28 September 2012

GAPS and Learning Problems

Do any of you have a child that seems to struggle with...well...with almost everything? I have never known exactly what to think of my second child. Her older brother is very bright and seems to learn by osmosis at times. I vowed to never expect her to be like him or to put pressure on her because of him. Not everyone is academically inclined. But the truth is that I've had a hard time knowing what was within the realm of "normal" and what was not because he is so unusual.

A number of times over the past year or so, I've asked myself...Is she slow? Or is this a real problem? Do I just need to wait until later? Or is there something I can do to help her? That I ought to do to help her? It really is an area for wisdom, and I don't pretend to know the answer for every child.

One of the things that has been painful to watch is that this child really wants to know. When she was four, I watched her work so incredibly hard, just to learn her alphabet. I've never seen a child work so hard before. I was ready to throw in the towel and wait until she was older, but she didn't want to do that, so I indulged her {for only 5 or 10 minutes per day, of course}.

Last year {first grade}, I had one goal, and that was to get her reading and narrating. I didn't really do that, but this allowed me to put my focus in one place and not really worry about other things so much. She has done well in narrating, at least I thought so, but the reading was still a struggle.

I wasn't introduced to the better-late-than-never stuff until very recently, so I'm still letting those ideas percolate. I am far more willing to let math wait than I am reading, so when this child continued to want to do reading lessons--she was never resisting them, mind you--we just kept working away, even though I felt like it was at the pace of an inch worm!

We did the typical first grade stuff--math, reading, narrating, writing, and so on, and I felt secretly like she struggled in every area. It wasn't that she was doing terribly, but that every single thing seemed like such a struggle for her.

I know that this can build character. I know that some children need to just wait until later {but doesn't their desire also wait until later when this is the case?}. I know there are probably some things that I have been and still am overlooking.

But with all of this said, I must share with you that after about three weeks on the GAPS diet, it was very evident that this was going to help her. She improved tremendously in math. Her narration is much more detailed and includes more proper nouns. She is suddenly speeding through her reading lessons at a tremendous pace. She finished the Treadwell Primer, a Frog and Toad book, and is into the Treadwell First Reader. I haven't really worked with her on it, and yet her handwriting has improved. She even had some remains of baby talk that I was concerned about--did she have a slight speech impediment?--that is basically gone {she still has an orthodontic appliance, so it is hard to tell for sure}. She has had trouble verbalizing her thoughts in the past--she is very quiet because of this--and yet I heard her talk on the phone on Sunday with her grandma for at least fifteen minutes, something she has never had the patience to do in her entire life. And she was funny! And she talked a lot.

So much of this could be chalked up to it being a new school year and a lot of children advance quietly while they play over summer. However, we did two weeks of school before beginning the diet, and it was a case of the same. old. thing. It isn't that she never improved in anything, it's just that it always seemed so slow and so hard for her. I know slow and steady wins the race, so I was trying to play the Patient Mom while I was privately fretting over words I see thrown around these days...dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, and dysphagia. For two weeks, I worked with her.

But now? Now, it is a ton of fun. I'm not going to lie to you. It is far easier to work with a child who gets it. Now, obviously there are a lot of reason why children don't get it, and I've already mentioned some of them. But for this particular child, it looks like her chronic tummy ache and history of food allergies were more connected to her learning problems than her age or level of ability. It has truly felt like a miracle to me.

GAPS is hard work, and that is why I put it off for years after reading about it. Our problems didn't seem so big that they merited that kind of sacrifice and effort. I am so glad that we reached the tipping point because this alone makes it worth it to me. My daughter is able to become more of what she was created to be.

27 September 2012

Books Read in July and August

Since September is almost over, it seems like I should post E-Age-Ten's final summer lists! I am always amazed and his desire to reread books--some of the books on this list he first read when he was six or seven, but he still brings them back out a couple times a year. I suppose I could say we're getting our money's worth.

Books Read in July
July Favorite
The Wonder Clock by Howard Pyle
Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink
The Princess and Curdie by George MacDonald
The Story of Stephen Decatur by Iris Vinton
John Wanamaker by Olive Burt
The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare
Duncan's War by Douglas Bond
Gabriel and the Hour Book by Evaleen Stein
The Fields of Home by Ralph Moody
The Story of John Paul Jones by Iris Vinton
The Story of Dwight D. Eisenhower by Arthur Beckhard

Books Read in August
August Favorite
A Knight of the White Cross by GA Henty
The Boy Mechanic: Vol. 1 from Popular Mechanics
A Final Reckoning: A Tale of Bush Life in Australia by GA Henty
Unknown to History by Charlotte Yonge
Riley Child Rhymes by James Whitcomb Riley

He told me he didn't read as many in August because he read Unknown to History, which is quite lengthy. Apparently, it was worth it, since he labeled it as his favorite for the month.

I'll be curious to see how many he reads this month, as it was full of school reading rather than leisurely...

25 September 2012

Readiness and Math Instruction

Let's talk about math, at least for a little while. If you have been reading here over the years, then you know that there came a time with E-Age-10 that we needed to take a break from math*. This lasted about six months, I think. The funny thing is, he has slowly caught up. Whereas last year when he began the school year, he was still about four months behind, he went so quickly during the year that this year he only had five weeks of fourth-grade math left to do. This means he has already commenced with fifth grade math.

Putting him right at grade level.

Whatever that means.

I hate the idea of "grade level" because I think that, for the most part, children are where they are. So the same mothers that worry because their friend's baby walked at 10-months, but their baby didn't walk until 16-months are worried if their third grade child is doing "second grade" math.

I used to be this person, by the way.

But I've calmed down over the years because I see that not only did my child benefit in real ways from a math break, but he also caught up, all on his own, without either of us ever trying to do so!

Some of you may know that there is a whole subsection of homeschoolers who believe that you do not need to start formal math until age 10, and then they can be "caught up" {as in: prepared for higher math like algebra and geometry} in only two years.

I do not go to this extreme, but I am learning that teaching math is sort of like teaching a child to tie their shoelaces. You can labor with them, day after day, often in tears, when they are three...or you can wait until they are six or seven and teach them in a day. Similarly, when a child is ready for math, they just do it. When they are neurologically capable of thinking in a mathematical way**, it is a delight to them {for the most part--never underestimate the sinful nature, of course}.

