29 September 2010

What's in a Day?

Well, I've noticed a few posts out there detailing what a certain family's day looks like, so I thought I'd try my hand, especially since we're midway through the term and I actually have a feel for how this year is going to go. I'm not going to give a certain day--I'm going to give a composite day, which I think best describes our average day. To contrast, yesterday morning my 8-year-old woke up at 5:30 AM, and proceeded to wake me up by turning on lights in the house and being a little less than quiet. He was scolded and told to wait until 6:00 AM from now on.

But I'm not including that, because it's never happened before and doesn't describe what is typical (well, of our four days of school per week--not of our field trip/nature study day). My goal here is typical.

The reason I'm writing this is because I love reading a description of days, or hearing about them from other families. When I have a picture in my head of what it looks like at someone else's house, I tend to get good ideas on what I could do better at home.

So, here is our average day, more or less:
  • 6:15 AM--Our oldest awakes. He has a clipboard outside his door because, being an early riser, he likes to get up and work. (Once I got over the shock, I learned to work with it.) He does his Bible reading, math, copywork (we are only working on cursive letter formation right now--nothing fancy), and so on. If he has time left after all of that, he likes to read.
    • I awake sometimes between 6:15 and 6:45. The earlier, the better, so that I have time to read my Bible. Now that it is darker outside in the mornings, I've been having trouble rousing myself...
  • 6:45 AM--The day "officially" starts. Siah is out of bed. I start breakfast (smoothies or oatmeal are our weekday fare). I wake the other three children, change O.'s diaper, etc., while Si dishes up whatever I prepared
  • 7:00 AM--Breakfast with Daddy, until about 7:20, when he leaves for work. The rest of us spend a bit more time finishing up breakfast because we are slower
  • 7:30 AM--Morning routine starts. This means I get dressed, put on makeup, make my bed and tidy my room, etc. I also turn on the dryer to fluff the load that I dried over night. Once the clean clothes are put away, I start a new load. I try to do one load per day on weekdays so that I can fit three or four loads into Saturday and take Sunday off.
    • The girls make their beds, dress, brush their teeth, and start their chores. Typically, this means Q.-age-three empties the dryer and brings a full laundry basket to my room for folding. A.-age-five puts away silverware, empties the trash in her bathroom, and cleans up anything that ended up left out over night.
    • E. empties the dishwasher and vacuums. We have a rotating schedule so that the dining room is vacuumed every morning, and something is vacuumed every day.
    • O. plays somewhat peacefully in an Exersaucer in my room. Or, he does the same, but as loudly as he possibly can! I know he is old for it, but if I let him wander the house while I'm working, he makes a complete mess and possibly breaks something. So, I have trained him to play nicely without going anywhere. I probably only have a few more months where this will work, but by then he should have gained more self-control in general.
  • 8:30 AM--Free time. I used to try and start school at this time, but no one liked it, so now we take a break. This is fine now that the toddler is in that grey area between taking a morning nap and not taking one. This is when I post whatever I drafted the day before, or start typing up my notes from my reading. A lot of my "blogging" is done by hand, and then transferred to the computer later. I also read my Bible here if I got up too late to do it earlier. I am working on transforming this into a time to exercise instead of doing it earlier in the day.
  • 9:00 AM--Circle Time begins, and O. goes down for a nap that is getting shorter each day. I tried just letting him stay up, but apparently he still needs some sleep because he was very crabby when I did that. We do Circle Time, and everyone gets in trouble at least once.
  • 10:15 AM (sometimes 10:30)--snack. My children eat approximately 17,001 times per day. They have their father's metabolism, which means they burn through food like nobody's business. I have been trying to minimize snacks as they get older, but with little success. They each have a cup of milk and then some cheese, except for E., who prefers an apple.
  • 10:30 AM--kindergarten with A. (this is reading lessons, a read aloud, sometimes basic math or a Kumon workbook page, and I'm trying to add in drawing). If E. is done with his work, he takes Q. outside and plays with her. If not, Q. plays in our play nook until it is her turn. Sometime during kindergarten, O. begins screaming in his room that he is "all done" with his nap. "Ma! Ah dun! MA!"
  • 11:00 AM--preschool with Q. (letter lessons, a read-aloud and/or Kumon). A. takes O. outside, after we have made sure he has the requisite piece of cheese in each hand. E. reads for his Ambleside narration.
  • 11:15 AM--Ambleside time. E. narrates, and then most days we have another Ambleside reading that I read aloud, and then he also narrates orally. (If the reading is a geography reading, he narrates using our globe.) The girls are outside jumping on the trampoline, while also taking turns popping their heads in the sliding door, letting in flies, and asking me when or what lunch is going to be. O. is whimpering at the door, wondering if he can manipulate me into another piece of cheese. (Sometimes he can.)
  • 11:45 AM--Everyone is banished outside until lunch is ready. Then, instead of making lunch, I sit down and die.
  • 12-Noon or shortly thereafter--Eat lunch. 95% of the time, I serve leftovers. I purposely make large dinners so that there is enough for everyone (including Si, who takes his lunch) the next day. I eat faster than the short people at the table, so I then read them a bit from our read-aloud.
  • 12:30ish--E. and I do dishes. A. and Q. run through the house and pick up a little. O. empties the bookcase when he thinks no one is looking. Sometimes he alternates this with trashing the game shelves in my linen closet.
  • 12:45 or 1 PM--Finish reading aloud. I aim for at least a chapter each day, two if we can fit it in.
  • 1:30 PM--Q. goes down for her nap first. A. takes a nap every three days, and if it is a nap day for her, she goes down at this time also because they share a room.  I check my email or reader while folks are playing.
  • 2:00 PM--O. goes down for a nap.
  • 2:15 PM--Afternoon meeting with E. We review/correct his work, go over his written narration for the day.
  • 2:30 PM--QUIET TIME! This is still hard for A. to understand. I tend to read unless I have pressing chores. If I have been up at night, I take a nap so that I can make it through the rest of the day. E. is usually creating something in his room. A. is in the living room looking at books or playing with dolls. Sometimes, they both go to Granddad's house.
  • Between 4 and 4:30 PM--I start dinner. The time depends on what we are having. Preparing dinner tends to take me 2 hours no matter what I do. I have finally made my peace with that. However, I have recently discovered that fish is the ultimate fast food. It really is 30 minutes or less from package to table. I love fish, even if it means I have no leftovers for lunch.
    • Children are outside until dinner is ready. Sometimes one or two of them are helping me with something for the meal, but generally this is another playtime for them. I try to make sure they get about four hours outside daily during good weather.
  • 5:45 or 6 PM--Family dinner. Si is definitely home by this time, usually quite a bit earlier.
After this, it varies by days. Some days, we have a meeting with friends (we are studying Faith of our Fathers together). Other days, my husband shops for groceries and I bathe children (or occasionally we both go together). Many evenings, we read aloud after dinner. On Wednesday nights Siah is leading us through a study of Discovering Jesus in Genesis. Sometimes we have friends over for dinner. And so on and so forth.

