Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Alexander the Great...


We wrapped up Ruben's study of Greece with Alexander the Great by John Gunther. This classic Landmark book was a fabulous read. I was very intrigued when Gunther mentioned Plutarch as a source throughout. It made me want to further our study by reading Plutarch, which is something I've noted for future studies.

Was Alexander, in deed, great? Alexander was charming and intelligent. Around age fourteen, he tamed a wild horse that no one else could master. He was tutored by Aristotle until the age of sixteen. Alexander was a strong leader. He conquered what was nearly the entire world in his time. However, as Gunther points out, Alexander couldn't conquer himself. He was full of pride and at times, considered himself a god. Alexander was quick to anger and in one of his outbursts, he killed his best friend, which he much regretted later. Alexander became a drunkard and eventually "turned into a maniac."
Alexander's end was that of a man who, for good reasons or bad, had conquered almost the entire world, but who had never been able to conquer himself. The conquest of self is the greatest victory of all, but Alexander even when he was at the height of his power had never been able to achieve it. (Chapter 19)
Alexander's pride went before his fall. After a celebratory feast, at which he indulged and drank all night, he developed a cold and high fever. In less than two weeks, he died at the young age of thirty-two after reigning for twelve years.  Alexander never mastered self-governance, which according to Gunther, "is the greatest victory of all."  In the end, one is left to argue that maybe Alexander was not that great.

Alexander the Great by John Gunther has more recently been republished by Sterling in a paperback form. It is a suggested read in Heart of Dakota's Creation to Christ and TruthQuest History,.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Weekly Reflections - Week Twenty-Three...


At Home

Riley and Ruben are finishing up archery this week. They signed up through 4-H and had a blast. Today Ruben moves on to air rifle and Riley's signing up for softball. It looks to be another busy spring ahead.

Speaking of spring, it was in the 50's yesterday!  This is very abnormal for February in WI, but hey, we'll take it! The whole next week looks to be much above normal average temperatures.

Regarding academics, Ruben finished up Greece this week so we're moving on to Rome.  I think we are going to join in on Riley's Beautiful Feet study. Three of the HOD Creation to Christ books are the same as BF's and I really like the BF history guide better. I'll be working out a plan over the next couple of days and will post when it all comes together.

Around the Web

I enjoyed Lisa Kelly's Thoughts on "Children's Books". Be sure to click the "Children's Books" link in the second paragraph. There is a delightful list at the end of the article!

Do you have the February blues? Mystie Winckler shares her Secret Weapon for Beating a Bad Attitude in our Homeschool.

Upon hearing Dr. Christopher Perrin speak at the CiRCE Regional Conference on The Monastery School, the topic of a domestic monastery came up in our CM Study Group. Afterward, one of our members sent us The Domestic Monastery, which I found interesting and have been contemplating since.

I've also been thinking a ton about Plutarch since two of the three books I'm reading aloud to Ruben have referenced his Parallel Lives this week. In Plutarch, Polio, and Philopoemen, Nancy Kelly shares a wonderful story and correspondence she received 7 years after meeting a classics professor while traveling.

Brandy hit it home this week in Are You Sabotaging Your Charlotte Mason Homeschool? It's so easy to get wrapped up in the curriculum and lose sight of our goal, but herein lies perspective.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Why I've Decided Against a Reading Challenge This Year...

I've participated in the Back to the Classics reading challenge for the past couple of years, which has become an extremely popular venture. One year, I even took the Chunkster Challenge. However, this year, I've decided against online reading challenges and here's why.

The first year, it was fun. Coming back to classic literature was so rewarding and being bound by a challenge brought accountability. I couldn't wait to see how many categories I could read from. Oh, and the thought of winning an Amazon gift card simply for doing something I love was a bonus too.

The second year, things started to change. Being a homeschool mom, my personal reading time is limited. Since I was signed up for the challenge, I felt like I needed to spend the little time I had to read only on reading the classics in order to complete the challenge. Then I started to hear about Wendell Berry and a few other modern authors that I wanted to try, but since they didn't fit the challenge and my time was finite, it seemed like an impossibility. I started to put restrictions on myself and my reading, which led me to grow bitter. I even restricted my kids because if the book I was reading to them didn't fit the challenge, it wasn't happening. Truth be told, I was actually reading less because reading had become a burden and a chore.

