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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.


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