Tuesday, July 7, 2015

From the Parents' Review: How to Prepare and Present a Lesson

A hidden gem on the Parents' Review page: the article "A Rational Lesson"  by S. De Brath, from Volume 8, 1897, pgs. 119-125.

Here's a sample:
The stages by which the former kind of idea [general truths able to be described in language] is reached are very easy to follow. 
First comes the direction of attention to the matter in hand; then that careful note of successive sense impressions which is called Observation; then the separation by the mind of what is distinct in these different percepts from what is common to them all; and lastly, the expression of this in correct language.
These four stages have been called Attention, Observation, Generalization, and Formulation.... The lesson should move this process as a key moves a lock. Sound teaching, which habituates the mind to move logically, must be adapted to it, and the corresponding stages of each lesson are: Preparation, recalling the old, and directing the attention towards the new; Presentation of the new matter, to all the senses as far as possible; Association of the particulars and that which is essential in each; and Formulation, the expressing of the result attained in good plain English.
The really valuable part of this article is that, using several different school subjects, S. De Brath takes us through each of the four stages in detail. How does all this apply to a geography lesson, a literature lesson? If you want Charlotte Mason nuts and bolts, this is it.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Beginning Charlotte Mason's Methods with Older Students

by Karen Glass

Your children didn't start narration at age six? They haven't been keeping a Book of Centuries since they were ten? They've never made a single entry in a nature notebook? It must be too late to start a Charlotte Mason education now...right?


It is not too late, not even a little bit too late, and in spite of the fact that I did begin using CM's methods earlier with my own children, I feel quite confident in saying that it's not too late to begin now, even if your child is starting high school, because Charlotte Mason didn't think it was too late.

Children are born persons, right? Well, they are still persons when they start high school, and all of the things Charlotte Mason said were true of little children--that they have a living mind which is hungry for knowledge--are still true if your child is fourteen. If they've been educated with meager or non-existent portions of living ideas, they might even be starving. I don't think we'd tell a hungry famine victim that just because they aren't used to good food, it's too late to eat a healthy diet now. It would be just as silly to make our older children subsist mentally on starvation rations when a feast of living ideas is available.

If you are in this situation, and want to begin using Charlotte Mason's methods with your older children, I recommend spending a little time reading what Charlotte Mason herself thought was possible for 14 to 18-year-olds who could only attend school for eight hours per week ("Continuation Schools" allowed that much time for education for wage-earning young people when the Fisher Act was passed in England in 1915.) Without any consideration for what type of schooling they might have had previously, she is confident that they can begin narration (which is a very natural human activity), read and understand meaty books, and get through a generous amount of liberal education in the time allotted for them. It would be encouraging to read though the chapter "The Scope of Continuation Schools "(originally published as a stand-alone pamphlet) from A Philosophy of Education.

Charlotte Mason thought they could accomplish much in that amount of time. She didn't worry about Latin--or even math (assuming they already had basic math, probably, and would continue to hone those skills)--but she was concerned to offer them all the riches of an education in the humanities. She gave them credit for having a natural hunger for knowledge, and she concludes with confidence:

We can give to the people the thought of the best minds and we can secure on their part the conscious intellectual effort, the act of knowing, which bears fruit in capability, character, and conduct. (Vol. 6, p. 298)
The desire for that fruit is probably what motivates a homeschooling parent to change gears and pursue a Charlotte Mason education with their older children, and we have much more than eight hours per week in which to accomplish it, which should allow time for the necessary modern extras and requirements as well.
The first question most parents coming to AmblesideOnline will ask is "what year should I start with?" The answer to that question is going to be a little different for each individual. Any of the years from 7 and above are appropriate for high school students, and where you begin will probably reflect, in part, what history your children have already covered. You'll also want to consider how many years of homeschooling you have left. Specific questions about where to start in your situation can be asked and will always be answered on the AmblesideOnline forum.

