30 October 2012

Book Club: Sayers' The Mind of the Maker
{Chapter 1}

I must admit at the outset that I haven't read much Sayers and so I spent much of this initial reading {I read the preface, also} adjusting to her writing style. I like it, for what it's worth. Cindy called her the "undercover Chesterton" and I can't say I disagree.

Sayers wrote this over seventy years ago, and yet her points are still applicable {a sure sign of a good book}. In this chapter, she discusses our two definitions of the word "law" and the idea that these two definitions allow us to equivocate on the term when we are conversing, which muddies the waters quite a bit.
[The word "law"] may describe an arbitrary regulation made by human consent in particular circumstance for a particular purpose, and capable of being promulgated, enforced, suspended, altered, or rescinded without interference with the general scheme of the universe.

[snip]

In its other use, the word "law" is employed to designate a generalized statement of observed fact of one sort or another.
I have seen this at work when trying to talk to someone else about the laws of economics. Asserting, for example, the "government does not create jobs" can get a person in hot water if done in the wrong crowd, the crowd which truly believes that this assertion is an opinion. Of course, if we have the patience to explain how government works, and where its money comes from, sometimes the lightbulbs can come on and the factual nature of the assertion becomes self-evident.

What I find fascinating is the idea that facts can cause controversy. Can you imagine a world in which people were scandalized by the laws of thermodynamics? In which citizens were morally outraged when a man mildly stated that energy is neither created nor destroyed but merely changes forms?

We laugh at this, but I think we see this all the time. I see this in California politics constantly, for example. If I say that our state simply cannot afford something, it is likely that someone can retort that I hate teachers, firemen, policemen, children, farmers, or oil companies, depending on the issue. I actually argued with a member of the California Teacher's Association on the phone {much to my husband's chagrin}, asking him whether he was aware that we were practically bankrupt.

The law of a finite supply of money {for states, who cannot print their money like the federal government does...at its own peril, and ours as well} is a reality not an opinion. This world of credit, I suppose, makes it seem otherwise, but the fact remains that it is Double-Plus Ungood when a state runs out of money, just as it is so when a family runs out of money.
These statements do not rest on human consent; they are either true or false.
I love Sayers for saying this. I've gotten myself into trouble more than once for talking at the general level while offending someone who considered themselves {and very well might have been, I should add} an exception. The problem is that we cannot reason from the exceptions to discover the norm, and it is not for the exceptions to take offense at the norm, either.

Norms aren't exactly moral laws, but I saw a parallel here. Years ago, I used the example of the deaf-mute parents of a hearing, speaking child. While the norm--the moral norm--is that parents ought to raise their own children, I was sure then, and am sure now, that we ought not to be outraged when the parents delegate their authority and have the child raised for a time by an uncle who sees and hears. We all understand that exceptions exist in reality. Parents die and children become orphans and the norms here can never be respected, for death is no respecter of persons, I suppose.

So what is my point? I don't pretend to know where Sayers is going, but I was struck by the thought that we live in a culture where people are offended by norms and laws. In today's world, it isn't enough that we all agree that the child probably would do better when raised by his uncle. No, in today's world the parents would go out and lobby for the removal of the norm--they would see the assertion that parents ought to raise their own children as arbitrary, and to repeat this notion is to "judge" them.

In the old world, the parents would simply grieve over their lack, and the unnatural but necessary separation from their son. Do you see the difference?

_______________________________
Read More:
-More posts linked at Ordo Amoris
-Buy the book and read along!

29 October 2012

Miscellaneous Musings on Monday

I hope your weekend was as beautiful as mine. The weather was just perfect {no offense, East Coast} and we went to the Medieval Faire here in town. It was very...ahem...simple compared to what you might see elsewhere. However, comma, it was very encouraging to see a local high school perform Shakespeare instead of the inferior material they are usually given. They did wonderfully.

Plus my daughters are still pretending to belly dance like the gypsies we watched, to my husband's great chagrin. He he.

In the real news...

  • “Fear Not, Little Flock”: The King’s Promise that Presidents Can’t Match from Out of the Horse's Mouth.
    Since George Washington we’ve been electing presidents with dubious confessional credentials, including a string of deists, Unitarians, and agnostics who nevertheless invoked the Unknown God for the American cause. The real question is not whether Americans generally will elect a non-Christian, but whether churches will redefine Christianity as a surrogate of civil religion. Judging at least by public profession, our next president will once again not be an orthodox Christian. That’s not a tragedy. The real tragedy is quasi-apocalyptic and eschatological claims that are made in churches on the left and the right that create a cycle of false hopes and false fears. The official name for this is idolatry. Who is Lord, Christ or Caesar? Churches and Christian leaders often send mixed signals on that one, especially at election time.
  • restoring relationships between parents and their adult children from thatmom. On apologies...and more...
    Over the years I have heard the lament of many parents who are struggling with broken relationships with their adult children. I have also witnessed the grief of children who long for the grown-up, peer interaction with their parents they are meant to enjoy. I believe this passage in Hebrews gives us the warnings and admonitions we need to heed if there is to be healing within these relationships, if we are to prevent bitterness from taking root and destroying our lives:

    We are told to “pursue peace with all people.” The word used for “peace” in this passage comes from the root word which literally means “the wholeness that you experience when all the essential parts are tied together!” It conveys the completeness of a relationship, the joining together of separate parts. We are to actively work toward bringing about this type of harmony.
  • White House Watched Benghazi Attacked And Didn't Respond from Forbes. You probably know about this, but in case you had your head in the sand last week...
    Just one hour after the seven-hour-long terrorist attacks upon the U.S. consulate in Benghazi began, our commander-in-chief, vice president, secretary of defense and their national security team gathered together in the Oval Office listening to phone calls from American defenders desperately under siege and watching real-time video of developments from a drone circling over the site. Yet they sent no military aid that might have intervened in time to save lives.

    Why?
  • How Supap Kirtsaeng’s Textbooks Idea Led to Supreme Court from Bloomberg. Say goodbye to cheaper textbooks? Or something.
    The dispute turns on a legal doctrine that says a copyright holder can profit only from the original sale of a product. In 1998, the Supreme Court unanimously said that so-called first- sale doctrine applies to U.S.-made products that are sold overseas. The ruling meant that purchasers could bring those goods back into the U.S. to sell or distribute even if the copyright holder objected.
  • Rambly thoughts on community from A Quiet Simple Life. These thoughts might be rambly, but they were worth thinking.
    A friend sent me an email recently...She mentioned the constant changing attendance at their classical Christian school. Families coming and going each year. There for a year or two, gone for a year, and then back. I know this happens many places. Trying out homeschooling, trying out a private school, trying out a charter school…Parents take schooling one year at at time and make changes based on the needs of the children, the family, academics, etc. But it is very hard on my friend’s children as they make friends who then leave. So even in a classical Christian school you aren’t immune from the coming and going that lessens the community.
  • Life Under Compulsion: From Schoolhouse to School Bus from Front Porch Republic. By Anthony Esolen, need I say more?
    For a long time, the poison of compulsion was kept in check by poverty. People simply couldn’t afford to destroy the natural institution to benefit the unnatural. There was no way to whisk hundreds of children miles away to the impersonal Academy, built by contractors and staffed by people largely unknown and with purposes of their own, for whom parents are either compliant clients, no-shows, or pests. So, even though it was made compulsory for children to attend school, the compulsion had not yet begun to characterize the kind of school they were to attend. But that state of affairs could not last.

