Sunday, September 30, 2012

Obedience and Faith

Obedience without trust is legalism.  No one ever obeys perfectly.  We all need to trust God's grace and mercy.   
                                   -- My Dad
I am parking this thought here so I don't forget.  I want to write about it after I get my other stuff done.

(Dad, please let me know if I got the quote wrong and I'll correct it.  Love, Katie)

Thursday, September 27, 2012

LTW: Lesson 6 Essay

Here is Mariel's essay on Amy's cologne purchase:

“Christmas won't be Christmas without any presents,” grumbled Jo, lying on the rug.

“It's so dreadful to be poor!” sighed Meg, looking down at her old dress.

“I don't think it's fair for some girls to have plenty of pretty things, and other girls nothing at all,” added little Amy, with an injured sniff.

“We've got Father and Mother, and each other,” said Beth contentedly from her corner.

Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy March each had a dollar for Christmas presents. Instead of buying things for themselves, they agreed to make a Christmas basket filled with goodies for their Marmee. Jo bought a new pair of slippers, Beth embroidered ‘Mother’ on a pile of handkerchiefs and Meg purchased ‘a nice pair of gloves’. Amy was stuck. She decided that Marmee could use a bottle of elegant cologne.

Everyone agrees that making a Christmas basket for Marmee was lovely. Cologne was something that Marmee liked, and the basket was for her. But should Amy have bought something else?

Amy should have bought cologne for Marmee for three reasons. One, Amy needed to buy the cologne; two, Amy liked to belong; and three, Amy cared about Marmee.

The first reason that Amy should have bought the cologne is that she needed to buy the cologne. She had wanted to buy the slippers, but could not. As ‘the man of the house’, Jo beat her to them. This cologne was as elegant as Annie Moffat and also inexpensive.

The second reason that Amy should have bought the cologne is that she liked to belong. It was Christmas. People bought presents for loved ones. All her friends bought cologne for their mothers, and her sisters were buying presents for Marmee. Amy would have felt terrible if she had spent the dollar on herself—and not Marmee.

The third reason that Amy should have bought the cologne is that she cared about Marmee. Marmee liked cologne. Amy wanted Marmee’s new handkerchiefs to smell nice. All the other mothers wore cologne, and Amy wanted Marmee to be fashionable.

At first, I thought that Amy should not have bought the cologne for Marmee. I thought that Marmee was too practical, and that the cologne would just sit on her bureau.  But I was underestimating Marmee; she would love any present—especially if it was from one of her beloved daughters.

As an artist, I thought that Amy should have bought her coveted art pencils. Then she could draw something for Marmee. But Amy was rather selfish. Even she admitted that. That Christmas, she wanted to be unselfish and self-sacrificing. Marmee liked cologne, so Amy bought it.

Amy should have bought the cologne for Marmee. Amy needed to buy the cologne, Amy liked to belong, and Amy cared about Marmee.

This seems a very small matter. It is just a decision to buy cologne for a mother.  But Louisa May Alcott wanted the young, spoiled Amy to grow up a bit that Christmas. Amy could have been selfish with her money, but instead, she chose to be generous. At first, she bought a cheap, tiny bottle of cologne that did not take up the entire dollar.

But the next morning, without telling anyone, Amy slipped out of the house and returned the first bottle of cologne. When she came back to the house, she had a beautiful, large bottle of more expensive perfume that used up the entire dollar. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Math and Psalms

LittleLa added an editorial to the end of a word problem this morning.

"Last year Uncle Alex planted cabbages in a field which was 15 m wide and 40 m long.  This year he wants to plant cabbages in a new field but has not decided whether to use the 5 m wide field, the 24 m wide field or the 30 m wide field.  Selah."

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Morning Routine Playlist

I found a great idea in ADDitude Magazine for inspiring my household to get up and get going in the morning.  I cannot find the actual article.  The link above is to the main website.  The idea is to make an hour-long playlist of music and then start the music an hour before you need to leave the house or get started with school in the morning.  The kids thought this was great.  Our whole family collaborated on the playlist.  Here it is:

When Will My Life Begin, from the movie, "Tangled"
Every Knee Shall Bow by Twila Paris
I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles) by The Proclaimers
The Morning Report from the movie, "The Lion King"
The Joy of the Lord by Twila Paris
Good Morning, Baltimore from the musical, "Hairspray"
Beautiful Day by U2
Hakuna Matata from the movie, "The Lion King"
Climb Every Mountain from the musical, "The Sound of Music"
Little Wonders from the movie, "Meet the Robinsons"
Good Morning, Good Morning by the Beatles (covered by The Coverbeats)
I Will Lift My Eyes by Bebo Norman
Chorus Finale on Schiller's Ode to Joy from Beethovens 9th Symphony
The Russian Dance from Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Ballet
Walking on Sunshine by Katrina and the Waves
They have ordered their morning routines to correspond to different songs in the list.  A few days after we started this, I reordered the playlist a bit and set off a panic when the girls heard Good Morning Baltimore earlier than they were expecting, lol.

