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29 November 2016

I'm on the Crew!

Schoolhouse Review Crew

I'm so excited: I get to be a part of the Homeschool Review Crew! I'm looking forward to seeing what they have in mind for this year, and telling you all about it. The adventure starts in January, and they're still taking applicants, if you'd like to play too.

28 November 2016

Frog Study: Blanchard's Cricket Frog

We're learning about local frogs this year, in the hope of possibly recognizing them better when we're out and about. Our State has only about 12 of them, so I've slipped them in here and there on our schedule. Today's frog is a cutie: Blanchard's Cricket Frog.

This is the first time I've done a study like this, and I'm not quite sure how to take it from our kitchen table to being able to actually being able to identify frogs when we find them next summer, but I figure the chances are better with a inexpert effort than they are if we don't try at all! So right now, we're drawing them. And listening to some YouTube recordings of their song. And that's pretty much it. Today we did Blanchard's Cricket Frog, which is a cute little thing: fits on a fingertip with plenty of room to spare.

This is the drawing from Dragon(6). In addition to learning about these cute little guys, he's also learning to see well enough to draw. I have him sit on my lap (ufta! he's not little anymore!) and help him know what to look at, and how to really see it in a way that works for drawing:

He draws a circle for the eye, which is the most prominent feature.
"Look, the eye is cool, but it's easiest to start with the outline of the whole frog, and worry about the inside details later; let's save the eyeball for last, so you can tell more easily where it belongs. Look at the frog's nose, instead. See how this part is part of a circle?" -I run a pencil along the curve of the frog's mouth, showing him the circle-
"Next to that big circle part, there's this small curve, where the other eye is hiding. See how those connect?"
"Do you think you can draw the big circle part and the little one? Can you see how they go?"
"Yes." And he did it pretty credibly.
"Good. Now, look, first. Put your eyes up here on the picture. See how his back goes along like this, not super round, but not quite curvy, either?"

We went along like that, trying to help him to see what he needs, and reminding him to look at the picture before he draws, and at the end, his frog is pretty credible, particularly the front half, and the front leg, which he did entirely by himself. He's making good progress with his drawings, though judging from his comments after it was done, I don't think he can see his progress, yet. Unfortunately, his nature book is lost right now, so we didn't put this in there, just on regular paper, which makes it hard to look back and see how progress really has been happening. Hopefully, we'll find it soon and tape in this drawing.

Hero(10) is well past the point where he needs me to sit and hold his hand. He's been turning out stacks of ever-improving drawings for quite a while, now, and I didn't have to do any more than just show him the frog I wanted him to observe, and let him choose which picture he was going to do; he takes care of the rest.

It's been too busy a day for me to get this drawing into my own nature book, but I'm hoping that, here in the next little bit, I can put a cute little frog in my notebook, and possibly even paint him a little to show his lovely colors. I've got a cottonwood leaf pressed in my book that I'm finishing up this evening.

26 November 2016

Psalm 14: None That Doeth Good

I spent a lot of time last time, learning about what it means when the scriptures talk about fools, which wasn't what I'd expected when I first read the chapter. So, now that I understand that a little better, I'm backing up and looking at more of the chapter. This chapter seems to have a lot to it; there's a JST version for the whole chapter, and it's also quoted by Paul in the New Testament, so I'd always planned on spending some time here.

The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good. ... They are all gone aside, they are altogether become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one.
-Psalm 14:1,3

So, to draw on the things I learned before: The fool, either unable or unwilling to reason  says there is no God. He then acts contrary to sound wisdom, preferring trifling pleasures to the service of God, whom he treats with contempt. He turns aside from the strait and narrow path, crosses into sin, and becomes filthy, rather than good. We are all foolish from time to time; we fall short of real goodness. The Hebrew word used here to mean good is towb, which means completely good in every sense that a thing can be good. It looks like it's similar to the Greek word, agathos, which is what's used to convey Christ's words in this next verse:

Why callest thou me good? There is none good but one, that is, God.
-Matthew 19:17

Strong's, in the entry for agathos, says God is "essentially, absolutely, and consummately good." It's important that we know that; knowing our Father's character enables us to have faith in Him. Knowing that He is absolutely, completely, consummately good, and that this characteristic is central to His being, it gives us confidence in Him, and teaches us what we must do to please Him.

