Saturday, February 28, 2009

Blest are the Sons of Peace

Blest are the sons of peace,
Whose hearts and hopes are one;
Whose kind designs to serve and please,
Through all their actions run.

Blest is the pious house,
Where zeal and friendship meet;
Their songs of praise, their mingled vows,
Make their communion sweet.

Thus, when on Aaron's head,
They poured the rich perfume;
The oil through all his garments spread,
And pleasure filled the room.

Thus on the heavenly hills,
The saints are blessed above;
Where joy like morning dew distils,
And all the air is love.

--Isaac Watts

Parents as Persons

I have a child who instinctively grasps natural concepts, processes, philosophies, mechanics, laws, etc. She is not as good at connecting with people-things, for instance, how to relate to others, why people do the things they do, the idiosyncrasies of human nature. She likes things she can quantify, analyze, etc.

I am not willing that this child grow into an unbalanced adult, and so I draw out some of the thoughts in her history and literature books that she would not see on her own. She often says, "I never realized that." And you know what? She probably would not have. But I am helping her to be more sensitive with the pointing out that I do. If she were left to study certain books on her own, these people-concepts would be neglected, and she would have a rather stilted education, focusing only on the things that 'speak' to her, to the neglect of other things just as vital.

I have another child who instinctively grasps the poetic meaning of things-- poetry, music, psalms, art, why something 'feels' right or wrong, how even when a person 'says the right thing', they might not be saying the right thing. This child is very relational, and automatically draws out the motivations and feelings of the people in the books she reads-- something her sister misses oftentimes. However, processes and mechanics must be gone over and over for her, for she does not delight in them.

I am also not willing that this child grow into an unbalanced adult, and so I draw out some of the processes and systems and natural laws in her books that she would not grasp on her own. She often says, "I don't think I need to know that." And you know what? She probably won't use a lot of it. But she needs to know it is there, and be able to describe it, because it is as much a part of God's world as poetry. If I left her to study certain of her books on her own, these system-concepts would be neglected, and she would have a rather stilted education, focusing only on the things that 'speak' to her, to the neglect of other things just as vital.

I guess my point is that sometimes we have to draw out the lesson. We don't want to be pedantic lecturers, or beat the child over the head with the concept, and, yes, not everyone will go into science, or music, or philosophy, or art. But all of these things are vital, and we want to set our children's feet in a *large* room, to help them care about a great many things, not only the things they gravitate toward. Every person who is a *person* (and that includes all of us, and our children) has it in them to relate to a great many things. But some things want more relating help than others, and there is nothing wrong with providing that help. I think a lot of CMers get scared of 'pointing the moral' or 'preachifying' or 'dumbing things down', and take themselves right out of their children's education, hoping the books will do it all. But God gave us to them for a reason. We *are* some of the 'great minds' that God has provided for our children to help them relate to all the ideas and things in the world. I know we don't always have great thoughts, but why did He give us to our kids, anyway? Aren't we called to train them, to talk of vital concepts with them in our daily life? We must respect ourselves as persons, just as we respect our children, and allow ourselves to be a part of our kids' discussions regarding the world and everything in it.

(On a related note, I know the fable of the Animal School and how everyone has their own abilities that we should encourage, etc., and how we mustn't be so hard on students who don't do well in every area. I *do* think we should encourage our childrens natural abilities, passions, etc., and not be too hard on them in the areas they don't take to as naturally. However, they also ought to be encouraged to understand-- not quite as deeply, perhaps-- the areas they are not inclined toward. I see a significant flaw in the analogy of the Animal's School: those animals were not all of one 'kind', in the biblical sense of the word. We are. We are all people, created in God's image, and CM taught that all people, regardless of birth, s*x, socioeconomic status, or natural inclination, are gifted by God with the ability to relate to a great many things. Even the things that don't come as naturally. So I can't accept the Animal School analogy as apt. Of *course* you can't teach a fish to climb trees. But you can teach a science girl history.)

Friday, February 27, 2009

The Wisdom of Crafting Beauty

These verses stuck out to me as I read in Exodus (from the building of the tabernacle in the wilderness)

And all the women that were wisehearted did spin with their hands, and brought that which they had spun, both of blue, and of purple, and of scarlet, and of fine linen...

See, the LORD hath called by name Bezaleel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah; and he hath filled him with the spirit of God, in wisdom, in understanding, and in knowledge, and in all manner of workmanship; and to devise curious works, to work in gold, and in silver, and in brass, and in the cutting of stones, to set them, and in carving of wood, to make any manner of cunning work... (Exodus 35:25)

Then wrought Bezaleel and Aholiab, and every wisehearted man, in whom the LORD put wisdom and understanding to know how to work all manner of work for the service of the sanctuary, according to all that the LORD had commanded. (Exodus 36:1)

And every wisehearted man among them that wrought the work of the tabernacle made ten curtains of fine twined linen, and blue, and purple, and scarlet: with cherubims of cunning work made he them. (Exodus 36:8)

Mustn't Forget the Everlasting Stand

"The prerogative of princes may easily and daily grow, while the privileges of the subject are for the most part at an everlasting stand."

