Wednesday, November 26, 2014

A craft that's not a secret

What can you do with an empty cocoa can?
Crochet it a holiday jacket.
Yarn:Red Heart Super Saver.  Ribbon and squirrel pin from my "stash."

What's for supper? More takeout fakeout

Tonight's dinner menu:

Stir fry of ground pork, a pepper, and a zucchini, with bottled orange-ginger sauce and cashews
Some other frozen Oriental-style vegetables, for those not liking pork
Basmati rice in the slow cooker
Mini frozen spring rolls
Chow mein noodles


Craft thing of the day

Today's best craft/sewing idea came from Sew Mama Sew. But because it's less than a month until Christmas, I'm going to have to send you (non-Squirrel people) over to Mama Squirrel's Christmas page, and I'll post a link there. (Scroll down to the very bottom of the page.)  Easy sewing, lots of fun, very versatile. Curious?

Consumer Education: now whose fault was that?

Did you read about this couple who filled their house with rented goods they couldn't afford?

As Uncle Eric says, there's no such thing as a free lunch. Or home theatre system.

Whoah, bookophiles, you are going to love these photos

Jeanne has posted photos of her lovely reading room. And its contents.

Interesting math link: lots of things to do with a hundred chart

I haven't posted anything about math here for quite awhile.  Lydia has been working through Math: A Human Endeavor this fall, and about the worst she has gotten into was needing some help with coordinate graphing.

But I still subscribe to the Math Teachers at Play blog and carnival, and they had an interesting post this week with additional comments: 30+ Things to Do With A Hundred Chart.  (Including debate whether hundred charts should go from 1-100 or 0-99.)  Check it out

Well, if it had to give out...

What week of the year would you prefer your 17-year-old washing machine to give up the ghost? Boxing Week would be good, but Black Friday Week is good too.

And that's all I'm going to say about that. Except that they gave us an even better deal if we replaced the dryer too.

Note to self, though, if this ever happens again: make sure that they leave you a long enough hose so that you can still squeeze between your spanking-new washer and the laundry tub. So that your husband doesn't have to make an extra trip to the hardware store for an extension kit.  Oh, and make sure they put the dryer vent thing back against the hole in the wall properly.  So that your husband doesn't have to lie on his back on the floor and reach over his head to rejig the thing, while you lift the dryer.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

What's for supper? Cold day warm-up

Tonight's dinner menu:

Lentil-vegetable soup, with diced leftover beef for meat eaters to add to their bowls

Mashed-potato scones, with ketchup, salsa, or applesauce

Salad if you wanted it.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Frugal finds and fixes: my new stereo

Take one Sport Walkman. Add a pair of Skittles-box mini speakers that The Apprentice was done with.  Result: one cassette-friendly little stereo for Mama Squirrel.

Listening to: Medieval Carols, by the Oxford Camerata.

Education is a discipline: Mrs. Dowson follows up and finishes off (Part Two)

Mama Squirrel:  What, let us ask ourselves, is the chief mark of a developed and effective mind?

Mrs. Dowson:  I suppose we shall all agree that first and foremost stands as its mark, good judgment. No undisciplined mind shows good judgment in regard to the narrowest sphere except by something like an accident....Given the habit of mental construction by which the separate living stones of knowledge are fitted as they come into their right places in relation one with another, and then, but only then, a survey of the whole as an intellectual and intelligible structure becomes possible, a disciplined judgment finds its appropriate sphere, and the true mental king comes into his own.

Mrs. Dowson:  Once the mind's building process is set going, new stones, new walls, may be added as fresh material accumulates, without producing any confusion or distress, but rather with an increase of power and of scope for the advantageous use of power. Good judgment exercised in such a sphere deals with each thing that comes as in certain respects a familiar thing through the known requirements of the structure, and the manifest relations between the part and the whole to which it belongs.

Mama Squirrel:  You're saying that once we have really begun this sort of education, we are going to find it easier and easier to keep adding on new information?

Mrs. Dowson: Nothing, I suppose, is more surprising to the higgledy-piggledy person than the ease with which the trained man, whose knowledge is in some sort unified, deals with an entirely new fact or group of facts.  The great test of mental discipline and organization is the judgment shewn concerning new things, and new situations or conditions of old things. It has been said, too, that every new bit of knowledge we acquire should make a difference to every other bit we possess, and should itself, in its turn, be modified by all the rest; but obviously this, like good judgment, is impossible if knowledge is in scattered heaps or separate pigeon-holes.
M.S.: How else can you distinguish an educated person?

