Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Blog Carnivals This Week

The latest CM Blog Carnival is up at Amy Hines' blog Crossing the Brandywine. The theme is "We Are Educated by Our Intimacies," and it includes Amy's own post about why their family chose Ambleside Online.

This week's Carnival of Homeschooling is at Jamie Gaddy's blog momSchool. Carnivals have been shrinking, generally, but this CoH has quite a few posts, so it's well worth a click.

Frugal Finds and Fixes: Catching Up

Welcome to the when-we-feel-like-it Treehouse feature "Frugal Finds and Fixes."

If you've noticed more photos on the blog lately, it's because my first-generation tablet wore out, and the newer version we replaced it with has a built-in camera.  The only frugal side to updating something electronic is that we got a great clearance deal on last year's model. But it does mean that I now have my own source of quick pictures, for the first time in years.

So here are today's Craisin-oatmeal muffins.

And here is my newly-reorganized seasoning drawer, filled with a set of jars that I bought new in the box at a yard sale.  We had a Ziploc method going for a few years, but the plastic bags were getting worn and messy, and it's much quicker finding what we want this way.  These are main-dish seasonings only; baking spices like cinnnamon are in another cupboard.

Here is a free poster that arrived this week from the Office of the Commissioner of Official Languages.

And here is a board game that got left at the bottom of the pile for several years, recently rediscovered.

A neighbour offered us three large bags of clothes, mostly women's tops, most never worn.  After we picked out what we could use, we drove the rest to the thrift store along with a few discards of our own.  So of course we also had to go in the store, but that was all right because Mr. Fixit found some great speakers, Dollygirl found shoes and a gorgeous green purse, and Mama Squirrel found a $2 black skirt to go with the tops.  Dollygirl also got good deals on two dresses (not at the thrift store).

We've been eating tomatoes from our garden.  The plum tomatoes all had blossom end rot, but the beefsteak ones are fine.

In entertainment, we are still depending on library DVDs, mostly because they don't cost us bandwidth.  Lately those have included Matlock and the old Mission: Impossible series.

Finally, in the you-won't-believe-this department, Mr. Fixit just finished off a box of razor blades that he bought on E-bay ten years ago.  That's getting your money's worth.

Quote for the Day, on the first day of school

(Just kidding.  We'll be back.)

Monday, September 01, 2014

When just playing around is not enough (John Mighton and Charlotte Mason)

On the subject of teaching mathematics, Charlotte Mason had a few negative things to say about manipulatives. Not that she didn't use real-life objects and counters: her books mention money, beans, and dominoes, just as a start.  But she was definitely against complicated, expensive math apparatus, and, using the  textbooks available a hundred years ago, we can assume that she also did not teach with what's now called a "discovery" approach. Children were taught to understand what they were doing, as much as possible, but they were also given the information and strategies they needed rather than being expected to invent their own methods.

This is where John Mighton, JUMP Math, and recent educational research come in.

Some of the conflict we have over how to teach math comes from confusion over words, especially words like "discovery" and "rote." The problem is that, like that swinging gate that Charlotte Mason mentioned, people on either end assume that there's no middle point. Either you teach like a colonial-era schoolmaster, chanting multiplication tables for hours, or you grab onto the latest discovery-based fads and hope that the concepts will eventually click.

This is where we need to ask ourselves persistently if what we're doing...um, adds up. Mighton uses the analogy of playing chess. Some amateurs have played many, many games of chess; they can play a long time, but they don't get much better just by playing. I'm thinking also of, maybe, someone who can play "Lady of Spain" on the acccordion (or the organ), but that's all.



The opposite of this approach, according to Mighton and the research he cites, is to teach specific small sequences of moves, whether in chess, or skating, or math. If you're trying to get good at golf, you go out and work on your swing. If you're learning to type, you type jkl; jkl; jkl; as many times as it takes; then you add a couple of new keys, and so on. This is not punitive; this is not what we criticize as "rote learning"; these are the ABC's of anything. If you give students keyboards and tell them to bang away, they will not figure out for themselves that they could get faster and more skillful by typing jkl;.

