Saturday, December 20, 2014

17 seconds of funny for Christmas

La la la. La la la.

The Twelve Posts of 2014, #3: Charlotte Mason and Wide Open Spaces

First posted March 2014.

"Ultimately, the blank page makes us examine our thoughts for metacognition, and intrinsically, it insists upon space and time for learning." ~~ Laurie Bestvater, The Living Page

I've learned so many new words lately.  From going to free lunchtime concerts, I've learned quodlibet. From doing newspaper crosswords, I've added "olio" (a mixture of things) and "ana" (a miscellaneous collection of information). And while rereading Laurie Bestvater's chapter "The Grand Invitation," I had to look up "metacognition."

Metacognition is knowing about knowing, or thinking about thinking, or noticing that we are noticing.  So how does a blank page (in a notebook) make us examine our thoughts for metacognition?  Laurie says it's because it forces us to stop before we start.

It's like the difference between me grabbing a pencil and trying to fill in crossword blanks as quickly as I can, scanning for a few easy or obvious definitions that will get the thing moving, and facing a diagramless puzzle that begins with a blank grid and doesn't even tell you where to start.  You can't cherry-pick the easy bits on an empty grid, or on a blank page.
(not my puzzle--I found this one online)
But the advantage, rather than just the fearsome aspect, of a blank page is that it gives you space to learn. Laurie says (page 65) that it insists on it.  If our children should learn to run and climb and do all those gross-motor things that Charlotte Mason encouraged and that we're now finding out actually put little bodies in right relationship with the planet--that is, if we must find ways to give them physical space and let them find out what they can do in it--doesn't the same thing apply to other areas of learning?

Narration begins with silence. Silence, like blank pages, or a tree to climb, can be disconcerting.

One of my children was once handed a cassette recorder and sent off  to record some examination answers. In an attempt to cover up the fact that she couldn't remember anything about one particular story, she recorded a few words and then gave us several minutes of feigned static, via some noisy crinkling paper. The cassette recorder had inexplicably developed technical trouble.  And I believed it, for about twenty seconds.

But often it's the adults who don't welcome large spaces, white pages, silences.  There is some risk involved with these things.  Multiple-choice questions give you a defined start, a fixed stop, and, if they're to be computer-answered, you had better not colour outside the little circles.

It's a bit like imagining ourselves flying through the air, or sailing over the sea, or galloping across an open field, vs. staying on the footpath.  Yes, there are lots of places where habit and duty and reason make life easier.  Some things just have to be roads, rails, and structure, and that's a good thing too.  But here we're talking about giving our students' minds room to stretch, play, run, and fly.
"Mr. Quimby set his cup down. 'I have a great idea! Let's draw the longest picture in the world.' He opened a drawer and pulled out a roll of shelf paper....Together she and her father unrolled the paper across the kitchen and knelt with a box of crayons between them.
'What shall we draw?' she asked.
'How about the state of Oregon?' he suggested. "That's big enough.'
Ramona's imagination was excited. 'I'll begin with the Interstate Bridge,' she said.
'And I'll tackle Mount Hood,' said her father....
Ramona glanced at her father's picture, and sure enough he had drawn Mount Hood peaked with a hump on the south side exactly the way it looked in real life on the days when the clouds lifted." ~~ Beverly Cleary, Ramona and her Father

Friday, December 19, 2014

Quote for the day: Father Tim likes Marcus Aurelius

In Jan Karon's novel Shepherds Abiding, Father Tim quotes Marcus Aurelius to an elderly friend:
“The first rule is to keep an untroubled spirit. The second is to look things in the face and know them for what they are.” ― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations 
Here are a few others 

“Reject your sense of injury and the injury itself disappears.” 

“How much more grievous are the consequences of anger than the causes of it.”

“The best revenge is not to be like your enemy.” 

“When another blames you or hates you, or people voice similar criticisms, go to their souls, penetrate inside and see what sort of people they are. You will realize that there is no need to be racked with anxiety that they should hold any particular opinion about you.” 