There are those who, while they may not actually keep all the commandments, are seeking to keep them, but there is none that is actually completely, essentially, absolutely, consummately good. King Benjamin talked about this when he addressed his people near the end of his life:

I say unto you, my brethren, that if you should render all the thanks and praise which your soul has power to possess, to that God who has created you, and has kept and preserved you, and has caused that ye should rejoice, and has granted that ye should live in peace one with another--  I say unto you that if ye should serve him who has created you from the beginning, and is preserving you from day to day, by lending you breath, that you may live and move and do according to your own will, and even supporting you from one moment to another--  I say, if ye should serve him with your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants.
-Mosiah 2:20-21

Always we fall short. It's interesting to me that Christ, Himself, refuses to be called good; it puts me in mind of the difference between His command to the Jews to be perfect "as your Father who is in Heaven is perfect", and the command when He offered the same teachings to the Nephites, but told them to be perfect "as I, or your Father who is in Heaven, is perfect". In any case, we all fall short of the glory of God, and are dependent on Christ's grace to save us. There is none that is wholly, completely good.

The grace of God is our great  and everlasting hope.

But, knowing that we're all falling short, and that Christ's grace is absolutely essential, it's not an excuse for just sitting around; the Lord expects that we will be up and doing, and that in our efforts, we will be seeking Him and doing our best:

The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God.
-Psalm 14:2

Scripture chain:
Psalm 14:3
Matthew 19:17
Mosiah 2:20-21
Romans 3:23
2 Nephi 25:23

24 November 2016

Keep the Electoral College

I'm glad that Hilary lost; I'm sad that Trump won.

There's often a lot of hurt and pain, following an election. Voting for Darrell Castle, I knew my guy was going to lose, and I'm at peace with that; you get used to it, voting third party. But a number of my friends fully expected they'd backed the winner, and they're sad, upset, and frightened by the outcome. I think either Hilary or Trump winning is grounds for being sad, so it's pretty easy to be sympathetic to those who are upset by our outcomeThey talk about how they are so concerned about where our country is headed. They feel disenfranchised. Some of them were panicky. The outcome was a surprise; many feel robbed. I remember feeling some of those things when Obama was elected; it's not a pleasant place. It's a hard place to be. So I can understand why there's talk of doing away with the Electoral College. Four years ago, and eight years ago, it was a different set of friends expressing many of the same feelings, and also rumbling about doing away with our Electoral College; that seems to come up pretty regularly, about every four years.

"We live in a very different world than they did, and changes need to be made in order to adjust. The way I see it, we're in more trouble every time we try to make rules from hundreds of years ago that no longer make any sense apply to our current country."
-Heather, on Facebook

The Electoral College isn't the problem, and it's not that the Constitution was created hundreds of years ago. It's the monarchical power we've allowed to collect in the presidency that's the problem, and both parties are complicit. Donald Trump, while never a stellar specimen of human decency, was never a cause of widespread fear or dismay as a private citizen. It is Donald Trump with the vast powers that the presidency has assumed that is a cause for alarm. And there is a just cause for alarm.

Many instances can be produced in which the people have voluntarily increased the powers of their rulers; but few, if any, in which rulers have willingly abridged their authority. This is a sufficient reason to induce you to be careful, in the first instance, how you deposit the powers of government.
-Brutus #1

So there's quite a few voices out there right now questioning the legitimacy of our system, and being upset because, as has happened a few times before, Trump won the necessary Electoral votes, but did not collect a majority of popular votes. I've seen a number of opinion pieces suggesting that it's time to do away with the College, this one being pretty representative.

However. Our system was never intended to be a one person one vote kind of system. We are not a democracy, and in fact the Founders were highly critical of democracies, considering them unstable and prone to violent endings, and little more than mob rule or a tyranny of the majority (see the opening of Federalist #10, for example). We do not have a democracy, what we have is a carefully balanced constitutional republic, designed to bring the interests of the People, the States, and the federal Union into balanced and stable harmony, and to serve and protect both the majority and minority voices. A pure democracy can never hope to do all that.

One of the tools used to achieve this balance is the Electoral College. Like the Senate, the College is weighted slightly in favor of the small States. (The House favors the populous States.) But to really understand the way the College works, you have to realize that we are not actually a single nation; we are a federation. One of the charges the antifederalists brought in the ratification debates was that the Constitution aimed to make a single nation of what was then thirteen individual sovereign States. When the colonies threw off English rule they did it working together, but they becme, not a single nation, but thirteen nations -- thirteen States, with Rhode Island being as distinct from and independent of Virginia as the States of France and Spain are distinct and independent of each other. Antifederalist charges that the Constitution aimed to end that independence (for instance in Brutus #1) were vehemently denied in the Federalist Papers, while firmly advocating for continued united cooperation and safety from bloody interstate quarrels in the Union:

An entire consolidation of the states into one complete national sovereignty, would imply an entire subordination of the parts; and whatever power might remain in them, would be altogether dependent on the general will. 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 #32 (emphasis original)

