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Monday, July 29, 2019

Speaking In Indianapolis Friday night, August 9 from 7-9 I will be speaking in Indianapolis about Imagination- a very lovely aspect of a Charlotte Mason education. Some of this will be from my talk at #AOCM2019, with some of the cut material added back in so you can hear it for the first time! Hope to see some of you there!

Friday, July 26, 2019

Dealing with Grumbling and Complaining

In volume 5, page 49, Mason gives a little scenario to illustrate the correct path to take with a child who casts a dark shadow on the whole family through her indulgence in making her displeasure known to the whole family when she feels slighted. Mason has the mother explaining to quite a young child, that the whole family has had a very hard and sad day, that they all feel as though they have been cast into the dark by somebody pulling a heavy, dark curtain over all the windows and shutting out the sunshine. When you recall that she is writing at a time when there was no electric light available at the cast of a switch, this image is even more powerful.  

Then the mother says, ""And do you know who has put us all out in the dark and the cold? Our little girl drew the curtain, because she would not speak to any of us, or be kind to any of us, or love any of us all the day long; so we could not get into the sunshine, and have been shivering and sad in the cold."

This sounds rather shocking, even a bit disturbing to many, but there is a context for it.  Possibly it is most strange to western ears, because we are so individualistic in our culture.

But children are part of a family unit.  They are valued members of that family unit and contribute towards the good or harm to that family.  They matter.  Since they are important members of a family, it is more than reasonable and acceptable and supported by Mason herself, to point out that every member of a household contributes toward the joy and pleasant atmosphere in that family- or towards its unpleasant atmosphere.  They have power to ruin your day and everybody else's or to make it pleasant, and they have a responsibility to use that power well.   As their parents, we also have a responsibility to help them understand this, because it will help your family now, and it will help them when they are adults, whether you are around or not.  Making the family atmosphere fractious and unpleasant is a fault that should be faced and addressed.  As Mason also says, no childhood fault left to itself does anything but grow *stronger.* (page 34, volume 5)  Our words and attitudes matter, and can hinder or help our family whether we are two or ten, or thirty.

We all carry things people say to us around with us like a backpack on a hiking trip. Some words are light, encouraging, and lift us up.  When we receive or give those words, it's like adding padding to the straps, or helping somebody carry their backpack over a tough spot, or taking some of the weight out of the backpack. But some words are like adding bricks to that pack.  They are burdensome, heavy, and make your life hard. It is okay to let children know that griping and complaining is like piling rocks on your back. It sucks your joy and makes your life sadder and harder. I am not saying they have to fake it and hide their feelings and act like little giddy, chirpy birds. However. It is one thing to have an opinion. It's another to let that opinion and the voicing of it ruin somebody's day all day and every day. 

Explain this to them. Use the rocks in your backpack analogy or something else that works for you. We told our kids that kind, encouraging words are like beautiful blocks to build a lovely structure, and discouraging, grumbling, complaints, griping, or mean words were like knocking over somebody else's building. (we got the idea from somewhere else, but I don't remember where) Once you've explained the power of their own attitudes and words, Tell them something like, "You don't have to love this. You do have to do it. And once you've already told me you don't love it, you do not get to keep complaining and griping about it the rest of the day."  If you want, give them three tokens at the start of the day, and that's how many times they can complain.  Each time they grumble, they give you a token.  That's it, you don't listen to any grumbling past the third complaint. Of course, you, too, should guard your own words and attitude and limit your complaining as well.  Make it a family effort to all contribute toward lightness in the family atmosphere.

Letting the children know the power of their own words and attitudes toward the happiness of the family is not a guilt trip, it is a blessing to them, a gift.

