Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Contemplating Classical Education: What is it and how has it changed?...

I've been studying classical education for years and decided to start a series here regarding my findings.  In fact, the classical method was one of the first that I learned of when beginning homeschooling.  Ironically, it was the road that led me to Charlotte Mason.

Most recently, I've been working through Classical Education: The Movement Sweeping America by Dr. Gene Edward Veith, Jr. and Andrew Kern, CiRCE Institute.   I would describe the book as a means to understanding what a classical education is.  It begins with the history of where education in America went wrong, then describes the elements of a classical education, followed by explaining different types or philosophies of thought regarding classical education.  I've been taking a copious amount of notes.

The following list of chapter titles may give you a further sense of some of the various philosophies, some of which I hope to unpack throughout this series:

Chapter 1 The Lost Content of Learning
Chapter 2 The Elements of Classical Education
Chapter 3 Christian Classicism
Chapter 4 Democratic Classicism
Chapter 5 Norms and Nobility
Chapter 6 Catholic Classicism
Chapter 7 Liberating Classicism
Chapter 8 Classical Homeschooling
Chapter 9 Higher Education
Chapter 10 Epilogue: Myths and Realities of Classical Education

There is also an appendix at the end with a wonderful list of Organizations and Resources related to classical education.

So far, I am half way through the book and have made several connections.  I've learned more about such views as modernism, postmodernism, and progressivism.  I have since been on high alert when hearing the current presidential candidates debate and tout their agendas, particularly when referring to themselves as "progressive", which of course, I now realize is a person advocating or implementing social reform, or new liberal ideas, more than likely, ones of which I disagree...ahem.

Anyway, back to the book.  It's no surprise that education has changed significantly over the years.  The authors attribute these changes in part to the work of John Dewey, a modernist education theorist, who lived from 1958-1952.  Dewey believed it was more important to teach the process of learning than the content of what was being learned.  He used Charles Darwin's theory to call for radical changes in education.

According to Veith and Kern, a classical education has four elements that define it: 1) A high view of man, 2) Logocentrism, 3) Responsibility for the Western tradition, and 4) A pedagogy that sustains these commitments; most of which, seem to be in line with a Charlotte Mason education.

A High View of Man

We are human beings, of which Christians see as being created in the image of God, creatures of timeless significance.  This is perfectly in line with Charlotte Mason's first principle, children are born persons.   The purpose of classical education is to cultivate human excellence or virtue within each child.    


Logos is Greek for 'word' or 'reason'.  In theology, it's the Word of God, or the principle of divine reason and creative order.
Christians recognize that Christ is that Logos.  He makes reason possible, harmonizes everything, and creates the conditions for order, knowable truth.  He is the unifying principle of thought, the key in which the music of the spheres is played, the archetype of every virtue. (p. 14)
Christ is the center.  He is the reason and He is a God of order.  According to a logocentric view of the universe, organized knowledge can be discovered, arranged, and even taught.  Charlotte Mason understood the importance of Logocentrism and keeping God first and foremost in teaching.  In Volume 6, she wrote,
Of the three sorts of knowledge proper to a child, - the knowledge of God, of man, and of the universe, - the knowledge of God ranks first in importance, is indispensable, and most happy-making.  (p. 158) 
Responsibility for the Western Tradition

"Western civilization is the property of all who live in America." (p. 15)  It is rooted in classicism, or those traditions of civilizations that have gone before us, Hebrew, Greek, Roman, European, etc.  This does not mean that a classical education doesn't recognize more recent American achievements, such as technology, but rather that we don't forget our roots in the tradition.

Charlotte's students studied a wide variety of history throughout, sometimes referred to as a "pageant of history".  Her students studied such classic works as Plutarch's Lives, Iliad, Odyssey, Stories from the History of Rome, etc. to gain knowledge of man and traditions throughout all of civilization.

A Pedagogy That Sustains These Commitments
Western civilization, the classical educator believes, offers its children a rich heritage on which they can feed their own souls and those of their neighbors. The classical curriculum provides the means to do so.  [pabulum for the mind] 
The classical curriculum can be divided into two stages. First, the student masters the arts of learning.  Then he uses the skills and tools mastered to enter the great conversation, which is another way to say, to study the sciences.  (p. 16-17)
There are Seven Liberal Arts of learning, The Seven Liberal Arts and Sciences were the curriculum known to ancient Greece and Rome and to Western Europe of medieval times.  The Seven Liberal Arts offered a canonical way of depicting the realms of higher learning.  The Liberal Arts and Sciences were divided into two parts, the Trivium ("the three roads") and the Quadrivium ("the four roads").

