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18 September 2017

Imagine... The Great Flood {Crew Review}

IMAGINE... The Great Flood


Books in the mail again; what fun! This time we were given Imagine. . .The Great Flood by Matt Koceich to review, which is published by Barbour Publishing. It's a short Biblical fiction book: 100 pages of largish type; I sat down and read it in an hour, and then gave it to Dragon(7) as a free read: he's required to read at least one chapter, but allowed to read as much more than that as he would like.

It's a cute story, about Corey, a modern boy. His family is moving to Florida, and he's very unhappy about it. His mom tries to teach him that God will care for their family, but it isn't really sinking in. Then Corey finds himself transported to the time immediately before the Flood, where he meets Shem, Ham, Japeth, Noah, and a whole bunch of animals -- and he meets Noah's family's enemies. Although it was such a short, easy book, I learned something new: in the story, the "Nephilim" are Noah's enemies. "Nephilim" is the Hebrew word for giants (see Strong's Concordance for Genesis 6:4, for example). They certainly made for formidable enemies in the story! Corey is captured by them at one point. In addition to a cute story, I liked that the author doesn't beat you over the head with moralizing about the application of the Bible story and principles to Corey's life. He trusts his story to be strong enough to teach without needing to beat you about the head and shoulders with his point -- and he's right to do so. The ending is satisfying and the point is strongly present without being preachy.

Dragon liked the book enough that at one point he fell asleep with it still in his bed, and I had to fish it out when it fell down by the wall the next time he needed to read it. It was never very hard to get him to work on reading it some more, and at one point he even told me that he was pacing himself so that the book didn't end too soon!

Dragon said: "I like all of the stuff even.  It's full of adventures, but at the same time, he's getting captured alot! He just got trapped in a cave, and he keeps on slipping and just falling down. I have a positive review."



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16 September 2017

Shakespeare: A Winter's Tale

We've read the Lamb's version of A Winter's Tale. Now, we're ready to have a go at watching the show. This is going to have to be a video, since I don't know of any Shakespeare is playing reasonably locally, much less this particular one.

Hurray for YouTube.




As has been the case in the past, listening to the real text is considerably harder than getting through the Lamb's version. But I got a very timely email from Mistie at Simply Convivial about how she does Shakespeare, and I decided to put off Plutarch for a little bit longer (we alternate from Shakespeare to Plutarch and back again), and to try some of the things she suggests. The first is that we learn some lines from the play. And Good Reads has a nice list. I am particularly fond of the queen's lines at her arrest. We haven't updated our memory work in a while, so that works out nicely.


“There's some ill planet reigns:
I must be patient till the heavens look
With an aspect more favourable. Good my lords,
I am not prone to weeping, as our sex
Commonly are; the want of which vain dew
Perchance shall dry your pities: but I have
That honourable grief lodged here which burns
Worse than tears drown: beseech you all, my lords,
With thoughts so qualified as your charities
Shall best instruct you, measure me; and so
The king's will be perform'd!”



Then, I think that we'll change things up: when we did Comedy of Errors, we made peg people dolls for the important characters, and put on a mini version of the play after we'd watched it. In this case, I think we'll try making them up before we watch the show, and then the kids can move them around as the players come on and off the screen if they want to. We can do the same thing with the Librivox version, which will give the kids the chance to see different interpretations of the same play, which we haven't done before. This one has a lot more characters than Comedy of Errors, so we'll use some of the old dolls and make a bunch of new ones next week. That will be a fun project for everybody.




And, thanks to Mistie's suggestions, I'm also looking around the local area to see what plays might be playing in the next while. If I can find some, I'll probably choose our next play based partly on what we can go and see live. That would be fun.


12 September 2017

Carole P. Roman Books {Crew Review}

Carole P Roman Blog



Books in the mail is always some of the best kind of mail! This time, I received several picture books to review this time, all written by Carole P. Roman:


If You Were Me and Lived in... the Ancient Mali Empire




This was a fun book. There are many areas in Africa that we have not hit very much thus far in our educational journey, and it was fun to learn a little bit about one of them. Ancient Mail was new and interesting for us to read about. The book is 68 pages, plus a glossary, and it covers quite a bit of ground, including touching on clothing, housing, customs, and some history. The pictures aren't fancy, and often suggest, rather than spell out, which leaves plenty of space for the child's imagination to fill in the details.




