Saturday, August 30, 2014

Surplus store stop

Magnetic whiteboard tile, $6.99.  Eraser so I don't have to use tissues, .99.  12 watercolours in tubes, $2.99.

For any of you locals, it's the place with the Spitfire perched on the roof.

Charlotte Mason Quote for the Day: The Parent's Progress.

One parent says to another,

"The habits a child grows up with appear to leave some sort of register in his material brain, and, thus, to become part of himself in even a physical sense.  Thus it rests with parents to ease the way of their child by giving him the habits of the good life in thought, feeling and action, and even in spiritual things.  We cannot make a child 'good'; but, in this way, we can lay paths for the good life in the very substance of his brain...."

She responds,

"I feel as if a great map of an unknown country were spread before me, where the few points one wants to make for are unmarked.  How [can we deal with this complexity?]..."

The first attempts to answer:

"We must know a little, at any rate, of the content of that which we call 'human nature.'  We must add to our physiology, psychology, and to psychology, moral science....and then [knowledge of the spiritual life].  How?--is another question for our [educational] Society to work out." ~~ Charlotte Mason, Formation of Character

Friday, August 29, 2014

Charlotte Mason Quote for the Day: Attention!

"[Attention] is the power of bending such powers as one has to the work in hand; it is a key to success within the reach of every one, but the skill to turn it comes of training.  Circumstances may compel a man to train himself, but he does so at the cost of great effort, and the chances are ten to one against his making the effort.  For the child, on the other hand, who has been trained by his parents to fix his thoughts, all is plain sailing.  He will succeed, not a doubt of it."~~ Charlotte Mason, Formation of Character

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Did Richard do it?

Josephine Tey convinced me (years ago) that Richard III was maligned and innocent.  Since then I've discovered that not everyone agrees with her logic.  The Year of Three Kings, 1483 was published in 1983,and  written by Giles St Aubyn, one of those who weren't as convinced.  It is my last intensive teacher-read before the school year starts; I'm about halfway through, and I'm finding it good straightforward history--though not as easy to get through as Tey's fictional approach.

(Funny what things come back to you.  As soon as I read the name Lovell, I remembered the rhyme from Daughter of Time about "The Cat, the Rat, and Lovell our dog," and I was pretty pleased with myself for getting that right when Catesby and Ratcliffe turned up a few pages later.)

John Mighton Quote for the Day (#3)

Today's quote is from John Mighton's The End of Ignorance, but I think it relates to something teachers, especially homeschool teachers, wonder about in Charlotte Mason: how is it possible to direct a whole class of students, CM-style, and know that they're learning? Our current educational culture tells us to differentiate, separate children by learning styles or abilities.  Mighton discusses why it's sometimes better to have the whole group working in sync:
"The advantages of engaging the entire class and allowing students to work on roughly the same material at the same time are obvious. The experience of working collectively channels the attention of weaker students so that new abilities begin to emerge in those students and differences between students are minimized....students become actively engaged in solving problems, both for the joy of solving the problem and also for the joy of presenting their answers in from of the class.  Students can work at their own pace and can find their own level with a problem (there are always bonus questions for students who finish work early), but none feel they are being left behind...they work not to be better than their peers but rather to get to higher levels in their own work, to solve more interesting or challenging problems.  Students thus develop a healthier engagement in their work and a healthier attitude towards their peers."  ~~ The End of Ignorance, page 205.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

What's for supper? Noodles, both ways

Last night I made bean chili, but I cooked the ground beef separately and let those who wanted it add it in themselves.  There was some cooked meat left, also some egg noodles and part of the can of diced tomatoes I used.  So tonight's dinner was noodles, two ways.  One casserole of beef, noodles, mushrooms, mushroom soup, onion, and paprika.  One skillet of tomato, spinach, noodles, seasonings, and cream cheese added at the end.  Either or both, with carrot sticks.

Dessert was nectarines, heated in the microwave and sprinkled with a bit of ginger, on top of wheat-germ muffin cake.  Or whatever else people wanted.

From the Archives: Dollygirl (Crayons) and Her Doll-making


First posted August 2005. Dollygirl (Crayons) was four. Ponytails was almost eight.

