Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Wednesday with Words (Revived): Office of Assertion

Over the summer, I missed Wednesday with Words.  I was afraid that upon Cindy's retirement from blogging that would be the end; however, the torch has passed on to Ladydusk.  So now I can be challenged to read something more intellectual and continue to learn from what others are reading. They started a few weeks ago but I haven't had much to add.

Today I'd like to share insights from the book given out during the Classical Conversation Practicum this year: The Office of Assertion by Scott F. Crider.  This little book is meant as a primer for college students on how to write a college level essay.  Most of what he discusses I somehow picked up along the way (except the grammar lessons).  How nice it would have been to have it presented to me in a neat little package.  However, I think I would have been too prideful in college to actually have received it as the gift that it is.

The books' purpose is to provide a concise overview of invention, organization and style (grammar and syntax) along with thoughts about revision for college students.  Honestly, it would be a great text to use in an Introduction to Composition connected to a Humanities course.  Here are a few ways I could see using it before college:

1.  As a launching pad to help improve your own writing.  He has helped me to realize some of my own gaps and given me enough information to begin filling in the gap.

2.  With younger students it is a resource for mom. It provides a vision of what you are working towards with your child (good writing is good thinking - even if they don't become English or history majors).  His section on grammar is particularly helpful as he connects grammar with style in a brief but understandable way.  I can see using some of his points as I talk with my mid elementary aged student about why we are learning sentence structures and design.

With high school students:

3. It can be the next step in paper revision because he numbers the sections for easy reference.  When your child was younger you might have written symbols for misspellings or paragraph breaks.  Here, you could write section numbers, so that the student can reference the book and you all can discuss how to improve their work.

4.  It also could provide prompts for more advanced copia work, playing with words and forms.  He often explains and provides quick examples of four types of X.  You could have a student develop each of the four types around a similar argument.  This would also help them to see that some types of arguments lend themselves to different approaches.  Some of this is probably covered in good high school composition curricula - but if not you can easily introduce it.

5.  This book could also be used to provide vocabulary for students to better analyze arguments they read.  Crider does this a few times in the book because through analysis you can better understand how the work was constructed - so that you can then try and copy that approach.

Okay, so this is not supposed to be about my words, but the authors.  Here are some of my favorite quotes: 

Your essay is like a map of a territory: the smaller the map, the smaller the territory that can adequately represented by it. A map of the earth is not a map of America; a map of America is not a map of your state; a map of your state is not a map of your city; a map of your city is not a map of your university.  If one wanted to find a classroom on your campus a map of the state would be useless because it would lack the focus needed.  As with maps, so with essays. The writer must ascertain what is possible with respect to the circumstances, in this case the circumstance of scale (he is talking about short answer prompts and 2 to 3 page essays). 
In rhetoric, problems are resources.  
Even so, one vividly drawn example will be more persuasive than a catalog of less vivid ones.
 Major yet unclear terms weaken most students writing. 
To explicate a text, you must analyze part of the text and synthesize its parts with each other. 

Analysis dives down into a part of the text; synthesis swims across the whole of it. 

He is not a fan of the 5 paragraph essay and begins the discussion of arrangement explaining its faults.

Its most powerful limitation is this: it supplies one shape to all arguments, regardless of their nature. 

From there he introduces the classical oration as an initial alternative but tries to emphasizes that, over time, the argument you are making should shape the organization of your paper.

Clarity is not at all dull; indeed, little is as intellectually thrilling as lucid design. 

He also takes on the thesaurus and encourages pupils not to reach for it and pull out a word.  He encourages the study of Latin, reading widely and listening to professors on the subject to help you hone your word choice and diction.  He says that if you must use a thesaurus make sure you have a dictionary handy so that you are choosing the right word.

I honestly can't even begin to quote from the grammar section.  It is to the point but so helpful in showing why we need to know the 4 types of sentences, how to use conjunctions effectively, etc.

They chose quite the book to pass out this year!

See what others are reading this week at Ladydusk.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

What can I get at Lulu?

I have found some of my favorite classical/ CM resources at  They publish independent works which includes some great curriculum.  Right now they have 25% off of all hard copy/ published works (many items are downloadable PDFs on their site).  This is the best discount I have seen on there in a LONG time and you just have to type in the code on their homepage!

