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 calves for kids :)

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

A Matter of Principle....

Principle 19

Therefore, children should be taught, as they become mature enough to understand such teaching, that the chief responsibility which rests on them as persons is the acceptance or rejection of ideas.  To help them in this choice we give them principles of conduct, and a wide range of the knowledge fitted to them.  These principles should save children from some of the loose thinking and heedless action which cause most of us to live at a lower level than we need.  

principle = a fundamental truth or proposition that serves as the foundation for a system of belief or behavior or for a chain of reasoning

According to Charlotte everyone has principles - that is, everyone has a few chief and leading opinions upon which every bit of his conduct is based.  She further asserts,
It is an interesting fact, that, though a person's principles of conduct are often not put into words, they are always written in characters of their own.  Everyone carries his rules of conduct writ large upon his countenance, that he who runs may read.  
We gather our principles unconsciously; but they are our masters; and it is our business every now and then to catch one of them, look it in the face, and question ourselves as to the manner of conduct such a principle must bring forth.  (Vol. 4, Ourselves)
I thought of Charlotte's words today as I read aloud Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor.  In Chapter 7 we found out that Stacey gave his new much needed coat to T.J.  The coat was originally given to Stacey as a gift from Uncle Hammer, but was too big.  When Mama tells Stacey to go get the coat so she can hem the sleeves, he stammers around until he's forced to admit giving the coat away because it was too big and T.J. told him he looked like a fat preacher in it.  After some back and forth dialog, the story goes like this...
"Now you hear me good on this - look at me when I talk to you, boy!"   Immediately Stacey raised  his head and looked at Uncle Hammer.  "If you ain't got the brains of a flea to see that this T.J. fellow made a fool of you, then you'll never get anywhere in this world.  It's tough out there, boy, and as long as there are people, there's going to be somebody trying to take what you got and trying to drag you down.  It's up to you whether you let them or not.  Now it seems to me you wanted that coat when I gave it to you, ain't that right?"
Stacey managed a shaky "Yessir."
"And anybody with any sense would know it's a good thing, ain't that right?"
This time Stacey could only nod. 
"Then if you want something and it's a good thing and you got it in the right way, you better hang on to it and don't let nobody talk you out of it.  You care what a lot of useless people say 'bout you you'll never get anywhere, 'cause there's a lotta folks don't want you to make it.  You understand what I'm telling you?"
"Y-yessir, Uncle Hammer," Stacey stammered.  Uncle Hammer turned then and went back to his paper without having laid a hand on Stacey, but Stacey shook visibly from the encounter.
A few pages later, we encounter T.J. "obnoxiously flaunting Stacey's wool coat" during the cold days of December.  Apparently, the coat fit T.J. perfectly and he was bragging about the beauty and fit of it.  The author then writes...
Stacey was restrained from plugging T.J.'s mouth by Uncle Hammer's principle that a man did not blame others for his own stupidity; he learned from his mistake and became stronger for it.  
Here we have a perfect example of conduct based on principle.  Stacey carelessly gave his new coat away, giving in to peer pressure.  Based upon Stacey's character earlier in the story, the reader knows it's likely he will fight to get his coat back.  However, after knowledge fitted to him from Uncle Hammer, Stacey realizes his mistake and that he cannot blame someone else for his failure.  Instead of beating T.J. up for his own personal shortcoming, he chalks it up to a lesson learned.  Stacey's conscience remembered Uncle Hammer's principle and steered his conduct.

Next, Charlotte addresses how we should teach children these principles of conduct.
But how is the conscience to become instructed?  Life brings us many lessons: when we see others do well, conscience approves and learns; when others do ill, conscience condemns.  But we want a wider range of knowledge than the life about us affords, and books are our best teachers.
There is no nice shade of conduct which is not described or exemplified in the vast treasure-house of literature.  History and biography are full of instruction in righteousness; but what is properly called literature, that is, poetry, essays, the drama, and novels, is perhaps the most useful for our moral instruction, because the authors bring their insight to bear in a way they would hesitate to employ when writing about actual persons.  Autobiographies, again, often lift the veil, for the writer may make free with himself.  In the Bible the lives of men and the history of a nation are told without the reticence which authors are apt to use in telling of the offences of the good or the vices of the bad.  Plutarch, perhaps alone among biographies, writes with comparable candour, if not always with equal justice.  
Charlotte also includes Psalms, Proverbs, dramatists and novelists in her list.  However, she does caution us, saying,
...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.
I find that final sentence fascinating in today's world of political correctness.  Heaven forbid we should call a spade a spade for fear that it may be offensive.  Our society is extremely emotionally charged, and therefore, not producing the great thinkers of the past.  There is panic and pandemonium, rather than leisurely contemplation and deep thought.

Ironically, Charlotte didn't encourage reading books simply for their principles, but stated,
...the way such teaching should come to us is, here a little and there a little, incidentally, from books which we read for the interest of the story, the beauty of the poem, or the grace of the writing.  
This ties directly to classical education, which purports truth, beauty, and goodness.  We should choose classic works that have stood the test of time.  They should be interesting, have beautiful language, and will guide our conduct by their grace and goodness.  

In the last section of our assigned reading, Charlotte addresses conscience.
Everybody knows that the affairs of his body and those of his heart should be ordered by his conscience.  
Charlotte gives examples that illustrate how easy it is for an idle mind to "lie in wait for any chance notion that comes floating their way, take it up zealously, and make it their business in life to spread it."  She demonstrates how fallacies work and concludes with,
There is ever some new fallacy in the air which allures its thousands, and no one is safe who is not cognisant of danger, and who does not know how to safeguard himself.  Perhaps no rules for the right conduct of life are more important than the following: (a) that we may not play with chance opinions; (b) that our own Reason affords an insufficient test of the value of an opinion (because Reason, as we have seen, argues in behalf of Inclination); (c) that we must labour to get knowledge as the foundation of opinions; (d) that we must also labour to arrive at principles whereby to try our opinions. 
In the end, Charlotte calls us to labour, form with toil and care, till, and cultivate to help our children obtain knowledge.  We must then allow them to form opinions based on that knowledge that can be tested under the safety of our wing.  Giving them principles on which to base their conduct so they can soar at the highest possible level.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggety Jig...

I'm trying to get my bearings today after being gone for five days to the Midwest Great Homeschool Convention.  I'm working through mounds of laundry and, since the house looked like tornado alley upon arriving home, cleaning.  The good news, after a week off, we did manage to finish our lessons uneventfully the morning.

Now, I must say, the convention was fabulous and well worth the extra work at home!  I'm still coming down.  Speakers like Dr. Inge Auerbacher, Martin Cothran, Andrew Kern, Dr. Christopher Perrin, Dr. Carol Reynolds, and Ann Voskamp rocked!  RileyAnn and I also really enjoyed entertainment by The Willis Clan.  Exhibits such as Beautiful Feet, Center for Lit, CiRCE Institute, Classical Academic Press, Memoria Press, Rainbow Resource, Simply Charlotte Mason, Sonlight, and Veritas Press made my day.  

After the past year of blogging for Beautiful Feet, I was finally able to meet Josh Berg personally.  Putting a face with the name and e-mail correspondence sure is nice.  Also, I drew great wisdom from time spent speaking to folks like Ian Andrews, Martin Cothran, Andrew Kern and Dr. Christopher Perrin.  Thoughts and ideas have been swimming in my mind since.  There will be future posts as I digest what I've learned.  But for now, below are some sights and scenes from Cincinnati...