Crayons did not get her nickname for nothing. Lately no toilet paper tube, no box, no piece of paper has been safe from her creativity. Earlier this week she told me, "I want to make a paper plate caterpillar. I need paper plates and pipe cleaners." "Where did you get that idea from?" "I saw it on TV. So I have to make one, how about now?" (About five minutes before bedtime, this was. She finally agreed to wait until the next morning.) She did it almost all herself, with a little help punching holes to hold the paper plates together, and Mr. Caterpillar is now on the kitchen wall.

She also brought a book we have that has photographs of dollhouses and dolls, not understanding that this wasn't a craft book, and showed me a photograph of some rather weird-looking [Dame Darcy] dolls.  "Can we make this one?" Never one to say no...wait a minute...don't those faces look like white plastic picnic spoons? Which we just happened to have...aha. So, picnic spoon, pipe cleaner and straws for arms and legs, some fuzzy yarn for hair, and a Crayons-created marker face...which looks much happier than the original...and we have our dolly.

(Addendum: Ponytails made a doll later; hers is the one with the yellow hair, on the right.)

Thrift shop run

We stopped at a Salvation Army thrift store today, and this is what came home: a couple of school books, a clutter book, and two new packs of autumn-coloured cellophane bags.  Also The Great Gatsby for Ponytails, and a pair of shoes for Dollygirl.  There were a couple of television sets that interested Mr. Fixit, but not enough to buy them.  (We bought our current family T.V. earlier this year at a thrift store, and we're very happy with it.)

Monday, August 25, 2014

In which we get a blogger award

The Duchess of Burgundy Carrots has given us a Very Inspiring Blogger Award.  Thank you!

The rules of acceptance involve making a list of things that you, whoever you are, might not know about me (Mama Squirrel, since I take on most of the blogging duties at the Treehouse).  I did something like that a few years ago, but here are a few different ones.

1.  You know how when you take a babysitting class you have to take a doll or a teddy along for practice? Our first (and only) prenatal instructor asked us to bring a doll, but since we didn't have any visible children yet, we didn't own any suitable toys.  So I sewed a big stuffed baby and we used him/her to practice burping and diapering.  I don't remember if he/she ever got a name...we were having trouble just deciding on names for real babies.

2.  I have a dress that I bought when Mr. Fixit and I were dating. It still fits, and I would like to wear it once in awhile (if only for fun), but it was missing a gold-coloured button, and there were no extras inside or as decoration that I could swipe.  Today I was going through the button bag, hoping that maybe I had just dropped that missing one in with the others.  I came up with one that was close in size and even had a gold rim, but the centre of it was a sort of yellow enamel. About ten seconds after Ponytails said "Marker?," I thought of the metallic Sharpies that appeared in my Christmas stocking.  With that bit of gold markering, and switching the position of the new one to the very bottom, it's no longer obvious that there's been a "button hack"; and I can wear the dress again. (The photo makes it look like the second-from-the-bottom is different, but it's just the lighting.)
3. If you ask me to pick something from Tim Horton's, nutritional thoughts and messiness aside, I would probably pick a Dutchie.  I spent the first formative years of my squirrelhood around the corner from an early Tim's, and Dutchies are a hangover from those times.

I am going to pass on re-passing the award, not because I don't know any good bloggers but because some of them have already gotten similar awards and the rest are busy getting ready for school and other things.  But thank you again to the Carrot Duchy.

Fast and frugal: Black Bean Dip


Something I thought of and made all within about five minutes: combine approximately equal parts of black beans (cooked or canned, drained and rinsed) and salsa.  Run through a Ninja or whatever mashing device you use.  I heated the beans first in the microwave so they'd blend better and so the dip would be warm. Serve with chips or carrot sticks.  The leftovers are going in a pot of chili tonight.

From somebody else's archives: On narration

We linked to this 2007 Common Room post on narration, way back when, and I just rediscovered it.  Some good stuff there.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Teacher training this week (one week till school starts)

One week to finish my "summer education?"

Old Mortality is on hold, temporarily, and that's okay; it's not on the schedule until the third term anyway.

