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24 December 2018

Come Follow Me: Study Ideas

I love that the new Come Follow Me manual is completely choose your own adventure:

Use this resource in any way that is helpful to you.
-page vi

People's needs are so varied; I love that they say up front that there's no wrong way to use the book: do what works for you. And it need not replace good things you are already doing in your home:

You and you family may already be studying the gospel regularly. Maybe you have a goal to read the Book of Mormon. Or maybe you are reading another book of scripture for a seminary or institute class. Come, Follow Me is not meant to replace or compete with the good things you are doing. ... Follow the Spirit's guidance to determine how to approach your own study of the word of God. 
-page vi

Even the schedule is explicitly optional:

The schedule will help you keep up with the material covered in Sunday classes, but don't feel bound by it; the schedule is simply a guide to help you pace yourself. The important thing is that you are learning the gospel individually and as a family.
-page vi (emphasis added)

That last sentence bears repeating: The important thing is that you are learning the gospel individually and as a family. If we are studying the gospel, we are successful. It's that simple. The point is not to answer every question, to read every chapter start to finish, or to stay in lockstep with the class: the point is conversion to Christ, and conversion is a very personal process, a journey that we each take starting where we are right now, and moving toward Him. 

The next few pages, before the lesson outlines start, cover a nice list of possible ways we could choose to study the scriptures: marking verses that deal with the teachings of the Savoir, doing word studies (I shared my work with the word humility a while back), likening scriptures to ourselves, recording your thoughts, feelings, and what you've learned in a journal, studying the scriptures in tandem with the words of modern prophets and apostles (like this verse President Monson used in one of his talks). They've got a pretty good list, but the magical thing about the scriptures is that there's a whole host of good ways to study them. One of their suggestions I like best is to share insights and put things in your own words, and they say:

Discussing insights from your personal study is not only a good way to teach others, but it also helps strengthen your understanding of what you have read. 
-page viii

Basically, what they're recommending here is narration, and that really is a powerful tool: to tell back what you have read, you have to have paid attention, to have understood, and assimilated it to the point that you can give it your own words. I love blogging about things that I'm learning precisely because the process of writing what I've learned is so powerful: it cements in my mind the ideas. But verbal narration is a similarly powerful tool, and in harnessing it, we draw the scriptures deeper into ourselves and help our children draw them deeper into them as well. Keeping it simple: read the chapters, tell it back, and talk about it a little, is what we plan to do. In my experience, simple plans easily executed work better and longer than fancy stuff that requires printouts and preparation. We like it simple: just the scriptures.

However. Academic knowledge gained on our own, as families, or in class is only half the equation: the things we learn need to become the guides for our conduct. It is in the application of scripture that we truly become Christian. Reading is the start, and after that we must live it.

But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only...
-James 1:22


This post is part of a series.
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11 December 2018

Come Follow Me: Conversion

After they passed out the new books in our meetings this week, my husband and I discussed what we want to do with the extra hour of time on Sunday afternoons, and how we want to deal with the new Come Follow Me manual. We tend to do best with a laid-back approach, and decided that we want to spend some time painting miniatures and talking about the gospel each Sunday. Looking through the lessons, we're going to have to do the readings during the week, probably during school time: we have a very good evening scripture routine that we've decided not to displace. I don't know that we'll always get through all the readings with all the kids: the first week is no problem; it's only 1 chapter. But near the end of the year they've scheduled 11 chapters of Revelation... twice. Revelation is not really easy going, and it may be all three of the kids' first time though it, so we'll see what we can actually do. At least by the time we get there, we'll have some practice at this new format!

I'm really excited that we'll all be doing the New Testament this year; some of the most fundamental things are in the New Testament: the whole of Christ's mortal ministry, and then there are some really beautiful doctrines in the Epistles. I love that we'll all be studying the same thing, that all the classes will be aligned.

And then there's the purpose.

The aim of all gospel learning and teaching is to deepen our conversion and help us become more like Jesus Christ. For this reason, when we study the gospel, we're not just looking for new information; we want to become a "new creature". This means relying on Christ to change our hearts, our views, our actions, and our very natures.
-Come Follow Me, introduction

That's beautiful! And it's challenging. It may require a bit of a paradigm change: I usually go looking for new insights, new connections, new information, and just trust the process to create deeper conversion, both for myself, and also for my kids: I trust that if we take in the scripture faithfully, then the process of change, of transformation, of conversion, will happen.

Conversion is an interesting word, really. My husband is an electrical engineer, but he started his education in chemical engineering, and he recently commented that, scientifically, to convert a thing is to totally, fundamentally change it. Remember those science equations?

2H2 + O2 2H2O
Hydrogen and oxygen are completely, wholly different from water. The equation is balanced: none of the atoms got away. But if you convert hydrogen and oxygen into water, then the water is in every way different from the original ingredients. In every way.

Conversion is like that.

The invitation to follow Christ is an invitation to become someone new, someone better: to be wholly changed, wholly converted by His grace into a completely new thing. Thinking about it that way, remembering the bunson burners and charred remains in my high school chemistry class, I'm thinking that it's no wonder that conversion is sometimes an uncomfortable process. Conversion requires that we allow Christ to change our hearts, our views, our actions, our very natures.

Conversion takes time.

It's not a thing that happens all at once; it's a process. Several years ago, Brother Bednar shared the Parable of the Pickle. He talked about how, when you put a cucumber through the pickling process, it becomes something entirely different; the linguist in me notes that it's so different that we have two completely unrelated words for them, and the parent in me is still chuckling over the shocked looks I got from each of them in turn when I told my kids that pickles are made from cucumbers.

