Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Weds. with Words The Liberal Arts Tradition - Math

I raced through The Liberal Arts Tradition because it was so interesting and answered many questions that I have about how to approach the disciplines more classically.  One of the primary lessons for me was how differently they viewed math.  The overview of the history of math was quick and inviting.
In Book VII of the Republic, when he introduces the central place of the Quadrivium in his educational program, he [Plato] tells Glaucon that the students must not pursue it with an eye toward useful business as shopkeepers do.  
In fact, before the seventeenth century, scholars did not consider mathematics as widely applicable to the real world at all.  
Thus the original role of the Quadrivium, to lead the mind to the realm of eternal and unchanging truths, was eventually displaced by the amazing power of mathematics to describe the physical world.  A traditional liberal arts education should encompass both of these perspectives: the useful and the formative. 
Below is a good reminder, for all subjects:
Students who encounter mathematics with wonder are far more likely to commit to the rigors of its work. 

Here is a whole new way to think about the implications of geometry:
In fact, the story of modernity has at times been told as the rise and fall of the geometric paradigm. 
From there he goes into the history of Euclid's Elements and why it is such a crucial text, greatly influencing Descartes and philosophers after him.
So, for those searching for a classical liberal arts paradigm for the study and teaching of geometry, the answer is found in a return to Euclid.  
While Euclid's Elements has a total of thirteen books, a normal high school geometry class will usually cover only material from books I-IV and VI, representing under 100 propositions.  
I was a little shocked to read this:
Because historically geometry provided the foundation for the very concept of proof in mathematics, and because its constructions make it a more concrete subject, it should be placed as the next subject in mathematics after elementary arithmetic.  (Yes, before algebra 1).
The answer regarding how to cover algebra and calculus is also unexpected:
This is not a call to jettison the integrated corpus of material called algebra or calculus; it is instead a call to resituate them in a more connected context by exploring how they grew out of the study of discrete arithmetic or continuous geometry.  
Cleaving to the traditional distinction between arithmetic and geometry, the difference between discrete quantity and continuous magnitude will indeed lead to wonder, wisdom, and worship.  
With quotes it is difficult to go into the deeper philosophical discussion around the idea of the one and the many that is essential to the development of math and geometry and ties into the contributions of Christian thought to mathematics.  So, I encourage you to read the book to get the sense of wonder, rich history and essential questions in math. You can also see the outline of how the author's school introduces math and science here (pp 13 - 15).

I might try to summarize the science but you start getting into really deep waters there!

See what others are reading at Ordo Amoris.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

DTK - End of Chapter 3

Desiring the Kingdom Book Club

We are continuing on in Desiring the Kingdom and discussing it with other mom's at Simply Convivial.  As we end this chapter and section of the book James gives us a glimmer of hope and then once again chastises us for our grave misunderstandings.

The Hope

James focuses on the fact that "these secular liturgies with their misdirected desires, are a witness to the desire for God."   We have a desire to love and worship and all attempts to fulfill that desire that aren't pointed towards God expose our brokenness and need.  I am trying to think of who it was that said that every man who walks into a bar is looking for Jesus, for this same reason.  I thought it might be Booth or Lewis but can't find confirmation of that.  This is the general idea of what James is saying - our misguided loves point to something that is essential in who we are.  We all desire a love that will not let us go and never fail us.  
Calvin seems to suggest that, in a strange way, such idolatries give us something to work with, something to build on, a point of contact for articulating the gospel.  
I think this might be the most helpful portion of the book so far.  As I read this section I realized that it highlights another difficulty with his tone.  For this one part he gets rid of the "us and them" feeling that runs throughout this book.  He finally discusses the fact that we are all searching and some of us have found it in Christ and some are still searching.  I realize that the premise of the book is that we need to create a culture that is more attractive than secular culture  However, seeing the rest of culture as our enemy makes it difficult to love them.  I think it is more helpful to see us all as broken and in need of a savior.

Another Approach to Culture Development

I have also been reading Michael Frost, a missions guy from Australia (not your typical reformed fare but though provoking).  Honestly he answers the questions I still have about creating a compelling culture better than I think James will be able to do so (although he does have a few chapters left and maybe 2 more books).  Mystie posted a link to this idea of focusing on process instead of goals and that is what Frost's BELLS idea does.  He encourages creating a culture that announces the rule and reign of Christ (his definition of missions) and engages the world around us by practicing the following behaviors weekly and being held accountable by others who are trying to do the same.

Key word - virtue it develops - activity to engage in

Bless - generosity - bless three people this week (words of encouragement, service, gifts), including one person who is not a part of your church/ Christian friends
Eat - hospitality - eat with three people this week, one person not a part of your church/ Christian friends
Listen - Spirit Led - spend time reading God's word and listen for how he is speaking to you through it.
Learn - Christlike - study the Gospels and "learn Jesus" - apparently this is a phrase from the early church, much like put on Christ
Sent - missionary - see yourself as one sent into your community to proclaim the universal reign of God through Christ - keep a journal of the times you have done that this week (could include acts above)

Basically, he is of the same mind as James about habits creating who we are and changing our thinking.  He is encouraging the development of these habits that may start thin but become thick.  The free ebook expands the ideas and gives scriptures and examples, but the audio covers much of the same territory.  He discusses how the culture of early Christianity was outdoing Roman culture in love and care and the Emperors got mad.  Now that is a counter culture that is making a difference.  Frost calls it living "questionable lives"; lives that make people ask why are you so different? - in a way that is attractive and inviting.  Remember the verse about being prepared in season and out of season to give an answer for the hope that you have - that's what Frost is encouraging.  Maybe, James will touch on this - but I am not convinced.

