Monday, September 30, 2013

Bright Spot Challenge - Week 5 - Pruning

So how did you do with meaningful conversations last week?  I was so blessed by an encouraging and clarifying conversation with my mentor this past week.  I used to mentor her daughter and now she is mentoring me - that's how the body works!  Another friend has started video blogging and as a result we have reconnected and I will get to spend time with her soon - I can't wait!

On to this week's challenge.  Today when I returned home from church my parents had been here.  It was obvious as we approached the front door because one of our bushes had been cut WAY back.  They pruned it for us. Likewise, my neighbors pruned one of their trees last week and it looks good.  It didn't look bad before but now it looks better.  I have a tendency to just let things grow however they would like.  But, there is wisdom in pruning.

Bright Spot Challenge - Week 5 - Pruning 

Whether it's things, relationships, media time, whatever, I challenge you to consider what pruning has done for you in the past.  Hopefully, by focusing on something that we cut out and new growth happened in the past, we will more easily cut out what needs to go - TODAY!    It is pretty easy to let things just grow wild but beware the consequences.  So this week consider a time that pruning made your life better and, as we approach the holiday season, consider if there are other things that should be pruned out of your life.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Weekly Resource: Novare Science

It took a while for me to get to the Society for Classical Learning talks about math and science. That was this year's theme but it's not my top priority with young students.  I am glad that I listened and was especially drawn in by the talks of Dr. John Mays.  Anyone who regularly gets choked up because of the wonder of God that he finds in science and math is the kind of guy I want teaching my children these subjects.

Fortunately, he has felt the call to do just that.  He has set aside teaching in the classroom to pursue the publishing of a series of middle and high school science and eventually math curricula - Novare Science and Math.   I think his tag line - Mastery. Integration. Kingdom. - pretty much says it all.

I have not actually used his texts, but from his talks I know they are the types of resources we will seriously consider once we get to that point.  I was so pleased to find a series that takes developing a scientific mind seriously, while also keeping Creation in view.  I think we might have at least one scientist in the family and I want to prepare him to do well and keep the faith.

Mays is very intentional about integrating history and writing into both of these subject areas.  In fact, he has a whole book dedicated to teaching students how to write lab reports.  One review says that it might be too difficult for high school students - but he developed and used it in a 9th grade classical school setting.  He was frustrated with science lab sheets that were simply fill in the blank and took away the thinking part of science.  Now students have a guide for creating their own lab reports to show what they have learned - not what a textbook expected them to learn.  Much of the talk he gave about mathematics at the Society for Classical Learning was about integrating math into your history curriculum.  It was interesting listening.

So, although I have not seen the materials in person, I highly recommend that if you are in the market for a middle or high school science curriculum that you consider this option.  

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Tip Time - CC Cycle 2, Week 5

Latin and Grammar

     I mentioned before that memorizing the grammar is very helpful for learning your Latin.  Here is a nice chart that shows how all of these pronouns relate to one another.   

If you want a clear explanation of how verb conjugations work in English you can check out Harvey's Grammar starting on page 112 and page 115 has a synopsis worth printing out.  To download a google book into PDF format you click on the symbol that looks like a gear on the tool bar and download it.  If you are on an IPad sometimes it will give you the option to load it into your ibooks account to read it from there.  It is a document in the public domain so you can use it as you please.

     I did not make the conjugation tray this week - I forgot to get a cookie sheet at the dollar store.  I guess I could use one of the ones we used to make vinegar volancoes this week.  I'll try to do that soon!


    Last week we started reading Saladin by Diane Stanley.  It is a look into the life and leadership of the Turk that Richard the Lionhearted fought against during the Crusades.  I did not know who he was until I read our chapter for Child's History of the World by Hillyer (we actually have a very old copy I picked up at a church garage sale).  I have enjoyed reading Hillyer as our overview and then adding in books as they fit into our schedule.  We will also read Joan of Arc also by Stanley - but probably not this week.  Her books are technically picture books but they are text heavy and will take a few days to read through well (Ambleside actually takes quite a while to go through Joan of Arc).

    My boys are enjoying the crusades and so we will probably stay there a while longer.   I don't think everything needs to be in tidy units - in fact it probably helps our kids to remember and think for themselves if we don't bundle everything neatly for them.    

    Our "science text" this year is the Burgess Animal Book.  We  have enjoyed the stories and the boys remember more about the animals than I expected.  Since the topic this week is adapt, migrate and hibernate, I might review the animals that we have learned so far and talk about how they respond to the coming of winter.  It is about time to review and this is probably the simplest way to do it.  

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Memorizing Latin Declensions

Last week we started Prima Latina with my oldest.  It might be a little early but he was excited. You might remember that I have a large collection of Latin curricula.   The primary lesson I have learned is that there is more to memorize than first meets the eye.

Most people focus on memorizing the declensions in order - top to bottom (-a, -ae, - ae, -am - a). This is important but that isn't all you need to know.  Although I am NOT a Latin expert, I will mention what I have learned about memorizing Latin (so far). This is as a result of the gaps I already have in knowledge!  I am a big picture person so it is hard for me to pay attention to the details.  Many texts tell you to pay attention to these details.  I am here to remind you to PAY ATTENTION to the details.

  • When you memorize make sure you can easily go from singular to plural and back again in each case (nom. singular and plural, etc.).  Memorize across - not just down! 
  • Know which declension your vocabulary word belongs to.  After the first and second declension you might feel like this is pretty easy - but then the 3rd declension comes along and complicates matters.  Build good habits with these easier declensions.  
  • Memorize the gender of your nouns - it impacts your adjectives.  Again, easy with first, more complicated with second and then the third declension hits! 
  • Through frequent practice, you should be able to quickly spout off what the genitive singular form of of amicus or what portarum means.  This is one reason I like Elementary Latin by Smith it has lots of exercises like this.  If you have two kids learning (or you are learning with your child) I suggest you practice quizzing each other.  I think this is what happened in the recitations of old.  
  • Memorize the English phrases that go with each case porta /ae - a/the gate, of the gate, to/for the gate, a gate (object), by, with, for the gate.  The repetition will do you good.  I just tried to memorize that it was the dative of gate and it is much easier if you don't have to keep remembering what dative means - build it into the way you memorize the word. 
  • Make sure you are learning your vocabulary Latin to English and English to Latin.  Although you might not compose in Latin, you should learn them both ways. My experience with Spanish taught me that you won't just know if you don't work on it both ways.  

