Monday, 29 February 2016

Relationships, Connections and Making Memories

When a short window of opportunity to have a holiday opened up two weeks ago, we headed off to New Zealand to visit family with our youngest two who hadn't been there before.
A flight to Auckland in the North Island and a drive south to Hamilton where we stayed with my husband's aunt. From there we did some day trips...

 Middle Earth

I really wanted to buy one of these but we wouldn't all fit... 

Aunty B used to be a history teacher and has interests in lots of other things: embroidery, poetry, botany, genealogy, to name just a few. Her house is filled with books & I drooled over them all. I read her copy of 'Cover Her Face' by P.D. James while we were there. I don't have a copy and have wanted to read it for awhile (it's James's first novel) and I also found this poem in one of her poetry compilations and thought it was lovely:

Idle Fame

I would not wish the burning blaze
Of fame around a restless world,
The thunder and the storm of praise
In crowded tumults heard and hurled.
I would not be a flower to stand
The stare of every passer-bye;
But in some nook of fairyland,
Seen in the praise of beauty's eye. 

by John Clare (1793-1864)

Aunty B's had her spinning wheel set up in the lounge room, so Moozle had some spinning lessons. I've had a spinning wheel since before we had children but it has been in the garage for quite a few years & I hadn't got around to teaching anyone how to use it yet.

On our way to Rotorua we stopped at Huka Falls - this is where the Waikato River, which drains Lake Taupo and is one of New Zealand's longest rivers, squeezes through a narrow gorge...just magnificent!

We arrived in Rotorua where Benj & Moozle experienced first-hand the unique aroma of sulphur fumes (like rotten eggs) and the geothermal activity in the area. A look around Taupo, dinner with second cousins and a tour through their organic gardens. Everyone we know in N.Z has a decent vegetable garden! Up to the lookout to star gaze and take some photos of the moon - I haven't seen those yet - Benj took them using his go-pro. It's late and we drive back to Hamilton.

We visited the children's Great Grandma most days. She is 95 years old and before she fell and broke her femur late last year, was living independently, growing her own veges, going to aerobics and doing her patchwork, knitting etc. An amazing lady who until recently had never missed any of our birthdays - and she has numerous other grandchildren, great-grandchildren & great-greats who were always remembered too. We've been so blessed to have her in our lives.

The kiwi - they're nocturnal and we saw one being fed in a special enclosure where photography was not allowed. It was hilarious. They are quite aggressive, this one was about the size of a large cat and  kept attacking his feeder with his beak. Fortunately the man wore long boots & just patiently endured the offense. This one was stuffed & on a display:

Off to Tauranga ...

On the way we visited the Waitomo Caves to see the glow-worms. They looked like multitudes of little LED lights on a ceiling. I don't have any photos as they are prohibited in the caves but it was very interesting. These glow-worms are unique to New Zealand and are the larvae (Arachnocampa luminosa) of a wingless insect. I'll be doing some research to find out more about them.

Waimungu Vocanic Valley

We came here on our honeymoon and when we were talking about what we should do when we were in NZ on this visit, this was on the top of my list. It is so unique and there is nothing like it in Australia.

In the mid to late 1800's, the Pink and White Terraces bordering old Lake Rotomahana were a unique tourist attraction, but in 1886, Mt. Tarawera erupted triggering a massive explosion of the hydrothermal system, burying everything under metres of mud. About 120 people died and all plant and animal life in the area was destroyed. The Lost Pink & White Terraces shows some paintings and old photographs of this area before the eruption.

Since the eruption, Lake Rotomahana has increased about twenty times in surface area...

Inferno Crater

Waimangu and Rotomahana are located in the New Zealand part of the Pacific 'Ring of Fire' where two tectonic plates meet. It's the world's youngest geothermal system - its surface activities all commenced within recent times and were the result of a volcanic eruption which can be precisely dated.

Tauranga, on the slopes of Mt. Maunganui. A visit to other members of our large family. Lots of walking and climbing on this trip...

View from the top of Mt. Maunganui. A stiff climb but rewarded afterwards by an ice-cream each.

A visit to the rifle range where their Great Uncle gave them some target practice - a first for Moozle & very excited she was!

"Education is the Science of Relations"; that is, that a child has natural relations with a vast number of things and thoughts...(and people!)

