Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Vicksburg Links

We are planning a day in Vicksburg on our way back from a preaching trip with my dad, and here are some links I want to remember:

The Mississippi River and the Vicksburg Campaign (American Civil War)

The Vicksburg Campaign described in This Country of Ours

Map and quick descriptions of various sites along the Vicksburg Campaign Trail

Reenactment pictures of cave living during the campaign

Picture of the U.S.S. Cairo, Civil War ironclad

I'd like to find a map of the Mississippi River and its tributaries. We're going to review Minn of the Mississippi too, before the trip. The kids are most interested in the river and the bluffs and other natural aspects of the region.


Vicksburg nature study

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


...turned out to be a Keeping Day.

*Mr. Honey had to stay home and deal with a computer glitch until after 8 am. We got to visit with him and tease him a bit while he waited on our Internet Provider. And he liked it. :OD

*We opened our windows to the beautiful autumn air, and Cornflower's allergies were well-behaved enough not to fret themselves into hives.

*Math was peaceful-- subtraction of three- and four-digit numbers for Cornflower, exponents and scientific notation for Mariel, and a quiz on motion problems for Aravis. I discovered a fun activity and three living math books while looking for info on exponents.

(Slight aside: I tend to look for a different way to present a math concept whenever my student is not 'getting it'. If the new approach doesn't help, I look for another one. Ad infinitum, world without end. It's kind of an obsession. I want my kids to 'get' math! Although I like our Scott Foresman Exploring Mathematics textbooks, I recognize that they do not contain every last way to explain each concept. And I love, love, love math storybooks.)

*I turned in 90 Swagbucks and am awaiting $10 in Amazon e-Gift Cards so I can purchase aforementioned living math books. The books are:

Anno's Mysterious Multiplying Jar by Masaichiro Anno
The King's Chessboard by David Birch
One Grain of Rice: a Mathematical Folktale by Demi

*The girls, having been admonished for over a week about their unlawful use of 'this part was about', 'and then', 'so', 'um' and other unnecessary noises, turned in and/or delivered excellent narrations. Yay, girls! They were cheerful about it, too. It's like they realized I was serious. ;o)

*Each of the following came up in reading and discussion at some point in the day: Jesus' ability to disappear into a crowd when people wanted to stone Him; the woes of a 15th Century Italian duke; how faith without works is dead, being alone; irrigation and hydraulics; fruits and vegetables; what it means to be adorned with decency, order and good works; how different areas of America came to be settled by different European peoples; being made perfect through suffering; the abduction of the Sabine women in early Roman history; and Petruchio's hilarious courtship of Katharina.

*We finally got to Shakespeare and Plutarch after neglecting them for almost two weeks. (Sorry, gentlemen.) We spread a quilt on the lawn and read outside, it was so beautiful-- and found a caterpillar, visited with a neighbor, and colored on the sidewalk with chalk. The kids diagrammed sentences on the driveway for fun, which I thought was pretty silly.

*And last but not least, Cornflower made cinnamon biscuits all by herself. Another neighbor gave the girls a fancy rolling pin with cut-out designs all over, so it rolls out pastry with imprints of pineapples and flowers and birds and other things. She needed to test it out. ;o)

:happy sigh: What a great day. And when the alarm went off this morning, I thought it was going to be drudgery. The Lord is good.

Fruits and Vegetables

A narration written by Cornflower, age 8 (spelling errors corrected by Mom, but punctuation was left intact):

Produce sections have vegetables and fruit. Carrots, spinach, lettuce are all vegetables. Tomatoes and cucumbers are fruits! Surprising, huh? Do you know the difference between fruits and vegetables? A fruit is the seed of the plant*! We eat the roots of vegetables! Vegetables are not as sweet as fruit. But fruits are! Such as oranges, apples, grapes, pineapples and strawberries!

