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30 September 2010

Classical Education Musings

The newest edition of the Charlotte Mason carnival is just a few days old, and I'm browsing. They've got some good stuff this time! Here's some of what caught my eye this afternoon, both on and off the carnival.

Settled in my Home has a great idea for slipping in a little art & music appreciation, nice & easy. I followed one of her blogroll links & found an awesome quote, which went right into my commonplace book.

I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves. - Anna Quindlen, "Enough Bookshelves," New York Times, 7 1991

Over at Practical Pages she's got a post about using puppets in narration that's got me thinking: maybe if we did something like that we could start to ease into narration. The Well-Trained Mind suggests starting narrations in 1st grade, which I'd like to start a year, maybe a little more, from now. This would be a good way for me to practice up a bit. And it would be fun. What's not to like?

Narration is a way to develop the child's understanding and storytelling skills. The process is simple: the child tells you what he's just heard or read. You started this process in preschool, when you asked your child questions about the stories you were reading together. In first grade, you begin to ask the child to summarize the plots of short simple stories...

Narration lets you know how much a child retains and understands. It also develops vocabulary and powers of expression, and lays the foundation for good writing later on. A short essay is a cinch for a child who's become accustomed to narration.
The Well-Trained Mind, 55

Finger puppets seems like a lovely kindergarten intermediate between just asking questions, and outright plot summary. Monkey's been telling us stories - often (somewhat garbled versions of) stories we've read to him. This might be just the thing for us. Practical Pages also has a great post on Mom as a "Narration Scribe."

Just Japan

Treasuries are fun, so I did another last night when I should have been sleeping. Check out the lovely Japanese-themed items I found!

29 September 2010

Nature Study

One of my friends has some land and some animals. Yesterday, I took her some of my sourdough start, and she showed us her animals. Then we went inside and chatted until naptime. It was lovely.

Monkey got a "tour" of the chicken coop.

His friends introduced him to their goats. They're hoping to get more from a local petting zoo soon. The family is thinking about trying a "goat dairy." That's cool.

They've also got a young cow. Unfortunately, I didn't get any great pictures of the cow. But I did learn something about cows:

Cows are bendy.
Who knew?

Herbalism in Art

Herbs have been around for time immemorial, beautifying and making life better for those who have the knowledge to take advantage of them. Here is a small selection of how herbalism and art meet at Etsy.

28 September 2010

Fall Into Reading: Question 1

What is your biggest reading obstacle? OR, if you feel like you already read as much as you want to, what choices have you made to make that happen?

I don't think that I could ever get time enough to read all that I want to; there's just so much to know! I doubt that I'll ever fall into that second category, because the more I learn the more there is to be curious about.

As far as obstacles, I think lack of focus is probably it. Because there are so many interesting things I could learn, it's hard to settle in and do justice to one before something else arouses my curiosity.

What about you?

Commonplace Book: Lulabye to an Infant Chief

Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832)
Lullaby of an Infant Chief

O hush thee, my babie, thy sire was a knight,
Thy mother a lady, both lovely and bright;
The woods and the glens, from the towers which we see,
They all are belonging, dear babie, to thee.
O ho ro, i ri ri, cadul gu lo,
O ho ro, i ri ri, cadul gu lo.

O fear not the bugle, though loudly it blows,
It calls but the warders that guard thy repose;
Their bows would be bended, their blades would be red,
Ere the step of a foeman drew near to thy bed.
O ho ro, i ri ri, cadul gu lo,
O ho ro, i ri ri, cadul gu lo.

O hush thee, my babie, the time soon will come
When thy sleep shall be broken by trumpet and drum;
Then hush thee, my darling, take rest while you may,
For strife comes with manhood, and waking with day.
O ho ro, i ri ri, cadul gu lo,
O ho ro, i ri ri, cadul gu lo.

What's in your commonplace book this week? Post something to share, and then come link up. Not sure what a commonplace book is? Read more about it here.

27 September 2010

Commonplace Book Meme

A commonplace book is basically a book journal. You copy into it quotes that strike you and perhaps add some of your own commentary.