Bedtime is at 8 PM sharp. Naturally, this means we are still tucking children in at 8:15! This depends on how many song requests or extra Bible story requests we have, or how many scoldings we have to give.

So that is it, the pattern of our lives. I try not to leave our house very often because, to be perfectly honest, I don't juggle well. I can do the one thing right now, which is to say our school life. Whenever I try to add in very much more than that, I begin to fail, and failing at school, since it is my primary job, is not acceptable. That doesn't mean we don't have times that life happens, but it means that I say no to midmorning Bible studies and errands, as well-intended or helpful as those things might be.

What about you? If you have a "typical day" post, link it in the comments!

28 September 2010

At School with Charlotte: Making Heroes (Part II)

In my last post, we discussed that, in physical training, Charlotte aims for no less than the making of heroes. Her aim is "a serviceable body," meaning one that is able to serve others with ease and agility. Today, we'll list out all what she calls the "unconsidered aspects" of physical training. These are the essence of the hero culture we are building.

Ye are not Your Own
Charlotte Mason's Original Homeschooling Series
Volume 3:
School Education
The foundation of the hero culture is one of duty and obligation, both to God above and to our neighbor beside. Ye are not your own. Have the children say it like a mantra.

You cannot do with your body whatever you like. You cannot be self-indulgent. You cannot engage in habits that jeopardize your health. This is so because ye are not your own.

You, my child, are called to something higher and greater. Because of this, you are being given a noble education; the first tenant of which is, with great learning comes great responsibility You are obligated to greatness; you must consider others.

You are not your own.

There is stinginess in every family, and there is some hidden in each heart--none of us want to completely surrender ourselves to the Lord (at least, not without His help). We all have to fight the monster, and training our children in their youth is doing them a favor. We all know the diabetic who refuses to eat correctly, to give one example. We all know those who knowingly jeopardize their health in some way (or many ways) and their answer is that they do not feel obligated to others.

I think this is something we all grow into. I know when I was 20 I certainly felt like I had the right to do what I wished with myself, within reason at least. It wasn't until I had children that I began to feel the press of obligation. Without them, I would still be a caffeine addict.

It's true!

How many of us have decided to change something about our lives because we were suddenly faced with our obligations to others? How many of us realized we ought to take care of ourselves now so that we are not a burden upon our children later?

And so on.

But it goes beyond our own small worlds to this: if we are raising a culture of heroes, they must learn to deny themselves for the greater good.

Or, as Charlotte puts it: God has given you a body for His service. Therefore, you must preserve the body in health, nourish it in strength, and train it in fitness. She tells us that health is a duty, and trifling with it is of the same nature as suicide. All of this is so, she says, because life is held in trust from a supreme Authority.

Use of Habit in Physical Training
Just as in every other area, Charlotte wants us to harness the power of habit for physical training. We are to bring the body into subjection--to place it under Authority. Yes, this is so. The body must be under the Authority first of the parent, then of the self, and, ultimately, of God. But the effort involved in consciously putting ourselves under Authority is exhausting.

Habit is the easy path.

Do something 100 times, she says, and it becomes easy. Do it 1000 times, and it becomes mechanical.

Once again, though, we have to fight through the early days of resistance in order to arrive at that place of ease.

The "Habitudes"
Many of these habits have been discussed by Charlotte earlier in Volume 3, but now she is applying them to the specific area of physical training. Here we have the transcendent aspects of physical training, which are oft overlooked because, once again, they are intangible and immeasurable.
  1. Self-restraint.
    • Many of us build good habits in our children during nursery age (for instance, we don't give babies lots of sugar or overindulge their other appetites), but as the children get older, we allow these habits to fall by the wayside
    • Lethargic, self-indulgent intervals were simply not allowed in the past--meaning we do not have to allow them now
    • Women of old knew how to occupy themselves profitably (i.e., handwork)
    • Question: On the other hand, ought we to allow exercise to be so "frequent or excessive that it leaves us fatigued in the intervals"? In other words, some children will have to be stopped from over-doing it
  2. Self-control in emergencies.
    • This is an outcome of a general habit of self-control
    • This is the heroic quality we call "presence of mind"
    • Train the little ones to bear small hurts to body and mind without a sign
  3. Self-discipline.
    • Don't allow nursery children to be sloppy and careless--do we realize that taking care of their toys (not breaking them and being generally careful with their own things and things belonging to others) is a habit?
    • Build the habit of self-discipline
      ...being clean, neat, prompt, orderly, is so much towards making a man of him.
    • Don't allow habits to become localized, where the child acts one way at home and another at other houses
    • HINT: a habit is not fully formed if it still requires supervision
  4. Alertness.
    • Learn to seize opportunities--this is largely a physical habit
    • Help them see when they have missed opportunities, and the consequences of this
  5. Quick perception.
    • This is a trained mastery of the five senses (think about spies that have been trained to be super-aware of their environment, and know that our children are capable of so much more if we simply ask them some questions and help them to notice)
    • Train them to pay attention and remember what they have seen (walk down the street, and play a game--ask "What color were the flowers two houses ago? What was the lady standing on her front stoop wearing?" and so on.)
Notice that all of these "habitudes" are founded on ideas.