So why do we assume that a tableful of carefully-designed manipulative blocks...are you listening, Herr Froebel?...will, in themselves, teach children what they need to know, no matter how long they play with them? As Mighton points out, and I have seen this confirmed myself, there are high school students who have been through this whole program of discovery-based learning and who still cannot add fractions. But when they're taken through some "guided instruction," they can and do learn what they missed earlier on. (But what a shame to have wasted all that time.)

Guided instruction is not rote learning. It doesn't mean no drawings, no manipulatives. It doesn't mean blindly following an instructional sequence like a robot. It does mean that we teach students a little bit at a time until they can do each step perfectly. Who does that remind you of?

Oh yes--Charlotte Mason.
Perfect Accomplishment.––I can only offer a few hints on the teaching of writing, though much might be said. First, let the child accomplish something perfectly in every lesson––a stroke, a pothook, a letter...
Steps in Teaching.––Let the stroke be learned first; then the pothook; then the letters of which the pothook is an element––n, m, v, w, r, h, p, y; then o, and letters of which the curve is an element a, c, g, e, x, s, q; then looped and irregular letters––b, l, f, t, etc. One letter should be perfectly formed in a day, and the next day the same elemental forms repeated in another letter, until they become familiar. By-and-by copies, three or four of the letters they have learned grouped into a word––'man,' 'aunt'; the lesson to be the production of the written word once without a single fault in any letter.  ~~ Charlotte Mason, Home Education
Linked from The Carnival of Homeschooling: Ages and Stages Edition. 

Charlotte Mason Quote for the Day: Well, you have to start somewhere.

A group of parents, discussing possibilities for teaching natural history during family vacations:

"'What is that white line on the flint, Bob?'--'Chalk, father,' with surprise at my dulness [sic]; and then the folding of the tale of wonder--thousands of lovely, infinitely small shells in that scrawl of chalk; each had, ages and ages ago, its little inmate--and so on....And still the marvel grew, until, trust me, there is not a feature of the chalk that is not written down in le journal intime of each child's soul."

"Mr Morris's hint admits of endless expansion; why you could cover the surface formations of England in the course of the summer holidays of a boy's school-life and thus give him a key to the landscape, fauna, and flora of much of the earth's surface.  It's admirable."

"[But] in this bird's-eye view of geology, for instance, why in the world did you begin with the chalk?  At least you might have started with, say, Cornwall."

"That is just one of the points where the line is to be drawn; you specialists do one thing thoroughly--begin at the beginning,  if a beginning there be, and go on to the end, if life is long enough.  Now, we contend that the specialist's work should be laid on a wide basis of common information, which differs from science in this amongst other things--you take it as it occurs.  A fact comes under your notice; you want to know why it is, and what it is; but its relations to other facts must settle themselves as time goes on, and the other facts turn up...."  ~~ Charlotte Mason, Formation of Character

"If we cannot find something, even at starting from the open door, to teach us about Why and How, we must be very short-sighted, or very shallow-hearted." ~~ Charles Kingsley, Madam How and Lady Why

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Charlotte Mason Quote for the Day: The heart of the Eternal

"Reveal to the eyes of youth the vision of the infinite Loveliness, lay bare the heart of youth to the drawings of the irresistible Tenderness, let the young know, of their own intimate knowledge, that,

'The thoughts of God are broader than the measures of man's mind,
And the heart of the Eternal is most wonderfully kind,'

and all other knowledge and relationships and facts of life will settle themselves." ~~ Charlotte Mason, Formation of Character.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

From the not-so-long-ago archives: Passion for learning, plus a new ending.

Slightly edited from a post of August 2013.  Reposted because school's starting and because I owe a lot to the recently-ended Ordo Amoris.  

When I think of passion and learning, I think of Cindy Rollins's Ordo Amoris blog.  "Passion" is not a recommended word to Google-search for, generally, but if you limit the search to Cindy's blog, you get snippets such as "So that is what valor looks like but even more so that is how valor is memorialized, with passion not malaise" and "I just have a passion for literacy (reading and cultural)" and "I am passionate about the *idea* of living in a republic that followed our Constitution."  A shared passion for living and learning is definitely a good thing, and Cindy is one of its vocal and valued homeschooling proponents.

