Thursday, May 30, 2013

teach yourself first

What to do while you wait to formally homeschool your children.
(Or what I should have been doing with my time when I had more of it.)

- history(multiple accounts of the same period), not everything you've been taught is correct, be willing to relearn
- literature (preread the books you will be asking your children to read), make notes
- theology, politics, and economics;  here is a partial list of writers I would recommend:

Matthew Henry
John Calvin
Jonathan Edwards
J.C. Ryle
Gordon Clark
Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Francis and Edith Schaeffer

Rousas John Rushdoony
Greg Bahnsen
Robert Reymond

D.A. Carson
Doug and Nancy Wilson

Os Guiness
Ronald Nash
David Chilton
Ken Gentry
C. Greg Singer
Hillaire Belloc 
Thomas Sowell 
Gary North
Glenn R. Martin
Pat Buchanan
Otto Scott
George Grant
Abraham Kuyper
Elisabeth Elliot
Amy Carmichael
Sally Clarkson
Jean Fleming
Nancy Pearcey
Joni Eareckson Tada

nature study:
- go for walks, pay attention to what you see, get field guides and start to identify what you see and find
- collect specimens
- do not buy the trendy, cheap science kits, (i.e. no bug vacuums, no bug magnifiers with lights, just the regular stuff adults would use, but made for kid's size and strength)
- plant vegetables, flowers, vines
I have found very inexpensive tools and specimen kit items here:
For Small Hands
Home Science Tools
Acorn Naturalist

- collect sturdy artwork of various artists
- buy inexpensive used art books and rip out pages for study
- collect books, cds of classical composers, get to know the music
- teach yourself  the folk songs
- learn psalms and hymns, esp. lesser known Reformation era hymns

- if you do not draw well, start learning. I have used Drawing Textbook by Bruce McIntyre with the most frequency and success.
- practice drawing nature items found on walk
- buy good art supplies for yourself and eventually for your kids, we like and use Prismacolor colored pencils, but I recommend Barb at Harmony Fine Arts for supply lists.

- CiRCE talks
- Society for Classical Learning
- Greg Bahnsen
- Ken Myers

- most tv and movies, be selective, for you and your children
- most mommy blogs, be selective. if I could only read one, I would read Sally Clarkson, I Take Joy.

- minimal amounts of clothes and toys
- minimal amount of kitchen gadgets
- purge regularly, stuff accumulates very quickly for most of us
- keep the best, open-ended toys easily available and attractively arranged

- do not buy curriculum years in advance
- do not buy curriculum because all your friends use it or recommend it, because when you encounter some difficulty with it, you will more easily be tempted to ditch it because "it didn't fit my child's needs or my parenting style".
- do not buy curriculum because "it will be fun" for your child.  Your child thinks that eating cookies and cheese puffs for all his dietary needs is "fun". Offer him the best and he will learn to like it, just like he learned to like strawberries and fresh garden peas eaten out of the pod in the warm sunshine.
- buy curriculum because you believe in the method of teaching it utilizes and you know that although you may tweak things along the way, you can still use it successfully.

I know this is a rather abrupt list with short, curt phrases and lists.  But I have had this post swirling around in my head for months now and I thought a quick list would work better than spending hours crafting paragraphs. And please forgive my tone if it makes me sound bossy, I do not intend that at all.  Please feel free to ask questions or give suggestions that have worked for you.  I'm always glad to hear from each of you.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

morsels of goodness for the mind

A Boy's Life by Anthony Ensolen via The Children's Hour
Consider Luke, the boy, through the eyes of his father. What does he see? 
He sees the vir futurus. He also sees himself, and his own father, and his grandfathers. I’m not just talking about physical resemblance. They share the same sex: They share the same mode of relating to the future of their kind. They are not the bearers of children, but the begetters. They are not the field, but the sowers. They cannot know the body-from-body bond their wives know when they bear children. Theirs is an approach from outside; and they enjoy the strengths and suffer the shortcomings of the far-sightedness that that approach implies.
But does he talk to Luke about sex—the mechanics? In a healthy time, he wouldn’t have to, so soon. It’s not a healthy time. So he does, gently, when the boy seems curious. He must protect Luke against wicked and foolish people, even teachers. But he grounds those discussions in reality: husbands and wives and children. He does not vaporize about “when you’re ready” or “when you really love somebody.” Pablum seasoned with poison, that. 
  Just My Imagination" by R.C.Sproul, Jr.
Her vague, internal, unverifiable promptings were pushing against God’s Holy Word, and she wasn’t sure which should give way.The Bereans were noble, not because they constructed a wonderful image of Christ in their own minds, but because they returned to the Word, checked by the Word.  And we are called to do the same

