Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Wednesday with Words: The Constancy of Christ

These words spoke truth to me this week.  These comments are made in reference to Hebrews 13:8: “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”:
“Christ is always the same.  Here at the end of his letter, the author echoes a theme from its beginning.  ‘To the Son He says:…You [remain] the same’ (Hebrews 1:8, 12 citing Psalm 102:27). But now he makes explicit what earlier was implicit.  The immutable One of Psalm 102 is none other than the incarnate One of the gospel.
The practical implication of this becomes clear when we remember that Psalm 102 is possibly the most eloquent description of depression and despair to be found in the entire Psalter.  The psalmist’s mental salvation lay in his rediscovery of the immutability of God.  Hebrews gives that truth flesh-and-blood dimensions in Jesus Christ.  You can trust Him, He is always the same.
Do not mistake the meaning.  This is not the immutability of the sphinx – a Christ captured once and for all in a never fading still photography.  This is the changelessness of Jesus Christ in all His life, love, holiness, grace, justice, truth, and power.  He is always the same for you, no matter how your circumstances change.
Say this to yourself when you rise each day, when you struggle, or when you lay on your pillow at night: ‘Lord Jesus, you are still the same, and always will be.’”
                                                                                                                                                                                                          ~Sinclair Ferguson, In Christ Alone (emphasis mine)

Monday, October 28, 2013

Guest Posts at Afterthoughts

My blogging break here will be continuing for awhile longer, but I did want to pop in and let you know that I had two guest posts appear at Afterthoughts as part of her 31 Days of Charlotte Mason series last week:

What Lessons Look Like (Day 22)

What is Copywork (Day 23)

The whole series has been fantastic, so be sure to take some time to look at the rest of the series too. Enjoy!  I look forward to sharing in this space again soon.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

A Little Blogging Break

I have so many thoughts swirling around in my brain that I have been wanting to share in this space, but I am also coming to realize I am in a season of needing to more diligently apply some of the thoughts I've pondered about atmosphere and habit training.   For that reason, I think I need to step back from this space for a few weeks to give myself some time to re-establish some needed routines in our home.  So, if it's a little quiet around here, that's why!  I have a couple of guest posts that will be posted at Afterthoughts next week, and I'll pop in and let you know when those go live.  (And if you haven't checked out the first part of her 31 Days of CM series, don't wait until next week to click over, just go do it now!) Otherwise, I'll look forward to chatting with you next month, Lord willing!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Some Good Finds

            Great read about living books and science.  Be sure to follow her link to see more about their science narration notebooks – these are so inspiring to me.
            Last week’s CiRCE podcast was another winner for me – I will be referring back to it.  Many of the suggestions for teaching writing that were given in the course of the conversation were very CM in nature, although CM terminology wasn’t explicitly used.
            Why sticker charts and variations thereof don’t work. 
            This article is long, but worth the read – basically the methods CM outlined 100 years ago really ARE more effective than the methods you see typically used in classrooms.
            This sums up some of the conclusions that I’ve drawn about CM style habit-training.  Glad to see someone so experienced and respected in the CM world confirm my thoughts.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Quotes Worth Pondering: A Generous Curriculum

A collection of quotes I am pondering as we study  Principles 9-11  as we continue on our way through Charlotte Mason’s 20 Principles…
Towards a Philosophy of Education (Volume 6), Charlotte Mason
“That children like feeble and tedious oral lessons, feeble and tedious story books, does not at all prove that these are wholesome food; they like lollipops but cannot live upon them; yet there is a serious attempt in certain schools to supply the intellectual, moral, and religious needs of children by appropriate 'sweetmeats.'As I have said elsewhere, the ideas required for the sustenance of children are to be found mainly in books of literary quality…”  (p.117)
“But we must keep to the academic ideal: all preparation for specialised industries should be taboo. Special teaching towards engineering, cotton-spinning, and the rest, is quite unnecessary for every manufacturer knows that given a 'likely' lad he will soon be turned into a good workman in the works themselves….Denmark and Scandinavia have tried this generous policy of educating young people, not according to the requirements of their trade but according to their natural capacity to know and their natural desire for knowledge, that desire to know history, poetry, science, art, which is natural to every man; and the success of the experiment now a century old is an object lesson for the rest of the world.”  (p.123-124)
“Time for a Story” from Dewey’s Treehouse
“See Charlotte Mason.
Charlotte Mason says, "I do not like your story.  Minds cannot eat sponges.
Minds are like hungry hippos.
Minds need a daily special hot beef sandwich with fries and gravy.
Minds need books full of ideas.
Minds need literary language.
Minds need to munch.
Munch, minds, munch."

