Saturday, August 1, 2015

Considerations on the 2015 LER

Since beginning the formal home education of our children eight years ago, I am annually gifted with some amount of time for intentional reflection and the gleaning of knowledge.  The form of refreshing has varied from a solitary 24 hours on 130 acres in a tiny house located just off the Mohawk Trail to a spirited road trip with a friend to attend a weekend of workshops.  Four of these eight years though I have been exceptionally blessed to have my repose take place amongst friends and nature at the Living Education Retreat in Minnesota.   

The Living Education Retreat serves to charge my educational faith.  It has continually been a time of repentance as well as a time of great joy.  It is here the Lord speaks with intensity to my heart, asking if I myself am willing to set foot on the path of being who it is I want my children to be.  

The plenaries, workshops and conversations taking place here are unequivocally not "given in the form of 'Do' this and that, but rather as an invitation to 'Consider' this and that."  After all, Charlotte tells us, "action follows when we have thought duly."  

Though it is a time to be with like-minded Charlotte Mason educators, we are gloriously not all alike.  This is a time of building new relationships and deepening existing ones both with each other and in the knowledge of God, man and the universe. It is why --when asked for a quote to go with my biography-- Charlotte's words reverberated within me:

Once we see that we are dealing spirit with spirit with the friend at whose side we are sitting, with the people who attend to our needs, we shall be able to realize how incessant is the commerce between the divine Spirit and our human spirit.  It will be to us as when one stops one's talk and one's thoughts in the spring-time, to find the world full of bird-music unheard the instant before.  In like manner we shall learn to make pause in our thoughts, and shall hear in our intellectual perplexities, as well as in our moral, the clear, sweet, cheering and inspiring tones of our spiritual Guide.

Much of what we were asked to consider is exhilaratingly provocative and evoked Watchman Nee's assertion in "Twelve Baskets Full:"  

If God leads you to walk a way that you know, it will not benefit you as much as if He would lead you to take the way that you do not know. This forces you to have hundreds and thousands of conversations with Him, resulting in a journey that is an everlasting memorial between you and Him.

It is a pilgrim's progress, is it not? And I am relishing the resulting conversations with the Lord following my tranquil time on the shores of Lake Pepin at the Living Education Retreat.  

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Charlotte Mason and Physics

Please join me over at AfterThoughts, where Brandy Vencel invited me as a guest writer.  I've written about Charlotte Mason and the study of physics for nine to 12-year-olds  I do hope you enjoy it.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

A Salvation Story

I love stories.  In fact, I’ve been known as the storyteller in our family since about four years of age.  Many of you are involved with the art of telling a story so I imagine you share the same fascination with stories as I do.

My own story begins in a small town in Iowa and was a story I was determined to rewrite.  Born three minutes after my identical twin sister, our father left my mother before we were a year old.   We looked alike but were different in many respects.  Like many stories you may have heard, our life was less than ideal.  Having a young, pretty divorcee’ for a mother in a small town in the early 70’s made things a bit like Peyton Place and the Harper Valley PTA for us.   Though my mother worked full-time we faced poverty at every turn.  Our father’s leaving us at 1 year of age affected my sister – she somehow felt responsible while I looked at it realistically – hey, they were young.   I didn’t want anyone to feel sorry for me and every lemon that life threw at me, I was determined to make lemonade. 

In high school our lives couldn’t have been more drastically different.  My twin was wild, running with the bad kids and using alcohol as an escape while I kept my nose clean and planned my own escape.  I studied hard, became student body president and yearbook editor and any free time I had was spent working part-time jobs.  Since the age of twelve I’d had my life figured out, my career path and how I would escape the poverty.  As soon as I turned seventeen I enlisted in the Air Force in order to attend the best language school in the “free world.”  Meanwhile, my sister at seventeen became a born-again.  That’s right, a holy roller, a Jesus freak.    I remember the day she told me, beaming, her own story of an what happened to her I rolled my eyes and said, “Great, and since we’re twins everyone will expect me to do the same.”  I really expect my mother would have had a better idea what to do with her daughter had she announced she was a drug addict than a born-again.

Though I may not have liked the new stares and whisperings our family faced with a “born again” I could not deny the 180 degree change I witnessed in my sister.  Rebellion was replaced with obedience and anger with a sense of calm, animosity with friendship.

Hey, I was happy for my sister but remember, I was busy making lemonade.  I pushed myself and excelled in all that I did and I didn’t need a savior.  I could save myself, thank you very much. 

Let’s skip ahead a bit to my new life in the Air Force.  Living in a dormitory, fulfilling my dream of studying Russian, I made lots of great friends from around the country.  It just so happened that on my floor, there were six of us that had siblings back home that had that peculiar experience of meeting Jesus.  So, we approached it intellectually, meeting on Friday nights to read the Bible in an attempt to figure out just what happened to them.  While we were figuring it out, we were shipped off to our next technical school and then onto our assignments.  Mine was a tiny air station in beautiful southern Italy.