In volume 5, Mason says it is appropriate, even desirable for good parenting, to "let the young people feel that the happiness of home is a trust which every member of it has in charge; that the child who sits down to table with a sullen face destroys for the time the happiness of his whole family, just as a hand's-breadth held close to the eyes will shut out the whole light of the sun. What is it that makes the happiness of every day––great treats, great successes, great delights? No, but constant friendly looks and tones in those about us, their interest and help in our pursuits, their service and pity when we are in difficulty and trouble. No home can be happy if a single member of it allow himself in ugly tempers and bad behaviour. By degrees, great sensitiveness to the moral atmosphere of the home will be acquired; the happiness of a single day will come to be regarded as a costly vase which any clumsy touch may overthrow. Now, the attention is taken off self and its claims, and fixed upon brother and sister, father and mother, servants and neighbours; so slight a thing as a friendly look can add to the happiness of every one of these." (page 206-7)

"Affection flows naturally towards those to whom we can give happiness. A boy who feels himself of little account in his family will give all his heart to his dog; he is necessary to Puck's happiness, at any rate; and, as for the dog,––"I think it is wrong to let children have dogs. It spoils them for mankind," said the late Lord Lytton. Let the boy have his dog, but let him know to how many others even a pleasant word from him gives happiness for the moment. Benevolence, the delight in giving happiness, is a stream which swells as it flows. The boy who finds he really can make a difference to his home is on the look-out for chances. A hint as to what father or sister would like is not thrown away. Considerate obliging behavour is no hardship to him when he is not "bothered" into it, but produces it of his own free will. Like begets like. The kindliness he shows is returned to him, and, by him, returned again, full measure, pressed down, and running over. He looks, not on his own things, but on the things of others."

See also the tale of inconstant Kitty and sullen Agnes in volume 5, pages 24-41 (online here)  

And remember this all is balanced by your own careful attention to your words, your tone, and your attitude.  Correction, even discipline, is at times your weighty responsibility, but take care to fill their little hearts with the tender knowledge that you are on their side, that you love them and cherish them and want what is for their best good always.  

Monday, July 22, 2019

Organizing your books

More accurately, organizing *my* books, because I feel like this is very much going to vary based on your reading tastes, books collected, shelf space and more. But people do ask me how my library is organized, so I thought I'd share here:

My religious nonfiction books are roughly organized: Reference books, like Atlases, concordances, all-the-_____-of-the-Bible, Bible handbooks, Customs of the first century, that sort of thing.

Bible study or commentary of specific books in order, Gen-Rev How we got the Bible, The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable, textual criticism stuff,

 General theology (Attributes of God, nature of Christ, bad things/good people, the meaning of suffering...) By topic, but there's no particular order to which of those topics comes 3rd and which is fifth, etc.

Social Issues by issue, i.e. apologetics, prolife, charity, homosexuality, usury, gender roles Church history,

 Christian living by topic (prayer, fasting, hospitality, etc)

Because of the sheer volume, I have a whole different bookcase for family- parenting, teens, wife/mom/women,husband /dad/men.

Any extra Bible class study books of the fill in the blank type Missions and related including missionary bios such as Bruchko, The Word Came with Power, Peace Child, Desert Pilgrim by Thompson, Missionary Methods, St. Pauls or Ours?, etc.

All the C.S. Lewis
All the Chesterton

 Other Christian biography not missions related alpha by subject.

Inductive Bible study books

 I do not have a lot of Religious fiction, and the stuff I do have is largely mixed with related fiction. That is, my Grace Livingston Hill books rub shoulders with Janice Holt Giles, D.E. Stevenson, Elizabeth Goudge. These books also keep company with my Robert Heinlein, Andre Norton, and other science fiction/fantasy, as well as Agatha Christie, Patricia Wentworth, Michael Innes and other mysteries. In my head, this hodgepodge of fiction is 'Mama Reads.'

 The Chronicles of Narnia and Three Cousins Detective Club books are on the same shelves as the Boxcar Children, Happy Hollisters, Lynn Austin's fictionalized retellings of some of the stories from the Old Testament (Restoration Chronicles), and Lloyd Alexander.

 Again, I feel like what works best will depend on your interests and contents of your library. If you have only one or two books each on abortion, charity,missions, fasting, etc, a very different arrangement would make more sense than if you have 5-15 each.