Likewise, Charlotte suggests that the seven virtues and seven deadly sins might be of use here. She offers us her own list of virtues that dovetail with physical training.
  1. Fortitude.
    • Do tiresome things with self-compelling power
    • Bear pain and inconvenience without making a sign
    • Endure hardness
  2. Service.
  3. Courage.
    • Teach that the thing done is of more consequence that the doer
  4. Prudence.
    • Worrying about health is not prudence. It is fretting and it is not a heroic quality.
    • Regard every physical power as a means of service
    • Know that it is foolish to make the body unable for its due service
  5. Chastity.
    • Founded on the single idea that the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit
I look through these lists, and I see all sorts of training opportunities for my children. I see one child who takes health too seriously and is guilty of fretting rather than simply taking reasonable care. I see another child who is overly aware of every little bruise or offence and needs to toughen up. I see yet another child who needs to be trained to have open eyes that are observing the world around and taking notice, rather than drifting on the clouds of imagination all the time.

I have a toddler who is not careful with things.

And I need to remember that this is something I must train.

How about you?

27 September 2010

Miscellaneous Musings on Monday

I don't know if I'll be making this a weekly thing, but I do find I have little odds and ends that I collect over the weekend, and it is nice to put them together into a neat and tidy post like this. Plus, my brain doesn't turn on fully until Tuesday.

  • There is another wonderful audio resource, compliments of the CiRCE Institute. We won't be discussing it because it is from last year's conference, but I must confess it was one of my favorites from last year (I really like Andrew Pudewa in general). Entitled Nature Deficit Disorder, plan to listen to it this week!
  • In case you missed it on Friday, here is the CiRCE Talks schedule for the next few weeks:
    1. John Hodges: Principles of Classical Education: The Principle of Cultivation--Friday, October 1
    2. Break for my Yard Sale: Friday, October 8
    3. Laura Berquist: The Poison of Subjectivism: How Education Sets us Free--Friday, October 15
    I am hoping that more of you will be able to join us? Not that Mystie and I don't enjoy a private party...If you want to participate on the 15th, Laura Berquist's talk is available for download for only $5!
  • Are you gearing up for the winter recipe switch? I tend to enjoy cooking more in winter than I do in summer, and that is probably because I don't feel like cooking when it is 100+ degrees outside. I was beginning to think that I'd be able to switch earlier than usual, as I haven't used my air conditioner much the past three weeks, but, behold! We are set to be over 100 every day until Friday. Bummer. Until then, I'm browsing the The Nourished Kitchen blog for recipes that make me feel at peace when I read them. Her recipe for authentic Siberian pelmeni sounds like something I'd be crazy enough to cook. I love it when a meal is a three or four day process of preparation. I've also wanted to revisit miso soup, something our family's former Japanese exchange student made on more than one occasion. This blog is just beautiful.
  • I've been pondering the ordering of the affections. We say that this is a distinction of true education, and I've bumped up against a situation in which a child is uninterested in engaging in certain activities that would be Good. We have forced one issue, and I assume that this would represent John Hodges' assertion that exposure leads to appetite--in other words, how can a child want something they know nothing about? But beyond that, I'm toying with using some of Charlotte Mason's unconsidered aspects of physical training (which I'll be posting about tomorrow) in conversation with this child. Not that I'll talk it to death, but perhaps a weekly challenge to see the opportunity in a different light would be in order.
  • I'm reading Life of Pi. On the one hand, I really like it so far. It is well-written, especially for a modern book, and it reminds me of the old British ship-wreck novels (like Robinson Crusoe). On the other hand, I have two objections so far. First, the novel asserts that it will "make you believe in God." But the novel is very, very Hindu, meaning that it'll make you believe in god, or possibly gods. Syncretism is a huge temptation within Hinduism, something I've noticed firsthand, so I wasn't totally shocked. Second, though, and even more objectionable on this bright morn: it gave me bad dreams. Seriously. I dreamed about tigers half of last night. I mixed it up a little, though, and also rocked a weepy, still-a-bit-under-the-weather toddler. Maybe he dreamed of tigers, too?

24 September 2010

CiRCE Talks: Vigen Guroian's Mentor

I listened to Vigen Guroian's Mentor (for the second time) last night on a drive with my oldest. The good news is that my son enjoyed the talk because Guroian uses examples--many beautiful examples--from literature. Even little eight-year-old boys are familiar with Charlotte's Web (and the relationship between Charlotte and Wilbur) and The Jungle Book (and the various jungle creatures who raise Mowgli and help him become the master of the jungle).

The bad news is that I can't take notes while I'm driving.

Also, I think I've realized that my copy of The Jungle Book is abridged.

So unlike last week, when I had six pages or so of details, including exact quotes, now all I have is my impressions and vague recollections because, alas, I have poor recall if I do not write what I have learned.


With that disclaimer, here is what I remember:
  • The mentor/mentee relationship is always voluntary.
  • Said relationship is initiated by the mentor because the mentor is the authority in the relationship.
  • The offer of mentoring is responded to by the mentee--he has the right to refuse.
  • The relationship is unequal--the mentor is greater than the mentee.
  • Therefore, the mentee is, more often than not, younger than the mentor
  • Guroian says this should be of particular interest to teachers, but I wonder about that. The classroom is necessarily an involuntary situation--as is the parent/child relationship. This doesn't mean that there can't enter in a mentoring relationship, and maybe that is what he means when he is addressing teachers this way.
  • The mentor seems to teach the mentee Permanent Things. Even though the mentee is learning valuable skills along the way, that is not all he is learning. He is learning the secrets of life, what it means to be human, that there is an ultimate Authority, etc.
  • Mentors/mentees are not "friends." Big brother programs make a mockery of mentorship to the extent that they (1) assign the relationship and (2) try to act as if the grown up is equal to the teen.
Guroian decries our culture's loss of the mentoring relationship, and also its poor substitutes.