 One of the most overwhelming new things is the process of oral-to-written narration that makes up the bulk of "composition" or "writing." This may feel daunting, and your children may not be used to narration, but an older student can adapt quickly, and within the course of one semester, reach a similar degree of fluency in narration which younger children might take five or six years to achieve. Consistency is the key. Your children already know how to narrate--they have probably narrated the plot of their favorite books, movies, and television programs to you or to their friends, or described in detail a dramatic occasion during a camping trip or sport event. They know how to narrate, but what they have to learn to do is give enough attention to their school work to be able to bring that power to bear. I've broken down the process into what I believe is a very manageable approach for students who still have about four years of homeschool left.

First semester: Begin oral narration immediately, and after a few weeks of oral narration, begin asking for written narrations. I'd start with 2 per week, and add another every week or two until they are doing written narration 4-5 days every week. There is no need to ask for any special form, and no need for correction at this stage, although it would be fair to insist on proper capitalization and punctuation for this age. Just ask for written narrations, so that your child can grow fluent in getting his thoughts down on paper (or let him type if that works better).

Second semester: Keep it up, unflaggingly. Remember, consistency. Until you see it happen, you have no idea how powerful and formative a year of daily oral and written narration, based upon excellent books, will be in the life of a young person.

Third semester: After a full year of informal written narration, begin the next year where you left off (4-5 written narrations per week). If your child is a bit bored of just "telling back," that's perfect. They are ready for more. Begin asking for more focused or creative narrations once per week (or even every other week at first). The list of possibilities is endless, so choose the ones that will capture the interest and imagination of your child: a dialogue between a fictional character and a historical one on a topic at hand...a character sketch...a letter to the editor about a historical situation (war, election, slavery, etc...) as if it were a current event...a first-person diary account as if written by the main character in a book, etc, etc. Give them some scope to stretch their creative wings, and don't worry them about corrections just yet. You'll be teaching grammar and (hopefully) doing dictation at other times, and those activities are sharpening the skills that will make their writing better as you continue.

Fourth semester: This is a good time to introduce a book about writing or style. Strunk and White's Elements of Style and William Zinsser's On Writing Well are my choices, and are both recommended in the AO curriculum. You might ask for a longer writing project this semester that will require a couple of weeks' work. It's also a good time to introduce the idea of refining a "rough draft." (All of their written narrations are rough drafts.) Choose one paper or narration per week, read it aloud sentence by sentence, and talk about ways to improve each one. If there are grammar/punctuation issues, you can begin the process of learning how to find/fix those errors. Ideally, your child should be able to write 300-500 word narrations very easily at this point in the process. (If they aren't typing yet, get them started.)

The last two years: With two years of copious, and mostly informal writing under their belts, most children will be ready to begin formal instruction. Difficult as it is for us to realize today, Charlotte Mason didn't recommend formal writing instruction until the last few years of school, even for those who had been been following her methods from the beginning. Narration is a natural process of building composition skills. Trust that process. Now you can pick a writing program and begin shaping your narrations into standard forms. You'll still have two good years left to work on it--and it is enough. I have done it exactly as I have described here. Children who are fluent in writing narrations don't need more than two years to learn how to produce standard types of writing such as comparison/contrast or cause/effect papers.

In twenty years of online community with fellow Charlotte-Mason homeschoolers, I have seen the same story played out over and over again. Charlotte Mason has so much to offer us as parent/teachers, that our lives have been enriched and changed for the better. Of course it's not too late for our high schoolers. We just need to have the same confidence in them that Charlotte Mason had--confidence enough to follow her principles and lay out the feast for them.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Plutarch: North gets to the gut

In working on the revised study notes for Plutarch's Life of Philopoemen, I came across a funny example of why North's translation is sometimes easier to understand than Dryden's. Imagine this scene: Philopoemen is in the midst of a battle, and someone shoots a javelin through his leg. He is not so much reeling in pain as annoyed by the fact that he can't fight, because things are just getting interesting.

