Thursday, May 28, 2015

Family Fun and Culture

A few years ago I participated in an online discussion with a woman who said that she wanted to work outside the home because her family wanted to provide extra cultural experiences for the children, and that could not be done on most single incomes. I'm not really sure what she meant - she was rather vague about it all. It's possible that the kinds of things she had in mind could not be done on one income. For my family, if it can't be done on one income, then we won't be doing it. But it's surprising what can be done on a limited single income.

Here are some ideas for including culture on a modest income.

Instead of eating out, fix a fancy dinner at home. Set the table with the best dishes and candles. Have everybody dress up and pretend to be eating out, practicing table and restaurant manners.
Invite people over often. Make sure to include interesting, fun people; eccentric, odd people; tourists and immigrants, and unusual people. Include old people with stories to tell and young people with dreams to share. Include missionaries, former and current. Include your minister and the elders of your church. Ask for stories of faith, stories of when God blessed them, and stories of dark days.

Art museums often have free days. Check out the one nearest you. We've often taken advantage of this, even when the museum was an hour or two away. We packed a nice picnic lunch and ate at a park when the weather was nice, in the car on the way home if it wasn't. Always keep your eyes open for free or inexpensive attractions.

We buy a year's family pass to a different attraction each year. It may be the zoo, the children's museum, the children's theater, or the symphony. We can't afford to do them all at once, and with a family our size the cost of a yearly pass is seldom more than it would cost us to get in once, so we choose one each year and immerse ourselves in that one, attending at least a dozen times a year.

Study another country/culture in our homeschool once a year, learning the customs, meals, holidays, and so on, and incorporating something of your studies into your daily lives.

We study art and artists using old art calendars. We hang works by a particular artist each month, discussing the paintings and the artists.

Take advantage of NPR and other radio stations. Listen to classical music all the time, studying the lives of composers at the same time.

Call local colleges and ask if there are any international students who would like a home-cooked meal with an American family.

Volunteer at the nursing home. We have met natives of several different European countries in a small Midwestern nursing home (I won't embarrass myself by trying to spell them).

Read, read, read. Spend lots of time at the local library. Once we lived in a home that was not was not very near to any library. Paying the extra fee for a library card was my birthday present from husband and I loved it.

Every once in a while the older children and I get out the Shakespeare and read it aloud together, each taking a few parts.

My husband chooses a different classic to read aloud to the kidlets at bedtime. He's done Pilgrim's Progress, Farmer Boy, Bread and Butter Indian, some of the Childhood of Famous American books, and many, many more.

Vacations? As a military family every time we moved we tried to make part of the move include visiting an interesting spot. We did stay in two locations for five years each so we took lots of short jaunts to places of historical or environmental interest. We prefer camping to staying in motels (family size, again. With a family this large most hotels want us to pay for two rooms.

Have poetry recitations at home.

Plant a garden, perhaps an historical herb garden.

Collect sea shells, stones, or pressed flowers - label them with their Latin names.

Many libraries in larger cities like Chicago and Boston hold passes to museums and other educational attractions, and sign them out to local residents.

If you live near a college, look into their music and drama productions. Sometimes tickets are very inexpensive. Sometimes you can attend rehearsals for free.

Host a hymn singing.

And, as I said, read, read, read. Discuss what you read together. And then read some more.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Secrets of the Woods, Which Animals?

 Secrets of the Woods, by William J. Long  is used in year 3, terms 2 and 3.  

I started this post to help out somebody who asked how she could categorize it for school purposes (some states insist on this), and also what animals were covered.  
Secrets of the Woods is a little similar to the Burgess Animal book, but more detailed about the habitat described.  It also addresses more 'nature red of tooth and claw' issues.  

Secrets of the woods does usually cover one animal in a chapter, but sometimes a chapter is more about the woodlands habitat or ecosystem, particularly that part of the woods that meets the rivershore.

For those who need the refresher, Habitats are the specific areas different creatures need to live, basically, where all their needs are found. The children learned about a different habitat in term 1, when they read Pagoo.

  But you don't need to be that technical with them. The Charlotte Mason method places the emphasis on letting the children read about a topic, explore it in person if at all possible,  and learn to observe firsthand.  Technical terms can be added later.  

