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02 September 2019

Charlotte Mason: A Thoroughly Christian Education

It is of utmost importance that our children should in the first place, be taught faith in God. This cannot be left out of our system of education. Every child in our midst should be taught how to obtain a knowledge of God, this should be the cornerstone and foundation of ALL education. 
-George Q Cannon, quoted in A Meeting With the Principle, p5 (emphasis added)

By the time that I was in middle school, I knew that there were parts of my life that were not supposed to touch: school was one world, and church was another world. They each had their own cultures, their own rules, their own groups of friends and acquaintances. I learned very early that the results of trying to blend the two worlds were at best, awkward. In high school when I was attending early morning Seminary, I used my scriptures before school at church, and then carried them to school with me so that I could take them home and have them in the evenings. It felt like carrying contraband, bringing my scriptures to school and putting them in my locker. It felt like cheating the few times I read them during lunch: I knew very well that the scriptures didn't belong in public, but especially not in school: the banishing of prayer from schools, practically, was the banishing of God. If I wanted to pray, it was going to have to be silent. (Later, I learned that it's technically more nuanced than that; but that's what I understood at the time.) He, and thus His word, was not welcome. Knowing that the scriptures were not welcome, it felt like I was risking Big Trouble to have them out or even have them at school at all.

We allow no separation to grow up between the intellectual and 'spiritual' life of children, but teach them that the Divine Spirit has constant access to their spirits, and is their Continual Helper in all the interests, duties and joys of life.
-Charlotte Mason, 6:xxxi

As we considered if we wanted to homeschool, religious instruction was never something that came up: it never even occurred to me at that point. I knew that some people educated at home for religious reasons, but I did not understand it. Our first reasons had to do with academics and social concerns revolving around bullying and the like. At that time, I still largely thought of education and religion as belonging to completely separate spheres of my life, existing in completely different "buckets", the one mostly irrelevant to the other.

Danger lurks when we try to divide ourselves with expressions such as “my private life” or even “my best behavior.” If one tries to segment his or her life into such separate compartments, one will never rise to the full stature of one’s personal integrity—never to become all that his or her true self could be.
-Russell M Nelson, Let Your Faith Show, April 2014

Learning to allow my faith to intersect with education was disorienting. It should have been obvious, but it was years before I thought to include a prayer at the start of our day: I effectively brought the ban on prayer home with me, because it was so deeply ingrained in how I thought about how to learn. Early on we started to include memorizing scripture in our memory work. But even still, when we started using the Rod and Staff grammar series, published by a Mennonite press, which typically uses examples drawn from the Bible, it felt good --but also illicit: teaching "academic" subjects with "religious" examples and exercises was odd, and sometimes disorienting. I could see that the Spirit approved of, and was directing the integration of faith and education. But it was interacting with the taboos that I absorbed early and well, and it was sometimes uncomfortable. Still, we kept going and I kept trying new things and learning how to do it better. But there was so much more that I still had -have, no doubt- to learn. One of the kind women of Ambleside Online, knowing that I was participating in the 20 Principles study group, suggested that I skip to Charlotte Mason's 20th Principle: that education should be thoroughly Christian, and said that she thought it would help. She was right.

You ought not to teach even the alphabet or the multiplication tables without the Spirit of God.
-Brigham Young, quoted in Karl G. Maiser: A Biography

Miss Mason talked about education as "the handmaid of religion." A handmaid is a servant: she's saying that, when it's in its proper role, education serves religion. It's meant to broaden our sight, and point it toward Him. Education is not primarily an academic or economic activity; it's role is to assist us in developing a godly character.

A man may possess a profound knowledge of history and mathematics; he may be an authority in psychology, biology, or astronomy; he may know all the discovered truths pertaining to geology and natural science; but if he has not with this knowledge that nobility of soul which prompts him to deal justly with his fellow men, to practice virtue and holiness in personal life, he is not a truly educated man. Character is the aim of true education; and science, history, and literature are but means used to accomplish the desired end. Character is not the result of chance work but of continuous right thinking and right acting. True education seeks, then, to make men and women not only good mathematicians, proficient linguists, profound scientists, or brilliant literary lights, but also honest men, combined with virtue, temperance, and brotherly love-men and women who prize truth, justice, wisdom, benevolence, and self-control as the choicest acquisitions of a successful life."
-David O. McKay, Gospel Ideals, pp. 440-441, emphasis added

Miss Mason referred to the "Great Recognition" that parents must come to: that all knowledge comes from God, and is part of one great whole of Truth. Any divisions within Truth are artificial constructs. Miss Mason uses a fresco depicting how it all comes from our Father. Brandy Vencel explained it this way:

It was as our own day, in which a big black marker has drawn a thick dividing line between the level which holds Thomas Aquinas enthroned with the Law, Gospels, and Prophets on either side, and the level which holds the areas of study. These areas of study are all well and good, we say, but what have they to do with God, and what has God to do with them?

