Monday, September 30, 2013

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Grand Conversations

Churchill's marriage to Clementine, the changing view of a man's marriage as relevant to his quality of character and ability to lead, and 1 Timothy 3 all came up on our couch today, turning our wheels of thought as she knit her leg warmers and the laundry remained piled high. AO YR6

Written Narrations YR5/YR6

Here are some samples of YR5/YR6 written narrations from the past calendar year. There are spelling errors, but for the sake of focusing on the composition I'm correcting them as I type. The grammar I'm leaving as is. I imagine these are shorter than the average written narrations at this age, but in a composition book they fill about a half to a full page, which we'll increase this year. I have taken things slower than most when it comes to writing, mostly because I didn't really know what she should be doing or what I should be teaching, but I'm pretty confident that she'll manage well with a little focused work this year.

The instructions I gave her for her written narrations were to *not* focus on grammar or spelling, but to just write her narration as she might speak it. Once she was comfortable writing them, we began working on the basic requirements - make sure you capitalize all sentences and proper nouns and end every sentence with a period, question mark, or exclamation mark.

Additionally I cover things like spelling and how to use quotation marks, form paragraphs, etc. very briefly on the board during the week as I see the need in her written narrations. She picks things up very quickly and shows it well in her dictations where she's not in a rush to get her thoughts out on to paper. In YR9 she'll be reading through The Elements of Style.

While there is nothing spectacular in these narrations, yes, we are pretty average, I'm thankful that she can convey a decent thought and that we haven't had to spend hours working on composition. While I'm still not exactly clear on how Charlotte Mason handled composition, nor am I sure she composed very well herself, I'm pleased with the way things have gone. How about you? How do you handle composition? 

Franz Josef Haydn

Haydn loved music. They lived in a very small house, even though it was small, and even though they had a big family they did not seem to care and they loved each other. Haydn's father sang in the church choir even though he did not know one note from the other. By the time Haydn was six he was leading the church choir. Even though he was not very loud he was a very good singer. His mother played the violin.

School of the Woods

The mother otter enticed her little baby otters on to her back. Before they knew what was going on they were in the water and trying to swim. The mother was swimming and playing in the water but the little otters crawled out and went into their den. As much as the mother tried to coax them out of the den they would not come.

David Livingstone

They came upon a bush woman (in Africa) captured her and for a few beads she told Livingstone and Oswell where water was (for they had been suffering from lack of water.) After walking for a long time they came upon a lake but could not cross it and did not have a boat or a raft to cross it.

The Hobbit

They did not tell stories or sing that day (though the weather improved,) or the next day, or the next. Finally they came to a river, its banks were very slippery and steep. They could see a mountain in front of them about a days journey away. "Is that where Smaug is?" asked Bilbo. "No you have to go way past that to get to Smaug's mountain." said Thorin.

Albert Einstein

Albert never forgot what his father told him about the compass. On starry nights Albert would go in the back yard and look up at all the stars. He would think how beautiful they were, sometimes he would cry but he did not know why.

Albert hated school. The teachers were very harsh and strict. Albert thought school was so boring with all the memorizing they had to do. He day dreamed and was the bad boy in school because of it.

The Hobbit

In a hole in the ground lived a Hobbit. It was not a nasty wet dirty hole with worms at the ends, and a oozy smell about it, it was a comfortable little hobbit with a circle door painted green with a brass knob right in the middle. The hole was in the Hill as everybody around called it. It had a round little hall with lots of rooms. All the rooms on the left were nice rooms because they had windows looking out to the garden.

Bible Esther

One night the King could not sleep so he told his servants to read him the Book of memorable deeds and he read him how Mordecai saved the King from two guards who planned to kill him. The king asked what had been done to honor him the servant said "nothing my lord."

The Story of the World

Imagine you and your older brother and your mother and father lived in Pennsylvania and your father lost his job (like most other men around that time) so you an your family planned to move to Oregon where people could get a job money a house and food so you guys packed everything you would need and especially food instead of a horse you had a oxen because horse don't eat prairie grass but oxen do. And about half way there the oxen could not pull the wagon because it was too heavy so you threw out most of your toys furniture and other things!

