Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry...

The more I read, the more it takes to impress me.  I've noticed that I am pickier than I used to be about what constitutes a good book.  But every now and then, I still come across one.   Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor is one of those great books.  It is the story of an African-American family's struggle in the deep south during the Great Depression.  It is a book about racism.

Though Taylor's subject matter is heavy, her story is engrossing.  The characters are deep, sympathetic, and multi-faceted.  Taylor develops them in such a way that we see their person-hood come to life.   Throughout the struggle and hardship, there is growth.  I used one such example a couple of weeks ago in A Matter of Principle.

It is my understanding that Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry is part of a series Taylor wrote, with it being a middle book chronologically in the series.  I have not read other books in the series, but I know RileyAnn was immediately investigating them and plans to read more at some point.  I have seen Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry on many book lists including, Sonlight and TruthQuest, but of course, we read it as part of our Beautiful Feet Modern American and World History study.  When studying American history, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor is not to be missed!

Monday, May 2, 2016

My Love Hate Relationship with Life of Fred....

Kids love Fred.  My kids even love(d) Fred.   Some parents love Fred.   Some parents think it's all you need for math and that Life of Fred can stand alone.  I have worked through Apples to Goldfish with Ruben.  I do not love Fred.  I do not think Life of Fred is a stand alone math program.   But wait, before throwing stones, please let me explain...

I acquired a few elementary Life of Fred math books several years ago, when they were first coming on the scene.  I had/have friends using them with mixed reviews so I wasn't sure I wanted to attempt them.  However, after hitting many walls with traditional curricula, this year I caved.

RileyAnn really wanted to try Life of Fred so she was my biggest push.  She dabbled in the intermediate levels of Fred at the end of 5th grade, but felt like she was missing the story and the math was a bit of a challenge, so she started back at the beginning this year in 6th grade with Life of Fred Apples.  Initially, she was loving the story and the math was easy so she thought it fun.  I thought, how fabulous!  Fred is bringing life and a love of math back into our homeschool.

Of course, what's good for the goose, must be good for the gander, so I immediately sought to start Life of Fred with Ruben.  After all, he was also struggling in math and I so wanted to develop a love of learning.  Therefore, we also began with Life of Fred Apples.  Riley worked independently, but Ruben and I worked together.  I read Fred aloud and he performed "Your Turn to Play" on paper, just as prescribed.  Without hesitation, he too loved the story so we tarried on.

After finishing Apples, Ruben wanted to continue with Butterflies.  After finishing Butterflies, he wanted to continue with Cats.  After finishing Cats, of course, we had to proceed with Dogs....and so the story goes.  Our school year pushed forward, one month leading into another as we walked through Life of Fred.

Now, as for me, I suspected twaddle early on.  Something just didn't feel right.  The story is just so stupid! The words of Charlotte Mason rang in my head, "I have said much of history and science, but mathematics, a mountainous land which pays the climber, makes its appeal to mind, and good teachers know that they may not drown their teaching in verbiage." (Vol. 6, p. 51)  "Verbiage", hmm, could this be Life of Fred?   I found myself continually questioning and wrestling with the use of it.  And, why was I trying to make math 'fun'?  Isn't math true and beautiful in it's own right?  I felt like Life of Fred was trying to hide math in a story.....verbiage.  Also, there is not enough practice in Life of Fred for long term retention!  You either need to supplement or have facts mastered before beginning Fred, which is not indicative of a stand alone math program.  

On the other hand, presentation of what might be considered a difficult concept, became easier with Life of Fred.  Ruben was able to see math in a useful sort of way.  Numbers on a page are confusing to him.  However, he's quite genius with story problems and mental math.  Life of Fred presented some concepts of higher level math in a way that made understanding achievable for him.  This pacified my worries short term, but I kept having moments of doubt.  My kids still appeared to be loving it....or were they?

