Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Wednesday with Words: Thoughts about Reading

I have gotten sucked into google books - again.  I spent one night looking at old Latin primers and found a few that I saved years ago on my own computer - who knew??  I also rediscovered Eva March Tappan.  She had a fairly bold vision to bring a narrative history alive for young readers.  I think I might read her book aloud to my oldest next year for history.  She starts with Homer and runs up to Napoleon. She also has an American Hero books which looks at Americans that weren't political figures. I think it certainly qualifies as a "living book" - a single author who loves her subject.

She also has a deep love of English literature. Here is part of her preface to A Short History of English Literature

This book is based upon the following convictions: - 
1. That the prime object of studying literature is to develop the ability to enjoy it.
2. That in every work of literary merit there is something to enjoy..
3. That it is less important to know the list of an author's works than to feel the impulse to read one of them.
4. That it is better to know a few authors well than to learn the names of many.  
I need to catch and model this vision so that my kids will do the same.  She was actually a contemporary of Charlotte Mason and I wonder if they had heard of one another.  Her deep love of literature led to a short 12 volume series called A Friend in the Library which looks at how different authors dealt with a variety of topics.  I especially liked  Home-Life, Volume 3 (1909). The first sentence reads:

It sounds exceedingly broad-minded and liberal and independent to hear any one say, "I am a citizen of the world"; but most people have all they can do to be good citizens of even one small town, and I am not sure but it is better to be a good citizen of a home than of a town. 
This short book continues in that same vein encouraging us, through great literature, to realize what it means to be a "good citizen" of our home.  The typeface is large and it is less than 30 pages so it is well worth a quick read.  The whole series is refreshing in its tone - love and familiarity.

See what others are reading at ladydusk.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Weekly Resource: Olim Latin and others

During my blog hiatus, I did not stop the hunt for new resources.  That means I have a backlog of programs and books I'd love to tell you about.  

You may recall I already have LOTS of Latin curricula at my  house. This week I bought a few new Latin resources.  Currently, we are going through Song School Latin 2 (I also found their Latin Alive 1 & 2 on sale at Half Price Books - now I own them too).  Song School is probably a bit too easy for my 9 yo and I haven't really forced it with the 6 yo.  So, I am trying to figure out what to do next.  I think I found it!  

Olim . . . Once Upon a Time in Latin  (the orangey color books in the back) 

This is my favorite recent find.  I have the first set of books.  There are 4 available and she is expecting to do 10 in the series.  Basically, one book is a reader and you can also purchase the accompanying workbook.  A few years ago Andrew Kern discussed using fables in Latin that were simple enough to read aloud to children - this is it!!   It has the story in English with simple line drawings, followed by the story in Latin with sidebars that help translate the text.  Each page only has a sentence or two and the typeface is large.  The workbook focuses on vocabulary in translation to help cement the words in the text.  There are also "digging deeper" sections which introduce more complex grammar topics.  This is not a grammar based program but you get to see grammar in context!  I read the first story - Three Little Pigs - aloud to my 3 and 6 year old and they enjoyed it - in English and Latin.  It doesn't say "by the hair of my chinny chin chin" - that is a bit tough to translate, but it keeps the gist of the story in phrases that are easy to understand.  She uses fairy tales, fables and Biblical texts for most of the stories.  

I have been in touch with the creator and her blog gives tips and reassurance to parents who want to bring Latin alive for their younger kiddos. She is working on audios too!  Imagine listening to The Good Samaritan with your kids in Latin!  If you want your little ones to love Latin this might be a great way to start.  As they get older, your children might need a more grammar based program.  Just as we read aloud to kids a ton when they are little and then introduce grammar around 4th or 5th grade (at the earliest).  This program allows you to FINALLY follow that same pattern in Latin.  I am doing a happy dance here!   

I got this book through a friend who is an Usborne consultant.  I am sure you have seen these in other languages but you may not have known there is one in Latin.  My kids actually thought it was a seek and find book so they loved looking at the pictures.  This was an easy way for my husband to get involved in reading Latin with them.  Many of the words are not quite true Latin because there were no televisions or computers in Rome - or as my husband mentioned - half the foods included were foreign to the Roman world.  So, it is a bit of a stretch that way but my kids have looked at it for a few days in a row now and really enjoyed it. 

