Saturday, July 30, 2011

In Memory of Thumper

Aravis' bunny passed away this month.

She was a daily blessing to our family.

All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful:
The Lord God made them all.

He gave us eyes to see them,
And lips that we might tell
How great is God Almighty,
Who has made all things well.

--Cecil F. Alexander

Thank you, Lord, for the gift of Thump.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Purposeful, Determined... Gentleness

Someone shared this quote someplace recently, and it really struck me. I tend to take the "Well, you'll learn from hard experience, and don't blame me" approach a lot of times when the kids don't want to take my advice. But maybe I ought to tactfully and gently insist the kids follow it. (That's the problem. I have no tact, and my gentleness goes out the window when addressing foolishness.)

But there are times when the "relations are strained"; and of these, the moment when the child feels himself consciously a member of the school republic is one of the most trying. Now, all the tact of the parents is called into play. Now, more than ever, is it necessary that the child should be aware of the home authority, just that he may know how he stands, and how much he is free to give to the school. "Oh, mither, mither why gar ye no' mak' me do it?" was the cry of a poor ne'er-do-weel Scotch laddie who had fallen into disgrace through neglect of his work; and that is just what every schoolboy or schoolgirl has a right to say who does not feel the pressure of a firm hand at home during the period of school life. They have a right to turn round and reproach their parents for almost any failure in probity or power in after-life. But no mere assertion of authority will do: it is the old story of the sun and the wind and the traveller's cloak. It is in the force of all-mighty gentleness that parents are supreme; not feebleness, not inertness––there is no strength in these; but purposeful, determined gentleness, which carries its point, only "for it is right." "The servant of God must not strive," was not written for bishops and pastors alone, but is the secret of strength for every "bishop," or overlooker, of a household. --Vol. 5 p. 200-201, "The Relations Between School and Home Life"


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Those Poor Boys in Volume 6

For the last few days, I have been thinking about the "pair of charming twins" Charlotte mentions in the last, or supplementary, chapter of Volume 6. These two young men had "the usual" preparatory school education and then "had ten or twelve years among most excellent opportunities" at university. They each had a burning desire to learn and were not afraid of the hard work of study. Yet "they left school thoroughly uneducated".

This is so sad. HOW did this happen?

I'm not going to tell you how it happened. I don't really know. What I am going to do is piece through the last chapter of Vol. 6 and see if I can figure it out.

The name of the chapter is "Too Wide a Mesh". It refers to the educational system in early 20th Century England. The system is compared to a fishing net in which the holes are so large that all but the biggest fish escape-- "escape" being, in this analogy, that they get away without an education.

Back to the brothers-- after University, one of them leads and adventurous life, while the other moves to the city and studies in his spare time, encouraging his brother to do likewise. He sets to work on a "queer set of books", meaning, I suppose, that his studies are haphazard rather than well-planned. He sets about to learn by exercising his mind with memorization. His own description of his efforts really makes it sound like intellectual calisthenics:

"Anyone can improve his memory: the best way is by learning by heart––no matter what––and then when you think you know it, say it or write it. After two or three days you are sure to forget it again and then instead of looking at the book 'strain your mind' and try to remember it. Above all things always keep your mind employed."

That "no matter what" really leaps out at me. Learning *anything* by heart will give you an education? I wonder what exactly he thought he wanted that he hadn't got at University? No doubt his school failed to educate him, but what was HIS definition of education?

I love Charlotte's description of the sort of "Mind Gym" this fellow set up for himself and his brother:

They ran an intellectual race across a ploughed field after heavy rain and the marvel is that they made way at all.

The waste of it. She says they had enough zeal to have been great statesmen if they had been properly educated.

The young man finally comes to the conclusion that he and his brother "go at a subject all wrong." Charlotte again:

These letters are pathetic documents and, that they are reassuring also, let us be thankful. They do go to prove that the desire of knowledge is inextinguishable whatever schools do or leave undone; but have these nothing to answer for when a pursuit which should yield ever recurring refreshment becomes dogged labour over heavy roads with little pleasure in progress?

Where is the delight? And yet they had enough enthusiasm and energy and will to supply ten young men.

Charlotte says one thing they lacked was a cultivated sense of humor. She seems to get a bit off-topic with the following statement, but think of it in terms of intellectual calisthenics:

Perhaps the youth addicted to sports usually fails to appreciate delicate nonsense; sports are too strenuous to admit of a subtler, more airy kind of play...

Charlotte's conclusion:

We have to face two difficulties. We do not believe in children as intellectual persons nor in knowledge as requisite and necessary for intellectual life.

:sigh: We have to actually give them knowledge rather than simply tools for thinking. God already gave them those. What they need is knowledge to chew on and digest. The really sad thing about these brothers is that they had mind-food right in front of them, but they were so occupied with the knives and forks that they never actually tasted it. Sort of like savages that have no idea of bread.

Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread?
--Isaiah 55:2a

Monday, July 11, 2011

An Atmosphere, A Discipline, A Life

Education is...

relational thought-environment

an atmosphere...

physical habit

a discipline...

spiritual ideas

a life.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Doing One's Duty

By this time her old disposition had begun to rouse again. She had been doing her duty, and had in consequence begun again to think herself Somebody. However strange it may well seem, to do one’s duty will make any one conceited who only does it sometimes. Those who do it always would as soon think of being conceited of eating their dinner as of doing their duty. What honest boy would pride himself on not picking pockets? A thief who was trying to reform would. To be conceited of doing one’s duty is then a sign of how little one does it, and how little one sees what a contemptible thing it is not to do it. Could any but a low creature be conceited of not being contemptible? Until our duty becomes to us common as breathing, we are poor creatures.

--from "The Wise Woman" by George MacDonald

Found this today...

A ten-year-old's attempt to relate to the world through scheduling. :D


1. wake up
2. have quiet time
3. have breakfast
4. Practice Piano
5. Do schoolwork
6. Take a break
7. Shcool with Mom
8. Play with doll
9. Eat Diner
10. go to bed
11. Read
12. go to sleep
13. Dream

(The child who wrote this is no longer ten.)

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Madam How and Lady Why Notes: Ch. 7

Ch. 7 The Chalk-Carts

*Interesting website on chalk in the UK:

*P. 138 The “ignoble army of noodles, who think nothing interesting or important but dinners, and balls, and races, and backbiting their neighbors…” Hee hee.

*The Odiham Chalk Pits are in Hampshire, Southeast England, UK

*copse: a small group of trees

*grubbed: removed by digging

*P. 139 “Learn from the thing that lies nearest you.”

*P. 141 Empirical knowledge: “…his knowledge is sound and useful because it comes from long experience.” The farmer’s knowledge came from careful observation.

*Chalk, a type of limestone, “sweetens” soil, or raises its pH, making it less acidic. (eHow)

*A great picture of the chalk grasslands in South England:,_Sussex,_UK.jpg

*P. 142 The “silver Itchen” is a chalk stream. Chalk streams have unusual characteristics:

*P. 145 Kingsley compares the chalk stream to the chalk-cart. They both carry chalk, but how differently they do it.

*marl: lime-rich mud (Wikipedia). Here is a photo:

*P. 146 A possible transformation: chalk into marl into coral into limestone into marble.

*Whernside is in Yorkshire, Northern England

*A swallow-hole is also known as a sink-hole:

*P. 151 Cave formation; stalactites and stalagmites

*The dropping-well at Knaresborough, now known as the Petrifying Well:

*Proteus: cave salamander or olm (

*P. 153 The vanishing lake:

*Mammoth Cave in Kentucky:

*P. 153-154 Cave adaptation: partial or total blindness, and, in the case of the ducks, lack of feathers. Interesting to note that the ducks quickly re-adjusted to life in the upper world—growing feathers and regaining their eyesight.

*The cave at Caripe, Venezuela:

*Guacharos, or Oilbirds:

*P. 157 “It will not do for us (at least if we mean to be scientific men) to use terms without defining them.”

Madam How and Lady Why Notes: Ch. 6

Ch. 6 The True Fairy-Tale

*Lapland: a region in northern Finland and Sweden. The indigenous people of this area are known today as the Sami.

*P. 121 “…at the mouth of the Lena and other Siberian rivers…” This very detailed PDF gives historical and geographical information on the River Lena. I never heard of this river before I read MHLW, but it is one of Asia’s major waterways, located in the Russian Federation. Its delta system is the largest in the world.

*P. 121 Kingsley discusses various land bridges that existed before the Ice Age, as well as now-extinct animals that crossed into the northern hemisphere. The Ice Age idea has always been rather hazy to me, so I like to refer back to Answers in Genesis. This web page also deals with the propagation and extinction of woolly mammoths:

*P. 122 “…the land was sinking…” This statement and its opposite is asserted several times in the book—the land was rising, the land was sinking. What does Kingsley mean? In the chapter on volcanoes, the land rises because of the addition of volcanic matter. Where earthquakes are concerned, tectonic shifts cause rising and sinking. This is called “uplift” and “subsidence”. In this chapter, could he mean the press of ice sheets on land caused it to sink? When the ice sheets melted, perhaps there was a gradual release of the land. Also, erosion would cause sinking as well as rising because of gravel and sand redistribution. Also, rising sea levels (such as in a global warming or a global flood) would cause an illusion of sinking land. Hmm. There is so much to consider when pondering the causes of geological change. I could not find satisfying links for this question, but here are a couple of somewhat unsatisfying ones.

