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Living Books on Meteorology

Dear Reader,

I let my high school senior pick his science this year and he chose meteorology. I structured his course around two video series from The Great Courses, An Introduction to the Wonders of Weather and The Science of Extreme Weather. The edginess of the latter balnaces out the more dry factualness of the former. He also read a number of living books. If you are looking for books for younger kids, we also did a year on geology and weather when my kids were in elementary and middle school; you can find that booklist here. You can find all my lists of living books here.

Living Books on Meteorology

What if the Moon Didn’t Exist by Neil F. Comins — All the ways our world wouldn’t exist if conditions weren’t just right.

Why the Sky is Blue by Gotz Hoeppe — Did you know that it’s not blue for the same reason during the day and at the end of the day?

Storm by George R. Stewart — The story of a violent storm which sweeps in from California. Originally published 1941.

Tornado Alley by Howard Bluestein — A professor and storm-chaser tells what he has learned about tornados.

The Children’s Blizzzard by David Laskin — True story of a blizzard in 1888. The kids that tried to get home, those that hid at school.

Divine Wind by Kerry Emanuel –The subtitle says it all: “The History and Science of Hurricanes.”

Isaac’s Storm by Erik Larson — It came up  a lot in the news this year too: the Galveston hurricane of 1900.

Visualizing Weather and Climate by Anderson and Strahler — A more textbook-y book to make sure we covered all the bases.

Weather Analysis and Forecasting Handbook by Tim Vasquez — Again, a bit more textbook-y and also seemed rather math-oriented so maybe not for all kids.

Happy forecasting!

Nebby

 

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Book Review: Teaching and Christian Imagination

Dear Reader,

As a part of my ongoing quest for a reformed Christian philosophy theology of education, I recently read Teaching and Christian Imagination by David I. Smith and Susan M. Felch (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2016). The book is a series of essays, grouped by image, on Christian education. The intended audience is the burnt-out Christian school teacher. The idea behind it is that by exploring various images related to education, that one will rediscover one’s purpose in teaching and be reinvigorated.

“This is not a ‘how-to’ manual or a collection of tips. This book offers lenses, not recipes, opening possibilities rather than laying out instructions. It is an opportunity to refresh your imagination, to step back and see differently. It invites you to explore how your faith and your imagination can dance together in ways that bring grace and truth into your daily service to your students and your school.” (p. 2)

Images are really the guiding principle here, and I agree with the authors that images are important. They help shape our thoughts. But — and this is where my problem with this book lies — because they are important and because they do shape our thoughts, we need to be discriminating in which images we chose and in how we apply them. It matters, for instance, whether we view children as blank slates, lumps of clay, or hot-house flowers.

Teaching groups its essays around three fairly standard sets of Christian images: journeys and pilgrimages; gardens and wildernesses; buildings and walls. But it shows little discrimination in what images it uses or how it uses them. There is no clear standard here for how we know what it true or what to accept. There are certainly many biblical references, but the writers also quote Rousseau (pp. 90-91) whose influence on modern education was disastrous and analyze paintings of the Christ child with saints and angels (pp. 101-02). Nor is there any sort of clear philosophy of education. The classical approach is described in one section (pp. 169ff), but there is little that provides a theological or philosophical framework for the book as a whole.

The authors have shied away from providing strong and definite ideas but in doing so they have not provided enough of a basis for their work. Teaching and Christian Imagination sees a need: Christian schools with burnt-out teachers. Its solution is to throw a handful of poorly vetted images at that need which may inspire in the short term, but I think they would have been better served by a back-to-basics questioning of the underlying framework, something which asks what are we doing and is it the right thing and how do we even know, what is our standard?

One of my biggest underlying principles in this blog is that ideas matter. Images convey ideas and so I agree with the book’s authors that images too matter. My problem with Teaching and Christian Imagination is actually that they don’t take their own images seriously enough; they don’t curate them well. A book which really looks at the images the Bible gives us regarding education and which draws from Scripture to apply those images would be most welcome. I am afraid a book which applies images indiscriminately as this one does may give some a temporary emotional boost but will do more long-term damage.

Nebby

Articles on Education

Dear Reader,

A couple of recent articles relating to education —

“Teenage Vandals were Sentenced to Read Books, ” by Christine Hauser in The New York Times (April 5, 2018). Books as punishment — what do you think? I like the idea. It seems the kids (or at least the one quoted) got the message through books in a way they never would have in adults just lectured them. Books convey ideas in a form that makes them much more palatable.

