Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Embracing the Initial Idea

As I watch the children daydreaming at their work occasionally, I attempt to pinpoint the struggle. What I see is a lack of focus. I notice an attitude of "This is taking so long and it's boring. I think I will look around for awhile. Hmm, here is a book I didn't put back on the shelf. I wonder what is written on the back? I was about halfway through it last night. I wonder what happens next?" and voila! the child has allowed herself to become distracted from the task at hand.

I do it too. It goes like this: "I really ought to get ready for the day before I go out to the living room. But I just want to check something really quick on the email. Oh look-- here is an interesting discussion on Yahoo Group A. I have been wondering the same thing! What do people have to say about it? Hmm, that reminds me of a website. I think I'll just go look at what it says quickly." And before I know it, an hour has passed, it is time for breakfast, and here I sit in my pj's.

Miss Mason says that "most of our actions spring from thoughts that are not conscious." She calls this unconscious cerebration. The cure, she says, is introducing a new idea. It must be repeated in order to be effective. The mistake most people make is in allowing lapses. Then the new habit must be retrained.

For instance, I used to have a very good habit of keeping my house tidy. The bathrooms were clean and the kitchen sink empty. I kept up with my laundry. I had to turn into a bit of a shrew to accomplish this regularly, but I did keep up the house. However, I couldn't figure out how to keep my house really clean without being cranky about it. Finally, I decided it was better to be a content mama with a lived-in house and occasionally backed-up laundry than a cranky mama with a beautifully kept house. It is probably possible to keep the house beautifully kept and also be gracious and kind, but I had a struggle because my initial idea was wrong-- I allowed thoughts like, "I'm working so hard to keep the house tidy, and no one cares enough to pick up their socks or rinse their dishes!" So now I work on changing the first thought that comes to mind when I begin to tidy things up. My house doesn't stay as clean now, but the cleaning I do doesn't affect my mood negatively.

[Later note: Please don't get the idea that I am advocating shirking responsibility for the sake of a good mood. I don't think CM agreed with that either. The housekeeping thing is an area of struggle for me currently, and it is more involved than just my attitude. I would be overworked if I kept our house spotless with all the other things we do, and the housekeeping training of the children goeth slowly. It probably wasn't a very good example, but I don't want to take it out because I published it already.]

The initial idea is most important. Once the initial idea has been embraced, the reasoning abilities of the person will carry the thought "down the road," so to speak, to its conclusion, somewhat based on the prior knowledge and experience of the person, but mainly based on what the person wants to believe. It is not necessarily a right conclusion. Miss Mason believed that any initial idea (even a wrong one) could be proved to be right by the reasoning ability of the person who accepts it; so we need to be careful which ideas we and our children embrace!

He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool: but whoso walketh wisely, he shall be delivered. Proverbs 28:26

A little side thought about prayer and the intervention of the Holy Spirit: this must be where the Holy Spirit does miracles for us, helping us to right conclusions when our knowledge and experience (and desires!) would not normally lead us to the proper conclusion. It is a good thing to pray for our children's thoughts (and ours) to be directed by the Lord. This will help a lot with their developing good habits. An education rich in good examples without preachifying is also to be desired.

Since it is entirely possible for us to convince ourselves of the rightness of an idea which is wrong, it is important for us to know ourselves-- not "finding yourself," the discovery of what is peculiar to you as an individual; but the knowledge of what man is in general-- what is common to all men, which CM says is "a sound cure for unhealthy self-contemplation."

It is good to learn that we are capable of reasoning any idea, right or wrong, to a favorable conclusion; what we are aware of we can guard against. We then begin to recognize the need for deliberate habits in thinking, and in other areas too. If we just allow any thought that pops into our heads, we become as animals; thinking becomes merely an involuntary act, almost like a sneeze.

Saturday, August 26, 2006


I like this. It is one of the quotes from "Cloud of Witness" that Leslie has been posting lately.

TIME was, I shrank from what was right
From fear of what was wrong;
I would not brave the sacred fight,
Because the foe was strong.
But now I cast that finer sense
And sorer shame aside;
Such dread of sin was indolence,
Such aim at Heaven was pride.
So, when my Saviour calls, I rise,
And calmly do my best;
Leaving to Him, with silent eyes
Of hope and fear, the rest.
I step, I mount where He has led;
Men count my haltings o'er;—
I know them; yet, though self I dread,
I love His precept more.

--John Henry Newman

Friday, August 25, 2006

Look at This!

The dibbuns and I are going to have to revise our planets mnemonic.