--from The New World by Winston Churchill (He excerpted it from an Apology the House of Commons drew up to remind their new king, James I, that they were a free people and that the Divine Right of Kings was less a given in England than he had reckoned on.)

We mustn't forget that the privileges of the subject, or the citizen, are at an everlasting stand-- we must consistently stand for liberty, as it is something that gets eaten away if we take it for granted.

Are you standing?

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Exam Week: Toad's Intervention

This is an oral retelling, by Cornflower, of an episode from Wind in the Willows:

What I like is when Mole comes into Rat’s house—I mean, no, not Mole, I mean Badger comes into Rat’s house and says to them, “Toad is not doing the right thing. He has bought a motor car,” said Badger. So they ate lunch and went to Toad Hall, and right as they were coming up the steps, Toad was coming down, and there was a shiny new motorcar. And he said, “You’re just out for a nice… nice, er… nice…” and his friends looked at him sternly. (Mole was with them.)

And Badger said to the guy with the motorcar, looking over his shoulder, “Toad won’t be needing you today,” so the motorcar was driven away, and Badger said to Toad, “The first thing you have to do is take off those ridiculous clothes!” But he refused. So he said to Mole and Rat, “Take those clothes off him.” So they struggled and struggled and finally got those ridiculous clothes off him. Then Badger told Toad to come with him to the Smoking Room. So they went in there, and Rat and Mole listened, and they could hear Toad crying and he had pledged to not touch a motorcar again.

And then Badger and Toad came out and Toad was still crying, and he sat down in a chair, and Badger told him, “Tell these folks what you have just said to me.” And he refused. So then Badger said to Mole what he had said to them. He had pledged not to touch another motorcar again! But then Toad said, “I don’t say that! I’m not sorry at all!!” So then they took him and scrambled up the stairs with him, and then they locked him in his bedroom, and then one day when Rat was—they were taking turns in his bedroom to sleep with him—and then one day when Rat was with him—it was a beautiful summer morning, and he told Toad to wake up. So he woke up and said, “Rat, I don’t feel so well. Will you go get a doctor?” So Rat ran off to get a doctor, and he snuck out the window and took a walk down to town!

And then he got to a restaurant and ate there. And then he heard the same noise: Put-put-put-put-put-put-put. A motorcar, he thought! And then some people came in. He didn’t pay for his bill, and walked out, and he said he wanted to look at the motorcar, so he went out and looked at the motorcar, and it was so beautiful he just had to touch it, so he touched it, and then—he just thought it wouldn’t hurt to sit in it, or drive it around. So then he drove it around. Then the police caught him, knowing that Toad did not own a motorcar! And he was sent to jail.

His friends were trying to help him. If he kept his pledge, he wouldn’t have been in jail. Poor Toad.

Exam Week: Gold In Sutter's Mill!

This is a history narration Mariel wrote last week for exams (I have corrected spelling mistakes):

In January, 1848, gold was discovered at a mill that was owned by a man named Sutter. The person who found it was a laborer named Marshall. He was doing his chores, and he came across some small pieces of gold (but of course he didn't know) and pounded it out and it was GOLD.

G-O-A-L-D or G-O-L-D, that "Mettle" was gold. He told Sutter and thus started the California gold rush!

Although this is a short written narration, it contains the main idea, provides important details, is properly sequenced, and tells about the event in an interesting way.

Exam Week: The Wanderer Above The Mists

This is Triss' composition on Caspar David Friedrich's painting, "The Wanderer Above the Mists", written last week during exams:

"The Wanderer Above the Mists" is a painting by Friedrich, who lived in the 1800s. It depicts a lone man standing with his back to the audience, evidently gazing over and across swirling mists to just-visible mountains. He is standing on a knoll or hill of some sort, and wearing very fine clothes, though his hair is in disarray. Though the mist appears white at first, upon closer inspection it proves to be made up of light, pastel blues, yellows and pinks, creating an effect not unlike the stars in Van Gogh's "Starry Night".

This picture is said to be very symbolic. The man is the painter himself, gazing across the mists of his life's tribulation and disorder to the mountains of Paradise. This seems an odd pick, to me. Why would mountains, which usually represent hardship and accomplishment, be Paradise? One possible answer is that the painter felt that he himself must work hard to get into Heaven, as many people in those days did. But these ideas of symbolism are merely guesses on the part of the viewers (*sic), as the painter said nothing about what it represented, or indeed if it represented anything more than a man, mists and mountains.

*Actually, Friedrich left journals describing the symbolism of his paintings, so this detail is incorrect. I still consider this a model composition, since she stated the main idea and important details, and included her own thoughts and opinions on the painting, as well as attempting connections with other things she has studied.


