Thursday, October 1, 2015

Education for All Never Goes Out of Style

Below are the goals and principles of the PNEU as stated in volume 1 of the Parents' Review, published in 1890/91:

Isn't that an inspiring sort of vision statement?  This is really very much where AmblesideOnline is coming from- all classes, religious basis of work, education for all, to help parents, to include all parts of the person- physical, mental, moral, and spiritual.  Our email list and now our forum and our facebook page are there to stimulate enthusiasm, to give parents opportunities for cooperation and to make known the best information and experiences on the subject.

Pay no mind to the Victorian style imagery- I use that primarily because it's in the public domain and easy for me to find (and I do think it's cute).

But make no mistake- this kind of education never goes out of style.

It's not old-fashioned just because it relies heavily on the great books that have been part of the great conversation since books were written.  In volume six, Mason is giving a sort of general overview of the literature she uses.  She explains that the reading for high school "is more comprehensive and more difficult. Like that in the earlier Forms, it follows the lines of the history they are reading, touching current literature in the occasional use of modern books; but young people who have been brought up on this sort of work may, we find, be trusted to keep themselves au fait (editor's note: that is, current) with the best that is being produced in their own days. 

It is a modern education and a classical and old fashioned education in the very best sense of each of those terms.  There's nothing out of date about it.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Charlotte Mason is inclusive

by Anne White

A brief exchange on the AO Forum left me wondering if there was something about CM philosophy I'd never grasped. Or maybe I knew it and never realized that I knew it. In any case, putting it out there in words seemed to shine one of those Renaissance-art halos around a half-acknowledged truth:

When we say "Children are born persons," we are acknowledging not only their individuality and their own value as individuals, but also their personhood, their inclusion as human beings.  As Mortimer J. Adler said in his book on philosophy, human beings have several features that make us undeniably more than just a concatenation of atoms or members of some other species.

Those of us who have ever been mildly or wildly startled by a noticeable family resemblance on a prenatal ultrasound, or right after a baby's birth, understand that. Even when ultrasounds weren't quite as distinct, about fifteen years ago, we were surprised to see how much the face of our soon-to-be youngest already looked like her sisters. She was already, recognizably, one of us, part of a family. And each new person (like a Cabbage Patch Kid) also comes with a status certificate marking him or her as a genuine member of the family.

In Wendell Berry's books, the character Burley Coulter calls his circle of close family and friends "the Port William membership." The membership did not apply for inclusion or have to swear a loyalty oath; they just made themselves responsible for the well-being of each other.

It's like the other side of the coin. As a human being, you are valuable and loved because you are you, but you are also valuable and loved because you are us. It's not only what makes each one distinct, it's what draws us together.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Charlotte Mason is permissive

by Anne White

I recently finished reading Susan Cain's book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking.

One of the ideas that struck me the most was Cain's assessment of cultural extroverted expectations. Raise your hand if you (or your children) were ever told by a teacher that you (or your children) needed to "speak up more in class." Raise both hands if you were told this by almost (to punctuate it currently) Every. Single. Teacher. Even if you thought you were "speaking up in class." Raise both hands and a foot if, on top of that, you were frequently told to "stop reading, go and play with the other children."

When this goes on for years and years, it's no wonder that introverts feel like they're not good enough, don't belong. Even good grades don't quite make up for not fitting into the General Agenda for Normal.

According to Cain, a great deal of this started about a hundred years ago, with Dale Carnegie, personal confidence, and the belief that success in the new century was as much about public face as it was about hard work or intelligence or personal honour. Those who could present well, be sufficiently aggressive or persuasive, got the job, got the client. Think advertising agencies.

With the new demands for common standards, education for many children is, more than ever, the demand that they measure up, academically and socially. Private schools and homeschools can reduce that pressure, to some extent, but we can still find ourselves pushing children to meet our own agenda or someone else's. It might be a required standardized test. It might be one of Charlotte Mason's lists of "attainments," which I personally think have taken on more weight than they should have; they were not intended to be timetables, just potentials if everything else was in place.

Charlotte Mason's philosophy of education is radical. Like Christ's "yoke that is easy," it removes burdens of expectations. It is about training in character, but without demanding a perfect result. It is about drawing in notebooks rather than colouring in the lines. It gives us permission to grow and learn freely, without standing against a measurement chart. Introverts, extroverts, slow learners, fast learners, those who excel in one thing or another, can all belong. Each of us has value because we are made in God's image.