Last year, very early in the year, we hit a roadblock with math. A-Then-Age-Six did well in the beginning, but she quickly got very befuddled. She didn't have an attitude problem, and she was more than willing to "do math" every day, but the more we talked and worked and played and talked some more, the more it became apparent to me that she was in no way learning to think mathematically. She was simply learning to do tricks.

That, in my opinion, is not education.

So we dropped my beloved Math Mammoth and spent some time with Ray's Arithmetic, which means we basically spent a year in daily brief talks about numbers and doing lots of mental math.

It was fine.

So here we are in Year Two, and I brought my First Grade Math Mammoth sheets back out.

You know what?

Last year it took us fifteen or twenty minutes to get through half of a sheet. And lots of times I felt like I was carrying her through the assignment, which concerned me greatly. I think that if a child is thinking properly about numbers, they can actually be very independent in mathematics.

Today, I brought out a sheet {first time this year as I spent the first five weeks reviewing what we did last year} and we talked about the first portion. Then, E-Age-Ten entered to inform me he had a narration, so I told A-Age-Seven to just do what I had taught her if she could and I'd get back to her. She did the entire section! She also "accidentally" started the second half, doing it properly. I suddenly realized that last year was such a pain because her brain simply was. not. ready.

At all.

And this year? Well, she did two sheets because, as one was so much fun, why not two?

And I think the whole thing took only ten minutes.

I wonder how many children it will take before I am completely comfortable adjusting math to where my child is. I wonder how much better last year would have been if I had completely cut math in favor of logic puzzles like I did E-Age-Ten when he was small? I resisted that because it seemed silly to "cut" math before we had ever really begun, but now that I'm seeing what a difference a year makes, I'm very tempted to take it slow on math.

Except for Q-Age-Five, who is already able to do addition and subtraction when she wishes.

These children always keep me on my toes.

*You also have to deal with me needing to learn the same lesson over and over, it seems.
**GAPS is also helping--she has taken leaps and bounds in all parts of her schooling.

24 September 2012

Miscellaneous Musings on Monday

It's that time again, and my links collection is crazy-long so I won't waste much time on chattering away about my weekend and how my husband tore out the entire backyard in two days so as to plant a more respectable pasture.

Ahem.

In the news...
  • Who Killed the Liberal Arts? by Joseph Epstein. Note: they're not dead; they're just being studied in places other than the major universities. Like my house, for example {and probably yours, too}.
    The death of liberal arts education would constitute a serious subtraction. Without it, we shall no longer have a segment of the population that has a proper standard with which to judge true intellectual achievement. Without it, no one can have a genuine notion of what constitutes an educated man or woman, or why one work of art is superior to another, or what in life is serious and what is trivial. The loss of liberal arts education can only result in replacing authoritative judgment with rivaling expert opinions, the vaunting of the second- and third-rate in politics and art, the supremacy of the faddish and the fashionable in all of life. Without that glimpse of the best that liberal arts education conveys, a nation might wake up living in the worst, and never notice.
  • How women made porn fashionable from Fox News.
    In April 1929, a PR expert, Edward Bernays, working for a US tobacco company, hired young models to march in the New York City parade and alerted the press that they were fighting for women’s rights by lighting "Torches of Freedom" as they lit up and smoked cigarettes. The media publicized the event and it helped to break the taboo against women smoking in public. In the same way, women today are using porn as a misguided attempt to gain power and freedom, and to become more powerful and independent. And they are only betraying and fooling themselves.
  • Suit: Roberts' Ruling a Poison Pill for ObamaCare? from WND.
    “If the charge for not buying insurance is seen as a federal tax, then a new question must be asked,” said Paul J. Beard II, the principal attorney for the organization.

    When lawmakers passed the Affordable Care Act, with all of its taxes, “Did they follow the Constitution’s procedures for revenue increases?” Beard asked.

    The Supreme Court wasn’t asked and didn’t address this question, he noted.
  • What is Intrinsic Motivation? Motivating Without Stickers by Mystie. This fits nicely with Miss Mason's fourth principle!
    Intrinsic motivators take more time and effort and maturity to develop, but they are also more lasting and more applicable throughout life. In modern terms, intrinsic motivation is a life skill, whereas extrinsic motivation ceases when the reward system fails or ends. In sappy homeschooly terms, intrinsic motivation is character training. It’s called integrity.

    In classical terms, they used to say, “Virtue is its own reward.” Our training needs to focus on steering the child (and ourselves) toward not only acknowledging the truth of that statement, but feeling it. And it’s not done by superimposing prizes – that is, in fact, teaching the opposite, that virtue needs additional reward to be worth the effort.
  • Dr. Scott Saunders: Treating ADD Without Medication from Noozhawk. Oh yes, he did!
    Next, you must consider training. The brain will continue to follow the same patterns until those are changed. There are many training programs available. For those who don’t have access to a specialist in biofeedback, I often recommend the book, A Charlotte Mason Education. This explains how to train children to concentrate and can be done at home easily.
  • Look, Don’t Touch from Orion Magazine. KM shared this in the comments last week and I didn't want you to miss it. Lots to chew on here!
    You’re thinking: environmental education is supposed to connect children with nature, to get them started on a lifetime of loving and wanting to protect the natural world. Yes—that’s what is supposed to happen. But somewhere along the way, much of environmental education lost its magic, its “wildly, gladly rejoicing together.” Instead, it’s become didactic and staid, restrictive and rule bound. A creeping focus on cognition has replaced the goal of exhilaration that once motivated educators to take children outside.
  • Teaching Math: Subject by Subject, Part 17 from Simply Charlotte Mason. A lot of CM educators don't realize that "living math" is not the Charlotte Mason approach to math.
    Charlotte believed mathematics fell outside her rule of literary presentations. She stated:
    “…mathematics, like music, is a speech in itself, a speech irrefragibly logical, of exquisite clarity, meeting the requirements of mind” (Vol. 6, pp. 333, 334).
    Charlotte did not employ the modern notion of “living math books” to teach mathematical concepts. She advocated acquainting the children with the “captain” ideas of math by introducing the different branches or their great thinkers through an interesting or exciting history.
And that's all for today! Have a wonderful Monday!

