Thursday, April 28, 2016

On the boyhood reading of Plutarch

(posted by Anne White)

From the footnotes to Ralph Waldo Emerson's essay on Plutarch, written by the editor, Emerson's son, Dr.Edward Waldo Emerson. (Photograph of father, son and baby grandson here.)
"Mr. Emerson as a boy read Plutarch, and never tired of this early friend. When I was fourteen years old, he put Plutarch’s Lives into my hand and bade me read two pages every week-day and ten every holiday. It seemed at first an irksome task, but my mother asked me to read them aloud to her, and this made it easier. Lycurgus’s training of the Spartan boys, Archimedes’s amazing military engineering in the defence of Syracuse, Hannibal’s passage of the Alps, Scipio’s magnanimity and Cæsar’s courage and genius won their own way, as my father knew they would with a boy, and, what is by no means common with authors, the personality of the writer also, as, for instance, where he drops the narrative to hotly censure the meanness of Cato the Elder in selling his slaves when they were past service. The style of Plutarch could commend itself even to a boy."

Thursday, April 14, 2016

They Do Shakespeare Here?


Several years ago one of my daughters and I attended a Charlotte Mason seminar. There was a group of teens and young people there, some of whom were her special friends, met online via the Advisory and AO. They had some loosely planned activities to do together, planned mainly by Advisory son Tim Laurio and his soon to be bride Hannah Hoyt (I believe they are the main planners).

 My girl told me a story about one of the other teens there. She knew nobody before she came, not even as online friends. She clearly felt a bit out of place and awkward- something I think most of us can sympathize with. She wasn't sure she fit in. But then one of the young people explained they were meeting at such and such a time under such and such a tree on the grounds to read Shakespeare together in character, and those who were interested could join them, but nobody was required to be there. Hold your breath a moment in preparation for what happened next.

The girl feeling like a square peg in a round hole shivered and adjusted her perspective, looking, wide-eyed, her countenance brightening perceptibly as she turned to somebody near her and said eagerly, "They do Shakespeare here?"  I wasn't there, so maybe I am wrong, but I always think of this story as one of those Holy Ground moments, when the kalaidescope shifts and something beautiful is revealed- and what is more beautiful than an awkward child feeling miserably alone and out of the group suddenly realizes she is not alone?

Why yes, yes they did 'do Shakespeare' there, and she found her 'tribe' as she looked around at the other young people who suddenly appeared to be square pegs as well, and she realized she was in a place with plenty of square spaces in which to fit comfortably.

 My girl told me this young lady came right out of her shell over Shakespeare readings and seemed to have a lovely time henceforth. And I suspect that is why, when I was talking about this Conference with this daughter, now grown up, married, and with a baby, she said, "Oh, I could do Shakespeare with any interested teens who come!

 And so she is. The teens who wish to will be reading Midsummer Nights' Dream together in character. We purchased a version edited for homeschoolers by Joyce McPherson, so no worries about any of the sometimes bawdy bits Shakespeare includes.

 Those who want to join may, nobody is required to. Parents are still responsible for their own teens- this isn't babysitting or childcare. And because so far of those teens who are coming, most are coming to help with a younger sibling, and my girl is coming with a nursing baby, the times and locations will have to be flexible. They will work out details of where on the grounds and when amongst themselves. They will choose their parts, and read aloud in character, sharing books if necessary, breaking for the little ones amongst them as needed. It will be very flexible, very informal, and I am sure very, very delightful. Because we, too, do Shakespeare here, and so do most of you.
It's still not too late to register for the conference.  It is too late to ask for special dietary needs, but you may pack your own food and eat on the grounds or in your room (their rules- no outside food in their dining room).  Hope you can join us!

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

NEW GIVEAWAY!! CONSIDER THIS, by Karen Glass!!

Teacher@Home, YOU WON! Please email us with your address. And to everybody else, my abject apologies for the delay in getting a name drawn. I really have no excuse except conference business putting this task right out of my head. I am ashamed. Karen will have one free copy of her book mailed to the lucky winner of our next drawing! Our drawing for her book works the same way as our previous giveaway (except I'll be using a random number generator to choose our lucky winner)- share the conference!

  http://amblesideonline.org/2016Conference/Conference2016.html

To present your name for consideration for our give-away, please share the above link to our conference page on social media- FB, Twitter, Instagram, your blog, a homeschooling group you're in, Tumbler- whatever and wherever is out there that you are comfortable sharing our conference link. Then come back here and tell us about it in the comments, leaving a link to your share in the comments if possible. EACH time you share is one entry in a drawing.   So share on twitter, tell us about it, and that's one entry.  Share on FB, tell us about it, and that's another entry.

