Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Floundering through Norms and Nobility

I'm thrilled to have this lovely, costly book by David Hicks as an inter-library loan. My goal is to read through the first part before 10am Saturday, when it has to be in the return box. (I cheated and read some of the second part already.) Not only is this book part of the foundation of years 7-12 of Ambleside Online, it's a "must read" from both Andrew Kern and Christopher Perrin.

So I am drowning in chapter 5 "Saving the Appearances". It would help if I even understood the title. Anyway, I'm pushing through. Trying to get the big picture as recommended by Andrew Kern, and also a method recommended for tough books in "How to Read a Book".

The chapter starts on page 52. Finally, on page 57 I am tossed a life preserver, a sentence I understand, and have to suppress the urge to do cartwheels.
A science of numbers feeding on technological or commercial ambitions generates a new attitude concerning the nature of man and of his purposes: it flattens the vertical levels-of-being [aspiring to the Ideal type] conception of man and turns the flow of his curiosity away from the normative toward the analytical.
I thank Kern, again, because while I couldn't define 'normative' to save my life, I know it's the opposite of analytical, which is breaking things into little pieces then putting those pieces under the microscope. Perhaps we could say the normative is concerned with the whole and appreciating the nature of a thing, while the analytical is concerned with dissecting and explaining the parts of the things.

So I still feel like a little kid, standing on my tip-toes trying to see what's on the table. Kindly enough, Hicks throws me another gem on page 58.
Whereas the modern technocrat sees knowledge as a source of power giving him a manipulative edge over nature and over others, the ancients treated knowledge as a source of virtue challenging the individual to improve himself and to look beyond the appearances for truth.
Do you want knowledge & power, or wisdom & virtue? I know what I want.

Monday, July 22, 2013

A Personal Growth: How My Views on Literature Changed Between My Eldest and Youngest Sons

When I think of how I've changed as a home educator, the biggest area is literature. I like to think I understand math, Latin and our English language better. I still believe history should be taught with living books and biographies, even if I waver on the best implementation. I think science is even cooler than before, and that's not all due to the Mythbusters.

But the biggest shift has been my view of literature: especially fairy tales, myths, Shakespeare, and poetry. I'm not claiming to know it all, or even to know much. Actually, the more I learn the more I realize that I don't know.

When my biggest boy was only five, I could not understand why you'd read those awful, violent fairy tales to a child. When I read a few booklist containing myths in second AND third grade, I wondered why they would focus so much on myths and false gods.

When eldest was about six, I read "Peter Pan" for the first time. I really didn't like it. But Ambleside Online and everyone else had it listed, so I tried to read it aloud to all the kids. It shouldn't have been a surprise that we didn't finish it.

That same year, also thanks to Ambleside, we took a stab at reading the "Just So Stories". Oh my. That book, in my not-humble opinion, was a work of torture. All the lil' 'tractions, and the best beloveds, and the svelts, I dreaded it. Due to a huge detour to work on some reading & language issues with my son, we didn't finish the book.

Fast forward to this year. I still haven't read all of Charlotte Mason's books, but I've read large sections of her books and many PNEU articles, plus a few books about her methods. I've seen this quote (often attributed to G. K. Chesterson) a gazillion times in various places:

“Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed.”
My older two boys and I read some Greek myths. I even read a few picture books about various myths & fairy tales to all three boys. I'm still not to sure about the relationships between the gods and goddesses, but we enjoy Theseus growing strong and lifting the stone, We cheer when Perseus slays the gorgon. I decide myths are kind of cool. Besides, I'm understanding those old Star Gate shows on Amazon Prime a lot better now.

I join in a huge Circe discussion on the Well Trained Mind. I listen to old talks on audio, trying to shift my mind and understand. I hear of a thing called "annotated books" from an experienced homeschool mom. My library has a few, I stick them on hold, the first one I get is Peter Pan. (Imagine my eyes rolling.) It sits on my shelf. Finally I decide I better look at it. I skim the first section about the author's life, and get to the story, fully intent on ONLY scanning the annotations in the margin. Whether it was the added time and contemplation on my part or the annotations, I start to read the storytext as well. I pull my first book binge in what seems like forever, and read the whole book, annotations and all, within twenty four hours. It's back on my "read to the kids" stack.