Okay, back to James.

The Chastisement

The pull out section on Orwell's 1984 starts by reminding us, again, that we are misguided in our attempts to fight the culture wars.  Either Christian's don't see the threat or they respond incorrectly to it - focusing on the mind, instead of the heart.  I hope he stops beating this drum soon. I am not sure how this introduction connects with the rest of the section either.  He uses an illustration from 1984, which I vaguely remember reading.  James discusses how the main character tries to unsuccessfully create an interior space of worship separate from the world around him.  Eventually, as pressure is applied, he does convert and his interior worship is unable to withstand the exterior pressure and he falls in love with "big brother".

I am not sure what he wants us to take away from this discussion.  From this ending it almost makes it seem that resistance is futile.  However, that's for men who live by the flesh; what about those who live by the Spirit?.  So, I think he is trying to say that in our own strength we can't separate ourselves from the overwhelming influence of the world around us. No matter how many notebooks, relationships or other interior methods we design.  This might be the set up for the amazing strength required to create something that overcomes this wave of culture.  

I guess we will learn about that overcoming approach in the next chapter.  Although I have already started adopting some of Michael Frost and it is changing the way I think and relate to others.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Weekly Resource Introduction to Classical Studies

One reason why I like the Classical approach is because it ties students to traditional history and literature. Memoria Press' Introduction to Classical Studies is a great way to do this.  It uses the Golden Children's Bible which draws from the King James Version of the Bible, Famous Men of Rome and  D'Aulaire's Book of Greek Myths as the key texts.  Although Memoria Press has now expanded their offerings, this is the original program where they recommend reading through these three books each year for three years.  The schedule recommends you read the Golden Book Bible in one year (so it is scheduled for three days a week), read one story from Famous Men of Rome and a Greek myth a week.  They also include memory verses for each week and discussion questions.  I like the format of the Introduction because it provides an outline of key ideas, terms and a reading plan.  This provides a great outline and from there I can tweak it as necessary.

I did not get the student workbook because I intend to use this during our circle time in the morning and just want my sons to narrate the stories.  I also don't intend to re-read these same texts yearly. Instead we will probably use another version of the Bible, maybe Picture Smart Bible or God's Great Covenant series from Classical Academic Press.  We might also just read another version keeping the pace they use with the Golden Book.

I will then use Famous Men of Greece and Famous Men of the Middle Ages instead of re-reading Famous Men of Rome.  My kids remember fairly well after one reading so re-reading all of these stories would probably be too redundant for them.  We will review stories from previous years though.  I did buy all of the "textbooks" recently when they were on a great sale and I am very pleased with their quality.  Easy to read type, great color pictures and stories worth remembering - what else can you ask for!

I like the idea of reviewing the stories using the pictures from D'Aulaires.  So we will probably do that and then include the literature selections from Latin Centered Curriculum which provide further background for Greek and Roman studies.  Some of the options include using Rosemary Sutcliff's books and probably Padraic Colum's work or possibly some from Alfred J. Church.

I hope that this will give them a great background in the literature and story of these cultures and a great sense of the Bible narrative.  I mostly wrote this post so that I can stop thinking about it in my head and have it written somewhere more permanent than the scraps of paper around my house!

Friday, February 21, 2014

Tip Time CC Cycle 2, Week 20

This past week my 4 yo was singing about the Korean War while my dad was here.  I think he was a little taken aback by the song.  You never know where these ideas will pop up.  Last week my older son was overjoyed that the focus was paper airplanes - one of his favorite past times.


The definition of an appositive is a little bit complicated.  Here are quite a few examples of appositives.  Basically it is when you add a definition next to the noun to help clarify what it means.  For example:

Mrs. Johnson, Billy's English teacher, said that he needed to write more neatly.


Thermodynamics - remember to tell your kiddos that thermo means heat and dynamics means movement - so we are talking about the way heat moves here.  Big word, simple idea!


There is a fun series of math books by Cindy Neuschwander that deals with math ideas.  The one we read this week is Sir Cumference and the First Round Table, there is also Sir Cumference and the Dragon of Pi (we might check this one out this week),  There are many other titles.  I don't know that I would buy the books but they are great to check out and read.   


One of the things we should make more use of in our house is our world map shower curtain.  It is really great to have a huge map that all my kids can look at easily and that they see everyday.  I think we got it at Target once upon a time and as we get into these smaller countries - they still look pretty big when the map is the size of a shower curtain.  

Have a great week.  

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Weds. with Words: Hole in Our Holiness cont'd

See what others are reading at Ordo Amoris

Our women's small group got a little derailed over the holidays so we haven't read much more of Kevin DeYoung's The Hole in Our Holiness.  I pulled some quotes from it a while back and thought I would return to it this week.  Despite the time lapse - I think my reading was at just the right time.  The chapter we read is Be Who You Are.  The theme here is that Christ in us is a reality.  It is similar to Andrew Kern's focus on the fact that we have ALL things in Christ. 

