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25 January 2018

The Gospel at 30,000 Feet {Book Review}

A review of The Gospel at 30,000 Feet by Dieter F. Uchtdorf, published by Deseret Book.

I always love Brother Uchtdorf's airplane stories, both because he's an excellent storyteller, and also because he's got a knack for turning the airplanes that he loves so much into fantastic parables and allegories that clearly and effectively teach the gospel of Jesus Christ. So it's not surprising that only few pages into his new book, The Gospel at 30,000 Feet, which I was sent to review, I was reaching for my commonplace book.

To follow Christ is to become more like Him. It is to learn from His character. As spirit children of our Heavenly Father, we do have the potential to incorporate Christlike attributes into our life and character. ... This leads me back to my aerodynamic analogy from the beginning. I spoke of focusing on the basics. Christlike attributes are the basics. The are the fundamental principles that will create "the wind beneath our wings". 
-page 4-5

The airplane story here is fun (aren't they always?) but the things that he's saying about the importance of the basics really resonate. It's the same way in the martial arts: the "magic" is in the basics. You master those, and you master the art. It's very much easier said than done! Likewise in the gospel, the basics are what makes the indelible marks upon your soul.

21 January 2018

A Testimony of the Bible

Recently, there were some missionaries standing around with an investigator after church, teaching him a discussion. They were talking about the Bible. And, to my dismay, I realized that they were telling the gentleman that it's not as valuable, not as good as, not as important as, not as inspired as the Book of Mormon. I could feel the resistance rising in the man, as they told him that this amazing book of holy writ that he cherishes is... not that important.

I really can't blame the missionaries; they were teaching the same thing that I've heard in numerous Sunday School classes, sacrament meeting talks, and other conversations in the Church over the years: We believe the Bible to be the word of God -- but only as far as it's translated correctly... and it's not very correct: The Book of Mormon is the word of God. It's not an uncommon attitude to encounter in the various classes. Our missionaries are young; they teach investigators the things that we teach our children and our youth. There's a big problem with that in this instance:

This idea that the Bible is "less than" other modern(better) scripture is false doctrine.

Say it again: "We believe the Bible to be the word of God."

18 January 2018

This Week: Miss Kitty Turns Five

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

All year, we've been telling Miss Kitty how long it is to her birthday. She asks frequently:

"How long till my birthday?"
"It's a long time; about 9 months. Which means that it's about 36 Sundays."

I don't think she counts to 36 yet, but that seems more meaningful to her than the number of months.

"Is my birthday almost here?"
"No, it's still a long time. It's summer, and then fall will come, and we'll have Halloween, and Thanksgiving, and Christmas, and the New Year will come, and THEN it will be your birthday. It's around 24 Sundays."

"My birthday is far away, isn't it? How many Sundays to my birthday?"
"Still a whole bunch. First Daddy has his birthday, then Hero, then Jesus, then you. That's about 20 Sundays."

Sometime after Halloween, the number of Sundays got low enough that it started to be close enough to be numbers that are meaningful to her. This was pretty exciting. And then something even more exciting happened just this last Sunday night at bedtime:

"I only have ONE SUNDAY LEFT until my birthday comes!"
"Well.... actually, today was that last Sunday. There are no more Sundays before your birthday: your birthday is on Friday. That's only five Sleeps away!"
"No more Sundays? Only five Sleeps??"

Oh yes, this was an excited girl. And that's the biggest news of the week: Miss Kitty is turning five at the end of the week. And she's making Big Plans: she's having friends over to make crowns (made out of paper, with stickers) and play in a fort (a really big fort), and eat a cake (because we usually eat cake on birthdays) with ice cream.

12 January 2018

Using Art to Teach Science

Using art to teach science in the Charlotte Mason homeschool.

Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these things, that bringeth out their host by number: he calleth them all by names by the greatness of his might, for that he is strong in power; not one faileth.
-Isaiah 40:26

Charlotte Mason has a reputation for being heavy on literature, and perhaps somewhat light on science, but I increasingly thing that this does not do justice to her methods. I do think, however, that her approach to science is going to be somewhat strange to modern parent-educators, as it's so very different from the model we grew up with in our public school education. But she herself gives no justification for the idea that you must choose a literary or a science education.

It is a wide programme founded on the educational rights of man; wide, but we may not say it is impossible nor may we pick and choose and educate him in this direction but not in that. We may not even make choice between science and the 'humanities.' Our part it seems to me is to give a child a vital hold upon as many as possible of those wide relationships proper to him. Shelley offers us the key to education when he speaks of "understanding that grows bright gazing on many truths."
-Charlotte Mason 6:157, emphasis added

In fact, Miss Mason frequently marries the humanities and to science: she leans heavily on the nature journal, blending art and writing with the training of the capacity for observation and questioning that stands at the heart of scientific inquiry. She's not the only one.

11 January 2018

This Week In School: Charlotte Mason Science

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

Crazy weather! First, we got warm enough to actually play outside. Which two of the three could do: there's an ugly cold going through the household right now, and Hero's still in recovery, so the poor guy had to watch through the window while the first days of decent weather... went by without him peeping a nose out. Bummer. It's supposed to not only stay above 0F, it's supposed to peak out at 45F... followed by freezing rain and a plunge back to 11F. Oi. Crazy weather.