I would like to say that a passion for learning is something we just don't have a problem with around here.  But it wouldn't be entirely true...or at least not if  "passion for learning" equals "passion for schoolwork."   If they feel that "their time," when lessons are done, is honestly "their time," then they seem to feel that they also have to differentiate their own reading, writing and other activities from assigned "schoolwork."  I've never heard any of them (even the Apprentice) begging for more math homework.  This question of ownership--and therefore passion, or lack thereof--has been a source of frustration (on my part, it doesn't seem to bother them!) for almost two decades.  Some readaloud books have blurred the line between "this is school" and "just Mom and me reading," but in general, that's the way it works, or doesn't work.

Some homeschoolers (or teachers) might suggest that the way to get older students to engage with learning would  be to leave the curriculum up to them.  If it's put on their plate, it comes from outside, isn't personally meaningful; if they've chosen it, they'll be interested.  I would say yes, to a point; I do give options wherever practical.  But, thinking of Charlotte Mason's quip about expecting people to make their own boots, it's inconsistent with our family's homeschool practice to let the kids decide if they're even going to wear shoes...so to speak. Promoting engagement by completely freeing up the curriculum is not an option for us.  It's not in tune with Charlotte Mason, it's not what I'm comfortable with, and it's not even (really) what our kids expect.

So how else do we find delight, engagement, passion, without expecting too much (or too little) of 21st-century, somewhat-distracted kids, and without turning them into prigs about learning?
By making a longterm practice of spreading the learning feast, and finding reasons to be excited about at least some of these ideas ourselves, we are providing opportunity for our students to go beyond the most obvious, um, menu choices.  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.

But that particular metaphor isn't meant to say that education is all about specialization...so maybe we need to imagine more of a global menu, that allows you to explore and make connections in all different directions.  (Not to the point of needing antacid...the teacher's job is partly to direct the wise serving of the banquet.)

Some "passions for learning" are specific and develop quickly.  One taste of kimchi and you're hooked?  But others grow slowly.  We need to have patience and faith, and provide real food (unlike the dollhouse ham that Tom Thumb is hacking at in the picture).  And it will come.

Surplus store stop

Magnetic whiteboard tile, $6.99.  Eraser so I don't have to use tissues, .99.  12 watercolours in tubes, $2.99.

For any of you locals, it's the place with the Spitfire perched on the roof.

Charlotte Mason Quote for the Day: The Parent's Progress.

One parent says to another,

"The habits a child grows up with appear to leave some sort of register in his material brain, and, thus, to become part of himself in even a physical sense.  Thus it rests with parents to ease the way of their child by giving him the habits of the good life in thought, feeling and action, and even in spiritual things.  We cannot make a child 'good'; but, in this way, we can lay paths for the good life in the very substance of his brain...."

She responds,

"I feel as if a great map of an unknown country were spread before me, where the few points one wants to make for are unmarked.  How [can we deal with this complexity?]..."

The first attempts to answer:

"We must know a little, at any rate, of the content of that which we call 'human nature.'  We must add to our physiology, psychology, and to psychology, moral science....and then [knowledge of the spiritual life].  How?--is another question for our [educational] Society to work out." ~~ Charlotte Mason, Formation of Character

Friday, August 29, 2014

Charlotte Mason Quote for the Day: Attention!

"[Attention] is the power of bending such powers as one has to the work in hand; it is a key to success within the reach of every one, but the skill to turn it comes of training.  Circumstances may compel a man to train himself, but he does so at the cost of great effort, and the chances are ten to one against his making the effort.  For the child, on the other hand, who has been trained by his parents to fix his thoughts, all is plain sailing.  He will succeed, not a doubt of it."~~ Charlotte Mason, Formation of Character

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Did Richard do it?

Josephine Tey convinced me (years ago) that Richard III was maligned and innocent.  Since then I've discovered that not everyone agrees with her logic.  The Year of Three Kings, 1483 was published in 1983,and  written by Giles St Aubyn, one of those who weren't as convinced.  It is my last intensive teacher-read before the school year starts; I'm about halfway through, and I'm finding it good straightforward history--though not as easy to get through as Tey's fictional approach.