The Trivium consisted of:
  • Grammar
  • Rhetoric
  • Logic
The Quadrivium consisted of:
  • Arithmetic -- Number in itself
  • Geometry -- Number in space
  • Music, Harmonics, or Tuning Theory -- Number in time
  • Astronomy or Cosmology -- Number in space and time

I will not get into each of these now because I'm still working to fully understand them.  However, there are many websites with more information.  There's what appears to be a good concise explanation here.  Also, Andrew Fleming West, Professor at Princeton College, wrote an exposition published at Classical Academic Press on the origin of The Seven Liberal Arts.

In studying this notion of what is a classical education, I watched a variety of YouTube videos published by Roman Roads Media, including:

A Conversation with Andrew Kern on the Definition of a Classical Education

What is Classical Education? Interview with Martin Cothran 

Interview with John Hodges on Classical Education

Interview with Andrew Pudewa on Classical Education

Are you educating classically?  If so, what does it mean to you?  Feel free to leave comments below...

Monday, February 8, 2016

The Singing Tree...

The Singing Tree by Kate Seredy happened to be the third title we've read by this author.  Many years ago we read The Chestry Oak and for Christmas 2014 we read A Tree for Peter.  Early on RileyAnn mentioned the fact that all three Seredy books we've read had something to do with a tree.  I found this to be an interesting connection, however, I'm not sure whether or not there was purpose to Seredy's titling.

Anyhow, The Singing Tree takes place on the Hungarian plains during WWI.  It not only covers the war, but is also a coming of age story for Jancsi and his cousin Kate.  When their fathers are sent off to war, the children learn what it is to grow up.  They not only have the responsibility of a farm, but also neighbors and family around them.  When it's been decided they will house six Russian prisoners of war and six semi-orphaned German children, they learn valuable lessons about peaceable relations with the so-called enemy.

As with other Seredy books we've read, there are a variety of themes and story threads woven throughout.  From our experience, I can't imagine that you'd be disappointed.  Seredy is a fabulous story teller and her illustrations are like no other.  In fact, she considered herself an illustrator and not an author, stating something to the effect that her stories simply gave her an excuse to draw pictures.  Ironically, Seredy was born in Budapest, Hungary.  Although most of her books were written in English, it was not her native tongue.

As part of the Beautiful Feet Modern American and World History study, while reading The Singing Tree, the kids were assigned a character sketch.  The following is the work of Ruben...

Ruben’s Character Sketch of Lily
February 1, 2016

Lily was very mean.  Her father was Judge Kormos.  He sent Lily to boarding school because her mother was sick.  Lily returned and one day they went to a wedding.  The Nagy’s were there and Lily didn’t get along with Kate Nagy.  Lily didn’t want to dance with Peter and she called him a bad name.  Kate stepped on Lily’s toe, which started a fight.  Lily fell into a hay pile in Varadi’s barn and Kate locked her in. 
Eventually Lily’s disappearance was discovered.  Judge Kormos admitted his struggle rearing Lily and Marton Nagy asked if Lily could spend the summer on this farm.  Judge Kormos thought it was a good idea.

Lily went to live at the Nagy farm.   At first, she didn’t like it, but after a while she didn’t want to leave.  Lily liked the animals and people.  By the end of the story, Lily matured into a young lady.  She was kinder and more helpful.  

Friday, February 5, 2016

Friday Findings: Snow Fractals, Homeschooling Independently, and Misc. Matters...

This week went off pretty much without a hitch.  We finished a couple of books and started a couple new books.  The kids are progressing and we're nearly finished with our second term!

Tonight is our CM Book Study, where we will take a look at Principles 16b and 18, which entail the way of the reason.  It looks like a continuation of last month's Self-Governance, An Ordering of the Will.  We will also be discussing history rotations and beginning planning for the upcoming school year.

We had a "blizzard" here mid-week, with about 5-6 inches of snow.  I don't think the storm was as bad as predicted, although we did have blowing and drifting snow.

Speaking of snow, have you seen Simon Beck's snow art? These Stunning Fractals Are Made of Snow.  This would be a very fun way to get the kids doing math :)

Yes, Yes, Yes...I love this article and what this veteran homeschooling mom wrote about actually educating at home.  Read, Read, Read... Homeschooling Without Co-ops, Online Classes or Tutors…Does It Work?!!  is a testament to homeschooling without the extras.

