30 April 2012

Miscellaneous Musings on Monday

Okay. On Saturday night, my friend E. loaned me her copy of Emma, and Si and I have already watched two hours of it and it is sublime. This isn't exactly news, but if you've only seen Gwyneth Paltrow play Emma, you're in for a treat! I haven't read the book, either, but it's on my {extremely long, practically endless} list.

In the real news...

  • The Flight From Conversation from The New York Times. Cell phones and texting are really starting to bother me. I used to take my oldest to the park when he was just a little guy, and I'd actually talk to people, even though I'm an introvert. It just naturally happened, since we were all sitting around staring. Now, no one even makes eye contact.
    A 16-year-old boy who relies on texting for almost everything says almost wistfully, “Someday, someday, but certainly not now, I’d like to learn how to have a conversation.”
  • Illiterate Reading from Pressing Save.
    After almost two decades of teaching, I have to agree with Sayers’ observation that “It is common knowledge among school-teachers that a high percentage of examination failures result from not reading the question.”
  • Dehydration by Brian Phillips. I think this gives insight into the infamous "me-time" debate.
    You cannot feed the souls of your students while starving your own.
  • Militant Virtue from Femina. Read this if you appreciate the use of clever metaphor.
    But here is the deal: there is a way to be the girl who is the fire hydrant on the corner. Nervous laughter, eager attention whenever he starts to tell you something, always being there for a conversation, lots of interested eye contact. These things do not make you a serious intention, they make you an easy target. And honestly, the whole fire hydrant situation never was about the fire hydrant. It was about how conveniently located it was to show the other dogs you have been there. When young men do this kind of thing, it is often not even about you. It is about them, and about the other guys.
  • Assessment and the Regular Child by our beloved Cindy Rollins.
    A funny thing happened as families were reading, thinking and growing together- test scores went up. Homeschoolers started to score higher than public and private schools in national averages. The collected homeschool conscious seemed to say, “If we are doing this well without even trying, imagine how amazing we could be if we tried even harder?” We began to keep one eye on the mirror.
  • The Bad News About Homeschooling by Misty Krasawski. So true.
    #1. You will have to school your children at home. 
Okay, so maybe it's not that bad, but I think we all know what she means!

Have a great Monday, folks.

27 April 2012

Rerun: Reconsidering Kenneth Grahame's The Reluctant Dragon

Yesterday, I had reason to link to this post that I wrote three or four years ago. Upon re-reading it, I decided I'd like to dust it off, alter and add a few things, and republish it. It was good for me to think about it again, so I thought I'd share it. This is basically the same post, but updated a little.

The only thing I would add to all of this is that I think we ought not underestimate Grahame. We cannot know his intentions with certainty, but his book is a perversion of the legend of Saint George, the patron saint of his own country. I find it hard to believe that Grahame was unaware of what he was doing, that this was not a usurpation of, or attack upon, the traditional tale. The more I think about it, the more underhanded it seems to me.


Truth and goodness and beauty go together so tightly that if you lose one, you lose all three of them.

--John Hodges, discussing Hans urs von Balthasar's Seeing the Form: The Glory of the Lord: a Theological Aesthetics in his lecture Reflections on Classical Education
Yesterday was the day on which I had planned to study the legend of Saint George and the Dragon. Or, actually, we were going to study Raphael's famous painting, and I was going to read Margaret Hodges' wonderful picture book to the children yet again in order to make sure that Neighbor M. also understood the legend.

Raphael's painting falls on deaf ears if one doesn't understand the significance of Saint George.

I was so excited, for I love reading this book to someone for the first time. I laid it proudly on my lap and announced that we were going to read Saint George and the Dragon. Neighbor M.'s face looked a little panicked, and she told me that her parents do not like dragons. She told me that dragons are bad {which they are}, and that they don't let her have anything to do with them.

Two things: {1} I was impressed with a little girl who obeys her parents wishes when they aren't around. She very obviously wanted to read the book. {2} I was convicted that I should never violate the conscience of a child. Ever.

So I told Neighbor M. I would write a note to her parents asking if we could read the book and study the painting. And I did. I tried to be brief in explaining the book and its significance to western culture, and how C.S. Lewis himself taught Edmund Spenser's Faerie Queene and how I really didn't want them to think that I was a crazy dragon-lady.


And today, a nice note arrived with Neighbor M. saying that of course I could read her the book and study the painting, and that this is the way that dragons should be taught. The letter briefly explained that many of the dragons they had met lately were supposed "good" and "friendly" dragons, and that this is what they were guarding against.

This was a pin-prick of correction for me.

It was then that I realized something about one book on my shelf, and that book is Kenneth Grahame's The Reluctant Dragon illustrated by my beloved Michael Hague.

But first, let me add into the mix a quote from Doug Wilson, who spent some blogging time lately discussing the wildly popular Twilight Saga in terms of the twisting of traditional cultural symbols:
[E]verything in this fallen created order "answers to" something unfallen, with the possible exception of hyenas. In other words, the dragon is the archtypical emblem of sly, crafty, rebellion -- and this goes back to the Garden. Satan is that ancient dragon. If we read our Bibles rightly, we will pay attention to the symbols. Honor the symbols, people.

But of course Satan was a fallen something, and that something was, before he fell, an unfallen version of that same thing. My personal view is that he was one of the seraphim, which means that the seraphim are glorious, unfallen dragons, privileged to cry holy, holy, holy in the presence of God. But in this world, the one we live in, dragons still mean what they mean. That meaning was assigned to us. Shifting the meaning of everything around in this metamorphing way seems to me to be not so much a testimony to our literary prowess as to the continued craftiness of the serpent.
Kenneth Grahame, whom we all rightly love for his best work, The Wind in the Willows, was born only seven months before John Dewey, who almost single-handedly created the world as we know and experience it today through his experiment in rebellion which we call modern education.

I think there is an interesting correspondence in the birthdates of these two men. They were contemporaries in a time that resulted in the world being turned upon its head.

While Dewey managed to transform education from a study in the permanent things to a quest for societal change, here we see Kenneth Grahame recasting Saint George's dragon as a, well, a reluctant one.

He would rather read, truth be told.

The story goes, however, that the common people believe that dragons really are bad, even though most of the stories they are telling are falsehoods. The Boy, who has a sort of "wisdom" about him, and is a great lover of books himself, befriends the dragon. The Boy becomes the mediator between two worlds--the people, who think the dragon is bad, and the dragon, his great friend, who is so smart and lovable, but a little naive when it comes to understanding how serious the townsfolk are about eliminating him.

When Saint George arrives on the scene, the Boy sits down with him and explains the truth: The dragon isn't bad. But, the townspeople must be appeased. So, the Boy suggests a pretend battle, in which Saint George defeats the dragon, but in such a way that he survives, and then Saint George, the dragon, as well as the Boy and all of the townspeople, can finally live in harmony together.

When I consider that the original story of Saint George was considered by C.S. Lewis to be a great Christian classic, and that Spenser's dragon tale, like all ancient dragon tales, was actually a retelling Christ's once and final victory over that dragon from the Garden, well, I wonder just how much influence I allowed Michael Hague's artistry to have over me.

The book is full of lies, it seems: The dragon is real enough, but he's actually a harmless, kindhearted old soul, and very intelligent. {The uneducated people are the ones who believe the dragon is bad.} Saint George's battle with the dragon is a ruse, and also ineffective. The townspeople who think the dragon is bad are just silly and superstitious.

Do you seem what I'm aiming at here?