This is where I have gotten the following resources:

All of the items from Barefoot Meandering are sold through Lulu (and Amazon). It's easiest to just search for Kathy Jo Devore in the bookstore to find her items.  The sale is just for paperback items (ones that have to be shipped) but almost all of her items do come in PDFs as well.  I did decide I want some hard copies of the actual instruction manuals but will get the PDFs of the workbooks (so I can easily print them out for different children).  She does Reading Lessons Through Literature (Spalding based approach with the Elson readers as reading practice) and English Lessons Through Literature (teaching grammar through real sentences in classic books, copywork, dictation, poetry, fables, maxims and art study all in one!).  She is constantly producing new products so check her out.

Andrew Campbell, author of Latin Centered Curriculum, also has pieces available here.  I Speak Latin is a more conversational approach to elementary Latin.  Living Memory is a tome (400+ pages) of information about a variety of subjects and what you might want your kids to memorize from scripture to Latin to Shakespeare to biology - it's in there.  Actually Barefoot Meandering has created a collection of his middle school literature selections  with some extra curricular support from LCC.
If you are thinking about using the progymnasmata approach to teaching writing you have probably looked at Classical Writing.  They sell of their books and downloads on Lulu - search key word progymnasmata.   If nothing else it is fun to look at their samples to get a sense of how they approach writing.

I am sure there are more items worth mentioning (if you search Charlotte Mason you get some of her original works) but these are the ones I either have or have thought about purchasing most recently. The sale is only on HARD COPY items (there will be other sales for downloads) and ends in two days! It's rare that savings are up to 25% so I wanted to mention it in case you wanted to try out some of these resources.  Happy shopping!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

First day of preschool and part 4 - Listening and Learning (car schooling)

Well, did I tell you my middle one is going to a 2 day a week preschool this year.  After much consideration we felt it was a good fit for where he is and where we are as a family.  We have now run into two families that attend our church and have their kids enrolled there - even though it isn't affiliated with our denomination or very close to our church.  Nice perk though.  He had a great time.  They use a play based curriculum with lots of stories and up to 40 minutes of outside playground time each day.  I wanted him to get a chance to play with kids that were less domineering than his older brother!  It's hard to find play mates since we don't live in a young neighborhood and this seemed like the best option.  We did miss him though! :)

This planned driving is actually what made it worthwhile to develop the 4th part of our curriculum - the listening section.

Listening in the Car 

Classical Conversations - Since we are a part of CC we listen to this weeks' information (and maybe last weeks) while we are in the car.  I also read about one mom who tried to help kids remember previous years by listening to the appropriate week from the year before.  Easy enough.  So we are listening to Cycle 2 and Cycle 3 with an emphasis on this current cycle.   Days that we don't drive we review this information in morning time - actually my oldest has started leading the charge with this which is great.   That takes maybe 7 minutes.  Sometimes I stop the CD and we will talk about it or I stop it after they have posed the question.

Latina Christiana - I have the recitation CD that goes with this curriculum so we listen to the prayers, songs and lesson for that week and maybe a previous week.  This is not the most exciting CD ever BUT it is an easy way to review.

I need to get the Ambleside composer back from the library or just buy some of the songs so that we can also listen to that during this time.

Since we are doing American history (folk songs) I have the WEE Sing America CD that we play on occasion - it includes songs and speeches, famous quotes, etc.  Today the kids asked for it.

Additionally, I keep a few CD's with hymns on them nearby.  I should plan to listen to a specific hymn more consistently so that we can actually learn it.  I did that a little bit last year.

I was planning on listening to a section of our Pilgrim's Progress audio drama in the car but now that we are doing it at church I don't feel it's as necessary this year to hear this version of it.  Plus, my kids have been listening to it for fun during quiet time and before bed.

I also plan to look at the Ambleside reading lists and some others to pull out some "read alouds" that I can put on CD through librivox so that we can listen to a chapter of a story once or twice a week.  I also decided today that I need to get an additional regular read aloud for me to read with my oldest son - one that is way above his brother's head - as a way to connect during our time together.

Plus, we listen to whatever random CD dad has from the library.  We just finished learning about the hurricane of 1900 in Galveston, we listened to the women of atomic city, science fiction about time travel during World War II and other random selections. (It is his job to buy these titles for the library system - so he really gets a WIDE range of topics).  Honestly, this is what my oldest enjoys the most.

When we got this van I thought the 6 CD changer was a little over the top.  Now, it is my lifeline.  It is super simple to use and helps me juggle information without having to switch CD's in and out.  So, in our car we cover some of the music and memory parts of our curricula and they are a captive audience.  I did think about putting some of our poems and other things on CD but I just haven't looked into programs that make that easy to do.  Maybe someday I will move into the world of mp3 players, etc. but not yet!