But the teachers keep throwing sponges.
Some are different sizes.
Some are different colours.
See how interesting all the different sponges are!

"Still sponges," says Charlotte Mason.  "Minds need to munch."

“On Herbartian Unit Studies” from Afterthoughts
“First, I get concerned because this is not the way a good reader approaches a book…What I'm saying is that these are not natural questions to ask of the text, nor are they the most important questions to ask of the text. If this is how children are reared to view books, as objects to dissect the life out of, they will never learn great ideas from books--a sort of being too distracted by the trees to actually see the forest sort of situation. In other words, they will never be great readers…Second, and I already alluded to it, this is not the way to comprehension of a book's greatest ideas…A million rich conversations could pour forth from thinking the noble thoughts of the book, but unit studies tend to dwell on the minutia. All books have their interesting details, but the great thoughts--the Permanent Things--presented, transcend those details. In fact, many don't make the cut and aren't worthy of being preserved for generations because the author was too locked in the details of his own time; he failed to transcend and speak about the Permanent Things.”

“An Oyster and a Jewel” by Lynn Bruce at Ambleside Online
“Clearly, Charlotte felt that delivering predigested lessons with external flash and drama, a la Herbart, is not only unnecessary but stunting. She had witnessed that children truly learn when they get at the books themselves, when their minds are allowed the potent spark of communing with great authors' minds. Narration is proof--it not only teaches a child to analyze, organize, compose and express great thoughts in the buoyant wake of literary masters, but also reveals how a child makes his own connections, and how forcefully and directly his personality interacts with ideas, particularly those, as Charlotte said, "clothed in literary language."  But in order to teach a child this way, we must be willing to roll out the red carpet, so to speak, and then step aside. Give them the best books, and get out of the way. We must decrease, that they might increase. We must be servants, not masters, to their brains and spirits. This requires a certain restraint... wisdom... humility... and trust in the wiring that God gave them.”

Monday, October 7, 2013

What We've Learned - September 2013

Education is an Atmosphere
If interruptions annoy me, and private cares make me impatient; if I shadow the souls about me because I myself am shadowed, then I know nothing of Calvary love.”  (from If by Amy Carmichael)
“Discontent will never change the world, define yourself with gratitude…when you are thankful for what God has given you do, you are fit to do it…When you are at peace with God and with His will for your life, you are equipped to do great things.” (from Fit to Burst by Rachel Jankovich)
Goodies that arrived in the last sea-freight container - some for school, some for Christmas, and a new coffee plunger for mama...

Education is a Discipline
We’ve decided to tackle table-manners in earnest with the kids.  This month, we’ve been working on staying at the table until you have been given  permission to be excused.   We are also working on developing various aspect of respect, depending on the needs of various children – both in the way we treat other people as well as the way we treat our ‘things’.    And Mama’s habit?  Staying offline until we are done with all our chores and schoolwork in the morning.  Amazing what a difference this makes in the flow of our days.
We all knew that the real purpose of Cuisenaire rods is just for building, right?

Education is a Life
Michelle – Age Almost-8 – Grade 2
We have completed weeks 18-21 of AO Year 1, and I am pleased with how it is going.   Among other readings, we finished D’Aulaire’s Benjamin Franklin and have moved on to George Washington.   We are also enjoying the mix of legend and fact in Our Island Story – we’ve read about the coming of the Saxons and the rise of King Arthur to power.  Eskimo Twins is another favorite story at the moment. (This is a substitution we made in place of Paddle to the Sea.)  She also really likes Wild Animals from Africa, but it is starting to drive me crazy…maybe I need to pass this one off to her for independent reading to finish?  I don’t think we’ll use this one again.  We’ll probably be in the States the year James does Year 1, so we may just do the Burgess Bird Book as scheduled.  Anyhow.  We are still doing a weekly notebook page related to one of our readings and her output has slowly increased to a full paragraph (4-5 sentences).   Now to tackle her spelling…
In Math U See Beta, we have finished Lesson 9.  Michelle picked up on the concept of regrouping in addition pretty easily, so we are still moving along at a much quicker pace than we did through Alpha.   I guess I didn’t need to worry about being “behind” last year, because we are gaining a lot of ground now, I’m guessing in part because we took our time with mastering our basic adding and subtracting facts.   We continue to use MEP Year 1 (almost finished) as a supplement for problem solving and alternate ways of looking at numbers, as well as Calculadder drills for continual facts practice.
In nature study, we’ve been able to identify several of the birds who have been visiting our yard – in particular the speckled mousebird.  We’re pretty sure one has built a nest in the bush bordering our backyard.  We are also enjoying our exploration of the properties of light in Science in the Beginning.  Our memory project last month was a speech of Oberon’s from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which was a hit with all of the kids.  (They are starting to get really excited about Shakespeare, my English-lit-major sister will be so pleased.)  We also started doing a weekly art class with another homeschooling family.  Michelle sometimes feels like she is missing out on the social life at school, so it’s been good for her to have an opportunity to do something with another homeschooler (there aren’t many in our city).
Homeschool Art

