business in the Pet Store.  Do half a page in Key to Fractions.  If there's time, do "The Breakfast Special" in Critical Thinking's Math Detective, which is a figure-it-out story about a family going out to breakfast and what combinations of menu items they could order.  Second Look:   "The Breakfast Special" involves probability, which is not something we've worked on much, but I don't think it should be a problem to say that the boy's chances of ordering pancakes and bacon were 1/6. UPDATE: I shouldn't have worried about that. I asked her another question from the exercise, about the boy's grandma who had only two menu choices. What were the chances then that she would order pancakes and bacon? Crayons responded, "50-50." Oh--I guess she has picked up a bit of probability!

Science:  Mr. Fixit is going to teach about how screws work. UPDATE: Crayons and Mr. Fixit did this at lunchtime, and I think they had fun with it. Anyway, Crayons ended up with a piece of scrap wood full of screws.

Nature study:  Plants in the daisy family.  Which kind of fits, since Thursday is Michaelmas.

Plutarch:  One lesson about Poplicola.

Art and music:  Continue with our Bernstein music set and with the art book we're using.

Fun and other things:  we may try a pioneer-style basket...which could be a Thanksgiving decoration.  It's supposed to be rainy this week, so we may not get outside much.  But Wednesday is our volunteer afternoon. 

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Quote for Sunday: We are all more than we know


"We are hurt; we are lonely; and we turn to music or words, and as compensation beyond all price we are given glimpses of the world on the other side of time and space. We all have glimpses of glory as children, and as we grow up we forget them or are taught to think we made them up; they couldn't possibly have been real becaue to most of us who are grown up, reality is like radium and can be borne only in very small quantities.

"But we are meant to be real and to see and recognize the real. We are all more than we know, and that wondrous reality, that wholeness, holiness, is there for all of us, not the qualified only."

--Madeleine L'Engle, Walking on Water

 Map of Narnia found here

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Literary criticism--and digging up the last of the logocentrics

Cindy at Ordo Amoris posted a link to Martin Cothran's article "The Death of Literature" at ClassicalBlogger.com (where she herself recently posted notes about The Bible and the Art of Teaching).

I agree with Cindy--this is a great reading list!  I would love to watch The Teaching Company's "From Plato to Postmodernism," by Louis Markos.  Martin Cothran describes it here: "It is an excellent introduction to the history of literary criticism. Markos points out that Northrop Frye was the last of the logocentric literary critics and after that, it is all been downhill." Fearful Symmetry (Frye's 1947 book on Blake, mentioned in the article) is one book of Frye's that I don't have...I know he loved Blake, but I personally find Blake's tigers (and other imagery) more than a little scary.  Maybe someday.

What's for supper? Tortellini salad, and turkey

Tonight's menu, which I am anticipating is going to be Really Good:

Crockpotted turkey breast (found on sale this morning at the supermarket, and dropped into the slow cooker as soon as we got home at noon)
Reheated sweet potatoes
Tortellini Salad, with variations (see below)
Pop-out-of-the-tube crescent rolls, which are a big treat around here

I bought a small package of refrigerated tortellini at the supermarket, and thought it was about the right size for a salad.  But the first tortellini recipe I found (in a lunch cookbook) didn't have any dressing on it at all, just salt and pepper. I think it was intended to appeal to kids, but it didn't sound very exciting.  This one at AllRecipes.com fit pretty much with what we had in the fridge, and sounded tastier, so that's what we're having.

Here are the ingredients as given, with my changes and notes.

1 (16 ounce) package refrigerated cheese tortellini:  I bought an 190 g package of tri-colour tortellini, which works out to about 7 ounces.  I honestly think 7 or 8 ounces is about the right size, though, to balance the amount of other ingredients and the dressing.  Otherwise you would have a huge bowl of tortellini and not much else.  Note:  this salad was really good with tortellini, but I think it would also be fine with non-stuffed pasta--maybe tri-colour fusilli.  Then you could use more cheese--see our note below about that.

