Sunday, March 30, 2014

Some school plans for this week (Dollygirl's Grade Seven)

Daily work:  opening time (hymn), memory work, Easy Grammar Plus, Saxon Algebra 1/2, Fix It...Write, reading poems, French lessons (most days), play some Schubert when possible.  Continue reading Watership Down.

Monday

Old Testament:  Continue the Book of Numbers

English History:  "The Quarrel" (between Henry II and Thomas a Becket)

Ourselves Book II: "Dangers of the uninstructed conscience"

Literature:  Ivanoe  (Gurth's fight in the forest)

Natural History:  The Spring of the Year: read chapter 4 ("Things to See in the Spring"), go outside if possible

Tuesday  (probably going to a lunchtime concert)

New Testament:  Gospel of Mark, read independently and keep personal notebook

Geography:  Into the Unknown

Grammar of Poetry:  Spacial Poetry (last lesson we will be doing, other than review)

Plutarch's Lives: Cicero, Lesson 2

Literature:  The Return of the King

Wednesday

Old Testament:  Continue the Book of Numbers

English History:  'The Murder"

Online map drills

Science:  work on muscles and skin; maybe use the microscope

Shakespeare's King John, begin Act II

Music:  finish chapter on Schubert (short reading)

Thursday

New Testament:  Gospel of Mark, read independently and keep personal notebook

Architecture:  Cathedral, second third of the book

Science:  continue

The Bear Says North: second story in the book

Ivanhoe

Composition time

Friday

Basic Bible Studies:  continue verses about our adoption as God's children

How to Read a Book

French History:  read about the Third Crusade, 1190 AD

Picture Talk:  Introduction to Vermeer

Money Matters workbook, chapter 2

Return of the King

Friday, March 28, 2014

Nature in our back yard: Robins

It's not that unusual to see a pair of robins in our yard, or some parents with young ones; but today we have several males all pecking and flying back and forth past our large basement window.  I think it has something to do with the fact that the snow's finally retreating and we have some patches of bare grass.
And then I found this online:

A. Male robins arrive on the breeding grounds a few days to two weeks before the females return. You can tell male robins because their head and tail feathers are very dark black and bright orange in comparison to those of the female. When the first females arrive later, you'll notice their plummage appears faded and drab in comparison to that of the males. 
So I guess you would call it a robin stag party?

Dollygirl's Grade Seven: School plans for Friday

Friday's school plans for Term Three, Week One:

O Canada, because it's Friday

Basic Bible Studies: read verses together about our adoption into God's family

Hymn: "Children of the Heavenly Father"

Composer Study:  Read about Schubert in History of Music and Boyhood of Great Composers Book One.  Listen to one of the songs mentioned.

French history, begin Chapter 7, narrate.  Find something to draw showing life in the 12th century.  (Listen to some Schubert during drawing time.)

Math:  continue Saxon lesson.

Shakespeare's King John: finish reading Scene One.

"Transcription":  "Choose and transcribe passages (in beautiful writing from Bridges) Poems of To-day, and the other books set..."

Discussion of handicrafts and "extra" subjects this term

Money Matters for Teens workbook, first lesson:  read together and do the assignments for weekend homework.

Return of the King.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

What's for supper?, asks Cheerfully Frugal

Tonight's dinner menu:

A skillet dinner, one of those non-repeatables because it was made with what we had; but it turned out pretty well anyway.  I browned a pound of ground chicken, added diced onion, a bit of garlic powder, and the last of a bag of frozen vegetables (the old kind with carrots, peas and lima beans); stirred in a bowlful of tomato soup and what was left of last night's vegetarian gravy (milk, water and soy sauce thickened with cornstarch). And three stalks of celery, chopped.  So more or less what you might put in chicken pot pie; more gravy-flavoured than tomato.  I cooked a potful of twisty pasta, the kind that is sometimes labelled Scoobi-Doos; when it was cooked but not overdone, I stirred enough into the chicken mixture to turn it into what looked more or less like tuna casserole.  I also added a few spoonfuls of Parmesan cheese, and let the whole thing sit with the heat off, lid on, for another ten minutes.