Dryden says that " he was transported with the desire of partaking in [the battle]." 

North says "it spited him to the guts."

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

What Is Twaddle?

Whenever two or more Charlotte Mason parents get together, especially those who are newer to the approach, there is sure to be some discussion of twaddle, and what it is, and more keenly, what it is not.  None of us wants to admit that the books we adored in our own childhood might just be twaddle, and we don't appreciate the kill-joys who try to tell us otherwise.

Often there is skepticism as well about just how much it matters, and did Miss Mason really understand what she was talking about, anyway?   You may enjoy this letter to the Parents' Review schools written in 1967 by a former skeptic much like many of us.  Here's an excerpt:

Although a trained teacher, I knew nothing of Charlotte Mason's methods. I ordered 'Home and School Education' and read it with interest; but I must confess to some scepticism.
'Children have no natural appetite for twaddle,' she had written in the chapter on Aspects of Intellectual Training.
'Huh!' thought I. 'Haven't they though?'
I underlined that sweeping statement; and in my mind I classified it along with a few odd ones I had heard at college'Children are not naughty,' and the rest. Experience had fast taught me that children are downright wicked unless they are kept so busy and interested that they have no time to think up any fresh devilment.
I cannot possibly describe my bewildered, fascinated disbelief when the first batch of books arrived. Of them all, 'Plutarch's Lives' hit me hardest. Those long, measured periods in difficult language! Alison, at eleven, would not understand a word! How on earth was Robin going to assimilate 'Mankind in the Making' and 'The Spangled Heavens'? What was Charles going to make of 'Pilgrim's Progress'?
By the time I had been through them all I was in a whirl of doubt. However, I was prepared to give the programmes and the method a try. I threw my notions about 'giving lovely lessons' out of the window the more readily because I was aware that I simply could not give a lesson, lovely or otherwise, on the origin of the Solar System! We bashedand that is the only verb that describes our progress in those early days through the text-books, got the gist of them by determined attention, and miraculously found ourselves enjoying every minute. Narrations were wobbly affairs, half inarticulate, half incorporating remembered phrases from the reading. Parsing and Analysis they found absorbing and rewarding. French and Latin were fun. After all, languages were words, weren't they? A sudden word-hunger seemed to grip them all; and a new world had opened up. When, at morning prayers, they sang:
'Praise for the singing! Praise for the morning! Praise for them springing Fresh from the Word!'
Their eyes shone. They were not thanking God as a dutiful routine, but joyfully.
They have retained their sense of delight and wonder.

Those of us who plead for the reduction, or better, eliminationm of twaddle from your family's literary diet do so not because we are kill-joys, but because there is a deep, abiding richness to the quality of joy, delight, and wonder which comes from living books (and the rest of CM's methods), which is precisely what twaddle cannot truly give. 

But what are we to do, when we have not all grown up with living books?  How does one learn to develop a taste for real books when we have grown up on cotton candy and pizza?

The first step is in recognizing that not all reading is equal anymore than all foods are equal. It is not true that it doesn't matter what they read, so long as they are reading. This notion is a sort of a buzzword of our non-reading generation, but it really cannot stand up under scrutiny.  Is it really just fine if a human soul spends an entire lifetime reading only about wimpy kids and heroes in underpants?   It does matter, or we might as well merely all read cereal boxes and Disney picture books and nothing else (shudder.  Disney picture books are truly among the worst).