I don't think we can solve this sort of problem until we become comfortable with hierarchy--with the idea that there is someone who is greater than I.

By the way, we Americans have a perverted sense of equality. When our Founders declared that "all men are created equal," they did not mean that there weren't those who were greater than others. What they meant was that the lowly are of equal worth when compared to the great. The mentoring relationship is an act of love, when the great reach down to the lowly and offer to share with them the essence of greatness.

This requires humility on the part (or at least the pleasant ignorance we see in Wilbur the pig) of the mentee.

Back when Siah and I were serving in a ministry for newlywed couples, I remember than many of the girls in the group desired a "Titus 2 relationship" with an older woman. There were many attempts to try and facilitate such relationships, but for the most part I think Guroian would have said they were contrived. But whether they were or not is beside the point. I think that part of the struggle in creating that sort of relationship--in having it come about naturally within the community--is because we don't really have a place in our culture for an unequal relationship. We don't know how to make it happen. We feel awkward outside of our own peer groups.

As an aside, I think that is the greatest danger of the school--the age segregation. It prevents the diversity that is necessary for a culture.

As a final note, I loved how Guroian explained that recovering the mentoring relationship helps us to treasure our old. Rather than discarding them, we see them as a source of wisdom.

Okay. Your turn.


ps. Here are the next two CiRCE Talks for our schedule:
  1. John Hodges: Principles of Classical Education: The Principle of Cultivation--Friday, October 1
  2. Laura Berquist: The Poison of Subjectivism: How Education Sets us Free--Friday, October 15
You might have noticed we're skipping October 8th. I'm having a garage sale. I might not blog that entire week. Also, we will definitely be doing Andrew Kern's Cultivating the Soul of Liberty, but I thought we'd save that for last. I have listened to it once, and it sounded like it was the closing speech, or close to it.

23 September 2010

At School with Charlotte: Making Heroes (Part I)

I adored this chapter. Do you know why? It's because she starts right out by questioning our reasons for engaging in physical training. I have always hated what we call physical education, and it is mainly because it was never presented to me as a compelling idea. Folks give various reasons for it--so that students burn calories, so they can be attractive, so they can take satisfaction in winning something (when a game is played), and so on.

Charlotte Mason's Original Homeschooling Series
Volume 3:
School Education
 Charlotte explains that similar reasons were given in her day.
We want to turn out 'a fine animal,' a man or woman with a fine physique and in good condition...
Forgive me, but this is not a captivating idea.

In my youth, I was drawn to ballet. We spent hours perfecting a move, not to be skinny and beautiful (not at my studio, anyhow), but to make the dance beautiful. The dancer attempted to control her body in order to be a part of something bigger than herself--a beautiful dance.

Between that and the lovely music, I was thrilled. And I wasn't even that great of a dancer! But that didn't stop me from loving ballet class.

To my teenaged mind, nothing physical education at school offered could compare with ballet and its noble task.

But I'm raising boys, and it is hard to transfer my girlish notions about ballet to something that works for my boys. And my husband and I aren't so sure we'd put our girls in ballet (if we could ever afford it) because most of the studios in this town seem to have a culture in which girls consider their body shape and beauty to pay some sort of compliment to the art.

And we're not in the market for anorexia, if you get my drift.


As I was saying, Charlotte has a way of elevating physical training:
[I]t is questionable whether we are making heroes; and this was the object of physical culture among the early Greeks anyway. Men must be heroes, or how could they fulfil the heavy tasks laid upon them by the gods?
So Charlotte wouldn't have our sons, for instance, playing sports so that they can (1) get a scholarship to college, (2) be in shape, (3) attract girls, (4) make friends, (5) win a trophy, (6) get recognition for his skills, etc.--not that any of these things are necessarily bad. They just aren't compelling reasons, and they are selfish if they are the reason. Charlotte gives us a reason, a reason we can stand upon quite firmly.

Men. They must be heroes.

Women. They must raise heroes.

My, my. What a task! Maybe we should engage in a little physical training for this, hm?

You know what else I like? This doesn't leave anyone out, either. The little chubby kid who is uncoordinated and would rather play video games doesn't get a pass. He, too, is human, and therefore, he, too, might be called forth for some great task someday. He needs to be prepared as well as the child who shows natural aptitude.

This is great, by the way. I think I'll use it next time one of my children doesn't want to do something.

The end of physical culture, then, is "a serviceable body"--a body fit for serving others.

We had already thought about this before, but isn't it amazing how we can forget ourselves, what we are about, and slip into sloppy thinking about things?

I put my children in swimming lessons because all heroes can swim.

I am not kidding.

There are a lot of other good reasons to put them in--the fact that, living in California, we have quite the aquatic culture being among them--but in the end, children ought to know how to swim because heroes can swim.

And we are in the hero business.

22 September 2010

Sick Babies and Good Books

This morning when O. woke up, I didn't realize he was under the weather, even though he's been fussy for a few days now. When I had to use the dreaded suction on his nose, I still didn't realize he was under the weather. And when his voice sounded scratchy and painful, I found myself wondering what was going on.

But when I hugged him after breakfast, he felt unusually hot. Once I took his temperature, I knew.

We've got a sickly one, we do.

All of that to say that I'm tired and I'm about to go snuggle down with Life of Pi until naptime is over.

Which means I probably have ten minutes left, so I better wrap this up quickly.

Did I mention everything has been behind today?


Good thing the day is almost over!

Or, at least, the part without Daddy home is.


Over on the TRWBB blog, I wrote about giving our children good books, meaning books by Barbara Cooney (among others).

You can read it here.

21 September 2010

Evening in the Palace of Reason: Final Excerpts

I'm really done with this book. At least I think I am. Either way, I liked this book even more than I expected. Like I said initially, until this book, I thought music history was boring. I repent! I was wrong.