Monday, 15 February 2016

A Day in the Life of a Classical CM Homeschooler

About ten years ago I wrote out a day, much like I've done here, and besides having an extra five children in the mix back then, the general routine we have now still looks very similar. Our two eldest are married and we have five children still at home. Three of those still at home have graduated and are working/studying and now I'm just teaching the two youngest, Moozle and Benj, who are in Years 5 and 11. We use the Ambleside Online curriculum and adapt it when required to suit our Aussie context.

6.30am - I get up. Nougat, Zana have already left for work. Hoggy leaves home at different times depending on whether it's a study day or a work day.
I'm inconsistent with my waking times but if I get up early enough I go out for some exercise but first on the agenda is:
A cup of tea, read my Bible and a section of Augustine's Confessions. This morning I wrote in my Commonplace book which I'd neglected lately.  
While I was out I listened to a Circe podcast by Andrew Kern & Wes Callihan - 'A Perpetual Feast,' and I highly recommend a listen. There are a few in the series.

7am - Benj has his alarm set to get up at this time so he gets up and takes his time over a shower & breakfast...

8am - I get home & hang out the washing that was in the machine overnight and put on another load. I realise Moozle is still in bed so go and wake her. She is not an early riser...
Dad is also up but doesn't have to rush off this morning so I make him some bacon & eggs (rare!)

9am - this has always been our 'official' start for lessons but some of their independent work (eg music practice, maths - for the older ones, or copywork) may get done before then.

Me - hang out the washing; put on another load

Moozle  - maths (with me), copy work, poetry
Benj - Bible, maths

Moozle - Read Abraham Lincoln's World - gives me an oral narration afterwards

I hang out another load of washing

Moozle - I send her off to make bed, and brush hair her hair, which she forgot to do earlier, then she does her cello practice

10am cello lesson - one hour

Benj  - dictation; we look over his essay from the previous day and he prints it out

I start making dinner

Benj - science reading & science notebook

I finish listening to A Perpetual Feast podcast & clean up kitchen

Moozle - read chapter of River Rivals; oral narration; dictation

Benj - piano practice & exam prep. This takes up a lot of time at the moment.

Moozle - I read History of Australia aloud while she traced a map & then oral narration
Map work
French - Classical Academic Press; write vocabulary in notebook

12.30 - lunch
Listen to folksongs, French songs, composer (Rachmaninov)
We have about an hour where we all read; I check emails, finish off dinner preparation


Devotions - this is our time together and we've always referred to it as 'devotions,' because that's what we do first. We've been reading through 2 Kings, taking turns reading aloud. Then we do Bible memory - working on new portions and revising old, finishing with a prayer time where everyone prays.
Today we worked on a couple of newish verses:

Matthew 5  - the Beatitudes
Isaiah 43: 1-7

And reviewed some others:

 Ps 139
Colossians 1:15-20
Colossians 2: 6-12
I Thessalonians 5: 16-24

Plutarch - we're reading through Plutarch's Life of Demetrius. Benj will do a written narration about this tomorrow but Moozle will do hers today.

 M's drawing practice

That's the end of our formal 'lesson time' for today. Later in the afternoon we drive Benj to work and Moozle and I come home for a short spell, pick up her cello, and head off to orchestra recital.

We have a semi-organised schedule for what we do each day during our together time but if we miss something it just gets done the next day. Basically it looks like this:

Monday - Shakespeare

Tuesday - Read aloud

Wednesday - Plutarch

Thursday - Nature Study & nature notebooks

Friday - Read aloud, Picture Study, catch up time for anything else we may have missed or that I'd like to get done.

Most days I also read a poem aloud & from time to time we review those we've learnt. Handicrafts or drawing are sometimes done during read alouds. Some of my children have been happy just to listen, others needed something to do with their hands or they got distracted.

For the past two years, now that I don't have as many children to teach, we've had extra out of the home activities in the afternoons. All seven of our children play an instrument and took lessons over many years. We've mostly managed to have teachers come to our home during the school day for lessons which was wonderful when I had babies & toddlers but also now with the extra running around we do. This is what the week's extras include:

Monday - Benj swims

Tuesday - Moozle has Highland dance lessons; Benj and Hoggy have band practice.

Wednesday - Benj works at a bakery for a few hours in the late afternoon/early evening; Moozle has a cello lesson in the morning and a two hour orchestra recital in the late afternoon. I stay there with her and get some reading, writing or sewing done.

Thursday - both Moozle & Benj swim. An outdoor pool, all year round. I read, write, or sew.

Friday - Benj has a piano lesson in the morning; dance lesson in the afternoon for Moozle if she has a competition coming up; three of the boys are involved the youth group band and two of them are leaders so they all head off to set up and practice around 5pm.