According to the IAU, there are now eight planets. Pluto has been demoted, and three other bodies (Ceres, Charon and Xena) being considered for promotion to planet status did not make the cut. Now Pluto and Ceres are considered "dwarf planets" and Charon is left as "Pluto's largest moon". Xena is not the official name of the other celestial body, according to Wikipedia :

Claims that 2003 UB313 has been officially named "Xena" or "Lila" are incorrect; "Xena" is an informal codename used by its discoverers among themselves, and "Lila" is a name in the address of the website where the object was announced, after the newly-born daughter of one of the discoverers. Neither name was submitted to the IAU.

So the poor thing has the unromantic title of "2003 UB313". I prefer "Xena," myself.

The final definition of "planet," agreed upon yesterday by the body of the IAU, according to the Wikipedia current event article, is the following (found here):

The IAU...resolves that planets and other bodies in our Solar System be defined into three distinct categories in the following way:
(1) A "planet" [1] is a celestial body that: (a) is in orbit around the Sun, (b) has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a hydrostatic equilibrium (nearly round) shape, and (c) has cleared the neighbourhood around its orbit.

(2) A "dwarf planet" is a celestial body that: (a) is in orbit around the Sun, (b) has sufficient mass for its self-gravity to overcome rigid body forces so that it assumes a hydrostatic equilibrium (nearly round) shape [2], (c) has not cleared the neighbourhood around its orbit, and (d) is not a satellite.

(3) All other objects [3] except satellites orbiting the Sun shall be referred to collectively as "Small Solar System Bodies".


[1] The eight planets are: Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune.[2] An IAU process will be established to assign borderline objects into either "dwarf planet" and other categories.
[3] These currently include most of the Solar System asteroids, most Trans-Neptunian Objects (TNOs), comets, and other small bodies.

The IAU further resolves:
Pluto is a "dwarf planet" by the above definition and is recognized as the prototype of a new category of trans-Neptunian objects.

And who is the IAU to be redefining planets? The International Astronomical Union, an organization recognized by astronomers around the world as the "official authority for naming stars, planets, asteroids and other celestial bodies and phenomena, and is the official body of astronomy." (Wikipedia article on the IAU)

Very interesting. I wonder how long the decision will stick? It looks like they had a lot of heated discussion and debate before they agreed on a definition.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

The Homeschooling Meme

Mrs. Happy Housewife has tagged me for this meme, which was started by Bookworm. Oddly enough, my answers look a lot like Mrs. Happy Housewife's. That must be why I enjoy her blog so much.

Charlotte Mason's series on education. What else?

The Internet. Ever so much easier than using a dictionary, set of encyclopedias or the library. (We still use the library and dictionaries, of course. But only when we have to. And I haven't seen the inside of a paper encyclopedia lo, these many years.)

Personal Help for Girls (it just didn't work for us)

A good friend living across the street who taught my kids drawing in exchange for me teaching her kids piano. They are moving out of state this coming Monday. There are a lot of long faces around our house.

The Pilgrim's Progress audio book (It is an amplified version. We were unsure of whether we would like it since it is not necessarily the original text, but we listened to audio samples and liked them and purchased it. So far, pretty good.)

Norms and Nobility by David Hicks.

A device that makes it so you can use the Find (on this page) function with paper books. I've gotten spoiled with that little online tool. You know, click on Edit, then click on Find (on this page) and it pulls up a little window. You type in the word or phrase and hit search. It finds what you are looking for quickly and painlessly. I can't tell you how many times I have searched a regular book for a quote and wished the book had that button. Must be a postmodern thing.

I really don't read them. I collect them, thinking I will need them, and then I end up going online to look for what I want. I did enjoy the Elijah Company catalog while it was around, though.

Ambleside Online.


Dawn at Excelsior Warriors

Athena in a Minivan



Where is the Time to Come From?

"Time is a very bankrupt, and owes more than he's worth to season. Nay, he's a thief, too: have you not heard men say, That time comes stealing on by night and day?" (Comedy of Errors, Act IV, Scene II)

As we adjust to new schedules and routines, this quote from our first term's Shakespeare play seems appropriate. We have our nice new schedule, and have hit the third week new-school-year-slump... you know, the one where the novelty has worn off but the habit isn't set yet? Some of us are starting to grumble about how to get all the work finished. (I try to keep quiet and not let the kids hear me, lol!)

I have friends around me who do a very simple list-type schedule, where the readings are placed on a list and whenever something gets read, it gets checked off the list. Although I see the beauty in such a system, I don't do anything that simple. (This probably has something to do with personality and my own shortcomings where mental processes are concerned.) I make up a schedule of days and weeks and plug in all of the readings, and schedule where we should be in math and grammar. Then I let copywork, poetry, and art and music appreciation be the things that we do by list-fashion. I have the kids do the previous work before moving on to the next day. I only give them their current week's work in their individual planning books, so I can adjust for real life and they don't feel like they are getting behind. I can tell if we are getting behind by my big teacher's schedule. This year, since real life never happens according to schedule, I wised up a little and scheduled our readings and such into ten weeks instead of twelve, leaving one week for catch up and one week for exams. I was able to work it out so that we still get days off for holidays and finish by the end of May. It is a comfort to know that if someone gets sick or we need to take a day to help a friend, we have a budget of extra time to catch up, a little margin.

