21 December 2014

Stupendous Selections on Sunday

  • Links collection for 12/21/14. Best of the web this past week!
    Then pen really IS mightier!
    • Handwriting is better because it slows the learner down.

      By slowing down the process of taking notes, you accelerate learning. 
    • When we write, a unique neural circuit is automatically activated
  • This is an excellent post on narration from a classical perspective. I love how she presented the underlying ideas.
    • narration is practically, the expression of an experience
    • Karen Glass, in her book, Consider This, tells us that Charlotte Mason studied the writings of the classical authors from Plato to Comenius to more Modern educational thinkers.
    • It seems that narration, mimesis, and Socratic teaching are all applications of the same classical principle of imitation.
    • we all need to use narration, and all the classical modes of teaching, as much as possible
    • Narration requires that a child take some information, story, or experience into their soul and then wrestle with it until they can name and express it, in their own words.
    • A successful narration demonstrates the child has made the material their own, they have begun a right relationship with it.
    • relationships are truly at the heart of narrations
  • Well, isn't this fascinating?
    • "Paper is the gold standard," Green says. "We’re striving to hit that. And we’re taking legitimate steps year over year to get there."
    • Amazon executives sketched out their evolving vision for the future of reading. It's wild — and it's coming into focus faster than you might have guessed.
    • "I want you to proceed as if your goal is to put everyone selling physical books out of a job."
    • before the world had ever heard of an app store, Amazon had integrated its bookstore directly into the device
    • Amazon learned people switch hands on a book roughly every two minutes, even though in surveys they claimed not to
    • Amazon has spent more time studying the physical act of reading than any company before it.
    • "We would never make a gold thing, because that’s too distracting," Green says. "There are many companies that create pieces of jewelry. We’re not going to do that, because that's an added cost that takes away from the actual content."
    • "‘Every book is a miracle,’ Bill said. ‘Every book represents a moment when someone sat quietly — and that quiet is part of the miracle, make no mistake — and tried to tell us the rest of the story."
  • Sometimes, some of you ask me why I describe myself as a "recovering Dispensationalist." This article explains one aspect of why...
    • Those with strongly Dispensational commitments said to me, “Well, if he’s reigning now, he’s doing a bad job of it.”
  • Something to think about...
    • Such a plot point would be unlikely to resonate with many modern viewers. “Why should she  be a virgin, anyway?” one might ask. “Is there something wrong with  her?”
    • the anti-virginal creed  is loudly proclaimed by all the major bastions of secularism: Hollywood, the  media, and the university
    • Virginity, it seems, is a disease and blight  to the liberated modern woman, something to be eliminated—rather like  pregnancy.
    • notion that the definition of virginity is up for debate
    • The business of Hero’s virginity, then, is clearly taken seriously  on all sides. Take away her virginity and you take away the entire premise  of the play.
    • Chastity and virginity are not the same thing, though they are intimately  related.
    • The proper integration of body and soul, the authentic integrity  of the self, the only human state in which personal, living communion is  possible—the love to which all men are called.
  • *cough* Charlotte Mason! *cough* *cough*
    • The more you rely on coercion and extrinsic inducements, as a matter of fact, the less interest students are likely to have in whatever they were induced to do.
    • What a teacher can do – all a teacher can do – is work with students to create a classroom culture, a climate, a curriculum that will nourish and sustain the fundamental inclinations that everyone starts out with
    • what teachers clearly have the ability to do with respect to students’ motivation is kill it
    • Knowing the definition of dramatic irony or iambic pentameter has the same relationship to being literate that memorizing the atomic weight of nitrogen has to doing science. 
    • if we’re serious about helping students to fall in love with literature, to get a kick out of making words fall together in just the right order, then we have to be attentive to what makes these things more, and less, likely to happen
  • Advice I need.
    • I never approach a meeting, an industry function, or a networking event without at least three things to talk about

19 December 2014

Merry. Healthy. Reading. Organized. Survey. THM. Blogoversary. {Seven Quick Takes}

Note: This post contains affiliate links. I always appreciate it when you shop those.

:: 1 ::

Merry. I want to wish you all a very merry Christmas. I usually take a blogging break over the holidays, and this year is no exception.

My four sweet little nieces will be here for Christmas, so I'll be pretty scarce.

But I'll be back, Lord willing.

:: 2 ::

Healthy. I asked my husband for some tips to try to keep us all healthy this holiday season. He said do two things to improve your resistance: {1} try to keep your sugar intake as low as possible, and {2} supplement with vitamin D. I had laryngitis this week, so he made me double my D. Apparently I was supposed to do that before I got sick??

:: 3 ::

Reading. One of the things I like to kick the New Year off with is a look back on my reading for the previous year. I'll be announcing my Book of the Year, of course. Be ready to tell me what your Book of the Year was, too!

:: 4 ::

Organized. We all vow to become more organized in January, right? Well, don't forget that Mystie is always here to help you. In contrast to previous years, I actually listened to Mystie this year, and it's made a world of difference for me, even when she's dragged me kicking and screaming. Ha.