Cornflower: Triss, I'm going to write a story about a man who was descended from his hat.

Triss: You will be another Seuss, my dear.

Link Likes: Primogeniture, Credentialism and the Limits of Training

An interesting analysis on primogeniture, for those of you who have daughters that are questioning the reasons for the practice, prominent in Jane Austen novels, of entailing property to the oldest son. This has been a real sticking point for my kids, and I haven't been able to explain it very well, as it is a sticking point for me too. The explanation in the above post makes a lot of sense, although Triss and I agree that primogeniture works much better in a society in which the women are allowed, encouraged to, even applauded for seeking gainful employment when necessary.

(There is a small example of the contrast in one chapter of the novel, Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott, in which Jo and Meg are looked down upon by a young lady from England, because they contribute to their family's income, and are glad to do so. I remember Mr. Brooke talking about how that independence was not applauded in England at that time, but was more appreciated in America.)

A pertinent post on the limitations of habit training. Willa's points help me reconcile habit training with the idea of poetic knowledge.

A post, found via Sierra Highlands, answering critical questions regarding homeschooling. This especially resonated with me, as I was subjected to some rather intense questioning by the director of the regional science fair, dealing with whether it is responsible for parents to homeschool their children and whether they might be teaching them misconceptions in the area of science. The ironic thing is that the questioning came *after* my exclusively schooled-at-home child scored highly enough in the regional competition, along with children from public, private and science magnet schools, to be invited to the state competition. She has never had a science teacher besides uncertified ol' me. Unfortunately, I didn't hold up very well under the director's questioning, and ended up saying some things I regret. :sigh: So this post helped me plan for next time.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

No More, My God

Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts. --Isaiah 6:5

No more, my God! I boast no more
Of all the duties I have done;
I quit the hopes I held before,
To trust the merits of Thy Son.

Now for the love I bear His name,
What was my gain I count my loss,
My former pride I call my shame,
And nail my glory to His cross.

Yes, and I must and will esteem
All things but loss for Jesus' sake;
Oh! may my soul be found in Him,
And of His righteousness partake.

The best obedience of my hands
Dares not appear before Thy throne,
But faith can answer Thy demands
By pleading what my Lord has done.


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A Plug for Science Fairs

Mine and Mr. Honey's goal in homeschooling our kids is that they turn out to be just, merciful and humble people who love the Lord. Studying God's world definitely works toward the humility aspect, and learning to balance what is known with what is speculated upon helps them learn to be just in their opinions. How does the science fair fit in?

It provides parameters, limits, to their exploration, and requires them to follow a set format-- the scientific method-- to make their points. They realize pretty quickly how very little they know about a subject when they take it on as a project. They learn the value of persevering through mistakes and accidents of timing or nature.

And then they go to the fairs and win some, lose some. This is valuable, too. What factors influenced the judges' decisions? What other avenues of science are kids exploring that they have not yet examined? How can they organize their work and communicate it more effectively?

Last night we saw an entire room full of kids that excel in science, and they all looked different. The kids were treated to some words of encouragement from adult professionals, were told to keep taking those hard math and science classes because they can make a difference. I agree.

We need kids who feel at home in the world of science, that can logically navigate those waters (with beauty and joy, too!) and explain things to the rest of us.

Our main goal in educating our kids is to help them choose to walk with God. Interesting the places it takes us sometimes.

(P.S. Triss took third place in the Division II Earth and Planetary Science Category at the regional science and engineering fair last night, as well as receiving a special first place award from the Association of Woman Geoscientists. She is going to the state competition! We can hardly believe it-- Mr. Honey and I are two performing arts/liberal arts geeks who have been blessed to nurture this child's God-given interest in science. Oh, the places you'll go! Yes, I am bursting my buttons a bit with this. We never thought she'd go so far, especially with us as teachers. It constantly amazes me how the Lord redeems our weak efforts and grants abundant increase. Please forgive the shameless bragging. I'm going to hush now and try to think about other things.)

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Poetic Knowledge page 22-27

More notes on Chapter 2:

Page 22

In the first place, our senses tell us that things are-- for instance, that fire is hot. They do not tell us why it is hot. That question introduces the scientific or experimental branch of knowledge.

The concept of fire can be isolated into parts that are then analyzed as to why it works the way it does, thereby providing additional knowledge. But this knowledge isn't necessarily a better kind of knowledge than the sensory knowledge of fire, which is the knowledge that enables us to *recognize* a thing as fire when we see it. (I think we can all agree that no matter how much theoretical knowledge you have of fire, if you cannot recognize that a fire is a fire-- the fire-ness of it, so to speak-- when you see it, you are not only severely lacking in knowledge, but may also be a danger to yourself and others!)

Page 23

He gives a new definition for the term gymnastic: "a 'naked wrestling' with reality, unencumbered by microscopes, textbooks or tests."