Mrs. Dowson:  Another mark of the effective mind is the power to select what it requires for any piece of work and to reject what it does not require, the power to sift as it goes along the wheat from the chaff.

M.S.: So, discrimination.  Adler describes this in How to Read a Book; that there are key terms, key sentences, but that there will also be sentences that are not important to the overall argument.

Mrs. Dowson:  The scope of memory, too, is enlarged by an education of this kind. A man whose native memory of unrelated facts is not beyond the average may display a wonderful memory for facts that have been brought together in a rational system. The schemes of artificial mnemonics, memorizing schemes, are all based on the principle of association....An artificial means of linking may fix them in a poor memory, when rational connection is wanting, but the memory itself remains as bad as it was before.

M.S.: Can we actually improve our memories?

Mrs. Dowson:  The only legitimate way to extends its operation is to build every fact into the mind's structure of knowledge, to give it a place and a function in reference to other facts, to show its real meaning and value in relation to the world of intellectual interest to which the mind most readily and easily attends. Illegitimate methods may fix facts for a time; but the artificial string sooner or later gives way and the beads are scattered, possibly without even being missed, since the man content to hold them in such a fashion cannot have perceived their worth or the message of beauty and truth they might have brought into his mind.

M.S.: So, running over the "mental furniture," the vistas and so on that Charlotte Mason describes as being built up in our minds as we look at paintings, memorize poems and so on.

Mrs. Dowson:  The improvement of memory is really an improvement in thinking, and in the weaving of the tissue of our knowledge. We remember what we are vividly interested in, but our interest in anything depends upon the number of links it has with our general stock of interesting facts, on the number of 'hooks' in our stock for which we have detected 'eyes' in the new thing. When its eyes find their hooks it becomes attached to our mental structure, and we think it over and through with all the advantage of the context to which it really belongs and in relation to which it is both valuable and interesting.

M.S.: We also say "pegs to hang things on."

Mrs. Dowson: Both for teachers and the taught, it is only a call to better thinking--thinking more careful and critical, more reverent and humble, more truth-loving and persevering, more free from the bondage of intellectual convention and prejudice, more courageous and devout before the opportunities give us to use the powers we possess.  "For the vast majority," says Lessing, "the goal of their reflection is the spot where they grow tired of reflection." The call to philosophy is a call to set that goal a stage farther on, and to be less easily tired of thinking as we ought to think.

The full article can be read on the Ambleside Online website, here.

Audio link: an interview with Karen Glass

Something you can listen to, maybe while you're twisting scrap-fabric twine: Jennifer Dow at Expanding Wisdom has posted her interview with Karen Glass, about Karen's book Consider This.

Fun and frugal to make, but my hand hurts

Handmade Holidays for November 24th is Thrifty Gifts.  One of the links given is to Scrap Twine at My Poppet.  So I found a very long piece of pink bias tape, and some bits of scrap fabric, and tried it.
It works pretty well, but my hand feels like it's just written a major essay. With a pencil.

Too funny: dealing with Bud the Spud

Thirty years ago I spent a summer working in a camp kitchen, and we had one of those restaurant potato-peeling machines that looked like a wringer washer, kind of like the one in the photo. At least it beat having to peel all those potatoes with a knife.

The people at Budget 101 have recreated the process using a cordless drill and a toilet brush.

Lydia's Grade Eight, Term One exam questions

These examination questions are in the format used on the Ambleside Online website, and some of the questions are from the Year 8 examinations.  Others were drawn from original PUS programmes, and some came from our own term's work.