I like Prima Latina so far.  It is a slow introduction but I think it will develop the habit of memorizing and work up towards parsing.  It is truly a gentle introduction.  For now we are memorizing verb endings with CC, reading our Latin morning text and now doing Prima Latina vocabulary daily.  We plan to try and complete a lesson a week.  Since my oldest is learning how to play Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star on the violin - we are memorizing the first verse in Latin too.

If Latin nouns and declensions have you down I highly recommend the free google book Junior Latin by Forsyeth.  He focuses on nouns, adjectives and pronouns (no verbs here).  He provides quite a few words fully declined in each of the five declensions. By introducing adjectives simultaneously it shows how gender works with this aspect of the language.  His front notes give a great overview of how Latin nouns work and provide suggestions for learning and memorizing.   Many older Latin books give you the feeling that you are missing something that teachers back then just "knew" and passed on to their students. I feel like this book details some of that knowledge in a very accessible way (like what parsing really looks like).  I recommend you at least save it to your computer as a reference.  

I am forming thoughts about how I will teach Latin long term and maybe soon I will share some of those ideas.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Wednesday with Words - Old School

I was looking at Harvey's Elementary Grammar last week and came upon this outline from William Harvey Wells for schools in Chicago in 1877.  This reflects thinking about public schooling as it was just getting started.

In reference to grammar (elementary) students:
Pupils should rarely be allowed to study more than three branches at once, besides reading, spelling and writing and it is generally better to have some of the lessons come only on alternated days than to have even the six exercises in one day. (32)
 In the footnote this comment is made
From four to five lessons a day for a Primary school, is better than six, even for mental proficiency.  A Primary school that has even five hours of session per day should have an hour or more of interval at midday.  Besides there should be one or two recesses during each session. (from there he talks about varying the subject frequently and no lesson lasting longer than 20 minutes). (36)
My friends who send their children to kindergarten talk about their 20 minute lunches that happen at 10:30 am!  Our local school district has pretty much gotten rid of recess.
Pupils should understand that they are liable to be called on to recite any portion of the previous lesson, and questions enough should be asked in review to make it necessary for them to read over the last lesson before coming to the recitation, unless their previous preparation has been sufficient to fasten it in the memory.  (30)
Imagine that - a student held accountable for their learning - daily!   I am trying to be better about this myself.  I am enjoying the classical texts I use because they start with review questions. I am also learning how to ask "review" questions throughout our day to help us remember what we are learning.

In this outline there is much discussion about oral work and very little about written work for the younger ages. They really expected them to memorize and work orally until about 3rd grade.   Students were learning to spell and read and do copywork.  Subject matter material was taught, memorized and practiced aloud - not in writing.

This comment about reading was VERY interesting.
Some teachers seem to suppose that the principal object of a school exercise in reading is to understand the meaning of the piece read.  This is a mistake.  The principal object is to read the piece so as to express that meaning.  The sense of the piece must be studied then, not in this case as an end, but as a means to enable the pupil to execute the reading successfully.  This being the case, it is obviously a great fault to spend half or three-fourths of the hour allotted to a reading lesson, in discussing the meaning of words and the general sense of the passage read. (16-17 italics in original)
 It is by imitation that children learn to talk, and their skill and accuracy in reading will depend mainly upon the character of the models which are brought before them. (17) 

Do we even expect our children to read aloud with expression any longer?  If they aren't read aloud to - how will they gain fluency?  How will they learn to express themselves clearly?  Although not all librivox recordings are fantastic - it is nice for the kids to hear a different storyteller every once in a while.

After discussing teaching spelling orally and with an emphasis on syllabication (as Noah Webster taught it) Wells offers this thought.
Teachers should bear constantly in mind, that unless habits of correct spelling are formed early, there is very little probability that they will ever be acquired. 
I think he would laugh at our thoughts about invented spelling.  Of course, they are not trying to teach any one younger than 7 how to write and spell.

After discussing the need to present virtue to the students through stories and examples and condemning bad behavior he offers this reminder.
The selfishness of children is the greatest obstacle of moral training.  To moderate this strong instinct, to teach self denial and self control, must be the constant care of the teacher. 
Public school teachers were expected to help students develop self control as a necessary avenue to develop the moral sensibilities of their charges.  How far we have fallen!

My favorite comment though (it is a little long)

The two great objects of intellectual education are mental discipline and the acquisition of knowledge. The highest and most important of these objects is mental discipline, or the power of using the mind to the best advantage.  The price of this discipline is effort. . . However much we may regret that we do not live a century later, because we can not have the benefit of the improvements that are to be made during the next hundred years, of one thing we may rest assured, that intellectual eminence will be attained during the 20th century just as it is in the 19th - by the labor of the brain.  We are not to look for any new discovery or invention that shall supersede the necessity of mental toil; we are not to desire it.  If we had but to supplicate some kind of genius, and he would at once endow us with all knowledge in the universe, the gift would prove a curse to us, not a blessing.  We must have the discipline of acquiring knowledge, and in the manner established by the Author of our being.  Without this discipline in our intellectual stores would be worse than useless. (147)  (bold is mine) 
One thought - Internet.

Finally, a good reminder.
There can not be a more fatal mistake in education, than that of a teacher who adopts the sentiment, that his duty requires him to render the daily tasks of his pupils as easy as possible.  
Soon I will post my thoughts about Understood Betsy which is related to these ideas.

Bright Spot Challenge - Week 4 - Conversations

I have not made room for much margin in my life and I am feeling the pressure.  However, one thing that always refreshes me personally (since I am an extrovert) is a good conversation or two.  This weekend I had the opportunity for my first "night out" with some of the mom's that are part of my CC group.  I was very blessed by our conversations.  They mentioned books I had recently read and talked about struggles that sounded very familiar.  I am excited about this new group.  Then, of course, we had to miss today because someone was running a fever yesterday.  Margin!

So the bright spot this week is about conversations.

Bright Spot Challenge - Week 4 - Conversations 

Think about ways you make time for conversation (the adult type).  Is there a conversation you had recently which really encouraged you?  What types of things give you a little bit of hope or peace?  Are there ways you could discuss those things more?  With whom?  Are there things that fire you up and make you feel more alive?  Who do you discuss those things with?

This week I challenge you to make time for a little bit of conversation that encourages, inspires and helps make your week a little bit brighter.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Weekly Resource - Write From History Series

Write from History is a Charlotte Mason approach to history with levels for lower (K - 2) and upper elementary (3-5) students.  She follows a four year history cycle and has books for Ancient History, Medieval History and Early Modern History (up to 1850) and Modern History.    Each book brings together historical narratives, fables, stories and myths and poetry.   For each level she has the table of contents available on her website and elsewhere so that you can see exactly what she covers. All stories are in the public domain but she provides some context and chronology in her text.  

