Monday, January 30, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Weekly Reflections - Week Twenty...

At Home

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

Around the Web

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

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

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

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

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

On My Shelf

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Commonplace: The Golden Days of Greece...

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

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Oliver Twist....

Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens was our January Middle School Socratic Book Club read.  Last year we studied A Christmas Carol so this was my second Dickens' novel. Riley, Ruben and I actually started Oliver Twist last January 2016, but got about half way and failed to finish.  So this year, I purposely chose it for our book club knowing it would force us to push on.  We each started back at the beginning and this time were able to complete the book.

Oliver Twist was orphaned at birth when his mother died shortly after delivery. Chapter One starts out very grim and the book doesn't get a whole lot brighter until the very end.  Dickens' tale is dark and deep, yet gratifying when good overcomes evil. Several times throughout, I asked myself why I picked such a depressing book. It felt like heavy sledding. I believe this was Dickens intention, to show the dark side of London and its workhouses in the Victorian Era.

After reading each chapter, I wrote a short one paragraph narration...yes, after all 53 chapters! aid my memory and recollection as there are numerous characters in Oliver Twist.  Actually, I also pulled from this list and created a three page typed reference sheet so I could initially keep everyone straight. In the end, Dickens masterfully weaves them all together. I can't think of anyone who was left hanging and this novel writing detail is satisfying to me. I like closure in my reading.

This month in our club, we talked about foreshadowing since Dickens gives numerous examples in Oliver Twist. The three examples I cited in class, which I will withhold here due to being a spoiler, all point to finding out Oliver's family history.

Overall, I loved Oliver Twist and am contemplating which will be my next Dickens' novel. Initially, it seemed impossible to find commonplace entries and then I found three beautiful passages toward the end. Below is an example of RileyAnn's commonplace entry and also Ruben's narration...
'I am chained to my old life. I loathe and hate it now, but I cannot leave it. I must have gone too far to turn back, - and yet I don't know, for if you had spoken to me so, sometime again, I should have laughed it off. But,' she said, looking hastily round, 'this fear comes over me again. I must go home.'
'Home!' repeated the young lady, with great stress upon the word.
'Home, lady,' rejoined the girl. 'To such a home as I have raised for myself with the work of my whole life. Let us part. I shall be watched or seen. Go, go. If I have done you any service, all I ask is, that you leave me and let me go my way alone.' Oliver Twist Ch 46
Oliver Twist narrated by Ruben
Oliver Twist was an orphan who, when he was 9-years old, got sent to the workhouse. He was apprenticed to the Sowerberry's, but he did not like it there so he ran away to London. There he met up with Fagin and his team of robbers, but he did not like robbing people. One day when he was out robbing, he got caught and went to court.  He was then taken in by Mr. Brownlow.  He liked it there, but one day he was out running an errand and he got captured again by Fagin and his men. Then he was forced to rob one night and Oliver got shot in the robbery. He then was left in a ditch to die.  He crawled back to the house he had attempted to rob. The people took pity on him and took care of him until he got older. He then met back up with Mr. Brownlow. He was adopted by Mr. Brownlow.  He lived happily ever after with Mr. Brownlow. The end. 

Monday, January 23, 2017

Weekly Reflections - Week Nineteen..

At Home

Last week's reflection post is late because I found my tribe, as they say. I had the absolutely remarkable pleasure of attending CiRCE's Winter Regional Conference in Louisville, Kentucky. Ruben and I rode with another homeschooling mom and her son. We drove nine hours Thursday, arriving in time for the evening reception at Highlands Latin School at their Spring Meadows campus in Kentucky. It was a lovely evening, featuring hors d'oeuvres, bourbon tasting, piano music by Dr. Carol Reynolds, a school tour, and a full curricula display by Memoria Press. Participants were gifted a copy of Cheryl Swope's book, Simply Classical, A Beautiful Education for Any Child, which highly excited me since it has been on my list to read.

Friday and Saturday, the conference held an engaging array of speakers including Andrew Kern, Martin Cothran, Christopher Perrin, Carol Reynolds, and Andrew Pudewa.  On Friday, there was also an afternoon breakout session with talks from Matt Bianco, Hank Reynolds, and Brian Phillips.  Friday's festivities closed with an evening of Wendell Berry, novelist, poet, essayist, and farmer, reading an original story. Being a third generation farmer myself, this was a highlight for me. I'm currently working my way through one of Berry's novels, Jayber Crow.

