Monday, January 26, 2015

From the archives: The Silver Brumby (book review)

First posted January 2009.


One of The Apprentice's friends loaned her Elyne Mitchell's The Silver Brumby, and then Mama Squirrel read it to Crayons. This series of Australian wild-horse stories is way above the current run of Horse-Club type chapter books; and, unfortunately, seems to be almost unheard of in Canada. There was a 1993 film version with Russell Crowe, but I don't remember it; there was also an animated series (can be seen on You-tube). I checked abebooks.com for copies of the books and found very few in Canada at a decent price; the U.S. was not much better, but there were lots of copies in Australia and the U.K. Collins Modern Classics did a reprint in 1999 but it looks like it's also out of print. There are no copies of any of the books in our library system.

The book--the first one anyway--was published in 1958. It's kind of a cross between Bambi (the book, not the Disney movie) and Misty of Chincoteague. Thowra, a cream-coloured wild horse (brumby), is born during a stormy night; his intelligent and intuitive mother knows there are great things in store for him, but that he will always be in danger both from man and other horses (because of his unusual colour). She teaches him everything she knows about running, hiding, leaping over things, and general survival; and, though most mares forget their foals eventually, she never seems to be far away and reappears several times as Thowra grows up. (He also has a lifelong friendship with Storm, another stallion who was born at the same time.) By the end of the book, Thowra has defeated the other leaders of the brumbies (the fights are described fairly graphically), has his own herd (and foals), and has just escaped--in a final harrowing chase scene--from the stockmen (cowboys) who badly want to capture him.

The descriptive passages and the language--both the Australian geographical terms and the general writing level--may give problems to younger North American readers; maybe not your average homeschooler, but those who expect something on the level of the Horse Club books. The first book does have a short glossary in the back (candlebarks, flying phallanger, kurrawong, snowgrass, etc.). Here's a sample:
"Thowra and Storm moved back on to the Main Range as soon as autumn began changing towards winter. For a while they stayed in the timbered country below the Ramshead, and often spent the lovely bright days galloping on the snowgrass between the granite tors. Sometimes there were other young horses near--and once Thowra was given quite a beating by a three-year-old stallion who came along with two or three young mares and seemed to want to fight him just because he looked different--but mostly they were on their own, and day after day was filled with a sort of wild joy....The snow was late that year, and in the clear autumn light the rocks looked purple, and the snowgums blended every red and orange and green with their ghostly silver grey. Thowra became lighter in colour as he got his winter coat, and, even more than in other winters, he looked silver rather than cream."--Elyne Mitchell, The Silver Brumby
Luckily, The Apprentice's friend owns all four books in the series and Crayons is writing her a letter (and drawing her a picture) to say thank you and ask if we can borrow the next book.

What's left for January? (Lydia's Grade Eight)



Poem to read: Longfellow, "The Tide Rises, The Tide Falls"

Paraphrasing an essay of Francis Bacon: "Of Expense."

Latin: Our Roman Roots, Lesson VI.

Ourselves Book II, The Function of Will & The Scope of Will.

How to Read a Book: Judging the Author's Soundness.

Continue Fierce Wars and Faithful Loves.

Continue The Merchant of Venice. Bassanio has won Portia, but Antonio is in trouble.

Continue Perelandra. Ransom has a long story to tell about his space trip.

English history: one chapter to read alone, and half of another with me.

Jean Sibelius, Symphony Number Four: second of two weeks, and next week we will start our second composer of the term, Ralph Vaughan Williams.

Something new: start the science biography The Seashell on the Mountaintop.

Lesson plan for an essay by Francis Bacon: "Of Expense"

"Criticise the following passage from Bacon's Essays, and, after putting the meaning shortly in your own words,show how it treats all of the aspects of the subject." (Studies in composition: A textbook for advanced classes. By David Pryde, 1871) (The text here contains only the first two-thirds of Bacon's essay. Although the whole thing is not long, the last third is the most difficult and so I am taking Mr.Pryde's advice and shortening the assignment.)



RICHES are for spending, and spending for honor and good actions. Therefore extraordinary expense must be limited by the worth of the occasion; for voluntary undoing, may be as well for a man’s country, as for the kingdom of heaven. But ordinary expense, ought to be limited by a man’s estate; and governed with such regard, as it be within his compass; and not subject to deceit and abuse of servants; and ordered to the best show, that the bills may be less than the estimation abroad. Certainly, if a man will keep but of even hand, his ordinary expenses ought to be but to the half of his receipts; and if he think to wax rich, but to the third part.