This is nothing less than a failure to understand who God is, and what He is like.

Do we really think we would find ourselves studying grammar and arithmetic if such things did not originate in the mind of God Himself? And do we really think we can know anything without His grace giving us the insights we so desperately desire?
-Thoroughly Christian: CM's 20th Principle (emphasis original)

My first efforts at integrating faith and education were like most starting places: neither large nor impressive: we'd been working on memorizing scriptures even before my oldest was school age. When we "started school" this was recategorized to become part of "memory work" -and that was pretty much it. I had no idea what rich blessings it would bring us all to simply recite a handful of verses (nearly) every day. We also started reading the narrative passages of the Bible pretty early on.

This was a start, and gradually, as we got further into this homeschool journey, the original reasons started to diminish in importance, as I started to dimly grasp what a blessing it is to be able to pause and talk about the Gospel, about Christ, about Creation, as it comes up.

Education which leaves out God is destitute of all true value. Satan is aware of the great power which a true system of education gives to the people. He is, therefore, opposed to such a system. He knows full well that a generation trained in all true knowledge cannot be lead by him, as they would if their education were neglected. He therefore stirs up all the agencies under his control to do everything in their power to defeat the purposes of God in regard to the education of our children.
-George Q. Cannon, Juvenile Instructor, 15 Apr 1890

But even when we were including scripture and speaking freely of our Father in Heaven, even then that is not as big, not a thorough as Miss Mason thought was needed for an education to thoroughly Christian. She talks about how "God ...is Himself, personally, the Imparter of knowledge, the Instructor of youth, the Inspirier of genius": it all comes from Him in the first place. To attempt to teach anything without acknowledging that it comes from Him is much like the rod that shakes itself: completely out of order.  Education is the doorway through which we have the opportunity to become acquainted with His works, His thoughts, His ways: it's the passage that leads us to become like He is.

This post is part of a series. Feel free to visit the series index for more thoughts on the Charlotte Mason's 20 Principles of Education.

02 August 2019

Commonplace: July 2019

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.


One reader is better than another in proportion as he is capable of a greater range of activity in reading and exerts more effort. He is better if he demands more of himself and of the text before him.
-How to Read a Book, Adler, p5


It is poignantly symbolic that "blood [came] from every pore" as Jesus suffered in Gethsemane, the place of the olive press. To produce olive oil in the Savior's time, olives were first crushed by rolling a large stone over them. The resulting "mash" was placed in soft, loosely woven baskets, which were piled on upon another. Their weight expressed the first and finest oil. Then added stress was applied by placing a large beam or log on top of the stacked baskets, producing more oil. Finally, to draw out the very last drops, the beam was weighted with stones on one end to create the maximum, crushing pressure. And yes, the oil is blood red as it first flows out.
-D. Todd Christopherson, Abide in My Love, Oct 2016

01 August 2019

Principled Education: Ideas

I've been taking a look at Teaching in the Branches again, where Miss Mason lays out a couple of foundational principles of education. It's obvious that she must have spent a great deal of time, not only teaching, but also thinking about teaching: these three principles really are foundational, but like all profound truths, it's pretty easy to go along for a long time without ever really being aware that they're there. The fact that she not only recognizes that education stands on these things, but can also put it into words so clearly, I suspect is the reflection of a great deal of work and thought and time on her part. Which fits with what we know of her, and is why there's a whole educational movement that takes its name from her. But as I'm thinking about it this morning, it makes me think what a truly remarkable teacher she was.

She talks about Authority, which I blogged about last time, and she threatens to talk about Habits, but doesn't actually get to it in the time allotted, and she also talks about Ideas.

In the matter of the Ideas that inspire the virtuous life, we miss much by our laissez-aller way of taking things for granted.
-Charlotte Mason, Teaching in the Branches

The leading brethren of the Church have, many times, spoken to this same goal of education as a means for leading the student to the virtuous life.