Now to the book itself.  Chapter titles are in all caps.  They are presented here in the order you will find them in the book.


A WILDERNESS BYWAY: Some mention is made of several animals of woods and stream, but mainly, this is a description of the habitat where woods meet riverbank and what you might observe there.


KOSKOMENOS THE OUTCAST: Kingfisher- a small but fierce wetlands bird.  This picture is a little dull.  In the right time of year and with the sun cast just right, kingfishers sparkle and are irridescent, hence the poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins that begins:
"AS kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies dráw fláme..."

   MEEKO THE MISCHIEF-MAKER: The American Red Squirrel, one of three members of the pine squirrel family.

  THE OL' BEECH PA'TRIDGE : The Ruffed Grouse. 

There are many species of grouse, but they are elusive and secretive and hard to observe, and at the time Long wrote this chapter, he believed there was really just one kind.   The best value in Long's, to my mind, is his observations.  I love the little things he notices and brings to the reader's attention, and it is our hope that reading Long will inspire our young scholars to go forth and do likewise- stop, look, observe, search the landscape with their eyes.  His conclusions are less important, although there is value in seeing this example of pulling together one's observations and drawing a conclusion- and making a mistake that will be corrected later by more time and experience.

 FOLLOWING THE DEER: This is straightforward enough.  Given that Long is in the eastern woods, I think it's safe to say he's talking bout white tails.

 STILL HUNTING-  Seasonal changes in the woodland habitat- specifically, the forest in October 

 WINTER TRAILS - a little more about grouse, a lot more about deer (he's hunting them), and mainly the woodlands in winter.

 SNOW BOUND- Several animals are mentioned, but the broader scope of the chapter is summed up in the first sentence: "March is a weary month for the wood folk."

All the above pictures except the red squirrel and the ruffed grouse are from Pixabay.

On finding the book: I think I'll take a moment to explain something about our website that sometimes people miss.  Anytime a book title in our curriculum list is hyperlinked, that is to a free title- usually Gutenberg.   But we also offer other options.  To save time and space on the pages, we use the same key as a shortcut to other hyperlinks.  You can find Secrets of the Woods at these links as well: 

 β-, which is another source for free books. Δ -'s free text version($)- A place to buy it- usually Amazon, and these are affiliate links. It's how we pay AO's bills and some of our bills. Κ-  Free Kindle version at Amazon (if it's a pay for it version, the K will be in parenthesis)
Don't worry- you don't have to memorize that.  Our wonderful Leslie Laurio put a key on each of the main curriculum pages.  But we have so much information that sometimes people miss it.

It's been many years since I read this aloud to my youngest children (the baby is now in year 11).  I really enjoyed skimming through it again for this post. It brought back many cozy memories, and I suspect this may have sparked my son's interest in hunting (don't worry, not every reader will take that from the book).  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

On the scarier kinds of toads (Parents' Review)

For your amusement, on the things we take for granted, including harmless little toads and whether gathering pickle material can be dangerous: a Parents' Review article by mathematician Mary Everest Boole.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

From the Parents' Review: on children's collections

(posted by Anne White)

"As for the educational value of juvenile collecting, there are many sorts of collections which are instructive and quite harmless, which depend on contributions gathered by the children themselves, not bought in shops: shells, pebbles, twigs, seeds, mosses, and best of all, paintings of flowers. It is as easy to make a child look out in the map the country whence comes a plant, the flower of which he has painted, as it is to make him look for the town where a stamp was issued. The secretary of the Bayswater Branch of the P.N.E.U., in inviting children to send Natural History collections for the annual exhibition, expressed a wish that shells, seeds, etc., should be sent in boxes not bought, but made by the children."

("The Stamp Traffic As a Factor in Education." Letter to the Parents' Review by Mary Everest Boole, Volume 10, 1899, pg. 214.)

Monday, April 20, 2015

Notes of Lessons from the Parents' Review: Joseph Chamberlain and the Last Crusade

"Churchill later wrote that 'Mr. Chamberlain was incomparably the most live, sparkling, insurgent, compulsive figure in British affairs ... 'Joe' was the one who made the weather. He was the man the masses knew.''" (Wikipedia, Joseph Chamberlain)

Parents' Review, Volume 15, Number 2, pages 144-147. (1904)

Subject: Fiscal Problem, 1846-1903.