“Why You Forget Most of What You Read,” by Julie Beck from The Week (Apr. 13, 2018; republished from The Atlantic) — Honestly, I am just like the person in this article. I forget books. I forget movies. But I do tend to remember by impressions of them — how they made me feel and whether I liked them. I just don’t remember plots. It’s kind of good because I can rewatch movies 😉 Seriously, though, the techniques which we have been using as part of a Charlotte Mason education are just what this article recommends — narrating after reading to aid retention, and reading in smaller chunks over longer periods of time.

Nebby

Living Books on the Ancient Near East

Dear Reader,

We did a mini term between Thanksgiving and Christmas on Mesopotamia and Canaan. As a once and future Hebrew scholar, it kills me to give the short shrift to the Ancient Near East but there is only so much one can fit into a school year. You can find all my booklists here.

Living Books on the Ancient Near East

In our time all together, we concentrated on art and myths. I used Hillyer’s book for the art. Though it can be understood by elementary level, I think it still provides a good introduction for older children as well. Note that Hillyer has a few volumes, on painting, sculpture and architecture. I have the three in one volume, A Child’s History of Art, and we covered all the areas.

The Ancient Near East includes a number of cultures. While they all have similarities, there is also some variation. We tried to include both Mesopotamian and Canaanite myths. I used Padraic Colum’s Myths of the World which I got on Kindle. It is nice because it gives some introduction to what we find in each of the cultures as well. For Mesopotamia, we also got a few of the storybooks by Zeman by tell the epic of Gilgamesh. There are three I believe that they each tell part of the story so you want to read them in order. Though these are picture books, they do a great job. For Canaan, I used Coogan’s Stories from Ancient Canaan. These are tales from Ugarit, a Canaanite town which was destroyed by fire. The destruction meant that the clay tablets on which the stories were written were baked hard and survived. It is interesting to see the similarities and differences here with one of Israel’s close neighbors. What we have is somewhat fragmentary. Coogan gives good introductions to each. I recommend prereading so you can give context and read selections. I blogged on these myths when we studied them previously. You can see one of those posts here.

We also talked about writing together using the book Sign, Symbol, Script. This is one I had leftover from my grad school days. It is actually a catalog from an exhibition but gives lots of info on the history of writing and the alphabet, a topic I couldn’t pass by. I have no idea how easy this is to find. We didn’t use Ancient Israleites and Their Neighbors. I find it a bit cumbersome. It has lots of extras like recipes if you are into that sort of thing.

I’m not thrilled with the historical fiction in this period. I don’t find it very well-written. My high school daughter read Adara by Gormley. My middle schooler read  Hittie Warrior by Williamson. The latter in particular seemed to through in every biblical motif it could (not in a good way). My senior read Silverberg’s Gilgamesh the King. I chose this book partly because he has been studying science fiction for his literature this year and Silverberg is a sci-fi writer. I thought the book would stray farther from the myth but it actually seemed to do better than I expected.

ane 2

My 8th grader read Science in Ancient Mesopotamia. I am not thrilled with this series but it is decent and provides info that one might not get elsewhere. He also read a book I loved for him — Ancient and Medieval Siege Weapons by Nosov. I only had him read the portions relevant to what we are studying. I seemed to be a very readable book. My 7th grader read Ancient Egyptian, Assyrian and Persian Costumes and Decorations by Houston. There are a lot of picture sin this book. She choose to do drawing of the costumes for most narrations and seemed to really get into it.

Lastly, we get to the actual history books.