*The fruit of a plant is the part that contains the seeds. -Mom

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Commonplace Book: An Old Counting House

Living accounts and accountants puzzle me. I have no skill in figuring. But thy great dead tomes, which scarce three degenerate clerks of the present day could lift from their enshrining shelves with their old fantastic flourishes, and decorative rubric interlacing their sums in triple columniations, set down with formal superfluity of cyphers with pious sentences at the beginning, without which our religious ancestors never ventured to open a book of business, or bill of lading -- the costly vellum covers of some of them almost persuading us that we are got into some better library, are very agreeable and edifying spectacles. I can look upon these defunct dragons with complacency.

from South-Sea House, an essay by Charles Lamb (alias Elia)

Friday, September 25, 2009






A happy fifteenth birthday to Aravis, our fair young maiden! May you revel in the Lord and His gifts this day.

Sing, O daughter of Zion...
be glad and rejoice with all the heart,
O daughter of Jerusalem!

(from Zephaniah 3:14)

Thursday, September 24, 2009






Happy 12th birthday, Mariel! What would we do without our sweet girl?

I thank my God upon every remembrance of you.
Philippians 1:3

(P.S. That is Mr. Honey in the last picture. Isn't he a handsome guy?)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Sketch Tuesday

Barb at Harmony Fine Arts gives a weekly sketch assignment and invites students of all ages and skill levels to submit their drawings each week to be included in a Flickr slideshow.

My two older kids had a few months of drawing instruction a couple of years ago, but nothing since, and I am not good at teaching them art. The Sketch Tuesday assignment allows them to at least practice the skill of seeing lines and curves with an artist's eye and to use their pencils to produce something similar to what they see, although we haven't been blessed with another opportunity for lessons.

The kids enjoy doing the assignment each week, and we all like looking at the slideshow-- each student brings different ideas and skills to his or her sketch. You should try it!
Last week's assignment was to sketch a picture with clouds. Here are my three girls' efforts:

Mariel sketched a mountain in the East, and filled it in with watercolors.

Cornflower drew a painted bunting and a beautiful autumn sky.

Aravis went the fantasy route, drawing her vision of clouds above a wicked witch's tower.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Still Grappling with Method vs. System

In the first place, we have no system of education. We hold that great things, such as nature, life, education, are 'cabined, cribbed, confined,' in proportion as they are systematised. We have a method of education, it is true, but method is no more than a way to an end, and is free, yielding, adaptive as Nature herself. Method has a few comprehensive laws according to which details shape themselves, as one naturally shapes one's behaviour to the acknowledged law that fire burns. System, on the contrary, has an infinity of rules and instructions as to what you are to do and how you are to do it. Method in education follows Nature humbly; stands aside and gives her fair play.

CM Volume 2 p. 168

Systems are to method as television is to life. It looks like life is going on there, but it is calculated, measured, only acting like life. Systems take the spirit right out of even living books. So sad. Instead of studies serving for delight, learning becomes dry. The children fret, or finish their assignments stoically. I become Casaubon, whom I do not admire. The atmosphere become thin and brittle with tension. Dislike, dislike, dislike!

Sometimes I fall into the other ditch and try so hard to avoid systems that I lose method, and any learning that takes place is haphazard and incidental. We become cheerful and enjoy ourselves, taking learning as it presents itself-- or not, as our feelings dictate-- and dancing about like grasshoppers with no provision for the morrow, which can take care of itself. But Like Mr. Gary Thomas says about Christians who are all grace and no discipline, our efforts turn into all yolk and no eggshell-- oozing all over the place, much promise of good, but in actuality good for nothing-- a mess!

Then there is that golden mean, when plans and nature, discipline and grace, come together and the Lord blesses our learning. Joy wells up and minds and hearts meld into wonder, and, sometimes, even understanding. Sister Lynn calls that 'teaching in a shaft of light'. I love it when that happens. She wrote a post on it, and on Plutarch and repentance and Dr. Grant-- and wanting tea in the late afternoon, and continuing a lesson anyway and receiving a much better refreshment. You should read it. She just nails it to the wall. I love Sister Lynn.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Siamese Twins Spotted at Home...

Or, as they are otherwise known, two Partners in Crime. ;o)

Just a Note say we're still here, and did you know that an implied noun is called an ellipsis? I always forget that. Ellipses are those dot-dot-dots you put when you don't want to quote an entire passage, but there is something in the middle there that you would like to put in, and then skip a few words, and then insert the rest of the this...isn't it fun? Well, okay, it's kind of annoying. But sometimes I like to use them because I want others to focus on the part of the sentence or passage that stood out to me so I can feel that I am communicating effectively.

