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Monday, September 16, 2019

Nonsense & Fun: A Scouting Song

Go Get the Axe is one of AO's folksong selections this year.  On our FB group somebody asked if it was okay to switch it out with a different song they like better.  That is always perfectly acceptable, and nobody needs our permission for that.

For those who are curious about the song, here is some additional information about it, and about the genre of nonsense songs.

How old is it?

Older than Bugs Bunny.  It's an old Boy Scout camp song which predates Bugs. It goes back to the early 1900s according to contemplator:  (contemplator moves its songs around, so if this is now a broken link, search for go get the axe on their site).

It's not terribly old in the world of folk music.  Some additional references:

Peterson's magazine, vol 92 1888 quotes references a political parody tune: "At the April dinner of the GridIron club at the Arlington Hotel in Washington, April 22, four members sung to the tune of "The little black bull" a song, the title of which was given as "Peeping through the Knot Hole in Papa's Wooden Leg or Why Was the Ocean Built so Near to the Shore?"

There's a reference in the 1904 book 
Jim Hickey :a story of the one-night stands /by George V. Hobart One-night stands here has little to do with the modern meaning, but rather, refers to a troup of comic actors and singers who travel and perform, one night each place.

 'The Hackney Scout Song Book' (1938 edition) references an older YMCA Camp Song book

What is the point?

A Charlotte Mason education is not utilitarian. 

There is a place in your children's life for nonsense and fun, and just plain hilarity and giddiness. That place is where Go Get the Axe belongs.  Again, you can definitely and freely, without any condemnation from us, choose a different folksong.  Just make sure there is room and material for a bit of free nonsense in your child's life.
From volume 2:
Rest––At the same time, change of occupation is not rest: if a man ply a machine, now with his foot, and now with his hand, the foot or the hand rests, but the man does not. A game of romps (better, so far as mere rest goes, than games with laws and competitions), nonsense talk, a fairy tale, or to lie on his back in the sunshine, should rest the child, and of such as these he should have his fill.

From volume 6, in a section where Mason is lamenting the educational, and life, failures of two overly earnest young men who attempt to learn and memorize their way through life, going at all their subjects all wrong, because they have "never got so far as to learn that knowledge is delightful because one likes it; and that no effort at self-education can do anything until one has found out this supreme delightfulness of knowledge."

Give children the chance to appreciate nonsense and absurdity.

"A cultivated sense of humour is a great factor in a joyous life, but these young men are without it. Perhaps the youth addicted to sports usually fails to appreciate delicate nonsense; sports are too strenuous to admit of a subtler, more airy kind of play and we read:
R––heard Mr. Balfour and Lord Rayleigh praising Alice in Wonderland. Deeply impressed he bought the book as soon as he returned to London and read it earnestly. To his horror he saw no sense in it. Then it struck him that it might be meant as nonsense and he had another try, then he concluded that it was rather funny but he remained disappointed."

The sense of humour that allows children (and adults) to appreciate nonsense also allows them the grace of self-depreciation, humility, the ability to laugh at themselves when they are being absurd.
Children need, "wholesome happy nonsense, and the children who can thoroughly enjoy it are growing up with that inestimable treasure a sense of humour - that salt in ourselves which brings savour out of the commonplace, and preserves us from the infection of the stale, the flat, the unprofitable dullness of prosaic minds."

Admittedly, a very little of this goes a long way, and we do not need to introduce the children to too much silliness.  They will arrive at it on their own, anyway.  Including an occasional silly song or nonsense verse is helpful in giving them a template for the form and metre, for showing them how it might be done cleverly and with wit, and for letting them know that parents, too, can appreciate a bit of frivolity.  But don't overdo it.

From volume 1: 
"The Sense of Incongruous.––All their lessons will afford some scope for some slight exercise of the children's thinking power, some more and some less, and the lessons must be judiciously alternated, so that the more mechanical efforts succeed the more strictly intellectual, and that the pleasing exercise of the imagination, again, succeed efforts of reason. By the way, it is a pity when the sense of the ludicrous is cultivated in children's books at the expense of better things. Alice in Wonderland is a delicious feast of absurdities, which none of us, old or young, could afford to spare; but it is doubtful whether the child who reads it has the delightful imaginings, the realising of the unknown, with which he reads The Swiss Family Robinson.
This point is worth considering in connection with Christmas books for the little people. Books of 'comicalities' cultivate no power but the sense of the incongruous; and though life is the more amusing for the possession of such a sense, when cultivated to excess it is apt to show itself a flippant habit. Diogenes and the Naughty Boys of Troy is irresistible, but it is not the sort of thing the children will live over and over, and 'play at' by the hour, as we have all played at Robinson Crusoe finding the footprints. They must have 'funny books,' but do not give the children too much nonsense reading."
 If you do choose to use this song, in addition to just singing it for fun, you can also play around with the lyrics. 