    It did not survive the revolution in transportation that replaced legs with wheels. But what really killed it, as it seems to me, was the new “science” of education peddled at the teachers’ colleges.
  • Kids Who Throw a Fit and Refuse to Do What You Want Them To from Preschoolers and Peace. I had mixed feelings about this, even though I found it appealing. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this.
    But here's the thing: If you argue with the child or even pick him up and take him kicking and screaming to do the task you originally told him to, your agony has now reached the level of his, and maybe even more.

    Here's the brilliance: you will address the issue, but only when it matters to the child.
  • Looking for a Child's Present and Finding a Theological Debate: Considering the NIV2011 & Children's Education from Joyful Shepherdess. I've read about the interpretative issues in this "translation" but I think Jen raises some very good points.
    Where there are a wealth of excellent, complex English translations of the Bible, I believe it is a mistake to use an easy-read too-modernized version (yes, that's my personal description of the NIV2011) as the primary text for teaching our children as they are growing up. Why not use the Bible - hopefully the book that your child will read and re-read the most - as a teaching tool? Why not choose a version that has some (or even many) complex, even archaic phrases; which requires the understanding of male pronouns and phrases as standing for male & female; which trains the eye and ear in the cadence of beautiful literary form? Hopefully the parent will be the child's primary teacher here, and have many opportunities to explain "why" when the child has a question. And the benefits of learning the complexities of the English language are great.
  • The Island Where People Forget to Die from The New York Times Magazine. This is today's longest link. We often try to analyze the foods eaten by people groups that live into their 90s and beyond, but this article is worth reading because it brings up the idea that there are many unmeasurable aspects of these cultures--which may have more to do with their good health than their exact diet.
    “Do you know there’s no word in Greek for privacy?” she declared. “When everyone knows everyone else’s business, you get a feeling of connection and security. The lack of privacy is actually good, because it puts a check on people who don’t want to be caught or who do something to embarrass their family. If your kids misbehave, your neighbor has no problem disciplining them. There is less crime, not because of good policing, but because of the risk of shaming the family. You asked me about food, and yes, we do eat better here than in America. But it’s more about how we eat. Even if it’s your lunch break from work, you relax and enjoy your meal. You enjoy the company of whoever you are with. Food here is always enjoyed in combination with conversation.”
Have a wonderful Monday!

26 October 2012

NAET: Your Best GAPS Friend

Before we end our GAPS trial, I want to make sure I write about a few more things. NAET {Nambudripad's Allergy Elimination Technique} is one of them. We used this technique years ago to eliminate our children's food allergies. Most of these treatments "held" nicely--we only had one child who turned up allergic to dairy again when we added dairy products {yogurt and raw goat milk} back into our diet.

Unless you go to my exact doctor--I have never heard of any practitioner who does allergy elimination exactly like her, and I think that is because she has actually combined NAET with other approaches--NAET can be enormously expensive because each allergy has to be worked on at a different visit. So, for instance, you do wheat on one day, oats on another, rye on another. My children were allergic to so much that we could never have afforded the treatments.

GAPS really does clear up allergies for some people. I've had an allergy to yellow summer squash that I developed in my early adult years and has bothered me ever since. It is easy to grow around here, and I like the taste, so it's always been a bummer that I couldn't partake. GAPS cleared it up right away. I was able to eat summer squash at the tail end of the harvest.

But some people hit a wall in GAPS. They simply cannot get past their allergies. If it's something like summer squash, it isn't a big deal. It doesn't impact life very much, and you can choose to live without it. But what if it is a major food? One that some people consider a staple? I mean something like milk or wheat...or chocolate, for heaven's sake!

Ahem.

Well, this is when I think NAET {or something like it} can come in handy.

I felt like I hit the aforementioned wall with our oldest about a month ago. We had added in new foods, and he was still having issues, but the issues had been sort of up and down no matter what we did. I took him to our practitioner and explained the diet {she was very supportive--it is a lot like the anti-candida diet she promotes for her patients, as well as the grain-free diet she uses for digestive problems} and told her that I was convinced that he was having allergy issues but that no matter how I tinkered with his food, I couldn't discover the cause.

She humored me and tested him for foods but I could tell she had something else in mind. Finally, when nothing came up, she tested him for three separate samples of local air, from different parts of the city. He tested positive for an allergy to all three. Because these are general samples, rather than a single vial of cotton pollen or almond debris, for example, we'll never know exactly what was bothering him. The important thing is that she treated him for it, and he began doing better immediately.

Interestingly enough, I had been convinced that his come-and-go stomach ache had to be a food allergy because that was what had caused it when he was little. This same pain disappeared {and hasn't returned} since he was treated for his environmental allergies. I mentioned this to our doctor and she just said that allergies are more complex than most people realize.

So...this is enough of the anecdote. My purpose in writing this is simply to encourage those of you on the GAPS Diet to at least entertain the idea of allergy elimination as a possible help in the process. I know some people really persevere and do GAPS for years and years, and some people have very serious issues and this is necessary for them. But for families like ours, where GAPS is a way to promote additional healing, but not something needed over the course of years, I think that NAET can speed things up and get you back to a broader diet. I'm not saying that people who have a history of severe digestive issues can or should be eating out all the time, but being able to eat more of a variety of whole foods at home is surely the end goal.

If you are interested in finding an NAET practitioner, you can use their online practitioner locator.

24 October 2012

On Entertainment in Education

Last week I received a comment in which it was asserted that learning is best accomplished when education is entertaining. It got me thinking about this aspect of education, for sure, though I suppose I don't have a lot to say that I haven't already said. {That, I suppose, is the downside of keeping a blog for over six years.} I have a feeling this comment was from someone who stopped by for a single post, rather than a regular reader, for a regular reader would be more familiar with my position.

In my post on Herbartian unit studies, I said that entertainment is not the same thing as learning. I can see how this could be interpreted to mean that learning around here is dull and lifeless.

Or something.

So let's discuss this a bit, shall we?

It will help if we define our terms, because there is a very good chance that I have a very specific definition of entertainment while our commenter has a very broad one and that, in describing our terms more specifically, we will find that we have no disagreement after all.

Here is the pertinent entry in The Collins English Dictionary:
entertainment {ˌɛntəˈteɪnmənt}

— n
1. the act or art of entertaining or state of being entertained
2. an act, production, etc, that entertains; diversion; amusement

Dictionary.com says something similar:
en·ter·tain·ment   /ˌɛntərˈteɪnmənt/
noun

1. the act of entertaining; agreeable occupation for the mind; diversion; amusement
Do you see the major difference between these two definitions? It's the little phrase agreeable occupation for the mind. I think that might be where we get tripped up. If I say that entertainment is not the same thing as learning {and I do}, it is assumed that I mean that learning is not an agreeable occupation for the mind.

But I never said that.

The Onus is on Whom?

If I am trying to entertain you {and I'm not, incidentally}, I am trying to get your attention. I might use gimmicks. I might appeal to your passions in some way, which means that if I am your teacher I might bribe you with prizes and grades or scare you with punishments and penance. But teachers often use entertainment rather than other inducements--flashy pictures, videos, dramatic inflection, whatever it takes. We live in an entertainment driven culture and everything is vying for our attention, is it not?

So here's my point. When I teach, I believe that what I'm teaching is actually interesting, all on its own. I don't think I have to dress it up and make it look good. I don't need to attract my students with some sort of magnetic personality. I don't need to add a special project or offer a treat for paying attention. I myself am interested, so I suppose it could be said that I model it, but that is about the extent of it.

Additionally, I think it is the student's job to direct his own mind, pay attention, and learn. In entertaining our students, we seek to catch their attention. It is our job, as the teacher, to earn it --or divert it--in some way. In the classical economy, though, ideas are a valuable treasure, and the student pays attention as the homage he owes to something that has great value.