And alas, more podcasts and videos watched...

SCM Answers Your Questions on Plutarch

What Belongs On Your To Do List? by Mystie Winckler

How about a tour of Wes Calihan's personal library and Doug Wilson's office?  I love to see what treasures other libraries hold!

Lastly, Heidi at Mt. Hope Chronicles posted an interesting essay/activity On Rhetoric - Socratic Dialogue 1.  I took the challenge and it was fun!

When it's snowing outside, who says you can't camp?  Our boys created a canopy of sorts in their room....

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Knowledge of Man, Cycling Through History....

I've been thinking a lot about history lately, or as Charlotte Mason said, the Knowledge of Man, and how I want to approach the coming years.  Initially, I'd planned a 6 year history cycle, to which we are finishing our final year in our first rotation.  I'm now at a crossroads and trying to decide whether to proceed with another six year rotation or two three year rotations.  In a nutshell, here's what we've done...

Angel - high school graduate - homeschooled from 6th-12th grade
      6th grade Ancient History
      7th grade Middle Ages, Renaissance, & Reformation
      8th grade In Depth American History
      9th grade Ancient History
     10th grade World History
     11th grade Early American History
     12th grade Modern American History

      1st grade Ancient Civilizations
      2nd grade Middle Ages
      3rd grade Renaissance & Reformation
      4th grade American Exploration, Colonization, & Revolutionary War
      5th grade American Westward Expansion
      6th grade American Civil War to Modern American & World History

      K Ancient Civilizations
      1st grade Middle Ages
      2nd grade Renaissance & Reformation
      3rd grade American Exploration, Colonization, & Revolutionary War
      4th grade American Westward Expansion
      5th grade American Civil War to Modern American & World History

Riley and Ruben have always studied history together.  However, I've decided to split them up this fall because Riley is ready to work independently and Ruben still needs a bit more help.  Also, because Ruben has one more year left than Riley, it will allow me to slow down a bit with him and focus on some other areas.  They will more than likely be on a similar time period, but each will be reading separate books.  I really want Ruben to go through two more cycles of history since he doesn't remember much from the first time around prior to American History.  Initially, I was thinking Riley could do another six year cycle, possibly using Ambleside Online and then I started looking at Veritas Press Omnibus who does two three year cycles, which is also appealing.

Right now, I'm in research mode and here are some options that appeal to me or things I've been studying....

6 Year Rotation
Ambleside Online
Simply Charlotte Mason

4 Year Rotation
A Delectable Education - The Chronology of History Podcast - History Rotation Diagrams
Story of the World
The Mystery of History
My Father's World - high school

3 Year Rotation
Beautiful Feet
Veritias Press Omnibus
Mystie Winckler at Simply Convivial

Other Options
Charlotte Mason Help
A Mind in the Light
TruthQuest History
Any thoughts?  What have you used to study middle and high school history?  Do you prefer a 6 year, 4 year, or 3 year rotation?  Please feel free to comment below...

Monday, February 1, 2016

Calendar/Planner Update...

In my first post of the year, I explained my calendar/planner dilemma and how I was planning to create my own.  Well, without further ado, here are the results...

At this point, I only created the first six months of the year.  This allowed me a margin of error as I play around and decide how much space to use for each month.  Behind the initial two page monthly spread, I left four blank pages (2-2 page spreads).  For January, I used these pages for a Gratitude Journal, Meal Planer, and Blog Post list.  I really liked having these pages and plan to continue them each month.  The fourth page I used for Books Read and Ideas.  However, I wasn't as crazy about it.  I did use the Books Read space to keep track of, not only books finished, but books I'm still reading and carrying forward to the next month. Unfortunately, I wrote nothing in the Idea space.  Apparently, I had no ideas in January...ha!  I'm trying to decide if I want to change the space to a Commonplace area or Misc.  Maybe I'll just leave it blank until something hits me :)

You can see from the first photo above that I used a simple sewn composition notebook for the calendar/planner.  I did decide to tab each month for easy access.  I also use this Creative Lettering book to help me with font ideas...

I'm in the process of finding pens that I like.  Currently, I have Bic Cristal Bold colored pens, but I'd love to invest in Pigma Micron pens as time goes by.  Making your own calendar/planner is definitely more work up front, but I love the flexibility of creating personalized pages.  I can customize my calendar/planner to exactly what I need!