Having done some canning, and played around with some fermentation, I love the comparison of conversion to pickling. One interesting thing is that the act of filling your containers with cucumbers and brine is a relatively small part of the process. You could compare going to church and getting the materials and instructions and so forth with putting the pickles in the brine. But if you stop there, just put the cukes in the brine, then take them right back out, which might be compared to going to church on Sunday but not doing anything with it between times, well, then you're going to have wet, salty cucumbers. They won't have sufficient time to be changed. The new streamlined schedule will give us extra time at home to make sure that we're in the scriptures, doing family history, planning service, and organizing things so that we are carefully walking the Christian walk, not just talking the Christian talk.

[The] kind of gospel learning that strengthens our faith and leads to the miraculous change of conversion doesn't happen all at once. It extends beyond a classroom into an individual's heart and home. It requires consistent, daily efforts to understand and live the gospel. True conversion requires the influence of the Holy Ghost. 
-Come Follow Me, introduction (emphasis added)

When you are fermenting, you have to have weights or something that holds the vegetables in the brine: they must be fully submersed. Some types of pickles can take months to make. Even quick tangy fermented carrots or sauerkraut takes several days. But ferments must stay fully submerged the whole time they are changing; otherwise, it gets quite nasty. Chemical conversions also take time, sometimes quite a bit. The extra time in the new schedule, I suspect, is designed for us to organize ourselves and prepare every needful thing, so that we have just that much more space to invite the Savior to fully change us in every way.

What an exciting thought to take into the New Year!

This post is part of a series.
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06 December 2018

A Math Narration

Everybody's a little bit under the weather, especially me, and I wanted to do math, but not worksheets today. Happily, I follow the Let's Play Math page on Facebook, which is always posting something that's both fun and mathy, and they popped up in my feed, so first, I set up my oldest practicing a couple of his troublesome math facts with the cool math-art thing they had. He and I both did some, and I hung them up on our art door.

Well, Dragon didn't want to be left out of the fun math, so I found one for him, too: a thing where you figure out the differences, and I hoped that he'd learn a cool strategy for figuring out differences, which he did. But it ended up being much cooler than that: we ended up looking at even/odd patterns in the difference problems. It started because I wanted to give a problem: "There are 18 candies, Jon has 5 more than Carl. How many does each boy have?" And you end up with Jon having 11.5 and Carl having 6.5. And I wondered which times you'd have to split a candy. So we made a big thing to show it.

It took us a little while to get it right: we skipped a couple of numbers, and we had all of them with the pattern sides up at first, but that was kind of hard to tell one set from the next, so we fiddled with the boxes for a while to get them to go right. But we got there. At the end, I asked Dragon to tell me what he'd learned. So he did.

05 December 2018

Gone With the Wind: Start at the Beginning

When I was in high school, they let us choose a classic to read and write about. I thought that Gone with the Wind would be a fun book to read, and I wanted to write about... I think it was Civil War era fashions. I don't remember, exactly. Could have been something else.

So I started reading, thinking it would be like most of the books I'd read up to that point: the lead would be the hero, or in this case, the heroine.

By the end of the book, I just hated Scarlet, and I hated the book, and I just wanted to chuck it across the room. But it was for school, and I had to write that paper, so I did actually finish the thing. And put it down, and never looked at it again, just thankful to be done.

So, it came up in a book group I'm a member of, and people have been reading it, and it made me remember how much I'd wanted to just slap Scarlet silly last time around. But I also know that I am not who I was: I was right around 16 or 17 myself when I read it, and had never considered learning from books rather than just enjoying stories, no concept of how important supporting characters can be, or a host of other things I've learned about literature since I started homeschooling, and I was curious: would I still hate it as much I did previously? I don't know. I'm not the same person that I was back then; I've grown.

So I called up the used bookshop and they had it. For $3.50. So I grabbed it. And started it.

15 November 2018

It's the Same (but different) in Japanese

President Nelson asked us to read the Book of Mormon by the end of the year, and I was a touch sad, thinking, "There is no way that I'm going to be able to do that in Japanese. Not that fast."

I've been studying Japanese for years, and 2 or 3 years ago, I started reading the Book of Mormon in Japanese. It was hard, much harder than reading the Spanish I did ages ago: there are no cognates. And while everyday Japanese is full of English loan words, the Book of Mormon just is not. So progress was slow: in the beginning I often read less than a single verse in a sitting. I'd worked up to where, on a good day, I could read around 10 verses. I think that my personal best, prior to Conference, was somewhere around 12 verses in a day.

...but they regard not the work of the Lord, neither consider the operation of His hands...

They do not stop their eyes on the works of the Lord's hand.
-2 Nephi 15:12 (Compare Isaiah 5:12)

So President Nelson asks us to read, and I figure I'm going to have to take a break and go back to English for a while. This is disappointing: I've worked so hard, and I'm afraid that if I break my streak I'll lose ground.

"There is no way that I'm going to be able to do that in Japanese. Not that fast."
Then, the Little Voice:

"Well, actually...."

That's all he said.
I took the plunge.
That day, I read 1 Nephi 1, the whole chapter.
I was so happy with myself. Personal best!

[Him] who should come to redeem His people from their sins.

that Honorable One who will certainly come to redeem His own people from
(away from) their sins.

-Alma 5:21

The next day I looked at a schedule and realized how inadequate a pace 1 chapter a day is. Most days, my list calls for about three chapters. Some days I did it, but I started to fall behind. That's a lot of reading, and the fact is, I'm not that good at Japanese. So many words! A new language just has an unbelievable number of words and phrases that you need to recognize in order to be able to read. I know more than I used to, but...