Although the content matter is history, she is teaching writing.  The introduction includes a detailed description of how Charlotte Mason approaches writing and a suggested weekly outline for using her materials.  She includes copywork, grammar, narration and studied dictation (if your child is at that point) with each of the passages she has chosen.  Her approach to grammar is very gentle and the tutorial in the appendix is instructive. The children focus on learning one part of speech a month and identifying it in the copywork they are doing.  Simple but effective. 

She has developed a full writing plan and you can get more details about her vision from her website.   If you sign up to receive her newsletter (she only occasionally sends something out) you will receive her free ebook about using a CM style writing program.  It is a great overview and includes her thoughts about scope and sequence in the elementary years.   I think she is faithful to CM's approach.  

I have two of the introductory levels right now (Ancient and Medieval).  We haven't used them faithfully yet because we are using CC history copywork and our language lessons are coming from literature.  But I think that during the 12 weeks of school that aren't covered by CC history we will use it.  I expect that we might use it more for my second son because he seems to enjoy writing more.   

This curriculum is stand alone but it could easily support someone who uses a more timeline based approach.  I am also starting to recommend these types of copywork resources to my mom friends who don't homeschool for summer or afterschool "enrichment".  It is a simple way to keep students' skills up and introduce them to history.  It doesn't take long to do - but a little practice every day goes a long way.  

Friday, September 20, 2013

Tip Time - CC Cycle 2, Week 4


    I typically try to keep things simple but this little project might be worth the time.  I am thinking of converting a cookie tray into a magnetic board where we can put our Latin conjugations.  I think this would be a pretty simple project.  My thought is to use the conjugation pages from Classical Academic Press (pages 7 to 14).   If you laminate them, cut them up and then stick some magnets you are ready to go.  Make sure you keep the title for review purposes.

   The next step is to tape the cookie tray to look like the chart you just cut apart.  For now I won't add in the English equivalent.  Each week they can work on properly placing the ending that we are learning.  It also works well for review - you can mix them all up and then have them sort them out.  I still have to locate a tray.  I'll show you next week how it works out.


    Here are a few water cycles (1, 2, and 3, 4).
    Here are a few nitrogen cycles (1, 2, 3 and 4).
    Here are a few carbon and oxygen cycles (1, 2 (scroll to pg. 3-5), 3 and 4).

    I tried to arrange them from simplest to the most complex versions of the cycle.  I was not as familiar with the nitrogen cycle.   Some of the links above are cut and paste.  Below are thoughts about presenting these cycles using the Montessori three part lesson.    

    Although the three part lesson may seem very simple that is it's beauty.  Often, we quiz kids before they have learned information and this is frustrating to them.  All of these steps should be done in one sitting with one of the cycles above.  Only teach one cycle at a time.  

    In the three part lesson you break it up so that they can successfully master the material.  This works with kids of all ages and it might surprise you that even older elementary school children might still need information broken down in this way.  Here are the steps to use with an unlabeled chart so make sure you know your terms and parts well before you do it:

Step 1 - Present the material and properly name each part of the cycle.  For example, if you are doing the water cycle you would point to the part showing evaporation and say "evaporation".   You don't give an explanation - you just name that part of the diagram.  They should repeat after you.  Present each part of the cycle in this way - showing the picture and naming it appropriately.  

Step 2 -  In the next step you say one of the parts of the cycle and they point to the appropriate picture. For example, you might say "Please point to collection (if that is the term on your water cycle)."   They would do so.   You go through all of them in random order until you are pretty sure they have it.

Step 3 - For the final step, you do the opposite.  You point to a part on the chart and ask them to provide the name.  Point to the picture of evaporation and ask them to name it.  This is the "quizzing" part.  However, you have prepared them for it so that they can be successful.  The goal here is to teach them the cycle not trick them.

So simple it seems almost ridiculous - but that middle step makes a big difference in their understanding and confidence in the subject.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Reflections on the Wizard of Oz

I wouldn't have picked this book if it wasn't part of the curriculum we are using.  I am glad we read it though and my boys enjoyed it.  It is VERY different from the movie.

We finished the book yesterday and later in the car my oldest son said, "You know mom, Oz didn't need to give them anything - they already had it."  I asked him what he meant.  He explained that Oz didn't give them a new heart or courage or brains.  I mentioned that maybe Oz gave them confidence to do what was already in them.  From the movie you get the idea that Oz is a total charlatan.  In the book he is more complicated.  He isn't a wizard, and he knows it.   Yet, his ability to encourage works magic in the lives of Dorothy's travel mates.  They are transformed and eventually become leaders in ways they had never expected.  It is a little simplistic but my boys got the message.

I challenged my son to see if he could be like Oz.  Could he help encourage the good things that are already in people to come out in new ways?   That conversation was worth the book.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Pilgrim's Progress Comparison

This week I have been listening to Society for Classical Learning recordings and recovering from birthday week and getting ready for a big consignment sale (I haven't mentioned the small elementary school library I inherited!).  So, I haven't read much.  I did read this blog post from the Circe Institute. One of the better quotes
Then we get them to school and we only let them read what they can sound out. In fact, and this is the FATAL mistake: even the books we read TO them have to be at what we call “their level” by which we mean what they can sound out.
and this
The consequence of our folly is that we habituate students to read and write at absurdly low levels. Then to top it off, we sentimentalize what they read, fearing that they can’t deal with monsters and werewolves.
In all these ways we truly dis-educate our children by teaching them.
I am attempting the opposite and read at levels "way over" their heads - although they tend to rise to the occasion.  In fact, we are finishing our second "abridged" version of Pilgrim's Progress.  Here is an interesting post about the "history" of reading Pilgrim's Progress.  We read Little Pilgrim's Progress by Helen L. Taylor last fall and this week we'll read the last chapter of Dangerous Journey by Oliver Hunkin.  Over the summer we read Traitor in the Tower which is a fictionalized account of Bunyan's imprisonment.   Soon we will listen to the dramatized version.  I haven't actually listened to or read all of the original yet - but I have heard a good portion of it.   I don't think I would have even attempted Pilgrim's Progress if it wasn't recommended for this age by Ambleside Online. 

So, I will quickly share some of my thoughts about these abridgments.