Saturday, January 30, 2016

The Hobbit...

I have always detested fantasy, whether it be books or movies, it just isn't my genre.  I struggle to get into something that can't really happen.  To some, it may seem narrow minded.  Although, once you're over forty, you care less about what others think...ha!  On the other hand, I didn't want my disdain to sour our children's taste for fantastical literature.  So, I chose The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien for our January Socratic Book Club discussion.

Because I've heard many sing praises of Tolkien and it was on the Ambleside Online Year 6 Literature list, I figured The Hobbit was as good a choice as any.  And, I must say, I was not disappointed.  Actually, I was utterly surprised and quite pleased.  Tolkien did not disappoint.

The Hobbit was originally published in 1937, while J. R. R. Tolkien was a professor at Oxford University.  In late 1932 when he finished the manuscript, he lent it to friends, including his co-worker, C. S. Lewis, who encouraged him to publish his work.  Both Tolkien and Lewis studied and taught the literature of medieval romance.  According to an article at Christianity Today...
The two friends were interested in the literature of the romantic period because many of the poems and stories attempted to convey the supernatural, the "otherworldly"—and thus provided a window into spiritual things. Lewis explored romantic themes like joy and longing, and Tolkien emphasized the nature of people as storytelling beings who by telling stories reflect the creative powers of God. But they both rejected an "instinctive" approach to the imagination. Many romantic writers were interested in a kind of nature mysticism. They looked within themselves and at the world around them and sought flashes of insight into "the nature of things"—illuminations of truth that could not be explained, reasoned, or systematized. But Lewis and Tolkien insisted that the reason and the imagination must be integrated. In any understanding of truth, the whole person must be involved.
Early in the story, I fell in love with Bilbo Baggins.   His quest for courage and character made him a sympathetic "Everyman" protagonist.  Despite his reluctance to entertain the dwarves and go along on their adventure, he remained hospitable and warmhearted.  I found the loyalty of his character very appealing.  He was honest and steadfast in doing what was right even in difficult situations.

The Hobbit made for wonderful conversation with the kids since we all read it together.  Actually, we listened to the majority of it on audio.  I must confess the narrator, Rob Inglis, was what first drew me into the story.  His voice and ability to dramatize the characters was absolutely fabulous!!  Just take a listen here to see what I mean.

In addition, if you'd like to hear a bit of Socratic discussion, hop on over the Center for Lit and listen to their Junior High Lit class discussion.  It is about two hours long so be sure you set aside some time.  The first hour is a bit slow, but the second hour is much better and hopefully will give you food for thought.


RileyAnn was very disappointed when Thorin Oakenshield died.  I personally didn't really feel that bad.. This led to a great conversation about his character and good versus evil.  I believe Thorin had to die given his greed.  This gave the treasure and Lonely Mountain to Dain and the dwarves of the Iron Hills.  After all the years of oppression, they were finally able to overcome.  She totally understood.  We were both heart warmed with Thorin's farewell to Bilbo on his deathbed.  In the end, there was forgiveness for an honored friendship.

Since finishing the book, we are working through The Hobbit DVD's.  I had no idea it was going to be a 9 hour venture.  We just finished The Desolation of Smaug and so far have not been disappointed.  Peter Jackson's tale has held fairly true to Tolkien's treasure.  Of course, it's made for Hollywood so the special effects can be a bit much, but the story itself is good.  However, I would definitely read Tolkien's original work before watching the movies!!  There is something very special about developing images in your own mind's eye.

The Hobbit is a Sonlight recommendation in addition to AO.  Since reading the book, I can finally understand the fascination.  Tolkien's fantasy novel is definitely not to be missed.

By the way, I'll be linking this post to the 2016 Back to the Classics Challenge as my Science Fiction, Fantasy, or Dystopian Classic.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Friday Findings: Weekly Wrap-Up; Plethora of Podcasts; One Year of Start Here...

Our school week went along fairly smoothly this week.  We finished up our Winslow Homer artist/picture study after reading through A Weekend with Winslow Homer and studying some of his artwork.