Bible and Christian Studies
1. Tell about something new that you have noticed or learned from this term's Bible reading assignments.
2. Explain the roles of the oral and written traditions in the writing of the Old Testament books  (The Bible Through the Ages)
Write 8-10 lines of poetry from memory.
1. Write a scene for acting from Hamilton's Mythology or Westward Ho! (this was found in one of the Form III PUS programmes)
2.  Choose something that you've found or that you see outdoors. Write about it, using words that are "resonant...carrying meanings that go beyond the literal." How is a poet's lens "more like a kaleidoscope than a microscope?"  (from The Roar on the Other Side)
English Grammar
1. Write the "Cumulative Test, Adjective Unit" on pages 25-28 of the Easy Grammar Plus Student Test Booklet.
English History
1. "'You know,' Grant said, 'from the police point of view there is no case against Richard at all. And I mean that literally. It isn't that the case isn't good enough. Good enough to bring into court, I mean. There, quite literally, isn't any case against him at all.'" (Daughter of Time) Explain this in as much detail as you can.
2. Explain the disagreement between King Henry VIII and Sir Thomas More, and tell how it ended.
3.  Describe briefly (a) the preparations made i) in Spain ii) in England for the Armada, and b) why the Armada failed. (from a PUS programme)
World History
1.   Tell what you know of the Renaissance, and how it affected life in a) Italy, b) England.
1. Summarize a day at sea on the Kon Tiki.
2. Describe Easter Island.
3. Describe a Polynesian Island. 
Ecology and Physical Science
1. Tell what you know about light and the rhythms of life.
2. Explain these terms: ecosystem, biotic and abiotic factors.  Name and describe some terrestrial ecosystems.
3  In the section called "Global Warming," Dr Wile says, "Although the fear that too much carbon dioxide in the air could lead to global warming is based on sound scientific reasoning, reality is...more complex than that." Explain in as much detail as you can.
4. Write the test for Exploring Creation Through Physical Science, Module 3.
Citizenship/Government (Plutarch)
1. Plutarch's Life of Crassus Why does Plutarch say that Crassus "shewed greater courage in this misfortune [the death of his son], than he before had done in all the war beside," or in Dryden's words, "outdid himself in this calamity?" 
2. "Before the terrorism, I used to carry a heavy bag to school, and I used to learn every day, but I did not know how important education is until we were stopped, because I realized the terrorists are against education, and especially girls' education, because they are afraid of it." Malala Yousafzai, Nobel Peace Prize winner, in a 2013 CBC interview.  Tell as much of Malala's story as you know, and write your thoughts about the above quote.
3.  "Then, when conscience says nothing we are all right? you ask.  By no means, for the verdict of conscience depends upon what we know and what we habitually allow." (Charlotte Mason, Ourselves Book II)  Explain what is meant here; give examples.
Reading Skill
Father to choose an unseen passage, giving marks for enunciation.
1. "The 100th term of the arithmetic sequence 1, 2, 3, 4, 5... is obvious; it is 100.  The 100th term of the arithmetic sequence 2, 5, 8, 11, 14... however, is not obvious at all.  One way to find out what it is would be to continue writing the sequence until we arrive at it.   There is an easier way, however."   Explain.
2. Deductive reasoning:  If there's a big cube made out of a lot of little cubes, and each side is 12 little cubes across, how many little cubes are in the big cube, how many corner cubes, how many edge cubes, how many other outside cubes, and how many inside cubes that you can't see?  
3. Explain what you know about two of the following: a) functions, b) the Cartesian graph, c) binary numbers, d) the Fibonacci sequence.
1. Translate the following: a) La bonté de l'Éternel remplit la terre.   b) Mon bien-aimé est descendu à son jardin... pour cueillir des lis. c) ...un temps pour planter, et un temps pour arracher ce qui a été planté... 
2.  Tell the story of Maupassant's "The Necklace."  OR translate the following paragraph:
C'était une de ces jolies et charmantes filles, nées, comme par une erreur du destin, dans une famille d'employés. Elle n'avait pas de dot, pas d'espérances, aucun moyen d'être connue, comprise, aimée, épousée par un homme riche et distingué; et elle se laissa marier avec un petit commis du ministère de l'Instruction publique. 
Picture Study
1. Describe "The Three Ages of Man" by Titian, OR "The Madonna of the Rabbit" ("Madonna and Child with St. Catherine and a Rabbit.")
Father should choose a poem, two Bible verses and/or a scene from Shakespeare learned this term for student to recite.
Music Appreciation
What a) operas b) other works by Richard Wagner have you heard? Write notes on one of each. (from a PUS programme)

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Pray for the Sow a Seed family

Formerly known as Books and Bairns, Heather has been blogging this year under her own name at To Sow a Seed. Two months ago their family, after much, much anticipation and preparation, packed up and moved overseas, assuming it would be forever or at least for a long time. Suddenly they're on their way home again, not by choice. Please keep them in your prayers.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Friday, November 21, 2014