If possible, I like to listen to things while I fold laundry.  Sometimes, I just play music I've posted to my Tumblr blog.  Sometimes, I catch up on CiRCE Institute archives or the Society for Classical Learning archives. Other times I listen to lectures or sermons on various Biblical topics or passages.  This video below is what I am currently listening to, over and over until the various points sink in and can be recalled without effort.  Hearing the Word of God spoken about like this brings joy to my soul.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Odyssey

By Sarah Cherry Illustration

Back in April, I attended our local homeschool conference whose main speaker was Andrew Pudewa from the The Institute for Excellence in Writing.  I have heard Andrew speak before, in several different online formats which I have previously mentioned.  In one of the seminars later in the day, he spoke about four different types or levels of relevancy in which we learn.

Briefly they were: 1)Intrinsic Relevancy in which you are interested in something just because, which causes you to pursue it of your own accord, 2)Inspired Relevancy in which someone else's passion for something inspires you to be interested in it as well, 3)Contrived Relevancy in which you are not very interested, but you have to know it, and 4) Enforced Relevancy in which you learn under duress and therefore engender a hatred for learning.

It is my recent and unexpected experience with number two, Inspired Relevancy, which I wish to write about in this post.

Last week I signed up for a Saturday afternoon webinar with the other Andrew, Andrew Kern of the Circe Institute, on the topic of Homer's Odyssey. Not exactly my passion, but I have learned that when Andrew Kern offers a free webinar, I sign up, regardless the topic, no matter the time slot.

Last weekend, Shane and I celebrated our eleventh wedding anniversary by sending our kids to our wonderful sitter while we enjoyed some quiet down time at home.  By the time the webinar was ready to start on Saturday afternoon, we had just brought them home and put the girls to bed for a nap. I wondered as I logged into the webinar page and saw the poll asking what your previous reading experience with the Odyssey was, if I was getting in over my head as I selected "I have not read the Odyssey." option and submitted my answer.  Oh well, no time like the present to highlight another area of gross ignorance on my part.
As the webinar got under way, I could hear and see Andrew reading aloud from some portion of the story. My ignorance grew. But as he welcomed us and began informally discussing different aspects of the story, reading other portions and discussing various Greek words in his typical conversational style, I began to see that perhaps I could see myself actually reading this story and finding some level of interest and understanding.
In the second half of the webinar, after a quick break, he asked the question, "What is the Odyssey about?" and after listening to several answers provided, he stated that for him it was marriage. And with this pronouncement, he began reading a portion from Book VI and I found myself listening, entranced by Odysseus' words to a girl preparing for her wedding day: 

And may the gods grant you all your heart’s desire, a husband and a home, and mutual harmony, in all its beauty. Since nothing is finer or better than when a man and a woman of one heart and mind stay together, a joy to their friends, a sorrow to their enemies: their own reputation of the very highest. ~The Odyssey
And perhaps it was because it was our anniversary weekend or perhaps it was because I had no idea that these types of ideas were embedded in this ancient Greek epic poem, but I listened with delight to hear the poetry of happy, harmonious marriages praised and honored.
And I now feel inspired to read through each Book in the story and follow the journey of Odysseus back to his waiting Penelope and truly understand why this poem is considered epic in Western civilization.  I am not so starry-eyed as to think I shall truly understand it from a single reading, but that it will no longer be as intimidating and or as confusing as I interact with the Greek gods and places mentioned elsewhere in literature, such as the New Testament.

To know that it can be enjoyed and lines relished is enough, for now.

Song on May Morning

Song on May Morning 
Now the bright morning-star, day's harbinger,

Comes dancing from the east, and leads with her
The flowery May, who from her green lap throws
The yellow cowslip and the pale primrose.
     Hail, bounteous May, that dost inspire,
     Mirth and youth and warm desire,
     Woods and groves are of thy dressing,
     Hill and dale doth boast thy blessing.
Thus we salute thee with our early song,
And welcome thee, and wish thee long.

~John Milton

Monday, May 06, 2013

March/April book list

Favorite Picture Books

Ella Takes the Cake by Carmela and Steven D'amico
I picked this bright, green hardcover book up at a used book sale back at the end of February totally unfamiliar with the series. We read it aloud together and enjoyed the character of Ella the elephant who eager to help her mother, volunteers to transport a birthday cake in her bike trailer to one of her mother's bakery customers, Captain Kernal. The soft and colorful illustrations show the tall three-tiered cake on the cover, traversing downhill, over a bridge and through the market square with alarming speed and the various events that happen along the way to the lighthouse for Captain Kernal's birthday celebration. Ella and her mother enjoy a sweet relationship that brings a happy ending but not contrived. There are at least three other titles in series: Ella the Elegant Elephant, Ella Sets the Stage, and Ella Sets Sail.