I begin to see that the terms "gymnastic, poetry, music" can actually be used as adjectives to describe the idea of the poetic mode of learning, which would be "gymnastic, poetic, musical". I wonder if he is going to give a better sense of the adjective "musical". The best I can figure out right now is that since melody and rhythm are imitative of virtues or vices, "musical" as a term to describe instruction would be imitative of virtue. In this way, the heroes in books that inspire us to *be* them-- to sympathize or empathize-- would be musical. This is running right into Triss' and my Volume 4 study, which this week was on Sympathy. Sympathy would be musical. (I wonder if I am getting this or just running on into my own tangent?)

Wisdom: "That mode of knowledge that is in its own right higher than poetic knowledge....the study of things in their causes, a very rigorous, mature, complex discipline for the trained philosopher." (He makes a little note that says there are some instances in which formal training is not necessary to gain this kind of knowledge.)

Now he is talking about the senses, and how the satisfaction of them proves that people have a desire to learn. This is confusing: "The senses, of their own nature, make a proportionate selection of what is pleasant, what is the mean-- not unlike the tale of Goldilocks who finally selected the bowl of porridge that was not too hot, not too cold, but 'just right.' This 'just right' is poetic knowledge..."

Page 24

Sensory discrimination develops eventually into memory, and from there turns into 'experience'. It is the beginning of knowledge.

Now he is talking about 'wonder'. I'm still not quite clear on the idea that delighting the senses is the beginning of knowledge, but I'll move on to 'wonder' with Mr. Taylor, seeing that I am puzzled and wondering myself:

"A man who is puzzled and wonders thinks himself ignorant..."

Wonder is based in "fear produced by the consciousness of ignorance". I have to say I have never thought of wonder in this way before. To me it is too calm to be fear, but maybe I am thinking of anxious fear. He says that since man has a desire to *know*, this ignorance is perceived as a kind of evil, something to be remedied.

He contrasts the modern "Wow!" kind of wonder that we get when we see the laser-light show at Disneyland with the traditional kind of wonder, which he is referring to here. The traditional wonder appears in ordinary things, not in amazing special effects or 3-D.

"Wonder is the most rational kind of fear." Hmm. I'm still not completely convinced about the fear thing.

"Wonder arises, not from ignorance, but from the consciousness of ignorance."

Wonder arises from something unpleasant (consciousness of ignorance), but gives rise to a desire to know and a pursuit of knowledge, which are two pleasant things. They are pleasant because it is right and good for man to want to know and to attempt to find out.

(For some reason I am thinking of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in Genesis. Man's-- and Woman's-- desire to know got him in trouble then!)

"A man imprisoned will find his condition unpleasant, but he will take delight in planning his escape!"

Page 26

I did not understand one sentence on this page. It was about wonder being the beginning of philosophy, but I didn't get it.

(I started reading a different book yesterday, a parent's guide to adolescent neuroscience, and I have to say it was a relief to read that book after struggling almost halfway through Chapter 2 of Poetic Knowledge! This book is *hard*!)

Page 27

He says we get a "breather" now. Whew. Now we will talk about St. Augustine and St. Benedict. Augustine is important because he is a kind of link between the Greco-Roman tradition and the education of the Middle Ages. Benedict is important because he thought deeply about monastic living, and left rules of order that embody the poetic mode of life.

I think I am going to take a break and read this part later.

Thursday, February 12, 2009


" Ariel released from his tree prison, a beautiful human being leaps out of many a human prison at the touch of [sympathy]."

Sympathy is an eye to discern, a lever to raise, an arm to sustain. The service to the world that has been done by the great thinkers––the poets and the artists––and by the great doers––the heroes––is, that they have put out feelers, as it were, for our Sympathy. A picture or poem, or the story of a noble deed, 'finds' us, we say. We, too, think that thought or live in that action, and, immediately, we are elevated and sustained. This is the sympathy we owe to our fellows, near and far off. If we have anything good to give, let us give it, knowing with certainty that they will respond. If we fail to give this Sympathy, if we regard the people about us as thinking small, unworthy thoughts, doing mean, unworthy actions, and incapable of better things, we reap our reward. We are really, though we are not aware of it, giving Sympathy to all that is base in others, and thus strengthening and increasing their baseness: at the same time we are shutting ourselves into habits of hard and narrow thinking and living.

from CM Volume 4 Book 1 page 95-98

They Laughed 'Til They Cried

With that, they all did tumble on the ground,
With such a zealous laughter, so profound,
That in this spleen ridiculous appears,
To cheque their folly, passion's solemn tears.

--from Love's Labours Lost by Mr. William Shakespeare

Teaching the Love of Beauty

"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." CM Principle #11

The words of Socrates noted earlier-- "the object of education is to teach us to love what is beautiful"-- are, of course, informing Aristotle's entire position here. The beauty of "right judgments," the "delight in good dispositions and noble actions," the "pleasure" of virtue itself, all form a portrait of ancient education that has unfairly been narrowed and isolated by modern audiences as solely rational. Yet, all character excellence and virtue are here prepared with the most thoughtful of sensory and emotional experiences, which represents a clear expression of knowledge in the poetic mode.