Saturday - morning jobs around the house & yard, car-washing; Benj teaches piano at our place - he's only just started doing this & is teaching an 8 year old boy from our church. Moozle entertains his little sister while he's having his lesson.

Lunchtime reading:

Moozle - Stars of Fortune by Cynthia Harnett (1956). A very good author of children's historical fiction, Cynthia Harnett writes about Princess Elizabeth, the future Queen of England, when she was imprisoned at Woodstock and her sister Mary Tudor sat upon the throne. The story unfolds through the eyes of young Francis Washington of Sulgrave Manor, which still stands. America's first President, George Washington, is descended from the Washingtons in this story.

Benj - The Cross and the Switchblade by David Wilkerson (1963) A very moving and inspiring story written by the man who ministered to the gangs in New York and started Teen Challenge ministries.  Raw in places and I'd recommend a pre-read but it is a most wonderful story! It's scheduled as a free read in Ambleside Online Year 11.

Me - Most Secret by Nevil Shute. This book was written during WW2 and was censored until 1945. Set partly in England & Brittany in France, Shute does his usual interesting character development and presents the war from a unique vantage point. There's an overview of the book here.

I'm linking this post up with Alison @ Learning Mama for A Day in the Life of a Classical Homeschooler.

Saturday, 13 February 2016

Integrity, Inclination, and Doing the Next Right Thing

If you subscribe to my blog via email, you will have noticed there's a little postscript at the end of each post:

Do the next right thing...

I adopted this little quote when I read it in a book by Elisabeth Eliot at the beginning of my mothering journey, and it has served me well, because I have an unruly filly called Inclination who lives with me.  She likes to have her own way, and if I'm not careful, she will run after all sorts of things and lead me astray.

It is well to make up our mind that there is always a next thing to be done, whether in work or play; and that the next thing, be it ever so trifling, is the right thing; not so much for its own sake, perhaps, as because, each time we insist upon ourselves doing the next thing, we gain power in the management of that
unruly filly, Inclination.

I have an email I need to send but I see a Facebook post and quick as a flash, Inclination rushes on and before I know it, forty minutes have flown past and the email is still waiting to be sent.
Or I'll be reading a book and stay up late to finish it, forgetting I have an early start the next day and I won't have time in the morning to organise anything. The filly gets loose and it takes all my power to get her back under control.

'Never do today what you can put off till tomorrow!' that unruly filly whinnies.

The dilatory, procrastinating person rejoices over a counsel he can follow! But not so fast, friend; this easy-going rule of life means "putting first things first." Now, the power of ordering, organising, one's work which this implies distinguishes between a person of intelligence and the unintelligent person who lets himself be swamped by details.

Intelligent - from the Latin, intelligens. To be endowed with the faculty of understanding or reason.

The power to distinguish what must be done at once, from what may be done, comes pretty much by habit. At first it requires attention and thought. But mind and body get into the way of doing most things; and the person, whose mind has the habit of singling out the important things and doing them first, saves much annoyance to himself and others, and has gained in Integrity.
What is worth beginning is worth finishing, and what is worth doing is worth doing well...Of course there are fifty reasons for doing the new thing; but here is another case where we must curb that filly, Inclination...

...let us do each bit of work as perfectly as we know how, remembering that each thing we turn out is a bit of ourselves, and we must leave it whole and complete; for this is Integrity.

takes in the whole moral character, particularly the mind, and we are continually making or marring this character. The word Integrity comes from the Latin word integer (integritas) or whole number; meaning that a person of integrity is a whole person, unimpaired and of a sound, understanding mind.

Doing the next right thing, remembering that each thing I turn out is a bit of myself and I must leave it whole and complete; these little acts of diligence, attention, and perseverance build a foundation for Integrity to rest upon.

The quotes above are taken from Ourselves by Charlotte Mason, Chapter XVII - Integrity: Justice in Action.


Thank you to 'Tasmanian' who sent me a link to this song - 'Show me the next thing, I'll do the next thing...step by step I'm running to meet you, in the next thing...'

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

'Meeting the Requirements of Mind' - Year 11 Science

I have so far urged that knowledge is necessary to men, and that, in the initial stages, it must be conveyed through a literary medium, whether it be knowledge of physics or of Letters, 
because there would seem to be some inherent quality in mind which prepares it to respond to this form of appeal and no other. 