Charlotte Mason quote for the day: Mrs. Dowson explains why discipline can be hard

"There are, of course, practical difficulties in leading young children, even after the earliest educational stages have been passed, along the road in which they may learn to bring the different items of their knowledge into recognized relation; but these difficulties are felt most severely by parents and teachers whose own thinking is disconnected and undisciplined."
"When knowledge has been organized, the connections between fact and fact are ready-made in the mind, and do not have to be hunted up on the spur of the moment as they are called for by the child; the different methods in which the plain man, the scientific student, and the deep thinker approach any given fact, are familiar; and the multitudinous parts of knowledge are already wrought together into a living fabric instead of being tied up in isolated packets with mental red-tape, and pigeon-holed in out-of-the-way departments of the Circumlocution Office of a mechanical brain.

"The difficulty of educating children in the organic way lies chiefly, I am sure, in finding teachers rightly prepared, teachers who have trodden that way themselves and gained in it what nothing else can give." ~~ From this Parents' Review Article:  The Discipline and Organization of the Mind. Pt II, By Mrs. Dowson, L.R.C.P & S., I., in the Parents Review Volume 11 1900, pages 137-148. 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

What's for supper? Pub Night

What's for supper? It's Mr. Fixit's Pub Night menu, what some people call Takeout Fakeout.

Frozen cheese pizza, with our own toppings added

Frozen chicken wings

Carrot fries

Chow mein noodles

Reheated rice and beans, with a bit of sliced sausage added.

Things for you to outclick on (Charlotte Mason and more), and a funny typo

Top of the list today: Some people go to the Lake District and photograph the scenery; Jeanne busied herself taking pictures of old notebooks.  Guess which one we're more grateful for?

Afterthoughts has put together a holiday wish list for CM/Classical mothers. What's on yours? (I am having trouble getting some of the images to load, but it may be just us.)

Budget101 is featuring Homemade Vanilla Chai Tea Mix, MYO Evaporated Milk, and flavoured Coffee Creamers (made from sweetened condensed milk).

Also on the Budget101 site, I saw the following hint by a commenter, which (no offense to the writer) is unintentionally funny, or maybe not so much so since we're currently under a blowing snow warning:  
If you don't have snow you can still make a really cute snowman out of white yard & a little bit of sugar! Blow up balloons that are round and follow the directions for the sugar spun easter baskets...
OK, well, the white yard, we got.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Hey, I like these little pretzel trees

You want something cute for a cookie plate? You want something no-bake that you could (possibly) do with kids? Check out the Chocolate Covered Pretzel Christmas Trees at High Heels and Grills, linked from today's Handmade Holidays post at Sew Mama Sew.

What we had for supper: finish off those packages

Last night's dinner menu:

Ukrainian-style pork dumplings, which look like big tortellini. We got them frozen from the Eurofoods store.

Macaroni and cheese, made with very small farfalle (bowties) that we needed to use up.  I used The Boy's Smack 'n' Cheese recipe that I learned years ago from Coffeemamma, and let it sit to thicken towards the end rather than overcooking the small pasta.

A skillet vegetable mixture of (reheated) butternut squash, red pepper, and corn, heated with honey and water (that is, the end of a honey bottle swished out with water), salt, pepper, margarine, and nutmeg. I thought it would go well with the pork dumplings.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

A fun way to dress up no-flour peanut butter cookies

See, I told you that you miss out if you don't click on the Sew Mama Sew links because they don't apply to you (today's theme is Boys, and we don't have any except for Mr. Fixit). The recipe link today is for Gluten-Free Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies, which turns out to be the old standby sugar-egg-peanut butter recipe stacked with frosting.  It's obviously not something you can take to a nut-free classroom or church potluck, but if you don't have peanut problems it sounds like a winner.