Ironically, about early March, after RileyAnn  had worked through nearly the entire elementary series, she came to me and said something like, mom, when can I go back and do real math?   I said, whatever do you mean by 'real math'?  She talked about having a more traditional text with pages of problems, rather than a storybook.  She explained that Life of Fred was becoming sickening to her because Fred kept having problems that he was too dumb to figure out.  She felt Fred was "cheesy".  I was shocked and elated!  I jumped for joy, not only because I was never a real fan of Fred, but because our 12-year old came to my conclusion all on her own.

Unfortunately, Ruben wants to continue Fred simply because of the story, but he hates the math.  We are currently in Honey and it's getting a bit more difficult for him.  He did say, he will be satisfied to finish the elementary series and move on to something else.  Now, you might say, if it's not working, why give him a choice?  Truth be told, we have three weeks left of school.  Wisconsin weather looks like it is finally going to settle into spring.  We are busy with other things and I really don't want to start a new math program at this point.  We will finish Honey and call it good.  If Ruben wants to read Ice Cream and Jelly Beans on his own, I certainly will not stop him.  However, I am personally done with Life of Fred!

By the way, Riley did also complete Simply Charlotte Mason's Your Business Math this year, as well as some misc. math books like Fractals, Googols, and Other Mathematical Tales and Mathematicians Are People Too, so all was not lost.   She has since went back and finished an old Math-U-See book and now she's working through a Modern Curriculum Press workbook that I had laying around, which actually seems like a good fit.  I'm trying to decide where to go from here. She is not quite ready for pre-algebra, but I'm actually OK with that....maybe by 8th grade. I really believe in getting arithmetic down solid before starting algebra.  Riley still hates math and feels like she's not good at it, though I would beg to differ. I think most other subjects come fairly easy for her and she's a perfectionist so when math is a bit challenging, she gets overwhelmed. I've actually been contemplating Saxon for a variety of reasons or possibly going back and finishing the elementary series of Math-U-See. I think she could work through them faster now and probably complete the last three elementary levels in 1 1/2 to 2 years. On the other hand, if MCP continues to go well, maybe we'll just stick with that until Algebra....I don't know, some days it feels like a crap shoot. It's six to one, half dozen the other.  However, I do know Life of Fred did not create the love of math in either of my kids that I'd hoped. More importantly, it did not strengthen their math skills.  And, it did not help them see the beauty and truth of mathematics.
Let his arithmetic lesson be to the child a daily exercise in clear thinking and rapid, careful execution, and his mental growth will be as obvious as the sprouting of seedlings in the spring. - Charlotte Mason, Vol. 1, p. 261
The question of Arithmetic and Mathematics generally is one of great import to us as educators.  So long as the idea of 'faculties' obtained no doubt we were right to put all possible weight on a subject so well adapted to train the reasoning power, but now we are assured that these powers do not wait upon our training.  They are there in any case; and if we keep a chief place in our curriculum for Arithmetic we must justify ourselves upon other grounds.. We take strong ground when we appeal to the beauty and truth of Mathematics; that, as Ruskin points out, two and two make four and cannot conceivably make five, is an inevitable law.  It is a great thing to be brought into the presence of a law, of a whole system of laws, that exist without our concurrence, - that two straight lines cannot enclose a space is a fact which we can perceive, state, and act upon but cannot in any wise alter, should give to children the sense of limitation which is wholesome, for all of us, and inspire that sursum corda which we should hear in all natural law. - Charlotte Mason, Vol. 6, p. 230-231 

Friday, April 29, 2016

Friday Findings: Grammar, Computers in Class, Can We Eat to Starve Cancer?...

Uffda, we nearly ran ourselves ragged thrift saling this week!  This is how I cloth my family on a very slim budget.  There were many neighborhood sales in surrounding communities yesterday.  It was raining and sleeting at only 39-degrees, but we found some deals.   Now, I will spend the weekend doing laundry, sorting closets and dressers, pulling out the too small and filtering in the new.  I actually rather enjoy it and the kids LOVE it!   They get so excited about their new treasures.  Even if we strike it rich some day, I believe we'll still sale.

Also, this week, around the web, I've been studying Grammar, trying to figure out the direction my students should go in the fall.  I found The Death of Grammar and the End of Education interesting.  I'm still pondering this one.