Listening in Quiet Time/ Before Bed 

Actually I need to really organize all of our read aloud plans and figure out which one's we are going to do as a family, which ones just with the oldest kiddo and which one's we need to get in audio for the car and quiet time.   I'll stick that on my "to do" list.

During quiet time my oldest son retreats to play with legos and listen to stories.  I realized as I was reading more about right brain, creative types, that this might be the best possible way for him to learn.  Actually, this is how he heard most of Our Island Story, 50 Famous Stories Retold and some other selections.  I need to better organize this time this year - but it is a great way (for him anyway) to learn more without feeling like it is "school".  I don't test him over this information but he often tells me the story later at random times.  When he was younger, this was how he memorized all of the riddles of Squirrel Nutkin.

I have also started putting the older kids to bed again (now that I can get off the couch).  I have gone to reading them a chapter or two (depending on time) of our current literature selections.  Before bed my kids often choose to listen to Shakespeare, Hawthorne's Tanglewood Tales or the Jesus Storybook or something else.  Again, I don't tell them what to listen to but I make selections available that are in line with what I want them to hear but don't necessarily have time to "teach".  Sometimes I have to help them settle disputes because the older likes to listen to more scary stuff before bed and it upsets the younger.  Good fight to have and discuss.

Honestly, my youngest LOVES to listen to stories - the same one's - over and over and over and over - so we all know Winnie the Pooh (an abbreviated version), Mercy Watson and the House that Jack Built by heart.  One day he did ask to listen to Pilgrim's Progress - it cracked me up.

I really encourage you to think about what your kids are listening to (music, stories, etc.) and find ways to add in pieces that you'd like them to be exposed to but can't find other ways to include it.  Driving doesn't have to stop the learning!  I promise we don't ONLY listen to this type of stuff (today we listened to the Muppets on the way home).  But it can help redeem the time, create memories and further expand the feast you are laying before your children.

Monday, September 1, 2014

A new FREE Latin Resource

I have collected Latin resources from all corners of the world.  This weekend I actually found some Lingua Latina resources this weekend for 20% off at Half Price Books.  I also found a great box set of the Little Tim series.  It includes a CD of all 6 books and next week is a little boy's birthday (it was on sale for $15).

But that's not the point.  Today, I found a series of you tube videos that address some very basic Latin questions based on popular curricula (again, found at Half Price Books).  There are a few different series that he has put together:

TuTubus Latinus Tutor uses the stories from the Cambridge Latin Course to introduce basic grammar and vocabulary to the student. There are 13 lessons to match with each of the chapters in the first book.  It turns out that you can get the book online for $15 or for your ipad at 99 cents a chapter.  The book does give you more grammar background, questions to ask and history about Roman culture, etc.  

Constructing Latin Sentences is a series of 11 videos that uses vocabulary from Oxford Latin Course to teach you the basics of building sentences.  It is a step by step look at the parts of a sentence and how they work together in Latin.  It does not teach the material in this course - it truly focuses on how to create a correct Latin sentence.

Write Like a Roman is a series of 15 videos helps translate English into Latin using the vocabulary from Oxford Latin Course.

Learning Latin with Virgil is a 31 part series that covers basic material while referencing sections of Virgil.  I think it probably moves faster than the other series and covers more material.  From the bits that I watched (I haven't watched nearly all of it) I appreciate the fact that he draws out some of the finer points of Latin that you just don't know unless you've studied Latin for a while. This is the part that I am concerned about as I think about teaching my kids Latin when they are older.  The point of this series is to help you read, not translate, Latin.

Latin Vulgate covers the first three chapters of Genesis in the Latin Vulgate.  In this series he has the sentence or phrase on the top half of the screen and reads it normally.  Then the bottom half of the screen shows the English translation and he more slowly reads the Latin while highlighting where that phrasing is found in the Englihs translation.  It's a really interesting approach.  

Aeneid - This is a series of 54 videos, so far, where he reads the whole book in small sections with the text on the screen (he is currently around lines 401).  This is not an adaptation - it is exactly what Virgil wrote.  As he goes through he helps get to the gist of the story by highlighting and translating key words from the text to help you grasp what is happening.  He rearranges to make it easier to understand in English.  This approach may not be great if you really want to read "Latin as Latin" (read this interesting article here) but it helps you see how the poem works.

Verbas - Right now there is only one video in this series - it is for vocabulary building.  

This man has done an amazing amount of work.  There are a few other videos he has produced with poetry and other items.  He is not a Latin a professor - just a lover of the language.  He is Australian and some people do mention his pronunciation - but honestly - it's not a big deal.  So, if you are looking for some good, basic, FREE tutorials I recommend you check these out!