Group: History.  Class IV.  Time: 45 minutes.



I. To arouse interest in the Fiscal Policy
II. To connect the present time with the period in English history which the girls have been learning.
III. To show how different ages may have different requirements.


Step I.--Introduce the subject of the lesson by asking the girls what they know of the Fiscal question and its importance. It may be a turning point in our history.

Step II. Ask the girls when Free Trade was established in England--1846. Then draw from them through whose influence it was brought about--Cobden, Bright and Peel. Show portraits of these people and tell the girls a little about each. Then draw from them as much as I can about the Corn Laws, whom they benefitted and whom they harmed. They had existed since 1463 in various forms. There had often been objections raised against them, but from 1840-6 there seems to have been the climax. Draw from the girls how this may accounted for by the condition of the country. Then show how circumstances made Peel change his opinions, and finally bring about the repeal of the Corn Laws.

Ask the girls to read extracts from two of Peel's speeches. (Knight's History.)

Step III.--Ask the girls what we mean by Free Trade, and whether they think the effects of "Free Importation" have been good for England. If they do, why was it good? We, as the greatest manufacturing nation of the world, naturally prospered if we could get our raw materials free of duty. Then if we have so prospered, why is there any thought of abandoning it now? Because we are no longer at the head of the manufacturing world. Cobden thought other countries would be content to continue supplying us with raw material and leave manufacturing to us; but they have not been, and now competition runs us close. It is said our exports are decreasing in proportion as those of other countries are increasing. There is another reason. In Cobden's age it was only necessary to think of England's good, but now we have also to consider our Colonies, and our Empire is so large it has been thought necessary to devise some means of binding it all together. The means advocated by Mr. Chamberlain is a Preferential Tariff. I wish to draw as much of this as I can from the girls.

Step IV.--Draw from the girls a very short sketch of Mr. Chamberlain's career. He was born in Birmingham in 1836. At the age of 40 he entered Parliament. He was under Mr. Gladstone and worked energetically for his interests. But when the Home Rule Bill was brought forward he resigned, saying he did not think it consistent with the integrity of the Empire. This step procured him the ill-will of his party and the distrust of his adversaries. In 1892 Mr Chamberlain was again in Parliament; three years later he became Colonial Secretary. In 1900 he did much to bring about the Australian Commonwealth Act. At the Colonial Conference last year, it was desired to devise some means of drawing the Colonies and the mother country near together. A Preferential Tariff was suggested. Mr. Chamberlain seems to have had the idea in his mind for some time; he announced his views in a speech at Birmingham some time ago. In  September last he resigned, that he might better be able to spread his ideas among the people, and also that his policy should not be treated as a party quetion. He has explained his views in his speeches at Glasgow, Greenock, Newcastle and Liverpool.

At Liverpool on 27 October, Chamberlain was escorted to the Conservative Working Men's Association by mounted police amidst wild cheering. Intending to enlist the support of the working class, Chamberlain assured his audience that tariff reform ensured low unemployment. When the Liberal-supporting Daily News used official import prices to demonstrate that a loaf of bread under tariff reform would be smaller than a free trade loaf of bread, Chamberlain arranged for two loaves to be baked based upon free trade and tariff reform prices. On 4 November 1903, Chamberlain spoke at Bingley Hall, Birmingham and put the loaves on display, raising them aloft. "Is it not a sporting question ... as to which is the larger?" he asked the rapturous audience.[12] (Wkipedia)

Step V.--Draw from the girls what I can of Mr. Chamberlain's proposals He wants a Preferential Tariff, that is, he would put a duty on all foreign imports, but allow some Colonial imports in free, in return for preferences from them. The consequences of this would be--

(a) That corn and meat would be dear; tea, sugar, coffee, fruit, wine, etc. would be free of duty. Mr. Chamberlain says that the changes in price would counterbalance each other, even to the advantage of the poor man.

(b) The time for Free Trade has come to an end, for ours is only Free Importation, and we lose doubly by it--we lose home trade and foreign markets.

(c) Our export trade with the foreigner is decreasing, that with the Colonies is increasing, therefore let us set up a Preferential Tariff between us and the Colonies and shut out cheap foreign imports.