I have a bookcase with my Great Books of the Western World, followed by books about books- reading lists, literature textbooks, books like Adler's How to Read a Book and Veith's Reading Between the Lines, followed by Memoirs, mainly because I favor literary memoirs.

 My picture books have no organization at all because children look at them and children cannot put them back where they got them from. I do have a couple small wooden crates in which I keep the books I would like to read aloud to the grandchildren.

 I have a bookcase of myths and fairy tales and hero tales. There is no particular arrangement here, except that any sets are together, and I kind of like all the King Arthur together.

 I have several bookcases of juvenile fiction. They are arranged alpha by author.

 I have a bookcase or two of ancient to medieval history, up to the age of exploration. These are in chronological order. This area also has a couple of vintage history sets, like John Lord's Beacon Lights of History, The PIcturesque Tales of Progress by Olive Beaupre Miller, and so on.

 Poetry goes together, except for Mother Goose, which I collect and they have their own shelf.

 William Morris books are shelved together in my living room where they can be seen.

 Health books have their own shelf.

 Nature study/field guides have their own bookcase.

 Science books are stored roughly by subject, with a separate bookcase that houses all the books that are too tall to stand upright in the other three bookshelves.

 Math is on a smaller bookcase nearby.

 Modern languages have a couple of shelves, which is what happens when you have grown up near Mexico, lived in the Philippines and Japan, learned sign language, tried to learn Korean, and are moving to Malaysia. I am slowly divesting myself of the French that one of the kids studied, because that kid is now 36 years old and has five children of her own and has decided to go with Spanish for her family.

 I have a bookcase, or two, of 'education' books, which includes books about homeschooling, about teaching specific topics, about education in general, old Cliff note guides are there, as are my Mad Libs books because they help with grammar.

 I have another bookcase for Charlotte Mason books, old hardbacks, old bound copies of the PR, books she used in her schools, books by her, about her and her methods.

 American history is chronological, but there is not any order beyond that- 20 civil war books might be together, but not alphabetized.

 Autobiography and biographies (except for missionary bios) are alpha by subject.

 Gardening/homesteading books take up an entire bookshelf of their own.

 Literature for high school and up, Dickens, Tolstoy, Tolkien, Jane Austen, Homer Hickam, Somerset Maghaum, P.G. Wodehouse, these are in about six very large bookshelves and arranged alpha by author, but not more carefully within that. If I have 12 Dickens books, they are just randomly organized, but all together. David Copperfield might appear before Bleakhouse and after Our Mutual Friend, it just depends. I have another bookcase of travel and geography books.

 I have another shelf of philosophy and political stuff.

I have one which holds a lot, but not all, of my more fragile vintage titles that I probably got from my grandparents and great-grandparents.

 Finally, I have an overflowing bookcase of art and music titles which needs to be purged but I probably won't get around to it soon enough. I also have a towering pile of 'TBR' books by my bed, and it keeps growing and I'm not going to finish it before we go to Malaysia in January, which saddens and frustrates me.

That's roughly it. There are some little exceptions here and there, and that includes a cupboard full of books I had hoped to read with my youngest before he finished high school but we never got to all of them, and he was still in high school when we moved to the Philippines so I've never gotten around to putting them all back where they go. I think I am afraid that if I do, they will end up overflowing the shelves where they belong and I will have to do more purging. I'd rather not. So that is how my books are organized. This reflects my tastes and the weight of different topics in my library. Yours should be different. But possibly this will be useful to some of my readers, or at least fun to read, as book people do like to read what book people are doing.=)

I have approximately 48 bookcases.  Most of them are very tall.  They are in pretty much every room in the house and spread out over two floors.  Our house is much too large for us, but I need room for the books.  I was working towards making my library available to AO families who venture out this far, a Legacy Library named after my grandmother, but then we got the all to go to Malaysia in January, and I will not have time to do that before we leave.  Maybe when we return.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

This is an accomplished rabbit

I do not know who Duncan Hunter is and I do not want to discuss him.  But this excerpt from this article:

The emblem issue is perhaps not the biggest of problems for Mr. Hunter, who is facing 60 federal charges including campaign finance violations, falsifying records, wire fraud and conspiracy. Prosecutors say the congressman and his wife improperly spent more than $250,000 in campaign funds on lavish trips, shopping sprees, private school tuition and airfare for their pet rabbit.