The Ode to Joy finale is our signal that we have fifteen minutes before showtime.  ;)  During the day when we need to go somewhere in fifteen minutes, I start the playlist at Ode to Joy.

Funny how music motivates us.  It's much more pleasant than an alarm going off or a person saying "Get going!"  The other day one of the girls did not get up and did not get up.  I finally went into her room fifteen minutes before time and simply said, "Ode to Joy, babe."  She was out of bed like a shot.

I have been one of the worst offenders as far as lollygagging in the morning.  The music works for me too.  The girls say even if the music didn't help that much, they would still like it because they like hearing me sing in the morning.  I am happy we chose music with words.

We have been using this tool for three weeks and no one is tired of the songs yet.  I wonder when we will decide we need new ones?

Updated to add:  Have you watched the movie, "Inception"?  In that movie, a certain song plays to signal the dreamers that it is time to wake up.  They call it "the kick".  This week, we realized Ode to Joy is the kick that alerts us to do our last things and get ready to go, leaving the kairos atmosphere of home and entering the chronos atmosphere of appointments and activities.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Little Wonders

During math this morning, Little La said, "I've got a paper that will really help me, but it's in last year's math binder.  May I go get it?"  Delighted, I agreed.  She came back with a sheet filled with geometric figures and formulas I had insisted she jot down last year.  (!)  The flip side of the paper was a copy of a page from Shakespeare-- a sketch of Orlando defying Duke Senior, and the cast list of "As You Like It".  Little things like this make my day.

Monday, September 17, 2012

If God be for us...

A friend sent me this quote today:

Do not pray for easy lives; pray to be stronger men.  Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers; pray for powers equal to your tasks.  

                                                                        --Phillips Brooks

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

N&N: Prologue III and IV

I'm back to narrating Norms and Nobility.  (I narrated the Preface and Prologue I and II in June.)

Prologue III

normative= What should be done?
operational= What can be done?

“How can I succeed in an increasingly complicated world?”  This is the question modern educators seek to answer.  The new question feels useful, fits the scientific method, and promises power.  Since the Enlightenment, this question has done battle with the older, normative question:  “What is man and what are his purposes?”  The old has been gradually analyzed into oblivion, while the new has been strengthened by scientific breakthroughs.  Ancient and feudal man understood he had the role of a servant.  To seek anything higher was condemned as foolhardy.  Modern man has broken through that caution and seeks to rule.  This is the aim of modern education.  Educators take things apart and list them for memorization until there is no room in a student's education to ask “What are the implications of this?  How does this increase our understanding of our purposes?”

Prologue IV

Nowadays, schools carry many technologies for finding out what can be done, but no imagination for determining what ought to be done.  Students hitch a ride on a predictable, testable system rather than hiking up the steep mountain to the ideal.  This is now seen in government policy as well as education.  The idea of counterinsurgency during the war in Vietnam was the result of this operational, rather than normative, thinking.  Just because something can be done does not mean it ought to be done.  Another example is teaching communication using technique rather than constant reading, writing and orderly instruction.  (What is the difference between technique and orderly instruction, I wonder?)  Communication is viewed as a skill learned for success, rather than a way to discover man's purposes. Ironically, the author describes the actions of the US in Vietnam in terms that only readers of Plutarch would understand.  I have read just enough Plutarch to recognize the references and grasp shades of meaning, but need to read more to truly understand.  (I also need to research the decisions made by US leaders during that time.  What exactly was the idea of counterinsurgency?  I am sure this is a dumb question for a forty-something American to ask.)

Operational thinking (“What can be done?”) develops a life of its own and strives to exist after its usefulness is over.  This reminds me of the tyrannical brain in A Wrinkle in Time, of government bureaucracies, of parasitic plants and animals in the natural world.  Man, still a servant, serves the Frankenstein of his own making.  Like it says in the Bible, “Choose this day whom you will serve.”  Man will serve something or someone.  Modern man's blindness and pride leads him away from the pursuit of the Ideal Man and toward the machine.