While in Kentucky, we stayed at the historic Seelbach Hotel. The weather was fabulous with temperatures in the mid to upper 60's, which is a real treat for Wisconsinites in January.

At the conference, Ruben was fortunate enough to win the complete audio collection of the 2015 National CiRCE Conference in South Carolina so we can continue to glean knowledge of truth, beauty and goodness from CiRCE presenters for some time to come.

Overall, the CiRCE conference afforded a wealth of information and wisdom to contemplate. Many of the talks affirmed my thoughts. It felt like I found my people. I'm still processing and look forward to a chance to discuss what I learned with The Farmer while reviewing my notes.  I will most likely be posting a follow-up or reflective articles in the future.

Around the Web

I didn't spend much time on the web last week given our trip to Kentucky, but a fellow homeschooling mom sent me a link to an article that I did read titled Homeschool Graduates in College ~ From the Professors’ Perspective. I love hearing success stories of homeschool graduates and beyond.

We also listened to The Classical Homeschool Podcast #4, The Homeschool as Monastery, while enroute to the conference as the subject matter was linked to Dr. Christopher Perrin's CiRCE Conference talk, The Monastery School: How Classical Education was Preserved and Extended for Almost 1,000 Years (And What We Can Learn from It).  Dr. Perrin's talk was fascinating and gave me much to ponder.

Added to My Reading List

While at the CiRCE Winter Regional Conference, I purchased the books pictured below and can't wait to dive in...

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

2016-2017 Mid-Year Reflections - Heart of Dakota Creation to Christ...

We are half way through our 2016-2017 academic year so I thought I'd give an update on Heart of Dakota Creation to Christ, which I am using with Ruben.  I really liked the way the year started out.  However, after eighteen weeks, we are getting bogged down.  So far for history, geography, and bible, we've read...

The Story of the Ancient World - I read aloud (finished)
The DK Illustrated Family Bible - Ruben is reading this independently
Genesis - Finding Our Roots - I am reading aloud, but we are starting to skip sections as spending a whole year on this book is way too long
A Child's Geography Vol II.  - I read aloud and was really enjoying, but Ruben was getting very overwhelmed so I decided to set this book aside after finishing the first country. We may return to it down the road.
What in the World? Vol. 1 Ancient Civilizations and the Bible - Ruben is listening to this independently and narrating upon completion after each lesson.
Dinosaurs by Design - I read aloud (finished)
The Golden Bull  - I read aloud (finished)
Boy of the Pyramids - I read aloud (finished)
Hittite Warrior - I read aloud (finished)
Jashub's Journal - I read aloud (finished)
God King - I read aloud (we read half so sporadically that we lost track of what was happening and decided to quit)
Within the Palace Gates - Ruben started, but didn't finish at my approval

Last week, we starting moving on to studying Greece.  However, after looking at the HOD book list, I decided to make some changes. Rather than buy more books, I opted to use books we already own. Also, we have previously read a couple of the books used in the HOD study so we will not be re-reading them.  Over the next six weeks, I will read aloud...

D'Aulaire's Book of Greek Myths - Sonlight and Beautiful Feet recommendation
The Golden Days of Greece by Olivia Coolidge - Truthquest History recommendation
The Trojan War by Olivia Coolidge - Sonlight Recommendation
Alexander the Great - Landmark by John Gunther - HOD Extension Package
Cleopatra by Diane Stanley - HOD History Interest Package

We are almost two weeks in to the first three books and it's going well.  In addition, Ruben is coloring Life in Ancient Greece by John Green while I read. He narrates orally after each reading and I've added some map work as well.

Regarding science, we are continuing on with HOD's science recommendations.  So far, we've completed Apologia's Exploring Creation with Zoology 1 and Birds of the Air by Arabella B. Buckley.  Ruben and I both enjoyed the Buckley book over the Apologia book.  We are just beginning to read Plant Life in Field and Garden, which is also by Buckley.

