Friday, September 30, 2011

Introducing... Skittles!

This is Skittles, our new kitten.  Javamom brought him back from Oklahoma for us.  (She took this picture, too.)  He is friendly, patient and playful.  I didn't think I would enjoy a cat this much.

LTW Journal 9/29 (Addendum)

(Part of an ongoing series detailing our Lost Tools of Writing adventures.  Previous posts here.)

Update:  Grammar Girl to the rescue with a down-to-earth article on parallel construction!  I knew I was making it harder than it was.  Grammar Girl rocks.

I am getting in a little practice myself before my next teaching attempt.  I thought I would try again with the original thesis and proofs:

Boromir was not a fit Ringbearer
Frodo was a fit Ringbearer
Wise authorities chose Frodo

First I need to fix that last proof so it lines up properly.  Grammar Girl quoted Sesame street: "One of these things is not like the others, one of these things just doesn't belong..."  I got confused looking at these sentences, but Aravis happened to be nearby.  She is insanely good at grammar.  This illustrates both a curse and blessing of homeschooling.

The curse is not knowing enough on some subjects to "be the teacher".  Often, the homeschooling mother ends up learning along with her students.  (When I taught Aravis grammar, the answer key was my best friend.)  The blessing is that by a certain age their affinities emerge and, never having had their enthusiasm quashed by institutionalized competition*, they begin passionate independent studies.  Eventually, they are able to help younger siblings in ways the mother never could.  Along the way the younger sibs embrace their own affinities and *they* start passionate independent studies.  Life becomes a joyous celebration of all the things God placed in the world for us to know.  I love learning.

Anyway, Aravis patiently explained that the first two sentences contain predicate nominatives-- a predicate that renames the subject.  The third sentence does not.  We either have to rename the wise authorities, or make Frodo the subject and rename him, or add Boromir as the subject and rename him.

(I should probably have Aravis teach the Elocution portion each time.)

Wise authorities were fit choosers.  (yuck)
Wise authorities were fit judges.  (hmm)
According to authorities, Boromir was a  bad choice. (complicated)
Boromir was a bad choice.  (too similar to first proof)

Or maybe we could take the predicate nominatives out of the other two sentences:

Boromir had bad qualities
Frodo had good qualities
Frodo had the confidence of the Council and Fellowship

It still seems like the subjects ought to be the same.  Otherwise, how to line them up in a sentence?

Boromir should not have tried to take the Ring from Frodo for three reasons.  Boromir had bad qualities, Frodo had good qualities, and Frodo had the confidence of the Council and Fellowship.

I don't know.  It still looks complicated.  If we could change the subject of #1 to Frodo, it might work.  But that first point is important, and Frodo has nothing to do with Boromir's bad qualities.

Still thinking...

*I am not against competition per se.  I think it is a useful tool in the learning toolbox.  However, I believe it is wrong to apply it arbitrarily across a system.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

LTW 9/29

(Previous LTW posts)

Today we got bogged down again.  It started off well, though.  We reviewed the parts of speech and gave a nod to other notables of grammar.  Mariel gleefully remembered all her modifiers.  Aravis joked that we ought to add Lynne Truss to our list of essential grammar-tools.

Then we learned the definition of parallelism.  Still good.  Aravis quoted Strunk and White, and I asked what Paula La Rocque might say about it.

Strunk and White:  "Omit needless words."
Paula La Rocque:  "Choose the precise word."

Then we smugly pulled out the practice essay issue and main proofs:

Thesis:  Boromir should not have taken the Ring from Frodo.
1st Proof:  Boromir was not a fit Ringbearer
2nd Proof:  Frodo was a fit Ringbearer
3rd Proof:  Wise authorities chose Frodo

We could not get these three proofs to do the parallelism thing.

Honestly.  They would not cooperate.  The reason seemed to be that the proofs each had different subjects.  We tried to switch the sentences around so Boromir was always the subject, but that did not work.

At this point, I realized I was in over my head.  I was sure there was a way to make this thesis and these proofs work, but I could not see it. 

Finally, we decided to use the sub-proofs from Proof 1 (Boromir was not a fit Ringbearer) as the main proofs, since they all had Boromir as the subject.  Now our outline looked like this:

Thesis:  Boromir should not have tried to take the Ring from Frodo
1st Proof:   Boromir was spoiled
2nd Proof:  Boromir was obsessed
3rd Proof:  Boromir was unsupported

Here is the introductory paragraph:

"Boromir should not have tried to take the Ring from Frodo for three reasons.  Boromir was spoiled, obsessed and unsupported."