"Commonplacing is the practice of entering literary excerpts and personal comments into a private journal, that is, into a commonplace book or, to use a 17th century synonym, a silva rerum ("a forest of things"). Typically the excerpts were regarded as exceptionally insightful or beautiful or as applicable to a variety of situations, and so as such they are often especially quotable. . . . The practice of commonplacing can be traced back in the European tradition to the 5th century B.C.E. and the Sophist, Protagoras.
-Norman Elliott Anderson, quoted by Lucia Knoles

I love my commonplace book. I write things I read in it; I ponder the scriptures and literature in it. I sometimes copy my favorite blog posts into it. I choose poetry and other beautiful language to do for "copywork" and practice beautiful writing in it. I'm giving my children a Classical Education, and I want one for myself. My commonplace book is the physical location of the various self-education projects I have going at any given time.

Classical self-education demands that you understand, evaluate, and react to ideas. In your journal, you will record your own summaries of your reading; this is your tool for understanding the ideas you read. This - the mastery of facts - is the first stage of classical education. (Well Educated Mind, pg 39)

Remember that the goal of grammar-stage reading is to know what the author says; the goal of logic-stage inquiry is to understand why and how. The final stage of reading - your rhetoric-stage pass through the book - has a third goal. Now you know what, why, and how. The final question is: So what? (Well Educated Mind, pg 46)

I thought I'd try a new meme. Tuesdays, I'll post a bit from my commonplace book. The plan is for this to be a bit that's gone in this week, though in a pinch I'd put up something from a while ago! You post what you've written, and then come on over and link up. I even made a button.

25 September 2010

Fall Into Reading 2010

The idea is to create a reading list for this fall. I have three books, all ones that I have started and not finished, but would like to:

1. Understanding Exposure. My sister and I were blogging our way through this book, but we got distracted last spring, and never got it going again. I want to finish. I've learned tons, I want to learn more.

2. 1776. Another one my sister and I started together. She finished, I didn't. I love the Founding era, and want to finish this one.

3. Les Miserables. I'm 280 pages into the unabridged version, and I wasn't ready at the time to tackle the second section. I just couldn't get into the chapter on Waterloo, and I understand there's quite a bit of this in the book, so I set it aside for a while. I'm ready to go back.

Wish me luck! I've always been inclined to flit from one thing to the next as my interest drew me, and I'm trying to cultivate the ability to finish things. Since I was enjoying these books, it seems reasonable to suppose that I will again, if I'd just pick them up. This challenge is the perfect excuse.

24 September 2010

Weekly Wrap-up: The Sickly Birthday Boy

Monkey had his birthday this week: he's now Four Years Old! This works very well for him, as four is his favorite number. Unfortunately, he's spent the bulk of the week fighting an icky bug, and so we got nearly nothing done, as far as homeschool this week. Doing our preschool - kindergarten mix is fun, but not when you don't feel good. At one point this week I suggested a short walk, thinking we'd collect some of the beautiful fall leaves and call it nature study, and he cried and then asked for a nap. We didn't go.

But the birthday party was a screaming success: he was feeling mostly good on Tuesday, which was the birthday. I'm so glad we had it! We let him choose who to invite, and had a fun list: half a dozen little kids, ages 9 months to about 7, 2 teens, an engaged couple, and some adults. Almost everyone he invited was able to come. Several of his guests are also my friends, and they were happy to help out, since Daddy unexpectedly had to work that evening, poor guy!

Pre-party: the cake, and Monkey eating dinner quick before everyone came.

We had a balloon race: push the balloons with air blown through a straw.

Then the really cool stuff started. A.N. got out his balloons. Some folks just rock like that. A.N. is one of them.

Happy Chaos is a Balloon Man and a house full of Munchkins.

Monkey started things of right: he asked for a pirate sword. The Balloon Man also knew how to do ninja swords, so it quickly became Pirates vs Ninjas. That made a bit of noise!

And of course, birthday cake.

Turns out the candles I bought were trick candles. Monkey worked pretty hard, but in the end someone pinched the last one to make it stop! Then he opened presents and our friends had to go. Happily, Daddy made it home for the tail end of the party. He'd worked hard, hurrying so he could be there for part of it.

I'm On Etsy!

I've been going back and forth for a couple of months now: should I open an Etsy shop? Is it going to be too much, with everything else that's going on? I decided to take the plunge, and I listed my first item yesterday!