The Twelve Posts of 2014, #2: The Living Pages of Nature Notebooks

First posted February 2014.

We have never been the faithfullest of nature notebookers, partly because we weren't the faithfullest of nature walkers either.  I know I am not alone in that, and of course there's always the excuse of the weather (especially this winter), but Charlotte Mason or no Charlotte Mason, we just didn't seem to be natural naturalists.

And yet this morning as I brought in bags of groceries, and noticed that it was slightly warmer and that the sunshine was just a little stronger, I also heard an unmistakable sound of spring: a chickadee calling "fee-bee, fee-bee." I know chickadees stay for the winter, but you don't hear them whistling until winter's over its worst.  And the funny part was, I kept thinking "calendar of firsts, put it on a calendar of firsts." Which I don't have, but you can tell how much the notebooking idea has been on my mind.

I thought of it last night too, when a flock of crows the size of large chickens landed on our backyard apple tree at dinner time.  A lot of the apples never fell, and they've been hanging, frozen, in the bare tree, ever since last fall, feeding birds and squirrels.  At this time of year, we often see crows, hundreds of them, roosting in neighborhood trees at dusk; but they usually choose the tops of the tallest evergreens, not our wimpy little apple tree.  I guess the frozen-fruit offering must have attracted them, although they were nervous enough to scoot for safer heights before Mr. Fixit could get a photo.

In these days when all you hear is "climate change," and when there seem to be so many wind storms, ice storms, crazy seasons, it seems to make more sense than ever to do a bit of Gilbert White-style, little-corner-of-the-world record keeping; to participate in the backyard bird counts, to be "citizen scientists." Yes, there are official records kept of everything from temperature to snowfall to mosquito predictions; everything's computerized and video-recorded, and I'm sure that professional biologists and naturalists out there have given the official word that winter is ending, spring is coming.  Or will come if it ever stops snowing.

But they didn't see my crows, or hear my chickadee, did they?

So I guess it's up to us.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

The Twelve Posts of 2014, #1: Charlotte Mason, Liturgy, and Lasagna

First posted January 2014.

Epiphany, January 6th, celebrates Christ made manifest--shown in His glory to the Gentiles, who are represented by the Magi.  A manifestation is when you see something, right?  And "having an epiphany" is often used, these days, to describe suddenly seeing (and understanding) something clearly.

And what is "liturgy?"  A generic definition might be "a fixed set of ceremonies."  A spiritual habit or discipline, maybe.  If you attend a liturgical church, it means that the worship time is laid out ahead of time, word for word: prescribed, observed, repeated.  As opposed to figuring it out fresh every time, or letting everything happen spontaneously.

In the Mitford books, Father Tim, an Episcopalian priest, often goes off by himself to "repeat the office."  He is not going to his office; he is saying his prayers, those that are laid out in the prayer book for different days and different times of day. An office is a service you do for someone, in the same way that we call worship time a service. That's where we get our word "officer."

On a site called The Daily Office West, I found this thought (in their FAQs: "The Office provides a framework for your thoughts, needs, concerns, thanksgivings, confessions and resolutions, so your praying becomes extremely personal. You wouldn't build a house without a foundation; once that’s down, you follow a written plan, and after it’s done, you decorate it so it suits your personality. Ideally, the Office provides a discipline; that’s why it’s best used Daily. If you wait until you’re inspired to pray spontaneously, God may be waiting a very long time to hear from you."

Framework, written plan, discipline. What does this have to do with Epiphany, or Charlotte Mason? It's coming, hold on.

Several years ago I posted "Lasagna Without Recipes," meaning that you could add a variety of ingredients, mix and match, leave out the tomato sauce or the cheese or the meat, and still have something that's recognizably lasagna.  But you still have to give it structure with noodles or something else to keep it separated in layers, or what you end up with is not lasagna.  It might be a good casserole, but it's not lasagna, because it's the structure that gives it its shape and identity.

