Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Wednesdays with Words: The Rector of Justin, by Louis Auchincloss

"There is no real distinction between the pulpit and the classroom. I tried to put God into every book and sport in Justin. That was my ideal, to spread a sense of his presence so that it would not be confined to prayers and sacred studies and to spread it in such a way as to make the school joyful." He shook his head ruefully. "Oh, if I could have done that, Brian, Justin would have been the model for all preparatory schools!"

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

His principle reason, however, for giving so much care and devotion to the chapel service was that he regarded it as the keystone of his educational plan. God might indeed be everywhere, but he was particularly in chapel when masters and boys worshiped together.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

"And none of us is a Christian until he has accepted the parable of the laborer in the vineyard. Until he is willing to share the kingdom of God equally with those who have toiled but a fraction of his working day. Until he has recognized that it would not be the kingdom of God if there were any differences in it."

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

When I left, I asked him if I could make a habit of driving down to see him every Saturday afternoon, and he consented . . . . And then in a burst of gratitude and because I had been overwrought by his news [of his impending death], I subjected him to one of my silly fits of conscience. Oh, the egotism of the neurotic!

"Unless you think I'm only coming to collect your last words!" I exclaimed. "Perhaps I am. Perhaps, God help me, I am!"

"Coming to see me is a good deed, Brian," Dr. Prescott replied gently. "It gives me great pleasure, therefore it is good. You worry too much about motives. Suppose your motive is selfish. Very well. But now suppose yourself an inquisitor of the Middle Ages who would burn my living body to save my soul. The motive might be good. But what about poor me at the stake! Do you imagine the good Lord will reward the inquisitor more than you? Of course not. Some of the intrinsic goodness of a good deed must seep into the motive, and some of the bad of a bad deed. Keep doing good deeds long enough, and you'll probably turn out a good man. In spite of yourself!"

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

We like heroes in shirtsleeves, or, in other words, we don't like heroes. But things were not always that way, and today is not forever.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

But I must stop rambling. I must cease my everlasting speculations. If I am ever to write anything, even if I give it my whole lifetime, I must still make a beginning. I must still make a mark on the acres of white paper that seem to unroll before me like arctic snows.


Monday, August 18, 2014

How Firm a Foundation

Sunday in church we sang one of my all-time favorite hymns. It's a lot of fun to sing it this time of year when I'm optimistic, but I'm posting it here as a reminder for later on, when life is dreary and I wish I could quit -- and for y'all, in care you're in that place now and need the encouragement.


How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!
What more can He say than to you He hath said,
To you that for refuge to Jesus have fled?

"Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed,
For I am thy God and will still give thee aid;
I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
Upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.

"When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of woe shall not thee overflow;
For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.

"When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply;
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine.

"The soul that to Jesus hath fled for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to its foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no, never, no, never forsake."



~ K. in John Rippon's Selection of Hymns, 1787, alt.
1940 Episcopal Hymnal version

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Tip: For a laughter-filled home, raise one of your children to be a comic artist

Things like this will happen:


Recently we’ve had a handyman about the house and I keep on stumbling across him in various states of un(der)dress, or in my work-at-home-clothes (today’s theme was hobo/cat lady)






or while making strange faces and/or noises






and it’s just a little hard to keep my cool and act natural when suddenly confronted with a strange man in a space where I did not expect to find one. But I do my best!






[From elaienart.tumblr.com]

Friday, August 15, 2014

Easing back into school -- the rest of the week, or "Not Nearly as Pretty as Day One"

Things went so well on Monday that I overdid it and went to bed too exhausted to sleep well and didn't wake up Tuesday morning until almost 9:30, so I spent the morning grouchy and annoyed, and by the time I'd eaten and gotten some work done and had time to call everyone to Morning Time I had to go into my room for an attitude adjustment first.

We start the school day off with prayers, so, well . . . .  The good news for my kids is that we don't start the school day when Mama is feeling grumpy.

So then it was time for lunch.

Finally around one o'clock I rang the bell for Morning Time, and since it wasn't morning any more we turned to the page for noontime prayers in our prayer book (I know I've mentioned before how much I love using the Book of Common Prayer; let me just say it again -- I love the prayer book!).  The verses were especially meaningful to me after my cranky morning.


At Noon

From Psalm 113
Give praise, you servants of the LORD; *
   praise the Name of the LORD.
Let the Name of the LORD be blessed, *
   from this time forth for evermore.
From the rising of the sun to its going down *
   let the Name of the LORD be praised.
The LORD is high above all nations, *
   and his glory above the heavens.