I am in the middle of several library books, trying to finish them all at once.  I'm also reading The End of Ignorance, not from the library but one that I had postponed reading for too long.  It is both method-confirming and method-changing...kind of like a driving clinic that tells you how well you're doing but then points out all the times you were looking at something else or taking too long to make a turn.  I don't drive but I can still make a driving simile, right?  There are so many places where John Mighton echoes Charlotte Mason on education, it's uncanny.  (I know I said that a few years ago.  I still think so.)

There are several John Mighton and JUMP Math videos on You-Tube, but I particularly like this one.

John Mighton and Charlotte Mason Quote for the Day #2: Every Child

"But how would we judge our schools if virtually every child who entered school in kindergarten had the potential to learn any subject?  How would we judge the methods of instruction used in our schools if, as the research in cognition suggests, almost all children could be trained to develop intellectual and artistic abilities and could become deeply engaged in their work, the way experts are engaged?  We would have to admit that there was something wrong with the way we educated our children...."  ~~ John Mighton, The End of Ignorance (2007)

"We find ourselves in open places breathing fresher air when we consider, not the education of an individual child or of a social class or even of a given country, but of the race, of the human nature common to every class and country, every individual child. The prospect is exhilarating and the recognition of the potentialities in any child should bring about such an educational renaissance as may send our weary old world rejoicing on its way." ~~ Charlotte Mason, Philosophy of Education (page 47)

Photo of Hull House children found here.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

John Mighton Quote for the Day #1

"By insisting that children must be taught according to their developmental level and that everything they learn must be framed in a rather mundane, 'relevant' context, educators risk removing any sense of enchantment from learning. Children would undoubtedly find mathematics and science more interesting if they were introduced to the deepest and most beautiful ideas in those subjects at an early age."  ~~ John Mighton, The End of Ignorance (2007)

Photo found here.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Best education book I've read this month

In the too-short-to-be-a-book-review department: the best education book I've read this month is The End of Ignorance, by John Mighton. It's about math, but it's also about brains and learning and schools and human potential.   Definitely recommended.

Dollygirl's Grade Eight Road Map

Just a look inside this year's school plan.

Dewey says hi

Dewey wanted to say hello to everyone--it's been awhile!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

What's for supper? What's in the fridge?

Tonight's dinner menu, using what we had and working around what we didn't:

Ham
Macaroni skillet with cheese, celery and green peppers
Broccoli Slaw, made with a bag of "broccoli slaw" from the store plus oil and vinegar dressing

Chocolate microwave cake
Yogurt
Strawberry sauce made with part of a jar of "hot strawberry jam" we got at the vegetable stand (whoo!).

Quote for the day: Wendell Berry


       ....It is not "human genius"
that makes us human, but an old love,
an old intelligence of the heart
we gather to us from the world,
from the creatures, from the angles
of inspiration, from the dead--
an intelligence merely nonexistent
to those who do not have it, but
to those who have it more dear than life.

--from "Some Further Words," by Wendell Berry, from Given (2005),  in his New Collected Poems.

Photo found here.

From last year's archives: Handicrafts and sewing

First posted August 2013.

It's two weeks to school, and if I were continuing the posts here "on schedule," I'd be up to "knowledge of man" by now.  But I'm still thinking about art lessons, and handicrafts, mostly for the middle school age, and how 1923 (or so) meets up with 2013.

A quick look at Charlotte Mason's outlines would give us the idea that Art was one subject, and Work (including handicrafts) was another; one "artistic," one technical.  Picture Study was sometimes separated from Drawing (which often meant watercolours), or sometimes they were lumped together.  Watercolouring was also included under nature study, and writing "beautiful mottoes" and drawing in one's Book of the Centuries went under both Sunday Occupations and General history.  Although it's not mentioned in the Programmes, I have heard that the PUS students used to act out Shakespeare plays, so things like painting scenery and designing costumes might have fallen under Literature, as would have making illustrations of scenes from books.  And, strangest of all, architectural knowledge (which is a bit of a blurry area between art and technology) is filed under General Science.

However, when it comes down to it, the lines between art and crafts were somewhat blurred, as they are in real life.  For instance, would using the inspiration of leaves and flowers to design an embroidered book cover, and then doing the work on it, count as art (the design) or craft?  Well, life is messy (somewhat like craft projects).  You either ignore the problem (it's both) or just pick one or the other.  In real life, designers who get their gorgeous needlepoint florals photographed for Victoria are, deservedly, referred to as artists.  So are artists who use quilting as a medium; they're coming at it from a different place than those who labour over thousand-dollar traditionally-patterned quilts for an MCC relief sale, but there's a blurry area in the middle where creativity meets just-stitching, where the quilters are all designing and all sewing.

