Friday, April 29, 2016

A Taste of the Feast

I like to think that our MSJ Schole homeschool encompasses a do-it-yourself, academically challenging, comprehensive education. My goal is to provide a classical education with a Charlotte Mason bend to it. One that's thorough yet gentle.

I'm continually trying to figure out exactly what teaching and learning classically, gently (or maybe gently classically) really means. Classical Academic PressThe Well-Trained Mind, and most recently TriviumMastery  guide me on my classical quest while Charlotte Mason and Ambleside Online encourage a gentle approach and provide wonderful living book lists. They all provide me with much food for thought.

Classical Academic Press elegantly describes classical education as the cultivation of the soul on truth, goodness, and beauty by means of the liberal arts. Christopher Perrin offers a few analogies of classical education. It is like a museum, an art gallery, or (my favorite) a banquet table laid with all different kinds of exquisite pleasures just waiting to be tasted.

The Well-Trained Mind is somewhat more specific.

  • It is language-intensive; not image-focused. Students use and understand words rather than video images.
  • It is history-intensive. Students are given a comprehensive view of human endeavor from the beginning until now.
  • It trains the mind to analyze and draw conclusions.
  • It thrives on self-discipline.
  • It produces literate, curious, intelligent students who have a wide range of interests and the ability to follow up on them.
Trivium Mastery breaks all this down and gives examples that explain how to actually make all of the above happen. I've discovered that by teaching the trivium I'm guiding our children as they develop the skills necessary to discuss and interpret ideas. The trivium is actually three skills: 1. Reading (Grammar) 2. Thinking (Logic) 3. Speaking and Writing (Rhetoric). These are developed simultaneously throughout life according to the individual's personality and learning style. 

Thanks to Diane Lockman and Trivium Mastery, I have an outline to lead me in the process of teaching my children the skills necessary to be lifelong learners. In preparing our daughters' end-of- the-year portfolios, I've compiled a list of specific skills that they each worked on this year. The following is an outline of the skills my 9 year old tackled (gently) this year and the resources she used to help her achieve them.

 9 year old daughter
                        IIFP personality (Introvert, Intuitive, Feeling, Perceiving)                   

How to read:
  • Read a-loud favorites: The Wheels on the School, James and the Giant Peach, Black Ships Before Troy, Bambi, The Wanderings of Odysseus, The Back of the North Wind, Archimedes and the Door of Science, From the Mixed Up Files of Basil E. Frankweiler, Understood Betsy (hands down favorite), The Wind in the Willows, Robin Hood, The Magician's Nephew, Gentlemen of Verona, Romeo and Juliet, Cymbeline, Macbeth.
  • Independent reading favorites: Mary Poppins, The Family Under the Bridge, The Borrowers, Heidi, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, A Triumph For Flavius, Matilda, The Tale of Despereaux, Thimble Summer, Rabbit Hill, The Mysterious Benedict Society, The Trumpet of the Swan.
  • Favorite books read to me and/or narrated: Our Island Story, Trial and Triumph, Seabird, Burgess Book of Animals, Burgess Book of Birds, Parables of Nature.

How to spell:
  • Find and correct errors in book excerpts that I have edited.
  • Learn how to spell some of the the most common words in the English language and the spelling rules associated with them.
  • Learn spelling rules. (Logic of English)
  • Divide syllables. (Logic of English)
  • Play spelling games. (Logic of English)
  • Use the dictionary.

How to write

How to punctate and capitalize (Logic of English and reading books)
  • Learn rules of usage
  • Add missing marks and capitalize
  • Find and correct errors 

How to use proper grammar

  • Memorize the eight parts of speech (Logic of English and Classical Conversations memory work)
  • Understand how they are used in sentences. (Shurley Grammar)
  • Diagram sentences. (Classical Conversations and Shurley Grammar)
  • Begin learning latin noun declensions and verb conjugations. (Classical Conversations and Lively Latin)
  • Use proper grammar in everyday speech.


How to arrange data according to systems

How to solve problems (Saxon 5/4, math games, Classical Conversations)

  • Identify and complete sequences.
  • Explain the steps of various word problems.
  • Memorize mathematical operations and formulas.
  • Answer puzzles and  riddles.
  • Work through high-order thinking activites.