(Funny what things come back to you.  As soon as I read the name Lovell, I remembered the rhyme from Daughter of Time about "The Cat, the Rat, and Lovell our dog," and I was pretty pleased with myself for getting that right when Catesby and Ratcliffe turned up a few pages later.)

John Mighton Quote for the Day (#3)

Today's quote is from John Mighton's The End of Ignorance, but I think it relates to something teachers, especially homeschool teachers, wonder about in Charlotte Mason: how is it possible to direct a whole class of students, CM-style, and know that they're learning? Our current educational culture tells us to differentiate, separate children by learning styles or abilities.  Mighton discusses why it's sometimes better to have the whole group working in sync:
"The advantages of engaging the entire class and allowing students to work on roughly the same material at the same time are obvious. The experience of working collectively channels the attention of weaker students so that new abilities begin to emerge in those students and differences between students are minimized....students become actively engaged in solving problems, both for the joy of solving the problem and also for the joy of presenting their answers in from of the class.  Students can work at their own pace and can find their own level with a problem (there are always bonus questions for students who finish work early), but none feel they are being left behind...they work not to be better than their peers but rather to get to higher levels in their own work, to solve more interesting or challenging problems.  Students thus develop a healthier engagement in their work and a healthier attitude towards their peers."  ~~ The End of Ignorance, page 205.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

What's for supper? Noodles, both ways

Last night I made bean chili, but I cooked the ground beef separately and let those who wanted it add it in themselves.  There was some cooked meat left, also some egg noodles and part of the can of diced tomatoes I used.  So tonight's dinner was noodles, two ways.  One casserole of beef, noodles, mushrooms, mushroom soup, onion, and paprika.  One skillet of tomato, spinach, noodles, seasonings, and cream cheese added at the end.  Either or both, with carrot sticks.

Dessert was nectarines, heated in the microwave and sprinkled with a bit of ginger, on top of wheat-germ muffin cake.  Or whatever else people wanted.

From the Archives: Dollygirl (Crayons) and Her Doll-making


First posted August 2005. Dollygirl (Crayons) was four. Ponytails was almost eight.

Crayons did not get her nickname for nothing. Lately no toilet paper tube, no box, no piece of paper has been safe from her creativity. Earlier this week she told me, "I want to make a paper plate caterpillar. I need paper plates and pipe cleaners." "Where did you get that idea from?" "I saw it on TV. So I have to make one, how about now?" (About five minutes before bedtime, this was. She finally agreed to wait until the next morning.) She did it almost all herself, with a little help punching holes to hold the paper plates together, and Mr. Caterpillar is now on the kitchen wall.

She also brought a book we have that has photographs of dollhouses and dolls, not understanding that this wasn't a craft book, and showed me a photograph of some rather weird-looking [Dame Darcy] dolls.  "Can we make this one?" Never one to say no...wait a minute...don't those faces look like white plastic picnic spoons? Which we just happened to have...aha. So, picnic spoon, pipe cleaner and straws for arms and legs, some fuzzy yarn for hair, and a Crayons-created marker face...which looks much happier than the original...and we have our dolly.

(Addendum: Ponytails made a doll later; hers is the one with the yellow hair, on the right.)

Thrift shop run

We stopped at a Salvation Army thrift store today, and this is what came home: a couple of school books, a clutter book, and two new packs of autumn-coloured cellophane bags.  Also The Great Gatsby for Ponytails, and a pair of shoes for Dollygirl.  There were a couple of television sets that interested Mr. Fixit, but not enough to buy them.  (We bought our current family T.V. earlier this year at a thrift store, and we're very happy with it.)

Monday, August 25, 2014

In which we get a blogger award

The Duchess of Burgundy Carrots has given us a Very Inspiring Blogger Award.  Thank you!

The rules of acceptance involve making a list of things that you, whoever you are, might not know about me (Mama Squirrel, since I take on most of the blogging duties at the Treehouse).  I did something like that a few years ago, but here are a few different ones.