Let's conduct a little thought experiment.  Let us imagine  two groups of children.  The children in each group have access to only two books for their first 8 years of life.  Group A may have the 800 page 'Disney Princess Comics Treasury' and nothing else (no link, because, ugh). Group B will have only a complete collection of Hans Christian Anderson's original tales, perhaps this one: The Complete Fairy Tales and Stories, which is even unillustrated.  Or we could substitute Aesop's, or Grimm's, or Jacob's, or even Pilgrim's Progress, so long as it a recognized work of literary value, a book everybody agrees is a living book.  Each group will be read to from the assigned book and only the assigned book at least fifteen minutes a day, and in every other area will be treated precisely the same.  Will there be absolutely no discernable difference between the language skills, the ideas and thoughts and imaginings of a child who has never read anything but Disney?   The mind feeds on ideas, and twaddle is not sustaining.  So please, let us dispense with the false notion that it doesn't matter what they read so long as they are reading.

 The next step is a little harder- how do we learn to detect twaddle?

I have two excerpts to share which help us in defining living books vs twaddle.  This is from a Parents Review article by Charlotte Mason:

What manner of book will find its way with upheaving effect into the mind of an intelligent boy or girl? We need not ask what the girl or boy likes. She very often likes the twaddle of goody-goody story-books, he likes condiments, highly-spiced tales of adventure. We are all capable of liking mental food of a poor quality and a titillating nature, and no doubt, such food is good for us when our minds are in need of an elbow-chair; but our spiritual life is sustained on other stuff, whether we be boys or girls, men or women. 

  This is from volume 6 of her six volume set (Toward a Philosophy of Education):  
"I do not know better how to describe the sort of books that children's minds will consent to deal with than by saying that they must be literary in character. A child of seven or eight will narrate a difficult passage from The Pilgrim's Progress, say, with extraordinary zest and insight; but I doubt if he or his elders would retain anything from that excellent work, Dr. Smiles's Self-Help! The completeness with which hundreds of children reject the wrong book is a curious and instructive experience, not less so than the avidity and joy with which they drain the right book to the dregs; children's requirements in the matter seem to be quantity, quality and variety: but the question of books is one of much delicacy and difficulty. After the experience of over a quarter of a century [The P.U.S. was started in 1891.] in selecting the lesson books proper to children of all ages, we still make mistakes, and the next examination paper discovers the error! Children cannot answer questions set on the wrong book; and the difficulty of selection is increased by the fact that what they like in books is no more a guide than what they like in food."
Volume 6, page 248

 *Whether or not somebody enjoys a book is no guide to determining whether or not it is twaddle.

 **Pilgrim's Progress is not twaddle, Dr. Smiles 'Self-Help' is.  The diligent mother may use this comparison to good effect by clicking through the above link and comparing them.  'Self-Help' reminds me very much of a couple of popular books and lessons that are generally marketed as 'Character Education,' or 'Character Studies.'

 **** The opposite of twaddle includes books that are "Literary in character"- this is a bit harder for many of us to define.  

This quote from  another  Parent's Review Article may help:
Another foe to simplicity in our era is the multitude of books about books. Personally I have almost a horror of this class of belles-lettres.   We don't want elucidations, we want the classics themselves. Many people read notes and criticisms and commentaries and preliminaries and antecedents and never reach the original. It is as though a person bent on seeing Westminster Abbey were to stay listening to a tittle-tattle of the verger instead of seeing Westminster Abbey. Another evil of the time from which we should abstain is the plague of cheap editions. This reaches an acute crisis when it consists of a cheap edition of detached fragments of world's literature.

I'm going to name some names here, although I realize that there is a danger of touching on somebody's favorite and thereby offending.  The Junior Classic books, Childcraft, and the like, beyond the first couple of volumes (because the first one or two volumes are usually nursery rhymes, fables, and fairy tales which do stand alone), are 'detached fragments of world's literature.' Bill Bennet's Book of Virtues is also, to me, more like the tittle-tattle of the verger- the stories he chooses are good stories, but he introduces them with tittle-tattle, and sometimes rewrites them himself, and it is my opinion is that the result is rather flat and lacks the charm of the originals.