A Reading
O God, you will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are fixed on you; for in returning and rest we shall be saved; in quietness and trust shall be our strength.
Isaiah 26:3; 30:15

Prayers may be offered for ourselves and others.

The Lord’s Prayer

The Collect

Lord Jesus Christ, you said to your apostles, “Peace I give to you; my own peace I leave with you:” Regard not our sins, but the faith of your Church, and give to us the peace and unity of that heavenly City, where with the Father and the Holy Spirit you live and reign, now and for ever. Amen.

After that was Poetry (I've decided to read through Ambleside Online's list of poems for Year 6).  I read Sir Philip Sidney's "His Lady's Cruelty," which is the one that starts, "With how sad steps, O moon, thou climb'st the skies," and that sparked a lot of discussion on whether the poet was justified in ascribing his own feelings to an inanimate object.  For the record, my position is that it's correct, when done properly.  If the poet had been saying, "With how sad steps, O lightening bugs, thou light'st the night," or some such, then either he's trying to be funny, or it's just bad poetry, and I'm not talking about botching the sonnet's meter.

Then we reviewed the grammar terms we'd covered earlier in the spring.  I'm using an ancient copy of Kittredge and Arnold's The Mother Tongue, Book II, recommended by Cindy, and it's perfect for my needs, but some clever ladies have published an adaptation for modern students, which is also recommended by Cindy, so you might want to check that out.

Next we read our chapter of The Wanderings of Odysseus, listened to narrations, discussed stuff, and sent everyone outside to play.  End of Day 2.

I think that took two hours.  Because we talk too much.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

Wednesday we had an unexpected scheduling conflict that meant we couldn't do lessons in the morning, and in the afternoon the three oldest girls had an engagement and the two younger boys had outside work, so we couldn't do school then.  That left me and my youngest alone in the house for most of the afternoon so we played card games together.  In between rounds we quizzed each other on tricks for counting the score rapidly in our heads.

In the card game we were playing, 2s are wild and are worth 20 points each. Face cards are 10 each and the rest are their face value.  I asked her, "If you have three cards that total ten points and one is a four, what are the other two?" At first she said she couldn't do that (this one is shy about answering new problems aloud), but when I asked her to take four away from ten, then figure out how to make the leftover number out of two cards [remember, since 2s are 20 each, there was only one way to do it -- two 3s], she answered correctly.  Then she made up a question for me.  The questions got more complicated as we went on.

I'm learning how to do this kind of thing by reading the Let's Play Math and Talking Math with Your Kids blogs.  You should check them out if this something you need help with too.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

Thursday was prettier.  We started roughly on time -- generally I shoot for ringing the prayer bell at 9:00, and I think we were within half an hour of that.

First we did a spot of pseudo-Swedish Drill because after seeing the video that Brandy linked to a few days ago I'm thinking about including it, or some variation thereof.  I have serious issues with some of the postures in the only handbook I've spent much time looking at, but I think a few minutes of the kind of mindful movement talked about in the video would be good for all of us.



Next we sang a hymn.  Normally we would have had prayers before anything, but one of the children was cranky and I wanted to give the child some space to cheer up a bit before we started.  Now that I write this out it makes me wonder if that's really the right way of going about it -- am I inadvertently teaching my children some sort of works-righteousness?  Hm.

Our Scripture reading for the day was from Luke 23 about the veil in the Temple tearing when Jesus was crucified.  I don't usually have a sermonette during Prayers, but this time I decided to ask them what they knew about the arrangement of the Temple and the role of the veil.  One of my children was really excited when she figured out the significance of the veil's being torn -- that now all of God's people can come into his presence, not just the high priest, and not just on one day of the year.  So that two minute digression was well worth breaking my usual habit.

Another poem, another interesting discussion.

A brief section from The Mother Tongue, which sparked yet another discussion that ranged from nouns to languages to Charlemagne and I don't remember what all.

The next chapter of Odysseus, narration, and more discussion.

New memory verse begun -- Psalm 103.  I started by having everyone read the first five verses aloud with me, then they closed their Bibles and I read the first verse, phrase by phrase, with them repeating after me.  Then I read the whole verse, all but the very last word, which they supplied. Then I read it again, leaving off the last two words, then the last three, and so on.  After about five words were done this way, I asked them whether they could say the whole verse from memory yet, and most of them could.

Outside time.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

Today, Friday, the boys had a lot of outside work to take care of in the morning so we didn't start till eleven.

Rex, gnawing on Sunchokes during our morning walk

Gratuitous Cute Kid and Animal shot,
also taken during our morning walk


Did a bit of pseudo-Swedish drill while waiting for everyone to assemble.