Dangerous Journey
       This was originally a "serial in 9 parts" and you can watch the whole thing on Youtube
  • Captivating pictures, although some might be a little on the scary side for young one's or more sensitive children.  (The video has the same pictures - check out around minute 48 to see Apollyon.)
  • Language is fairly elevated and includes some quotes from the original text. 
  • There are only 9 chapters and they are a little long.  My boys were VERY interested in the story though and always asked for another chapter.  
  • The story moves pretty quickly, so it doesn't provide much detail about aspects of the story.  It is abridged after all.  I was particularly struck by what was left out of the trip to Vanity Fair.  This version focuses on the trial and the other version follows the story of Faithful. 
  • Christiana's story is only one chapter. 
Little Pilgrim's Progress 
  • This is a longer chapter book with small pictures in each chapter.  The chapters are short (about 3 pages each) and there are 93 of them.   As a result it does cover more details. 
  • Again, elevated language is used and when I listened to parts of the actual version I didn't find it too much different.  
  • The first fifty chapters (about three fifths of the book) are Christians's journey and the second part covers Christiana's journey. 
  • I get the feeling it follows Christian's journey faithfully but doesn't dwell on the "theological" discussions that Bunyan included in the original. 
Prior to last year, I had never read Pilgrim's Progress.  I want my kids to know this story because it provides food for thought.  It isn't perfect but it captures many aspects of the Christian life.   So far, in our conversations I have not focused on who Christian meets on the journey - just the places he goes. As they get older we will discuss more about Ignorance, Vain-Glory, etc.  For now I just want them to enjoy the story - like Andrew Kern mentions in his article.

My favorite part is the focus on relationship and choosing your travel companions wisely.  There are valleys he goes through by himself, but most of the time he is with someone else.  I think this is an element of the Christian life that I really want my kids to be thoughtful about.

I recommend this as a family read aloud.  I do think that an older elementary student could read Little Pilgrim with understanding.  In this case I would pre read and discuss the words and concepts that might be new to him before he reads it.   I don't feel like these versions talk down to the child and they prepare them to tackle the real version with confidence.  

Monday, September 16, 2013

Bright Spot Challenge - Week 3 - Breakfast

So how did you do getting out the door for last week's challenge?   Did you try something new?   I did post a list of what we should take when we head out.  I didn't necessarily check it off but it was helpful to think through it (I did remember to bring the beloved blankie to all of our events this week) and glance at it before we left in the morning.  As we discuss this week's challenge, recall that we are looking for what is going right in our routines, habits and schedules so that we can celebrate that and extend it to other areas of our lives.

Week 3 - Bright Spot Challenge - Breakfast

This week we will our challenge is breakfast.  They say it is the most important meal of the day.  Do you treat it that way in your house?  Is it catch as catch can?  Is it a sit down affair?  Do you eat it in the car?  Is it skipped altogether?

Honestly, breakfast often seems like a disaster around here because our boys are morning people and my husband and I are night people.  We have never consistently been able to wake before them and be prepared for the day.  Maybe someday that will be my goal.  For now, lets focus on what is happening that is positive.

We read over breakfast almost every day.  Often it is our Bible and basic memory work.  This is made possible because my husband is home and helps put together breakfast for all of us while I try to read over the din.   Currently we need to leave by 8:30 most mornings which is shortly after my husband leaves (yes, he does work 9 to 5 - we are very fortunate).   So we mostly sit down for breakfast and start with God's word as a family.  Somedays it means one of our members is covered in cottage cheese by the end of the reading but we were together!

So this week I challenge you to consider how you start your day with breakfast.  What is going well with that first interaction (or lack thereof) in the morning?

Have a blessed week.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Weekly Resource - Elementary Latin by Smith

I have become a little bit of a Latin curricula junkie (it's the honey bee in me).  I have Henle Book 1Visual LatinPrima Latina and Latina Christiana I and II, I Speak Latin and Lingua Latina.  This does not include the assortment of google books I have found and printed.  There are multiple Latin curricula in the public domain, as you would expect, the only problem is that they don't normally have answer keys.   I found this one before I was introduced to interlinear texts,  so here is my favorite approach that is more in line with a grammar based approach to teaching. 

Elementary Latin by Minnie Louise Smith (1920)-  

The introduction claims the goal of this program is: 
"to make Latin seem alive; to give the first year study a value for general culture; to minimize the difficulties of beginning Latin; to prepare thoroughly for the second year of work"
The lessons are focused, incremental and well laid out.   There are multiple exercises per section with excellent variety.  Honestly, even if you don't use this particular text I recommend you look at the exercises to add options to your own curriculum.  These activities include vocabulary, translation (to Latin and from Latin), grammar rules, derivatives, word drills, form drills, translation of short texts, answering questions posed in Latin to be answered aloud in Latin, and questions covering the grammar.   By the fifth lesson you are beginning to read Latin and there are over 40 connected passages for your student to read through.  By the end of the year you are even writing in Latin.  I haven't mentioned the brief cultural bits of information spread throughout the book (with over 100 illustrations of Roman artifacts, ruins, etc. with explanations of their importance).     
In the first few lessons it covers 1st declension nouns, 1st conjugation verbs present tense, direct objects (in English grammar) and then introduces the genitive case and the conjugation of Sum.   Second conjugation, adjectives and the four principal parts come next.  So, it is a smattering of parts of speech but you use them in a variety of contexts and it gives you enough background to make sentences.   One of my struggles with Henle is that we spent so much time going through all the nouns that I didn't ever feel like I could complete a thought.  (I guess if you use Prima and Christiana first that isn't the case). There are some that are truly opposed to this method - but I think that her approach can work.  

        She assumes that you are doing recitations and form work consistently to support your learning.  I have realized that older books just assume recitations and we don't even know what that means.  (Another guide for memorizing is the Dowling Method - I realize that his recommendations do run counter to her approach.  His clear outline of the structure of Latin gives you the foundation needed to be more successful in a more piecemeal - but honestly more fulfilling- program.  It is the rare person who has the discipline to do what he outlines!)  
       The appendix is an amazing resource.  It includes some great passages for reading and translating (Story of Ulysses and Caesar), songs in Latin (with music notation), a list of common Latin phrases (including all of the state mottoes in Latin) and well known Latin quotations (Cicero, Caesar, etc.)   The best part is that she clearly outlines the goals for first and second semester - what mastery looks like!  She lists all the vocabulary covered, inflections you should memorize, principles of syntax, word formation (prefix/suffix, etc.), a derivation notebook (with the 20 most important derivatives each semester), oral sentence work and Latin readings.  She also outlines how you can begin writing Latin sentences by the end of the second year.   I feel like she is not just setting pie in the sky goals- she really can teach you Latin.  

      But that is not all!  She then includes a reference chart covering all the Latin grammar you'll need to know.  After that, she provides definitions for all the English grammar you'll ever need to know.  With a little bit of work you could use it for English grammar recitation (like the MP program).  The book ends with a Latin-English/ English-Latin dictionary.  

