Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A Day

hearing:  I'm a Long Time Traveling Here Below

seeing:  dishes, and an unmade bed, and laundry, and a mostly uncluttered living room

tasting:  leftover chicken and mushroom risotto

smelling:  beautiful spring-like breeze going through my open windows

feeling:  the soft, soft fur of the kitty as I remove him from the counter for the umpteenth time

contemplating:  the mimetic sequence

also contemplating:  the college process

also contemplating:  my lack of algebraic knowledge

imagining:  how it will feel to not purchase math and science next year since we have everything we need

studying:  to be quiet, and to do my own business, and to work with my own hands

Saturday, February 25, 2012


I was a vocal performance major in college and now I teach piano part-time.  Oddly, I do not post much about music.  I think it is because I see how much I do not know, yet I'm supposed to know this field.  I'd hate to steer someone wrong.  I normally post about things I am trying to learn.  I don't know why I feel less like a learner in music, but I do.  Ugh, the expert hat.  I despise it.

Also, I LOVE music and I cannot explain it.  I mean, I cannot explain music.  Oh, but I love it so much.  How can I talk about it?  There must be a way.

I teach a sol-fa class in our CM co-op.  I thought since I don't write much about music, I would post a couple of lessons I taught on vocal production.  The following info was taught in two parts.  I used The Sciences (physics portion) and Secrets of the Universe as well as my own vocal background to make the lesson plan.

These are narration questions.  I wanted to see how much the kids already knew.  After they explained what they knew (I was impressed), I cleared up misconceptions and filled gaps using the notes in italics.  After discussion, we did warm-ups and tried to feel our bodies working to produce music.

What is the difference between noise and music? 

If the vibrations of a voice, a violin or piano string--anything--come at even intervals, then they make a musical note. If they come irregularly, the sound is usually a mere noise. Music is pleasant to hear, and noise is not.  Each string vibrates regularly just so many times in a second, no more and no less. The middle C on a piano is a wire just long enough to vibrate 261 times every second, and all of its vibrations are alike.

How do we get high sounds and low sounds? 

The shorter a string is the quicker it vibrates, and you will notice that the highest notes of your piano come from the shortest strings. It is the same with drums; the small drums give the highest notes, the large drums the lowest.

How do our bodies make sound come out of the mouth?

We actually have a musical instrument in our bodies.  Inside our throats we have a frame called the larynx.  (Picture of throat anatomy.)  Sometimes it is called the voice box.  It houses the vocal folds.  (Picture of vocal folds.)  The vocal fold part looks sort of like a harp, with the folds being the strings in the middle.  The vocal folds get thicker or thinner to help us sing different pitches.  When we sing, we breathe out air through the vocal folds which makes them vibrate.  The folds move apart to let us breathe, and move closer together when we speak or sing.  Singing is forming the vocal folds-- "strings"-- into the right thickness and position so that the vibrations sound the correct pitch.

How do we make the vocal folds vibrate?

Below the rib cage we each have a muscle called the diaphragm.  (Picture of diaphragm muscle.)  When we move this muscle down, it removes pressure from our lungs, and they fill with air.  This should happen automatically.  When we sing, sometimes we think we need to force air into the lungs, but we do not.  Because nature abhors a vacuum, we really just need to open our mouths, open our lungs by lowering the diaphragm muscle, and the air will rush in.  Standing straight and tall while doing this also helps.  The shoulders should be relaxed.  They are on vacation do not need to help. :)  

Once we get a breath in this way, we let the air seep through the vocal folds, making the 'strings' of our 'harp' vibrate evenly.  We control how much air we let out with the diaphragm, which moves up and puts pressure on the lungs, causing air to flow out.  Because we are standing straight and tall, the lungs have plenty of room for air. We control how quickly or slowly the diaphragm moves up and releases the air through the vocal folds and out the mouth.  The air flows out of the lungs and into the throat, through the vocal folds (causing vibrations) and out the mouth.  Singing!

There is a bit more to it, of course, such as using the cavities in the head and the shape of the mouth, tongue, etc., to form proper tone and vowels/consonants.  But I haven't gotten that far with this class.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

LTW: A Tale of Two Essays

We just finished LTW Lesson 6.  The essays, though very much works in progress, are nonetheless beginning to resemble things I want to read rather than things I have to correct.  Here are two of Mariel's essays.  The first is from Lesson 2, written last September/October:

The fisherman, Grim, should not have killed Havelok for three reasons. Havelok had the late king’s birthmark; a red crown, the evil Earl was trying to take over Denmark, and killing people, especially royal important people, is generally wrong.