Technique makes man “a more efficient berry gatherer, a more discriminating shell collector, a more willing water carrier,” leaving out any consideration of the human spirit.  Yet the goal of education ought to be the cultivation of the human spirit:  “to teach the young to know what is good, to serve it above self, to reproduce it, and to recognize that in knowledge lies this responsibility.”  Without this, students are left at the mercy of lust and ego.

Sunday, September 09, 2012


"Help me to live for others, that I may live like Thee."

Lord, help me live from day to day
In such a self-forgetful way,
That even when I kneel to pray,
My prayer shall be for others. 
Help me in all the work I do
To ever be sincere and true;
And know that all I'd do for you
Must needs be done for others. 
Let Self be crucified and slain,
And buried deep; and all in vain
May efforts be to rise again,
Unless to live for others. 
And when my work on earth is done,
And my new work in Heav'n's begun,
May I forget the race I've run,
And praise my Lord with others. 
--C.D. Meigs

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Narration: Secrets of the Universe Ch. 1-2

LittleLa (age 11) wrote this narration last week:

Federal laws.  They're not the only kind.  There are natural laws, like the Law of Gravity.  Who voted on that law?  Nobody!  It's a law of nature.  Some people break federal laws, like speeding.  You can't break Gravity.  Every time you drop a ball it will fall down.  Not up, down.  Gravity is unbreakable.  
Scientific laws are just describing science.  Many scientists discover brilliant things because of one person, like Newton and Einstein.  Very rarely scientific laws do change because scientists find information that is more accurate and sensible.  Natural laws are mostly written in math equations.  This way it is easier for scientists to compute their experiments. 
Archimede's Principle: If you fill a tub to the edge with water, when you put an object in the water, the equal amount to the mass of the object will overflow out of the tub. 
I like this narration.  I can tell by the sentences that she was trying to summarize paragraphs.  This is a great exercise and can be difficult.  My favorite part is the point she makes about scientific laws.  We will have a bit of discussion to clarify that scientific laws never change, but man's understanding of them changes, and then man needs to bring his definition of the law into harmony with the actual law.  I also think she needs a better definition of natural law than she comprehended in this reading, so I will bring that to her attention next week.

She misspelled four words:  they're, experiments, accurate and equations. I corrected them here for ease of reading.  These words, along with any others she misspelled last week in written narrations, will be her spelling list for next week.  She will study the correct spelling until she can visualize it correctly with her eyes closed.  Then I will have her run around the outside of the house singing a song and after that I will give her a spelling test.  If she misspells them again, they go on the list again.

CM and Math

The past few years, math and writing have been bees stuck in my bonnet.  I'm parking a few math links here for my own help.  Perhaps they will help others too.

Miss Mason:
There is no one subject in which good teaching effects more, as there is none in which slovenly teaching has more mischievous results...a child who does not know what rule to apply to a simple problem within his grasp, has been ill taught from the first, although he may produce slatefuls of quite right sums in multiplication or long division...Care must be taken to give the child such problems as he can work, but yet which are difficult enough to cause him some little mental effort.
(Give the child problems which are difficult enough to cause him some effort.  This is key in understanding so many of CM's recommendations.  CM is gentle, yet rigorous.  CM respects the child, yet challenges the child.)

More from CM on arithmetic:
The copying, prompting, telling, helping over difficulties, working with an eye to the answer which he knows, that are allowed in the arithmetic lesson, under an inferior teacher, are enough to vitiate any child; and quite as bad as these is the habit of allowing that a sum is nearly right, two figures wrong, and so on, and letting the child work it over again. Pronounce a sum wrong, or right––it cannot be something between the two.
On the beauty of mathematics: 
 We take strong ground when we appeal to the beauty and truth of Mathematics; that, as Ruskin points out, two and two make four and cannot conceivably make five, is an inevitable law. It is a great thing to be brought into the presence of a law, of a whole system of laws, that exist without our concurrence,––that two straight lines cannot enclose a space is a fact which we can perceive, state, and act upon but cannot in any wise alter, should give to children the sense of limitation which is wholesome for all of us, and inspire that sursum corda which we should hear in all natural law.
On examination-driven teaching of math:
Arithmetic, Mathematics, are exceedingly easy to examine upon and so long as education is regulated by examinations so long shall we have teaching, directed not to awaken a sense of awe in contemplating a self-existing science, but rather to secure exactness and ingenuity in the treatment of problems.
(I want to awaken a sense of awe in my students.  Math was created by God.  It cannot be denied that mathematical laws exist outside of man-made laws.)