Recently, RileyAnn asked if she could go back to "regular math".  She said, she was getting a bit tired of the story in Life of Fred.  Earlier this year, she completed Simply Charlotte Mason's Your Business Math, running a pet store.  She also read through Fractals, Googols, and other Mathematical Tales by Theonni Pappas and is just about finished with Mathematicians Are People Too by Dale Seymour Publications.  I was shocked when she asked, but thrilled to see a new level of maturity.  She has since picked up her old Math-U-See Gamma book where she left off approx. 5 lessons before completion.  We've been refreshing on multiple digit multiplication and long division.

Apparently, I've been on a podcast/webinar frenzy as I've listened to several this week, including:

Reading to Kids with Special Needs - Sarah Mackenzie and Cheryl Swope at Read Aloud Revival

Let's Talk Planning - Mystie Winckler, Jen McIntosh, and Dawn Hanigan at Simplified Organization

The Mason Jar #7: Katie Hudgins - Cindy Rollins and Katie Hudgins at CiRCE Institute

A series of podcasts, including #11-#17, at A Delectable Education

The Four Language Arts - Andrew Pudewa at IEW

I'm looking forward to Adam Andrews follow-up on Christian Books and Christian Reading.  For now, I'm pondering the first part.

I can't believe it's already been one year since we started reading A Philosophy of Education by Charlotte Mason and using Brandy Vencel's Start Here to study Charlotte's 20 Principles!  You will find monthly posts regarding our study up until now here.

I've decided to dig into the archives and do a bit of photo flashback this week.  Last year at this time, RileyAnn talked Levi into dressing up in bathrobe attire with her dolls.  After all, what are little brothers for :)

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Self-Governance, An Ordering of the Will...

Principles 16a and 17

There are two guides to moral and intellectual self-management to offer to children, [the first] we may call 'the way of the will'....

The way of the will: Children should be taught, (a) to distinguish between 'I want' and 'I will.' (b) That the way to will effectively is to turn our thoughts from that which we desire but do not will.  (c) That the best way to turn out thoughts is to think of or do some quite different thing, entertaining or interesting. (d) That after a little rest in this way, the will returns to its work with new vigour.  (This adjunct of the will  is familiar to us as diversion, whose office it is to ease us for a time from will effort, that we may 'will' again with added power.  The use of suggestion as an aid to the will is to be deprecated as tending to stultify and stereotype character.  It would seem that spontaneity is a condition of development, and that human nature needs the discipline of failure as well as of success.)

I remember a time when I believed a strong-willed child was simply stubborn and tenacious, not necessarily a bad thing, but rather more irritating than troublesome.  However, since my Charlotte Mason education, in addition to studying scripture, I have come to see the seriousness of the problem at hand and how a strong will is in fact, a weak will.  

Initially when I read this chapter, it didn't spark much thought.  Even at our CM Book Study, the attending mothers felt we had already hashed these principles over in the discussion of habit training.  However, in now taking a closer look, re-reading portions to write this post, I see there is more to the story.  In essence, I believe we habit train to order the will...but, I think I'm getting ahead of myself.

First, Charlotte starts the chapter...
The great things of life, life itself, are not easy of definition.  The Will, we are told, is 'the sole practical faculty of man.'  But who is to define the Will?  We are told again that 'the Will is the man'; and yet most men go through life without a single definite act of willing.   Habit, convention, the customs of the world have done so much for us that we get up, dress, breakfast, follow our morning's occupations, our later relaxations, without an act of choice.  For this much at any rate we know about the will.  Its function is to choose, to decide, and there seems to be no doubt that the greater becomes the effort of decision the weaker grows the general will.  (Vol. 6, p. 128-129)
So, a habit is based on routine, a settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up.  The will is the faculty by which a person decides on and initiates action.  It's a decision or a choice.  Later in the same opening paragraph, Charlotte goes on to state....
But the one achievement possible and necessary for every man is character; and character is as finely wrought metal beaten into shape and beauty by the repeated and accustomed action of will.  We who teach should make it clear to ourselves that our aim in education is less conduct than character; conduct may be arrived at as we have seen, by indirect routes, but it is of value to the world only as it has its source in character. (Vol. 6, p. 129)
In other words, character is shaped by the will.  Character is the mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual.  Conduct is the manner in which a person behaves, especially on a particular occasion or in a particular context.  I envision conduct to be more closely aligned with habits.  It can be influenced, but it's also rooted in character.  If you are of shady character, your conduct or behavior, having it's source, will shine through in a negative light.  On the contrary, if you have upstanding character, your conduct will support it. 