“One of the most powerful tools in education is conversation,’’ says Dr. Vallance in Computers in Class "a scandalous waste": Sydney Grammar Head, a fairly short article with much wisdom.

On a little health note, in Can We Eat to Starve Cancer?, Dr. Li gives some excellent food for thought...pun intended ;-)

Now, we're off to ball practice, but I'll leave you with the cousins....


Monday, April 25, 2016

Beautiful Feet History of Science Wrap-Up....

We wrapped up our Beautiful Feet History of Science last week.  I mentioned in the past that we used an original guide, not the newest History of Science pack, which, by the way, I was able to view at the Great Homeschool Convention and it looks great as well.   I love that they added a book about DaVinci by Diane Stanley and another about George Washington Carver.

Anyway, I digress.  The original BF Science guide that we used had sixty-seven lessons, which allowed us to work through two lessons per week, a very doable pace.  We read books about great scientists like Archimedes, Galileo, Benjamin Franklin, The Wright Brothers, Louis Pasteur, Thomas Alva Edison, Marie Curie, and Albert Einstein.  The Picture History of Great Inventors by Gillian Clements, allowed us to discover many other inventors/scientists even though we didn't do an in depth reading/study of them.  In a one to two page spread, listed chronologically, The Picture History... covers the lives and work of over 50 inventors throughout history.

The BF History of Science also offers plenty of opportunity for experiments and hands on learning.  My kids are not big on science experiments so they did balk a bit at these.  I didn't make them complete all of the experiments, but at a minimum, they were required to read through them.

In addition, there was a good amount of notebooking.  You may remember from my first post about BF History of Science, that I created notebook pages for each of my students and bound them prior to beginning.  This is not necessary, but the kids really did like them.  They enjoy having a record and being able to look back through their work.  It's also good for review.  For other BF guides, we've simply used sewn composition books for our notebooking exercises.

Overall, we really enjoyed this fabulous study!  I believe it's intended for use with students in grades 3-7.  Riley and Ruben are in 5th and 6th and I felt this was an excellent and appropriate age for this study.  Younger students may enjoy the experiments more.  Older students may get more out of the notebooking exercises.  Speaking of which, I will leave you with more samples of our notebooking pages....
















Saturday, April 23, 2016

Gladys Aylward...

Gladys Aylward was an amazing woman!  After reading her autobiography, written in conjunction with Christine Hunter, as part of our Beautiful Feet Modern American and World History study, I have a much greater appreciation for her life and work.  This Little Woman put her faith and trust in God to provide not only for her needs, but the needs of the children He entrusted in her care.  I remember reading a bit about Aylward from Hero Tales through Sonlight when Riley was in Kindergarten or first grade, so her name was familiar to me.  However, Gladys Aylward, The Little Woman really brought her story to life.

After reading the book, we did watch The Inn of the Sixth Happiness, starring Ingrid Bergman.  The film was good as far as movies go, but it was not an accurate portrayal of Aylward....definitely not in accordance with her autobiography.  I was a little disappointed, particularly with the romance Bergman developed throughout her role of Aylward's mission work.  It was surely made for Hollywood.  If you have to pick between the two, I would highly recommend the book over the movie.

Below are some of RileyAnn's notebooking pages she created during our study of Gladys Aylward...





Friday, April 22, 2016

Friday Findings: No Supermom Here, Lost Boys, The Green Ember, Conflict of the Story, and Simplifying Childhood....

I'm sorry I've been mostly absent here again this week.  April has been incredibly chaotic! I feel like winter activities are overlapping with spring activities.  Riley and Ruben started softball/baseball.  They have practices many evenings and scrimmages this weekend.  Wednesday we finished our last 5th/6th Grade Socratic Book Club.  We read The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett.  It was wonderful and I plan to post a follow-up soon.  Yesterday RileyAnn finished choir and had her concert last night...which was fabulous!  We are so blessed to have a homeschool choir in our area!