Like lasagna, we need a framework in our worship, our life and our learning. Or at least we can say that a framework gives it more meaning.

In her preface to The Living Page, Laurie Bestvater quotes a passage from Wendell Berry's novel Jayber Crow, about seminary students who "could tell you" but "didn't see."  They could not see the beauty of the world around them, and so did not connect it with the Creator.  She also refers to Charlotte-Mason-style notebooks as things that "teach us to see" AND that are "the liturgy of the attentive life."  A framework, a discipline, a structure...and yet a place to add our individuality, our own taste.  ("Us" and "our" also meaning the students, of course.)

A big epiphany, a star in the heavens, might be experienced once in a lifetime, but we can watch for small epiphanies, glimpses of glory. And if we make use of the disciplines of learning, they may help us to keep our eyes open.

Linked from Hot Homeschool Hop: January 2014, at the HSBA Post.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Quote for the day: from The Wind in the Willows

"The rapid nightfall of mid-December had quite beset the little village as they approached it on soft feet over a first thin fall of powdery snow. Little was visible but squares of a dusky orange-red on either side of the street, where the firelight or lamplight of each cottage overflowed through the casements into the dark world without....the two spectators, so far from home themselves, had something of wistfulness in their eyes as they watched a cat being stroked, a sleepy child picked up and huddled off to bed, or a tired man stretch and knock out his pipe on the end of a smouldering log...Then a gust of bitter wind took them in the back of the neck, a small sting of frozen sleet on the skin woke them as from a dream, and they knew their toes to be cold and their legs tired, and their own home distant a weary way....They plodded along steadily and silently, each of them thinking his own thoughts." ~~ Kenneth Grahame, "Dulce Domum," The Wind in the Willows

Monday, December 15, 2014

What we're singing in French: Voici Noël (Silent Night)

A Christmas carol for French class:

Voici Noël, ô douce nuit!
L'étoile est là, qui nous conduit: 
Allons donc tous, avec les mages, 
Porter à Jésus nos hommages
Car l'enfant nous est né,
Le Fils nous est donné! 

Voici Noël, ô quel beau jour! 
Jésus est né! quel grand amour!
C'est pour nous qu'il vient sur la terre, 
Qu'il prend sur lui notre misère. 
Un Sauveur nous est né, 
Le Fils nous est donné! 

Lydia's Grade Eight: In the week before Christmas comes

Lydia got quite a lot done over the past two weeks, but she managed not to read any science or not to do any composition.  On the other hand, she read all the assigned chapters of Don Quixote and Fierce Wars and Faithful Loves, so that's good.  These are the things left on the list for this week, but there are a lot of them, and the Apprentice is here, and there are things to make and so on, and I am not feeling all that disciplined myself, so we'll see what happens.

Bible Study
o 2 Samuel 10-13:20; Matt 17:19-18:14; Psalm 119:123-136; Proverbs 10:12-21
o 2 Samuel 13:21-15; Matt 18:15-19:15; Psalm 119:137-155; Proverbs 10:22-32

The Bible Through the Ages
o 10 pages/wk: Apostle to the Gentile World; Letter writing; Thessalonians, Galatians; Corinthians, Philippians

Celebrating the Christian Year
o  Look ahead to Epiphany on January 6th.

December hymns and carols: "Wake, Awake" (Nicolai); "All My Heart This Night Rejoices" (Gerhardt)

Reading and Writing Stuff
Commonplace Books, Copywork, and Recitations (Memory Work)
o  Copy passages from poetry, plays, and the other books read
o  Practice Scripture passage(s): (choose which you will memorize)
o  Practice poem(s):
o  Other memory work:

Narration (all subjects)
o  Oral narrations of readings
o  Reader's Journal: one page, twice a week, on any of your readings (choose which you will write about)
o  Keep Book of Centuries and/or other notebooks handy as you read or listen; make entries at the end
o Other kinds of narrations: dramatic, musical, artistic...