Dessert was a can of crushed pineapple and a can of mandarin oranges, frozen and run through the food processor.

Frugal Finds and Fixes, "No, nyet, nein" edition

With an end-of-March wet snow still blowing down this afternoon, we could use a bit of cheerful frugality around here. Sometimes that sounds like an oxymoron, when frugality seems to equal doing without and saying No.
Hey, well, we can dream.

On the positive side, we ended up (after almost a week of no Internet and almost no phone) with things back to normal and actually a better connection than we had before.    Plus one free doughnut won during a Wifi stop at Tim Horton's.

Mr. Fixit installed a couple of extra clotheslines in the garage to take the laundry overflow.  We unplugged the dryer altogether to save money and energy.  We also unplugged a small extra fridge downstairs that was mostly used to store cold drinks.

Mama Squirrel has been able to feed her since-Christmas crossword addiction with not only the really-quite-easy daily puzzle in the paper but with two extras that come on Saturday, including a fiendish New York Times crossword.  (She can't imagine how many Saturday papers with NYT puzzles she put out for recycling before noticing this.)  That definitely beats putting out $8 on a puzzle magazine.

Mama Squirrel also said "no, nyet, nein" to a $12 flea market style magazine.  On the next library trip I will have a look to see if they have back issues to borrow.  Because the new ones are fun, but they really don't change all that much over a year or two.

Mr. Fixit went to a used-CD shop that also sells DVDs, and they were clearing out a lot of their DVD sets. Believe it or not, they're out of date now.  So he picked up a few seasons of old sitcoms for crazy-cheap prices. If you have a store like that near you and you still watch DVDs, you might want to check for similar clearout deals. (We have also found good deals at places like Wal-Mart and Giant Tiger, but nothing like those prices.)

Mama Squirrel used an online recipe to make a big container of instant oatmeal.  I used quick oats and ran it through the Ninja for a few seconds, but you do have to be careful not to get carried away.  I got it  too fine at first, and had to add in some extra (unpowdered) oats for texture.

That's all I can think of for this week.  I am now going upstairs to make a cheerfully frugal dinner.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

A Term's English and French History, Week by Week (Dollygirl's Grade Seven)

In the Parents' Union School Programme 94, for Form III (grades 7-8), the following is required for the term's work in history:

English History.
Arnold Forster's A History of England (Cassell, 8/6), pages 131-186 (1154-1307).  Scott's Tales of a Grandfather (University Press, 2/3), pp 84-106. Make a chart of the 12th Century (1100-1200), (see reprint from P.R., July, 1910, 3d.). Read the daily news and keep a calendar of events.

French History.
Creighton's First History of France* (Longmans, 5/-)  pp. 45-81 (1154-1307).
General History.
Read from De Joinville's Chronicles of the Crusades* (Dent, 2/6).  The British Museum for Children,* by Frances Epps (P.N.E.U. Office 3/8), Chapter 12. Teacher study preface. Keep a Book of Centuries* (P.N.E.U. Office, 2/6), putting in illustrations from all the history studied. Stories from Indian History (O.L.S.I.), Vol. 1., 2/-, pp. 1-25.
We are following this outline quite closely, with these exceptions:  we are not reading either The British Museum or Indian History, although we are doing the chapter on Architecture that also appeared that term (under Science).  One other slight difference is that the next time this cycle in history came around, several years later, the period covered in that term extended to 1327 rather than 1307, and I decided to go with that.  We are also doing the literature suggested, Ivanhoe (we started reading that aloud last term), and Shakespeare's King John.
So how does one take the pages referred to above and turn them into twelve weeks' work?  This is the plan that I have so far.
Week One 
English: pages 132-138 --Canterbury Cathedral—how it was designed, prologue to the Becket story
The King and the Archbishop—Henry II & Thomas, introduction (explaining how the Church was both a positive and negative influence in England at that time)

French: begin chapter 7, Philip Augustus : Third Crusade, 1190 

Week Two 
English: pages 139-145 The Quarrel : question of whether churchmen should be tried in public courts; also a question of paying homage. Becket banished but then returns.
The Murder : events of December 29th.