Education is a Discipline: Mrs. Dowson Follows Up (Part One)

Abridged and adapted from this Parents' Review Article:  The Discipline and Organization of the Mind. Pt II, By Mrs. Dowson, L.R.C.P & S., I., in the Parents Review Volume 11 1900, pages 137-148. Mrs. Dowson is having a conversation with "Uncle Eric" (Richard J. Maybury) and anyone else who wanders by.
And then, of course, there is “A Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Waste.” Today, Y&R joins UNCF in celebrating its 40th anniversary -- 40 years and still going strong. The line, as you know, has seeped into our culture’s vernacular. It’s been appropriated, copied, parodied and mangled in the retelling. Who of a certain time and place can forget former U.S. Vice President Dan Quayle’s tongue-tied tripping over the line, which he recalled as “What a waste it is to lose one’s mind”? The real line was so ubiquitous and so beloved, that his faux pas was banner news that day and struck a note of blasphemy that was heard around the world. ~~ David Sable in Advertising Age, March 3 2011 
Uncle Eric: Sometimes I think the connection between law and economics was better understood two hundred years ago than it is today. An economy is en ecological system every bit as much as an ocean or a rainforest. (Quote from Whatever Happened to Justice?)

Mrs. Dowson We are so accustomed to scrap knowledge, to mental powers wasted for want of discipline and organization, that it takes time for us ordinary parents and teachers to see the crying need for a better intellectual economy.

M.S.: What do you mean by intellectual economy?

Mrs. Dowson:  Economy in the sense of not misspending our intellectual resources, or wasting the opportunities we have. There are wise people who tell us that not only in the higher forms of higher schools, as in Italy, but all through the process of education after the primary state is passed, children should be taught about thinking and reasoning, about knowing and not knowing, and even something concerning the deep problems of existence.

M.S.: Are you talking about philosophy? That's not something we study systematically in our curriculum; we are not directly studying Aristotle, for instance.

Mrs. Dowson: But you are teaching them, through their other studies, to think and reason, and that they can know, that it is possible to know.

M.S.: Yes, we were talking about that yesterday.  How to Be Your Own Selfish Pig uses an analogy of finding the right key that unlocks a door to truth, and I said that in today's culture it's more common to question not only the existence of the key but of the door as well.

Mrs. Dowson: Learning to "think" is not a separate subject. The children should be led... into the art of organization, the art of bringing all they learn, science, letters and what not, into some approach to a unified, inter-related whole. If we can effect this, we shall be able to put into the hands of a child an instrument of moral as well as of mental discipline, and a piece of work to do that nobody else, great or small, has done or ever can do for him.

Charlotte Mason: We begin to see light. No one knoweth the things of a man but the spirit of a man which is in him; therefore, there is no education but self-education, and as soon as a young child begins his education he does so as a student. (source)

Mrs. Dowson: However wide may be the territory of knowledge over which, by grace of other men, he wanders, a child who has acquired power to do this organizing work will not be likely to become an intellectual tramp or to fancy himself a king. However carefully he may have learnt to observe and to define, it will not be the fault of his education if, in after life, he loses sight of the many considerations that qualify the value of his results, and limit the scope of his operations.  He at least will not be likely to make the mistake so frequently made by men one would expect to know better, the mistake of regarding a simplicity of method in study for a simplicity of the one subject of all study, human experience.

Virtual (book) flea market?

Mr. Fixit makes regular trips to the antique barn, looking for cameras and radios to fix. Sometimes I go with him and look for interesting books.

If you're snowed in or don't have an antique barn, this vintage-books page is almost as good. Oldsters like me: did you read any of these when you were little?

Around the blog world, things you can make

The Handmade Holidays posts at SewMamaSew are in full swing, and there are some great ideas even for those of us whose skills are just average.  Recent themes include Gifts for College Kids, Winter Warmth (not part of the HH series but still interesting),  Eco-Friendly Gifts and Wrap, and Gifts for Teachers. The thing you might miss about those posts is that each one not only has links to themed tutorials, but also to printable gift cards and food gifts, not always directly related to the theme. So you might skip over the Quilts day, but then you'd miss the link to Healthy Sea Salt Dark Chocolate Bars. And that would be sad.  Plus you can win things; I won a book in the first week, just for leaving a comment.

The Prudent Homemaker is blogging her way through her Gift a  Day projects.

For those of you who read Dewey's Treehouse through a reader and don't see the headers, you might miss this year's Christmas crafting page. Family keep out.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Quick, easy, cheap, low-sugar dessert

Tonight's dessert: a variation on James Barber's mother's Steamed Pudding, from his book The Urban Peasant.

Baked Applesauce Pudding

In a bowl, combine 1 cup flour, 2 tsp. baking powder, 1/2 tsp. salt, 2 tbsp. sugar.  Mix in 1 or 2 eggs and 1/2 cup milk "to make a  lumpy batter."