I am on a quest to get more stories into our Latin studies.  When I saw this at my favorite local used bookstore and I had credit - I got it.  This comes from the publisher Bolchazy Carducci which carries a variety of Latin texts.  I also got their Christian Reader but I am not using it yet.  I read the first two lessons with my son aloud and we actually were able to translate it fairly well without looking up too many words. Each lesson starts with background information in English, the story in Latin, followed by a list of the words used grouped by function and then exercises to go with the story.  The lesson questions are comprehension questions in English, questions about derivatives and some about grammar. Again, the focus here is reading in Latin and seeing the language in use.  I did see that they now have Where the Wild Things Are in Latin.  Don't tempt me! 

Well that just about says it all.  However, this is not your typical grammar.  It has one concept per page with a clear explanation, including pictures.  As I thumbed through I realized just how much I have to learn about Latin.  Who knew there were so many ways to use the Genitive case?   This is a great reference and I plan to use it with my kids.  If there is a concept they are struggling with we can just look it up and see how it works.  We have some of the older grammars but they are much harder to reference.  

She also has a website that is designed to help you practice your Latin grammar.  Tons of exercises and it grades it for you!   This might be a good option if you really want to get those concepts down and don't want to be in charge of grading. 

I would be remiss if I did not mention that the creator of Visual Latin has now made his live classes available for a flat subscription fee.  You can learn Henle, Hans Orberg, and Greek.  It is one flat fee for the whole family to access any of his classes.  So if you have students in different levels of Latin - great.  If you are trying to keep a bit ahead of your kids - now you easily can.  I have seen one class demonstration and it was interactive and fun.  I am still debating whether I have enough time to really dig in and use this resource this year.  I know I will soon though.  

Friday, January 22, 2016

Abide: Going to Egypt

House Clip Art
I ended up in Jeremiah this week.  The people ask Jeremiah to ask God what they should do in a difficult situation.  After promising to do whatever God says, Jeremiah returns with this good news:  
And said unto them, Thus saith the Lord, the God of Israel, unto whom ye sent me to present your supplication before him;
10 If ye will still abide in this land, then will I build you, and not pull you down, and I will plant you, and not pluck you up: for I repent me of the evil that I have done unto you.11 Be not afraid of the king of Babylon, of whom ye are afraid; be not afraid of him, saith the Lord: for I am with you to save you, and to deliver you from his hand.12 And I will shew mercies unto you, that he may have mercy upon you, and cause you to return to your own land.   Jeremiah 42:9 
Honestly, what an amazing promise!  

However, God knows his people well and follows this with a warning about going to Egypt. Egypt is the people's plan for safety.  They can go, but He will not be with them.  They must stay put - abide - where He is and trust His promise.   

Here's the deal - the people didn't really want God's protection or his thoughts about the situation.  As Jeremiah says 

20 For ye dissembled in your hearts, when ye sent me unto the Lord your God, saying, Pray for us unto the Lord our God; and according unto all that the Lord our God shall say, so declare unto us, and we will do it.21 And now I have this day declared it to you; but ye have not obeyed the voice of the Lord your God, nor any thing for the which he hath sent me unto you. 

They knew the "right thing" was to pray, but the people had no intention of abiding in God's commands.  They already had a plan and were going to do it in their own strength. 

Wow!   How often do I do that?  God is saying I will protect, care, provide for you - just stay here, even if it is a bit scary.  Instead I decide I need to travel somewhere else that looks safer in my own eyes.  Somewhere so that I can do it on my own.  

So abiding is about being with God - even in difficult places- maybe especially when it is tough, trusting that He is with us and will care for us.  

We also need to pray and be willing to do what God says.  He knows if we already have plans and are just doing it for show.  It is not pleasing to him.  

Am I abiding where he put me (even if it is a foreign place) or trying to move to Egypt?  

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Wednesday with Words: A folktale

This week's words are actually brought to you by my 9 yo son.  One of my goals is to help my kids find worthy things that they love and want to remember as they read.  I want them to be commonplacers.  We have been using English Lessons Through Literature for a while so he has done quite a bit of copywork!   Last week we read a story from his literature book and he loved the ending.  He asked if he could copy it down.  I hadn't really talked with him much about copying down what he liked best but he is getting the idea anyway.  In essence this is his first "common place" selection.  I was so excited (but tried not to get to giddy around him and scare him off).  This totally reflects his personality.