French: none this week.

Week Three 
English: pages 146-153 The Pope's Gift (the Pope "gives" Ireland to Henry II)
The Crescent and the Cross (Richard)
The Crusade: Richard's abduction, return, and death

French: continue chp 7 to p. 51: Philip and Richard, former friends, now enemies --Siege of Acre, 1191

Week Four 
English: pages 154-top of 159 John and Arthur (begin chart of the 13th century)
What Charters Were, and How They Were Won

French: continue chp 7, to p. 53: conquest of Normandy, 1204; John loses other territories

Week Five 
English: pages 159-164 The Sealing of the Great Charter (signing at Runnymede, 1215)
What the Great Charter did for Englishmen

French: continue chp. 7, to p. 55: Albigensian war; crusade led by Simon de Montfort. Influence of St. Dominic.

Week Six 
English: pages 165-top of 172 The Judges of Assize (travelling courts)
Personal Liberty and Trial by Jury
How the Law Protects the Weak (Week Six, continued)

French: continue chp 7, to death of Philip, 1223.
Chapter 8, to p. 60: Louis VIII (short) and begin Louis IX (St Louis, king 1226-1270)

Week Seven
English: pages 172-180 Magna Charta and the Seamstress (example of law protecting property)
"Things New and Old" : question of whether laws become outdated
Famous Fifteen (trick for memorizing particular dates)
Henry III (kiing 1216-1272) and his Foreign Friends (Simon de Montfort, his brother-in-law)

French: Continue chp 8 to p. 66, story of St. Louis. Also read from de Joinville. (First Crusade of St. Louis, 1248-1254)

Week Eight
English: pages (bottom of) 180-186 Laws and Law-makers : the House of Commons
The First Parliament -- "Mad Parliament"
The Fall of Montfort (battle), 1265

French: Finish chp 8, the Second Crusade of St. Louis, 1270. Also read from de Joinville.

Week Nine
English/Welsh: pages 187-194 (first half) Edward I (king 1272-1307) : England at War
The Breaking of Wales - death of Llewelyn 1282

French: Read half of chp IX, The Flemish Wars.

Week Ten
English/Scottish: pages 194 (bottom half)-203 Scotland : "Over the Border" (description of Scotland, more about Edward)
The Fight for the Scottish Crown - 1296, William Wallace (d. 1305); "Edward's death saved Scotland"
Edward II (king 1307-1327)  "The Making of Scotland"

French: Finish chp IX, The Flemish Wars 1298-1302. If time, begin chp X.

Week Eleven 
English/Scottish: pages 204-208 (Bannockburn, 1314) PLUS begin "The Rise of Robert of the Bruce" in Tales of a Grandfather

French: Read half of chp X, to page 80, mostly about Philip IV and Pope Boniface VIII. The Estates-General, 1302.

Week Twelve
English/Scottish: Finish "The Rise of Robert of the Bruce" in Tales of a Grandfather (the book will be continued next term).

French: Finish chp X. Persecution of the Templars; death of Philip in 1314; the last Capetian kings. 

School plans for today (Dollygirl's Grade Seven)

This week we began Term Three of Grade Seven.  We're experimenting again with some new (new to Dollygirl) resources, so in most cases I can't say yet "this is working great" or not.  So far penmanship (Fix it...Write) has gone fine, but Saxon math has caused a bit of tooth grinding.

Here's what's in the workboxes for today (our workboxes are mostly plastic magazine holders):

Bible:  Book of Numbers, reading together.

English History:  Introduction to Henry II and Thomas a Becket.  A few minutes for the Book of Centuries.

Poetry reading.

Online map drills using the Seterra website.

Penmanship lesson.

Shakespeare's King John (first time we have done this one)

Saxon Algebra 1/2:  continue working on problem set 38.

Easy Grammar Plus workpage on nouns

French lesson

Natural History:  start reading The Spring of the Year.  Go outside if possible, and make notes or draw something in your nature notebook.