4 ounces sliced pepperoni, quartered:  check. (Thank you, Mr. Fixit--pepperoni wasn't even on the grocery list, and he just happened to get some)

2 green onions, sliced:  left these out, they make Mr. Fixit sick.

1 (2.25 ounce) can sliced black olives:  our can was bigger, so I weighed out a couple of ounces.

1 (6.5 ounce) jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained and chopped:  substituted chopped red pepper

6 ounces mozzarella cheese, diced:  I substituted a small (5 oz.) bag of crumbled feta, since that's what we had and because I wasn't using the artichoke hearts or green onions--I figured a zippier cheese wouldn't hurt. (NOTE:  After eating this, The Apprentice and I agreed that it would probably be fine with about half that amount of cheese--particularly with the cheese-filled tortellini.)

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 1/2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar  I think we used the last of it to clean out the teakettle, so I used cider vinegar

1 teaspoon dried Italian herb seasoning:  I used dried basil and oregano instead

salt and black pepper to taste

Friday, September 23, 2011

Frugal Food Fix: Half-baked Granola

As we have mentioned before, electricity prices in this part of Ontario are higher than they used to be.  I used the regular oven as infrequently as I could manage this summer.  Even in fall, I try to load it up when I do use it.  And I experiment with alternatives when I can--no-bake cookies and so on.

Yesterday I made a batch of overnight granola--just made it during the day instead of overnight.  You've probably seen the recipe:  mix the ingredients, bake at 375 degrees for ten minutes, then turn the oven off and leave it for several hours.

I have tried this recipe before, without great success, but I decided to give it one more go.  At bedtime last night, it should have been done. But this batch, like the others, came out stuck to the pan, full of large dampish lumps in some places, and almost raw in others.  I very much prefer our usual method, toasting it gradually at a lower heat.  But what to do with this batch?

This is what I did with it (after prying it out of the pan and storing it overnight): 

1.  Warmed some oil and  homemade pancake syrup together in the microwave. 

2.  Returned the granola to the large glass pan I baked it in, and drizzled the syrup-oil mixture over top.

3.  Baked it for awhile longer at 250 degrees, stirring a couple of times.  This not only toasted the undercooked bits, but the reheating also softened the large lumps enough that they could be broken up.

Success!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Three weeks into school...this and that...

Two favourite things so far:  Crayons really likes both The Trail of the Conestoga and Great Expectations, so we've gotten ahead on those.  We've gotten the Bricker family just across the Niagara river to Canada (they used their wagons as boats), and as far as Pip's fist fight with the "pale young gentleman."

We've looked at inclined planes and wedges, and are moving onto screws.

Crayons is researching the life of Nathaniel Bowditch.

We've talked about the different ways vines grow, and we've gone outside to look for purslane.

We know where Port Huron and Sarnia are.

The Pet Store business is off to a good start.

We've learned about chalk, and foraminiferae.

And we've listened to some of  Moussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition."

Not bad for three weeks.

Three weeks into school...en français

Can we be done three weeks of school already?

Crayons is busy learning about teeth, mixed numbers, and Canadian history.  She is doing grade five French.  "Bonjour, je m'appelle...comment ça va...un deux trois..."
 
Ponytails is busy studying glaciers, soldering wires, and taking grade nine French (with kids who have been taking French since grade four). "Bonjour, je m'appelle...comment ça va...un deux trois..."
 
The Apprentice is busy doing university lab work and taking university-level French (a course for those who have had some French but haven't gone past about grade nine level). "Bonjour, je m'appelle...comment ça va...un deux trois..."

Do you get the feeling that Canada's language teaching is getting nowhere fast?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

We still use Cuisenaire rods too...and dolls...and chocolate bars...

Jennifer in MamaLand posted about Cuisenaire Rods for Big(ger) Kids, showing how she and her daughter used them to solve a problem of area.  The "which one has more wood" idea is classic Miquon, and it does work!