It is no baseness, for the greatest to descend and look into their own estate. Some forbear it, not upon negligence alone, but doubting to bring themselves into melancholy, in respect they shall find it broken. But wounds cannot be cured without searching. He that cannot look into his own estate at all, had need both choose well them whom he employeth, and change them often; for new are more timorous and less subtle. He that can look into his estate but seldom, it behooveth him to turn all to certainties. A man had need, if he be plentiful in some kind of expense, to be as saving again in some other. As if he be plentiful in diet, to be saving in apparel; if he be plentiful in the hall, to be saving in the stable; and the like. For he that is plentiful in expenses of all kinds, will hardly be preserved from decay.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Why education is not, not, not a checklist (Lydia's Grade Eight, Charlotte Mason, and what is learning about?)

Just another Mama Squirrel rant on the same old subject? Maybe. But some things need to be said as many times as it takes.

The province of Ontario has had a common-to-all-schools curriculum for about twenty years now. The guidelines for each grade, each subject area are available online. Some homeschoolers make use of them, some of the time. Occasionally they have been useful, for instance a few years ago when I was trying to get our Apprentice approved for grade 10 mathematics; I could see how far the grade 9 content went. When we created a few of our own high school courses (grade 10 Canadian history, grade 11 philosophy), I used the basic questions and themes of the courses, but chose our own materials and methods. So yes, sometimes it has been helpful, usually when an outside party (the public school) was involved.

But why would you want to base a whole education on something so nebulous? The outlines are either so general and vague that you don't have a clue as to what to do with them; or they are so super-comprehensive that, again, you don't even know where to start. It's like looking at a restaurant menu with too many options but nothing to eat. Paper pizza, if you like.

But I don't like. I don't like complicated where things could be simple. And I don't like lack of substance, even if the substance takes pages and pages to lack.
"If the world is kind of like a menu with a lot of options, then without some guidance, most of us won't bother going past the first couple of pages.  To be even more specific, it's like a Chinese restaurant menu, most of which we don't recognize so we never go beyond the 'dinner for four B.' Being a CM student should be something like coming to the restaurant every day and getting to try a dish that expands your eating horizons just a little bit. Some foods and combinations you like better than others, but they all help you build a much more comprehensive relationship with Chinese food." ~~ Dewey's Treehouse (2014)
This past week, my eighth grader and I worked on a short section from How to Read a Book, which pertained not only to reading but to all communication: how do you say "I understand what you said, but I disagree," without prejudice or undue emotion, but with enough specific details to support your position? And how do you deal with the fact that some people will, no matter what, resent the fact that you're disagreeing, because nice people shouldn't be disagreeable? Adler points out the difference between disagreeing with someone (because they are underinformed, misinformed, or haven't analyzed the case logically or throughly enough) and just being contentious. How many adults do you know that don't seem ever to have learned this? But instead of making it a checkmarkable lesson, wouldn't it be simpler to say "every eighth grader should read and discuss (non-contentiously) chapter 11 of How to Read a Book?"
We read the first two chapters from C.S. Lewis's second Space Trilogy book, Perelandra (Voyage to Venus). The book begins with the narrator's walk from a train station to a friend's house, on an errand that he is anticipating about as much as a root canal. It's getting dark. He imagines voices, or are they imagined? Maybe he should just go back...and then he gets to the house, his friend isn't there, and in the darkness he falls over something like...a coffin. Is the hair standing up on your neck yet? Should we go on to the next chapter, or would you rather fill out a vocabulary worksheet, or do a lesson on Lewis's use of descriptive adjectives? No?

We read about a journey through Tanzania. We read about Jessica's elopement with Lorenzo, and the opening of the three caskets. We looked at Albrecht Dürer's series of self-portraits. What did it mean when he painted himself as a "dude?" Why, another time, did he seem to pose as Jesus Christ? How do we create and re-create ourselves, showing ourselves first one way, then another?
Lydia finished reading 13 Things That Don't Make Sense (science). She worked on graphing equations. She wrote a summary of the return of Odysseus, from her reading of Edith Hamilton's Mythology. She wrote a business-like email describing herself briefly and requesting information about auditions for a play (real life, not a school exercise). She also knit like crazy all week, ran out of things to knit, went out Thursday night to buy more yarn (consumer education and estimation skills), and had a Lollipop Doll finished by the end of the next day (perseverance).
We read Tennyson's poem "Ulysses." "I am a part of all that I have met; / Yet all experience is an arch wherethrough / Gleams that untraveled world whose margin fades / Forever and forever when I move." Isn't that a good description of a lifelong passion for adventure...and learning?