The Church stands for education. The very purpose of its organization is to promulgate truth among men. Members of the Church are admonished to acquire learning by study, and also by faith and prayer, to seek after everything that is virtuous, lovely, of good report, or praiseworthy. In this seeking after, they are not confined to narrow limits of dogma or creed, but are free to launch into the realm of the infinite.
But gaining knowledge is one thing, and applying it, quite another. Wisdom is the right application of knowledge, and true education—the education for which the Church stands—is the application of knowledge to the development of a noble and God-like character. 
-President David O. McKay,  Moral and Spiritual Values in Education, April 1968

So again, as I outlined this section of the lecture, I found that Miss Mason had offered several specific techniques for coming at the principle that she's getting at:

30 July 2019

Principled Education: Authority

It's interesting: this is the third time that I've read Miss Mason's Teaching in the Branches, which is an essay Charlotte Mason read at one of their meetings about the principles that their schools run on. The second time through, I felt like I'd entirely missed the point the first time. And this time, while I do think it would be going a bit far to say I'd missed the point the second time, I do think that I was still unclear on it --in spite of having pulled out 14 points in an "outline" of sorts of the essay. But she says right out, near the beginning, what the three main principles she thinks they ought to be attending to are:

(1) The recognition of authority as a fundamental principle, as universal and as inevitable in the moral world as is that of gravitation in the physical; 
(2) The recognition of the physical basis of habits and of the important part which the formation of habits plays in education; 
(3) The recognition of the vital character and inspiring power of ideas. 
-Charlotte Mason, Teaching in the Branches

The idea, at the time, was that the local groups running the schools affiliated with Miss Mason would get together and have lectures or other presentations on various aspects of these ideas. Now, for me, the idea is to consider the principles that our homeschool runs upon, and to put some thought into working out how that looks in practice in my home. Turns out, it's a topic well worth revisiting, repeatedly.

15 July 2019

Nature Journal: Bogs

Honestly, I was pretty skeptical about the whole Nature Journal Thing when I started. I mean, Nature Study, yes, that makes a lot of sense, and I was excited. We started to do it pretty early, after a fashion: we'd go outside and look for Interesting Things. It wasn't until much later that we started to carry sketchbooks with us, and even then, there was a while where dragging them around was pretty much all we did. But I'm halfway through my second volume now: the first one filled up. And it's gradually become something that I absolutely love doing. There are so many Interesting Things, and drawing them is both fun and educational: it helps me remember what I've learned. (Bonus points for getting some watercolor on the page!)

So this past week, I went to Cub Scout daycamp with Dragon, and we had a good time. We had to drive a little way to get there, and the environment was just a little bit different from what we see closer to home. Amazing how a relatively short distance can change things! It was a little different, except for one area: they have a bog.

The bog was very different.

And so very fascinating: I could have gone in there with my nature book every day for a long time and not been done looking at All The Things.

This isn't exactly the same as the place that we visited, but it was similar: our bog was a "quaking bog": when the guide told the boys to jump, the trees and everything around us shook. It was pretty amazing.

So I took some pictures, and I've been putting the stuff that I saw in my book in the past week since I got home. I started with a page about Monarch butterflies. Didn't see those in the bog, but I did get a picture, and I'm glad I did: it was fun to paint, and very interesting to learn about their migration patterns.

But once I'd finished learning about Monarchs, then I wanted to know more about bogs. Because that place was amazing. Turns out, I've had to work a bit to find out much about them.

National Geographic has a nice overview.

And this crazy bit of news about a "wandering bog" came up in one of my searches. I would never have guessed that was possible!

I've got some cool photos of carniverous plants to include as well: it's likely that this project of recording what I saw in our 30 minutes or so in the bog will take more than one page to get into my book, because it's just so different from "regular" ecosystems. I'm excited to see what I can learn about it all.

01 July 2019

Commonplace: June 2019

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. 

"You can live your life worrying about what you don't know, or you can accept your limitations and make the best of it."
-The Voyage of the Jerle Shannara: Ilse Witch, by Terry Brooks, p179

"Many wear the Robe, but few keep the Way."
-Kim, by Rudyard Kipling, p73

Perhaps we know more about the world than we used to, and insofar as knowledge is a prerequisite to understanding, that is all to the good. But knowledge is not as much a prerequisite to understanding as is commonly supposed. We do not have to KNOW everything about something in order to UNDERSTAND it; too many facts are often as much of an obstacle to understanding as too few. There is a sense in which we moderns are inundated with facts to the detriment of understanding.
-How to Read A Book by Adler & Van Doren, p4

17 June 2019


Early this month, I saw a post on Facebook from a lady that was doing something to track wildfires in her nature journal; I wasn't real clear on what it is that she was doing: wildfires are not a thing in our neck of the woods. But she had it in a circle, and it was colored different shades of red, and it was really quite striking.

I thought, what if I did that with the daily temperatures?

So I built a chart.
In a circle, because I loved how that looked.

