26 June 2012

Brinton Turkle and Masterly Inactivity

I mentioned before that one of my summer goals is to read more picture books to the littles. They don't get nearly the reading time that my older two got when they were these ages, and a lot of the reading time they do get is sans pictures. So my goal is a minimum of one reading per child before nap time, but so far I'm actually doing better than that because we've been fitting another reading or two in at different times of the day.

The other night at bedtime, I read Brinton Turkle's Obadiah the Bold two times {because everyone was into it that night}--once in the boys' room and once in the girls' room.

Are you familiar with Turkle's Obadiah books? They are some of my favorites. Obadiah is the youngest son in the Starbuck family, a Quaker family living on Nantucket Island during the colonial period. We here love Obadiah, as well as his younger sister, Rachel.

Obadiah the Bold begins with Obadiah carrying around his new spyglass. He takes it everywhere--to the wharf, to bed at night. He tries to take it to church {called "Meeting on First Day"} but Father says "no" and so Obadiah runs home to put it away.

Obadiah is obsessed with his spyglass. He decides that when he is grown, he will be a pirate, the terror of the Seven Seas: Obadiah the Bold!

Now, imagine with me for a minute. Obadiah belongs to a Quaker family. They are pacifists. To Quakers, it was a shame to be a solider, not to mention a pirate.

It is easy for us to laugh off pirates because we think of Johnny Depp and Raphael Sabatini, but in colonial times, pirates were a very real danger. This is the equivalent of your sweet little boy looking up at you and declaring that he wants to be a murderer and a rapist! And even though it is highly unlikely a little boy understood all the implications of what it meant to be a pirate, I am sure it tore at his father's heart.

So what would you do? Let's say your child declares that he wants to grow up to be something that you consider awful or sinful or heretical or what have you--a Buddhist monk? a beach bum? a hacker? What do you do? What is your response?

Would you lecture him? Would you tell him how sinful and horrible it is to engage in illegal or unchristian activities? Would you guide him in a more gentle manner, saying, "no, you do not really want to do that"? What would you do?

I, sadly, would probably lecture--at least if I did not quickly remember all that Brinton Turkle has taught me.

I think that Obadiah the Bold is good for parents, and not just for children, because it offers a living example of what Charlotte Mason called Masterly Inactivity. Masterly Inactivity is an action {or non-action, as the case may be} on the part of the parents. It is a "wise letting alone." It is having the power and desire to act, but the insight and wisdom to restrain oneself. Miss Mason suggested this sort of letting alone in so many areas of life. Surely this incident with Obadiah qualifies.

Obadiah's parents do...nothing.

Obadiah suggests to his older siblings that they play pirates. They capture him, put him in the "brig" and then make him walk a "plank" for his crimes. This unsettles Obadiah much more than a lecture from his parents ever would have.

After this, Obadiah doesn't play with his spyglass anymore.

Obadiah finally approaches his father, who is writing a letter in his office. "Do pirates really have to walk the plank?" he asks. {"If they get caught" is the answer.} Obadiah decides that maybe he doesn't want to be a pirate, after all. And then Father finally has a place to speak. Father takes Obadiah on his lap, and tells him about the brave ship's captain after whom Obadiah had been named--his own grandfather. He tells of his grandfather's bravery, of his heroism, in sailing around the Cape without losing a man. And then he takes Obadiah up to the roof to practice using his spyglass.

Obadiah leaves with his aspirations complete redirected to something that is good and noble: to be a brave and honorable ship's captain, like his very own Grandfather Obadiah.

Charlotte Mason once said that we were "too much with our children, 'late and soon.'" I think of Brinton Turkle, and I smile. I'm pretty sure that he understood the art of wise letting alone, while waiting for that perfect moment when a very few words {and a hug} would go a very long ways.

25 June 2012

Miscellaneous Musings on Monday

Well, I hope you all enjoyed your weekend. Our weather was just gorgeous. After suffering through hundred-degree weather, it was lovely to reacquaint ourselves with the eighties! It was the perfect weekend for Si's grandma and aunt to come for a visit. And they did!

Here are today's links...
  • Polygamy in the Bible: A sordid tale from The Briefing. In these days of marriage discussion, it's good to know what the Bible does {and doesn't} say.
    The problem, of course, is that the Bible–even the Old Testament–is not really a book of commandments and morality tales. The Bible does of course contain commandments, and lots of narratives. But hardly any of the narratives are about morally upright heroes who keep God’s commandments. Most of the narratives are about God’s actions and plans to save immoral human beings.
  • The Dirty Little Secret of Endorsements by Tim Challies. Don't judge a book by its cover...endorsements!
    It is curious indeed that several highly respected scholars—J.I. Packer, Timothy George, and others among them—wrote endorsements for this book. What do you make of a book that receives such accolades as “superb” and “remarkable” and “essential reading,” and yet contains such a multitude of serious errors?

    You may well conclude that many of the endorsers had not read the book or, at the very least, had not read it closely. And without accusing any of the people whose names appear on the back cover, that may well be the case.
  • Locavore’s Dilemma: Book promotes not the 100-mile diet but the 10,000-mile diet from thestar.com. Is the local diet all it's cracked up to be? Or does it condemn the Japanese to starvation, malnutrition, and eventual death? 
    Why do you dismiss the idea of “food miles” — the distance from farm to fork — as a greenhouse gas emissions measure?