In a small greased casserole that has a lid, spread a cupful or more of applesauce.  If it is unsweetened, you can add a little sugar (I used brown sugar) and cinnamon. Spread batter on applesauce, cover and bake at 350 degrees until set and turning brown; it should look like a big pancake.  Be careful taking the lid off, because of the steam.  Actually when I took this one out, the lid was on so tightly that it was a few minutes before I could do anything at all with it.  Then I slipped the edge of a dinner knife under the lid, and the seal popped.

Good with yogurt.

(Steamed Pudding can also be made with other fruit or with jam, and can be made on the stovetop.)

Quote for the day: on words and writing

"The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug." -- Mark Twain.

Lydia's Grade Eight: Last week of Term One

Quote for the day:  "The danger today is that we who believe in the God of the Bible often go on living like everybody else....We should be bold enough to say, 'If the Bible is true, then I can act on what it says.'" ~~ Susan Schaeffer Macaulay, How to Be Your Own Selfish Pig
Things to finish up this week before exams:

How to Be Your Own Selfish Pig, last chapter. "What is human life all about? Can we find the key to its meaning? What is there that makes life worth living?"

The Golden Book of the Renaissance. "[Wealthy merchants and lawyers] were the new men, and it was they, rather than the nobility, who were important in English society....The times were dangerous, and a man needed a fierce spirit to rise in the world."

Westward Ho!  "''But, master Yeo, a sudden death?' 'And why not a sudden death, Sir John? Even fools long for a short life and a merry one, and shall not the Lord's people pray for a short death and a merry one?'"

Exploring Creation Through Physical Science, review questions for Module 3.

Kon Tiki.  "Good day, Terai Mateata and your men, who have come across the sea on a pae-pae to us on Raroia; yes, good day, may you remain long among us and share memories with us so that we can always be together, even when you go away to a far land. Good day."

Plutarch's Life of Marcus Crassus, last two lessons.

Composer studies: Wagner

Artist studies: Titian

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Another lunchbag scrapbook

The first scrapbook I made is here.

I made this one from Debbie Mumm's "Spring" book/kit (bought at a rummage sale for a dollar), a few folded lunch bags, and a lot of Elmer's Glue.  I did the folding a bit differently on this one, and I like it better (more pockets, no thick flaps).

Front cover
Back cover.

Friday, November 14, 2014

What's for supper? Italian this and that

Tonight's dinner menu:

Cannelloni (a frozen package)
Carrots, spinach, and chickpeas, stir-fried with garlic and flavoured with marjoram and thyme
Garlic toast

Stovetop fruit crisp, and yesterday's muffins

Sometimes I make other things: A paper-lunchbag memory book

Last summer I went to a rummage sale and picked up a couple of like-new Debbie Mumm scrapbooking sets: books of page backgrounds, stickers, and diecuts.
Today I cut one of them up to make a paper-lunchbag mini memory book. (Something like this tutorial.)
The front cover
The first set of inside pages (the one on the left is a pocket)
Another set of inside pages
A pocket page where I slipped in the leftover stickers
The back cover
An inside page that uses the bag openings as a pocket for more pullouts
View that shows the bottom edge (I trimmed that bit of white after I took the photos)
My favourite page again, the one with the egg-shaped pocket
The side edge.  I glued down the side of the front cover a little better after I took the photo.
(I am not a scrapbooker. I don't have the right adhesives or paper cutters. I just used scissors and glue, and yes, I know it shows. On the other hand, to paraphrase Pigpen, I didn't know it would turn out as well as it did!)

Education is a discipline: Mrs. Dowson and the great realities (Part Three)

Part One is here.  Part Two is here.

Abridged and slightly adapted from "The Discipline and Organization of the Mind,"  by Mrs. Dowson, L.R.C.P & S.,I. (Licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons in Ireland), in The Parents' Review, Volume 11, 1900, pgs. 83-92

Mama Squirrel: You said that we are standing in peril if we either believe "excessively" everything we see, or if we disbelieve everything we don't see; that in fact "overbelieving" is a kind of superstition. Do you mean that we are trying to say that there is no meaning beyond the bare facts? How is it too much to believe in what you do see?
Professor Hinkle: You silly children believe everything you see. When you grow up, you'll realize that snowmen can't come to life.
Karen: But we...
Professor Hinkle: Silly, silly, silly!