And, because it was already the fourth, and because I don't actually have an outdoor thermometer to look at, I grabbed some data from the Weather Underground. Which is pretty cool, actually, because that means that I've got the actual high and low for the day, rather than just whatever it is whenever I remember to look at the thermometer. This also meant that I have a range of colors to represent each day, which turns out to be quite striking, even after only a couple of days of data. I got the kids into the project; it totally counts as math!

12 June 2019

Claim Their Anointing

Scripture study is a funny thing. In the middle of following this question, I'll realize that it's related to that thing over there, and next thing you know I'm lost in the "rabbit hole" --but typically happy as a clam about it.

That's kind of how it went this time. I got to the adult session of Stake Conference early, and was thumbing through my Scripture Journal, and decided to fill in some of the things that I've found about lineage in the last little while as I waited for the meeting to start. There's this unexpected connection between lineage and priesthood that I've been noticing, though I haven't really explored it all very well. But I searched "lineage" in the scriptures, and one of the verses that came up was this one:

...by virtue of the decree concerning their right of the priesthood descending from father to son, they may claim their anointing if at any time they can prove their lineage, or do ascertain it by revelation from the Lord...
-Doctrine and Covenants 68:21

And I though, hold on here, bishops are anointed? It's not just a regular ordination?

So when the meeting was done, I went up front to see if I could ask the Stake President real quick (he's a friend of mine, and I couldn't see any of the bishops), and I ended up getting the attention of the visiting Seventy instead. Since I thought he might know, I went ahead and asked, not about regular Bishops, since I was 95% certain they just get regular ordinations, but about the Presiding Bishops. He said no. So I asked if he knew what the verse was talking about, and he didn't. Which was neither surprising nor distressing; it's not one that gets a lot of attention, and I was as much making sure that I hadn't missed something obvious as anything: I didn't really expect that either he or our good Stake President would know much about it; it just doesn't get discussed. But you don't know, really, until you ask.

So here I am, trying to learn more about anointings. Way back when, Elder Bednar shared a technique for scripture study that I think of as "Brother Bednar's Cut and Sort" technique: he looked up all the forms of his word, and then put them in a document, then cut them up, and sorted them into piles. I tried this with the word humility once. It completely transformed my understanding of the topic, and I never even really finished. It seems like a likely technique for learning more about this.

There's only 367 instances. ...  How hard can it be? ... right?

07 June 2019

Making it Safe to Not Know

I no longer remember precisely what it was that got me thinking about it, but:

It's really important that we create an environment where it is safe to not know something.

Not in a neglectful kind of way, where we're complacently not trying, but in a the sort of way where it's ok not to know yet, and it's so ok to ask questions, to try out incomplete ideas, to say the sentence half in your native language, half in the one you're studying, to take a stab at it, and try -even knowing that your effort is going to be half-baked and incomplete.

Because there is so much learning in the trying.

01 June 2019

Commonplace: May 2019

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. 

True education is a form of repentance. It is a humble admission that we've not read all that we need to read, we don't know all that we need to know, and we're not yet all that we need to become. Education is that unique form of discipleship that brings us to the place of admitting our inadequacies.
-George Grant, "Repentance"

But one of the worst results of being a slave and being forced to do things is that when there is no one to force you any more you find you have almost lost the power of forcing yourself.
-The Horse and His Boy, p137

31 May 2019

Math as a Window to God's Character

I got asked today about how it is that I came to see math as a window into the character of God. I'm not sure how to show what I've learned, other than to tell how I came to know it.

* * *

I did not enjoy math in school.

The way I was taught, math was arbitrary: a never ending pile of largely unrelated formulas that must be memorized perfectly and then worked flawlessly. Close doesn't count; it's right --or it's wrong. Teachers seldom had an answer for "When are we going to use this?" They assured us that the upper math has value, but never seemed able to articulate what that value was.

I graduated from high school with a huge sigh of relief: the pre-calculus course I'd taken that year had not gone well, and the hit to my grades carried a heavy cost at scholarship time, and I figured that I'd reached the ceiling of what I was capable of in math. Though I briefly flirted with studying astrophysics, in the end the math intimidated me out of the dream, so I went with Japanese, which required no further math at all.

Then we decided to homeschool.

This meant starting over in math, from the beginning. I was intimidated, not considering myself to be very good at the stuff, but I figured that if I had a particularly "mathy" child, we could outsource math classes when I started feeling like I was in over my head.

