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Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Possibility is Still There

...so besotted (infatuated) is our educational thought that we believe children regard knowledge rather as repulsive medicine than as inviting food. Hence our dependence on marks and prizes, athletics, alluring presentation, any jam we can devise to disguise the powder. [...] This atrophy of the desire of knowledge is the penalty our scholars pay because we have chosen to make them work for inferior ends. Our young men and maidens do not read unless with the stimulus of a forthcoming examination. They are good-natured and pleasant but have no wide range of thought, lofty purpose, little of the magnanimity which is proper for a citizen. Great thoughts and great actions are strange to them, though the possibility is still there... 
~Vol. 6, p.89


Monday, November 5, 2012

Snakes in Ireland - on composition lessons

More enormous relief to teachers, a self-sacrificing and greatly overburdened class can be found in a new post by Dr. Jennifer Spencer of Childlight who admits she wrestled with CM's assertions on composition for many years. You can read about her findings and conclusions in her latest blog post over at Childlight here: http://childlightusa.wordpress.com/2012/11/05/the-due-use-of-books-by-dr-jennifer-spencer/



SCIENCE and what we are losing on the way

 From Science and Religion, part 3by Mrs. Dowson, L.R.C.P. & S., I.Volume 11, 1900, pgs. 13-18
...there is good work to be done in showing the confusion of thought underlying a belief that science or anything else can adequately interpret the meaning of the higher reality in terms of the lower. Dr. Ward says that the belief is often due "to a confusion between abstraction and analysis." The fact--for it seems to be a fact--puts into our hands a powerful weapon, not only of defence, but also of attack. Let us consider for a moment the difference between the two processes as applied to a living man.
If a man can be successfully analysed into Matter, Motion or Force, or any other similar set of physical constituents, then we shall have a right to regard him as made up of them; but if we can bring him down to these terms only by abstracting, or taking away from him something, be it little or much, that belongs to him and without which he would not be man at all, then we must somehow reckon with what we have taken away before we can interpret him.
In the process of analysis, we mentally pull a thing to pieces and keep all the pieces; in abstraction we lose something at every step. If we can analyse a man into Matter and Motion, let us say, we can sort him out under these two heads without leaving anything of him unaccounted for, and we can, in imagination, build him up again without adding anything from another source, which, as Euclid says, is absurd. As a matter of fact, we can bring him under these heads only by abstraction, by previously taking away from him everything that will not be classified under them and leaving it out of consideration.

Abstraction is a good servant, but an uncommonly bad master. We can take three things as different one from another as a man, an apple, and a pair of tongs; we can mentally strip them of all distinguishing qualities and powers, of all that enables the man, for example, to eat the apple and mend his fire with the tongs; we can bring all down to mineral constituents or even lower still, until at last we find apple, tongs, and man entirely indistinguishable, except by difference of quantity, mere quantity of 'energy' and 'mass.'
The process is quite legitimate; it is necessary to systematic classification; it leads to no harm as long as we know what we are doing, and remember what we are losing on the way: but when we forget--when we begin to fancy that by its aid we penetrate the secret of being and attain to interpreting the fuiness of real things, then our judgment goes astray. We may even become capable of saying and believing, as Mr. Edward Clodd says and doubtless believes, that "the story of creation is the story of the evolution of gas into genius."
Men may say this reasonably, of course, if they are quite prepared to see in gas everything necessary for genius, but the position brings with it a host of difficulties for the mechanical philosophizer. It is not our work to deal with these difficulties: the task lying ready to our hands is the work of pointing out inaccuracy in the use of scientific terms and conceptions, the confusion of abstraction with analysis, and, as a consequence, the treatment of a mere symbol, or else a small part of a thing, as if symbol and part were the complete real things of experience. We have to show the rashness and folly of building up a speculative scheme about real things on foundations so insecure, a task easy enough when the foundations themselves have been laid bare.

Handicrafts - November 2012

The weather has been really fickle. First it's fall so we pulled out our warm jackets and boots, then it's back in the 90s squeezing in more beach and pool days, then cold again, then extreme heat - whatever it is, it's handicraft season as far as I'm concerned :)

Here's a potato chip scarf that can be knit with one skein of yarn for a little one. 


This was a pillow my 5yo was supposed to make. Not knowing her own limitations, she pulled out the field guide and pointed to a lazuli bunting she said she would embroider on the front of it. I thought I could outline and she could fill in, and she probably could have, but I ended up just doing it for her quickly since she got distracted by visitors. Not my best piece of embroidery, but she loves it and sleeps with it every night :)


These fabric flowers are a really fun way to use up left over fabric. I made one each for the giveaway bags at my daughter's birthday party last week along with a used book in each bag from the library book store - Caps for Sale, Dogger, Stone Soup, Little Toot, etc. I also threw in a candy for good measure :)



Here's a sailor's knot bracelet I made for the boys. It's tricky at first, but once you figure it out it's fun to make.


The kids made these pouches on their own with the sewing machine and hand stitching.


I made these for my girls with a pendant setting I got for half price at Hobby Lobby (did you know they play hymns in the store?) They ended up costing me only $1.50 each! I've seen them on Etsy for $25. I outlined the circle on a piece of fabric, then embroidered a picture I liked inside the circle, cut it out slightly larger, cut a piece of cardboard the same size as the circle, wrapped the embroidery around the piece of cardboard and then set it inside the pendant. I'll probably go back and get a chain for them, in the meantime the thread looks cute too. There's no end to the different things you could make with these. They're great little gifts. You can find the best setting for these a little pricier at Etsy here.


