05 August 2014

Watercolor Play

I'm planning to try an Art Monday, and see if we can't be a little more consistent and focused in our efforts at learning to do art. To that end, we'll be putting Picture Study back into our lineup, since it has (again) fallen to the wayside. And I'm collecting some watercolor tutorials as well. The plan is to mess around and have fun with the paints for around 6 weeks, and then to pick one of the works we studied and try reproducing it. Dragon, I expect, will be too little for this activity to really take hold, though he'll have fun playing in the paints. But Hero, I am thinking, should be able to do some good things. And, there's nothing like trying a thing to make you appreciate what went into creating it!

It looks like fun to me -- wish us luck!

P.S. I'm so glad you stopped by to read about the adventures at our house! If you want more, "Like" my blog on Facebook to get posts (and the articles n things I wish I had time to blog about) in your feed. Wanna see all the projects and ideas that I may or may not get around to? Follow me on Pinterest. Thanks for stopping by!

04 August 2014

Bilingual Calendaring

The kids have been taking swim lessons this summer at the local pool, and while they've been swimming, I've been picking the brain of a friend of mine. Mrs. C teaches in a local bilingual (Spanish-English) classroom, and we've had some great conversations about the challenges posed by bilingual instruction. I've also been reading about some of the ideas and controversy around Welsh-English bilingual instruction in Wales, which popped up in my Facebook feed. Really, I've just had an amazing amount of things around, all the sudden, suggesting the benefits of trying to take our efforts at a Japanese-English pidgin more in the direction of attempting full-fledged bilingual instruction. Looking at it all, I'm realizing that this much, all at once, is probably Providential, and I'd best sit up and pay attention. There's also calendaring and this word wall idea, which I put onto the blog's Facebook page a while back:


I'm not gonna lie; the idea of attempting real bilingual instruction is terribly intimidating.

I'm. Not. Fluent.

I know enough to know that my speech is full of grammar errors, and the levels of formality which are so important to good manners in Japanese... they're difficult. You have to learn multiple words fro the same stuff, and different conjugations, depending on who you're talking to. And then you have to figure out when it's right to use which forms. That is particularly difficult, since I don't currently count any native speakers among my friends, and very few who speak at all. And my vocabulary, while growing, is still quite limited. Still, having decided that the Lord is beckoning me down this path, we're forging ahead. I picked Mrs. C's brain about how they deal with teaching content in a language their students, initially, don't speak. She was so encouraging! I can't tell you how nice it is to hear, from someone who actually knows something about what's involved, "You can totally do that."

So here's my plan. We're going to take the calendaring that is commonly done in pre-K and K, and we're going to do it in Japanese. It's limited and focused. It's short duration, but it's a daily thing. We'll have the poster with the calendar in Japanese. I'm going to have to create some things, because I can't figure out any search terms that turn up printables, and I plan to share them, in case someone else wants to do something similar. I think we'll start with doing the weather in Japanese. I'm taking the vocabulary cards here, cutting off the English, and mounting them on another paper with Japanese vocabulary printed on it. Then we can put it on a "What's the weather like today?" section similar to the one segment of this. I'll put up some pictures when I get it made. Hopefully, we can start that in about 2 weeks, when we start our full schedule again (family in town has us on break right now). By the first of September, I hope to have an actual calendar going. Japanese calendar numbers are different from the rest of their numbers, so I think it'll be important to start on the first, so the kids don't get overwhelmed by all the strange numbers. Add a song to that, and I think we'll have a good start. That much, in Japanese, I can do. And it will help us all to improve.

I hope to have some of the printables ready to post in a day or two -- stay tuned!

P.S. I'm so glad you stopped by to read about the adventures at our house! If you want more, "Like" my blog on Facebook to get posts (and the articles n things I wish I had time to blog about) in your feed. Wanna see all the projects and ideas that I may or may not get around to? Follow me on Pinterest. Thanks for stopping by!

Whose Job Is It?

Education. Whose job is it, anyway? We talk about it in ways that suggest the responsibility lies with the adults:

"Education is important to me, so I am making sure my kids get the best education possible."