The first reason that Grim should not have killed Havelok is that he had the late king’s birthmark; a red crown. The second reason that Grim should not have killed Havelok was that the evil Earl was trying to take over the throne of Denmark. The third reason that Grim should not have killed Havelok is that killing people, especially royal, important people, is generally wrong.

Grim should not have killed Havelok because the boy had the late king’s birthmark, the evil Earl was trying to steal the crown of Denmark, and killing people, especially royal, important people, is generally wrong.

Now for Mariel's Lesson 6 essay, finished this week.  Keep in mind that scaffolding (designed to instinctivize-- is that a word?-- structure) is still strictly in place, so it doesn't flow as well as a 'real' essay.  Also, names have been changed to protect privacy:

M&Ms:  Plain or Peanut

According to a poll given by the author, more people will buy peanut M&Ms over plain.

Both peanut M&M and plain M&M supporters agree that chocolate, in any shape or form, is needed.  But peanut M&M supporter Louisa L. Babbit says, "Peanut.  Because the universe is in perfect harmony when you bite into that balanced blend of salty and sweet."  Many agree with her, but listen to how plain M&M supporter Darcy Smith eats these beloved sweets:  "Plain and heated in the microwave.  Middles melt and it's just awesome."

Mariel should not buy peanut M&Ms for three reasons.  M&Ms should only contain chocolate, peanut M&Ms give people problems, and peanut M&Ms cause unpleasant sensations.

The first reason that Allisons hould not buy peanut M&Ms is that M&Ms should only contain chocolate. You can melt plain M&Ms, peanuts disguise chocolate flavor, and the average-sized peanut takes up most of the space in an M&M.

The second reason that Allison should not buy peanut M&Ms is that peanuts give people problems.  Peanuts leave a bad aftertaste, they can cause food allergies, and peanuts give diverticulosis patients pain.

The third reason that Allison should not buy peanut M&Ms is that peanuts cause unpleasant sensations.  Peanuts get stuck in your teeth, peanut could choke you, and they cause indigestion.

Some people argue that Mariel should buy peanut M&Ms because they are healthy, they have less sugar and are natural appetite suppressants.  They forget that Mariel wants a sweet treat, not a healthy one.

They also protest that peanut M&Ms produce pleasant sensations.  They crunch nicely, the sugar and salt combine delightfully, and the ratio of peanut to chocolate causes pleasure.

But these two arguments give Allison no reason to buy peanut M&Ms.

Allison should not buy peanut M&Ms for these reasons:  M&Ms should only contain chocolate, peanuts give people problems, and peanuts cause unpleasant sensations.

Unfortunately, Allison's family is under the influence of peanut M&Ms, which captivate and allure as the mermaids' song, but then slip away, leaving a bad taste-- and, of course, indigestion.

Note:  Normally, I require them to choose issues from history, literature, religion, philosophy.  We easily generate "should" questions from these areas.  This time I judged it best to allow Mariel's math-and-candy-oriented issue.  She was excited about her math unit.  Generated by her own enthusiasm, she combined math, science and language arts.  She did research, conducted a survey, analyzed data using charts and graphs, and wrote this persuasive essay.  (All you see here is the essay.)  I stepped back in wonder and welcomed the Lord's mercies.  That is good education.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Devilish v. Heavenly Motivators

Mr. Andrew Kern, whom I greatly respect, addressed this subject in a blog post .  An excerpt:
In our godless age, we are convinced behaviorists. We don’t believe in the great mystery of the will, only in appetites. So we stimulate behavior in our students through rewards and punishments and figure that’s all we have to offer. 
This is, of all psychological doctrines, perhaps the most Satanic, for it forces us to imitate the Great Manipulator in the way we govern the souls of our children.
At book club last night we went through the fifth chapter of CM's third volume.  There, CM rejects some of the psychologies of her day as she seeks a psychology that includes the whole man.  Psychology is interesting.  It wants to examine man, but because it also wants to be a science, it cannot go further than the material aspect.  And, as CM points out (quoting noted psychologist William James), "...the waters of metaphysical criticism leak [in] at every joint."