On math and success:
...why should a boy's success in life depend upon drudgery in Mathematics? That is the tendency at the present moment to close the Universities and consequently the Professions to boys and girls who, because they have little natural aptitude for mathematics, must acquire a mechanical knowledge by such heavy all-engrossing labour as must needs shut out such knowledge of the 'humanities' say, as is implied in the phrase 'a liberal education.'... [Mathematics] may not engross the time and attention of the scholar in such wise as to shut out any of the score of 'subjects,' a knowledge of which is his natural right.
(Lord, please help me remember this!  Awaken awe, challenge the student, keep math focus in perspective relative to other subjects.)

Thursday, September 06, 2012

LTW: Review and New

Mariel and I are a writing class of two this year.  We are starting with Lost Tools of Writing I Lesson 6.  We made it to Lesson 8 last year, but I wanted to review the persuasive essay before diving into the comparison essay which starts in Lesson 9.

Today she chose an issue and began defining terms.  We are reading Little Women in group time, mainly for her younger sister's benefit.  Since Mariel has already read the book, she decided to use it for her first LTW essay.  I encouraged her to choose a very simple issue, something that seems small in the grand scheme of the book.  I have heard that smaller issues often produce the best thought.  Her issue is:
Whether Amy should have bought Marmee cologne.
Stay tuned.  ;o)

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Of Viruses and Vans

Today was our second day of school.  Yesterday was smooth and easy.  I found out I had skipped a thirty-minute segment in making my sharing-of-mom schedule.  Adding it back gave me time before lunch to read with Mariel.  That was certainly happy!

We have been passing around a nasty virus for the last month.  Yesterday afternoon I took Mariel and Little La to the doctor.  She said Little La had an ear infection and Mariel had both strep and bronchitis.  And they still had a good first day of school.  Maybe they were too ill and tired to fight me. ;)

The meds wiped Mariel out, so today she slept.  I did schoolwork with Little La and then went to get the oil changed in our old beater van.  I had to drive all the way to town to do some banking, so I took it to Walmart.

"Ma'am, your oil change has been cancelled."

"Why?" I asked.

The clerk explained to me that my van was leaking vast quantities of oil, that the oil pan was cracked in several places, and that they were not allowed to work on vehicles in such bad shape.  Besides, I had obviously not gotten my oil changed at Walmart last time.  I should take the van back to where I got it changed last time and demand that they fix it for free.

I walked out of the Walmart wondering if the van would make it to the place I normally go.  I might burn up the engine driving down the highway.  I realized this could be the end of the get-out-of-debt van.  The G.O.O.D van, the kids call it.

Our van has almost 200,000 miles.  It's been fed diesel, attacked by hail, and driven across country in both directions.  We've had it eight years.  It requires fixing rarely enough to be a better deal than a car payment.  It is faithful, it is true.  Sometimes I think if I were Frodo in Mordor, our van would be Sam.  (Okay, not really.)  I said a prayer, started the van and headed toward "our" oil change place.

I like this place because it's right in our neighborhood and they do fast work.  I can get the kids started on something, then run out to the Kwik Kar and be back home in less than thirty minutes.  I've been getting the oil changed here for years.  I didn't want to accuse them of anything.  I told the guy what the Walmart folks had said and he agreed to look at the vehicle.

Long story short.  He found the leaks, which were not in the oil pan.  There are two of them.  I know about these.  We have had them awhile.  My driveway tells me about them every time I pull out.  He said that Walmart is notorious for refusing to change the oil for odd reasons.  We were only two quarts down after 4 months and 5,000 miles of driving.  He changed the oil, recommended we check it every month, and sent me on my way.

Cancel funeral arrangements for Old Faithful.  Phew!

Psalm 2

Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing?

The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against his anointed, saying,

Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.

He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: theLord shall have them in derision.

Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure.

Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion.

I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.

Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.

Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel.

Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth.

Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling.

Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

The Child of Grace

How happy's ev'ry child of grace,
That feels his sins forgiv'n!
This earth, he cries, is not my place,
I seek a place in heav'n:
A country far from mortal sight;
Yet oh! by faith I see
The land of rest, the saints' delight,
A heav'n prepared for me.

A stranger in this world below,
I only sojourn here,
Nor can its happiness or woe
Provoke my hope or  fear;
Its evils in a moment end,
Its joys as soon are past;
But oh! the bliss to which I tend,
Eternally shall last.

To that Jerusalem above,
With singing I'd repair,
While in this vale, in hope and love,
My longing heart is there.
Shall I regret to leave my friends
Here in this world confined?
To Christ, the Lord, my soul ascends;
Farewell to all behind!