We must always remember that union with Christ is possible because of the Son's descent to earth, not because of our ascent into heaven.  The basis of our union with Christ is Christ's union with us in the incarnation.  Christian spirituality does not rest on mysticism; it rests in a Mediator.  
Holiness is not ultimately about living up to a moral standard.  It's about living in Christ and living out of our real, vital union with him. 
 If I had to summarize New Testament ethics in one sentence, here's how I would put it be who you are. .. But the "you" he's talking about is the "you" that you are by grace, not by nature. . . God doesn't say, "Relax, you were born this way."  But he does say, "Good news, you were reborn another way." 
 The Christian life still entails obedience.  It still involves a fight.  But it's a fight we will win. 
Your position, right now, objectively and factually is as a holy, beloved child of God, dead to sin, alive to righteousness, and seated in my holy heaven - now live like it." 
So go forth and live into God's promises for you this week!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

DTK: Chapter 3 part 2

Desiring the Kingdom Book Club

I did not read properly last week and covered the whole chapter instead of just the first half.  Sorry about that.  There is a lot of material and it should be broken up.  To catch up with what others are thinking head over to Simply Convivial.

Last week I said enough about the political arena so I will comment on the second half of our reading.  I am particularly interested in his treatment of the university - since I obsess about all things educational. Smith asserts

It [college] is, I suggest, after our imagination, our heart, our desire.  It wants to make us into certain kinds of people who desire a certain telos, who are primed to pursue a particular vision of the good life.  
All education does this - either implicitly or explicitly. A few weeks ago I posted about how the form of school shapes how we understand learning, families and teachers. I also love Andrew Kern's admonition that if the aim of your education isn't wisdom and virtue - then please STOP teaching.   Anything less is not good for you or the kids!

James is most familiar with the college campus and discusses these issues in that context - but really that's the end line.  The battle starts in preK and before.  This idea of the good life and shaping loves is what often, unconsciously, animates fights over

free play versus academic work,
neighborhood ball versus competitive sport, 
time in the woods versus time in front of a computer, 
reading great literature versus modern, realistic works or non fiction, 
knowing history versus learning social studies, 
Sabbath versus no Sabbath.

Frequently we look to studies to help us form our opinions about these topics - anecdotes aren't enough any longer. However, just using your common sense you can see how these choices communicate what we value, love and honor.  What does the good life include?  How accessible is this kind of life?   What value does it place on relationships? ideas? the past? our limitations?  Many parents are already thinking of college aspirations as they make educational and extra curricular choices for their 4 and 5 year olds (one friend posted as much on her daughter's acceptance to a rigorous kindergarten here in town). College is just a continuation of this theme, but out from under parental influence (as James' sidebar about I Am Charlotte Simmons clearly illustrates).    

Much effort and thought has gone into your scholarship, your high SAT scores, your well balanced resume to bring you to the university of your choice.  University truly is a finishing school in this regard.  You have already had 12 years of schooling and possibly some education that has shaped your desires and loves. Maybe this is one reason why so many people think of college as some of their best years - they spent so long preparing for it and lived it but weren't really equipped to live beyond it?  What if we focused our children's attention on raising a family as the most important thing that they will do?

This is one of the reasons we homeschool.  I need to renew my mind and help reorient myself to an eternal vision of the good life.  I know that at this point, I can't do that in the midst of pressures similar to the one's I grew up under.  It will sweep me away and my kids too.  Honestly, this book is providing some solid understanding and vocabulary around why I feel the need to create a counter culture in our home.  Not one that shies away from the world but one that clearly offers a different vision of human flourishing.  I am still working on what that really looks like but some things are allowing my kids to spend time free time with friends, making sure they have alone time to do their own thing, run outside when it's a beautiful day, see their grandparents often, read aloud every day and view academic work as a part of education (not the whole of it).  At this point my sense of home culture and Christian vision isn't strong enough to overcome the 35 hours a week plus that they would be part of another culture.  Maybe someday that will be different - but for now we are renewing and reviving.      

James is helping me to see how content is not the end of the story, form does play an important and often unrecognized role in shaping our practices.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Weekly Resource Great Books Reading List

This weekend was sweetheart weekend at Half Price Books- it was 20% off your whole purchase.  I only visited 4 of them (you can use the coupon once at each location)!  I still might take in another one tomorrow. I am a little obsessed.

I was excited to find Mortimer Adler's Great Ideas Program (I only spent about $1.25 a book) which is an expanded reading list.  I hadn't seen the series and each book looks at a theme - law, literature, theology, etc.  It's like a an annotated bibliography on steroids because with each recommended selection there is a lot of background information on the topic, author and time period as well as discussion about how the work fits into the great conversation.  Each book (there are 10 of them) is meant to take about an academic year - 15 topics with about 2 weeks for each of the readings. The literature volumes (there are 2 of them) break this pattern because they encourage you to read at your own pace.