My7th grader read The Ancient Near Eastern World by Podany. I’m not sure it’s 100% living but it seemed well-written. She liked that it included a lot of different things, like history and myths and how people lived. My 12th grader read A Short History of the Near East by Hitti. He seems to have really enjoyed it and says that it did a good job of being both broad and specific if that makes sense. My 11th grader read Fairservis’ Mesopotamia. She says it was pretty good. Since Fairservis only covers Mesopotamia, I also had her read The Phoenicians by Pamela Odijk. My 8th grader read the relevant portions of Dorothy Mills’ Book of the Ancient World. I am not thrilled with the book though I see it recommended a lot. It seems overly brief and simple (though her book on Greece is longer and I am planning to use that one). I was supposed to read Maspero’s Life in Ancient Egypt and Assyria but life got away from me and I never started it 😦

Next up: Ancient Greece

Nebby

Some Notes on Froebel

Dear Reader,

If you have read through Charlotte Mason’s volumes, you may have noticed she mentions some guy named Froebel occasionally. Friedrich Froebel (1782-1852) is known as the founder of the kindergarten movement. For my own purposes, I have done a little reading about him and his ideas. I thought I would share with you the notes I have made on him. This is really only a scratching of the surface, but hopefully it can help you (and me) begin to understand the situation in Charlotte’s day. I have given a very brief bibliography at the end. I began with an internet search and ended up buying (on Kindle) and reading selections form Froebel’s The Education of Man, which seems to be his foundational work, comparable to Charlotte Mason’s Home Education, though much shorter.

Friedrich Froebel

Theology/Religion:

  • “the son of a Lutheran minister and a devout Christian” (from “A Brief History of the Kindergarten”)
  • speak of the Unity (big “U”) which he then identifies with God
  • seems to be a very Unitarian (at least not Trinitarian) view
  • Jesus (as far as I have read) seems to be spoken of as an example, not God incarnate and not a savior; he is “our highest ideal” (Education of Man, #94)
  • there is an eternal law, known through the external and the internal (but no mention of Scripture)
  • “the divine effluence” lives in all things; all is united
  • speaks of unity (God), diversity (nature) and individuality (man), but still all is Unity

The Nature of the child and of man

  • did not believe in original sin; man’s natural state is unmarred:
  • “. . . the nature of man is in itself good . . . Man is by no means naturally bad, nor has he originally bad or evil qualities and tendencies . . .” (Education of Man, #51)

  • this state is rarely seen; it is usually very brief
  • though he doesn’t use the word sin, he sees the bad parts of human nature coming in when the child is somehow interfered with; the bad comes from without, not within the individual
  • ” . . .a suppressed or perverted good quality — a good tendency, only repressed, misunderstood, or misguided — lies originally at the bottom of every shortcoming in man” (Education of Man, #52)

  • ” . . . it generally is some other human being, not unfrequently the educator himself, that first makes the child or the boy bad. This is accomplished by attributing evil — or, at least, wrong — motives to all that the child or boy does from ignorance, precipitation, or even from a keen and praiseworthy sense of right and wrong.” (Education of Man, #52)

  • The cure for badness is to find and cultivate the good that has been repressed and to build it up again. “Thus the shortcoming will at last disappear, although it may involve a hard struggle against habit, but not against original depravity in man.” (Education of Man, #52)
  • once a child is given a bad start, it is hard, if not impossible, to come back from
  • people are inherently creative because they are made in the image of God and God was first (ie in Genesis) a Creator
  • the child goes through a kind of evolution (my word, not his) mirroring what all of humanity has gone through; the individual’s growth mirrors that of the race

Ideas about Education:

  • massive development occurs between birth and age 3
  • though he argues against clear lines between the stages of life, he clearly sees different developmental stages
  • because we can have such a profound effect on children, what we do is vitally important. We can mess up their progress for life because each stage depends upon the next. And once we screw them up, it is very hard to rectify.
  • children learn about life through games: “Play is the highest expression of human development in childhood, for it alone is the free expression of what is in a child’s soul.”
  • “Froebel believed that playing with blocks gives fundamental expression to a child’s soul and to the unity of life. Blocks represent the actual building blocks of the universe. The symmetry of the soul is symbolized as a child constructs with blocks, bringing them together to form a whole.” (from “Friedrich Froebel: His Life and Influence on Education”) 
  • The goal of education is a kind of metaphysical unity. “The aim of instruction is to bring the scholar to insight into the unity of all things, into the fact that all things have their being and life in God, so that in due time he may be able to act and live in accordance with this insight.” (Education of Man, #56)
  • The teacher is of paramount importance because he is “an intelligent consciousness” which “hovers over and between the outer world and the scholar, which unites in itself the essence of both, mediating between the two, imparting to them language and mutual understanding.” (Education of Man, #56)

Parts of a Froebel education:

  • Kindergarten (ages 4-6?): creative play, singing and dancing, observing and nurturing plants (this is not from Froebel’s book but from others writing about him)
  • Subjects for ages 6-8/9: he mentions religious instruction as the first subject but this is not Christianity as we define it; he did not use the Bible in his schools
  • nature is to be known for it is a revelation of God (see Education of Man, p. 252 for examples of lesson); heavy on classification; seems to be more about “object lessons”; he later mentions short excursions and walks outdoors
  • other subjects: physical exercise, to learn to control the body; language exercises, beginning with object lessons (see Education of Man, p. 273); mathematics comes out of this; geometry (see below); color which includes painting; grammatical exercises; writing; reading (seems to follow writing, oddly enough)
  • there is an emphasis on what we would call geometry; he likes shapes and forms because of his emphasis on the ideal and on unity; his famous “gifts” (ie wooden blocks and other such toys) were used for this
  • Stories: boys learn about their own lives by studying those of others; this is why they love legends and tales

In the spectrum of belief (as described by CM in Parents and Children, chapter 4):

  • tabula rasa — children are blank slates
  • children are empty vases (Pestalozzi)
  • children are plants  <———— Froebel
  • “children are born persons” (CM)

Later Influence:

  • influenced art and architecture incl. Frank Lloyd Wright and Buckminster Fuller; Klee, Kandinsky, Mondrian
  • influenced later educationalists incl. Montessori and Steiner (Waldorf)

What CM had to say about him/his work:

  • Good principles but bad, “wooden” practices: “On the whole, we may say that some of the principles which should govern Kindergarten training are precisely those in which every thoughtful mother endeavours to bring up her family; while the practices of the Kindergarten, being only ways, amongst others, of carrying out these principles, and being apt to become stereotyped and wooden, are unnecessary, but may be adopted so far as they fit in conveniently with the mother’s general scheme for the education of her family.” (Home Education, p. 181)
  • kindergarten (garden) idea tends to negate the individuality of the child: “And yet I enter a caveat. Our first care should be to preserve the individuality, to give play to the personality, of children. Now persons do not grow in a garden, much less in a greenhouse.” (Home Education, p. 186; see also Parents and Children, chapter 4)
  • “Organised Games are not Play” (School Education, chapter 4)
  • ” . . . it is questionable whether the conception of children as cherished plants in a cultured garden has not in it an element of weakness.” (School Education, chapter 6)

Sources:

Friedrich Froebel: His Life and Influence on Education,” by Miriam LeBlanc at Community Playthings

Froebelweb.org

A Brief History of the Kindergarten,” at Froebel Gifts.com

Froebel’s Kindergarten Curriculum Method & Educational Philosophy,” at Froebel Gifts.com

The Education of Man, by Friedrich Froebel.  Translated by W.N. Hailmann. New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1908.

 

 

My Literature List

Dear Reader,

Like a lot of you, I have collected lists of books, some form here, some from there. I had one document but it was very rough and unedited. Promoted by a friend, I took the time recently to edit it as best I can. I have tried to keep this list for books that we would consider literature/fiction/free reading/read alouds, but a few non-fiction books have crept onto the list. The line between history and historical fiction is a particularly fuzzy one.

There are many authors who have written more than one good book; some are quite prolific. For the most part, I have not listed every work so if you see an author listed here and then find other books of theirs, you may want to check them out. I have also tried to indicate in the “notes” column if I know the author has more to offer.

The “code” column relates to who in my family has read a book; you can ignore it.

I have gone back and forth on “level” and opted in the end for the simplest divisions. I have four main categories: picture (books), elementary, middle and high school (HS). Picture books are the most obvious. Elementary books are intended to be those an elementary student could read on their own. This includes a wide range from easy readers to chapter books to slightly more substantial but still relatively simple works. Middle is almost a catch-all between elementary and high school. Books on the high school category are placed there for various reasons relating to both reading level and content.  I also have middle+ and HS+ for those books which seem at the upper end of their age brackets; again this may be about content and not just reading level.

One last note: don’t be bound too much by levels. If a book is truly living, it will likely be enjoyed by all ages so your middle schooler can still listen to a picture book. And when read aloud, kids can understand and appreciate books well above their level. Some of our favorite read alouds were books that I thought were well above my kids at the time — I’ve read Don Quixote and Robin Hood and Dickens to elementary students to good effect.