And the fox replied, "Oh, most worthy King, you should yourself know that this beast (the ass) had neither heart nor ears.  If he had had ears, which are the seat of hearing, he would have known that I spoke falsehoods and if he had had a heart, which is the seat of feelings, he would have been overcome with fear at the very sight of you." And with these last words of treachery, the Fox escaped into the woods. 

"The Ass, the Lion and the Fox" from The Tortoise and the Geese by Maude Barrows Dutton

We have also been reading The Penderwicks aloud and my boys are loving it.  I like seeing how they respond to the different personalities in books and each of the sisters has a clear personality in this book.  I can see why reading fiction is so good for empathy!

   See what others are reading over at ladydusk.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Weekly Resource: The Get To Work Book

Last year most of my friends went planner crazy.  I was caught up and even tried to make my own version of a midori planner.   However, mine was made of fabric and stiff board and required borrowing my mother in law's sewing machine because mine was in the shop and I wanted it RIGHT now.  Alas, I have barely used it.  Although I did get some cool inserts for it.

Everyone seems to be talking about planning, working the plan, etc.  So, I decided to look for a planner that would best fit my needs.  I saw a cool one that had lots of links to the liturgical calendar.  I also saw all of the ordinary ones (Erin Condren)  and then I found the Get To Work Book.   She has some great short videos that discuss all the features of her planner. Even though it is a bit pricey (although there is FREE SHIPPING available this weekend) I decided that if I truly use it over the course of a full year - it will be worth it.   It was a Christmas present to me!


Room for Notes - Many layouts are busy with boxes telling you what to put where.  Here weekly layout is very basic - long, lined columns, three check boxes at the top (to use how you want) and then grid at the bottom for notes.

Prioritizing - She has three boxes at the beginning of each week to put notes about what must get done. Again, she doesn't prescribe how to use them so you could put different categories of things each week: the three top items each week or big, medium and small goals. I also mentioned that each day there is space for 3 check boxes.  I haven't really used them well yet but I need something that helps me think about priorities.

Spiral Binding - Lays flat - I love that it is spiral bound and lays flat.  If it is open I am much more likely to use it.

The Planner pages - These are GREAT.  I have a tendency to get a sheet of paper plan and then lose said sheet of paper.  She has pages built in to help you plan things. Again, not overly directed but general enough to be useful for whatever situation - from a party to a major project.

Grid Paper - She has grid paper included so that you can easily sketch a layout or include measurements of something.

Reflection - She includes a reflection sheet at the end of each month.  This sheet includes a whole column of things to let go of.  Man, do I need that!  There are some things that just aren't going to happen in this season or ever and I need to just let go of it.  We are still in January so I haven't really used it yet - but I will!

No Daily Pages - Honestly, I agree with the Leadership Education peeps that working in a weekly time block makes the most sense.


Monday Start - I think I like having my weekends at the end on the weekly pages BUT I am used to a Sunday start so it throws me off a bit.

Big - I am trying to just keep mine open in my kitchen so that I will really write in it and use it.  If I planned to carry it around a lot it could get cumbersome.

Writing Things Down - I currently am trying to run 2 calendars - a big wall calendar the whole family can see and this more personal one.  I am not always getting everything into this book which means that it isn't doing its full job.  I know you are supposed to have just ONE main calendar - that's the one on the wall BUT I need somewhere to really plan.  I am still figuring out the balance.

Operator Error - I listened this morning (as I could) to the planning chat done by Mystie.  She had a guest who wrote a post about your personality and planning.  It hit the nail on the head - although I don't really make things pretty - I do have a tendency to start and not follow through!  I am a Sanguine.

I hope that you are finding a way to keep yourself more organized this coming year.  I did buy a stack of "how to keep yourself organized" books from a friend.  Maybe I will get some ideas from there. Really, it comes down to the fact that I am not good at executing, following through, getting it done. Did I tell you about the time I lost the library book talking about how to organize according to your personality. Yes, it is that bad!  I am hoping to turn it around THIS YEAR!