I was now a far cry from my life in Volga, Iowa, population 300. And my story was unfolding nicely.  The dollar was strong and I was living in a beautiful apartment with marble fireplaces and views of the Adriatic Sea.  I had great friends with whom I would travel, eating in the best restaurants. and my career was on the fast track -  having received a number of awards from the Air Force, I was single with a disposable income…but I was still not satisfied.  I was like a mountain climber that took twenty years to train, climbed the highest peak and looked around only to behold vanity.   

One evening, I came upon the realization that I belonged to a particular denomination because of family tradition.  I was also a Chicago Cubs fans not because they were the winningest team around but because of tradition.  I no longer wanted tradition, I wanted reality.  So I asked for it.  I told God that if He is who He says He is, and Jesus really was His son and paid for my sins then I would follow Him but He would have to show me first.

God has a way of stealing in though even when all the doors have been barred shut, He is always sending a ray of divine light through a loving smile, testimonies of others, or some Word of God dropped into our lives.  

It was revealed to me that He is the great I AM.

And just as Jesus answered Thomas, Jesus answered me and said, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Oh, this was a love story that surpassed “Cinderella”.  The Word from eternity past, the King of kings, stepped off his throne and out of the Godhead, he clothed Himself in humanity in order to gain each one of us.

Perhaps you say, “My story is quite different from others that I have heard.  How does this pertain to me?” So what if your story is not the same as mine or doesn’t resemble the story of others.  Maybe you are the woman at the well, or a harlot, or you have kept every law and commandment with pride.  Maybe your story doesn’t resemble any in the Bible. 

Paul tells us in 1 Timothy 2:4 that God our Savior desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

All.  There is no way you can find yourself outside of the word, "All" is there?

In the Bible, Jesus is called the Author of our Life and the Author of Life (Acts 3:15) the Author of our Salvation (Hebrews 2:10) and the Author and perfecter of faith (Hebrews 12:2). 

Today, I would like you to meet the Hero of the story.

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:2

You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this.  Acts 3:15

For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering. Hebrews 2:10

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Multiplication using Charlotte Mason's Methods

"There is no royal road to the multiplication table; it must be learnt by heart.  This is a fact which faces every teacher of elementary arithmetic, and which each must prepare for in the best way possible" (Irene Stephens, The Teaching of Mathematics to Young Children. p. 10).

Irene Stephens* was a lecturer in mathematics at Ambleside and author of the handbook Charlotte recommended for use both alone and alongside arithmetic books in Forms I and II (approximately our Years 1-6). Of course, most of us would readily agree with Miss Stephens’ play on Euclid’s statement that, “There is no royal road to Geometry.” Indeed, a few months ago I was reviewing a course in Introductory Algebra when, in the first lesson, the teacher instructed the students to take a week or two to learn the multiplication tables if they had never properly done so before continuing on with Algebra.

Let’s take a look at the second part of Miss Stephens’ assertion and how students were prepared for learning the multiplication table by heart “in the best way possible.”  To begin with, children were given a full year to thoroughly examine and become comfortable with the numbers 1 to 100. As the numbers that the child worked with grew larger, the combinations grew more plentiful and a natural overlap with multiplication occurred such as 'two fours make eight' and 'three twos make six' (for a brief overview of elementary arithmetic see my posts Charlotte Mason and Math and Math and the Write Stuff or for a thorough exploration of elementary arithmetic see Mathematics, An Instrument for Living Teaching).

Now we'll fast-forward to the point in our scope & sequence when multiplication is formally introduced.  Using Charlotte Mason's methods, I've scripted a lesson so you are able to see how it would have looked in Charlotte's classrooms and how it could look in your own. You will need a blackboard or dry erase board for yourself as well as a personal slate or dry erase board for each student. The student will also be using his or her coin bag full of pennies and dimes.  To begin:

Introduce multiplication as repeated addition through simple, interesting problems using coins or other manipulatives. The student's answer is in parenthesis and you will be writing on the board until they are instructed to do so. Thus, begin by saying:

John had 2¢ and a friend gave him 2¢ more. How many cents had he then? (4¢)
How many times do we have 2 cents? (2)

If 3 children had 2¢ each, how much had they altogether? (6¢)
How many times do we have 2 cents? (3)

Then you write on the board:

2 + 2 + 2 = 6.

You bought five gumballs at 2¢ apiece, how much did they cost altogether?

Write it up on the board:

2¢ + 2¢ + 2¢ + 2¢ + 2¢ = 10¢  (or 1 dime).

Several examples are given before suggesting that it may be written down more shortly:

We can write this more shortly. Let’s take a look at our last problem. 