It's a tiny shop, thus far: only the one item is in there just yet. But I'm excited to put up a few more things. And then, when I finally got a little computer time this afternoon, I discovered that my little flower print has been included in a treasury already!

23 September 2010

Fascinating Blog Data

I'm watching this video, and it's telling me all the cool ways that I can use Google Analytics to find out what brings people to my blog and what keeps them here for a few minutes. It's fascinating stuff!

Does that make me a geek?

18 September 2010

17 September 2010

Weekly Wrap-up: Humming Along Edition

It feels like we've run from one end of this week to the other, but in there we got a lot accomplished in the homeschool department. Here's what we did:

Phonics: We got the penny game back out again on Monday, and although we didn't quite finish the game, Monkey got in some great blending & reading practice. Since the point is to practice reading, I'm content with letting him call an end to the game after a certain point. Wednesday I had him choose a Bob Book to read to me. I gave him numbers 1-4 to choose from, and he chose #3, "Dot." It's a challenging thing for him still, but he's getting there. I'm seeing real improvement. I'm not sure where to go after the cvc words, so the Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading is on its way and should be here in about a week. Monkey will still play games to learn, but I will have a better idea of what I'm doing and what's next. I'm looking forward to that!

Math: Surprisingly enough, Monkey did more with the Math Monsters when they were on paper. I let him use my good colored pencils, and he did more and more on his own with each one that he made. They were enough fun that he made several.

Nature Study: We finally got out to the park for nature study again. I have been missing this! I miss being outside, and I can tell that Monkey's observing is not as strong when we don't do this.

Monkey wasn't quite as into it as he usually is. I'm hoping that over the next week he remembers that this is fun.

Monkey was hoping to see animals at the children's farm, but this late in the season they've all gone back to the farms that provide them.

We finished off our trip to the park with a few minutes on the playground.

Kumon: We did a few pages, but since the point of these is basically to develop fine motor skills, and he was doing so much with the Math Monsters, I decided to let these go a little this week.

Read-Aloud: We're still working on Charlotte's Web, but we're getting close to the end now. Charlotte is making her egg sack, and Monkey is concerned about what's going to happen to Wilbur. This means that I'm going to have to choose another book soon. I love reading out loud, but the process of choosing another story to do is always a challenge.

We're also making good progress in reading the Scriptures. Monkey and I are reading the four Gospels, and we've made it into chapter 6 of Matthew. This is slow going: lots of stopping to explain, so every chapter takes several days. This week we discussed what is "adultery" (I told him it's when people who are not married try to make babies), "alms," and what is "in secret" as I read the Sermon on the Mount to him. I started reading the Book of Mormon to Raven. This is a bit trickier, because I like to do it when he's awake, but he's not awake a whole lot yet. The goal is to finish before his 3rd birthday, but with Monkey it was more like 3 3/4 years, because as he got bigger our rate slowed way down for questions and explanations. This is a good thing, it just makes that first trip through the book a long one. I love this reading chart for the Book of Mormon, so I made a similar one for the four Gospels.

Foreign Relations

Happy Constitution Day! Here's the final edition of my week-long series on the Constitution:

Article II Section 2:
He [the President] shall have power, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, to make treaties, provided two-thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, shall appoint ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls...

Article II Section 3:
[H]e shall receive ambassadors and other public ministers...

"But whatever may be our situation, certain it is, that foreign nations will know and view it exactly as it is; and they will act toward us accordingly. If they see that our national government is efficient and well... administered, our trade prudently regulated, our militia properly organized and disciplined, our resources and finances discreetly managed, our credit re-established, our people free, contented, and united, they will be much more disposed to cultivate our friendship than provoke our resentment."
-John Jay
Federalist #4

'Tis folly in one Nation to look for disinterested favors from another; that it must pay with a portion of its Independence for whatever it may accept under that character; that by such acceptance, it may place itself in the condition of having given equivalents for nominal favours and yet of being reproached with ingratitude for not giving more. There can be no greater error than to expect, or calculate upon real favours from Nation to Nation. 'Tis an illusion which experience must cure, which a just pride ought to discard.

