Monday, February 27, 2017

The Call of the Wild...

The Call of the Wild by Jack London was our February Middle School Socratic Book Club read. A couple of quotes from my commonplace are as follows...
But Buck possessed a quality that made for greatness - imagination. (Ch. 3)
For the last time in his life he allowed passion to usurp cunning and reason, and it was because of his great love for John Thornton that he lost his head. (Ch. 7) 
I found it interesting that the author equated having love with giving up reason, as if one could not have both. However, upon investigation and learning of Jack London's worldview, it was not surprising. London was a prominent socialist and atheist, who wrote from a point of realism and naturalism. He was also interested in Marxism, Nietzschean philosophy, and Darwinism.

The Call of the Wild is one of London's most famous works. It was originally serialized in The Saturday Evening Post in 1903. It is the story of dog named Buck, half St. Bernard and half sheepdog, living a comfortable life on Judge Miller's estate in California until one day, when Buck is stolen and sold to dog traders, who teach Buck obedience by beating him.

The Call of the Wild is set in the late 1890's and the Klondike Gold Rush is on. Throughout the story, we see Buck being sold from one cruel master to the other, until eventually, he is rescued by John Thornton, a veteran gold prospector. From there, a relationship is built between man and beast. However, when Thornton is killed, Buck decides to leave civilization for good and return to the wild. Theorists say, the theme in The Call of the Wild is based on Darwin's idea of survival of the fittest. I agree and could definitely see evolutionary ideas at work.
He was beaten (he knew that); but he was not broken. He saw, once for all, that he stood no chance against a man with a club. He had learned the lesson, and in all his after life he never forgot it. That club was a revelation. It was his introduction to the reign of primitive law, and he met the introduction halfway. The facts of life took on a fiercer aspect and, while he faced that aspect uncowed, he faced it with all the latent cunning of his nature aroused. (Ch. 1)
He swiftly lost the fastidiousness which had characterized his old life. A dainty eater, he found that his mates, finishing first, robbed him of his unfinished ration. There was no defending it. While he was fighting off two or three, it was disappearing down the throats of the others. To remedy this, he ate as fast as they; and, so greatly did hunger compel him., he was not above taking what did not belong to him. He watched and learned...
...This first theft marked Buck as fit to survive in the hostile Northland environment....
...His development (or retrogression) was rapid. His muscles became hard as iron and he grew callous to all ordinary pain. He achieved an internal as well as external economy. He could eat anything, no matter how loathsome or indigestible; and, once eaten, the juices of this stomach extracted the last least particle of nutriment; and his blood carried it to the farthest reaches of his body, building it into the toughest and stoutest tissues. Sight and scent became remarkably keen, while his hearing developed such acuteness that in his sleep he heard the faintest sound and knew whether it heralded peace or peril. He learned to bite the ice out with his teeth when it collected between his toes; and when he was thirsty and there was a thick scum of ice over the water hole, he would break it by rearing and striking it with stiff forelegs. His most conspicuous trait was an inability to scent the wind and forecast it a night in advance. No matter how breathless the air when he dug his nest by tree or bank, the wind that later blew inevitably found him to leeward, sheltered and snug. 
And not only did he learn by experience, but instincts long dead became alive again. The domesticated generations fell from him. In vague ways he remembered back to the youth of the breed, to the time the wild dogs ranged in packs through the primeval forest and killed their meat as they ran it down. It was no task for him to learn to fight with cut and slash and the quick wolf snap. In this manner had fought forgotten ancestors. They quickened the old life within him, and the old tricks which they had stamped into the heredity of the breed were his tricks. They came to him without effort or discovery, as though they had been his always. And when, on the still, cold nights, he pointed his nose at a star and howled long and wolflike, it was his ancestors, dead and dust, pointing nose at star and howling down through the centuries and through him. And his cadences were their cadences, the cadences which voiced their woe and what to them was the meaning of the stillness and the cold and dark. 
Thus, as token of what a puppet thing life is, the ancient song surged through him and he came into his own again. And he came because men had found a yellow metal in the North, and because Manuel was a gardener's helper whose wages did not lap over the needs of his wife and divers small copies of himself. (Ch. 2) 
Despite, London's worldview, or maybe because of it, The Call of the Wild is a worthy read. It lent a great opportunity for worldview discussion. It would make a fitting piece for older students discovering rhetorical thinking.

Aside from London's worldview, The Call of the Wild is action packed and has been a favorite of many outdoorsmen over the years. The boys in our group enjoyed it much more than the girls.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Weekly Reflections - Week Twenty-Four....

At Home

Oh my!...What a difference a day makes! We've had a week of record setting above normal temps here in WI...I mean where all the ice went over the dam and there was virtually no snow left.  Early in the week, we were in short sleeves and sweatshirts. Some crazies at my house were even in shorts with bare feet, ahem!