I kept trying. Slogging along. Losing a little bit of ground every day.
I figured I could catch up with whatever I miss in English in the last week or two of the year.

For the kingdom of the devil must shake, and they which belong to it must needs be stirred up unto repentance...

The devil's kingdom will certainly shake. To certainly repent, they must be pressed/urged.
-2 Nephi 28:19

Eventually, I was about 15 days behind, which means somewhere in the neighborhood of 35-45 chapters behind. Last week, I decided to take a day off of school, to try to catch up. I asked the kids for help, and they were amazing. They did all kinds of things independently and for each other, so that I could read. It was so hard. I was tired. My brain was full. And I would take a break, and then come back to it. I read 5 days' worth. It was amazing! I'd never read so much Japanese in a month, prior to the challenge, as what I read that day! And I was also a little bit disappointed: 5 days wasn't enough to really catch up. The date moved too, so I only gained 4 of those 5 days.

The next morning, I woke up with a sore throat and no voice.

Thou shalt go before this people, and I will go with thee and deliver this people out of bondage.

You shall stand at the front/vanguard of this people. I will be with you [this word is often  how they describe friends being with each other] when you go, and rescue out this people from slavery.
-Mosiah 24:17

No voice meant no school. This was frustrating, because it's so important to keep school going, but there it was: I can't do much with no voice and no energy. Turns out, it was a blessing.

So I sat on the couch and read. We didn't even pretend to do school that day: the kids had a free day, and I read on the couch. I fell asleep, and they did quiet things so I could rest. I made up another 2 days: I was now less than 10 days behind. It was invigorating!

...and having peace of conscience...

"conscience" is a compound of "good" and "heart":
...having gained tranquility in their good heart...
-Mosiah 4:3

The next several days, I made up more.
Not much, just one or two extras each day. But it added up.
I began to hope I would make it all the way, in Japanese.

It's a miracle; there's no way that I could do it on my own.
It's too big. Too hard. Too much.

But I really can do all things, even crazy things like read the whole Book of Mormon in another language, in three months, through Christ: the strength to do it is His.

Every day I find little gems. As many times as I have read the Book of Mormon, this is almost like having a whole new book of scripture. (What a blessing that would be, if He gave us more of His words again!) I'm building up quite a collection of things to put in my scripture journal when the reading is done; I'm not even trying to do that right now, just putting in a little tag, since I'm reading on my phone: this lets me listen and read at the same time, and it turns out that I know some words by sight, and others by sound, but when I follow along as the phone reads, then the Holy Ghost helps me remember things, and I am spending less and less time in the dictionary.

It was crazy to try.
I think it's going to actually happen.

I'm so glad I took the leap.
What a blessing this has turned out to be.

And it's not even done, yet.

31 October 2018

A Creative Spelling Lesson

So it went like this:

Me: Divide the syllables, please.

Hero: The eruption goes.... here! Bwahahaha!!!

And there you have it! He's not wrong...

30 October 2018

Number Play

One of the most unexpected things that has happened with homeschooling is the way that this second chance at learning math has really revolutionized the way that I understand and approach math: I always wondered why it is that kindergarten books start out with patterns, thinking that those had very little to do with math. Boy did I miss the boat:

Patterns are the heart and soul of math.
And they're fascinating.

So today, I'm helping Dragon with his math, and it's patterns, and they're driving him crazy.

I had a look at that third one, and saw that it's increaing by odd numbers:


So it's a pattern of "interval", I told him. And he was confused. So I asked him, "What's an interval?" And he said it's the space between. Yep. I also reminded him to get out his notebook so he's got some scratch paper to play around with, which he did.

And he noticed a different pattern, as he was looking over his multiplication chart:


So it's a multiplication pattern, squaring, and traveling diagonally down the center of the multiplication table. Which is cool. Both patterns fit.


He starts figuring out the next numbers in the sequence; it's pretty obvious, really, looking at the multiplication table. So I wondered what comes next when you do it my way. Maybe I should have predicted what happened, but I didn't:


It's pretty cool. I would never have predicted a relationship between this adding of odd numbers thing to square numbers. Makes me want to explore these numbers more, though I wouldn't know how to go about doing it. I love that our math program (we use MEP) sometimes causes these spontaneous discoveries that we can play with.

Numbers are so much cooler and more interesting than I ever suspected in school.

18 October 2018

A Little Outside Time

We headed to our current favorite park yesterday. I misjudged how chilly it was, so we grabbed the leaves for our nature books and jumped back into the car to do the actual drawing. And then we took a walk. It was a breezy day, and there were all these fluffy white seeds flying everywhere. The kids assumed they were cottonwood seeds, and while I had my doubts (aren't those earlier in the year than this?) I couldn't say for sure that they weren't, so I didn't say anything. But I'm really glad we went on the walk, rather than just wimping out and going home. Turns out, it wasn't cottonwood fluff, it was from milkweed.

 And not only is it really soft, but we found one on the ground that had fallen out in a clump.

24 September 2018

Find Names for the Temple: A Step-by-Step Method for Success {Book Review}

In June, I was called to be the new Lead Family History Consultant, which I was excited about, but also more than a little intimidated: my family has been members of the Church of Jesus Christ for a very long time; I count both early leaders and a number of faithful genealogists among my ancestors, and the easy research is long since done and gone. I've been poking my family tree for the past twenty years or so, trying to persuade it to produce temple names, but only once in all that time did I find a few names for a handful of sealings for one family. It was, as people say, a very special experience to take my own family names to the temple, but mostly, when people would talk about needing to go and do work for family members at the temple, I just felt left out: I knew there was people there to find, but I didn't know how to find them.