Write with the Best Vol. II
o  Unit 4: Persuasive Essays.  Day 1 (read "Common Sense" by Thomas Paine), 2 (look at definitions of essay, thesis statement)
o  Day 3 (reread Common Sense and look for arguments, main point, conclusion), Day 4 (consider topic and thesis statement for a persuasive essay)
o  Day 5 (5 Objectives), Day 6 (Begin writing essay)
Homework over Christmas break: continue working on your essay.  Look at Day 7, 8 etc. for guidance.

Read How to Read a Book, Chapter 10, Criticizing a Book Fairly (this is the point where the reader gets to talk back)
o   Read The Importance of Suspending Judgment, pages 142-145

Mathematics:  Mathematics: A Human Endeavor.  Chapter Three, Functions and Their Graphs

Lesson Four
o  Introductory problems
o  Functions with Parabolic Graphs, Set I, Questions 1-18 (workbook)
o  Functions with Parabolic Graphs,  Set II, Questions 1-16 (workbook)
o  Optional: Set III: the price of a pizza

Lesson Five
o  Introductory problems
o  More Functions with Curved Graphs, Set I, Questions 1-16 (workbook)
o  More Functions with Curved Graphs,  Set II, Questions 1-14 (workbook)
o  Optional: Set III

Lesson Six (you may not get to this before Christmas break)
o  Introductory problems
o  Interpolation and Extrapolation: Guessing Between and Beyond, Set I, Questions 1-13 (workbook)
o  Interpolation and Extrapolation: Guessing Between and Beyond,  Set II, Questions 1-15 (workbook)
o  Optional: Set III: racecars
o  Summary and Review, Set I, Questions 1-15 (workbook)
o  Summary and Review,  Set II, Questions 1-14 (workbook)
o  Further exploration, as time permits

A little more Picture Study:
o  Introduction to Albrecht Dürer (see references at the end of the Renaissance book from last term)
o  Dürer's woodcuts for Martin Luther's Christmas Book

Composer Study: Jean Sibelius - Finlandia. (Chapter in Modern Composers for Young People, by Gladys Burch.) From Wikipedia:  Finlandia, Op. 26 is a symphonic poem by the Finnish composer Jean Sibelius. It was written in 1899 and revised in 1900. The piece was composed for the Press Celebrations of 1899, a covert protest against increasing censorship from the Russian Empire, and was the last of seven pieces performed as an accompaniment to a tableau depicting episodes from Finnish history. A typical performance takes anywhere from 7½ to 9 minutes.

Handicrafts / practical skills
o  Make something decorative or useful for the holidays.
o  Help with holiday baking!
o  Make notes in your Enquire Within notebook.

Literature
Shakespeare: The Merchant of Venice, finish Act I.

Read Mythology by Edith Hamilton, ten pages/week.

Part One of Don Quixote:  (Christmas break homework: finish Part One)

Read History of English Literature
o  chapter 52 Bacon--New Ways of Wisdom.  "'I have read in books,' he wrote, 'that it is accounted a great bliss to have Leisure with Honour. That was never my fortune. For time was I had Honour without Leisure; and now I have Leisure without Honour. But my desire is now to have Leisure without Loitering.'"
o  chapter 53 Bacon--The Happy Island. (About Atlantis)

Read Rawley's Life of Francis Bacon (printout) (read this after the History of English Literature chapters)

Fun Christmas readaloud, maybe: Dorothy L. Sayers, "The Necklace of Pearls"

Geography
Read Journey to The Source of the Nile, by Sir Christopher Ondaatje
o  Read with Mom, pages 27-49 (Chapter One).  Follow on the map provided.