21 September 2012

Random GAPS Diet Hint #1:
Lunch-Heating Crockpot

I'm getting hits from people looking for GAPS diet help. My first advice is to not do it and run screaming in the other direction, but if you're determined {as I am} to see this thing through, then I'll try to post helpful ideas as they come to me...or, more likely, as I read them on other blogs, in which case I'll send you there to read the really helpful stuff.

He he.

I did come across an excellent idea today. My husband doesn't nearly have the issues the rest of us have, but he's trying to do the diet as much as possible, which I think is a good thing being that he nearly died of a food poisoning that destroys the gut lining!

I never know how to send soup to work! We've done the insulated thermos-type-holder thing, but you have to make sure you heat the soup up before it leaves the house, and that doesn't always happen, plus it sometimes cools before he gets a chance to eat. The microwave is a no-no, and they don't have other options at his office.

Enter the Lunch Crockpot!

How awesome is this? I'm so excited about it! There is a removable 20-ounce bowl {with lid}, so he can leave the heater at the office, and take the bowl back and forth. Since I'm sending soup with him probably four out of five work days, this will be such a blessing to him, I think.

No, we don't have one yet. I'm getting one. This isn't a review {though I checked and it seems to have gotten good reviews}. But I do think it looks perfect for the job, and the little insert bowl should fit his lunch bag, so we're good.

20 September 2012

Why Outside?

Well, you all pestered me into pestering you with ideas from Last Child in the Woods {the updated and expanded version, no less}. So far, I wouldn't say that there is anything groundbreaking in the book, though I will say the author is a better writer than I anticipated. Many books of this sort are such that I read them only for information. I don't expect to enjoy the prose. This book, however, has had a couple bright spots, which is a nice bonus.

I think I'll begin by saying that I see two primary reasons for having children {or all of us} spend time in and with nature: cultivating wonder and connecting with the land. Cultivating wonder keeps us humble, especially if the delight points us back to the Creator. "Connecting with the land" probably sounds very environmentalist, but I was actually referring to this in a Genesis sense. In the beginning, Man was a gardener, commanded to have dominion over the land. Actually going outside is a good first step, then, to remembering what we were created to be.

Last Child in the Woods
by Richard Louv
Now, this isn't a Christian book, so I didn't really expect these to be the reasons the author, Richard Louv, is interested in the outdoors. I expected that he'd point out what I'd consider to be secondary benefits. What I didn't expect was that he'd emphasize children going into nature alone, that they might have freedom from the interference of their parents.

Now, before you think he's trying to divide children from parents, I don't think that is the point. I think he means that children used to be able to wander around and enjoy solitude. They could think without someone interrupting them. If there is one thing that distinguishes between a true Helicopter Parent and one that is simply protective, it is that aspect of interrupting.

Do you remember what Charlotte Mason said about true play?
But organised games are not play in the sense we have in view. Boys and girls must have time to invent episodes, carry on adventures, live heroic lives, lay sieges and carry forts, even if the fortress be an old armchair; and in these affairs the elders must neither meddle nor make. They must be content to know that they do not understand, and, what is more, that they carry with them a chill breath of reality which sweeps away illusions. Think what it must mean to a general in command of his forces to be told by some intruder into the play-world to tie his shoe-strings!
It seems to me that learning to conduct ourselves with what our friend Charlotte called "masterly inactivity"--where we wisely let our children alone, not interrupting their play--does not require nature. I'm not saying there isn't something to the idea of being literally alone, but I do think that perhaps Louv is seeing this need because parents are often oppressively involved in their children's lives these days, micromanaging Johnny's every spare minute.

Just a thought I had, anyway.

I'll post some quotes soon.

19 September 2012

Random Thoughts on the GAPS Diet

I'm not an expert {yet}, but we're on Day 19, which is practically Day 20, which is practically three weeks, if you follow me. So I thought I'd share some of my reflections on doing GAPS in case anyone is interested in them. Those of you who have done the diet might have something to share in the comments, I'm guessing.

In no particular order...