    It’s only true if everything else is equal. In the real world, not everything is equal. Some places have more water or better pasture land. It makes more sense to grow a tomato in an unheated greenhouse and truck it then to heat a local greenhouse. A U.S. study showed that about 4 per cent of food energy signature was from long-distance transportation and 83 per cent from production.
  • The Most Radical New Band in Europe? from The Imaginative Conservative. Not your Daddy's Billy Joel album! And also not what you'd expect.
    Der Stern calls them “musical terrorists,” and the Frankfurter Algemeine Zeitung is even more alarmed, demanding that Chancellor Angela Merkel issue a temporary ban on their music sales while a permanent gag-order is debated in the European Parliament. Their reviews in French, Italian and Spanish media are just as hostile, and even the usually-trendy BBC warns parents that the band “sets a worrisome precedent.”
    Younger Christians often want to shout “every square inch” along with the Kuyperians until, apparently, we start considering the inches of their skin.
  • Why Women Still Can’t Have It All from The Atlantic Magazine. Newsflash: it's not just women. No one can have it all.
    A rude epiphany hit me soon after I got there. When people asked why I had left government, I explained that I’d come home not only because of Princeton’s rules (after two years of leave, you lose your tenure), but also because of my desire to be with my family and my conclusion that juggling high-level government work with the needs of two teenage boys was not possible. I have not exactly left the ranks of full-time career women: I teach a full course load; write regular print and online columns on foreign policy; give 40 to 50 speeches a year; appear regularly on TV and radio; and am working on a new academic book. But I routinely got reactions from other women my age or older that ranged from disappointed (“It’s such a pity that you had to leave Washington”) to condescending (“I wouldn’t generalize from your experience. I’ve never had to compromise, and my kids turned out great”).
  • Our Nature Journals Lately from Living Charlotte Mason in California. Yet another beautiful nature journal post.
    The more observant one is, the more one can find in the natural world to inspire awe. Cultivating your child's powers of observation is like handing that child an antidote against boredom and an inoculation from becoming jaded. I want my children to have what Douglas Wilson calls a Contempt for the Cool, and part of my strategy is to help them fall in love with the natural world.
That's all for today...unless, of course, you have something to share in the comments.

21 June 2012

The Milkmaid Update

Well, I promised I'd explain our progress and offer another video or two, so here we go. The buck kids will be four weeks old tomorrow. They are growing so fast, and things are seeming more "normal" every day.

But first...

The Rabbit

This is Thumper.

Daughter A. bought Thumper a few weeks ago. Anyone who asked her what she wanted for her birthday back in February was told "money to buy a rabbit" and what she meant was to buy a cage and other supplies because rabbits over at the local charter school are only five bucks.

That is, unless the first one dies. Then you have to pay another five bucks, which makes the rabbit seem like a ten dollar rabbit. {Ask me how I know.}

Thumper is a good little baby bunny. He tamed up quickly. He escaped from his cage once, but he let us catch him, so we forgave him his trespass.

Every single day, Thumper pretends to die in the heat so that he can come inside. I think he likes having the girls cry over him. I have always had a no-animals-in-the-house-regardless-of-circumstances rule, but since we've lost a number of pets this year, I got all soft and now there is a rabbit in my dining room more often than not.


I've modified the milking routine to something that works better for the whole family. I initially was milking at 7pm, but found that left me no time for reading aloud in the evenings and, after a week or two of that, I was ready to throw in the towel. So now I milk around 5pm {and around 5:45am}, even though that means dinner is sometimes thrown off. It works better and, strangely enough, Reece gives more milk at that time.

This means that I lock the babies away from Reece around 2pm. They basically lay down right outside the cage so that they can always see her and cry at her when they think about nursing.

And then they practice their fighting skills.


The biggest change we had this week was that we finally sold our wether, Wesley. This was tough. I lowered the price ten dollars just to get him in a home where he would be a pet and not dinner. It's not that I'm against eating goats, but we named him, and he's such a good companion animal that it'd be a shame to waste him. In my mind, we eat the goats that are defective or difficult, not every-doe's-best-friend.

Wesley was bought by a nice Christian family with plans to put him in a Wild West show. In addition to this, he will keep company with a harem of four does, all white with blue eyes like him. He looked like one of the family, which was the appeal, I suppose. It was easier to let him go when we knew he'd be happy, well fed, and loved.

As a bonus, this family is interested in the baby bucks when it is time to part with them. It'd be a lot of fun to go see a show where our own animals are featured!

Baby Bucks

See Rusty's Tiny Horns?
People have asked me what the baby bucks do all day. Honestly, it's been hot, which means all the goats spend a lot of time lying down, breathing as slowly as possible. Sometimes they all look dead, but they perk up if they hear the grain rations being poured.

I included this photo at left because you can see the little horn buds beginning to show. Both baby bucks are this way now, but it is harder to see on the white one.

Baby goats are born without horns. Some folks choose to dehorn them, which has to be done very soon because the horns begin growing in almost immediately.

We started out with horned goats. Once we learned how to handle them, we were comfortable with horns and decided to just let them be. One of my books said it is dangerous to breed two polled {dehorned} goats together because of possible birth defects, but the breeder we purchased Reece from was moving to all polled goats {maybe he meant all polled does and I misunderstood?}, and I assume he knows what he is doing because he's been doing it a long time. Honestly, a bit of this was just a practical decision. We didn't own anything for dehorning and decided not to invest the time and money in figuring it all out. Besides, most bucks in this city seem to have horns.

Reece and Dusty
The white buck has finally been named: Dusty. That makes twin names: Dusty and Rusty. We are still planning to use Rusty for breeding, but we'll see how things shape up. Dusty is the bigger one by a tiny bit. He was born second and his mother didn't take much interest in him at first, which was a big influence on our decision to prefer Rusty. Rusty was cleaned up quick, but Dusty was covered in afterbirth for almost 48 hours before she bothered to take care of him. He seems to be strong enough, but he's a little bit clumsy when compared with Rusty. His left back leg was a little twisted at first, but it seems to have straightened out for the most part. I read that dolomite lime helps with that, so he receives an extra ration, just in case.

Dusty's also not as brave, choosing to spend lots of time right by his mama. Rusty is very brave and often challenges our biggest goat, Charlotte, to head-butting matches. He doesn't seem to be aware that she could kill him if she really wanted to. But brave or no, both babies put up with lots of holding and petting.

All goats like to play King of the Mountain, but babies are particularly amusing:

When they are done, they run to their mama to nurse. I love the way they wag their little tails like puppies.

Sorry if the videos are a little wobbly. Wesley kept nibbling on my pants! I know some of you are showing these to your children, so I thought I'd give a full report.


20 June 2012

Winner of Simplified Dinners

And the winner is...drum roll, please...

Mrs. H!

Simplified Dinners eBook
Congratulations! And thanks to all of you who entered. I haven't done a contest in a long time, and it was fun to have you participate.

For those of you who didn't win, fear not! Mystie has graciously given us a discount code -- afterthoughts -- which will give us $3.00 off at checkout. This code is good through the end of June, so purchase your copy at the discount price today!