You might say that Charlotte Mason's "Work" subject is what might have gone under Home Ec and Tech classes, and "Drawing" and "Picture Study" and the rest could be in the domain of the art teacher.  Again, that isn't to say that the art class can't be doing something in textiles, or that the sewing class has to make only hot-water-bottle holders, but if there needs to be a division, there it is.  You might well say, who cares?, and you could be right; those who might like to interfere with homeschool curriculum are not likely to be quibbling over art and crafts.  But if you really want to know where Charlotte was coming from on this, and why, again, physical education and handicrafts got stuck under "knowledge of the universe" rather than "knowledge of man," it's something to consider.

Anyway, here's what really interested me as an example of Charlotte's choices for handicrafts:  The Little Girl's Sewing Book, by Flora Klickmann, editor of the Girl's Own Paper. Online in full at that link; browse through it, it's not that long.  I thought that was going to be another of those step-by-painful-step educational sewing manuals that the PUS did sometimes include; but this one is different.  It's not as cutesy as the Mary Frances books; there are no talking thimbles here.  But it is written in a chatty way, and the audience is, almost exclusively, a Girl With a Doll.  It's a very well-thought-out presentation:  wouldn't Dolly like a this or a that?, here's how you can make her a bedspread, embroider her some curtains, and so on.  Dollygirl would have devoured this book if she'd been twelve years old in CM's time.  There are a few non-doll projects (like a needlepoint mat to go under Grandmother's hot-water jug--I am not making that up), but the majority are doll clothes and doll bedding.  It's not all plain sewing, either; there is a fair amount of cross-stitching, some needlepoint, and even a few miscellaneous things like hairpin lace (a kind of loose crochet).

How relevant is this to 2013, when we are not very likely to have Mother take us down to the shop to buy pink embroidery silk for our Hardanger project, and when the hot-water jug is long gone?  The twelve-year-olds like Dollygirl who are both old enough to handle these projects, and "young" enough to still like dolls, are also a vanishing species. Are we reduced to looking up "teenage crafts" online, and settling for friendship-bracelet earbud strings?

No, I don't think so.  The principles, the ideas are still relevant.  You might be able to cull some actual projects out of The Little Girl's Sewing Book, but even if you can't, I think the interest for CMers is in seeing what kind of a book was chosen, how the ideas were presented, and what sort of skill (creative and technical) was developed.  It's worthwhile to browse through the crafts shelf--juvenile and adult--at the library, and compare any really well-written, well-done books you can find with the more mediocre ones.  My girls have liked the Kids Can Press series of crafts books, including their Jumbo Book of Crafts; in fact, I think it was that book that got the Apprentice started on a longtime hobby of beadwork. Some of the Klutz books (especially the ones that come with supplies) are also very good--the Apprentice had a Klutz embroidery book, but I think it's out of print now.  You can tell that this list is still oriented towards girls, and that's mostly just because I don't have boys--but there's stuff out there for them too.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

What's up at the Treehouse?


Ponytails has been working (scooping ice cream) and parking-lot driving with Mr. Fixit.

The Apprentice has been working out of town and we haven't seen her much lately, but she's coming for a visit today.

Dollygirl has been working on trying to replace a worn-out swimsuit.  Which isn't easy.  Even in the summer. But she did finally find one so that she can go swimming with The Apprentice.

Mama Squirrel has been working on school stuff, both for the Treehouse and for online projects.  Today Mr. Fixit has promised to get the Fruit of Her Labours printed out (that means the school plan for the year).
Mr. Fixt, as usual, has been working on the things he works on. Recently that's included doing colour developing in the kitchen sink. Really, you can, or at least he can. Technology is wonderful.

 (Phone photo found here.)  (Car photo found here.)  (Camera photo found here.)

From the Archives: Thirty Thousand Tunes?

First posted August 2005.
Mama Squirrel is constantly amazed by the effects of technology on our culture.