Is a perfect example of why we need the Oxford comma. I will brook no argument on this. It's irrefutable.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Bible Stories and Colouring Pages

There has been a movement in missions circles called Orality. It's about a storytelling approach to sharing the gospel in non-literature cultures.  There are some concerns about it as well as some able advocates. I am not going to go into the pros and cons.  I am still reading about it myself.  But in that reading, I came across a couple resources I think could be useful to anybody interested in sharing the Bible with children.
Here are some coloring pages.
Here are some stories.
Here's some more information on ways to tell the story

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Recommended Reading

The Mistmantle Chronicles, by M.I. McAllister There are five.  You can get them all easily enough as e-books, and the first three you can find reasonably enough. but the fifth book was never published in the U.S. so you're looking at one hundred dollars right now- or more.
The author is a British pastor's wife.  If you like Redwall and Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising, you'll love these. They are Christian but not in a beat you over the head with it sense.  They are simply steeped in the fragrance.
My Goodreads review of the fifth:

This is the final book in a five volume series about a kingdom on an island protected by mists and the mysterious 'Heart.' The kingdom is 'peopled' by squirrels, hedgehogs, moles and otters, and occasionally a visiting swan.
I cried helplessly and without shame through the last two chapters and everybody should have read this series in their Redwall days, because Redwall is a husk and this is living, breathing, with a beating Heart throughout.

Truthfully, it's probably a series best saved for children perhaps 3-8th grade- and up.
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, young readers edition, by William Kamkwamba and Brian Mealer
I have also read the adult version, and I much prefer the young readers edition.  I think it's better written, has a tighter narrative, is more polished.
Inspiring true story.  William was born in Malawi and had to drop out of school after 8th grade because of the famine.  His family could not afford the fees.  William fills his time hunting, growing food, reading in the tiny local library, and mucking about with mechanical things.  Over time he figures out how to build a windmill to power his family's home, and soon to bring water to the farm.  He comes to the attention of leaders in his country and gets a scholarship to college.  This book is a beautiful combination of scientific and cultural knowledge, ideas, and William himself, as well as his strong, loving family and their faith.  Must reading.  Probably about grade 6 and up.

Cassie Beasley, Circus Mirandus 
Tumble and Blue
Keep your eyes on this author.  I expect wonderful things from her.  I thoroughly enjoyed both of these books.  These are for kids about grade 3 or 4 to maybe grade 8.  Possibly older.  I enjoyed them after all, and I finished high school nearly 40 years ago.  She writes in the genre of magical realism, particularly with Tumble and Blue.  She explores the nature of good and evil and choices we make and consequences, and happiness.  I saw elements of faith in both her works.   Tumble and Blue reminds me a little bit of Holes, not that it's derivative, but there are enough similarities that if you liked it, you'll probably love Tumble, and if you hated it altogether, you probably won't love Tumble.
Circus Mirandus is harder to describe.  It was a children's book of the year at World Magazine in 2016.  That's why I checked it out from my library, and before I finished it, I had ordered my own copy by mail.

A Long Walk to Water, Linda Sue Park,
Set in Africa in two different time periods, told through alternating points of view and time periods.  It's important to pay attention to that and to understand it up front.  The information is given you at the top of each page where the switch happens, and it's not hard to follow if you know this from the start.  It's not always an easy story to read.  The book is based on a true story of war and hardship in African villages, people are shot, abandoned, starved.
Two 11 year olds in Sudan, 25 years apart.  In 2008, Nya must walk miles and miles for water for her family twice each day.  In 1985, Salva's village is attacked and he becomes one of the Sudan's Lost Boys.  Gradually, their stories merge in the present day.  Well worth reading.  Amazon suggests about grades 5-7.   I would say for older students, too.  It's a short book, and the readability makes it a light read, although Salva's difficulties are sometimes heartbreaking.