Science and Nature Readings
Keeping a Nature Journal
o  pages 90-91, seasonal changes in winter
o  page 92, "Seeing Signs of Winter"
o  page 97, "Combining observation and research"
o Spend time outdoors and make entries (written, drawn, lists) in your nature journal

Human Physiology and Health: Read Exploring the History of Medicine
o  Chapter 1, The First Physicians
o  Chapter 2, Medicine Goes Wrong. "If the corpse and the book don't agree, the error is in the corpse!"
o  Chapter 3: Fabric of the Body,  Andreas Vesalius
o  Chapter 4: Father of Modern Surgery, Ambroise Paré.  "I treated him. God healed him."
o  Chapter 5: The Living River (William Harvey). Supplement: "William Harvey and the Discovery of the Circulation of the Blood," by Thomas Henry Huxley (printout).
o  Chapter 6: The Invisible Kingdom (the microscope)

History Readings
Read The Story of Mankind
o 13. Meawhile the Indo-European tribe of the Hellenes...
o 14. The Greek cities that were really states

Read Canada: A New Land
o England on the Atlantic Coast (spread over two weeks), pages 160-178
o The Dutch Claimed the Hudson River District, pages 179-183

Read Churchill's The New World
o Chapter 11, pages 115-124, to "...Spanish match." (Guy Fawkes, James I, Charles, 1605)
o  pages 124-130, beginning 'In the midst of these turmoils,' ending with 'London greatly aided them in this.' (Mayflower; James's children betrothed; Jacobean Charles I crowned)
o  pages 130-138: last half of chapter 12.

French lessons, outlined elsewhere

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Around the blogosphere, including the Homeschool Blog Awards (go vote)

Handy: How to choose thread.

Nostalgic: Jeanne's younger-days Commonplace Book.

Thoughtful: Brenda's Sunday musings in Take Heaven, Take Peace, Take Joy.

Spreading the homeschool blog love: Go vote for somebody in the Homeschool Blog Awards. Voting is open until December 29th. You can even vote for us (Best Methods Blog) if you want. Or vote for Jeanne (same category) or Our Journey Westward (same category, also Nature & Field Trips).  Or Wildflowers and Marbles (Best Encourager). Or the Schole Sisters (Best Family or Group).  Or Amongst Lovely Things (Best Homeschool Mom Blog). Or Prone to Wander (Photos). Or Afterthoughts (Super Homeschooler).  Or any of the rest!

Blogpost of the day: from Roscommon Acres

"The highs, lows, and the constancy of Christmas" was posted last year at Roscommon Acres, but if you missed it then, you should go read it now.
"The next Christmas memory came after my adoption. Beautiful tree, rows of gifts but no anticipation, no building excitement. The joy of running and laughing children couldn’t be contained that Christmas morning. Wrapping flying with shouts and giggles at the revealing of each new gift. The question on my lips, ‘is this really mine?’ Yes, my parents exclaimed, though I didn’t quite believe it. Astounded for such goodness had never come my way."

Quote for Advent III: Candles in the Wood

From Pilgrim's Inn (The Herb of Grace), by Elizabeth Goudge: on a day of Christmas-season miracles, nanny Jill and the five-year-old-twins look for holly in the woods.
"Will there be candles lit again in the wood as it's nearly Christmas?" asked Jerry.
"No, dear," said Jill. "There are never candles in the wood. There are lighted candles on Christmas trees, and in people's eyes when they're happy, but not in woods."
"There were the first day we came. We saw them when we went away."
"The sunset behind the trees, perhaps," said Jill....
(Later in the chapter)
As she sat on the rock she was not consciously thinking any more of the mystery of that moment when she had thought she saw the shining hoofprints on the path; she was watching a nuthatch running like a little mouse up the trunk of the tree opposite her, listening for the tap of its beak, feasting her eyes upon the glow of the holly berries above; yet because of it she saw a little more deeply into the beauty of bird and berry, heard a music in the tappings that she would not have heard before. And so it would be for the rest of her life. 
The music of the nuthatch was lost in the music of small feet running, and the twins were with her again, incredibly dirty, leaves in their hair, mud on their faces and their reefer coats, but with very pink cheeks and candle eyes....At the door of the Herb of Grace they paused and looked back. It was nearly dark now, with the stars pricking through. The last fires of sunset were still flaming low in the west and  a thousand candles had been lit upon the trees that stretched their shade deep beyond deep in the dark wood.  ~~ Elizabeth Goudge, Pilgrim's Inn (The Herb of Grace)