We have permission to be us.

(Did you think I was referring only to the students?)

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Hymn Singing and playlist for the 2015/2016 School Year

We know that not all our members are Christian, but we are, and Charlotte Mason was a member in good standing with the Church of England and a woman of strong and deep faith and love for the Lord, and she included hymns in her programmes, and so do we.

On our FB group today, somebody asked for help finding hymn links that have both words and music together, because she doesn't know the hymns and does not read music, so it's hard to learn them from just a midi file with lyrics.
When you click on the title on our website, that usually takes you to the hymn lyrics and a midi file online. But when you click on the asterisk after the song title at our website, that should take you to a youtube version. We *usually* try to avoid instrumental only versions. Sometimes, of course, you all are ready for the hymns before we're all caught up on fixing broken links and finding current youtube versions (sometimes they don't stay put!)

Another suggestion- search acapella versions- that will help you match the words to notes. You can also find acapella versions by looking including in your search terms Primitive Baptist, church of Christ (all three words in quotations), Mennonite, Sacred Harp, OR Shaped Note Singing. The first two groups sing without instruments, so all their hymn selections will be acapella, or voice only, which makes it easier to learn a new melody. Mennonites often do (depends on the group), and Sacred Harp or Shaped Note singing is the fa sol la tradition, and also acapella.  

Something you should know when I pick youtube videos:

I grew up in an acapella singing church, so that's my first preference. I can't even figure out where to sing along with songs that have really strong instrumentals.

I also tend to prefer somewhat unpolished, average joe and jane versions because I want the children not to be intimidated out of singing the songs- and singing the hymns, not just listening to them, is our goal.  

When we added hymns to the line up nearly 15 years ago, we discussed our varied backgrounds in hymn singing. I'm not the only one who grew up acapella, singing hymns with the family on long car trips, while doing the dishes, to comfort ourselves in time of need. But you needn't grow up acapella to have that rich treasure. One of us told the others lovely stories of her mother and aunt singing through the hymns they knew while they did the dishes in a tiny apartment that I always picture looking exactly like the kitchen in The Honeymooners).

We want that for you, too. We want our members and their children to feel like these are songs they can sing by themselves in their rooms, in the morning while getting dressed, while driving somewhere- in their living rooms with their family, anywhere, any time, without being afraid they don't sing well enough, and whether or not they have somebody who can play an instrument. After all, pianos are not portable, but you nearly always have your voice with you.=) 

But you don't have to use my playlist. I won't know if you pick your own unless you tell me and if you do, I will only rejoice over you caring enough about the hymns to pick a line-up that speaks to you.  

In the book of Acts in the New Testament, Paul and Silas were in prison (chapter 16, verse 25). Do you know what they were doing? They were singing. Their hands and feet were bound, so they weren't playing any instruments. The Word does not say, but I it's pretty safe to believe the Jailor was not accompanying them with a psalter (he was not yet converted). They were singing- and I must surmise they were able to do this because singing was already their practice and they already knew the words. That's also something we hope for with AO's students- that hymns will be there to sustain them in joyful and heartbreaking times, that their souls will be nourished by learning- and singing- these songs of the Christian faith.

On this specific playlist, you should also know:

A Charge to Keep I Have will be confusing, I think, because I included more Black American versions than anything else. They have a gorgeous 'lining out' hymn tradition that gives me delicious goose bumps, it's so pretty. But it's not what most people who have never been in black congregations in the south will be used to.

There are two tunes I am used to singing with Take My Life, and I used both of them.

Several of the hymns have variations in their lyrics, or have multiple verses, and one group might sing three of them, and another four, or one may choose a different grouping of verses.

If you sing the hymns, you can't fail.
If you falter, miss a beat, go up when you should have gone down, create a new verse by combining the first half of one verse with the last half of another, go down when you should have gone up, hear your voice catch and crack- none of that is not failing. 

If you cannot carry a tune in a bucket or you get your pitch by scraping your shoe on a rickety wooden floor, or even by scratching chalk on chalkboard- that's not failing.  