O, what a blessed hope is ours,
While here on earth we stay!
We more than taste the heav'nly pow'rs,
And antedate that day.
We feel the resurrection near,
Our life in Christ concealed;
And with His glorious presence here
Our longing hearts are filled.

When He shall more of heav'n bestow,
And bid my soul remove,
And let my trembling spirit go
To meet the God I love,
With rapturous awe on Him I'll gaze,
Who died to set me free,
And sing and shout redeeming grace
In vast eternity!

--Charles Wesley (1707-1788)

Saturday, September 01, 2012

To Begin is Half the Work

Tuesday we will begin the new school year, I hope.  One or another of us has been sick with a virus almost the entire month of August. Two of the girls have horrid coughs, and the Warrior Poet is still suffering some effects of the virus.  It is currently my turn to deal with fever.  I usually recover more quickly than anyone else in the family.  I think we may actually begin school on Tuesday.

The fever that comes with this virus tends to disappear and then return.  I am using a fever-free moment to update the blog.

The quote in the title is from some Roman person.  Different websites attribute it to different authors.  I think Mary Poppins said something similar:  "Well begun is half done."  I have researched and planned and thought and prayed, and being that we're down with this virus, I have had much time for reflection.

Bible:  Last year we got bogged down in commentaries.  A kind preacher disrupted our descent into commentaries about halfway through the year.  This year I hope we will continue to do more Bible reading and less commentary reading.  Commentaries can be helpful, but one must be careful.

English:  I'm sort of dreading language arts this year.  The three girls are doing three completely different things and I know that will be hard on me.  Also, I can't shake the notion that Cornflower needs more of a challenge in this area.  I went through the same angst when Aravis was her age.  Aravis has started a rhetoric and critical thinking class at the college.  It looks like it will be good for her.  I am excited to get back into Lost Tools of Writing with Mariel by herself and see what happens.

Geography: I'm feeling ambivalent about geography.  We are going to use the Sheppard website for mapwork, which looks good, but I wonder if it will be too little, too late.  How much do my kids know about maps already?  Living geography is easy for me, and I can point to a spot on the map when we are reading. We have two big ones-- United States and World-- on our walls.  But beyond that, I feel a lack.  I'm not sure the Sheppard website will help with it.  I'm not sure what we are lacking, actually.

History:  The kids are each reading their own thread of history, which means I keep up with three time periods.  I love this.  I get excited making connections from different eras.  Aravis is studying Ancients this year, which I think will stretch my thinking, too.

Civics:  Again, I'm not sure how much they know and where they lack knowledge in terms of government and economics.  We follow the AO/HEO suggestions and have read through the Constitution.  Mariel will read through it again this year, and we are all taking the Hillsdale Constitution 101 course during our group time.  I feel like they need more, though.  Texas government, of course, but also knowledge of the political process, such a strange animal to me.  Four years ago we studied the political process, but I'm not sure how much they retained.  It's another election year, but I haven't geared up for it.  I need to think more about election year lessons or at least make watching the process a requirement.  Aravis signed up to help register voters in our area.  That will be a good experience for her.

Science:  One word.  Biology.  It will be our life this year.  (Get it?  Life/biology.  Ha.)  Aravis and Mariel are both studying different levels of biology.  Cornflower is reading natural science and learning the laws of physics.  We'll get through this just fine, I think.  I'm thankful none of our science this year contains math.

Life Skills:  I always feel lacking in this area.  Life skills can't usually be taught as step-by-step lessons.  They have to be experienced.  The girls do their own laundry and can clean the house and make a meal.  That's good.  This year, Mariel is making dinner two nights per week with Cornflower as her assistant.  Aravis just reminded me to drink lots of water, so she knows how to prod sick people.  Almost every situation has the potential for teaching life skills.  We did sign up for cotillion so the kids could learn etiquette and social dancing.  The older two girls have leadership roles in drama club this year.  Mariel is taking driver's ed at the end of the school year, and Aravis is studying personal finance.  If they don't grow in life skills, it won't be for lack of opportunity.

P.E.:  Oh dear.  P.E. is the red-headed stepchild of our homeschool.  I don't know how often we will make it to the Y this year, but it is something they need on their transcripts.  That's as far as I have gotten in the P.E. area.

Are you in earnest? Seize this very minute; What you can do, or dream you can do, begin it...
 That is from Goethe.  We will, we will, if we can rid ourselves of this virus by Tuesday.

UPDATE:  I just realized I completely skipped math.  Oh well.  I think I need a nap.  I'll think about math later.