Kern, discussing proper authority, says both intimidation and seduction are devilish motivators.  He recommends we don our proper mantles of authority as fathers, mothers, teachers.  But what are the heavenly motivators?
But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable,gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.
It is not about getting the student to do things.  It is about speaking to the soul of the child, beckoning to him to rise up and do what he knows is right. Mr. Kern again:
They have a will, though it is underfed and neglected. It cannot be controlled, for it is free. But it can be awakened and beckoned. 
Will you beckon with the Authority of God or the vanity of the Enemy?
Have I faith enough to beckon the will rather than tempt the appetites?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Look and Think

"I want you to look and think. I want every one to look and think. Half the misery in the world comes first from not looking, and then from not thinking. And I do not want you to be miserable.

"But shall I be miserable if I do not find out such little things as this?

"You will be miserable if you do not learn to understand little things: because then you will not be able to understand great things when you meet them. Children who are not trained to use their eyes and their common sense grow up the more miserable the cleverer they are."

--Charles Kingsley, "Field and Wild", from Madam How and Lady Why

Schoolwork (Term 2, Years 5, 8, 11)

This is for me-- an exercise in perspective.  Every so often I get frustrated.  My house never really gets clean and I wonder why.  The kids and I have a hard time finishing our AO readings and I wonder why.  I always feel rushed and I wonder why.  When I detail our schoolwork, I realize how much I am either overseeing or directly guiding, and reasons become evident!  I wonder.  It is so much, but time is short.  The girls are growing older.

Update:  A FB friend helped me see that I need a bit more explanation on this post.  This is just a list of what we are doing right now for school.  I wrote it to help myself see the school choices we make in our household.  These choices necessarily kick out other options, such as thoroughly cleaning the house, visiting friends  or having ample down time.  If we want those options, we have to kick out some of these other things.  Sometimes I think I can do everything.  But I can't.  I bet you can't either.  ;o)  This is my list.  Make your own list and look at what-all you are doing...