Another point that could be made here is similar. When I am teaching something that I know is worth learning {and loving}, what happens when my students don't respond? What happens when they don't act very interested? I don't mean practically here, because that would be another post entirely, but I mean in my head. As the teacher, what goes through my mind? That I must need to gussy this up a bit?

To be honest, I assume that there is something wrong with the student.

I mean that in the vaguest way possible because there are a variety of options. Among them are that the student is thinking about something else and so didn't really catch whatever it was we were studying, or the student is hungry and also needs to go to the bathroom {been there, done that}, or the material was something the student was not yet ready for.

It is also possible that the student's affections are completely out of order and he does not yet love something that is worth loving.

It is often the latter case.

I teach Plutarch to 4th through 7th grade boys on every-other-Fridays. Last Friday, one of them announced at the end, "Well, that was boring." I think his mother was horrified, but it didn't hurt my feelings. In fact, I was trying very hard not to laugh. We are all born not loving things we ought to love {and also loving things we ought not love} and the task of education is to learn to love rightly {thank you, C.S. Lewis} and, frankly, if we teach, we must also learn to put up with students not loving as they ought because if they already did, they wouldn't require teaching in the first place.

Does Entertainment Increase the Love?

The logical question, then, concerns what sort of impact entertainment has on love. Does it encourage children to love rightly?

I would say that it doesn't, and this, my friends, is why I say that entertainment and learning are not the same thing.

I don't want my children to learn to love a sideshow. I want them to love the real thing. This is a hard fought battle, I know, and it isn't always easily done, but I truly believe this is the goal.

In his opening talk for the 2010 Society for Classical Learning Conference, Ken Myers tells a fascinating story about a man who was running for public office. He took his young son to visit various churches in his precincts in order to learn about his constituency. When they entered a church with a band and lights--where everything was very entertaining, like a show--his son adored it. He wanted to go there every Sunday.

On another Sunday, they went to a church that was very solemn and quiet. There were no bells and whistles. This time the little boy whispered to his father, "I think God must live here."

Myers makes the joking observation that perhaps the boy's affections had not yet been trained to love rightly, that he had not yet learned to want to be where God lived, every Sunday. And of course the audience laughed.

But is there not a bit of truth in this? The entertaining church appealed to his flesh--it was stimulating to his senses, delighting the eye. The church where God lived needed no adornment, but it did require maturity to love it.

And this is my point.

Mature Love

Lately, I see some signs of maturing love. I see a seven-year-old, for instance, who last year thought she hated school {because she would rather be outside} getting her books out with joy {ALMOST} every single morning. I see a ten-year-old who, last year, really, really wanted to shirk the work involved in Latin, and now says he hopes to learn Greek and Spanish, too, please. I see a five-year-old falling in love with geography; she's getting there.

But I also see a four-year-old who loves his trains more than his Bible. We are all born sinners, you see!

These are little fruits along a path that I believe is headed in the right direction. The direction is one of learning to love things for their own sake, rather than requiring bells and whistles to pay attention.

I believe in a learning based upon love rather than entertainment. This love really will result in joy, and there really will be laughter. It just happens differently, and also spontaneously.

The Dividing Line

What all of this come down to, really, is how we define education. If we define education as acquiring a certain number of facts and skills, then education really can be accomplished using entertainment. I can sing a song that teaches you your math facts or whatever {that is not meant to be a slam against using songs, by the way}. But if education is learning to contemplate ideas, to have the ability to identify which are good ones and which are bad ones, to have the wisdom and desire to throw out the bad and cherish the good--to learn to love and desire the house where God lives--then and only then do I question the place of entertainment in education.

______________________________
Possible Related Posts:

23 October 2012

You Know You're on the GAPS Diet When...

We have been on the GAPS Diet for almost two months now, and I must say that some funny things have begun happening. Even though I would say that cravings have subsided overall, that doesn't mean that our family has stopped thinking about "forbidden" foods. Adam will always want the apple, it seems. Plus, as GAPS is not a forever-diet, we all know that while we might not ever go eat at McDonald's, there is a very good chance that sourdough bread and sweet potatoes are in our future.



...Your Son Has a Written Itinerary for His First Non-GAPS Day

I once joked that our first day back from GAPS would be spent visiting various restaurants. I didn't expect my children to take me seriously. But E-Age-10 thinks that for breakfast he is going to a local buffet that serves pancakes, waffles, biscuits, and cinnamon rolls, for lunch he's going to Baja Fresh and getting a burrito, and for dinner he's going to BJ's and getting pizza and pizookies.

I didn't have the heart to tell him there is no way he'd be able to eat all of that.

...Your Daughters Dream About Food

My girls have dreams where they are not "on the diet." They eat cupcakes and ice cream. They hate waking up on those days.

...Your Littlest Prays About Food

Yesterday, O-Age-Four was adamant that he was praying before lunch. His prayers are...unconventional. He usually forgets to address the Father and launches straight into thanking Him for things. His prayer made many mentions of his grandparents, which I will leave out, but here is how the rest of it went:
Thank you for my food....Thank you for Fumper {Thumper the Rabbit}. I love Thumper. I wish he not get scared and run out of his cage and get chased by the goats. Thank you for chocolate. I love chocolate. I wish I could eat chocolate when I not on the diet.
Amen and amen, son.

The girls were scandalized! They both confronted me directly. "Mom! He prayed for chocolate! You can't pray for chocolate!" Thankfully, Pastor Chad had just preached on prayer, and he specifically said we could ask God for what we want {while reminding us that God only promises to give us what we need}. So I said, "Pastor Chad said that we should ask, seek, and knock. Your brother was asking!"

O-Age-Four loudly agreed that he was only doing what ought to be done.

22 October 2012

Miscellaneous Musings on Monday

This morning, I received my monthly Amazon payment, which reminded me to do something I haven't done in a long while, which is to thank you very much for all the times you have shopped using the links in the sidebar. The fact that you all choose to use the links means a lot to our family, especially at Christmas time {which is headed our way all too soon!}. So I wanted to let you know that I appreciate you. Consider this a virtual hug.

Or something.

In the real news {ahem}...

  • Wishing from Come to Christ.
    Psalm 63:1 says “O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.” I covet that kind of desire. But I don’t think David rolls out of bed feeling like this every day. I think he knows some things that are true about God. He doesn't only know truth about God, He chooses to believe it, proclaim it, dwell on it, and rejoice in it.
  • Sun Goes Down. Up Comes A Mystery. by Robert Krulwich. A little astronomy for your morning.
    The key to the paradox is, if you look closely at any patch of sky, you will see shining stars. If you look through a telescope, you will see more. The nearer stars will be brighter, of course, but behind them will be more stars, and behind those, even more. Even if those distant stars are dimmer, there are so many of them, their combined glow should add up to a considerable brightness.
  • Could America’s most popular breakfast item also be serving up heavy metals? from Calton Nutrition. For a long time, I've wondered why nitrates from carrot and celery juices seem to be just fine, while isolated nitrates are not. This seems a lot more plausible to me than saying that nitrates are "bad" in and of themselves.
    Well, in our opinion, there is more to this story that you haven’t yet been told. In fact, your whole decision about which type of bacon to put in your shopping cart may just depend on this new piece of too often omitted information. Drum roll please…
    While the nitrate chemical itself is the same, according to the Food Chemical Codex (3rd addition, National Academy of Sciences), industrial sodium nitrate (synthetic) is allowed to contain residual heavy metals, including lead and arsenic.
  • For About $20, Cardboard Bicycle Could 'Change The World,' Inventor Says from NPR. I hope they come out with a kids' version. I need access to inexpensive children's bicycles! I am just not willing to pay a fortune for something they outgrow.
    An Israeli inventor has come up with a way to make a bicycle almost entirely out of cardboard — and so inexpensively that he thinks retailers would only need to charge about $20 for one.
  • Where There's a Will There's a Way, or, Reasons Kids Don't Read from Living Books Library.
    However, as far as reading goes, sometimes it is because their reasoning is leading them to some wrong conclusions. A couple of years ago my six-year-old confided to his older married sister that he was not going to be able to read.