Anyway, Thursday night, this big cold front blew in, bringing close to a foot of snow. Today is sunny, but blustery with drifting snow blowing across the field. We had a taste of spring if only for a fleeting moment before reality set in. Hopefully, in a couple of weeks, it will all be history and the spring like temps will be here to stay.

Book work happened, but man was it hard with that nice weather.  We ended up schooling early morning and evening to take advantage of the 60-degree sunny afternoons. These are the days I'm so grateful for homeschooling.

This week we moved into Ancient Rome. I started reading aloud Augustus Caesar's World by Genevieve Foster. Riley has completed other books in this series by Foster, but this is my first. I'm looking forward to it.

Around the Web

Over at Edsnapshots, Kate Snow posted 8 Ways to Make Math More Fun. If your math program has gone stale, Kate shares some great tips for bringing it back to life.

Have you seen these FREE Charlotte Mason style lessons to accompany the McGuffey Readers? They look really good and Sherry even offers videos to show you how to use her plan.

In Classical Education Resources, Stacey gives a great list for learning more about classical education.

This week, I listened to Jennifer Dow and Pam Barnhill talk about Tension in Morning Time.  This is not necessarily the tension between parent and child, but rather internal conflicts with mom who skips morning time.  The podcast shows the epitome of reality.

Since we have amassed thousands of books in our home, I always tease that we live in a library. Growing Up in a Library is Exactly as Magical as You'd Imagine put a smile on my face. I believe it's the best way to grow :)

Friday, February 24, 2017

Reflections from Consider This - Chapters 7-9...

Let's continue our discussion of Consider This, Charlotte Mason and the Classical Tradition by Karen Glass by taking a look at Chapters 7, 8, and 9, in which Glass endeavors to show us how Charlotte Mason's Principles relate to the classical tradition.

Chapter 7
The Greeks and Romans did not call what they were doing "classical education", and they did not speak with a single voice. There were just as many conflicting educational methods then as there are now. (p. 49)
In spite of their different approaches or methods, however, the classical educators were generally consistent in one thing. They had in common the goal of producing virtue in their learners, and they understood that the outcome of education was meant to influence character and conduct, not intellect alone. (p. 50)
Charlotte Mason also understood this desired outcome of education and aimed to 'produce virtue'.  Virtue as in a commendable quality or trait; a particular moral, intellectual, physical, spiritual excellence. In What is Virtue?, Andrew Kern gives us a definition of virtue. Ms. Mason did this through religious teaching, the use of quality living books, and through habit training.
For the brain is the seat of habit: the culture of habit is, to a certain extent, physical culture: the discipline of habit is at least a third part of the great whole which we call education, and here we feel that the physical science of to-day has placed us far in advance of the philosopher of fifty years ago. We hold with him entirely as to the importance of great formative ideas in the education of children, but we add to our ideas, habits, and we labour to form habits upon a physical basis. Character is the result not merely of the great ideas,which are given to us, but of the habits which we labour to form upon those ideas. We recognise both principles, and the result is a wide range of possibilities in education, practical methods, and a definite aim. We labour to produced a human being at his best physically, mentally, morally, and spiritually, with the enthusiasms of religion, of the good life, of nature, knowledge, art, and manual work; and we do not labour in the dark. (School Education, p. 99)
The mother who takes pains to endow her children with good habits secures for herself smooth and easy days. (Home Education, p. 136)
...the habits of the child produce the character of the man, because certain mental habitudes once set up, their nature is to go on for ever unless they should be displaced by other habits. (Home Education, p. 118)
Forming good habits produces character.

In Chapter 7, Glass goes on state that the beginning of classical study is grammar, but grammar meant something very different to the Greeks and Romans, and even the later Renaissance educators, than it does to most teachers today.

According to Noah Webster's 1828 American Dictionary of The English Language, 'grammar' in Greek means from a letter. According to Glass,
Quintilian equates grammar - a word with Greek origins - to literature, a Latin word. If we have learned any Greek and Latin roots, we can see that gram and lit both mean "letter," and call to mind that slightly antiquated expression for someone who was classically educated - "a man of letters" - that is, a man well-read in great books. (p. 50)
Glass further states, Quintilian didn't limit the study of grammar to reading, but also comprehension. Next, she says, The idea that education should begin by reading literature was embraced by the Renaissance educators. However, these Renaissance educators were not native to the Greek and Latin language, which were the classical languages that all books were written in at that time, so in order to study/read any books, they had to study/learn Latin.
Latin was important to them, not for its own sake, but because it was the language of the books - no Latin was the equivalent of being illiterate. (p. 52)
Therefore, Latin was studied because it was the language of original text. As time went on and books were translated, the study of Latin became a "mental exercise in grammatical rules and translation". The purpose of studying Latin changed and according to Glass became more utilitarian, as it went from synthetic to analytic.

