Monday, November 17, 2014

Classical education and philosophy turn up in such interesting places

Some day I hope to have time to read a bit of Confucius.  Having read a bit of Plato and a lot of Lewis, I'm discovering that Confucius ought to be part of the Classical tradition.  I wonder if Asian Christians read him like we read Plato and Aristotle?

Last night the two oldest girls and I watched the Korean film "The Fateful Encouter," starring Hyun Bin as King Jeongjo.  If you have any familiarity with K-drama at all you'll know who that is, but for those of you who don't I'll give a bit of background info.

King Jeongjo of Joseon

Jeongjo became king in 1776 on the death of his grandfather, King Yeongjo, who had been forced by one political faction to put his own son, Crown Prince Sado (Jeongjo's father), to death for siding with the other political faction.  So it was a mess he inherited, and it is said that on the day he took the throne, he sat there and said to everyone in the court, "I am the son of the late Crown Prince Sado," which was practically a declaration of war against the faction that had had his father put to death.

The movie covers the 20-hour period leading up to an assassination attempt the year after Jeongjo became king.  I'm not sure whether the event is actually historical, but it's a wonderful piece of storytelling, beautifully filmed, well-acted, and I'm going to show this one on our next family movie night.

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Well, I said all that to say this -- a few minutes into the film, Jeongjo quotes a passage from Confucius' book The Doctrine of the Mean:

What Heaven confers is called Nature.
Accordance with this Nature is called the Way.
Cultivating the Way is called Education.

Isn't that perfect?

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The literal title is "The King's Wrath,"
which I like much better than the one under which
it was marketed to English speaking audiences.

This isn't a movie review, but I thought I'd mention to anyone who's interested in watching it that it would probably be a PG-13 on account of lots of blood during the assassination attempt, plus some blood and implied cruelty of a horrific nature when one person is accused of treason and is "questioned," and a few scenes involving cruel treatment of slaves.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Preparing for the Season of Preparation

This week we brought the box of Advent decorations down from attic.  It's full of Chrismons we made last year and opening the box filled the air with the fragrance of apples and cinnamon -- beautiful!

Here's the recipe we used to make the ornaments. It's a good project to do with your children. One year we invited another family with small children over to make them with us, which was a lot of fun.  That link has lots of lovely ideas for using the ornaments as gifts, and as decorations all year.

This doesn't look like much . . .

. . . but when I add fresh greenery and candles it'll be our Advent wreath.

Here's what it looked like a few years ago:

A year or two after we moved here a friend gave me a set of candles in the traditional colors -- three purple and one rose -- and I used that color for three or four years, but since white was our family's traditional color, some of the children were upset at this innovation (you know what rigid traditionalists children are!) and we've reverted to white the last few years.  But yesterday one of the children asked for the purple and rose candles, so I ordered a set from Cokesbury

And here's a great idea I found in the course of my research -- on Christmas Eve you can take out all the Advent-colored candles and put in white ones instead, then burn those for the twelve days of Christmas. 

I don't know why I never thought of that myself.  Isn't the internet a wonderful thing?

Here's an earlier incarnation of our Advent wreath.  It's a styrofoam wreath form with artificial greenery poked into it.  I didn't use candle holders, I just worked the candles into the styrofoam.  This wreath lasted about five years before it started falling apart.

I'm also working on a missal for us to use when lighting the candles during Evening Prayers on Sunday nights.  The Advent wreath is a German tradition and as far as I can tell there isn't any particularly Anglican tradition surrounding it so each year I use the Daily Office in the Prayer Book for Scripture readings, but I also search the internet for ideas.

Much, much easier is putting together a missal for Thanksgiving since it's just Morning Prayers with the Litany of Thanksgiving.  I made a Scribd document in 2011 that you can download and print if you're looking for something to use with your family.

If you'd like to know more about Advent, this article by Dennis Bracher was the most helpful to me when I first started learning about myself.  The article concludes with a long list of Advent hymns, so be sure to check it out.