     This is truly a great resource.  It is meant for high school students but I think it could be used slowly and successfully with younger students.  For the mom who wants to learn Latin I think it has a lot to offer.  Again, I emphasize that you must do the recitation and extra practice so that you memorize the inflections and syntax.   YOU JUST HAVE TO MEMORIZE (that is the one thing I have learned from all my curricula).   That's one reason I like the appendix - she outlines EXACTLY what you need to know.  I promise my other reviews won't be as long - this one just offers SO much. 



Friday, September 13, 2013

Tip Time - CC Cycle 2, Week 3

Latin and Grammar 

This week I want to encourage you to learn all the pronouns and their correct names with your children. It may seem like overkill in the next few weeks but it is REALLY helpful when they get to Latin.  In fact, in using Visual Latin I got lost in the pronouns.  I didn't know their proper names and it got confusing very quickly.  If your kids know them in English it will make it easier when they get to Latin. You see, in Latin they have to know all of the pronoun categories and then within each category the case, number and gender.  The tables are HUGE (here is a taste of some of them).  I also think that reading Latin aloud regularly will help kids "get it" because the pronouns are in context (and occur often).

I was greatly relieved this week when I heard Andrew Kern say that pronouns were one of the hardest things in Latin, after the subjunctive tense.  I guess I am not alone.  Making sure your kids understand the types of pronouns in English will go a long way - I hope anyway!

This week we also move on to a new set of verb conjugations - imperfect tense.   Here is a quick overview of the different tenses and what they mean and how we use them in English.  I know that the memory work is just the endings.  With older students I would also emphasize the way it is used.  Since we spend two weeks on each ending; maybe the first week you can memorize the endings and the second week connect them to their English equivalent.  Also notice that here you are just adding "ba + the present tense ending" to make the imperfect tense (except for the first person singular).


Here is a great way to help your children get the why behind skip counting.  If you don't have a lot of time just listen to the first half of the recording.  The second half moves into multiplication and division if you are interested.   It is a good introduction to thinking mathematical with your children.  Honestly, a lot of what he says is accomplished through Montessori math.

So that's it for this week.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Latin, morning time and the interlinear text

Earlier this summer Andrew Kern made a comment that a full classical education could be accomplished in about 6 years.  This podcast is the beginning of his response to how that can be accomplished.  It is worth a listen, although, as usual, it is a little wandering in nature.  I will only cover the first half of the conversation which included introducing Latin and Greek at an early age and using interlinear texts.

He referenced books that were new to me (on Sunday I'll be posting the list of Latin curricula I currently have).  He discussed using interlinear texts, especially with young children, as read alouds. The interlinear approach to Latin was endorsed by Locke and Milton (yes, the men you think of first). But there was only one advocate who tried to create a series of texts to use in this fashion - Hamilton (no, not a famous guy just a linguist with a dream).  His approach has fallen out of favor.  If you want an idea of how it works you can listen to this short video - this man appears to be finding ways to bring it back into style.   Here is another article that explains the approach.   It seems that you read the text once and memorize it (like little kids love to memorize their favorite books) and then you read it through a second time to dig into the language and parse it, etc.  

I am still torn on the long term plan, but I have decided to start including an interlinear text reading in our morning time.  Reading or listening to Latin is also greatly extolled by the creator of Visual Latin. Honestly, if you have Visual Latin you could create your own interlinear and audio experience by using the answer worksheets for the third section as an interlinear text and then listen to him read it aloud.  I might do this when the kids are a little bit older.

The texts' Kern mentions are already prepared and only take a couple of minutes to read.  We just started a few days ago and it has already led to some good discussion.  When we watched the animated video of the Bayuex tapestry and REX was emblazoned on the tapestry and a part of our text - I just pointed it out.  This week we are also discussing ominvores and omines is one of the words in our text - so we talked about how omines means all.   I am really beginning to see how a Latin centered curriculum could really work.

Here are the books that Kern recommends:

Fables - Aesop's with an interlinear text.  There is a free PDF you can download or a book you can purchase.  Her related sites also have Latin Bible verses, mottoes, etc.   Maybe for my second go around with Language Lessons through Literature I will connect the fables she uses with their Latin counterparts.  Possibly we could do this with the first level of most progym programs as well - since often you are rewriting Fables.

Child's First Book in Latin - this one has Christian content and is a little moralistic but it is what we are going to start using during our morning time.   We have already learned short sentences like Deus est Rex and Amo Deus (which ties in with the first conjugation present tense jingles we are learning).

He also mentions Adler's Latin.  It appears that the linguist who discusses using interlinear texts above is trying to update this method and make it an interlinear experience.  The good thing about Adler's is that there is a key to the old version - which is not always the case!

Kern does not mention the Latin Primer by John Henry Allen but it is similar in nature and uses Bible stories (I found it through Don Potter's website - he has done his homework!).  It is not a word for word interlinear translation - instead it just covers "new" words in the text.

I am still don't know how you would teach kids to study the text.  Most people do suggest memorizing the declensions and basic conjugations first.  However, I can see the value of learning these quickly (like Spell to Write and Read has you learn the phonograms) and then starting to apply them in your reading.  Of course, Visual Latin does encourage you to read Lingua Latina once you get through about a third of the lessons for this exact reason.  So, more resources to add to your list.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Wednesday with Words: Lewis, nature and the imagination

Check out what others are reading at the link up at Ordo Amoris.  

This week I started a compilation of essays called The Riddle of Joy.  The essays are from a conference that focused on the lives and works of G. K. Chesterton and C.S. Lewis.   I just read my first Chesterton work, Orthodoxy (I had the free kindle edition), earlier this summer and really enjoyed it. I have only read essays by C.S. Lewis (and The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe when I was in 3rd grade). I have checked The Abolition of Man out from the library though.   The essay called "Some Personal Angles on Chesterton and Lewis" by Christopher Derrick, is his reflections about both men, you see, he knew both of them, in fact, he was a student of Lewis's.  This is one comparison he makes about them. 

Both were prolific and best selling writers, in prose and in verse, equally at home in dialectic and in fantasy; each combined a powerful rationalism of the intellect with an equally powerful creative imagination, a visual imagination in particular.  In Lewis, this seems to have been related to his lifelong passion for countryside and walking, and it operated realistically, even when he had invented the landscapes in question.  (bold mine)

From there the essayist discusses the sense of place in Lewis's science fiction trilogy and the Great Divorce.  He then asserts that Chesterton's imagination of place comes from a different source because "it's entirely absurd to imagine him striding off across the hills and fields and valleys, after the style of Lewis and his friends or of Belloc."