Group Work
  • We finished Ephesians today and are beginning Philippians.  We are pulling out ideas on serving God because he loves us and we love him.
  • Proverbs:  We have been making wisdom/foolishness lists, but changed things up this week.  Now the kids are giving short joint narrations on select proverbs.  I'm combining ideas from theater improv, impromptu speech, and progym maxim.  I call it "maxim improv" and treat it like a game.
  • Emma by Jane Austen.  After we are done with Emma, I want us to read a Scott novel-- perhaps Kenilworth.
  • The Holy War by John Bunyan
  • LittleLa decided she was tired of sitting on the sidelines, so she has joined us in Lost Tools of Writing I.  I started her on Lesson 1.  She has just completed her first ANI.  The other two girls are finishing Lesson 6.  I am debating whether to stay on Lesson 6 for awhile, or to get through Lesson 7 before stopping down and honing skills.  Lesson 7 is the *Complete* Persuasive Essay.  We are beginning to get overwhelmed by the work, though.  I want the kids to internalize processes before we add more.
  • We try to go to the YMCA for yoga twice per week.  (My personal goal is once per week.)
  • We belong to a small group that meets for fine arts every couple weeks.  The kids are currently learning about the Russian Nationalist composers and the art of Van Gogh, as well as taking classes in sol-fa and applied art, and reading Shakespeare's As You Like It and the poetry of Alfred Noyes. 
Group Work (Minus Aravis)
  • We are almost through "Field and Wild" in Madam How and Lady Why by Charles Kingsley.  It is a great chapter.  If you are struggling to get through the book, hang on.  "Field and Wild" is worth it.  In a little while, I'll post a quote about thinking v. guessing.  After we get finished with MHLW, I want to start The Sea Around Us.  None of us has ever read it through, although we have tried.  I just got a young person's version of the book from pbswap.  It looks like the same text, but lots of pictures, diagrams and maps.  Yay!  
  • I just started KISS Grammar with the two younger kids after years of Winston Grammar.  Although the kids know their parts of speech from nouns through prepositional phrases, we started at the beginning of KISS.  I like his in-depth explanations of verbs.
LittleLa's Work (AO Year 5)
  • Together we are reading This Country of Ours by H.E. Marshall, the portion about the 19th Century.  We are comparing La's other history reading to the history found in TCOO.
  • We just began Kim.  For now, we are focusing on setting and characters.  The plot hasn't yet thickened. ;o)  Okay, I guess the plot of Kim is thick from the start!  But it is hard to understand the book if you don't have some framework of culture, geography, etc. 
  • We also share the reading of The Sciences by Edward Holden.  We read what he wrote, summarize it, and then go on How Stuff Works or another website to get the updated version.  Sometimes we do the experiments.  My success rate with the experiments is low, but at least she is getting a good introduction to all the sciences.  We are currently in the physics section.
  • Her independent readings include Abraham Lincoln's World by Genevieve Foster, Book of Marvels by Richard Halliburton, The Usborne Complete Book of the Human Body, Bulfinch's Age of Fable, Passion for the Impossible (biography of Lilias Trotter) and the poetry of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
  • We do dictation and copywork twice each per week, and I give spelling words once per week based on words she misspells in her narrations.  I am not satisfied with our dictation efforts.  I think something needs to change, but I don't know what.   La is also working through a notetaking book and a free online Spanish program.
  • Four days per week we do 45 minutes of MEP Math.  Sometimes she has additional work to finish on her own.
  • She also takes violin and piano lessons and plays in an orchestra.
Mariel's Work (HEO Year 8)
  • Together we read Ourselves by Charlotte Mason and How to Read a Book by Adler/Van Doren.  We have discussion and she applies what she learns to her life/reading.
  • Her independent readings include Christopher Columbus, Mariner by Samuel Eliot Morrison, English Literature for Boys and Girls by H.E. Marshall, Fearfully and Wonderfully Made by Dr. Paul Brand, Galileo's Daughter by Dava Sobel, I Promessi Sposi, Secrets of the Universe by Paul Fleisher, The Case for Christ Lee Strobel, The New World by Winston Churchill, Jansen's History of Art, and the poetry of Robert Burns.  Mariel is studying the Renaissance and Reformation.
  • Four days per week we work on MEP math for 30 minutes.  She usually has some work to finish on her own.  The last week or two we set MEP aside and worked exclusively on math problems in her physical science book.
  • She is working through Apologia Physical Science this year.  I have her applying SQ3R as her narration, then she does the On Your Own questions, labs (with friends) and study guide before taking the test.
  • She is working through Grammar of Poetry, but that has slowed down the last few weeks.  
  • She just started the Essays of Francis Bacon.  In each essay she gives his thesis and then either refutes or confirms it based on her own reading and experience.  I had Aravis outline and rewrite these essays when she did Year 8, but I like this new idea better.  Mariel can rewrite Lamb's essays next year.
  • Mariel also takes violin lessons and plays in the orchestra.  She is taking a break from piano.  And she studies Spanish with Javamom.
  Aravis' Work (HEO Year 11)
  • Aravis and I work together once per week.  We are calling her a junior (11th grade) this year.  She is studying the 20th Century.  During our together time we read Paul Johnson's History of the American People and Ourselves (Book 2: Self-Direction) by Charlotte Mason, and discuss some of her other books as well as time management and future plans.
  • Her independent readings include A Short History of Western Civilization by Sullivan, et al, Brideshead Revisited, Economics in One Lesson (Hazlitt), Here is Your War (Ernie Pyle), Six Easy Pieces (Richard Feynman), Testament of Youth, The Chosen, The Men Behind Hitler, The Microbe Hunters, Theodore Roosevelt's Letters to His Children, Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage, History of Art, Anne Frank: the Diary of a Young Girl, and On Writing Well.  She wants to read all of these and is a quick reader, but perhaps she needs more chapters per week of fewer books.  A couple of the books are leftovers from an earlier term, but she was excited to begin the new books, so a couple of 'reading slots' are doubled up in this list.  
  • She is almost done with Is God a Moral Monster? and is about to start When God Goes to Starbucks (both by Paul Copan).  The Starbucks book deals with everyday apologetics.  The moral monster book discusses questions of God's righteousness in the Old Testament.
  • Aravis started the year doing Apologia Physics, but after a few modules we suspended that study until after she finishes trigonometry, which she is taking at the college.  She will take up physics again in March and work through the summer to finish. 
  • She is working through Intermediate Logic by the Nances, but that has recently slowed down.  She did Introductory Logic a couple of years ago.

Friday, February 10, 2012

My Day

braided youngest daughter's hair
read Shakespeare
sang again
listened again
rejoiced again
fed kids
visited again (with listening)
laughed and laughed
made plans
bought chocolate and tea
had company
made WP's favorite dinner
gave my mom flowers
visited a third time, listening yet again (with laughter)