Looking at this now (late at night, in the quiet), I think it would work better if it said, "Boromir was spoiled by his father, obsessed with Gondor, and unsupported by Aragorn." 

Do you see the parallelism?  It is the repetition of the same parts of speech in each proof.  We got it in there, if rather simply.  And this is just the practice essay.  We will probably change it again on Monday.  We work on it together as a teaching tool-- then the kids apply the same process to their real essays.  I am very thankful for it, especially since I am learning along with the kids.  We figure out what might be a problem when we try a new concept on the practice essay. 

I did not give the kids any homework.  I feel like this new concept muddied the waters a bit.  I want to review and take another shot at parallelism in the practice essay on Monday before having them work on their actual essays.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Shakespeare On Adversity

A wretched soul, bruised with adversity,
We bid be quiet when we hear it cry;
But were we burdened with like weight of pain,
As much or more we should ourselves complain.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

LTW Journal 9/27

(Previous Lost Tools of Writing posts)

Today's session was exciting.  I thought so, at least.  After last week's feeling that the sub-proofs were "off" somehow, I was encouraged by the LTWMentor group to decide whether to deal with logic now or work up to it in the next lesson.  Since Aravis has studied logic and Mariel has been introduced to it, I decided to mention sequitur and non sequitur and see what happened. 

Yesterday I visited with Mariel about how a point either "follows" an assertion or it does not.  If a point "doesn't follow," it is a logical fallacy, which makes a very weak argument.  She pointed out that no one was going to read her little essay and asked if it really mattered.  I listed the various ways she would use her persuasive abilities throughout her life.  She hadn't thought of it that way and decided she should practice persuasion now.  This made me happy.  :)  I asked her to find the unity (unifying thought-- this is from How to Read a Book) for each of her groups.  After some questioning and discussion, she had actual main proofs to go above her sub-proofs.  Then she determined which sub-proofs were strongest and edited her outline. 

(Aravis' sub-points followed her main proofs already.)

This morning we went to work on the practice essay outline.  We ended up rewriting the main proofs.  Discussion was lively.  As we talked about the third proof, Mariel objected to using only wise authorities that favored Frodo, saying that we were not considering both sides of the argument.  I rejoiced inwardly and explained that Mariel was exactly right, and that later we were going to add an excellent element called "refutation", but first we needed to get the foundations straight and strong.  And I saw the light dawn for Aravis, who has felt a little like the rudimentary essays are a waste of time.  Now she is ready to do the tedious early work.

THEN Aravis mentioned Matthew Henry's commentary on Leviticus.  We are reading that along with the book of Leviticus for our Bible twice a week.  Mr. Henry got poetic this morning with his comments on the meat offering.  Here is the portion we talked about:

Leaven is the emblem of pride, malice, and hypocrisy, and honey of sensual pleasure. The former are directly opposed to the graces of humility, love, and sincerity, which God approves; the latter takes men from the exercises of devotion, and the practice of good works. Christ, in his character and sacrifice, was wholly free from the things denoted by leaven; and his suffering life and agonizing death were the very opposites to worldly pleasure. His people are called to follow, and to be like him.

See how it fits with Boromir and Frodo?  Aravis said we could contrast Frodo's fitness as Ringbearer with Boromir's lack of fitness.  This sort of gets into the Elocution portion of the lesson, which I hadn't planned to teach until Thursday... but I went ahead and talked about "parallelism" and how we were setting up a lovely opportunity to employ that scheme.

It was like being in a fast-moving stream, teaching that class this morning.  We are heading somewhere good.

Here is the revised practice essay outline:

(the old outline for comparison)

%Boromir was not fit to be Ringbearer:

1)  He was spoiled.
2)  He was obsessed with saving Gondor.
3)  He was a Man.

#Frodo was fit to be Ringbearer:

1)  He was humble.
2)  He wanted to save Middle Earth
3)  He was chosen by the Council and the Ring

+Wise authorities chose Frodo.

1)  Aragorn let Frodo go.
2)  Gandalf refused the Ring when Frodo offered it to him.
3)  Galadriel resisted the Ring when Frodo offered it to her.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

LTW Journal 9/25

I seriously questioned my set-up this week.  My two students have different needs.  I wondered if I was serving them both adequately by teaching them together.  The LTWMentor yahoo group helped me decide what to do for now:  I will keep introducing the lessons to both of them together with discussion, and then give as much individual help as necessary.  It is okay for one to go deeper than the other.  I am going to have Cornflower sit in on the intro and discussions too.  She will learn a lot.