19 June 2012

Quotables: Reversed Thunder

Reversed Thunder:
The Revelation of John
and the Praying Imagination

by Eugene Peterson
In order for worshipers to get to the throne it is necessary to get through or past this "sea." The crystal sea is a baptismal font...The world is comprehensively but not indiscriminately gathered around the throne of God--it is first cleansed in baptism and then presented. The waters of baptism, like the Red Sea and the Jordan River with which they are often identified, are waters through which we pass, leaving an old way of life and entering a new one, miraculously alive and cleansed...The throne, the sea, and the altar are the glorious originals of the pulpit, font, and table in the house churches where St. John's congregations gathered week by week in their Lord's Day worship. {p. 63}
Seven hundred years earlier Isaiah had lamented that the vision was sealed up and no one was qualified to unseal it...Jesus unsealed the scroll by revealing its present meaning, his inaugurating leadership in the kingdom of God, the good news. {p. 64}
Christ is in history ruling and conquering. The only way to understand history is to begin, openly and firmly, with Christ. {p. 75}
Christ is not only worshiped each Sunday, he is triumphant each week day. That, of course, is not the way the newspapers report it; that is not the way our own emotions respond to it; but that is what the preached revelation proclaims. {p. 75}
A voice is heard: "A quart of wheat for a denarius and three quarts of barley for a denarius, but do not harm the oil and wine!" A quart of wheat is starvation rations for a family and a denarius is a day's wage. What is necessary for minimal living is unavailable while the luxuries of life, oil and wine, are abundant. {p. 78}
[The Lord] brings his people to a weekly eucharistic meal that trains them to live by grace and not by greed. {p. 79}
"Lord's Day" provides a center for prayer. The word, for St. John, means Sunday, the day of resurrection and the Christian's bright "first day." But most people in the first-century Roman empire would have understood the word to refer to the emperor's feast. It was not the first time, nor would it be the last, that Christians appropriated a page word and transformed its meaning. {p. 90}
All day long we are doing eternally important things without knowing it. All through the day we inadvertently speak words that enter people's lives and change them in minor or major ways, and we never know it. {p. 145}
It will hardly do for us to be more scrupulous than God. {p. 162}
Things unseen are only apprehended by means of things seen. The gospel is the enemy of all forms of gnosticism. The gospel does not begin with matter and then gradually get refined into spirit. The revelation of God does not begin with a material universe and a flesh and blood Jesus and then, working itself up through the grades, finally graduate into ether and angels and ideas. {p. 171}
When St. John saw the names of the twelve tribes inscribed in the gates of pearl, and the twelve apostles inscribed on the foundation stones, he knew, and makes us know, that everything in history is retrievable. {p. 177}
"He has planted in us the see of eternal life. The world to come is not only a hereafter but also a herenow." Nothing can be so destructive to the maturing of faith than when endurance is reduced to grim, gray, stoical determination. {p. 179}
Our sin-corrupted imaginations get everything backwards. We attempt to improve life by means that, in fact, diminish it. Earlier in his Apocalypse, St. John gave us a vision of famine. The rider on the black horse mocked us by advertising unaffordable prices for daily break, while the luxury items of oil and wine were abundant. Evil does that. It starves us of what we need to live, while is surfeits us with what we don't need, masking our need. {p. 181}
Such critics [who think heaven sounds boring] can be countered by referring them to the rivers and trees of Genesis, the breastplate gems of Exodus, the heaven and earth and city of Isaiah, the measuring rod of Ezekiel, the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, and the metaphor-strewn letters of St. Peter and St. Paul. If the critics have never submitted their minds to the power of these narratives, never acquired a feel for the images, never been battered by the stormy paradoxes and crushing contradictions only to emerge, surprised and healed, in the still waters of faith, then St. John's heaven might very well seem dull. For St. John is a master of allusion; if our minds and experiences are vacant of all that he alludes to, he will have been addressing empty kegs. {p. 184}
St. John's heaven is not an extension of human cupidity upwards but an invasion of God's rule and presence downwards. heaven in the vision, remember, descends. {p. 185}

18 June 2012

Miscellaneous Musings on Monday

Greetings to you on this bright Monday morning! We have had some very hot weather this past weekend--103 on Saturday, and 108 yesterday--and so I can't say we've been very exciting other than running out to give the animals lots of water and allowing the rabbit inside the house during the hottest parts of the day. Yes. Inside. I have always been adamant about no-animals-inside-at-all, and yet here I am, with a house rabbit, at least temporarily.

The things we do for our children!


In other news...

  • The Sacred Right To Go To Quack Doctors by Bryana Johnson.
    Gay rights were abridged in California earlier this week when the California Senate passed a bill which would make it a crime for a mental health professional to conduct sexual orientation change efforts with a consensual minor. If this bill is signed into law, it will mean that California teenagers with gender identity issues will be prohibited from seeking reparative counseling from credentialed psychologists – even if both they and their parents want this therapy.
  • What is classical education? Revisited by Andrew Kern {scroll down after clicking--it's at the bottom of the page}. More to add to the discussion of what classical education actually is...
    Back in May I referred to the following quotation from Susan Wise Baur.
    Rather, “classical” refers to a pattern of training the mind first used in medieval education, and followed in European and even in American schools until relatively recently. Classical education proposes that learning take place in three stages. The early years of school are spent in absorbing facts, systematically laying the foundations for advanced study. In the middle grades, students learn to think through arguments. In the high school years, they learn to express themselves. This classical pattern is called the trivium.
    At the time we had a brief dialogue, primarily about the history of the words being used. Having reflected on this question ceaselessly for about 13 years, I have concluded that, at least the way it is phrased in the previous paragraph, the formulation of the trivium as three stages as classical education is positively harmful.
  • “What is Classical Education?” Revisited by Martin Cothran. This is referencing the article by Mr. Kern above.
    Those who have used our Material Logic course will know that there are four questions that must be answered in order to know what a thing is: What kind of thing is it? What is it made up of? What brought it about? And, what is it for? Mr. Kern’s article dealt largely with the first question. He gave us what in logic is called the “formal cause” of classical education. He told us what kind of thing it is.
  • The Maverick by Tim Stafford. We usually think of technological development as something belonging to the Silicon Valley eggheads. But what if the first Jetson-era flying car was developed...for missionaries?
    I-TEC's flying car zooms up to 90 mph on paved roads. Off road, it handles ruts like a Land Rover. Yet in six minutes, a pilot can unfurl its fixed parachute wing and take off into the wild blue yonder—at up to 40 mph. "The Maverick" aims to revolutionize transportation "where the road ends," helping indigenous preacher-pilots sustain the church in the remotest rainforests and other uncharted areas.
  • African-Americans increasingly turn to home-schooling from FOXNews. A lot of folks think that homeschooling is for middle-class, white, Christian families. Think again! This is an option for anyone who puts their mind to it.
    Nationwide, home-schooling grew from 1.7 percent of the school-age population in 1999 to 2.9 percent in 2007, according to the U.S. Department of Education. The total number of kids being home-schooled has more than doubled since 1999 to more than two million, according to estimates. Some 220,000 of those students are African-American, according to The National Home Education Research Institute.
  • Nature Journaling: A Conduit to God from Higher Up and Further In. Yes! Linda Fay is back and I am so excited! This inspired me to get back into nature journalling more than any post I've read in a long time.
    If I can’t find her around the house, she is out wandering the fields or hidden in a tree recording a precious nature find and journaling out her thanks to the Creator. This did not come naturally. I purposefully taught her to do this, modeling it myself. Now after years of nature journaling, this habit is as natural to her as breathing. It fills her life with truth and beauty and order, nourishing her soul. Nature study has a purpose that is deeper than some of us may realize. I encourage you to take advantage of nature study and use it as a tool to teach children to behold the face of their Creator.
Please don't forget to enter to win a copy of Simplified Dinners!