Once you've read this one, you and perhaps your hardy teens with some resilience would appreciate the harder but also uplifting and informative book The Bite of a Mango by Mariatu Kamara and Susan McClelland.  Mariatu was 12 years old and living in her home village in Sierra Leone when her village and family were attacked by relatives who cut off the hands of many of their victims and then abandoned them to die or survive on their own.  After they cut off Mariatu's hands, the mocked her and told her to go to the President and tell him what they had done and that she couldn't vote for him.  As they abandoned her, she thought, "What is a president?"  This is her story of survival.  It's not an easy story, but it is a brave one.  Trigger warning- there is a rape and resulting pregnancy in the book.  It's not graphic, but you can't ignore it, either.

The Legend of Bass Reeves by Gary Paulsen- I have probably recommended this one before.  I really enjoyed it.  Reeves was a real life U.S. Marshall in the wild west, probably the most successful ever.  His life story is absolutely amazing.  The only thing I did not care for was the introduction, where the author spends his time debunking all the other legends of the wild west in order to build his guy up.  But that's not what happened.  First of all, I wasn't reading the book to find out about all the non-heroes, I wanted to know about Reeves.  Secondly, by the time I finished his bitter, hostile rantings about the other guys and how terrible they were, what he mainly accomplished was making me wonder how much I could believe about what he said Bass Reeves!  Do yourself a favour and skip the intro and just read the stuff about Reeves and his life and accomplishments.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Planning your school year

Note: This is not AO specific.  This is also not just for planning a schoolyear, but also helpful to study before you go to a curriculum fair or open up any homeschool catalog or even visit a book sale!

I personally think that planning the school year or buying and choosing curriculum is a lot simpler if you set some things straight in your mind first. Basically, develop your philosophy of education, because once you do that, it's much easier to weed out stuff you don't need, stuff that will actually undermine your goals for your family.  Being clear on what you believe about learning will help you clearly see if any given resource or practice is a good fit for your family. Sometimes you've already done that work, but just need some reminders to refresh the soul.

Here are some things you might find encouraging and helpful.

Read this (here's just enough to give you a taste):
Natural knowledge is knowledge of things as they are. It's what we get first, but it's pre-verbal, so it's hard to measure and identify. But it's what humans love because it is personal and direct. Conventional knowledge is knowledge of what humans have come up with to record the knowledge of things as they are, or often to dissemble. In other words, names. People don't mind having this knowledge, but they don't value names for animals they don't play with. Let me explain that a little and see if I can connect it to your original question about inspiring children. When you and I think about knowledge, we almost always have in mind names for facts. For example, we think about the civil war in 1861-1865. The Civil War is a fact. That it took place in 1861 - 1865 is another fact. But if you think a little harder about it, you realize that in fact that "Civil War" is a [B]name[/B] that we give to an event that occurred in the past. The proof that it is a name and not the fact itself is that people can refer to it by other names, such as "The war between the states," or "the war of the northern aggression" etc. Hold on to that distinction between a fact and a name, and let me draw an analogy. If you tell your child that a dog in a picture is named Rex, do you think she would care or remember for very long? The answer, I would suggest, is, "It depends." So what does it depend on? More than anything, it depends on whether she knows the dog personally. If it is her own dog and she loves it, she'll remember. If it is her friends dog, she'll probably still remember. If it is a dog in a book like those Lewis describes at the beginning of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader ("of fat foreign children doing exercises" - ie of decontextualized factoids that give superficial contacts with irrelevant things), then she won't. Why not? Because she doesn't know the dog.