Philosophy of Education, pg 334

From what I've observed, the teaching of science is generally not conveyed through the literary medium that Charlotte Mason thought was so necessary. At first I had to grapple with the idea myself, but later on I saw that this approach worked when a factual presentation failed to accomplish its purpose.
However, I have observed that some of my children, after a period of time, are quite comfortable with a textbook format for some areas of science, and actually enjoy using it - shock & horror!
What about living books?
Charlotte Mason had some interesting things to say about the use of books and it was a very profitable exercise to study what she'd observed in her experience of many years when I was writing a post for Brandy's CM Myths series a couple of years ago. It helped me understand that textbooks are not anathema and may have a place in a CM education.

Benj is doing Year 11 science this year. Ambleside Online have some wonderful 'living book' science options up to year 8 at present, but they are still working on the later years. They have a few options at present for Year 11 and one of them is Apologia Science.

Three of Benj's older siblings used Apologia Chemistry at this stage. His two sisters had no problems using this and it sparked a real interest in the subject for the eldest. She studied chemistry at university level and said that Apologia Chemistry gave her a solid preparation for this. My eldest son had a different experience but we didn't have anything else to substitute at that time so he just endured it.

To continue with what Charlotte was saying in the quote above:

I say in the initial stages, because possibly, when the mind becomes conversant with knowledge of a given type, it unconsciously translates the driest formulae into living speech...        

This observation was an eye opener for me as I didn't understand why my girls did so well with the chemistry text and my son (who had no problems academically and had a 'sciencey' way of thinking) struggled. I knew it wasn't an intelligence issue but from what Charlotte Mason observed, the girls must have been able to translate the material into living speech.                         

I'm not saying that Apologia Chemistry is dry and formulaic. I don't believe it is, but it does require a student to 'translate.' They need to have a solid working knowledge of Algebra to make sense of this course. Although my son had completed Algebra 1, he didn't have the fluency required:

...perhaps it is for some such reason that mathematics seem to fall outside this rule of literary presentation...

I've read this quote numerous times but only in a maths context, with no connection to anything else. Our minds need to be familiar enough with the maths involved in the science so that it may be translated. Charlotte Mason observed that mathematics has a language of its own:

...mathematics, like music, is a speech in itself, a speech irrefragibly logical, of exquisite clarity, meeting the requirements of mind.

I had further confirmation of Charlotte Mason's observations with my fourth child who needed a literary presentation of science all the way through high school. He was required to study Physics as part of the Cadetship he entered after graduating, and I wasn't sure how he would handle the 'driest formulae.' He turned 18 the year he started his Cadetship and within a short time he had made the transition from the 'initial stages' to the 'translation' phase.

So back to the present:

Contrary to my earlier expectations, Benj appears to have made this transition from the initial stages into the translation phase in the past year and a half and as we were approaching Year 11, we talked about options for science. He had a look at Apologia Chemistry and said he'd like to try it. This is the plan we decided upon:

The Microbe Hunters by Paul de Kruif (1926) - this book is used in previous AO years and Benj will just continue on with the chapters scheduled for this year.
The author presents the lives of the 'microbe hunters' in a sympathetic and affectionate manner; not as supermen but with all their foibles and humanity meshed with their brilliant minds. It's a very engaging book.

Koch was as coldly logical as a textbook of geometry...Koch always recited his failures with just as much and no more enthusiasm than he did his triumphs. There was something inhumanly just and right about him and he looked at his own discoveries as if they had been those of another man of whom he was a little overcritical. But Pasteur! This man was a passionate grouper whose head was incessantly inventing right theories and wrong guesses - shooting them out like a display of village fireworks going off bewilderingly by accident.

*   Understanding Physics by Isaac Asimov - this contains  three volumes in one that Benj started about a year ago. This book has been around since 1966 and there are some good reviews on Goodreads and Amazon. This website explains the content of each volume. Benj is reading through the third volume: The Electron, Proton and Neutron and really enjoys Asimov's writing.
He remembers quite a bit of this from his earlier reading of The Mystery of the Periodic Table and the early chapters of Apologia Chemistry overlap a little also.

*   Apologia Chemistry - as I mentioned above, this text requires a good working knowledge of Algebra and my children who have done well with it have completed Algebra 2 (in our case this was Saxon Maths). I'm using the 2nd edition that I used with his older siblings and haven't seen the newer editions. We've always managed to get most of the experiments done with basic household products. Benj will use a few different ways to narrate what he has learned - record the experiments in a lab format, do a notebook entry or write a series of questions which he needs to be able to answer.