15 June 2012

A Chance to Win Simplified Dinners!

Today, we're going to do something a little different. I'm going to give you a chance to win something! {Hip hip...} Most of you know that I consider Mystie from Simply Convivial a good friend. She's a second-generation homeschooling mother of four-soon-to-be-five, and she's gone and done something pretty amazing: she's written an E-book that helps us figure out dinner.

Simplified Dinners: Make Menu Planning EasyHelps who exactly? Well, us. And by us, I mean we mothers who find it difficult to juggle more than two things at a time, so during the school year, lessons + laundry + cleaning + meal prep already equals overload, and we've only skimmed the surface.

For Christmas this year, Mystie gave me a copy of her E-book, Simplified Dinners. She had told me about it before, but I didn't really get it. When I actually got to look at it, though, I was astounded.

I am usually a pattern thinker, but when it comes to cooking, I have always had a big disconnect, and because of that, I've always been very recipe-dependent. I have never really noticed the similarities between one dish and another. I've never grouped dishes by types or been able to improvise much. I don't know why, but that is the way it has always been for me.

Mystie completely demystifies the dinner process by grouping meal prep into basic steps that are repeated for four, five, even eight different dishes. She is the first person to have taught me that certain types of meals have almost everything in common but the spices. It has been such a blessing to me, and I say that as someone who already had a process that was working. As one of her ads says, it really is "dinner uncomplicated."

Here's the Official Description:
Simplified Dinners enables you to transition toward home-prepared, real, whole foods cooking—even for those less confident in the kitchen. There are no packets, boxes, or pre-prepared foods on the master pantry list, but from it you can make a wide variety of dinners, breakfasts, lunches, and snacks. It truly is a sufficient list. And it’s basic. You don’t need to shop at fancy grocery boutiques to eat good, natural, normal food. You can make it with the stuff any standard discount grocery store sells. This is real-food cooking for normal people on a budget.
In addition to this, her recipes are just plain yummy!

So. Have I whet your appetite enough? You know you want to win a copy for yourself, right?

Here's how you can win:

  • Leave a comment (1 entry)
  • Share this post on Facebook and then comment again to tell me you did (1 entry)
  • Tweet this post and then comment again to tell me you did (1 entry)
That's right. I'm giving you three possible entries. It's up to you how many you get! I'll announce a winner next week on Wednesday, 6/20/12--the first official day of summer.

Can't wait? Want a copy right now? Enter promo code afterthoughts at checkout to get $3 off the entire month of June!

This contest is now close.

14 June 2012

Andy Catlett and Reading Aloud

Last night, I enjoyed Rikki Tikki Tavi with my little girls. I read this over and over to my oldest when he was about five, but I guess it had gotten buried somewhere in the library. When A-Age-Seven brought it out last night, it was as if I'd never read it before; only E-Age-Ten remembered it. They were all enraptured.

It was a much better ending to the day than being angry at a goat for stepping in the milk bucket.

But I digress.

I've been thinking a lot about reading aloud lately as I have realized that this is something that provided a very strong bond between myself and my oldest child, which I didn't really expect. I never set out thinking that I would read to my child as some sort of bonding activity. But apparently this tied a whole bunch of heart strings while we were just enjoying good stories together. I am so glad for this because now, at the ripe age of ten, I can still spend lots of time with him if I have a book in my hand.

And the littles, of course, clamor onto my lap with their books. I'm trying to read lots of picture books this summer as they sometime fall by the wayside when I'm trying to read things that satisfy everyone in the family at the same time.

I found myself wondering if Wendell Berry's mother spent much time reading to him. He seems to understand its power:
And then I opened my book and studied it. I looked at the print, but my mind, like a dull blade, glanced off. It would not bite in, for the English of those pages was old-fashioned; it was strange to everything I knew. When my other had started reading it to me on Christmas night and the nights following, I had understood it and been charmed by it but hearing received it more readily than sight, and she had given me the explanations I needed. And so when I opened the book, unable as I felt to read it for myself, I let into the quiet of the room the memory of my mother's voice reading, which was a comfort to me then as it is now. Besides, the book contained full-page illustrations in which the knights wore armor made of metal as brilliant almost as sunlight and the horses were as fierce and beautiful as dream horses come alive. These were to me then almost endlessly worthy of study. And from the opened pages rose then as now, for I still have the book, the sound of my mother's voice reading quietly and yet urgently, as if anticipating all that was to follow: "It befell in the days of the noble Uther-pendragon, when he was King of England, that there was born to him a son who in after time was King Arthur."
In this {wonderful, of course} work by Berry, Andy is a little boy visiting his grandparents. There is a bit of coming of age involved, as he is traveling alone for the first time and fancies himself growing up because of it. I think that Berry illustrates this growing up best not by the traveling, but by the increase in reading ability, by beginning with Andy unable to read King Arthur by himself. Later, Andy has come to be able to read it:
I read the funnies, and then returned to The Boy's King Arthur. I opened it to the beginning. I looked at the words and I could hear my mother's voice reading them, and so as I looked from word to word I too was reading them:
And when the first mass was done there was seen in the churchyard, against the high altar, a great stone four-square, like to a marble stone, and in the midst thereof was an anvil of steel, a foot of height, and therein stuck a fair sword naked by the point, and letters of gold were written about the sword that said thus: Who so pulleth out this sword of this stone and anvil, is right-wise king born of England.
I didn't know what a mass was, but it didn't seem to matter much. I knew very well what an anvil was, but I couldn't figure out the need for an anvil and a stone. I thought either one would have been plenty.

