Tuesday, January 26, 2010

For The Love of Books

I'm noticing this year how much we are loving our books. The kids and I are absolutely love, love, LOVING these books! Has this happened to you yet? If it hasn't, rest assured it will.

Like Little Duke, for example. We really didn't like it. It was so... different from anything I'd read to her before, without a clear explanation of the story, it just starts with the story in progress and you're watching it unfold before you, but it isn't explained plainly the way a child's story usually is, so I was feeling uncomfortable just reading it to her and she wasn't liking it either and the narration was even worse. "I don't know what they're talking about Mommy." And could they just call that woman "Dame Astrida" or "Fru Astrida", one or the other, but not both!

But then... as we stuck with it, it all started to become more interesting. And now that the Little Duke is at King Louis' Castle, things have become very interesting and that Lothaire, oh how could he think to do such a thing!

"Mommy, I'm starting to like Little Duke a lot."

This has been the pattern with some of our books this year. Understood Betsy started out rough as well with so much explanation of Aunt Frances and this relative and that relative. But then it got so much better when she met Uncle Henry and he had her steer! By the time we finished, it was her favorite.

"Mommy, it seems like I don't like new books when we start them, but then they get better. I think I just need to get to know them and then I like them a lot."

Some of the others we are enjoying so much are Heidi, she's just been taken by Aunt Deet and doesn't want to go! and The Book of Dragons, they're waking St. George! and of course, Winnie the Pooh is just pure genius! Did I really read that book before? How did I not see the humor of his writing of these silly characters? I think our favorite has been the Expotition to the North Pole and In Which Piglet is Entirely Surrounded By Water. They are all just so comically confused and silly and in fact, they remind me of my own kids and their silly conversations!

Our Island Story has been a wonderful history book that has also grown on her. She loved A Child's History of the World right out of the gate and the latest chapter of Trial and Triumph, Bernard of Clairvaux was one we both really enjoyed.

Some of the biographies that we've read along with the hymns we are learning have also been deeply touching. My favorite for now is It is Well With My Soul written by Horatio G. Spafford. The biography and the lyrics to this hymn are life sustaining.

Sometimes I feel like just getting truckloads of these books and handing them out in the streets to everyone yelling "Book! Book! Book!!!" Will everyone PLEEEASE just enjoy this book with your family!?!? It's essential! It is just wrong for anyone to miss this!!

Don't get me wrong, there is still that one book we never really warmed up to... but I won't mention it by name in case you might like it. It's one where the story seems forced around a bunch of repetitive facts - not so "living" for us. But we have learned some useful information from it. I'll probably swap it out for something else by the time my son gets to YR2.

Regarding books, here are some great quotes from Charlotte Mason I read in Vol. 3 tonight:

...the labour of thought is what his book must induce in the child. He must generalise, classify, infer, judge, visualise, discriminate, labour in one way or another, with that capable mind of his, until the substance of his book is assimilated or rejected, according as he shall determine; for the determination rests with him and not with his teacher.

Seems like a great description of what happens in the process of narration, and another reminder that we are the facilitator, not the source.

Now this part threw me off a bit:

But this is only one way to use books: others are to enumerate the statements in a given paragraph or chapter; to analyse a chapter, to divide it into paragraphs under proper headings, to tabulate and classify series; to trace cause to consequence and consequence to cause; to discern character and perceive how character and circumstance interact; to get lessons of life and conduct, or the living knowledge which makes for science, out of books; all this is possible for school boys and girls, and until they have begun to use books for themselves in such ways, they can hardly be said to have begun their education.
The teacher's part is, in the first place, to see what is to be done, to look over the of the day in advance and see what mental discipline, as well as what vital knowledge, this and that lesson afford; and then to set such questions and such tasks as shall give full scope to his pupils'

Enumerate? Analyse? Divide? Tabulate? Classify? Charlotte is that you? That sounds like a lot of real school work. Is anyone else doing this? I still have so much to learn {sigh}.

Cause to consequence - yes, discern character - yes, lessons of life and conduct - yes, yes! Look over the day in advance - hmmmmm.... would be nice.