Of course, James Gaines is a good crash course on Bach because he sets the man's life up as part of a cosmic drama, a conflict between God and secularism. I had wondered how accurate Gaines was in regard to who Bach was, but I found that some of his tale was confirmed to me when I was listening to a talk by John Hodges in which he said that Bach was an old man--a man of the past, even when he was born. He was the culmination, Hodges said, of eighteen generations of work in music.
Evening in the Palace of Reason: Bach Meets Frederick the Great in the Age of Enlightenment (P.S.)

And Gaines would say that, at least to some extent, the Enlightenment was the destruction of all that work.

Well, maybe he would say that. It seems that Bach certainly thought that.

Gaines presents Bach as a man of God, but not in some sort of overly spiritual, Gnostic sense of the phrase. Rather, he was a man of deep faith and conviction, and his life--his normal, daily life and work--flows from that starting place.

As I explained before, Gaines framed Bach's meeting with Frederick the Great near the end of his (Bach's) life as a worldview confrontation of great importance. Bach's Musical Offering, which was a written response to Frederick's challenge, is a rebuke, a condemnation of the king and what he stands for. Gaines goes on to write:
If this seems a foolhardy message to have sent an absolute monarch and his son's employer, it was entirely in keeping with past practice. Bach would no more have held back, trimmed, or censored his musical and theological beliefs for Frederick than he would have shrunk from telling the young Saxon prince, grandson of his king Augustus and the son of his elector, to choose Virtue over Vice. He did not hesitate to side against his own superior in Mühlhausen, or to tell the town fathers there that God is my King, or to defy repeatedly and roundly both the consistory of Arnstadt and the council of Leipzig. If he could press his patron-elector about a student prefect, what would he draw back from addressing with a monarch he did not like? He had nothing to be afraid of, or, more precisely, what he feared was far more powerful than any monarch. (emphasis mine)
 This reminds me of the two types of fear I wrote about yesterday. Because Bach feared the Lord, he was a free man, and did not walk in such a way that he was intimidated by the power of those upon the earth.

Gaines tells us that Bach did not set out to change Frederick (which is just as well because there is evidence that he never listened to this masterpiece), but that
it was simply another declaration of faith in a lifetime of such declarations...Bach's indifference to Frederick's opinion was not stubborn or arrogant but rooted in his character too deeply even to be considered a matter of principle.
What a truly great man! What an integrated soul! And what a great composer.
What set Bach so far apart from other composers, though, are not specific skills and devices but the heights and depths he could reach from the security of the ground on which he stood...He could thank his ancestors for that--his stubborn father and his Anabaptist mother alike--and he could thank the writings and example of the notoriously, triumphantly intemperate Martin Luther for inspiring in him not only a love of God but, perhaps more important to his music, a sense of certainty rooted in something deeper than approval or respect.
In our modern age of music designed to tickle the ears and appeal to the basest of sensuality, Bach's aim in his music seem positively revolutionary.
[Bach] was attempting to come as close as anyone had come before to the celestial music of a divinely ordered universe, the very music of Creation.
Gaines gives a brief history of the Romantic movement in the Epilogue. It is always amazing to me, the similarity between Romanticism and Postmodernism.
[Johann Gottfried] Herder's contribution was to undermine the certainty that all questions are in theory answerable by reason and that truth is singular, that one truth could never contradict another. Herder did not set out to refute this fundamental notion, but his powerful assertion of the fact that different cultures have very different "truths," all of them valid in their different contexts, inevitably had that effect. [Immanuel] Kant likewise was in no way trying to prepare the way for a movement with his Critique of Pure Reason, but the notion that order was a quality of the mind rather than the universe, that the mind was capable of many different metaphysical conceptions of the world, dashed any hope of cosmic certainty...

After Lisbon, the French Revolution, Herder, and Kant, no one could argue for an orderly universe or for the ultimate triumph of empiricism. If only the mind knew order, and if various intellectual constructions of order could be equally valid, every human being would now be, like it or not, the maker of his own world, every person responsible for her own Creation, and the progress toward human fulfillment that had once been the project of the church would now be the province of the creative self. Every life would be a work of art, and the ultimate task of finding a source of meaning in the world would belong to the artist.
Sound familiar? Of course the problem is that the artists ended up despairing of any real meaning to be found, the art became ugly and pointless, and so on and so forth.

My, we could use a Bach or two these days, no?
Bach's music makes no argument that the world is more than a ticking clock, yet somehow manages to leave no doubt of it.

20 September 2010

Two Kinds of Fear

In my CiRCE post on Friday, I mentioned that fear is the enemy of liberty. We can blame this on Mr. Kern, for he fed me the idea; I simply mulled it over. Imagine my surprise when, in our Circle Time reading of Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, I found a reference to slavish fears.

Of course, I also found a reference to appropriate fear, hence this post.

The former is the sort of fear which leads to slavery because they demand that someone other than God take control:
Thus, I say, being hot for heaven by virtue only of the sense and fear of the torments of hell, as that sense of hell and fear of damnation chills and cools, so their desires for heaven and salvation cool also. So then it comes to pass, that when their guilt and fear is gone, their desires for heaven and happiness die, and they return to their course again.--2 Another reason is they have slavish fears that do over master them; I speak now of the fears that they have of men: 'For the fear of men bringeth a snare.' So then, though they seem to be hot for heaven, so long as the flames of hell are about their ears; yet when that terror is a little over, they betake themselves to second thoughts; namely, that it is good to be wise, and not to run (for they know not what) the hazard of losing all, or at least of bringing themselves into unavoidable and unnecessary troubles: and so they fall in with the world again. (emphasis mine)
This is, I think, the same sort of fear Mr. Kern was referencing. In the passage there is, first, a temporary fear of hell--but it produces no righteousness because it is rooted in the desire for safety and self-preservation, rather than any desire of consequence. The other fear is the fear of men--the desire to be admired by others, to live well in the eyes of men.