But I was reading, and it was my mother's voice that was sounding in my mind as I read.

12 June 2012

Quotables: Uncovering the Logic of English

Uncovering the Logic of English:
A Common-Sense Solution to America's Literacy Crisis
by Denise Eide
[W]ith some variations, the spelling rules and phonograms already are used with great success by dyslexia institutes and reading centers around our nation. For unknown reasons, this "intensive phonics" is saved almost exclusively for students who struggle. I simply cannot understand why material that effectively teaches all students has been reserved for reading centers. {p. 12}
I am resoundingly confident that we can teach reading at a fraction of the cost, and with much higher success rates, than we currently do. {p. 12}
English is comprised of 44 unique phonemes which combine together to form a word. {p. 15}
This presents the first problem: the 26 letters of the Latin alphabet are inadequate to describe the 44 spoken phonemes or sounds. To solve this discrepancy, English adds 48 multi-letter phonograms. {p. 16}
The difference between the literate and the illiterate is that the literate blame the problems on English, but the illiterate blame themselves. {p. 21}
[S]omething is deeply wrong with how we are teaching reading. It is simply not conceivable that 22%-70% of our population has a reading disability. What is clear is that students who do not thrive in first, second, and third grade continue to struggle through adulthood. {p. 22}
Children who are skilled readers have effective brain activity patterns and rely heavily on areas of their brains related to sounds. When struggling readers attempt to read, their brains show inactivity in these critical auditory areas. {p. 23}
When reading is not taught correctly, many students do not make solid connections between the phonograms {the pictures of the sounds} and the phonemes {the sounds themselves}. Instead, they seem to rely heavily on the visual center of their brain. {p. 24}
To "help" students, many schools teach "reading strategies" rather than solid phonics. {p. 25}
When solid phonics education is combined with a foundation in the roots of words, often even the definition becomes apparent. {p. 26}
The first step is to learn the 74 basic phonemes. {p. 26}
When the plurals are considered, s says /z/ 70% of the time. Certainly a sound that occurs 70% of the time is not an exception. {p. 27}
Logical students do not tolerate inconsistent rules. The smattering of phonics usually given to them is not only unhelpful; it is damaging. {p. 27}
[T]he letter names do not tell the student anything about how a word is read or spelled. The names are best learned after the phonogram sounds have been internalized. {p. 28}
Many educators mistakenly believe that good readers read whole words rather than phonetically. The prevailing thought is that readers who sound out words are sow, and that fast readers have actually developed instant recognition of the whole word. This is some of the theory behind the Dolch List, a commonly used list of 250 sight words.

However, recent research using functional MRI has shown that good readers are actually processing the sounds one a time, even though they perceive it as a whole word. It is just that the brain is so fast, it appears they are reading whole words. In reality, though, they are converting the letters on the page to sounds. {p. 30}
[E]very syllable has only one vowel sound you can hear. {p. 39}
[E]very syllable must have a written vowel. {p. 39}
[A] commonly taught rule is "When two vowels go walking, the first one does the talking." Students are left confused by which first vowel sound. Long /ē/ as in heat or short /ĕ/ as in head? This "rule" also does not account for words such as great. These sorts of over-simplifications often generate more exceptions than words which follow the rule. {p. 41}
I experienced exactly what the latest brain research has told us about how the brain reads. The best readers decode every word, almost instantly. The brain is simply not able to memorize thousands of "sight words." {p. 65}

11 June 2012

Miscellaneous Musings on Monday

Is it Monday already? I feel like the weekends just fly by, and I'm really praying that our summer doesn't feel as short as it did last year. When I was a child the summers felt like an eternity. No one tells you that adult life moves more quickly! As fast as it is all going, I still somehow managed to save a few links for this week.

And here they are...
  • The Power and Simplicity of Narration from Life, Books, and Education.
    Though simple, narration isn't easy, but the benefits are manifold. Compare this method to the more typical study guide approach - usually a selection is read and then several questions are to be answered about the reading. What typically happens? Attention is not strictly necessary, as students can look back at the work to "find the answer", assuming of course that they have even read the text in the first place. I find it more common for students to read the study guide first and then go on a quest for the answers. The faculty of memory isn't required.
  • How to Use Epsom Salt in a Number of Ways from eHow. I want to try the lawn one!
    Add 2 tablespoons of Epsom salt to a gallon of water and spray your lawn for a lusher, greener lawn.
  • Charlotte Mason and Classical Education by Pam Geyer {HT: Linda Fay} Another contribution to the discussion.
    What I have come to understand is that a Charlotte Mason education is consistent in many points with a classical education. Like classical educators, Charlotte Mason felt that the purpose of education was to develop virtue or character in the student, and that this is done in part through exposure to the very finest literature and books. Furthermore, in both a Charlotte Mason education and a classical education, teaching is done in consideration of the child’s developmental level and the stages of learning. In addition, both approaches emphasize growth in knowledge rather than merely “covering” subjects. In both, the student is expected to approach his studies purposefully, and the standard is excellence.
  • A Few Things I've Learned About Naming Babies at The Good Life.
    As soon as you pick a name that isn't on the top 10 baby names list, it will soon be on the top 10 baby names list. Examples: Emma, Ella, Claire
  • How to End the Age of Inattention from the Wall Street Journal. That's right. Charlotte Mason's concept of picture study is helping educate Yale Med students!
    Linda Friedlaender, the curator of education at the Yale Center for British Art, and Irwin Braverman, at Yale's medical school, created the program a decade ago and guide groups through the New Haven museum. Each student is assigned a painting—"Mrs. James Guthrie," say, by Lord Frederic Leighton—which they examine for 15 minutes, recording all they see. Then the group discusses its observations.
  • Spotted owl could be game-changer in Tombstone water war from CNN. How would you like it if your town couldn't repair its damaged water lines because of a bird?&
    Tombstone is trying to repair a 26-mile pipeline that has brought mountain spring water into the city since 1881. It was damaged during last summer's Monument Fire and monsoon rains that brought mud, water and boulders crashing down the denuded slopes.
  • Charlotte Mason’s Parents from The Common Room. Could it be that Charlotte Mason's second principle came from first-hand experience?
    In many cases Eugenicists were claiming that children of unmarried parents inherited the taint of their parentage, that parents with such poor self control obviously had severe defects which could result in imbecility, criminal tendencies, and other serious flaws in their children.
And that's all for today! If you have any interesting links, share them in the comments!