-George Washington
Farewell Address, September 19, 1796

16 September 2010

Building Some Habits

Charlotte Mason talks an awful lot about the importance of habits, and I've been working on building better habits in both our homeschool and also in my own duties around the house. Keeping things clean is something I've always struggled with. I'm sure the sister I used to share a room with would be glad to verify that, lol! I'm told she once asked Mom to intervene because I wouldn't put away a box of my stuff that was sitting in the middle of the room. Mom asked me about it and I denied its existence. So Mom showed me the box in the middle of the room and asked me to put it away. [blush] I'm just not naturally talented in this area! But Miss Mason is right: habit is a powerful lever. I learned this as a piano teacher: the most naturally talented students, surprisingly enough, seldom were the best pianists. It was the ones who were the most consistent in their practice, and those tended to be the ones who did well only when they worked at it. I never applied this to cleaning until reading Miss Mason at the end of last month. Now, I'm putting stickers on the calendar for me every time I go to bed with a clean kitchen. My kitchen wasn't (usually) disgusting: I regularly got it clean. I just didn't keep it clean very well at all.

But, --supposing that the doing of a certain action a score or two times in unbroken sequence forms a habit...
-Charlotte Mason
Laying Down the Rails, pg 12-13

Inspired by Miss Mason's "unbroken sequence" I'd hoped to get the kitchen cleaned every night for the entire month of September. "Clean," I defined as going to bed with the dishes done, having swept the floor at some point every day. I'm going to have to try again in October, and it's possible that I'll still be working on this in November: I'm running about 50% right now. Of the past 15 days I've had a clean kitchen 8 of them. Since I nearly never finished the night with a clean kitchen before, this is a tremendous improvement for me! I'm getting clutter cleared and some of the detail work is getting done, and it's sooo much nicer! I'm noticing that I'm weak when we have company, and that sometimes takes a couple of days to completely recover from. I also notice that Monkey is learning this new habit right along with me. I've got my eyes on getting his toys under control, which at his age is more my bad habits as it is his. The way he readily works with me on keeping the kitchen clean is very encouraging: I think that once we work out a system he'll adapt to it quickly. Another thing that's tremendously encouraging is my husband's appreciation. He loves a clean house and isn't shy about appreciating my (imperfect) efforts. It makes such a difference.

Power comes by doing and not by resolving...
-Charlotte Mason
Laying Down the Rails page 13

The other place where I'm working to cement into place some good habits is in consistently getting all our school work done. It's not much work; Monkey's little. But building the habit of doing it all every day now will serve us so well next year when he is officially "school age." I'm a little amazed at how much more we're getting into our days! Monkey has free time, where he plays by himself (this drives him a little crazy, social creature that he is), time where we work on school things, time where we work on keeping up the house, and time for other projects or errands or play dates, as well as family time. I'm amazed at how much time there is, once I start paying attention to getting the important things done first!

Qualification For High Office

Article II Section 1:
The executive power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America. ... No person except a natural born citizen shall be eligible to the office of President; neither shall any person be eligible to that office, who shall not have attained to the age of thirty-five years, and been fourteen years a resident within the United States.

"Preserve your government with the utmost attention and solicitude, for it is the remarkable gift of heaven. From year to year be careful in the choice of your representatives, and all the higher powers of government. Fix your eyes upon men of good understanding, and known honesty; men of knowledge, improved by experience; men who fear God, and hate covetousness; who love truth and righteousness, and sincerely wish the public welfare. Beware of such as are cunning rather than wise; who prefer their own interest to everything; whose judgment is partial, or fickle; and whom you would not willingly trust with your own private interests. … Let not men openly irreligious and immoral become your legislators; for how can you expect good laws to be made by men who have no fear of God before their eyes, and who boldly trample on the authority of his commands? …If the legislative body are corrupt, you will soon have bad men for counselors, corrupt judges, unqualified justices, and officers in every department who will dishonor their stations; the consequence of which will be murmurs and complaints from every quarter. … Never give countenance to turbulent men, who wish to distinguish themselves, and rise to power, by forming combinations and exciting insurrections against government: for this can never be the right way to redress real grievances…"

-Samuel Langdon
Quoted in Establishing and Preserving Constitutional Government
in Ancient Israel and the United States of America

by the Center for Constitutional Studies

15 September 2010

The Militia

Article II Section 2:
The President shall be commander in chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the militia of the several states, when called into actual service of the United States...