I have been wanting to be more disciplined about actually reading these works and now I have a very clear plan for doing so.  As I said, I visited more than one store.  The next store had some of the great book volumes on clearance for $3.00 (then an additional 20% off).  I bought both Synopticons which is basically an index based on 102 of the most common themes found in the Great Books.  You can find most of this information in Adler's Great Ideas book as well.  I also picked up Euclid's Elements in the Great Book format as well.  After my recent reading I am much more encouraged to take a look at Euclid's elements. The one's I don't have - the library does.

At one point I listened to a middle school teacher talk about teaching reading to his students.  In his class he wanted to focus on thoughtful reading so he provided a reading outline (somewhat like the lists above).  Each day, students were expected to read 30 minutes a day and mark in their books and I think they had a reading journal as well.  As the students read they were asked to reflect on some of the themes outlined in the synopticon to help them focus their thoughts and ideas.  Then during class they would discuss what they had read.  I wish I could find the audio for that presentation but I am not sure where it is.  I would love to do this with a group when my kids are that age.

I also picked up a great selection of Shakespeare's Comedies, Tragedies and Histories (all 6 volumes were only $20).  I really like it because they are nicely bound and there is LOTS of white space inside so that you can actually READ the play.  This is another goal, to read more Shakespeare.

I am so excited about my finds.  The sale continues until tomorrow - if you sign up to receive their offers you can get the deal too!   So no more excuses - I now have a reading plan and the materials to carry out that plan.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Tip Time CC Cycle 2 Week 19

Last week they had to look way down the bench because of the number of families who had sick ones in our CC community and my name came up.  So, I actually ended up being the tutor in my son's class this past week.  It was a blast.  I hope that maybe the kids learned something too!  There is a good chance that I will be tutoring next year for the youngest abecedarians in our group.  It should be an adventure.

Thoughts for week 19!

   I would say that it is worthwhile (especially with older kids) to talk about the unification of Germany (and Italy really) during the mid 1800s.  We don't have a history sentence about it - but obviously the formation of Germany impacts the wars of the twentieth century.

  I realize that this is the technical definition of a gerund but the easy definition is an -ing word.  From wikipedia you can see how English and Latin relate again:

Gerund comes from the Latin gerundium, which itself derives from the gerundive of the Latin verb gero, namely gerundus, meaning "(which is) to be carried out".

So you use a gerund when you are carrying out an action.  


Although we are moving out of Newton's laws I wanted to comment that the Olympics provide lots of opportunity to talk about force, mass and acceleration - skeleton anyone?   Don't over do it - but it is a fun way to see science in action.  

Have a great week. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Weds. with Words: Gymnastics and Music

I broke down and bought a kindle version of The Liberal Arts Tradition by Kevin Clark and Ravi Jain.  I am already regretting not having a paper version because I find kindles hard to navigate - it was an impulse purchase.  I should be fighting these better than I am.

The first part of the work discusses philosophy but I have already bought into that so I skimmed it to move into the practical suggestions. The base of education for them is piety - showing honor where it is due. Then from there, in the younger grades, they talk about developing wonder especially through gymnastics and a musical education.  Both of these are defined in the classical sense - not the modern.  Thus gymnastics is about helping children use their body well and develop self control and music education is about music in the sense of the nine muses.  This focus reminds me of Beauty in the Word (if you don't have the book you can read some of his basic principles for elementary education here).

Clark and Jain quote extensively (in the footnotes or end notes - hard to tell on the kindle - they are great though and should be read) from the writings of the creators of the Integrated Humanities Project (IHP), which apparently they became acquainted with after they had written most of the book.  If you have read Poetic Knowledge then you know quite a bit about it.  In regards to gymnastic education Quinn (from IHP) says
This essential aspect of education (gymnastics), so important to the ancient Greeks, is sadly neglected today because of the exaggerated emphasis on competitive sports.
Even running has turned into a competition with many of my friends trying half marathons or more.  You can't just do something physical and good for you - it has to be a competition.  So, I have bought into this unbalanced view of a gymnastics education and need to rethink its importance.   Maybe this is why yoga appeals to people - you can't really do competitive yoga!

Musical education is not about instruments - rather it comes from the idea of the muses - poetry, history, literature and music.  One of the aims of the book is to help tie together some of the seeming disparate strains of Christian Classical Education.  Here is one of the ways they try to do this:
Imagine the possibilities of thinking of these areas of the curriculum as musical education rather than the "grammar of - ."  History would not be so many facts to memorize, however, creatively we do it, but an opportunity to use stories from the past to build up a child's moral imagination - a possibility that if followed instantly unlocks the significance of ancient historians.  Literature as musical education would resist the modern enroachment of critical reading in order to awaken the same imagination. 
This is not new, really, but it is necessary to repeat often because our modern approach so wants to analyze and dissect and claim that this is the only valid form of education.  I am now reading through the definition of liberal arts and this is one of the best explanations that I have seen.  I can see why people rave about this book.

See what others are reading at Ordo Amoris.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

DTK Chapter 3 - Cultural Liturgies

Desiring the Kingdom Book Club

We are pressing forward into Chapter 3 of Desiring the Kingdom.  If you want to hear what others are thinking check out the posts at Simply Convivial.