Now, let's return to Hans urs von Balthasar via John Hodges. If beauty is subjective {and Hodges says it isn't}, then I can say that Grahame's writing is so lovely and skillful, and Hague's paintings are just gorgeous.

However, comma.

If beauty is objective, because it is characteristic of God Himself, then Balthasar has something to say about this book. It has lost its truth; as Wilson exhorted us, we must honor the symbols. If dragons represent Satan, and Saint George represents Christ, then the message of Grahame's work is untrue in the sense that it is a rejection of ultimate reality. And if the work is not true , then it is a lie, which means that it is not good. And if it is untrue and double-plus ungood, then its beauty is a deception, an instance of darkness masquerading as light, and, like the adulteress in Proverbs 7, it looks pretty good initially, but her house is a highway to the grave.

All of this is to say that I've rethought the position which The Reluctant Dragon has had upon my shelf. Hodges says that true education rightly orders the affections. Children who are educated rightly, he says, don't just learn about Truth, but they learn to love Truth. If this is so, I have to ask myself the question, Am I encouraging a right ordering of affections if I hold up this book as something to love?
And he laid hold on the dragon, that old serpent, which is the Devil, and Satan, and bound him a thousand years...

--Revelation 20:2
*Thanks to CiRCE and Cindy, I will probably go crazy in the near future, but pleasantly so.

26 April 2012

Book Club: The Roots of American Order
Chapter 8

I really hope I am able to keep up all the way until the end. I love this book club and this book, but my, am I getting crunched for time these days! Discipline is the only thing that is going to get me by for the next two months, so here's hoping I develop some!


I think the most important sentence in this chapter is:
Imagination, not dialectic, rules the world. For every American who read Oceana once, ten thousand Americans read The Pilgrim's Progress.
Obviously, I mean the first sentence in that quote. I included the second in order to offer a little context.

This really struck me, and I'm still thinking about it. Imagination, naturally, does not preclude fact. We are reading Charlotte Yonge's Book of Golden Deeds, and all of it is based upon real deeds accomplished by real men at real times in history. But her sublime literary retelling, along with her reverence for the Good, True, and Beautiful, capture the imagination for sure.

I hope these good deeds romp through my children's imaginations for years to come.

All of the perfectly formed arguments in the world cannot replace the love that grows in our hearts for good men living rightly during hard times. We cannot help but admire them.

So I get Kirk's point about The Pilgrim's Progress. As you know, we are always reading Pilgrim's Progress, and apparently this is important:
Being brought up on Bunyan was some protection against being swallowed by Hobbes' Leviathan.
The Roots of American Order
by Russell Kirk
Chatper 8 emphasized over and over what it is that causes men to sacrifice their liberty. For instance, in a time of chaos, they will sacrifice their freedom for the sake of having order returned. Some men will "submit themselves to the power of the state" because they believe they will gain "safety and creature-comforts." The section discussing Hobbes, though, added something new to a list that was otherwise familiar to me: some men will bow to the State, as long as this frees them from the bonds of loyalty and duty--as long as they are freed from the ties of "the Church, the town, the guild, and the local authorities." Apparently, one supreme but distant master is preferred over a number of small but intimate duties and relational ties. The impersonal is chosen over the personal.

And man bows to Leviathan, as Hobbes called it.

These days we call it the Federal Government. Yawn. I much prefer the dragon imagery.

What I found interesting was that exposure to Bunyan was equated to inoculation against this sort of cowering, self-serving statism.

I keep coming back to the indispensability of  fiction and literature, and also the idea that what we read must be chosen with the utmost care, because imagination is a powerful thing. As I'm thinking about next year, I keep wondering if more time reading aloud isn't in order. We already do a lot of it, but the children seem hungry for more, and the arguments from Kirk are compelling.

Read More:
-Buy the book and join in the conversation
-More book club posts linked at Cindy's blog

25 April 2012

Quotables: The Roots of American Order

The Roots of American Order
by Russell Kirk
It was to the precedent of the Petition of Right, among other constitutional precedents, that American Patriots would look in the 1760s and 1770s, and many of the grievances listed in the Petition would reappear in the American Declaration of Independence. {p. 261}
[N]ow that the Independents had destroyed the old order, on what basis could Britain be governed? In the month when the king was put to death, the more extreme Independents proposed to the House of Commons an "Agreement of the People," a written constitution purporting to be the common will of Englishmen, establishing a democratic republic with universal suffrage, religious toleration {at least of Christians who did not differ fundamentally from the Independents and their allies}, and the rights of liberty and safety that could not be impaired by Parliament. Here was one of the forerunners of the Constitution of the United States. {p. 263}
Violent revolutions commonly follow a discernible patter--though in part the American Revolution would not conform to that patter. A revolution begins with relatively moderate objectives, led by men not altogether radical; but at blood is shed and hatred increases, the early leaders of the struggle give way to men more extreme and violent. The old order dissolves in anarchy, but no tolerable new order emerges. Presently confusion becomes to terrible that the recovery of peace matter more to the people than does anything else. And then there appears a "man on horseback," a talented military commander often, who restores order at the price of freedom. {P. 264}
Dictatorships have the disadvantage that when a strong master dies, only rarely is a competent successor to be found. {p. 266}
The Royalists believed in a community of souls, owing loyalty to God and loyalty to a Christian king; but Hobbes believed that only individuals really exist, and that the individual's motives in society are not love and loyalty, but self-interest and fear. {p. 270}
[T]he individualistic teachings of Hobbes worked upon the colonial mind... {p. 270}
Hobbes' system offered freedom from Church, town, guild, and local authorities--but in exchange for servitude to Leviathan. {p. 270}
He substituted for the principle of honor, or Aristotle's "magnanimity," the principle of "commodious living": thus, according to Hobbes, the aim of politics is not the elevation of a nation, but instead material aggrandizement for the individual. {p. 271}
[S]eeking safety and creature-comforts, men submit themselves absolutely to the power of the state. {p. 271}
Hobbes' system...appeals to no loyalties of the heart. {p. 272}
For Bramhall and the other Anglican divines, the purpose of human existence is to know God and enjoy Him forever; for Hobbes, that purpose is only material success and safety, and the enjoyment of fleshly rewards. {p. 274}
[Browne] foresaw that in future, the real danger to order would come not from the differences among Christian sects, but from atheism: human reason would try to take total control of the soul... {p. 277}
Being brought up on Bunyan was some protection against being swallowed by Hobbes' Leviathan. {p. 278}
Bunyan's allegory worked more strongly than did Paradise Lost upon men's minds and consciences--even upon the minds and consciences of philosophers. Samuel Taylor Coleridge, early in the nineteenth century, would find that The Pilgrim's Progress was incomparably the best work of evangelical theology "ever produced by a writer not miraculously inspired." {p. 278}
John Bunyan knew scarcely any English literature besides the Scriptures and Foxe's Book of Martyrs, but his moral imagination created out of simple experiences and inner tribulations one of the seminal books of modern times. {p. 281}
Imagination, not dialectic, rules the world. For every American who read Oceana once, ten thousand Americans read The Pilgrim's Progress. {p. 281}
Locke was not an original thinker, but rather a synthesizer or popularizer. {p. 285}
Locke, as much as Hobbes, was a philosopher of individualism. He had no deep affection for the Christian concept of a "community of souls." {p. 286}
Locke has nothing to say about the Christian view of society as a bond between God and man, and among the dead, the living, and those yet unborn. {p. 287}
John Henry Newman, in the nineteenth century, would call Toryism "loyalty to persons." He meant that the Tories of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries thought of society of a network of personal attachments--rather than as a concern stuck together by what Thomas Carlyle called "the nexus of cash payment." {p. 294}
[I]n the Whigs' eyes, James II had been the real revolutionary, what with his attempts to increase royal prerogatives. By preventing the intended revolution of James II, the Whigs believed, they had fulfilled the English constitution: they had upheld that chartered rights of Englishmen against a monarch who would have reduced those rights. {p. 296}

24 April 2012

The Bridge Called Progymnasmata

So, today is the day for book club, which, naturally, means, I cannot focus on my entry, try as I might. I am turning into a regular slacker, I tell you. Of course, part of the reason I cannot focus is that I'm distracted by progymnasmata, a concept introduced to me last week, and I honestly think it is an answer to my prayers.