Friday, January 15, 2016

Norms and Nobility - Dialectic

This is my 4th post about Norms and Nobility and the thoughts it is stirring in me.  I am sad that I can't make the Circe Conference where David Hicks is speaking.  It's not too far away from me. Alas!

Today I want to look at his idea of dialectic.  That is a word that we often hear but may not "get". This definition gets at the crux at the issue while still being simple:

We have already seen that Socrates identified dialectic as the form of the activity of thinking - the mind's habit of challenging the thoughts and observations originating in itself or in the other minds and of engaging in a desultory dialogue with itself until the issues are resolved. (emphasis mine) 

Hicks argues that we should teach about the dialectical process because

by making his students conscious of their dialectical thinking processes . . . his students deliberately took on the dialectical form of mental activity, learning became possible.  Man could now visualize and oversee his own mind at work.  The very form of these conversations provided Socrates' students with a model for how their minds ought to work. (emphasis mine)
He is arguing that a questioning conversation is learning how to think. This reminds me of Charlotte Mason (principle #19 of her 20) who argues that one of the main things we should teach our children is what ideas to accept and reject.

Principle 19 - Therefore, children should be taught, as they become mature enough to understand such teaching, that the chief responsibility which rests on them as persons is the acceptance or rejection of ideas. To help them in this choice we give them principles of conduct, and a wide range of the knowledge fitted to them. 

Here, Hicks posits that the classical way to train people in the acceptance or rejection of ideas is through conversation and questioning.  You can see how Hicks and Mason are similar because he insists that

Classical education, therefore, cannot hope to achieve its lofty aims without laying great emphasis on the development of the conscience in the student.  The emphasis begins, as we have seen, in the normative study of myth, from which the dogma of the Ideal Type emerges. 
Hicks, by this point in the book, has clearly defined what he means by the formative power of myth.   In CM she discusses laying a banquet of the best thoughts, through literature, before our students to help inform their thinking.

When we hear "dogma" we associate it with an unthinking acceptance of someone else's truth.  In our culture it is seen as a problem.  However, Hicks is arguing it is fundamental to good thinking.  It isn't created by a list of rules; but rather, by a gathering of stories and ideas passed down through culture that informs our decision making. He asserts:
Dogma is to dialectic what doubt is to analysis: one cannot begin the one without the other. 
Dialectical learning requires that he accept a dogma before he rejects it. 
To truly engage in learning we need to have a firm belief in something and be willing to question it. We need to be involved in these issues and seek resolution for them - this is not just mental assent - this is transformational belief.  So what is the role of a teacher?

The connection between dogma and dialectic defines the master-pupil relationship.  The master's life displays what it means to accept and to live by a dogma, and the pupil's imitative acceptance of his teacher's dogma affords him an insight into his own life and studies that eventually corroborates, refines or invalidates the dogma.  
See - imitation again!  They are watching us (mentor, teacher, parent) to see what dogma we really live by and if it "works".  This is why being a teacher or parent is such a weighty role!  We know they are watching and we are constantly falling short of what we believe.  It leads to a life of constant repentance!  We are afraid that our life is "invalidating" our dogma.  Is it??

Finally, these comments help put dogma back into it's proper place.
Dogma, from the Greek meaning - "that which seems good" - are his (the student's) hypothesis. 
Once he receives a dogma, the student of dialectic begins in his life and learning to verify it. 
We must help our students form a firm "hypothesis" about what the good life is through story and example when they are young.  As they grow, we need to allow them time, questions, conversations and help them to discover if their dogma or hypothesis is really true. They need to read the stories of the good, the bad and the ugly to help them think about these characters and ask those big questions. Dialectic is the process of thoughtful questioning that leads to a firm conscience; not blind acceptance, but hard won truth.

My kids are still young so we are still "forming dogma" while trying to avoid preaching.  Giving them stories of truth, beauty and goodness to develop their appetite.  I am pretty sure we will be in for a wild ride once our oldest really starts questioning (more) but I need to remember that this is the way he is learning and the only way it can become his own truth "which seems good" - not just "mom says".