Well this chapter is designed to push buttons - he says as much multiple times.  He did push some of mine. In this chapter he looks at secular liturgies to help unveil their implicit but often unseen messages:

It is primarily this educative (i.e. formative) aspect of secular liturgies that concerns us here, precisely because so often the telos implicit in these pedagogies is antithetical to the Biblical vision of the kingdom of God. 

He explores the mall (consumerism), the "military-entertainment complex" and the university as secular liturgies.


His exploration of consumerism is detailed but not new.  This "underbelly" of consumerism has been discussed in many contexts - how it brings out our lack but fails to ultimately fulfill, how it requires a spend and throw away culture, how it uses others and creates comparisons and divisions. It is nice to have a neat and tidy argument though. I have been reading more about the simplify movement and I would say that it tries to help people stop the hamster wheel of consumption and set up a different way of living.  I am still trying to dismount the hamster wheel (sometimes).

Military- Entertainment Complex

The next area he tackles is a combination that I have never heard before - the military-entertainment complex.  Here, is where I know he has received a lot of criticism.  In this section he focuses on how formative practices like the pledge of allegiance and the singing of the national anthem at sports events and the portrayal of war in movies draws us into worship of the state.  Although he does mention that these are not state sponsored activities (unlike some other nations - did you watch Russia's Olympic opening?), he claims that they still call us to an allegiance that is not true to the vision of the church.

Honestly, I have my issues with his assessment, but it did help me to better understand some of my friend's thinking on the issue of the state.  I do think that the relationship of the Christian to the state is changing in our time as the state pursues policies that are clearly set against Christian teachings.  We did live in a country that was primarily founded on Judeo- Christian beliefs and I think we are living the unraveling of that foundation. That is not the argument he is making, but I think it is what will help more Christians separate being a citizen of the United States from being a Christian.  I think his opinion is probably that we never live up to the phrase "justice for all" and are foolish to believe that we have.  I think striving for a national ideal, albeit imperfect, is worth calling people into.

He claims that there is a "long legacy of Christians not identifying with any fatherland other than Christ." I was a little surprised by this argument.  We are a people created for a place and some of the oldest works (think The Odyssey) are about fighting for the homeland and wanting to return home.  This is a secular example; but, doesn't God promise a physical space to the Israelites and didn't they fight for it?  I understand that the nation state, as such, is a newer idea - but the idea of being tied to a homeland and a place is an OLD thought.   Part of being embodied is having a home.

I was also a little surprised by his attack on the military because defending the state is one of the items explicitly outlined in scripture for a king or by extension government to do.  I don't think that loving your country is by definition set against loving God, as he seems to want to argue.  It also made me think of Bonhoeffer, who returned to his home country because of his ties to the people and his love of Christ.  Love of Christ being first.  I am a little surprised at how black and white he makes this section when he seems to nuance so many other things.  Maybe it is for effect and to jolt us out of our typical patterns.


The third area he explores is the university.  I am a little surprised that he didn't talk more about it's history since it used to be a sacred liturgy - theology was the primary study of universities at one point - thus "uni".  I greatly enjoyed learning more about the university while reading Russell Kirk's Roots of American Order.  I do believe that his analysis of "freshman week" is appropriate.  One of the large state universities near us is famous for their "fish week".  In college, the campus ministry that I was a part of basically tried to counter what frats and others offered with six weeks of alternative activities.  It was very effective and I was glad for it.  The university I attended intentionally tried to develop community in its dorms so you were required to live on campus for 3 years (we had relatively wonderful housing as a result).  I don't think that anyone is unaware of the role that relationships and experiences - outside the classroom - play in college.  I think that's one of the items that makes online universities struggle because it is hard to recreate that sense of community. This is also why college hunting is so important to people.

I do believe that college will significantly change in the next 15 years.  I still might seek out some type of formative community experience for my children at that age though (Mandala or Rivendell Community, I am sure there are more and it is an area that should be explored further).  The Christian community I developed at my basically secular college has meant so much to me.  There is a reason campus ministry makes a huge difference.  Have you ever attended Urbana, the missions conference that Intervarsity puts on every three years?   Literally thousands of young people being challenged to think about world missions and the role they might play.

The denomination that we are a part of is BRILLIANT in this regard.  They are the only denomination, that I know of, that intentionally sponsors campus ministry as an outreach from their national office.  During these formative years they create a national network of young people grounded in fellowship and truth through conferences and shared experiences (like other college ministries).  The difference is because the ministry is tied to a specific local church the college students engage in the life of the WHOLE body. We have 4 students that currently help us teach the 2 yos and it is a win for everyone!  When they leave college they know that they are part of a larger body and have been engaged in that throughout college - not separated off somewhere.  They also have friends around the country who are part of that fellowship and wherever they move they might have a local church that they can attend and find a friend.

I do think that his analysis is stretching and it made me ponder a few things in a different light.  He is an academic which makes his writing style much less approachable.  You can't just hand off this chapter to a friend and look for conversation - for most people you would have to help translate what he is saying.  Thus the need for multiple chapters before he gets to the point.

In the next few chapters he says we are going to observe our own liturgies as a church.  I am looking forward to this.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Weekly Resource Paradigm Shift for Curriculum

Well, this is supposed to be a sabbath week at our house.  I am looking forward to it.  My oldest is going to the rodeo with dad and at the end of the week we have a Valentine's Day party.  Last week was pretty fun though - spending one night at a grandma's house and a day and half with the other grandma isn't too shabby. We are so blessed to have our grandparents near by.