Crayons/Dollygirl and I had the rods out yesterday too, for some work on mixed numbers (in the last book of Key to Fractions).  After several pages of very easy stuff, the book suddenly demanded that she divide, and show the remainder as a fraction.  For instance, 64 ÷ 7 = 9 1/7.  Division is not one of Crayons' strong points anyway, and she was mystified as to why you would want to have something other than an "ordinary" remainder.  The best illustration I could come up with was the idea of somebody running laps around a track of a given length, running a certain length, and then figuring out how many whole laps and how many fractional laps they had completed.  We set up a demonstration with some building blocks (they were all over the floor already--don't ask) and a Ty Beanie Bopper, who enthusiastically ran around the track.


But the real breakthrough came when we set up a length of Cuisenaire rods, and let "Footie" run past those.  For the question above, we set up a long row of black rods (which normally represent 7).  I asked how many black rods he would have to run past to get to 64.  Past one...puff puff...past two...and so on, all the way to 9.  Where did he stop?  Just past the 9th set of 7.  Actually ONE unit past it.  So he ran past 9 and 1/7 sets.

For some reason, that made perfect sense to Crayons, and she was able to finish the page without any more trouble.

As a postscript:  today's page took that idea into the "new" realm of changing an imperfect fraction into a mixed number by using division.  For instance 15 / 4 becomes 15 ÷ 4, which is 3 3/4.  This was still a bit puzzling, so I drew several "chocolate bars," divided them in quarters, and had Crayons colour in 15 quarters.  How many chocolate bars did she get?  3 3/4.  Then we compared that to the next question:  13 / 3.  Would you rather have 15 / 4 chocolate bars, or 13 /3?  We drew more chocolate bars, divided them into thirds, and coloured those too.  Oh--that means you would get 4 1/3 chocolate bars!  So if anybody offers you 13 / 3 chocolate bars--choose those.

(The concept of "more wood" may be classic Miquon, but "more chocolate" works just as well.)

There were six people (plus me) who loved to watch television...

I was a ten-year-old pioneer of Canadian comedy viewing.

It's sometime in late 1976 or early 1977.  I'm curled up in a big chair, upstairs at my grandma's house,  in front of my aunt's TV.  I'm either babysitting my baby cousin, or they're babysitting me--I'm not sure which.  Whenever I'm over here watching TV, I see all these cool shows I've never seen at home.  The Rockford Files.  Upstairs Downstairs.  And tonight--I come across something so funny it makes me practically spit my Kool-Aid all over my Fonzie t-shirt.

35 years ago today, September 21, 1976:  the first broadcast of SCTV. 

Monday, September 19, 2011

Favourite recent read: Serious Times, serious ideas

"God calls us to live large on the very stage we find ourselves.  God has placed us in this very situation to infuse it with meaning and significance.  This enables us to live for Christ now rather than waiting for a set of circumstances we imagine will allow us to serve him in the future.  This simple but profound attitude has marked many of the great lives...."
The best book I've read lately...really the best...is Serious Times: Making Your Life Matter in an Urgent Day, by James Emery White, published in 2004. 

I'm not sure if I'd ever read anything by Dr. White before.  I didn't go looking for him.  The book turned up in a pile of "religious non-fiction" I was pricing at the thrift store.  I liked the look of it and decided to buy it myself.

The Amazon reviews are pretty right on.  To say it's an entertaining book (as someone there said) might sound like you were doing it an injustice (I mean, the title is Serious Times); but it is written in an engaging and readable style.  Good thought stuff, good faith stuff, good life stuff.  I especially liked the chapter on "Developing Our Minds."  Here's a quote from that chapter:
"Beyond engaging various fields of thought, it is critical to be able to think about our faith in relation to its significance.  In dialogue with the world, the deepest question regarding the Christian faith is 'So what?'  This simple question gets to the heart of not only thinking Christianly but communicating Christianity itself....The Christian mind must understand the significance [of the resurrection] in order to offer it to the world.  If we cannot, we will have lost our place in the most critical of conversations--indeed, the only conversation that matters."
This one is a keeper.  I'd like to figure out a way to use it for an adult Sunday School class.  It would also be a great addition to a highschool worldview course.