Because of the spiritual warfare in my mind, I was already on the fence about joining another reading challenge this year. Then I heard Brian Phillips speak on Listening for Echoes: On Right and Wrong Reading Habits at the CiRCE Conference and it confirmed all that my mind was wrestling with. Below are a few notes I jotted down during his break-out session...

  • You will never get through your reading list.
  • You will never have enough time to read.
  • You will not have enough money to buy all the books you want to.
  • The more you read, the more there is to read. 
  • It's OK to read purely for enjoyment. 
  • It's OK to eat junk periodically as long as you admit what it is and sharpen your tastes. 
  • You can read through the right books in the wrong way. 
  • Make time to read everyday. You don't have to feel guilty. Feed your soul. 
  • Read and delight in what you are reading. 

After contemplating on these thoughts for the past month, I have decided against participating in an online reading challenge this year. Life is short and in this season my time is short. Therefore, I will not be shackled to someone else's ideally categorized list. I have enough book lists of my own. I love to read...and I love to read classics! I will continue with Homer and Augustine, Shakespeare and Plutarch, Dickens, Austen, and Bronte, but I will also throw in a little Wendell Berry and the like as I see fit. My chains are broken. I have been set free. The list of reading possibilities this year is endless and knows no bounds. I'm very excited about the prospect. It feels good!

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Valentine's Day Quotes From My Commonplace....



....when you love someone, you love the whole person, as they are, and not as you'd like them to be. -- Anna Karenina

...where love stops, hatred begins.  -- Anna Karenina


Monday, February 13, 2017

Reflections from Consider This - Chapter Six....



In keeping on with our study of Consider This, Charlotte Mason and the Classical Tradition by Karen Glass, let's turn to Chapter Six, 'Drawing the Circle Closed'. Chapter Six is very short. Here Glass draws a circle based on her ideas presented in Chapters Three, Four, and Five. It was somewhat of a review of former chapters in what appears to be an attempt to connect the dots.

In Chapter Three, we learned that classical educators didn't separate character training from academics. Glass asserts that knowledge transformed into action becomes virtue.

In Chapter Four, Glass shows us that one must be humble in order to be teachable. This idea of humility aligns with Charlotte Mason's Principle 3.

In Chapter Five, we begin the study of was Glass has termed, 'synthetic thinking', which is based on Charlotte's writings. Basically, synthetic thinking is developing what Charlotte calls the 'Science of Relations' in her Principle 12.

circle

In Chapter Six, Glass states,
These three things - pursuit of virtue, humility, and synthetic thinking that motivates to right action - form a complete circle that is the essence, the heart of what motivated the classical educators. We might call it the "classical ideal." It is a pivot, or the hub around which all classical educational methods revolve. (Ch. 6, p. 47)
It appears that Glass has reduced classical education to three elements, virtue, humility, and synthetic thinking. She then pulls from Charlotte Mason's philosophy to mesh her ideas with these three elements. I'm interested to see what Glass has in store for the second half of Consider This and whether or not she can close the gap between Classical Tradition and a Charlotte Mason education.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Weekly Reflections - Week Twenty-Two....

At Home

It was cold outside this week here on Drywood Creek as the kids were inside fighting head colds. They were supposed to sing last Sunday in church, but when Levi woke at 5:00 a.m. throwing up, the plans changed. Thankfully, everyone was feeling some better for our Middle School Book Club on Wed, in which we discussed Call of the Wild by Jack London. Stay tuned for a future post.

Last night, our CM Study Group met to discuss the final chapters of Consider This by Karen Glass. I'll be posting more about the second half of the book in the near future as well.

Around the Web

This week Brandy shared The Best Kept Secret of Homeschooling. Did I ever tell you I homeschool just as much for my sake as the sake of my children ;-)

The Answer to the #1 Question Homeschoolers Ask Me may surprise you.  It did me, but it shouldn't have since it's a question on my mind. You can listen here if you don't have time to read. 

Yesterday, I listened to Schole Sisters Podcast 7, Virtual Scholé Sisters Groups and Technology Tools. I'm not very techy, but Brandy and Amber presented some wonderful ideas for finding your sisters online. 

In Fashion


I pretty much live in jeans. I am 5'6", which is about average height here in the U.S., but for some reason it seems jeans come with a length more suited to 6' women. Sometimes I roll the bottom over, which I know is not very fashionable, but the alternative of tripping and breaking my neck doesn't sound fashionable either. So recently, I decided to attempt shortening my jeans. 