Unfortunately, last weekend, my neck seized up and I've been fighting extreme pain in my occipital nerve.  I had a trip to ER, follow-up with doc, and three trips to our chiropractor this week. Next Monday I start physical therapy.  I don't tell you this for sympathy as I know many busy moms have struggles, just as part of the explanation for my absence.  The light from the computer screen and typing sends me into a frenzy.  I'm so grateful for dear friends and prayer for healing.  The kiddos have been great in picking up the slack while I attempt rest, altering between ice and heat.  I'm trying to avoid the Valium I was sent home from ER with since it makes me loopy, but Ibuprofen is a must.  I did get a full night's rest last night, which hopefully means things are turning a corner.  The down time has given me many ideas for blogging so stay tuned.

One thing I did manage to read online this week was Life Without a Cape, There Are No Supermoms Here by Brandy Vencel.  I found it extremely timely, especially in my condition.  I know in blog land it can sometimes seem like us bloggers live a dream life.  Let me be the first to tell you, I am no supermom and life on the inside looks a little crazy most days.  Never compare my outsides with your insides.

Have you read Loving the Lost Boys: Some Thoughts on Boyhood and Reading by Zach Franzen, illustrator of The Green Ember?  It's excellent and touches on so many troubling issues in our culture.

Speaking of The Green Ember, S.D. Smith had an exhibit at the Great Homeschoool Convention in Cincinnati and we picked up a copy of it and the prequel, The Black Star.  Smith was great, talking to Riley and offering to sign our copies.  We're looking forward to reading The Green Ember this summer.


In Conflict-The Heart of Every Story, Adam Andrews spells out the need to identify the conflict in order to understand the story.  There are five options and knowing them makes it easier to choose.
...conflict is the most essential ingredient in any story– without it, there’s really no story to tell. Adam Andrews, Center for Lit
Simplifying Childhood May Protect Against Mental Health Issues should be an awakening for us all.  As mentioned above, we recently started baseball/softball season here, running to the ball park 3-4 nights per week.  It's exhausting!!  I can't imagine a child sitting in a classroom all day, then bustling off to organized events in the evening.  I know we are personally re-evaluating which activities we can limit so as to enjoy more restful time at home.

Speaking of rest, I leave you with our youngest feigning nap time.  I think it's the smile that gives him away....


Monday, April 18, 2016

The Peterson Farm Brothers...

We took the kiddos to see the The Peterson Farm Brothers live over the weekend.  It was encouraging to see the trio of brothers spreading the word about agriculture and family farming.  We did get to visit briefly after the show.  These All American young men were humble and courteous and their passion rang through.  I asked them about the faith they portray it in their videos and they stated that their parents were very instrumental in grounding them so as not get lost in their fame.  It was apparent they are deeply committed to family, farming, and faith.  We give The Peterson Farm Brothers two thumbs up!

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Fiesta Blend Smoothie...

A while back, I picked up Season's Choice Fiesta Blend frozen pineapple and mango chunks at my local Aldi store.  On the back was a recipe for what sounded like a yummy smoothie.  One morning, with a little alteration, I gave it a try for breakfast and it was a hit!  The recipe called for apple juice, however, I didn't have any so I threw in two whole apples instead.  Here's what I did...

1 cup Organic Vanilla Whole Milk Yogurt
8 oz. Fiesta Blend frozen pineapple/mango chunks
2 whole apples (washed, cored, and sliced)

Add above ingredients to blender.  Mix and serve.

It was very easy and made a great breakfast smoothie.  Served with some protein, a Fiesta Blend Smoothie is a fabulous way to start your day :)



Friday, April 15, 2016

Friday Findings: Defining Self, Charlotte Mason Composition, Morning Time for All Ages, Seeds...

Baseball/softball practice started this week and we've got a couple weeks left of choir, so it's been a little crazy around here with all the running, but it's a good kind of crazy.  We're down to our final five weeks of the 2015-2016 formal academic schedule and trying to finish strong.  The weather has turned, it seems, from winter to summer over night.  Hopefully, spring has finally sprung here in the Midwest.  In between the busy, I did find a few things around the web.

A Fake Somebody Versus A Real Nobody is an interesting article on defining self.  It's long, but worthy.  I actually read it out loud.  It prompted a great discussion with RileyAnn.