But...those things we did this week don't all fit on a neat matrix, a checklist. I don't know if I can find them in the Ontario Grade Eight Common Curriculum.
□ Identify a variety of reading comprehension strategies and use them before, during, and after reading to understand increasingly complex or difficult texts
□ Demonstrate understanding of increasingly complex and difficult texts by summarizing important ideas and citing a variety of details that support the main idea
□ Develop and explain interpretations of increasingly complex or difficult texts using stated and implied ideas from the texts to support their interpretations
□ Extend understanding of texts, including increasingly complex or difficult texts, by connecting the ideas in them to their own knowledge, experience, and insights, to other familiar texts, and to the world around them
□ Analyse a variety of texts, both simple and complex, and explain how the various elements in them contribute to meaning and influence the reader’s reaction
□ Evaluate the effectiveness of a text based on evidence from that text □ Identify the point of view presented in texts, including increasingly complex or difficult texts; give evidence of any biases they may contain; and suggest other possible perspectives
I think that all means...read the book.
"Come, my friends. 
'Tis not too late to seek a newer world. 
Push off, and sitting well in order smite 
the sounding furrows; for my purpose holds 
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths 
Of all the western stars, until I die. 
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down; 
It may be that we shall touch the Happy Isles, 
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew... "
 -- Tennyson 

Classical: depends on definition

Karen Glass has a thoughtful post on her site, about the definition of classical education and why that definition really matters. I am especially taken with her paraphrase of Archilochus:
"I do not like a diploma from a prestigious alma mater, nor a Latin quotation, nor a teacher who is proud of his knowledge. Give me a man who knows what he does not know, but speaks the truth, asks the right kind of questions, and is full of wisdom."

Friday, January 23, 2015

From the archives: sometimes homeschool, sometimes something else

First posted January 2007.

HomeschoolBuzz posted a link to a Lake Oswego Review letter-to-the-editor by Amy Haroldson. [The link originally posted no longer works.] Mrs. Haroldson writes, "Perhaps I should first dispel the myth that all home-schooling families reject the brick and mortar experience. Along with many families in the district, we have a combination of home-schooled and public schooled children. My son attends Waluga Junior High, and is thriving in that environment."

We are in the same situation: although we've always homeschooled, we encouraged our Apprentice to check out the local high school for some of the things she's always wanted to try and hasn't been able to: like drama, a science course with microscopes, and French from someone besides me. And she's done well her first term. (We had trouble accessing those things because of time, cost, transportation difficulties, and/or lack of availability through our homeschooling network. That isn't true for many homeschoolers, particularly in the U.S.; many people discover creative ways to learn these things without resorting to public schools).

But Mrs. Haroldson goes on to talk about the child she continues to homeschool: "But there is not a carrot that you could dangle in front of me that would entice me to enroll my child in Lake Oswego schools, as long as I believe she is best educated at home. This is not because I think negatively of the institutions, but because I have carefully considered the particular needs of my child as an individual, and find home-schooling to be the most effective way to meet her unique needs."

Exactly! The Apprentice was in the right "space" this year to walk into public school classes, enjoy herself, and do well. To do that to some homeschoolers, even of high school age, would be like throwing them to the wolves, one way or another. I know at least one previously homeschooled teen whose entry into high school has been marked by rebellion; I know others who are so shy that they'd be lost in a large school. Then there are homeschooled kids who just learn differently, and that doesn't mean learning "wrong," it just means differently. There are kids who still have to work out things like working in the same room while other people are doing a lesson, and those who need to jump up and down in between everything. And there are kids who are slow to read or slow to write, those who have to learn everything at once or one tiny piece at a time; those who just enjoy everything about being at home, helping with younger ones or with family work, having a chance to travel or to spend hours on something that interests them; and those who are brought up on "strong meat" books and who are baffled and stultified by written-to-grade-level stories and endless "reproducibles."