So the idea of the United States as "one nation... indivisible" is an incorrect concept of our system, and you cannot really understand the Electoral College with this misconception. What happens is, in each of the several States, the citizens of that State assemble and select a president. In this process, the citizens of each State assemble and cast their votes in order to instruct the Electors from their individual States. Wisconsin's citizens may not dictate to Illinois what who they will select; they are making choices for their own State only. Then, the process is completed with the Electoral College. The College takes the individual votes and weights them in order to ensure that small States are not excluded from the process, in order to aggregate the individual elections held in the several States into a single decision binding upon them all. The Electoral College exists to balance power between the interests of large and small States, and creates the possibility of "swing states" rather than allowing candidates to focus on just California and other populous States and ignore Maine, New Hampshire... and Wisconsin. It keeps ALL States relevant in elections, which is a pretty important function. It also helps to preserve the sovereignty of the several States, and their unique character, by preserving influence to the States, as well as to the individual people, a voice at the federal table.  Historically, the several States have taken turns at being "safe" for this party or that one, and at becoming swing States, so, over the long run they take turns at being more and less in the limelight at election time. Understanding the process makes it clear how very irrelevant it is which candidate collected the greater number of popular votes and how that correlates with the Electoral Votes: we are not having a single election, so the aggregate of popular votes is unimportant, regardless of if it aligns with who wins the College or not.

Every time we've moved from the inspired systems the Founders gave us, we've moved from balance into imbalance and removed checks on the growth of the federal government's power. You can see this in the changes made in the Seventeenth Amendment, which gave us direct election of Senators, rather than having them selected indirectly by the State Legislators, a system which gave those who feel the loss of State power in federal overreach first and personally in their own loss of power the ability to select -- and to recall - Senators who did not remember and observe the limitations on Federal authority. I am convinced that the direct election of Senators not only created massive overgrowth of the federal government, but that it also contributed in no small part to the loss of our identity as a federation of sovereign nations. We are not supposed to have a national system, and but a federation (think Star Wars's Galactic Senate, which was a cooperation among allied entities who each retained their own government and individual culture).

Abolishing the Electoral College would be a huge loss in a number of important ways, and it would make the parties still more powerful; more of the toxic partisan wrangling would be an inevitable result, as well as an increase in the already bloated influence that parties have over politicians who, ostensibly, are hired to represent us. Has you ever wondered why Congress sits in parties, rather than by State? It wasn't always so, and I think it speaks volumes about how their first loyalty lies with the party -- not the People or the State they are supposed to represent. Abolishing the Electoral College will exacerbate an already serious problem.

Rather than abolishing the Electoral College, what we ought to do is repeal the 12th Amendment. Prior to the passage of the 12th, the runner-up became the Vice President, which, rather than leaving Hilary and her supporters out in the cold, we would have kept those voices at the table, with influence both in the White House, and also in the Senate, as the VP is the president of the Senate. Then we could keep the balance of power that the Electoral College gives us and it would keep better representation for those States and individuals who preferred someone other than the front runner.

Additionally, the system we've had since the 12th was passed institutionalized the toxic party system that creates such terrible divisions in our people. Washington warned us of the dangers of party in his farewell speech, and we disregarded his wisdom, to our sorrow. The problems he warned about have pretty much all come about in the deep partisan divides we currently suffer from.

The Constitution is so remarkable, as far as balancing and splitting power both horizontally between the branches, and vertically, between the States and the federal governments, and to abolish the Electoral College would further deform that balance. Instead, we should correct the mistaken 12th Amendment.

There are other objections, not based on the one person one vote argument. This comment is pretty representative of what I have seen of those: 

Yeah. I'm not cool with keeping a system that was based on white male power and slavery. Let's get rid of it
-Gwen, on Facebook

The Constitution, including the Electoral College, isn't about white male power. Its about bridling the avaricious elements of human nature in order to secure maximum Liberty to ourselves and our posterity. It is true that the principled response to the slave States would have been to count slaves at zero fifths -- not because slaves were not human, but because the slave States should not have been claiming they were no better than cattle AND counting them as citizens for purposes of representation. That defect has been corrected, and in a way that counts all humans correctly. But let's not rashly throw the baby out with the bath water.

Slavery is abolished (as it should be), and many things have changed since then -- but human nature is not one of them. And it is in understanding and coping with the human tendency to crave power that the Founders shine the brightest. Each fundamental change of the Constitution away from the limited republican system they gave us brings us closer to democracy's mob rule -- which is exactly why losing an election is such an unpleasant experience. That ought to warn us that we're traveling down the wrong road, and the answer is repeal of the Amendments such as the 12th and the 17th so that we can restore the balance, rather than doubling down on the error and bringing in still more mob rule.