If you forgive me for slacking on book club for today, I think I can briefly explain why I'm so excited.


In the middle of Year Three, my oldest child began daily written narrations. Now, part of this was an accident. I didn't know that we were supposed to begin with one per week, and then increase to two, and so on and so forth. I just knew he could write, so I threw him in at the deep end and here we are.

He did fine.

His strengths have always been in language, so I didn't overwhelm him. Instead, he's producing solid written narrations every single day.

My question has been where to go from here.

My friend's child began getting creative on his written narrations. He wanted to write from the perspective of a person in the story, for instance. I thought this was great, but my own student just didn't seem to go that way. He is also of the stuck-in-a-rut bent.

He did, however, tell me he wanted me {and his father, who also writes} to teach him how to write well. {I didn't break it to him that I don't write all that well. I mean, I write better than him, after all!}

Now, I have always planned to snag myself a Lost Tools of Writing when the time came, but I firmly believe it is too mature for him right now.

So I began looking for {and silently praying about} a bridge.

How could I help him improve what he is already doing, and prepare him for using LToW, while still remaining faithful to my educational philosophy and overall educational plans? I don't just choose curricula willy-nilly, as the French say. Something has to first fit philosophically, and then practically as well.

Enter the progymnasmata.

It all started when I listened to James Selby's talk from the Society for Classical Learning. I've heard people mention the progymnasmata before {calling it progym}, but I never knew what they meant and I'm always hesitant to adopt teacher-speak words like scaffolding and grades.


But when Selby said that for two thousand years, there was one writing curriculum, my ears perked up. What was that? A single curriculum, across various nations and languages, for two millenia? Selby said that the oldest extant manuscript is from 100 BC, and the curriculum was only abandoned in the late 1800s when our view of man and learning changed. He emphasized that we didn't abandon it because we found something better, but because it no longer fit well with our philosophy.

Good thing my philosophy is as old as the hills, or at least the better parts of it are.

So Selby had my attention, and then when he said that the first of the fourteen stages of the progymnasmata was to retell a fable in one's own words, I thought I was going to faint. My dear, dear Charlotte {of whom I am so fond I even named my favorite goat in her honor} was imitating the progymnasmata!

Turns out she also utilized the second stage, which is the retelling of a narrative. Most classical schools begin this sort of thing around the fourth grade, from what I can tell, but Ambleside does this in the form of oral composition {I love that Miss Mason taught us that composition can be accomplished at far younger ages if we allow them to say it rather than write it!} beginning in Year One. The retelling of Baldwin's Fifty Famous Stories Retold {no pun intended--that's the real title} is the perfect example.

What I found, as I've been researching it more, is that the progymnasmata, has more guidelines than informal oral narration. So, for instance, the student will write a short version of a fable. He will write a long, expanded version of a fable. He will write it from the perspective of a person in the story {like my friend's son began to do naturally}. He will alter it by taking indirect statements {"The ogre told them to go away."} and writing them out as a monologue.

This is a way to get a student out of a rut, in my opinion.

In addition to this, Selby says that in this way they are beginning to prepare their minds for formal rhetoric, but here, instead of looking at all sides of a proposition, they are looking at all sides of a story, which comes more naturally to the young mind.

One of the reasons I have wanted to use LToW is because it is the only writing program I've seen that respects that ideas are the food of the mind and so the goal, even in writing, must be to get at the ideas, rather than learn a technique. I am getting the same hunch in regard to the progymnasmata, and thinking I'll be able to use the principles to coach my budding writer without abandoning ideas for technique.

This is not your local school's boring five paragraph essay.


I'm going to be doing a lot of thinking and reading up in the next few weeks {and I'll be posting some links at the bottom of this post for those of you who want to think along with me}, but my tentative plan is to back off of written narrations entirely. He's already done well at it except for details like paragraph structure and proper spelling; the ability to retell in writing is there. We'll return to oral narrations for all reading assignments, and we'll bring back Aesop, and eventually Baldwin, instead. They are both simple. From there, we'll apply the progymnasmata principles together {because I really think these exercises can improve my own writing, even though I'll be tempted not to complete the various steps, because I'm mature like that} and produce a final draft every two weeks or so. I can't really say how long it'll take until we've done it. My guess is that the first one will take longer than the rest, as we learn to think through the exercises.

The reason why I consider this a bridge to LToW is because I plan to utilize the fable and narrative stages next year, and LToW seems to fit with some of the later stages of the progym, even if it is actually organized according to the three canons of formal rhetoric.

So these are my slightly disconnected thoughts on this subject, and I know I'll come back to it all, but now, at least, I might be able to get that book club entry done sometime this week.

-James Selby's talk {I have listened to it four or five times now--my theory is marinate, contemplate, assimilate, imitate!}
-Wikipedia's page on the progymnasmata
-Classical Writing
-Malcolm Heath's translation of Aphthonius
-Progymnasmata Examples
-Two articles in the Spring 2011 ACCS journal, one by Selby and one by Amy Kim

23 April 2012

Miscellaneous Musings on Monday

We are unschooling today. I know, I know. You never thought this day would come? Me neither. But here's the deal. We have a flock of ducks and we are going to incubate some eggs. We have a mini-pond full of tadpoles on our dining rooms table. We are nursing a baby bird that fell from its nest {yes, it lived through the night last night}. And did I mention we own goats?

It is nature study gone wild, folks.


In the real news...
  • Flagrant misquote in the movie Divided by Shawn Mathis. I suggested the documentary Divided before, I think, so this is important. Personally, our family distinguishes between Sunday School replacing worshiping together as a family, and Sunday School as an additional activity on a Sunday morning.
    Well, now we have an example of what he does not like about Sunday school: children are staying home instead of worshiping with their families. We know that even today some churches have Sunday school at the same time as public worship, and we would reject that as much as Mr. Burns.
  • The NSA Is Building the Country’s Biggest Spy Center {Watch What You Say} from WIRED. We just watched the movie Eagle Eye, which made this article extra creepy.
    The heavily fortified $2 billion center should be up and running in September 2013. Flowing through its servers and routers and stored in near-bottomless databases will be all forms of communication, including the complete contents of private emails, cell phone calls, and Google searches, as well as all sorts of personal data trails—parking receipts, travel itineraries, bookstore purchases, and other digital “pocket litter.” It is, in some measure, the realization of the “total information awareness” program created during the first term of the Bush administration—an effort that was killed by Congress in 2003 after it caused an outcry over its potential for invading Americans’ privacy.
  • Your Children Want YOU! by April Perry. Use Pinterest to organize your projects, yes, but don't let it ruin your life.
    Around 8:30, when I finally had the energy to sit up, I decided to try out Pinterest for a few minutes until my husband got home. There it was–1,000 reasons why I’m failing at all things domestic.