Amendment II:
A well-regulated Militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

A free people ought not only to be armed and disciplined, but they should have sufficient arms and ammunition to maintain a status of independence from any who might attempt to abuse them, which would include their own government.
- George Washington

If standing armies are dangerous to liberty, an efficacious power over the militia in those emergencies, which call for the military arm in support of the civil magistrate, it can the better dispense with the employment of a different kind of force. If it cannot avail itself of the former, it will be obliged to recur to the latter. To render an army unnecessary, will be more certain method of preventing its existence, than a thousand prohibitions on paper.
-Alexander Hamilton
Federalist #29

The Constitution of most of our states (and of the United States) assert that all power is inherent in the people; that they may exercise it by themselves; that it is their right and duty to be at all times armed.
- Thomas Jefferson

Historical militias and the Founders' attitudes toward them are interesting. Although militias, at present, are considered rouge groups outside the law, this wasn't always the case. As I understand it, historically militias were groups of armed citizens, organized with State-appointed officers. George Mason, father the Bill of Rights, said that the militia is "the whole people except for a few politicians." Thus each individual carried his own portion of the responsibility for maintaining our freedoms. Interestingly, I have yet to read a favorable opinion from the Founders on the subject of standing armies. Every comment I have seen thus far in my studies indicates that the speaker felt that standing armies are a tremendous threat to liberty, and a tool all too easily turned against the body of the people, to force them into subjection, rather than to protect and defend them.

Perhaps, here in America, this could never happen. Certainly, it should not happen. However. The Japanese-Americans in the western states should not have been forced into what were essentially concentration camps. The Sedition Act of 1798, the Espionage Act of 1917, and the Sedition Act of 1918 all essentially made it illegal to criticize the government and the conflict (with France in 1798, and WWI in 1917-18). In each of these cases, no foreign spies, no legitimate threats to the government were found. However, each of these laws was used to persecute political opponents of the party then in power. The laws were used to silence legitimate 1st Amendment-protected speech in opposition to the policies of the current government. There is little comfort and less security in the statement, "that could never happen in America."

The Founders, apparently, hoped that by rendering a standing army unnecessary through the use of militias they could avoid the abuses that come when armies are used tyrannically. This check on the federal government was dismantled after the Civil War, due to the role that the militias played in the rebellion. Let us hope that we never have need of this sort of check on the government in the future, as it is now lost to us.

14 September 2010

The Rights of the People

Amendment IX:
The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

We must study and learn for ourselves the principles laid down in the Constitution... If we do not understand the role of government and how our rights are protected by the Constitution, we may accept programs or organizations that help erode our freedoms. An informed citizenry is the first line of defense against anarchy and tyranny.

-Ezra Taft Benson, June 1986
Quoted in A Glorious Standard: For All Mankind
by Christopher Bentley, page 104-5

We are told, however, that "eternal vigilance is the price of liberty;" and as we posses the best Constitution and the best government in the world, let us preserve it, and transmit it intact, pure and unadulterated to our children.

-John Taylor (The John Taylor Papers 1:285)
Quoted in A Glorious Standard: For All Mankind
by Christopher Bentley, page 67

The only way we can keep our freedom is to work at it. Not some of us. All of us. Not some of the time, but all of the time.

So if you value your citizenship and you want to keep it for yourself and your children and their children, give it your faith, your belief, and give it your active support in civic affairs.

-Spencer W. Kimball
Quoted in A Glorious Standard: For All Mankind
by Christopher Bentley, page 94

13 September 2010

Raven Rolled!

Babies don't like tummy time. Apparently, Raven didn't get the memo. He loves the stuff. I regularly try a little tummy time to calm him down. If he's not too upset, tummy time and some butt-pats work wonders. Have you ever met a baby that calms down on his tummy? This is certainly the only one I know! We've seen him almost roll a couple of times, but his arms were in the way; they were holding him back.

Today, that wasn't a problem. He rolled. He was pretty snoozy; I doubt it was on purpose. But I'll bet he figures out how to do it on purpose soon.

Not bad, for 7 weeks.

Now, repeat after me, quickly: "Raven rolled. Raven rolled. Raven rolled..." That oughta tie the tongue into a knot or two!