This is contrasted with a holy fear, which is a reverence of God. Christian explains quite clearly that there are things we ought to fear--sin and guilt being among them. But this is the sort of fear that causes us to tread carefully and depend upon the Lord for strength and direction.

A proper fear of God, then, keeps us on the path.

This is why Andrew can, on the one place, imitate Dante and assign teachers a place in hell (which causes us to approach our task with appropriate gravity) while, at the same time, not encourage the sort of fear that brings about slavery.

Miscellaneous Musings on Monday

Did you have a good weekend? We did! Nothing special, but after a week of having Daddy at work, it is always nice to have him home. Plus, we got to celebrate the finalization of an adoption with friends, something that is good news and an answer to many prayers for a long time.

In other news...
  • There is some evangelization going on here on the microhomestead. Q. was overheard interrogating Toddler O. this morning. "O., do you love God? Do you love God?" We were all thrilled when O. yelled, "Oh, yeah!"
  • I hit the jackpot on Freecycle. I only recently signed up for this and it was mainly out of curiosity. On Wednesday, there was a listing: Offer--150 plus BOOKS. Even that wasn't enough to sell me, until I read the details and it said "from Hemingway to Patricia Cornwell." Well, I had no idea who that latter person was, but the former was enough for me to reply. This turned out to be a jackpot in an unexpected way. First, there were a number of books I decided to keep, or at least read before deciding what to do with them. Perhaps my favorite, the one that immediately found a place on the shelf, was The Complete Works of William Shakespeare. Now, I already have one complete works volume, plus a smaller collection of plays, but I had already realized that when we are older and have group readings, we need more than one copy. This was a welcome step toward a copy of Shakespeare for everybody! But the box held more "treasure" than I realized. I put it in quotes because a number of the books are...things I wouldn't read. But I posted them on PBS, and what a response! I will be mailing off almost thirty books in the next few days! Here is how I do the math. I figure the average book I buy to add to our library costs me about $10. The average swap book costs me $3.25 to mail. If I send off thirty books, and then go through the Ambleside master list and use the points to acquire school books, I've saved myself over a hundred dollars I would have spent on about thirty books I needed anyhow.
  • Does your child hate vegetables? Do you? This is sort of random, but I noticed it in The Mood Cure, and I am going to ask my husband if we can try this with a certain short person in our family who is a picky eater and doesn't respond well to our usual approach (which has worked with all the other children). Here is what Julia Ross says:
    Some people don't like to eat vegetables. They're usually people who are zinc deficient and don't enjoy much of anything unless it has a strong sweet or spicy flavor. If you're in this category, take a 50-milligram zinc capsule every day for a month and see if you don't start to enjoy you 4 cups of vegetables a day (okay, start with 2 cups a day).
    Obviously, I wouldn't give a small child the adult dosage, but that doesn't mean a child's dose wouldn't help us with our child's vegetable aversion.
  • I bought a book and paid full price. I never do this. Ever. And yet, I guess I've turned over a new leaf. Here's the deal: I adore Anthony Esolen's writing. I am a faithful reader of his essays on the Touchstone Magazine blog. But I've never bought one of his books, and I've never owned one, even though at least one of them has been on my PBS wishlist for three years. When I heard about his latest work, Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child, I decided I didn't want to wait until my children were not hardly children anymore, which is the amount of time it might have taken for one of his fans to part with one of his books on PaperBackSwap. So I bought it. Actually, I preordered it. But, if any of you want to buy it, too, it is controversial enough (play dates are on the list, folks) that it'd make for a really fun online book club. Any takers? (Mystie??)

Okay. That's enough random thinking for one today. Tomorrow, we shall be normal again.

At least we hope so.

17 September 2010

CiRCE Talks: Andrew Kern's A Contemplation of Liberty

I have now listened to this talk twice, and I think I have about five more times before I am able to wrap my mind entirely around it. Kern's talks tend to be like a good book--jam packed with good ideas, not just on every page, but in every sentence. Goodness, I could probably write for pages on the first quarter of his speech.

The challenge is narrowing it all down into something that is fitting for this space and time. I had hoped that I'd be able to summarize it for those of you who haven't yet heard it, but I find myself at a loss. To attempt to do so would be to cut something vital to the whole. So all I can say is: go listen for yourself.

As for me, I'm forcing myself to pick three things I appreciated, and stick to them. This is no easy task, considering my just-over-six pages of notes.

The River of Life v. The River of Death
Kern uses some beautiful imagery to enflesh his ideas. On the one hand, he offers us the River of Death. The River of Death brings about slavery. It has existed throughout human history (since the Fall of Man), and it tells us that the world is unknowable and scary, that we need someone to protect us from it. We become slaves to the man who tames the river. As slaves, we are unable to rule ourselves, and we are only animals who follow our own appetites.

In today's world, the River of Death is embodied in naturalistic materialism--which many of us refer to as Darwinism.

On the other hand, he offers us the River of Life--the stream of God's work in human history. The River of Life offers us full humanity--which means that we are not just our appetites and desires, but also given a will and the capacity to reason. We are not beasts, but glorious divine image bearers. The River of Life brings freedom--the freedom to govern ourselves. Because we can govern ourselves, we do not need someone else to govern us.

There is more, of course, but these are some of the distinctions of the two.

In the River of Death, then, we educate children by appealing to their appetites. Near the end, Kern challenges us to think about the content of our curriculum, our modes of teaching and motivating, our method of assessing. Do they honor and cultivate the reason and will of the student? Or do they appeal to the sensual appetites? If the latter, they belong to the River of Death.

He admits that the vast majority of American education (in both public and private schools), exists within the River of Death. I found myself wondering how many of us (and I speak as one who as entertained just such a temptation) have taken the curriculum or teaching modes of the River of Death and figured that if we could just run it through a brand new Brita water filter, then everything would be fine. Even add in some flavoring--a sprinkling of Bible time, if you will--to top it off?

How many of our Christian schools--our homeschools--are unwittingly drinking from the wrong river?