_Poetic Knowledge_. page 21-22

(Emphasis mine-- a little note of connection. What happens when the rigor of a classical education is divorced from its informing idea-- that the love of beauty is the object of education?)

Taking Pictures of Nature

(photo credit: Cornflower)

(photo credit: Mariel)

(photo credit: Triss)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

New Title Pic

I have a new picture behind my blog title. It was taken by Mariel. Didn't she do a good job?

Surely Congress Will Fix CPSIA When They See The Harm It Is Doing.... Won't They?

Update: I called our beloved "purple bookstore" to see what they were doing with their pre-1985 children's books, and they hadn't even heard of the CPSIA. The person I talked with said he would look into it right away. I didn't want to call our other two favorite used-book haunts. I know forewarned is forearmed, but I just didn't want to spread bad news.

The industry consensus is that the concept of ensuring children’s safety is, in principle, a good thing. “Everybody agrees that the basis of the [CPSIA testing] requirement is absolutely in good faith,” said Kathleen McHugh, president of the American Specialty Toy Retailers Association. “But there must be exceptions to that. With books, you’re testing for lead on a material that’s just not associated with lead at all.”

“This is an absolutely knee-jerk reaction to the fact that, yes, there have been children’s toys and cribs that have contained lead,” said Bruce Smith, executive director of the Book Manufacturers’ Institute. “But let’s not take a paintbrush and paint everything the same color.”

Chip Gibson, president and publisher of Random House Children’s Books, goes further. “This is a potential calamity like nothing I’ve ever seen. The implications are quite literally unimaginable,” he said, noting that children’s books could be removed from schools, libraries and stores; nonprofit groups like First Book would lose donations; and retailers, printers, and publishers could ultimately go out of business. “Books are safe. This is like testing milk for lead. It has to be stopped.”

--Publishers Weekly, "Industry Scrambles to Comply With Child Safety Act", 1/12/2009 (see note)

We use a literature-based curriculum to teach our children at home, and of the many books we need to purchase each year, quite a few were published before 1985 and are out of print.

(I am so thankful for the out-of-print books that have been preserved electronically and are accessible for free online. Hopefully we won't get to the point where we need to scan every valuable child's book printed before 1985 in order for kids to have the benefits of these books in the future.)

You can't imagine the wealth of wisdom in these books that are now being treated as hazardous substances and must go through an expensive testing process, despite the fact that historically, **NO child has ever been harmed by lead or phthalates in a book.**

We have a pretty large collection of kid's books, but we are not done building our collection. I remember one time at a homeschool meeting, someone opined that our book collections are heirlooms for our children and their children, etc. We certainly feel that way about our books. But like I said, we aren't finished collecting yet. (I don't know that we ever would be, but we want the opportunity to continue.)

Think of the waste! So many excellent stories that awaken the imagination and inspire virtue-- and if that isn't enough, think of the recycling nightmare! So much *paper* tossed into the trash as hazardous waste.

(And am I being alarmist to worry that this law could lead to a ruling that would tell me I am criminal to allow my children to peruse the books we own that were published before 1985?)

Surely, Congress will fix this. They aren't so far gone as all of that.

Please call your thrift stores and libraries and find out what they are doing with their pre-1985 books now that CPSIA has gone into effect. I'm calling mine today and will report what I find out.

(Workers in at least one thrift store were seen already tossing books, refusing to allow anyone to even take them home for free because of liability issues. I wonder if there would be a problem with going round to the dumpster and pulling them out without the store workers' knowledge?)

Some links that talk more about this law and why libraries and used book sellers alike are worried and unsure what to do:

These Are A Few of My Favorite Things

CPSIA Enforcement Waived for *Post-1985* Books (Some of you logical, lawyerly types tell me what is implied in this statement.)

Why Libraries Cannot Comply

You Can't Buy These Books Anymore

The Deputy Headmistress has done a great job making her blog a kind of clearinghouse for CPSIA info and discussion. For more info, click on the CPSIA category.

Note: The article at the head of this post was written before the Act was waived for post-1985 books. So when you read it, you have to think "pre-1985 childrens books" instead "childrens books".

Monday, February 09, 2009

Additional Thoughts on Chapter 2

Poetic Knowledge p. 11-21

We begin to see what we want. Children make large demands upon us. We owe it to them to initiate an immense number of interests. Thou hast set my feet in a large room; should be the glad cry of every intelligent soul. Life should be all living, and not merely a tedious passing of time; not all doing or all feeling or all thinking––the strain would be too great––but, all living; that is to say, we should be in touch wherever we go, whatever we hear, whatever we see, with some manner of vital interest. We cannot give the children these interests; we prefer that they should never say they have learned botany or conchology, geology or astronomy. 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? I know you may bring a horse to the water, but you cannot make him drink. What I complain of is that we do not bring our horse to the water. We give him miserable little text-books, mere compendiums of facts, which he is to learn off and say and produce at an examination; or we give him various knowledge in the form of warm diluents, prepared by his teacher with perhaps some grains of living thought to the gallon. And all the time we have books, books teeming with ideas fresh from the minds of thinkers upon every subject to which we can wish to introduce children. (CM Series Vol. 3 p. 170-171)

Somewhere I read that we ought to educate children using things (objects) and ideas. Where was that?