  • Crock Pots Are Necessities. I have two, and most days I am using both of them. In the past, I have always made broth on the stove top in a hug stock pot I own, but I just don't have room to do that day-in and day-out. The crock pot has saved me every time. I have made all of my broth in them; I have lamb bone broth going as I type.
  • A Whole Chicken, Giblets and All, Can go from Frozen to Done in 8-10 Hours on Low. I've been putting mine in during the evening and turning it off when I get up to milk goats in the five o'clock hour. Then it sits there until I have time to deal with it. Ideally, this means I simply turn most of it into soup, rather than trying to store all of the broth and meat in the refrigerator. Once the chicken is cooked, I divide the unused contents of the pot into three containers: broth, bones, edibles. Notice I didn't say "meat." When you boil a chicken, most of the connective tissue becomes gelatinous and therefore edible. You want to eat this; it is super nourishing for the GAPS patient.
  • GAPS is Pricey. Some of our costs have gone down. Pre-GAPS I was still buying a gallon of raw milk per week, and I was still botching lunch at least once {which meant a trip to buy burritos at El Pollo Loco, my four-year-old's meal of choice, and with five of us that always rang up to the tune of $15 or $16 dollars}. We also did take-and-bake pizza about once every other week. So all of these things are costs that have gone down. But starches like potatoes and flours and refined ingredients like white sugar are cheap when compared to eating a lot of meat and vegetables. I'm not saying it's not worth it; I'm just saying that I don't think I'm saving any money.
  • At Least Two Soups a Day to Survive Intro. This was my rule of thumb. I have two soup kettles: a big one and a smaller one. In the early stages, when we ate nothing but soup around the clock, I found it easiest to serve a soup and then dump the leftovers into my smaller kettle, keeping the heat on low. The children were hungry more often, so they were free to dip into that soup whenever they wanted food. In the meantime, my big kettle was able to be cleaned up, meaning that when I had time I could prepare the next recipe. This gave us more variety {because at the next meal we could choose between the two soups} and insured that we never ran out of food.
  • Your Kids Might Eat More! I have extremely thin children, and I have always felt like the littlest two really didn't eat enough, but there was nothing I could do. Oh my. They are making up for lost time! We used to eat scrambled eggs a number of days every week for breakfast. Sometimes there was cheese on them, sometimes not. Always, they had milk or cream mixed in. These children always ate the equivalent of approximately one egg. Sometimes, they didn't even finish that! They are now eating more than me! On Monday for breakfast, they ate two homemade turkey sausage patties {the size of a scoop of ice cream}, two fried eggs, 1/3 of an avocado, and about a tablespoon of sauerkraut. When they finished all of the food I had prepared, they asked me if there was anything more to eat! It is like they are different children now.
  • Try Not to Stall on Intro. I read a ton before we started the diet, and I think the best advice I received, which I also acted on as things came up, was not to stop progressing just because something went wrong on the intro diet. For instance, if you are in the stage where you add egg yolk, and you respond negatively to egg yolk {we had a child get a rash}, does that mean you are stuck on the previous stage? A lot of people say yes, but we decided to take different advice and introduce a different food, while skipping the eggs for a while. We came back a few days later and it was fine, but if it hadn't been, I didn't see the point in not giving my child avocado {which comes later} just because he didn't pass the egg test, if that makes sense. So we moved on, adding as many new foods as we could {but still one at a time} and now we have a pretty good variety. I am slowly getting us onto Full GAPS and out of intro, though my children are unable to eat yogurt right now {big bummer!}.
  • Die-off Reactions Are Real. I had read about them before, but never seen them. I had one child in particular vomit yeast for an entire morning. It was really strange.
  • Shrimp Goes with Chicken. Sea food is nourishing because it is easy to digest and high in vitamins and minerals. I had a number of fish soup recipes, but wasn't able to find much fish I could afford. What I figured out was that the excellent deal I got on a few pounds of tiny precooked Pacific shrimp was a nice add-on to a number of my chicken soups. So instead of making a seafood soup, I would take one to two cups of frozen shrimp and throw it in at the end. Sometimes we would eat the soup without the shrimp, and then I'd toss shrimp in for leftovers, changing the taste and making it feel like we were eating more variety than we really were.
Soon, I am going to post my huge, extensive collection of recipe links. If you're not on GAPS, a lot of them will still be good during cold season! It'll be like a free, online cookbook. I've posted recipes on my Pinterest account, but I think that one exhaustive list might be easier to reference because it is all in one window.

18 September 2012

Quotables: It's the Culture, Stupid!

It's the Culture, Stupid! {free lecture}
by Ken Myers
Mainstream America, in its cultural assumptions, in its understanding of reality, is more like what the Bible calls the World than it is like what the Bible calls the Kingdom of God. And it's fascinating to watch for the last almost-thirty years as Christians of various denominational backgrounds...have been upset about various aspects of American culture, have nonetheless imitated much of the culture in order to fit in, in order to be what I call "More Winsome Than Jesus."
I get the impression that too many Christians send their children to Christian schools because of sex and drugs...not because of disorientation of the soul.
[T]ruth is unity and...theological truths of the kind we read in the Nicene Creed are as consequential for our lives as the Law of Gravity.

17 September 2012

Miscellaneous Musings on Monday

Well, we are still on GAPS, but I think I can honestly say we had a decent weekend. After two weeks, I think we're officially Over the Hump. I'm still cooking umpteen hours per day, but at least now the children can grab a piece of fruit for their snack rather than me needing to cook something for that, too.

In the real news...

  • The Whooping Cough has Me at a Loss for Words… from The Gianelloni Family.
    And then in April 2012, an infectious disease specialist out of California came out with a pretty damning report that showed the majority of whooping cough cases in the famous 2010 CA outbreak, occurred within the vaccinated population.

    During this same time, studies and reports start showing how the DTaP vaccine is causing a mutated strain. We also start hearing the word “shedding”. We also start hearing about two different bacterial strains of Pertussis.
  • I DON’T WAIT ANYMORE. from Grace for the Road.
    What if we as girls had learned early on that having Him was everything, not a means to the life we think He would want us to have.

    If we had learned we don’t abstain from sex because we’re “waiting.” We abstain because we love Him.

    If I’d had on my bulletin board, “Fall in love with Jesus.” That’s it. Bottom line. That’s everything you need to know, to work toward, to put your hope in.
  • Television: Opiate of the Masses from The Journal of Cognitive Liberties.
    First of all, when you're watching television the higher brain regions (like the midbrain and the neo-cortex) are shut down, and most activity shifts to the lower brain regions (like the limbic system). The neurological processes that take place in these regions cannot accurately be called “cognitive.” The lower or reptile brain simply stands poised to react to the environment using deeply embedded “fight or flight” response programs. Moreover, these lower brain regions cannot distinguish reality from fabricated images (a job performed by the neo-cortex), so they react to television content as though it were real, releasing appropriate hormones and so on. Studies have proven that, in the long run, too much activity in the lower brain leads to atrophy in the higher brain regions.
  • Study Notes for Charlotte Yonge's The Little Duke from Ambleside Online. This book is assigned for Year Two, and many families have trouble with it. Did you know there is a study guide to help you?
    [Y]ou don't need a lot of background to open this story. It starts in the cold autumn in a rather cold castle. Richard is the young son of the Duke who rules Normandy; but he lives with another family both because the Duke is busy and because that was the custom (see the notes for chapter 1). In the first chapter, he is anxiously waiting for his father to arrive on one of his too-rare visits.
  • Nurturing children: Why “early learning” doesn’t help from Institute of Marriage and Family Canada. Preschool is the still a big fad, but there's no evidence to back it up.
    If parents aren’t aware of this, they may interpret negative developments as positive. The three-year-old who can’t wait to be with his friends in daycare may in fact be on his way to becoming peer rather than parent attached, because being attached makes us want to be with those we are attached to.

    The problem is that the more children are peer attached, the less attached they are to adults—and this can result in children becoming very hostile to being parented or taught.
  • Using iPads before bed 'can lead to a poor night's sleep' from The Telegraph.
    But researchers are warning that the blueish light their screens emit can stop users getting a good night’s sleep.