The Consequences
Mr. Kern explains to us the consequences of living and raising and educating our children in the River of Death early on, but I want to go back, because it helps me realize the gravity of what we are attempting to do, and to avoid. He says that we--we who say we believe otherwise--are continually putting into practice the pedagogy, the curriculum, the marketing approaches, the anthropology, the philosophy--even the theology--that arises from naturalistic materialism.

And the consequences are dire (this is almost a direct quote):
The graduates of our schools go to college, where they become unbelieving fornicators, driven by the love of money, combined with an obsession with practicality, which is merely a code word for power and money. And all this mitigates their love for and pursuit of the truth that would have set them free.
We are not fulfilling our responsibilities as educators and we are complicit in the stumbling of children.

Near the end, he paints for us a frightening picture. He explains that Dante didn't actually have a place in his Inferno for teachers, but if he had, we would have had to go to the bottom of the sea to see it. And there, we would see the teachers, with mill stones around their necks, head-down in the muck, bearing in their bodies the consequences of what they had done to their students.

This is a warning for us when we are tempted to buy curriculum in a box and follow it unthinkingly, regardless of its content or what this unhuman behavior on our part does to our children.

Fear is the Danger
I noticed that so many of the descriptions of slavery given involved fear. For instance, in ancient Egypt, the people were afraid of the Nile River, and of the wild animals around it. Their fear drove them to worship their leader--in other words, they craved protection. We see this over and over in history. The people get scared, and so they crave a strong leader. Mr. Kern tells us that fear demands centralization.

I've noticed this in our study of British history. The people are fearful of something, they put a man on the throne, only to find him a tyrant. Sometimes they even depose a tyrant, only to find that their replacement...is also a tyrant.

Hence the Magna Carta, I suppose.

A good question to ask ourselves, then, is, are we afraid?

Early in our determination to home educate, I would say that there was a tinge of fear involved in the decision. What evil thing might the school and its secular curriculum do to our precious child?

It's a good question, I suppose, but a very bad starting point, and I'm very thankful to the Lord that He matured us out of this before we actually began this endeavor.

If fear leads to slavery, we cannot think that homeschooling out of fear will make us free.

We homeschool because we are aiming for something, not because we are running from something.

Another good question to ask ourselves is why are we afraid? Where is it that our trust in God has dropped off and failed? Where do we require repentance?

Liberty, Before it is too Late
Many months ago now, I sat in a conference with some city officials in support of a friend. The men in this room were leaders (read: bureaucrats), and my friend and I were there upon an errand of liberty. Her rights had been, in my (correct) opinion, violated by the City. But these men. They were normal, upstanding men. They seemed respectable.

But they proved to me to be ridiculous.

The discussion in the room at one point turned to the problem our city has with feral cats. It was a problem, they all agreed. Some of them told a few stories to illustrate.

And then I was aghast when they all agreed that they were willing to give up a portion of their liberty in order to solve the problem.

Perhaps, they thought aloud, we should require the registration of cats? Mandatory spay and neuter? Tags and license? Yes, yes, yes! They all agreed. If we would all only give up our liberty in this area, the cat problem would be solved.

Which means: if they could only take liberty from the citizens in our town, they were sure they could solve a problem.

The problem is not that the people have liberty! I wanted to scream.

It is a small matter in the scheme of things, but I am frightened for our city, that these men run it and make decisions for it. They hold their liberties out for the taking, and mine along with it.

This is the world we live in. The sooner we begin raising free men, the better.

But the problem comes back to fear. Free men are scary. They do dangerous things. My husband recently expressed his freedom out loud and in public, and I admit it: I was nervous inside.

But start somewhere we must.

Why not start where we are?

**Talk with us! Add your link below, or discuss in the comments.**

15 September 2010

CiRCE Talks: FREE Resource!

As most of you know, this coming Friday is our first CiRCE talk, and we'll be discussing Andrew Kern's A Contemplation of Liberty. For those of you who are longing to participate, but don't have room in the budget to purchase the talk, I have some very, very good news! Mr. Kern's talk is now available online for free, compliments of the CiRCE Institute!

Head on over, and press play!

Then, join us on Friday. I'll be posting my thoughts and reflections, and I'll have a Mr. Linky or some equivalent thereof so that those of you who are blogging this talk can link it to my post. Then we can talk in the comments of all the posts, and those of you without a blog can participate in the conversation there, too, of course.


The Book of Memory

We're on week four of lessons here at the microhomestead. Can you believe that? The toddler still has not dropped his morning nap (not that I'm complaining), so my Average Day Chart hasn't quite kicked in. For now, there are only three little ones present during our morning Circle Time. And it's going decently enough.

Unless you count the numerous times the ducks have escaped their pen and we have had to drop whatever we were doing and have a round-up. (It wouldn't have been a big deal had they decided to graze the grass rather than hang out on the clean patio staring at us through the sliding door.)

Anyhow, right before Circle Time, I try to head to the bookcase and gather everything I need. But no matter what I do, I seem to forget something. After three weeks of having to stop the momentum and go retrieve whatever was forgotten, I finally realized that almost everything I forgot had to do with our memory work.

Oh, the irony.

I planned a lot more memory work than we've ever done before, and that's the main reason. There are more resources in a day than I'm accustomed to, and I didn't think to list them on my Circle Time Schedule. We are also memorizing some of the verses in the King James Version, and others in the NIV, or even the NASB. So sometimes I will have remembered the Bible for our Bible reading (which is always the KJV because we like how pretty it sounds read aloud), only to have forgotten to bring the correct version for the memory work. Or, I will forget to grab our Child's Garden of Verses for our poetry work.

You get the idea.

So this afternoon I finally did something I should have done in my planning this summer: I made a binder.

I labeled it The Book of Memory because it reminds me of that book by Mary Carruthers that I can't afford, the title of which I always liked the sound. It is prettier than, say, "Memory Work."