"We live, not by things, but by the meanings of things." Antoine de Saint Exupery

I'm thinking of the poetic mode, the passive and intuitive that precedes the scientific and active, as kind of like letting a kid just enjoy herself using paints, rather than directing her in how to do it. Which is fine as far as it goes, but I wonder how that fits in with the development of good habit? To develop good habits, you want to do a thing right the first time if at all possible, right? So if we are letting our children just experience the paint-ness of paint at first, then they aren't developing the skill at holding the brush, applying paint, etc.

Maybe he addresses this later in the book. Or maybe I am thinking about it wrong. If you have the love and trust of a child, correcting her in the midst of a new process does not have to take away pleasure.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Poetic Knowledge Chapter 2

I have my book and I have my chocolate, and I am attempting to understand the philosophical foundations of poetic knowledge.

It ain't easy. This may simply be a list of definitions and things I don't understand. But I'm going in anyway.

(Mr. Honey brought me a glass of cold milk to fortify and sustain me through the effort. Here goes.)

Page 11

I have only read bits of Plato's Republic. I don't remember Plato disliking poetry and stories. It seems he didn't dislike them exactly, but only wanted to be careful that poetry and stories did not misrepresent God.

(For some reason I keep hearing the Fox from _Till We Have Faces_: "Lies of poets, lies of poets, child.")

Page 12

"Socrates could not have proposed The Republic..." what does that mean? I thought Plato wrote it. Did Socrates make the suggestion to him? Why have I not learned more about philosophy?

In The Republic, Socrates offers the first systematic theory of education.

(Okay, I looked up The Republic. I had Socrates and Plato mixed up-- I thought Plato was the teacher, but he was really the student of Socrates. Silly me. I did know that much at one time in the past. Just for my own future reference, it goes Socrates, Plato, Aristotle. Got it?

Wikipedia mentions 'the conflict between philosophy and poetry' as one of the topics found in The Republic.)

Now he's talking about Homer, who came before Socrates, and is considered the first educator of Greece. I think.

(I should have learned all this in college so I could just absorb what Mr. Taylor is trying to get at now. Oh, the waste.)

"...poetry, and all art, for the Platonic-Aristotelian tradition, was considered "a means of real and valuable knowledge, a knowledge of the permanent things."

(I can tell my lack of a mental ancient history timeline is going to be a hindrance in this chapter.)

Page 13

There is an order to knowledge-- and it begins with the poetic. How to explain the poetic? "Without the observance of this order, one can 'produce' pianists who can perfectly play the notes of the great composers, without playing the music..."

A transcendent vision of reality. Hmm. Transcendent means "beyond or outside the ordinary range of human experience or understanding."

Page 14

He starts explaining some aspects of the Odyssey here, and segues into a discussion of the word, 'school,' which is from the root skola, meaning 'leisure'. He says that we have virtually lost the true meaning of the word, 'leisure'. We either have work or entertainment, and entertainment is *not* the same as leisure. Oh, wait. He didn't say anything about entertainment. I must have remembered that from some other source. He is talking about the difference between the scientific and poetic ideas of education-- the poetic requiring a sense of leisure, and the scientific requiring effort, work, proof.

I get this theoretically, but the effort has to be there, too, doesn't it? "The intellect requires a moral impulse, and we all stir our minds into action the better if there is an implied 'must' in the background." (Charlotte Mason)

Okay, he does talk about entertainment-- he calls it the quest to have 'fun'.

Page 15

(I'm engaging in a leisure activity right now. No one has told me I have to read and understand this book. I'm moving through it at my own pace, which is likely to be a lot slower than I thought it would be at first.)

In The Republic, poetry, either as art or "as the spirit of teaching through music and gymnastics", is Plato's chosen method of beginning education for the guardians. (Who are the guardians? And I didn't realize gymnastics was poetic.)

I'm not completely getting it, but I just love this part:

"Thus, a tradition of learning that began with Homeric epics as models of imitation in virtue and delight are now taken up for serious reflection and discourse under the genius of the West's first philosopher. [That's Plato, right?] All of the educational experiences detailed in The Republic for the child-- songs, poetry, music, gymnastic-- area meant to awaken and refine a sympathetic knowledge of the reality of the True, Good, and Beautiful, by placing the child inside the experience of those transcendentals as they are contained in these arts and sensory experiences."