This led me to think about whether or not we should study Latin in our homeschool? And, why do I desire my kids to study Latin? Because as Glass points out, if we implement classical practices without the impetus of the classical ideals, we will never achieve those ideals. Given her argument, I really started to see that my reason and desire for my kids to study Latin is utilitarian and pragmatic.

According to Glass, Charlotte Mason also understood the history of Latin and did not want it to be eliminated from the traditional curriculum for purposes of reading and understanding literature. Charlotte didn't refute classical education, but rather knew that it must be used for the right reasons.
Those of us who want to revive a vital education according to the classical ideal in our own times, as Charlotte Mason did, must look past the practices and understand the purposes for classical learning. If we choose to use the traditional methods, such as the teaching of Latin and logic, we must use them for the right reasons and in the right way in order to achieve the desired outcome. (p. 60)
Chapter 8

Glass used Chapter 8 to explain a few of Charlotte's principles and to show how they relate to classical education, including:

Principle 1 - Children are born persons.

Principles 9. 10. & 11 - We must provide food for the mind, which is no mere sac - pabulum.

Principles 5, 6, 7, & 8 - Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, and a life.

Glass went into greater detail regarding the PNEU motto stating the classical relations of each, of which I will share my notes below...

Atmosphere - learning environment
  Classical Relation
  1. healthy interaction with world, experience of natural disappointments and failures, triumph of small successes keep a child humble
  2. natural interaction with world and people as well as natural enjoyment of labor, play, and exercise contribute to "poetic knowledge" or synthetic understanding of connectedness
  3. child can begin to put virtues into practice - sharing, helping neighbor, showing considerate behavior

Discipline - habit
  Classical Relation
  1. ordering affections, paving the way for a virtuous life

Life - living ideas
  Classical Relation
  1. diet of ideas must be appetizing and varied - earliest efforts in education were meant to inspire
  2. provide living ideas, not information (p.71)

Glass closes Chapter 8 with,
Everything that a person learns becomes a part of himself, and as his character is formed, he recognizes that he is made up of those experiences he has had, the people he has met, the books he has read, and the things that he has thought. This is not a process that ends with a semester, or a graduation, but goes on and on as long as we are alive and learning.  (p.73)
Chapter 9
In addition to the three instruments of education necessary for children's mental and spiritual growth, Charlotte Mason gave further consideration to that primary goal which was the business of classical education: the formation of character, shaped by the idea that right thinking leads to right acting. (p. 75)
So Glass begins Chapter 9 and continues with explaining Charlotte's Principles 16, 17, & 18 for the purposes of character development.

The way of the will - self-governance

The way of reason - do not lean on your own understanding

These two guides to self-management that were part of Charlotte's program of education serve no direct academic purpose, but do play a role in the shaping that right thinking which it is hoped will lead to right action, or forming a virtuous person. (p. 79)
Again, as in Chapter 6, at the end of Chapter 9, Glass summarized by reviewing the three elements that consistently underlie all of the endeavors of historical, classical education. These being virtue, humility and synthetic thinking. She closed by asserting that Charlotte Mason was indeed a classical educator.
Charlotte Mason consciously places her methods and philosophy within this classical tradition. She, and those who worked with her in the PNEU, deliberately looked to educational philosophies from the past to shape their contemporary practices. We may look at any one of her methods or ideas and see where it finds a place within the service of some part of the traditional classical ideal. (p. 81)
In doing a little further research attempting to flush this out, I found the following words written by Charlotte Mason and couldn't help but think there is some connection here to the classical tradition.
THREE FOUNDATION PRINCIPLES - Three principles which underlie the educational thought of the Union, and the furtherance of which some of us have deeply at heart, are: - (a) The recognition of authority as a fundamental principle, as universal and as inevitable in the moral world as is that of gravitation in the physical; (b) the recognition of the physical basis of habits and of the important part which the formation of habits plays in education; (c) the recognition of the vital character and inspiring power of ideas. (School Education p. 126)

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Alexander the Great...

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

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

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

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Weekly Reflections - Week Twenty-Three...

At Home

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

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

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

Around the Web

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, February 16, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

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

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

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

Monday, February 13, 2017

Reflections from Consider This - Chapter Six....

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

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

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

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


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

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Weekly Reflections - Week Twenty-Two....

At Home

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

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

Around the Web

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

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

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

In Fashion

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, February 10, 2017

Thoughts on Preschool and an Update....

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, February 6, 2017

Reflections from Consider This - Chapter Five...

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Weekly Reflections - Week Twenty-One...

At Home

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

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

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

Around the Web

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

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

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

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

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