Advent centerpiece

What about y'all?  Are you planning anything special for Advent?  Do you have any resources you'd like to share?

Saturday, November 1, 2014

How to write

This morning I read this excellent little article on writing successfully (which is different from writing well, as the author points out), and because I'm also reading Karen Glass's wonderful book, Consider This, in which is stated more than once that knowing something and doing it are two different things, and that knowing and doing the right thing is the definition of virtue, and virtue, of course, is the point of a classical education, and because this is National Novel Writing Month and, though I've participated two or three times I've never come close to finishing anything, I decided to follow the advice in the article, which can be boiled down to "Just write."

His article is much more helpful and practical than that, of course, and you really ought to read it.  It won't take more than five minutes and he's funny.

I am determined to do this exercise every day this month, so just for fun, here is today's effort.  And I promise I won't post any more of these.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Wednesdays with Words: For all the saints . . .

I'm currently reading Wilkie Collins' The Woman in White, which I'm really enjoying but I'm not ready to make a post of quotes -- it would take too long to get it together and I want to get back to my book.  Instead, here's a quote from a book I've never read (but which now has to go into my wish list!) that I found at Alan Jacobs' blog on Tumblr and is perfectly suited to this week in the Church year.

To those who know a little of christian history probably the most moving of all the reflections it brings is not the thought of the great events and the well-remembered saints, but of those innumerable millions of entirely obscure faithful men and women, every one with his or her own individual hopes and fears and joys and sorrows and loves — and sins and temptations and prayers — once every whit as vivid and alive as mine are now. They have left no slightest trace in this world, not even a name, but have passed to God utterly forgotten by men. Yet each one of them once believed and prayed as I believe and pray, and found it hard and grew slack and sinned and repented and fell again. Each of them worshipped at the eucharist, and found their thoughts wandering and tried again, and felt heavy and unresponsive and yet knew — just as really and pathetically as I do these things. There is a little ill-spelled ill-carved rustic epitaph of the fourth century from Asia Minor: — ‘Here sleeps the blessed Chione, who has found Jerusalem for she prayed much’. Not another word is known of Chione, some peasant woman who lived in that vanished world of christian Anatolia. But how lovely if all that should survive after sixteen centuries were that one had prayed much, so that the neighbours who saw all one’s life were sure one must have found Jerusalem! What did the Sunday eucharist in her village church every week for a life-time mean to the blessed Chione — and to the millions like her then, and every year since then? The sheer stupendous quantity of the love of God which this ever-repeated action has drawn from the obscure Christian multitudes through the centuries is in itself an overwhelming thought.

— Dom Gregory Dix, The Shape of the Liturgy (1945). One of my favorite paragraphs I’ve ever read. (via wesleyhill)

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Biographies, shelf 2 of 3

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Sunday, October the 26th, was the feast day of Alfred the Great.  Every year in October I read Chesterton's Ballad of the White Horse to remember him and to learn from him.  I've blogged about both the poem and the man several times over the years, so be sure to check out my Alfred the Great tag.  One of the posts includes lots of links to cool websites with history, music, and more.

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Current Reading

A History of Mathematics, Uta C. Merzbach and Carl B. Boyer
A History of Pi, Petr Beckmann
Introduction to Arithmetic, Nichomachus of Gerasa
The Code of the Warrior:  Exploring Warrior Values Past and Present, Shannon E. French
The Woman in White, Wilkie Collins
Onward and Upward in the Garden, Katharine S. White
A Book of Hours, Thomas Merton, ed. Kathleen Deignan

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Monday, October 27, 2014

Math Teachers at Play

Last week I submitted my post about our counting circle to the MTAP Math Carnival #79.  There are a lot of interesting contributions to the carnival, but here are two of my favorites.