Between reading Find Names for the Temple: A Step-by-Step Method for Success by Nicole Dyer and Diana Elder, and some training from the Stake, things have changed: I have what I am confident will be the first of many temple cards printed out and ready to go, and I'll be making the trip to the temple (it's 3 hours from here) sometime in the next month or so. I can't even say how excited I am to finally have the skills to be able to find these people that have been hiding in my tree!

04 September 2018

A Bilingual Math Lesson

Today, we had a legitimately bilingual math lesson.

Three years ago, when I first felt the Holy Ghost nudging me, saying that I needed to do bilingual instruction, I was paralyzed by my own inadequacy and perfectionism, and terrified to try. I didn't know the words. I didn't know where to get the words. It was just me and the dictionary on my phone, and I was pretty certain that wasn't enough.

Mrs. C. said it was.

24 August 2018

Agency in God's Plan

Agency is the capacity to choose; it has sometimes also been called free will. Conditions of liberty allow the greatest possible "space" in which to exercise Agency; tyranny, by definition, is the attempt to oppress or repress another person's Agency.

Next to the bestowal of life itself, the right to direct that life is God’s greatest gift to man. … Freedom of choice is more to be treasured than any possession earth can give. It is inherent in the spirit of man. It is a divine gift. … Whether born in abject poverty or shackled at birth by inherited riches, everyone has this most precious of all life’s endowments—the gift of free agency; man’s inherited and inalienable right.
-David O. McKay, Agency and Responsibility

In the Church, we tend to prefer the term Agency over free will, and I'd guess the reason for that is that modern scripture uses the term in passages like this one:

22 August 2018

Languages By Ear

This post is part of a series.
Part One: Listen, Listen, Listen
Part Two: What To Read
Part Three: A Web of Language
Part Four: {this post}

Gouin talked about the importance of making our first and primary instruction in the foreign language we have chosen aural instruction: the ear, he said, is the primary organ of language learning, not the eye; our children should hear new words before they see them. The same is true for adult students of languages: training the ear is key to success.
How is it, then, that so many people pronounce so badly the foreign languages that they have begun to learn at school? We believe we have found the true answer to the enigma. The first great cause of a bad accent is reading — reading undertaken at the wrong time, too soon. The second cause is reading degenerating into a bad habit; and the third cause still seems to us to be reading. Let us explain.
-Francois Gouin, The Art of Teaching and Studying Languages
Gouin then goes on to explore the three ways that premature and incorrect use of printed materials damage the student’s accent. First, if the student sees the word before he hears it, he will attempt to pronounce it using the phonetic rules he is already familiar with, and of course the pronunciation rules of English applied to French (or any other language) yield terrible results. If this continues uncorrected, the student runs into the second hazard: his reading builds bad habits of pronunciation that become ingrained. In addition, Gouin discusses the way that focusing on written lessons first accustoms the student to translate in his head first, and only speak afterwards, which slows both the recognition and production of sounds and greatly impedes the journey to native-like fluency. The solution he offers is to focus on aural language first: the student should learn with their ears before anything else.

Read more at By Study and Faith.

21 August 2018

Expanding our Linguistic Web

Last spring, I started reading Gouin's Art of Teaching and Studying Languages, I wrote a series of posts about it for By Study and Faith, and we started using our own madeup series of phrases we've been learning in the kitchen. I didn't finish the book at that time because the ereaders I was using couldn't keep my place, and I eventually got frustrated with trying to find where I'd left off, but I slipped it into our most recent book box, and it came the other day, so I've started reading and I'm thinking about foreign language instruction again.

The book is a reprint, and it has a number of typos where the scanning process was imperfect, but even with that, I'm enjoying having a real paper copy to hold in my hands; I like those so much better.

So I found my spot again, and started reading.

In order not to load our text with too many examples, we leave on one side all such exercises as would arise from the possible and ordinary  accidents which are connected with this series and complete it. We will simply point out that, as an aim can be attained, it can also be missed. ... The maid who upsets the water in carrying it to the kitchen would miss her aim. ... The development of the indirect and complementary series of accidents  is hardly less rich in terms and sentences than the development of the direct series itself.
-The Art of Teaching and Studying Languages, (reprinted) p 43

This is an interesting prospect. We've been working on an "Applesauce Series" and it's gradually generalized into whatever fruit (real or pretend) is handy when we're doing it. And we've "cooked" some crazy things, though I think that the real food we've cut up has had more impact on their skills: it seems that real activity is considerably more effective than pretending for this activity. The kids are doing quite well with this in terms of receptive language: I can tell them to do a number of variants on our Series that we've been working with. Productive language is more unsteady, but that is to be expected, and is exaggerated by the fact that I have not been doing well with integrating this into our regular kitchen talk.

But this idea of adding in accidents is interesting. I think that may be just what we need. Maybe a variant Series would go like this:

Pick up the apple.
Place the apple on the cutting board.
Pick up the knife.
Cut the apple in half.
Be careful not to cut your finger.
Move your finger away from the knife.
You have cut your finger.
Your finger is bleeding.
Don't get blood on the apple slices.
Go to the sink.
Wash the cut.
Put a bandaid on the cut.

It is, perhaps, slightly gruesome to just write them out, but this adds several new sentence options to our conversations, and I'm pretty sure that my kids would have a blast hamming it up, acting this one out, and fun is an important element in these activities!