    That is because this type of light mimics daylight, convincing the brain that it is still daytime.
  • Geography Strikes Back from The Wall Street Journal.
    Technology has collapsed distance, but it has hardly negated geography. Rather, it has increased the preciousness of disputed territory. As the Yale scholar Paul Bracken observes, the "finite size of the earth" is now itself a force for instability: The Eurasian land mass has become a string of overlapping missile ranges, with crowds in megacities inflamed by mass media about patches of ground in Palestine and Kashmir. Counterintuitive though it may seem, the way to grasp what is happening in this world of instantaneous news is to rediscover something basic: the spatial representation of humanity's divisions, possibilities and—most important—constraints. The map leads us to the right sorts of questions.

Have a happy Monday!

13 September 2012

What to Read, What to Read

For quite some time now, I've had my reading "assigned" to me. Our Russell Kirk book club was almost directly followed by our Richard Weaver book club {or, at least, it felt that way to me} and because of the nature of my schedule I had little time to read anything else other than The Good Book.

Now that things have calmed down a bit, I'm first trying to make myself finish some books I started, such as

Uncovering the Logic of English
by Densie Eide
Which, by the way, I highly recommend.

And also

Natural Goat Care
by Pat Coleby
Which has apparently gone up in price since I purchased it. Hmm.

But I'm trying what to decide to do with my limited personal reading time. I spend a bit of time on the weekends pre-reading for fifth grade, which is harder than it sounds because this fifth grade is certainly not like the fifth grade I was subjected to.

The trouble is not that I have nothing to read but that while I was not reading anything other than God-Kirk-and-Weaver, I was blessed with a bunch of wishlist matches on PBS, and now I have a pile of must-reads between which I must decide.

I started

Climbing Parnassus:
A New Apologia for Greek and Latin
by Tracy Lee Simmons
It was the most recent arrival, therefore still sitting on my desk. I think it is a great weakness of mine that I do not make it wait in line with all the others.

So what else? I try to read a number of books at a time; it's more fun that way, though it doesn't mean I finish any more books than I would otherwise.

I can choose from

When Sinners Say "I Do":
Discovering the Power of the Gospel
for Marriage
by Dave Harvey
Or

Last Child in the Woods
by Richard Louv
Or

From Dawn to Decadence:
1500 to the Present
by Jacques Barzun
Or even

Why Gender Matters
by Leonard Sax
To name a few.

This isn't a democracy, but I'll let you all vote on what you want to be pestered with quotes with for a while. I'm curious.

12 September 2012

An Anecdotal Argument for Catechism

After we finished our Catechism questions during Circle Time this morning, Q-Age-Five kept thinking. And here is what transpired:


Q-Age-Five: *gasp* I think! I think I know why! I think I know why we can't see God.

E-Age-Ten: interrupts

A-Age-Seven: interrupts E-Age-Ten

O-Age-Four: says something unintelligible on top of all the noise

Q-Age-Five: Guys! I'm thinking! [long pause] And I think I know why we can't see God! [another long pause]

Me: Why can't we see God?

Q-Age-Five: I think it's because we are sinful...and He is not.

Every time I think about dropping catechism, something like this brings me back.

10 September 2012

Miscellaneous Musings on Monday

Welcome to another Monday morning link collection! I'd like to tell you I had a good weekend, but we're still on the GAPS Intro diet, and that's all I'll say about that.

In the real news...

  • David Barton, The Jefferson Lies by Dr. Glenn Sunshine. Dr. Sunshine is a Centurions friend of my husbands, so I can vouch for him being the real deal.
    Jefferson was a Unitarian rationalist who rejected biblical authority in any meaningful sense of the word, and with it, many of the doctrines of historic Christianity. While Barton is correct when he says that many Unitarians held the Scripture in high regard and fashioned their ideas from it (particularly surrounding ethics), it is not accurate to describe them as “evangelicals.” Having a worldview influenced on some points by Scripture does not mean that their worldview was fully shaped by Scripture.
  • Le Mot Juste by David Bentley Hart. I laughed, and I hope you do, too.
    All my other complaints concern the chronic misuse of certain words, most of which are in only limited currency, but all of which seem to be employed incorrectly more often than correctly. To wit: “Fortuitous” does not mean “fortunate.” It means “by chance” or “unanticipated”; and if your dictionary tells you that it may also be used to mean “fortunate,” then your dictionary is a scented and brilliantined degenerate in a glossy lavender lounge suit who intends to teach your children criminal ways while you are away at the grocery store.
  • Learning Logic vs. Learning About Logic by Martin Cothran. I intend to use Martin Cothran's logic curriculum in our upper school years, by the way.
    If you wanted to learn to be a mathematician, you wouldn’t want to read about mathematics; you would want to actually do math. If you were wanting to learn how to learn how to write, you wouldn’t settle for just reading about writing, you would want instruction that involved actual writing.

    The art of logic is like math or writing: you can’t learn how to do them without actually doing them.
  • Revenous Sheep by RC Sproul, Jr.
    I remember grabbing one of the rubber “posts” and pushing the pointed metal end into the lamb’s side, trying to pin her down so I could begin to untangle her. She just kicked all the more. I was sweating, frustrated, and a smidge frightened, and screamed to this little one, my voice echoing across the valley, “Be still. I’m trying to help you.” That’s when I learned what it means to be a shepherd.
  • Dreams From My Father, Calls From My Brother by Mark Steyn.
    I’ve long known that abstract benevolence, a specialty of liberals, was eerily compatible with practical indifference or even cruelty. (I go into some of the reasons for this in “What’s Wrong with Benevolence” in my new book The Fortunes of Permanence.) But this spectacle of callous familial neglect by, as Dinesh rightly describes him, the most powerful man in the world is something special.
  • Weeds That Like A Sip of Roundup Now and Then by Gene Logsdon.
    First the glorious days of advanced farming brought us corn stalks that eat tractor tires. Now there’s a weed that likes to drink weed killers, especially Roundup. Recently Palmer amaranth “completely overran” most of the soybean test plots at Bayer CropScience’s test plots in Illinois, in the words of DTN/Progressive Farmer editor, Pam Smith, despite having an arsenal of herbicides thrown at it. She describes some of the plots as “forests of pigweed.” I shouldn’t joke about this because it really is a serious problem, but I just can’t help it. At least 20 years ago, in New Farm magazine, a Rodale publication I was working for at the time, we reported weeds becoming immune to herbicides and the herbicide industry hee-hawed us for being organic nitwits. So pardon me while I hee-haw right back.
  • Bits of Mystery DNA, Far From ‘Junk,’ Play Crucial Role from The New York Times. Some of you might know that for years Darwinists have said that these "useless" bits of DNA are leftover from evolution. This "uselessness" is what led to this being used as "proof" of evolution. Well, guess what?
    The human genome is packed with at least four million gene switches that reside in bits of DNA that once were dismissed as “junk” but that turn out to play critical roles in controlling how cells, organs and other tissues behave. The discovery, considered a major medical and scientific breakthrough, has enormous implications for human health because many complex diseases appear to be caused by tiny changes in hundreds of gene switches.
And surely that is enough for today.

