09 10

21 November 2015

FAN Club - In search of Gardners

We have a persistent brick wall on my family's Gardner line, back in Scotland. It's bugged me for years and years. I'm attempting to learn more about the area and the people around my ancestors, in an effort to find where they disappeared to in the preceding generations.  So. I'm told this is called FAN club research. Here's an introduction.

I also located some Family Search pages about the areas these people are from. I know of records that were made in Falkirk, Stirlingshire, Scotland, as well as several parishes in Renfrewshire, Scotland. I've started making a list of all the locations they were in, and after watching the FAN Club video, I will probably move this to a spreadsheet, the more easily to organize and search as I widen my net.

Gonna be an adventure!

19 November 2015

Busy Day

Some days are busier than others. 

Today Dragon is very busy. He's building a library. 

It's serious business. They are happy to loan books. Or sell them, so you can keep then forever. I'm not at all sure which my librarian would prefer. But I did borrow one, and his sister promptly demanded that I read it. Dragon doesn't seem to have time for stories today; he has Things To Do.

Next, the library installed sleeping space. Looks a mite cramped to me, but Dragon is pleased. 

Our "Teddy Bear" joined the game (she says she's Daddy's Teddy Bear), and the library had another nice expansion, courtesy of the kitchen chairs.

I suppose I could have interrupted their play for the book learning I had planned this morning, but play is important. So I didn't. They kept at their game for several hours. We'll actually read a few of those books tomorrow; today they are props.

18 November 2015

Math Games

Every so often, I like to do a section where we just play math, and it's just about time to have a couple of those days. Happily, we have some fun ideas that I've been finding, and I think that we'll be playing for the next couple of days. There's square numbers with pennies, and we tried hexaflexagons before, but they didn't work for us (we learned other fun things, though, and it wasn't wasted time), but a friend sent me the page that she found with templates. These will be on the agenda. Soon.

First, we played a cool multiplication game that I found on Pinterest. We rolled some dice, and colored in a matching rectangle: 2x4 gave us two rows of four. I made a rule that you had to color the correct rectangle, no breaking it up to fit better. At the beginning of the game, this was no big deal. 

But as things went on, and our game board filled up, it became an important rule. 

Not only did we each forfeit rolls that couldn't be placed on the board, but it also became very apparent that, although 2x6 and 3x4 both result in 12 squares, they are not exactly the same - the difference in those two rectangles could make the difference between scoring or not at the end of the game.

We played until we had 12 forfeits in a row; then we added to see who won. 

Hero had never done extreme column addition before, and so this part was also challenging. I showed him how to break it up into manageable chunks, and how to carry when you need to carry a double-didget. It was fun! He wants to play again, and so do I.

Days where we play math are some of the best math days.

06 November 2015

On Classical Education: Cultivating Godly Character

What is man, that thou art mindful of him? (Psalm 8:4)

What is man, that thou shouldst magnify him? (Job 7:17)

One need not grope for answers to these penetrating questions ... “Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation” (1 Pet. 2:9). “Ye … are … a spiritual house, an holy priesthood” (1 Pet. 2:5).
-Thomas S. Monson, April 1988

Our little ones are no less than the Children of God. What education is suitable for God's children? What kind of education awakens and nurtures their divine spark, enabling them to obey the Savior's injunction to be perfect, and grow toward their potential as joint-heirs with Christ?

Given this view of the students, it makes perfect sense that the development of godly character should be the true aim of education. Knowing why provides the motivation, but there still remains the question of how best to go about offering this sort of education to my children. It will not, I think, be merely adding "character" classes to the lineup, alongside the math, history, science, and so on that we are already studying.

So, I began to ask myself, "How does one develop good character, and how can education be a tool in this process?" The first step is to reintroduce God to education.