I will draw the name of the winner of our giveaway when we have fifty comments, or on Friday if we get fifty entries before then.

And congratulations to Amy Boesl, who won our giveaway of a mug and totebag, which we will mail right after the conference!

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Your chance for an AO MUG!!

Amy Boesl is our winner!! Amy, email us your mailing address and we'll send your mug and bag when our conference is over (we'll be sending in one order for our conference, so we will receive your mug and bag w/our conference order). Amblesideonline, using gmail is our email addy. thanks to all for participating! Watch this space, because we are having another giveaway very, very soon! http://amblesideonline.org/2016Conference/Conference2016.html
Above is the link to the AO Conference we're having in May- our 3rd conference in ten years, and the last conference we plan to have for at least three more years, maybe more. We're hip-deep in the planning bounce house excitedly and energetically working out details right now, and as exhausting as it all is, we are getting excited, too.

We have so many ideas for what we want to share with you all, and so little time.We are trying to offer a good mix of philosophy as well as practical hand-holding, sharing the why as well as the what, and speaking from our hearts about why we do what we do, and how you can implement CM's principles in your homeschool (or private school- we know we have teachers in private schools coming).

 One of the perks of being able to come to a conference, or just have a friend at a conference, is that up until now,  this has been the only way to get one of our special AO coffee mugs or totebags. These are so pretty- many people have wished they'd ordered two, or have asked us to consider shipping them out so people who can't come to the conference can also have them. They really are lovely, and while we wish everybody who wants one could own one,  we really can't redirect our time and energy from curriculum development and conference planning to shipping out coffee mugs.

However,  we have come up with an opportunity for one special reader to win a free mug and totebag and we promise to ship them out to you at our expense (but not until after the conference).
We're having a giveaway!
To present your name for consideration for our give-away, please share the above link to our conference page on social media- FB, Twitter, Instagram, your blog, a homeschooling group you're in, Tumbler- whatever and wherever is out there that you are comfortable sharing our conference link. Then come back here and tell us about it in the comments, leaving a link to your share in the comments.
 EACH time you share is one entry in a drawing for a free mug/totebag combo, shipping included. So if you share the conference link on Twitter, FB, and Instagram, you'd leave 3 comments, saying basically, "I shared the conference on Twitter!  (link here)."  Leave another comment for a fB share, and so forth.

The winner will be selected on Friday, or when we reach 100 shares, whichever comes first.  Should we reach 100 shares really quickly (like, by the end of today), we'll probably give away TWO mugs and TWO totes!

On Friday or when this post has 100 comments, I will select the lucky recipient of this week's giveaway by the randomly scientific process of printing out the comments, cutting them apart, tossing them in a bowl and having one of my deliciously adorable small grandchildren pull out one of the slips.

To Recap:

 Share the above link or this one on social media : http://preview.tinyurl.com/AOConferenceHeartofAO

Each social media platform mention is a separate chance to be picked for the giveaway- so copy and paste the link where you shared in the comments below, one per social media share.

Cross your fingers and hope we draw your name, and keep an eye on this space for the next pre-conference giveaway!!

P.S.  Yes, OF COURSE you can enter even if you can't come to the conference.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

The modern place for older books

Why do we use old books?  We live in the 21st century after all!

In general, well written older books use richer vocabulary, more  complex sentence structure, and contain more ideas per page than  modern books. Recently written books, by contrast, use watered down language, weaker, less complex, sentence structures and if they have any meaningful ideas, they either sandwich them  between pages and pages of fluff, or they club the reader over the head with the message.

C. S. Lewis, in his introduction to Athanasius, advised that moderns needed to read more old books and fewer new books.  He explained:
Every age has its own outlook. It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books. All contemporary writers share to some extent the contemporary outlook—even those, like myself, who seem most opposed to it. … To be sure, the books of the future would be just as good a corrective as the books of the past, but unfortunately we cannot get at them.