    "Why ever not?" she asked, curious about his thinking.

    "Because Mom is blind," his resigned response.
  • The Last Radicals from National Review Online. This went a bit viral last week, but in case you missed it...
    “People forget that some of the first homeschoolers were hippies,” says Bob Wiesner, a counselor at the Seton Home Study School, a Catholic educational apostolate reporting to the bishop of Arlington, Va. In one of history’s little ironies, today most of homeschooling’s bitterest enemies are to be found on the left. “We don’t have much of a problem from conservatives,” Wiesner says. “It’s the teachers’ unions, educational bureaucrats, and liberal professors. College professors by and large don’t want students who can think for themselves. They want students they can indoctrinate, but that’s hard to do with homeschoolers — homeschoolers push back.” He relishes the story of a number of graduates of his program who attended a top-tier Catholic university and enrolled together in theology classes taught by the school’s most notorious liberals. They were of course more conversant with church orthodoxy than were many of their instructors. “The professors hated them. But the kids had fun. The president of that college at that time was trying to clean up the theology department, so when the professors would complain, he would call the students in and tell them to try to be polite — with a wink and a nod.”
  • What’s a Christian business owner supposed to do? from WORLD Magazine.
    I've always thought—in a theoretical way—that I might someday face a situation where the government was asking or telling me to do something that was counter to God’s law as I understood it. If such a situation arose, I hoped I would have the backbone to stand tall and disobey the government mandate. Well, that day seems to have come.
  • Billy Graham’s Website Removes ‘Mormonism’ From Cult List from ABC News. A little background first: there are two types of "cults." The first is the strange group with the crazy leader that ends up committing mass suicide or something. The second is what is properly called a "Christian cult." This is a type of church that claims to be Christian--and often believes it is Christian--but which does not agree with the central tenants of orthodoxy. In this case, one of the central issues is henotheism versus trinitarianism.
    Graham’s Evangelistic Association removed the word Mormon from its website, where it used to be listed along with Jehovah’s Witnesses and Scientology as a cult.

    The move comes just a week after Romney visited Graham at his home in North Carolina.
  • Don’t Hide God’s Word from the Little Ones from desiringGod.
    There are rare occasions when during the course of a service there is such an impression made upon one’s spirit and soul that one feels compelled to preach on something different from what has been announced. And feeling that compulsion earlier on in the service — those of you who were sitting in the gallery wondering why at points I was scribbling on a piece of paper will now realize that what I was doing was earnestly praying that if the Lord wanted me to preach on something different tonight he would at least give me an outline.
  • END-TIMES CHRISTIAN MOVIE SERIES ‘LEFT BEHIND’ SET FOR HOLLYWOOD REBOOT (& STARRING NICOLAS CAGE?) from The Blaze. I am speechless.
    Move over Kirk Cameron. Actor Nicolas Cage is reportedly in talks to star in a reworked and rebooted version of “Left Behind,” the film series based on the Biblical account of the Rapture. With a proposed budget of $15 million, those behind the revamped film effort are looking to go more mainstream than the original series, which was predominately popular among Christians.
  • LEE IACOCCA ENDORSES ROMNEY FOR PRESIDENT from Human Events.
    After a lifetime of voting for and supporting Democrats — and even declining appointment to the U.S. Senate from a Democratic governor — Lee Iacocca Thursday endorsed Republican Mitt Romney for president.

18 October 2012

On Herbartian Unit Studies

This post first appeared about a year and a half ago. I've dusted it off and edited it a little, but it's basically the same. I'm crunched for time this week, but thinking about this subject again, so I thought I'd repost it.

_______________________________


Lately I've noticed that there is a bit of confusion over Charlotte Mason's disdain for unit studies. I've encountered some folks who say, "What's wrong with unit studies? That's what I do and I love it!" But then they tell me what they do, and it's not exactly what Mason was talking about.

For example, I met a gal who explained that she and her children would go to the library and check out a stack of books on whatever subject they were interested in. Isn't this what an adult would do? If I really wanted to know about, or simply had my mind on, a topic, I'd read a number of books on that topic, right?

Well...that may be a type of unit study. I can certainly see why someone would do something like that. In fact, it sounds like it has the making of what Mortimer Adler called syntopical reading.

But this is not what our friend Charlotte was so adamantly against. She was against the unit studies in her day that were based upon the work of the philosopher Herbart.

So let's look at what this is all about.

What Herbart Believed

As a disclaimer, I must confess that I have not read Herbart. I have only read what Mason says about Herbart. So when I summarize Herbart, I am actually summarizing Mason's summary of Herbart.

Ahem.

Okay, so Mason explains in one or two of her volumes that she actually agrees with Herbart in some places--much more so than, say, Froebel and his invention of kindergarten. But where she differs with Herbart has huge practical implications.

So, briefly, in Herbart's philosophy:
  • The mind has a sort of doorway or threshold into which it is quite difficult to get ideas.
  • Ideas slip in and out without much control or input from the learner.
  • Ideas are viewed as fighting amongst themselves to get into the consciousness--as if they couldn't all get in--as sort of philosophy of scarcity.
  • Ideas, then, need to be chained together as neatly and thoroughly as possible so that when one slips in, it brings the whole chain with it. These linked chains are called "apperception masses."
  • Someone outside of the student links the chain. The student is a passive learner in the worst sense of the word.
  • Therefore, the onus of learning is upon the shoulders of the teacher. If the child doesn't take in the ideas, the teacher has failed to properly orchestrate the necessary apperception mass.
Charlotte's criticisms of this are many. If you are familiar with her writings, then you know that she believes--and this falls into line with the thinking of traditional teachers, from Socrates on down--that the learner is responsible for his own learning. Remember, Charlotte often utilizes a food analogy--we set a varied and nutritious banquet, full of the best ideas of mankind, flavored with highly literary works, and so on. And we teach them to eat. We set the example of love. But we do not force feed, and we do not predigest the food for them.

What a Herbartian Unit Study Looks Like

Charlotte gives a very thorough explanation in her sixth volume:
A successful and able modern educationalist gives us a valuable introduction to Herbartian Principles, and, by way of example, "A Robinson Crusoe Concentration Scheme," a series of lessons given to children in Standard I in an Elementary School. First we have nine lessons in literature and language, the subjects being such as 'Robinson climbs a hill and finds he is on an island.' Then, ten object lessons of which the first is,––The Sea, the second, A Ship from Foreign Parts, the sixth, A Life-Boat, the seventh, Shell-Fish, the tenth, A Cave. How these 'objects' are to be produced one does not see. The third series are drawing lessons, probably as many, a boat, a ship, an oar, an anchor and so on. Then follows a series on manual training, still built upon 'Robinson'; the first, a model of the seashore; then models of Robinson's island, of Robinson's house, and Robinson's pottery. The next course consists of reading, an infinite number of lessons,––'passages from The Child's Robinson Crusoe and from a general reader on the matters discussed in object lessons.' Then follows a series of writing lessons, "simple compositions on the subject of the lessons. ... the children framed the sentences which the teacher wrote on the blackboard and the class copied afterwards." Here is one composition,––"Robinson spent his first night in a tree. In the morning he was hungry but he saw nothing round him but grass and trees without fruit. On the sea-shore he found some shell-fish which he ate." Compare this with the voluminous output of children of six or seven working on the P.U.S. scheme upon any subject that they know; with, indeed, the pages they will dictate after a single reading of a chapter of Robinson Crusoe, not a 'child's edition.'