"You just listened, so then I could figure it out."  I love reading math conversations between children and skilled adults.  Not only do I learn math, but I learn how to be a better teacher and parent.  In this post, five-year-old Daphne's mom asked her a hard question.  "There was a long pause while she thought, Maya waited, and I drove." After Daphne gave the correct answer, her mom asked her how she was able to figure out the answer.  What follows is a conversation where the little girls explains how much she likes thinking deeply about "tricksy" problems.

The Factor Game.  I haven't had a chance to try this out with my kids yet, but this teacher v. class game looks fun.  Strategy game that requires knowing the factors of numbers.

Be sure to check out the whole thing -- Math Teachers at Play Carnival #79.  There are several other links to math conversations with kids, plus lessons at all levels from beginning to advanced concepts, teaching tips, and more puzzles and games.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Nature Notebook -- trying again

Silvia's posts on her nature walks and pictures of her and her daughters' nature notebooks always inspire to make this a habit of my own.  I didn't like the way my pencil sketches were turning out, so I bought myself a set of watercolors.

We have a row of crape myrtles along the driveway and on my walk this morning, the patterns on the bark caught my attention, so this afternoon I attempted to paint the trunks of one of the trees.

This was mostly an exercise in mixing colors and trying get the general blotchiness of the bark.  I gave up trying to recreate it accurately.

I like this result a lot better than my pencils sketches of the Jerusalem Artichoke.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Learning together

We've gotten far enough along in our studies of Kittredge and Arnold's Our Mother Tongue that we've begun diagramming sentences.  This isn't actually taught in the book, so I'm using The Complete Book of Diagrams by Mary Daly, and I never learned how to diagram in school, so last week I had to ask my Facebook friends how to diagram two that I didn't know what to do with.  That was a fun conversation -- thank God for Facebook!

We're in Chapter IX now which focuses on complete and simple subjects and predicates, so for now, when I write a sentence on the white board, all I require the kids to do is to find the verb and circle it, then find and circle the simple subject, then draw a line to separate the subject from the predicate.  My 15yod is loving diagramming though, so after her younger siblings mark their sentences she likes to diagram them.

Grammar stuff
"Asterism" is a bonus word from the chapter of Life of Fred we read later.

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We had another fun counting circle.  These kids.  I tell them the counting circle is only supposed to take five or ten minutes but they're getting such a kick out of coming up with complicated ways of saying the next number that it's dragging out to quite a bit longer.  My 14yos isn't as fond of making up problems as his sisters are, so sometimes while he's waiting for one of them to figure out what to say next I'll ask him to go ahead and give me all the rest of his numbers at once.  In this case it means he was counting by 15s instead of 5s, and he enjoyed that extra bit of challenge.  And then he decided he wanted to turn his into problems too, so he thought about each one while his sisters were taking their turns.

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Quiet afternoon studies.  All of us sitting together is working out really well.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Math activity: The Counting Circle

One of my math goals for my children is to build a strong number sense, which is, in part, "fluidity and flexibility with numbers, the sense of what numbers mean and an ability to perform mental mathematics and to look at the world and make comparisons. (Wikipedia)." The Counting Circle is one way to accomplish that, so a couple of weeks ago I added it to our Morning Time routine. It takes about ten minutes each day.

The basic procedure is to decide what your students will count by and what number they'll start on (e.g. counting by twos starting at zero), ask for a volunteer to start the count, and go around the room having each person say the next number in the sequence.  I have anywhere from three to six people including myself participating at any time, but it will work just as well even if it's only Mom and one child taking turns.

The very first time we did this, we started at one and counted by ones -- yes, that means 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, . . . .  I did it that way because my non-mathy kids looked a little wary about what we were going to be doing, and I wanted to start EASY so the drill would be a success.  The next time we counted the same way, but every so often after a child gave his answer I asked, "What number is [two or three siblings down] going to say?" and another time I asked the person who said 5, "Who's going to say 10?"  and then, when we got to 10, asked that person who was going to say fifteen.

After a few days I remembered that in the article I linked above, the teacher wrote the answers on a number line, so I incorporated that.  We moved on to counting by 2s starting at zero, and counting by 2s starting at one.