There are many different verses, so you can look up other versions and add them.

Your kids can make up their own if they like.

Another verse:
The chambermaid came to the door,
"Wake up you lazy sinners.
We need those sheets for tablecloths,
and it's almost time for dinner."

Use other familiar poems to make up silly verses:

Under the spreading chestnut tree,
The village smithy stands:
The smith a mighty man is he –
But we'll throw him through the window.

        The window! The window!
        We'll throw him through the window.
        The smith a mighty man is he –
But we'll throw him through the window.

The boy stood on the burning deck,
And he refused to leave:
He said, "When this deck gets burnt out –
I'll throw it through the window."

Old Mother Hubbard she went to the cupboard,
To get the poor dog a bone:
But when she got there the cupboard was bare –
So she threw it through the window.

Little Jack Horner sat in a corner,
Eating his Christmas pie:
He put in his thumb and pulled out a plum –
And he threw it through the window.

Little Miss Muffett sat on a tuffet,
Eating her curds and whey:
There came a big spider, and sat down beside her –
So she threw it through the window.
Jack and Jill went up the hill
To fetch a pail of water:
Jack fell down and broke his crown –
So she threw him through the window.

Hey diddle diddle, the cat and the fiddle,
The cow jumped over the moon:
The little dog laughed to see such fun –
So they threw him through the window.

Above is from an old boy scout camp song book.

Make up your own with other nursery rhymes or poems your family knows:

Jack and Jill went up the hill
To fetch a pail of water
Jack fell down and broke his crown
And threw it out the window, the window
The FIRST story window
Jack fell down and broke his crown
And threw it out the window,

Mary had a little lamb,

It's fleece was white as snow
And everywhere that she would go,
She'd throw it out the window, the window, the second story window
Everywhere that Mary went, she threw it out the window.

Little Bo Peep, she lost her sheep
And knew not where to find them
Leave them alone and they'll come home
Then throw them out the window, the window, 
the third story window.  Leave them alone and they'll come home
then throw them out the window.

Little Miss Muffet, sat on a tuffet
Eating her curds and whey
There came a great spider which sat down beside her
and she jumped out the window!
The window, the window, the fourth story window
There came a great spider which sat down beside her
so she jumped out he window.

Little Jack Horner sat in his corner
Eating his Christmas pie
He stuck in his thumb and drew out a plum
Then threw it out the window, the window the fifth story window
He stuck in his plum then drew out a plum and threw it out the window

 And so on with as many MOther Goose rhymes as you care to try.

Here's the Harvard version, learn it and learn some synonyms: 
Peering through the aperture in father's artificial appendage
who'll tighten the chronometer when I cross the bar?
go procure the viand dissector, there's an insect on baby's cerebellum
one of the greatest sociological factors of the development of the male of the species Homo Sapiens is his immediate maternal ancestor.

As with all songs where children start making up verses to fit the tune and pattern of the lyrics, they are actually learning about rhythm and meter without stress- some lines fit, some need to be shortened or lengthened, and the kids will figure it out. Doing this strengthens their ability to work with words and to make words work for them, to understand the mechanics of poetry conceptually long before they are given the technical terms for rhyme schemes and metre.   Not that there needs to be a utilitarian purpose and function to everything you do. Nonsense adds a bit of lightness and fizz to the juice of life. 

 It's okay to just have fun.