How to use the scientific method (Classical Conversations, A Child's Geography, Real Science 4 Kids, Earth Science)

  • Achieve familiarity with the general laws of science. 
  • Perform and document experiments.
  • Verbalize steps to observe, predict, and conclude.

How to analyze literature

How to listen

  • Listen to audio books. Swallows and Amazons, The Story of the Amulet
  • Learn about classical composers while listening to their works. (Harmony Fine Arts)
  • Narrate understanding.
  • Answer questions.


How to maintain a conversation (Lifelong goals)

  • Look at people when conversing.
  • Shake hands and repeat names.
  • Listen attentively.
  • Answer the telephone and take a message.
  • Exhibit proper manners.

How to give a speech and perform for an audience
  • Memorize and recite poetry. (She has memorized over a dozen poems and has recited many of them in public)
  • Maintain eye contact and use appropriate body language. (Classical Conversations presentations)
  • Play both group and solo music at recitals. (piano and violin)

As you can see, teaching classically is all about teaching skills rather than teaching subjects. Being tied down to someone else's curriculum lesson plans isn't an issue. What a difference when comparing this method to modern education. Classical education is a never-ending, well planned feast rather than a check list of assembly line cafeteria food. Savor the tastings and enjoy the freedom!


Friday, April 8, 2016

A Keeper of Life

Robert Leslie Smith M.D.
March 4, 1921 - March 27, 2016

He was a man of intelligence, wit, curiosity, gentleness, integrity, adventure, kindness, generosity, forgiveness, music, and talent.

He was also a man of dreams and disappointments; faith and doubts.

He was a man of God with all its glory, yet he was a man of flesh with all its flaws.

He was a keeper of mementos, poetry, and art.

He was my father.

I honor his life today by reflecting on a few of his own words and art: his keepings.

Rug Rolling

When I was a very little boy
I had a favorite ploy
     I used;
To get even with my mother
For something or other,
Bobby rolled up the rugs.
Not just throw rugs, two feet by four,
But big rugs that went from door to door
     in the living room.
If the floor was bare
And there was a chill in the air,
Bobby had rolled up the rugs.
Looking back in contemplation,
It was the reaction to frustration
     that made me do it.
Mom wouldn't let me do what I wanted,
I felt I was being taunted,
So Bobby rolled up the rugs.
Mom would wait until I cooled off, and then
Make me roll them back down again
     just as they were.
It's been a lesson for me to this day--
The futility of reacting in such ways
As rolling up the rugs.

The Advantage of Being Married to your High School Sweetheart

I'm so happy that our memories fuse
And if from the past I lose
A name or a face
You can remember who it was
Or when it was
And put it in it's proper place.
There must be many things that one forgets
In fifty years or so
Never to remember.
What a satisfaction to know
That if I've forgotten
You may have not and
A memory we might otherwise lose
Is right there where our memories fuse.

Footprints in the Snow
My early morning footprints
In fresh fallen snow,
Made even more distinct
With the sun's daybreak glow
Casting deep blue shadows
In the mark of heel and toe,
Remind me of some deeds I have done,
Both bad and good:
Soon after, in the sun,
They too stood
sharply etched for all to see.
The sharp contours of footprints
Are quick to go
With sun, wind, and more snow.
God's forgiveness of the bad we do
Is just like that, I know.
As for the good deed, I'm afraid
It too fades as snowprints fade;
And the good done by many
Which we at first acclaim,
Is soon forgotten, just the same.

Bittersweet Passage (written shortly after my daughter, Mackenzie, died)
The filly, mane flowing,
Runs to me in leaping strides,
Eyes wide.
Is she just playful or
Has she been spooked?
I step back to avoid the push,
She stops short and nuzzles my neck.
Not lost, but feeling too much
Of the holiday crowd around her,
She was there before I knew it.
Again she nuzzles.
This, before another girl
Painted a flower on her cheek,
A memento to last.
Without a backward look
Or toss of her head,
She streaks away
to the fields Elysian,
Too distant to see through tears.

Hey, old man
You've done all you can
Why don't you let go?
Is it fear?
You never were afraid before
To open any door
Not knowing what was on the 
     other side.
It's not fear, but love.
When one abides
On Mother Earth
As long as I,
He grows to love her
And those who are here--or were;
Ah, there's the key--
All those I loved
Who in turn loved me
Are gone...I should join them;
Maybe tonight, we'll see.

He was a man whose living made a difference, and I loved him.