Overall, it's been a good year thus far.  Ruben is gaining independence in his studies, which was the goal.  I'm not sure at this point whether or not we will continue with Heart of Dakota next year.  Again, I like the look of some of the books in the next level, Resurrection to Reformation, but I might just patch together my own thing.  I'm also going to take a serious look at Beautiful Feet's Medieval Intermediate pack and may put Riley and Ruben back together for history. I'll let you know when the time draws closer.

Monday, January 16, 2017

2016-2017 Mid-Year Reflections - Beautiful Feet Ancient History

We are mid way through our 2016-2017 academic year so I thought it'd be appropriate to update you on Riley's Beautiful Feet Ancient History Intermediate study.  So far, Riley has read...

Streams of Civilization 
The Pharaohs of Ancient Egypt
Tales of Ancient Egypt
The Golden Goblet

Below are a couple of notebooking pages from her Egypt study.  You can see more of her early notebooking pages in this post from week eight

She has since finished her study of early civilization and Egypt and is presently working through Greece.  Riley is currently reading D'Aulaire's Book of Greek Myths and The Children's Homer.

In addition to the Beautiful Feet selections, I've added Black Ships Before Troy and The Wanderings of Odysseus, both by Rosemary Sutcliff  as well as The Story of the Greeks by H. A. Guerber.  She writes weekly narrations on the Sutcliff books and simply reads the Guerber book for additional information.

Overall, Riley is really enjoying this study.  She is working independently, but I do look over her notebooking pages and read her narrations. Also, since Ruben and I are studying the same time period, albeit with different books, we are able to have meaningful family discussions as we go.  At this point, I wish I would have chosen Beautiful Feet for Ruben as well. 

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Weekly Reflections - Week Eighteen....

At Home

We are at the half way mark of our 2016-2017 academic year here on Drywood Creek.  I've been looking back at my Homeschool Audit trying to decide if I'm meeting my goals and where to go from here. Overall, I'm pleased with where we're at. The schedule seems to fit and we are on target as far as time. The kid's planners are working well. They are progressing academically. Riley has shown great responsibility and is loving her independent study. Ruben is gaining independence. He wrote a written narration this week 100% by himself that knocked my socks off. Also, it feels as though he and I are having less conflicts this year.

Unfortunately, our schoolroom did get out of sorts, but we worked on it yesterday and got everything put back in its place. We are not loving some of our scheduled books and activities so I'm making some changes there. I'm working on ideas for simplification next year which I aim to share in the coming months. I'll also be posting mid-year reviews on Beautiful Feet Ancient History and Heart of Dakota Creation to Christ next week.

For more on mid-year reflections, I recommend reading Tristan's Mid-Year Check-Up: 3 Questions to Direct the Rest of the Homeschool Year and Purva Brown's Are you practicing sustainable homeschooling?  Both of which have given me food for thought. For further thought on mid-year assessments, you might consider Marianne's How to Make a Quick and Effective Mid-Year Homeschool Assessment and Danika's Reassess Your Homeschool Mid-Year .

On the Table

My kids love Trader Joe's Soft and Juicy Mango, however, the closest Trader Joe's in over 100 miles away from me. I've bought dehydrated mango at other stores, but it was rather expensive and often times, there are additives. Just before Christmas I hit an awesome sale at Aldi on whole raw mangoes, so I snatched up six and thought I'd try to make my own dehydrated mango.

After the mangoes ripened on the counter top, I peeled them and sliced them in long strips. I laid the strips on my dehydrator trays and followed the manufacturer's instructions for thickness, temperature, and time. A few hours later, we had our own soft and juicy mango! The kids loved it. It was easy and inexpensive. The only downside was it didn't last long. I stored the dried mango in a glass jar, but after 24 hours, it was gone. This week mango happened to be on sale again at Aldi so you will find six more ripening on my counter for the next batch of soft and juicy mango.

Around the Web

Did you hear Oxford Dictionary's 2016 Word of the Year?  It's heartbreaking! That Truth exists and is knowable is one of the central tenets of classical education. Reading the article brought me back to notes I made while watching a Restful Teaching seminar last summer.
The object of education is to train our children to perceive truth, so when truth is the Lord, they recognize Him.
Content is less important than Truth. Truth exalts content to its honorable place as a servant, but when content raises itself to the position of master it renders everything meaningless.

