Friday, October 3, 2014

Humanity Unfolds Itself: Handcrafts and the Boy

First, just this quote from George MacDonald:

To become able to make something is, I think, necessary to thorough development.  I would rather have a son of mine a carpenter, a watchmaker, a woodcarver, a shoemaker, a jeweler, a blacksmith, a bookbinder, than I would have him earn his bread as a clerk in a counting house.  Not merely is the cultivation of operant faculty a better education in faculty, but it brings the man nearer to everything operant; humanity unfolds itself to him the readier; its ways and thoughts and modes of being grow the clearer to both intellect and heart...what advantage the carpenter of Nazareth gathered from his bench, is the inheritance of every workman, in proportion as he does divine, that is, honest work.
-from There and Back

Our handcraft maven, Bobby Jo, was busy with a move so our TBG Community set the handcrafts section aside for a few weeks. My 15-year-old son had been making survival bracelets like crazy, experimenting with different weaves and wondering if he could fashion a device that might make it easier to tie. He overheard me talking about the situation with handcrafts and volunteered to teach handcrafts to the other students in our CM Community!

"Really?" I thought. "Okay," I said aloud,"but you have to really think this through and present it just like a teacher, you know."

"I got it, Mom." he said.

And he did.  He worked through the steps involved in carefully instructing 13 other students and for the most part, did a great job.  I don't know why these things surprise me, as taking charge of his education, being helpful, and being of use is all part of this relational philosophy.

I have been reading and thinking about Charlotte Mason's words on Vocation.  Here are a few gems:

"Boys and girls who would be ready for their chances in life must have well-trained, active bodies; alert, intelligent, and well-informed minds; and generous hearts, ready to dare and do all for any who may need their help." 4.206

"The intention to be of use is not enough. We must get the habit, the trick, of usefulness." 4.207

"The worth of any calling depends upon its being of use; and no day need go by without giving us practice in usefulness. Each one is wanted for the special bit of work he is fit for; and, of each, it is true that -

     "Thou cam'st not to thy place by accident:
      It is the very place God meant for thee." 4.210

Sigh. Lofty thoughts, yet true. Each of us can practice being of use every day. Keep encouraging your children along these lines, too.  This same son is reading slowly through Mason's Ourselves, Our Souls and Bodies and so takes time each week to really think hard about this sort of thing.  

As an aside, I asked him what his favorite books are this term and he told me that Eric Sloane's A Reverence for Wood and Mr. Midshipman Hornblower by C.S. Forester were the two he enjoys the most. Pretty good choices, I think, especially coming from a son I wouldn't call a voracious reader.

May all your goings be graces,

DS recommends the kits from Paracord Planet.  Each kit has enough to make 10 complete bracelets, including directions plus you can find a million variations on the internet.  All you need is a lighter and sharp scissors. They make great gifts for guys, too!

Also, he did make a holding device to help the process-


Thursday, September 25, 2014

Sacred Ministry

The Sower, 1850 - Millet
We began a new semester of our Charlotte Mason community, Truth, Beauty, Goodness.  You can see our schedule and a few new pics on the TBG page. So many good things! I hope to eventually share those things with you.  Meanwhile, here are some thoughts on Charlotte Mason's beloved Jean-Francois Millet.

Our first print to study was The Sower.  Heidi read this sublime passage to us: 
Millet produced a figure which had long occupied his thoughts. We know what a serious affair the sowing is to an agricultural people. Plowing, manuring, and harrowing are done with comparative indifference, at any rate without heroic passion; but when a man puts on the white grain-bag, rolls it around his left arm, fills it with seed, the hope of the coming year, that man exercises a sort of sacred ministry. He says nothing, looks straight before him, measures the furrow, and, with a movement cadenced like the rhythm of a mysterious song, throws the grain, which falls to the earth and will soon be covered by the harrow. The rhythmic walk of the sower and his action are superb. The importance of the deed is real, and he feels his responsibility. If he is a good laborer, he will know how much seed to throw with every fling of his hand, adjusting the amount sown to the nature of the soil.

-from Jean-Francois Millet, Peasant and Painter by Alfred Sensier

We learned that Van Gogh copied many great works by Millet.  Read about these fascinating copies here.

The Sower, 1889 - Van Gogh

Fred Yates' impromptu sketch of The Sower  - see The Millet Mystery

It's going to be a great term around here! 

For those who wish to continue reading on Millet, there is a nice lecture by Mr. Yates that can be found at the Charlotte Mason Digital Collection in the June, 1905 edition of L'Umile Pianta. If you simply search for "Millet" you will find it as well as another short article on Millet.

May all your goings be graces,


Sunday, September 14, 2014

Fairy Rings

 "Where science does not teach a child to wonder and admire it has perhaps no educative value."      - Charlotte Mason, Vol. 6, p. 224

the fairy ring!

The outdoor columnist for our local paper, Ron Kuecker, wrote about his sighting of a fairy ring north of town in this week's paper.  Our wet summer and wet fall have produced conditions  perfect for the growth of this  fungal phenomena.  So of course we jumped in the car to try and find the fabled fairy ring!  The science behind fairy rings is fascinating and we had fun reading about that afterwards.  But the enchantment comes first for us.  Notice that she wouldn't go inside the ring. (!) Have you spotted any of these recently?  This is the largest  ring I have ever seen.

And these fairy rings are also one of those things whose scientific explanation is just as enchanting as the folklore surrounding it.  Here is an excerpt from The Book of Knowledge*:

The mushrooms' force of growth is so great that they often lift masses of earth and stones many times their own wight.  Sometimes you can see grass or moss still growing on top of a mushroom with the torn earth handing over the side of the mushroom's cap.  Among the most attractive mushroom growths are the famous fairy rings.  Some ancient peoples thought they resulted from the midnight dancing of fairies.  In a fairy ring a mass of fungal threads (the whole mass is called a mycelium) starts growing in a circle.  As it grows, the mycelium exhausts the soil in the circle, baring the sod, but sends up mushrooms on the circumference.  As the mushrooms decay, they enrich the soil so that dark lush grass grows inside the ring.  The ring of mushrooms enlarges year by year.  Almost perfect rings 160 feet in diameter have been observed.

close-up of a mushroom from the ring

You can read more about fairy rings here. Also, Comstock's Handbook of Nature Study has a section on them.  And do let me know if you have seen any lately.


*The Book of Knowledge is a vintage encyclopedia set worth owning.  Valerie has written a helpful description here.
fairy ring picture from The Book of Knowledge

Monday, September 8, 2014

Motto for Teachers

In thinking about humility, we have a former student of Mason's and  secretary of the PNEU, R.A. Pennethorne,  giving us her reflection on the posture for teachers.  It fits perfectly with the teachers' motto - "For the Children's Sake." Here's the full quote:

“Teaching was to be a mission carrying the breath of life to God’s children…-not looking for results or rewards or for the praise of man but praying for our children that they might increase even as we decrease.”  


P.S. - photo cred to Katie!