"I've decided to educate my kids at home."

"We bought a house in a good school district so that the kids will get a good education."

"My parents made some significant sacrifices for my education."

Certainly, parents do have a responsibility to provide ample educational opportunities for their children, but I wonder if we underestimate the importance of the child in the process when we talk this way. I think there is some danger in thinking education to be a thing that happens to a person (and children are people), rather than a thing they actively participate in and pursue.

Young people increasingly need to be learners who act and thereby receive additional light and knowledge by the power of the Holy Ghost—and not merely passive students who primarily are acted upon.
-David A. Bednar

I was reading this lovely article from Charlotte Mason Help, and pondering what they said about making lesson plans and who the education belongs to. That's what made me think about my question: Whose job is it? I recently joined a couple of groups that study Charlotte Mason's methods. One of the things I've seen them talking about repeatedly is "spreading a feast." They aim to create the conditions for kids to receive ample instruction on a wide variety of topics. But in the end, no matter how beautiful the feast, it is the child who determines how much goes in: they must act. If they are simply present to be acted upon, then most of that feast will go unabsorbed. It is the activity of the mind that makes learning sink in, and stay with you.

Too much learning, without requiring any effort on the part of the student. The teacher works too hard to use all her training and experience, but the student does nothing. If education is made too easy, then students are robbed of the active mental challenge of learning.
-Mr. Paterson, quoted by Charlotte Mason

I think I have been letting Hero skate by too much, and expected too little from him. I forgot that education is work, and that there is value in the work itself, as well as in the learning. So, when there was pushback, I backed off. I had been reading about the value of play, and unstructured time --and there is a lot of value there-- but I went too far, and now it's time for a correction. He needs free time to play, it is true, but he also needs the challenge of work, and at almost 8 years old, he can handle more than what I've been asking for. When he puts forth his own effort, he qualifies himself for blessings from the Lord that simply aren't available when he is a passive passenger in the experience. In this, as in so much else, we need balance.

P.S. I'm so glad you stopped by to read about the adventures at our house! If you want more, "Like" my blog on Facebook to get posts (and the articles n things I wish I had time to blog about) in your feed. Wanna see all the projects and ideas that I may or may not get around to? Follow me on Pinterest. Thanks for stopping by!

02 August 2014

A Book of Centuries

I've been reading about the Book of Centuries, and I think I've been doing a timeline in a book, rather than a Book of Centuries. I like my timeline in a book, and I think I will continue it, at least for now, especially since we absolutely do not have space on the wall for a timeline. But this Book of Centuries looks like another sort of critter entirely.

Laurie Bestvater has a pair of fascinating articles that trace the BoC concept through some original sources. She has put a lot of effort into researching the concept! And I like it. Though, when I take a realistic look at myself, I don't know that I have room for such a thing right now. Happily, Hero is still too young - looks like it's better for kids who are closer to 10 or 12, and who are comfortable with writing. Hero is not quite 8, and has some distance to go yet before he could be described as "comfortable" with writing.

I still have a number of questions - Miss Mason talks about going to museums and sketching real artifacts you see there. We are quite a distance away from that kind of museum, and unlikely to move closer, should we move; we do not love a city. It may be possible to make up for this lack in online museum tours; I will be interested in trying to find some examples of how Real People deal with that. Hopefully I can find some. If you have one or know one, I'd love to see the link in the comments.

Another interesting thing is the issue of drawing skill. In our timeline books, we have been pasting in pictures with a mini-narration, kind of like a lapbook flap book. According to the resources Laurie gathered up, Miss Mason's students were to draw in their books -- these were specifically not books for gluing. There's a lot to be said for that; the act of drawing would, all by itself, go far to cement in the mind the information. But this also poses a bit of a challenge: thus far, I have yet to figure out an effective way to teach drawing. Part of the problem here is that there are so many worthy things we could be doing. Many more than there will ever be time to actually accomplish. However, if we can get out nature journals going, that would help. I love the way that Miss Mason's suggestions interlock like this.