Truth is way more important than skills.
Take Up Your Cross and Read Hard Books spoke my language, especially since we just read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn back in October.  Huck Finn is such a fabulous story partly because it is difficult to read about the injustice of slavery. Twain addresses racism head on. It is through his story that you fall in love with the characters and see how wrong and unjust racism really is. In her post, Heidi White writes,
We feel the injustice of racism through To Kill A Mockingbird. We read about it in newspapers, but that does not engage our moral imaginations like literature. If we want people to feel what we feel, we must give them our stories. Without stories, our inner worlds remain small. Stories develop compassion. They awaken our latent capacity for redemptive action. If we care about overcoming racism, we should run as fast as we can toward, not away from, Huck Finn and To Kill A Mockingbird.
I couldn't agree more!

Friday, January 13, 2017

Reflections from Consider This - Chapter Four....

Chapter Four of Consider This, Charlotte Mason and the Classical Tradition by Karen Glass ties directly to Charlotte Mason's Principle Three.
Principle 3: The principles of Authority on the one hand and Docility on the other are natural, necessary and fundamental;...
If one aspires to be teachable (having docility), one must have power (authority) over one's own mind. In other words, one must be humble to be teachable.

Charlotte Mason wrote much on the quality of humility throughout her six volume series, dedicating a whole chapter in Vol, 4, Ourselves, to it. First she begins in Chapter I of Part III, Book I, writing about The Ways of Love. She says, 
Love, like a king, has his Lords in Waiting––Pity, Benevolence, Sympathy, Kindness, Generosity, Gratitude, Courage, Loyalty, Humility, Gladness.
From there, Charlotte dedicates a chapter to each of these qualities. In which, Chapter X of Part III in Book I, is solely about humility. She begins,
Pride of Life.––The Apostle points out three causes of offence in men––the lust of the flesh, that is, the desire to satisfy the cravings of what we call 'human nature'; the lust of the eye, which makes the pursuit of the delight of beauty, not a part, but the whole of life; and, the pride of life. Of the three, perhaps, the last is the most deadly, because it is the most deceitful. People born in, and brought up upon, principles of self-control and self-restraint are on the watch against the lusts of the flesh. The lust of the eye does not make too fascinating an appeal to all of us; but who can be aware of the approaches of the pride of life? Still, Pride, mighty as he is, and manifold as are his forms, is but the Dæmon, the more or less subject Dæmon, of a mightier power than himself.
Humility is Born in us all.––Humility is born in us all, a Lord of the Bosom, gracious and beautiful, strong to subdue. That is why our Lord told the Jews that except they should humble themselves and become as a little child they could not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven, the state where humble souls have their dwelling. We think of little children as being innocent and simple rather than humble; and it is only by examining this quality of children that we shall find out what Humility is in the divine thought. We have but two types of Humility to guide us––Christ, for 'He humbled Himself,' and little children, for He pronounced them humble. An old writer who has pondered on this matter says that, as there is only one Sanctification and one Redemption, so also there is only one Humility.
Glass writes, "Sometimes we consider humility a spiritual virtue, but it is an intellectual virtue as well." (p.28) There are many biblical references to humility.  However, upon combing through, there are several that particularly relate humility to wisdom and intellect, including...
Proverbs 11:2 (KJV)
When pride cometh, then cometh shame: but with the lowly is wisdom.
James 3:13 (KJV)
Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom.
Psalm 25:9 (NASB)
He leads the humble in justice, And He teaches the humble His way.
Later in Chapter 4, Glass says, "Humility is not a lesson that can be learned from a textbook or a lecture, but if we want to make the traditions of classical education our aim, we must find a way to instill this attitude in ourselves and in our pupils."

Ms. Mason proposes, "We are all born humble. Humility sits within us all, waiting for pride to be silent that he may speak and be heard. What must we do to get rid of pride and give place to Humility?"