But elementary math shouldn't be so hard. I headed to the forums to read about various math curricula. In the process, I ended up discovering how it is that people come to love math: math is patterns. And patterns are both beautiful and fascinating. Math is patterns that can be approached in many different ways, taken apart, and played with, and put back together. On occasion, I got so into a problem -a pattern- that I continued to work it even after my son's interest was spent. (This emphasis on patterns is also the core of the "new math" that everybody hates: my experience was far from unique, unfortunately, and the new "constructivist" approach to teaching math is difficult for parents who were taught with the algorithms only method, like I was.)  We started with Miquon math, which in spite of some weaknesses, taught me as much as it did my children, and then when my oldest outgrew it we continued with MEP, first because it's free, but then afterward we stayed with it because it's just excellent at teaching the kids to find the patterns. And we've all learned a lot about how to see the patterns. I find that I'm actually excited to find out what happens as my oldest gets into the "higher" maths: I am looking forward to the chance to try my hand at it again, this time realizing that there is an underlying pattern, a Real Idea, some bit of reality, that is being described by each type of problem.

I should not have been so surprised by the beauty; math is full of Truth about the world around us, and Truth, Beauty, and Goodness fit together, so where you find one, you'll usually find all three. But the idea that math could be beautiful was so different from the grind of algorithms that I'd always experienced. The reality is, algorithms are only a relatively small part of the story, and if you can work the formula, but you can't see the pattern that makes it function, then you don't really get it, and you haven't learned what it has to teach.

01 May 2019

Commonplace Book: April 2019

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.

"I need space --thought space."
-Cheryl Swope, The Classical Teacher, Spring 2019, p48

"I remembered a quote I heard a number of years ago from F.W. Boreham. He was speaking of the events during the Napoleonic wars in the early part of the 19th century:
'. . . men were following, with bated breath, the march of Napoleon, and waiting with feverish impatience for the latest news of the wars. And all the while, in their own homes, babies were being born. But who could think about babies? Everybody was thinking about battles. . . .
. . . in one year. . . between Trafalgar and Waterloo, there stole into the world a host of heroes! . . . in 1809. . . Gladstone was born at Liverpool; Alfred Tennyson was born at the Somersby rectory . . . Oliver Wendell Holmes made his first appearance at Massachusetts . . . and Abraham Lincoln drew his first breath at Old Kentucky. Music was enriched by the advent of Frederic Chopin at Warsaw, and of Felix Mendelssohn at Hamburg. . . Elizabeth Barrett Browning [was born] at Durham. . . . But nobody thought of babies. Everybody was thinking of battles. Yet. . . which of the battles of 1809 mattered more than the babies of 1809? . . .We fancy that God can only manage His world by big battalions . . . when all the while He is doing it by beautiful babies. . . . When a wrong wants righting, or a work wants doing, or a truth wants preaching, or a continent wants opening, God sends a baby into the world to do it. That is why, long, long ago, a babe was born at Bethlehem.' (F. W. Boreham, Mountains in the Mist: Some Australian Reveries [1919], 166-67, 170)
"As was the case with the Napoleonic wars, during the years of World War II the news and the eyes of the world were on the battles and not focused on the babies. Yet in 1940, the year many of the western European countries fell and the air over England rained destruction during the Battle of Britain, babies were being born. Three of the babies born that year, you are familiar with. They are, Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Quentin L. Cook, and one who is the commencement speaker today, Jeffrey R. Holland. The eyes of the world were not on these babies in 1940--they were following world events--but the Lord's eyes were on them because He knew they would be called upon to help change the world."
December 17, 2011
Paul V. Johnson
Commissioner, Church Education System


16 April 2019

Death and Rebirth: Easter Ponderings

So, Palm Sunday I didn't feel well. Actually, for several days before that I wasn't feeling very good: stress headaches, migraines, insomnia followed by nightmares... my emotions clearly had the upper hand, and I was quietly freaking right out, which is not my norm; my best friend once laughingly observed that I tend to be "a drama-free zone". And I do try. But last week I had drama enough that it made me ill.

So Palm Sunday. One of the things about a lay clergy is that sometimes everything is beautiful and perfect, and other times we get to exercise charity and patience. Don't get me wrong; the talks were excellent: one even successfully managed to relate fishing for eel in New Zealand rivers to following the prophet and the Lord; outstanding talk, the kind that people will remember and benefit from for a long time. But every speaker overlooked that it was Palm Sunday; it wasn't mentioned until the classes after Sacrament Meeting. And I was so hungry for a deep dive into the Atonement of Christ; I needed His healing: it had been a tough week --and the next day I was going to dig up my basement.

It felt like breaking my sanctuary: if life is like tag, my home is "safe". Only, it didn't feel very "safe" anymore. It felt broken. That's what I would tell people: "We're breaking the basement."