Now, I don't know a ton about sewing so my method may seem a bit crude to the experienced seamstress. However, it worked and only took me about an hour to finish five pair. First, I found a pair of jeans that was the right length. Next, I laid them on top of a pair that was too long, being careful to line them up at the waist and crotch. From there, I cut the bottom of the longer pair off, leaving about 1/2 to 3/4" hemline. No, I didn't measure anything. I simply eye balled it. 

 
Next, I folded the bottom under to line up with the foot of my sewing machine. This helped me guide the pant leg through evenly since I wasn't measuring anything. After the first pair, I did realize it was much easier to pin the pant leg under before sewing. This took a bit of time, but saved a whole lot of headache. 



See Melissa concentrate, ha!...Ruben was taking pictures as I was sewing. I should note, I chose my least favorite pair of jeans to sew first in case my experiment went astray. Thankfully, it was a success and I was able to add five pair of pants to my wardrobe that are actually now the right length!  See the variation of lengths that I cut off...




I know many people are able to buy jeans from the store the right length or have them professionally altered. However, we live on a fixed income and all our clothes are second hand, bought from thrift shops and thrift sales. I usually go for fit around the waist and hips as well as comfort, not worrying about length. I typically spend anywhere from $1 to $8 on jeans, most of which are name brand. Finally being able to hem them myself is very gratifying and it really wasn't that hard. Best of all, if I wouldn't have told you, you would have never noticed :)

Friday, February 10, 2017

Thoughts on Preschool and an Update....

At mid year, a few weeks ago, I posted reviews on Riley's Beautiful Feet Ancient History study and Ruben's HOD Creation to Christ study. Today, I'm going to share a bit about what we've been doing for Preschool (4K) with Levi.

The longer I homeschool, parent, and live life in general, the more I've come to realize better late than early is best. I have not read Raymond and Dorothy Moore's book because I've been unable to obtain a copy, but I'm willing to bet I'd be in agreement with much of what they have to say. I can now see areas where I pushed my other kids too early with tragic results, after all, hind sight is 20/20.

Preschool is a time for play. I don't believe in scheduling early childhood. Instead, reading good books, hands on activities, and time in nature are the way we spend our days. Because Levi asked and wanted to participate with the older kids, I did give him new supplies such as colored pencils, crayons, markers, scissors, paper, coloring books, etc, at the beginning of the school year. We keep a stack of scrap paper in our school room, which is basically any one sided page that is no longer needed. This comes in handy for cutting, drawing pictures, math scrap paper, etc. and it is used by all the kids.



In addition, I collected oodles of items at thrift sales in the past to create what I call 'time occupying totes'. We keep these totes off to the side in our school room and Levi can play with them anytime throughout the day, provided he plays quietly if I'm working with one of the other kids. These have been a life saver for me and Levi loves them! The totes contain things like Lauri Dot-2-Dot Lacing CardsPlay-Doh with design supplies; Wikki-Stix; a variety of Lauri and wooden puzzles, including shapes, right/left hand, letters, and numbers; Discovery Toys Playful Patterns; and Lakeshore Craft Scissors.





Aside from the totes, we have many puzzles, flannel board stories and fraction pieces, wooden blocks, an abacus, tangrams, and other math manipulatives that he plays with. Again, these are not scheduled and I don't have lesson plans. Instead, Levi simply chooses something, sits down and quietly explores on his own while I'm working with the other kids.




Over and above this, we read a plethora of picture books and he plays outside pretty much daily.  More recently, Levi has been asking to participate with the other kids in their assignments, particularly Ruben. When Ruben is narrating, Levi asks for a turn to try. When Ruben is coloring, Levi colors. When Ruben illustrates his poetry, Levi creates an illustration, and so on and so forth. It's interesting to see him acquire a desire for learning as he watches us in the day to day.

Preschool shouldn't be structured with busy work and lesson plans. This will lead to burnout for both you and your student. Keep it simple. Create a love of learning by allowing exploration and imagination to happen. There will be a time and place for intentional reading and math lessons, but preschool is not it!

By the way, I did buy Before Five in a Row, intending to use it with Levi this year, but after trying it, I've decided to simply read and enjoy the books, rather than do all the planned activities.



Monday, February 6, 2017

Reflections from Consider This - Chapter Five...