Wait, Lewis didn't become a great writer by cranking out descriptions of his bedroom and the street where he lives?  My introduction to descriptive writing was in preparation for the 4th grade state test. We described all kinds of mundane things and learned how to point the reader around the scene and other such techniques.  My teacher literally let out a yelp of excitement when she saw that our essay topic was a description - we all knew how to do that well.  Maybe my view of descriptive writing would have been better informed by Charlotte Mason's methods.

Today my oldest turns 7 and I have been thinking about CM's list of attainments for a child of age 6. She includes "to be able to describe 3 walks and 3 views."  Honestly, I couldn't think of one view that I could describe; were you supposed to know a place that well?  In her first book, Ms. Mason directs parents in helping children to observe when they are outside.  She wants them to take mental pictures and focus on learning to see.

The same set of skills are called upon in Mason's approach to picture study.  Here, students take time to study a piece of artwork and then describe it in their own words.  Again, this teaches description, but as a way of appreciation and learning the piece of artwork.  It is not just another "writing format" to be learned.

Although I have not been diligent in asking my children to describe views on our walks (the last walk ended with my middle child presenting a full body rash that lasted two days), this quote provides me with great encouragement.  So, although CM does not provide a check box that says "teach descriptive writing" her method apparently worked in forming Lewis's imagination.  That is enough of an endorsement for me.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Bright Spot Challenge - Week 2 - Getting out the door

Welcome to week 2 (the challenge begins here)!  One of my favorite stories from Switch by Chip and Dan Heath is about fighting malnutrition in Vietnam.  Apparently, one aid worker was given 6 months to make some noticeable change in this huge problem - or else.  So, he decide to find the healthiest children - by height and weight - in the villages he was assigned to work with.  He then spoke with their parents to determine what they did differently with their children - everyone in the village had just about the same resources.  He found these families employed two key changes:

1.  They fed their young children four times a day (smaller amounts) instead of the traditional twice a day. The child didn't receive more food - just smaller portions spread throughout the day.

2.  They included foods not typically considered culturally appropriate for young children - sweet potato pieces and bits of fish.  These were common in adult food but not fed to children.

Well, he saw that these were small changes that all families in the community could make.  Finding and replicating the bright spots made a huge difference.  It's amazing what these two small things did to transform a community and ultimately save lives. Read the book to find out just what a dramatic change it made and what they did to help parents fight malnutrition.

Week 2 - Bright Spot Challenge - Getting out the door

Our family is a little crazy this week as we celebrate two birthdays (and the arrival of our new niece) while also starting our second coop.  So, as fall really gets under way we will have more late nights and early mornings than our laid back summer schedule did.  So today I challenge you to think about the bright spots involved in getting everyone out the door.  Honestly, this causes a LOT of tension in many households.  It impacts the atmosphere and culture of your home.  The clock ticks; you have deadlines; the sock remains missing; anger mounts.  Now, stop, breathe and for a moment, think about what is going well as you head out the door - even if it seems small.  How can that bright spot be used to encourage other changes in your "out the door" routine?

I can think of two things that have helped us.

1.  My husband's wish - a place for keys and wallets/ purses (apparently he lost his wallet for about a week in college behind a dresser).  After many years of marriage he has convinced me to follow his lead.  Although I don't always put them where they belong, I have gotten much better over the past few weeks (now that we put up the hanging rack that sat on the floor for quite a few months - I digress).

2.  My husband and sons unloading the dishwasher.  This is one less task for me in the morning and I really appreciate it.  I like to get the morning dishes out of the sink before we leave.

Again, think of small things that help you get out the door more easily - whether it's morning routine or weekend outings.  Feel free to share so that we can learn from each others small victories!  Maybe there is a routine or habit you have heard is a good idea - why not try it out this week and see if it works for you.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Weekly Resource - Language Lessons Through Literature

Language Lessons Through Literature is a labor of love by a homeschooling mom.   I have used the first level and am now working through the second level.  It is a great combination of Charlotte Mason and the classical approach.

Each lesson, at the early levels, includes an Aesop's fable, a poem, a chapter of a good read aloud book and copywork.  The copywork is from the chapter read and each week she adds additional copywork through maxims, Bible verses and poetry.  In alternate weeks, she includes an artist study or narration exercise (of the fable).   In year 2, students begin to memorize definitions for and identify parts of speech from sentences in the book they are reading.  She includes 108 lessons each year - so 3 lessons a week for a 36 week school year.  Her approach is slow but steady.  Even my 3yo is memorizing the parts of speech with us (he seems to like adjectives best).

She recently completed level 3 and I plan to use that next year.  It will introduce sentence diagramming by having students complete charts and will introduce more complicated grammar usages, using a dictionary and some studied dictation.  At this point, she intends to create a series that will go through high school.  For composition she intends to loosely follow the steps of the progymnasmata.  Each student should keep their own "spelling journal" which uses the phonograms and rules from Spell to Write and Read and serves as a more relevant spelling list.  (this information is from a personal communication with the author)

The workbooks are worth the time that they save.  Although all of the information for them is included in the lesson itself, it is worth it to not have to prepare the copywork for your student (she also has it available in 5 fonts for one price!).

The price is truly affordable - especially for a curriculum that is nonconsumable and whose books are in the public domain (aka free).   You can buy a paperback book.  I have gotten the PDFs so you can either print it out or read it off the screen.  Obviously you would print out the workbooks!  The only thing this curriculum doesn't do is teach students how to read.  It certainly encourages a love of reading though! :)   For the price, parents might even want to buy it for use over the summer as a gentle way to help students remember what they have learned, practice their handwriting and listen to good literature regularly.  It is sold through Lulu Publishing.  If you can wait they do have 20% off sales a few times a year.

I am so glad that we found this little gem and we plan to follow it through to the end!

Update 3/23/14 - I have now reviewed her new reading program.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Tip Time - CC Cycle 2, Week 2

Some quick thoughts about resources for learning this week's material.

History Sentence 

A recently republished book called Kings and Queens by Eleanor Farjeon has fun one page rhymes (with an illustration on the facing page) for each of the monarchs of England; beginning with William the Conqueror.  If you are local, our library has a bunch of copies.  There is another book called Heroes and Heroines which includes more United States history (maybe next year!).

We actually found this book as we were listening through librivox to Our Island Story by H.E. Marshall (as recommended by Ambleside Online).  The story of William the Conqueror is track 26.  We liked hearing the full story from Marshall and then hearing the poem that summed it up nicely.