    I don’t make grilled cheese sandwiches look like ice cream.
  • Threat to California Citrus May Finish Backyard Trees from The New York Times. I have two tiny citrus trees in my backyard orchard, and I'm hoping the resident duck flock finds this pest easy to catch and eat!
    Citrus is an iconic part of California life. By some estimates, up to 70 percent of homeowners in the state have at least one citrus tree on their property. Up and down residential streets in this area northeast of Los Angeles, most homes boast an orange or lemon tree, the fruit so plentiful it spills over fences and onto the sidewalks.

    But all of these trees are now in danger. 
  • 9 Grammar Mistakes That Can Make You Lose Readers by Tracy Sestili.
    When it comes to blogging and writing good content, there are modest rules to follow. Blogs are usually written in conversation style so it’s acceptable to stray from the AP Style Guide. Yet, you still have to write intelligibly so that you maintain credibility.
Have a fabulous Monday, people! Share your links in the comments...

20 April 2012

Books Read in March

This is for my nine-year-old son, not me. Heavens, no! All I've been reading consistently is my Bible and The Roots of American Order over the past month. And, honestly, I was surprised at how little my nine-year-old read, as he usually devours twice this many books in a month, in addition to his schoolwork. In fact, I made a comment about it {sarcastic, of course} and called him a slacker.

Mom! he said. I'm just trying to get through You Can Farm and it's so long!

So, there you have it. The booklist is short, and we can blame Joel Salatin.

But anyhow, as I said before, I asked him to keep track of his free reading this year so that I can share it with you all in case you need some ideas for what a fourth grade boy might like in a book.

March Books
E.'s March Favorite
The Adventures of Joel Pepper by Margaret Sydney
Ben Pepper by Margaret Sydney
Five Little Peppers Grown Up by Margaret Sydney
Five Little Peppers Abroad by Margaret Sydney
They Grey Fairy Book by Andrew Lang
The Lilac Fairy Book by Andrew Lang

As you can see, there was a Margaret Sydney theme again in March. I think he finally finished all of the Pepper series and is on to other things for April.

19 April 2012

Is Charlotte Mason Classical?
{A Follow-up}

We've had some good discussion on the first post and Mystie also posted a link to a free talk by Doug Wilson that explains a little more of the history behind the use of Dorothy Sayers' application of the Trivium to the stages of child development in actual classrooms. He references, coincidentally, Comenius, so it seems we are all talking about the same thing. I think Wilson makes a number of important points worth considering, and if you have time to listen to the talk, I'd recommend it.

I listened to it partly during naptime yesterday, and finished up while making dinner.

I have a few more thoughts on this subject now that I've enjoyed the comments discussion and listened to Wilson. Unfortunately, it is also getting quite late in the afternoon around here, so bullet points it is.

  • Wilson has done more research than I have, and he agrees with me that when Sayers applied the Trivium to developmental stages, she was doing something new. So my points from yesterday remain standing, which is a relief to my soul.
  • I don't ascribe to Sayers' application, but that doesn't mean that I do not think she is classical. She is as much a classical voice as her heirs and as those who disagree with her. This is a Great Conversation, not a Great Confession.
  • What does bother me, and has bothered me in the past, is when I encounter people who think that because Charlotte Mason does not follow Sayers on this point, she is therefore not classical. This sort of reminds me of people who get upset with Luther because he wasn't a Calvinist. You see, since Luther nailed his 95 Theses on the door of Castle Church when Calvin was just getting out of diapers, no one should really be upset about this. A lot of Calvin's best contributions came after Luther was dead and gone. The same goes for Mason. Saying that she isn't a classical educator because she doesn't follow Sayers {when Sayers was presenting her essay for the first time two decades after Mason's death} is like saying that no one was a classical educator until Sayers. Which, as we all know, is ridiculous. Sayers certainly didn't present her essay in a vaccuum, and she never claimed to.
  • One of the reasons it is worth listening to Wilson's talk is because he talks about how innovative Comenius was for his day, and how Comenius basically introduced the idea of gradation, or prerequisite knowledge. I had never thought about this before, but Wilson makes a good case that one of the reasons classical education was always elitist is because without gradation--without building knowledge from a foundation up--only that top 10% who can learn anywhere and everywhere were going to be able to learn at all. Systematizing knowledge can definitely be overdone, but can we imagine a world where there was no systematizing at all? Where, to use Kelly's example, there were no phonics? Obviously, only the children who thought naturally in patterns would be able to read...ever.
  • Doug Wilson is very clear in his talk. We cannot both apply the Trivium to developmental stages and not apply the Trivium to developmental stages. But then later he explains that we really can't ever divide the Trivium up completely, and that it is more of a focus at each stage than a hard and fast division. I feel like even though I adhere to a more traditional form of classicism, I have benefitted from reading Sayers essay {almost yearly for many years now, actually} and a couple other neoclassicist books, such as Teaching the Trivium. Kelly made the point that a necessary part of the Great Conversation has been taking the heritage, sifting it, and improving upon it, and both Charlotte Mason as well as Dorothy Sayers have done this in their own way, and I don't feel the need to make it all exclusive, though I understand that if you are the headmaster of a school, you have to know what you are about.
  • The thing that has concerned me the most is that neoclassicism seems {emphasis on seems--my reading here is sparse, and my assertion is based upon limited experience with friends and acquaintances} to emphasize academics over virtue, and the heart of Christian classical education has always been the latter. I have seen this in both private classical Christian schools, as well as homeschools. To the extent that Sayers' application takes the focus off of character and virtue and ideas, I think she is a bit dangerous, but when we set her in her context, the entire history of classicism, I think she adds something, rather than takes away. The thing I have appreciated about Mason the most is that she never divided the intellectual from the spiritual. I think this is perhaps her strongest point.
That is all for now. Perhaps we will have another interesting conversation in the comments? {Hint hint...}

17 April 2012

Rerun: Classical Education: Is Dorothy Sayers the Only Way?

I have received a couple emails lately {to which I haven't had time to respond individually, so sorry!} about the relationship between Charlotte Mason and Classical Education. One of them specifically referenced "combining" the two approaches, as if Charlotte Mason were one thing, and Classical Education another. After all of my reading and thinking, I have concluded that Charlotte Mason is quite different from what I often call neoclassicism, which is the modern approach a la Dorothy Sayers essay, but as far as the long stream of the Great Conversation goes, she fits quite nicely into it.

In other words, I believe that Charlotte Mason's educational philosophy is one expression of the tradition that is Classical Education. This is why, for instance, we see elements of Comenius, especially in her approach to schooling under the age of six, and Cicero in her practice of narration.

And so on.

So I'm going to repost my comments on this from the past, making any edits I deem necessary. {For the record, the original is here.}

But before I go on, I want to clear up a myth I have seen rearing its ugly head from a link that has been feeding to this site, and that is the idea that Charlotte Mason can be discredited on the grounds that she educated a rich elite. The person who said this obviously ought to read a basic biographical sketch of Miss Mason, such as the one found in For the Children's Sake. Charlotte Mason organized schools in some of the toughest neighborhoods amongst the poorest of England's poor, the mining families. She was quite proud of her results, as many in her day believed that mining families were genetically determined to be ignorant and could not be redeemed out of that situation by any means.

All of this is to say: don't believe everything people say on a forum.


Moving on...below is the new version of the old post...

But the exercise of the memory does not mean
the wearing the pupil out
by requiring him to learn things off by heart;
but the frequent and sufficient presentation
of things clearly understood,
till, of their own accord,
they adhere.