Said Morning Prayers, including reading the rest of Luke 23, and Psalm 106 (Psalms are read responsively by the half-verse).

Sang hymn.

Read poem for the day, Donne's "Death be not proud."  Lovely discussion.

Grammar lesson with lots of input from the children, including my special needs one, which is encouraging.

Another chapter of Odysseus -- The Archery Contest -- with interesting discussion from my 15 year old, who took Angelina's excellent Great Books I class last year.  Chapter concluded to a loud chorus of, "NOOOOO!" from the children, because I wouldn't read the next chapter.

It was noon and I was hungry, so we finished.

Rats.  Just realized we forgot to do memory work.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

Overall, I'm satisfied with the week and looking forward to several weeks in a row of uninterrupted studies.

How are things going for you?  Have you started back to school yet?

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Randomness

While we were traveling last month I read Tom Sawyer to the kids, and started Huckleberry Finn.  I'd forgotten how funny Tom Sawyer is and was glad that the kids spent most of that book laughing aloud.  Huckleberry Finn's quite a character.  He can make up the most fabulous, detailed story to explain who he is and what he's doing in order to fool whoever needs fooling at the moment.  We stopped several times just to marvel at his ingenuity.  Not that I'd consider that sort of thing a virtue, exactly.

But then this week while reading The Wanderings of Odysseus we came to the part where he wakes up on his own island, but doesn't know where he is, or who the young man is who tells him he's on Ithaca.  It's Athena in disguise, but Odysseus, true to form, makes up the most fabulous detailed story about being a Cretan who was running for his life with his treasure and had sought help from the Phoenecians, and on and on.

At that point I put down the book and said, "I never thought of Huck Finn being like Odysseus before!"

To which one of my children (and you know they're all a lot smarter than I am) replied gently, "Well, it is a story about a guy on a raft having adventures away from home."

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

Speaking of Odysseus, that book is so annoying.  When I was reading today's chapter, the one with the dog and the old nurse, I could hardly read two paragraphs together without all the waterworks in my head springing a leak.  It was ridiculous.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

During our Morning Time on Tuesday afternoon *ahem* I inadvertently let slip that at least 90% of the time I squelch the impulse to burst into song at random times during the day, and I got fussed at.  For not singing random songs like we live in a musical or something.

They wouldn't accept my excuses that even if I could sing in a way that made the song recognizable to the hearers, they still wouldn't know what I was singing because the songs were mostly show tunes and the pop music of my parents' generation, with a smattering of 70s pop and TV jingles thrown in.

Kids like to hear their moms sing.  Even when it's far from perfect.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

Be sure to read the comments to my last two posts if you're interested in some practical bits of information on incorporating music lessons for little ones into your day on a tight budget and math story books.

Also, in case you missed the update to my last post, Dawn will be hosting Wednesdays with Words from now on. :-)

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

Last month my mom introduced me to the wonders of cherry juice for easing joint pain.  Let me tell you, after taking this elixir for a week and then forgetting to for a couple of days I've become a convert.  It is amazing the difference it makes in the way I feel.



You add two tablespoons to water and drink it once a day. I just add it to maybe 4 ounces of tap water and drink it that way, but it's awfully tart and you might need to dilute it more and ice it the way it is in the picture, if you decide to try it.  It's kind of expensive -- $30 for a quart -- but the quart will last you a month, and surely it's better than taking pain killers on a regular basis.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

The weather here has been absolutely gorgeous this summer.  Usually by this time I'm exhausted from the heat and sorely tempted to curse my Scots-Irish ancestors who came to Virginia instead of Nova Scotia, but we've had several cool nights this month and the days not nearly as hot as usual, so it's been really pleasant.  Now, if we could just ditch Daylight Saving Time so that the sun would come up in the morning instead of staying up till bedtime it would be perfect.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

Here's something Eldest Daughter drew yesterday, commenting, "I need to work on Maria, so instead I drew this girl with horns and a mullet."


I can't imagine where she gets her randomness from.



Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Wednesays with Words: Beauty for Truth's Sake

[I wrote this up and scheduled it for the next Wednesday before Cindy announced that she's leaving the blogging world.  I'm keeping the title because, well . .  y'all know why.]






From Chapter 1:  The Tradition of the Four Ways

"The process of education requires us to become open, receptive, curious, and humble in the face of what we do not know."

"[P]hilosophy is a preparation for dying; or rather, for dying well."

"An integrated curriculum must teach subjects, and it must teach the right subjects, but it should do so by incorporating each subject, even mathematics and the hard sciences, within the history of ideas, which is the history of our culture."