1.  You know how when you take a babysitting class you have to take a doll or a teddy along for practice? Our first (and only) prenatal instructor asked us to bring a doll, but since we didn't have any visible children yet, we didn't own any suitable toys.  So I sewed a big stuffed baby and we used him/her to practice burping and diapering.  I don't remember if he/she ever got a name...we were having trouble just deciding on names for real babies.

2.  I have a dress that I bought when Mr. Fixit and I were dating. It still fits, and I would like to wear it once in awhile (if only for fun), but it was missing a gold-coloured button, and there were no extras inside or as decoration that I could swipe.  Today I was going through the button bag, hoping that maybe I had just dropped that missing one in with the others.  I came up with one that was close in size and even had a gold rim, but the centre of it was a sort of yellow enamel. About ten seconds after Ponytails said "Marker?," I thought of the metallic Sharpies that appeared in my Christmas stocking.  With that bit of gold markering, and switching the position of the new one to the very bottom, it's no longer obvious that there's been a "button hack"; and I can wear the dress again. (The photo makes it look like the second-from-the-bottom is different, but it's just the lighting.)
3. If you ask me to pick something from Tim Horton's, nutritional thoughts and messiness aside, I would probably pick a Dutchie.  I spent the first formative years of my squirrelhood around the corner from an early Tim's, and Dutchies are a hangover from those times.

I am going to pass on re-passing the award, not because I don't know any good bloggers but because some of them have already gotten similar awards and the rest are busy getting ready for school and other things.  But thank you again to the Carrot Duchy.

Fast and frugal: Black Bean Dip


Something I thought of and made all within about five minutes: combine approximately equal parts of black beans (cooked or canned, drained and rinsed) and salsa.  Run through a Ninja or whatever mashing device you use.  I heated the beans first in the microwave so they'd blend better and so the dip would be warm. Serve with chips or carrot sticks.  The leftovers are going in a pot of chili tonight.

From somebody else's archives: On narration

We linked to this 2007 Common Room post on narration, way back when, and I just rediscovered it.  Some good stuff there.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Teacher training this week (one week till school starts)

One week to finish my "summer education?"

Old Mortality is on hold, temporarily, and that's okay; it's not on the schedule until the third term anyway.

I am in the middle of several library books, trying to finish them all at once.  I'm also reading The End of Ignorance, not from the library but one that I had postponed reading for too long.  It is both method-confirming and method-changing...kind of like a driving clinic that tells you how well you're doing but then points out all the times you were looking at something else or taking too long to make a turn.  I don't drive but I can still make a driving simile, right?  There are so many places where John Mighton echoes Charlotte Mason on education, it's uncanny.  (I know I said that a few years ago.  I still think so.)

There are several John Mighton and JUMP Math videos on You-Tube, but I particularly like this one.

John Mighton and Charlotte Mason Quote for the Day #2: Every Child

"But how would we judge our schools if virtually every child who entered school in kindergarten had the potential to learn any subject?  How would we judge the methods of instruction used in our schools if, as the research in cognition suggests, almost all children could be trained to develop intellectual and artistic abilities and could become deeply engaged in their work, the way experts are engaged?  We would have to admit that there was something wrong with the way we educated our children...."  ~~ John Mighton, The End of Ignorance (2007)

"We find ourselves in open places breathing fresher air when we consider, not the education of an individual child or of a social class or even of a given country, but of the race, of the human nature common to every class and country, every individual child. The prospect is exhilarating and the recognition of the potentialities in any child should bring about such an educational renaissance as may send our weary old world rejoicing on its way." ~~ Charlotte Mason, Philosophy of Education (page 47)

Photo of Hull House children found here.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

John Mighton Quote for the Day #1

"By insisting that children must be taught according to their developmental level and that everything they learn must be framed in a rather mundane, 'relevant' context, educators risk removing any sense of enchantment from learning. Children would undoubtedly find mathematics and science more interesting if they were introduced to the deepest and most beautiful ideas in those subjects at an early age."  ~~ John Mighton, The End of Ignorance (2007)

Photo found here.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Best education book I've read this month

In the too-short-to-be-a-book-review department: the best education book I've read this month is The End of Ignorance, by John Mighton. It's about math, but it's also about brains and learning and schools and human potential.   Definitely recommended.