Chapter Five of Consider This, Charlotte Mason and the Classical Tradition by Karen Glass is connected to Charlotte's Principle 12, which says,..
We, believing that the normal child has powers of mind which fit him to deal with all knowledge proper to him, give him a full and generous curriculum, taking care only that all knowledge offered to him is vital, that is, that facts are not presented without their informing ideas. Out of this conception comes our principle that,–

"Education is the Science of Relations"; that is, that a child has natural relations with a vast number of things and thoughts: so we train him upon physical exercises, nature lore, handicrafts, science and art, and upon many living books, for we know that our business is not to teach him all about anything, but to help him to make valid as many as may be of--
"Those first-born affinities that fit our new existence to existing things."
I have a whole post on Principle 12 so I will not go too deeply here regarding Charlotte's meaning of it. Instead, I'd like to keep to the ideas presented in Chapter Five of Consider This. In the second paragraph of Chapter Five, Glass states,
The ancient thinkers were always looking for universal principles to explain the world. They did not always agree on the principles, but they did agree on one think - that the universe was orderly and understandable, and that all knowledge was interconnected...
A few paragraphs later, Glass further states,
This primary understanding of the unity of knowledge was recognized as a fundamental truth by later Christian educators who had the advantage of divine revelation. Knowing the Creator, they were easily able to place the classical understanding of universal principles within the context of Scripture, and to see that the universal principles were in fact instituted by God, who created the world as a place of order. 
So the universe is orderly making it understandable and Christian educators, knowing a creator, are able to place understanding in the context of Scripture.  We know that Charlotte was well read in these ancient thinkers. Glass asserts that [Charlotte] admired the complete conception of knowledge having its origin in God. Glass calls this "synthetic thinking". "Synthetic" in Greek is syn, meaning with, and thesis, meaning to set forth. Therefore, according to Glass, synthetic thinking is "to place things together" or to make connections or relationships, which comes back to Charlotte's "science of relations"

Glass says, synthetic thinking is the opposite of  "analytic thinking", which in Greek means to dissolve or take apart. She argues that analytic thinking should not be our primary way of teaching, particularly in the early years. Unfortunately, this is the type of teaching modern public schools use most in their textbook/workbook programs. Read a few paragraphs, answer some comprehension questions, true/false, fill-in-the-blank; then at the end of the chapter, complete a review section with more of the above type questions and some vocabulary words. Lastly, take a test and move on. Glass gives us a more in depth explanation on p. 38, using a history lesson as an example...
...A synthetic approach to history will tell us a continuing story, a comprehensive sequence of events with people, places, or dates included as needed. The story will show us people interacting with each other. There will be choices and consequences; causes and effects. There will be promises made and kept or made and broken. There will be places or events that give rise to determinations or provocations; there will be the whole gamut of human experience and emotion - love, passion, hatred, war, reconciliation. We will not learn everything at once, but will learn each lesson in its turn as part of a whole pageant of human experience. there will be continuity, connection, and, it is to be hoped, compassion and fellow feeling, because the people of history were real people exactly like ourselves. 
...When we analyze history, we break it down into quantifiable components...Lists of names, dates, or discrete events - an election won by this percentage, or the battle fought by this number on one side, and that number on the other. Dates, sequences, bare facts - this is all an analytical approach can tell us of history. 
Analytical thinking concerns itself with things that may be measured, or quantified in some way. Just as the "good taste" of the apple is lost when it is taken apart, so the less-easily-measured parts of knowledge, such as truth and beauty and goodness, are lost when information is isolated from its illuminating context.  
This is exactly a point I was trying to make when writing In Response to "The Perils of Teaching History Through Literature". Synthetic teaching allows the student to develop relationships. One of the best means to synthetic teaching is living books. Or, in keeping with the example of history, teaching history through literature, biographies, autobiographies, accurate historical fiction, and primary source documents. Allowing the student to see into the lives of our historical ancestors helps to build a bridge of understanding, with which comes knowledge.

Glass goes so far as to say, "Our modern system of beginning education with analytic thinking, and in fact of teaching analysis almost exclusively, deprives our children of synthetic thinking and prevents them from developing relationships with all areas of knowledge. They never have the chance to create their own connection to all the delightful knowledge in the universe, and yet this is what they need most, what classical education ought to give."  Glass calls us to revive synthetic thinking in our homeschools, saying, "synthesize first, analyze later."

On the other hand, don't misunderstand. Analytic thinking is not bad or wrong, but it shouldn't be the first line method of teaching. Let your students develop relationships with history, science, and math before dissecting them. Teach the whole, not in parts.