I am trying to be mindful of incorporating all of the non-curriculum items into our day - the real life things. So, this post from the blogger Amongst Lovely Things was timely.  I am trying to live into the reasons we are homeschooling and curriculum choices are the simplest part.  It's the day to day living and forming of hearts and directing passions that really overwhelms me.  That's just my own - forget three boys!

I am also thinking about repentance - pretty much constantly.  On occasion I am actually doing it!  I really enjoyed Mystie's post about it last week.  I did watch large chunks of the IF gathering this weekend.  One of the main themes was Jesus' call to repent and believe.  If we really did that how would we live differently?  If we called and allowed others to do the same, what would that look like?  I am still thinking about what I heard (I didn't take notes; I was cleaning frog cages and other exciting things).

So food for thought for the week.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Tip Time CC Cycle 2, Week 18


This week has two of the most influential documents on philosophy and thought - the Communist Manifest (1848) and The Origin of the Species (1859).  Both of these documents have been used in and out of context to support a number of different philosophies, social movements and wide reaching changes.  I don't know how much you really want to get into these works with your children at this stage - but just recognize that they greatly shape the thoughts of nations and men in the years to come.


Prior to starting studying Latin I could not have answered this question if I was asked it.  Now, I realize just how essential knowing these five types are if you are going to learn Latin.  If you've worked through Cycle 1 you know what I mean.  I am a little surprised that these are not in the order that they are normally found in Latin text books.  That order is listed below.  However, just being aware that nouns can play these five roles will go a long way to helping kids understand noun declensions in Latin.

Instead of changing position in the sentence or using apostrophes - remember in Latin you change the ending. That is what declensions are, the changing of the ending to indicate the role of the noun in the sentence. Just remember that Latin does not have a, an or the - so that is an English adaptation.  If boy is the subject this is how declensions work:

Subject - Nominative - the boy
Possessive - Genitive - of the boy or the boy's
Indirect Object - Dative - to or for the boy
Direct Object - Accusative - the boy
Object of a Preposition - Ablative - by, with, from the boy often used with prepositions (but some use the Accusative)

Have a great week.  I think it is supposed to warm up - we'll see.  Today was gorgeous here.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Interruptions or real life?

I read Blessings of a Life Interrupted last week and it has stuck with me.  Her discussion of a childhood in school, isolated from the ups and downs of life, really struck me.  It is so true.  School gave me an unrealistic picture of life.  She talks about big life changes, but I also think about the little things - the grocery store, cleaning the house, preparing dinner.  All of these things happened around me - but I either didn't see them happen (because I was in school) or helping with them was somewhat optional.  I was always at school or doing homework or in some activity that was deemed more important than these life sustaining activities.   My parents actually battled over this choice - often - but in the end, school and activities were deemed more important.  (One line of thinking is that this was our job and it could get us scholarships - well that did work out - especially for my brother).

Fast forward about 20 years and now that my whole life revolves around these thing - I am a little overwhelmed.  I was shielded from them in my youth because they were "less important" but now they are my main job! Talk about a change of perspective.

Since we homeschool there is no sheltering for my kids in this sense.  They go the grocery store (people always comment how brave I am to take them there).  They see me cook most evenings.  They help me clean, although I am still figuring this one out for myself.  In part, because I still see reading as more important than sweeping the kitchen floor or folding clothes.  My kids are around the real life stuff we have to do and I need to be better about making sure they are not just observers but active participants.

I also resonated deeply with this thought:
And then it hit me. I wasn’t managing to teach my kids in spite of life’s interruptions; I was teaching them something far more valuable. I was teaching them how to live life. Real life. The life that is messy and is filled with unexpected difficulties. Not the “real life” that only exists on paper and in my imagination. The real life that I never experienced as a child and was completely unprepared to encounter as an adult. 
We have been reading Desiring the Kingdom for book club  and talking about habits and how they form us.  Take a minute to think about what the form of school (home, private, public or otherwise) says to children about:  

  • knowledge and wisdom? (Where we get it? How we learn it? Who has it? What is worth knowing?)
  • home? (how it fits into the scheme of things? what you should learn there?)
  • friends?  (where we find them? how we relate to them? why we form friendships with them? how we deal with them during recess/ at the park?)
  • priorities? (time? talent? treasure?) 
  • parents? (authority? type of subjects they know about?) 
  • siblings (relationships with them?) 
  • school? (where it happens? it's value? who we learn with? who we learn from?) 
  • play? (time for it? who you do it with?)

My family probably went to one extreme by putting school as the middle of all things. But I don't think it is too rare for us to put kids' school work and activities above the "every day" tasks.  Likewise, when the big events happen - instead of taking time to mourn or rejoice or even deal with it as a family - we often take as few days off of school as possible.   At least our family did.

I do realize that in some ways going to school is like going to a job.  There is some value in that analogy. But I am not convinced that having a job should be the most defining characteristic of our kids.  I also wonder if we start instilling - through unexpected habits - workaholism, performance based achievement and other similar issues because of the way we deal with school.