Critics of homeschooling say, "That's real life. You don't always get to do just what you want, the way you want to do it; your kids are just spoiled. When they get jobs, they'll have to do things the way the boss says." Well, yes and no. There's probably a larger-than-usual percentage of quirky kids and non-traditional learners in any homeschool group, because they're the ones who would be worst served by a traditional classroom. The truth is that these kids, the ones with the most idiosyncracies, probably aren't going to end up in 9 to 5 jobs anyway. Some of them would end up (to use those so-perfect images) falling through the cracks and dropping out. Shouldn't we do everything we can to keep our children from getting lost, especially if they tend towards any of the at-risk categories? And some of these not-9-to-5-ers are going to be very successful and thrive in their own areas, if they're given what they need.

As the writer of the letter says: it's not about the schools. It's about our kids. As long as we continue to have that choice, let's choose what's best for them.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

School plans for Friday (Lydia's Grade Eight), updated with art links

Stitch by Stitch, by Jane Bull

Lydia is in the middle of another knitting project, so this is a good day to do some readalouds.

Today's plans:

1. Opening hymn and maybe a couple of poems

2. With Mom: finish the last bit of How to Read a Book for this week.

3. Chapter 2 of Perelandra

4. Do some math (Key to Algebra: graphing equations)

5. Read some history
Whooping Crane
6. With Mom: start the next chapter in Ecology (Exploring the World Around You), including the section on territorial population control (read that part to yourself and then paraphrase it either verbally or on paper). In the December 2013 issue of Canadian Geographic Magazine, read "On the Rebound," about six Canadian species that have "rallied from the very edge of extinction."

7. With Mom: look at Dürer's self-portraits. Khan Academy has some excellent (short) videos on them too.

What's for supper?

Tonight's dinner menu:
Perogy Casserole
Leftover beef stew
Peas
Slow-Cooker Applesauce Cake
Canned pineapple.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Geography Lesson: Off to Zungomero

It's interesting that, when I'm "borrowing" lesson outlines from the relatively few available to us online, sometimes a lesson from one book will fit perfectly into an original outline, and then the next doesn't work at all. We had an earlier geography lesson based on Journey to the Source of the Nile which I treated more or less as a map lesson; then there was a short one where we just read. Today's lesson does not fit into the map category very well at all, although I tried. A number of places are mentioned in the reading, but most of them are pretty small and not on the maps; and when you look at the actual ground covered in the passage, it's quite a small bit of turf, relative to the size of Tanzania and the rest of the journey. Kind of like getting to the trolls and spiders chapters in The Hobbit, and realizing there's still an awfully long way to go.

Today's lesson has Christopher Ondaatje and his crew leaving Bagamoyo and attempting to find the place that Richard Burton called Zungomero--which  no longer exists and which nobody (in Ondaatje's experience) seems quite able to place. However, they do end up there, more or less, after some not uninteresting description of the woodland areas near the Selous Game Reserve.

So I decided to use the pattern of a history-lesson-with-map, rather than treat it as a map lesson.  This is what I came up with, based on this Parents' Review article by Eleanor M. Frost. Short and simple.

Subject: Geography.
Time: 30 minutes.  Southern Tanzania—"Bagamoyo to Zungomero." Book studied: Journey to the Source of the Nile, by Christopher Ondaatje.

Show two maps, one the general one in the book (before the start of Chapter 3), and the other a printout of this map of Tanzania, showing a few more place names. We will begin by reviewing the journey so far, looking at the maps.

Next the date 1857 written "on the board," which should bring to mind the names "Richard Burton and John Hanning Speke." Review anything we can recall about these two (I'm optimistic).

From the book we will read, beginning on page 87, about the drive from Bagamoyo to Ngerengere (see Google Maps), narration to follow. Note Ondaatje's observation that what took them only a few hours would have taken Burton and Speke probably a couple of weeks. Note also the lists of animals in the miombo.

Read pages 91-94, ending at a place called Matombo (see Google Maps again). Again, how does Ondaatje compare his journey to the original? For interest: look at pictures of the Matombo Mission.

(The search for Zungomero will continue in the next lesson.)

Sunday, January 18, 2015

School plans for the week (Lydia's Grade Eight)

Week 18 begins...

Morning readalouds:

Seeing the Mystery, chapter 3: "One of Us." "Do we know what speaks best to Indonesians? Would a painting by Raphael of the Crucifixion seem as strange and unreal to them as this Indonesian portrayal does to us?"

How to Read a Book: starting chapter 11, "Agreeing or Disagreeing with an Author." "If the reader understands a book, how can he disagree with it?"