Paul Revere's Ride by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, illustrated by Ted Rand
A few books from these past two months are books we read to supplement our history lessons. They are wonderful books to enjoy even without studying this period in history.  Longfellow is a poet that I have taken to and enjoyed more than others, so this edition with its full page illustrations showing the landscape, harbor and historical buildings of the Boston area gives much to context to the words of the poem which famously starts :
"Listen my children and you shall hear 
    Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere, 
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five, 
    Hardly a man is now alive, 
Who remembers that famous day and year."

The Fantastic Drawings of Danielle by Barbara McClintock
In the early 19th century, a young Parisian daughter eager to imitate her father's eye for beauty and art in photography, struggles to capture his enthusiasm in her more imaginative drawings of well-dressed animals walking large pet goldfish.  He becomes ill and Danielle looks for a way to help provide their daily crossiant and baguette.  She is encouraged in her artwork when a wealthy women who paints in her art studio takes an interest in her and her situation.  We enjoyed her artwork as flying frogs and birds with top hats are what kids are really interested in. It has a pleasant ending but not too sappy.

Chapter Books

The Saturdays and Then There Were Five, by Elizabeth Enright,
I mentioned in my previous book list that I started a series of books called The Melendy Quartet because of a post by Mama Squirrel that quoted from the second book which I read out of order.  I moved back to read the first book, The Saturdays which details the adventures of each the four Melendy children as they spend a Saturday pursing their own interests and hobbies.  The third book, Then There Were Five was an absolute delight, filled with details about various wild plants and flowers, insects and Oliver's wonderful caterpillar collection.  The children revel in the outdoors while making new friends and coming alongside an orphaned friend. This is an excellent series and I am currently on the last title, Spiderweb for Two. 

Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome
This series of books is on almost every homeschool list of good books that I have ever seen and having finally finished this first book and now working on the second, Swallowdale, I can heartily concur. If you are not familiar with boat jargon, find some good boat diagrams, because there is a lot sailing terminology that may tempt you to quit the book, but stick with it and you will enjoy a wonderful story of children enjoying being children.  Siblings and crew members, four young residents of Holly Howe sail their vessel, Swallow to Wild Cat Island only to meet two other adventurous sailors who also lay claim to the island under their sailing mast, Amazon.  Imaginations fueled by Robinson Crusoe, Blackbeard and many others make for some wild adventures and wonderful stories  We very much enjoy reading these together and we are looking forward to reading all twelve in the series which is listed here.

Classics and Other Such Books

Emma by Jane Austen
Having enjoyed Pride and Prejudice so very much, it was with reluctancy that I turned my attention to her other novels, starting with Emma.  One chapter into the book and I was not impressed with the character of Emma who appears needy and controlling, although she appears devoted to her nervous, aging father.  Her attempts at matchmaking left me feeling quite cold about her ability to care for others around her.  By the middle of the book when a newcomer dashes into her community of friends and family, I began to see Emma as a young woman showing glimpses of maturity and found it hard to put the book down. Her own unexpected romance and blossoming into a true lady capable of loving fully and without reserve made her quite heart-warming to me in the end.  I loved her and found myself being reminded of my own fumbling years as a young woman, learning with each new life experience what my role should be as Emma did in her life.  Another wonderful story for me from Jane Austen.

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
With two Austen novels now under my belt, I moved onto Mansfield Park and the story of Fanny Price, who as a young poor girl leaves her dirty crowded home and is brought to her wealthy and titled relatives to be given a more affluent upbringing in the name of charity.  Her daily provisions are fully met by her new surroundings, but she is easily unnerved by her aloof uncle and her two aunts leave her little time to truly enjoy herself.  Her only true enjoyment comes from her companionship with one of her older cousins and in her younger brother who is occasionally brought to see her.  As her other cousins and nearby friends each appear to attempt to out do one another in foolish and thoughtless behaviors, Fanny remains faithful in her devotion to her small circle of loved ones.  An unexpected and unwanted marriage proposal turns her world upside down as her relatives cannot understand her refusal.  Her only comfort is the advancing military career of her beloved brother and his well-being.  Sent back to her dysfunctional family for a visit, she finds a younger sister who needs her guidance and friendship amidst a continuing drama with her relatives and her unrelenting suitor.  Fanny's steadfast character and loving heart is finally rewarded with the love and respect showered upon her as she and her sister return to live at the only place that truly can be called home, Mansfield Park.

And having been consumed with these two Austen novels in March, I have now forced myself to read other neglected books before getting into the other Austen books waiting their turn.