*A global warming article from 2009:

*“…mountains and valleys during the Flood were not the same height as they are today.” -Answers in Genesis (you may wish to refer to Ch. 5 for a reminder about the differing viewpoints of Uniformitarianism and Catastrophism)

*P. 122 “And it grew wondrous cold…” poetry from “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge

*P. 124 The arrival of man in England, France and Germany. “Perhaps they came into that icy land for fear of stronger and cleverer people than themselves; for we have no proof, my child, none at all, that they were the first men that trod this earth.”

*P. 125 Kingsley wonders at the difference between the wit of man and the wit of apes. I love that part.

*Interesting archeological find (article published June 2011) at an ongoing dig site indicates very early human occupation of the Caucasus Mountains, which are between Europe and Asia. This mountain range is the location of Mount Ararat.

*Kent’s Hole is in Torquay, Devonshire (SW England)

*brecchia: rock composed of fine fragments embedded in sand or clay (Merriam-Webster)

*Cave etchings:

*P. 128 “…[prehistoric man] had the same wonderful and mysterious human nature as you…”

*P. 129 Kingsley puts forth his “fairy” theory, that the “little people” were actual people smaller and weaker than the Picts and Scots and Gauls, and were driven underground.

*The story of Corineus and Gogmagog, as told by John Milton:

*P. 131 Neanderthal Man: The Neanderthal is a valley in Germany between Dusseldorf and Eberfeld. The famous Neanderthal Man, a prehistoric hominid skeleton, was found there. There are several theories regarding Neanderthals, some of which belie Kingsley’s description! Kingsley published MHLW in 1869. Neanderthal Man was discovered in the 1850s:

*P. 132 “Truth is stranger than fiction.”

*P. 134 “That you might wonder all your life long, God put you into this wondrous world.” In the final pages of the chapter, Kingsley encourages the young reader to marvel at the true stories of nature-- they seem like fairy tales, but are much deeper and stranger than stories devised by man. I am willing to wade through the dated science in this book for passages like this one-- passages that give us a beautiful way of thinking—a philosophy-- of science.

Friday, July 01, 2011

Creativity, Thought and Relationship

Mariel is volunteering at a local library this summer. We love this library. I did in-home daycare the first few years of Aravis' and Mariel's life, and I have fond memories of into this grand old library with a double stroller of toddlers, flanked by preschoolers, for the weekly puppet show. At the time it was a huge undertaking to get the kids there and help them be quiet, but now all I remember is the excitement of a *real* puppet show every single week. Back then, the children's section was in one wing and the adult section in another. There was an atrium garden near the adult stacks, with a creek running through it-- the wonder of nature flourishing indoors.

They remodeled the library several years ago. The puppet show theater is gone, as is the atrium garden. But we still love it. So many memories. Now they have moved the children's and adult's sections closer together, so it is simpler for mommies to peruse big-person books while their children read at tables in the kids' section. And it is very, very quiet. I don't know how they do it with the two sections so close together. But it is like a monastery in there.

The children's section of the other library we visit is definitely not quiet.

You might wonder why we ever go to a different library when we are so happy with ours. Well, we no longer live within the city limits, and our favorite library requires that nonresidents pay a yearly fee to check out books. I don't blame them. We don't pay taxes in that city. But it makes me sad. I have even contemplated paying the fee. We haven't done it yet, so we find ourselves owning the experience of one library and checking out books at another.

Anyway, Mariel is volunteering at our library and having a great time. One of us drives her into town a couple times per week, and, if we don't have any errands, we stay and absorb the atmosphere. Without library cards, we cannot check anything out, nor can we avail ourselves of the computers or video games. This places us in the unusual position of having nothing to do but sit in the beautiful, blessed quiet and read books. I don't even hear the psychic noise of chores crying out to be done or bills to be paid: we aren't at home. I love that library. :)

Right now, Cornflower and I have a game going. For the first hour or so at the library, we each do our own thing. Then one of us finds Sister Wendy's Story of Painting and brings it to the other. Using the two-page spreads that are all-over detail from this or that painting (how we love those pages), we try to guess the painter and painting. (At first I thought Cornflower was just humoring me, but then she started bringing me the book and I knew the game belonged to both of us.)

This week I found a book called Hamlet's Blackberry: A Practical Philosophy for Building a Good Life in the Digital Age. It is appropriate that I first read this book in the quiet of our library. William Powers gently argues that more is not necessarily better; perhaps we need space between digital encounters in order to obtain a satisfying depth of creativity, thought and relationship. He goes back to philosophers like Plato and Thoreau and, obviously, Shakespeare, in search of fit principles for our digital age.

I have only read a third of the book, but next week, in between rounds of the painting game, I will have more time to read. I've found a quiet space and I am taking advantage of it.