“[T]he knowledge of God is the principal knowledge, and the chief end of education.
-Charlotte Mason, A Philosophy of Education

"Our children should be indoctrinated in the principles of the Gospel from their earliest childhood. They should be made familiar with the contents of the Bible, the Book of Mormon and the Book of Doctrine and Covenants. These should be their chief text books, and everything should be done to establish and promote in their hearts genuine faith in God, in His Gospel and its ordinances, and in His works."
-Wilford Woodruff (source)

Wherever possible, scripture should be introduced into education. Handwriting practice can include verses from the Standard Works. Memorization of scripture, poetry, and other uplifting materials is appropriate for students of all ages. (The Scripture Memory System has been invaluable in our home for this.) Sacred history can and should be reintegrated into the study of history, and the hand of Providence, so often evident in the history of the world, should be discussed whenever it is noted. Current government school practice has made it the norm to divorce education from faith in any and every way, and to belittle, demean, or simply to ignore (as if He was of no consequence) the role of God in history, science, and all other areas of study. This tendency must be resisted. Doing as Wilford Woodruff suggested, and making scripture the first, chief, and most lasting textbook will go far in moulding our own character as well as that of our children, because it will impress upon us and them who they are, what their potential actually is, as well as cultivating the ability to perceive the active hand of our Father in shaping the fate of men and nations.

[T]he development of character comes only as we focus on who we really are. 
-Russell M. Nelson, Living by Scriptural Guidance

From a foundation of scripture, we then must seek for other ways to help our children grow into men and women of good character - and to help them understand why we are guiding them on this path, so that, when they are grown, they will continue along the same lines. Classical Education has a long history and well-worn paths, proven as effective methods of accomplishing these goals. Andrew Kern, quoted in "Classical Paradigm" said this: 

"Classical Education is the cultivation of wisdom and virtue through meditating on the good, the true, and the beautiful."

So we put the good, the true and the beautiful in front of our children at every opportunity. One way we can do this is through the use of high quality literature. Indeed, in times past, one of the principle reasons for learning Latin and Greek was to be able to meet the great literature of these cultures in its own language. But even without such accomplishment in foreign languages, there is a wealth of high quality literature available. And when we spend time reading it, all kinds of wonderful things happen. We are exposed to ideas that might otherwise be absent from our circle. And we meet personality types we might not otherwise meet as well. This can be a significant assist as we teach and prepare our children for the wider world, beyond the shelter of our home.

I think, with books, I can warn my children against certain character types long before we actually meet any of them without encouraging a judgmental and critical spirit, and without exposing them to personal unhappiness in the process.
Charlotte Mason, in common with many classical educators, suggests reading good books for their moral lessons as well as for their literary value. The better the literary quality, the more likely it is that the reader will gain something of moral value from his reading. Miss Mason thought that children should be put in touch with the great ideas, with information clothed in literary language provided by great minds. Good books - meaning well-written books - contribute good material for moral growth.
-Wendi Capehart, Books Build Character

I am delighted by this idea that we can use these fictional characters to discuss persons and personalities - all without using specific real world examples, so as to avoid pointing out others' flaws (always a hazardous and questionable occupation) or potentially hurting somebody's feelings. How useful! I think we've already done this, to a certain extent, but now I want to watch our stories not only for the good behavior they may inspire, but also for the less desirable behavior to discuss and ponder. It is a whole class of teaching moments that I hadn't fully recognized in both literature and scripture.

"We know that the pillar of Classical Education is classics. ... A classic is a book, or a work of art or music or anything, which you can read or appreciate again and again and again, and get more out of it each time. ... It's particularly apropos for Christian educators, because implies what is the great classic? The Bible. Which you could read an infinite number of times, and get more out of it each time." -Andrew Pudewa, "What Are We Really Doing Here?"

There are, of course, many other areas of character development. Family work - the process of teaching kids to participate in and value work - is also hugely important.

Work builds and refines character, creates beauty, and is the instrument of our service to one another and to God. I don't know that, classically, educators would have had to explicitly include learning to do physical in the curriculum, but in our day, with so many labor-saving devices, and the overly indulgent attitude towards childrearing  that has become prevalent, I find that it is helpful to specifically include work in our educational routine. And this also serves the ends of a Classical Education:

Work builds and refines character, creates beauty, and is the instrument of our service to one another and to God.
-D. Todd Chirstopherson, Reflections on a Consecrated Life

Including household chores in our routine serves to break up the day, keeping everyone from getting stale from sitting around doing the same thing all the time, it teaches necessary life skills, and is one aspect of how we can teach our children to work hard.