Whatever Happened to Justice (Uncle Eric), chapter 21: "Instability, Nuremberg, and Abortion."

(Well, we could just stop right there, couldn't we?)

Independent Bible Reading: already scheduled.

History and Literature: Fierce Wars and Faithful Loves; reading about Charles I in The New World and The Trial of Charles I

Mathematics: working in Key to Algebra, Booklet 8

Composition and Grammar: The Roar on the Other Side; Easy Grammar Plus

Science readings: personal choice.

Latin: Our Roman Roots, finish lesson V. Theme for the week: "By leading us to truth, education lifts us above the cares of life."

Afternoon readalouds:

Journey to the Source of the Nile; continue the chapter "Lay down the burden of your heart: Bagamoyo to Zungomero." "[Burton's] first major goal was to reach Zungomero. That was our goal, too, but we had a problem: Zungomero has completely disappeared from all modern maps."

Exploring the World Around You, start chapter 9, "Population Balance." "In the predator-prey relationship, most people think that it is the predator that controls the prey population...But, it is just as true to say that the prey controls the predator population."

The Merchant of Venice

Afternoon other things:

Jean Sibelius, Symphony Number Four. Notes and extracts (I love this site!)

Nature studies, Life skills

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Homeschool moms do not (need to) know everything

I was talking to a new acquaintance at church, and she asked me what I do. I said that I have been homeschooling my girls for the last however many years. She said, "That must have been a great adventure!--because you would have to research everything that you taught them."

Yes, and go on Jeopardy when I'm done.

I didn't have a chance to correct that at-least-partial-misperception, and anyway it was only after I got home that I really thought about what she meant. No, homeschool moms do not know everything. If we're smart, we do not even research everything; that would be kind of like laying out a treasure hunt for the kids and then answering all the clues before they even finish reading them. Anyway, I've found I rather like knowing less about some subjects (e.g. knitting) than the Squirrelings do. Knowing that Mom is going to be of very little help on whatever it is (and sometimes Dad as well) forces them to find things out for themselves.

Some parents may be afraid to homeschool because they feel they don't know everything, or, as this person said, because they think they're going to spend their evenings "getting up a lesson" (to quote Charlotte Mason) and pass themselves off the next day as experts on snakes or the solar system. They hope that the kids are going to listen to what they say, but not ask any really difficult questions. And that they won't want to learn computer coding or basketball drills or something else we never learned ourselves, because that could be embarrassing.

Most homeschooling parents do figure this out pretty quickly, though: home education is not the equivalent of Mom giving an oral report every day. People who do know snakes or the solar system have said it better in their own books (or sometimes other media).  That's what we use. I am there to help find the books and to see to their ordered serving (another CM phrase). I am there to encourage engagement.  I am both the coach and the cheerleading squad.

I teach what I can. I help where I can. And sure, I do learn a lot along the way. But what matters more is that they're learning. Right?

From the archives: A younger Apprentice

First posted July 2006, just before The Apprentice started high school.
Well, I had my voice lessons yesterday...the teacher is quite nice and I had fun. She told me I had to bring two things next week: 1) A blank cassette. 2) A list of five songs I'd like to sing. Okay, so the tape I can handle, but the list? I am really having trouble with that. One thing is that I know it'll be easier singing songs with female vocalists, so that narrows it down a bit...but I still can't some up with anything! I think maybe one song might be Dancing Queen, but I know I'm going to have a hard time with four more. Oh well.

While I was getting the aforementioned can of icing, I stopped into the drugstore, because it's free sample week! (Sorry, I think it's only at this specific one.) So, what did I get? I got a nice assortment of stuff: John Frieda "brilliant brunette" Shine Release Moisturising Shampoo; John Frieda "brilliant brunette" Light Reflecting Moisturising Conditioner; John Frieda "brilliant brunette" Shine Shock perfecting glosser (stuff to make your hair shiny); Biore "Pore Perfect" pore unclogging scrub; Biore "Pore Perfect" Shine Control cream cleanser; Biore "Pore Perfect" Nose Strip (like a little mask for your nose). And...to top it all off, you can get different samples almost every day this week! Honestly, I think if I had gone the other days, and went in the days ahead, I'd have quite the arsenal of stuff!

On Thursday I'm having a knitting club at my house, I'm going to call it "Chicks with Sticks". So far, I've only got a few people coming. I hope I get a little more response. :( If you happen to be one of my friends reading my blog, and you want to come, let me know!!