You bought five gumballs at 2¢ apiece, how much did they cost altogether? (10¢ or 1 dime)

How many times do you have 2¢? (5)

Write it up on the board: 

2¢ × 5 = 10¢.

So the  "× 5" means multiplied by 5 - That is, each of the quantities is to be taken 5 times, so that 2¢ × 5 means five 2¢.

The sign “×” - read multiplied by, means the first is to be multiplied by the second; so ”2 × 5 = 10" shows that 2 multiplied by 5 = 10.

The “×” sign may be read times.  2 x 5 shows 2 is taken five times.

So 4¢ × 3 would mean, 4¢ multiplied by 3 = 12 pennies,or  4¢ times 3 and so on.

Let’s work a few problems on your dry erase board using the multiplication sign.

If 4 children had 5¢ each, how much had they altogether?

5¢ (multiplied by or taken how many times) × 4 = 20¢      (2 dimes).

Emma has 3 ribbons and her sister has 3 times as many. How many ribbons does Emma's sister have? (3 x 3 = 9)

Now let's take our coins and make a multiplication table for 2. Let's make 12 rows of coins with 2 coins in each row. Let your students answer:

2 and 2 are (4), and 2 are (6), and 2 are (8), and 2 are (10), and 2 are (12), etc. 

How many 2s are in 10? (5)

So it is right to say 2 x 5 = 10

If Lego bricks cost 2¢ apiece, how much would 6 Lego bricks cost? (12¢ or 1 dime and 2 pennies).

2 x 6 = 
2 x 3 =
2 x 7 =

How many 2s in 14? How many 2s in 6? How many 2s in 18? etc.

This concludes the introduction to multiplication and the lesson ends with five minutes of rapid mental work, incorporating everything studied in their arithmetic lessons up to this point. If all has gone well, your child or student will be ready to construct a written multiplication table for their next lesson.  The "how-to" will be in my next post.

*Do you love hearing people's stories as much as I do? Irene Stephens was actually a resident of Madras, India, traveling to Ambleside in 1911 (happily, coinciding with the census) where she lectured in mathematics while her handbook was published.  She stayed at Greenbank Cottage, Ambleside (perhaps like the one pictured above) with a house painter, George Alldis and his wife, Susannah, whom had no children. Hats off to the Cumbria Family History Society for helping me with my research.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Step Inside Our Story

Autumn rates right up there with spring for wanting to just close the books and head outside. Since we are spending most of our days outdoors in both work and play, I thought you might enjoy a tour around our grounds and then I'll catch you up on our doings.

Our home started out as a storefront for Berkshire Glass Works in the mid-1800's. The exceptional sand of our county (97-99% silica) makes for very fine glass and it is reported that Tiffany himself visited the Glass Works in order to pick the tints he incorporated into his designs. Above is some of the glass slag our youngest pulled out of the ground near a creek bed. 

In the 1930's, New England artist Leo B. Blake lived here with his family. He added a studio with a vaulted ceiling and celestory to the home, carving his initials on the outside of the addition that is now our living room. He also added a wall of windows to the north side of the barn which served as his summer studio.

Our son, Luca, was thrilled that his initials are the same as Leo Blake's. Here he sketches at a favorite spot we call "reading rock."

The original outhouse now functions as a garden shed. A hand-lettered sign by Mr. Blake still hangs on the inside though, warning of the dangers of improper cigarette disposal.

 A view of the garden shed and one of the former barns which is now my husband's tool shed. The back is filling up nicely with wood for winter heating.

 Another view of reading rock with a path that heads west along the brook.

This is the view heading east along the south side of the brook. It is home to calendula, flowering raspberries and jewelweed to name a few species. The path leads into the woods where the original rock fence remains.

The barn looking from the south side of the brook which houses my writing studio along with our chickens. Our hope is to put an alternative print-process photo studio in the barn for my husband next year as well. 

Obligatory picture of our 5-month-old Standard Poodle puppy, Aquila, who has become an important part of our family.  Watching him see the wonders of God's creation for the first time has renewed our own appreciation for the beauty in it all.  Now for some current events:

Currently attending: A puppy training class with Aquila. If you've ever seen Cesar Millan, known as the Dog Whisperer, you'll know what we are going through. The class is actually more human training than dog training and, with five families and five very cute puppies, would make for great reality TV.

Currently reading: Galatians. If this letter Paul wrote to the Galatians has been as influential to your life as it has to mine, you may enjoy John Sheasby's Introduction to Galatians. Put the Sheasby's podcasts on while doing the dishes and you will love doing dishes.

Currently planning: A live-action role-play fete at our home this Friday. A large group of intrepid kids will spend the day free-ranging here for a game of "Town," which Max describes as a "glorified game of house...only outdoors." Think "Shire of Middle-earth" with Nerf-weapons. I'll try to get pics.

Until then.