Over on the Charlotte Mason Education Ning Network (which, if you are a CM homeschooler, you might enjoy joining--there is a link in my left sidebar if you scroll down), I was asked this question:
I'm curious, where did the idea of applying the trivium to stages of a child's life come from? I've heard it was Dorothy Sayers, but I'm curious what the reasoning was for it. Was there any research, historical practice, or anything else that anyone is aware of that this practice stems from? I'm thinking it must have some solid ground with followers like Doug Wilson, Sproul, etc. It is foundational in the classical approach so I wonder. Because if it is true, then it would follow that CMers are missing opportunities to implant knowledge via memorization in the early years. But then I suppose CM's methods come only from her writings as well. Maybe it's just my aversion to rote memorization and grammar that deters me from that part of classical ed.
This is something I've been thinking about myself for quite some time, and I'm going to try and offer my thoughts upon the subject, as long as we establish that I am (1) not an expert, and (2) only telling you what I know and think {which is very little in comparison with certain other people named Andrew Kern} and (3) in possession of a generous amount of angst when it comes to memory work*.

And also math.

And spelling.

And what is for dinner tonight.


I have developed opinions on Sayers et. al. over the last year or so which are not typical, but are also not as rare as I once thought. Personally, I think that Sayers' speech The Lost Tools of Learning {which I understand was given at a fundraiser and was meant to get people thinking rather than be an absolute standard for classical education} appealed to the modern mind's desire to organize, categorize, and divide the educational process. I'm not saying the speech was bad, for I find a lot of helpful ideas in it, and I try to read it once per year, but I also think there is much to be wary of.

It also helps to remember that Sayers was a Medieval Scholar and likely got her inspiration from reading the educational works of the Middle Ages.

Because of this, we can look at Comenius as reference {since that is who I've been studying lately--but Erasmus' Education of a Christian Prince is pretty incredible, from what I hear, and there are many others--Martin Luther comes to mind--whose works we can read today}, to see if what Sayers wrote at all resembles what the ancients did.

Comenius did divide his students into large age ranges, each governed by a different school. For instance, from 0 to 6, he had what he called the Mother School. Charlotte would have loved this! The school focused on gaining knowledge of real things through the senses, intuition, the bond with the family--Poetic Knowledge! The child in Mother School would learn the names for many things, from colors to constellations, and rudimentary knowledge of geography, mathematics, economics, and so on. This was all done conversationally!

Beginning dialectic was taught through conversational question-and-answer sessions where adequate answers were required of the child. Likewise, early grammar was taught through conversational instruction in right articulation. Early rhetoric was taught through the introduction of the use of metaphor and proper vocal inflection. Interestingly enough, early morality was learned through...formation of proper habits.

Does Charlotte have a kindred spirit here or what?

In reading this, we see that while Sayers divided the Trivium into pieces and assigned grammar to young children, dialectic to middle-schoolers, and rhetoric to teens and above, Comenius did no such thing, expecting the Trivium to be kept intact at even preschool ages. Granted, his focus made allowances for age-appropriateness {which is why the emphasis in the younger years was on what could be grasped through use of the five external senses}, but when Sayers implied that we might save dialectic for preteens, she was saying something new.

The next level of Comenius' model was called Vernacular School and it was for ages 6-12 {vernacular, because the instruction was in the child's native tongue}. At this age, they moved to internal senses {intuition in regard to causes, development of the will}, began reading, writing, drawing, making music, measuring, weighing, and memorizing.

I did a little research on this memorizing portion--the medievals were very big on memorizing, and if I could afford it I'd buy The Book of Memory by Carruthers to try and figure all of this out--but it seems that our idea of rote memory is a little different than what Comenius was doing at the time. For instance, in the book on Comenius I am now reading, it says "let the understanding of things first be formed." This is why there was little to no memory work {other than that which happens almost accidently between mother and child} in Mother School. This point alone tells us that their memory system was not rote, if by rote we mean memorizing disconnected facts we do not understand.

Like Charlotte, an appeal is made to Nature. So, for instance, in Nature, matter precedes form. School books, it is argued, do not do this. The example is given {not unlike an example given in Mason's volumes} of grammar study:
Then in the study of a language they teach form before things, because they teach rules before words and sentences. They give rules and then examples, whereas the light ought to precede that which it is intended to light up.
Hence the emphasis on the senses in the younger years. Children must be intimately acquainted with the things about which they will learn in books in later years.

Here is a wonderful paragraph:
As to Memory: To this there is necessary, first, a clear, firm, and true impression on the senses; secondly, the understanding of what is presented. Words by themselves, if capable of no order or coherence that can engage the understanding, are not to be committed to memory, e.g. the vocables anima, esse, res, ordo, difficult to remember if so learned, are easily remembered thus, Ordo est anima rerum. Writing is a great aid to memory.
Whatever Comenius was doing, we can see {again} that his memory work was not rote. There are so many similarities between this old classicist and Charlotte Mason, but if you read Mason's works, you know that she quoted him, and so we know that she knew him, read him, and, like she did with everything else of value she read, incorporated some of his ideas into her own attempt at a philosophy and practice.

Later, in regard to the Vernacular School, it is mentioned that the students memorize whatever the Teacher is reading aloud to them. This certainly reminded me of Charlotte's recitation trick.

Granted, there were differences between Comenius and Charlotte. For instance, Comenius used a lot of review, the afternoon lessons essentially reviewing the morning lessons, while Charlotte preferred to train the mind to pay attention, and in such a way that students came to know after a single reading. {Certainly, I prefer Charlotte in this regard!}

There are still two more levels of school for Comenius. The next level is the Gymnasium, and that covers ages 12 to 18. The subjects in Gymnasium were to be the Trivium (grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric), the Quadrivium (arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy) as well as physics, geography, chronology, history, ethic and theology.
It is not presumed that a thorough knowledge of all these subjects can be attained in the Gymnasium; but only that a solid foundation may be laid in them all.
Again we see that while Sayers' essay seems to imply that grammar was for little children, dialectic for preteens, and rhetoric for teens and older, the case of actual classical education was quite different--a "solid foundation" for all seven liberal arts, as well as many of the sciences, was to be given to preteens and teens.

There is yet another level: University. University was to cover "every department of knowledge." University, unlike the other levels, was for the few rather than the many. Only the exceptional student ought to go, for this was a labor fit only for truly great minds. Some of the activities of a student at University included reading broadly {including the Greeks--this is interesting because I once read that grammar began with rules but was considered to include all of a culture's written work, so that this could rightly be said to be grammar}, and public student debates and discussions {a combination of dialectic and rhetoric}.

In my reading, I cannot escape the idea that though there was specific, formal training in the Trivium, and that, truly, grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric, were separated formally (i.e., a student's grammar lesson was separated from his dialectic lesson). But the lines dividing them do not appear to be drawn in the way that Sayers drew them in her essay. Likewise, the memorization, which we often think of as being rote upon reading Sayers, was always based upon understanding.

All of this is to say, though I personally have found Sayers to be inspiring and informative, I think we do great damage to allow her to speak as the sole authority on classicism, or to define a methodology of classical education.

In fact, when we consider her audience, it is doubtful that she meant herself to be taken quite so seriously.

When I read about the classical educator Comenius, I see far greater similarity between Comenius and Charlotte Mason than I do Comenius and Sayers.
Let everything which is presented to the pupil,
and rightly understood be fixed in the memory.


*I left this in because it worked, style-wise, but my angst in regard to memory work has since cleared up, and it is actually the subject of the talk I'm giving at our local conference this summer. I do, however, still have angst over things like dinner menus.