Arithmetic follows with, no doubt, as many lessons, many mental examples and simple problems dealt with Robinson"; the eighth and last course was in singing and recitation,––'I am monarch of all I survey,' etc. "The lessons lasted about forty-five minutes each.

. . . Under ordinary conditions the story of 'Robinson Crusoe' would be the leading feature in the work of a whole year . . . in comparing the English classes with the German classes I have seen studying 'Robinson Crusoe' I was convinced that the eagerness and interest was as keen among the children here as in the German schools ."
Basically, the class is going to view everything they learn the entire year through the lens of Robinson Crusoe. These days, I doubt many are studying a single book for an entire year, especially in the sense of organizing the entire year's lessons around said book. But still, unit studies are alive and well. Konos, for instance, organizes units around character qualities, while Five in a Row* has shorter units, focused on reading one book every day for five days. Each day, the book is used to illustrate a different subject {five subjects, one for each day of the week: social studies, language arts, art, applied math, and science}.

Why Did Charlotte Have a Problem with Unit Studies?

At this point, I must say that we need to first go back and understand that the idea of unit studies was born of Herbart. It is very easy to look at unit studies today, and simply appreciate them for what they are. I can almost guarantee you that most of the Christian authors who write unit studies for homeschoolers never, ever read or heard of Herbart.

This is because Herbart took hold. He became cool. If you go to teacher college in this country, chances are that you will be required to write a number of unit studies before you graduate, and the better you are at it, the better your future in the classroom seems it will be.

Here are Charlotte's main concerns with unit studies:
  1. Education is the making of connections. This is foundational to her philosophy of education. In unit studies, the teacher is making connections for the student in her planning stage. When teaching, she directs students to the connections that are to be made. Remember: she is responsible for linking the chain, for building the apperception mass. Unlike a teacher using the Socratic method, who may indeed attempt to direct her students to make certain connections, the Herbartian teacher makes these connections directly for the students. They do not need to think for themselves. If Charlotte is right, and the essence of education is that light bulb moment when you yourself make a connection and come to understanding, the unit study is actually sabotaging education--at least to the extent that it prevents students from making their own connections.
  2. Charlotte required attention paid to a single reading. This woman knew how to train students in the habit of attention! They were to narrate and make the reading theirs. Because they came into possession of what they had read, they were able to apply it in the future--in other words, it was available to them to use in making their own connections, both with other books and with the world around them. One of the main complaints I've heard about Five in a Row, for instance, is that children quit attending to the readings. If you are going to read a book over and over, there is no need to remember what it says. You're going to read it again tomorrow anyhow. Naturally, the children will still pay attention to the books that they love, but they are not accountable to really know the content of the reading.
  3. This method entertains children. I know this doesn't sound like a negative to our modern ears, but Charlotte was concerned because entertainment is not the same thing as learning. As children are entertained, their ability to use their will to direct their attention to their lessons is actually undermined. It takes no self-discipline to watch something amusing--amusement is more of an appeal to passions than to the will. Because Charlotte knew that attention is a habit to be built and then maintained, she believed an entertainment-centered lesson was counterproductive.
  4. This built pride in the teachers. I'll let her explain herself:
    Herbart's psychology is extraordinarily gratifying and attractive to teachers who are, like other people, eager to magnify their office; and here is a scheme which shows how every child is a new creation as he comes forth from the hands of his teacher. The teacher learns how to do it; he has but to draw together a mass of those ideas which themselves will combine in the mind into which they effect an entrance, and, behold, the thing is done: the teacher has done it; he has selected the ideas, shewn the correlation of each with the other and the work is complete! The ideas establish themselves, the most potent rule and gather force, and if these be good, the man is made.
    The teacher is almost deified in the classroom in this regard.
  5. This kills love of the spine text. Charlotte believed that such a program would cause children to never, ever wish to read Robinson Crusoe again. As the teacher "forced much out of little" {as Charlotte puts it}, the children would eventually loathe this book, or any other book approached the same way.

My Own Objections

In my reading of Charlotte, though, I've never read her objecting to this approach in the way that I do, so I thought I'd share my own opinions.

First, I get concerned because this is not the way a good reader approaches a book. I do not read, for instance, a book by Jane Austen in order to learn the geography of England, or to do a math problem about how if Mrs. Bennett has five daughters and marries off two of them, then how many does she have left? I'm not saying that, in reading a book, one never asks questions of geography or math. It does happen. What I am saying is that these are not natural questions to ask of the text, nor are they the most important questions to ask of the text. If this is how children are reared to view books, as objects to dissect the life out of, they will never learn great ideas from books--it is a being-too-distracted-by-the-trees-to-see-the-forest sort of situation. In other words, they will never be great readers, and Mortimer Adler will be forced to roll over in his grave. Chances are, they'll never be able to formulate plots enough to write a great book, either, as they will fail to understand the nature of a book.

Second, and I already alluded to it, this is not the path to comprehension of a book's greatest ideas. I haven't read Robinson Crusoe*, but last year I fell in love with Captains Courageous when I read it for the first time. It could be dissected in much the same way. Someone could take the book and use it as a jumping-off point to discuss fishing in general, bait, tackle, ship construction and maintenance, sailing, weather, current, water safety, and so on and so forth. But the book is about redemption and becoming a man, and if you don't read it this way, you miss the point. Is it an allusion to baptism, when Harvey falls into the water and nearly drowns? And is it Messianic, when he is pulled out, rescued, and then "discipled" in true manhood? A million rich conversations could pour forth from thinking the noble thoughts of the book, but unit studies tend to dwell on the minutia. All books have their interesting details, but the great thoughts--the Permanent Things--presented, transcend those details.

In fact, many books written don't make the cut and aren't worthy of being preserved for generations because the author was too locked in the details of his own time; he failed to transcend and speak about the Permanent Things.

And So it Goes

My motivation here in writing this was not to convince folks who love unit studies to stop, nor to cause those who don't to feel smug. I really hate fighting about methods. But I've found lately that there is a lot of confusion as to why Charlotte objected to unit studies, so I hope that this helps us understand the nature of her concerns. Whenever we adopt or reject methods or philosophies, we ought to be aware of their historical background and reason for being, rather than just being enamored with the method itself.


*I read Robinson Crusoe later in 2011. It is a story of selfishness, sin, tragedy-as-redemption, and repentance, much like Captains Courageous.

15 October 2012

Miscellaneous Musings on Monday

Good morning! This weekend, my husband ran in the Volkslauf, which is put on by the Marines. It was truly amazing! He ran a 5K {on bumpy dirt roads carved through a field of tumbleweeds} and then went through a very tough obstacle course. There was climbing, wading and swimming through lots of mud, jumping, ropes, and so on. The children and I had lots of fun watching. He came in 105th place overall {and much higher in his age group}, I think, which is pretty good considering there were over 2000 participants.

ln the real news...
  • Your right to resell your own stuff is in peril from Market Watch. I'm really watching this as I basically survive homeschooling and life in general by doing lots of reselling and buying of used items. Something like this would really hurt anyone who makes ends meet the way we do.
    Under the doctrine, which the Supreme Court has recognized since 1908, you can resell your stuff without worry because the copyright holder only had control over the first sale.

    Put simply, though Apple Inc. {US:AAPL} has the copyright on the iPhone and Mark Owen has it on the book “No Easy Day,” you can still sell your copies to whomever you please whenever you want without retribution.