07 September 2012

Progym: A Sample Week + Judging an Outline

Think now. If you took your watch to pieces, you would probably spoil it for ever; you would have perhaps broken, and certainly mislaid, some of the bits; and not even a watchmaker could put it together again. You would have analysed the watch wrongly. But if a watchmaker took it to pieces then any other watchmaker could put it together again to go as well as ever, because they both understand the works, how they fit into each other, and what the use and the power of each is. Its being put together again rightly would be a proof that it had been taken to pieces rightly.

And so with Master Analysis. If he can take a thing to pieces so that his brother Synthesis can put it together again, you may be sure that he has done his work rightly.

-Charles Kingsley in Madam How and Lady Why
What week of school is this? The third already? Fourth? I can't quite remember, but either way, time is flying by. I've been getting emails about this progymnasmata thing as to how the implementation is going, so I thought I'd post something else before I get distracted by a book or something. I'll trace this past week, which was only his second week of being self-directed, and give examples of his work.

Day 1: Read, Narrate, Discuss

This is how we start off each week. This week's fable was The Fox and the Grapes:
One hot summer’s day a Fox was strolling through an orchard till he came to a bunch of Grapes just ripening on a vine which had been trained over a lofty branch. “Just the things to quench my thirst,” quoth he. Drawing back a few paces, he took a run and a jump, and just missed the bunch. Turning round again with a One, Two, Three, he jumped up, but with no greater success. Again and again he tried after the tempting morsel, but at last had to give it up, and walked away with his nose in the air, saying: “I am sure they are sour.”
The reading and narration went fine {he is one of those children who seems to memorize most of what he read or heard}, but the discussion was interesting. When I asked him to guess the moral,  he guessed something along the lines of it is not worth trying to do something that can't be done. It was so sad! Si was in the room and we both groaned. So we talked a little bit about how easy it is to try to despise something that we want but can't have.

And then Si encouraged Son E. not to assume that something can't be done!

Day 2: Outline

I already wrote about our Blocking step, so here I'll just show what he came up with. It was hard to decide whether to divide it into three parts, or four parts, so we appealed to the book, which said four, and that is what he went with. Here's the outline {complete with errors}:
I. Fox
     A. Hot summer day
     B. Was walking through an orchard
II. Grapes
     A. Just ripening
     B. On a vine
     C. Trained over a high branch
     D. A good food for a hot day, he said.
III. Trying to get the grapes
     A. He took a run and a jump but missed
     B. He tryed again but missed
     C. He tryed a few more times but missed
IIII. Gave up
     A. Had to give up
     B. Walked away with his nose in the air
     C. I am sure they are sour, he said.
You know, I didn't catch that Roman numeral error until I typed this up. I'll have to remind him that point four ought to be IV.

Day 3: Write it Shorter

Writing it shorter is all based upon the outline rather than the original fable. I am trying to train him to look through the outline and decide which details are essential to the plot and which are not. For instance, in The Ant and the Grasshopper the detail that something happened on a summer's day is important because it is later contrasted with what happens in the winter. But in this fable, the same phrase, on a hot summer day, can be disposed of. The goal is to learn the art of concision: the bare bones, but without sacrificing plot.
One day a fox found some grapes, in a orcherd.

It was high above him.

The fox thought that it would be the perfect food for him.

He tried again and again but missed each time. He gave up and said "I'm sure they are sour."
{Yes, I have taught him the rules concerning a/an.} I found it interesting that he chose to do a "paragraph" for each point in the outline. That is definitely a good way to make sure you hit all points in the sequence; I hadn't taught him that.

Day 4: Choose a Variation

This week, he chose to write it longer. The two easiest ways to write a fable longer are to add descriptions of the landscape and the characters. Remember, this is the rough draft.
On a hot summer day in a orcherd, were the trees were loaded with rich fruit. All the fruit was just ripening and full of rich juice.

On one end of the orchard all different types of grapes were trained over lofty branches. They were all almost bursting with juice.

On all the branches birds were twittering to each other.

A fox was strolling along in the orcherd.

His coat was bright orange/red color. His tail was tipped with white, and his nose was very sharp.

When he saw the grapes he said "ah, the perfect food for a hot day."

He walked back a few paces and took a running jump, but missed. He tried again and again, but still in vain.

At he gave up and walked off with a scornfull air a said "I am sure they are sour."
Success at this stage {as well as the Day 3 stage}--at putting the pieces from the outline back together again rightly--is proof to me that the outline was done correctly.

Day 5: Final Draft

We only write a final draft based upon Day 4. We don't rewrite the short version, though we do talk through any errors. As you can see above, my child cannot spell the word orchard. He also left out a few words. I find that a number of those issues are best edited by having him read his work aloud. He even asked me how to spell orchard. Just so you know, I'm not very picky {especially compared to my husband, Grammar Guy}, so there may be changes you would have required of your student that I didn't. I try not to over-coach. With a more experienced student, I would have, for example, addressed the overuse of the word "all" in the beginning of the fable, but that sort of issue wasn't my focus this week.
On a hot summer day in an orchard, the trees were loaded with rich fruit. All the fruit was just ripening and full of rich juice.

On one end of the orchard all different types of grapes were trained over lofty branches. They were all almost bursting with juice.