16 April 2012

Miscellaneous Musings on Monday

Hello, and welcome to another edition of our Monday festival of links! I know some of you are short on time this season--I certainly am--but if you can only read one link, read the first one. I am still thinking about how powerful it is to live out Jesus' calling to love your enemies and do good to those who persecute you.

In the "news" today...
  • Christians Raise Funds For Ill Atheist Protester from The Tyler Paper.
    Greene is the San Antonio atheist who threatened to sue in an attempt to force Henderson County officials to remove its nativity scene. Greene also filed a complaint with the state against the county judge for not removing a county commissioner for remarks supporting the nativity scene.

    Greene dropped consideration of the lawsuit after being told by medical personnel he could at any time go blind in at least one eye from a detached retina. Greene decided he could not pursue a lawsuit blind.
  • More Proof That Birth Control May Be Bad News for Breast Cancer from The Stir. When people try to tell me that they will never use synthetic hormones because they cause cancer, I ask them if they use hormonal birth control. If they say yes, I ask them if they realize it is basically the same thing, but in a higher dose.
    Women who used the shot of synthetic hormones for at least a year had double the risk of getting breast cancer, according to the study published in the journal Cancer Research. Family history, obesity, age, and pregnancy history didn’t seem to make a difference.
  • The Thomas Kinkade You Didn't Know from The Gospel Coalition.
    But there is another Kinkade---the young struggling painter---that is largely unknown to both his admirers and his critics. Despite his extraordinary commercial success, Kinkade's earlier work is largely unknown to audiences familiar with his later mass market works (typified by his trademark "cottage" scenes).
  • Salted Carmel Chocolate Shortbread Bars from Tracey's Culinary Adventures. Does anyone know a good substitute for the corn syrup this recipe calls for? I don't keep that on-hand.
    At the base of the bars is a crumbly shortbread layer, which is topped with a sweet and gooey caramel and then finally a glossy chocolate glaze. These are also sprinkled with a bit of fleur de sel so they have that salty-sweet combo going on. Yum! They're like the fancy cousin of the Twix.
    We show that if a car stops at a stop sign, an observer, e.g., a police officer, located at a certain distance perpendicular to the car trajectory, must have an illusion that the car does not stop, if the following three conditions are satisfied: (1) the observer measures not the linear but angular speed of the car; (2) the car decelerates and subsequently accelerates relatively fast; and (3) there is a short-time obstruction of the observer’s view of the car by an external object, e.g., another car, at the moment when both cars are near the stop sign. 
Have a fabulous day, everybody!

13 April 2012

The Darndest Things: Christian Education

There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, ‘Mine!'

-Abraham Kuyper
A few weeks ago, during our morning walk, Q.-Age-Five pointed to the school across the street from our neighborhood. "What's that?" she asked. "It's a school," I answered. I thought she knew, and perhaps she did, but wanted to be sure. "Can I go there?" she asked. It was an interesting question to me, because my first two children would never have wanted to go to a school. They are both pretty introverted and place high value on time alone. Neither of them finds the idea of a daily classroom full of other children appealing.

But Q. has always been more social, and O.-Age-Three even moreso.

I always knew these sorts of discussions were in my future.

"No," I replied. I wasn't sure what she was getting at, so I thought it best to give short answers and hear what she had to say.

"Why not?" she asked.

I don't think she was asking to go, but trying to figure out why she would never go, if that makes sense.

And so I explained, very briefly, that it was not a Christian school, and reminded her that our family believes in Christian education for Christian children.

"There are Christian schools out there, like the one Friend L. goes to, but our family cannot afford such a school, so I teach you myself," I told her.

I wanted to pour my whole heart out to her, and tell her that we wanted Jesus to be welcome in every part of her day, that He be just as welcome at math time as at Bible time, that we want her to know His Lordship over all things.

But I kept it simple, because she is a preschooler, after all.

She seemed to find that answer acceptable, and the day moved on without incident.

Which brings us to yesterday, when we visited History Camp at our local Pioneer Village. Pioneer Village has, among other things, the original one-room schoolhouse from the 1800s. This is the school from our actual school district, the original school which was replaced by the school Daughter Q. had pointed at on that day a few weeks ago.

There was a teacher from the local charter school dressed up like an old fashioned school marm, and a few students dressed up in pioneer dresses as well. Most of the time, the old schoolhouse room is locked behind glass, but on this day the door was open and our children could actually go in, take a seat beside the iron stove in real 1800s wooden desks.

It was so perfect my friend's daughter thought Almanzo would be there!

When the children went inside, the teacher would first tell them a little about the schoolhouse and how a day would work, complete with pumping water outside and bringing it in. And then the children could get slates and chalk out of their desks and do a little lesson. It was really cute.

But when I told my children to run inside, Daughter Q. hung back. She's been sick all week, so I thought that perhaps she didn't feel like participating, or possibly she was being sulky. I pulled her aside.

"Don't you want to go in with the others?" I asked. Many of her friends were inside as well.

"Mom," she said, and she sounded irritated with me. And then she whispered, "Is this a Christian school?'

It was all I could do not to laugh, and yet she was so sweet and concerned that I knew it would hurt her feelings if I did.

"It's just pretend," I said. "You go have fun,"

And off she ran.

11 April 2012

Book Club: The Roots of American Order
Chapter 7

I thought about skipping my post on this chapter, since I missed it last week. I figured I'd keep up better if I simply posted quotes and moved on. But since Dana the Ultimate Bookclubber wasn't afraid to delay a week, I thought I'd go ahead and try my hand and relaying some random thoughts that hit me as I re-read through my quotes and marginalia yesterday afternoon.

Random Thought #1: Was Pico gnostic?
I've put down Against the Protestant Gnostics for the duration of this book club. It's a hard read for me, and I can't read both at the same time, but that doesn't keep me from suspecting gnosticism is under every rock and behind every tree.

And I see it here, in regard to Pico. Here is the pertinent quote:
Among Pico's nine hundred questions were some propositions that hung close upon the brink of heresy. He thought that the secrets of the magicians could confirm the divinity of Christ, and that the Cabala of the medieval Jews...would sustain the Christian mysteries. Thus haranguing, reading, wandering, preaching, commencing a vast work to confute the enemies of Christianity, he spent his life, dying of a fever when barely thirty-one--though by that time he had abjured the world and the flesh, and planned to roam barefoot as an evangelist.
I bolded my reasons for suspicion. In a broad, general sense, gnosticism is a type of hyper-spiritualism, which first creates a dualism between the physical and spiritual both inside man as well as in creation, and then elevates the spiritual above the physical. It tends to believe that special knowledge is either the source of salvation, or at the very least a means of elevating someone to "super-spiritual" status. This special knowledge is often referred to as "secret" or "mystery."

See why I wondered?

Random Thought #2: Is my anthropology Reformed?
Most of you probably remember my post Charlotte Mason, Total Depravity, and the Divine Image in which I, as you can probably deduce from the title, defended Charlotte Mason's second principle of education by trying to balance the doctrine of total depravity with the doctrine of the imago dei.

I felt like this sounded a LITTLE bit like myself:
The man of the Middle Ages had been humble, conscious almost always of his fallen sinful nature, feeling himself watched by a wrathful God. Through pride fell the angels. But Pico and his brother-humanists declared that man was only a little lower than the angels, a being capable of descending to unclean depths, indeed, but also having it within his power to become godlike.
I was thinking that perhaps the difference--though I can't be sure with Pico as I'd never heard of him before--was that I merely meant that an unsaved person can express the divine image at times {because he bears it, after all}, not that he could be sanctified without first being justified, or that he could achieve literal "godlikeness" in any sense, especially a salvific one.