We can see the blind spots of previous generations, but it is harder to know our own.  Older books that we use have stood the test of time. They have  been read for generations and will be read for generations more.  It's too early to tell which of our currently published, modern crops of books will  still be communicating to readers outside of the culture and time  that produced them a hundred years from now.  Those who are contemporaries of the authors are the worst judges of that timeless quality, because we cannot step outside our own time, culture, and assumptions to see which are merely passing whims and which are timeless, not with any certainty, anyway.

The marginalizing of old books as though truth and beauty have expiration dates reflects modernity's disconnect with the past, something David McCullough addressed, pointing out:
Learning about history is an antidote to the hubris of the present, the idea that everything in our lives is the ultimate.Former President Harry S. Truman once remarked that the history we don’t know is the only new thing in the world. Picking up on a related theme, the late Daniel Boorstin, an eminent historian, Librarian of Congress, and friend of mine, wrote that planning for the future without a sense of the past is similar to planting cut flowers and hoping for the best. Today, the new generation of young Americans are like a field of cut flowers, by-and-large historically illiterate. This does not bode well for our future.
A sense of the past is not just a matter of knowing dates and events and being able to put them in order.  It's about coming into contact with some of the best minds of the previous centuries, not mere decades. It's about reading their ideas and stories in their words, getting a feel for   Truth, justice, mercy, faith, friendship, charity, loyalty, courage, these are ideas and traits that are timeless. 

While Mason did use some books which were newly published in her day, she relied more heavily on great books of the past.  In volume VI, she explains that the children read literature which was published in the same historical time period they are studying.  She mentions Milton, Pope, Sir Walter Scott, Goldsmith- and of course, they were not 'modern' in her day, either.

She explains:

 The object of children's literary studies is not to give them precise information as to who wrote what in the reign of whom?––but to give them a sense of the spaciousness of the days, not only of great Elizabeth, but of all those times of which poets, historians and the makers of tales, have left us living pictures. In such ways the children secure, not the sort of information which is of little cultural value, but wide spaces wherein imagination may take those holiday excursions deprived of which life is dreary; judgment, too, will turn over these folios of the mind and arrive at fairly just decisions about a given strike, the question of Poland, Indian Unrest. Every man is called upon to be a statesman seeing that every man and woman, too, has a share in the government of the country; but statesmanship requires imaginative conceptions, formed upon pretty wide reading and some familiarity with historical precedents.


It is not that her students never read modern books for literature, it's just that Mason did not see a need to emphasize them.  She wrote that sometimes the oldest students' studies touched on:
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 with the best that is being produced in their own days.

It is also true that we at AO appreciate about older books is that they are in the public domain.  Now, many, many public domain books are still twaddle, so that alone won't qualify a book for AO.  But once we've found a really well written book we love it when it's also public domain.  This means they are available on line as etexts,  *and will remain available.* I can't tell you how frustrating, how  much gnashing of teeth it causes the Advisory when a book goes out  of print. When we put together the curriculum (and when we revise it), it was and is the result of truly, thousands of Mama-hours (these are worth  more than man-hours, right? Just Joking!) researching books. 

We  amazed our librarians with the number of books we checked out from the  library and put on interlibrary loan. When all else fails, we  actually, gulp, spend money on a book if we can't find it to review  it any other way. We scan excerpts of different books into our  computers and pass them on to each other to compare and contrast.  We look at the wording, the breadth and scope of coverage, the  illustrations (if any), topics covered (and just as important,  topics not covered), and then, after devoting months of our lives to  this project, we finally pick the best book of all those available  and proudly and gleefully share it with the world.  Then it goes out  of print and we all have to go on anti-depressants and receive hours  of pastoral counseling. Okay, that last part was an exaggeration.  We don't go on medication.  Seriously, though, the newer, in-print  books have a Very High turnover rate. They very quickly become  newer but now hard to find and out of print books, and thus, of no  use to us. 

Individual homeschoolers can use and benefit from those books, of  course. Some of them may actually be better than any given book we  have listed. But a book that may be perfect for your family (or  mine) is not perfect for AmblesideOnline if it's out of print but not online.