"Beauty is the radiance of the true and the good, and it is what attracts us to both."

"[Beauty] is, we should add, difference or otherness held in a unity that does not destroy uniqueness. As Hart explains, if the Trinity were instead a Duality, God would not be love but narcissism, and beauty would lose its radiance. It is the Holy Spirit, the fact that true love is always turned away from itself, pouring itself out for others, that makes it open and radiant, and creates room in the Trinity for the creation itself, as well as for all the suffering and all the sacrifice that creation involves. The Trinity is the home of the Logos and the shape of love. These are the high secrets of our Western tradition, and together they offer the key to its renewal."



Update:

Dawn at Ladydusk is continuing Cindy's WWW link-up.  Yay, Dawn!  Check her blog for more quotes.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Twenty-five years into this project and I've just had the strangest revelation

This morning I was listening to my fifteen year old daughter, the violinist who is teaching herself to play the piano, while she was amusing herself at the piano.  She was playing Clementi's Sonatina in C Major.  If you've ever been a piano student you'll be familiar with this staple, but if you've forgotten, or have never taken piano, it's this one:







The interesting thing was that she was transposing it on the fly into a minor key, "Because," as she said later, "minor keys are more interesting than major keys."

This child started studying violin when she was seven years old, AND she's my only child who really gets math.  She also draws, tells stories, writes poetry, daydreams . . . so she's not really the kind of person we tend to think of as a "math person."  It's something she works on, not something that comes naturally to her.

But that's the point -- a bit of work and she gets it.

I wonder how much connection there is to her learning to play a musical instrument -- specifically the violin -- and her ability to get math with a bit of study, instead of struggling and struggling to understand it with indifferent results.

Also in the back of my mind is what I've been reading and hearing from several sources the last couple of years about music and gymnastic being the foundation of an education, and I'm guessing she's benefited in more than just this way by early musical training.

So here's the revelation that's so strange to me, the bibliophile:

If I had it to do over again, I'd invest my money in music lessons for the children before investing in books.

I'd use the public library more and start building our home library when our income made that possible, instead of the other way around -- building our home library when the budget was super tight, and not providing music lessons until is was too late to benefit the older kids.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Easing back into school

Our formal studies always kind of peter out in the spring when life starts getting busy.  This spring and summer we had Mike out of work for several weeks, seven kids born (and one mama died), several animals sold, lots of repairs done around the house, out of town guests on at least three occasions, one music recital, two concerts, two auditions, traveling. . . . .  Lots of traveling.  Three of the children and I spent almost the entire month of July out town between the CiRCE conference in Houston and visiting [nearly] all our friends and relations along the way.  Oh, and my 15 year old daughter, the violinist, had her first paying gig -- playing in the pit orchestra for a local production of The Music Man.

Writing it out like that makes me feel less bad about not doing "school" for so many weeks.  Do y'all struggle with that kind of guilt, too?

Also we joined the Y and Mike and #1Son have been taking the kids swimming nearly every day for the past few weeks.  I wish we done this years ago!

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

Pictorial Interlude

I traveled half-way across the country, saw practically everyone I love,
and this is the best picture I took.
There's a reason I'm not a photoblogger.

Memphis

Oh, and this one.  It's the radiator hose in my van, which ruptured on the first day of the journey.
Thankfully it happened just before we pulled into Kelly Rose's driveway where we were spending the night.  (I mean, spend the night with them at their house, not in the driveway.)
Her husband took care of the repairs for me -- such wonderful friends!




~*~ ~*~ ~*~

So this morning we had our first official school day in about twelve weeks, if my notes are correct, opening with Morning Prayers and our Bible reading (picking up where we left off in Luke and the Psalms), followed by a poem by Tennyson ("Crossing the Bar," which was the last one in this collection, so now I need to pick a new poet to begin reading tomorrow), and the next chapter in Rosemary Sutcliff's The Wanderings of Odysseus. That took an hour and half because we had to stop and find the calamine lotion to put one one child who got into the poison ivy, and then we had to stop and find out why the dog was barking -- it was the Blackhawks.  He hates helicopters. Never a dull moment.