Today, I told them to count by halves, starting at zero.  And then I did something kind of dumb.  I asked them if it would be okay if I just wrote ".5" instead of "1/2" every time because it would easier for me.  They agreed because they're good-natured like that, and we started counting.

Actually, maybe it wasn't such a bad thing, because sometimes they said ". . . and a half," and sometimes they said, ". . . point five," so maybe writing ".5" every time helped reinforce the fact that they're both the same.  Hm.

Anyway, it got a little boring until my 15yod said, with a smirk on her face, "Eight and two-fourths," and I wrote down exactly what she said.

Here's what happened next:

What I learned:

  1. Slow down!  The point of the Counting Circle is to let the children think, not to get it done.
  2. Write down exactly what they say -- don't take shortcuts just to make it easier on myself.  The excitement and creativity began when I wrote down 8 2/4 as my daughter said it instead of the faster 8.5.
  3. Even when I think I've made a mistake it can turn out to be a good thing.
  4. Definitely use the number line.  It makes it easier to keep track of where we are when I pause to ask a question, helps the children see and predict the patterns emerging, helps them learn different ways to write the same thing, and allows their responses to be more creative and complicated.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Today was a good day

Here's some New Math for you:

My husband's new job means he has a wonky schedule -- sometimes he has the usual daytime hours, but other times he has to work until nine or even eleven p.m.  On those days he either goes in at the usual time in the morning then comes home for a long afternoon before going back in around five, or he's home in the morning and goes in after lunch. 


I'm slow to adapt.


We've had nothing but Morning Time since "starting back to school" (hah!) in August, and we're doing well if "Morning Time" (hah!!) happens before three in the afternoon.

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But today?  Today we managed not only to finish Morning Time in the actual morning, but to have our afternoon session as well.  :-D

For now, I only have the two youngest (14yos and 11yod) with me for an afternoon session as my 15yod completes her studies independently.  As I've mentioned before, she's taking an online Great Books course where she's currently reading Dante's Inferno and Dorothy Mills' History of the Middle Ages.  She also practices the violin for one or two hours, and she's using The Teaching Textbooks' pre-algebra curriculum, and Visual Latin.

So here's what I did with the younger two:

* First, I'm using the cursive handwriting program from The Logic of English, which I got a couple of years ago when it was a free download.  Today we had a quick review of the letters that begin with an upswing -- i, j, u, w, r, p, t, and s.  That took five minutes at most.

*  Then we moved on to Classical Composition I: Fable Stage.  When we left off I was doing the whole thing orally because these two students were barely reading, but their skill has really taken off on the past few months, so we'll be doing more of it in written form.  Today I began by reviewing the three parts of a story's plot (recognition, reversal, and suffering), then I read the fable and had one of them narrate, then they gave me examples of recognition, reversal, and suffering.  Tomorrow we'll review the variations they've learned so far, and continue with the next part of the lesson.  This took about twenty minutes.

*  Lastly, I gave them their books for independent reading and new composition books for written narration, which they've never done before.  Since we're just starting written narrations I didn't correct anything at all -- I just marked it to show that I'd read what they wrote.  Later on, after this has become a daily habit I'll start marking corrections they need to make.  When I did this with my older students I chose one area, or one kind of mistake they were making consistently, and then when that area improved I moved to another.  Generally I choose to correct grammatical mistakes over technical ones like spelling and punctuation, since the technical things tend to work themselves out over time and are far easier to correct, where grammatical errors tend to indicate sloppy thinking.  They spent about half an hour between reading and writing, but this time will increase as we go on -- I deliberately kept the work light for today.

One thing I did differently with these two than I've done before was to keep them at the table with me for their independent studies.  These are both pretty extroverted and are more successful when they're working around other people, even if they're not actively engaged with each other.  So they did their reading and writing while I did mine.  It was a pleasant setup for all of us.

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October is a gorgeous month in Virginia

Even the weeds are pretty