If You Were Me and Lived in... Ancient China


This is also an interesting book. I gave it to Dragon(7) to read, and while I thought that he would find it interesting, it wasn't his favorite. However, I think that has more to do with where he was at (not in the mood for a book that I picked for him) than with the book itself. It's a really nice book, filled with all kinds of interesting information about China. It's full of interesting bits about housing, clothing, religion and culture, silk production, major professions, and a number of other things, all presented in the story of a young boy from ancient China. I enjoyed reading it. Like the book about Ancient Mali, it's a substantial one, with more than 60 pages.



If You Were Me and Lived in... Elizabethan England


Hero(10) started reading this in the car, but when he realized how long it is, he stopped and just read it himself. Like the rest of these "If You Were Me and Lived in Ancient _____" books we received, it's more than 60 pages, and I think that he didn't want to wait around long enough to read it out loud. The pages do have quite a bit of text on them; it's a lot to read out loud in a single sitting. He easily finished it before we finished our trip to Grandpa's House.

Hero(10)'s review: It was cool because it was interesting. I learned that you would be an apprentice at a far younger age than today, and I learned that there was actually a rule: they said no meat on certain days because it allowed the fishing industry to recover from the week. It was a time of no war, not to mention a new class of people had emerged: merchants.



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03 September 2017

Commonplace Book: August

A sample from my commonplace book, and brief instructions for how to keep one.

A commonplace is a traditional self-education tool: as you read, grab a notebook. Write down things that embody Truth, Goodness, and Beauty. Write down notable quotes, with or without your own thoughts about them. Write down the questions you have as a result of the text you are reading. You will find the book becomes a record of your own growth, and it becomes a touchstone for memory of things you have studied in the past. These are a selection of the passages that I've included in my commonplace book this month:


But a nobler animal was wanted, and Man was made. It is not known whether the creator made him of divine materials, or whether in the the earth, so lately separated from heaven, there lurked still some heavenly seeds. Prometheus took some of this earth, and kneading it up with water, made men in the image of the gods. He gave him an upright stature, so that while all the other animals turn their faces downward, and look to the earth, he raises his to heaven, and gazes on the stars.
-Bulfinch, Age of Fable, 10



No gain I experience must remain unshared.
-Charlotte Mason 6:9



Put forth your ability to learn as fast as you can, and gather all the strength of mind and principle of faith you possibly can, and then distribute your knowledge to the people. Give them virtue, knowledge, principle, truth, godliness.
-Brigham Young JD 8:144



Education is the highest of the arts in the sense that it imposes forms (ideas and ideals) not on matter, as do other arts (for instance carpentry or sculpture) but on mind. These forms are received by the student not passively but through active cooperation. In true liberal education, as Newman explained, the essential activity of the student is to relate the facts learned into a unified, organic whole, to assimilate them as the body assimilates food or as a rose assimilates food from the soil and increases in size, vitality, and beauty. A learner must use mental hooks and eyes to join the facts together to form a significant whole. This makes learning easier, more interesting, and much more valuable. The accumulation of facts is mere information and is not worthy to be called education since it burdens the mind and stultifies it instead of developing, enlightening, and perfecting it. Even if one forgets many of the facts once learned and related, the mind retains the vigor and perfection gained by its exercise upon them. It can do this, however, only by grappling with facts and ideas. Moreover, it si much easier to remember related ideas than unrelated ideas.
-Sister Miriam Joseph, The Trivium, 7



But, when we compare the mind with the body, we perceive that three "square" meals a day are generally necessary to health, and that a casual diet of ideas is poor and meager.
-Charlotte Mason 6:25


28 August 2017

If Thy Brother Offend Thee


Living in families and communities can be tough. People don't always do what we wish they would do, things don't always get communicated clearly, and even when everybody is trying hard to do right, sometimes things get tense. People get hurt. It just goes with the territory in this life. Happily, the scriptures teach us how to handle this sort of thing gracefully, with attention to both justice and mercy. A recent misunderstanding has left me wanting to make sure that I thoroughly understand the Lord's standards and methods for conflict resolution.