Think about this aspect of a Charlotte Mason education:

“The question is not, -- how much does the youth know? when he has finished his education -- but how much does he care? and about how many orders of things does he care? In fact, how large is the room in which he finds his feet set? and, therefore, how full is the life he has before him?”
Education is the Science of Relations; that is, that a child has natural relations with a vast number of things and thoughts: so we must train him upon physical exercises, nature, handicrafts, science and art, and upon many living books; for we know that our business is, not to teach him all about anything, but to help him make valid, as many as may be of
'Those first born affinities,
'That fit our new existence to existing things.'

And this one:

Children have Affinities and should have Relations.––I cannot stop here to gather any more of the instruction and edification contained in those two great educational books, The Prelude and Præterita. It is enough for the present if they have shown us in what manner children attach themselves to their proper affinities, given opportunity and liberty. Our part is to drop occasion freely in the way, whether in school or at home. Children should have relations with earth and water, should run and leap, ride and swim, should establish the relation of maker to material in as many kinds as may be; should have dear and intimate relations with persons, through present intercourse, through tale or poem, picture or statue; through flint arrow-head or modern motor-car: beast and bird, herb and tree, they must have familiar acquaintance with. Other peoples and their languages must not be strange to them. Above all they should find that most intimate and highest of all Relationships,––the fulfilment of their being.

This is not a bewildering programme, because, in all these and more directions, children have affinities; and a human being does not fill his place in the universe without putting out tendrils of attachment in the directions proper to him. We must get rid of the notion that to learn the 'three R's' or the Latin grammar well, a child should learn these and nothing else. It is as true for children as for ourselves that, the wider the range of interests, the more intelligent is the apprehension of each.
Education not Desultory.––But I am not preaching a gospel for the indolent and proclaiming that education is a casual and desultory matter. Many great authors have written at least one book devoted to education; and Waverley seems to me to be Scott's special contribution to our science.

And this:

But we, believing that the normal child has powers of mind which fit him to deal with all knowledge proper to him, give him a full and generous curriculum; taking care only that all knowledge offered him is vital, that is, that facts are not presented without their informing ideas. Out of this conception comes our principle that,
Education is the Science of Relations.––The idea that vivifies teaching in the Parents' Union is that Education is the Science of Relations; by which phrase we mean that children come into the world with a natural 'appetency,' to use Coleridge's word, for, and affinity with, all the material of knowledge; for interest in the heroic past and in the age of myths; for a desire to know about everything that moves and lives, about strange places and strange peoples; for a wish to handle material and to make; a desire to run and ride and row and do whatever the law of gravitation permits. Therefore we do not feel it is lawful in the early days of a child's life to select certain subjects for his education to the exclusion of others; to say he shall not learn Latin, for example, or shall not learn Science; but we endeavour that he shall have relations of pleasure and intimacy established with as many as possible of the interests proper to him; not learning a slight or incomplete smattering about this or that subject, but plunging into vital knowledge, with a great field before him which in all his life he will not be able to explore. In this conception we get that 'touch of emotion' which vivifies knowledge, for it is probable that we feel only as we are brought into our proper vital relations.

Or this simple summation:
a system of education should have for its aim, not the mastery of certain 'subjects,' but the establishment of these relations in as many directions as circumstances will allow.

All quotes not directly attributed are from Charlotte Mason.  You can find them in context at AO's website.

Now, think about what you're doing, what you have planned, and what you want to do, and measure it by what you believe about education and how children learn. Keep these ideas in mind as you work out your schedule, and don't slot time and space for projects that undermine those goals.

Memorization and the Soul: Why, What, and How by Brandy Vencel (link is for a purchase now)

You might find this free resource on the value of memorizing poems helpful.

Testing?  I believe that Schooling is about facts, but education is about ideas, and if you agree, I would suggest that you try to use materials that reflect that.  In this way, you would only care about "assessment tests" that  are based more on discussions with your students where you attempt to discern how much they care, if at all.

Nature STudy, Science, and Charlotte Mason

Pretty much everything you need to know about copywork and dictation