Here's are some reasons why out of print but not yet in public domain books are not  very useful to us:
 We want to share our vision of what a Charlotte  Mason education might look like put into practice, and at the same  time, we want to make that vision available to as many people as  possible who might want to benefit from it.
We specifically want to consider the unique situations and needs of  missionaries, military, and other expat families overseas, as well as parents and educators around the world who love their kids; single  parents; families without access to a decent library, a good  bookstore, or inexpensive shipping; families who travel often and so  cannot cart thousands of pounds of books around; and fellow  homeschoolers all over the world. We want to recreate a solid, sound, and beautiful rendition of  what a CM curriculum might look like today, and we want that version to also  work for all those different families I mentioned. The best way for  us to do that is to rely strongly on public domain works that can be  used as etexts, whenever we find etexts of excellent quality..


This is not the only way to implement Charlotte Mason's ideas and  principles. These are not the only books worth using. But these  are the books that best fit the criteria we set for ourselves at the  start of this project. We want to offer a model of what a real living book looks like.  We want to share a curriculum based on excellently written books, packed with informing ideas rather than twaddle and  barren facts, in living language that engages the mind (often with some effort required, which is also an important part of a CM education),   and so we have chosen what we believe to  be the cream of the crop from those books that are online or still  in print, and in some cases, worked hard to get that oop book available online, or convinced a publisher to republish. 

We share this freely, and we try to keep costs down because we believe in Miss Mason's vision of 'Education for all.'

Monday, December 7, 2015

Some Christmas Thoughts from Charlotte Mason

Excerpted from Parents and Children, abridged and edited by Karen Glass

It takes the presence of children to help us to realise the idea of the Eternal Child. The Dayspring is with the children, and we think their thoughts and are glad in their joy; and every mother knows out of her own heart's fulness what the Birth at Bethlehem means. Those of us who have not children catch echoes. We hear the wondrous story read in church, the church-bells echo it, and our hearts are meek and mild, glad and gay, loving and tender, as those of little children; but, alas, only for the little while occupied by the passing thought. Too soon the dreariness of daily living settles down upon us again, and we become a little impatient, do we not, of the Christmas demand of joyousness.

But it is not so where there are children. The old, old story has all its first freshness as we tell it to the eager listeners; as we listen to it ourselves with their vivid interest it becomes as real and fresh to us as it is to them. What a mystery it is! Does not every mother who holds a babe in her arms feel with tremulous awe that, that deep saying is true for her also, 'The same is my mother'? [Matt 12:50; Mark 3:35]

In [the little child] is the light and life of Christ; and every birth is a message of salvation, and a reminder that we, too, must humble ourselves and become as little children. This is, perhaps, the real secret of the world's progress––that every babe comes into the world with an evangel, which witnesses of necessity to his parents' hearts. That we, too, are children, the children of God, that He would have us be as children, is the message that the newborn child never fails to bear, however little we heed, or however soon we forget. The note of childhood is, before all things, humility. An old and saintly writer has a luminous thought on this subject of humility.

'There never was nor ever will be, but one humility in the whole world, and that is the humility of Christ, which never any man, since the fall of Adam has the least degree of but from Christ. Humility is one, in the same sense and truth that Christ is one, the Mediator is one, Redemption is one . . . There are not two Lambs of God that take away the sins of the world. But if there was any humility besides that of Christ, there would be something else besides him that could take away the sins of the world.' [William Law.]

Our common notion of humility is inaccurate. We regard it as a relative quality. We humble ourselves to this one and that, bow to the prince and lord it over the peasant. This is why the grace of humility does not commend itself even to ourselves in our most sincere moods, but this misconception confuses our thought on an important subject. For humility is absolute, not relative. It is by no means a taking of our place among our fellows according to a given scale, some being above us by many grades and others as far below. There is no reference to above or below in the humble soul, which is equally humble before an infant, a primrose, a worm, a beggar, a prince.

Humility does not think much or little of itself; it does not think of itself at all. It is a negative rather than a positive quality, being an absence of self-consciousness rather than the presence of any distinctive virtue. The person who is unaware of himself is capable of all lowly service, of all suffering for others, of bright cheerfulness under all the small crosses and worries of everyday life.