I think that this will be a good way of keeping our exercises fresh. We're also experimenting with how to deal with different conjugations, though I'm finding that aspect tricky: I have to work really hard to stay in the tense that I select through the whole exercise, and while the kids are recognizing the similar stem and fundamental meaning, they're not really getting the finer details that the conjugations give. That's one area where having someone that's genuinely fluent would be really, really useful. But we're making progress, and it's steady, which is the goal.

20 July 2018

Hymns for 2018-2019

We'll be continuing to use the By Study and Faith hymn rotation this year, and one of the things I always find useful is to have a playlist. I try to have at least a couple days where we sit down at the piano and work on explicitly learning the words, but a lot of our hymn learning is informal, just listening to the playlist, and as we go along, I try to keep the current hymn right at the top of the list, so that when we turn it on, and we're paying the most attention, it's the new song that we're currently working on. This doesn't get us to a place where we all know 100% of the words 100% of the time, but it does get must of us to knowing most of the words. And my kids will sing their old hymns off and on, and that's success to me.

When I make these playlists, I do have some ideas in mind for how I'm choosing which videos go in my playlist. One thing you'll notice is that I avoid the Mormon Tabernacle Choir: I'm a bit of an aberration, I guess, because I just don't love the Choir. But also, I want the music to encourage my kids to feel comfortable with making their own music, and not being hung up on it being "perfect", so I make a point of including a good collection of home-grown videos when I can find ones that I enjoy listening to. I also enjoy folk instruments. Not only do I like that style, but my kids are learning violin, including folk songs, and I want them to look at the music and think, "I could learn to do that" so that they see themselves as potentially being the artist: it's too easy to leave music making to "professionals" and fall into the trap of not realizing that professional musicians are as retouched as professional models are Photoshopped, and try to hold yourself to an impossible standard that they used computers to retouch and remix and play with. There's a place for that music; much of it is extremely lovely. But I want my kids to know that regular music played by regular people is also good, so I include them when I can.

So here's my playlist for the year:  

03 July 2018

Commonplace Book: June

A sample from my commonplace book, and brief instructions for how to keep one.

A commonplace is a traditional self-education tool: as you read, grab a notebook. Write down things that embody Truth, Goodness, and Beauty. Write down notable quotes, with or without your own thoughts about them. Write down the questions you have as a result of the text you are reading. You will find the book becomes a record of your own growth, and it becomes a touchstone for memory of things you have studied in the past. This is what Mother Culture is all about: self-directed, conscious self-education.

23 June 2018

On Classical Education: Embodied Learning (part 1)

Discussing the principles of Embodied Education in the context of a Classical / Charlotte Mason education in an LDS homeschool.

This post is part of a series:

Character is the True Aim
Cultivation of Godly Character
What is a Student? 
Make Haste Slowly
Much Not Many
Ordered Affections
Repetition is the Mother of Memory
Repetition and the Habit of Attention
Embodied Learning (part 1) {This Post}
Embodied Learning (part 2)
Songs Chants and Jingles
Wonder and Curiosity
Educational Virtues
By Teaching We Learn
Classical Education is Like a Table

Dr. Perrin, in his Embodied Education lecture, starts out by talking about how education is more than just what happens in the mind: education involves our whole being, and the senses are how we take in our experiences. It is more dimensional than the "rational enterprise" that we think of,  because we are more dimensional than that: we are rational, thinking being, certainly, but we are more than just minds. Knowing that education is primarily about character, and about how we go about bridling our passions and ordering our affections, Dr. Perrin asks about environment:

Think about our classrooms. Think about your university education, you high school education: what were the hallways like? How were the windows? Did you enjoy your desks? They were "great". How about the parking lot? The whole design of our educational institutions, without us even being aware of it, are shaping our expectations, our hopes, and our ideals. Our affections. 
-Dr. Christopher Perrin, Embodied Education

That's pretty intense. What did your school experience teach you about the way that the world is supposed to work? When he asked about "my" desk, one of the things that I remembered is that I really didn't even have a desk that was mine: I sat in a different desk every hour, and each teacher changed the seating chart whenever they wanted, often without warning. It wasn't malicious; it was just the way things were; part of the mechanics of classroom management. The desks weren't designed to belong to anyone anyway: there was no storage, no way to personalize them short of defacing them, no privacy, no security. They were just hard plastic chairs, screwed into the frame that held up the writing surface, with a little wire frame underneath in case we had "extra" books. Although I have never known a single person who liked those desks well enough to put one in their home, I remember being excited when I was finally "old enough" to use that kind of desk: it was something of a milestone because only the high school students had them.

What kind of values do our educational institutions embody?
What are the values embodied in our homes?
How do the values differ?

22 June 2018

Dealing With Prereading

This past year has been the first year where my oldest had significant quantities of reading in books that I assigned based on the curriculum we're using (Ambleside Online) but that he read independently in a book that I had not previously read, or that I'd read so long ago that I couldn't remember what happened. In the not-too-distant future, I'm going to have three kids reading challenging books, and I'm going to need to be able to have intelligent conversations about these books, and also keep the household running.

My strategy is to keep a prereading notebook. It's just a regular composition notebook, which I covered first with scrapbook paper and then with contact paper. That's what I do with most of my notebooks, and they are practically indestructible: my scripture journal has been with me for five years, most weeks drug to church and back in my backpack, and it's still beautiful. Which means that I can count on this notebook, which will see lighter use, lasting nicely as well and plan on it not falling apart before my youngest is reading these same books. Also, being pretty helps me to like it, and want to use it, and that helps me to get the job done. It's remarkable how much difference it makes to have an attractive notebook, even if it's just a composition book that I got for $.50 in back to school sales at the end of summer.

27 May 2018

Using a Concordance: What is an Oracle?