A preposition funny (Dollygirl's Grade Seven)

For French right now we are reading through a very short library book called Attention, dragon!, by Amelie Cantin.  The book uses several different prepositions, so I thought it would be good to review them by singing a little song I learned somewhere along the line.


The problem was that we had no Internet and i had no way of looking up the right words.  So I just tried my best.  I remembered this much (to the tune of London Bridge):  Sur, sous, dans, devant, derrière, devant, derrière, devant, derrière.  Sur, sous, dans, devant, derrière.  A côté de...

And there I was stuck.  "A côté de" means beside something.  I could not remember how the last line ended and what we were supposed to be beside.  I assumed it rhymed with derrière, so that gave me a choice of "le père," (the father), "ma mère," (my mother), un ver (a worm), la terre (the earth), or la mer (the sea).  I figured that being beside the sea was logical, so we went with that.  We sang "beside the sea" for two days.

Then we got back online and I thought it wouldn't hurt to check.  Do you know what the last line is?  ""A côté de."  That's it, that's all.  You stretch it out.  How unimaginative.  I prefer the sea, or even the worm.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

How to get good and excited about two chapters of science (Dollygirl's Grade Seven)

Yes, we are still using Exploring Creation With General Science (Apologia, first edition) this school year. When The Apprentice did this book about ten years ago, I had her do the study guides and the tests.  With Dollygirl I think we have done one or two of the tests, but that was it.  I am more interested in having her pick up the big ideas in the book than memorize every component of DNA.  We also don't do a lot of the experiments, either because it's the wrong season, we don't have the stuff, or it just doesn't seem worthwhile because you can figure out ahead of time exactly what's going to happen.  You know that if you leave a jar of chicken broth on the counter for a couple of days, it's going to get all cloudy and gross.  We would rather eat the chicken broth first and just imagine the rest.

I also find one particular thing irritating about this volume, and I don't know if it's been improved in later editions: it could have used some editing to take out a large amount of repetition, and also the too-frequent phrase "You'll learn more about this when you take Biology."  That pops up about as often as references to Mr. Pipes' wiggling eyebrows in Douglas Bond's books, and if you don't get that, never mind.

However, there is one thing I do like about the book, and it's one of the main reasons we're using it.  It encourages the "science of relations."  One topic works its way into another one, just like real life.  It's a bit like Charles Kingsley's Madam How and Lady Why in that way; in Kingsley, a conversation can start with a rock on the ground, and end up talking about prehistoric oceans and sea life.  In this book, we were talking about geology in Module (Chapter) 6, which led to fossils in Modules 7 and 8, and because fossils had to come from living things, that led to the question "What is Life?" in Module 9, and then classification in Module 10.  Both of those modules kept coming back to the question of cells: cells that did not have organelles but did have DNA (Monera), animal cells with organelles, plant cells with organelles; and then the idea that "all life forms have a method by which they take energy from the surroundings and convert it into energy that helps them live."  Every living body makes food from something else.  And the big word that's coming up is:  COMBUSTION.

Well, before that, we do have to get through some basic human body components: bones, muscles and skin.  The chapter compares our physiology to that of other organisms.  But then we get into Module 12: Energy and Life.  How do organisms get their energy from food?  Didn't you always want to know that?  Isn't that more relevant than ever in these days of trying to force fast-food restaurants to post the calorie counts of milkshakes and burgers?  What actually gets burned for energy?  There's a discussion of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, and our basal metabolic rate...and all this combustion happens within the cell.  Does that amaze you, get you excited to think about how this is more than just a lesson on digestion?

We are, as we've been told, fearfully and wonderfully made.  If any science book, textbook-shaped or not, can get that idea across, I am content.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Charlotte Mason and the Not-Just-Reading Challenge, Part Two

(Part One is here.)

Even when looking at the few samples we have of actual Parents' Union School timetables, the "what you do when and how" question looms....

People talking about Charlotte Mason's philosophy of education sometimes use the word organic.
Yes, organic does mean natural, real, of living things, not artificial.

But another definition is "consisting of different parts that all fit together well." Different organs, working together to make a functioning whole. Yet another is "happening or developing in a natural and continuous process."  