The Christian religion is, in its very nature, objective. It offers for our worship, reverence, service, adoration and delight, a Divine Person, the Desire of the world. Simplicity, happiness and expansion come from the outpouring of a human heart upon that which is altogether worthy. But we mistake our own needs, are occupied with our own falls and our own repentances, our manifold states of consciousness. Our religion is subjective first, and after that, so far as we are able, objective. The order should rather be objective first and after that, so far as we have any time or care to think about ourselves, subjective.

Now, the tendency of children is to be altogether objective, not at all subjective, and perhaps that is why they are said to be first in the kingdom of heaven. This philosophic distinction is not one which we can put aside as having no bearing on everyday life. It strikes the keynote for the training of children. In proportion as our training tends to develop the subjective principle, it tends to place our children on a lower level of purpose, character, and usefulness throughout their lives; while so far as we develop the objective principle, with which the children are born, we make them capable of love, service, heroism, worship.

This kind cometh forth only by prayer, but it is well to clear our thoughts and know definitely what we desire for our children, because only so can we work intelligently towards the fulfilment of our desire.

During each coming festival of the Eternal Child, may parents ponder how best to keep their own children in the blessed child-estate, recollecting that the humility which Christ commends in the children is what may be described, philosophically, as the objective principle as opposed to the subjective, and that, in proportion as a child becomes self-regardful in any function of his being, he loses the grace of humility. This is the broad principle; the practical application will need constant watchfulness and constant efforts, especially in holiday seasons, to keep friends and visitors from showing their love for the children in any way that shall tend to develop self-consciousness.

This, of humility, is not only a counsel of perfection, but is, perhaps, the highest counsel of perfection and when we put it to parents, we offer it to those for whom no endeavour is too difficult, no aim too lofty; to those who are doing the most to advance the Kingdom of Christ.

(Read the unedited chapter here.)

Saturday, November 21, 2015

What I learned from a tree ornament

by Anne White

November is my annual crafting, making, planning for holidays month. As I was putting ideas together, I saw these patchwork tree ornaments linked from Sew Mama Sew's Handmade Holidays, and thought they didn't look too difficult.

Wrong.

Photo below: the almost-finished disastrous first attempt. If it doesn't look that awful, that's just because the photo's a bit blurred.
I put that pattern aside for a week or so while I worked on other things. Then I made a second try.
Sewing these ornaments made me think of several Charlotte Mason principles.

1.  In many parts of life, hit-or-miss is good enough. In this case, it didn't work well. The first time around, I thought I would save time by folding rectangles in half and then snipping across (to make squares), and eyeballing the seam allowances. The second time, I cut paper patterns for each required piece, and marked the patterns with quarter-inch seam allowances as well. No more missing tree points and crooked borders. Everything lined up the way it was supposed to. Should I have been surprised?

But it's not just about practicing attention and accuracy. It's about commitment to the method. It would have been easy to say the pattern was not right or too hard, just because my first try didn't work. I didn't become that much better a sewer in one week. What made the difference? Having faith in the image that was presented, and following all the instructions.

2.  Just because something's free doesn't mean it's the best choice. For the first ornaments, I used a scrap of red holiday-print fabric for the borders, and another green and red print for the backing fabric. (I was very limited in what I had to use, but I thought it should be red because the original was red.) The print turned out to be too scattered for the small area, and the backing fabric didn't match very well. The second time, I had been to the store and picked up a quarter-yard of brown print with tiny hearts, for both borders and backing. It looks much nicer, even though it wasn't sold as a "Christmas" fabric.
3. But it's okay to mix new and vintage materials. The white sections in both sets of ornaments are a scrap of old white percale sheet, the last remaining piece after using it for other projects over a couple of years (it was a really big sheet). I found that the percale had an interesting quirk: any holes made in the fabric, such as needle marks made in the wrong place, were very noticeable and couldn't be smoothed over. It was a strong encouragement to do it right the first time.

4. Iron, iron, iron. Kind of like narrate, narrate, narrate.

5. New challenges are how you grow, and just because a first attempt at a new book doesn't go well, it doesn't mean that you or your students are failures, or that the book is bad. In this case, I'm glad I came across that new fabric that inspired me to try again. I learned from the first failures. (But don't expect me to hang them on the Christmas tree as an object lesson.)