Friday, February 18, 2011

Dearly I Love You, and Would Be Lov'd Fain

I found this poem over at The Anchoress blog, and I just really need it on my blog, especially today:

Batter my heart, three-person’d God ; for you
As yet but knock ; breathe, shine, and seek to mend ;
That I may rise, and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend
Your force, to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurp’d town, to another due,
Labour to admit you, but O, to no end.
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captived, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved fain,
But am betroth’d unto your enemy ;
Divorce me, untie, or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.

— John Donne

We have been learning about marriage in our Wednesday night Bible studies at church, and as a result, the girls and I have been looking at the different aspects of the time between childhood and 'official' adulthood-- a time to fall in love with the Lord. The young person is becoming more and more independent of her parents, and before she develops a special love for another person, she ought to develop her love for God. This, in combination with our current Bible reading in Exodus (especially focused on the hardness of Pharaoh's heart) helps us particularly to hear the message of this poem. We are hanging it on our refrigerator along with a status update from a wise young friend of Aravis', which reads:

"Finally got it last night at church: you can't know love if you don't know God. I've been given the precious opportunity to fall in love with GOD FIRST before I fall for anyone else."

Phone Calls

I am not a phone person. I cannot hear well on those things, and I cannot see the other person's face or body language, and I do not have the luxury of thinking awhile before responding. AND with the advent of cell phones I tend to completely cut off the sound when I do speak because so often I begin at the same time the other person talks. Don't like phones.

(Email rocks. I'm much better at email. Not texting. Email.)

Which is why this past week has been so surprising... I look forward to answering my cell phone every single day. Mariel is on a three-week trip with her grandparents, touring the southern/eastern U.S. and then taking a cruise to the Caribbean, and she has been calling us regularly to share tidbits of her adventures.

Here, as I can remember them, are her updates:

West Monroe, LA--
"We're trying to outrun the snow! Goggy keeps arguing with the GPS. We ate dinner with friends, and they have the broadest southern accents you ever heard. They are AWESOME."

Tuscaloosa, AL-- "Well, the snow caught up with us. But, guess what? We rode in a sleigh all over the farm in the DARK, and this morning I am sitting in a theater with a real red velvet curtain... we are going to see Charlotte's Web."

Calabash, NC-- "I'm relaxing with Grammy. Everyone relaxes in the evenings and I read books or look at videos of Redwall. I got to drive a GOLF CART!"

Charleston, SC-- "Guess where I'm sitting? In a horse-drawn carriage! We're going to tour the city in it!"

Later-- "Guess what I found? The Atlantic Ocean... and I'm going to swim in it!"

Later-- "Guess where I am? In a boat! And guess where the boat is?" (Charleston?) "Charleston's on the LAND. I'm on the Atlantic Ocean!"

Later-- "Mom, you know Edgar Allen Poe? Well, we drove past the graveyard where Annabel Lee is buried!"

St. Augustine, FL-- "St. Augustine is the oldest city in the United States! We're waiting for the trolley in the rain."

Later-- "Mom, guess what? I saw the oldest house in the whole U.S.! It's built with this stuff made out of seashells mixed with sand, I think. The streets of St. Augustine are very narrow, and are covered with tiny seashells. St. Augustine is beautiful!"

Tampa, FL-- "We have a suite with a balcony and an ocean view! It has a room for Goggy and Grammy, and bunkbeds for me, and a kitchen and a sitting area. Tomorrow we are going to Busch Gardens!"

I love that girl. Her calls are an exotic ray of sunshine beaming into our everyday activities. She is having so much fun. The Caribbean portion of her trip begins this weekend.

Friday, February 11, 2011


I hear the dryer running. Our house is quiet. Only Cornflower and I are home. The sun slants in through the wooden blinds onto the floor. The dark black-brown of the bookcase is a satisfying contrast to the warm golden brown of the wall.

Next to my laptop sit several papers covered with chemistry formulas. I should correct them so Aravis can go on to the next module. A coffee fundraising form rests near the bowl of apples. It will not be used. We are not in fundraising mode at this time.

Coffee, red pen and cell phone. I used the red pen to comment on Cornflower's written narrations. I am waiting for Aravis to call me to say she has arrived at her destination. The coffee is for waking up.

It is 3:25 pm. The late afternoon light makes me impatient. It is an in-between time of day, and I find myself waiting for evening.

Cornflower has a cold and a tummy bug. She is watching a movie, listening to it on headphones.

The phone chimes. Aravis has made it in.

Time to correct those chemistry papers.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

More Understanding Than All My Teachers

I have heard it said that a student is only as good as his teacher; but that has never rung true to me. The Psalmist reaches higher: "I have more understanding than all my teachers: for thy testimonies are my meditation."

I found another quote today that shows the 'how' of a student advancing past his teachers.

"Do not seek to follow in the master's foosteps; seek what he sought." --Vladimir Horowitz, quoting a Chinese proverb.*

This idea fills me with hope. I want to seek what is worthy, and teach my students to reach beyond what I know. I want them to seek the Lord in everything they do, whether that involves finding Him in the expression of a piece of music, or the rationale of a scientific conclusion.

*from _Great Pianists Speak for Themselves, Vol. 1_ by Elyse Mach

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Helping Kids to Good Habits

I am pinning this quote to my blog so I can find it later. From _Parents and Children_ by Charlotte Mason:

Some Practical Counsels––

Let me offer a few definite practical counsels to a parent who wishes to deal seriously with a bad habit.

First––Let us remember that this bad habit has made its record in the brain.

Second––There is only one way of obliterating such record; the absolute cessation of the habit for a considerable space of time, say some six or eight weeks.