State Sovereignity

Amendment X:
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

But as the plan of the convention aims only at a partial union or consolidation, the State governments would clearly retain all the rights of sovereignty which they before had, and which were not, by that act, EXCLUSIVELY delegated to the United States.

Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 32, January 3, 1788
More Hamilton quotes on Mark's Quotes

12 September 2010

Weekly Wrap-up: Finding Normal Edition

So, we've got this new baby, and we think he's pretty special; he's hands-down a keeper. However, new babies do have a way of destroying any semblance of messing with a routine. We started rebuilding our routine this week.

Phonics: Monkey's getting there. I think I'm going to pick up the Ordinary Parents' Guide to Teaching Reading, not to use for him, but for me to make sure that I'm getting all the rules in a somewhat coherent order. I love Happy Phonics, and that will continue to be our primary focus, but I do want to have some reference material for what are the rules. I didn't learn with phonics; I'm pretty sure that I was taught with a more whole-language approach, and I want a little hand-holding to be sure that I'm not missing something important. After all, I've never taught reading before! Unfortunately, It's looking like I'll have to pay full price. On the other hand, if I do it through Amazon, I can get Mudpies to Magnets for basically $5, which is pretty good.

Math: The more we do from the Math Expressions book the more I like it. This week we did two things. We used felt tiles to show 4.

He put up 4 tiles in different shapes - they were still 4, no matter how he arranged them. We talked about partners in 4 in his different arrangements. And when it was all done he had a blast scratching all the tiles down. We'll be working with the other numbers 1-5 in the next while, but 4 is hid favorite, so of course we had to do it first.

For our other math activity, also from the Math Expressions book, we took our sidewalk chalk and went outside to make Math Monsters. Happily, Raven loves to be outside already, so he was a happy camper while were playing. As an added bonus, there was just enough wind to keep the mosquitoes off. Those things are so nasty this year, it feels like a sting, more than just a bite!

The idea is to have the child draw a monster that has a specific number of body parts. I knew this would be a challenge for his fine-motor skills, which is part of why I decided to do it in chalk: I was hoping to move into a more gross-motor direction with it. We also were in need of some outside time, so this worked well.

This particular afternoon, Monkey was all about the light sabers, and not so much into the chalk, so I started by drawing the monster on the left. He, of course, wanted to know what was I doing. So then we did the second one together. He gave instructions, counted parts, and drew the eyes while I was coloring the face. I think they both turned out cute.

Read-Aloud: I finally found Charlotte's Web; it'd gotten put away... on the wrong bookshelf. So we're making progress there again. We're also making progress on the New Testament again as well. I'm working on a Four Gospels reading chart to track our progress.

What is Revolution?

The Declaration of Independence:
When in the Course of human Events it becomes necessary for one People to dissolve the Political Bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the Powers of the Earth, the separate and equal Station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent Respect to the Opinions of Mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the Separation. ...

But what do we mean by the American Revolution? Do we mean the American war? The Revolution was effected before the war commenced. The Revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people; a change in their religious sentiments, of their duties and obligations...This radical change in the principles, opinions, sentiments, and affections of the people was the real American Revolution.

-John Adams, letter to H. Niles, February 13, 1818
More Adams quotes at Mark's Quotes

11 September 2010

First Prayer in Congress

Amendment I:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Offered by Rev. Mr. Duché, in Carpenter's Hall, Philadelphia, 7 September 1774:

Be Thou Present, O God of Wisdom, and direct the council of this Honorable Assembly; enable them to settle all things on the best and surest foundations; that the scenes of blood may be speedily closed; that Order, Harmony and Peace may be effectually restored, and that Truth and Justice, Religion and Piety, prevail and flourish among the people.

Preserve the health of their bodies, and the vigor of their minds, shower down on them, and the millions they here represent, such temporal Blessings as Thou seest expedient for them in this world, and crown them with everlasting Glory in the world to come. All this we ask in the name and through the merits of Jesus Christ, Thy Son and our Saviour, Amen.

Congress recorded their appreciation for this prayer:

Wednesday, September 7, 1774, 9 o'clock a.m. Agreeable to the resolve of yesterday, the meeting was opened with prayers by the Rev. Mr. Duché. Voted, That the thanks of Congress be given to Mr. Duché... for performing divine Service, and for the excellent prayer, which he composed and delivered on the occasion.