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

Inside, there's been lots of science this week. We got a microscope for Christmas from Nana and Grandpa, and the kids are all over looking at both the couple of slides that it came with, and also checking out different things around the house.

04 January 2018

This Week In School

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

Back to school! Yay!!!

Or something. We've sort of drug ourselves back through a sea of snot and stress. Oi. Not our best week. We got stuff done, but nothing flowed easily; everything required powering through and plenty of will power. But... it wasn't our worst. No major tantrums or fights. That's something. We're gradually finding our groove again.

I did my first phenology wheel over the Christmas break. It was fun. I plan to do one again... after this ridiculous below zero weather quits for a while. I don't want to mess around outside, particularly not since we found that some mildew got into my scarf and hat: they're the only ones in the box so far that didn't stop stinking when washed. Bummer. But I didn't love them, and now maybe I can find something that I actually like to wear. The search is on! But we're not doing nature study, not outside anyway, until the weather gets at least slightly more decent. Temps rising enough that windchills are above 0F would be a good start.

Phenology wheel from this week in our classical LDS homeschool.

They're so pretty, though, and I'm looking forward to building another one. The Charlotte Mason Nature Journaling group is all a-buzz about these. I'm debating doing a big one that would (theoretically) be filled out once  a week all year. That would be fun. If I could stay on top of it. It's hard to give myself permission to have blank spaces.

Things we accomplished this week:

We read things.
We did some math.
We did a little art.
We practiced the violin a little.
We kept trying, even when it wasn't perfect.

Exploring our microscope this week in our classical LDS homeschool.

We checked out the new microscope that Nana and Grandpa gave us for Christmas. It's pretty awesome. I figured out how it works (after the Daddy figured out how the batteries are installed), and got it set up. It's been a while since I did anything with one of these! The kids started learning, not only how cool it is to look at stuff under magnification, but also:

Don't Touch The Slide 

Exploring our microscope this week in our classical LDS homeschool.

That's an important lesson, as they discovered. Particularly the littler ones. Dragon was so excited about the microscope. He was the one that kept at me the most, while we waited for all of this year's holiday crazy to settle down, and he looked the longest, and took the more turns after the others had their fill. And he was the one that woke up this morning wanting to get it out and look at MORE STUFF through it. He suggested we go outside and get some leaves... I love his optimism. Not a lot of leaves around here right now!

In addition to his regular school work, I caught Hero reading the big book of fairy tales he asked for a while back, but then didn't get around to for months. That was fun. He's made some pretty good progress through it in not much time. It made me smile to see him seeking out good literature on his own. I'm glad that I didn't push him, when we got him the book: his relationship with these stories will be different for them being entirely voluntary.

Literature this week in our classical LDS homeschool.

Miss Kitty roared back into her phonics work. We reviewed the Learn to R.E.A.D Notebook and its Review Pack last July, and I discovered that she was not quite as ready as I'd thought: she was unsure of almost all the letter sounds when we started that. And she had to work to get them all. It's taken some time, but she's finally completed five lessons, and we're finally using the cute little books from the Review Pack. She was pretty delighted by them: first coloring, then reading silly things. I'm pleased with her progress: she'll be 5 in a few days, and she's doing quite well with her reading. 

Phonics this week in our classical LDS homeschool.

Observation is the heart of science, so I think the line between art and science is very porous. We practiced both observation and recording our observations with our watercolors. It's the second time we've done this kind of activity, and I'm very pleased with how it's working. 

Altogether, we're ending the week on a pretty positive note. We didn't freeze to death (in spite of windchills down to -24F, and a couple of days where it never got above 0F real temps -- and then the wind blew. It's been chilly. Just as well that we didn't have much in the way of outside commitments this week. At the end of the week, we're getting back into our routine, and remembering how school goes, and how to make this thing work.

01 January 2018

Commonplace Book: December

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. These are a selection of the passages that I've included in my commonplace book this month:

一万回分かり始まります。(10,000 times; then begins understanding.)

Repeptito mater memoriae. (Repetition is the mother of memory.)

All abuse of power is essentially a rejection of feelings too painful for the perpetrator. Each insult, each trespass helps him see the fear of these negative qualities outside of himself, once again proving that he is not the worthless one.

Attachment to status is based on fear.

Status serves as a fighting machine around a vulnerable, hurt part of the self. Empowermet brings that part to light, safely, by acceptance and nurturance. Power hides that part, perversely showing the world aggression instead of strength, control over others instead of self-control, and dehumanization instead of respect.

I would remind you “walking bundles of habits” that there is a relationship between thoughts, actions, habits, and characters. After the language of the Bible we might well say: “Thought begat Action; and Action took unto himself Habit; and Character was born of Habit; and Character was expressed through Personality. And, Character and Personality lived after the manner of their parents.” A more conventional way of linking the above concepts is found in the words of C. A. Hill: “We sow our thoughts, and we reap our actions; we sow our actions, and we reap our habits; we sow our habits, and we reap our characters; we sow our characters, and we reap our destiny (Home Book of Quotations, p. 845)."
-Carlos E. Asay, Flaxen Threads

There is no reason why the child's winter walk should not gbe as fertile in observations as the poet's; indeed, in one way, it is possible to see more in winter, because thethings to be seen do not crowd each other out.
-Charlotte Mason, 1:86

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn't serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not in just some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we subconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we're liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
-attributed to Marianne Williamson


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