My daughter crocheted these cozy Mary Janes for her and her little sister. She used this pattern and adjusted it to make the bigger ones for herself.


Here's a favorite recipe Kristine shared with us a few years ago. It's the best apple pie crust ever because of the way it drizzles the sugary buttery sauce all over the crust causing it to bubble up and even frozen crusts end up nice and flaky and crispy - we love it!


Here's my 5yo enjoying tea at a friends. Crepes with a choice of fresh cream, fried bananas, carmel, nutella, cinammon sugar and Rooibos. Here's an article on the Virtues of Tea by Lynn Bruce who claims a pot of tea can change your children's lives :)  


Our next project is this cute little pincushion. I'm also considering making something delicate crocheting thread like a doily or table runner for the tea table. I'll have to see how much patience I have for that.  

What are you working on this fall?

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Nature Knowledge Gained Without Lessons

We recently headed back to a local creek for nature study. There's so much here that we've discovered over the years.


Giant water bugs are smaller this time of year. Early last year we wondered what they ate in this creek since there didn't seem to be anything else of significant size.





Then we found *very* camouflaged dragonfly nymphs. This video shows one scooting around. I don't know why there are long thin dragonfly nymphs (the ones you typically think of) and then there are these short stout types. There were three of the stout types I noticed that day - one was black and had a white stripe on the back of its lower abdomen and was smallest in size, another was tan/light brownish, and lastly a reddish hued one which I suspect ends up something like a red skimmer.


This spider is still something of a mystery. My youngest daughter noticed it before (maybe it was a different type) carrying its egg sac on the end of its abdomen, which is a characteristic of wolf spiders. She called it a diaper :-) It also hops and is able to skim over water. I think it's some type of thin-legged wolf spider. Notice it's cephalothorax (I had to look that up) is larger than its abdomen. I wonder why it's a 'cephalo' thorax instead of just a thorax like with insects? The more you know the more questions you have and the more you don't know!


Once a month the kids have recitation at nature study. I'm using my old phone here while the one I dropped in the tidepool is sitting in a bag of rice so it's not the best quality audio/video :(  My son is reciting Bed in Summer and my daughter is reciting The Camel's Hump.


After finding and looking at all the bugs and recitation the boys built enemy traps - the spider ended up being thrown in there as the monster at the bottom of the pit. It did finally escape to safety if that kind of thing worries you :) They used acorns as men and after a few battles they sent them down the perilous river on bark rafts.


What is so amazing about nature is how it can fulfill each and every one - mother, boy, girl, toddler... all are fully engaged in completely different activities; each sensing, learning, creating, and interacting in their own unique way. At the same time, we are learning about this place, what lives here, how they survive, how it all changes at different times of the year. We draw them to draw our eyes closer and longer to see beyond the initial glance.


Here are the girls chit chatting on the way back from the creek through a canopy of Oak trees with a dash of poison oak adding some fall color along the edge of the trail.
 

Our kids can point out the plants along the way, the hazards, what is edible and what isn't, what it tastes like, what it smells like, what it feels like, what loses its leaves, what changes color, what grows where, what lives in an acorn, what lives under the leaves, what comes out after the rains, what changes occur with the seasons, what bird call belongs to which bird, what birds are found where, what they eat and how they store their food, which bugs bite or don't bite, where they plant their eggs and how their larvae feed, where the honeycombs are... They know direction and how to find their way and what lays at what point along the trail. They know what kinds of tracks and scat they might find and what animals might live in the little burrows they find.

They also see the effect of man on nature and are bothered by the bad things that happen to these places they love. Thoughts of conservation occur naturally to them out of a respect for life and a love of nature.

This knowledge has been gained without lessons, without textbooks and the connections they have to these places run deep in their soul. Just tonight as we looked out over the low lying hills by our home my daughter commented how much she loves when the hills look hazy with fog and how she loves all the creases in the hills and how there are big creases and smaller creases. They have a connection with this place that is theirs.

Will they never delve in to learn more about these places beyond what is knowable on their own? Of course they will through living books and field guides and talking with rangers and researching online. The difference is they will care to know it; they are seeking answer in their questions already. They are curious, they wonder, they want to know. 


Here we have the right order. That which was born of the spirit, the idea, came first and demanded to confirm and illustrate. ~Vol. 6


It is the children who are right, and we who are wrong; the world is more wonderful and more beautiful than even children think, and yet we would for ever correct them and inform them as to what we believe really is. We substitute facts for that wonder which is the seed of knowledge, and then we are amazed that eager, sweet-faced children grow into dull and indifferent little boys and girls. ~Charlotte Mason, Vol. 6


Marine Layer

If you live in Southern California, you are familiar with the "marine layer" which sometimes hampers a perfectly sunny day at the beach. A few miles inland it's a hot, sunny beautiful day so you rally the troops and head to the beach only to find that the coast is completely overcast.





Sometimes you pack up and head home if the kids are cold (Layer! Always layer your clothes in California because you just never know), but most days you stick it out in hopes that it will eventually "burn off". As long as it's warm enough, the kids have a great time. 





I took this picture right before I dropped my phone in the tidepool! It didn't look so pretty next to the gorgeous color of these rocks and limpets. In case you're wondering, I grabbed it, removed the battery as quickly as I could, then took it home later and opened it up, wiped down all the parts with distilled water to remove any saltwater residue, left it in a bag of rice for a week and, aside from the volume control, it's working again! {crossing my fingers} 


And there's that blue sky!