I find myself thinking of everything in terms of Invention, Arrangement and Elocution.  It's a fun new game:

In math--  Invention is uncovering questions to be answered, Arrangement is placing terms in the proper formula, and Elocution is the (hopefully elegant) solution. 

In piano--  Invention is the combination of tones and rhythm, Arrangement is phrasing and dynamics, Elocution is touch and artistry.

In personal relationships-- Invention is discovering connections, Arrangement is good manners, and Elocution is warmth.

(I am either embracing the three canons or imitating the medical student that diagnosed his friends with every disease he studied.)

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

LTW Journal 9/20

I accidentally deleted my LTW post from yesterday!  What follows is my rewrite, hopefully a bit more succinct and coherent! 

Yesterday we began the Arrangement portion of Lesson 2.  It was time to group all the kids' affirmative and negative ideas into groups according to kind.  Using the practice essay issue, the girls made five groups and used the most 'telling point' in each as the main proof. Then they selected the three strongest supporting point in each as subproofs.  They discarded the two weakest groups.  They also had to decide which side of the issue they would argue.  Here are Mariel's groups (we worked together while Aravis worked on her own):

Issue:  Whether Boromir should have taken the Ring from Frodo.

(She chose the negative, so her thesis is:  Boromir should not have taken the Ring from Frodo.)

% Boromir was angry and irrational.

i)  Boromir was under the Ring's spell
ii)  Boromir was concerned with saving Gondor
iii)  Boromir was a spoiled, favored son

#  Frodo was idealistic

i) Frodo sacrificed a lot
ii) Frodo cared for all of Middle Earth
iii)  Frodo was chosen by the Council and the Ring

+  Authorities knew the Ring should go to Frodo

i) The Ring was hypnotic
ii)  The Ring was too powerful for anyone
iii) Aragorn knew the Ring needed to go to Frodo

Interesting note:  Mariel discovered not just one, but three of her ideas on the affirmative side were actually negatives!  So she moved them over.

Also during this process, Mariel and I noticed that the arguments are only as good as the ANIs.  We could only work with what we had.  Then came the resolve to make better ANI charts in the next essay cycle.

One thing I really like about this curriculum is the way these needs emerge rather than being foisted upon us before we realize their importance.

I am very happy we are using an issue from LOTR.  Every time we talk about it we go deeper.  When Mariel said that Boromir was only concerned about Gondor, Aravis and I realized he was a nationalist, and there followed a brief discussion on LOTR as political commentary.  Tolkien was a genius.

Their homework assignment is to go through the same process using their actual Lesson 2 ANIs-- the political issues they chose during Lesson 2 Invention.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Book Post

I have started a new set of books and want a list to help me understand that I do stuff during the day when it feels like I am casting about here and there and not getting much done.

By myself:

1) Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard

With the kids:

1) We just finished the book of Exodus
2) and are starting Leviticus (with Matthew Henry's commentary)

3) We're also reading the Gospel of Matthew
4)  and Job.

5) Emma by Jane Austen
6) The Life of Crassus by Plutarch (I'm not sure I like him)
7) The Holy War by John Bunyan (not Paul Bunyan... the WP always kids us about him)

With Cornflower:

1) This Country of Ours (1800s)
2)  Book of Marvels by Halliburton (The Occident)
3)  King Arthur by Howard Pyle
4)  The Sciences by Edward Holden (I don't feel coherent enough to write study notes at this point)

With Mariel:

1) Ourselves by Charlotte Mason
2)  The New World by Winston Churchill
3)  Secrets of the Universe by Fleisher

With Aravis:

1) Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain
2) Ourselves by Charlotte Mason (2nd book)
3) A History of the American People by Paul Johnson

With Fine Arts co-op:

1)  As You Like It by William Shakespeare

There.  :happysigh:  That is where the time goes.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Free and Natural Development

"Probably no degree of loving intimacy will throw the closed doors of the child's nature permanently ajar, because, we may believe, the burden of the mystery of all this unintelligible world falls early upon the conscious soul, and each of us must beat out his conception of life for himself.

But it is much to a child to know that he may question, may talk of the thing that perplexes him, and that there is comprehension for his perplexities.

Effusive sympathy is a mistake, and bores a child when it does not make him silly. But just to know that you can ask and tell is a great outlet, and means, to the parent, the power of direction, and to the child, free and natural development."

CM Series, Volume 3

Saturday, September 17, 2011

LTW Journal 9/18

We have been bogged down in Invention.  I am surprised.  I would have predicted slow and muddy progress through Arrangement or Elocution, but not Invention.  We're creative at our house, right?