So...those three dots form an ellipsis.

And so does the implied "you" in this sentence: Do the dishes.

As in "You, do the dishes."

It is five minutes before six and I really should start supper, which is a lovely baked tilapia with cornbread and sliced tomatoes. But Mr. Honey is not home yet, and it finally stopped raining, and the two younger kids are roller skating outside, shouting and laughing. They need lots of outdoor time with yelling and running and jumping. I'd like to get them a trampoline and a swing. I should roll them up in blankets tonight. We call that tight rolling a green bean tuck, and the kids love it.

Aravis (formerly known as Triss) went out with her Grammy tonight, and they are having High Times, I'm sure. Grammy knows how to do things up right.

So here I sit, alone in the house for a moment.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Scientio and Poetry

I am reading further into the book _Poetic Knowledge (Ch. 2 this time), and at this point, I perceive that we ought to desire the poetic and the material in balance-- Mr. Taylor relates the poetic to the soul, and the material to the body, stating that we are composite beings-- only whole when we are integrated as to body and soul. He does not reject the material (ie., scientio, reason), but says that it eclipsed the poetic (ie., wonder, leading to contemplation, and then joy) in Modern society. (The ideas of Transcendentalism might be a response to the extreme of rational thought excluding the poetic-- attempting correction but moving too far the other direction.)

If we reject the material and cling only to the poetic, we become like the Gnostics, who said everything material was evil, and this is not the case, as John explains in his Gospel-- Jesus is fully man and fully God, and we are fully material (man) and fully poetic (soul). Whether we live out that seeming dichotomy is another question.

As Mr. Taylor points out in his book, the intellect not only possesses "the ability to abstract essences from material objects to form concepts-- essentially a spiritual act-- but there is a function of the intellect that can be stimulated to elaborate on these concepts and abstract ideas, analyzing them, and so on."

The marriage of poetry and science. Amazing.

Friday, September 11, 2009

If You Are Missing the Poetic Mode of Life, Holler, "Aye!"

I had the bright idea yesterday to see what was in the last chapter of _Poetic Knowledge_. I started reading this heady book at the first of the year, but I was stymied by the second chapter (actually the first, but I was a little stubborn and refused to admit it until the second). I set it down months and months ago.

It is the kind of book that fits well into a day of hurry-up-and-wait, containing meaty insights that beg contemplation in every sentence. I carried it with me yesterday as we went from class to p.e.-type activity to class to doctor's office to clothing store, and read from it whenever I had a moment. I started again at the intro, and then, because I found the philosophical foundations so difficult to digest last go-round, I decided to see how the book ended. In Chapter 7, the author (James S. Taylor) gives ideas on how to apply the poetic mode to various subject-areas. I often have to be shown some outworks before I understand how the principles fit into place. Here are some quotes I highlighted from the introduction and the last chapter:

P. 2 "A Teflon spatula is useful, at least for a Teflon pan; but a wooden ladle, of curved and smoothed wood, is not only useful but beautiful. The first is scientific, in the modern sense, reduced to its most base utilitarian level... while the second tool is crafted from the poetic mode of life."

P. 4 "Is poetic knowledge and education possible in a society given over to the mere practical and utilitarian ends of life?"

P. 4 "Poetic knowledge is a kind of natural, everyman's metaphysics of common experience. It is a way of restoring the definition of reality to mean knowledge of the seen and unseen."

P. 169 "...Put as simply as possible, science sees knowledge as power; poetic knowledge is admiratio, love."

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Bloggy News

Mariel has started a blog! And she has one cute little post. She signs her posts "FishnamedChloe", but we will continue to call her Mariel over here. Go see!

Thursday, September 03, 2009

California Sunset

I am currently in California at a family reunion. I took some pictures of the sunset as the plane began its final descent into San Jose yesterday. We were over the Foothills at this point. Look at the three different strata of clouds-- cirrus, cumulus, stratus. (Click on the pictures to enlarge.)