Friday, January 16, 2015

Lydia Knits Some More

Water-bottle holder (pattern from KnitGrrl 2)
Coin purse (pattern from Klutz Knitting)

What's for supper? Frozen things.

Tonight's menu:
Frozen cannelloni
Sweet potatoes. Celery sticks.
Blueberry-raspberry crisp.

It's Friday! (updated with photos) (Lydia's Grade Eight)

Yes, we are almost halfway through the school year. Wa hoo.

Things to do today:

Read aloud: Francis Bacon, "Of Studies"
(Lydia is knitting a water bottle cover)
Also read some of Journey to the Source of the Nile, about the great loads of equipment that the 19th-century explorers had to carry, and some of the problems they faced even getting started

Listen to some of Jean Sibelius's Symphony Number One

Do some math and a couple of other book things.
Work in The Roar on the Other Side: close your eyes and write about the sounds you hear (or don't hear. Strangely enough, both the clocks in the room had stopped, so contrary to the expected, Lydia noticed the strangeness of No Ticking Clocks. Kind of like the Dog in the Night that didn't bark).

Linked from the Homeschool Blog Post Linkup

The Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival is back

After a long hiatus, the Charlotte Mason Blog Carnival is back online, with the latest edition (19 posts!) up at Fisher Academy International.

It's like going back to school in the fall and seeing your friends again!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

From today's lessons: like the game of Telephone

We are using William S. Taylor's book Seeing the Mystery for this term's study of Christ in art. While I like the book, I'm finding that Taylor and/or his editors weren't always careful about getting the proper names of artists and works.  First case in point was something he called the "Spatzi Madonna"; it appears that he meant the "Pazzi Madonna."

Today's lesson mentions Indian artist Angela Trindade. Taylor refers to her as Angela Trinidade, and luckily Google Search suggested Trindade instead so I didn't waste a lot of time on the misspelling. But the funny thing I noticed is that Taylor's mistake has been copied into at least one other book, another book on Christian art that came up in the Google search and that cites Taylor's description of Trindade's work. "Trinidade" and all.

It's just a little thing, but it sure does show how small facts and names should be checked and double-checked. And that even if you find it in a book, you had better not always assume that the author got it right, or that their source had it right.

From the archives: Love, justice, and Dick Van Dyke (and CM Volume 6)

Excerpted from a post of January 2013 



In an episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show called "Never Name a Duck," the Petries' son Ritchie becomes very attached to a pet duck named Stanley, but the duck starts to get sick and it's obvious that he needs to go and live outdoors.  (There was also one named Oliver, but he died.) After depositing the duck at the park, "Rob" (the father)  has to deal with his son's anger at losing his pet.  Ritchie insists that loving Stanley means they should have kept him; his father says no.  "If I just kissed you on the head and then did all the things that were bad for you, that wouldn't be love at all."  Rob makes the point that Ritchie wouldn't take a fish out of the tank and hug it and kiss it and make it sleep on a pillow beside him, just because he loved it.  Suddenly, Ritchie gets it.  Reason to the rescue.

The proper title of Charlotte Mason's Volume, Chapter 3 is "The Good and Evil Nature of a Child."  So far in the chapter, Charlotte has covered the goods and evils that we (parents, teachers) can do in a child's physical and mental development, as well as the messages that the child needs to get as well to overcome his or her own "goods and evils."

And at this point, she jumps into the child's moral development, or, as she calls it in Ourselves, the House of Heart.  What does morality have to do with hard thought, or education?  Isn't that where we can stay safe, and just pick something nicely illustrated from the church library or Christian homeschool vendor for our "moral lessons?"  Isn't a child's morality a simple matter of obedience and submission to those in authority?  For instance, would some parents prefer a story where Ritchie simply accepts his father's decision to free Stanley, rather than having him start packing his suitcase to go live in the park with the duck?  Should Ritchie have been told to shut up, because the adults knew best?  I'm more impressed with (Carl Reiner's) writing in this series--and it's not known for being a show especially about parenting--than I have been with many other old sitcoms where the "father knew best."  Rob doesn't try to trick Ritchie into behaving, or at least into not running away (I think there's a Brady Bunch episode where that happens); he gives him something important to think about, about what love is.