Someone Mr. Fixit knows showed him her iPod this week, complaining that it wasn't working anymore. She wondered if maybe he could take a look at it, since he is good at electronics. Mr. Fixit looked at it briefly and said no, they aren't fixable. But you couldn't maybe take it apart and replace something? No, they're meant to be disposable. But there were thirty thousand songs on it! Sorry, nothing that we can do.

Thirty thousand songs. Mama Squirrel marvelled at that. How would you choose what to listen to? Mr. Fixit said that you'd just set the iPod to play them randomly. Mama Squirrel naively asked if that wasn't the same as just turning on the radio, then? Mr. Fixit said no, radio stations don't have that many songs on their play lists.

How long would it take you to listen to thirty thousand songs? If you listened to music ten hours a day and heard maybe twenty songs an hour, that would be two hundred songs a day, right? If you never had any repeats, it would take you 150 days to listen to all of them. Using the word "listen" in kind of a vague, background music sense, unless you were doing nothing else for those ten hours a day but listening to your thirty thousand songs.

We used to be satisfied with a small stack of albums or stash of tapes, bought one at a time in the basement at Woolco or whatever the comparable place was. When Mr. Fixit was much younger, he and his brother occasionally brought albums to their grandparents' house. The grandparents would scoff: "What you need to bring those here for? We have a record." (For some reason the boys weren't wildly excited by Lawrence Welk.) Times have changed...thirty thousand tunes. Actually thirty thousand tunes down the flusher because the iPod can't be fixed.

And that's life in 2005.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Teacher training this week (two weeks until school starts here)

Reading:

Don Quixote (done!)

Charlotte Mason's Formation of Character

The End of Ignorance, by John Mighton

Watching:

Tesla: Master of Lightning (with Mr. Fixit)

Becoming Human Dialogues: Jean Vanier (2012)

Thursday, August 14, 2014

To come together

Megan Hoyt posted recently about Prov.en.der's Clockwise Retreat at Harvest Community School.  So did Tammy Glaser.  It sounds like a wonderful time--but really, when have you heard of a Charlotte Mason retreat or conference recently that wasn't amazing?  There seems to be a spirit of both humility and generosity that shines out at these events, alongside the practical and theoretical stuff.  Classical education in action, if you like. Maybe it's because we didn't have anything like this for so many years; maybe it's because CMers spend so much time talking about respecting individuals, working on this with our families, that we come alongside each other in the same way; maybe it's because we talk about atmosphere, and it spreads into the plans and details for group events.  Not that I'm trying to over-idealize cottage schoolers, homeschoolers, CMers, or CM--nothing is perfect.  But there is a strong sense of "look what we're doing--and it works!" in these settings, rather than people trying to out-expert each other.

And when we go back in time...I was reminded of this Parents' Review article by Helen E. Wix, which was given as a "paper" (what we'd probably call a seminar now) to a group of Sunday School teachers in 1917. How boring?  No!  Miss Wix gives a wonderful step-by-step description of how she prepared (and rehearsed!) a typical lesson.  I can imagine something very similar to this being shared at a meeting of Charlotte Mason friends today:
It is nothing less than wonderful how lessons given in this way are remembered from week to week. Children that I have taught often remember, far better than I do, the lesson they had from me—I should say with me—a week ago. This is natural, for they did the work; I listened and cheered on; they had to concentrate their whole minds on the story; in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, it would only be read once, and then, in the narration, what concentration is needed! Try for yourselves; read a page or two of an interesting book, and then narrate it to yourself. It is not memory; it is concentrated attention, and if you did it constantly you would be amazed how your powers of concentration would increase. But you read only once, remember!...
No more set answers to set questions, no more jerky monosyllables, but a good, flowing account of what was read in good English—you remember they narrate "in the Bible words as much as possible"—and what finer English is there? ~~ Helen E. Wix, "The P.N.E.U. Method in Sunday Schools"
Isn't it amazing that if, say, Helen E. Wix showed up at one of today's CM gatherings, we'd probably find we had more in common with her than not?

(Just to mention, Miss Wix remained involved with the P.N.E.U. for many years: the Ambleside Online website has another article written by her and published in a 1957 Parents' Review.   So she's really not so far back there with the dinosaurs.)
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