There is a piece of art called the Bayeux Tapestry which records the story of William the Conqueror. There are two ways you might want to view it.  The first is through this animated video of the Tapestry which starts in the middle of the story.  You can also use this site where it is explained scene by scene (it hints at some sexual indiscretion at one point - this one has covered up the 'offending' parts, it draws on a replica from the Victorian era).   This site answers more "technical questions" like who made it and why. It also has a table that outlines the scenes on the tapestry (which is actually embroidery according to this website).


Montessori grammar symbols might be a way to cement those 8 parts of speech.  If you want some thoughts on how to actually present the symbols here is a great guide - she discusses why nouns are triangles and verbs are circles, etc.  Yet another way to help kids get form and function of an abstract concept.  If you want to make a set of symbols you might want to cut them out of appropriate colored felt or foam - of course you can always print and laminate as well.

Often once they learn the forms they use them to mark sentences (much like you might circle the nouns blue and the verbs read on your copywork).   Sentences that might work for this can come from grammar books, KISS grammar or your own copywork.

You can also use the symbols to teach sentence patterns.  Which, I understand is a big part of IEW writing.  You might want to just create your own sentence strips with the grammar symbols that replicate the primary sentence structures or here.  Students can analyze a sentence and then attempt to create sentences that correspond to a pattern. With symbols it cuts down on the words.  I am also thinking about how this might be able to translate into Latin studies at some point.


If you want examples of what a math recitation might have looked like in yesteryear try out Ray's Primary Arithmetic (multiplication starts on pg. 41).  Plenty of simple, read aloud word problems for kids to work with.  In fact, most older elementary math books methodically went through teaching how to you add, subtract, multiply and divide each number up to 20.  Everyday Number Stories is another example. Emma Serl, of Primary Language Lessons fame, helped to write this book.  Another plus of older books is their focus on measurements like pints and quarts early on.


I wanted to link to a mom who has outlined how Montessori cards correspond with the science lessons for this year's cycle.   This is one way to quickly help kids "see" what they are learning.  They aren't free but very reasonably priced and bought as PDF's to download and use as you desire.

Have fun working through this week's material.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Reconciling my Montessori past with a Classical future

I am actually a part of two coops.  Yes, I am insane - this is the expression of my honey bee, extrovert personality.  This is my first year with Classical Conversations, in part, to find other people interested in Classical education.  The second coop focuses on art, music and Montessori.  I started it in my home 6 years ago (yes my oldest had just turned 1).  One of my friends was crazy enough to buy the materials so that I could try Montessori on their kids.  I took two years off of the coop (it continued without me), one to have a baby and one year I was an assistant at a new Christian Montessori School (now closed, they are starting a mission school in El Salvador - I have their elementary library let me know if you want to buy some books). We were there 8 to 1 pm, 5 days a week.  We have been back at coop for the past three years. 

I finally had my "aha" moment about Montessori last year.  

The Good 

First, it teaches skills well.  In fact, it does this better than any other curriculum.   Today, as I was getting ready for coop #2 I realized that it follows the model that Andrew Kern discusses in his talk "Assessment that Blesses" to a tee!  

First you imitate the master.  The teacher presents the material to a student individually or in a small group exactly the way that it should be done.  Then the child works with it - once, for an hour, for months; whatever amount of time it takes for them to internalize the lesson.  This ability to let children to move at their own pace is one of the amazing things about Montessori.  Once you reach that milestone the teacher introduces the next step in the progression.  Eventually, step by step, you master skill based areas - mathematics, grammar, etc.  

In fact, a student can just look around the room and get an idea of what he will learn over the course of the next six years. Motivation is built in because you see the goal and know the next steps.  In the multiaged classroom you are constantly exposed to the next level and reviewing previous levels as you help younger students.  It truly is genius. Teacher training is the key to success here.  Teachers spend years developing their understanding of the progression of lessons and their ability to evaluate students and move them along in the progression.  It is academic coaching at its best!  

If the heart of education is teaching skills then this is the way to go. 

However, education is not about skill building - education is about soul shaping. 

I now desire my education to look more Classical, more like this: 
EDUCATION is the cultivation of wisdom and virtue by nourishing the soul on truth, goodness, and beauty.  It should be distinguished from training (for a career), which is of eternal value but is not the same thing as education.  Circe Institute 
The Bad (in my estimation)

I wondered why this program could cross borders so easily.  You see, Montessori does have a few great lessons that frame the elementary years.  Although Montessori was Catholic and probably pretty faithful, her education system does not require a certain story or perspective on life to be effective.  Her "soul shaping" great lessons are so universal and general that you can overlay your own philosophy or creed and get one of the best skill building frameworks - ever!    

This is most evident in her curriculum design.  There are 5 areas of study: practical life, sensorial, language, math and cultural (art, music, science and geography).  She does not outline stories to read and her history curriculum is the great lessons mentioned above (she had the original social studies).  In the most blatant terms - she doesn't even aim at teaching wisdom and virtue.  Although she is strong on aesthetics there isn't any ultimate truth that she points towards.  The soul shaping stories that the children hear are left completely to the discretion of the teacher and the school.  Although, as we'll see, she did have some thoughts about the type of stories children should hear.   

I often got frustrated at the school because on the rare occasions when we read aloud to children it was mostly non fiction books.  I constantly wondered how children were introduced to the ideas of love, jealousy, faithfulness, greed, etc.  They never really heard stories that dealt with these issues. Montessori focused on the reality of life. She had strong feelings about fantasy and fairy tales.  She basically said they were inappropriate for children.  For a while I could see her point, but I still read Peter Rabbit and St. George and the Dragon to my kids.  I'm glad I did. 

I understand the concern about kids not understanding fantasy and reality - but now, after reading books like Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child by Esolen, and trusting in quotes like these: 

"Since it is so likely that (children) will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage. Otherwise you are making their destiny not brighter but darker.” -C.S. Lewis
Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed.  G.K. Chesterton 

and from one of my favorite bloggers:

Music is for listening. Art is for seeing. Poetry is for loving. History is for tethering. Stories are for virtue. Let's not make this harder than it has to be.

"Stories are for virtue."  Virtue is key to soul shaping.  Virtue is "moral goodness; the practice of moral duties and the abstaining from vice, or a conformity of life and conversation to the moral law. “ (1828 dictionary)   If stories are not a critical and clearly outlined element of your educational curriculum; you are leaving it open to chance, whim or intentional design by the individual user.  