Interestingly, as an aside, while talking within our CM Study Group, one of the moms mentioned having a hard time with this idea of synthetic thinking simply because of the name. She related synthetic to being chemically processed or something made in a factory, man made, to imitate something in nature, rather than Glass's organic approach. 

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Weekly Reflections - Week Twenty-One...


At Home

The kids got puppies!  This was totally unplanned. We saw a local ad for these adorable critters and of course, once you take kids to see free puppies, the rest is history. These sisters were the last two available and have affectionately come to be know as Elsa and Anna.

Academics were as usual this week. We're nearing the end of our study of Greece. I started reading aloud Alexander the Great by John Gunther to Ruben. We are reading from the Landmark edition, but Gunther's history was also recently republished by Sterling. In addition, I see it's available on Audible as well. It's a great read so far!

Yesterday Riley, Ruben and I went to see a live musical adaptation of James and the Giant Peach. I was amazed by the costuming and the number of wardrobe changes. Several of the actors were fellow homeschoolers and they were spectacular. For a small time performance, it was a big time hit.

Around the Web

In which, Brian Phillips gives A List of Poems Every Young Man Should Know. This is an excellent list that I'm tagging for my boys.

In 8 Starters That Can Guide Conversation on Any Great Book, Joshua Leland gives great conversation starters with out leading the student in any sort of false comprehension test. If your older child (middle/high school) struggles with narration, I think this would be a wonderful tool to help them get started.

Joshua Gibbs gave me something to think about in A Classical Education Is Not About Being Saved, But Being Good.  I'm still pondering this one.

Over the next month, I'm going to try recipes from 12 Mind-Blowing Ways To Cook Meat In Your Crockpot. I've been using my crockpot more lately and liking it!

While in KY, I looked at Early Sacred Music by Professor Carol. I've since been trying to decide whether to use it next year or wait until our third and final pass through history, which will be in high school. I'd love to hear feedback from anyone who's used her courses.





Monday, January 30, 2017

In Response to "The Perils of Teaching History Through Literature"...

Last week, I read The Perils of Teaching History Through Literature, written by John De Gree. The article was posted on The Hovel, Center for Lit's blog.  I don't normally write responses to other blog posts, however, after a week's time, I'm struggling to get this out of my mind. I would like to take this opportunity to share some thoughts on teaching history through literature. Go read The Perils of Teaching History Through Literature and come back. I'll wait :)

First, I must confess after traveling to a variety of homeschool conventions and networking with thousands of homeschooling families both in person and online, I have never encountered a homeschool family who has used Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell to teach history. I believe Mr. De Gree's example of teaching history through literature using Gone with the Wind was an exaggeration to make his point. Mr. De Gree did make a good argument against the use of Gone with the Wind and had it stopped there, I would not be writing this post. However, his final blanket sentence in paragraph one gave me much food for thought.
"However, any novel could be used to show what is wrong with teaching fiction as if it were fact."
I couldn't disagree more!  Homer's Iliad and Odyssey, The Aeneid, the bible, Herodotus' Histories, History of the Peloponnesian War, Gilgamesh, Beowulf, Augustine's Confessions, and Plutarchs' Lives, are a few pieces of literature that come to mind when I think of teaching history through literature. As a matter of fact, I believe literature, biographies, autobiographies, historical fiction, and primary source documents are the best way to teach history, not textbooks. Historically speaking, epics, poems, parables, and stories have been passed down for generations. The first histories were all in story form often told by traveling minstrels. These stories brought people knowledge of the past.