Mystie told me that in January, she'll be giving away one free copy of Paperless Home Organization to everyone who purchases the Simplified Organization self-paced course. If you're in the market for an organizational course {which I talked about in more depth here}, buy it in January so you get the freebie!

Updated to add: The code livelovely will give anyone 20% off through January, and you'll still get PHO free as well! Thanks, Mystie!

:: 5 ::

Survey. Coming in January will also be my annual survey. I try to keep it to only five or so questions. I might add in a prize or something if I can think of one. For now, let me just encourage you to answer. It means a lot to me.

:: 6 ::

THM. I told you all that I had decided to do Trim Healthy Mama. And I also promised to update you. I don't particularly love talking about this subject, but I'm doing it anyhow. I'm losing an average of two pounds per week. This is nothing short of a miracle because nothing else I've tried has ever worked for me {granted, I've never been willing to try crazy diets that I thought were bad for my body}.

I have a thyroid problem, and I have weight I've held onto since a really difficult pregnancy ten years ago. The fact that this is working even a little bit is thrilling. Thrilling.

:: 7 ::

Blogoversary. When I get back after the New Year, Afterthoughts will officially be nine years old.

I'll repeat that.

Afterthoughts will be nine years old!

Who knew nine years ago when I pressed publish that this would turn out to be a great love in my life? What an adventure! I'm so thankful for each and every one of you.

18 December 2014

Some Examples of Charlotte Mason Notebooks

I have to admit that I hate writing posts that include photographs because my camera is terrible. It hates me, and the feeling is usually mutual. But you all asked for pictures. Pictures!

Have some compassion, people!


charlotte mason classical education notebooks

So first of all, let me just point out that there are some blogs that do a very good job showing photos of Charlotte Mason notebooks, both those done by Mom as well as those done by students. Here are my three favorites:

Jeanne from A Peaceful Day has actually traveled to Ambleside in England and visited the Armitt Museum and seen examples of notebooks from Charlotte Mason's days in person. She is going to be telling us more about them soon, so be sure to subscribe to her blog.

I'm sharing these photos as long as you do not have high expectations for the quality of my photography.


This little book is mine:

It doesn't lie flat, so I don't suggest this type of book, but it has sentimental value {a gift from my sister-in-law}, therefore I use it anyhow.

Here is a glimpse at a couple of my pages:

And here is a section from E-Age-Twelve's commonplace:

I use Sharpie pens while he prefers mechanical pencils.

Book of Centuries

I already blogged about our BoC. Here are a couple entries from mine:

I thought I took photos of E-Age-Twelve's, but I guess I didn't. Oops.

Nature Journal

Here is E-Age-Twelve's most recent entry:

This is a special study he's doing of our peach tree inspired by First Studies of Plant Life by Atkinson. The line at the bottom is there because I told him to divide the page into three sections. This is the winter version, and he's labeled the terminal buds and leaf scabs and such. He'll make another entry in early spring, and a third in late spring, with the goal of understanding where the new branches, leaves, and fruit grow out of the existing branch.

I tried to take a picture from one of my daughters' books, but I just couldn't get the image to come out. You can see how much trouble I have getting my camera to focus properly. Anyhow, I thought it was cute because she spelled fox "foks."

Here's an entry from mine:

And yes, I really did observe that the deer at the zoo needed to be treated for parasites.


The Future of Notebooks in Our House

For 2015, I have two notebooking goals:

  1. Start A-Age-Nine on a book of centuries shortly after her 10th birthday.
  2. Start us on list keeping.

The list keeping in particular is something I think some of my children, who have the mentality of collectors, will enjoy. I really like the idea of making a grid that covers all the months so we can document which birds are here during which months. I think this will prove more interesting than we realize. We're pretty in touch with which birds visit our property, but this will add a whole new element.

What about you? What are your 2015 notebooking goals? Have you thought about it?

16 December 2014

Tips on Turning Reluctant Notebookers into Keepers


It is one thing for families and students steeped in a Charlotte Mason philosophy of education to keep notebooks. It is quite another to introduce keeping during a paradigm shift to her methods.

How to introduce notebooks later on in a child's education.

In her final volume, Mason spotlighted what distinguishes her theory from what was is in practice at the time {Volume 6 , pp. 6-7}.

  • The children, not the teachers, are the responsible persons; they do the work by self-effort. Don't we typically blame teachers and/or parents when children fail to learn?
  • The teachers give sympathy and occasionally elucidate, sum up or enlarge, but the actual work is done by the scholars. Don't we feel like we aren't doing enough if we aren't actively teaching our kids?
  • The quantity set for each lesson allows of only a single reading; but the reading is tested by narration, or by writing on a test passage. Isn't it easy to slip into giving them a second chance when met with stares especially for older students starting CM?
  • The best available book is chosen and is read through perhaps in the course of two or three years. The books used are, whenever possible, literary in style. Which is why we thank AmblesideOnline for helping us find those gems in a world that prizes informational writing.
  • Marks, prizes, places, rewards, punishments, praise, blame, or other inducements are not necessary to secure attention, which is voluntary, immediate and surprisingly perfect. What do we do with students who have only known external motivation and struggle with attention?

Not much has changed in ninety years!

