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15 March 2017

Odd Bits: Folk music, Archaeology, and More...


One of the things that homeschooling has done for me is to introduce me to some lovely folk music. I'd like to learn to play it on the Banjo, a lot of it, but so far, that's an item on my to-do list that isn't so easy to get crossed off. In the mean time, I'm absolutely loving listening to Jesse Ferguson, who sings Scottish folk songs. Have a listen; he's lovely. I always wonder if my Scottish ancestors knew or loved any of these songs.


On the first of every month, I post a collection of thoughts from my commonplace book, which is one of my favorite self-education tools. I love that using it is participating in the great English and American tradition of self-education, and continuing personal development. Occasionally, I'm asked what it is. The article I've taken this quote from has a pretty good explanation, some pictures, and instructions for how to start one.

A commonplace book is essentially a scrapbook / compilation of information that the creator deems relevant. Commonplace books became popular with thinkers in 15th century England and were eventually promoted as a scholarly tool by major universities such as Yale and Harvard.
-Jamie, Project: Start a Commonplace Book


I stopped buying cereal a couple years ago, and breakfast, which the kids mostly take care of on their own, continues to be a little hap-hazard. Lots of times, the kids will eat leftovers, or open a can of fruit. But if we're low on those things, it can get interesting. I think I might try this idea out: homemade instant oatmeal. Looks like a piece of cake to make, which is perfect: I love that the kids are gaining independence and confidence in the kitchen by making their own breakfasts. She's got instructions on masking tape on her jars, which is brilliant. And it looks like it'd be easy to switch up the flavors, too.


Archeology is cool. Archeology that shows up just in time to dovetail with our work on Greece and Greek civilization is even better. And that's what this article about a warrior's grave they found in Greece is. And there's a Roman makeup case, with fingerprints visible in the cream that's still in it. Gotta love the never-ending search for the perfect beauty product! And there's the whole kingdom from Arthurian legend that they found. That's pretty awesome, too. Makes me want to go read something about King Arthur: it's been a while. Archeology is good stuff.


Marginalia. I only recently learned that there's a word for all the stuff that you write in the margins. They told us not to write in our books in school, cautioned that there would be Serious Consequences if we did, because Those Books Are Very Expensive. The caution stuck: I have never really been one to write or highlight in my books, and when I shop, I generally want a clean book, even used. The only book that I've seriously annotated is my scriptures, which I love "making tracks" through, because it helps me to remember what I've learned, find it later, and retain it longer. And it's a visual reference for which sections I've given serious attention to, and which ones still need that kind of treatment. But I think I'm going to start making more notes in other books, too:

I like to think of these little jottings as being little messages to Jemimah from those same ancestral tombs, that through them she will get to know these people from her history a little better.  She will know how they thought about things, and how they interpreted knowledge, and she will get their input into the very same words that she is reading.  When she reads How They Brought the Good News from Ghent to Aix, she will know to listen for how "the light, rollicking metre almost produces the effect of the hoof beats of the galloping horse" because her Great Grandmother will have told her to listen.
-Jeanne, A Peaceful Day: Marginalia

I love the idea that the notes that their family made in their books has become a connection between the generations, a way for departed loved ones to continue to teach long after they've left us. That's a beautiful, all by itself. It makes me wonder (again) whatever happened to my Grandmother's library, and if she made notes in any of her books. What would they tell me about her? Those little notes can have impact, especially if the reader is receptive, or has a connection to the note-taker:

As I read Rebecca’s copy of the book, I started to notice how her notes changed the way I was reading. The passages she chose to mark, and the notes she wrote at the end of chapters, framed the way I was reading the novel. ... I’ve read books in the past with marginalia – usually used books that had previous owners unknown to me – and while those notes also pointed out passages to me that I otherwise may have skimmed over or which may not have been necessarily significant to me upon first glance, I never really paid attention to it beyond those pauses. ... This experience – of reading Rebecca’s copy of The Engagements – was markedly different, though. Because we’re not just Book Riot colleagues, but also good friends, not only was my perception of the novel changed, my perception of Rebecca – as a friend, as a woman, as a reader – was also changed.
-Rachel Manwil, To Note or Not to Note: How Marginalia Changed the Way I Read


I ran across this interesting post about the difference between an educational system and an educational method. She's talking about how the Charlotte Mason philosophy is a method, not a system, and there are a lot of good insights about the reason the distinction is important, but the thing that struck me was the way that this applies to language learning. Around 2 or 3 years ago, I changed, dramatically, the way that I learn languages, and started studying sentences, harvested from either my dictionary's sample sentences, or from real native Japanese text and native speakers. I make flashcards from whole sentences, and study vocabulary, syntax, usage, and all that all in a single go. If that's all I did, it would still just be a system, but the other half of the idea was to create an immersive environment - a Japanese bubble - so that we also are hearing correct pronunciation, more correct grammar and syntax, and interacting with the languages in ways that are natural, organic, and fun. Fun, guilty pleasure (example: Minecraft videos) is actually desirable in this case. The combination is amazing. Families who successfully pass a heritage language generally do a couple of things, but one of the big ones is to arrange for roughly a third of the day to happen in the minority language: and that is surprisingly doable in a situation like ours where we are all learning together. Obviously, it would be faster and better if we had more live feedback, regular access to someone who knows more than me, but we are making good progress even with minimal contact with people who are fluent, which is pretty amazing.

Getting good is good. Those things are all good. It’s nice to be full and it’s nice to have a big vocabulary. It’s just that you’re more likely to eat more if you focus more or less totally on making and procuring tasty food than “efficient”, “filling” food. Similarly, if you focus just about exclusively on having fun through the language, while you still suck, while you’re not full yet, you’ll naturally “eat” more of it, and eat more often, and naturally get “fuller” faster.
-Khatzmuto, Why Don't You Learn Like You Eat?, emphasis original (content warning: this article is clean, but if you browse his site, be aware he's sometimes rude, and occasionally pretty crude)

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