Friday, February 20, 2015

Chief Knowledge

There are several ways by which the knowledge of God first comes to us; we may be struck by the words, acts, and looks of those who know––a very convincing lesson. A little plant of moss, the bareness of a tree in winter, may, as we have seen, awake us to the knowledge; or, dealings of strange intimacy with our own hearts, visitings of repentance and love, sweet answers to poor and selfish prayers, tokens of friendship that we can never tell, but most surely perceive, are all steps in this chief knowledge. (Vol. 4.184)

So much in this quote.


(Photo credit to Katie)

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Time, Peace, and Creativity

I have been thinking about this little phrase, shared a few years ago as a quick answer to a question by Christy.  In this guest  post over at Afterthoughts, she writes about it as it relates to scheduling in the homeschool, which is what I was referring to.  But I wanted to address it as it relates to another part of homeschooling – outside activities.  I think it applies here as well.

Three words that I read over and over again in Charlotte Mason’s writings are “long,” “slow,”  and “time.”  If you are running around from one activity to the next, you are cheating your students out of so much of the natural benefits of homeschooling and in particular, the CM method.  There was a phrase that used to be popular in homeschool circles:

"If this is homeschooling, why am I always in the minivan?"

A friend recently said that she eliminated 40 hours – 40 hours! - from her outside activities.  All good activities, mind you, and spread over a few children, but cutting those out has made all the difference in  the peace in her home.

In my own home I have seen the benefits of this cutting back, too.  As a family, we are careful about things we say “yes” to, thinking and praying before agreeing to join this or that club, playing a sport, or even volunteering the for myriad of activities church offers.

It’s important that the 15-year-old son has 1-4 hours  every day to think and tinker with robots.  He needs this time to cultivate ideas and creativity that might bring about solutions.  His team recently won at the state robotics championship, bringing home a passel of awards.
I like what Ken Robinson says in Out of Our Minds:

“Creativity is Imagination Applied.”

It’s important for the 17-year-old daughter to spend a few hours every day messing with her photography and editing skills.  It’s one of the things she loves to do and giving her that time respects her as a person. I have gained a huge respect for those who choose this art form as I had no idea the time it takes to produce amazing pictures.

For some reason, we tend to think that as our students get older, they should spend less time alone, thinking, tinkering, experimenting, and daydreaming and more time doing “important” things. But in a way,  I think more of it is needed.

My farmer friend once told me that one day she looked out her kitchen window and saw a sight that she will never forget and brought tears to her eyes.  Out in her yard was her young daughter on her horse, lying on her back and just staring at the sky. She knew that she was giving her daughter a precious gift. 

It's important that the 11-year-old gets lots of time to paint and draw. Or the ...you get the picture.

Sometimes we need to resist the urge to nag our children to “get up and do something.” Sometimes giving them the time and space to just “be” is the best way to respect their personhood. (Masterly inactivity, anyone?)And  sometimes it takes the adult in their life to rearrange things so this can happen.


Thursday, January 29, 2015

George Washington's Slow and Beautiful Work

Speaking of copywork, this was read to my daughter this year. It wasn't planned (as it rarely should be) to inspire her copywork, but how could it not?

Propped up in front of George, one winter day, between a pewter inkwell and a jar of sand for blotting was a faded, green book. George was preparing to copy it. He took a bite of an apple. Then he dipped his goose quill, and on the first sheet of his copy book, carefully wrote this title:

He copied as many pages as he could that day, and more the next, and kept on until he had come at last to number 110.

"Labour to keep alive in your Breast that Little Spark of Celstial Fire called Conscience."

He misspelled "celestial" but he finished off with a fine flourish of scrolls and the Latin word

Meaning THE END!

He had the rules. Now all he had to do was to practice them!


Genevieve Foster, she of the famous horizontal-view-of-history books -  George Washington's World, Abraham Lincoln's World, The World of William Penn, The World of Christopher Columbus, The World of Captain John Smith and Augustus Caesar's World - has also written this sweet set of books to introduce our elementary students to some important American heroes.  They are full of her excellent style and lovely illustrations. Titles in her Initial Biography series include George Washington, Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt. Each book has some fabulous 2-page illustrations.

A special treat when you've finished George Washington is this virtual tour of Mount Vernon.  Very cool!

A free download to make your own copy of Washington's Rules of Civility, a staple resource for copywork, can be found here.

And here you can view George Washington's actual slow and beautiful work.


Friday, January 16, 2015

Grapple Them to Thy Soul: Resources for Hamlet

The friends thou hast, and their adoption tried,
                    Grapple them to thy soul with hooks of steel.- Polonius, from Hamlet, Act 1.3

Great advice, despite coming from Polonius.  Last semester we read Hamlet by William Shakespeare.  Charlotte Mason quotes from Hamlet quite often, including the lines above.  She prefaces the quote by telling us that "most of us carry in our minds tags of verse which shape our conduct more than we know." (Vol. 4, p. 10) It's so true. Because these "tags of verse" help shape our conscience, selecting only the best becomes paramount. And the quote above speaks deeply to me.

It has become a thing here at Sage Parnassus for me to share the resources that we used after each Shakespeare play.  You can access all of the past posts about the plays we've experienced here under the heading "Shakespeare in Our Community".

Oftentimes I introduce the play with a pre-reading activity at our TBG Community meeting. These serve as a sort of retelling, if you will.  Here is a great intro to the play that involves acting -   Pantomime Pre-reading Activity

I use the tried-and-true, affordable Folger's editions of the plays.  Each student who can read has their own copy.  It has become a rite of passage in our community to be able to have your own text.  In addition to that, each student now has a sizable library of the plays, marked up with their own notes and underlines.

As the teacher, I have a few favorite resources.  First, Shakespeare's Hamlet (Christian Guides to the Classics) by Leland Ryken is excellent.  Read World magazine's review of it here.

Another fabulous resource that I mentioned over 4 years ago is worth mentioning again.  That is, Marjorie Garber's Shakespeare After All . She brilliantly analyzes the plays with insight and depth that is astounding. And now you can take her class at Harvard - for free! Sandy tells me these lectures are well done so I 'm excited about this resource.

Finally, we did something fun with narrations this term.  Each student did a drawing narration for each act as we went through the play.  They were to draw the scene that struck them on paper 4.25 x 5.5.  When we met, they shared their drawings.  They were to design a book cover and place their 5 drawings in them.  Here are a few pictures of them.