Time is a thief. And I want to "secure many a half-hour of pleasant leisure for the young people..." (CM Vol. 5 p. 195-196) The practical working-out of this goal is still in progress here. This is currently on the front of my school binder:

But, if the schoolgirl is to get two or three hours intact, she will owe it to her mother's firmness as much as to her good management. In the first place, that the school tasks be done, and done well, in the assigned time, should be a most fixed law. The young people will maintain that it is impossible, but let the mother insist; she will thereby cultivate the habit of attention, the very key to success in every pursuit, as well as secure for her children's enjoyment the time they would dissipate if left to themselves... Firmness on the mother's part in enforcing promptness in the taking off and putting on of outdoor clothes, etc., and punctuality at meals, and in not allowing one occupation to overlap another, secures many a half-hour of pleasant leisure for the young people, and has the double advantage of also making them feel themselves under a firm home rule. (p. 195-196)

I am endeavoring to do this at our house. It is a challenge to keep up the firm household management while simultaneously maintaining an relaxed atmosphere. I struggle with keeping myself on task, and on being firm without using a sharp tone of voice. A friend of mine mentioned the other day that a sharp tone of voice when telling a child to do something implies that the parent expects noncompliance. I am trying to remember that as I shepherd my brood through the fall term. Prayer helps a lot.

Evening, and morning, and at noon, will I pray, and cry aloud; and he shall hear my voice. Psalm 55:17

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Mind over Matter

Triss leaned back in her seat in the van, eyes closed, hands resting on her legs. She looked to be deep in concentration. As I got into the van, she spoke.

"Ice cream...snow...ice... I'm thinking cold thoughts until the air conditioning bursts forth."

Thirty-six days of over 100-degree temperatures in one summer will do that to ya. But it isn't over 100 degrees today. It's only 99 degrees. And tomorrow the forecasted high is a mere 97 degrees. A cold front!

Sunday, August 20, 2006


I am still learning this new blog. I have a quote I would like to have appear in the sidebar, and I hope it will. We'll see. But it is too good not to share, regardless of my success in adding it to the template, so here it is:

"Friends, if we be honest with ourselves, we shall be honest with each other."

--George MacDonald
And this was the runner-up:

"Truth is such a rare thing, it is delightful to tell it."
--Emily Dickinson

I used to think I was a pretty honest person. Then I started to read about truth, honesty and justice; and I learned that it isn't merely representing events accurately. It's a whole way of life.

"Justice requires that we should take steady care every day to yield his rights to every person we come in contact with; that is, 'to do unto others as we would that they should do unto us: to hurt nobody by word or deed'; therefore we must show gentleness to the persons of others, courtesy to their words, and deference to their opinions, because these things are due. We must be true and just in all our dealing. Veracity, fidelity, simplicity, and sincerity must therefore direct our words. Candour, appreciation, discrimination must guide our thoughts. Fair-dealing, honesty, integrity must govern our actions. " (CM Series, Vol. 4 p. 137)

Whew, that's a tall order. But I am reassured:

"It is quite plain that to think fairly, speak truly, and act justly towards all persons at all times and on all occasions, which is our duty, is a matter requiring earnest thought and consideration––is, in fact, the study of a lifetime. We might be a little discouraged by the thought of how much is due from us to all our neighbours everywhere, if it were not that justice is within us, ready to rule; that the Lords in waiting of his court wait upon his bidding. Candour, sincerity, simplicity, integrity, fidelity, and the rest are our servants at command, and what we have to do is to find our way about in the Circuit of justice, to recognise the dues of others as they come before us, and behold! we have in hand always that coin of the realm of justice wherewith to pay the dues of all our neighbours. It is a great thing to know this; to be able to walk about wealthy in the streets of our Mansoul, and to know that we have wherewith to pay our way on all hands. Many a poor soul goes a pauper; he has all the coinage of Justice, but does not know it, and therefore does not use it. He is blind because he fixes his eyes all the time on his own rights and other people's duties; therefore he cannot see other people's rights and his own duties; that is, he cannot be just. " (CM Series Vol. 4 p. 138-139)

The greatest assurance, however, comes from this Man's example:

"I am the way, the truth and the life." (John 14:6)
Cornflower, Mariel and Triss

First Post

This is my first post on Blogger. I have another blog here, but wanted to be able to leave comments on the blogs of some of my Blogger friends, so here I am. This is a test post.