One more quote:
"By nature we tend to adapt, to conform, to our surroundings.  There are only two forces shaping us: one is the world and the other is the will of God.  If we are to avoid becoming in the surrounding culture, we must take a stand.  That stand comes through the renewing of our minds....Taken into prayer, ideas become real, life-changing, dynamic.  Then, and only then, they change my life."

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Sweet Potato Something Dip

Yesterday I was intrigued to read about a new healthy-ingredients cookbook written for University of Guelph students.  Students who are short on food can get assistance through an on-campus food bank, but they tend to take the familiar stuff first and leave the lentils behind.

Yeah, big surprise.

Anyway, the article I read didn't provide any recipes, but it did mention Sweet Potato Hummus.  An online search for a recipe brought up quite a few variations, most of them pretty "hummusy," and that was fine except that I didn't have the extra ingredients called for like tahini.  I decided to try Hungry Meets Healthy's recipe for Super Sweet Potato Hummus, which takes it in a whole different direction.  I don't know if I'd call it hummus so much as just an autumn-flavoured dip or spread. Think pumpkin pie with a bit of bean. 

It's pretty quick: you just cut up the sweet potato, cook it, and then run it through the food processor with drained chick peas, sweeteners and spices.  I did add some lemon juice at the end--it seemed to need a bit of a boost.

I froze half and took the other half to a church meeting, where it got a thumbs-up from those who tried it.  I didn't have a lot to offer for dipping--corn chips didn't seem to be just right, and neither were vegetables.  I settled on whole-wheat tea biscuits (mini ones) and sliced apples.  (Bagel chips would have been awesome.)

And look at all those food groups!  Even public-school lunchbag critics should like this one.

Can I be remarkably critical here? (Grammar gripe)

Ontario is approaching a provincial election.  We are being overloaded with advertisements, mailbox cards, and all the rest of it.

Today we got a postcard which quoted the currrent government's Special Advisor on Early Learning (scroll down, it's on the right hand side of that page):

"Full-day learning....is a remarkably critical investment in our children." 

This refers to full-day kindergarten programs, which have recently been implemented in Ontario.  No matter what you think about the usefulness or uselessness of such things, is there really such a phrase as "remarkably critical?"

Once something's critical, hasn't it already become remarkable?

"Highly critical" would make sense (although it's redundant).  Or maybe "critically important." But "remarkably critical?"  That's sort of like saying "remarkably terrible."

The more you say it, the less sense it makes.

What do you think?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Ordinary Children: Quick Review

Norms and Nobility took me quite a while to read...and even to re-read.  There is no way to jump ahead quickly in that book; each sentence needs to be considered carefully before you move on to the next.

Marva Collins' "Ordinary" Children, Extraordinary Teachers, on the other hand, took me from last night until this afternoon, in spite of the fact that it's 250 pages long.  Especially if you've read Marva Collins' Way, it's a very fast read.  Most of the book is made up of talks that Mrs. Collins gave over the years; and, like most speakers, she has favourite images, illustrations, and phrases that she repeats every time.  For that reason, the book should have been edited much more carefully.  I'm also not a fan of the Teacher-please-hear-me style of inspirational poetry that makes up the last section of the book.  A tiny bit of that goes a long way.  (To get even more nitpicky, I was also surprised by her use of "alright," not to mention three or four "Judas Priests.")

Best reasons to read the book?  The detailed notes for several works of literature, from The Little Engine That Could to The Song of Roland.  While Mrs. Collins' deliberate emphasis on phonics and her teacher-questions-students-answer style are not identical to Charlotte Mason's methods (and/or may not be exactly how we work as homeschoolers), there is still much that we can draw on.  She does not write in the formal academic style of David Hicks, but she touches on many of the same points, such as the importance of asking normative questions.

If you liked Marva Collins' Way and want additional insight into her methods, this will add a bit more.  Not a lot more, but a bit...an interesting bit.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Found at the thrift shop

While unloading more boxes of books today, Mama Squirrel picked out these ones to bring home:

"Ordinary" Children, Extraordinary Teachers, by Marva Collins

A book about Magellan (for Mr. Fixit)

Solar Flare, by Larry Burkett (also for Mr. Fixit)

Alvin Fernald, Master of a Thousand Disguises, by Clifford B. Hicks (for Crayons/Dollygirl.  Not the best entry in the Alvin series, but the only one I've seen in a long time, so I bought it.)