08 June 2012

Mom the Teacher: The Inside Matters Most

I've been reading through Susan Schaeffer Macaulay's For the Children's Sake lately. Our local CM mother's group {we call it the CM Primer} is reading portions of both Macaulay, as well as Miss Mason's own sixth volume, as we work our way through the 20 principles. This has been great fun so far.

I really like Macaulay. I haven't read much outside material {other than blogs, of course} on Charlotte Mason. I began with, and have always preferred, the original works and the Parents' Review articles. My perception is that a lot of books on Mason's philosophy make out this type of education as either overly gentle {meaning not rigorous and almost student-led} or overly Victorian {lots of pinks, florals, and making of embroidery samplers}.

Not that I'm against samplers.

Macaulay, however, seems true to Miss Mason. It's not too pink or too easy or too anything. It just is in the way that Miss Mason's own work always has been. And so I appreciate that.

One of the things that stuck out to me as I was reading through the second chapter earlier this week was the emphasis on the mother.
[T]he child puts all his little books and papers away, and turns his full attention to the adult. She will now be the medium through which he can "read" real books {not second-rate books}.

Perhaps she reads a short portion from Pilgrim's Progress. She must, of course, be a person who wants to understand and enjoy this herself. {p. 37}
And also:
There is only one problem that I can see. The adult, whether teacher or parent, has to be able to enjoy and understand what he or she is reading with the children. {p. 39}
It is really easy to think that all I need to do is organize a great curriculum {or just use the fantastic free one offered by Ambleside Online}.  I can buy all the supplies and books, format a perfect schedule, and execute it in good time, being done-by-lunch-of-course.

Macaulay reminds me of the Apostle Paul here. All of these things are a clanging gong without the love.

And the love comes from the inside, and the love is something we can't organize into existence. We can't fake it, and we can't manufacture it.

We can't buy it.

For me, at least, the love often disappears when I get caught up in the hustle in bustle of life. For all the temptations to indulge and enjoy in this world, I find I really can't savor anything if I don't slow down first. This includes school hours. How can I think deeply or enjoy a book when my soul is racing at 100 miles per hour and thinking more about my list of things to do than the reality right in front of me?

I keep thinking about this in relation to next year. I don't really like kindergarten, and I often try to refuse to do it, but child after child of mine seems to want it. I asked Q-Age-Five the other day what she would want if I could give her anything. I was expecting a trip to get ice cream, just the two of us. Or maybe a movie.

She said, "Longer school."


Against my will, then, I will have three students next year. Yes, I will keep kindergarten short and sweet and there will be plenty of hours for running and playing. Of course. But the reality is that just thinking about adding a student makes me quaver.

I am such a wimp.

When I had only one student, I delighted in every single lesson. As life becomes more and more of a whirlwind, it is harder and harder to maintain a demeanor of delight.

And there is a big chance that the delight is one of the things that matters most.

As I said before, for me, the love is directly tied to slowing down and savoring. I don't do well on adrenaline. I guess Josef Pieper was right, after all.

The key to my success next year, then, will likely lie in beginning from a place of rest.

But I repeat myself.

07 June 2012

Books Read in May

It has been so fun to have my son keep this record of his reading. We are talking about his beloved books now more than ever, and sometimes his favorites surprise me. The month of May was strange because we basically unschooled--and are currently unschooling--in order to finish up our AO year. We had so many special events--birthdays, anniversaries, Mother's Day--and so many appointments and dinner guests, not to mention our short annual vacation. Because our lessons were informal and less lengthy, E.-Age-Ten had time to do what he loves to do: read, and work in his garden.

Because there were so many books this month, I had him pick two favorites instead of just one.

May Books

Little Lord Fauntleroy by Francis Hodgson Burnett
May Favorite #1:
Dandelion Fire
by N.D. Wilson
Dandelion Fire by N.D. Wilson
The Story of Joan of Arc by Jeanette Nolan
The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare
The Reb and the Redcoats by Constance Savery
Old Greek Folk Stories Told Anew by Josephine Peabody
Amos Fortune, Free Man by Elizabeth Yates
Adam of the Road by Elizabeth Janet Gray
The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden
Miss Hickory* by Carolyn Sherwin Bailey
A Book of Discovery by M.B. Synge
May Favorite #2:
The Puritan Twins
by Lucy Fitch Perkins
100 Cupboards** by N.D. Wilson
The Puritan Twins by Lucy Fitch Perkins
The Story of the Greeks by H.A. Guerber
The Story of Winston Churchill by Alida Sims Malkus
Stories from Greek Tragedians by Alfred John Church
Redwall by Brian Jacques
The Story of Annie Oakley by Edmund Collier
Leepike Ridge by N.D. Wilson
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

At least with this child, I wonder whether he is less or more educated when I keep almost completely out of the way. I suppose I did make him do math and a few other important things. Hmmm...

*Second reading this year--I still think the ending of this book is bizarre
**He read this a year ago, and it was too much for him. This year, it was much better. 10 is my minimum age for reading Wilson.

06 June 2012

Book Club: The Roots of American Order
Chapter 12

Yes, I am really still trying to finish this book. I've completed the reading, as I mentioned before, but thinking through the final chapter and writing about it is happening slowly. Actually, a lot of things seem to be happening slowly of late. But I digress.

Kirk tells us the Alexis de Tocqueville warned against our "succumbing to a new servitude." He {de Tocqueville} wrote:
The Roots of 
American Order
by Russell Kirk
Equality has prepared men for all this, predisposing them to endure it and often regard it as beneficial.