I love the notes on the Hebrew and Greek roots of words you sometimes see in the footnotes of the LDS edition of the Bible. Where those have been included, they almost always add clarity to the meaning of a difficult passage, and I often wished there was more of them.

Then I discovered Strong's Concordance.

What they've done with Strong's Concordance is made an index. Of every single word in the entire Bible. And then cross-referenced each and every word with the Greek or Hebrew word it was translated from. So any word that puzzles you, you can trace back into Hebrew for the Old Testament, or Greek for the New Testament, look at its definition and entomology, and see what else it was translated as, and where else it was used.

My oldest and I are reading through a chronological edition of the King James (another magical invention - I'm absolutely loving having it arranged chronologically, rather than the traditional order) and recently we were reading the 28th Psalm:

18 May 2018

It's Working: Foreign Language Learning the Charlotte Mason Way

I've put a lot of time and effort in the past month or two into studying the method that Francois Gouin developed for studying foreign languages, and about 2 or 3 weeks ago, I started putting some of what I learned into practice in our home. Oh wow, guys, this is amazing. I am learning so much! And my kids are learning quite a bit! This is definitely something that we're going to continue to do.

Our first efforts have been in learning what I think of as my "Applesauce Series": we're learning to talk about what happens as you make applesauce. These are our main props (the bowl was handy, and it's pretending to be a pot today)

A progress report our efforts to use a Charlotte Mason approach to foreign language learning: it's working!

17 May 2018

Words of Christ: Suffer It To Be So

President Nelson gave us a lot to think about this last Conference! I suspect that people are going to be chewing on the things he said and did for quite some time to come. Looking over his Saturday morning talk, Drawing the Power of Jesus Christ into our Lives, he gave us a concrete thing to do:

"...consecrate a portion of [our] time each week to study everything Jesus said and did as recorded in the standard works... let the scriptural citations about Jesus Christ in the Topical Guide become [our] personal core curriculum."

I was half toying with adding a red letter Bible to my collection, but then it occurred to me: I can do the same thing with my pen, little by little, in the time he's asking for each week, and turn my regular scriptures into a red letter Bible, and by searching out and pondering the things that He says, I'll get a lot more out of it than I would by just buying a book that someone else has already pre-marked. So I started in Matthew.

15 May 2018

Latin Resources for Your Homeschool

We're learning Latin. I suppose this this shouldn't surprise me, but it kind of does. Still. Six months after we started: I hadn't planned to have the kids do Latin, much less to do it myself. God had other plans, so here we are.

Turns out, there's lots of resources out there.

The kids are using Latina Christiana I, which I still like.

I decided that I need to know a little more than they do, so I picked myself up a copy of Wheelock's Latin, which I also like. It's got a bit of a learning curve on it: Latin has a lot of grammar. A lot a lot. But I'm getting it figured out, and I think I'm going to really enjoy this, oddly enough. I'm looking forward to reading Horace, someday. That's where I want to go with this, now that I'm doing it.

04 May 2018

Experimenting with the Gouin Method of Foreign Language Instruction

As I was writing about the intersection of Charlotte Mason and foreign language instruction, I discovered that the author she looks to for her instruction method, Francois Gouin, has a book -- and that it's online for free. So I've been reading it, and as a result I'm making some tweaks to how we are doing our language instruction. They're not huge tweaks, the biggest changes is the level of intentionality that I'm able to bring to our instruction. I'm pretty excited. Even better, I've got a group of people who are also experimenting with Gouin's methods, so we can all talk it over an see what works and all help each other improve the instruction in our homes.

In a lot of ways, what Gouin suggests is really pretty close to what we've been doing: he suggests making the ear the primary "organ of learning" rather than the eye: listening, rather than reading or writing, is at the heart of his method. We have long made it a priority to keep Japanese in the atmosphere of our home to train our accent, help establish native patterns in our mind, and remind us to use our language; it's remarkable what a difference it makes to have a playlist going in the background! I have tried to teach my younger kids what I can through speaking to them out of what I know. This has been slow, in part because I'm a non-native speaker, and when we started this several years ago, I was really not fluent. At all. I've come far in the time since then, and the kids have come a fair distance, but we still have a long way to go before we're fluent. What Gouin offers us is a way to be more systematic about our instruction, and that's pretty exciting:

02 May 2018

Trying Foreign Language Narration

I got this cute little book a while back at a very cool Japanese mall that I occasionally get to visit. It's a fun little book of "Why do things work like they do" kind of questions, with little 4 page essays (big type) about things like why stoplights are red, yellow, and green (did you know that's standard all over the whole world?), and why train stations and railroad crossings have rocks under them. Big "First Grade" on the front of the cover... I'm slowly growing into first grade, lol. Those kids would talk circles around me, for sure. But I am reading their book, little by little. It's small and simple things that get the job done; baby steps, right? It's gradually working and adding up in an exciting way.

Quite a while before I got the book, I remember hearing about Charlotte Mason recommending that students do narrations of their foreign language readings... in the foreign language. At the time, I thought that was crazy talk. It sounded so far off. But it occurred to me tonight that my little Japanese "Why Book" is perfect for attempting that, now that I'm growing into it. So I took the essay that I've been reading and rereading this week, and I tried it out.

01 May 2018

Commonplace Book: April

A sample from my commonplace book, and brief instructions for how to keep one.

A commonplace is a traditional self-education tool: as you read, grab a notebook. Write down things that embody Truth, Goodness, and Beauty. Write down notable quotes, with or without your own thoughts about them. Write down the questions you have as a result of the text you are reading. You will find the book becomes a record of your own growth, and it becomes a touchstone for memory of things you have studied in the past. This is what Mother Culture is all about: self-directed, conscious self-education. 