Mrs. Dowson: It can get out of focus, out of right proportion. We need to offer science that includes the truths of experience as a whole...yes, they do need to be using their intellectual powers to be able to describe a thing with precision and with clearness, to say all that needs to be said about it and no more, to seize its characteristic differentia from similar things, and the essential points of its likeness to them, and to express the whole notion about it in just the right words. This too, like the power to observe accurately, is an accomplishment and will reveal, in its use, a pedant or a prig.

M.S. I have heard that somewhere else recently.

Mrs. Dowson:  We do need analysis, yes! It has its proper uses. It is only by a process of abstraction, by taking a thing out of its full context in the universe of things to which it is related, by cutting the bonds that tie it to all else and to its true meaning in relation to all else, that we are able to give it precise definition at all. But Nature--our experience of reality--defies our exactness and makes a mock of our descriptions; and unless we know she does our power to impose definitions upon the superficial bits of her that we gaze at in the contracted field of scientific sight must give us a false conception both of her and of ourselves and of our intellectual gains. The great realities of human life, moral and spiritual facts, are entirely beyond the reach of any such precise definition.
M.S.: So there is a danger of concentrating too much on only what is right in front of us?

Mrs. Dowson: There are also things that have their very being through mutual inclusion; and thus, they limit their mental field of view by an artificial horizon shutting out the most precious truths in the possession of mankind. But even greater than this danger is the rather lofty idea that our science-centred students will achieve the the splendid mental qualities developed, for example, in Darwin and Newton.

M.S.:  Isn't that a good goal to have?

Mrs. Dowson:. But the fine qualities displayed by Darwin and Newton are no more to the point in this matter than is the greatness of Caesar or of Wellington in connection with the educational value of learning the date of Waterloo or the successive stages of the Gallic War. Students do not acquire Wellington's powers of generalship by having a school acquaintance with his campaigns, or even by 'getting-up' his admirable Despatches; nor are they in the least degree more likely to gain the power of mental concentration and selection, and the sound judgment and untiring intellectual patience of Newton or of Darwin, through learning physics and biology even by a better method than that in vogue at the present time.

M.S.: You've named several points of both of character and of intellect: courage and wisdom; then sound judgment, intellectual patience and power. But as you say, knowing the facts of science does not give one the qualities of a scientist. So, that makes me think...are we being presumptuous when we encourage young children, or teenagers, to think of themselves as writers, or artists, or scientists? Doesn't that just give them a sense that their own thoughts and ideas are valuable? And isn't it good that the ground has already been so much broken for us?

Mrs. Dowson: On the contrary, the very fact of being able to roam over vast territories in the kingdom of science conquered and opened up by other men not rarely turns the weak heads of those who follow, and makes them, like lunatics at large, think themselves potentates when they are only tramps.
M.S.: So is it humility that we're lacking?

Mrs.. Dowson: Perhaps humanity. If we were tied down to a choice between science and letters, in the name of all that is human and living and universal, we should choose letters....those great organizers of our chaotic democracy of knowledge--the subjects which treat of the mind of man, of his knowing, feeling and acting, and of cause and purpose and meaning in the great whole of things.

M.S. But we don't have to choose between science and humanities.

Mrs. Dowson: No, we may safely make use of both, if we employ, as a necessary corrective to their separateness and their peculiar limitations, those subjects by means of which alone we can shew their fundamental relations.

This is the end of Mrs. Dowson's Part One; but she wrote a Part Two, still to come.

All illustrations from Rankin-Bass, Frosty the Snowman.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Use-it-up Cranberry Blueberry Bran Flake Muffins

Use-it-up Sweet and Crunchy Cranberry Blueberry Bran Flake Muffins

Dry ingredients:
A lot of crumbly bran flakes from the bottom of the box (at least a cupful)
Enough flour to bring the total up to 2 to 2 1/2 cups of cereal and flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking powder

Wet ingredients:
1 cup of homemade cranberry sauce that also had some blueberries stirred into it
1 egg
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup milk, or enough to moisten

Mix the dry and wet ingredients separately, then combine gently. Don't mash the fruit too hard. Don't worry if the batter starts to get that strange greyish-purple blueberry tinge, it will mostly bake out. Bake in sprayed or lined muffin tins, at 375 degrees F or whatever your preferred muffin temperature is. Makes 1 dozen regular or 2 dozen mini muffins.