Having thus taken each citizen in turn in its powerful grasp and shaped him to its will, government then extends its embrace to include the whole of society. It covers the whole of social life with a network of petty, complicated rules that are both minute and uniform, through which even men of the greatest originality and the most vigorous temperament cannot force their heads above the crowd. It does not break men's will, but softens, bends, and guides it; it seldom enjoins, but often inhibits, action; it does not destroy anything, but prevents much being born; it is not at all tyrannical, but it hinders, restrains, enervates, stifles, and stultifies so much that in the end each nation is no more than a flock of timid and hardworking animals with the government as its shepherd.
I don't know if this yet describes our whole nation, but I'm pretty sure it describes California. Obviously, things could be much worse than they are, and yet there are many, many stultifying laws in this state. Si and I have tossed around more than one small business idea over the years that died before it was born, and this miscarriage was caused by law. There were so many, that we either became fearful of breaking one if we took action, or we found it was not affordable to try and comply with them.

This starts when we are quite young. We have all seen articles in which is detailed some local government's direct attack on entrepreneurial children by outlawing lemonade or snow cone stands, bake sales, and the like.

A friend and I were talking recently about how President Obama often holds up China as a sort of ideal we must follow, and all because their test scores are "so high." Ah, yes, I suppose if you are high up on the totem pole, then it would be appealing to raise generation after generation filled with individuals waiting to take orders from the almighty government.

But that is far from the American order.

Or, perhaps we could simply say that this is not how things are done around here.

But is this--the existence of cumbersome laws--where the problems start?

I found it interesting that Kirk would answer this in the negative. Kirk quoted Brownson:
In most cases, the sufferings of a people spring from moral causes beyond the reach of civil government, and they are rarely the best patriots who paint them in the most vivid colors, and rouse up popular indignation against the civil authorities. Much more effectual service could be rendered in a more quiet and peaceful way, by each one seeking, in his own immediate sphere, to remove the moral causes of the evils endured.
Throughout the book, Kirk builds a good case for the idea that decline happens simultaneously within and without a nation, and that, in this instance, when we point at excessive, overbearing law, we must point the finger right back at the mores of the nation. He doesn't touch on this, but I would say that not only do an immoral people require more laws {sort of like toddlers needing lots of rules because they can't seem to act on or appropriately interpret principles}, but they vote for representatives who are themselves lacking in character.

I thought that Brownson's views on justice were something that our society could stand to hear more about. Justice is a word that gets thrown around a lot these days; I even saw it on my stamps yesterday. Usually, however, by justice, it is meant giving something to someone rather than getting out of the way of someone.
Out of a solemn concern for the operation of Justice, Brownson argues, society ought to take every care that superior abilities should not be disparaged or positively repressed, that superior energies be not denied their reward, that learning be no trodden down by men without imagination. To each his won: to the nature entrepreneur, the fruits of industry; to the natural scholar, the contemplative leisure which is his need and his reward.
Justice these days always seems to start with someone wanting to crush someone who is in some way superior, which makes it more akin to envy. Justice is not the same as equality, which often means we must cut the legs off the tall guy to make everyone the same. In other words, it disregards and fails to appreciate the nature of the tall man.
[T]hat freedom [which is under God] obtains the justice of which Plato wrote in his Republic, and Cicero in his On Duty: the right of every man to do his work, free of the meddling of others; the right of every man to what is his due.
I will admit it is hard to get comfortable with what is the lazy man's due.

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

04 June 2012

Miscellaneous Musings on Monday

Before I post the links for today, I thought I'd explain something. I've been doing a little housekeeping around here. I'm going through old posts and reformatting them--so many of my oldest things contain archaic formatting, and even though it takes time, it is so nice to make them conform to the new format. Also, it bothered me when I looked at a few and discovered multiple typos. I had forgotten that, once upon a time, my spell checker didn't work.

For about a year or maybe even two.


I'm also changing up the labels and ordering them by thinker rather than putting hundreds of them into broad categories like "books." I started using labels when Blogger first debuted them, and I really couldn't imagine the ideal labeling system for this blog, so I went with very simple. This was fine, until I had written well over a thousand posts! Suddenly the navigation-by-label seemed cumbersome and cluttered, and I could tell {using my super-secret spy software} that you all were actually utilizing the labels. So I'm relabeling.

Why does this matter? Weeelllll...Most of you will not care. If you use, for instance, Google Reader, it's all good. But there are a couple RSS readers out there that show a post every. single. time. it is republished, even for tiny edits. I have reason to believe that at least two of you have suddenly been forced to read my posts from 2008! He he.

There is nothing I can do about this other than explain and tell you that once I am done, this will stop. I hope that, in the end, the new labels will make navigation a little simpler.

Now, for the news!

  • Laid-Back Homeschooling from Redeemed Reader. Because a lot of us could stand to loosen up a little...
    I resist giving rules for laid-back schooling (you want rules, try Moses). So let’s just call them “guidelines.” In no particular order, these might be 1) Enjoy your kids. 2) Include them in your daily routine as much as possible. 3) Teach them to read. 4) Read to them. 5) Talk to them about what you all read, and about current events, interesting news stories, scientific discoveries, family conflicts and dilemmas, biblical principles and controversies, etc. 6) Encourage them to talk to you about the same. 7) Start noticing what they’re good at. 8) Encourage and facilitate what they’re good at. 9) Memorize poems and Bible verses. 10) Ditch the TV; limit computer time.
  • The Dark Side of Healthy Eating: Diagnosing ‘Orthorexia’ Eating Disorders by Rachel Marie Stone. Because of our health history, I still feel compelled to be a bit careful about our family's food, but I can testify how special diets can cause people {including children} to have an unhealthy relationship with food! If a purpose of food is to promote fellowship, every time a Christian refuses to eat what others have served, they are breaking fellowship. Unless someone is actually allergic, we need to leave our pickiness at the door, for fellowship must trump our other concerns.
    Ultimately, a rules-based approach to food misses some of the most important things about food: that it is a gift of God to be received with gratitude and pleasure, and that food brings people together. It’s no accident that Jesus gave us a meal by which to participate in being his body and blood: sharing a meal, in every culture, is a sign of community and belonging. Drinking the cup and eating the bread allows us to participate, somehow, in the life of God in Christ, but it also connects us to one another, and that’s a kind of connection that doesn’t happen only around the communion table. It happens every time food is shared.
  • Watercolor for the faint of heart from Fisher Academy. I definitely needed this post. As I recently shared elsewhere, none of us here has a beautiful nature notebook...yet.
    Though everyone does their own sketches in their own journals, afterwards, I let my littles choose if they'd like a practice in watercoloring one of my scanned sketches (they normally use a mix of pencils, colored pencils and dry brush in their own journals depending on the subject). I offered to scan/print copies of the older boys' sketches if they were a little nervous about altering theirs as well.
  • How to protect yourself when buying and selling used curriculum from Fiddledeedee. It is unfortunate that posts like this are necessary.
    Most used curriculum transactions are best made by PayPal. If you have any problems at all, open up a dispute with them as soon as possible, and they are very aggressive with regard to investigating a claim and setting things right.
  • How an iconic photo of naked girl made a lasting impact from GetReligion.org. There was a lot of mention over the last week of the 40th anniversary of the famous "napalm girl" photo from the Vietnam War. The New York Post had a wonderful article on the fact that she finally found peace...but failed to explain the Source of her peace. This article explains that "napalm girl" is our Christian sister.
    In Christmas 1982, I accepted Jesus Christ as my personal savior. It was an amazing turning point in my life. God helped me to learn to forgive — the most difficult of all lessons. It didn’t happen in a day and it wasn’t easy. But I finally got it.
  • FARMER PANIC! CROPS DIE AS GOV'T BLOCKS WELLS from WND. More wars on farmers...
    Despite the rising ground-water levels, officials still refuse to let the farmers turn on their wells, and that means many farmers will be out of water in the next few weeks.