And the word that seems to fit in right after that is "holistic."   The idea that the total effectiveness of a group of things each interacting with one another is different or greater than their effectiveness when acting in isolation from one another.  The whole philosophical and educational package, made up of many small lessons over many days, multiple terms, a number of years, turns out to have a greater meaning and value than we could have forseen.
'Open, Sesame.'––I think we should have a great educational revolution once we ceased to regard ourselves as assortments of so-called faculties, and realised ourselves as persons whose great business it is to get in touch with other persons of all sorts and condition; of all countries and climes, of all times, past and present. History would become entrancing, literature a magic mirror for the discovery of other minds, the study of sociology a duty and a delight. We should tend to become responsive and wise, humble and reverent, recognising the duties and the joys of the full human life. We cannot of course overtake such a programme of work, but we can keep it in view; and I suppose every life is moulded upon its ideal. ~~ Charlotte Mason, School Education
Many living books.  Many ideas.  Many glimpses of the divine, of Eternity, of something beyond ourselves. ("God Sightings.")

And, unfortunately or fortunately (I think fortunately), it's impossible to program all that ahead of time, because we're not programmable beings.

We can plan books, do a little research ahead of time, think of good "narration prompts."  But we can't always predict where it's going to take us.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

I spent Saturday in a large room

Have you ever read this 2011 post on the Childlight USA website?
The "Large Room" CM community described by Sandy Rusby Bell is still very much alive, and its leaders took time out today to show-and-tell how it works to a very eager group of Ontario moms.
I wound up going at the last minute, and I mean the very last minute.  But I'm glad I did.
(You do not want to mess with those black locust thorns.)

Friday, March 14, 2014

Charlotte Mason and the not-just-reading challenge, Part One

Even when looking at the few samples we have of actual Parents' Union School timetables, the "what you do when and how" question looms; there's a large gap between a term programme that gives a certain number of pages to be read, plus suggestions for notebook keeping or related work, and then seeing twenty or forty minutes on a timetable simply labelled "Writing" or "Botany."  In a group or classroom situation where everyone is listening to the same story and then taking turns narrating, or exploring the same patch of ground and then getting out their nature notebooks to write and draw, the advantage of numbers may fill in the gap naturally.  But if you are teaching or caring for several children who are working at different levels, how do you fit everybody's work and play time together?  And if you are teaching only one, especially a naturally sociable one, how do you provide an atmosphere that motivates?

Are older students supposed to handle the timetable themselves, including the extra work needed to make each subject really come to life, plus the clock-watching needed to keep on "schedule?"  Do we show them what needs to be done, and simply trust them to get down to business, everything completed by the end of the day or the week? Or do we micro-manage, set timers for everything and refuse to let them write or discuss anything past the buzzer?  If we use daily or weekly checklists to help students stay on track, do we again just write in "Botany?"  Or do we we pre-write or email or verbally tell them everything they're going to need to know and to do?  Where does our direction or authority meet their need for the "meeting of minds," their time for (very necessary) choice and personal response?

Finally, are there situations where a CM-style timetable, 20 minutes of this on Monday, 30 minutes of that on Tuesday, wash your hands and the school day is done, just does not work?  I notice, for instance, that on an early PUS timetable for Form III, there is no mention of music study or picture talk; there is very little time given for reading literature; and there is no in-class time for anything in the "work" category--handicrafts, home skills and so on.  Presumably all this, including the "evening and holiday reading," would have been part of the afternoon's work, and where there were interested teachers and Guide leaders to direct those crafts and nature walks, that would have worked quite well.  But in our particular home situation, perhaps like Jeanne's, we find that some of the variety in our school day comes from mixing desk work or book lessons with a kitchen project, a short walk, or a bit of handwork done while listening to a reading.  And when school time is "done" for the day, there is resistance to reading yet another book with Mom or "for" Mom (even a not-school book), or doing something that might turn up on an examination.  For us, those "extras" (very important extras) have to be worked in as part of the school day, not left for the tail end, if they're going to happen at all.