There is not doing it wrong or doing it right. There is only singing and not singing.  

Not singing? Now, that's doing it wrong. There's really only one thing you have to do:

St. Patrick's Breastplate Hymn Lyrics for a Hymn from AO School Year 2015/16


I BIND unto myself today
The strong Name of the Trinity,
 By invocation of the same,
 The Three in One and One in Three.
 I bind this day to me forever,
By pow'r of faith, Christ's Incarnation;
His baptism in  the Jordan river;
 His crucifixion for my salvation;
His bursting from the spic├Ęd tomb;
His riding up the Heav'nly way;
His coming at the day of doom;
 I bind unto myself today.

I bind unto myself the power
Of the great love of Cherubim;
The sweet "Well done" in judgment hour;
 The service of the Seraphim,
 Confessors faith, Apostles' word,
 The Patriarchs' prayers, the Prophets scrolls,
 All good deeds done unto the Lord,
 And purity of virgin souls.

    I bind unto myself to day
 The virtues of the star-lit heaven,
 The glorious sun's life giving ray,
 The whiteness of the moon at even,
 The flashing of the lightning free,
 The whirling wind's tempestuous shocks,
 The stable earth, the deep salt sea,
 Around the old eternal rocks.

 I bind unto myself to-day,
 The pow'r of God to hold, and lead,
 His eye to watch, His might to stay,
 His ear to hearken to my need
The wisdom of my God to teach,
His hand to guide, His shield to ward;
 The word of God to give me speech,
 His heavenly host to be my guard.

 Against the demon snares of sin,
The vice that gives temptation force,
The natural lusts that war within,
 The hostile men that mar my course;
Or few or many, far or nigh,
 In every place, and in all hours,
 Against their fierce hostility,
I bind to me these holy powers.

 Against all Satan's spells and wiles,
 Against false words of heresy,
 Against the knowledge that defiles,
 Against the heart's idolatry,
 Against the wizard's evil craft,
 Against the death wound and the burning,
 The choking wave,  the poison'd shaft,
 Protect me, Christ, till Thy returning.

 Christ be with me, Christ within me,
 Christ behind me, Christ before me,
 Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
 Christ to comfort and restore me,
 Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
 Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
 Christ in hearts of all that love me,
 Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

    I bind unto myself the Name,
 The strong Name of the Trinity;
 By invocation of the same,
 The Three in One and One in Three.
 Of Whom all nature hath creation;
 Eternal Father, Spirit, Word:
Praise to the Lord of my salvation,
Salvation is of Christ the Lord.

From Poems, by Cecil Frances Alexander Macmillan and Company, New York, 1897

My playlist for this year's hymns (not yet complete)

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Folk Songs, Term 2, 2015/2016 School Year

The notes about the song are not necessary to learn the folk song. They are provided because the background interested me, and I thought some others might enjoy it as well.


by Henry Wouk

My grandfather's clock was too large for the shelf

 So it stood ninety years on the floor.
It was taller by half than the old man himself,
Though it weighed not a pennyweight more.

 It was bought on the morn of the day that he was born,

 And was always his treasure and pride.
 But it stopped, short, never to go again
 When the old man died.

Chorus:  Ninety years without slumbering

 Tick tock, tick tock 
His life seconds numbering
 Tick tock, tick tock
 It stopped. Short- never to go again 
When the old man died.

 In watching its pendulum swing to and fro,

 Many hours had he spent while a boy.
 And in childhood and manhood the clock seemed to know,
 And to share both his grief and his joy;
 For it struck twenty four when he entered the door
 With a blooming and beautiful bride,
 But it stopped short, never to go again
 When the old man died.

 My grandfather said of those he could hire

 Not a servant so faithful he found.
 For it wasted no time and had but one desire;
 At the close of each week to be wound.
 And it kept in its place- not a frown upon its face-
 And its hands never hung by its side.
 But it stopped, short, never to go again
 When the old man died.

 It rang an alarm in the dead of night-

 An alarm that for years had been dumb.
 And we knew that his spirit was pluming for flight,
 That his hour for departure had come.
  Still the clock kept the time with a soft and muffled chime,
 As we silently stood by his side
 But it stopped, short, never to go again,
 When the old man died.