15 November 2016

Book of Centuries

We have kept a binder timeline for a while now, and even added to it pretty regularly recently. But I've had this nagging feeling that it was more of a timeline than a Book of Centuries. We started with this simple printable a long time ago, and even though it's labeled a Book of Centuries, since then I've seen a couple things that made me think maybe this isn't what Miss Mason was talking about when she said "Book of Centuries". It's nice, and I'm glad we do it, I'm just not sure that it's the same thing.

See, Miss Mason would take her kids to the museums, and they'd draw stuff. Museums like that are far away... but we have the internet, which is almost like having a museum, if you close one eye and squint. And I've read how she would have them draw stuff they saw, and that they were especially encouraged to pick one type of item and draw that thing from a bunch of different cultures and times. Which is a pretty cool idea. The sample I remember was shoes. Draw shoes from all over. Not very inspiring.

Enter Pinterest.

This morning, I was looking for a blackline map of Mesopotamia for another project, and I came across this cute little guy.

And all the sudden I thought, what if I did birds, instead of shoes?! Oh, that could be cool. I wonder if I could find paper thick enough to use watercolor sometimes, if I had the time and inclination?

All the sudden, it sounds very interesting. So I went and started reading some more about Books of Centuries. I'm not the only one that is too far from a museum, Brandi of Afterthoughts is, too. And I found some lovely pictures from another blogger, and she's got a great idea for how to lay it out -- I may have to try something similar in mine. Here's another sample and free download, this time with boxes for each of the years, and sample pages. They all seem to emphasize drawing, which is interesting. And the one that was my favorite to look at had drawings all over the place.

I want to put that cute Mesopotamian birdie in my book. And I want to keep an eye peeled for other birds as we look at other periods of history. I like birds.

And I want to read more about how other people do this, and figure out what we're doing with ours and make them a little more purposeful. This could be fun.

09 November 2016

Shakespeare's Pegdolls

I saw this amazing idea on the Ambleside Online Facebook group: Pegdolls for Shakespeare plays. Oh my goodness, we're having so much fun with this.

So this is how we tackled Comedy of Errors:

First, we read the Lamb's version. This is a retelling, in story form, of the play. Officially, Lamb's is for Dragon, but unofficially, I'm glad that I get to start with something that's simple, straightforward, and a story. We had a couple of false starts as we tried to settle into the new school year after taking our first-ever summer vacation (I still have mixed feelings about those), but we made it through, and everyone enjoyed it.

Next, we listened to a Librivox version of the original play. I'd like to find a movie version, but haven't yet. And Librivox is free, and something that the kids are already used to. So we tried that, and it worked nicely. They have an app that I've put on my phone that makes listening very easy - even remembers where we stopped last time. And it's easy to stop and explain, back up, and listen to a section again, when I laugh but the kids missed it. This being Shakespeare, we've suspended our usual habit of only reading things once, then expecting the kids to understand and remember. Even with the more difficult language, the kids liked it and protested each time I turned off the play, and seemed to follow much of it readily. We tend to listen over lunch, and they always wanted more. I like to read books slowly, but we did this one pretty quickly.

And then, just as we were doing the Librivox, one of the ladies on the Ambleside Facebook page posted pictures of the peg dolls they were doing with their play. And they were adorable. And I had blank peg dolls in my stash. So of course I got them out and we painted while we listened. And the kids had a blast at it. And I did too.

Aren't they cute? This is Antipholus and Dromio of Syracuse, with the Lady Luciana. I did the twins, so they'd actually be identical. Dragon did Lady Luciana, but had me help him with her face. 

This one is the Abbess, though we've since lost her, and I think we'll have to make a new one. Peanut painted her (I helped with the necklace & face), but then nearly immediately lost her in the car, which is a bummer, because she's super cute.

Hero did the goldsmith and his troublesome necklace all by himself - I just love the detail. And he also did the officer. 

We had a couple more dolls to make on a second day- notably the duke and the father - and they needed some clear coat. Oddly enough, it's warm enough to do that, just barely.

Next we'll listen again, and act out a couple of the scenes. I'm really looking forward to it. 

Who knew Shakespeare could be so fun?!

07 November 2016

Out in Autumn

We are enjoying an uncommonly mild Autumn. Everybody is kind of waiting for the other shoe to drop, but we're enjoying it until then! When we were out the other day, the first thing we noticed that, although it was mid-morning, there was a lot of water (dew?) on the plants. 