“All true Work is sacred; in all true Work, were it but true hand-labour, there is something of divineness. Labour, wide as the Earth, has its summit in Heaven.”
-Thomas Carlyle, quoted in Reflections on a Consecrated Life

This idea of climbing toward a heavenly summit is really the basis of what happens in a Classical Education. In that process of climbing toward the divine, we are likely to see such fruits as jobs and citizenship, but those things, worthy as they are, are not the end of education in themselves. The education of God's children is much, much more than mere training for a transitory mortal job. It is setting their feet firmly on the path toward their Eternal Home.

This post is part of the On Classical Education series. Related posts can be found here:

Character is the True Aim
Cultivation of Godly Character  (this post)

Upcoming posts in the series include:
Make Haste Slowly
Much Not Many
Repetition is the Mother of Memory
Embodied Learning
Songs Chants and Jingles
Wonder and Curiosity
Educational Virtues
By Teaching We Learn

03 November 2015

An Example of the Believers (part 1)

At the most recent General Conference, I was really struck by President Monson's Sunday Morning talk, "Be An Example and a Light." He took two New Testament scriptures and made them the basis of his remarks: Matthew 5:16, where the Savior commands us to let our lights shine before men, and also 1 Timothy 4:12:

...but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.

I set this up as my first verse to ponderize, but when the first week was done, even though I picked a new verse, I found my thoughts drawn back to this verse. Our prophet struggled through his physical weakness so he could use this verse to teach us. That made a deep impression on me. So I'm spending some quality time studying and pondering this verse. It's not the first time President Monson has used this pair of verses; he also used these same two passages last October in the Priesthood session. Ten years ago this verse provided the title and theme for his remarks to the women of the church. In the time between, the Lord lead other speakers to use this verse nineteen times. I think it is safe to conclude that the Lord considers the message of this verse to be an important one for us to hear. So what is it about? There are six attributes listed. I thought it would be good to go through each of them, and spend some time on each attribute.

In Word

According to Strong's Concordance, word here comes from the Greek logos, which means something said, including thoughts; it's the reasoning and motive. 

We should be an example of the believers in the things we say, but the Lord, as always, is as much or more concerned with the inward parts; we should be an example of the believers in our thoughts, or reasoning, and our motives as well as in what we permit to actually come out of our mouths. It's not enough to say the right things; He wants us to say correct things for correct reasons. 

President Monson said:

Let us speak to others with love and respect, ever keeping our language clean and avoiding words or comments that would wound or offend. May we follow the example of the Savior, who spoke with tolerance and kindness throughout His ministry.

In Conversation

Strong's says that, in the Bible, when they talk about "conversation" they're actually talking about behavior, about the way we live our lives. It's our deportment; the way we conduct ourselves. That's so much more than just what happens when we exchange a few words chatting with someone. Even a lengthy chat.

Brigham Young said,

Kind looks, kind actions, kind words, and a lovely, holy deportment towards [children] will bind our children to us with bands that cannot easily be broken; while abuse and unkindness will drive them from us, and break asunder every holy tie, that should bind them to us and to the everlasting covenant in which we are all embraced. If my family … will not be obedient to me on the basis of kindness, and a commendable life before all men, and before the heavens, then farewell to all influence (Teachings, chapter 23).

That's the kind of "conversation" - our actions, words, and deportment towards others - that President Monson was recommending to us when he talked about modeling our lives the way that this verse suggests. Brother Brigham was speaking specifically about family, but there is no limitation on the verse from Paul - we should be an example of the believers in our conversation. Full stop. No exceptions.

In Charity

Charity is a fascinating thing. It really could have it's own series of posts. Charity is an important ingredient in unity - which we are commanded to have in our families, and in the church. Ultimately, we'll need it in the whole world. When asked what is the greatest commandment, Christ talked about love. Charity is a gift of love – of being able to love, to understand, even the most difficult of people. And, it is a Gift of the Spirit we are commanded to seek. Study charity in the scriptures. Pray for it. Practice it, and we will begin to have it in greater measure. And, perhaps even more importantly, we will begin to know the Lord better.

According to Strong's Concordance, the word "charity" appears in the New Testament 28 times. Almost half of them come from Paul's first letter to the Corinthians, where he famously discusses what charity is all about, and how critical it is for us to find it. In each case, the Greek word that became "charity" is agape. This is a word that appeared frequently in the Greek New Testament: more than a hundred times. This is, perhaps, not surprising, since the Two Great Commandments hinge on love. Christ said that the hallmark of discipleship is love.