Page 16

The "modern mechanical view of growth" is when your parents say to you, "Katie, you are too old for that," and want to move you to the next level, "lopping off the one behind as inferior."

I think he is talking about discarding educational things, not discarding childish habits like forgetting to brush your hair or leaving your belongings scattered. For instance, saying, "That's a baby book. You don't need to read books like that anymore." In the more Socratic view, he says education is viewed more as the rings of a living, growing tree-- things are added on to what is already there and nothing is discarded.

It seems to me that you would have to start with good quality stuff if you didn't want to have to tell your child, "That's a baby book" later on. For instance, I wouldn't tell my kids not to read Wind in the Willows or The House at Pooh Corner or the Beatrix Potter books. I still get a lot out of those books myself.

In The Republic (which I so need to read) Socrates goes on to talk about how important it is to limit the student's view of sculpture, the music listened to, etc., to those things that elevate the character of the individual and reflect true beauty. (I don't totally get this, and what I do understand about it leaves me extremely frustrated with our current culture.)

Page 17

Taylor points out briefly that Confucious also put music forth as a means of preserving character in individuals.

In the next paragraph he totally loses me.

'Cartesian' means having to do with Descartes, a 17th century philosopher who is considered the father of modern philosophy. He discarded perception as a reliable means of knowing, and favored deduction instead.

Hee hee, Mr. Taylor says that Plato's Idealism rests on a very knowable, objective reality... but that Cartesian philosophers simply dismiss it as 'no longer correct' rather than attempting to disprove it as a theory. This means they aren't using their own scientific method to prove or disprove Plato's theory. I don't really get the philosophy of all of it, but isn't it funny that the scientific philosophers say, "Oh no, that isn't the fashionable position"?

Very unscientific of them.

Page 19

Okay, it looks like we are getting to Aristotle. There is a little discussion on how Aristotle disagreed with Plato about the Forms. I do know about this for some reason. Aristotle said students do not need Forms-- they can draw the essence of the thing from the thing itself. "How can Ideas, being the substance of Things, exist apart [from those things]?"

Very strange. I am reading about bread-ness:

"The essence of bread, for example, is grasped intuitively by the mind regardless of the sensory "accidentals" of color, shape and so on, and in this way the universal idea of bread, its bread-ness, is achieved. Realist philosophy [meaning Aristotle, I think] says that the invisible life, the form, is in the thing, not elsewhere. It is simply in the nature of the mind, the soul, to correspond with this invisible reality. Aristotle says in De Anima that 'the soul is in a way all existing things; for existing things are either sensible or thinkable, and knowledge is in a way that is knowable, and sensation is in a way that is sensible.'"

In this paragraph, "sensible" means 'able to be sensed'.

Page 19-20

Socrates (Plato) and Aristotle agree that virtue is the end of education, and that it must be achieved in a poetic way.

Here he talks more about leisure and I quote:

"...the idea that real education requires a certain contemplative spirit (leisure) has persisted. It is in leisure (skole) that we prepare for an active life of virtue, and, in the experience of music, a species of leisure, we gain our first touch through the sensory-emotional (poetic) mode, of our final purpose, which i to experience happiness, a resting from activity, a return to where we began, to a state of repose: leisure."

This reminds me of the purpose stated in our church's covenant:

"We believe our sole purpose is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever."

He says:

The poetic precedes the scientific.
The passive precedes the active.

Page 21

Now he comes to the importance of Music. Let's see if I can figure it out.

The kind of music is important because "virtue consists in rejoicing and loving aright." Rhythm and melody imitate virtues and the opposites of the virtues. (I have to say here that I enjoy this aspect of music so much. It helped me a lot in my teen angst years to be able to come home from a rough day at school and just play for a couple of hours. I had stormy pieces and gentle pieces, etc., and it was more than therapy for me. I wish we had a dedicated music room in our current home, because I can see my children needing this outlet, but it isn't always practical for them to be playing their little hearts out in the main room. We are thinking of getting earplugs.)

"There seems to be in us a sort of affinity to musical modes and rhythms, which makes some philosophers say that the soul is a tuning, others, that it possesses tuning." (Aristotle)

(It is interesting to realize that Aristotle's music and what we consider to be great music nowadays were probably somewhat different. After all, Bach and Mozart hadn't been born yet. I don't know that I have ever heard any music in the ancient Greek tradition.)

More on this later.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Happy Birthday, Charles Dickens

Now the fact was, that the excellent doctor had never acted upon anything else but impulse all through his life; and it was no bad compliment to the nature of the impulses which governed him, that so far from being involved in any peculiar troubles or misfortunes, he had the warmest respect and esteem of all who knew him.

from _Oliver Twist_

Friday, February 06, 2009

Seven Months: When Life Gets Busy

Well, this is our seventh month of gazelle-like intensity where paying off debt is concerned. I got quite busy with Other Things this month, and neglected to keep up with our expenses and accounts the way I should have. My neglect (helped by Murphy, of course) caused a few errors.