Nancy Kelly at Sage Parnassus reprinted an article by H. H. Dyke on Composition, Letterwriting, and Narration that I found extremely helpful!

Pam Barnhill's Morning Time For All Ages is a fabulous resource whether you're aiming for Circle/Morning Time with littles, teenagers, or an only child.

Are you including seeds in your diet?  Super Seeds: They're Powerfully Amazing shows you how.  I am not a nut girl, but can do seeds.  I never thought of replacing nuts with seeds in recipes....good stuff!

We had a birthday boy earlier this month....


...and everyone needs a little brother to photo bomb his birthday pictures...


Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Robinson Crusoe...

Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe or Foe, as was his birth name before he changed it to sound more aristocratic, was our March Socratic Book Club read.  Though nearly 300 years old, this great adventure tale still appeals to modern readers.  It is the story of shipwreck and survival, man against nature and man against self.  

In opposition of his father, Robinson Crusoe leaves home to find adventure at sea.  He is shipwrecked, captured by pirates, sold into slavery, eventually escaping, and becomes a prosperous land owner in Brazil. However, his success is not enough, for he sets sail from Brazil to Africa to participate in the slave trade.  While enroute, he is again shipwrecked.  Being the lone survivor, he makes his way to an uninhabited island.  It is here, he spends the next 28 years of his life.   

Weaving between first and third person narrative, Defoe keeps the reader's attention during those initial years of Crusoe being marooned. Like any masterful storyteller, Defore also uses a variety of literary devices, including vivid description, metaphors, similes, contrast, foreshadowing, and flashback. to make his story more interesting.  I was totally pulled into Crusoe's struggle.  The author writes,
I had a dismal prospect of my condition; for as I was not cast away upon that island without being driven, as is said, by a violent storm. quite out of the course of our intended voyage, and a great way, some hundreds of leagues out of the ordinary course of the trade of mankind, I had great reason to consider it as a determination of Heaven, that in this desolate place, and in this desolate manner, I should end my life.  The tears would run plentifully down my face when I made these reflections, and sometimes I would expostulate with myself, why Providence should thus completely ruin its creatures, and render them so absolutely miserable, so without help abandoned, so entirely depressed, that it could hardly be rational to be thankful for such a life.  
But something always returned swift upon me to check these thoughts, and to reprove me; and particularly one day, walking with my gun in my hand by the seaside, I was very pensive upon the subject of my present condition, when Reason, as it were, expostulated with me t'other way, thus: "Well, you are in a desolate condition, it is true, but pray remember, where are the rest of you?  Did you come eleven of you into the boat?  Where are the ten?  Why were they not saved, and you lost? Why were you singled out?  Is it better to be here, or there?"  And then I pointed to the sea.  All evils are to be considered with the good that is in them, and with that worse attends them.  
Then it occurred to me again, how I was furnished for my subsistence, and what would have been my case if it had not happened, which was an hundred thousand to one, that the ship floated from the place where she first struck and was driven so near to the shore that I had time to get all these things out of her; what would have been my case, if I had been to have lived in the condition in which I at first came on shore, without necessaries of life, or necessaries to supply and procure them?
Here, we see Crusoe attempting to rationalize and tame his thoughts.  For the first few years of his abandonment, he continues to wrestle with his fate. At one point, he makes a list of the good and evil of his circumstances, "And as my reason began now to master my despondency, I began to comfort myself as well as I could, and to set the good against the evil, that I might have something to distinguish my case from worse; and I stated it very impartially, like a debtor and creditor, the comforts I enjoyed against the miseries I suffered..."  

Over time he takes up the Bible and begins reading it on a regular basis trying to find purpose and meaning in his condition.  Finally, after multiple fits of "ague", Crusoe accepts Christ and his lot.
Thus I lived mighty comfortably, my mind being entirely composed by resigning to the will of God, and throwing myself wholly upon the disposal of His providence.  
From that point on, he not only tames his inner self, but also conquers the physical realms of nature.  He depends on God's provisions and learns to work the land instead of against it, making a comfortable home and life for himself.  Eventually, Crusoe even embraces the simplicity and solitude of life on the island.