19 April 2018

Learning Languages: Moving Beyond the Textbook {part 2}

This post is part of a series.
Part One: Listen, Listen, Listen
Part Two: What To Read {this post}
Part Three (coming soon)

Not only to satisfy the necessities of travelers in far countries has the study of language ever been desirable, but to penetrate the spirit and genius of Homer, Virgil, Shakespeare, Goethe, Hugo, Dante, it has become, to the cultured of every country, a necessity for the full gift of a liberal education. Since language became literature, the necessity for mastery over other tongues than his own has forced the attention of student and of professor to the problem of the study of languages…
-Howard Swan, Preface to The Art of Teaching and Studying Languages by M. Francois Gouin

In part one of this series, we looked at considerations for the beginning language learner: in particular, the need for vast quantities of exposure to spoken language as an indispensable aspect of successful language learning. As the student begins to progress, in addition to the aural input and lessons, books begin to take on a much greater importance. Just like learning to read in your native tongue, start with simple books. Miss Mason recognized that parents wishing to teach a language they do not know at a native level face particular challenges, but she reminds us that even in this case we should not lose sight of the importance of Gouin’s concept of imitating the natural acquisition of the first child’s first language:

16 April 2018

DIY Simple Book Binding for Homemade Books {Tutorial}

I looked at my copy of Pilgrim's Progress the other day... and realized it's a retelling and not the original. Drat. I suppose that I could buy a new one, but the book budget is currently used up, so I decided to make my own homemade copy. Since I'm doing one, I may as well do another, so I am also doing a copy of the poems my older son ought to be doing, but isn't because the whole etext thing isn't working for me right now. I greatly prefer a real book in my hand!

First, I went and grabbed the Project Guttenberg PlainText UTF-8 version of the text  of Pilgrim's Progress that Ambleside Online links to, copied and pasted it into Open Office. I'm also making a copy of the recommended poems for Ambleside Online Year 5, which are not public domain, but are made available to the public free of charge because the women of AO are amazing and generous. Both of these texts copy and paste nicely to my word processor, so I don't have to go through and delete weird characters or anything like that. Next, I picked out a cool special character (Open Office has special characters on the Insert menu), bolded it, and used the word count tool to help me break it up The Pilgrim's Progress into readings, putting my special character about every 800 words, which is the length of reading the AO recommends for this book; the poems we'll just do one in a sitting so they don't need that kind of thing.

I also added a pretty title page with fancy font, and made sure that all my text was at least 12pt font: too much smaller and you'll have a small print edition of your text, as it's going to shrink when it's printed. If you like your text a little on the larger side, you might go 14. I typically print at about 10, so I'm happy with a smallish font. You can add in illustrations if you want, but I didn't; this version that I'm doing this time is a very functional book, but it's not really elegant. It is, however, cheap and tough: the ones that I did for Our Island Story and Secrets of the Woods have held up beautifully as I've read to my son over the past year and a bit.

DIY Simple Book Binding for Homemade Books {Tutorial}

11 April 2018

Skillet Stuff {Low-carb Recipe}

A friend of mine asked me about our family's go-to recipes: my husband eats low carb; the rest of us do not. Skillet stuff is our most frequent meal; we typically have it twice in any given week because it's both delicious and never exactly the same twice. It's not at all hard to make; I use my 12 inch cast iron skillet, but any large skillet will do. I'm typically feeding 5 people, and plan to have enough leftovers for my husband to take it to work the next day.

Dice an onion and some bell pepper.

Depending on how many people we're feeding, I may add some extra peppers. This time, I wasn't sure if we'd have 3 extra adults or not, so I added two extras. More colors makes pretty food anyway.

04 April 2018

Learning Languages: Moving Beyond the Textbook {part 1}

Education is the Science of Relations’; that is, a child has natural relations with a vast number of things and thoughts: so we train him upon physical exercises, nature lore, handicrafts, science and art, and upon many living books, for we know that our business is not to teach him all about anything, but to help him to make valid as many as may be of those first-born affinities that fit our new existence to existing things.”
-Charlotte Mason, 12th Principle

When we begin to study a foreign language, we are beginning a whole new set of relationships. The serious student of an additional language will eventually open the door to relationships with a whole new culture and the people who inhabit that culture both in the local community and also, through technology, gain the ability to communicate with people in the areas where the “foreign” language is the local community language, even if they cannot travel there in person. The student learns new ways of describing all sorts of things, and (perhaps more importantly) new ways of thinking about the things they describe. No wonder learning a language is a daunting task! Sadly, too often, students of languages learn little, and retain less: even reasonable fluency is a distant goal that few seem to achieve outside of those favored few able to spend several years living in an area where the new language is spoken.

29 March 2018

Nick Freitas Speech on Gun Control: An Analysis {part 1}

Nick Freitas gun control speech analysisI watched the speech that Nick Freitas, a Virginia candidate for Senate, gave on gun control and the debate that has been going on. My initial reaction was that I liked it, but I wanted to dig into it and see how it stands up to close scrutiny. Listening to the speech, which isn't very long, I made my own transcript, and I'll have his words set apart, and my commentary after.

So, over the last several days, Mr. Speaker, there's been a lot of discussion about an open and honest debate with respect to school shootings, gun violence, gun control, etc. And an open and honest debate, as I understand it, is one that would rely on data, facts, evidence, analysis, reason, and logic, etc., etc. And I'm certainly willing to have that debate.

22 March 2018

The Importance of Models in Copywork

Miss Mason was wise to insist on frequent models in copywork.