(d) This done, there would be enough work for the home market to employ many of the men who now can find nothing to do.

(e) In the time of war, instead of being dependent on foreigners for three-quarters of our supply of food, we should have all we want from our Colonies.

(f) The Empire would be a self-supporting whole.

Step VI.--There are many objectors to Mr. Chamberlain, such as Lord Rosebery, Lord George Hamilton, Lord Goschen and others. Their objections have been partially answered by Mr. Chamberlain in his speeches, but some can only be answered by hypothetical arguments.

(a) They say our exports are not decreasing, and quote figures to prove this, which differ from Mr. Chamberlain's figures. It is hard to know which are right.

(b) Such an arrangement would strain relations with the Colonies; it would be impossible to be just to all alike.

(c) It would rouse the enmity of foreign powers.

(d) We should be dependent on the Colonies; if we wished to change any duty, we should first have to ask their permission and they might very well refuse.

Some people only object to the food tax. In England living is comparatively cheap. It is a question whether the producer or the consumer would pay the duty. Other people object to the whole idea of a Preferential Tariff; in England the wages are higher and the working hours shorter than in any other European country.

We must beware of comparing England with any non-European country, as the conditions would be different.

Also, we must remember there is another view of Protection, protection of home industries; laying a tax on the consumer for the benefit of the producer.

Step VII.--These are the chief points in the new policy. Tell the girls I should like them to read Mr. Chamberlain's last speech, if they have not already done so; and show them how the newspaper is our "present history book."

So what happened? See Tariff Reform, on Wikipedia.

Trivia: Who is Joseph Chamberlain's best-known son?

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Parents' Reviews: A Grammar Lesson

Parents' Review, Volume 15, Number 3, pages 228-229. (1904) (This lesson also appears in the Appendix of School Education.)

Subject: Grammar.

Group: English.  Class II.  Time: 20 minutes.

By H.M.A. Bell.


I.  To increase the children's power of reasoning and attention.
II. to increase their knowledge of English Grammar.
III. To introduce a new part of speech--prepositions.


Step I--Draw from the children the names of the two kinds of verbs and the difference between them, by putting up sentences on the board.  Thus in the sentence "Father slept," "slept" is intransitive, therefore he could not "slept" anything, as "slept" cannot have an object.

Step II.--Put on the board the sentence "Mary went," and ask the children to try and make it more complete by adding an object. "Mary went school" would not be sense, but "Mary went to school" would be. Ask for other phrases saying where Mary went, as: for a walk, in the town, with mother, on her bicycle, by train, etc.

Step III.--Tell the children that these little words on, in, by, for, with, etc., belong to a class of little words which are very much used with intransitive verbs, and though they have not much meaning when used alone, yet in a sentence they cannot stand without an object.  You cannot say "Mary went in" without saying what she went in.

Step IV.--Introduce the word "preposition" giving its derivation.  Because these little words always take objects after them and because their place is before the object, they are called prepositions, "pre" being the Latin word for "before," and "position" another word for "place."

Step V.--Write on the board the definition:-- "A preposition always has an object after it."

Step VI.--Let the children work through the following exercises:--

(1.) Put three objects after each of the following prepositions:--in, on, over, by, with and from.

(2.) Put three prepositions and their objects after the following:--Mary plays, Mother sits, John runs.

(3.) Supply three prepositions in each of the following sentences:--The book is ____ the table.  The chair is ____ the door.  I stood ____ the window.

(4.) Supply three subjects and verbs to each of the following prepositions and objects: ______ in the garden, ___ ___ on the floor, and ___ ___ by the fire.

(5.) Make three sentences about each of the following, each sentence to contain an intransitive verb, preposition and object:--The white pony, my little brother, that pretty flower.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

A thought about Plutarch

by Anne White

The decision to include Plutarch's Lives--or not--or in what translation--becomes a kind of touchpoint for how we view (or do) a Charlotte Mason education. Shakespeare is easy; everyone knows Shakespeare, recognizes Shakespeare. Nobody argues with teaching Shakespeare. But Plutarch belongs much more unmistakably to Charlotte Mason; if homeschooling was the world and CM was Australia, Plutarch would be a Vegemite sandwich. 

(Australians, what do you think?)