There are no promises, but I need to be faithful to my part of sharing and living what "seems good" in front of all my children and teaching them how to question and therefore think so that they can verify this "good life" on their own.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Wednesday with Words: Covetousness

I had another passage picked out for sharing today but this poem came our way in my son's Language Arts curriculum (he's in level 3) ,  This is one we should memorize - okay, I should memorize.

by Peter Idley

Covetousness hath never end,
And where is no end, is no rest;
Where is no rest, peace doth wend;
Where is no peace, God is a guest;
For God Himself made His nest
Where peace made his bower,
And there He dwelleth, our Saviour.

That pretty much says it all.

See what others are reading over at ladydusk.

Monday, January 11, 2016

2016 Word - ABIDE


House Clip Art

That's my word.  After I looked it up in the 1828 Webster's Dictionary I wanted a different one.  I am much better at flitting about (thus the bumble bee nature of Melissa).  Last year's word was yoke. I was challenged to burn the old yokes (like Elisha did to follow Elijah) and learn from Him. This year I will see what it means to ABIDE. 

Honestly, I haven't even done the concordance search on the word yet (the John passage comes to mind, but last year the yoke passage that struck me most wasn't the Matthew one) - I will do that over the course of this month.  Here are some of the phrases from the 1828 dictionary: 

to be, exist, continue
dwell, rest, stand firm
continue permanently
to wait for
to endure or sustain
to bear patiently 

If you know me these are not things I excel at.  I am not good at just being - give me something to do! At least let me talk about it a good long while. God has continually laid it on my heart that I need to just rest, wait, stand firm.  So this year I will be reflecting on what it means to abide in Him and with others.  It sounds to me like a lot of inside work and not much happening on the outside - uggh - can't I just stay busy and look like things are going well!   
Alas, for my growth, and since my kids are mimics (did you hear Andrew Kern talk about that whole theory that combats Freud - fascinating), I need to learn this type of living so that they can "catch" it from me.   Plus, if mama can find peace the whole atmosphere changes.  
I think this also ties with the fact that we have a new "abode" that God has challenged me to really make a home - a place of rest, peace, grace, renewal, etc.  Right now, it seems mostly like a place where little boys make messes and frustrate each other.
So this year, maybe, I will "get" what it means to abide in Him and with the people He has placed in my life. 

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Weekly Resources: Move it!

Exercise has never been high on my priority list.  I grew up in an athletic family but I was never athletic.  I don't have a discipline for it or even a drive.  But, I have boys who have energy and need some direction.  Here are two of the simpler, shorter, but active things I have found for our brood.

First, I have re-started using a high intensity workout app.  We used it a LONG time ago (before my last pregnancy) but then it fell by the wayside.  I love it!  It is 7 minutes - 30 second bursts of 12 specific exercises, with 10 second rest periods. It times it for you, announces the exercise beforehand and doesn't require any special equipment - not even a bunch of space.  I love it because I can just let it play and do it with the kids.  Everyone can do it at their own ability (even the 3 yo tries it - the 1 yo thought we were CRAZY).  It is a great morning break and it really is a full body workout.  If you are not coming straight from the couch you can make many of the exercises more complicated by changing the type of lunge, squat, plank, etc. you are doing.

After coming from the couch to this 7 minute workout I was sore.  So we decided to alternate with Yoga Pretzel cards I have.  These are easy enough that my 3 yo can look at it and pretty much figure out what to do.  Again, everybody does it at their level but we can do it together and you can feel the stretch (if you are coming straight from the couch).  This is something simple that gets us moving but not going crazy.

More research talks about moving frequently throughout the day.  Now we don't sit and homeschool for long periods BUT having directed movement is great for all of us a few times a day.  Plus, it teaches my boys different ways they can use their body and use up energy.

The other trick a friend of mine shared was not encouraging running races but bear crawl and crab races.  Running can hype kids up but bear crawls and crab walk require using your whole body and it will wear you out and you can't go too fast.  So, especially in the winter months (even though it's 70 here today), find the track in your house - that place kids run in circles - and challenge them to crab walk or bear crawl.

I am so glad that I have found some simple ways to incorporate activity that we can do together for short bursts throughout the day.  It has been good for everyone.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Wednesday with Words: The Snow Image


We are trying to read a variety of things around our house.  I tend to read "educational self help" while my husband reads science and history.  I know we need to read more fiction.  So, I do it with my kids - aloud.  Today I stumbled upon The Snow-Image by Nathaniel Hawthorne.  I was totally taken by this description of the mother. 