The White Queen, by Philippa Gregory (about Elizabeth Woodville.  This one got VERY mixed reviews on Amazon, but I am going to check it out for myself.  I wanted a bit more on the Richard III story, after recently rereading Daughter of Time.) [UPDATE: around page 23, I started really not liking this book. Daughter of Time this isn't, and it's also not for young maidens.  I guess it's going back to the store.]

A fairly recent Canadian atlas to help with ninth grade geography.

And a Klutz book that I can't go into more detail on because it might be a gift for someone.

(Not bad for three hours' hard work.)

Planning, Organization, and a CM Blog Carnival


The newest Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival is up at Fisher Academy Interational.  The official theme is Planning/Organization, but there are some general CM posts as well.  (And carnival owner Amy gets the Temerity Award for managing to get all that up while just getting back to Peru.)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Today's Grade Five School Schedule

Opening Time:  Two favourite hymns

Bible Study:  Ephesians 2

Memory work:  Review The Armour of God (Ephesians 6)

Literature and Shared Books:  Madam How and Lady Why, "Madam How's Two Grandsons," lesson 2

Short break

Learning Language Arts Through Literature:  Start Lesson 2 on Carry On, Mr. Bowditch

Free computer time

French:  continue reviewing numbers and the present tense of "avoir."  Listen again to the introduction of the Marley family.

History:  Read about life in Lower Canada and the Atlantic colonies around 1800.

Do one activity from Stop the Watch

Math:  Keep working on Math Pet Store, January Business.

LUNCH BREAK

Science with Dad:  keep working on inclined planes

Poetry and folk songs:  Two Tennyson poems

Picture study: Fragonard, "The Grand Cascade at Tivoli"



Free Reading:  continue with Father's Big Improvements

Monday, September 12, 2011

Some things Mama Squirrel did today

Finished rereading Norms and Nobility.  I had read it a long time ago, but didn't have access to a copy for a long time.

Baked a giant pan of banana bread, mostly to freeze for school lunches and quick breakfasts.

Washed three loads of laundry.

Cooked one pan of spaghetti sauce with lots of green, red and yellow peppers.  Plus spaghetti.

Finished today's school plan with Crayons/Dollygirl, including French, Great Expectations, Leonard Bernstein's "What does music mean?", and some Math Pet Store.  Mr. Fixit handled a science lesson on inclined planes, while he was home during lunch hour.  His version of the lesson had something to do with the picnic table, a doll, a ball, and a stuffed monkey.

Wrote several emails and cleaned out a bunch more.

Conversation over the day's happenings with Ponytails.

More anticipated ditto with The Apprentice when she gets home this evening.

I think that's it.

Friday, September 09, 2011

First few days of school...musings

I am still re-reading Norms and Nobility, and thinking how much it reminds me of Marva Collins' Way (actually, they were both first published around the same time),  and how much it also reminds me of the Free Commot people in the Chronicles of Prydain, and thinking about how what we do in homeschool does or doesn't support that bigger picture.

And please don't think that because I'm in my sixteenth year of doing this, that I'm any more certain or perfectly consistent about those aims, and their application, than any newbie.  How many narrations?  How many experiments?  Are workbooks occasionally a good choice? What do I say, or not say, trying not to interfere but still trying to bring out the important ideas? What books, and what if the kid(s) start off the year already complaining that they don't like them?  There's so much I don't know myself.  Last year when I was reading Marva Collins, I went and read Candide and Emerson's "Self-Reliance" because I didn't want to have read that much less than her elementary students.  Should I admit also that I've never read Plato's Meno (as David Hicks recommends for ninth graders) or a lot of other things I should have read along the way, and that I still don't really understand how doorknobs work, or that I've never built a marshmallow catapult, or played hockey, or been to Boston in the fall?  We may be keeping our homeschooled kids free from particular educational follies, but does that mean we're immune from creating our own?

