A grab-bag of things that caught my eye the past little while.
Something For Mom:The American tradition of self-education has gone so far underground that most people find "get an education" and "go to school" to be synonymous, and that which is self-taught often feels like it doesn't "count" -- but it wasn't always that way, and not everybody's forgotten. Mom doesn't need to loose herself in her Mothering. But it takes some mindful effort, and probably learning some new skills, to work on educating yourself: we don't typically leave home armed with the tools of self-education! The good news is, we don't have to make it all up from scratch. For instance. This lovely bit from Afterthoughts Blog is actually an introduction to a whole series on the topic of Mom's self-education. And they're working on a Mothers' course at Ambleside Online! It's going to be a while before it's ready to go, but there's enough there to give some good ideas for starting now. She touches on reading (audio books while you get dinner count!), on listening to lectures (we often call those podcasts, now), on getting in touch with nature, and a number of other things. And many of them can be squeezed in the cracks of daily life, even if we have minimal time to carve out for it.
Something Current:I'm a big fan of the Bill of Rights. I love that the Constitution is written, more or less, in plain English: you don't need a law degree to understand what it was they had in mind. The Bill of Rights just had its 225th birthday, mostly without any fanfare. But Rand Paul wrote a great piece about it, and then The Blaze had a pretty good article about Paul's work. Here's my favorite bit from Paul:
Not all of these 225 years have been kind to the Bill of Rights, though. It’s been challenged, debated, and far too often just ignored. Don’t be fooled into thinking this would have surprised the Founders. We have the Bill of Rights precisely because the Founding Fathers knew government can’t resist stretching its limits. When some in government say “of course we can,” you and I are supposed to use the Bill of Rights to say, “No, you can’t.” Some believe government has grown too large to hold down with these chains, that it’s too late to rein it back in. If the Bill of Rights were mere words on paper, perhaps we could afford to indulge that feeling. But they are not mere words. They are principles fundamental to who we are as a people and what we represent as a nation.
Something Seasonal:It's a Wonderful Life has been my favorite Christmas movie for as long as I can remember (rivaled only by White Christmas). I'd never given much thought to the actors; it's all about the story for me. But this year, when I watch it, I'm going to be looking at Jimmy Stewart, as well as at George Bailey. Turns out that this great movie also has a great story.
Something Educational:I came across this, from Memoria Press, about how a Classical approach to phonics works. I don't know tons about the history of phonics instruction, but what they describe about how a "classic" approach (a structured, orderly approach, with plenty of well-timed practice) works makes a great deal of sense to me, and has been very successful with my kids: Hero reads well, and Dragon is coming along beautifully. I particularly liked this bit:
The traditional phonics sequence is effective because it is systematic, not random. It reveals the underlying order of the great variety of English spelling patterns, one pattern at a time. This orderly presentation is an aid to memory and is the very heart of phonics. Without it, many students are unable to recognize, master, and read English words fluently, for the English language has the most irregular spelling of any of the modern languages.
I've seen some say that, because there are a large number of irregulars in English, we shouldn't bother burdening kids with phonics. However, English is something more than 90% regular, and it seems absurd to ignore that fact. Your average educated native speaker of English knows about 35,000 words (about 20% of the current contents of the language), which makes 32,500+ of those words rule-following words. Teaching the rules -and in a rational order- seems pretty sensible, when compared with the daunting task of trying to memorize all 35,000 words individually! For the chronically curious, there's a follow-up article. And a pretty interesting discussion of how many words there are in various languages, and how many of those words are typically used by natives and non-natives of various stripes.