My starting place has long been this:


And if thy brother or sister offend thee, thou shalt take him or her between him or her and thee alone; and if he or she confess thou shalt be reconciled. 
-Doctrine and Covenants 42:88


In rereading this verse, I was reminded that it's part of a much more comprehensive passage instructing us about what to do when conflicts arise:


And if thy brother or sister offend thee, thou shalt take him or her between him or her and thee alone; and if he or she confess thou shalt be reconciled. And if he or she confess not thou shalt deliver him or her up unto the church, not to the members, but to the elders. And it shall be done in a meeting, and that not before the world.
And if thy brother or sister offend many, he or she shall be chastened before many. And if any one offend openly, he or she shall be rebuked openly, that he or she may be ashamed. And if he or she confess not, he or she shall be delivered up unto the law of God.
And if any shall offend in secret, he or she shall be rebuked in secret, that he or she may have opportunity to confess in secret to him or her whom he or she has offended, and to God, that the church may not speak reproachfully of him or her.
And thus shall ye conduct in all things.
-Doctrine and Covenants 42:88-93


The Lord's prescription when there is a conflict is simple and straightforward: First, talk it over, and try to work it out, just the two of you. Don't go running to the Bishop or other authority right off the bat: the first conversation should be with the person you are irritated with. Only if you can't work it out on your own should you start looking for a mediator-- and that quietly and discretely. Apologies should take place at the same level of public that the offense took place at. This is part of the process of growth and reconciliation. 

President Kimball expanded on this passage's counsel:


It frequently happens that offenses are committed when the offender is not aware of it. Something he has said or done is misconstrued or misunderstood. The offended one treasures in his heart the offense, adding to it such other things as might give fuel to the fire and justify his conclusions. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why the Lord requires that the offended one should make the overtures toward peace. He says:
And if thy brother or sister offend thee, thou shalt take him or her between him or her and thee alone; and if he or she confess thou shalt be reconciled  
D&C 42:88
To the Nephites the Lord said:
. . . if ... thy brother hath aught against thee—
Go thy way unto thy brother, and first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come unto me with full purpose of heart, and I will receive you  
3 Ne. 12:23-24
And to the disciples in Judea he said:
Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee;
Leave there thy gift before the altar and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift  
Matt. 5:23-24
Do we follow that commandment or do we sulk in our bitterness, waiting for our offender to learn of it and to kneel to us in remorse?...
Brothers and sisters and friends, if we will sue for peace taking the initiative in settling differences—if we can forgive and forget with all our hearts—if we can cleanse our own souls of sin, accusations, bitterness, and guilt before we cast a stone at others—if we forgive all real or fancied offenses before we ask forgiveness for our own sins—if we pay our own debts, large or small, before we press our debtors—if we manage to clear our own eyes of the blinding beams before we magnify the motes in the eyes of others—what a glorious world this would be!
-Elder Spencer W. Kimball, Except Ye Repent


I think that it's important to acknowledge that it does sometimes happen that the person who is wrong, even when you go to them privately, refuses to reconcile. This makes things more difficult, but the same high standards of forgiveness apply, perhaps even more so: seeking help from the Lord to achieve forgiveness in this case will protect us from bitterness and anger. It is possible that, when the other person refuses to reconcile that finding forgiveness anyway may be even more important to our own spiritual health: it's been said that holding a grudge is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to get sick. We need to forgive.


"Forgiveness requires us to consider the other side of the Atonement—a side that we don’t think about as often but that is equally critical. That side is the Atonement’s power to satisfy our demands of justice against others, to fulfill our rights to restitution and being made whole. We often don’t quite see how the Atonement satisfies our own demands for justice. Yet it does so. It heals us not only from the guilt we suffer when we sin, but it also heals us from the sins and hurts of others."
-Brother James R. Rasband, Faith to Forgive Grevious Harms



Most member of the Church will be familiar with the story of Thomas B. Marsh, how he had been ordained the President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, but then fell away, and swore out an affidavit that contributed in no small part to the circumstances that culminated in the Missouri Extermination Order, and the violent expulsion of the members from Missouri and the suffering of that period. He was excommunicated and remained outside the Church for almost 20 years, but eventually did return, apologized to the people, and was received back into the Church in full fellowship -- not an insignificant act of forgiveness on the part of the families of those who had died as a result of his actions.

What is interesting to me, in contemplating this situation, is that forgiveness, reconciliation, and consequences from the Lord all seem to be individual matters. When Brother Marsh was rebaptized his sins, as all new members' sins are, were washed away, and he was clean again. I greatly admire the courage that it took to return, to face the people that he had betrayed, and to live his final years among them. Brigham Young let him speak to the Church, and then had a show of hands from the congregation to see if they could receive him in full fellowship, following his apology and other remarks about his apostasy and return, which they did, "not a hand was raised" when Brother Brigham called for objections.