In Ourselves, Book I, Part III, Chapter X, she then answers her own proposed question and declares the way to humility....
The Way of Humility.––In the first place, we must not try to be humble. That is all make-believe, and a bad sort of pride. We do not wish to become like Uriah Heep, and that is what comes of trying to be humble. The thing is, not to think of ourselves at all, for if we only think how bad we are, we are playing at Uriah Heep. There are many ways of getting away from the thought of ourselves; the love and knowledge of birds and flowers, of clouds and stones, of all that nature has to show us; pictures, books, people, anything outside of us, will help us to escape from the tyrant who attacks our hearts. One rather good plan is, when we are talking or writing to our friends, not to talk or write about 'thou and I.' There are so many interesting things in the world to discuss that it is a waste of time to talk about ourselves. All the same, it is well to be up to the ways of those tiresome selves, and that is why you are invited to read these chapters. It is very well, too, to know that Humility, who takes no thought of himself, is really at home in each of us:––
"If that in sight of God is great
Which counts itself for small,
We by that law humility
The chiefest grace must call;
Which being such, not knows itself
To be a grace at all."
Glass closes Chapter 4 of Consider This with...
...We do not list "humility" among our school subjects or put it on a transcript, but that is actually the little secret of classical education.  The things that make it truly classical, truly worthwhile to pursue, aren't school subjects at all, but principles that add depth and cohesion to everything we study in all areas of the curriculum. 
Chapter 4 of Consider This prompted me to ask myself whether I approach every object, person, or book as if I can learn something from it. Humility is a necessary component to education. The opposite of humility is conceit, haughtiness, and pride. Proverbs 16:18 tells us that pride comes before destruction. If one believes they already know it all, the mind is closed. Learning cannot happen. We must be humble to be teachable. 

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

A Little About Us...

Hey, I'm Melissa, welcome to my corner of the world! Here I blog on the banks of Drywood Creek about education, Charlotte Mason, homeschooling, books, daily life on the farm, and whatever else ails me.

On the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, I totter between ENTJ and ESTJ.  It's a fine line, but either way, I'm down to earth, decisive, and a recovering box checker. Because I didn't find a community in my area that supported my homeschool vision, I created one. I love bringing like minded people together to ponder a plethora of ideas. This is how I came to lead a Charlotte Mason Study Group, where we contemplate what it means to be educated, not only through the methods of Charlotte Mason, but also classically through christian principles and the ancient tradition. In 2016, I also started a local Schole Sisters group.

Some may like to know that I am a native of my community. I have deep roots and yet, I wander. I long to follow Jesus and find comfort in His grace. I am also a self proclaimed bibliophile, who's motto is "never too many books, but rather not enough shelves". I aspire to be the change I wish to see in the world.

We're currently in our 10th year of homeschooling our kids! We have a homeschool and public school graduate. You can find our full Homeschool Journey here

This is definitely my better half of sixteen years, affectionately know as "The Farmer". He is the third generation on this land, through which, Drywood Creek flows.

Farming is in his blood. He loves making hay, raising cattle, being out of doors, and spending time with family. He keeps me grounded when my lofty ideals could potentially carry me away.

The Farmer and I were blessed with three children by birth, whom I love spending time with. We read many living books and muse much.

RileyAnn is currently in 7th grade.  She enjoys animals, baking, reading, softball, and all things American Girl. Riley also loves the outdoors and is our nature study aficionado.  She works, both on and off the farm, raising calves, babysitting, and house cleaning. 

Ruben is in 6th grade.  He enjoys hunting, farming, baseball, football, and the 4-wheeler he was able to purchase with funds from a summer job.  He continues to work a few hours a week on a neighboring horse farm. He graduated from the Children's Dyslexia Center last May and has made great gains in his studies since.

Levi is an unofficial preschooler since I don't believe in scheduling early childhood. He provides us with our daily dose of entertainment. Levi enjoys tagging along with The Farmer and Ruben, hunting and farming. He is also a big help in the kitchen and loves to snuggle up with a good picture book. You can often find him barefoot or with boots on the wrong feet playing outdoors.

It is my mission to empower other homeschooling families in real life, with real kids and in real time. It may not always look pretty in the day to day, but it will come out the wash as they say. Here you will find ideas for planning your homeschool, book lists for reading, and thoughts about education through daily living. Life is a journey. Won't you come along...