If one of our primary goals is for our kids to leave and cleave; they will have to shoulder the every day tasks and deal with unexpected interruptions with someone else right beside them (and maybe many little eyes watching them).  Are we equipping them?

Weds. with Words: Uncommon thoughts about reading

I ran across an interesting reflection on reading (p. 61 - 67) and great authors called The Five Indispensable Authors by James Russell Lowell. It is a short piece, less than 10 minutes read aloud.  However, it packs quite a punch.  Here are some quotes:

By putting a library within the power of everyone, it has taught men to depend on shelves instead of on their brains; it has supplanted a strenuous habit of thinking with a loose indolence of reading which relaxes the muscular fiber of the mind.  When men had few books they mastered those few; but now the multitude of books lord it over the man.  
The problem for the scholar formerly was how acquire get books, for us it is how to get rid of them.  Instead of gathering we must sift. 
In certain respects the years do our weeding for us [of books].  In our youth we admire the verses which answer our mood; as we grow older we like those better which speak to our experience; at last we come to look only upon that as poetry appeals to that original nature in us which is deeper than all moods and wiser than all experience.  Before a man is forty he has broken many idols, and the milestones of his intellectual progress are the gravestones of dead and buried enthusiasms of his dethroned gods. 

His description of why he chooses Homer, Dante, Cervantes and Goethe are interesting.  He also explains why he considers Shakespeare great, but in a different category.  It's a quick read or listen and bolsters the reasoning behind reading the classics to shape a soul and connect with those who have come before.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

DTK - Chapter 2 - Thumos - Understanding Men's Passion

Desiring the Kingdom Book Club

We are five weeks in and have made it to chapter 2 of Desiring the Kingdom in our book club.  I think we are ALMOST out of the definition stage.  Although when I went to get the amazon link I was reminded that book two in the series is about how worship works - so this book might be mostly definition.  See what others have to say at Simply Convivial.

Smith begins by discussing the movie Moulin Rouge as his example of loves in conflict.  I saw it in the theater and almost walked out after the first 15 minutes because of the crazy videography at the beginning.  I do love the movie though.  I think his discussion of it points to why I enjoyed it – you want love to win.  He highlights one of the issues I currently struggle with when he says that Christian’s father berates the culture because of “its sinfulness, which seems most linked to its failure to be ‘productive’.”   I am trying to fight that same perception and move away from productivity and "doing good" as the measure of a man. 

Reading Smith’s discussion of aiming our loves tied in well with James Daniels and Cindy Rollins  What are we doing to our Boys? discussion.  Smith asserts that Christian culture tries to suppress our loves when really our call should be to channel our loves.  He puts it this way, we must admit, “that we are creatures primarily of love and desire – and then respond in kind with measures that focus on our passions, not primarily on our thoughts or beliefs?”  This is exactly what the article discusses with a classical bent.  Daniels' used the word “thumos”.  So I looked it up and found the article Got Thumos? by Brett and Kate McKay.  Basically it is impossible to directly bring this concept into our language because we don't have any close equivalent in our culture.  Thus the need for a long article with great examples from Plato and classic stories that I just can't quote here.  Here are some of the functions of thumos (from the McKay's article): 
  • the source of the emotion and the emotion itself
  • blazes with manliness in anticipation of the fight 
  • it's courage and steadfastness, fearless indomitability 
  • it's the place where you ponder possibilities and it's related to gut feelings and intuition
  • desire to dominate, to be the best of the best

in the end they say "perhaps the best and simplest definition I've come across is 'energetic thinking leading to action'.  Can't you see your little boy doing that right now - if you don't stop him first!   The rest of the article discusses what happens when the thumos isn't rightly aligned and how it can be shaped and brought to it's full potential (my kids favorite term - thanks Ninjago).  

So the ancients had a whole idea about male emotions and passions being directed towards appropriate loves that we can't even grasp.  I don't think Smith reduces passion to just feelings or emotions, but it is a key part of it.

So, first steps require realizing the feelings that you are dealing with.  Honestly, I tend to donwplay emotions because so often our culture tries to use them as the driver instead of part of a team. After reading the book How We Love, I realize that I haven't let emotions play the role that they should be playing. Taking the online test (I'm not a huge advocate of these types of tests, in general, but my friends and I have found it instructive) helped me realize just how out of touch I am with some things.  Mentors have been trying to show me for years - but I am a slow learner.  My emotional understanding and health is essential if I am going to raise healthy young men.  If I can't recognize and deal with my own emotions - how can I help them with theirs?   Anger and frustration cannot be my primary "go to" emotions. I need to find some other modes of expression.  Smith is right - we need to help direct our passions.  I think this concept of thumos is a better way to understand and nurture the emotions of our boys in  a way that is more fitting to their nature and loves.  Much better than our typical "I'm okay, You're okay" paradigm.  I am just beginning to consider these ideas.

These are the primary thoughts that stuck out for me from the chapter.  He does talk about habits but in the fall I read The Power of Habit which talks about thick and thin habits. Smith posits that some of these habits could even be considered liturgies. He does this in an effort to shake up our understanding of the idea and to give greater weight to the unseen impact of our cultural "norms".  At one point he made me think about the current move back to local, organic produce - away from the big stores.  This change reflects a different value in food, community and culture.  Going to the local produce stand is a different experience than running into Walmart.  I think this is the type of idea he is trying to help us consider.   