I got the sense in this reading that Pico and his followers believed in a type of self-saving, achieved possibly through a growth in knowledge {Kirk specifically mentioned the ardent cultivation of the intellectual faculty}, which brings us full circle to the gnostic idea, actually.

I do think that the Middle Ages focused a bit too much on the wrath of God, while neglecting His grace and kindness, or at least that is the impression I have gotten through my limited reading. And Pico wasn't the first to state that man was created a "little lower than the angels"--the Psalmist was. But the humanists seemed to believe in a Tower of Babel sort of salvation--we will struggle upwards toward God {well, at Babel they wanted to make a name for themselves, but keep with me anyhow...}, whereas a proper doctrine would say that all of the goodnesses of which we may be capable are never enough to justify a man, for justification requires the blood of the Perfect.

Something to think about.

Theology seems to swing throughout history from an emphasis on total depravity to an emphasis on the divine image, when it seems to me that it is both together which give us via media for our anthropology.

Random Thought #3: Hooker was right.
In this regard, at least: that the Church could {should?} have both Scripture as well as Tradition as a source of authority, as long as Tradition never contradicted Scripture. Was it Kirk who Kelly brought up Chesterton's comment on the democracy of the dead? Or did I read that somewhere else? No matter. Here is that phrase, in larger context:
If we attach great importance to the opinion of ordinary men in great unanimity when we are dealing with daily matters, there is no reason why we should disregard it when we are dealing with history or fable. Tradition may be defined as an extension of the franchise. Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about. All democrats object to men being disqualified by the accident of birth; tradition objects to their being disqualified by the accident of death. Democracy tells us not to neglect a good man's opinion, even if he is our groom; tradition asks us not to neglect a good man's opinion, even if he is our father. I, at any rate, cannot separate the two ideas of democracy and tradition; it seems evident to me that they are the same idea. We will have the dead at our councils. The ancient Greeks voted by stones; these shall vote by tombstones. It is all quite regular and official, for most tombstones, like most ballot papers, are marked with a cross.
Over the last few years, my husband and I have reinstituted traditions of the Church which were never handed down to us. This actually began because one day, when we were first married, we walked over to the big, stone, downtown church a block from our house, and attended a Maunday Thursday service.

We have never been the same.

There was so much more depth there than we had ever experience in a simple weekday evening church service.

Obviously, Scripture must reign supreme. But I have met folks who dismiss tradition because it is tradition, as if those in the past did not have something of value to give to their progeny, or as if Christians in the past had no idea about the "real" way to follow Christ. I suppose it could be said that we are learning to respect our elders.

Random Thought #4: "Muddling through" is the way to get things done.
Kirk says:
"Muddling through," it is said, has been England's method for meeting public difficulties.
This is basically been my method for dealing with toddlers and preschoolers. We do what is our duty in regard to discipline and training, we shower on the love, and we know that someday they will be older. They really do get potty trained, sleep through the night, learn to buckle themselves into the car, and even learn to read.

I'm still waiting for that last one, but I have lots of faith.

And that's all.
I'm plumb out of time. Discuss?

Read More:
-Buy the book and join in the conversation
-More book club posts linked at Cindy's blog

10 April 2012

Quotables: The Roots of American Order

The Roots of American Order
by Russell Kirk
Scholastic philosophy and medieval imagery are joined in Dante. His great poem was a synthesis of knowledge, in that he drew his ideas and his images from the Hebrew prophets, the classical philosophers, the Roman jurists, the Schoolmen, even the Arab scholars...In Dante, that same synthesis--that ordering and harmonizing of knowledge and belief--is expressed through poetic insights and symbols. Truth was knowable; order was real. {p. 222}
As this disaster approached, Byzantine scholars and nobles fled into Italy. There, especially in Florence, they waked the West to a fuller interest in Plato and in the whole heritage of the vanished classical civilization. {p. 223}
Now [Pico's] "Dignity of Man" is the manifest of humanism. Man regenerate--"this, visibly," Egon Freidell says, "is the primary meaning of the Renaissance: the rebirth of man in the likeness of God." The man of the Middle Ages had been humble, conscious almost always of his fallen sinful nature, feeling himself watched by a wrathful God. Through pride fell the angels. But Pico and his brother-humanists declared that man was only a little lower than the angels, a being capable of descending to unclean depths, indeed, but also having it within his power to become godlike. How marvellous and splendid a creature is man! This is the theme of Pico's oration... {p. 225}
Man might make himself almost the equal of the heavenly hosts, the cherubim and seraphim, Pico taught, should man cultivate ardently his intellectual faculty. {p. 225}
It is only because man has been created in the image of God that man can become almost angelic. {p. 225}
[T]hrough the moral disciplines of humanitas, the classical heritage of humane learning, he struggles upward toward the Godhead. {p. 226}
[W]e need to remind ourselves that when we call early America Protestant, we mean that America was Christian. The fundamental Christian convictions discussed in earlier chapters of this book were not undone at the Reformation. {p. 229}
Protestantism was not a new religion, but a very old one. {p. 230}
This should be borne in mind: despite the ferocity of the Wars of Religion, the similarities among various Christian bodies are more important than their differences, where we have to do with questions of the order of the soul and of the commonwealth. Hideously though Catholics and Protestants often dealt with one another, still their understanding of man and of society and come from one Christian root. {p. 230}
The Renaissance, a conscious rediscovery of classical civilization, essentially was pagan in its view of human nature... {p. 231}
Man is a creature of mingled good and evil impulses, the Church had come to teach: in the depths of the soul, there lingers an essence or spark of divine substance, potentially enabling man {if given grace} to exercise his will for good. This medieval teaching, which runs through Dante's great poem, the Reformers denied utterly; they returned to the stern teaching of Saint Augustine. {p. 233}
In the Middle Ages, the Church had taught that man can be saved both by faith and by good works. {p. 233}
For truth, the Catholics turned to Authority; for truth, the Protestants turned to Private Judgment.

By Authority, the Catholics meant the teaching authority of the whole Church, over the centuries, as expressed in Scripture, in tradition, in the works of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, in the consensus of church councils, in the sayings and acts of saints, in papal decretals. By Private Judgment, the Protestants meant the individual Christian's interpretation of the Bible, in the light of conscience, for the guiding of his actions. {p. 234}
The Protestant ethic is rooted in what Luther called "the priesthood of all believers." {p. 235}
[I]t is somewhat more true to say that the Christian spirit, rather than the Protestant spirit only, helped to create American civilization. {p. 237}
"Muddling through," it is said, has been England's method for meeting public difficulties. By comparison with the domestic struggles of other modern nations, surely, the English civil social order had been kept in tolerable balance through a principle called "moderation." {p. 238-239}
What had emerged was a national church differing from Rome and differing from Geneva, neither wholly Catholic nor wholly Protestant. {p. 240}
It is Hooker, rather than Henry VIII, who deserves to be called the founder of the Church of England. {p. 240}
The divines of the Church of England, or Anglican theologians, affirmed the primacy of the Bible, but declared also that church tradition should be respected, when it did not conflict with Scripture. {p. 240}
Hooker and the Anglicans who followed him deliberately sought after moderation and balance--after what came to be called the via media, the middle way. For Hooker, this middle path was no mere splitting of the difference, no uneasy compromise of the moment: rather it resembled Aristotle's golden mean, the prudent avoiding of extremes so that faith might be both strong and temperate. {p. 241}
Hooker's arguments...would be familiar...to nearly all educated men in eighteenth-century America. [C]ertain ideas of Hooker's...passed into American social assumptions. They are his concepts of law, of continuity, of constitutional liberty, and of tolerance. {p. 242}
It would be a disastrous error to try to impose upon all people and eras some uniform set of legal imperatives: the kingdom of England is not the kingdom of Israel. {p. 243}
Over thousands of years, a people learn certain truths about the personal and the public order: mankind forms a consensus of opinion on certain vital matters. It is not simply the people living in any one year whose opinions we must consult, but more amply the conclusions of all the generations that have preceded us in time--a kind of filtered wisdom of the human species. {p. 244}
Hooker is a convincing exponent of the idea of continuity--of the principle that in concerns of both church and state, we must seek to link generation with generation. {p. 245}
Our religion, our culture, and our political rights are all maintained by continuity: by our respect for the accomplishments of our forefathers, and by our concern for posterity's well-being. {p. 245}
In secular studies, Scottish schools became renowned, so that the popular level of learning was higher in Scotland of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries than in any other nation. That literacy and respect for learning, founded upon Bible study, also passed into America. {p. 257}
Up from the Old World's religious ferment bubbled the energy and the individualism of the nascent American order. {p. 258}