When The Ice-Worms Nest Again
The poet Robert Service included one paragraph (the chorus) of this song in one of his novels of life in the Great North around 1911-The Trail of '98: A Northland Romance- and it doesn't seem to have been a true folk song before then.  By the 20s and 30s the full song had become popular with the trappers and traders in Alaska and Canada, and  Wilf Carter ('Montana Slim') recorded it in the forties.

A 1994 Polygram CD says in the liner notes that it was 'written by Norma Booth, with co-authors from Le Pas, Manitoba, and published in 1949" and that it 'dates back to an old folk song from the Yukon Gold Rush."
(Some of us are not comfortable with the 'husky dusky' description of the maiden.  You can just change the words- making it part of the 'folk process' or you can use the alternative shared below)
There's a husky, dusky maiden in the Arctic And she waits for me but it is not in vain, For some day I'll put my mukluks on and ask her If she'll wed me when the ice worms nest again. chorus: In the land of pale blue snow Where it's ninety nine below And the polar bears are dancing on the plain In the shadow of the pole Oh my Heart, my Life, my Soul, I will meet thee when the ice worms nest again! For our wedding feast we'll have seal oil and blubber; In our kayaks we will roam the bounding main; All the walruses will look at us and rubber, We'll be married when the ice worms nest again. And when the blinkin' icebergs bound around us, She'll present me with a bouncing baby boy. All the polar bears will dance a rhumba 'round us And the walruses will click their teeth with joy. Final Chorus: When some night at half-past two I return to my igloo, After sitting with a friend who was in pain, She'll be waiting for me there, With the hambone of a bear And she'll beat me 'til the iceworms nest again.  
Down by the Salley Gardens
(also sometimes misspelled Sally Gardens)
William Butler Yeats published this in 1889 in his The Wanderings of Oisin and Other Poems. He said "an attempt to reconstruct an old song from three lines imperfectly remembered by an old peasant woman in the village of Ballisodare, Sligo, who often sings them to herself."

 Down by the salley gardens my love and I did meet;
She passed the salley gardens with little snow-white feet.
She bid me take love easy, as the leaves grow on the tree;
But I, being young and foolish, with her would not agree.

In a field by the river my love and I did stand,
And on my leaning shoulder she laid her snow-white hand.
She bid me take life easy, as the grass grows on the weirs;
But I was young and foolish, and now am full of tears.

Alternate suggestion for Ice Worms:  Young Man From Canada:

I'm a young man from Canada
some six feet in my shoes
I left my home for Cariboo
on the first exciting news
In New York City I met a gent
introduced himself to me
Said I, "I come from Canada
so you can't come over me."

I sailed on the crazy Champion
all in the steerage too
I thought I'd got among the fiends
or other horrid crew
If you had only seen them feed,
it quite astonished me
And I'd been years in Canada
in a lumberman's shanty

With seventy-five upon my back
I came the Douglas way
And at an easy-going pace
made thirty miles a day
I landed here without a dime
in 1863
But I'd been years in Canada,
'twas nothing new to me

In best of homespun I was clad
so I was warmly dressed
The wool it grew near Montreal
in a place called Canada West
On Williams Creek they called me green
and Johnny come lately
But, ah, I came from Canada,
I ain't from the old country

I started out my mining life
by chopping cord wood
But I was born with axe in hand
so I could use it good
My chum was from the state of Maine,
somewhere near Tennessee
But, ah, I came from Canada
and he couldn't chop with me

In a short time I'd made a raise
and bought into a claim
There they called me engineer or carman,
'tis the same
The drifters then did try it on
to boss it over me
Said I, "I come from Canada
and I'm on the shoulderee."

In two weeks I got a div
which drove away all care
I went over to the wake-ups
and had a bully square
I danced all night till broad daylight
and a gal smiled sweet on me
Said I, "I come from Canada
and I'm on the marry-ee."

Now all young men who are in love
and sure I am there's some
Don't count your chicks before they're hatched
or they may never come
O when I asked that girl to wed
she only laughed at me
"You may come from Canada
but you can't come over me." 

Jeanne's playlist is here.
Mine is here
(I like a wide range of examples and renditions of the same song)
Another AO member's playlist is here.