Third––During this interval new growth, new cell connections, are somehow or other taking place, and the physical seat of the evil is undergoing a natural healing.

Fourth––But the only way to secure this pause is to introduce some new habit as attractive to the child as is the wrong habit you set yourself to cure.

Fifth––As the bad habit usually arises from the defect of some quality in the child it should not be difficult for the parent who knows his child's character to introduce the contrary good habit.

Sixth––Take a moment of happy confidence between parent and child; introduce, by tale or example, the stimulating idea; get the child's will with you.

Seventh––Do not tell him to do the new thing, but quietly and cheerfully see that he does it on all possible occasions, for weeks if need be, all the time stimulating the new idea, until it takes great hold of the child's imagination.

Eighth––Watch most carefully against any recurrence of the bad habit.

Ninth––Should the old fault recur, do not condone it. Let the punishment, chiefly the sense of your estrangenient, be acutely felt. Let the child feel the shame not only of having done wrong, but of having done wrong when it was perfectly easy to avoid the wrong and do the right. Above all, 'watch unto prayer' and teach your child dependence upon divine aid in this warfare of the spirit; but, also, the absolute necessity for his own efforts.

CM Volume 2, _Parents and Children_, pages 175-176

Narration: What is Right With the World by G.K. Chesterton

(Chesterton's essay found here)

Chesterton says that his editor gave him the title of the essay, and that authors often suffer from the enthusiasm of publishers. He doesn’t mind this very much, but it is necessary to restate the title when the publisher writes it, since most of the time a publisher’s title is at once too complex and too simple. For instance, what is wrong with the world is the Devil, and what is right with the world is God; regardless of the muddles we get ourselves into, what is right and what is wrong will remain the same until the end of time. But at the same time, the fine details need to be puzzled out.

One of the most gratifying things of the current time is that so many of the prophecies of the learned have been proven wrong. This is mainly because the common man has not read the prophecies and does not realize he ought to proceed on a certain course. (Sort of like the cartoon character that flies along high in the sky until a bird tells him he shouldn’t be able to fly.) It is wrong to say he is uneducated though—schools will never teach the really important things, like “the dependence of infancy, the enjoyment of animals, the love of woman and the fear of death.”

What is right with the world is rooted in original realities, not in progress or change. Even revolution, which seems so revolutionary, is actually rooted in the ancient doctrine of the dignity of man. The progressive says that we have come from evil and are headed toward good. But Chesterton is more certain that we started with good. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, and He said they were good. Life is inherently good, although we may live in an evil or good way. “We are to regard existence as a raid or great adventure.”

What is currently wrong with the world (in addition to the Devil) is the idea that unity is always to be desired. This idea is essentially pessimistic. “Division and variety are what is right with the world.” The idea of one thing blending into another, ad infinitum, is a desire to return to the chaos before Creation. It is true that a man and woman, when married, become ‘one flesh’, but in one of those paradoxes so common in scripture, they are also distinct opposites of one another. How can we appreciate beauty without contrast?

The priggish pedants have decided that everything must blend, although the masses know the opposite to be true. It is hard to determine who will win, even though the masses have more numbers, because the deterioration of religious thought has left people at the mercy of their animal instincts. Animal instinct can be right, but animals can be cowed, too.

We make politics too important. We forget how much of life remains the same whether you are ruled by a Sultan or a Senate. The sunrise is glorious and getting out of bed is a nuisance, no matter what Government is in charge. As we attempt to change government for the better and cure social ills, we tend to disregard original principles about man and living—“in his long fight to get a slave a half-holiday [the typical modern man] may angrily deny those ancient and natural things, the zest of being, the divinity of man, the sacredness of simple things, the health and humour of the earth, which alone make a half-holiday even half a holiday or a slave even half a man.”

“The voice of the special rebels and prophets, recommending discontent, should, as I have said, sound now and then suddenly, like a trumpet. But the voices of the saints and sages, recommending contentment, should sound unceasingly, like the sea.”

(Quotes taken from Chesterton's essay. Also, this is my own narration, not one of the kid's.)

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Forcing That Vital Spark

Intelligent teachers are well aware of the dry-as-dust character of school books, so they fall back upon the 'oral' lesson, one of whose qualities must be that it is not bookish. Living ideas can be derived only from living minds, and so it occasionally happens that a vital spark is flashed from teacher to pupil. But this occurs only when the subject is one to which the teacher has given original thought. In most cases the oral lesson, or the more advanced lecture, consists of information got up by the teacher from various books, and imparted in language, a little pedantic, or a little commonplace, or a little reading-made-easy in style. At the best, the teacher is not likely to have vital interest in, and, consequently, original thought upon, a wide range of subjects.

In a rare moment of clarity, Katie realizes that while attempting to explain seemingly obscure passages to students, she has been guilty of sucking the life right out of the educational process. And the books aren't even dry-as-dust texts.

...We perceive that the great work of education is to inspire children with vitalising ideas as to every relation of life, every department of knowledge, every subject of thought; and to give deliberate care to the formation of those habits of the good life which are the outcome of vitalising ideas. In this great work we seek and assuredly find the co-operation of the Divine Spirit, whom we recognise, in a sense rather new to modern thought, as the supreme Educator of mankind in things that have been called secular, fully as much as in those that have been called sacred.

Katie is recalled to her task of helping her children on to good habits and introducing them to as many living ideas in as many areas of life as possible. A large task, she thinks. Good thing the Lord is willing to lead in this area, as in others. Now to ask for help and get out of His way.

(Quotes taken from School Education by Charlotte Mason, Chapter 15.)