On all the branches birds were twittering to each other.

A fox was strolling along in the orchard. His coat was a bright orange-red color. His tail was tipped with white, and his nose was very sharp.

When he saw the grapes he said, "Ah, the perfect food for a hot day."

He walked back a few paces and took a running jump, but missed. He tried again and again, but still in vain.

At last, he gave up and walked off with a scornful air and said, "I am sure they are sour."
I was very pleased with his work. He did so much of it all on his own. His descriptions made me happy. Of course, I am a bit biased.

The Progym and Charlotte Mason

I think that if someone did not want to do the progym specifically, there would be a very CM way to implement something similar. I have heard of using something called a "narration cube" for oral narration. I would think a similar cube could be made for written narrations. The sides could be labeled as
  1. Write a plain written narration
  2. Write it shorter
  3. Write it longer
  4. Write it with the sequence of events inverted
  5. Write it from the perspective of one of the characters in the story
  6. Write the same plot, but in a different setting and with different characters
You may be unaware that Charlotte Mason allowed--and even encouraged--all sorts of "creative" narrations, such as poems, writing about an incident as a reporter would write an article for a magazine or newspaper, and so on.

This would have a similar impact on writing and thinking, in my opinion, without doing a separate curriculum. Personally, I like that he is learning to outline {I don't know when else I'd teach it} and I also think the fables are very easy to work with. But I know that not everyone feels they can add something on top of Ambleside Online, so this is a way that the progymnasmata could be adapted within AO instead.

06 September 2012

Progym: Teaching Outlining Skills

Okay, before I get started, I want everyone to hold up one hand at eye level. Got them up? Good! Now, please pinch your thumb and forefinger together in such a way that they are almost touching, but not quite. Close your other three fingers as if in a fist. Got it? Now hold it and look at it carefully, because that is my disclaimer.

That is exactly how much experience I have in teaching outlining skills.

So why am I writing this post?

Well, my number one reason is that I know how to outline {cool, huh?}. Number two is that I just taught someone else {a child no less!} and he totally got it.

This is the celebratory post.

Ahem.

So, I'm assuming all of us here know what outlining is? It's when you take something you've read, and break it up into parts using outline form {don't you just adore it when people use a word to define itself?}. This can also be done by pulling ideas out of your head, usually as preparation to writing something. I think we all know that I don't ever do that, which explains a lot about the content on this blog.

But I digress.

My point is an outline. You know...like this:

I.  First point
    A. Sub-point one
         1. Sub-sub point one
II. Second point

And so on and so forth.

It is just brilliant to start with fables, might I add. No wonder the progym has 2000+ years of history backing it. Why change what works? Fables are so easy to work with!

I remember being taught to outline back when I was in school, yes I do. I didn't think it was that hard. But I remember there were some students who really struggled. And now, I think I know why. Every outlining lesson, even when I was quite young, dealt with what I was going to write. All by myself. Out of thin air. Now, I was one who enjoyed making up stories and such, but those who struggled weren't like that. When we learn to outline using a fable--dealing with something already well-written by a great writer, such as Aesop--we cut out all the creativity/writer's block barriers and simply learn...to outline. Because, you see, those students were probably perfectly able to outline, they just weren't able to come up with an idea, for whatever reason.

So as I said in my plan, for our first week, I did the work {trying my best to think out loud, and allowing him to ask questions along the way} and he watched. Basic modeling stuff. If I were feeling stuffy about education today, I'd say I was using the mimetic mode.

Dum dum dum DUM.

When I modeled the outline, he had trouble getting it. Why would I do such a thing? How was this helpful? What was the logic behind an outline? Because we wrote our future variations using the outline rather than the original fable, he very quickly understood how useful an outline could be.

Knowing where to start is sometimes tricky when we're beginning on new things. This is why I printed him out a copy of the fable rather than having him read from one of our Aesop collections {if you use the Student Book, it's already in there--I only bought the Teacher Guide}.

I taught him to draw a box around the separate parts {most fables have three or four parts} or sections of the tale. We wrote a number next to each box, and we wrote the corresponding numbers farther down on the page underneath the fable {because that was where there was room--goodness I really ought to take pictures of things!} and attempted to name each section.

So, for instance, in The Ant and the Grasshopper, the first section we named "Grasshopper," the second section we named "Dialogue," and the third section we named "Reversal: Grasshopper is hungry in the winter." These became our three main points of the outline.

On a fresh page of his notebook, he began the outline. The first Roman numeral, then, was already done in advance! He wrote in "Grasshopper" and moved on to cataloging sub-points. That was the easy part. We simply went through the sentences and wrote out details, such as "in a field in the summer" or "hopping along."

The second Roman numeral was "Dialogue" {I had taught him what that word meant the first week when we discussed monologues} and taught him that in a dialogue, the A, B, and C points should each name who is talking. So the outline looked like this {it was virtually identical to the example in the Classical Composition Teacher Guide, but we weren't using the guide at this point--always nice to know we are on track though!}:

II. Dialogue
     A. Grasshopper
          1. "Come and chat with me"
          2. "Instead of working"
     B. Ant
          1. "I'm laying up food for winter"
          2. "You should, too"

And so on.

And then the third Roman numeral was the reversal section, like I said.

When we first started, he said, "I don't know how to make an outline." Marking the fable physically into boxed sections helped so much--so much that I named it "Boxing" and made it an official step in the process. He suddenly could visualize how the story was organized {and I told him that fables typically have only three or four sections--it was like sharing a secret key} and take it from there. I did a bit of hand-holding for the first section, a little less for the second, and he did the third almost entirely on his own. I was there the entire time, of course, but I made sure I had something else to do so that I only helped if he really needed me.

So, that's my big idea: Boxing.

My life will likely be all downhill from here.

05 September 2012

Book Club: Ideas Have Consequences
{Chapter 9}

I can't believe we've made it to the end. Before I go on, I just want to take a moment to thank Mystie for hosting this fabulous book club. I wish I could have participated more than I did, but I'm so glad that {1} I had access to Mystie's summaries to give form to my thoughts and {2} I had the push I needed to read the book, and quickly at that. Mystie, you are a wonderful hostess.