Drywood Creek

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Weekly Reflections - Week Seventeen...

At Home

The tree has come down and at some point soon, the recumbent bike and a puzzle table are going up.  I love puzzles, but because I've had little's for so many years, I haven't done one for fear of 1000 pieces being dumped upside down.  However, Levi is now 4 1/2 and I'd like to give it a try. He's actually quite excited at the prospect because he loves putting his puzzles together. Winter in Wisconsin is a great time for reading, board games, and puzzles. I'll let you know how it goes.

This week we were back to our regular academic schedule.  All went very well. Ruben finished up a couple of books in history and we'll be moving into Greece next week. Truth be told, I'm getting a bit tired of HOD's Creation to Christ. I've already culled some books and intend to switch out a few more during this next time period. I'm opting to add books we already have on our shelves instead of purchasing their suggested titles. I'll be posting a review in the future.

Riley is working on playing catch up in math. Her online class starts back next week.  She got slightly behind with choir falling on the same day as her online math class and then of course, the holidays.  So she's got one week's worth of assignments to do before class on Thursday, which shouldn't be a problem.  I also intend to post a review of her math soon.

Riley, Ruben and I are all reading Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens.  Our Middle School Book Club will meet this week for discussion.  It's a meaty read and should provide much food for fodder.

Levi is still asking about doing school.  He's so excited to participate with the older kids.  The quiet time activity boxes I made for him are working very well.  I just hope his enthusiasm sticks in future years when it really counts.  I will be completing a preschool post as well.

Around the Web

I've been contemplating Andrew Kern's posts on Arts vs. Subjects (Post 1 and Post 2). I think he's on to something here...but then again, Andrew Kern usually is ;-)

Have you seen Mystie and Carol's 2017 reading plans?  Establishing a reading plan has been on my mind this week as well.  I'm still trying to decide whether or not to join a challenge or simply do my own thing.

I thoroughly enjoyed Karen Andreola's lovely biographical sketch titled A Peek at Charlotte Mason's Early Life. I learned a few new details about Charlotte's early life and now I really want to go read North and South.

Speaking of reading, a friend sent me Required reading: The books that students read in 28 countries around the world. I recognized books from about five countries.

Oh so true!.... Physician tells parents, 'You're doing it wrong" is great! I won't get on my soapbox, but go read it and share with everyone you know :)

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Prompted By The 2017 Home Organization Challenge...

I showed you one of my closets in How I Intend to Simplify and be Present with Joy this New Year. It's not good! I have vowed to do better. This is the year where the rubber meets the road regarding simplifying and organization.  

A couple of days ago, while drooling over Jennifer Mackintosh's pictures at Wildflowers and Marbles, I came across her post on The 2017 Home Organization Challenge designed by Toni Hammersley. I was intrigued and printed Toni's Free Challenge Kit.  I don't have Toni's book, The Complete Book of Home Organization, but quickly ordered it from the local library.  Unfortunately, I'm behind four other people, but after seeing how beautiful the book looks on Amazon, I just may splurge and purchase it. You don't need the book to work through the challenge.

Toni makes home organization look manageable.  I'm actually getting excited about it.  I love the look of her processes on the free challenge kit! However, some of the spaces included in the initial 14 weeks do not pertain to me, namely the dining room since ours is one big room attached to the kitchen and really has no storage space; and the launch pad, which is more or less divided into multiple spaces throughout our home. On the other hand, I would really like to tackle the basement this year so this is an area I am adding to the challenge.  Also, part of organizing some of my areas are dependent on other areas.  So, I just may switch up the order of the challenge.

I most likely won't be starting the challenge this Saturday, January 7th because I just found it and we have other plans this weekend.  But, I definitely intend to use Toni's challenge ideas as a springboard for my 2017 simplifying mission. Stay tuned for future posts throughout the year regarding my progress.  Hopefully, if all goes well, by this time next year, our home will be whipped into shape!

By the way, I am also a fan of Mystie Winckler's Simplified Organization. Her no nonsense approach is encouraging.  I regularly check my attitude at the door after reading her posts.

Do you know of any other home organization sites?  How do you simplify and organize your home?  I'd love to hear about it.  Feel free to use the contact form on the right or leave a comment below.