(above info gleaned mostly from

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Friday, September 13, 2019

National Gallery of Art has a number of free resources both online, and available through the mail.
Check it out.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Sample Plutarch Narrations

I'm cleaning out cupboards, nooks, crannies, and secret bookshelves, the detritus of decades.  By secret, I mean something more like forgotten.  One of the bedrooms has a bookcase in a niche in the wall that is completely hidden when the door is open.  You have to be in that room with the door shut to see the bookcase.  The contents of that bookcase were largely the books in use by the person using the bedroom at the time, and their notebooks and journals and so forth.  The room was used by three kids in succession and I was seldom in the room with the door shut and it was just a case of out of sight, out of mind.  None of those three cleared out their notebooks they had stashed on that shelf so it's really an archeaological dig (seriously, a dig, I won't desribe the dust levels on this forgotten shelf).

The following narrations were on undated scraps of paper ripped from a composition book and stashed there.  They are untitled as well.  I know they are from Plutarch, and I know the kid who wrote them the least academic and least motivated.  I think probably this student was around 12 or 13 when these were written, but it could have been any time in the first couple of years in high school. This student often gave the subjects of Plutarch shortened nicknames.

I share them here just to give other parents using Plutarch some idea of what a Plutarch narration could look like. It doesn't have to be a comprehensive thesus.  Ideally, once a week or even every other week, I should have worked with this student, taking one such narration and helping the student turn it into a longer composition, with better spelling and clearer writing.  But when every reading of the day is narrated by hand, this length is acceptable for most of them.  It's a gift, really, terse prose.  At least to me, because I have never attained it.

1.The Achaians used to use foreignors in their military so they could have better leaders. The problem with this is that the generals would often start unnecessary wars to help their own. When 'Phil' redid the entire military, he fixed this problem.

2. This account seems accurate because he has very personal details about the battle with the Firmanians. He also spoke of detailed injuries among the upper ranks. He went out in front of his army and didn't make a big deal about that.

3. "Phil" trained his military much differently than other generals. The first significant change he made was the make-up of his army.  He chose young men and fined them if they refused to join.  Phil made his army do their drills in large, open public places where people could watch.  After trying to turn in areas like that, moving in an open battle field was easy.

4. He put a luxury tax on many unnecessary items that people bought, thereby creating another source of income for the government and also discouraged lavish purchases. It helped reduce the things the people bought, but for some reason, the Roman people loved Cato for making this tax.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Diversity in your curriculum: Myanmar

1. A very brief history of Myanmar to read:
Look at a map and see a few more details about Myanmar here:
World Atlas info:

2.Listen to the remarkable story of Dr. Sasa, from Myanmar.  He escaped horrendous persecution, went to college to become a doctor, and then he returned to Myanmar to treat his people. Narrate what you've heard.  Include Dr. Sasa and the people of Myanmar in your prayers.

3. About once a week take the East ASia quiz at Soterra:
Soterra maps, printable or play games online:

Digging Deeper.

Other information on Myanmar- consider printing out one of the maps listed further below, planning five or ten minutes each week to do the soterra quiz on Asia each week, and clicking through here to find stories and prayer requests related to Myanmar for the rest of the month:  You can make your own selections, or use the ones I've highlighted below if you'd rather save some time:

October is the month of prayer for the Shan, Shui, and Zhuang people:

The poverty cycle:
Christian vs Buddhist beliefs in Myanmar:

Cultural differences- where does being a good steward become being stingy and less generous?

The cultural struggles of a Christian missionary- very good read-

Here's a short account of special challenges and needs for disabled people in Myanmar:

Christians struggle to share their faith in a country where they may be persecuted:

A few paragraphs about a poor Christian woman who is a cleaner in Myanmar, and her faith:

Taking a boat to go to Sunday School:

The conversion of a Myanmar fisherman:

Bamboo huts, porridge, and monthly Bible stories: The host family who provide these opportunities are all HIV positive.

Shrines and altars in all the high places, and low:

Translation difficulties:

Have fun with a few Myanmar folk tales:
The ant and the elephant:  (it's in Myanmar, but has English subtitles)
The Peacock and the Crow (in English):

Rohingya Song (English subtitles):

Other sources for printable maps:

Black and white printable world map:

Myanmar travel info: Learn about the flag, the geography, languages, people, and sites to see:


World Atlas info:


I found this one particularly interesting:

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Today at Amazon

Today at Amazon: 2.99 for the Kindle versions of:

  Overcomer: 8 Ways to Live a Life of Unstoppable Strength, Unmovable Faith, and Unbelievable Power Kindle Edition by David Jeremiah

  Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity Kindle Edition by Nabeel Qureshi

  How to Read Water: Clues and Patterns from Puddles to the Sea Kindle Edition by Tristan Gooley- I love this one.  I read it in hard copy from the library and for free using a free month of Kindle Unlimited, and then I bought this version.  Great stuff for nature study and observational skills.