"I hope your week is less interesting than mine," I said to the guy at the rental place where we got the concrete saw and the mini jackhammer they called a "breaker" (that saw was HUGE). And he laughed, which was the intended effect. But I was whistling in the dark: it wasn't really funny to me. I was trying to put the best face on something that pulled me way out of my comfort zone.

02 April 2019

Commonplace Book: February & March 2019

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. 

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt yuo
But make allowance for their doubting, too,
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk to wise;

If you can dream --and not make dreams your master,
If you can think --and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make a heap of all your winnings
And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them, "Hold on!"

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings --nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much,
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours in the Earth and everything that's in it,
And -which is more- you'll be a Man, my son.
-Rudyard Kipling

Dust if You Must

Dust if you must, but wouldn't it be better
To paint a picture or write a letter,
Bake a cake or plant a seed,
Ponder the difference between want and need?

Dust if you must, but there's not much time,
With rivers to swim and mountains to climb,
Music to hear, and books to read,
Friends to cherish and life to lead.

Dust if you must, but the world's out there,
With the sun in your eyes, the wind in your hair,
A flutter of snow, a shower of rain,
This day will not come round again.

Dust if you must, but bear in mind,
Old age will come and its not kind.
And when you go -and go you must-
You, yourself, will make more dust.
-Rose Milligan

Cease endlessly striving for what you would like to do and learn to love what must be done.

A Psalm of Life

Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream! --
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each tomorrow
Find us further than today;

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world's Broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!

Trust no Future, howe're pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act -act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o'erhead!

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o'er life's solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.
-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

24 March 2019

More on Conversion

After what I learned about conversion last time, I wanted to know what kinds of words had been translated as "conversion" when the New Testament came to us from the Greek. I'd found that our one word, conversion, had been translated into Japanese into four different words, which each brought their own interesting layers of meaning to the concept, and I wondered what kinds of Greek words had given rise to these translations.

Not surprisingly, I found four different Greek words.

The first word (and the only one that I'm looking at in this post) is used in a number of different passages, which all draw on a passage from Isaiah 6:9:

And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not.

This verse is referenced in various ways; there's the four verses that use the most common Greek root of conversion and also reference Isaiah 6:9:

21 March 2019

Repentence and Conversion

When I came home from Japan, I was surprised by a prompting to do the Come Follow Me readings in Japanese, and then even more surprised to realize how much Japanese I learned reading the Book of Mormon for the challenge from President Nelson: the first chapter I read wasn't half as hard as I'd expected: I have to read it from a paper edition, which means no copy and paste into my dictionary, because it's not in the Gospel Library app (I assume there's some copyright issue; that's typically why stuff like this happens).

So, I'm cruising along, reading in Matthew 13: the Parable of the Sower. That explanation in the middle has always seemed odd to me: "lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them."

And I noticed two things:

First, the Japanese makes the cause-effect relationship more apparent than the English: the people close their own eyes, they close their own ears, and their own hearts for the purpose that they won't have to repent.

And Second --wait. I didn't remember the word "repent" being in this passage. When I looked at the English, I realized that I don't remember that word being there because... it's not. In English, it says "lest... [they] should be converted, and I should heal them." But the Japanese word here is 悔い改める。I learned to recognize it as "repent" in my Book of Mormon reading, and that's what it says if you look it up in my dictionary. But it's a compound:

悔 -- repent/regret
改 -- reformation/change/modify/renew

I can see how it could have both meanings, and that's a whole new way of looking at conversion for me. I've always thought about repenting as a sort of "I'm sorry" process that we go through with the Lord, followed by change. But this word unifies those two aspects into a single concept, a single verb.

I wondered if there was anywhere else that the words repent and conversion were used interchangeably in Japanese. Surprisingly, there's not a lot of places in the New Testament where you find the word "conversion": only 8. In addition to looking at the Japanese, it would be really interesting to use Strong's Concordance to look at the Greek roots of these words, but I'm so slow at the Japanese that there's no way that I can do that tonight.

11 March 2019

I've Gone to Japan

So, I haven't been posting much, and won't be for a little while yet, but I have a good excuse: I'm in Japan right now. For those who are on Instagram, there's pictures there. Especially trains, because my nephews love trains. I'm just photographing ordinary stuff: I'm here taking some classes. So I haven't done much at all of the typical touristy stuff. I'd hoped to, but things are so busy; some unexpected opportunities are eating up the time I'd planned to spend on going and looking at beautiful things. So I've got pictures of bikes and trains and food and regular life kinds of things that I'm photographing this trip, and very little of the shrines and parks and temples this time.

So, when my trip is done, and I've had a chance to reconnect with my people and recover from the jetlag (it's 14 hours difference), then I'll start thinking about homeschool stuff again. But right now, I'm having an adventure!