The bad and good news:  life itself is a morality lesson.  Morality cannot be packaged in a few nice stories or in a Sunday School songbook.  More bad and good news:  children already have a good sense of morality, love, and justice, but if we're not careful, we can throw it out of whack.  The best news:  illustrations of love and justice are found in abundance in the stories of "norms and nobility," so while it's necessary to be wise and cautious in our choosing of them, we don't have to be heavy-handed in the serving. 
"[We must] trust, not to our own teaching, but to the best that we have in art and literature and above all to that storehouse of example and precept, the Bible, to enable us to touch these delicate spirits to fine issues." ~~ Charlotte Mason

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

What's for supper? Pasta night

 Tonight's dinner menu:

Pasta with choice of meat in the sauce or just chopped peppers
Green beans
Bread-machine garlic bread

Watermelon! (Take that, winter.)

Frosty sparkling morning, school plans (Lydia's Grade Eight)

"It reaches to the fence, 
  It wraps it rail by rail 
  Till it is lost in fleeces;  
It deals celestial veil....  
    It ruffles wrists of posts  
  As ankles of a queen,  
Then stills its artisans like ghosts,  
Denying they have been."  
~~ Emily Dickinson
Today's school plans:

Opening time: January's hymn.

Read aloud together:  How to Read a Book.

Bible, History, Science readings
Math (working in Key to Algebra this week, using the booklet on Graphing)

Composition and Grammar: work on The Roar on the Other Side
Latin lesson: Lesson 4, Day 3 (we are going through these lessons pretty quickly, and finding Lydia does remember quite a lot from four years ago)
Reading together:  The Merchant of Venice
Keeping a Nature Journal (nature notebooking)

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Lydia Knits Too

What Lydia's been working on during readalouds.

Re-posted quote for the day: Gladys Hunt on literature

First posted January 2006.
"Books are wonderful ways to learn the possibilities of being human. We can define character traits with words, but they take shape only when you see what they look like in a person. How can we understand honor or valor or courage unless we have sometimes seen these traits in someone's life? Good literature may so move the reader that is seems impossible to verbalize about it. The experience is what counts.... 
"This is why an evil character in a story may reveal the real nature of evil more clearly than a sermon on sin. Reading stories is also a vicarious way to see how goodness and humility and honesty and beauty play out in life. Literature does instruct us, even thought it may not be our main reason for reading. Malcolm Muggeridge wrote in Jesus Rediscovered that books like Resurrection or The Brothers Karamazov gave him an overpowering sense of how uniquely marvelous a Christian way of looking at life is, and a passionate desire to share it. Good books have a way of instructing the heart." ~~ Gladys HuntHoney for a Woman's Heart

Monday, January 12, 2015

Picture Talk: The Adoration of the Magi (Lydia's Grade Eight)

Dürer's Adoration of the Magi
Step 1.-- What do you know about Albrecht Dürer? ("Albrecht Dürer was a German painter with far reaching influence whose travels through Europe, including Italy and the Netherlands, gave him prominent success in printmaking and engraving. Renowned as one of the best artists of old master prints; his works were intensely religious and iconic." Virtual Uffizi)

Step 2.-- History of the picture.
The Adoration of the Magi is a 1504 oil on wood painting by Albrecht Dürer. It was commissioned by Frederick the Wise for the altar of the Schlosskirche in Wittenberg, the same place that Martin Luther would nail his theses to the door thirteen years later (and where Luther would be buried).  It is considered one of Dürer's best and most important works from the period between his first and second trips to Italy (1494-5 and 1505). It is no longer in the church, because a century later it was given to the Holy Roman Emperor for the imperial art collection in Vienna, and later it was put in the Uffizi gallery in Florence.
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Step 3.--Studying the picture for several minutes, then describing it. (Impressions of the weather? What sorts of colours? How are people clothed? What is the baby doing? What is the servant doing? Is there anyone missing from the picture? Placement of the people, anything unusual? What geometric shape does their placement form?)  One funny note: one of the Magi is painted to look like the artist.

Step 4.--A few thoughts:  In 1494/1495, Albrecht Dürer spent time in Italy, and this painting reflects both the Northern (German, Dutch style) attention to detail and a "typically Italian perspective."  It also shows how Dürer was using some of the colours that he had seen used by painters in Venice such as Mantegna and Bellini. It is considered his first masterpiece.

Step 5.--Can you draw the chief lines of the composition?

Adapted from original notes by K.M. Claxton.
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