This time last year we were starting Black Ships Before Troy, so it's taken us an awful long time to get to this point, but we were interrupted by reading The Ballad of the White Horse, and then Fierce Wars and Faithful Loves, followed by Mary Macleod's Stories from the Faerie Queene (which I highly recommend).  I'd intended to pick up there, but my Kindle was dead this morning.  It's had so many near-death experiences that I expect it'll revive presently, but I suppose one of these it'll be the real thing.  It's a first generation Kindle so it's had a good long life -- it's seven years old, which is, like 105 in technology years. ;-)


Friday, August 8, 2014

How NOT to teach math

The area of a circle, we know, is

A = πr2

where r is the radius of the circle. Most of us first learned this formula in school with the justification that teacher said so, take it or leave it, but you’d better take it and learn it by heart; the formula is, in fact, an example of the brutality with which mathematics is often taught to the innocent.

[A History of Pi, Petr Beckman, p. 17]

CiRCE Conference 2014 -- more Hobbits, lots of music

With Hobbits on the Road to Wisdom -- Andrew Seely

[Posting a bit more from this in light of Mystie's comment to my previous post.  I think that the Shire is Practically Perfect in Every Way, so I agreed with all the positive stuff Andrew Seely said and mostly wrote down the correctives I needed to hear.]

A society with few laws needs a strong sense of decency to maintain itself, but this means that it has a certain narrowness of perspective -- they become small souls, suspicious of outsiders.  The society is vulnerable to anything new.

A custom-based society must carefully censor the stories it allows to be told.

We Hobbits can't live long in the heights, but at least now we have seen them and can honor them.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

Truth in Music:  Form, Fashion, Flattery, Forgeries, and Fakes -- Hank Reynolds


Form is the structure of the music.  People have expectations based on past experience -- this is how we make sense of music.

Fashion is a set of expectations that happen to be in vogue at the time -- this is not a derogatory word.

In order to listen to music intelligently we need to build familiarity with it, but in our culture, this is hindered in an odd way -- the fact that we're surrounded by music.  Mr Reynolds said, "Have you noticed what's going on outside our doors at this moment?"  There was a pop song playing in the hotel lobby and you could hear it all day long in most of the areas where the conference was being held.  Like this, most of the music that we hear in a day comes to us unwanted -- it's playing in the background where ever we go, so we've become accustomed to tuning it out and have lost the ability to really listen to it.



image via Wikipedia


Mr Reynolds played some of Bach's Goldberg Variations for us, but first he showed us the four building blocks:  1) the ground -- this is the basic melody; 2) the inversion -- this is the ground played upside down; that is, where ever the ground goes up the inversion goes down, and vice versa; 3) the ground played backwards; 4) the inversion played backwards.

That's it!  Using the four building blocks, Bach does stuff like adding trills, or bringing in another voice in a different pitch, then he changes the key, and plays around with the blocks some more.

For Bach, this was fun stuff to play around with.  And it's all math, y'all!

Bach was the Master Craftsman.  The slip of music he's holding in the portrait above was discovered a few years ago in a box of manuscripts -- it's one of the Goldberg variations and he'd composed it that morning while waiting for breakfast, just for fun!

Here is a playlist with the original aria and all thirty (30!) variations, featuring the fascinating animations of Stephen Malinowski.



 This wasn't part of the Mr Reynolds' presentation, but here's a quick way to see this kind of thing in action -- Bach's Crab Canon played on a mobius strip.  I think what's happening is that the first seven and a half measures are the ground, then he plays it again with lots of trills, then he reverses it.  The piece is meant to be played from beginning to end, then from the end to the beginning.



Mr Reynolds also played Smetana's Moldau for us as an example of art imitating nature.  The music tells the story of the river -- it arises as a trickle, gathers strength, and travels through the country, passing through a forest, then past a village where a wedding is being celebrated, and finally joins the Elbe.

Here's a video illustrated by pictures taken along the river.



"Art" is a craft aimed at the unconcealment of Truth.

Because we as a culture no longer believe in the existence of Truth, artists have lost their purpose.  In a world where Truth is not important, the only thing left to unconceal is the self.  A cheap authenticity is replacing craft.

I won't torture you with this, but the last thing Mr Reynolds played for us was a video of a little girl, eleven years old, I believe, who was introduced to a crowded stadium as a singer-songwriter and then allowed to sing our National Anthem.  It was awful.  The poor girl was trying to imitate some pop star's way of singing the Anthem.

You know today's fashion -- no one can sing the Anthem in a straightforward manner.  It must be personalized.  Our Anthem is actually the world's worst national anthem because it's just not singable by a crowd of regular people, which is the opposite of what a national anthem should be.  So it has become a performance piece -- a way of showing off your ability.  Or rather, your individuality -- your self.  Singing the anthem isn't about the country, it's about the singer, and the artist singing the piece must, to be an "authentic" artist, unconceal himself in his art.

Woe.



[More to follow.]