(I'm supposed to have answers to those questions?  Sometimes you just have to plunge ahead anyway.)

We actually only had three days of Grade Five this week, and in that time we managed to:

Sing He Leadeth Me, Strong Son of God, Focus My Life, Russian Vesper Hymn, and God Save the Queen (we like to sing)

Start the book of Ruth and the book of Ephesians (using the Phillips translation for that)

Start Luther's catechism on the Ten Commandments

Read two chapters of Great Expectations (Crayons really liked that)

Read a bit of Madam How and Lady Why (not quite as popular)

Do a lesson in Learning Language Arts Through Literature, which included looking words up in the dictionary and writing from dictation.

Read a couple of Tennyson's poems.

Start looking at the Artistic Pursuits book for this year.  That led to Crayons wanting to know what art supplies we had, and that led to some experimenting with charcoal and chalk pastels.

Work on the first French lesson, at which point it was obvious that we are going to have to at least begin by supplementing with some review...so we also used the Usborne book and cassette French for Beginners.  (Something that came our way from the discard shelf at the library.)

Get most of the setup week done for Math Pet Store, and complete four pages in Key to Fractions.

Look at what Ontario used to look like two hundred years ago, and locate Newark (now Niagara-on-the-Lake), York (now Toronto), and Kingston (they're all on Lake Ontario).  Talk about Conestoga wagons, look at a map of southeastern Pennsylvania, and start reading a historical novel about the Pennsylvania Germans who helped settle this area. (On Labour Day we visited a local pioneer memorial, so I guess that counts as a field trip.)

Learn what work, force, and machines are.

Talk about bones, and look at a lovely photograph of bone marrow.

Do the first lesson in Plutarch's Life of Poplicola.

Start reading Father's Big Improvements for free reading.

Put in an afternoon at the thrift store.

Do some major cleanup that had gotten put aside while school started.

Take a starting-school walk to buy gummies and talk about how things are going.

So all in all, it was not a bad week.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Answers to the Antique Market

Here are the answers to last week's game:

1. Mr. Fixit:  b. really cool Bakelite radio

2. Mama Squirrel:  e. four vintage Scholastic paperbacks, found in a baby cradle full of children's books

3. The Apprentice:  d. didn't come because of university orientation weekend

4. Ponytails:  c. 1959 cosmetics ad to use as a wall decoration

5. Crayons/Dollygirl:  a. plastic bag filled with tiny dolls, doll furniture, and playdough doll food


Bonus question: which item was (reluctantly) left behind?

The radio...Mr. Fixit says that that particular model was extremely rare and collectible, and the price reflected it.  Too bad.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

First Day of School

The Apprentice is back and forth this week to her university, doing orientation activities.  (I just gave that part of the Antiques quiz away...but you could have figured that one out anyway.) 

Ponytails is home from her first day at public high school; the first day always ends early.  Actually, she and Mr. Fixit are out right now buying a backpack and mechanical pencils.

Crayons/Dollygirl is done her first day of Grade Five, and she's trying out the watercolour pencils we bought to go with Artistic Pursuits.  She's put together a poster to go with Math Pet Store, like Jemimah's, and she's figuring out how many virtual hamster cages and bags of shavings she needs.  She tried lifting a big box of books onto the washing machine, but realized that it takes too much Force for her to do that amount of Work alone.   She did dictation from Psalm 1, and only missed one word.  We started Great Expectations, Mission Monde French, and the study of life in Upper Canada.  It's been a busy day but it really didn't take that long...and it was nice having it all laid out!

(Oh. Right. I did that laying out. Well, it's done, anyway.)

Monday, September 05, 2011

CM, big ideas, and co-op learning--yes, it does work!