Now let us turn to Charlotte Mason who said,
...the study of Literature goes pari passu with that of History. (A Philosophy of Education, Vol. 6, pg. 180)
I do not know better how to describe the sort of books that children's minds will consent to deal with than by saying that they must be literary in character. (A Philosophy of Education, Vol. 6, pg. 248)
Literature is hardly a distinct subject, so closely is it associated with history, whether general or English; and whether it be contemporary or merely illustrative; and it is astonishing how much learning children acquire when the thought of an a age is made to synchronize with its political and social developments. (A Philosophy of Education, Vol. 6, pg. 274)
The fatal mistake is in the notion that he must learn 'outlines,' or a baby edition of the whole history of England, or of Rome, just as he must cover the geography of all the world. Let him, on the contrary, linger pleasantly over the history of a single man, a short period, until he thinks the thoughts of that man, is at home in the ways of that period. Though he is reading and thinking of the lifetime of a single man, he is really getting intimately acquainted with the history of a whole nation for a whole age. Let him spend a year of happy intimacy with Alfred, 'the truth-teller,' with the Conqueror, with Richard and Saladin, or with Henry V.––Shakespeare's Henry V.––and his victorious army. Let him know the great people and the common people, the ways of the court and of the crowd. Let him know what other nations were doing while we at home were doing thus and thus. If he come to think that the people of another age were truer, larger-hearted, simpler-minded than ourselves, that the people of some other land were, at one time, at any rate, better than we, why, so much the better for him.
So are most History Books written for Children––For the matter for this intelligent teaching of history, eschew, in the first place, nearly all history books written expressly for children; and in the next place, all compendiums, outlines, abstracts whatsoever. For the abstracts, considering what part the study of history is fitted to play in the education of the child, there is not a word to be said in their favour; and as for what are called children's books, the children of educated parents are able to understand history written with literary power, and are not attracted by the twaddle of reading-made-easy little history books. (Home Education, Vol. 1 Part XVIII.–History, p.280-281)
In the same way, readings from Plutarch's Lives will afford the best preparation for the study of Grecian or of Roman history. (Home Education, Vol. 1 Part XVIII.–History, p.286)
History Books––It is not at all easy to choose the right history books for children. Mere summaries of facts must, as we have seen, be eschewed; and we must be equally careful to avoid generalisations. The natural function of the mind, in the early years of life, is to gather the material of knowledge with a view to that very labour of generalisation which is proper to the adult mind; a labour which we should all carry on to some extent for ourselves.

As it is, our minds are so poorly furnished that we accept the conclusions presented to us without demur; but we can, at any rate, avoid giving children cut-and-dried opinions upon the course of history while they are yet young. What they want is graphic details concerning events and persons upon which imagination goes to work; and opinions tend to form themselves by slow degrees as knowledge grows. (Home Education, Vol. 1 Part XVIII.–History, p.288)
Textbooks are "cut-and-dried opinions". They offer snippets of history. Often times, textbooks are written by a board or group of people with an agenda, namely a set of standards, and the authors are far removed from those time periods of which they are writing. Whereas literature and biographies are usually written by one person who is passionate about their subject. I advocate for literature written in or around the historical time period being studied. The closer the author is to the events in time, the better.

I realize Mr. De Gree is a history textbook writer. I have not personally seen his program or read his text. However, I have watched the vendor sales pitch video on The Classical Historian website, which I believe to be Mr. De Gree himself explaining his program. Interestingly, I did notice that Mr. De Gree's American history course used The Patriot's History, a literary piece written by Larry Schweikart, Dave Dougherty, and Michael Allen which shows a pageant of history from their understanding.

About half way through the post, Mr. De Gree does mention the autobiographies of Frederick Douglass and Booker T. Washington. I agree that these are excellent sources for studying history. First hand experience and/or knowledge is far superior to textbooks.

I also agree that "teaching history and literature are not two completely separate academic subjects, and many of the analytical tools used in understanding history are found in literary analysis." However, I disagree with the very next sentence, "However, when parents try to teach history through literature, their children learn falsehoods, create wrong images of the past, and become prey to their emotions in understanding the meaning of history." Rather, I believe this is dependent on the literature that is chosen and whether or not you are using the analytical tools Mr. De Gree speaks of. Again, Gone with the Wind is not a good historical source. But, I would argue that Homer, Virgil, Herodotus, and Plutarch have given us excellent literary histories of which to teach and learn from.

When selecting literature to teach history, one must choose books with real/realistic characters. These characters must also develop morally over the course of the story. There should be content that adds to the reader's cultural and geographic literacy. The literature should use beautiful language and portray historical accuracy.

Part of the classical tradition is seeking that which is beautiful. Literature based on fact, written poetically, which appeals to emotion is a worthy teaching resource that will aid in retention. Too often, the dry, boring facts of a text are only memorized long enough to regurgitate on a test and then long forgotten to move on to the next thing. If we are to educate classically, we must seek that which holds truth, beauty, and goodness.

Regarding appeal to emotion, I agree that literature used for teaching must be based on fact and should not be romanticized. On the other hand, I caution against being too utilitarian in our approach. Being made in the image of Christ, we are designed to be relational. Relational with God as well as our fellow man. We were also given an emotive ability to love and experience intimacy with our Father and fellow man. Jesus himself spoke in parables. A parable is a short fictitious story used to illustrate a moral or spiritual lesson. Jesus spoke in parables/fictitious stories because that is how we are designed to best learn and remember. Parables appeal to our emotional and relational being. We come to better understanding through this appeal. Like parables, great literature makes the perils of history easier to learn, retain, synthesize, and apply.