 We use the traditional copywork method as our primary handwriting method; the kids first write letters, then phrases or sentences, and then longer passages, as their ability matures. In the beginning, especially, the amount of writing actually done is relatively small; handwriting sheets from outside of the Classical education philosophy typically are too long for the beginner. More importantly, they have too few models for the student to look at.

Set good copies before him, and see that he imitates his model dutifully: the writing lesson being not so many lines, or 'a copy'––that is, a page of writing––but a single line which is as exactly as possible a copy of the characters set.
-Charlotte Mason, 1:235

20 March 2018

Zirrly Super Beads {Crew Review}

Super Beads from Zirrly are fusable beads: you just spray them with water to fuse them together. We were given their Mega Pack for this review, and the kids were super excited when it came in the mail; I'm not sure that I've ever had so many "when will it get here" questions the whole time we've been with the crew!

19 March 2018

A Civil War Foldout for our Book of Centuries {Crew Review}

I was excited when I looked through the Á La Carte products from Home School in the Woods for review this time and realized that The War Between the States Timline was included in the wide range of products that they offered crew members: Hero(11) is just starting to study the Civil War era, and I wanted to include it in our Book of Centuries as a foldout. They have a whole collection of timelines available, but this one is just perfect for where we're at.

There's so much going on in the war, and in the events both before and after, that I think that it'll be good to have a special fold-out, which will leave room for other world events from that time on the main pages of our timelines. We don't have a lot of wall space, so our timelines have always been in binders. This has a number of advantages, including that they last really well, and so we can accumulate a lot of the different things we read about into the timeline over years of reading, so I was excited to have a space-efficient way to include a lot of information about this important period of American history.

16 March 2018

This Week: Garden Planning and More

A peek into what we did this week in our classical LDS homeschool.

I'm excited: Once upon a time, I used to participate in the Daring Bakers cooking challenges, but I struggled to keep up and dropped out after a while: it was too hard to be consistent. When I finally felt ready to try again, they had finished. And I haven't found a different baking challenge -- until now. King Arthur Flour is hosting one. And they're doing Gruyère-Stuffed Crusty Loaves. I'll need to find the fancy cheese, but otherwise, it's ingredients that I've got on hand. However, it's a method that I've never tried before, so that ought to be fun to do.

06 March 2018

CursiveLogic and Art of Cursive {Crew Review}

For this review, CursiveLogic was kind enough to send us their CursiveLogic Quick-Start Pack, which has two parts: a student workbook and a webinar, as well as The Art of Cursive, which is an adult coloring book. The student workbook is designed for teaching someone who is new to cursive. The adult coloring book is an abbreviated course for adult learners or students with some cursive experience, with a very clever system of working the necessary practice into  lovely coloring sheets.

05 March 2018

Magic Stix Washable Markers {Crew Review}

For this review we received a 24 pack of Magic Stix Washable Markers from The Pencil Grip, Inc. These markers are unusual because you can leave them uncapped for days, and they won't dry out. They come in a lovely selection of bright, beautiful colors, with a tough plastic "briefcase" carrier.

We've previously reviewed a set of 12 Magic Stix markers, and when we did that, I deliberately left one of the markers uncapped for hours while we were out, and it wrote just fine. It still does; at this point the kids have mixed the two sets of markers and I'm not confident that I could say which brown marker came with what set: both of them work very well. Considering that one of these markers was left out for hours with no cap, and that you can't tell the marker that's six weeks old from the one that's three months old, I'm pretty happy with the way that they color and the way that they've held up over time.

04 March 2018

Reading Scripture Closely

Reading scripture closely: using sentence diagrams to clearly understand the meaning of a passage.

The more time I spend studying the scriptures, the more that I am convinced that there is great benefit and clarity in taking time to read it carefully and closely. The more exactly that our understanding of the gospel aligns with what our Father in Heaven is actually trying to teach, the better off we are. Sloppy thinking leads to sloppy conclusions, and this becomes particularly problematic in gospel contexts. He has given us the power of reason, and expects us to develop the ability to think logically, carefully, and thoroughly, in order to detect fallacious ideas and doctrines: this is one of the ways we can try to avoid being taken in when the doctrines of men are mixed with scripture and passed off as Truth.

01 March 2018

Watching the Eagles' Nest Cam

It feels like it's been such a long winter, but it's finally getting to be Spring again; hurray!! One of the early signs of Spring is that the nest cams start to be available, and we are big fans, particularly since getting outside has been happening... but not not consistently yet. Winter can be done any time.

27 February 2018

Drive Thru History: Bible History {Crew Review}

When we had the opportunity to review Drive Thru History Adventures, my first questions were about theological compatibility, as these are, I believe, Protestant-made materials. I was pleased to find that the Bible History Adventures materials draw on the shared Christian tradition, and that the theological variances between Protestants and Mormons are not an issue in any of the lessons we have done thus far. We have really enjoyed learning about the life of Christ, and the history and geography that relates to His ministry in the Holy Land.  Drive Thru History Adventures also has an Ancient History and an American History course (other Crew members are checking those out). But we've been quite enjoying the Bible History course.

26 February 2018

Starfall Education Foundation {Crew Review}

We received a one-year subscription to the The Starfall Home Membership  from the Starfall Education Foundation for this review. The kids have loved the free portions of Starfall for years -- in fact, both the boys learned their letter sounds primarily from Starfall, and everyone has been curious about what's in the members-only sections of the site, so the kids were quite excited to find out that we'd be on this review, even the big kids. To make things even better, we got our log-in information just in time for Miss Kitty's 5th birthday!


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