    That’s being challenged now for products that are made abroad, and if the Supreme Court upholds an appellate court ruling, it would mean that the copyright holders of anything you own that has been made in China, Japan or Europe, for example, would have to give you permission to sell it.
  • Crockpot Butternut Squash from Empowered Sustenance. I wonder if this would work for spaghetti squash? Now that would be great!
    Crockpot butternut squash frees up your oven for other dinner duties and won’t heat up the whole house.
  • Harvard’s Pastor: “It Does Not Matter if Christianity is True…” by Timothy Dalrymple.
    What Walton was saying, however, was not that the truth of Christianity is inconsequential, period. One has to read the rest of the sentence. He was saying something more subtle than that — and yet, at least to my mind, still troubling.
  • Is Transfer Growth Bad? from Ordinary Pastor. I was curious because when we switched churches this year, we were then classified as "transfer growth."
    Let’s not forget that sometimes people have real, non-disciplinary issues at other churches that require them to leave. The pastor may have deviated theologically or philosophically. Further, occassionally pastors and church leaders begin to say and do things that make it very difficult for members to stay on board with the mission. After attempting to work through the issues, believers may need to quietly, and peacefully move to another fellowship. Upon this transfer of membership to a more like-minded congregation these folks will begin to grow and serve.
  • We Need To Talk About Mumford from Curator. I'm not even familiar with this band, but I thought this take on music was fascinating. We sing a lot of folk songs, and I agree that folk is not merely a "style" of music.
    Mumford & Sons are in a tough spot because there is a vast dissonance between their music and their words. This dissonance arises from the prioritization of style over substance. Their sound borrows heavily from American folk and bluegrass, the local music of rural people of modest means, but their words are the self-expressive, spiritual, existential crisis tweets of the city-raised, university-educated sort. Folk comes out of cultural tradition, oral histories, shared stories and specific regions. The songs belong to nobody and everybody, but they’re always telling a story. Marcus Mumford is not very good at telling stories, or rather he tells stories with such broadly painted obscurities of reference as to not be stories at all.
  • Fast Fungi Bricks: Mushroom Blocks Better than Concrete?! Will your future house be built from fungus blocks? Ew!
    As it turns out, this malleable network can, per Philip Ross, “be used to form a super-strong, water-, mold- and fire-resistant building material. The dried mycelium can be grown and formed into just about any shape, and it has a remarkable consistency that makes it stronger, pound for pound, than concrete.”
  • American High School Students Are Reading Books At 5th-Grade-Appropriate Levels: Report from The Huffington Post. They forgot to mention that most books published from Christian publishers are at the exact same level. Ahem.
    A compilation of the top 40 books teens in grades 9-12 are reading in school shows that the average reading level of that list is 5.3 -- barely above the fifth grade.

    "A fifth-grade reading level is obviously not high enough for college-level reading. Nor is it high enough for high school-level reading, either, or for informed citizenship," writes Sandra Stotsky, professor of education reform at the University of Arkansas.
And that's all for today. Have a great day, folks!

11 October 2012

Random GAPS Diet Hint #3: Share Salt with Your Livestock

I don't know if you have livestock or not. Maybe you should get some, just so you have an excuse to buy fifty pound bags of salt from Redmond's. Just kidding.

Well, sort of.

If you are on the GAPS Diet, you probably know that using real, unrefined salt {and please note: if your salt is white, it has been refined, no matter what the label says--salt in its natural form is not uniform in color} is imperative.

So here's the dirty little secret about unrefined salt: it is darn expensive. Your days of buying a salt shaker for a buck are over.

Unless, of course, you do what I did.

Ahem.

Let's talk prices. I just looked at my co-op prices on salt. They carry all the unrefined types--the grey Celtic sea salt, the pink Himalayan salt, and, my personal favorite, the red salt from Redmond's out of Utah.

The grey Celtic salt will cost you $3.85 for one pound. If you buy in bulk, it gets cheaper per pound, but never goes below $2.82/lb. At its cheapest, this is $0.18/oz.

The pink Himalayan salt is $5.10 for one pound. It, too, can be bought in huge bulk bags, and that gets you a pretty reasonable price: $1.52/lb. At its cheapest, you still pay just under $0.10/oz.

And then comes the Redmond's salt. A 9-ounce salt shaker will cost you $3.35. A 1.5-pound bag will put you out $5.75. Again, you can buy in bulk, but it'll cost you $2.12/lb. At its cheapest, you pay $0.13/oz.

Guess what I pay for my salt? I pay $0.15/lb. That's right. I pay less per pound than what most of you are paying per ounce.

You know why?

Because I don't buy salt for humans.

I have always given our animals free access to unrefined salt. We keep it in buckets and they take what they need as they need it. It doesn't rain much here, so I don't have to worry about it melting away. I use Redmond's #10 fine animal salt*. This is unrefined salt, crushed and put through a sieve so that the crystals are not over a certain size. Nothing is added.

When I buy a fresh 50-pound bag {for just over seven dollars, mind you}, I pull out a few gallons for us and store it in my kitchen. It goes through a salt grinder just as well as coarse salt, and it can still be measured {without grinding} with spoons and put into soups and sauces like regular salt. We use our grinder as a salt shaker, and the rest of the time I use it as it is because it dissolves while I'm cooking.

People ask me if I worry about debris because it's not for humans. All I can say is, I've been doing this for quite a while now and I have never, ever had a problem.

Ever.

We use tons and tons of salt. My children even grab crystals and eat them plain. I never worry about it because it is in its completely natural form and it only costs me pennies {if that}.

So my hint for today is simple: get a goat, feed it salt, and keep some for yourself.

The end.

*Warning: Not all of Redmond's animal salt products are in their plain, natural state. You must read labels well or you will end up with a product fortified for sheep, which have nutritional needs that are different from humans.

10 October 2012

Signs and Seasons Meets Charlotte Mason {Entry I}

I think I mentioned before that I added in Signs and Seasons: Understanding the Elements of Classical Astronomy for Circle Time this year. It was basically love at first sight over here. Like many other books I read, I'm having Charlotte Mason sightings everywhere. Now, I'm using this with very young children--my oldest child is only 10--so we are going very slowly. I'm reading one section at a time {and only once or twice per week}, and then my 7-year-old and 10-year-old are asked to narrate. We've finally gotten to the point where it makes sense to go outside and apply our knowledge, which makes it especially fun for the 5- and 4-year-olds. They love anything hands-on, which is typical for that age.

There is a field journal for use with older children that we are not doing because we are so young.

Why We Study Astronomy

I always like to have an apologetic. Anytime we're adding to our schedule, there better be a good reason. It is my policy that we do not do busy work. We are called to make the most of our time. I added astronomy based upon a gut instinct, but after that I was watching for a real reason. I found one in Signs and Seasons:
All of our modern methods of timekeeping have their origins in the cycles of the heavenly bodies. Time has always been reckoned by changes in the periods of light and dark, variations of the Sun and moon int he sky above.
And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven, to divide the day from the night: and let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years. --Genesis 1:14
My mind was blown away. How many times have I read that verse, and yet never sought to know the sky in terms of its God-designed purpose? Oh, I have always known that the sun gives light, and the light helps plants grow and the earth keep warm and even my own skin make vitamins it needs to live. I understand that type of design, and I appreciate it. But I have never tried to know the sun and moon and stars for their primary purpose of...time keeping.

The Charlotte Mason Connection

Charlotte Mason suggested practicing basic sky-watching from the youngest of ages. In her first volume, for instance:
The Position of the Sun.––And not only this: the children should be taught to observe the position of the sun in the heavens from hour to hour, and by his position, to tell the time of day. Of course they will want to known why the sun is such an indefatigable traveller, and thereby hangs a wonderful tale, which they may as well learn in the 'age of faith,' of the relative sizes of sun and earth, and of the nature and movements of the latter.
Recently, my children started noticing that old books mention that even little children know what time it is by looking at the sun. Laura Ingalls knew it when she was just a tiny thing, and Ralph Moody mentions in a number of times in his stories as well. It's also mentioned in various books we're reading through right now, such as Carry On, Mr. Bowditch. They all--but especially the oldest--began harassing me about the sun. Why do all the children in old books know something and that they don't know? "How is that even possible?" my oldest asked.