Mr. De Gree is correct when saying, "Some teachers who use literature to teach history were never taught what history is and do not have an appreciation for it. Many have learned that history simply means memorizing names and dates, when actually it means applying the tools of historical analysis, using sound judgement, discerning fact from fiction, and making connections." I believe teaching history through literature is the best way to the wisdom of which he speaks. During my young years of academia, I despised history. Through the use of classroom textbooks, lectures, and required memorization of dates for tests, the study of war and dead people appeared to be a waste of my time. It was not until I began home educating my children that I started to see the importance of studying history. In ten years of homeschooling, we have always studied history through a literature approach. In doing so, I have not only developed my own affinity toward history, but each and every one of my children will tell you history is their favorite subject. They have a wonderful understanding and appreciation for the people and events of our past. I now believe history to be one of the most important subjects that we teach.

If we are developing the tools of historical analysis of which Mr. De Gree speaks, there is no reason not to use literature in our history teaching. I hope I have made a case here to show there are many literary pieces worthy of aiding us in the teaching of history and that not every piece of literature or "any novel could be used to show what is wrong with teaching fiction as if it were fact."

I will leave you with more wisdom from Charlotte Mason:
Education is a life. That life is sustained on ideas. Ideas are of spiritual origin, and God has made us so that we get them chiefly as we convey them to one another, whether by word of mouth, written page, Scripture word, musical symphony; but we must sustain a child's inner life with ideas as we sustain his body with food. - Charlotte Mason (Vol. 6, A Philosophy of Education, Book 1, Chapter VI, p. 109)
BOOKS MUST BE LIVING - We recognize that history for him is, to lie in the lives of those strong personalities which at any given time impress themselves most upon their age and country. This is not the sort of thing to be got out of nice little history books for children, whether 'Little Arthur's', or somebody's 'Outlines.' We take the child to the living sources of history - a child of seven is fully able to comprehend Plutarch, in Plutarch's own words (translated), without any diluting and with little explanation. Give him living thought in this kind, and you make possible the co-operation of the living Teacher. The child's progress is by leaps and bounds, and you wonder why. - Charlotte Mason (Vol. 2, Parents and Children, Chapter XXV, p. 278)
Let a child have the meat he requires in his history readings, and in the literature which naturally gathers round this history, and imagination will bestir itself without any help of ours; the child will live out in detail a thousand scenes of which he only gets the merest hint. (Home Education, Vol. 1 Part XVIII.–History, p.295)

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Weekly Reflections - Week Twenty...


At Home

It was a fairly uneventful week here on Drywood Creek, which I've really come to appreciate. Aside from work, study, and leisure, there's not much to report. There was outdoor fort making, LEGO building, coloring, and toy sorting for a purge going on. In addition, I'm still contemplating the CiRCE Regional Conference and how what I learned will be applied to our home, turning principle and philosophy into practical practices.

Around the Web

Check out the fabulous photo of An Evening with Wendell Berry on Professor Carol's blog.  As mentioned previously in another post, I really enjoyed Mr. Berry's reading and Q&A.

Choosing Bach in a Brothel Culture by Allison Burr got me thinking about a conversation at church. When asked what makes it difficult to practice faith in our families, pop culture is the first thing that came to mind. In her post, Burr reminds us that the Lord "has declared victory over the darkness masquerading as light" and it's our job to cultivate affections toward the Savior.

In Morning Time with Boys, Kathy Weitz and Pam Barnhill hit it out of the park.  There is really great wisdom there from a veteran homeschool mom that is applicable not only to boys, but all our children.

I also listened to an older Schole Sisters Podcast on Poetic Bible Lessons. It sounds as though Mr. Middlekauf has done his homework. I appreciate the resources listed in the shownotes.

Lastly, Adam Andrews' post, What is a Classic, Anyway?, put me in mind of a post I wrote some time ago attempting to define the difference between a living book and a classic, which was prompted after a reader question.

On My Shelf

Jayber Crow by Wendell Berry - I'm on chapter seven and listening to the CiRCE Close Reads podcasts as I go.

Call of the Wild by Jack London - Our February Middle School Book Club read

Consider This, Charlotte Mason and the Classical Tradition by Karen Glass - We're finishing the book this month for discussion during our February CM Study Group meeting.