Dollygirl's Grade Eight Road Map

Just a look inside this year's school plan.

Dewey says hi

Dewey wanted to say hello to everyone--it's been awhile!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

What's for supper? What's in the fridge?

Tonight's dinner menu, using what we had and working around what we didn't:

Ham
Macaroni skillet with cheese, celery and green peppers
Broccoli Slaw, made with a bag of "broccoli slaw" from the store plus oil and vinegar dressing

Chocolate microwave cake
Yogurt
Strawberry sauce made with part of a jar of "hot strawberry jam" we got at the vegetable stand (whoo!).

Quote for the day: Wendell Berry


       ....It is not "human genius"
that makes us human, but an old love,
an old intelligence of the heart
we gather to us from the world,
from the creatures, from the angles
of inspiration, from the dead--
an intelligence merely nonexistent
to those who do not have it, but
to those who have it more dear than life.

--from "Some Further Words," by Wendell Berry, from Given (2005),  in his New Collected Poems.

Photo found here.

From last year's archives: Handicrafts and sewing

First posted August 2013.

It's two weeks to school, and if I were continuing the posts here "on schedule," I'd be up to "knowledge of man" by now.  But I'm still thinking about art lessons, and handicrafts, mostly for the middle school age, and how 1923 (or so) meets up with 2013.

A quick look at Charlotte Mason's outlines would give us the idea that Art was one subject, and Work (including handicrafts) was another; one "artistic," one technical.  Picture Study was sometimes separated from Drawing (which often meant watercolours), or sometimes they were lumped together.  Watercolouring was also included under nature study, and writing "beautiful mottoes" and drawing in one's Book of the Centuries went under both Sunday Occupations and General history.  Although it's not mentioned in the Programmes, I have heard that the PUS students used to act out Shakespeare plays, so things like painting scenery and designing costumes might have fallen under Literature, as would have making illustrations of scenes from books.  And, strangest of all, architectural knowledge (which is a bit of a blurry area between art and technology) is filed under General Science.

However, when it comes down to it, the lines between art and crafts were somewhat blurred, as they are in real life.  For instance, would using the inspiration of leaves and flowers to design an embroidered book cover, and then doing the work on it, count as art (the design) or craft?  Well, life is messy (somewhat like craft projects).  You either ignore the problem (it's both) or just pick one or the other.  In real life, designers who get their gorgeous needlepoint florals photographed for Victoria are, deservedly, referred to as artists.  So are artists who use quilting as a medium; they're coming at it from a different place than those who labour over thousand-dollar traditionally-patterned quilts for an MCC relief sale, but there's a blurry area in the middle where creativity meets just-stitching, where the quilters are all designing and all sewing.

You might say that Charlotte Mason's "Work" subject is what might have gone under Home Ec and Tech classes, and "Drawing" and "Picture Study" and the rest could be in the domain of the art teacher.  Again, that isn't to say that the art class can't be doing something in textiles, or that the sewing class has to make only hot-water-bottle holders, but if there needs to be a division, there it is.  You might well say, who cares?, and you could be right; those who might like to interfere with homeschool curriculum are not likely to be quibbling over art and crafts.  But if you really want to know where Charlotte was coming from on this, and why, again, physical education and handicrafts got stuck under "knowledge of the universe" rather than "knowledge of man," it's something to consider.

Anyway, here's what really interested me as an example of Charlotte's choices for handicrafts:  The Little Girl's Sewing Book, by Flora Klickmann, editor of the Girl's Own Paper. Online in full at that link; browse through it, it's not that long.  I thought that was going to be another of those step-by-painful-step educational sewing manuals that the PUS did sometimes include; but this one is different.  It's not as cutesy as the Mary Frances books; there are no talking thimbles here.  But it is written in a chatty way, and the audience is, almost exclusively, a Girl With a Doll.  It's a very well-thought-out presentation:  wouldn't Dolly like a this or a that?, here's how you can make her a bedspread, embroider her some curtains, and so on.  Dollygirl would have devoured this book if she'd been twelve years old in CM's time.  There are a few non-doll projects (like a needlepoint mat to go under Grandmother's hot-water jug--I am not making that up), but the majority are doll clothes and doll bedding.  It's not all plain sewing, either; there is a fair amount of cross-stitching, some needlepoint, and even a few miscellaneous things like hairpin lace (a kind of loose crochet).