So far our binder has three dividers: scripture, poetry, hymns. I really should have said "songs" because my folk songs are in there also. But I forgot, and I labeled the divider tab with a Sharpie, so I suppose I'll have to look at this mistake for the next two decades or so.

I've put in all the scripture we'll be memorizing over the term (one for each of the seven virtues). I also added the two poems we're covering right now--one review and one new. And then there are all the songs from the last three years.

All right there.

In one place.

It's like magic.

And I'm so relieved.

I was looking back over the list for Year 0--you know the one: A Formidable List of Attainments for a Child of Six (scroll down). The top of the list says:
  1. To recite, beautifully, 6 easy poems and hymns
  2. to recite, perfectly and beautifully, a parable and a psalm
I had somehow forgotten about a parable and a psalm. Normally, I would panic (just for fun), but everyone is memorizing these things faster than I expected (faster than me...ahem). So, I think after this current poem, we'll switch to a psalm (Psalm 23, of course), then a couple more poems, and then a parable.

Do any of you have an idea for a parable? For the Psalm, 23 just seemed ideal for little ones. Is there a parable which sticks out to any of you like that?

14 September 2010

At School with Charlotte: Charlotte, the Humanized Herbart

In a past chapter of Volume 3: School Education, Charlotte gave a critique of Herbart. We talked about this in Examining Underlying Assumptions Part III--that Herbart believed that the soul, if it existed at all, was irrelevant, and essentially undermined personhood as a result.

At the time of Charlotte's writing, Herbart was very influential. In this chapter, she explains all that her philosophy has in common with Herbart. There are also some wonderful ideas in this chapter, which we'll get to at the end.

But first, a moment of silence for: Jon Amos Comenius.

Charlotte mentions him at the beginning of the chapter.

I just knew she had to have read him!

The Commonalities
Charlotte and Herbart both...
  1. Reject Pestalozzi's and Froebel's division of the mind into various faculties. This is important because this division resulted in redefining education as "the development of mental faculties." In rejecting the division of the mind into faculties, the resulting definition of education is rejected as well.
  2. Recognize the force of the Zeitgeist--the spirit of the age, the ideas dominating a culture at any time. It was acknowledged that the Zeitgeist itself was a sort of schoolmaster for both the parents and the children, that it influenced mood, aspirations, and inclinations.
  3. Admit that a child grows up under many schoolmasters: Nature, family, social intercourse, Zeitgeist, the Church, the State.
  4. Recognize that the most valuable part of education is carried on by the family. This was an admission that education falls under the family's sphere of influence. When we consider Charlotte as a founder of schools, we are apt to forget that she fully had a homeschooler's heart. Her schools were not hers--they belonged to the PNEU (Parents' National Education Union). Charlotte ran schools that existed under parental influence and authority and she full recognized the family's rightful dominion in this area. The schools assisted the parents in their work of educating their children.
  5. Reach back and pluck the fruit of the tree of medieval education. I adored this, for you know I love to say that Charlotte is a classicist. Her thoughts here are just beautiful. For instance, she says that it is not that we offer a religious education (as if there could be some other sort--some secular--education), but rather acknowledge that education is by its nature religious. She also confirms that knowledge is revelatory, that the Holy Spirit is "the supreme educator of mankind."
  6. Agree that the purpose of education is character-building.
Where They Differ
It is this last point that leads Charlotte to their differences--if "differences" is the word I want*. Though Herbart also said that education was for building character, he hadn't a very definite means to accomplish the task. Charlotte believes that, with the new understanding and mastery of the formation of habits--the ability to harness habit formation for the good of children--allow character-building to become a reality.

An Aside
I do feel a tad bit uncomfortable with saying that "character-building" is the purpose of education, though I'm almost certain I'm splitting hairs rather than discovering a real point of controversy. I am much more comfortable with Andrew Kern's definitions over on the CiRCE website. Framed in my library is this definition:
CHRISTIAN EDUCATION is the cultivation of wisdom and virtue by nourishing the soul on truth, goodness, and beauty by means of the seven liberal arts and the four sciences so that, in Christ, the student is enabled to better know, glorify, and enjoy God.

Do you see the purpose there? It is knowing, glorifying, and enjoying God. I believe that character-building is a means to this purpose. I would add "character-building" right into the list along with the seven liberal arts and four sciences, for I have found Charlotte's habit-training to be an indispensable tool.

But I cannot agree that character-building is THE purpose of education**.

Jewels from the Idea Tree
I cannot leave off without sharing a few of Charlotte's choice gems, which can easily be lost when someone dares to summarize her.
  • The family is the proper place to cultivate religious affections. She quotes Herbart as saying
    To the child, the family should be the symbol of the order in the world; from the parents one should derive by idealisation the characteristics of the deity. 
  • She describes a beautiful a beautiful fresco on the walls of the Spanish chapel in Florence:
    Here we have represented the descent of the Holy Ghost upon the Twelve, and directly under them, fully under the illuminating rays, are the noble figures of the seven liberal arts, Grammar, Rhetoric, Logic, Music, Astronomy, Geometry, Arithmetic, and under these again the men who received and expressed, so far as the artist knew, the initial idea in each of these subjects; such men as Pythagoras, Zoroaster, Euclid...
    Charlotte was a big Ruskin fan, and Ruskin discusses this chapel in great detail in his book Mornings in Florence. Incidentally, the Charlotte Mason Education Ning Network is using this work on its main page.
  • Charlotte emphasizes that we simply must attempt to grasp the purpose of education, no matter how hotly debated it must be. Her reason?
    [F]ew of us definitely know what we propose to ourselves in the education of our children. We do not know what it is possible to effect, and. as a man does not usually compass more than he aims at, the results of our education are very inadequate and unsatisfactory.
    Without a purpose, we aim at nothing, so it seems.
Next Time
I'm excited about the next chapter, which is devoted to physical training. I glanced at it, and it reminded me of a post I wrote a year or two ago: Toward a Philosophy of Physical Education.

*Three points for naming that literary allusion.
** Let he who is without sin cast the first stone. I'm just saying.