D'Aulaire's Book of Greek Myths by Ingri and Edgar D'Aulaire, The Golden Days of Greece and The Trojan War, both of which are by Olivia Coolidge - I'm reading aloud with Ruben as part of his ancient history study

Plant Life in Field and Garden by Arabella B. Buckley - I'm reading aloud to Ruben as part of the HOD science study.  We recently finished Birds of the Air by the same author and really enjoyed it.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Commonplace: The Golden Days of Greece...


     We have seen how a boy in Athens was taught Homer and music and athletics.  In his teens he received two years of military training. After this he was thought to be grown up; but he soon found that there was a great deal still to learn. In the age of Pericles, Sophists, or wise men, came to Athens from all over the Greek world, ready to teach in return for a fee. What a young man starting in life most wanted to know was how to get ahead.
     The most useful thing he could learn was the art of persuading other people, which was needed in politics, law, or business. Even nowadays we can hear a man say, "Because this is true that must follow," without ever seeing that it does not follow at all. The Sophists taught logic, which is the study of the rules of argument, showing what follows or does not follow, and why. It often happens, too, that we cannot explain ourselves, even when we are right. The Sophists taught grammar, which helps you to say what you mean. They taught how to group your thoughts together and make them interesting. They even taught voice production, because in those days few letters were written, and speeches took the place of our daily papers.
     In this way the Sophists showed people how to think and talk, but they did not entirely forget what people ought to think and talk about. Because they were paid for their lectures, Sophists taught only what people wanted to know. All the same, Hippias, who was an Athenian Sophist about twelve years older than Socrates, gave lectures on mathematics, astronomy, grammar, poetry, music, the heroic age, and handicrafts, as well as making his own discoveries in geometry. It is not a bad list. Others taught the meaning of dreams, which was a popular subject because dreams were thought to be messages from the gods. No doubt these lectures on dreams would seem strange to us if we heard them, but they often discussed religion, which is always an interesting subject.    
     During the age of Pericles, many people were thinking about religion. Older men, like Aeschylus, retold legends in ways which brought out great truths; but younger people, like Euripides, were discontented with Greek religion as a whole. It had grown up in an earlier world when gods were thought of as being like nature, strong and beautiful, but not always kind or good to men. By now many were beginning to despise the gods of the old legends because of evil deeds that they were said to have done. Men were seeking for a religion which reflected their own ideas about good and evil. In other words, they were looking for God, even if often in ways which were different from ours.
     Naturally the Sophists shared these ideas, but they were afraid of being unpopular with the people who paid them. Most of them felt it safer to keep some opinions to themselves. Other men, however, who did not earn their living by teaching, were brave enough to discuss what they pleased. Such people called themselves not Sophists, or wise men, but philosophers, or lovers of wisdom. 
     It would be impossible to sum up all the thoughts of the early philosophers about truth. Some of them, for instance, were what we should call scientists and invented the earliest theories about atoms. Others worked out a great deal of what we know as geometry. Others again made discoveries about space or the nature of the world. All of them tried to understand the human soul, to find out what was good and what was bad in life, and to know what the world was really like.
     We can well imagine that young Socrates was not much interested in chipping stone when there were such things to think about. He neglected his business to hang around in the market place where there were handsome colonnades for people to linger in, exchanging ideas. His wife used to get angry with him because he grew poor. But Socrates, as long as he was not actually starving, did not care.
     The first thing that he found out was that the Sophists did not really know what it was best to teach. Indeed, they did not care as long as they earned their money. Socrates saw that before he could teach anything he had to clear away a lot of rubbish from people's minds, to show them that they did not really know all they thought they knew. In order to do so, he used a method which people ever since have called Socratic.
     Socrates would start by getting someone or other to say something which was generally thought to be obvious. A man might remark, for instance, "Justice means doing good to your friends and ill to your enemies."
     "Well, let us consider this, " Socrates would say. "To start with , you will agree that this must be true..." And he would say something very simple.
     "Why, yes."
     "Well then, if that is so, does not this follow?...." And he would make another easy statement.
     "Yes, indeed."
     "Well then,..."
      By simple steps like this, in a short time Socrates would have so confused his opponent that he would have to admit that he did not understand "justice" or "good" or "friends" or "enemies," because he could not explain how reasoning that seemed obvious at the time was not correct... The Golden Days of Greece by Olivia Coolidge, Ch XII