And so we end in a good place: Piety and Justice.
I see no way to sum up the offense of modern man except to say that he is impious.
Thus begins the end.

Weaver commences his discussion of piety with Socrates' conclusion:
[P]iety...consists of co-operation with the gods in the kind of order they have instituted...
This is true, except that it consists of cooperation with God in the kind of order He has instituted, but still we see this as evidence of why Dante placed Socrates in the first circle of Hell.

I'm just saying.

Piety and justice aren't something that we can force down other people's throats, I don't think. But they can be modeled, and where else but the home would we start? For we all know that this type of restoration begins at home, behind closed doors, inside of the soul.

It begins with us.

Ideas Have Consequences
by Richard Weaver
I don't know that this has something to do exactly with education proper, but I did think a lot about childrearing as I read this portion. For instance, I never thought about the fact that each time I give God's order or design as a reason for such-and-such to my children that I am actually teaching piety. For instance, why must I obey when I think you, my lunatic mother, are completely unreasonable? It's pretty easy: Because God did not make the world in such a way that children are to obey themselves. They are to obey their parents.

It's about the order, people.

And we do talk about these things, though of course we could to more of it {this is not to be confused of over-talking, which is to be despised}. Proverbs shows us the general rule of how there is great benefit to living in line with the Order. Which is why we read it daily.

Piety is
a discipline of the will through respect.
Every single time a child learns to say "no" to himself and what he wants and yes to what someone in authority has asked him to do, he is disciplining his will. This is what Charlotte Mason was talking about in all of her musings upon habit formation, I think. It's an interesting paradox, really. We are tempted to think that the person in authority is the one with power, but when a child disciplines his will, he is exerting power, too. When a child gives in to his instincts and emotions, he is not in control; he is out of control. It is the emotions and instincts which have the power. But when he denies himself and does what he is called to do, he shows great power. He has flexed the muscles of his will.

And he shows that he is ready for freedom because he has embraced duty, to paraphrase Weaver.

If we want to get into education, though, we can look to the study of history.
[P]iety credits the past with substance.
We don't say, of course, that the past is all there is. That would be silly. But we are grateful to the past, which has brought us to this place, which has made us who we are. It is humbling, really, to grasp even a little of the pageant of wisdom which has gone before us. History has had its very dark hours, and yet who is living now that could be considered the equal of Plato? Aquinas? Shakespeare?

The world has seen greatness, and it will see it again. But the future, Weaver reminds us, is not something we can study. We study the past.

And hopefully it makes us wise, and also reverent.
Awareness of the past is an antidote to both egotism and shallow optimism.
Hopefully, I'll get a chance to post some final quotes. But for today: how do you cultivate piety in your home?

_________________________
Read More:
-More book club entries linked at Mystie's blog
-Buy the book and join in the conversation!

03 September 2012

Miscellaneous Musings on Monday {Almost-Tuesday Edition}

For some of you, it's tomorrow already. But I'm on the Left Coast, which means it's still tonight. You might think that Labor Day is the reason I didn't post today, but I'd lay the blame squarely upon the GAPS Diet. Whose brilliant idea was this, anyhow? {I know: mine. Oops.} It's fine. Really.

Maybe it'll get better.

Ahem.

I was going to skip this altogether this week, but then I realized I had a whole bunch of links, so I'll try to lay off the commentary and get down to business...

  • Two in ‘Republican women for Obama’ ad exposed as Democrats by Jeff Poor.
  • [The] ad, posted on the official Barack Obama campaign YouTube page on Friday, claimed to show a group of women that had previously voted Republican but later abandoned the party because they felt it went too far to the right, leaving them no alternative but to vote for President Barack Obama this November.

    The problem is, so far two of these women have been shown to be Democrats who had previously supported Obama.

  • It's Time to Re-Think the U.S. Education System from Harvard Business Review. Okay. I know I said I wouldn't commentate, but...Seriously? Since when is education about giving students what they want? It has always been about what they need, and changing that isn't going to make a populace any more educated.
    Re-Gens are grounded and focused. The economy is one of their greatest concerns. Most that I've interviewed express an interest in learning more that has to do with "real life" — business, entrepreneurship, how to get a job, computer science, mechanics, robotics, electronics.
  • Farmer Groupies and Chicken Coddlers from Slate.
    No one is hurt by urban foraging or jam-canning, of course, and the pursuit of deeper connection through house chores is admirable in its own easily-mocked way. (I myself derive great satisfaction from sewing on buttons, baking bread, and so forth. And I only wish I knew how to mend my busted-through dance pants.) But because it fosters false nostalgia for an imagined self-sufficient rural life, it may mask some of the real problems facing the dwindling number of people who actually live that life. Emily Cook, manager at Virginia’s Farm at Sunnyside, told me she was sick of “farmer groupies” who weren’t actually interested in the real problems farmers are facing.
  • Feds: Too few Americans ‘turn to government for assistance’ from The Examiner.
    More Americans rely on their families for assistance than the government, so federal officials have undertaken an effort to help people to apply for federal assistance.
  • David Barton’s Errors from First Things.
    Barton’s attempt to fit Locke into his larger historical narrative forces him into numerous distortions. Moreover, the article contains a number of incidental facutal errors that don’t even advance his thesis, indicating that his inability to write reliable history stretches beyond ideological cheerleading and into outright incompetence.
  • Woman's Homemade Sauerkraut Highlights Cottage Food Fight in AZ from Food Safety News.
    As Arizona law stands, cottage food exemptions apply strictly to baked goods, as they pose no potential microbial threat. Processed fruit and vegetable products -- even if fermented to eliminate pathogens, such as with sauerkraut -- are off the table.
  • Rancher turns to candy for a sweet solution to high feed prices from LiveLeak. Disturbing.
    Ranchers have struggled with skyrocketing corn prices because the drought has made feeding their livestock very expensive......
  • He’d rather put your money where his mouth is… from The Common Room.
    Why isn’t this news? This is a man who famously claimed to live by the principle that he is his brother’s keeper- but I don’t think he knows what that word principle means, let alone brother.
Okay, I wish I had time to link the rest, but they'll have to wait for next week because it's getting late. Hope you all had a wonderful day off!