So, how does one foster notebooking to students used to extensive reviews and test preparation, textbooks written in an informational style chock full of sidebars and graphics, and external motivation?

While I don't have all the answers, I'm learning.

Narrating after a single reading is hard. Students are used to black and white questions {true or false, yes or no, multiple choice}, copying teacher's notes, and skimming a text for answers because the writing style is boring. Such activities do not require much attention and very little thinking. I have seen top students from traditional schools give me blank stares and awkward giggles because narration sounds easy but they find it hard.

If they do not pay attention, then there will be nothing to notebook. I learned this when a junior high student sketched a black-and-white two-winged butterfly with a smiley face on a day that was too cold for butterflies. I get what I inspect, and I had not been checking nature notebooks carefully. As I suspected, the student had not paid attention to anything on the walk. I handed him a sweet gum ball stashed in my pocket. He knew what it was, drew it, and wrote a paragraph about it. Then, we enjoyed the glorious pictures of sweet gum balls in the book Seeing Trees by Nancy Hugo and Robert Llewellyn.

The first thing I have learned is to set an atmosphere of expecting and encouraging.

Expecting - looking forward to; regarding as likely to happen; anticipating.

Encouraging - inspiring with courage, spirit, or confidence.

I expect them to pay attention and encourage them when they falter. Eventually, they realize three things. First, they must read to know. Second, they can listen to fellow students narrate. Third, they will not get the chance to read it again. I say very little while they narrate as a group except to repeat what a quiet person says. If they all missed an important idea, I might say something very general to see if someone does know. The more that I help them remember, the more I hurt them in the long run. Saying less is more.

At first, I spend a lot of time filling their awkward pauses with warm smiles, hopeful they will remember something. It is very difficult for me to keep quiet and wait for them to struggle day after day. I keep my own notebooks to help me empathize with their struggles. Then, suddenly, the light dawns. They retell in their own words and make their own connections. That glorious day is worth the wait.

Disposability is an issue Mason did not face. Everything can be tossed out today, especially knowledge. Technology flies facts to our fingertips immediately. People believe that learning where things are on a map and when people lived is not necessary when we can look it up. How can students make connections when facts are not readily available in their minds?

Students are used to storing notes, worksheets, study guides, etc. that require very little thought into three-ringed binders. They cram information into their brain long enough to pass the class. Then, they click open the rings and dump out the paperwork, which has no value or meaning to them. A concrete act reflects the mental act of data dumping what is in their mind.

We must give notebooks an enduring air. When I handed out their books of centuries {beautiful bound volumes sold by Laurie Bestvater}, I said, "You will use these books until the day you graduate." Many were surprised! How often does a student receive something they will hang onto for six years? Then, I added, "In fact, I hope you will add to them after you graduate." We cleared off a separate shelf in the classroom for these treasures. They are too beautiful to shove into individual crates where the students store supplies.

I encourage them to use composition books, journals, and unlined sketch books. I never write in their books. They are too sacred. If I have comments — which are positive — I write them on sticky notes. I am guiding them toward simple requirements such as dating the entry, writing on the next page {rather than any random page}, finishing their thoughts, etc. I let them know that researching the topic at home and copying that to make up for failing to pay attention in class isn't narrating.

I have noticed something interesting. Some students do not see the difference between the ugly spiral notebooks and bound books. The kids who "get it" want their science, nature, and history notebooks {narrations} in very nice books. One told me, "I was a bit disappointed because I left my science notebook at school. I had to write it on this [lined loose paper]. Since I don't have homework, I might as well add it." Then, he turned to me and said, "I think I'm finally seeing why it's better to have everything neatly written in one notebook."

Paying careful attention to their notebooking is paying off. I'm seeing original expressions. Compare how students addressed the struggles of Dr. Horace Wells.

  • "The man groaned and the crowd started to boo and Dr. Horace ran away."
  • "Dr. Wells lived in shame and had to stop dental work because of mental breakdowns."
  • "The crowd didn't believe in his work now. So Dr. Wells had a mental breakdown and had to retire for a short period of time."
  • "He quit because he was humiliated."
  • "The crowd booed Horace off the stage permanently, and he went into hiding and went mad."

I'm seeing their opinions emerge. I'm seeing initiative. One student looked up the meaning of druid and wrote its original meaning in Latin and Old Irish. Another added something he learned on the history channel to his narration of Stonehenge. I hope to see originality grow in the weeks left in the school year.

Staring at a blank page and putting something on it is daunting. Something small but thoughtful is a good start. Paying attention and noticing allows that first step. In time, daily practice of paying attention and narrating orally and on paper will lead to something they will want to keep.

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Tammy Glaser became interested in Charlotte Mason’s ideas in 2000 and is astonished to find her understanding still unfolding. She speaks at conferences, writes articles, and keeps blogs {Aut-2B-Home in Carolina and rarified}. Her eldest, who has autism and aphasia, keeps company with her at Harvest Community School, a Mason-style private school which hosts all kinds of children including some with a variety of needs: English as a Second Language, Auditory Processing, Dyslexia, Autism, Sensory Processing, etc. Click here to read more about Tammy.