Each little hair on the Mullein was decorated with its own tiny drop. 

The pictures don't really do it justice. And that was just one of the lovely things we saw. 

The kids were all about the quarry area of the park this time. We stacked rocks with the Littles for quite a while while the Bigs played in the bushes.

While we sat and played with the rocks, we found these cool leaves with deep groves in the veins. I don't know what kind of tree they came from, but the looked really cool. 

The goldenrod seeds were beautiful, though my phone struggles to do them justice. 

There were a lot of beautiful little things that it would be so easy to walk by. I love that our Nature Study days help me slow down an see some of this stuff. 

Hero had a chat with a naturalist the other day for a Webelo project, and one of the things the naturalist told us is that nests of sticks tend to be birds' nests; squirrels build with leaves, and they most prefer oak leaves because they break down much more slowly than other types. So I was excited to find a squirrel nest while we were out. 

I was amazed to find these still blooming; I guess the mild weather hasn't been cold enough to put them to sleep, even though we've had several good frosts now. 

When I was a kid, I used to think Autumn was ugly. Dull brown and nothing at all to see. Looking around now, I'm amazed at all the things I was blind to. I'm glad I've learned better; Autumn is lovely.

01 November 2016

Commonplace Book: October

"There are few persons in the world who care not for the appearance of their dress. They generally want their garments of a good material, and to fit them in a becoming manner. Our ideas and thoughts are also entitled to a becoming dress; and it should be our pride to clothe them with the most chaste and beautiful language, that they may hang around our person as jewels of unfading beauty, even as “apples of gold in pictures of silver" (Prov. 25:11)."
-Orson Hyde, JD 6:375

Blessed are the undefiled in the way, how walk in the law of the Lord.
Blessed are they that keep his testimonies and that seek him with the whole heart.
They also do no iniquity: they walk in his ways.
Thou has commanded us to keep thy precepts diligently.
O that my ways were directed to keep thy statues!
Then shall I not be ashamed, when I have respect unto all thy commandments.
I will praise thee with uprightness of heart, when I shall have learned thy righteous judgments.
I will keep thy statues: O forsake me not utterly.
-Psalm 119:1-8

But the one achievement possible and necessary for every man is character; and character is as finely wrought metal beaten into shape and beauty by the repeated and accustomed action of will.
-Charlotte Mason, 6:129

For, let us consider. What we do with the will we describe as voluntary. What we do without the conscious action of will is involuntary. The will has only one mode of action, its function is to 'choose', and with every choice we make we grow in force of character.
-Charlotte Mason, 6:129

"An unrushed atmosphere is absolutely essential if you are to have the Spirit of the Lord present in your class. Please don’t ever forget that. Too many of us rush. We rush right past the Spirit of the Lord trying to beat the clock in some absolutely unnecessary footrace."
-Jeffrey R. Holland, Teaching and Learning in the Church

The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good.
-Psalm 14:1

Fool. n.
1. One who is destitute of reason, or the common powers of understanding...
2. In common language, a person who is somewhat deficient in intellect... or a person who does not exercise his reasons...
3. In scripture, a fool is often used for a wicked or depraved person; one who acts contrary to sound wisdom in his moral deportment; one who follows his own inclinations, who prefers trifling and temporary pleasures to the service of God and eternal happiness.
4. A weak Christian; a godly person who has much remaining sin and unbelief...
-Webster's 1828, "Fool"

In order to successfully treat muscular and skeletal problems with plant medicine we need to have a clear understanding of the different tissues involved, how they work, and what can happen to them. We also need to understand  that certain parts are analogous to others, even when they have been artificially separated in biomedicine. Finally, we need to know which herbs do what.
-Treatment of the Muscular and Skeletal System by Matthew Wood, Registered Herbalist

“She was ladylike, too, after the manner of the feminine gentility of those days; characterised by a certain state and dignity, rather than by the delicate, evanescent, and indescribable grace which is now recognised as its indication. And never had Hester Prynne appeared more ladylike, in the antique interpretation of the term, than as she issued from the prison. Those who had before known her, and had expected to behold her dimmed and obscured by a disastrous cloud, were astonished, and even startled, to perceive how her beauty shone out, and made a halo of the misfortune and ignominy in which she was enveloped.”
-The Scarlett Letter

The cricket sang,
And set the sun,
And workmen finished, one by one,
Their seam the day upon.
The low grass loaded with the dew,
The twilight stood as strangers do
With hat in hand, polite and new,
To stay as if, or go.
A vastness, as a neighbor, came,
A wisdom without face or name,
A peace, as hemispheres at home,
And so the night became.
-Emily Dickinson


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