24 February 2019

A Day in the Life

7:30: I hear the kids moving around, pulling out their sketch books and digging for something to eat, and I wake up too. The Daddy has long since gone to work. The littlest comes and climbs in bed with me, and brings a story: Three Samauri Cats. The other two jump (literally) onto my bed, and I read the story from the bottom of a pile of people.

8:00: I remind the kids that they've got about an hour to get ready for school, and go get my yoga mat. There are two Librivox stories going in two different rooms. I can hear them both, but I try to tune them out, and check in on a friend that just had a baby. I sit on my yoga mat and organize a couple of things the new mom needs. And answer some questions. And peek at social media.

8:40: I'm still sitting on my mat, but I haven't actually done any yoga, yet. I glance at the clock, realize how close we are to school time, and get to work on the yoga.

8:50: I mention to the child sitting next to me, chatting and drawing, that school starts in 10 minutes, and they decide to get a shower. "Hurry please." I send another one to get dressed. And attempt chaturanga, but and up doing it with floor support. Next time, maybe.

15 January 2019

Come Follow Me: The Nativity

 Ok, it feels... weird to be studying the Nativity in January. I'm all set to be working towards Easter, and here's Christmas again.

But we had this thought in our conversation about Zacharias and John the Baptist (our family's discussion sort of glossed over Elizabeth; not where the kids' attention was, this time around), and I'm still kind of mulling it over:

John the Baptist and Baby Jesus are just about the only baby stories we have in the scriptures. We don't know about Isaiah or Daniel or Nephi or Samuel the Lamanite as infants. Even modern prophets, even Joseph Smith where stories from his childhood are pretty common, they're not baby stories. Hannah's son Samuel, that story talks about the desire for a child, but then pretty quick it's right on to Samuel as a precocious child-prophet in the temple.

My kids love baby stories. They ask for their own all the time

So why are these stories in the Bible when nowhere else in scripture do we see the first moments of a prophet's life?

06 January 2019

Scheduling our Charlotte Mason Homeschool Day

I think that one of the things that's hardest for me to work out as we homeschool is: how much work will fit in a day? I spent a fair amount of time trying to figure this out over Christmas break as I worked up our new schedules. It's an important question: Hero is getting to the point where I need to start helping him to develop the skills to organize himself; he needs to start being a touch more independent about his school work.

But before I can hand him a schedule, I have to make one.

05 January 2019

Come Follow Me: Trust and Temples

The first time I sat down to do it with the kids, it was rough: changes to routine always are, and although we've done scripture study of various types, this was just a little different from them all, and there was some static over it. 

Honestly, I wasn't sure what to do with the first lesson.

I love that we're responsible for our own learning. And the quote from Brother Bednar is great:

"As learners, you and I are to act and be doers of the word and not simply hearers who are only acted upon. Are you and I agents who act and seek learning by faith, or are we waiting to be taught and acted upon? … A learner exercising agency by acting in accordance with correct principles opens his or her heart to the Holy Ghost and invites His teaching, testifying power, and confirming witness. Learning by faith requires spiritual, mental, and physical exertion and not just passive reception."
-David A. Bednar, quoted in Come Follow Me 2019, week 1

This is a better way of saying a what I've been trying to teach my kids for quite a while: there are more blessings, special blessings, that are only available to you when the scriptures become important enough that you read them all by yourself. Not because Mom said so. Not because the family is doing it and you're expected to come. There are blessings that come to us only when we make it happen on our own. Because making it happen, prioritizing it on our own time, is an act of Agency: it's an act of faith. And that action we take, when we open up the scriptures on our own, creates an opening like no other where the Lord's Spirit can work  in us and on us.

But I still found myself wishing for a nice chapter to read. Like we get in week 2, where we read about Mary. This week we're reading baby stories; what could be more lovely? I think we'll read a chunk of Luke 1 first, as I read these with the kids: that's all about John the Baptist, and then switch over into Matthew.

How do you suppose that Mary felt, as all this was happening to her?

I imagine she was stressed right out, personally. At least some of the time.

I'd guess that she didn't really understand. Not all of it. Not at first.

And a virgin pregnancy is impossible... everybody knows that.
And the penalty for fornication under the Mosaic Law was death.
That's why Joseph was going to put her away quietly: he didn't want to see her stoned.

Plus, she was pregnant: morning sickness, crazy emotions, exhaustion, all the excitement that pregnancy is, plus a lot that the rest of us don't have to cope with. 