If we are educating lifelong learners, if education is an atmosphere and a life, then we do need to make "school" a part of the life that we have, and that may mean a life with several children and multiple interruptions, or with one child and the need to keep things interesting when others aren't around.  It may mean a busy farm life or mission field life or travelling life, or life with other challenges such as chronic illness. (You can add your own variations to those.) Yes, a predictable schedule is preferable to a when-we-can one; education is a discipline, too; but we may find that our own version of "predictable" might work better than someone else's--even the PUS's.

Your thoughts?

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Charlotte Mason and Wide Open Spaces

"Ultimately, the blank page makes us examine our thoughts for metacognition, and intrinsically, it insists upon space and time for learning." ~~ Laurie Bestvater, The Living Page

I've learned so many new words lately.  From going to free lunchtime concerts, I've learned quodlibet. From doing newspaper crosswords, I've added "olio" (a mixture of things) and "ana" (a miscellaneous collection of information). And while rereading Laurie Bestvater's chapter "The Grand Invitation," I had to look up "metacognition."

Metacognition is knowing about knowing, or thinking about thinking, or noticing that we are noticing.  So how does a blank page (in a notebook) make us examine our thoughts for metacognition?  Laurie says it's because it forces us to stop before we start.

It's like the difference between me grabbing a pencil and trying to fill in crossword blanks as quickly as I can, scanning for a few easy or obvious definitions that will get the thing moving, and facing a diagramless puzzle that begins with a blank grid and doesn't even tell you where to start.  You can't cherry-pick the easy bits on an empty grid, or on a blank page.
(not my puzzle--I found this one online)
But the advantage, rather than just the fearsome aspect, of a blank page is that it gives you space to learn. Laurie says (page 65) that it insists on it.  If our children should learn to run and climb and do all those gross-motor things that Charlotte Mason encouraged and that we're now finding out actually put little bodies in right relationship with the planet--that is, if we must find ways to give them physical space and let them find out what they can do in it--doesn't the same thing apply to other areas of learning?

Narration begins with silence. Silence, like blank pages, or a tree to climb, can be disconcerting.

One of my children was once handed a cassette recorder and sent off  to record some examination answers. In an attempt to cover up the fact that she couldn't remember anything about one particular story, she recorded a few words and then gave us several minutes of feigned static, via some noisy crinkling paper. The cassette recorder had inexplicably developed technical trouble.  And I believed it, for about twenty seconds.

But often it's the adults who don't welcome large spaces, white pages, silences.  There is some risk involved with these things.  Multiple-choice questions give you a defined start, a fixed stop, and, if they're to be computer-answered, you had better not colour outside the little circles.

It's a bit like imagining ourselves flying through the air, or sailing over the sea, or galloping across an open field, vs. staying on the footpath.  Yes, there are lots of places where habit and duty and reason make life easier.  Some things just have to be roads, rails, and structure, and that's a good thing too.  But here we're talking about giving our students' minds room to stretch, play, run, and fly.
"Mr. Quimby set his cup down. 'I have a great idea! Let's draw the longest picture in the world.' He opened a drawer and pulled out a roll of shelf paper....Together she and her father unrolled the paper across the kitchen and knelt with a box of crayons between them.
'What shall we draw?' she asked.
'How about the state of Oregon?' he suggested. "That's big enough.'
Ramona's imagination was excited. 'I'll begin with the Interstate Bridge,' she said.
'And I'll tackle Mount Hood,' said her father....
Ramona glanced at her father's picture, and sure enough he had drawn Mount Hood peaked with a hump on the south side exactly the way it looked in real life on the days when the clouds lifted." ~~ Beverly Cleary, Ramona and her Father
Linked from The Living Page Discussion #5 at Wildflowers and Marbles. 

Monday, March 10, 2014

To do my duty (Charlotte Mason and Moral Training)


A very long time ago I belonged to the Girl Guides of Canada.  I was a Brownie,  then a Guide, then a Pathfinder.  In those days we did a lot of singing and marching (Charlotte Mason would have called it drill).

We also did a lot of vowing and promising.