Twaddle does not respect the mind of the child, but trivializes it:

"the Bible has this, among other marks of a classic, that its language has the power of attracting young minds," and it is deeply to be regretted, we think, that children should lose the delight of Bible stories as they are told in the Bible--should be given instead the reading-made-easy twaddle of some little book of Bible stories. Not even a Bible story told by "mother" herself will have for a child the rhythmic charm and pictorial power of the stories in Bible words.  (from the Parents' Review, review of a Bible for children which used the Revised Version and was edited by omission, leaving out stories such as the one of Lot and his daughters).

We no longer really understand what 'literary in character' means, and often confuse flowery, Victorian prosiness with 'literary.'  So how do we get better at it? From a Parents' Review Article (I strongly suggest reading all of this one): 
The literary mind is indeed rare. For a hundred who will read a book for what it has to tell or for amusement, only one perhaps will read it also for its literary value. The appreciation of good literature, for all our schools and universities, remains the possession only of a few.
Yet, just as the average person can be trained to appreciate good music and art, he can also be trained to appreciate good literature. And it is in the nursery that the key to the palace of good literature is opened. The reason why so few people have developed the critical faculty with regard to reading is that so few have grown up in the company of good books--only good books--but have been allowed, while their minds were growing, to read any printed twaddle within the covers of a book or magazine.
In the world of nutrition, many people these days have been trying the 'real food' approach, eating only whole foods without additives they don't recognize and can't pronounce. One of the interesting results those who try it discover is a new appreciation for the flavor of basic, unprocessed foods prepared simply.  Another result (I admit one I found a little depressing) is that many of the over-processed foods one previously ate no longer taste good.  One breaks one's strict diet regimen for a special treat only to discover it's no treat at all, but rather a slightly nasty,  over-sweetened bit of glop with a metallic after-taste. 

So, what is the application if we wish to distinguish Living Books from Twaddle?  

1.  I suggest that in order to strengthen one's ability to detect twaddle, to distinguish true works of literary value from over-processed, over-sweetened, bits of glop, try your own 30 days of daily reading of real literature- books that pretty much everybody agrees are living books, and no twaddle at all. For an easy list, try the books from AO's year 1-3.  
2. I suggest further that one limit one's electronic screen time, including Kindles and other electronic reading devices (hear me out- I love mine.  I just suggest a temporary fast), and definitely limit computer time as well (yes, even here), and social media.  Just spend time with the classics.  Even if you're only reading really good selections in picture books and children's fiction, I venture to suggest that at the end of the month you will have developed a taste for quality, as well as improved your ability to distinguish quality. 

In other words, off with the twaddle, in with the classics.  Try this out for at least 30 days and see if you don't find yourself appreciating the living books more and detecting the twaddle more easily at the end.

That sounds like a lot of effort though, and everybody has always told us we're good readers, right?  So why should we bother?

From volume 2:

"In literature, we have definite ends in view, both for our own children and for the world through them. We wish the children to grow up to find joy and refreshment in the taste, the flavour of a book. "We do not mean by a book any printed matter in a binding, but a work possessing certain literary qualities able to bring that sensible delight to the reader which belongs to a literary word fitly spoken. It is a sad fact that we are losing our joy in literary form. We are in such haste to be instructed by facts or titillated by theories, that we have no leisure to linger over the mere putting of a thought. But this is our error, for words are mighty both to delight and to inspire... "Children must be Nurtured on the Best––For the children? They must grow up upon the best. There must never be a period in their lives when they are allowed to read or listen to twaddle or reading-made-easy. There is never a time when they are unequal to worthy thoughts, well put; inspiring tales, well told. Let Blake's 'Songs of Innocence' represent their standard in poetry; De Foe and Stevenson, in prose; and we shall train a race of readers who will demand literature––that is, the fit and beautiful expression of inspiring ideas and pictures of life..." 

 We want to reduce the twaddle in our lives, in our children's lives, because we want something greater for them and for ourselves. We want 'the fit and beautiful expression of inspiriting ideas.  We want something living, sustaining, a new world, with an even greater sense of joy and wonder.