Have fun singing!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Folk Songs, term one, 2015/2016 School Year

Around fifteen years ago, AO added folk songs to our curriculum.  At the time, we were about the only CM homeschool curriculum that did.  Of course, that's largely because back then we were about the only CM homeschool curriculum out there.

Some people were and are skeptical about it, but usually, when they give it a try, they find their children really enjoy it, and often the parents do, too.  Folk songs speak to children in a unique way, and they give children the opportunity to participate in this traditional art form by singing the songs themselves.

 Four things you should know about folk music:
1.  Folk music is fun to sing.

2.  There is no one right version. Folk music is created by something called the Folk Process- that is, somebody, somewhere, created a song, perhaps set to music an actual story he knew or just made one up to tell, much the same way somebody started telling the story of The Three Bears, and these things get passed down, and things change over time, and in different locations. You'll find variations all over the place. That's okay.

3.  Some folk music is earthy and bawdy.  Some is macabre and sad.  You don't have to sing those lyrics. (However, I personally think the macabre and sad ones are some of the most enjoyable to sing).

4. Folk music is fun to sing, so sing it, don't just listen to it.

Our folksong lineup for term one of the 2015/16 school year is:

The Bold Grenadier (English, originally, but pretty much every colonial country has a version they claim to own)
On the Road to Gundagai (Australian, distinctly)
Home on the Range (American)

Jeanne has a playlist for you here.  It's for the full year.

I have one for you here- it's currently just for this first term, but I will probably add more later.  I like multiple versions of the same song when I'm learning it and planning to sing it for school, and my playlist reflects that.

If you search Youtube, you will probably find playlists from other AO families as well.

Some of the songs on those playlists do have lyrics, but we also like to provide lyrics to our members when we can.  Here's what we've come up with.

 Here's one version of the lyrics to the Bold Grenadier (also known as One Morning in May or The Brave Volunteer) :

As I was a-walking one morning in May 
I spied a young couple a-making of hay. 
Oh, one was a fair maid, and her beauty shone clear, 
And the other was a soldier, a bold grenadier.

  "Good morning, Good morning, Good morning," said he.
 "Oh, where are you a-going, my pretty lady?" 
"I am going for a walk, by the clear crystal stream, 
To see cool waters glide and hear nightingales sing.:

  They had not been there but an hour or two, 
When out of his knapsack a fiddle he drew 
And the tune that he played made the valleys to ring. 
"Hark! Hark!" cried the lady, "hear the nigntingales sing." 

 Kind soldier, kind soldier, will you marry me? 
Oh no, my sweet lady that never can be,
 I've a good wife at home, in my own country, 
Two wives and the army's too many for me.

  As I was a walking one morning in May, 
I spied a young couple a-making of hay. 
Oh, one was a fair maid and her beauty shone clear;
 And the other was a soldier a bold grenadier. 

 Other versions begin 'one morning, one morning, one morning in May...' I've read that this is typical of the American versions, and the 'a-walking on morning in May' is more typical of those sung in the British Isles.

 Some refer to the brave volunteer rather than the bold grenadier. Both are soldiers, According to Wikipedia, the grenadiers were first established in the 17th century. Chosen from the largest and strongest soldiers, their primary function was throwing grenades. Over time the grenadiers retained their elite status, but were no longer strictly associated with grenade throwing.

 The second folksong for term 1 of this school year is the Australian On the Road to Gungadai- the lyrics are here.

  The third folk song for this first term of the 2015/16 school year is Home on the Range. I think it's kind of interesting that this song and Gundagai express similar sentiments- a nostalgic longing and love for home. There are a lot of lyrics to this one, as with most folk songs. Here are just a few:


 OH give me a home where the buffalo roam,
 Where the deer and the antelope play,
 Where seldom is heard a discouraging word,
 And the skies are not cloudy all day

Home,  home on the range!
Where the deer and the antelope play.
 Where seldom is heard a discouraging word,
 And the skies are not cloudy all day

 Where the air is so pure, the zephyrs so free,
The breezes so balmy and light
 That I would not exchange my home on the range
 For all of the cities so bright


 How often at night, when the heavens are bright
 With the light from the glittering stars ,
 Have I stood here amazed and asked as I gazed,
 If their glory exceeds that of ours.

   (lyrics selected from those in the 1916 Cowboy Songs and Other Frontier Ballads)

Happy singing to you!