  Introverted Mom: Your Guide to More Calm, Less Guilt, and Quiet Joy Kindle Edition by Jamie C. Martin

  Fix it and Forget it Cookbook And for .99, a Paleo cookbook with 90 grain-and dairy-free recipes it says the whole family will love.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Pure and Good

Why does AO use *those* stories? Why read things written by *that* author?  HOw does that reading fit this description:

"Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are purewhatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things."

What is your definition of true, honest, just? Isn't it lovely when children are learning discernment? Isn't it pure and good when they are learning "to know what is good and to perform the same?"

This doesn't really happen deeply and well when they are reading stories expressly written to teach this or that single virtue.  Often, the opposite happens, and they learn to think and to be Pharisees, lacking in compassion for the fallen and the weak, but strong in the sense of their own personal good.
 Charlotte Mason was often asked similar questions, and in volume VI, after explaining the use of Plutarch and Roman myths in citizenship readings, she sympathizes with the misgivings some have expressed,
 "In giving children the knowledge of men and affairs which we class under 'Citizenship' we have to face the problem of good and evil. Many earnest-minded teachers will sympathise with one of their number who said,––
"Why give children the tale of Circe, in which there is such an offensive display of greediness, why not bring them up exclusively on heroic tales which offer them something to live up to? Time is short. Why not use it all in giving examples of good life and instruction in good manners?"

"Why should they read any part of Childe Harold, and so become familiar with a poet whose works do not make for edification?" 

 The Childe Harold poem referred to is by Lord Byron, who had a scandalous reputation (and still does).
She continues:

"Now Plutarch is like the Bible in this, that he does not label the actions of his people as good or bad but leaves the conscience and judgment of his readers to make that classification. What to avoid and how to avoid it, is knowledge as important to the citizen whether of the City of God or of his own immediate city, as to know what is good and how to perform the same. Children recognise with incipient weariness the doctored tale as soon as it is begun to be told, but the human story with its evil and its good never flags in interest."
For more, you want to look up volume 6, around pages 186/187

 Elsewhere, in volume, she explains that children need the sorts of stories- she specifically mentions 'delicious fairy tales,' that fill their minds, squeezing out all thoughts of self.

A PR article about choosing literature for the young warns against goody-goody books, straight romance novels where there is no character development.  There are several publishing companies and stories highly popular among homeschoolers which are exactly this sort of story, and regrettably, the use of these tales tends to narrow instead of expanding the sympathies, or to make children self-conscious or priggish, or the sort of child who is low on compassion, but strong on opinions about how much better he would be in those circumstances.
Ronald McNeill Volume 8, no. 9, 1897. 

"Stories, again, of the Christmas holidays, of George and Lucy, of the amusements, foibles, and virtues of children in their own condition of life, leave nothing to the imagination. The children know all about everything so well that it never occurs to them to play at the situations in any one of these tales, or even to read it twice over. But let them have tales of the imagination, scenes laid in other lands and other times, heroic adventures, hairbreadth escapes, delicious fairy tales in which they are never roughly pulled up by the impossible––even where all is impossible, and they know it, and yet believe.
Imagination and Great Conceptions.––And this, not for the children's amusement merely: it is not impossible that posterity may write us down a generation blest with little imagination, and, by so far, the less capable of great conceptions and heroic
efforts, for it is only as we have it in us to let a person or a cause fill the whole stage of the mind, to the exclusion of self occupation, that we are capable of large hearted action on behalf of that person or cause. Our novelists say there is nothing left to imagine; and that, therefore, a realistic description of things as they are is all that is open to them. But imagination is nothing if not creative, unless it see, not only what is apparent, but what is conceivable, and what is poetically fit in given circumstances.
Imagination Grows.––Now imagination does not descend, full grown, to take possession of an empty house; like every other power of the mind, it is the merest germ of a power to begin with, and grows by what it gets; and childhood, the age of faith, is the time for its nourishing."

Give them open-ended stories that fill the imagination and force them to think about the story and to wonder why and how things happened that way and what it all means.  Feed their imagination on things beyond their world.