Then one day, Crusoe sees a lone footprint in the sand on the shore.  He is both happy and afraid as he realizes the island has been visited by cannibals.  However, many years pass before he actually sees them.  I will not give away the second half of the story, but encourage you to read Robinson Crusoe for yourself, which by the way was originally titled, The Life and Strange Surprizing Adventures of Robinson Crusoe, Of York, Mariner: Who lived Eight and Twenty Years, all alone in an un-inhabited Island on the Coast of America, near the Mouth of the Great River of Oroonoque; Having been cast on Shore by Shipwreck, wherein all the Men perished but himself. With An Account how he was at last as strangely deliver'd by Pyrates.

If you are fortunate enough to come across a Charles Scribner copy of Robinson Crusoe, pictured above, illustrated by N.C. Wyeth, I would recommend it as the illustrations are fabulous and add to the antiquity of the story...































My only caution is that the illustrated copy does not include the full ending, so I did finish the book reading from my Watermill Classic paperback, which included approx. 40 more pages.

This review of Robinson Crusoe will be included as part of my 2016 Back to the Classics Challenge in the Adventure category.



Saturday, April 9, 2016

Are Living Books and Classics One and of the Same?...

After posting A Matter of Principle, one faithful follower posed some questions regarding Charlotte's statement, "...not the works of every playwright and novelist are good 'for example of life and instruction in manners.' We are safest with those which have lived long enough to become classics; and this, for two reasons. The fact that they have not been allowed to die proves in itself that the authors have that to say, and a way of saying it, which the world cannot do without. In the next place, the older novels and plays deal with conduct, and conduct is our chief concern in life. Modern works of the kind deal largely with emotions, a less wholesome subject of contemplation."  

The reader asked the following, 
...I found something you stated to be a worthy thought and something that has been on my mind lately. You pointed this out: Modern works of the kind deal largely with emotions, a less wholesome subject of contemplation (as per Mrs. Mason)....I am curious as to your thoughts about it? What would you consider 'modern' to be? How modern is modern? We were reading a bio of Beethoven and something in there caught my attention that said "He came up with new, thrilling, and expressive ways of putting musical sounds together that changed the history of music forever. Ludwig's music let people FEEL things about the joy, sadness, stress of life. It was something loud and exciting, and often beautiful enough to give your goose bumps all over..." Now, Ludwig was born in 1770. We are talking VERY OLD. Yet, since his composing, the music industry has changed and we are now driven by music that plays very heavy on our emotions. One example, most of his music had a continuous melody through the symphony that was only 4 notes (the shortest). That was the 'tune'. I know some great modern music that only has few notes repeating and repeating itself and is absolutely amazing. But, again, emotional. I often hear in CM circles to choose books that would 'touch the heart'. Oh, they often do. But again, would you consider that to be under 'emotions driven' and most importantly, is that what CM meant? Because if so, what we think to be today's modern stuff, might not even be close to what she meant by it....
I've been pondering the reader's questions because I thought they were great.  I decided to put my thoughts in a post, for whatever it's worth.

In order to answer the questions posed, I think we would have to ask another question.  Are a living book and a classic book the same?  It appears as though Charlotte uses the terms ‘living’ and ‘classic’ differently in her writing and I wonder if this is where the question lies.

In Charlotte's quote, she refers to books that have become "classics" for two reasons: (1) the fact that they have not been allowed to die proves in itself that the authors have that to say, and a way of saying it, which the world cannot do without; and (2) the older novels and plays deal with conduct, and conduct is our chief concern in life.

According to Invitation to the Classics, edited byCowan and Guinness, classics exhibit distinguished style, fine artistry, and keen intellect, as well as creating whole universes of imagination and thought.  They portray life as multifaceted, depicting both positive and negative aspects of human character. They have a transforming effect on the reader's self-understanding.  They invite and survive frequent re-readings.  They are considered classics by large numbers of people and their appeal endures over wide reaches of time.  The Classics also often refer to books in the Western Canon, or the body of books, music, and art that have been most influential in shaping Western Civilization. In the above quote, I believe this is what Charlotte is referring to. 