Love is a difficult word to understand in the English language. For example, I could say to someone that “I love you.” ... We need to know who is speaking to whom in what context. The Greeks don’t have the same problem because they have three different words for love. The first is eros, or romantic love. The English word erotic comes from that Greek root. The second is philia, or brotherly love. The U.S. “City of Brotherly Love,” Philadelphia, gets its name from that Greek root. The third is agape, or Godlike love, the kind of love that enables our Father in Heaven and the Lord to love us even though we are not perfect. I understand that each time in the Greek text of the New Testament when the Lord commands us to love our enemies, it is agape that is used. Here is a very important point for all of us to remember. If we want to cultivate spirituality, we should love everyone at the levels of agape or philia...
-Elder Joe J. Christensen, Ten Ideas to Increase Your Spirituality

I believe that the hallmark of discipleship is love (specifically this agape-love) because we are trying to learn to become like our Father. To be like Him, we must be motivated by what motivates Him, and the motivation that drives what He does is love for His children. To the extent that we do become like Him, we will be so much the better able to love like He loves. And there is so much need for that kind of love in this world.

President Monson, in his Sunday morning talk, said:

The next attribute mentioned by Paul is charity, which has been defined as “the pure love of Christ. I am confident there are within our sphere of influence those who are lonely, those who are ill, and those who feel discouraged. Ours is the opportunity to help them and to lift their spirits. The Savior brought hope to the hopeless and strength to the weak. He healed the sick; He caused the lame to walk, the blind to see, the deaf to hear. He even raised the dead to life. Throughout His ministry He reached out in charity to any in need. As we emulate His example, we will bless lives, including our own.

Charity will heal the world's hurts. It will make us more like Him.

01 November 2015

Commonplace Sampler: October

If to me you can be true,
Just as true as I to you,
It's one, two, three, four, five and six
Sing the Bells of Aberdovey.
One, two, three, four, five and six
It's one, two, three, four, five and six
Sing the bells of Aberdovey.
Boys do love to be in love,
And girls do love to marry.
But my love's for only one,
For Bess of Aberdovey.
If your love is just as true
As this love I have for you,
It's one, two, three, four, five and six,
From the bells of Aberdovey.

2. Bold with love I'm back once more
Just to camp against your door.
It's one, two, three, four, five and six
Sing the Bells of Aberdovey.
One, two, three, four, five and six
It's one, two, three, four, five and six
Sing the bells of Aberdovey.
Here's and end to all faint hearts,
Till truth it is you're pleading.
If you just meet be half way,
It wil be all I'm needing.
If your love is half as true
As this love I have for you,
It's one, two, three, four, five and six,
From the bells of Aberdovey.
-Welsh Folk Song, which is more fun sung:

In New Testament apocryphal writing, Paul is described as being "a man small of stature, with a bald head and crooked legs, in a good state of body, with eyebrows meeting and nose somewhat hooked, full of friendliness; for now he appeared like a man, and now he had the face of an angel.
Paul was small in size, and his personal appearance did not correspond with the greatness of his soul. He was ugly, stout, short, and stooping, and his broad shoulders awkwardly sustained a little bald head. His sallow contenance was half hidden in a thick beard, his nose was aquiline, his eyes piercing; and his eyebrows heavy and jointed across his forehead. Nor was there anything imposing in his speach, for his timid and embarrassed air gave but a poor idea of his eloquence.
-From Saul to Paul, p37-38

Some gardeners
Slash frantically
At the weed's
offending shoots -

And others
Labor steadily,
It's roots.
-Carol Lynn Pearson

A wise teacher, in preparing any lesson, will have definite ojbectives in mind. He will decide beforehand what he wants to teach and why he wants to teach it.
-Boyd K. Packer, Teach Ye Diligently, p143

Eragon looked at him, confused. "I don't understand."
"Of course you don't," said Brom impatiently. "That's why I'm teaching you and not the other way around. Now stop talking or we'll never get anywhere."
-Eragon, p148

The easiest way to have control over those whom you teach is to teach them something - to feed them. Be well prepared and have an abundance of subject matter organized and ready to serve. As long as you are feeding students well, few discipline problems will occur.
-Boyd K. Packer, Teach Ye Diligently, p182