He was never reinstated to the Apostleship; that privilege was gone. Permanently.

Hopefully, we will never experience the type of betrayal that the early Saints received from Brother Marsh, but I think it is instructive to look at the pattern for the Lord's dealings here when we experience an offense at the hand of an unrepentant sinner: friendship is a position of trust, and the Lord does not always restore those who return to the positions of trust that they previously held. If we, in counsel with the Lord, choose to hold those who have injured us to a less intimate, less trusted position in our lives than what they previously held, it is not necessarily a symptom of a lack of forgiveness. Enforcing strict boundaries with those who are toxic in our lives is not a sin: it's a safety measure. He does not ask us to be doormats, but we are expected, commanded, required to forgive: "until seventy times seven." If we do not, the Lord categorically stated greater sin is in us... not them. Regardless of the sin under discussion.


Our very salvation depends upon us being willing to forgive others. As Christ taught:
For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you:
But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. [Matthew 6:14–15]
That our own forgiveness should be conditioned on forgiving others can be a hard doctrine, particularly if the sin against us is horribly wrong and out of all proportion to any harm we’ve ever committed. Even harder, the Lord has indicated in modern revelation that “he that forgiveth not his brother his trespasses standeth condemned before the Lord; for there remaineth in him the greater sin” (D&C 64:9). This is a very strong statement: if we refuse to forgive, there remaineth in us the greater sin.
-Brother James R. Rasband, Faith to Forgive Grevious Harms (emphasis original)


 Hopefully, offenses will be few and reconciliation will be possible. But regardless, forgiveness, trust in the Lord's ability to handle it, to heal us of the pain we have experienced, is a must.

25 August 2017

See Well to Draw Well




My first job in high school was doing odd jobs at a family-run assisted living place. One of my coworkers was one Jay Fullmer, and he could draw anything. Seriously. Among other things he's done, he had his work in the Birds in Art exhibit at the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum one year. His birds look like they're ready to take flight off the canvas. In the quiet afternoons, he would sometimes work on this or that while he watched over the elderly residents.

I could barely draw stick figures; I was in awe.

One day, after I'd watched him work on a painting of songbird -I still remember vividly how the bird's head was turned to the side, so you could see the beak and one eye- I asked him, "How'd you do that?!" --and he told me:

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23 August 2017

A Wasp that Does Not Sting

Found the coolest bug the other day; it freaked me out. I mean, check out that "stinger" -- the thing looks like a scorpion, for crying out loud! I almost didn't take the picture, but it was just sitting there, and had been sitting there, and I was feeling a bit brave. So I risked getting close to that thing to get the picture. And it didn't even wiggle when I put my phone up (kind of) close. Turns out, I didn't need to worry: they don't sting, crazy hind end notwithstanding.


Then I didn't think too much more about it for the moment, because I was watching kids. And the kids were watching the animals in the little farm thing in the park. And it was good. We pondered llama fur and frolicking piggies. Discussed why we shouldn't try to feed them. The llamas are new to the little zoo thingy, and we happened to stop by a while back when they were brand new, and you could see how uncomfortable they were, last time we visited. This time, they were chill. One of them was sitting down. The other was snacking. Neither one gave us a second glance. It was cool to see how nicely they'd adjusted to having kids come and ooh and aaaah over them. Mine sure did!


Later, we saw this cool caterpillar. He could really move! I forgot to ask Facebook what kind he is, but I think he's cool, even not knowing what he'll grow up into.


 I did go find out about the big black scorpion-looking wasp thing. The nice folks on the Facebook bug group told me it's an American Pelecinid Wasp. And it does not sting. Which blew my mind, what with a huge singer-looking thinger there at the back. The one I saw is a female, and that huge abdomen is for probing the ground-- she's looking for grubs, and if she finds one, she nails it with an egg. I don't feel sorry for the grubs. Eww.

Turns out, Pelecinids are cool wasps: the overwhelming majority of them are female. (Can I just say here how little I ever expected to think that any wasp is cool??) The nice folks who gave me the ID also pointed out this site, which says that there are so many females that scientists wonder if the species manages to mostly reproduce without the males. Apparently, you mostly see them in late summer. And that's when I saw mine. At a city park. The article makes it sound like that might be less likely, but it's one of several "wild" parks in our area, with a lot of trees, so it probably looks like "woodland edges" to the critters that live there. I love our wild parks: just perfect for our nature study.