Education is a discipline: Mrs. Dowson and Synthetic Thinking (Part Two)

Part One is here.

Abridged and slightly adapted from "The Discipline and Organization of the Mind,"  by Mrs. Dowson, L.R.C.P & S.,I. (Licentiate of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons in Ireland), in The Parents' Review, Volume 11, 1900, pgs. 83-92

M.S.: How would you describe a good school environment?

Mrs. Dowson:  Is provision made there for giving a child's mind the discipline it needs to enable him to overcome the difficulties of the general distracting intellectual disorganization? Is the need, not only for giving him knowledge, but for giving him the chance to organize it as it comes, practically recognized? Do his teachers always recognize that, only if he has this chance and acts upon it, will he be in a position to overcome the troubles that are sure to come upon him in consequence of the prevailing specialism and the lack of unified knowledge in those with whom he will have to deal?
M.S.: Have you found this to be true of many schools?

Mrs. Dowson: We shall hardly go too far if we say that most teachers and most students are sadly wanting in this respect. We may even venture to say that many teachers would be hard put to it to tell us how the fullest possible organization of mental powers and mental possessions can be effected; and what form the necessary discipline should take.

M.S.: Why is this so?

Mrs. Dowson: The art of education lags behind the science; and the science is not listened to, nor heeded when it cries aloud.  The leaders in educational science are applying the lessons of personal experience, and they are telling us how we may bring its benefits to bear in the mental discipline of our children; but, unless I am doing them a grave injustice, the practical teachers of England remain, for the most part, either opposed or unconvinced.

M.S.: So you're saying that the evidence is out there, but it's not acted upon?

Mrs. Dowd: In some places it is. We hear that in Italy young people in the highest classes of the Lyceums are taught about their own minds and the way they work, are shewn how to reason well and find out when reasoning goes ill; they are led on to know when they do not know, and to discern the difficulties of knowing at all and of knowing what knowing means; they are made aware of the oneness of things in their apparent diversity and of the steps men take in trying to get at the heart of the simplest of those things and of the whole.

M.S.: Let me see if I understand this: bringing the "scraps of knowledge" together is like synthetic thinking. There needs to be more unity of thought in education, some way of organizing knowledge. Is this the only approach that seems to work?

Mrs. Dowson: It is true that there are other instruments of discipline--a good piece of Latin prose is one; but I doubt whether there is any other way, except one which is outside the range of 'practical politics,' by which knowledge can be redeemed from the evils of specialism.
M.S.: What about science? Wouldn't it work to emphasize scientific training, teach the students to approach any question with the scientific method?

Mrs. Dowd: The cyclone of science with its practical application sweeps regularly over and through the midst of us, right into our mental lungs....but for the most part, what is taught in schools in the name of science is the thing aptly called 'the brute scientific fact.'

M.S.: What do you mean by "brute fact?"

Mrs. Dowd: The brute scientific fact is of little more educational value than the equally brute historic date, or king, or battle, in which our grandmothers took pride. Botany, for example, is usually taught in schools just as the lists of kings and queens and ware were taught to our grandmothers: it is taught as a more or less cooked-up arrangement of brute facts about plants, their characters, their structure and their functions, served with a sauce of scientific moralizing about heredity and environment and the like. Its chief advantage over the strings of royal names and the glib questions and answers of a Child's Guide, accompanied by historical platitudes about the 'greatness' of one person and the 'cruelty' of another, lies in the fact that the plants are not dead and buried out of sight like the kings, but are alive and may be looked for, and picked, and brought into the schoolroom. Botany may be taught in a way to train the mind to accuracy of observation, a power the value of which, for the wise person, it is difficult to over-estimate. This is one of its advantages; but even the advantage brings a danger.

M.S.: What sort of danger?

Mrs. Dowd: I repeat with some emphasis that, for the wise person, or for the child whom his teachers are seriously and intelligently trying to develop into a wise person, the power of observing accurately is of enormous value, but for the foolish person and for the child taught by foolish persons of a certain type, there comes with it a grave intellectual peril, never more perilous, perhaps, than at the present time--the peril in which a man stands who has the essentially superstitious habit of believing excessively what he sees, and either disbelieving, or posing to himself and other people as disbelieving, everything he does not see.
(To be continued tomorrow, and I promise it is going to be very interesting.)
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