The Brownies promised "to do my best, to do my duty to God, the Queen and my country, to help other people every day, especially those at home." Guides jacked it up to "help other people at all times and obey the Guide Law," which started "A Guide's honour is to be trusted."
A Brownie was expected to be "cheerful and obedient" and to "think of other people before herself."  Kind of the Proverbs 31 Lady of Browniedom. Which didn't mean that we weren't awfully silly at times, but still we were given an ideal. We tried to get along with each other, we folded the flag properly, we helped wash the dishes, and we didn't litter.
(Yeah, that's me in the knee socks.)
Duty, obedience, patriotism, respect for others' rights and property: right out of the Common Law, as Uncle Eric would say; or right out of Charlotte Mason's writings on topics like Duty and Moral Training.

"High Ideals.––It is time we set ourselves seriously to this work of moral education which is to be done, most of all, by presenting the children with high ideals. 'Lives of great men all remind us we can make our lives sublime,' and the study of the lives of great men and of the great moments in the lives of smaller men is most wonderfully inspiring to children, especially when they perceive the strenuousness of the childhood out of which a noble manhood has evolved itself. As one grows older no truth strikes one more than that 'the child is father to the man.' It is amazing how many people of one's own acquaintance have fulfilled the dreams of their childhood and early youth, and have had their days indeed bound each to each in natural piety." 
"Virtues in which Children should be Trained.––One more point: parents should take pains to have their own thoughts clear as to the manner of virtues they want their children to develop. Candour, fortitude, temperance, patience, meekness, courage, generosity, indeed the whole role of the virtues, would be stimulating subjects for thought and teaching, offering ample illustrations."
"We know what is required of us, and that the requirements are never arbitrary, but necessary in the nature of things, both for the moral government of the world and to gratify the unquenchable desire of every human soul to rise into a higher state of being." ~~ Charlotte Mason

Friday, March 07, 2014

Frugal Finds and Fixes: The Apprentice Does the Math

In this edition of "Frugal Finds and Fixes," we interview our resident university student, The Apprentice.  

Mama Squirrel:  You are a busy full-time student, and a lot of money-saving things (the housekeeping, cooking kind) take time. You also have the problem of limited/shared space. How do you manage to do all that and stay sane?

Apprentice:  You're right, a lot of money-saving things do take time. To be honest, I'm definitely no Amy Dacyczyn. I do what I can, but am fine with spending a bit more money to save time or frustration..

One of the biggest examples of this is my living situation. Last year I was living in a student house with five other students. This year I've moved to an apartment shared with two people. The rent and utilities are significantly higher, but the advantages I have living here are worth the money. I have an above-ground room, quiet study space, and a large kitchen with tons of cupboards and a full-size fridge. I'm also closer to school. This living situation is more conducive to sleeping, studying, cooking, and travelling to school from, which are what my house is for! For me, frugality isn't about spending less money, it's about getting the most out of the money you do spend.

A smaller-scale example is food. I really like cooking, but often coming home after a late class I can be fairly tired and not feel like cooking. I know I could spend less on food, but having a few convenience foods around for a quick dinner is still cheaper than eating out when I don't feel like cooking. Yesterday I bought 2 kg of chicken fingers for $10, which will last me for many many meals and costs the same as going to a restaurant and ordering chicken tenders once. I do cook actual healthy meals most of the time, but the point I'm trying to make is that there are less frugal things and more frugal things that you can do. Both of them will save you money compared to a non-frugal thing like eating out.

At the same time, I certainly try to use frugal strategies that take a little (but not too much) time. Examples include baking my own treats, taking lunches and snacks to school, and fixing things that break. What I'd recommend most though are frugal strategies that don't really have a time element to them, just frugal thought. Since I was little I've learned that store brands are just as good as name brands, just without a fancier package. You can find clothes and household items at the thrift store for a tenth of the price, sometimes even new with tags. Textbooks are cheaper bought used from another student, and when the next year I just sell them to someone else and make most if not all of my money back. Taking a walk or bike ride outside costs much less than a gym membership.