I haven't done it yet, but I'm planning to use this photo to put the Pelecinid Wasp in my nature book. It's just too cool to forget, and drawing it will help me to remember. Our walks are so nice. Even when we don't get our notebooks out, I always feel like it's time well spent when we get out and go look at nature.


But ask now the beasts, and they shall teach thee; and the fowls of the air, and they shall tell thee:  Or speak to the earth, and it shall teach thee: and the fishes of the sea shall declare unto thee.
Who knoweth not in all these that the hand of the Lord hath wrought this? 

-Job 12:7-9



18 August 2017

Morning Lessons and Long Afternoons




I've seen people talk about having mornings reserved for lessons, and long afternoons for kids to enjoy their own pursuits... and I've often wondered how people get all the work done in the morning! For a long time, I thought that maybe it was our odd schedule -- my husband's previous work was on a second shift schedule, and he held that position for over a decade, so we had very short mornings and late nights, in order to facilitate the maximum "daddy time", and allow him to participate in our bedtime routine. Had we been doing public school during those years, the kids would have only seen their dad on the weekends, which was not an acceptable alternative! So we had this odd, late schedule. And while it's been more than a year since he changed jobs and schedules, it's proving difficult to fix the schedule that the kids and I keep. So I assumed that part of the problem with our inability to get all our school work done in the mornings was lingering schedule issues. And probably some of it is.

However.

I was reading the Introduction to A Philosophy of Education today. I've read a fair amount of this volume before, but I typically skip introductions, so I missed this last time. This is what Miss Mason says:


This scheme is carried out in less time than ordinary school work on the same subjects. There are no revisions, no evening lessons, no cramming or "getting up" of subjects; therefore there is much time whether for vocational work or interests or hobbies. All intellectual work is done in the hours of morning school, and the afternoons are given to field nature studies, drawing, handicrafts, etc. Notwithstanding these limitations the children produce a surprising amount of good intellectual work. No homework is required. 
-Charlotte Mason, 6:9


I turns out that Miss Mason and I define "academic work" very differently, and that's part of the "problem" that I've been puzzling over: she appears to be dividing the students' work in to academic and non-academic work... and I haven't been: it's all school work to me. Miss Mason includes Nature Study in non-academic work, done in the afternoon. I like to go out in the morning; the weather is typically better. We also need to travel to our Nature Study area -- not far, it's just a local park -- but the need to travel to get there means that we don't do a little bit every day, we tend instead to do it once a week, and use about three quarters of our school day on it when we go out. Drawing and art work in general is another thing that I tend to do at less frequent intervals for larger chunks of time because that works better for our family.

Additionally, I love this idea:


When a child grows stupid over a lesson, it is time to put it away. Let him do another lesson as unlike the last as possible, and then go back with freshened wits to his unfinished task. 
-Charlotte Mason 1:141


The idea of arranging the day so that we typically move to a lesson that is unlike what we are currently doing is very appealing to me. In practice, what I actually do is put all our lessons on a markerboard, and let the kids choose what they want to work on next. It doesn't actually matter to me what order they do them in the majority of the time, so long as they are done at the end of the day, and the kids relish the opportunity to make those small choices. The distinction between lessons with Mom and independent lessons is, practically speaking, far more important in our day that Miss Mason's divisions of academic vs. nonacademic work. Independent work tends to be what we finish before lunch, simply because they don't have to wait turns to do it. Interestingly, when left to chose their own order, the kids nearly always order their days so that the next lesson is quite unlike the one just finished.

So it's really instructive to see what, exactly, Miss Mason is including in her afternoon work, because it makes me aware that the largest reason that we're "unsuccessful" at doing our lessons in the morning is because I don't make that kind of academic/nonacademic distinction, and in fact, leaving "nonacademic" projects for the afternoon would not work well for our situation for a variety of reasons. I am inclined to think that changing up the categories of lessons is not a critical alteration to the method: things like solid habits of attention and narration, the broad feast being spread, the respect of the individual student, and attention to the development of student character all strike me as being far more central to the classical education methods and philosophy that Miss Mason was teaching. While the specifics of our schedule doesn't exactly match hers, the principles that underlie: making sure that the important, but less academic, perhaps less obviously "educational" schedule items get adequate time, that is something that we both have in common on schedules that work for our specific situations.

Makes me glad that I read from her volumes; it's easy to start to worry that I'm somehow doing it wrong. But Miss Mason's ways are so gentle and lovely, it's well worth the effort of reading them yourself.

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