The mother's character, on the other hand, had a strain of poetry in it, a trait of unworldly beauty - a delicate and dewy flower, as it were, that had survived out of her imaginative youth, and still kept itself alive amid the dusty realities of matrimony and motherhood. 

That's what I want to find, nurture and develop that "strain of poetry" that makes everything a bit more wonder- ful and magical.  I have no real idea how to do this.  I am much more like the father who is described as "an excellent but exceedingly matter-of-fact sort of man".

I also liked this thought:

And, to say the truth, if miracles are ever to be wrought, it will be by putting our hands to the work in precisely such a simple and undoubting frame of mind as that in which Violet and Peony now undertook to perform one, without so much as knowing that it was a miracle. 

We only read half of the short tale because the 3 yo was screaming but the story is enchanting so far. Hawthorne wrote far more than The Scarlet Letter so I encourage you to check out some of his other writing.

See what others are reading in this New Year over at ladydusk.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Decking the Walls

Welcome 2016!!!

Now that we are settling into our new home I decided to use the Christmas sales to do something crazy - get items up on my walls.  If we become what we behold I decided I want my kids to have some paintings worth remembering and thinking about.  I got these at because they had a huge selection and lots of deals during the holidays.

This all started because of the Afterthoughts' discussion about Charlotte Mason's favorite painting depicting education.

The Triumph of Catholic Doctrine, Personified in St. Thomas Aquinas Giclee Print
Here it is called The Triumph of Catholic Doctrine - but I don't believe that is its original name.  The talk by Brandy Vencel gives you a great starting point as she discusses who all these people are and why they are included in the painting.  I am going to have to listen again and make a guide so I can put it next to our poster print.

I have a few Norman Rockwell's that were in my parents house growing up but I added this one to my collection.  My mom saw it and said - that looks like your boys.  EXACTLY!  I love the dirt on the shoes - as it should be.

Age of Romance by Norman Rockwell.

Gioacchino Assereto, The Supper in Emmaus, 17th c. Private collection Art Print
The Supper In Emmaus by Gioacchino Assereto 

I knew that I wanted something from Emmaus in my kitchen.  There are many different versions but this one was the most close up and seems to invite you to sit with Jesus and the two travelers.  I want my kids to remember His presence whenever they eat.  Although not the most famous artist, this one captured what I wanted.

Return of the Prodigal Son, c. 1669 Art Print

Return of the Prodigal Son by Rembrandt

This is classic painting and I want my kids to remember that it is NEVER to late to return and that their Dad is always waiting to receive them.  We all need to repent and remember the character of the one we are returning to.

While I was looking around I found this one:

Yoke Is Easy Art Print
Yoke is Easy by Sharon France

Since my word for 2015 was YOKE I decided I should get this poster as a reminder.  It is in my laundry room/ pantry.  The place I am most likely to think my yoke is heavy - really I am just complaining and I am cutting that out in the new year!

I also got this one - because it makes me smile.  I put it next to my bed so it is one of the first things I see when I get up.

Gustav Klimt Apple Tree Art Print Poster Poster

Apple Tree by Gustav Klimt

I also got a few other random ones - Thomas Aquinas, St. George and the Dragon, Plato and Socrates, Tree of Knowledge.  I honestly don't know if all of these will go on my wall.

My final addition was a very special painting that my friend Stephanie Fox did for me.  I asked her for a painting for a wedding present and she outdid herself then with calligraphy from 1 Corinthians 13.  So, I called her up and asked her if she would make me a lion and a lamb together.  I want to talk with my sons about Jesus being both the lion and the lamb and emphasizing when he showed those different aspects of his character. So, she painted this for me:

I am so excited about it!

I am also planning on adding more family pictures around our house.  I have them all prepared to go up but I have to stop moving furniture so I can put them up in a spot that I won't put up something else.

I will admit, that in the kids' rooms dad created a man cave so we have tons of Star Wars and Marvel comic book character posters too.  My 3 yo asks which character I am when we sit on his bed. He is normally the Hulk or Superman.  We had a Christmas day discussion comparing the Incredible Hulk and Yoshi - the things that come up when you live with boys!

So these are my choices and they have their own choices in their rooms.

What are your kids beholding around your house?