I will try to update this list as we find more books we like. There are a few on the list which we haven’t used but which I have heard of so much that I felt they could stay (we never read Pinocchio, for instance).

Here then is the list:

My Big Literature List (opens a google doc)

If you have suggestions or corrections, let me know. It may be there are books I forgot (I think there must be a lot!) or haven’t heard of and we are always looking for new choices.

Happy reading!

Nebby

All the CM Curricula Compared

Dear Reader,

I have done a series of posts comparing various Charlotte Mason curricula. As the number of them has expanded, I realize this has become a bit cumbersome for you, the reader. So this is my attempt to put it all in one place (plus one additional curriculum is included!).

Methodology

A little background — my goal has been to present what each curriculum has to say about itself rather than to give my opinions. I tried to choose the questions I would have when comparing curricula. Topics range from What does it cost? to How does it deal with high school science? to How Christian is it?

There is a lot out there for homeschoolers these days and the list seems to be ever-expanding. The curricula I have chosen to compare are all from Ambling along Together’s list of CM curricula.  Each purports to be a Charlotte Mason style curricula (as compared to merely “CM influenced” or adaptable). Though I have made use of many of these websites and have taken bits and pieces from various sources, I do not use any of these curricula exclusively. I do have some opinions, but I don’t have one favorite curriculum.

The Curricula

I have gone back and forth on even putting this section in. I don’t want to bias you with my own opinions but I do realize it is helpful just to have some sort of list of everything with brief introductions. Let me say from the start that I am overwhelmed by the work and generosity of all the people behind these curricula. Most are homeschool moms who have taken the time to put together quite extensive resources that they either give away or sell quite affordably (I can’t imagine anyone is getting rich off of any of these). Most are also works-in-progress; even old stand-bys like Ambleside Online are still improving and changing.

Here then are the curricula I will look at, in no particular order:

Ambleside Online (AO) — If you have been at this for a while, Ambleside may have been your first introduction to CM; it seems like it has been around forever. As with all these curricula, you buy the books, but otherwise AO is free online. While they are still updating and perfecting AO, it is a relatively complete curriculum with a reputation for being rigorous.

Simply Charlotte Mason (SCM) — Simply Charlotte Mason is another one that has been around for a while. There is much here that can be used for free but the biggest expansion on the SCM site seems to be in the store where more and more ready-made materials are available. A modular approach, it has a reputation for being a little less intimidating and easier to adapt for families with multiple ages.

The Alveary — A newer curriculum with a lot of buzz (pun intended). It’s big selling point is that it is a CM curriculum for the 21st century. Though the curriculum is newer, the folks at CMI who are behind it have been around for a while.

A Delectable Education (ADE) — The biggest part of ADE is the podcast, but one can also get a consultation for personalizes curriculum help and suggestions. This personalization is one of the big selling points. The other is a commitment being “purely CM”; the ladies at ADE will admit that this too is a work in progress but their goal is to ask how CM herself would have done things and to, in some sense, return to those roots.

A Modern Charlotte Mason (MCM) — As the name suggests, MCM also aims to combine more modern works with the classics in a CM education. Flexibility in terms of use with families or individual students is another big selling point.

Living Books Curriculum (LBC) — A CM approach, living books based curriculum with a vision for and ministry to those in less developed countries as well (especially in Africa).

Higher Up and Further In (HUFI) — Book lists and schedules for CM learning.

Gentle Feast — A newer contribution to the world of CM with a gentle, family-centered approach with personal consultations available.

Wildwood — Still fairly new with a lot still to be done, this is the only inherently secular CM curriculum I know of.

Ambleside Schools International — Despite the name, this curriculum is not affiliated with Ambleside Online. Like Charlotte’s PNEU, it trains teachers and provides curricula for schools as well as homeschoolers. Heavy on training and support with weekly mentoring. Though less well-known, they have been around quite a while.

The Charts

Though the goal of this post is to put everything on one place, I still can’t figure out a good way to put it all in one document. Here then, in three documents, are all the CM curricula compared:

SCM ADE AO Alveary 5-8-17

MCM LBC HUFI 3-3-17

Gentle Feast Wildwood Ambleside Schools 9-5-17

As always, let me know of updates and revisions. Consider this page a work in progress; I will try to update as there are new curricula available or changes in current ones.

Nebby

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