How relevant is this to 2013, when we are not very likely to have Mother take us down to the shop to buy pink embroidery silk for our Hardanger project, and when the hot-water jug is long gone?  The twelve-year-olds like Dollygirl who are both old enough to handle these projects, and "young" enough to still like dolls, are also a vanishing species. Are we reduced to looking up "teenage crafts" online, and settling for friendship-bracelet earbud strings?

No, I don't think so.  The principles, the ideas are still relevant.  You might be able to cull some actual projects out of The Little Girl's Sewing Book, but even if you can't, I think the interest for CMers is in seeing what kind of a book was chosen, how the ideas were presented, and what sort of skill (creative and technical) was developed.  It's worthwhile to browse through the crafts shelf--juvenile and adult--at the library, and compare any really well-written, well-done books you can find with the more mediocre ones.  My girls have liked the Kids Can Press series of crafts books, including their Jumbo Book of Crafts; in fact, I think it was that book that got the Apprentice started on a longtime hobby of beadwork. Some of the Klutz books (especially the ones that come with supplies) are also very good--the Apprentice had a Klutz embroidery book, but I think it's out of print now.  You can tell that this list is still oriented towards girls, and that's mostly just because I don't have boys--but there's stuff out there for them too.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

What's up at the Treehouse?


Ponytails has been working (scooping ice cream) and parking-lot driving with Mr. Fixit.

The Apprentice has been working out of town and we haven't seen her much lately, but she's coming for a visit today.

Dollygirl has been working on trying to replace a worn-out swimsuit.  Which isn't easy.  Even in the summer. But she did finally find one so that she can go swimming with The Apprentice.

Mama Squirrel has been working on school stuff, both for the Treehouse and for online projects.  Today Mr. Fixit has promised to get the Fruit of Her Labours printed out (that means the school plan for the year).
Mr. Fixt, as usual, has been working on the things he works on. Recently that's included doing colour developing in the kitchen sink. Really, you can, or at least he can. Technology is wonderful.

 (Phone photo found here.)  (Car photo found here.)  (Camera photo found here.)

From the Archives: Thirty Thousand Tunes?

First posted August 2005.
Mama Squirrel is constantly amazed by the effects of technology on our culture.

Someone Mr. Fixit knows showed him her iPod this week, complaining that it wasn't working anymore. She wondered if maybe he could take a look at it, since he is good at electronics. Mr. Fixit looked at it briefly and said no, they aren't fixable. But you couldn't maybe take it apart and replace something? No, they're meant to be disposable. But there were thirty thousand songs on it! Sorry, nothing that we can do.

Thirty thousand songs. Mama Squirrel marvelled at that. How would you choose what to listen to? Mr. Fixit said that you'd just set the iPod to play them randomly. Mama Squirrel naively asked if that wasn't the same as just turning on the radio, then? Mr. Fixit said no, radio stations don't have that many songs on their play lists.

How long would it take you to listen to thirty thousand songs? If you listened to music ten hours a day and heard maybe twenty songs an hour, that would be two hundred songs a day, right? If you never had any repeats, it would take you 150 days to listen to all of them. Using the word "listen" in kind of a vague, background music sense, unless you were doing nothing else for those ten hours a day but listening to your thirty thousand songs.

We used to be satisfied with a small stack of albums or stash of tapes, bought one at a time in the basement at Woolco or whatever the comparable place was. When Mr. Fixit was much younger, he and his brother occasionally brought albums to their grandparents' house. The grandparents would scoff: "What you need to bring those here for? We have a record." (For some reason the boys weren't wildly excited by Lawrence Welk.) Times have changed...thirty thousand tunes. Actually thirty thousand tunes down the flusher because the iPod can't be fixed.

And that's life in 2005.
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