Monday, January 2, 2017

How I Intend to Simplify and be Present with Joy this New Year...

I've been reflecting on 2016 as well as thinking a lot about what I would like for 2017.  You may be thinking I wish for an unlimited bank account, servants to clean and keep order, someone to fan and feed me grapes...ha! If so, you are mistaken...well, partially ;-)

Seriously, I'm talking more about my attitude in the day to day and organizing things that I have control over. Along these lines, I've come up with three words/ideas that I'm striving for in the new year.


Our home has gotten away on me. The last couple of years have been challenging for personal reasons, but God has continued to sustain me throughout. I have now reached a point where I think I'm ready to carry on. Over the years, I have collected too much stuff! Closets are overflowing and I'm ready to purge.

I want 2017 to be the year of minimizing.  I am working on goals and a plan to sort through each closet as well as attempting to organize the basement.  I'm feeling a bit claustrophobic so I intend to sell, donate, and gift armloads of items that we no longer need or use.

I also intend to simplify our homeschool.  I'm reevaluating priorities and my definition of education.  I hope to post more about this as it comes together.  2017 will be a year of simplification all the way around.


I was thinking entirely about this over the holidays.  A couple of months ago, we got a new to us (used) couch. Its vivid 1970's pattern didn't match the quilt wall hanging that hung behind our old couch so I opted to rearrange the furniture.  I love this new arrangement!  I moved the two swivel/rocker/recliners, one of which was my chair, to the end wall in front of the quilted wall hanging and put the couch in front of the windows closer to the TV. I am not a huge TV watcher, but some members of our family are, so this arrangement affords me space at the end of the living room away from the TV, but still present with my family.

I must confess, in the past, I would sneak away from the family TV watchers to the quiet space in front of our computer.  However, now I am actually present much more sitting in my chair.  We also acquired a new to us (used) lamp stand where I keep stacks of books.  I can sit in the room and read or browse cookbooks while my family watches TV.  Better yet, I've noticed them turning off the TV or turning away from it to talk to me on the opposite side of the room.  As Riley and Ruben get older, I love to hear their thoughts and opinions about various topics. For example, the election gave us much to talk about and it was fascinating to see them articulate their ideas. This new living room arrangement has been more conducive to leisurely contemplation and conversation with them. I'm thoroughly enjoying it.

Also, I've kept the stack of Christmas picture books by my chair so when Levi crawls up on my lap for snuggle time, I have easy access to a story.  When not in use, they are tucked against the wall behind the chair and out of the way.  This has encouraged more read aloud time for him.  I would eventually like to find either a couple of attractive baskets for book storage or possibly construct some sort of book rail along the wall to display picture books that could be rotated out seasonally.  I'm still thinking on this one, but the point being my presence has been a real present not only to my family, but my participation has been a gift to me. I intend to be more intentional in being present in 2017. The kids are growing so fast and I definitely don't want to miss these moments!


This has to do with my attitude. I saw a Christmas sign last month that simply said "JOY" and it really spoke to me.  I've been thinking about it since. When the day to day seems impossible, just maybe my bad attitude makes it worse. I have come to see my kids thrive or fail based upon my demeanor. Therefore, in 2017, I aim to improve my attitude and be more joy filled. Don't get me wrong, I know not every day will be roses, but hopefully, by keeping my focus on joy, it can at least be a poor man's orchid rather than thistles.
Ecclesiastes 9:7 King James Version (KJV)
7 Go thy way, eat thy bread with joy, and drink thy wine with a merry heart; for God now accepteth thy works.
Romans 15:13 King James Version (KJV)
13 Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.
Nehemiah 8:10 King James Version (KJV)
10 Then he said unto them, Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy unto our Lord: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the Lord is your strength.
Hebrews 12:2 King James Version (KJV)
2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Proverbs 17:22 King James Version (KJV)
22 A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.
There you have it!  No resolutions to hit the gym, walk extra steps, or lose so many pounds this year, but rather it is my hope..
to Simplify and be Present with Joy
Do you have New Year's resolutions?  If so, I'd love to hear about them.  Feel free to e-mail me or leave a comment below.