She goes on and sounds much more like Charlotte again:

These few hints by no means cover the disciplinary uses of a good school-book; but let us be careful that our disciplinary devices, and our mechanical devices to secure and tabulate the substance of knowledge, do not come between the children and that which is the soul of the book, the living thought it contains. Science is doing so much for us in these days, nature is drawing so close to us, art is unfolding so much meaning to us, the world is becoming so rich for us, that we are a little in danger of neglecting the art of deriving sustenance from books. Let us not in such wise impoverish our lives and the lives of our children; for, to quote the golden words of Milton: "Books are not absolutely dead things, but do contain a potency of life in them to be as active as that soul was, whose progeny they are; nay, they do preserve, as in a vial, the purest efficacy and extraction of that living intellect that bred them. As good almost kill a man, as kill a good book; who kills a man kills a good reasonable creature, God's image; but he who destroys a good book, kills reason itself––kills the image of God, as it were, in the eye."

Wow. Did you read that? "they do preserve, as in a vial, the purest efficacy and extraction of that living intellect that bred them."

Now that is a man who loved books.

Monday, January 18, 2010

When the Frost is on the Punkin

I discovered a link to this youtube video of Kent Risley as I was copying my daughter's YR2 poetry from this page on Ambleside Online tonight.

His story about the poem is painfully touching, and his recitation of it brings life and expression to it in ways you'd never imagine just reading the words on paper. It's like he's right there living it as he recites. What a gift! Cigar and all, I'm sharing this one with my kids.

01 - When the Frost is on the Punkin

When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder's in the shock,
And you hear the kyouck and gobble of the struttin' turkey-cock,
And the clackin' of the guineys, and the cluckin' of the hens,
And the rooster's hallylooyer as he tiptoes on the fence;
O, it's then's the times a feller is a-feelin' at his best,
With the risin' sun to greet him from a night of peaceful rest,
As he leaves the house, bareheaded, and goes to feed the stock,
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder's in the shock.

They's something kindo' harty-like about the atmusfere
When the heat of summer's over and the coolin' fall is here --
Of course we miss the flowers, and the blossums on the trees,
And the mumble of the hummin'-birds and buzzin' of the bees;
But the air's so appetizin'; and the landscape through the haze
Of a crisp and sunny morning of the airly autumn days
Is a pictur' that no painter has the colorin' to mock --
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder's in the shock.

The husky, rusty russel of the tossels of the corn,
And the raspin' of the tangled leaves, as golden as the morn;
The stubble in the furries -- kindo' lonesome-like, but still
A-preachin' sermons to us of the barns they growed to fill;
The strawsack in the medder, and the reaper in the shed;
The hosses in theyr stalls below -- the clover overhead! --
O, it sets my hart a-clickin' like the tickin' of a clock,
When the frost is on the punkin, and the fodder's in the shock!

Then your apples all is gethered, and the ones a feller keeps
Is poured around the celler-floor in red and yeller heaps;
And your cider-makin's over, and your wimmern-folks is through
With their mince and apple-butter, and theyr souse and saussage, too!
I don't know how to tell it -- but ef sich a thing could be
As the Angles wantin' boardin', and they'd call around on me --
I'd want to 'commodate 'em -- all the whole-indurin' flock --
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder's in the shock!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

5 Top Education Issues We Won't Face in 2010

This was in the paper today...

"From budget cuts to lawsuits and political unrest, 2010 is likely to be a challenging year for Orange County schools."

"Adding to local schools' financial burdens are a series of national education reforms being pushed by President Obama, including a plan to tie teacher evaluations to their students' performance. California is racing to implement those reforms right now and get as many school districts as possible on board."

Read the rest of the story here

Reminds me of an article I read last year by Bill Ferriter, Teacher of the Year 2005-2006, Wake County, NC. It was called A Review of Readicide.

"I'm going to admit something to you that I probably ought to keep to myself: I'm ashamed of who I am, both as a reading teacher and an outspoken member of the Teacher Leaders Network. You see, over the past five years, I've changed my instruction in an attempt to see my students score better on standardized reading tests despite a strong belief that what I'm doing is bad for kids."

Another good reason to support organizations like Childlight. In my humble opinion, they're on to something big. They're starting with the child in mind; the child as a person... imagine that.