Madam How Lady Why


"Who just coughed behind me?"

"Well why don't you look?"

"What is that? It looks like a black tooth sticking out of the water?"

"That is a whale my boy. They are not fish because he breathes air he can hold his breath for a long time. Some whales can hold their breath for over a hour!"

"Look at those Terns flying they are so pretty!"

Shakespeare - Taming of the Shrew

A rich gentleman went into a pub and found a drunk man asleep. The rich man called one of his serving men and said "We shall make a joke of him, put him in a rich bed and when he awakes you shall pretend that he is a great person." Yes master said all the serving men.

Carry a Big Stick

Theodore Roosevelt was born October 27, 1858.

In a huge crowd Teddy was getting ready to speak. Then all of a sudden someone shot him in his stomach. The crowd screamed running to kill the assassin but Teddy got up with all his might and yelled "Don't kill him but bring him to me."

So they did as he told them to he pulled himself up with all his might he got up for his speech and he said "I have been shot but that will not stop me from saying my speech." The ambulance came but he just waved his hand weakly he said "I will either die speaking or I will die after my speech but I will not go to the hospital before I finish my speech!"

Age of Fable

A man (I forgot his name) was given an instrument by his father. He played so well that he even softened the rocks and trees. He married a very pretty girl and of course I forgot her name and one day she was in the forest and a man saw her and he loved her. Love drew him to her and she ran away as fast as she could and by accident stepped on a very poisonous snake and she died.

Her husband heartbroken went to pluto to ask her life back. He past many ghosts as he entered. He played on his instrument the sad song of her death. Pluto softened by his sad song gave back her life but he said "Do not look at her until they got home" So they walked for a long while he in front and she in back but in his forgetfulness he looked back at her and she died again!


Dion the ruler of that place hired his favorite man to go and make sure that no one was trying to kill or do anything bad to Dion. In that job the man was able to act as if he was part of the bad plot. The man hated Dion but acted as if he loved him so he made a plot to kill Dion so he got together some of Dion's soldiers and killed Dion. They took Dion's wives and put them in prison. In prison one of his wives gave birth to a baby boy. The man who plotted to kill Dion took the two wives and brought them on a ship pretending to keep them safe he cast them overboard and they drowned.

Abraham Lincoln's World

One night in a beer garden in Berlin Bismarck overheard a man at the next table talking about diminishing the royal family (the King and Queen of Persia and their family) Bismarck jumped to his feet out of this house! If you are not out by the time I finish this beer I'll shatter it on your head! Then he quietly finished his beer and the man was still there so Bismarck shattered the bottle on his head! The man shouted with pain! Then Bismarck quietly asked the waiter how much the glass was.

Oliver Twist

A man chanced to come by a gate that read Oliver Twist for sale. Oliver lived in a board and was being sold because once he asked for more grool. So they showed Oliver to the man and the man was just about to sign the contract when Oliver started to tremble and cry. Why what is the matter asked the man? Oliver said he would rather have Mr. Bumble beat him or kill him or starve him or anything he liked but he would not go with the man! So the man said I will not buy him and said for them to keep and take good care of him. So he left Mr. Bumble astonished.

Bible Job 2

There was a day when all the angels came to worship God and Satan came before God and God said to Satan "Where have you been?" And Satan said "I have been all around the world and up and down" and God said to Satan "Have you considered Job? He is the most godly man on earth. You can do anything to him but take away his life." 

Friday, September 13, 2013

Kelp finds - September 2013

What could be better than a day at the aquarium? A washed up hunk of kelp on the beach! All of the following creatures were found hiding in the kelp. You'll never look at kelp on the beach the same way again :)



something orange a brittle star spit out


some kind of shrimp and a skeleton shrimp on the right
aggregating anemone

hard to see but it's a tiny feather duster worm

ghost shrimp?

western spiny brittle and a flat worm

unidentified anemone
some kind of worm out of its tube


larval octopus




peanut worm?

worm and mussel with its foot out

purple star
ghost shrimp

larval octopus - so cute!

larval octopus

unidentified brittle

unidentified brittle

We could use some help identifying these!