So I'm guessing that this period is extremely stressful. Because, remember, at the tomb, on Resurrection Morning, the Apostles who spent so much time with Him, they still didn't understand what was going on. So here, at the beginning, when it's just a girl who sees and angel who tells her she will be miraculously, impossibly, pregnant --but not a whole lot more-- it makes me think of what Paul said: we see "through a glass, darkly". Here, at the beginning, it's apparent that something magnificent is underway, that God has a special role for her. But I wonder, at this early stage, how much she understood. In her shoes, I can easily imagine some long nights, struggling to figure it all out, if that was me.

But I also imagine that she'd be at peace, when she remembered Gabriel, and leaned into the Spirit, and remembered to trust God. It seems clear that she's pretty good at that: there are a ton of questions that could be asked if an angel shows up like Gabriel did with such unexpected news; hers are few and right to the heart of the matter --and then she trusts.

I need to learn to be like that.

It's interesting, too, how all the sudden I notice that these chapters point to the temple: Matthew 1 starts with family history, and Zachariah was a priest: a temple worker. And while, yes, the temple was different in those days, I recently had a fascinating conversation with a friend who pointed out a host of ways in which the temple then and the temple now are actually very much the same. Which makes sense, now that I think about it. It's changed the way that I see these verses.

One of the suggestions this week is to look at our own family history, and I think that we'll be doing that. I always feel a little awkward, planning to show family history to the kids: I struggle to know how to do it. But we keep looking at things, and we're slowly figuring out how to do it. It's one of those areas where practice helps. Stories help.

So that's our plan this week: read the chapters, narrate, and probably talk a little about someone from our own family history. Please, take a minute and share what your plans are in the comments.

This post is part of a series.
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01 January 2019

Commonplace Book: late 2018

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. 

Since the gospel embraces all truth, there can never be any genuine contradictions between true science and true religion. This doesn't preclude the need, however, of thinking through the interrelationships between religion and science as new and interesting discoveries are made. When properly done, the result is necessarily a deeper appreciation of divine goodness and of all the truths of the Gospel.
-Faith of a Scientist, Henry Eyring, 41

Thus, we are part of a grand scheme embracing all of creation, complicated and orderly beyond our most extravagant dreams. In it, there is the order of immutable law. Eclipses and certain atomic interactions can be calculated with any desired degree of accuracy. The universe has been likened to a fine watch, unexpectedly picked up in the desert. One might assume the watch was assembled by accident, but the only reasonable  assumption is that it had a creator who left it there. So it is with this magnificent universe. It is obviously more complicated  than a watch...
-The Faith of a Scientist, Henry Eyring, 44

 Communication of information involves both a sender and a receiver. The Gospel flows out from the Creator of the world who sees the end from the beginning. It flows out to all those who are able to receive it. Too many of those who are blind and deaf to this flow of information foolishly deny the existence of the Creator. How much wiser they would be if, like Helen Keller, they could overcome blindness and deafness and reach out and touch Him.
-The Faith of a Scientist, Henry Eyring, 48

Do not, therefore, attempt to obtain a perfect pronunciation at the first lesson. Talk yourself, talk continuously. At the commencement, let the pupil speak as little as possible; it is in his ear and not on his tongue that it is important to fix the word or the phrase. When the spring is abundant it will flow of itself, and the liquid supplied by it will have the advantage of being pure.

Let us not forget that the little child listens for two years before constructing a phrase, and that he has possession of both the sound and its idea, that is, the spoken word, long before attempting to produce it himself. ...

The spoken word must precede in everything and everywhere the word as read or written. ... Be certain of this, that it is only by thinking directly in the language studied that you will arrive at reading fluently a page of Virgil or a page of Homer.
-The Art of Teaching & Studying Languages, Gouin, p52

"Land is the only thing in the world that amounts to anything," he shouted, his thick, short arms making wide gestures of indignation, "for 'tis the only thing in this world that lasts, and don't you be forgetting it! Tis the only thing worth working for, worth fighting for --worth dying for."

"Oh, Pa," she said disgustedly, "you talk like an Irishman!"

"Have I ever been ashamed of it? No, 'tis proud I am. And don't be forgetting that you are half Irish, Miss! And to anyone with a drop of Irish blood in them the land they live on is like their mother. 'Tis ashamed of you I am this minute. I offer you the most beautiful land in the world --saving County Meath in the Old Country-- and what do you do? You sniff!"

Gerald had begun to work himself into a pleasurable shouting rage when something in Scarlett's woebegone face stopped him. "But there. You're young. 'Twill come to you, this love of the land. There's no getting away from it, if you're Irish. You're just a child and bothered about your beaux. When you're older, you'll be seeing how it is.
-Gone With the Wind, p49


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