We also restart Ambleside Online, and I have another 6 year old boy. This one can narrate, but he is all wild, squirrelly, bouncy boy. I strongly consider skipping the "Just So Stories" -- in fact I delay them nearly a term. But the other readings are going so well (including the violent fairy tales, which we enjoy together), and I plunge in. My tongue is still twisted, but this time I start to like the repeating phrases. They are like lifelines. I read a little snippet that Kipling wrote the stories for his daughter. In one of the final chapters, about a cat, I am rewarded. I tell my just turned 7 year old that it's a long chapter, we'll read half. I note my eldest son, now 10 years old, is also staying in the area, listening. I start to read, expecting this to be like the other chapters - cute and good for the kids. I should say I love cats. We read the whole chapter in one session, myself and both boys. It becomes one of my favorite short stories. I anticipate reading it to my daughter in a few more years.

Today's blog carnival is about Charlotte Mason's teaching of literature. I've been struggling to figure out what to say. But she recommends fairy tales (real ones), fables and myths. She includes tough books like Parables from Nature and the Pilgrim's Progress. (Which we are starting this fall with a lovely dramatized audio version!) She has them hear the stories of Greece and Troy from Andrew Lang. Why?
The great tales of the heroic age find their way to children's hearts. They conceive vividly and tell eagerly.
Education is a relationship, development of a person. Literature has a profound impact, and we need to stop worrying about what the child can handle! We need to spread the feast, and trust they will take in what they can.

Why do I read these old stories - the old children's classics, myths and fairy tales? Because there is evil in the world - there are dragons. I want my children to know that dragons can be killed, that evil can be overcome. We need more heroes in our hearts.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Playing with Puppies -- Random Wanderings

I am going to attempt a post, even though my monitor is dying. To shorten a long story, I have black lines flashing horizontally across the screen. Which is making it hard to focus on individual words and check my spelling, punctuation and grammar. So please forgive any errors or typos!

Weekly Workbooks

So in a long winding rabbit trail typical of me, I started on the Well Trained Mind forums. Some moms there have been binding their workbooks by week instead of subject. So instead of a math book and a grammar book, they have the first math and grammar lesson in one book.

Hmmm, instead of big workboxes I fill daily, we could have a small portable booklet for the week, which I could make in advance. (I do well working a few hours on a project, it's the 5 minute daily tasks that I struggle on. So advance preparation is good.)

As the new owner of a wire-binding machine, I've already made books for math, Latin and handwriting. I'm able to get the bindings cheaply as well. I also  had great success the year we used the File Crate System,  I have everything I need.

So I was considering this approach for the next school year when I (again) realized how difficult it would be to separate Memoria Press' Latin by week, let alone by day. Then I remembered how much I dislike (re)buying a physical workbook at all, when I have a lovely old laser printer. So I started a thread on the WTM about Latin programs that are available as PDFs.

Visual Latin

I received several responses, including Visual Latin and I Speak Latin. Since I actually own the PDF of I Speak Latin, I've decided to actually use it. But back to Visual Latin, which:

  • Is a video and fits into my goal of more independence for the kids.
  • The worksheets are PDFs, which I can print for each child as they use the program.
  • It's a LOT less writing than First Form. My eldest is a trooper, doesn't complain, and he is mastering the grammar but ...
  • I want them to READ in Latin, not just decline it. Visual Latin's goal is reading the Vulgate, and it starts with simplified readings in lesson 1.
  • Plus it leads into Lingua Latina. My favorite program.
I think I read at least half of the entire archives of Visual Latin's blog, and most of the WTM posts about it. But I wasn't seeing enough real-world reviews to answer a few questions about implementing it. So I did a search for reviews and clicked on anything bloggy.

To my delight some of my favorite blogs topped the list: Afterthoughts and Ordo-Amoris. So I searched them for more posts on Visual Latin at Afterthoughts, and ended up on Brandy's Monday Musings. Which led me back to Ordo-Amoris (and Andrew Kern),

Play with the Puppies

Kern has a longer blog post here on the puppies, but with less gory examples. Maybe it's my mood - rather sad - my old kitty is not doing well, and I'm dreading what will come. But the word picture of the beautiful rainbow and the Christmas puppy is really sticking with me. (I'm trying to erase the lawn-mower part from my mind.)

So now I'm walking around, thinking about all the curriculum I have, and asking if it is (or can be) a puppy.

We need more puppies in our day.