Charlotte begins the second paragraph with this...
Every assault upon the flesh and spirit of man is an attack whoever insidious upon this personality, his will; but a new Armageddon is upon us in so far as that the attack is no longer indirect but is aimed consciously and directly at the will, which is the man; and we shall escape becoming a nation of imbeciles only because there will always be person of good will amongst up who will resist  the general trend.  The office of parents and teacher is to turn out such persons of good will;... (Vol. 6, p. 129)
It is our duty as parents and home educators to produce children of "good will".  I believe providing a broad and liberal education is the key in doing so.  By exposing the child to truth, beauty, and goodness through the best literature, art, music, etc., we will cultivate affinities toward a will that is true, good and beautiful.  Being born a person, whose mind is an instrument of his education, the child is able to digest what is honest, lovely, and of good report.
For right thinking is by no means a matter of self-expression.  Right thought flows upon the stimulus of an idea, and ideas are stored as we have seen in books and pictures and the lives of men and nations; these instruct the conscience and stimulate the will, and man or child 'chooses'.  (Vol. 6, p. 130) 
This quote is directly in line with providing pabulum or nourishment for the mind.  When our students read the Bible, Plutarch, Ourselves, it is providing food for thought, giving the child options in order to strengthen the will.  This is the purpose of education!  Charlotte asserts that the way of the will is not automatic.  It must be trained.

Self- Governance

Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty,
and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city. 
Proverbs 16:32

Charlotte uses the example of Jacob and Esau to demonstrate guiding the will...
He...measures Esau with a considering eye, finds him more attractive than Jacob who yet wins higher approval; perceives that Esau is wilful but that Jacob has a strong will, and through this and many other examples, recognises that a strong will is not synonymous with 'being good,' nor with a determination to have your own way.  He learns to distribute the characters he comes across in his reading on either side of a line, those who are wilful and those who are governed by will; and this line by no means separates between the bad and good.  
It does divide, however, between the impulsive, self-pleasing, self-seeking, and the persons who have an aim beyond and outside of themselves, even though it be an aim appalling as that of Milton's Satan.  It follows for him that he must not only will, but will with a view to an object outside himself...  
It is well that children should know that while the turbulent person is not ruled by will at all but by impulse, the movement of his passions or desires, yet it is possible to have a constant will with unworthy or evil ends, or, ever to have a steady will towards a good end and to compass that end by unworthy means...   
The boy must learn too that the will is subject to solicitations all round, from the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eye and the pride of life; that will does not act alone; it takes the whole man to will and a man wills wisely, justly and strongly, in proportion as all his powers are in training and under instruction...  (Vol. 6, p. 132-133)
I remember studying this idea of self-governance while using Beautiful Feet's Early American History guide.  We were reading Leif the Lucky by Ingri and Edgar Parin D'Aulaire.  Over the course of his life, Leif became strong and cunning.  He learned early how to navigate his own ship and went to visit the King of Norway.  Leif showed great respect upon his arrival, practicing good manners and courtesy, remembering the counsel of his father.  On the other hand, Leif's father, Erik the Red, was hot-tempered and lacked self-control.  It was not difficult for the children to quickly catch which character was self-governed and the importance of this concept based on the results of each character's actions.  

While reading, I was also reminded of one of the very first homeschool meetings I ever attended.  A veteran mother was speaking about child rearing and biblical teaching, among other things.  She said she taught her children early on, "There are two choices on the shelf, pleasing God or pleasing self."  I thought it was quite clever and never forgot it.  You can imagine my surprise upon reading p. 135 where Charlotte wrote...
There are two services open to us all, the service of God, (including that of man) and the service of self.  
I was brought right back to the living room of the host of that early homeschool gathering.

Unfortunately, this post is getting much longer than I intended.  Charlotte left us many gold nuggets, I could go on, but I will suffice to say providing an education based on the liberal arts is intended to bring about the improvement, discipline, or free development of the mind or spirit, in which,there will be ordering of the will.  It does take time, but it is well for us to plant the seeds.  I will leave you with one last quote from p. 137...
The ordering of the will is not an affair of sudden resolve; it is the outcome of a slow and ordered education in which precept and example flow in from the lives and thoughts of other men, men of antiquity and men of the hour, as unconsciously and spontaneously as the air we breathe.  But the moment of choice is immediate and the act of the will voluntary; and the object of education is to prepare us for this immediate choice and voluntary action which every day presents.  

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Sergeant York, A Humble Man of God....