On the other hand, living books as defined in blog land and on the Simply Charlotte Mason website are, "…books {that} are usually written by one person who has a passion for the subject and writes in conversational or narrative style. The books pull you into the subject and involve your emotions, so it’s easy to remember the events and facts.  Living books make the subject ‘come alive.’ They can be contrasted to dry writing, like what is found in most encyclopedias or textbooks, which basically lists informational facts in summary form."  I believe this may be what the reader was referring to...and I hope she'll correct me if I'm wrong.

In Principle 12, Charlotte refers to Education being the Science of Relations.  In Volume 3, Charlotte says,
I do not mean that he should know all these things; but he should feel, when he reads of it in the newspapers, the thrill which stirred the Cretan peasants when the frescoes in the palace of King Minos were disclosed to the labour of their spades. He should feel the thrill, not from mere contiguity, but because he has with the past the relationship of living pulsing thought; and, if blood be thicker than water, thought is more quickening than blood. He must have a living relationship with the present, its historic movement, its science, literature, art, social needs and aspirations. In fact, he must have a wide outlook, intimate relations all round; and force, virtue, must pass out of him, whether of hand, will, or sympathy, wherever he touches.
We know that Charlotte advocated the use of 'living books' and the SCM definition would definitely contradict her statement about modern literature being negative because it deals with emotion if she used the words 'living' and 'classic' interchangeably.  However, in reading the original quote in question in its entirety, Charlotte uses the word “classics” rather than living books.  This leads me to believe she means two different things.  Charlotte definitely advocated using living books to spark living ideas and this would be the tie to emotion, but I don't believe this is the same as the original reference above.  

I personally see a living book as being somewhat more subjective than a classic.  Yes, there are some similarities.  However, whether or not the reader makes an emotional connection with a living book depends on the reader and what experiences they've encountered prior to their reading.  Whereas a classic is considered as such by a larger group of people and could have been influential in shaping Western Civilization.   With that said, I do think a classic can be a living book and a living book can be a classic.  But, based on the criteria above, a living book may not always be considered a classic.

Stay with me here...


When I look up the word "classic" in my new American Dictionary of the English Language by Noah Webster 1828, it says,
(1) An author of the first rank; a writer whose style is pure, correct, and refined; primarily, a Greek or Roman author of this character; but the word is applied to writers of a like character in any nation. 
(2) A book written by an author of the first class 
Here, we see that relation to Greece and Rome, or the shaping of Western Culture.  Now, when I think about a book like Swallows and Amazons by English author Arthur Ransome, which was published in 1930, seven years after Charlotte published A Philosophy of Education, I would consider it a living book, which by some, has been deemed a classic.  Certainly Ransome would have been Mason's contemporary and considered modern in her time.  Does Swallows and Amazons appeal to emotion rather than conduct or character?  I would argue it does not.

This prompts me to think, if Charlotte referred to modern works of her time as being emotional, I wonder what she would say about modern literature now, nearly 100 years later.  Obviously, modern to her didn't mean the same as modern to us.  And, have some of the works she was referring to become what we call classics over that time?  Since she's not here to ask, it's hard to say.  

By the way, I don't know that there is a specific amount of time that must pass in order to make a book a classic.  I have read a variety of debates ranging from twenty to fifty and even one hundred years.  If we consider books from Greece and Rome, we're talking over 2,000 years.  Some living book connoisseur's advise staying away from anything published after the 1950's, particularly regarding children's literature, but again, this is not necessarily related to classics.