Montessori wanted her children grounded in reality and she is often discredited for this reason.  However, it is not just that they don't engage in fantasy play.  It goes beyond that. They aren't even introduced to fantasy story.  Truly, this might be okay if parents rebel and don't follow this creed at home.  But, without a good story how do you learn about heroes? Where do you overcome villains?  Maybe through history?  But that is also missing from her core curriculum. 

Montessori focuses on culture studies and geography - you don't learn the history of your nation or people as a part of the curriculum.  Of course you can add it - if you like - how you like.  If history is for tethering - giving you a sense of rootedness and connection - here it is totally open to interpretation.  

So the two key parts of a curriculum that are truly soul shaping are not outlined specifically in Montessori training.  In some ways, this is genius because anybody can add what they like with an excellent core in skill building.  In some ways it leaves the “real education” the “soul shaping” up to the discretion and beliefs of the teacher and school – often without parents realizing it.

My Personal Conclusion

For me,  Montessori will always provide excellent tools for skill building - especially in math and grammar.  Truly, it is amazing!  But for forming a soul, a full education, it is lacking.  Honestly, in many ways, true Montessori kids are more open to suggestion because they lack the sense of direction and rootedness that story and history provide (if teachers strictly follow Montessori teachings). Of course, probably not more so than public school children.  At least Montessori kids have skills!  

I will discuss Montessori materials often, but I can't adhere to a Montessori philosophy.  I use the tools and the progression of skills because they are excellent.  Plus, I am still part of a coop where LOTS of the materials are available to my family.   At coop, I know what philosophy people believe and how it influences their teaching.  

In the end, soul shaping will happen.  That's why I don't think Christian Montessori is necessarily an oxymoron (which some believe) - but it isn't a given, just because of the founders' faith.  I intend to be intentional in the stories I read and history I tell.  I want my sons learning lessons in virtue and rootedness that will serve them well.  This is also why many curricula are a list of books and Montessori provides a room full of materials.  Heart versus skill. 

Tip Time - CC Cycle 1, Week 1

Well this year we decided to try Classical Conversations.  It is going much better (the whole one week we've been) then I thought it would.  I will talk more about the program in another post. I appreciate having some factual knowledge for my kids to chew on.  At times I still am concerned about memorizing without context but then I realize that our memory works on pegs and we are putting pegs in there.  I will approach math differently because I think you really need to SEE it when they are young.   I also enjoy it because it means that I can do what I really enjoy with my kids - reading aloud!

Here are some resources/ tips for this week:

Charlemagne - He is the topic of the history sentence this week.  If you want a good overview of his life with stories your kids will remember read the section of this paper called The Influence of the Monks - he is the topic of the last three paragraphs.  If you don't know much about the monks you must learn more about how they basically saved ancient culture.  I have been re-educating myself (one of the great things about homeschooling) about this topic - fascinating!

Multiplication Copywork - This is one thing I am very concerned about not just memorizing.  I really need them to "get" math.  Here is a free copywork for multiplication.  Check out the great circle at the bottom for quick review!

Mad Libs - Right now my 3yo is begging/whining to do one - at 7:15 am.  He thinks they are very fun. It is a great way to practice parts of speech.  Of course this week we just covered the categories - but if you talk a little bit about them they can do them.  I picked up some Star Wars themed ones at the sale out Old Navy this weekend - very random.

Continent Maps - If you haven't heard about blob maps and how to work towards the goal of having your child be able to "draw the world" by the time they complete 9th grade you must check it out.   Honestly, if you haven't seen the Half-a- Hundred Acre Wood website you should stop reading here and go there for a TON of great resources.

So, those are a couple of things worth checking out.  I do intend to try and post this earlier in the week in the future!  :)

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Found it - Overview of Church History!

I have wanted a good overview of church history for quite a while.  I was a European history major in college but I have spent quite a bit of  energy trying to balance out what I learned from those classes. Enter Stratford Caldecott's "Outline of the History of Christian Europe to 1850".  WOW!  It is what I have been looking for.  I was tempted to outline the whole article but I restrained myself.  

Here are a few highlights:
This eternal newness, like a spring of fresh water coming from the presence of Christ, is something that every generation of Christians has to rediscover for itself.  Every Christian culture will fail and fall but the Church renews herself like the Phoenix, and with her, a new civilization arises that is different from the old, yet inspired by the same truth.
(found this "newness" of Christianity interesting in light of Ken Myers' lecture about our cultural craving for the new and the cool).

Concerning monasticism:
The Rule of St. Benedict was, and still is, a very sane and balanced document.  It rejected the extremes of asceticism, linked prayer to manual labor (ora et labora), enjoined hospitality and care of the poor, encouraged learning, and emphasized stability in one place.
He later provides an overview of Franscican monks:
The ideals of his fraternity were founded on those of romantic chivalry rather than those of Benedictine Monasticism.  It was to be an order of spiritual knighthood, dedicated to the service of the cross and the love of Lady Poverty. . . Thus the courtly ideals of courtesy, joy, generosity and romantic love found a new religious application of which the life of St. Francis himself was the perfect manifestiation.  quoted from Dawson's Medieval Essays

In talking about the guilds of this period he references Russell Sparkes who asserts

[The guilds] were the means whereby a society for two centuries was based on social justice and the ethical teaching of the Church.   Second, as a consequence . . . ordinary men had a level of prosperity that they did not see again for four centuries, until the post 1945 Welfare State and the rapid economic growth that followed. 
As he enters into the Renaissance he claims 
An interesting case could be made for tracing the Renaissance and the civilization that followed it to the inspiration provided by St. Francis of Assisi.  Dante, Leonardo and Columbus were all Franciscans.  
I was also reading the SCL's notes about math instruction and found this insight interesting. 
first in its attention to nature, and then in its sense of the world's radical dependence on God.  But another ingredient was necessary, and that was the application of mathematics to the investigation of nature. As commentary he adds
By applying mathematics to the design and analysis of experiments, as scientist could probe beneath the surface of reality and unlock the secrets of nature's power. This was what the magicians had always craved and now at last science had begun to deliver the goods. 
With the application of mathematics, 'universals' had in fact returned through the back door - now they were safely separated from theology. 
Now add that to a conversation about math in a high school or college class!  

As he enters into the Reformation my favorite line of the whole work appears: 
Because of our English genius for compromise, what we ended up with was an attempt to be neither one thing nor the other: namely the Church of England. 
He does finish off discussing the Industrial Revolution and how these conditions formed the Church's (meaning Catholic) teaching on social justice.  He discusses the French Revolution and finishes with some thoughts about the dictatorships of the 20th century.  

Once again this made we want to learn more about monasticism and the medieval period in general.  I have already checked out Chesterton's book on St. Thomas Aquinas to get started.