Reprinted in America's God and Country, page 221.

For a discussion of the phrase "separation of church and state" try this post.

10 September 2010

Getting Ready for Constitution Day

Next Friday, the 17th of September, is Constitution Day, celebrating the signing of the US Constitution. I love the Constitution! Unfortunately, I haven't come up with any satisfactory traditions to start in my family in order to celebrate this amazing document. I'm definitely taking suggestions, so if your family does something cool, please share it in the comments! In the meantime, I'm posting quotes. Here's a couple to start off with. I hope you enjoy.

WE THE PEOPLE of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

No nation has been more greatly blessed than the United States. We live in a land which has been called choice above all other lands by divine pronouncement... Our government came into existence through divine guidance. The inspiration of the Lord rested upon the patriots who established it, and inspired them through the dark days of struggle for independence and through the critical period which followed that struggle when they framed our glorious Constitution, which guarantees to all that self-evident truth proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence, "that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights: that among these are life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness."

-Joseph Fielding Smith, General Conference April 1943
Quoted in A Glorious Standard: For All Mankind
by Christopher S. Bentley, page 42

[The] great essentials of that document, the Constitution of the United States, which God Himself inspired, is the law of Zion, the Americas.

So, Brethren, I wish you to understand that when we begin to tamper with the Constitution we begin to tamper with law of Zion which God Himself set up, and no one may trifle with the word of God with impunity.

-J. Reuben Clark, General Conference October 1942
Quoted in A Glorious Standard: For All Mankind
by Christopher S. Bentley, page 43

Classical Homeschooling Carnival #11

Well, I'd planned to have the new edition of the carnival posted 10 days ago, but computer problems kept mostly offline for a week, and then it's been playing catch-up since then. Better late than never, right? Here's what we have this time around:

Pamela, of Blah Blah Blog shares their recent trip to Burney Falls State Park in California. She has some beautiful pictures of the falls posted. What a lovely place for nature study!

Tatiana, of World Star Academy, shares a collection of audiobook resources.

Here on Baby Steps, I'm sharing some thoughts on Habit vs. Nature, and the role of religion in education.

That concludes this edition. Submit your blog article to the next edition of the Classical Homeschooling Carnival using our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page. Email me at BabySteps.Blogger @ gmail.com if you would like to host the carnival.

09 September 2010

Cupcake Goodness

Cocoa's got this great Hostess Cupcake recipe. I may never make a different chocolate cupcake again: these are easily the best I've ever had! If I make these again I may experiment with another way of getting the filling inside, as I didn't get much in there with my frosting tip. But otherwise, they were delicious!

08 September 2010

Habit vs. Nature

While the power supply on my computer was dying a lingering, stinky death, I've been thinking about my blog. Specifically, I've been wanting to blog about some of Charlotte Mason's ideas. I was given a copy of Laying Down the Rails about 2 weeks ago, and I'm loving it! I have the original series, but it's a tough read, and it got put into storage a while ago. Not doing me much good there. The thing I'm loving about this new book is that it's got Miss Mason's ideas grouped by topic. I kept getting bogged down in trying to read the original series, but this book makes me think AND keeps me turning the page. Can't argue with that combination!

Right off the bat, Mrs. Shafer, who compiled the book from Miss Mason's original writings, with some additions of her own, starts with a section on the importance of habits. A lot of this is section is stuff that I'd read from the original already, but having it all together like this, arranged topically, I saw it differently, and understood better what Miss Mason was getting at.

'Habit is ten natures.' If that be true, strong as nature is, habit is not only as strong, but tenfold as strong. ... But habit runs on the lines of nature: the cowardly child habitually lies that he may escape blame; the loving child has a hundred endearing habits; the good-natured child has a habit of giving; the selfish child a habit of keeping.

But habit, to be the lever to lift the child, must work contrary to nature, or at any rate, independent of her.
(Page 12, emphasis added)

The idea of habit as a lever really caught my attention; it made me sit up and think. Of course, Miss Mason's emphasis is on education, and as Monkey gets closer to "school age" my desire to practice being consistent with doing school has increased. That is, I want to make sure that my habit of attending to my children's education is firmly in place before we get to our state's compulsory school age.