I didn't mention to him that if I'd been taking all of Charlotte Mason's advice he would likely have known such a thing before he was school age.

Ahem.

Thankfully, Signs and Seasons is slowly taking care of this. {We really need to figure out how to make a sundial, something I have been putting off.}
At one time, everyone knew how to "read" the sky. People could roughly tell the time of day just by knowing the Sun's position in the sky. When you live close to the land, you just know what time it is. Maybe not to the exact minute, but close enough!

The Sun is very bright, much too bright to look at. But we can look at the shadows of objects that block the Sun's bright light. We can know the Sun's position in the sky just by looking at the direction of the shadows on the ground. A lot of astronomy involves shadows, as we will see.

Miss Mason goes on in Volume 1 to cover measuring distance {in paces}, and then moving from distance to direction and from general direction to knowing the compass points:
East and West.––Of course the first two ideas are that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west; from this fact he will be able to tell the direction in which the places near his own home, or the streets of his own town, lie. Bid him stand so that his right is towards the east where the sun rises, and his left towards the west where the sun sets. Then he is looking towards the north and his back is towards the south. All the houses, streets and towns on his right hand are to the east of him, those on the left are to the west. The places he must walk straight forward to reach are north of him, and the places behind him are to the south. If he is in a place new to him where he has never seen the sun rise or set and wants to know in what direction a certain road runs, he must notice in what direction his own shadow falls at twelve o'clock, because at noon the shadows of all objects fall towards the north. Then if he face the north, he has, as before, the south behind him, the east on his right hand, the west on his left; or if he face the sun at noon, he faces south.
It has been many years since I have read through Volume 1 in its entirety. I remember that during my very first reading, my eyes glazed over during this portion. My brain simply could not take it in, and that is hard to admit because in rereading it today, it all sounds so simple.

It is rare to go outside, toting Volume 1 and giving lessons. I'm sure someone, somewhere has done it, but I have always taken what I remembered and taught from that. Unfortunately, this is a portion I forgot...until we got to this week's first lesson from Signs and Seasons:
If you can follow the movements of the Sun, you can find your directions just as easily as people did in ancient times.
After observing the quarter in which the sun rises on any given day, at the middle of the day take your position in such a manner as to have the point of the sun's rising on your left; you will then have the south directly facing you, and the north at your back. --Pliny the Elder {circa A.D. 70}
It was quite cloudy when we read this, so we have our "lab time" slated for high noon today.

By the time Miss Mason's students were in Form III, they were expected to answer questions such as:
"How would you find the Pole Star? Mention six other stars and say in what constellations they occur."
Eventually, Signs and Seasons will get us there, but we're taking it one step at a time, and I assume we're many months out from learning something like that.

The Point 

I suppose this post is something of a review, though I didn't begin it with that intention. I just wanted to share a resource. When I read Charlotte Mason, I see her teaching some things that {1} are not yet {yet--I think we all know that science has been being improved and refined over the last few years} scheduled somewhere in the Ambleside curriculum and {2} I need a book to help me accomplish. I know next to nothing about classical astronomy, and I always need a book or other resource when I am teaching up the hill of a giant learning curve, which is basically what this is.

I can see how a high schooler or junior higher could move much more quickly through the text, reading a section per day instead of a section once or twice a week, and adding in the journal and lots of practice. However, Miss Mason was doing at least some of this at much earlier ages, and the book is so interesting that I'm not afraid to work through it to the end...and then begin again once we're done. After all, I doubt that my littles will remember all that we're covering, though I don't underestimate the impact of having the entire family--their environment--becoming more infused with astronomy.

We are up with the sunrise every single day. You can't see it very well from the milking shed, but it's there. A-Age-Seven is outside as the sun is coming up about 80% of the time. And yet this child was shocked to learn about sunrises in Signs and Seasons. She was doubly shocked to learn that the sun moves through the day. This child has watched hundreds of sunsets with her dad {who is an avid fan and our yard happens to have a decent western view} and yet it never connected in her brain that the sun was moving. All of this is to say that going through these lessons has brought things to the attention of every age. It isn't what an older student would gain, but it is a gain nonetheless, and as she and the others make these gains, I think they are becoming more observant of the sky in general, which I count as a very positive thing.

So. If you're looking to add a little astronomy into your day, I cannot recommend Signs and Seasons enough. It it thoroughly Christian, it is a delight to read {there are some well-crafted sentences that you wouldn't normally find in a "textbook"}, and it's going to teach some things that Miss Mason expected children to know, and yet most of us {especially me} do not have the knowledge required to teach it on our own.

Anyone else using Signs and Seasons? How do you like it?

09 October 2012

Ideals: Loving Knowledge for its Own Sake

Socrates conceived that knowledge is for pleasure, in the sense, not that knowledge is one source, but is the source of pleasure.

--Charlotte Mason
I'm not going to pretend that we aren't born sinners and that some little children {initially, at least} refuse to learn or to even entertain the idea of learning. Now, of course these children do learn. The vast majority of them really do become adults that walk and talk--most of them even read, more or less {usually less}. I also think some children are born with an insatiable desire to learn whatever they can about anything in front of them, or maybe even anything that comes across their minds.

Regardless of what sort of child sits before us, learning to love and pursue knowledge for its own sake is the ideal. We shoot for the ideal, knowing that we may never reach it, because we are better people for having aimed at it rather than mediocrity. The ideal does not crush us or discourage us; it challenges us to be more than we currently are, to be more of what we ought to be.

C.S. Lewis once wrote:
St. Augustine defines virtue as ordo amoris, the ordinate condition of the affections in which every object is accorded that kind of degree of love which is appropriate to it. Aristotle says that the aim of education is to make the pupil like and dislike what he ought. When the age for reflective thought comes, the pupil who has been thus trained in ‘ordinate affections’ or ‘just sentiments’ will easily find the first principles in Ethics; but to the corrupt man they will never be visible at all and he can make no progress in that science. Plato before him had said the same. The little human animal will not at first have the right responses. It must be trained to feel pleasure, liking, disgust, and hatred at those things which really are pleasant, likeable, disgusting and hateful.
It must be trained to feel.

Let's think about that for a moment.

We live in a culture in which our feelings are considered completely subjective. If you feel, you just do, and nothing can {or even should} be done about it. That is the general sentiment, right? Out of this is sometimes born a philosophy of child-led learning. My concern about this philosophy is never that a child is studying what he likes, but that I have encountered children who are not required to study what they don't like.

If a child rejects the subject at hand, the tendency is to panic. Or, at least, that is my tendency.

Now, we've talked before about readiness, so I'm going to assume that little Johnny is quite ready and simply doesn't like memorizing his Latin charts or doing his math or what have you.

Charlotte Mason's fourth principle of education is this:
These principles are limited by the respect due to the personality of children, which must not be encroached upon whether by the direct use of fear or love, suggestion or influence, or by undue play upon any one natural desire.
In other words, we are not allowed to manipulate our students into learning using threats {empty or otherwise}, emotional ploys, grades, marks, prizes, etc. etc. etc. the list goes on and on and on. In this modern world, we do a lot to try and get children to learn. Actually, we do it to get them to move through the material and pass standardized tests at the end. How much they actually retain and learn is debatable and varies widely among graduates.

In my CM Primer study group, there are a number of former classroom teachers that tell me that this is what they were taught in teacher's college: how to "encourage" students to learn by attracting them to other things--by playing upon their natural desires.