31 July 2014

Artist Study

Look at a picture for a couple minutes, then tell all you can about it. That's artist study, in a nutshell. It sounds so easy; such a simple way to do art appreciation. Yet, I am so bad at getting it done. We're trying agin. This time, my strategy is to put a reminder in my phone -with an alarm- to remind me that we should be looking at some art. In addition, we're looking at watercolor artists, since we like to play with watercolors. I think we're going to start with Winslow Homer. He liked to paint the sea. A couple of these are even in Chicago, which is where my sister and her family live, and we're overdue for a visit to see them.

So. Winslow Homer. Here are a few of his paintings that we will be looking at:

Herring Net

Croquet Scene

Northern Point Light

Fog Warning

Sunlight on the Coast

After the Hurricane

Gril with Pitchfork

We'll get started with that. See if we can make this thing happen. If we're really ambitious, maybe we'll make Mondays an art day, and see about watching a watercolor painting movie on YouTube and messing around. Maybe even put a favorite in a Book of Centuries. Could get crazy!

P.S. I'm so glad you stopped by to read about the adventures at our house! If you want more, "Like" my blog on Facebook to get posts (and the articles n things I wish I had time to blog about) in your feed. Wanna see all the projects and ideas that I may or may not get around to? Follow me on Pinterest. Thanks for stopping by!

10 July 2014

In the Beginning

"In the extraordinarly extended and inclusive ratification process envisioned by the Preamble, Americans regularly found themselves discussing the Preamble itself. At Philidelphia, the earliest draft of the Preamble had come from the quill of Pennsylvania's James Wilson, and it was Wilson who took the lead in explaining the Preamble's principles in a series of early and influential ratification speeches. Pennsylvania Anti-Federalists complained that the Philadelphia notables had overreached in proposing an entirely new Constitution rather than a mere modification of the existing Articles of Confederation. In response, Wilson - America's leading lawyer and one of only six men to have signed both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution - stressed the significance of popular ratification. "This Constitution, proposed by [the Philadelphia draftsmen], claims no more than a production of the same nature would claim, flowing from a private pen. It is laid before the citizens of the United States, unfettered by restraint ... By their fiat, it will become of value and authority; without it, it will never receive the character of authenticity and power." ...

"With the word fiat, Wilson gently called to mind the opening lines of Genesis. In the beginning, God said, fiat lux, and -behold!- there was light. So, too, when the American people (Publius's "supreme authority") said, "We do ordain and establish," that very statement would do the deed. "Let there be a Constitution" --and there would be one. As the ultimate sovereign of all had once made man in his own image, so now the temporal sovereign of America, the people themselves, would make a constitution in their own image."

-America's Constitution, by Akhil Reed Amar, page 8-9

07 July 2014

Are We Wise Beneficiaries?

For me, the answer to this question for a very long time was definitely NO. I knew very little about the Constitution. I had no idea if a proposed bill was Constitutionally sound or well in excess of the delegated authority. It really never even occurred to me to ask such questions. And I didn't know how to start learning about it, once I did realize that I needed to. If you find yourself in that position, here are a few places to get started.

1. Read the Constitution, itself. It's a short document. Pay particular attention to Article I Section 8 - that's the list of things that Congress is allowed to make laws about. When you consider supporting a bill, ask yourself: which of these itemized powers does this bill fall under? If you can't figure it out, then the measure probably doesn't belong at the federal level.

2. Read Brother Benson's essay, The Proper Role of Government. As near as I can tell, when he wrote this essay, he was acting as Brother Ezra Benson, private citizen, and not as an apostle. However, he quotes somewhere around 1/3 of the essay in his talk The Constitution -- A Heavenly Banner, which was given just following his call as Prophet of the Church. If you listen to the mp3 version, you will discover that this address, though it was given at BYU, was specifically and explicitly addressed to the entire membership of the Church. While the Role of Government essay is not doctrine, the fact that the prophet, acting in his calling, chose to quote so extensively from it makes me sit up and pay attention to the rest of it.

Those are both relatively short projects to get started with. After that, I recommend reading The 5000 Year Leap, by Cleon Skousen. That will introduce you to the ideas that underlie the Constitution. Skousen did a great job of making some really big ideas very accessible.


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