    “If we are not allowed to turn our wells on, our crops will dry up and we will lose everything,” Fritzler said. “What is so maddening is that we have the water we need right under our feet, and it is so plentiful it is flooding our basements. We cannot use it.”
  • Introduction: The Role of the Teacher by Cindy Rollins. Cindy is blogging through Charlotte Mason's sixth volume this summer, and you won't want to miss it!
    The gauntlet has been laid down. Education is not vocational training. Education is not about making a living. Education is a life.
That is all for today. Don't forget to share your interesting links {or observations} in the comments.

01 June 2012

Quotables: The Roots of American Order

The Roots of American Order
by Russell Kirk
In every age, among every people, disorder rises up in one shape or another. {p. 441}
[T]he common man of nineteenth-century America sought less earnestly after salvation of his soul than had Bunyan's Christian. {p. 443}
The growing danger to American order during that era was not political, primarily: rather, practical political measures were the mirror of an increasing confusion in the moral and the social order. {p. 443}
Both Henry Adams and T.S. Eliot, in the twentieth century, would write that the America which their families had represented had ended with the election of Andrew Jackson. {p. 443}
Commercial acuteness often was confounded with wisdom and integrity; community became "real estate," for sale at a profit; the jerry-built new cities and towns commonly were dismal enough; even the sacrament of marriage was corrupted into "copartnership." {p. 445}
"It is their mores, then, that make the Americans of the United States, alone among Americans, capable of maintaining the rule of democracy; and it is mores again that make the various Anglo-American democracies more of less orderly and prosperous...Europeans exaggerate the influence of geography on the lasting powers of democratic institutions. Too much importance is attached to laws and too little to mores."--Alexis de Tocqueville {p. 448}
When Lincoln gave orders from the White House, this wry humor of his would become an element of the high old Roman virtue; it was comitas, or the relief that seasons gravitas--that is, the sense of heavy responsibility. {p. 452}
And the virtue of pietas, too, became his, in the old Roman sense: willing subordination to the claims of the divine, of neighbors, of country. {p. 453}
Here was a man; and as the best of life is tragic, and as the highest reward of virtuous life is a good end, so this man was fortunate in the hour of his death. {p. 454}
"Among the lessons taught by the French Revolution there is none sadder or more striking that this, that you may make everything else out of the passions of men except a political system that will work, and that there is nothing so pitilessly and unconsciously cruel as sincerity formulated into dogma." --James Lowell {p. 454}
Having risen from very low estate, he knew the savagery that lies close beneath the skin of man, and he saw that most men are law-abiding only out of obedience to routine and custom and convention...[H]e held that the unity and security of the United States transcended nay fanatic scheme of perfectibility. {p. 455}
[T]he Emancipation Proclamation, he undertook as a measure of military expediency, not as a moral judgment. If he could have preserved the Union, short of war, by tolerating slavery, he would have done so, he said: he was no rash transformer of society overnight. The maintaining of order, as expressed int he Declaration and Constitution, was his steady aim. {p. 455}
In Lincoln there was no presumption; much, he knew, must be left to Providence. {p. 456}
Virtue, however, he did possess; and from that soil of virtue there sprang up dignity... {p. 456}
Probably he read no political thinker except Sir William Blackstone... {p. 456}
Orestes Brownson...is intellectually one of the most interesting of all American... {p. 457}
Lord Acton...though that Orestes Brownson was the most penetrating American thinker of his day... {p. 457}
Brownson always believed that if a principle were sound, there could be no danger in pushing it to its logical consequences. {p. 459}
Brownson came to perceive that somewhere there must reside an authority, in the original Latin meaning of that word--a source of moral knowledge, a sanction for justice and order. {p. 459}
Brownson told Americans how even they, in their seemingly triumphant materialism and swaggering individualism, could not long endure without knowing the meaning of Justice. {p. 4690}
In the North, the zealots for Abolition, bent upon the destruction of one evil at the risk of aggravating other social afflictions, mistook social surgery for Justice. {p. 461}
Justice, he said, requires Authority--not the authority of soldier or policeman, but the authority of religious truth. No people can enjoy a just society without some standard of judgment superior to the mood of the moment. {p. 462}
The humanitarian, or social democrat...is by definition a person who denies that any divine order exists. {p. 463}
"The attempt to obtain wise and equitable government by means of universal competition, then, must always fail. But this is not the worst. It, being a direct appeal to selfishness, promotes the growth of selfishness, and therefore increases the very evil from which government is primarily needed to protect us." --Orestes Brownson {p. 464}
"It is shallow sophistry to say that government is a necessary evil: government is no evil, but a device of divine wisdom to supply human wants." --Orestes Brownson {p. 465}
The rootless are empty of hope, because disordered, and therefore they grow angry and destructive. {p. 474}
To live within a just order is to live within a pattern that has beauty. {p. 474}