Entertainment is a tricky category. It depends on what you like to do. Lots of activities have lower-priced alternatives, but those alternatives are not really the same thing, so it may be worth it to you to spend the extra money if that's something you really want to do. Going out to a movie and watching a movie at home are both fun, but a different experience. There are lots of free concerts and music festivals, but if you want to see a big name artist, you'll have to pay the big money for a ticket. Staying in is always cheaper than going out, but don't let that limit you every time.

Mama Squirrel:  What have you learned since being on your own that you didn't know before?

Apprentice:   Honestly a lot of the things that I do now are things that I picked up growing up, it's just that I didn't need to apply them until I started living on my own. I've tagged along with my parents at all sorts of activities, and helped out a lot at home: I often surprise myself by just doing something I didn't even know I knew how to do. I can pick out a cut of meat at the store, paint a room, bake a birthday cake, and build furniture. None of these things were something I had ever done on my own until I had to, but the knowledge was there and I just had to retrieve it.

Mama Squirrel: Any advice for the young and frugal?

Apprentice:  If there's something you don't know how to do, websites like eHow are incredibly useful. Even just Googling "what temperature bake turkey legs" will help you out a lot.

Definitely make smart choices at the store. If you're not much of a cook, that's okay. But buying a case of drinks, box of cereal and some lunch supplies will save you hundreds of dollars even if you're still eating out for dinner. A 500mL bottle of pop out of a vending machine costs about $2.50 around here, whereas cases frequently go on sale for $3, which works out to 25 cents a 355mL can. That's $5/L versus 70 cents/L. A box of cereal and litre of milk will give you breakfast for over a week for $6 or so. Buying store brand will save you even more.

Mama Squirrel:  Thanks, Apprentice!

"Mom, who is that strange man hiding in the corner of the basement?"

Some unintentional humour in a radio ad we heard today:  a local furnace company promises that they will stand behind their product for at least a year.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Things we did for school today, and a Dollygirl photo link

Just another (cold) homeschool Tuesday?

Well, it is Shrove Tuesday so we had pancakes and sausage and strawberries (thawed ones) for dinner.

But oh yes, school.

We sang John Bunyan's "pilgrim" hymn "He Who Would Valiant Be.". I asked Dollygirl to define a pilgrim; she suggested "an adventurer."

We read about "Prudence" in Charlotte Mason's Ourselves.  Alexander the Great scolded his men for their post-victory indulgent, excessive lifestyle.  Some of them apparently even had special mud shipped in to rub themselves with (beauty or health treatment, I'm not sure which).
Anyway, Alexander warned them that too much leisure and self-indulgence can bring its own form of enslavement.  Which is a timely thought since Lent starts tomorrow.

Dollygirl read about pilgrimages from a Reader's Digest book of Bible history. (That wasn't planned to go with the hymn--just serendipity.)

Dollygirl dd two of the hardest-type Gauss math problems, and got them both right, earning herself an early "morning recess."

After the break we moved upstairs where it was warmer.  Dollygirl checked the progress of a weeklong science experiment (does yeast make things decompose faster?), and then we studied two pages about cell structure and organelles in the Usborne Illustrated Dictionary of Science.

We read a poem about wild horses, and most of a cheerful chapter (for once) in The Return of the King.  (Book VI, Chapter Four.). After all that gloom-and-Mount-Doom for pages and pages, people and hobbits and wizards are back together and singing happy songs.  I can't explain exactly why I liked this chapter so much; it felt a bit like the last parts of The Last Battle, when the children finally get into the New Narnia.  Frodo's friend Sam says, "but then I thought I was dead myself.  Is everything sad going to come untrue?" I like that.

After lunch, Dollygirl did map questions on a map of Ukraine.  She also read a description of teaching English in a Ukrainian school, an essay I found online.  Charlotte Mason says that students should be aware of "places coming into the news," so that's what we're doing.

She also finished the "verb review" section of Easy Grammar Plus, and had a chapter to read in Watership Down.

Later in the afternoon she watched The Magic Schoolbus (her choice, not assigned), and I helped her just a bit with the dress she is making for a dollhouse-sized doll.  

And that's about it.  How was your day?

P.S.  Here's Dollygirl's newest photo story: "The Dollscars."