Either way, after re-reading Charlotte's original quote several times, I believe her point was to suggest choosing books that deal with conduct, rather than emotion.  Ultimately, the decision of which books should be chosen remains to be seen, as the debate of whether a book is classic rages on.  As Cowan and Guinness point out,
The body of these masterworks thus shifts and changes constantly in the course of time.  Plato, who was passed over in the late medieval world in favor of his disciple Aristotle, became a dominant philosopher in the Renaissance; Thomas Aquinas the learned founder of Scholasticism, has been in modern times largely relegated to seminaries; Francis Bacon has declined to the role of a minor eccentric.  Even Shakespeare, now often described as the world's greatest poet, has not always been considered a classic author; the eighteenth century decried his lack of taste and rewrote several of his plays....Virgil's Aeneid seems, regrettably, to be losing some of its position in recent times.  But the Iliad and the Odyssey hold their foremost place as firmly as when Plato cited Homer nearly twenty-five hundred years ago, or when, at the turn of the century, most college students read them in Greek.
To place a contemporary writing among the classics, then, is to make a bold conjecture.  That conjecture is based on the judgement of a sufficiently large body of readers in current society who consider the work a masterpiece.  But the book in question has to be worth their endorsement.  All the popular acclaim in the world will not make a classic of mediocre text.  
...We could argue that, since the real existence of masterpieces is beyond time, we should not have to wait for time to make its judgment on newcomers.  A recently published work might be seen by perceptive readers to take its place among its predecessors and to converse amicably with them.  The sensitive reader should be able to judge. (Invitation to the Classics, p. 22) 
Some of Charlotte's contemporaries and beyond that Cowan and Guinness include in Invitation to the Classics are Nathaniel Hawthorne, Emily Dickinson, Herman Melville, Gustave Flaubert, Charles Dickens, George Eliot, Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Mark Twain, Friedrich Nietzsche, Joseph Conrad, William Butler Yeats, T.S. Eliot, Robert Frost, C.S. Lewis, William Faulkner, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Flannery O'Connor, and another that I would add that wasn't in their list is Wendell Berry.  These authors would be more suited for upper high school and adults.

Authors I would consider worthy for children and young adult would be Louisa May Alcott, C.W. Anderson, Thornton Burgess, Paul Bunyan, Alfred Church, Charles Coffin, Padraic Colum, Alice Dalgleish, James Daugherty, Edgar and Ingri D'Aulaire, Marguerite DeAngeli, Daniel DeFoe, Mary Mapes Dodge, Genevieve Foster, H.A. Guerber, Marguerite Henry, G.A. Henty, V.M. Hillyer, Stewart Holbrook, Holling C. Holling, Clara Ingram Judson, Rudyard Kipling, Jean Lee Latham, George MacDonald, Robert McCloskey, Ralph Moody, Lucy Fitch Perkins, Beatrix Potter, Howard Pyle, Arthur Ransome, Kate Seredy, Rosemary Sutcliff, Opal Wheeler, and Laura Ingalls Wilder.  I don't mean to imply that they've all written classics, but I do believe their books are living.

I am still pondering all of this and would love to have further discussion in the comments if anyone is so inclined :))

Friday, April 8, 2016

Friday Findings: Finland's Education System, Play and Learning, Creating Independent Learners, Morning Time with LIttles....

Here we are again at Friday!  I've been away for the past couple of Friday Findings, but still have a few new links.

I read 11 Ways Finland's Education System Shows Us "Less is More" some weeks back and found it fascinating.  It think they're on to something.

While in Cincinnati, I had the opportunity to hear Dr. Christopher Perrin speak.  I greatly appreciate his knowledge and approach. Yesterday, I came across this video clip on Play and Learning.  It's a shortened version of one of his conference talks.

One of my favorite things is sitting next to my children with a book.  On the other hand, I do have a child that can milk it for all it's worth.  Knowing where to draw the line between dependence and independence can be a challenge, which Harvey and Laurie Bluedorn address in Sit By Me, Mom.

And, if you're a book junkie like me, you may appreciate Heidi's Reading List Challenge 2016 - March. Her list looks fabulous....and a little daunting at the same time.

Lastly, we listened to podcasts most of the way to and from Cincinnati, which I absolutely LOVE!  Digital technology is amazing!  Most recently, I listened to Morning Time with Littles, a conversation between Pam Barnhill and Celeste Cruz.  Celeste has some fabulous ideas for successfully incorporating morning time with a house full of little people.  Her perspective on expectation and creating the habit of attention are spot on.

Today, I leave you with photos of the latest farm project....new calves for kids :)