Scientific Training

What do you think of these quotes about teaching the scientific method?

"I have been told, on good authority, that the essence of scientific method is never formulated in lectures addressed to, or text-books intended for, young teachers.

...what is most necessary for the children to learn is not what is the last new theory about where herrings are hatched, but how to extract the truth from a series of impressions and statements, each of which is only partially true." ~ Elementary Science Teaching

I think what she, Mary Everest Boole, is saying is that what's most necessary isn't for a child to know all the latest scientific stuff, but that he learn how to use his mind scientifically. One - the latest discoveries, the information - is ever changing. Another - the mind's ability to act upon knowledge - is versatile and always valuable.

What is our focus in Nature Study? To cover information and make sure it is known? Or are we developing a child's mind?

Charlotte says this about focusing on information: "The child who has got only information will write and speak in the stereotyped phrases of his text-book, or will mangle in his notes the words of his teacher."

They sound smart, know it all, test well... but have we inspired them to think for themselves? How much do they care? Will they seek truth in and enjoy nature without us? 

In speaking of her programme, Charlotte wrote "...for it depends, not upon how much is learned, but upon how things are learned."

and this...

"Scientific training is not the same thing as information about certain scientific subjects. No one in these days can escape random information about radium, wireless telegraphy, heredity, and much else; but windfalls of this sort do not train the mind in exact observation, impartial record, great and humble expectation, patience, reverence, and humility, the sense that any minute natural object enfolds immense secrets––laws after which we are still only feeling our way. (Vol.4, Book II, p.101)

So how do we flesh this out?

I think if we follow her principles as we see them elsewhere, we might find it is simpler than we imagined.
*Put the child in touch with nature, do not dispense it all to him. Mind to mind, child to nature, child to the work of the Creator.
*The child is born with an interest in the world around him - begin with this assumption.
*Do not hinder the child with talky talky, lectures, dead dry facts, dispensing of all knowledge, dumbing down nature, prefabricated contrived atmosphere, unit study type robbing the child of the chance to make their own connections. These methods rest on the teacher's full effort.
*Let them dig for their own knowledge, give them the living books and resources they need to seek out the knowledge they ask for. Let them find it if they can. Nothing induces living pulsing thought like discovering something yourself. These methods masterly make use of the child's natural desire to learn.
*Require narration in a notebook and at exam time - they are expected to know and tell.
*Keep it in context of a wide and varied curriculum - nature is relevant in poetry, literature, history, art, music, even handicrafts. The child's interest in nature is only multiplied as he finds it is not an isolated study, but one that spreads far and wide through time and thought in so many remarkable places.

Am I missing anything? What do you think?

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Nature Mystery Solved 09/04/13

What do you suppose these are?

I came across them in the garden.  Look closer...

At first I thought they were empty egg casings of some bug that hatched out. But, they have legs, which I thought may mean it was a molt of some sort, but that perfectly round hole... a molt wouldn't look like that.

Tonight as I was reading about oleander aphids, I came across a page that described a parasitic wasp and there they were in the picture! The very same empty carcasses - aphid carcasses. Mystery solved :) It reminds me of gall wasps, but one parasitic to a living creature instead. Total sci-fi material - remember Aliens? 

Isn't it fascinating that unbeknownst to most everyone that passes by this garden, there are aphids, that live symbiotically with ants that tend and milk them for their honeydew, that are also being implanted by parasitic wasps whose offspring eat them from the inside out while they die!? What drama right here in this tiny little world we pass by unknowingly.

What else are we passing by?

Here is a picture from the bottom of a non-native milkweed plant, the kind the Monarch loves. There are the beautiful yellow Oleander Aphids. They seem thinner than the plump round carcasses above. The wasp larva must fill it out. The lady bug grub is after the little one :( And look, one of them has white, not black, legs. I wonder why? Albino?

I read that entymologists call lady bugs "lady beetles" because they aren't true bugs. And they used to be called lady birds in England. They were supposedly named after Mary, who used to be portrayed wearing a red cloak in early paintings. 

What's happening in your garden?