09 April 2012

Rugelach and the Church Calendar

A few years ago, I began making rugelach for our Christmas and Easter breakfasts. We were finally able to eat gluten and casein again, and I was looking for something special with which to kick off a new tradition for this new season in our family life. I stumbled upon a recipe for rugelach that started not with flour and cream cheese, but with raw milk itself.

And I was intrigued.

Not knowing any better, I set out some milk.

And I waited.

And I waited.

It took four days to turn into cheese curds, and I was afraid it wouldn't be ready in time for the Christmas morning!

Making rugelach using this process is not actually very labor intensive. If you have ever made homemade cheese or fermented bread products, you know that the key is in the waiting for it to do its thing. In other words, success in such a venture is tied up with patience.

Rugelach, for those of you who are unfamiliar with it, is a traditional Jewish pastry. Some call it a cookie. My recipe is heavy on cinnamon, and it tastes like a tart cinnamon roll. The tartness comes from the cream cheese, which ferments the dough for 12 to 24 hours before the sugar and cinnamon {and walnuts or pecans} are added.

I enjoy making rugelach for Christmas, and I love making it for Easter because it matches up perfectly with the Calendar.

The raw milk must be poured into a sterile glass jar and covered with a clean cloth on Palm Sunday.

On Maunday Thursday, the milk has become curds and whey. This is poured through a wire mesh strainer lined with a tea towel. The curds stay in the strainer while the whey strains through into a glass bowl. I put the whey into the fridge for future use {it's a wonderful source of protein and probiotics}. I store the cheese {homemade cream cheese is really just cheese curds} in a separate container.

On Good Friday, the cheese is mixed with butter and flour. This dough sits out in a clean glass bowl to ferment. It is at this point that the children begin to torture me. Are you making rugelach? When do we get to eat it?

On Holy Saturday, the dough is mixed with sugar and vanilla, rolled out, topped with melted butter mixed with cinnamon and nuts, and formed into what looks remarkably like miniature cinnamon rolls. I usually do this late at night. I "store" the rolls in a glass baking dish in the oven, and program the time-delay settings. The oven begins cooking the rugelach before we even wake up on Easter morning. In fact, we awaken to the smell of hot cinnamon.

On Easter morning, my husband quickly scrambles eggs while I dish up rugelach. This is our tradition.

I find it extremely comforting that the process of making this simple holiday fare helps me mark "Church time" in my soul. It fits perfectly into the rhythm.

What are your special Easter traditions?

Miscellaneous Musings on Monday

Happy day-after-Easter! I hope you all had a wonderful holiday. Ours was good. Strange, but good. I made my holiday breakfast special, rugelach, and so many little tummies were happy yesterday morning. I'll share more about that tradition later this week, if all goes as planned, which is why I brought it up.


In the real news...

  • A day in the life of a warehouse robot. This was pretty much awesome.
    Amazon announced recently that they bought a company named Kiva for $775 million. In cash. Kiva makes robots for fulfillment warehouses, of which Amazon has many. When I heard this news, I was all, robots are cool, but $775 million?
  • Oh, My Hand: Complaints Medieval Monks Scribbled in the Margins of Illuminated Manuscripts. This made me laugh.
    [A]n absolute treat for lovers of marginalia such as myself — a collection of complaints monks scribbled in the pages of illuminated manuscripts.
  • Home Youth Leaders Articles for Youth Leaders: 3 Common Traits of Youth Who Don't Leave the Church. A friend and I were recently discussing the scary statistics on youth in the church.
    The Apostle Paul, interestingly enough, doesn’t use phrases like “nominal Christian” or “pretty good kid.” The Bible doesn’t seem to mess around with platitudes like: “Yeah, it’s a shame he did that, but he’s got a good heart.” When we listen to the witness of Scripture, particularly on the topic of conversion, we find that there is very little wiggle room. Listen to these words: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Cor. 5:17) We youth pastors need to get back to understanding salvation as what it really is: a miracle that comes from the glorious power of God through the working of the Holy Spirit.
  • Confused about the Pepsi/fetal cell issue? Here are the facts by Jill Stanek.
    Senomyx’s disputed cell line is HEK-293, derived from the kidney cells of an aborted baby. We could go into the weeds at this point, but Wikipedia offers an easy explanation:
    Senomyx develops patented flavor enhancers by using “proprietary taste receptor-based assay systems.” These receptors are made from HEK293. HEK stands for Human Embryonic Kidney cells. These cells, which were cloned, originally came from healthy, electively aborted human embryos. Using information from the human genome sequence, Senomyx has identified hundreds of taste receptors and currently owns 113 patents on their discoveries.
  • Chesterton on Bunyan by Doug Wilson
    One of my pet peeves...is the way that many modern Christians have been cool-shamed into a patronizing attitude on the literary merits of John Bunyan.
  • THE HEART OF DAILY DEPENDENCE {faith, not fear} from Leading Little Hearts Home. This post relates the story of a remarkable miracle.
    George reached down and took her hand. 'Come and see what God will do,' he said as he escorted her into the dining room.
  • Five Titanic myths spread by films from BBC News
    Gates did exist which barred the third class passengers from the other passengers. But this was not in anticipation of a shipwreck but in compliance with US immigration laws and the feared spread of infectious diseases.
  • Why GOP “Young Guns” Program Is Deceptive from The Western Center for Journalism. My local Republican representative {for whom I refuse to vote}, Kevin McCarthy, is in the photo here.
    While Young Guns solicits donations from Tea Party and conservative donors, the GOP house leaders who run the program actually use it to elect GOP moderates over conservatives.
  • From the archives: The sheep are scattered from Dewey's Treehouse.
    When The Apprentice woke up on Good Friday, the shepherd was missing from the picture. Some of the sheep were gone as well. The others were all topsy-turvy or stuck somewhere else on the wall. I told her that this is Good Friday and people were sad today because Jesus the shepherd was gone.
  • Wolfram: Mark Steyn does Paul Revere from The Detroit News.
    "A free society probably demands more than any other that people be guided by a sense of responsibility that extends beyond the duties exacted by the law," wrote Friedrich Hayek in The Constitution of Liberty Can we really be a free society when we rely on government to educate our children and to take care of our parents and grandparents? Are we afraid to be free and to accept that the care of our children and parents are our responsibility?