We're not doing too badly in that department, I don't think. It's a rare day that slips by without reading several stories at some point in the day. Allowing a little more wiggle-room for my efforts to NOT go into preterm labor this summer, I think we really did pretty well. Monkey is in the early stages of becoming a reader, and although there was very little forward progress in his reading this summer, we did well enough that there wasn't really any loss of skill either. Now I need to shore up the habit of doing school and I think we'll see some nice progress over the next few months.

However, the interesting thing about Miss Mason is that so much of her emphasis is not on the subjects one learns in school, such as reading and math, but rather on the virtues that make education possible and effective. Laying Down the Rails divides them into several chapters: Decency and Propriety Habits, Mental Habits, Moral Habits, Physical Habits, Religious Habits, and the book gives a whole chapter to the family's habit of reading aloud. She talks about habits of cleanliness, attentiveness, remembering, integrity, and many others. I've scanned through some of the sections already, and I'm looking forward to reading more!

One thing that surprised me when I first started looking through this book is the emphasis on character development in an educational philosophy. Many, perhaps most, of the habits she touches on are things that I would have placed under a religious, not an educational, heading, were I to have made a list of things that I'd like to teach my children. Perhaps this is a result of my own public school education, where the focus was, of necessity, on subjects such as reading, math, science, and music, rather than on the formation of character. Good character is closely bound up in religion and morality, and thus a sticky, dangerous topic when dealing with public education. But I'm beginning to realize that this is a false separation.

The old classicists called theology the "queen of sciences" because it ruled over all other fields of study. Theology still does, either in its presence or its absence. In it's most honest form, the debate over the teaching of creation and evolution in public-school science classes is not about whether the species evolved over unimaginable years or were created in the span of one word. ... the debate is over the presence of absence of a Creator. This presence of absence has immense implications for every area of the curriculum: Are we animals or something slightly different? Do math rules work because of the coincidental shape of space and time or because God is an orderly being, whose universe reflects His character? Is a man who dies for his faith a hero or a fool?

Public schools, which have the impossible task of teaching children of many different faiths, must proclaim neutrality.
We don't deal in matters of faith, the teachers explain. We're neutral.

Think about this for a minute. Arguing for the presence of God is generally considered "biased." Assuming His absence is usually called "neutral." Yet both are statements of faith; both color the teacher's approach to any subject; both make a fundamental assumption about the nature of men and women.

To call this neutrality is intellectually dishonest. ...

Let's take biology as an example. Mammals are characterized by, among other things, their tendency to care for and protect their young. Do mothers love their babies because of sheer biological imperative? If so, why do we come down so hard on fathers who neglect their children? It's a rare male mammal that pays much attention to its young. Do fathers love their children because fathers reflect the character of the father God? How should a father treat a defective child? Why?

We don't blame the public schools for sidestepping these sorts of questions. In most cases, it's the only strategy they can adopt.

Yet this separation of religious faith from education yields an incomplete education. We're not arguing that religion should be "put back" into public schools. We'd just like some honesty: an education that takes no notice of faith is, at the very least, incomplete.

The Well Trained Mind, pages 204-205

Morality, the contents of a "good character," these are things that are unavoidably bound up in questions of faith. My own Christian faith teaches that "men are that they might have joy." This is in direct opposition to the first of Buddhism's Four Noble Truths: "Life means suffering." Which you believe will unavoidably impact what you value in a good character. It will most certainly affect what sort of habits you want your children to acquire.

But habit, to be the lever to lift the child, must work contrary to nature, or at any rate, independent of her. (Page 12, emphasis added)

For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.
-Mosiah 3:19

Education is the formation of habits. (Page 12)

The habits of the child produce the character of the man. (Page 14)

Back Online!

We've been having computer problems: the power supply in my computer was going out. Andy said, "Don't turn it on." Apparently, when a power supply goes bad it's not only incredibly stinky, it can destroy other parts of the computer when it finally gets to the point of dieing. But he fixed it for me! And we even found the new power supply on sale! I was amazed at how expensive those suckers are. So. I'm off to finish the post about Charlotte Mason and habits I started a week or more ago. Shortly after that, I hope to have the next Classical Homeschooling Carnival up. And I need to upload some pictures for printing, and there's that photo collage that I've been working on forever and... yeah. I've been missing the computer.

Andy's my hero!


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