As I have said before, our month starts on the 20th of the previous month, so at the beginning of February (which is really January 20th), we were able to fill the emergency fund back up to $1,000 and pay around $300 over the minimums on our credit cards.

Then life happened-- Mariel injured her wrist, Mr. Honey's back pain became just too awful, Cornflower's allergies flared up anew, and the van gave us trouble yet again. Add in a hectic schedule of Girl Scout cookie selling and Bronze Award project planning, science fair prep, and piano recital (in addition to regularly scheduled events and projects) and blend with a mom who is pretty good at multi-tasking-- but this is ridiculous! and you have a recipe for simple financial chaos.

So here is the damage:

1) We went more than $150 over our food budget (some of this was eating out).

2) We overspent in the school category by around $100

3) We reduced the emergency fund by around $600 getting the van fixed

4) We triggered the overdraft twice, to the tune of around $70-- I didn't use cash only this month, and also didn't keep up with the checking account register.

Because I didn't account for expenses regularly like I should have, I was quite frazzled by the time I did sit down and reckon things up. I finally got that part done today, and feel quite accomplished about it.

And we are still okay!

We have almost half of a baby emergency fund, and ought to be able to fill it back up on the 20th of this month, Lord willing; we have some money in the car repair, home repair, and doctor/medicine categories; and I am going to scale way back on school spending for the next little while, to make up for my overzealous purchasing of birdseed, science fair boards, double-sided sticky tape, ink cartridges and paper, Girl Scout field trips and audio stories.

Mr. Honey got a traffic ticket yesterday, so that is going to set us back a bit in the new month. Probably around $150. Thankfully, he hasn't had a ticket in awhile, so it won't mess up our auto insurance premium. But now we have to be extremely careful, since we have both gotten tickets in the last few months.

(I have to mention here how very calm I was when he told me about it. I didn't even tense up at the unexpected large expense. I knew we would be able to cover it somehow, because we have a plan. Even though I haven't been following it as well as I should have for the last few weeks, I knew we would be okay. I can't say enough about planning and short-term savings. What a blessing these things are-- with these tools, we are able to use the money the Lord has provided for us in a deliberate way and make something beautiful. I was at liberty to comfort my honey when he felt awful instead of being imprisoned in fear, muttering something while stifling my own anxiety. This kind of interaction is good for a marriage; I highly recommend it.)

I am planning to do the taxes in the next week or two (I'm waiting on one more piece of paperwork), and we will get a refund. With that and whatever Mr. Honey makes over and above his regular amount, I think we will be able to pay over the minimum on our credit cards again, pay off the overdraft, and pay for a few more chiropractor visits for Mr. Honey-- and perhaps set aside a little for summer vacations (I hope!)-- in addition to refilling the emergency fund and filling our regular short-term saving categories.

It does seem that Murphy gave it to us with both barrels this month, BUT-- our house is still standing, our van runs again, Mr. Honey has a steady income, our family is reasonably healthy, and we have good food and clothing in addition to other items we need to meet our school and work objectives. The Lord is faithful.

Previous posts on getting out of debt:

Six Months: God is Good
Five Months: Be Prepared and Don't Be Scared
Four Months: Short-Term Savings Categorized in Excel
Three Months: One Credit Card Paid Off!
Two Months: Baby Step One, Check!
More Than a Month

Thursday, February 05, 2009


I forgot to email the kids' Sketch Tuesday assignments to Harmony Art Mom last week! Eek! So to make it up to the girls, I am posting them here.

(Harmony Art Mom has new slide show of kids' sketches every week on her blog, and they are really fun to watch. Triss, Mariel and Cornflower are hard at work sketching street signs for next Tuesday's assignment, and I promise I will make sure these get emailed in time. :o)

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

CM's Student Motto: Our Revamped Version

Triss, Mariel and I were being silly at dinnertime, and this is what we came up with:

I AM a reader of books, a teller of tales and adventures. I am a Person of the Riverbank because Ratty influenced me.

I CAN get out of bed in the morning and not pull the covers over and say, "very snug", because that is no way to run a retail business.

I OUGHT to do my duty to remember the suspenders, to quell my desire to say "HUMPH", to call on the Cake-Parsee, and to keep myself from blowing bubbles in the sand pit, so my mind is ready to imagine.

I WILL resolve to avoid the Sheriff of Nottingham, and learn what fear is, even if it's not what I want.

Who will list the literature references for us?

(The original-- and highly recommended-- CM's Student Motto can be found here. We take the original Motto much to heart, but we couldn't help having a bit of fun with it as well.)

Black-Capped Chickadee

We had one of these in our tree this morning, along with eight goldfinches, who really enjoy sitting in the top branches when they aren't down on the grass feeding on nyjer. This is so fun!

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sunday, February 01, 2009

House Finch

We had male and female house finches this morning! (Mariel took this shot.)