Some great weekend reading: a post by Jeannette Tulis at the ChildLightUSA blog.
"In agreeing to teach this class, I warned the organizers that I was not going to utilize lap books, notebooking, model building, posters or other popular typical classroom activities. Not that these are not effective ways to teach, they just are not the way I prefer to teach. The organizers agreed to this so I set about planning a class that would be built around living ideas and living books following Mason’s teachings as much as possible."--Jeannette Tulis

Let's play a game: The Squirrels and the Antique Market

On the weekend, most of us (plus Grandpa Squirrel) visited an antique market in a nearby town. Mix and match what you think each Squirrel brought home (or would have liked to).

1. Mr. Fixit
2. Mama Squirrel
3. The Apprentice
4. Ponytails
5. Crayons/Dollygirl

a. plastic bag filled with tiny dolls, doll furniture, and playdough doll food
b. really cool Bakelite radio
c. 1959 cosmetics ad to use as a wall decoration, kind of like this
d. didn't come because of university orientation weekend
e. four vintage Scholastic paperbacks, found in a baby cradle full of children's books

Bonus question: which item was (reluctantly) left behind?

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Friday, September 02, 2011

From the archives: meeting Dewey Decimal

Originally posted June, 2009

One of the favourite (useful) things that each Squirreling did during homeschool was learn something about libraries and the Dewey Decimal System.

("Who's Dewey?" shouts D.W.)  [link updated]

We talk about its advantages and shortcomings (who'd think to look for The Three Little Pigs in the 300's? How come our library used to catalogue homeschooling under Domestic Education?). The girls get assignments like "bring home books from three different hundreds sections." They end up with at least an idea of which end of the library to go to if they're looking for history books, or riddles, or books about French braiding.

"Do We" Really Know Dewey is a kid-friendly online guide to the DDS that's been around for years--since the Apprentice was learning these things. The space-alien story still holds up pretty well.

There are some other sites that have come up since then, that I've been using this spring with Crayons. There are some fun ideas here, including the address of these task cards that can be cut apart and used as a Dewey Drill (we're doing a few of these every couple of days as review). "(You need 5 folktales--what section do you look in? You are doing a report about at least different kinds of whales; Your project is to compare lions and tigers; You need to do a report on hurricanes; You need pictures of people in the army" and so on. If you don't like the one about "You are being haunted by ghosts," you can just leave it out.)

There's an online review game here. [2011 update: sorry, that one's not working.] And a multimedia presentation here.

As part of our library unit, we've also read The Boy Who Was Raised by Librarians and My Librarian is a Camel. I also took The Library Book and a couple of others out of the library, but decided they had more information than we really needed for grade two.

"Who's Dewey?"  Now we know.


Thursday, September 01, 2011

Household lore from 1884, or, don't bake your brains


"A Very cheap, inodorous, and efficacious disinfectant, recommended by the physician in charge of a London hospital, and which our housekeepers will find valuable to destroy bad odors anywhere, as well as desirable for use in contagious diseases, is made as follows: Take half a drachm of nitrate of lead, dissolved in a pint or more of boiling water, and dissolve two drachms of common sal* in a pail or bucket of water. Pour the two solutions together, and allow the sediment to subside. The clear, supernatant fluid will be a saturated solution of chloride of lead. A cloth dipped in this solution and hung up in a room will sweeten the atmosphere instantly, and it will also have a similar effect on sinks, etc. This is worth remembering."--Michigan farmer and state journal of agriculture: Household--Supplement , 1884

NB:  This is posted for nostalgia value only! Dewey's Treehouse takes no responsibility for people who take this seriously enough to clean their houses with nitrate of lead.

More thoughts from the Michigan Farmer:

"One of my neighbors makes as nice hop yeast bread as I ever saw, but she never seems free from the care and thought of it, and as soon as one batch is baked begins to make preparations for the next. Her husband said to me, not long since: "Bell didn't make as good bread for a while as Martha (his first wife) used to, but I told her more time and attention must be given to the matter, and now, it is all right." Poor girl! she's a slave to making bread for that family of seven, and sometime ere long I shall feel like scribbling on her tombstone, "Died of bread making." (If, indeed, she has a tombstone, though the first wife is not thus remembered.)"  (from a letter about the benefits of salt-rising bread)

On the benefits of growing your own:

"By the working of the same principle under which the shoemaker's children go barefoot, farmers, with every appliance at their hand, rarely have a good kitchen garden. Possibly after the spring field crops are all in, a man may, as a great concession to his wife's "notions," and with the inward conviction that it is "all blamed nonsense," graciously consent to plow up the "garden," and put in a few rows of sweet corn, some onions, and a few peas and beans, with no particular care as to varieties, and no pains whatever to secure a succession. The seed once in the ground his whole duty is done, save for an occasional half day when he has no especial work for the hired man, and sends him to "hoe out the garden." The result is a bountiful crop of weeds and a few half-grown vegetables, and at the end of the season the deluded man is more than ever convinced that a good garden is a luxury for "bloated bondholders" only. He can reason clearly enough that if his cornfield is not properly cultivated, the returns will be proportionally small, but when it comes to the garden it is a foregone conclusion that garden "truck" should grow itself.... We are coming to understand more and more that the gospel of good food tends to promote that other gospel of good will to men; in other words, that good living keeps a man healthy and consequently good-natured.... it would give a goat the dyspepsia to live on bread, meat, potatoes, and pie and cake, the year round, as so many do. The man who "hasn't time" to make and tend a garden says he has not time to attend to one of the most important of duties, his own health and that of his family. We are vegetarians by nature; the race was born in a garden. The fresh vegetable food of spring, the "greens" and salads, are nature's antidote to the biliousness and torpidity of liver engendered by the winter's diet of greasy meats, buckwheat cakes and mince pie. The system craves the change of food, the jaded appetite is stimulated, healthy food gives healthy blood, of which comes strength and vigor....The flour, meat, butter, eggs and groceries that you don't eat when you have vegetables, will in nine cases out of ten pay for the expense of cultivation, not to mention the benefits of a healthful, plentiful and varied diet.... But even where vegetables can be bought, there is a noticeable difference betwen the fresh, crisp, dewy article, and that which is wilted and stale through handling and exposure in the market, a difference both in flavor and healthfulness."

"A garden is a godsend to the cook; it saves her both work and worry. Instead of baking her brains over a stove making pies, cakes and the eternal doughnut in the tropical July and August days, when the air outside fairly scintillates with heat and the air inside is ten times hotter, she gets a breath of fresh air as she gathers plethoric peas and beans, husks the nutritious sweet corn, and hunts out the yellowest "Golden Neck."There is a virtuous consciousness of well doing in every woman's heart as she sum mons her family to a dinner which she knows does her credit, which it is a husband's duty to foster and encourage. A good garden is a great incentive to good housekeeping, and only women know how much trouble and annoyance it saves."

On picky husbands:
"I've no patience with those men who require everything served just so; sick or well, hot or cold, in season and out of season, they must have a certain thing for a certain meal. One neighbor will have cookies to soak in his tea or coffee three times a day. Another, with an invalid wife, will not eat cold bread; only hot biscuit, gems, or pancakes are ever placed on the table."

"That article from the pen of Beatrix is excellent. I endorse every word of it except, perhaps, what she says about our not enjoying a guest's visit unless there is pie or cake in the house. Are we "cowards" because we conform to custom? Is it not said that " custom makes law?" There is no need, when people are well, that a woman's cupboard should be like Mother Hubbard's, neither will a women of sense be foolishly extravagant. Some women will drag their housework along till "ten o'clock at night" and even later, and those who do might as well fry cakes as anything else. When she says "I have memorized poems while paring potatoes," etc., I am interested at once, for I so often do likewise, and a pencil and paper are always at hand. It is well to catch these bright thoughts, for they oft take to themselves swift wings. Not boastingly, but in support of her theory, I may add that a sudden "inspiration," when in the midst of the Monday washing not many weeks ago, was thus written down, with but little delay to the work, which received a prize over all other competitors; and, that being the case, it evidently did not carry an aroma of "suds" to the editorial sanctum; but, waiting until arrayed in "good clothes" and with well sharpened pencil, I might have wooed the muse in vain."

Clipart found here
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