*  Natural History - keep up his nature notebook, outdoor observations, special studies. This term we're concentrating on birds and are using The Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Comstock and Nature Studies in Australia by William Gillies & Robert Hall.

*  Science biographies - a couple of possible options which I've read and written about include:

Madame Curie by Eve Curie
Uncle Tungsten: Memories of a Chemical Boyhood by Oliver Sacks

How to discern whether or not to use a textbook for science:

There are textbooks, and there are textbooks. If a student can't narrate what they've read in a book it's usually a good sign that the book isn't suitable. There are other ways to determine if a book is suitable and I referenced some quotes from the Charlotte Mason series in the article I linked to above that address this.
Apologia Chemistry differs from standard textbooks in that it has been written by one person, not a committee. Jay Wile, the author, obviously enjoys his subject plus he has a positive attitude to home education and has written specifically to that audience.

Update: I just found this by Jay Wile - he's written a new Chemistry book & discusses the differences between the edition we're using and the new one.

This blog has some information on teaching science using Apologia in the higher grades, the maths required for certain texts, plus a format for lab reports.

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

The Tragedy of the Korosko by Arthur Conan Doyle (1898)

Arthur Conan Doyle was born in Edinburgh in 1859. After finishing school he went on to study medicine and later moved to the south of England to set up a medical practice. It was here that he started to focus on his writing and where he met his future wife, Louise. About nine years after their marriage, the couple moved to Egypt in hopes of overcoming Louise's poor health, but she died of tuberculosis six years later.
While in Egypt, Conan Doyle witnessed first hand the fragility of British rule in the Middle East and the idea for this book was born.

In 1895 the steamer, S.W. Korosko, set out from Shellal, a small village in Upper Egypt, with an assorted group of English, Irish and American tourists on board. Their intention was to travel up the two hundred miles of Nubian Nile, visiting the various points of interest along the way, but during one of their excursions they were kidnapped by a group of Arab dervishes and plunged into a world steeped in seventh century ideas and practice.

And now they were herded in at the base of the Abousir rock, this little group of modern types who had fallen into the rough clutch of the seventh century - for in all save the rifles in their hands there was nothing to distinguish these men from the desert warriors who first carried the crescent flag out of Arabia. The East does not change, and the dervish raiders were not less brave, less cruel, or less fanatical than their forebears.

The Tragedy of the Korosko is an absorbing adventure that, despite being published over a hundred years ago, is uncannily relevant to us in the 21st Century. It has its moments of melodrama, an improbable optimistic ending, and the colonial attitude is downright embarrassing and arrogant at times, but it is historically real. Apart from the cultural and historical aspects, which are fascinating, the author's humour is cleverly scattered throughout and his characters sensitively drawn:

Miss Adams, the Bostonian old maid:

She had never been from home before, and she was now busy upon the self-imposed task of bringing the East up to the standard of Massachusetts. She had hardly landed in Egypt before she realised that the country needed putting to rights, and since the conviction struck her she had been very fully occupied. The saddle-galled donkeys, the starved pariah dogs, the flies round the eyes of the babies, the naked children, the importunate beggars, the ragged, untidy women - they were all challenges to her conscience, and she plunged in bravely at her work of reformation. As she could not speak a word of the language, however, and was unable to make any of the delinquents understand what it was she wanted, her passage up the Nile left the immemorial East very much as she had found it...

The English bachelor:

His work had become an ingrained habit, and, being a bachelor, he had hardly an interest in life to draw him away from it, so that his soul was being gradually bricked up like the body of a medieval nun. But at last there came this kindly illness, and Nature hustled James Stephens out of his groove, and sent him into the broad world...
At first he resented it deeply. Everything seemed trivial to him compared to his own petty routine. But gradually his eyes were opened, and he began dimly to see that it was his work which was trivial when compared to this wonderful, varied, inexplicable world of which he was so ignorant.

The British colonel:

He rode with his back arched and his chin sunk upon his breast, for the old, time-rotted body was worn out, but in his bright, alert eyes there was always a trace of the gallant tenant who lived in the shattered house.

The Hesperus Press copy I have includes an interesting foreword written by Tony Robinson in 2003 in which he recounts an experience he had while making a television film in Egypt. He raises the questions of moral authority and global responsibility that Conan Doyle probed; questions that are still relevant today. My 16 year old son read and enjoyed this book after I did and it triggered an interesting discussion.
It fits into the time period covered in the last chapters of Volume IV of Churchill's History of the English-Speaking Peoples, The Great Democracies.!

Linking to Back to the 2016 Classics Challenge - Adventure Classic