It looks like heaven.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Classification Paragraph: Shakespeare Plays

(Written by Aravis)

William Shakespeare has written what are perhaps the most famous plays in the world. His comedies, such as A Midsummer Night's Dream, Taming of the Shrew and Much Ado About Nothing, always result in marriages. In his tragedies, such as well-known Hamlet, King Lear or Antony and Cleopatra, the principal characters always die. Shakespeare also wrote historical plays, like Henry VIII and King John, but sometimes, as in Richard III, these plays have a Tudor spin on them that makes them rather inaccurate depictions of the characters. In spite of this weakness, the name Shakespeare is today almost synonymous with "great plays".

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

System vs. Method

In the process of gleaning papers I came across a narration on CM's discussion of system versus method in Volume I pages 8-10. Recognizing the difference seems as relevant now as it was when I wrote this three years ago, and I am putting my narration forth in the hope that it will benefit someone else as well as me. Obviously, read the real thing if you want her undiluted ideas. (I wrote this three years ago and am commenting on it today, so my "now" comments are in italics.)


CM defines method as a series of well-thought-out principles, while she calls a system a watered-down, legalistic step-by-step process undertaken toward some calculable results.

Method implies a way to an end and a step-by-step progress in that direction. It also implies that there is a goal at which to arrive. What kind of effect do you want education to have on your child?

Ooh, good question. I want my kids to be godly first of all. Then I want them to be literate, clear thinking, able to understand a great many things, to be able to vote intelligently and express their opinions with grace and clarity. I want them to have respect for others, great love for their husbands and children, and be able to make proper decisions in a timely manner. I want them to be able to handle a budget and other financial responsibilities without it becoming a major stressor. And I want them to have joy in their lives, and for them to be a joy to others.

Hee hee. I just want the moon. That's all. If I can only have one thing, though, it is that they grow up to be women who rejoice in the Lord, who enjoy participation in God's kingdom, and who glorify Him in the way they live. Oops, that's still three things.

Method is gentle, yielding and natural, yet compelling and ever-present. With method and an end in mind, the most unlikely situations and objects come into use as part of a child's education; but it is effortless, like the sun rising or the wind blowing. The parent who understands the method and sees the goal will make use of every circumstance of the child's life almost without effort to educate the child.

There is always the danger that a bona fide method will degenerate into a system.

The kindergarten method was indeed a method, but in ignorant hands it becomes a mere system. It's like when people don't understand but they go through the motions anyway-- like cutting off the end of the roast. Montessori felt that her method degenerated into a system in ignorant hands as well. When I was a nanny in college, my employer talked of her daughter's former Montessori school that just didn't "Montessori" well enough, although they had all the trappings. This must be what the AO Advisory means when they say that without studying CM, Ambleside Online becomes just another booklist.

It's important not to get stuck on this point, however. I know that in my efforts to employ method rather than system, I have a tendency to overcompensate and get nitpicky. I'm learning that it is best to evaluate how we are doing only every couple of months. I now remind myself of the goal, make a plan, then work the plan for awhile without judging whether it is effective or not. After all, the watched pot doesn't boil. It only took years and years of people trying to communicate this truth to me before I finally internalized it, lol. I have a thick head, I guess. I'll probably need reminders this year, too, but hopefully I have made *some* progress.

A system of education is more alluring than a method because it is more easy to measure results. "By means of a system, certain developments may be brought about through the observance of given rules. Shorthand, dancing, how to pass examinations, how to become a good accountant, or a woman of society, may all be learned upon systems." --CM

I think this quote shows that CM did advocate systems for certain things-- I know learning math, typing, music theory and test-taking skills are all more easily assimilated when taught systematically. Not everything, though.

A system is alluring, especially because it promises more palpable results, things that can be tested and proven to be there. In fact, it gives such wonderfully exact results that it is not surprising to find people would like the whole of education to be reduced to some system, ie., "Do thus-and-so; you will get a godly, well-rounded and intelligent child." This would work if we were dealing with robots. But we are not.

We are dealing with living, breathing human beings, complete with latent capacities for good and evil; and it is our job to develop the good and dissipate the evil so that when the child is grown, she is prepared to take her place in the world with every capacity for good working at its best.

Although systems can be useful in education, the problem with them is that systems produce methanical action rather than "vital growth and movement of a living being."