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Weekly Resource - Teaching Gifted Children in the Regular Classroom

At one point I had money remaining from my VISTA grant and had to do something with it. So, I took four graduate courses and have a certificate in gifted education.  Mind you, I don't have a regular teaching certificate - but no matter!   The courses were interesting and some of what I learned I have been able to pass on to friends.  A lot of the information about asynchronous development is really important when dealing with young gifted children.

There was one resource that I really liked - Teaching Gifted Children in the Regular Classroom.  Honestly, it is a book full of ideas about how to give kids creative choices in what they produce as a response to the material they are learning, how to help them pace themselves responsibly and how to help them skip ahead without missing out on the fundamentals.  All reasons it might be helpful to the homeschooling mom.


Contracts are probably best with unit studies but I could see them being altered to work with narrations of a book.  With contracts you outline what the student needs to master in both content and skill by the end of the unit studied, including options for how they can show what they have mastered (she includes a list of products similar to this one).  In one sample contract they have a tic tac toe style board with 8 potential activities and one "student choice".  The student then has to pick 5 of them (read a biography and write a response, make a list of 7 major battles in a war, where they were fought and their significance, etc.)  The book provides lots of examples.

I can see this type of approach working very well especially with older elementary boys who want some independence but aren't prepared to figure it all out on their own.  As a mom it helps you consider what you hope to teach through the lessons you are presenting.  You can set checkpoints as they move through the material and then an end date.  Honestly, this type of project planning and management is the type of thing that I am afraid I won't incorporate into my homeschooling - so this might be a good way to do it.

Compacting and Most Difficult First 

Compacting is a great way to help figure out if your child already knows material.  Basically, you identify what you hope your students will learn during the unit and then give them a pre-test.  If they pass it then you don't have to cover the information or only cover those areas that they were weak in (especially if you are homeschooling).  This works best with math or spelling - if they seem bored and get the concepts really easily let them test and if they pass let them move on.

Most difficult first is best for math.  Here you pick out a few of the most difficult problems (3 - 5) and have the student work them out - legibly, with steps shown - in a certain amount of time, 10 to 15 minutes for example.  If they are able to do the most difficult problems without any errors - then they don't need to do the rest of the practice problems because they have shown you mastery.

Book Sharing and Conferences 

Some other good ideas are the "circle of books" which basically is a circle that has different categories of stories around the perimeter of the circle - biography, fiction, fantasy, humor, mystery, adventure, etc.  As children read stories they categorize them.  This can help them see if they tend to read in one or two categories and you can encourage them to branch out from there.  They also recommend conferences with readers that are reading on their own - there are lots of good discussion starter questions like (for older elementary and beyond students):

Find a good descriptive passage in your story, read it aloud and tell me why you like it.
What character is the most developed? Least developed? 
What do you admire about this author's writing style that you might use in your own writing? 
How does the author help you to connect with the characters?  
What are some interesting vocabulary words you have found and what do they mean?

She also includes some interesting activities with vocabulary and word analysis.

If you are part of a coop you might want to create time for a reading response.  You could either have a bulletin board where student's tack up response what they have read, their reactions to it and who they would recommend it to.  Alternatively, you could do something creative with the old book report so that students can share their reading with others and work on their presentation skills.

She also provides tips on letting students develop independent study type projects - how to give them guidance and freedom at the same time.

I think the ideas in the book are a great starting place for homeschooling mom's to consider how they might share more responsibility for learning with their children.  Much of the books does discuss ability grouping, grading and tracking - which homeschoolers don't need to worry about.  Hopefully this little introduction gives you some thoughts about ways to spice up your curriculum as the February doldrums hit!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Tip Time - CC Cycle 2, Week 17

Can you believe we are on the down side?   I realize that some of you aren't as far along as we are but we will all get there in the end.  Next year we probably will take MLK day off.

Math - Remember that you can connect finding the area of a square with it's square root and squaring a number.  That's why they are called squares after all!  I would recommend playing with it and helping your kids see the link.  We have gotten out our cuisinaire rods and they are great for geometry - especially squares for obvious reasons.  My son had great fun finding the area of different shapes with them last week.

Science - Although it is not splashy this website uses a shopping cart to help explain F=m x a.  So, you can do your science at the grocery store this week.  If you go back to the main page he has simple definitions of each of the terms and more experiments.  Pulling paper out from under a glass is also about F= m x a.

Geography - I am not one to use my Ipad for games often - but you can easily find some free games that quickly quiz your kids on geography.  I think this is a good use of it - especially if you are waiting somewhere.  This is the one that I use - but you do have to be able to read to use it.  Here is a list of some others.

Artists - I should have mentioned this before, but there are a great series of board books that include many of the famous artists that we have been learning about.  They are very simple books but a great way for kids to get in touch with the pictures without you feeling like they are going to ruin them (remember I have a 4 and 2 yo).   Just know that board books won't be found in the library system where we are because they aren't catologed the same way as other books.  If you ask a librarian they can probably help you find it.

Hope everyone has a great week!