James – Age 5 – “Unofficial” Kindergarten
James is so much fun to work with.  We have worked through Lessons 1-10 in the McGuffey Primer (you can see the gist of the idea here..I’m hoping to do another post on our take on this basic idea soon).  He’s really starting to pick up on reading, and read Green Eggs and Ham to me last week with only a little bit of help.   He also loves doing nature journaling (and is often the one to spot new birds), drawing and memory work with us.  We are slowly moving through MEP 1A (taking 3-4 days to work through each ‘daily’ lesson), and he is enjoying that.  We’ve been learning about greater-than and less-than, patterns, and one-to-one correspondence.
James is meticulous about his handwriting.

Elizabeth – Age 3-1/2 – Tagging Along
Elizabeth is doing better in the “not interrupting” department J Perhaps this month we need to tackle the idea that scissors are for cutting paper (not holes in your clothes or your sister’s hair….)
The best part of homeschool art: it keeps the little ones occupied too.

Mama – AO Year 4
I’ve read Weeks 1-4 in AO Year 4 and am REALLY enjoying it.   I’m finding Robinson Crusoe much more readable than I ever imagined, and Tennyson’s poetry is lovely as well (I’ve never been a poetry buff).  History is probably my favorite ‘subject’ at the moment.  I’ve even made several connections between the Year 4 history readings and Waverley (the Scott novel I am reading with a group on the AO Forum)!   And this quote from Poor Richard (about Benjamin Franklin) just made me smile:  “Ben ferreted among the bookshops with the sniffing eagerness of a rabbit hound, finding treasure in old and new books, reading with delight the new thriller called Robinson Crusoe, and wondering with all of London if it was really a true story or a marvelous fake by a Grub Street genius.”  Some of the ideas that I’ve drawn out and am pondering: Are factual stories superior to fiction?  Is it better to be captured and risk death or live in hiding for the rest of your life?  How does one know what is the right and wrong thing to do in a complicated situation?
Have I mentioned that I love AO?

Thursday, October 3, 2013

September's Nature Notes

A few things we noted in our neck of the woods this month:
September 2: There was a little rain yesterday, but today it is sunny.  The C’s antelope is growing bigger.
The Croton

September 4: James saw another blue bird out on the wire – we need to find out what it is. (ETA: We still haven’t).  Michelle found a pile of beautiful clean rocks yesterday.  They were by the tree with the ‘buttress roots” over by the soccer field.  It was hot enough that we got out the fan!
Close-up of the croton's leaves.  Every single one is different.  Aren't they beautiful?

September 5: Yesterday, we had a good, hard rain.  First time in a long time.   Ezra saw some brown birds with long tails on the wire.  They had red feet.   We also saw that little blue bird again.
The croton's flowers

September 9: We have some torch ginger growing in the corner of our yard.  We also saw some orange tube-like flowers growing over the fence by the neighbor’s house.
Torch Ginger

September 17: Michelle found a rock that was clean all over on the ground.  She thinks someone dropped it there.  Papa noticed a long black wasp (maybe a paper wasp) – they are making a nest at the hangar where he works.
New Ferns

September 19: There are flowers on the croton in the backyard.  The mangoes on our tree are getting bigger.   We have identified the brown bird with red feet – it is a speckled mousebird.   Also a yellow and black bird which is a yellow-fronted canary.
Still curled up tight

September 23: Once again, we saw the little blue bird (our next identification project, I guess!).  James saw three speckled mousebirds.
We are trying to grow a vine along our fence for a bit more privacy

September 26: We saw that there are some new ferns unrolling.  We also observed the spores on the back side of the leaves.   There are some kind of berries on the vine along the fence – or are they flower buds?  We shall see.
Berries or Buds?  I'm thinking buds...but they sure don't look like anything I've seen before!

What’s blooming in your part of the world?

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

31 Days Series to Watch this Month!

No, I’m not planning a 31 Days series here at Snowfall Academy (I’m lucky if I manage 2 posts a week, daily would be biting off more than I can chew!)  But I’m eagerly looking forward to following these series myself, so thought I’d share them with all of you too.  
31 Days of Charlotte Mason by Brandy at Afterthoughts (Several AO Moms will be writing guest posts for this series, myself included.  Stay tuned!)
Happy Reading, Folks!