In Lesson 2, students are asked to list twenty affirmative, twenty negative and twenty interesting points about their issues.  My students had a hard time!  Their issues this time are taken from government and politics, so it may have been subject matter, but they even struggled to find twenty things in favor of 'their' sides.

In order to list sixty different points on an issue, you have to know it very well.

We reviewed the questions to ask several times.  Each time, the girls went back to researching answers on their own, but still came up short.  Finally, we all sat down together and worked as a team to put twenty things on each list. (20 on Aravis' affirmative, 20 on her negative, 20 on her interesting; 20 on Mariel's affirmative, 20 on her negative, 20 on her interesting.)  We were stuck in Invention for two weeks!

Also, I failed to notice that Lesson 2 Invention is an *introduction* to the Five Topics and questions.  I got a bit discouraged that the girls weren't embracing these new tools.  But we are going to handle each Topic in detail in future Invention lessons!  Note to self:  do more than just scan the Teacher's Guide.

Monday, September 05, 2011

LTW Journal 9/5

NOTE: Blogger changed on me and I cannot figure out how to insert paragraph breaks! I hope it isn't too confusing. I'll try to figure it out as soon as I can. And now on to the post...

Additional note: I figured it out, but it's pretty time-consuming to fix. I hope there is an easier solution I just haven't found out about yet.

Yes, we did school this morning. I couldn't explain it to the kids, but it just seemed like we ought to. Anyway, today we started Lesson 2: Invention.

We decided to keep the Boromir/Frodo issue as the practice essay for both Aravis and Mariel, because they both have strong opinions on it, and I have read that book. Lol. The practice essay is used as the "dry run" for new techniques before using them in the "real" essay.

Today we learned how to ask questions of our issue in order to generate more ideas. LTW does this in five topics or categories. I'm not going to list the categories or questions because I don't want to get too detailed. I want you to go buy the program at Circe Institute if you think it would fit your family. :)

I will tell about one question which dealt with what witnesses thought. The practice essay issue is from _The Fellowship of the Ring_: whether Boromir should have tried to take the ring from Frodo? This is our list of what witnesses thought--

1. Aragorn said it should go to Frodo.

2. Gandalf said it was Frodo's responsibility.

3. Saruman believed in survival of the fittest.

4. Elrond said it was Frodo's.

5. Denethor wanted the ring. (He was insane.)

6. Gollum thought he should have it. (He was insane as well.)

7. The people of Middle Earth, for the most part, did not know what was happening.

8. The Elves did not think it could be destroyed.

These statements are judged by the student, who places them in one of the ANI lists-- affirmative, negative or interesting. Each of the five topics (categories) contains several questions. We generated eight relevant statements from one question! Wow.

The kids enjoyed this process immensely. In fact, I tried to wrap it up after forty minutes, but we had only gotten through the first three topics and they did not want to stop!

For Thursday, they are to 1) list twenty things in each ANI list for their practice essays, and 2) think of a U.S. government question/issue for the Lesson 2 essay (the "real" one). Their daddy picked the essay topic.

For Labor Day

I HEAR America singing, the varied carols I hear; Those of mechanics-- each one singin his, as it should be, blithe and strong; The carpenter singing his, as he measures his plank or beam, The mason singing his, as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work; The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat-- the deckhand singing on the steamboat deck; The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench-- the hatter singing as he stands; The wood-cutter's song-- the ploughboy's, on his way in the morning, or at the noon intermission, or at sundown; The delicious singing of the mother-- or of the young wife at work-- or of the girl sewing or washing-- Each singing what belongs to her, and to none else; The day what belongs to the day-- At night, the party of young fellows, robust, friendly, Singing, with open mouths, their strong melodious songs. --Walt Whitman (1819-1892)

Thursday, September 01, 2011

LTW Journal 9/1

Today we moved on to the first Elocution lesson. This week was supposed to be Arrangement, but the kids grasped the outline very quickly.

In Elocution the student takes the outline she made in Arrangement and fits it up with proper words. We started by describing what is meant by a 'sentence'. Then they were supposed to turn the thesis and points into complete sentences and string them together.

"Okay, give me one of your points as a complete sentence."

"They are complete sentences."


I looked at their outlines, and it was true. The only two items in the outline that weren't already complete sentences were the issue (beginning with "Whether...") and the enumeration (represented by the number 3). So we decided to skip Elocution this time and start with Lesson 2 next week.

I can only assume that the complete-sentence-outlines are the result of years spent reading and narrating. As Aravis said, the girls are used to answering in complete paragraphs. Even complete sentences seem somewhat sparse.