We finished reading Sergeant York by John Perry as part of our Beautiful Feet Modern American and World History study.
When Sergeant York came home to a hero's welcome in 1919, his was the biggest ticker-tape parade in New York history up to that time.  Day after day his name appeared in the New York Times.  He was an international celebrity.  Today most Americans younger than fifty have never heard of him...  (p. 157)
Sadly, I was among most Americans younger than fifty who had never heard of Sgt. Alvin C. York.  This line in the story really bothered Ruben as York's character had a huge impact on him....really on all of us.

York was a humble backwoods farmer from TN, who turned from the grips of alcohol to God.  He not only singlehandedly broke up a machine gun nest and captured 132 German soldiers toward the end of WWI, but his speeches helped rally people in support of the U.S. entering WWII.  Upon his return from WWI, he fought relentlessly for the education of poor children in TN.

Perry's book is part of the Christian Encounters series.  His story is told from "exclusive interviews with the sergeant's three surviving children and information drawn from battlefield eyewitness reports and original film studio archives...".  There are excerpts from York's personal journal throughout.

As part of the BF final project after reading Sergeant York, Ruben dictated a biographical sketch to me while I typed.  Then he and I worked together to finalize the following...
Alvin C. York was born in Pall Mall, TN on December 13, 1887. He grew to be a backwoods farmer and hunter. In his early years, he was a drunkard, but after his father died, at his mother’s request, he became a Christian. York started going to church and met Pastor Pile, who became a close friend to him.

In 1917, York was drafted to serve in the army to fight against Germany during WWI. He didn’t like the thought of going to war and killing people, but after he thought about it for a while, he felt God was calling him to go to war and fight for his country.

I wouldn’t like to go to war and fight other people. I wouldn’t like the thought of getting killed. God tells us in the bible, “Do not kill.” However, I think York did the right thing by going to fight for his country.

York served in France. On October 8, 1918, he became famous for the battle at Hill 223. It was here, he encountered a German Machine Gun nest. York killed 20 German soldiers and captured 132 more. He also took 32 machine guns. From that day forward, York became an international hero and was awarded Medals of Honor. He declined fame and fortune and just wanted to get back home to his family and farm in Tennessee.

York knew Gracie Williams all his life, but when he was a drunkard, she didn’t like him. After York became a Christian, he and Gracie fell in love. After the war, in 1919, they married and went on to have ten children.

York wanted to start a school for backwoods Tennessee children who didn’t have enough money to go to school. York struggled financially throughout his life and nearly went bankrupt trying to build the school.

Finally, after twenty years of declining finances and fame, York agreed to have a movie made in his honor. He wanted to raise money for the school. His only condition was that Gary Cooper must play the role of York.

One month before the movie premiere, York gave one of his most compelling speeches at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery. As the world was on the brink of WWII, he encouraged America to fight to keep its liberty. He stated,
“We are standing at a crossroads in history. The important capitals of the world in a few years will either be Berlin and Moscow, or Washington and London. I for one prefer Congress and Parliament to Hitler’s Reichstag and Stalin’s Kremlin. And because we were, for a time, side by side, I know this Unknown Soldier does too.
We owe it to him to renew that lease on liberty he helped us to get.
May God help us to be equal to the test.”
The movie was a success. York earned money to build his school and pay off some debt. America went on to fight in WWII.

After declining health, Sergeant Alvin C. York died on September 2, 1964. Gracie died twenty years later. York’s school is still standing in operation today.
Upon finishing Sergeant York the book, we watched Sergeant York, the movie starring Gary Cooper.  Of course, it strayed a bit from Perry's book, but it was still well done and a great family movie night film.  If you haven't already studied Sergeant Alvin C. York, I would highly encourage you to do so.  Even though Riley and I enjoyed his character immensely, I think he would resonate best with boys.

By the way, Sergeant York and His People by Sam K. Cowan; Sergeant York and The Great War by Tom Skeyhill, and Sgt. York: His Life, Legend & Legacy by John Perry are all listed on A Visual American History Timeline of Books, though I have not yet read them.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Friday Findings: Pageant of History, Beginning Ideas on Homeschool, Dyslexic Strengths, On Teaching Writing....

I've been having a bit of trouble getting started these past few weeks.  Here in WI, the daylight really doesn't come until 7:30-8:00 a.m., which I attribute to our lazy start.  Although, I can tell we are gaining daylight in the late afternoon/evening. We are still managing to cover our academic subjects, but unfortunately, not much else.