 'Praise for the singing! Praise for the morning! Praise for them springing Fresh from the Word!'

Saturday, June 13, 2015

2nd EVER AO Conference coming this July!

At the July AO Conference July 24-25 in Indiana, one of our speakers is Karen Glass, author of Consider This: Charlotte Mason and the Classical Tradition. Her topic is: "Believe in Mind...."
She will be talking about how important our view of a child/person is, how Charlotte Mason's methods are cohesive and focused on her view of a person, and encouraging people to keep the big picture in mind and not get too worried about the details.
Why should you come?

What You'll Learn:
∙ Why our view of the child matters, how Charlotte Mason saw the child, and how that view lays a foundation for successfully educating them. Karen Glass - Advisory Member, missionary in Poland, and author of "Consider This: Charlotte Mason in the Classical Tradition" - shares from her experience as a homeschooling mom of over twenty years and avid researcher of educational philosophy.
∙ What is the heart and soul of AmblesideOnline: the people and the story behind the designing of the AO curriculum, the purpose and vision behind it, and ongoing encouragement for the parent/teacher who is taking this journey with us. Donna-Jean Breckenridge (Bible College graduate and 25 years homeschooling mom) and Lynn Bruce (Graduate of Education/Special Ed and homeschooling mom of 21 years), Advisory members both, will each share their unique perspectives from homeschooling AO through various trials and joys.
∙ How a CM education is ideal for both college bound students and for students with other vocations, presented by Advisory member Wendi Capehart and her daughter Nicole. Wendi is the mother of seven children, grandmother of quite-a-lot, and has been homeschooling for 27 years. Nicole is a second generation homeschooling mom to 3 lively children under 4 with the 4th due in September. Nicole received her degree in history through Purdue University's honours program, and was encouraged by her professors to pursue a PhD. She chose to stay at home and be a mom instead. Wendi's other homeschooled graduates have variously: also gone to college (library science), worked at the animal shelter, tutored writing, sewed, reupholstered aircraft, in addition to marriage and motherhood.
∙ How to be inspired about Nature Study. Auxiliary member Naomi Goegan of California loves exploring nature with her family and has led a local CM co-op with a focus on nature.
∙ What AO's new science changes bring to your homeschool. Jeanne Webb, Auxiliary member coming all the way from Australia, and Kathy Wickward lead AO's Science team.
∙ How CM language arts integrates to create the literate child, from pre-reading through high school writing. Auxiliary member Lani Siciliano of Connecticut, homeschool mother of 6, has children working in a variety of language arts levels.
∙ How to use CM's reading method to teach your child to read. Auxiliary member Amy Tuttle (missionary in Peru) has blogged extensively about how she teaches reading.
∙ How (and why!) to teach foreign language. Auxiliary member Phyllis Hunsucker, missionary in Ukraine, has a bilingual home.
∙ Why preschool and kindergarten shouldn't look like school. Auxiliary member Kathy Livingston of Texas will be accompanied by her current Year 0 child, her 21-month old.
∙ How to get a head start on next year's composer study. Megan Hoyt, a classical music lover from childhood, recently authored "Hildegard's Gift."
∙ All that, plus:
∙ Breakout sessions on Living Books (Auxiliary member Melisa Hills), Swedish Drill (AO forum moderator Dawn Duran), andScheduling (AO forum moderator Christy Hissong) - the CM way
∙ Special Q&A session with the Advisory and Auxiliary (Including Advisory member and Canadian blogger Anne White)
∙ Delicious meals with at least one Advisory/Auxiliary member at each table.
∙ AmblesideOnline merchandise - pick up a coffee mug or totebag imprinted with the latest AO logo!
∙ and much, much more!

For more information, visit our registration page.  Register soon!  

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- manybooks.net, which is another source for free books. Δ - archive.org'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.