True education seeks to make men and women not only good mathematicians, proficient linguist, profound scientists, or brilliant literary lights, but also honest men with virtue, temperance, and brotherly love. It seeks to make men and women who prize truth, justice, wisdom, benevolence, and self-control as the choicest acquisitions of a successful life.
--President David O. McKay, quoted by Ted E. Brewerton, "Character - The True Aim of Education"

"It seems strange that women want to enter into professions and into work and into places in society on an equality with men, wanting to dress like men and carry on men's work. I don't deny the fact that women are capable of doing so, but as I read the scriptures, I find it hard to reconcile this with what the Lord has said about women---what he has said about the family, what he has said about children. It seems to me that in regard to men and women, even though they might be equal in many things, there is a differentiation between them that we fully understand. I hope the time never comes when women will be brought down to the level with men, although they seem to be making these demands in meetings held . . . all over the world"
-Howard W. Hunter (Teachings of Howard W. Hunter, 150)

If each chapter had a powerful central idea, and I read three chapters without stopping, I consumed one idea after another, and had no time in between for my soul to be instructed by each individual idea.
Afterthoughts Blog: Why Slow Reading Matters More Than You'd Think

"A stream can rise no higher than its source, so it is probable that no educational effort can rise above the whole scheme of thought which gives it birth..."
-Charlotte Mason, A Philosophy of Education

To measure the goodness of life by its delights and pleasures and safety is to apply a false standard. The abundant life does not consist of never ending luxury. It does not make itself content with commercially produced pleasure, mistaking it for joy and happiness. On the contrary, obedience to law, respect for others, mastery of self, joy in servicethese make up the abundant life.
-Thomas S Monson, In Search of an Abundant Life, emphasis original.

19 October 2015

The Organ With the Organ Man

Dragon's current poems come from Robert Louis Stevenson's book, A Child's Garden of Verses. We don't do anything fancy; we just read them most of the time. This was today's poem:


Of speckled eggs the birdie sings 
And nests among the trees; 
The sailor sings of ropes and things 
In ships upon the seas.
The children sing in far Japan, 
The children sing in Spain;  
The organ with the organ man 
Is singing in the rain.

This, of course, requires some explanation; Dragon wants to know: "What's an organ man?" So we turn to YouTube, because some things just need to be heard to be understood, and music is one of those things. This, which isn't a proper song, just clips of hand organs strung together, is what we found, and they listened to it and gave it mixed reviews. Dragon liked it and listened to it more than once. Hero, on the other hand, was underwhelmed, but curious about how they work.

One of the things I really like about the things we've been using from the Ambleside Online curriculum is the way that it leads so naturally into enriching experiences, like this one. I doubt that I would have thought to introduce the kids to hand organs, but because we do the suggested poems, here we are.

17 October 2015

Working Out

This fall, I had wanted to do a Tough Mudder, but when the time came, I decided that I wasn't ready. I made some significant improvements to my core strength, but I still can't do the monkey bars at the playground, or even a single pullup, so I decided that it doesn't make sense to pay so much to do a thing I can't do. Yet. 

But I'm not done trying. This year's video is so encouraging.

My yoga workout has helped me. I have been working toward a handstand. I have more core strength than I've had, maybe ever. It's still not much. So when I saw this article on Pinterest, about how to do better handstands, I went to check it out. It's from crossfit, not yoga, but I figure that handstands are handstands, and however you label your stuff, you still have to develop the same muscles to get the job done. So I had a look. They've got a four week course... it's going to take more than four weeks for me. But I started.

20 tuckups - 20 sets of 1

And I did 15 superman pulses. I would have done more, but Tigress was sick and really wanted to snuggle.


20 tuckups. Mostly sets of 1.
40 supermans.
Added some of this "hollow body" stuff to my yoga.

The improve your handstand article also talked about doing a handstand with your belly toward the wall, and holding that for certain amounts of time. I just could not picture how to get there, so I headed back to YouTube.


This may take more than a week to do this first set of exercises credibly. 

After that, I wondered how it would look, done by yoga people, so I went looking for a video from Kino, my favorite YouTube yoga chick. She's always pretty amazing, but in this one, she's amazingly encouraging: apparently it took her five years to be able to do a credible handstand. Maybe it's not so unreasonable that I didn't get there in nine months. 

20 tuckups, a couple sets of 2 and even a 3.
40 supermans. 
Tried to try Kino's kick up thing. Gonna have to work to get to the beginner place.

20 tuckups


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