On the other hand, I've been thinking about which direction to take in the fall, when I have a rising 7th grader, 6th grader, and 4-year old.  As I gear up for the Midwest Great Homeschool Convention, I'm trying to devise my plan.  I'll post more about that over the coming months.

I just finished listening to the first podcast, Why Study History, in the Knowledge of Man series at A Delectable Education.  I was inspired to listen after reading Emily Kiser's post at the Charlotte Mason Institute titled, An Essay Towards a Charlotte Mason History Curriculum.  I'm always intrigued by the practical application of Charlotte's methods, particularly throughout each subject.

I adore Letter 1 - Learning Not School by Nadene.  Her beginning ideas of homeschool sound much like mine.  My, how time changes us :)

Marianne Sunderland brings up an excellent point about focusing on the positive in 4 Little Known Strengths of Dyslexia.  Often times, dyslexics are judged for the things they can't do, rather than the gifts they have.

Mystie Winckler wrote an extensive post on How to Teach Writing Without a Curriculum.  The post is very long, but there are some gold nuggets there.  I look forward to her future post on beginning grammar.

Everyday play...

Monday, January 18, 2016

The Wright Brothers, Pioneers of American Aviation...

Chapter 1 Learning from Mother 
Susan Wright wasn't like other mothers.
She was younger and prettier than most other mothers, and she liked to laugh and she liked to play games with her three youngest children: Wilbur, who was eleven; Orville, who was seven; and Katharine, who was four.
The other mothers would shake their heads and say, "Susan Wright spoils those children; lets'em do anything they want.  No good will come of it."
But Susan Wright only laughed.  In the summer she'd pack a picnic lunch and she, the two boys, and little Kate (no one ever called her Katharine) would go and spend a day in the woods.  Mrs. Wright knew the name of every bird and she could tell a bird by his song.  Wilbur and Orville learned to tell birds too... 
 ...That was another thing about Susan Wright.  Most other mothers would have thought that this was foolish talk.  Most other mothers would have said, "Oh, don't be silly, who ever heard of such nonsense!"  But not Susan Wright.  She knew that even an eleven-year-old boy can have ideas of his own, and just because they happened to come from and eleven-year-old head-well, that didn't make them foolish She never treated her children as if they were babies, and perhaps that's why they liked to go fishing with her or on picnics with her.  And that's why they kept asking her questions.  
And so begins The Wright Brothers, Pioneers of American Aviation by Quentin Reynolds.   We fell in love with the Wright Brothers after reading this Landmark title as part of our Beautiful Feet Modern American and World History study.  Inspired by their mathematically gifted mother right from the start, Wilbur and Orville loved building things from the fastest sled in town to the highest flying kite and the fastest bicycle.  But their real dream was to someday fly.  As they grew into young men, they spent years perfecting their plan until one day their dream turned into reality.

While reading The Wright Brothers, several things struck me about Wilbur and Orville Wright.  Aside from their ingenuity, they were diligent, dedicated, and hardworking.  When they set their mind to an invention, it usually always materialized into success.  The boys made enough money from odd jobs to finance their projects/experiments and only occasionally borrowed money short term from their mother and no one else.  In the end, their perseverance paid off.

Wilbur and Orville Wright were also largely self-educated.  After a hockey injury forced Wilbur to drop out of school, he continued to study math and science on his own free will.  He was a mechanical genius who understood how things worked.  Orville dropped out of high school to start a printing press business.  He was a little more of a free spirit and always trying to think of ways to improve Wilbur's inventions. Both boys were avid readers with inquiring minds.

The Wright brothers were family oriented.  They loved their mother and sister Kate dearly, as well as each other.  Wilbur didn't stop to think twice when folks heckled him about hanging out with his younger brother.  He loved Orville and believed he was one of the few who understood his thinking.  When Orville became ill, Wilbur sat by his bedside and read him books about gliders and flying. Sadly, neither Wilbur, nor Orville ever married or had children.  It appears they were more interested in flying than socialization.

We learned a great deal about the Wright brothers from Reynolds' book.  After reading, Riley and Ruben each chose a different brother and wrote a short character sketch including three character traits exhibited by that individual.  I used some of their ideas in the description above.

Overall, we enjoyed the book.  I look forward to reading it again some day with Levi.  The Wright Brothers is also a TruthQuest History recommendation.