Thursday, December 11, 2014

December 11, 5 p.m., Sunset

The photos don't even come close to the true colors tonight: purple, orange, red, the whole deal.

Three things we didn't bake today

Chocolate-Covered Pretzel Christmas Trees.  Warning (tip): we used the red gel as recommended, but the dots stick to anything they touch--wax paper, other cookies, etc.  Another time I would probably use either candy sprinkles or some kind of icing that hardens better.
No-Bake Coconut-Date Squares, from Vegetarian Times Magazine
No-Bake Apricot Nuggets, from Canadian Living Magazine (not cut yet). Lydia's turn to make these, this year!

Yum: ambiguity in science writing.

Also called: the importance of commas. Especially when the original attempt at humour falls flat.

I read this to Lydia this morning, from Gary Parker's Exploring the World Around You:

"Consumers include plant eaters or herbivores....An organism that eats anything, such as a teenager, is an omnivore."

Lydia, understandably, looked at me in horror.

Even with the commas, that's a bit creepy, don't you think?

Advent hymn for today: Wake, Awake, For Night is Flying

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Now that beats all (current events)

from William Kurelek, A Northern Nativity
Of course, for more dramatic effect, you could bump the date up to December 24th.

Today's frugal ornament is on the secret page

I know I said I was done, but I found something fun to make for somebody, and the photo is at the bottom of the family-keep-out craft page.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Brown Sugar Buttons (shortbread)

Lydia and I made Brown Sugar Buttons today.  

Crocheted Snowflake, and links to more patterns

Today's Frugal Tree Ornament: Yes, there are about as many crocheted snowflake patterns as there are...snowflakes. But this is one I found this year, and I like it because it uses plain old worsted-weight yarn, which I have, and because it's actually pretty simple: no picots or anything fancy, just six points. Each snowflake is meant to be one motif in a garland, but just one makes a good tree ornament.

Are you looking for last-minute things to crochet? Check out Crochet.About.com ; they keep adding "best of" posts with free patterns. There are links to the best ornaments and so on on All Free Crochet, on Craftsy, on Ravelry, and so on. 

Monday, December 08, 2014

Crocheted Mitten Ornament

Today's Frugal Tree Ornament: I had just enough red yarn left to make one doll-sized mitten (from this pattern at Cobbler's Cabin). I put a little craft stuffing into it, ran a ribbon through the top, and scavenged two mini pinecones, greenery and tiny balls (on picks) from an old (thrifted) candle ring.

Christmas link for the day: Jessica's Names of Christ tree

Jessica at Mad in Crafts had the opportunity to decorate a Christmas tree at her son's parochial school. This is what she came up with: it's both appropriate and beautiful.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Lydia's Grade Eight: School plans for the week

Last Tuesday we got started with Term Two, but we also got interrupted by an unscheduled day-long field trip, an unavoidable church meeting, and a couple of other things I can't remember. This is also going to be a four-day week, but those days we will be doing some Serious School.
So: Bible. Composition. Math. Grammar. French. History. A little more Merchant of Venice, a little more Don Quixote, a few more paintings of the Nativity (part of art study). We will also be starting Journey to the Source of the Nile and the life of Jean Sibelius. And making Christmas cookies.
Those are our plans--how about yours?

My teddy, Grandpa's rocker

Family treasures at Christmas. My grandpa was born on a farm in what's now part of Toronto, at the turn of the last century, and he and his sister used this little chair as children. 

Friday, December 05, 2014

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