By cultivating the flesh.

I knew a family once who paid their child to obey. Who gave their child a prize for everything he struggled with. Over time, he became the child who thought adults owed him for every minor triumph...and he didn't know how to enjoy his successes for their own sake.

When you've be educated using a thoroughly modern educational philosophy, it is easy to read Charlotte Mason for the first time and think that she was revolutionary, or that she was thinking original thoughts. I would say that she was conservative in that she was conserving things that came before her, and I number her among our greatest Afterthinkers, because she was thinking and rethinking and translating into her own culture the best thoughts that had been thought about education throughout history.

She said that knowledge should be loved for its own sake, that it could be loved for its own sake.

And so did Euclid...two millenia before her.
What is the point of studying mathematics? The question was posed long ago to Euclid, an ancient geometer who could properly be called the Shakespeare of mathematics. In one of the few surviving biographical fragments about him, we have an answer to the question. After having learned the first geometrical theorem, a pupil inquired of Euclid, “But what shall I get by learning these things?” Euclid called one of his slaves. “Give him a coin,” Euclid ordered, “since he must make a gain out of what he learns.” Unfortunately, we do not have recorded what effect Euclid’s stinging words had upon the student, so we do not know whether the student blushed from embarrassment or was simply stunned by incomprehension. either way, the point of Euclid’s remark is that the study of geometry is intrinsically good and needs no further justification. While it may have practical uses, these are accidental to its true merit, the peculiarly human joy of gaining knowledge about mathematical things. Flipping the student a coin was a way to chastise him, marking him as one with an attitude unworthy of the study of mathematics for its own sake.
The authors of A Meaningful World go on:
[T]he attempt to justify the teaching of Euclid or Shakespeare in terms of material gain is not far removed from the attempt to reduce the works of Shakespeare or the works of Euclid to some material cause.
And later:
The truth about human nature is that humans take immense joy in knowing for its own sake.
And when our children do not do this, they are behaving less than human. This is why we teachers must humanize them. We must help them become what they were created to be but which, because of the fall of man, they are not born being.

We must aim for the mark.

08 October 2012

Miscellaneous Musings on Monday

Anyone want to buy a goat? If so, please use my contact form ASAP because I have one outside my window that has finally annoyed me not only to the ledge, but right over the ledge. It's either him or me, and I plan to stay.

Now that we have that out of the way, we can get to today's links...

  • My Take: 'I'm spiritual but not religious' is a cop-out from CNN. Personally, I think that saying "I'm spiritual but not religious" is a way to acknowledge that there is more to life than what we perceive with our senses, without acquiescing to the idea that what is unseen may have claims upon us, and we may have obligations to it.
    The trouble is that “spiritual but not religious” offers no positive exposition or understanding or explanation of a body of belief or set of principles of any kind.

    What is it, this "spiritual" identity as such? What is practiced? What is believed?
  • Effect of folic acid supplementation on genomic DNA methylation in patients with colorectal adenoma from GUT. This is a scientific paper, so most of you probably won't want to read it. But I've been interested in methylation--because one of my children has signs of being undermethylated and so do I, actually--in the conclusion.
    Conclusions: These results suggest that DNA hypomethylation can be reversed by physiological intakes of folic acid.
  • Hospitality and the Great Commission from Desiring God. I am not naturally good at hospitality, but this is why I'm working on being better at it.
    In a progressively post-Christian society, the importance of hospitality as an evangelistic asset is growing rapidly. Increasingly, the most strategic turf on which to engage the unbelieving with the good news of Jesus may be the turf of our own homes.
  • Student IDs That Track the Students from The New York Times via Kansas Mom. Kinda creepy.
    For Tira Starr, an eighth grader at Anson Jones Middle School, the plastic nametag hanging around her neck that she has decorated with a smiley face and a purple bat sticker offers a way to reflect her personal flair. For administrators, it is something else entirely: a device that lets them use radio frequency technology — with scanners tucked behind walls and ceilings — to track her whereabouts.
  • The Place of Illustrations in a Mason Context from Childlight USA. The number one reason why I question whether movies have much of any place in formal education.
    Our senses, it seems to me, are some of the tools we have for taking in information, but they are not the primary tools for learning. This is a major problem in much of the world of education today. There is much talk about learning styles, and I suppose it is helpful to know one’s learning style, but the fact is, taking information in is not the same as processing that information, or, as Mason said, “labouring with the mind.” This is the step that many children never get to take in their learning process. This is the purpose of narration, which Mason called “the act of knowing” {p. 17}. In fact, we may have preferences as to which sense we prefer to take in information {visually, kinesthetically, aurally, tactically, or odoriferously}, but this is not the same as owning new information. Mason says, “We trust much to pictures, lantern slides, cinematograph displays; but without labour there is no profit.”
  • Fairy Lore: A Screen and a Shelter from Childlight USA. I love faerie, as most of you know.
    When a child’s first encounter with tragedy is through fairy tale, he is introduced to the reality of evil through imaginary scenes. Because it is fairy tale, the scenes are far off. He can contemplate the effects of evil from a distance. He has had time to experience real empathy or sorrow for an imaginary character. His heart is then buffered or “screened” from the blunt of a real tragedy.
  • Lockhart’s Measurement from Let's Play Math! This is a review of a text that was suggested to me on the AO Forum as something that would help prepare my children for Euclid.
    According to the publisher: “Measurement offers a permanent solution to math phobia by introducing us to mathematics as an artful way of thinking and living. Favoring plain English and pictures over jargon and formulas, Lockhart succeeds in making complex ideas about the mathematics of shape and motion intuitive and graspable.”
  • The Elitist Curriculum Fallacy by Michael C. Thompson. You'll have to scroll down to get to it, but it's worth it!
    What’s so democratic about deliberately limiting the education of some students? Making assumptions about the futures that kids with lower reading levels will attain is an insidious form of bias—by depriving them of a genuinely strong education, we create a self-fulfilling tragic prophecy. Classics aren’t practical? What’s so practical about being poorly educated?
And that's it for today. Have a wonderful Monday.

And seriously: let me know if you want a goat.

07 October 2012

GAPS Binder: Intro Diet Recipes {Stage 6}

I don't really have a list of recipes for Stage 6--I don't even have a pinboard!--but I thought I should quickly explain why. Stage 6 just doesn't add much. Generally, you can try raw peeled apple {peels are for Full GAPS}, you can be more liberal with your raw honey {as a topping on your pancakes, for example}, and you can consume more of the baked goods.

For me, this mainly meant that I served my children peeled apple slices for snack one day to see how they did, and then I made more pancakes and more often. I'm trying to think if I really tried any new "baked goods" and I can't think of any. It was just more of the same.

I have four pinboards that you may or may not be interested in. These are the ones I'm regularly adding to.

  • GAPS Diet Recipes {these should all be for Full GAPS}
  • Fermented Food Recipes {eventually, you want to consume a lot of these, and I think variety is helpful for this...I'm trying the mayonnaise this week!}
  • GAPS Resources {this is where I put informational-type links that explain the diet, how it works, or suggest tweaks}
  • GAPS Snacks
This isn't the last post I'll ever write on GAPS, I don't think, but I think I've covered the answers to most of the questions I received via my contact form. If not, feel free to harass me further!

Oh! Some of you have asked where we are at in the diet. The short answer is that we are easing into Full GAPS. We've added lots of fruit. We're stuck on no dairy right now. I'm trying not to forget to serve lots of broth or broth-based soups every single day. It's fine. It's doable. And we're seeing improvements, as I've mentioned before.

Someday I'll talk about combining GAPS with NAET. How's that for a teaser?